Day 2: Office 365 Microsoft Inspire 2019 – I am Alice in Wonderland!

July 17th, 2019

So here I am alone with my keyboard in my hotel room in Las Vegas. It is just past midnight (which for the Las Vegas-ites seems much like mid-afternoon does in the normal world) and I am overlooking the flashing, seductive allure of the strip from my 30th floor window. Our marketing team have asked me to write about what Inspire was like today in terms of the atmosphere, new announcements and the what the speakers said. As my fingers hovered over the keyboard eagerly awaiting inspirational instruction, my thoughts were captured by the experience of it all. What is Inspire like to experience ? You see it is a little bit like being Alice from Alice in Wonderland, for when you begin the journey you seem so sure of everything, but as things unfold with the influence of the  amazing people you meet along the way, you end up being and seeing things completely different.

So, I will let the magical words of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) guide us through the world that is Microsoft Inspire 2019!

Cheshire Cat: “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad. “

Alice: “But I will tell you a secret, all the best people are”.

I can think of no better place that completely personifies those immortal words than the main exhibition hall (The Hub) at Inspire. In every nook and cranny of the hall are “mad” people who are itching to tell and show you what they do. They are mad not by their insanity, but by their knowledge and passion for what they are doing. I was on the receiving end of that maddened generosity today when the team at BitTitan showed me how to migrate Microsoft Teams from one tenant to another in seconds with their new tool. The Veeam team eagerly cornered me to show me their new backup services whilst the Microsoft devices team proudly showed me the great array of shiny new modern Surface devices on display.

One device I was incredibly impressed with was the new Surface Hub 2, what an amazing machine! This incredible device replaces the original Microsoft Surface Hub, but it is lighter, more agile, mobile, sharper in picture, sharper in pen response time and truly integrated into the Microsoft productivity suite in a way that was not possible with version 1. Literally every office, school classroom and university seminar room need one of these devices, regardless of the cost. Yes, they are that good!

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” – The Cheshire Cat

If you ever wanted to see what the Cheshire Cat meant by this statement one need not go any further than the Microsoft HoloLens 2. The HoloLens team at Microsoft have indeed been busy with warping one’s idea of reality through incredible imagination and design. I was lucky enough to attend Eric Kamont’s (Director of MR Strategic Partnerships at Microsoft) session which was an eye-opening display on how far the HoloLens 2 has come since the first iteration. But even more revealing than the devices’ technical specification is the data from Gartner and IDC that forecasts that the deployment of Mixed Reality will be a force to be reckoned with by 2025.

After Eric’s session I quickly raced down to The Hub to seek out the demo room with the HoloLens 2 devices. I was treated with a very powerful demonstration of where mixed reality is at today and it is impressive. The HoloLens 2 is now starting to showcase the full promise of version 1. A true holographic image can be projected almost anywhere! You can see it clearly superimposed over the real world, you can spin the model, stretch it, Select from a floating menu, press OK buttons in mid-air, and much more!

How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.” – Alice

I was immersed in the experience so much so that I was starting to adopt the persona of Professor Emmett Brown (Doc from Back to the Future), by walking around and waving my hands in mid-air, talking to myself and having a very wide eyed and excited look on my face! It does look very strange watching someone do this from the outside looking in. However, after a minute with the HoloLens device on your head it starts to feel very natural; and just like Alice you slip from one reality state to another without so much as a blink.

“The time has come the walrus said to talk of many things”

As I stepped back into reality again and walked towards my next session I took in the sights and the associated cacophony of sound that the Hub produces. Everywhere your eye falls there are people pushing buttons, touching screens, running commands and generating reports that you become attuned to subconsciously and simultaneously engaging these multiple conversation streams as you walk by. Every few seconds a new conversation drifts in to ear as the previous one fades out, it is likely akin to taking a walk inside the mind of John Nash, brilliant, filled with data, hypnotic and mildly schizophrenic!

Seriously, what Microsoft Inspire truly showcases is just how much power we have at our fingertips to not only deliver IT platforms but to imagine them in a way that transforms business’ and peoples lives as a whole (just as Gavriella Schuster had shown us in the opening keynotes).

The level of imagination on display truly does distort one’s understanding of what is possible now and what things will come in the near future.

So, in essence what is the atmosphere like ?

Crazy! Mad! Fun! Fascinating! Informative!

So many great people, great products and great services are all on display…it is a lot to take in!

Regrettably, here is where my literary journey through Wonderland will come to an end. I will leave the last word to Alice as I fall away into the rabbit hole that is Microsoft Inspire 2019.

Until next time!

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” – Alice

Written by John Filippis