Microsoft's Julia White in a mixed reality environment at Inspire 2019 conference

Plus 10 things the channel needs to know from the conference

LAS VEGAS – Bright lights; big city as Microsoft took over the gambling capital of the world this week at the 2019 Microsoft Inspire Conference.

And, while channel partners surely made a few bets throughout the week at the casinos; Microsoft was making even bigger bets with artificial intelligence, ISVs, partner enablement programs, 5G and other channel updates. And, of course more information on the big holoportation demonstration.

Here is the EChannelNews Top 10 List from Microsoft Inspire 2019:

1. More Channel Investments

New channel investments for the Microsoft Partner Network. Now, corporate vice president of One Commercial Partner, Gavriella Schuster was short with specific financial details, but the strategy behind this investment will see the software powerhouse build up its digital capacity to help solution providers compete. The two main investments are a security competency for partners to deliver security-related services on Azure and Microsoft 365. And, look for a new advanced specialization for Teams before the end of 2019. Also remember the SAP on Azure announcement this year, well Microsoft will introduce a new advanced specializations for that.

Microsoft Worldwide Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster

2. ISV Connect Program

Schuster introduced new business applications for its ISV Connect program. According to Schuster, the ISV Connect program offers new ways for partners to reduce development time for a faster time to market, paired with new go-to-market support to increase business opportunity for partners.

Similar to its overall program, Microsoft is investing with ISVs designed to help this community of partner differentiate in the market specifically on Microsoft’s AppSource and Azure Marketplace.

“This program is built on a revenue-sharing model so we can reinvest in our ISVs with technical, marketing and sales enablement benefits,” she said.

ISV Connect including new pre-packaged elements such as new APIs, business logic, entities, and workflows for Dynamics 365 and PowerApps so ISVs can connect line-of-business apps to core business data without having to build new integration points.

3. Co-Selling with Microsoft

The Co-Selling program got underway in 2017, but at the 2019 Inspire conference, channel partners got some add-ons such as a Cloud Solution Provider licensing model and partner profitability data that opened plenty of eyes.

Since the inception of Microsoft’s co-sell program, it has produced $9.5 billion in annual contracted partner revenue. And, because of that grow Microsoft is making further investments such as the general availability of the Microsoft Security competency. This new competency enables solution providers to market their own expertise. On top of that, Microsoft also announced five new advanced specializations. They are: Windows Server and SQL Server Migration to Microsoft Azure, Linux and Open Source Databases Migration to Microsoft Azure, Data Warehouse Migration to Microsoft Azure, Modernization of Web Applications in Microsoft Azure, and Kubernetes on Microsoft Azure.

Also, part of the Co-Selling program will be additional pricing models, a rewards program and a new route to market for companies that publish transactable offers in Microsoft’s expanded commercial marketplace. The pricing models include monthly and annual SaaS billing, flexible, custom-metered billing options, standard contracts, and free SaaS trials that convert to paid engagements.

4. Holoportation

If there was one magical moment at the 2019 Inspire show it was Julia White’s demo of a mixed reality scenario where the Azure Corporate vice president, using a HoloLens 2 headset, created a life-size holographic image of herself. That wasn’t it; White’s image also spoke in Japanese. White’s demo used Azure speech-to-text technology, Azure Speech Translation along with text-to-speech via Azure Speech Services.

Microsoft’s holoportation technology has been around for a few years and enables users to rendered 3D images using Windows Mixed Reality. The Azure text-to-speech services is available in more 45 languages along with a computer voice.

Microsoft Azure Corporate VP Julia White

5. AT&T and 5G

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced a multi-year collaboration with AT&T to help push the company’s public cloud first internal transformation initiative. This comes after AT&T launched a mobile 5G network.

The two companies will apply technologies, including cloud, artificial intelligence, and 5G. Microsoft will be the preferred cloud provider for non-network applications, as part of AT&T’s broader public cloud first strategy, and will support AT&T as it consolidates its data center infrastructure and operations.

In AT&T’s mandate to be a public cloud first organization, the telecom giant plans to migrate most non-network workloads to the public cloud by 2024. That initiative will allow AT&T to focus on core network capabilities. Also, part of the agreement, AT&T will provide much of its workforce with cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools available with Microsoft 365 and plans to migrate non-network infrastructure applications to the Azure cloud platform.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

6. AI for the Good

Artificial Intelligence was a major theme of the 2019 Inspire conference. Microsoft released AI for Cultural Heritage, the newest Microsoft AI for Good program, uses AI to help preserve and celebrate people, languages, places and historical artifacts around the world.

This will be the fourth pillar in the AI for Good program, which comes with a $125 million commitment to offer AI solutions to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges.

Microsoft supported this announcement with the launch of Azure AI Accelerate Program to help partners bring AI solutions and capabilities to market.

All managed partners are eligible for the Azure AI Accelerate Program.

This end-to-end program specifically highlights the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, Knowledge Mining, and AI apps and agent offerings. The Azure AI Accelerate Program focuses on growing ecosystem and platform value, bridging AI adoption barriers, and creating sustainable AI business benefits for partners and customers.

7. Big push on Teams

The Microsoft Teams platform has had its ups and downs the past two years. But at Inspire 2019, the company introduced features such as new ways to support healthcare organizations and first-line workers. Additional new partner integrations include support for contact centers, compliance recording and cloud solution providers.

Teams is now available in 52 languages across 181 markets. Another new Teams feature is a new way to manage team communications such as the ability to call attention to important news in a channel, such as when kicking off a new project, welcoming a new colleague, or sharing results from a recent marketing campaign.

8. Updates to Dynamics 365

Microsoft announced significant updates to the Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator and two new integrations for Dynamics 365 that address the automotive and financial services industries. In addition, the Business Applications ISV Connect program is generally available, with new development tools and guidance, marketplace resources, joint field engagement processes and go-to-market support.

9. Azure Lighthouse

Microsoft introduced Azure Lighthouse, which will enable channel partners with the ability to use a single control plane to view and manage Azure at scale across all their customers. This provides a better managed Azure experience, according to the Redmond, Wash.-based company, with higher automation and efficiency, resulting in greater visibility and security for customers. This marks the first time Microsoft has architected a solution at this scale, with partners and for partners.

According to Schuster, the development of Azure Lighthouse comes as customers increasingly are looking for partners who have expertise in servicing large Azure workloads and mission critical apps with precision, bringing in automation, management, and greater scalability of their cloud operations. Azure Lighthouse works consistently across Azure services and licensing models to help streamline managed service operations and protect management IP. As Azure as a platform does more for services providers natively, our partners increasingly can focus more on providing differentiated services to customers.

10. Azure Migration Program

Channel partners were also briefed on the new Azure Migration Program (AMP). AMP helps customers accelerate their migration to Azure, while offering proactive advice and tools to help mitigate risks and address common issues associated with moving workloads to the cloud.