With AI and the cloud, Microsoft adapts Windows 11 to hybrid working Computerworld

To support the development of hybrid work, Microsoft has presented future features within Windows 11. Better integration of Windows 365 and a dose of AI for video conferencing are on the program.

The title of the conference organized yesterday by Microsoft sets the tone for future directions for its latest operating system: “Windows Powers the Future of Hybrid Work”. It is therefore to hybrid work (both in the office and at home) that the next features are aimed. Most should ship, it seems, as incremental upgrades.

Tighter integration between Windows 11 and Windows 365

The most notable change will see tighter integration between Windows 11 and Windows 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based PC virtualization service. If Windows 365 is qualified by some as “desktop as a service” (DaaS), the publisher prefers the name of “Cloud PC”, to say that users benefit from a complete Windows experience capable of replacing the Windows desktop. on PC. It was last August that the firm announced the general availability of its Windows 365/Cloud PC service. According to Panos Panay, Windows & Devices product manager at Microsoft, “With Windows 365, Microsoft is taking a big step towards integrating Windows into the cloud.”

In these integrations, it is also necessary to include Windows 365 Switch, a function to switch from a Cloud PC instance to a real desktop PC with a single click, but also the Windows 365 Boot functions, to start directly on the latter, and Windows 365 Offline, to work offline, then automatically resynchronize without losing data. “Synchronization with the local PC will surely be very valuable for users who need to work offline from time to time, but we will have a clearer idea of ​​​​costs, security and use cases when we have more on that,” said Stu Downes, analyst at Gartner, who covers workplace infrastructure and operations.

“IT managers will need to be clear on the use cases for offline sync, given that many enterprises are using VDI/DaaS primarily to prevent any data from sitting at rest on the endpoint,” added the analyst. However, he finds it encouraging to see Microsoft continue to invest in and drive additional DaaS capabilities in Windows 365. a Service,” he stressed. “Gartner data shows that 72% of IT managers plan to increase their investment in this area,” said Stu Downes. According to Mr. Panay, these expected updates are only the beginnings of the work of integrating Windows with the Microsoft cloud.

Videoconferences with more and more AI

Several other Microsoft announcements look more like incremental updates presented as future work tools. But for now, the company has remained vague on their availability date. Some relate to videoconferencing, such as Voice Clarity and Voice Focus, which should be launched in the “next few months” to come. Microsoft claims that these future functions, which are based on the use of artificial intelligence (AI), will be able to automatically reframe the PC’s camera to refocus on the speaker, even if he is moving. They will also serve to reduce all visual and audio distractions in the background by improving voice clarity, directional sound pick-up on voice and background blurring. Another AI-powered feature called “Eye Contact” will improve the image during virtual meetings and video calls so that participants appear to be looking at the camera even when their gaze is pointing downwards or upwards. away from it.

According to Stephen Kleynhans, vice president of research firm Gartner, similar features have already appeared, to varying degrees, in collaboration solutions (including Teams) over the past two years. “Teams pioneered many of these features,” Kleynhans said. “The difference here is that these elements will be integrated into the operating system, which, in theory, will make them more consistent and better adapted to the specific capabilities of the device,” he added. “They could also be accessible from all the conferencing and communication tools we use every day. This means that in the long term, we will be able to switch easily between conferencing tools over the course of meetings, a problem that everyone encounters today,” said Mr. Kleynhans.

A revamped file explorer

Microsoft also announced upgrades to File Explorer, a tool that gives users the ability to quickly find files and pin them to specific tabs, “and reduces processes to one-click that previously required up to six clicks,” according to Mr. Panay. “The revamped, cloud-powered File Explorer centralizes all files in one place, making it easier to find,” the official said. In addition, Windows 11 will welcome “contextual suggestions” powered by Context IQ to recommend relevant content and contacts in Windows, including content to the cloud. “For example, seeing files that you might need, including files that people you frequently collaborate with are working on and also have access to,” said Wangui McKelvey, general manager of Microsoft 365, in a blog post. “File Explorer’s Tabs add a multitasking dimension, and one will be able to find multiple files at the same time and open multiple folders in a single window,” he added.

The Tabs feature was initially tested in Windows 10 apps, under the feature called “Sets”, which included support for tabs inside File Explorer and tabs in every Windows app. This technology was never built into Windows 10. “File Explorer tabs are really unique to everyone,” Kleynhans said. “Some people like tabs and find it’s a cleaner, easier way to organize what they’re doing. Others prefer multiple windows. This time, everyone will have a choice,” he added. “Some tasks, like dragging and dropping files between locations, work well in ‘window mode.’ Tabs, on the other hand, allow you to pin places that can be quickly accessed (a work, or project, or even personal tab),” he added. “Practical operation will depend on the implementation, and it will be necessary to wait until the function is available to be able to appreciate it”.

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With AI and the cloud, Microsoft adapts Windows 11 to hybrid working Computerworld


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