Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2016 – Part 1 1   Recently updated !

Earlier this month I flew to Toronto, Canada to attend the 2016 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.  This was my first time attending a partner conference, and it was quite an experience.  There was far too much content to complete in a single article, so I’ll start with an introduction and summary, and then delve into specific topics in separate articles.

Welcome to Toronto

Flying to Toronto

As you may have determined based on my previous articles, I spent some time in Silicon Valley before heading on to Canada.  It was good to get to North America ahead of the conference so I could deal with any jet lag, and get acclimated to the local time zones.  Owing to the fact that I’d only received approval to attend the conference a few weeks before it was scheduled, we had a hard time locking down accommodation anywhere near downtown Toronto.

In the end, we got lucky, and I ended up with a fully furnished apartment within 15  minutes walk of the Toronto Convention Centre.  I flew in on the Friday evening before the conference, and managed to enjoy a few activities around downtown before the pre-conference events kicked off.

Pre-Conference Events

Microsoft Australia kindly organised a pre-conference event for Australian partners which included a trip to Niagara Falls, with dinner, drinks and a ride on the Hornblower Niagara tour boat.  This gave many of the Australian partners an opportunity to meet or get reacquainted with each other and trade war stories ahead of the conference.  Due to a number of factors, the trip didn’t see us back in Toronto until close to 1 AM Sunday, and as a consequence I ended up missing a Dynamics pre-conference event being held by the UK Partners.


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Registration/Commons Marketplace Index

On Sunday morning, I walked over to the convention centre and registered.  There wasn’t too much to do until the afternoon, when a session was held for first time attendees (FTAs) like myself.  The session was quite informative and I also met a number of delegates who I’d end up bumping into later in the conference.  The thrust of the session was to hear from previous delegates about how best to navigate the conference, and how to deal with the onslaught of sessions and meetings. The networking aspect was most valuable.

The evening was the Australian partners dinner in north Toronto, it was a good opportunity to meet up with partners again, and share some insights from recent Microsoft and Australian IT news.

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View from the dinner/Toronto sign near the Sheraton

Vision Keynote 1 – Inspiration

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K’Naan performs/Introducing the Microsoft CEO

The conference proper really kicked off on the Monday morning.  About 20,000(?) people filed into the Air Canada centre not far from the Toronto Convention Centre for the first of three days of keynotes.  The first keynote featured a musical introduction from an artist called K’naan who I hadn’t heard of to be honest.  The stage was set, and after the music finished we were introduced to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Connected Applications/Bringing it together with Power BI, Microsoft Flow and PowerApps

Satya proceeded to articulate Microsoft’s vision and roadmap, expressing a strong connection to digital transformation being the centrepiece of the company’s focus.  The three principal pillars centre around digital transformation as follows:

  • personal computing,
  • the intelligent cloud, and,
  • reinventing business productivity & processes

Which roughly translates into the broad areas of change which were unveiled throughout the partner conference.  He introduced the rebranded Dynamics 365 (combining CRM Online and Axapta) to provide a cloud ERP solution, showing how the solution targets the productivity and process changes underscored by digital transformation.  There was also an introduction to the new AppSource marketplace for business/government applications.

Dynamics 365 Resource Management

Next up, Satya interviewed the head of General Electric, who went into some detail about how this old school bricks and mortar company decided to innovate, and migrate away from old technology.  This neatly lead to another big area which is coming fast: machine learning.

The next big thing will be machine learning, either as Azure ML or represented by the usage of a number of learning bots.  Named ‘cognitive bots’, there’s a lot of them on the way, and they represent the next big thing in cloud computing.  A demonstration was played, illustrating how  speech-to-text bot was able to read and interpret an order from a busy McDonald’s drive through, neatly building and updating an order in JSON format.

Machine Learning

Lastly, and aptly given the explosion of Pokemon Go just before the conference, the keynote ended on a mind blowing demonstration of the latest in augmented reality technology in Microsoft Hololens.  A cameraman took to the stage with a specially modified camera which was able to show to the assembled crowd what it is like to see through the HoloLens head gear.

Microsoft HoloLens

The demonstration focused on displaying the internal schematics of something quite large and impractical for a learning/training environment: an airplane engine.  The exceptional demonstration showed how a HoloLens user can interact, manipulate and zoom in and out of detailed graphical models.  Outstanding.

Keynote Notes

  • Cognitive bots look very interesting – we’re just scratching the surface on what could be possible,
  • HoloLens is exceptionally awesome,
  • AppSource has been widely touted,
  • Dynamics 365 branding and changes are big, underscores the emphasis on the cloud,
  • If you aren’t thinking “cloud first” by now, you ought to be or you’ll be left behind

That’s it for Part 1.  The next part will describe sessions from day 1.

Windows 10 Technical Preview


Well, it’s been a week of big announcements.  Hot on the heels of finding out the next version of Windows will be Windows 10, Microsoft has today released a new “Technical Preview” of Windows 10, Windows Server and System Center.

Be a part of every step

Join the Windows Insider Program so you can be part of every key moment along the way as we create Windows 10. You’ll get Windows 10 Technical Preview, all the builds as soon as they’re available, and an easy-to-use feedback app.

Naturally, I immediately pulled down an .iso of the Windows Desktop edition (UK English) and have begun running it up in a VM.

There’s a site dedicated to Windows 10 and it’s called the “Windows Insider Program”.  Here’s an extract from the site:

Help us shape the future of Windows

With the Windows Insider Program, you’ll get all the latest Windows preview builds as soon as they’re available. This means you’ll be one of the first to experience the new ideas and concepts we’re building.

In return, we want to know what you think. You’ll get an easy-to-use app to give us your feedback, which will help guide us along the way.

This program is designed exclusively for people who want be involved in the process. So if you want to help us build the best Windows yet, we want you to join us.

My Installation Experience

I’m running this preview version up on my VM server, and for this new VM I’ve configured it with 2 vCPUs (utilizing a hex-core Intel i7 processor), 8096mb of 1600GHz RAM and an initial HDD of 80GB.

Well, I’ve begun the installation process, and so far there’s no noticeable differences.


The installer is the same trusty version we encountered in previous versions, as is the initial boot and configuration process.


After a reboot, we’re loaded into the new Windows..  The experience is the same as with Windows 8.1 and I use custom settings, disabling most options.


Again, you’re forced to use a Microsoft Account and cannot use a local Windows user account.


Once you’re past the bulk of the initial configuration, Windows goes off to configure apps

Initial Experience

Given the configuration, Windows 10 has detected I’m in a Desktop environment, so the first thing loaded is the trusty desktop.  Interestingly, Windows displays a roaming profile wallpaper for my desktop background – maybe it did that in Windows 8.1 but I didn’t notice.


The first thing to do, obviously, is check out the old/new Start Menu:

After a few clicks, I’m prompted for feedback


Searching for installed applications and apps is fast and accurate (predictive matching etc.):


Back to the new Start Menu, I can scroll Windows apps and also install apps which are presumably linked to my Microsoft account (from prior usage in Windows 8.1?):

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While we’re speaking of apps, do try out my Aussie Wine Guy and Sanders Technology apps!  Running up a formerly-called-metro app gives us the app hosted in a resizable dialog shell (as advertised):


Double clicking on the “Welcome to Tech Preview” link launches Internet Explorer 11 and navigates to the following location.

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The keyboard combination of Windows key + C still brings up the dreaded charm bar, however right clicking on the Windows icon (start menu) still provides a handy shortcut context menu as an alternative:


Navigating to Settings->PC Info provides us with the following “compliance plate” information:

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As it is just past 8:00am local time, I have to go and get ready top shuttle off to work, so I’ll have to leave my Tech Preview experience for a later time.  So far, the preview has delivered on the rumours which have surfaced over the past 12 months.

I’d encourage you to download and participate in the Technical Preview program.  Microsoft has claimed that the removal of the start menu was in reaction to statistics they captured during similar programs in the past, so they obviously take this information very seriously.  If you want a say in the future of the Windows operating system, now’s your chance!

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the Windows Server Technical Preview – hopefully they’ve canned the formerly-known-as-Metro screen, which never made sense to me for a server platform.  Enjoy.