Cloud Ka-ching!

Microsoft announced the financial results for the first quarter of FY 2020 beating expectations and a 14% increase in revenue ($33.1 billion) as compared to the corresponding period of last fiscal year. The company reported first-quarter net income of $10.7 billion, or $1.38 a share - a 21% increase.  

Analysts are overwhelmingly bullish on Microsoft and were quick to praise the latest results - Jefferies analyst Brent Thill wrote that the company was “poised to weather any storm.” Here’s a neat analysis by Dina Bass on Bloomberg.

Cloudy… with a chance of Microsoft 365

While the ‘commercial cloud’ category (well, hello, Office 365!) is the most-watched out for when Microsoft reports its earnings – which is at a solid $11.6 billion – ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley suggests we should also be watching the Microsoft 365 growth.

Microsoft has been making a concerted effort to market and sell Microsoft 365 as a unified product and not just a bundle of Windows, Office, and Intune.

The JEDI trick

Microsoft scored a huge upset over Amazon by winning over the $10 billion JEDI contract with the Pentagon. Amazon had been considered the front-runner, in part because it had built cloud services for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

This contract, called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, is a 10-year contract to help the Department of Defense move its sensitive data to the cloud.

According to the New York Times, the contract has an outsize importance because it is central to the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize its technology. Much of the military operates on 1980s and 1990s computer systems, and the department has spent billions of dollars trying to make them talk to one another.

The JEDI contract will propel Microsoft to the forefront of the cloud wars, however, a group of anonymous Microsoft employees has written an open letter urging the company to not bid for the same.

We joined Microsoft to create a positive impact on people and society, with the expectation that the technologies we build will not cause harm or human suffering.

Last October, Google had dropped out of contention with a belief that the contract could conflict with its corporate values and its principles over the ethical uses of AI. Hundreds of employees within Microsoft have also voiced ethical concerns regarding the company’s ongoing contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Everyone’s invited

Microsoft has been talking about its commitment to workplaces that are accessible to all employees, vendors, and customers. To that end, the company has gathered the best practices for creating these accessible environments into a living document, available online to any organization looking to create the same beyond the basic code requirements.

Inclusion lies at the heart of the mission Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella introduced five years ago: To empower every individual to do more and achieve more. Everyone should feel as empowered to use Microsoft facilities as they do our technology.

- Martha Clarkson, Senior Manager - Global Workplace Design, Microsoft

The Microsoft Accessible Workplace Handbook comprises of the Microsoft standards for accessibility and was conceived three years ago. While all Microsoft properties in the US are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, the handbook illustrates how the company went beyond those requirements to make them even more accessible and to create more accessible experiences in all its global properties, even those in countries with less stringent accessibility codes.

Ask me anything

Microsoft has introduced the preview release of Microsoft Q&A - the place to get answers to all your technical questions on Microsoft products and services from a community of experts and Microsoft engineers.

Microsoft Q&A is an extension of the docs.microsoft.com experience – the latter provides you with deep technical information about specific topics.

Sandra Aldana, Senior Program Manager, Developer Relations for Cloud + AI Division, explains in her post that as time progressed, and technology evolved, the needs of the community grew beyond what MSDN and TechNet Forums could provide.

As of this week, Microsoft has a limited set of topics that are covered by Q&A. The company has broken down the migration into multiple phases to ensure a smooth transition and minimize any disruption for users. The goal is to complete the migration by mid-2020. (FAQs)

Drive better with AI

In one of the cities in India, the driver’s license test is now conducted by a smartphone attached to the car’s windshield and without an evaluator present in the vehicle, courtesy of a Microsoft Research Project called HAMS.

HAMS (Harnessing AutoMobiles for Safety) is currently enabling the Regional Transport Office, Dehradun to automate driver’s license testing. It uses the smartphone’s front and rear cameras, and other sensors, to monitor the driver (for instance, their gaze) and the road scene in front (for instance, the distance to the vehicle in front), simultaneously (video by CNBC-TV18).

The HAMS project enables the driver’s license testing to be an objective and transparent process that helps grant licenses to well-tested drivers. Driver license testing is a pressing problem; a survey by SaveLIFE Foundation reports that a whopping 59% of the respondents did not give a test to obtain a driving license.

HAMS was originally conceived as a system to monitor drivers and their driving, with the aim of improving road safety. Read more about the research project here.



Picks of the Week

Download

Corel has brought its popular all-in-one photo editor PaintShop Pro to Microsoft Store now. PSP is a raster and vector graphics editor and packs in advanced photo management, editing and creative tools. You can download PaintShop Pro 2020 from Microsoft Store - there’s a free one month trial, and a subscription thereafter.

Read

In a long essay, former Microsoft engineer James Whittaker has shared his reflections on his on-again, off-again career at Microsoft. He talks about the culture at the company under Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and how the Microsoft of the future is being weighed down by the ghosts of its past.


If you’re reading this, you’ve probably read or at least skimmed the entire newsletter. Thank you!

I’ll be at the Microsoft Ignite in Orlando, FL through the coming week and the next edition of the newsletter would have all the dope from the event. Stay tuned!

Please share your feedback and suggestions - on email (ab@baxiabhishek.info) or on Twitter (@baxiabhishek). Of course, if you spread the word, it will be appreciated.

Till next time,

Abhishek Baxi