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Microsoft Faces Immense Pressure After CES Success

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With this year’s CES now at an end, we have a good idea where manufacturers and designers see the future. Success will be found in all things that fold. All across the Las Vegas Convention Center were the concept laptops which flexed and folded like Optimus Prime in Transformers.

Which puts a huge amount of pressure on Microsoft. It needs to deliver a version of Windows that will allow the hardware to live up to all the gambles made in Vegas by the end of 2020.

Let’s take a look at the CES successes powered by Microsoft’s Windows 10.

Intel produced a concept device, obviously to show what its chips can do with new laptop forms, but the fact that it was showing off the new form as a foldable laptop with a single screen taking up the screen, bending round the inside hinge, and then down over the space normally associated with the keyboard is a clear indication that this is a route it is comfortable with.

How about two of Dell’s examples; the ‘Concept Duet’ which shows a twin screen no physical keyboard design, and the ‘Concept Ori’ which is closer to a tablet design that can hinge upwards into a laptop style angle.

While Asus didn’t go for a flexing screen, the Asus ZenBook Duo also works on two screens, although here the second screen shares the bottom half of the laptop design with a physical keyboard.

The there’s Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Fold, which does go with the full screen that curves into thing when closed just as a normal laptop.

But there’s a literal twist to all of these innovative laptops. At CES they were all running Windows 10 Pro, a workmanlike solution at this early stage but not refined to make a seamless foldable or dual screen device feel like magic.

Luckily Microsoft has an answer in Windows 10X.

Windows 10X was announced in October 2019 alongside the dual screened Surface Neo as the operating system that would power this device – and it would allow for an ecosystem of devices from Microsoft’s partners. I suspect this is one of the key reasons that the announcement of Windows 10X happened in Q4 2019… it placed Microsoft publicly in the driving seat of foldable laptops it used the Surface brand to continue pushing innovative form factors and software, and its announcement created a tacit agreement to its partners that it would be ready by the end of 2020,.

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All this amounts to pressure. The early announcement of Windows 10X, coupled with the Surface Neo release window of Q4 2020 has created a hard deadline for the OS team to deliver not just to the Surface team at the Redmond Campus, but to Microsoft’s key hardware partners who have shown their hand at CES.

Microsoft has always looked forwards into the future but it usually remains behind closed doors until everything is cooked. With multi- and folding-screen technology, it has decided to share that future vision today. Let’s hope that Microsoft has thought carefully about delivering to that timetable.

Now read how the Surface team have beaten Apple’s iPad team in one key area…

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I am known for my strong views on mobile technology, online media, and the effect this has on the public conscious and existing businesses. I’ve been following this space for over ten years, working with a number of publishers, publications and media companies, some for long periods of time, others for commissions, one-off pieces or a series of articles or shows. As Scotland’s first podcaster, I continue to be a prominent voice in the rise of podcasting and new media online, and picked up a British Academy (BAFTA) nomination for my annual coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, alongside contributions to Radio 5 Live, the BBC World Service, presenting Edinburgh local radio’s coverage of the General Election. You’ll find me on Twitter (@Ewan), Facebook, and Google Plus.

Source: Microsoft Faces Immense Pressure After CES Success

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Volkswagen Is Accelerating One Of The World’s Biggest Smart-Factory Projects

Volkswagen is set to take a significant step forward with what Martin Hofmann, the German auto giant’s group CIO, calls “one of the biggest industrial cloud projects in the Western hemisphere.”

This year, the company has piloted its smart-manufacturing initiative, which launched in March, at three of its plants. In 2020, it will roll out to another 15 of its 122 factories around the world as part of a five-year strategy to create a much more agile production base, using a combination of cloud computing, sensor-laden equipment, big data and machine learning. Hofmann is part of a senior team leading the project, which also includes Gerd Walker, VW’s group head of production.

The industrial cloud is a key part of VW’s plan to boost productivity by 30% by 2025 and is being introduced at a time of wrenching change in the German automotive industry. In November, Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, said it would cut 10,000 jobs, or 3% of its workforce, by 2022 and use the savings to invest in electric models. Its announcement followed one from VW’s Audi luxury car unit, which will cut 9,500 jobs by 2025, or 1 in 10 of its staff, as it pivots towards electric vehicles too.

To help it adjust faster, VW, which ships almost 11 million vehicles a year, is counting on cloud computing to solve a big headache. Hofmann says a “spaghetti architecture” of hundreds of different IT systems across each of its factories frustrates some efforts to optimize efficiency. If a better process for monitoring quality in a paint shop is developed in one location, he notes, it can’t be applied easily by others because of differing software languages and protocols. The tech spaghetti also makes it harder to control costs and spin up production of new models quickly.

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VW’s industrial cloud project, which it’s developing in partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), will solve such issues by creating a digital production platform with common interfaces for all kinds of equipment. Over time, all of VW’s plants will be brought onto the platform and production teams will be able to tap into an app store to share applications that can be implemented in all of its factories.

Amazon’s AWS is providing a range of cloud-related services for the project, whose cost hasn’t been disclosed, while industrial-engineering firm Siemens is working on systems that control the machinery in VW’s plants. Eventually VW hopes to bring its suppliers into its industrial cloud, too, which will mean integrating around 1,500 companies with 30,000 additional locations.

The aim is to share data as well as software. VW is creating a data lake that will suck in information from systems and sensors in all of its factories. The data will be used to develop and train machine-learning models for things such as predictive maintenance that can be deployed within plants, or to optimize operations across them. Once its suppliers are integrated into the industrial cloud, VW will be able to leverage more of their data to boost the efficiency of its supply chain and logistics operations.

It’s a compelling vision, but a recent survey of more than 1,000 executives in 13 countries by consulting firm Capgemini found that only 14% of organizations considered their smart factory projects to be successful; almost 60% said their initiatives were either struggling or that it was too early to comment on progress.

The biggest challenge, says Jean-Pierre Petit, Capgemini’s director of digital manufacturing, in an emailed comment to Forbes, is to “cross the chasm” from an initial pilot in a single plant to full-scale deployments, which is where the real benefits of digitization kick in. In particular, smart-factory projects require IT teams to work closely with “operational technology” (OT) groups managing machinery and other tech inside factories. Often, OT teams have become used to working quite independently and may resist IT’s efforts to drive change.

By working closely together on VW’s industrial cloud project, Hofmann and Walker are sending a strong signal to their respective teams about the need for tight collaboration. The decision to launch pilots at several factories this year rather than just one was also deliberate. “You can put a ton of slides up [about the industrial cloud], but nobody is interested in that,” says Dirk Didascalou, one of the senior AWS executives involved in the project. “They need to see it working first.”

The three factories were chosen partly to highlight the fact that VW’s industrial cloud will span all of its activities. The two in Germany, at Wolfsburg and Chemnitz, make cars and components, respectively. A third, at Polkowice in Poland, makes commercial vehicles. The goal next year is to bring at least one factory for each of VW’s 12 brands, which include Porsche, SEAT and Scania as well as Audi, into the industrial cloud. “We want to give them all a showcase,” explains Walker.

It will take time for workers used to dealing with older, inflexible systems to adapt to a world in which tech services can be tapped on demand via the cloud. But VW sees the shift as essential if it’s to compete successfully in a fast-changing market. The company is also developing an “automotive cloud” to help it deliver software and services directly to its vehicles, and VW’s IT function has championed cloud projects in other areas, such as sales management.

If it can help deliver the industrial cloud successfully, Hofmann’s team will further enhance its reputation. Along with moves to beef up VW’s in-house software-development capabilities, the shift to the cloud is already transforming the way the group’s 15,000-strong IT staff is viewed within the company. “IT isn’t just a supporting function now,” says Hofmann. “IT … is becoming a driving force.”

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I am the editor of the CIO Network at Forbes, leading coverage of the rapidly evolving role of senior technology leaders. I also develop topics and programming for Forbes CIO events. Previously, I covered frontier technologies such as AI-driven cybersecurity and quantum computing for MIT Technology Review. Before that, I was a partner at a Silicon Valley VC firm that invests in enterprise tech, which I joined after covering the Valley for The Economist Newspaper for many years. Follow me on Twitter @martingiles.

Source: Volkswagen Is Accelerating One Of The World’s Biggest Smart-Factory Projects

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The First 5 Minutes of Microsoft’s Surface Presentation Included 4 Expert Public Speaking Skills

Microsoft Chief Product Officer, Panos Panay, unveiled new products on Wednesday that generated a lot of buzz. The products including Surface tablets, laptops and the company’s new smartphone, the Surface Duo. But it was the first five minutes of the presentation that caught my attention.

Last year Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put Panay in charge of all the company’s hardware devices. Panay’s also one of the best presenters I’ve seen in years–in any company. Panay used four advanced storytelling, presentation and speaking techniques that will make you a more effective communicator. Here, I’ll take a deeper look at what he did.

1. Don’t start with products.

People don’t buy products; they buy feelings. The best presenters establish a feeling before explaining a product’s features and demos. Panay established the theme of his presentation in the first two minutes. He showed a video of his daughter, Sophia, playing the piano. He said,

“In order for Sophia to play her best, that piano has to be ready. It has to be tuned perfectly. The bench has to be the right height, her sheet music at eye level.”

Panay was making the point that when the instrument–the technology– is right, it allows Sophia to unleash her creative talent. “When all the pieces line up, you can stop thinking. You’re just inspired to play better.” Panay has just made an emotional connection with the audience and framed the products as much more than new hardware–they’re instruments to help them unleash their inspired creativity.

2. Tell customer stories.

Panay’s first slides showed photos of several people–real customers with inspiring stories. For example, he showed a picture of Steve Gleason, a former professional football player diagnosed with ALS. Gleason is an advocate for Microsoft’s products that help people living with disabilities. Another photo showed Collete Davis, a race-car driver who runs her career like a startup–using Microsoft hardware, of course.

As humans, we’re wired for stories. We think in story, talk about stories, and enjoy information delivered in narrative form. Tell more stories to win people over.

3. Use multimedia to engage the audience.

Stories are engaging, as are photos and videos. We are not wired to engage with text and bullet points on slide. And that’s why there were no bullet points in Panay’s presentation. In fact, the first slide with text appeared ten minutes into the presentation–and even then, it was only one sentence.

Most presenters don’t use video, but they should. People love video. Research shows that videos and images are far more engaging than text alone. But communicators are often reluctant to insert videos into their presentations as Panay did when she showed his daughter playing piano.

Neuroscientists have found that visual and verbal information are encoded in different parts of our brain. University of Washington molecular biologist, John Medina, has addressed the phenomenon in his research. Simply put, Information that’s presented in text, pictures and video for is more richly encoded. Adding a video is more likely to stamp your idea on another person’s brain.

4. Connect with the audience.

Panay uses a speaking style that requires confidence and practice. You can see him in action in the video of the event. From time to time, Panay steps off the stage and walks among the audience members as he delivers information about the products. He’s not relying on notes or a prompter as he does so. Panay hits his marks and makes it look effortless because he’s put in the practice time to make the presentation great.

Delivering a great presentation doesn’t come naturally to most people. Presentations that leave a strong impression on the audience requires creativity and practice. When you get access to an expert like Panos Panay, it’s worth investing the time to watch his performance.

By: Carmine Gallo Keynote speaker and author, ‘Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get From Good to Great

Source: The First 5 Minutes of Microsoft’s Surface Presentation Included 4 Expert Public Speaking Skills

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Watch as Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay talks about the importance of technology fading to the background and how these products can help you achieve more. Microsoft products, a symphony of technology between Windows, Surface, Office and AI, are designed to amplify your ideas, get you into your flow and let you build what’s in your mind and heart. Like an instrument, our products, our technology fades to the background so you can focus on your craft. Learn more at http://msft.social/PPTech

 

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