In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the world strives to create a new normal, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that most companies are going to embrace some form of hybrid working.

Panos Panay, executive vice-president and chief product officer at Microsoft, explains that work has changed dramatically over the last two years. “Most employees want flexible and remote options to stay,” he says.

At the same time, cyberthreats are at an all-time high. “And, with the move to hybrid work, IT managers are challenged to empower their workforces with new tech experiences,” he adds.

“At Microsoft, it’s our responsibility to deliver tools and technologies that make hybrid work, work for you, our customers. Windows is central to this mission. “

Microsoft believes Windows 11 is the operating system for hybrid work. “It’s built on a compatible and familiar foundation that’s easy for IT to manage,” Panay says. “It’s designed to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving cyber landscape and equipped with experiences that help employees do their best work.”

Since launching Windows 11, Microsoft has seen strong demand and the highest quality and product satisfaction scores of any version of Windows ever shipped. “This is just the beginning, our team is committed to innovating how Windows can streamline experiences whether you’re returning to the office, working from home or never left the workplace as a frontline employee.”

With Windows 365, businesses can stream the entire Windows experiences from the Microsoft cloud to any device, representing an important step in our journey to bring Windows to the cloud.

“There has never been a better time to move your business to Windows 11 and Windows 365 — the most productive, manageable, and secure Windows ever,” Panay says.

New features in Windows 11 and Windows 365 for commercial customers add management, security, and productivity and collaboration, according to Panay.

 

Zero Trust chip-to-cloud security in Windows tuned for hybrid work

“Cybersecurity issues and risks” top the list of concerns for business decision makers in the year ahead, shows new data from Microsoft‘s 2022 Work Trend Index. With built-in chip to cloud protection, Windows 11 is here to help organizations meet the new security challenges of the hybrid workplace, now and in the future.

More than 1-billion Windows users will benefit from layers of tightly integrated hardware and software protection – including deep partnerships with device and silicon manufacturers to elevate security against multiple attack vectors.

“You need your devices to be more secure than ever from phishing, weak credentials, malware, ransomware, data loss and the serious risk of hardware attacks if a device is stolen. Windows is here to help provide that by targeting and disrupting the techniques used by ransomware and other large scale cyberattacks.”

Windows 11 is introducing two powerful new features that strike against the most common cyberattack techniques: phishing and targeted malware.

New in Windows 11 is enhanced phishing detection and protection built into Windows with Microsoft Defender SmartScreen. This new feature will help protect users from phishing attacks by identifying and alerting users when they are entering their Microsoft credentials into a malicious application or hacked website.

Smart App Control uses code signing alongside Microsoft’s powerful artificial intelligence models to ensure that only trusted applications are run, blocking one of the largest attack vectors on Windows by-default.

“We’re also looking ahead to bring the power of the cloud to hardware with the flexible, updatable Microsoft Pluton security processor.”

Microsoft continues to empower IT to raise the bar against attack patterns from the chip to the cloud. “We are focused on making your jobs easier as you work to protect the productivity of your people as well as your organisations from the most common to the most sophisticated attacks,” Panay says.

To do that, Config Lock, already in Windows 11, monitors registry keys through MDM policies to help ensure devices in an ecosystem comply with industrial and company security baselines. If Config Lock detects a change in registry keys, it will automatically revert the impacted system to the IT-desired state in seconds.

 

More inclusive, accessible, and intelligent

Windows 11 is the most accessible and inclusive version of Windows ever, Panay says.

“New features like Focus Sessions, system wide Live Captions, and Voice Access empower everyone, including people with disabilities, to do more.”

Focus Sessions make it easier for information workers, and people with ADHD, to build healthy digital habits and be more productive. System-wide Live Captions in Windows 11 make it easier for everyone, including people who are hard of hearing or deaf and language learners, to understand spoken content. And Voice Access makes it possible for everyone, including people with limited mobility and people with repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel, to control their device and dictate content using their voice.

“Each of these experiences was created in partnership with people with disabilities and extended to many other Windows users.

“Additionally, we want to help Windows users be more efficient and more productive in every experience. The redesigned, cloud-powered File Explorer makes it easier to find what you’re looking for, allowing you to see all files in one centralised place. You can also pin files and create tabs in File Explorer, bringing what used to take six clicks to get to an important file to one.

“To further improve the meeting and collaboration experience, we’re also introducing new intelligent meeting features for Windows 11 powered by AI. More than ever, we’re connecting with each other through our devices and with new features like Voice clarity, Automatic framing, Portrait background blur and Eye contact we want to make that experience feel more personal and more human.”

 

Empowering IT with streamlined Windows management

Simplicity and ease of management is more important than ever as organisations and IT adapt to remote and hybrid work environments. So endpoint management for IT is simplifies with Microsoft Endpoint Manager.

A new intelligent managed service, Windows Autopatch, can help reduce the load on IT by automating updates for Windows, Microsoft Edge, and Office, ensuring they’re always up to date. And Autopatch comes at no additional cost, as part of the Windows Enterprise E3 subscription.

“With Windows 365, we extend the Windows experience to the cloud to help meet the changing workforce needs,” Panay says. “The Windows 365 Enterprise edition gives organisations the flexibility to provide an incredible Windows experience on a corporate device or personal device, all managed in Microsoft Endpoint Manager.”

Through Endpoint Manager IT can manage Windows 365 Cloud PCs alongside their physical PCs. And the top customer-requested feature — Azure AD Join support for Cloud PCs — is coming to general availability in May.

Also coming to Windows 11 is application management for Microsoft Edge to provide more flexibility in how and where employees work. When employees need to use personal devices to check in on work or perform tasks, we want to help IT ensure that end users can access corporate resources in a secure way.

With app protection policies applied in Endpoint Manager for Edge for Windows, administrators will be able to configure how data flows in and out of their organisation as well as define the allowed Windows Defender threat level on the device.

“We’re enabling employees to securely access company resources from their personal Windows device, while maintaining security and privacy,” Panay says.

“We are also announcing a new era for Microsoft Endpoint Manager,” he adds. “Premium endpoint management will bring together mission critical endpoint and security management tools into a single, cloud powered solution. Over time we will launch a series of capabilities in Endpoint Manager designed to improve end user experiences, increase endpoint security, and reduce TCO.”

These new solutions will help to protect endpoints in the cloud, on premises and across device platforms, and will be foundational for organisations striving to adopt a Zero Trust security model.

Microsoft has launched remote help, the first of its premium endpoint management add-on to Endpoint Manger Remote that addresses a major need for hybrid work, by safely helping employees with their day-to-day IT needs with secured, helpdesk-to-user connections no matter where they work.

 

Removing boundaries between the PC and the cloud

Microsoft will soon announce new integrations that bring the power of Windows 11 and Windows 365 together.

Integrations include Windows 365 Switch for seamless movement between a Cloud PC and Local PC with a single click, Windows 365 Boot to be able to boot straight to a Windows 365 Cloud PC in just one step. “We envision the ability to work offline and then automatically resync without losing any data with Windows 365 Offline,” Panay says. “These scenarios are powerful for businesses, and they are just the beginning of our Windows and Microsoft cloud integration.”

A key element to hybrid work is ensuring devices are modern and secure. Microsoft’s ecosystem of partners provide the broadest array of devices on the market from 2-in-1s, to laptops and desktops, at every price point. OEM partners including Acer, ASUS, Dell Technologies, Dynabook Fujitsu Client Computing, Getac, HP, Lenovo, LG, MSI, NEC PC, Panasonic, and Samsung, together with silicon partners AMD, Intel and Qualcomm, are bringing Windows 11 innovations to customers.

“This innovation includes secured-core PCs, amazing video conferencing, next gen graphics, all day battery life, rugged designs for front-line workers, instant-on, fast memory and extreme performance, sustainable designs and so much more,” Panay says.