This year’s Microsoft Analyst Summit took place at the St. Regis hotel in Singapore, a prestigious place that hosted more than 90 analysts from the entire region. The Forrester team was impressed by Microsoft’s strategies in cloud, digital transformation and partnerships, and in particular, the main takeaway for us throughout the 2-day event was Microsoft’s innovation capabilities and ambition, especially in the APAC region.

  • HoloLens puts the spotlight on Mixed Reality.  Unlike Augmented Reality, which is lightweight but has limited views and functionality, or Virtual Reality, which is very powerful but comes with bulkiness and dependence on a PC, Mixed Reality blends holograms with the real world to marry agility and powerfulness. HoloLens brings this concept to life, it is light enough for users to move around safely, and it is very powerful because it is a self-contained computer that doesn’t require tethering to another PC. There is even an emulator that allows developers to develop holographic apps for HoleLens without a device. HoloLens could drastically change the way people work, live or even think, we are all very eager to see if the first wave of HoleLens products will successfully establish an ecosystem that can sustain mass market deployments and future growth.
  • Technology innovation is rooted in R&D.  Microsoft employs thousands of engineers and scientists here in Asia, so technology innovation is not just happening in the headquarters in Seattle, it is also happening here. At this event, Microsoft Research Beijing Lab showcased their innovation in Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, big data, mobility and cloud. One of the most impressive projects was a Chinese-language chatbot named XiaoIce (along with its Japanese-language cousin named Rinna), who has evolved through chatting with millions of users and even acquired a certain amount of EQ in addition to IQ. Most of these innovation projects are technically advanced, but it remains to be seen how Microsoft can monetize from such projects and create new business models for itself and its customers.
  • Business model innovation creates new value for Microsoft customers. Laing O’Rourke, a renowned global construction conglomerate, had a problem where its employees in Australia were often exposed to extreme conditions such hot temperatures and low humidity, out in the desserts. The company partnered with Microsoft and MOQdigital, an innovative technology integrator in Sydney, to design and build out an IoT-based solution for this problem. The solution, a smart helmet named Sensamate, has sensors to send data of temperature, humidity, heart-rate, location, Microsoft’s Azure cloud, where the data are analyzed with other data such as weather forecast, to prevent incidents like heart strokes. Another Microsoft IoT-based solution is for ThyssenKrupp Elevators, where data collected from sensors in elevators can predict maintenance issues in Azure and significantly lower maintenance costs. These business model innovations use existing technology, like Azure, to bring measurable business benefits to Microsoft’s clients.>

As one of the dominant industry leaders, Microsoft definitely has the vision, the intellectual prowess and required resources to bring more innovation into the APAC region, and also create impactful innovation within the region.  It is expected that Microsoft create more holistic strategies to turn innovative ideas into sustainable business growth. For instance, in the IoT space, what will be the overarching strategy to link Microsoft’s capabilities in devices, connectivity and data analytics?  What are the groundbreaking opportunities for HoloLens in APAC? Hopefully these answers will surface in the next 12 months.