Microsoft has been very busy over the past 12 months. We held our biggest ever Future Decoded event in London, we’ve rolled out lots of new services in our data centres in the UK and we’ve opened a new office in Manchester. Our customers have enjoyed working and playing with Windows, Office, Xbox, Azure, Minecraft, LinkedIn and more. Here are the biggest Microsoft stories covered by the UK News Centre in 2017:
Who doesn’t love a bargain? To help kids get the best start to the new school year, Microsoft unveiled some great savings on the Surface Pro 4.
That was back in August, when we also revealed that the burgundy, graphite gold and cobalt blue versions of the Surface Laptop could now be pre-ordered in the UK.
In July, Microsoft unveiled a series of new security features in its UK data centres. The main one was Azure SQL Threat Detection, which will send users an alert when their website is being attacked and suggest how to deal with the threat.
The feature tackles SQL Injection attacks, which are some of the most common and dangerous known to online security experts. Hackers can use them to break into a website and steal or delete sensitive company and customer data.
Companies signed up to SQL Threat Detection will automatically receive an email in the event of a hack attempt. The email will provide information on the nature of the hack, the name of the database, server and application affected, and the time of the event. In addition, the email will recommend actions to take to investigate and mitigate threats.
It’s no surprise the block-building game makes it into our top 10. Minecraft is one of the most popular computer games of all time, with 122 million copies sold to date – including four to people in Antarctica. Since the beginning of 2016, more than 53,000 copies have been sold every day, and 55 million people play Minecraft every month.
In September, we released an update that lets players create a Minecraft world on a console or Windows PC and continue building it on a mobile phone. The Better Together Update also lets people team up with friends regardless of what platform they are using – Xbox, Windows, Apple, Google or virtual reality.
As well as building worlds across devices, the new update will let players take items and features bought from the official Marketplace with them, too.
Three months ago, Microsoft opened a new office in Manchester as part of a plan to build a “strong base” in the north of England.
The company has 100 staff based in Manchester, who moved in to the seventh floor of NEO, a 12-storey building in the city centre built by commercial property firm Bruntwood.
The building, in Charlotte Street, offers views across the city as well as a roof terrace, all-weather meeting pods, co-working spaces, presentation spaces, screening rooms, studios and communal lounges with wireless charging points in the sofas.
Rather than place users in a fully computer-generated world, as virtual reality does, HoloLens allows users to place 3D digital models in the room alongside them. As the Windows-10-based product does not have wires or external cameras, or require a phone or PC connection, users can walk around the objects they create and interact with them using gestures, gaze and voice.
The device has been changing how people work, whether it’s designing new products or maintaining existing ones.
In March we gave world-famous architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha the chance to see his buildings recreated in mixed-reality. The 88-year-old Brazilian said it was “fantastic” that he could see his creations using Microsoft’s device.
Future Decoded is Microsoft’s biggest event in the UK. This year’s event was the largest yet, with thousands of partners, businesses and customers flocking to the ExCeL in London,to hear about how Microsoft can help them digitally transform.
Speakers included Panos Panay (above), head of Surface; UK Chief Executive Cindy Rose and comedian David Walliams. The UK News Centre live-blogged the two-day event, which included talks on quantum computing, GDPR and artificial intelligence.
In February Microsoft revealed that it had completed a study with the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) into how technology could be used to help dyslexic children in schools. The results were astonishing.
The research showed that dyslexic children who used OneNote “made more progress than would generally be expected for children of their age over the same time period” for single word reading, spelling, reading fluency and reading accuracy. The BDA found the same results after tests involving alliteration, rhyme, spoonerisms and non-word reading.
The children made the “normally expected rate of progress” on processing speed, but OneNote had given them “more strategies to apply” during resits of this particular part of the test, which was seen as a positive development.
Overall, 11 out of 16 of the young people in the trial moved from one band of standardised scores into the next band up, which is “indicative of potential good improvements in reading comprehension skills”, the BDA noted.
Such was the demand for this update that even the announcement of the beta release was widely read. It allows players on Xbox and Windows PCs to team up with friends on Apple and Google devices.
It wouldn’t be fully released until a month later, but Minecraft fans jumped at the chance to try it early.
This story was so good, it was one of the best-read articles on the UK News Centre this year even though it was published in December 2016.
SIME Dx, a digital diagnostics company in Microsoft’s accelerator programme developed a simple bedside test that could improve the lives of millions of premature babies suffering from underdeveloped lungs.
The firm’s laser-based test can accurately predict which babies are likely to develop respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), the leading cause of death in premature babies.
The lung maturity test (LMT) uses a small amount of gastric fluid, a substance routinely taken from babies at birth while clearing the airways. The fluid is then placed into SIME’s device, where an infrared light beam passes through the sample to produce a unique digital signature. An algorithm then analyses this signature to identify biological markers that point to a high risk of RDS.
The biggest story on the UK News Centre this year has made headlines across the world. Haiyan Zhang, an Innovation Director at Microsoft, was invited to star in a new BBC series called The Big Life Fix. While on the show, she created a watch for a woman with Parkinson’s that helped control her tremors – the Emma Watch.
Emma Lawton was a graphic designer who struggled to write her own name until the Emma Watch was created. Millions of people watched the BBC programme at home as she wore the device, and put pen to paper to write one, perfect word: Emma.