AI ethics and end-user computing take center stage for Microsoft

AI ethics and end-user computing take center stage for Microsoft

Summary

At the recent Amsterdam leg of its Ignite tour, Microsoft made a variety of announcements, most interestingly (to this analyst anyway), around ethics when developing AI systems and how Microsoft 365, a solution that includes Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security, continues to evolve to meet the needs of a modern workforce.

Microsoft has defined a set of principles intended to guide the responsible development of AI systems

A lot of time in the analyst sessions was dedicated to discussions around artificial intelligence (AI). One of the more interesting sessions focused on AI governance and ethics. Here, Microsoft shared how seriously it is taking its responsibilities in relation to AI technology. In particular, the company shared six principles that guide how it intends to mitigate some of the dangers that AI technologies may present and encourage responsible development of AI systems:

  • Fairness. All systems should be free of biases and treat all people fairly. Imagine where AI is used to speed up and deliver inputs into insurance claims, for example. Data training and building any AI system on unbiased data will be very important. This principle is crucial in building confidence in any AI system.
  • Reliability and safety. This principle relates to the expectation that AI systems should be developed to be consistently reliable and safe.
  • Privacy and security. This principle relates to the need to make sure AI systems are secure and that people’s privacy is protected. This is especially important given the data that people may be expected to contribute in making any system better. If the outcomes are compelling, meaningful, and of value (such as in improving healthcare outcomes for people, for example) then people will likely have more confidence in providing their data, but only if security is assured.
  • Inclusiveness. Systems should be developed to empower and engage many people and not solely for the benefit of a small group.
  • Transparency. It is important that people understand how AI systems are making decisions and reaching conclusions. Contextual explanations need to be provided. This is a complex activity, most notably because what is deemed an appropriate and adequate level of transparency may vary. This context is essential, however, as even if a highly accurate (90%+) model has been developed, not being able to explain the model and how the outputs were reached will limit, perhaps completely, how the system can be used in operation.
  • Accountability. People must be accountable for how their systems operate. This is important in driving confidence in AI.

These principles certainly demonstrate an attentiveness from Microsoft in relation to the company’s responsibilities around AI. They provide a framework that can guide the ethical use and development of AI technologies, but the proof of this model’s effectiveness and relevance will be better judged over the longer term, using evidence on how consistently these principles are being applied, especially across different regions.

Windows Virtual Desktop has been released into public preview
Microsoft also announced the public preview of Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), a desktop and app virtualization service that will be delivered on Azure. This is a compelling announcement from a digital workspace perspective, as WVD supports Windows 10 multisession, Windows 10 single session, Windows 7 single session, and Windows Server 2012 R2 and newer operating systems and will be available across different device types and be compliant and updated with the latest operating system (OS) patches, etc. A partnership between Microsoft and Samsung provides an interesting example of how the WVD could be useful to mobile and flexible workers. Samsung DeX is a solution for modern Samsung smartphones and tablets that enables these devices to be easily and quickly connected to a monitor and keyboard, enabling people to engage in more focused and longer-form desk work as they would with a laptop or desktop PC. With WVD, it will now be possible to work with a virtualized instance of Windows 10 via these smartphones, a compelling use case for mobile and flexible workers. A WVD client app can also run on macOS, iOS, Windows 7, and Windows 10. WVD could also be useful for enterprises challenged by how to make legacy applications available across more modern OSs, because Win32 apps can also be virtualized and made easily accessible, since WVD offers more options to support legacy apps while transitioning to Windows 10.

Microsoft is keen for service providers to see the opportunities associated with its new Microsoft Managed Desktop Service

Ovum was also able to spend some time with Brad Anderson, the corporate vice president of the Enterprise Experiences and Mobility team at Microsoft, and talk about the Managed Desktop Service (MMD) announced by Microsoft in late 2018. In subscribing to the service, business users benefit through having Microsoft provision and configure a cloud-connected PC, managing and monitoring security and app deployments, providing analytics and 24×7 support, and ensuring that the Windows 10 PCs provided are secured and updated via its cloud-based management platform. In addition to Surface PCs, MMD customers can also choose from a variety of different Dell and HP PCs that meet the MMD quality and reliability bar. Understandably, this offering may make some Microsoft partners that have offered comparable services in the past a little nervous; these are activities and service elements that many have historically offered. However, Microsoft is keen to help them realize the opportunities that this new service provides. Specifically, Microsoft is keen to see its service provider partners build on top of its managed desktop service offering with a range of compelling enhancement services, all aimed at helping enterprises realize value from the opportunities presented by digital transformation. The MMD service will thus become one, albeit valuable, element of a broader ecosystem of end-user-computing (EUC) services offered by Microsoft partners. In leveraging the service, partners will have an opportunity to move focus away from some of the more repetitious EUC provisioning and management tasks and toward adding value in new and more compelling ways.

Appendix

Further reading
Ovum Market Radar: Unified Endpoint Management, ENS001-000045 (March 2019)

Collaborating with customers and partners to deliver a modern desktop: Microsoft Managed Desktop. Available from Accessed March 2019

Announcing the public preview of Windows Virtual Desktop. Available from Accessed March 2019

Microsoft Managed Desktop. Available from Accessed March 2019

Author

Adam Holtby, Senior Analyst, Workspace Services

adam.holtby@ovum.com

Ovum Consulting
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