Five Microsoft technologies to watch in 2021

Credit: ZDNet

The predictions business seems more precarious than usual this year. As 2020 has shown quite clearly, attempting to predict anything makes zero sense any more. However, I’m not done with dusting off my crystal ball and trying to ascertain which technologies — announced and not — are likely to get their days in the Redmond sun in the coming year.

I’ve settled on five Microsoft areas that I’ll be watching closely in the new year. I’m choosing these five because I think they’ll have the biggest potential impact on business users in 2021. (I’m sure there are also a number of Microsoft gaming announcements that could be big in 2021, but — happily — that’s outside my main focus here on ZDNet.)

My five, in no particular order:

MetaOS for the Mobile Masses

Microsoft has an evolving strategy and foundational layer in the Microsoft 365 cloud space which

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Data-driven 2021: Predictions for a new year in data, analytics and AI

Towards the end of each year, I receive a slew of predictions, from data/analytics industry executives and luminaries, focused on the year ahead. This year, those predictions filled a 49-page-long document. 

While I couldn’t include all of them, I’ve rounded up many of this year’s prognostications, from over 30 companies, in this post. The roster includes numerous well-known data/analytics players, including Cloudera, Databricks, Micro Focus, Qlik, SAS, and Snowflake, to name a few. Thoughts from execs at Andreessen Horowitz, the Deloitte AI Institute and O’Reilly are in the mix as well, as are those from executives at smaller but still important industry players.

This year’s groupings include data warehouse vs. data lake; the democratization of artificial intelligence (AI); responsible AI; the convergence of AI and business intelligence (BI); growth in data literacy; the data governance imperative; and, of course, the interplay between analytics and the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyway,

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Openreach announces massive job creation plan for gigabit network deployment

BT’s broadband provision division, Openreach, has announced a massive job creation programme.

The new roles, located in communities throughout the country, are designed enable the company to continue improving service levels across its existing networks, while building and connecting customers to its new, full-fibre broadband network.

The expansion includes more than 2,500 full-time jobs in its service and network build divisions, and about 2,800 positions in its UK supply chain, through partners such as Kelly Group, Kier, MJ Quinn and Telent. Of the positions, 2,552 will be in direct labour and there will be 2,800 subcontractor roles, of which 1,600 are in service delivery, 700 chief engineering, and 500 in fibre network and delivery.

The announcement comes as BT hit a record build rate for its full-fibre broadband programme, which has set out to reach 20 million homes and businesses by the mid- to late 2020s –

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Report: Apple removed 46K+ apps, including 39K games from its China store on Thursday, as it set a year-end deadline for game publishers to obtain a license (Pei Li/Reuters)

Pei Li / Reuters:

Report: Apple removed 46K+ apps, including 39K games from its China store on Thursday, as it set a year-end deadline for game publishers to obtain a license  —  HONG KONG (Reuters) – Apple removed 39,000 game apps on its China store Thursday, the biggest removal ever in a single day … … Read More

Microsoft to enable certification renewals for free starting in February 2021

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft plans to allow IT professionals to renew their Microsoft Certifications virtually and for free in 2021. At the same time, Microsoft plans to require those with certifications to more frequently update those certifications’ validity.

In early 2021, Microsoft officials said, IT pros will be able to renew role-based and specialty certifications by passing a free renewal assessment on the Microsoft Learn site. This assessment can be completed online on customers’ own time, and anytime within six months of when a certification expires, officials announced this week.

After a user passes the renewal assessment, her/his certification will be extended by one additional year from the current expiration date. Microsoft is making available to interested IT pros a free collection of curated learning modules for each renewal assessment.

Also starting next year, Microsoft will be reducing the period for which role-based and specialty certifications remain valid. Currently,

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Windows 7: A year after the end-of-support deadline, millions choose not to upgrade

Credit: Microsoft

With a heartfelt nod to Monty Python, Windows 7 would like you all to know that it’s not dead yet.

A year after Microsoft officially ended support for its long-running OS, a small but determined population of PC users would rather fight than switch. How many? No one knows for sure, but that number has shrunk substantially in the past year.

On the eve of Microsoft’s Windows 7 end-of-support milestone, I consulted some analytics experts and calculated that the owners of roughly 200 million PCs worldwide would ignore that deadline and continue running their preferred OS. That was, admittedly, a rough estimate. (If you want to do the math yourself, read my year-ago post, “It’s 2020: How many PCs are still running Windows 7?”)

During the holiday lull at the end of 2020, I decided to go back and run the latest version of those

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