If there's an overarching theme to the product announcements that Microsoft (MSFT) just made at its annual Ignite conference, it's that the software giant is trying to better integrate various products and platforms -- including some from third parties.
At Ignite -- a conference that has more of an enterprise focus than Microsoft's Build developer conference, which was held in May this year -- Microsoft unveiled a number of new offerings for (among other things) its Azure cloud platform and Office productivity suite. Notable reveals included:
- Azure Arc, an advanced set of tools for managing server workloads and resources across not just Microsoft's cloud infrastructure, but also a company's own servers and (notably) third-party cloud infrastructures such as Amazon.com's (AMZN) and Alphabet/Google's (GOOGL) .
- Project Cortex, a solution for both searching and (with the help of machine learning) automatically surfacing information from Office documents, e-mails, chat logs and a slew of other information sources, including databases and third-party business apps. Microsoft refers to Cortex as a "knowledge network," and says it will be generally available in the first half of 2020.
- Several updates for the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform, which remains in pitched battle with Slack (WORK) . These updates include better integration with Microsoft Outlook as well as the Yammer enterprise social networking service.
- A unified Office Mobile app for iOS and Android devices that can be used to view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Though its feature set isn't as rich as what the standalone Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps deliver to Office 365 subscribers, Microsoft argues Office Mobile delivers a better experience for users who only need a limited set of features.
- Azure Synapse Analytics, a service for analyzing data across both data warehouses, which typically feature refined data that's used to inform business decisions, and data lakes, which typically contain large amounts of raw data that companies try to obtain insights from.
In some respects, a few of the major product announcements made at Ignite feel similar to some of the big ones made at Build earlier this year. Back then, Microsoft also showed off some innovative offerings meant to better integrate disparate products. The Fluid Framework, a platform for enabling document collaboration and other "shared interactive experiences" across both Microsoft and third-party apps, was perhaps the most high-profile example of such an offering.
Meanwhile, the sheer number of products and services announced at both Build and Ignite drives home how aggressively Microsoft is investing in R&D to go after various enterprise software and cloud services opportunities.
Microsoft's R&D spend rose 15% annually on a GAAP basis last quarter to $4.57 billion, and even that doesn't tell the whole story, since the company has been shifting engineering resources away from its Windows business to strengthen its hand in a slew of other areas. Thanks in part to big R&D investments, Microsoft's "Intelligent Cloud" segment, which covers Azure as well as traditional server software businesses, rose 22% last quarter.
Some of the Microsoft product and services launches that are being made possible by all of this R&D spending will end up being more successful than others. But it's hard to complain about the collective impact that such investments have been having on Microsoft's top line.
Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club.