Skip to main content

A recap of Microsoft’s New Era of Work: new Surface devices, Windows 11 features and enhanced 365 capabilities

All the updates from Microsoft’s most recent New Era of Work digital event

Devices Technology adoption

woman smiling device
Bradley Howe headshot

Bradley Howe

Microsoft Modern Work Technologist

On 21 March, Microsoft held its digital event, New Era of Work, which included insights on how organisations can be empowered by AI. During the event, we also saw the announcement of two new Surface devices, new Windows 11 features, enhanced Windows 365 capabilities as well as updates on Copilot and accessibility - two of my favourite topics! So, let’s dive in.

Surface for Business

Microsoft has lifted the lid on the Surface Laptop 6 for Business and the Surface Pro 10 for Business, which will both be released in April. These devices are faster, more secure and have a longer battery life than ever before. In fact, you’ll see a boost in performance and graphics of 50% when compared to the previous generation of devices. Surface for Business devices are powered with Intel Core Ultra H-Series, giving you desktop grade performance in a laptop or 2in1. That’s quite a leap, and it’s all possible with a little help from our friend AI!

These devices are powered with an NPU (Neural Processing Unit), that comes integrated with the Intel Core Ultra Processor. Computers have traditionally come with a Central Processing Unit (CPU), the brain of the computer, and a Graphical Processing Unit (GPU). Any time we ask a device to do something like open an application, the CPU is calculating it in the background and the GPU is displaying it on the screen. With an NPU, local AI-based tasks can happen on the device without impacting the CPU – in other words your device shouldn’t slow down because of AI processing in the background.

Have you ever used Background Blur in Teams? This is in fact an AI-based feature. With the new Surface for Business line-up, this workload is handled by the NPU, not the CPU. This frees up your computer to work on other more important tasks such as emails, applications, compiling code, rendering marketing imagery and more.

Introducing the Surface Management Portal

The newly refreshed Surface Management Portal is your centralised solution to monitor, manage and self-serve your Surface devices at scale. In a single portal you can:

  • Check your device estate health. For example, finding devices that are not compliant, not registered, inactive, unencrypted, needing updates or with less than 10% storage available. Check warranty and coverage.
  • Monitor the carbon emissions for your Surface devices, including the estimated emissions for the product’s life.
  • Access device support including bulk device return and your shipping labels.

Microsoft has also announced the Surface IT Toolkit which helps your daily tasks such as deployment and data compliance.

Windows 365 and the deskless worker

Microsoft call them Frontline Workers – users who are typically found out and about, not in an office. Another name is the deskless worker. These are users on the frontline of the NHS, engineers in the field, shop floor assistants, customer representatives etc. Deskless workers make up almost 80% of the UK workforce and they can be anywhere. So how can we meet their challenges with proactive solutions that keep them efficient and engaged when in the field?

Windows 365 is one of these solutions. As it’s a cloud PC, organisations are able to stream an entire Windows desktop experience to virtually any device, for a fixed price using Windows 365. There is also a specific frontline offering from Microsoft, Windows 365 Frontline. Using Windows 365 Boot, users can subsequently boot a device into their Cloud PC and not the local OS (operating system). All of this can be accessed in the Windows app in Windows 11. If your organisation has shared devices accessed by multiple deskless users, such as shop floor or warehouse users, security and device control just became easier, as each user can efficiently sign in with a physical key. Signing in with the new Surface Pro 10 for Business is simple with the integrated NFC (Near Field Communication) reader. Using an NFC  key such as YubiKey, users hold a physical key next to their device and enter their PIN using 2-factor authentication.

Powering your deskless workers is simpler, secure, and accessible with Microsoft’s New Era of Work solutions.

Accessibility and Sustainability

Technology is about creating equal opportunities for all. The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that 2.5 billion people globally need assistive technologies. In the UK, the ONS (Office for National Statistics) estimates this to be coming next month, Microsoft will be releasing Microsoft Adaptive Accessories for commercial organisations. In April 2024, there will also be a new Surface Pro Keyboard with a bold keyset and a brighter backlight, to support users who experience eye strain when using Surface.

And finally, Copilot in Windows 11 is your IT AI assistant. In a few quick prompts, you can “turn on live captions”, “change the text size” and “turn on Narrator” to improve your user experience on Windows. With the new Copilot button on your keyboard, every user has access to a Tier 1 AI support agent, literally at the press of a button.

The new Surface for Business line-up has also been designed with sustainability in mind. These devices benefit from Windows 11 power efficiency tools, are built with increased repairability, and empower the Surface Emissions Estimator.

The New Era of Work has flown under the radar compared to the bigger Microsoft events, but it doesn’t make the announcements any less significant. To enable the workforce of the future, we need to educate and utilise the technologies around us. If you’re interested in the new Surface for Business line-up, please get in touch with your Softcat Account Manager or our Sales team. If accessibility is on your mind, we have our brand new video series, Softcat Accessibility, which focuses on the accessibility features in Windows 11 and Microsoft 365.