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The year 2016 has come and gone, along with some of the most interesting advances in technology that we have ever seen. From leaps ahead in machine learning, adaptive security, and IoT architecture, the world is changing now faster than ever before.

To close out the year and prepare for 2017, we wanted to reflect on some of the most exciting highlights to hit the tech scene in 2016, from new technologies, to new partnerships, and new business models too. We also wanted to share a few thoughts from partners on how they anticipate seizing these opportunities in the new year.

New Technologies

Our industry is in the middle of a digital transformation that is completely, wonderfully disruptive. The breakthrough technologies that we experienced this year will be the everyday tools and essential devices that will define the future. Interesting advances in the world of 3D experiences, artificial intelligence and machine learning, the Internet of Things, security, and Big Data are all top of mind because they will provide the business opportunities that drive the market forward in the coming year.

3D

The world of 3D printing opens up some incredible opportunities, including recent advances which make it possible to mix multiple materials together within one build process. If you want to really go down the rabbit hole, read up on advances in biological 3D printing (such as skin and organs) and consider the possible ethical and political ramifications of the technology.

“I am excited to see how Microsoft will further its foothold in the 3D Printing space. The Microsoft Worldwide Developer Community [now] has access to Spark’s APIs and development platform so over the next 12 months I imagine we will see some radical 3D printing applications”

– Jason Taylor, Channel Sales Manager at rFactr

Of course, while 3D printing is revolutionizing a variety of businesses, that’s not the only way 3D is having an impact. This year Microsoft announced the new Windows 10 Creators Update, which includes Paint 3D, the Capture 3D, plus the 3D augmented reality features now part of the HoloLens experience.

3D technology is suddenly much more accessible to businesses and consumers both. Now that 3D is for everyone, the opportunity exists for partners to build their own IP around these new features and continue to drive the industry forward.

AI

Back in September, Microsoft announced the intention to take AI to the next level by building a uniquely specialized team of over 5,000 Research, Information Platform, Cortana, Ambient Computing, and Robotics professionals. The new group of computer scientists and engineers will help accelerate the evolution of AI, while at the same time making the technology more accessible and sharing the business opportunity with partners.

“When it comes to trends and new technologies [in 2016] I think Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are changing the landscape. Both AI and ML are great opportunities for partners and I see that investors are eager to find tomorrow’s winners in this field so this is probably my best advice to partners on where to focus in the coming year.“

– Per Werngren, Accelerator AB

With big changes in the capabilities of the technology, including the ability for robots to teach each other, AI is essentially the holy grail for future business opportunities.

IoT

IoT has been a hot topic across the industry for a year or two at this point, but 2016 saw the technology hit critical mass. Partners are interested because IoT offers some exciting business opportunities such as P2P partnerships and using the technology as part of their own IP strategy. The concept of the “digital mesh” or the encompassing of the wide range of endpoints (such as computers, mobile devices, wearable devices, infrastructure monitors and so on, is evolving at a record pace. The significant development in the data that’s being collected from all these devices has the power to completely revolutionize how we work, play, and even exist. From connected cars to greener manufacturing processes, IoT is an open playground for those partners with an eye on the future.

Adaptive Security

With the emerging “hacker industry” becoming a significant threat to individuals, businesses, and governments, 2016 also saw some further advances in adaptive security. It is predicted that cybersecurity will be a hot topic in 2017.

Chris Dunning, Founder of TechQuarters, said they have ramped up their EMS division and are sharing it with all clients as their AV comes up for renewals.

“It’s not just advanced threat detection, it is about being clever with multiple types of security devices, firewalls’ GAVs, AV, sandboxing internet searches, and continuous backup of VIP files from local desktops in case of accidental exposure. Combatting ransomware will be one of the biggest activities for us in 2017.”

– Chris Dunning, TechQuarters

IT leaders like Microsoft are focused on preventing, detecting, and responding to these threats such that security is at the very core of products like Office 365 and Azure. But this will be a trend to watch as the cyber-crime threat grows over the coming years.

New Business Models

With all of these emerging technologies making waves in the industry, the need for new business models has become clear over the past year. Take the Surface as a Service model for example. Microsoft has taken the subscription based business model to new heights with one key difference, the service is hardware. The offering received some serious attention this year because of the partner opportunity it presents. In the space of 12 months, the Surface purchasing and deployment footprint for partners grew from 200 to more than 10,000 partners worldwide. Through this program, partners can provide the unique services, support, app development, purchasing, and deployment options that add amazing value to their enterprise clients.

New Partnerships and Collaboration Tools

The emphasis on developing partnerships and increasing collaboration over the past year has been downright inspiring. From all the many Partner to Partner success stories we’ve featured on the blog to the industry shaking mergers that have taken place, the partnerships of 2016 are sure to shape the partner story in 2017.

“I was surprised to hear that Microsoft was going to acquire LinkedIn, my favorite B2B social networking site. Now that the acquisition is completed, I can’t wait to see how LinkedIn will play into the Dynamics 365 story in 2017.“

– Jon Rivers, Marketing Monarchs

For helping his team collaborate at a higher level, Dux Raymond Sy said that he really enjoyed using PowerApps and Flow for greater productivity in 2016 and that he is looking forward to using Microsoft Teams in the coming year.

“We’ve been testing [Microsoft Teams] internally across a number of business functions at AvePoint, and so far it’s gone over really well. It fills the gap of chat-based workspace collaboration nicely and has features that are both useful and fun – from full integration with Office suite, to video chat, to the ability to create GIFs and memes. Who doesn’t love GIFs and memes?”

– Dux Raymond Sy, AvePoint

Clearly, 2016 was full of the tech breakthroughs and trends that will set the stage for another disruptive year. From our team to yours, we wish you a happy New Year!

How do you expect the advances of 2016 will impact your business in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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