Microsoft Debuts AI-Powered Software, Customer Service Bot

At the Microsoft Ignite annual IT event in Orlando, Florida this week, Microsoft announced it will soon debut a customer-service virtual assistant as part of its Dynamics 365 product line that will incorporate artificial intelligence. A user will be able to describe a problem in her own words, and the virtual assistant will answer by relying on user manuals, help documents and other materials. The customer can request a human, in which case the bot will assist the human customer service agent; a manager can view the result on a dashboard. Continue reading Microsoft Debuts AI-Powered Software, Customer Service Bot

Service Providers Ask Supreme Court to Review Net Neutrality

AT&T, trade group USTelecom and broadband service provider CenturyLink filed separate appeals yesterday requesting that the FCC’s net neutrality rule barring ISPs from slowing or blocking content be overturned. The rule, supported by tech companies such as Google and Facebook, was enacted during the Obama era when the FCC was under Democratic control. “Now under Republican leadership, the FCC is already considering a plan to replace and weaken the rules,” reports Bloomberg. “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to remove strong legal authority that critics say over-regulates telephone and cable providers and that defenders say is needed to enforce fair treatment of web traffic.” Continue reading Service Providers Ask Supreme Court to Review Net Neutrality

Roku Goes Public Today, Sets its IPO Price at $14 per Share

Video streaming device maker Roku begins trading today on Nasdaq, setting its IPO price at $14 per share, which would give it a $1.3 billion stock market value. The 15-year-old company is competing with the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google that all offer streaming video boxes featuring popular apps such as Netflix and Hulu. Roku’s devices provide access to Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and dozens of online channels, but competition is a major consideration with today’s tech investors. Snap Inc., for example, the year’s biggest tech IPO, has watched its shares plummet in value as Facebook’s Instagram rolled out Snapchat-like functionality. Continue reading Roku Goes Public Today, Sets its IPO Price at $14 per Share

Amazon’s NFL Deal Creates New Paradigm for Sports Rights

On September 28, Amazon will live-stream the first of 11 NFL “Thursday Night Football” games to its Prime Video members in over 200 countries and territories (excluding China). The last game, between Pittsburgh and Houston, will live-stream on Christmas Day. The event marks the beginning of an era in which technology titans, including Google and Facebook, vie with traditional broadcasters for the rights to major sports deals. The sports leagues are drawn to the global reach of the major technology companies. Continue reading Amazon’s NFL Deal Creates New Paradigm for Sports Rights

Amazon Launches Alexa on Music Apps to Attract New Users

Amazon, ranked third in streaming music, launched virtual assistant Alexa on its Amazon Music apps this week to better compete with No. 1 provider Spotify and No. 2-ranked Apple. Amazon Music will provide a button which users can push to access Alexa “play” commands that will work as they do on Echo. Amazon determined that Alexa is now the primary way that users listen to Amazon Music. Competitor Apple offers its virtual assistant Siri on Apple Music. Meanwhile, Google has decided to stop supporting the Amazon Echo Show on YouTube. Continue reading Amazon Launches Alexa on Music Apps to Attract New Users

Facebook Debuts Cross-Platform Metrics Tools for Marketers

Advertisers will be able to improve their marketing campaigns with two new tools for measuring Facebook and TV metrics both separately and together. The new Facebook Cross-Platform Brand Lift, which will debut in 2018, and the Nielsen Total Brand Effect with Lift, already available in the U.S. and U.K., are particularly aimed at marketers moving from digital to cross-media advertising. The platform also allows Facebook to compete with Google’s Brand Lift for TV, which debuted a number of years ago. Continue reading Facebook Debuts Cross-Platform Metrics Tools for Marketers

Facebook, Microsoft, Telxius Transatlantic Cable Is Complete

The new underwater cable between North America and Europe, built through a partnership between Facebook, Microsoft and Telxius (a subsidiary of Telefónica), is now complete. Dubbed Marea (Spanish for “tide”), the new 4,000-mile subsea cable runs at a depth of 17,000 feet under the Atlantic from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Bilbao, Spain and has been under construction since August 2016. Marea will offer a capacity of 160 terabits per second, and will help meet the demand for high-speed Internet and cloud services. Continue reading Facebook, Microsoft, Telxius Transatlantic Cable Is Complete

Paid Subs for Streaming Music Services Top 30 Million in U.S.

The music business is experiencing significant growth, thanks in large part to the increasing popularity of streaming services. According to RIAA’s midyear report, leading services such as Spotify and Apple Music currently have 30.4 million paid subscribers in the U.S. (up from 20.2 million the previous year). Streaming services are now responsible for 62 percent of total industry revenue, followed by 19 percent for digital downloads, 16 percent for physical sales, and 3 percent for synch rights. Continue reading Paid Subs for Streaming Music Services Top 30 Million in U.S.

CCleaner Malware Is Linked to Attack Against 20 Tech Firms

Security companies Morphisec and Cisco reported the extent of the damage caused by a malware attack on security software CCleaner. Experts say that the software, distributed by Czech company Avast, was targeted not simply to disrupt as many computers as possible, but to conduct espionage. Hackers penetrated the software and added a backdoor, ultimately installing malware on more than 700,000 computers. But hackers also sought to find computers among those infected that resided in networks of 20 leading tech firms. Continue reading CCleaner Malware Is Linked to Attack Against 20 Tech Firms

Google to Acquire Part of HTC Mobile Division for $1.1 Billion

Google will spend $1.1 billion to purchase part of HTC’s smartphone operations. The Internet giant plans to use HTC’s engineering and design teams to help ramp up its nascent hardware efforts to complement its expanding portfolio of software products and grow its revenue beyond Android and search ads. The deal, which is expected to bring about 2,000 HTC employees to Google, also includes a non-exclusive licensing agreement for HTC intellectual property. While HTC has shown growth potential in VR with its Vive headset, its mobile business has been struggling. Continue reading Google to Acquire Part of HTC Mobile Division for $1.1 Billion

W3C Officially Recommends EME Spec for DRM Protection

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) specification as a recommendation, although W3C members only voted 58.4 percent to approve, with 30.8 percent opposing and 10.8 percent abstaining. EME is a standard interface for digital rights management (DRM) protection of content delivered through the browser, defining how Internet content works with third-party Content Decryption Modules (CDMs) that provide proprietary decryption and rights management. In response to the EME recommendation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has resigned from the W3C. Continue reading W3C Officially Recommends EME Spec for DRM Protection

Google and Pinterest Leading the Evolution to Visual Search

Google and Pinterest, rivals in visual search, are upping their game. After the May debut of Google Lens, which uses machine learning for real-time visual searches, Pinterest unveiled its Lens, which lets the user take a photo of an object with their phone and bring up related objects in search. Now both companies have upgraded visual search: Pinterest is making it a central feature and Google has added new “badges,” which categorize the image being viewed and adds text to describe potential actions. Continue reading Google and Pinterest Leading the Evolution to Visual Search

‘Startup with Google’ Site Bundles Resources in Central Hub

Google launched a new site this week that offers startups a single location for accessing Google’s services and tools such as AdWords, Analytics, Android Studio, Firebase, Google Cloud and G Suite. “Startup with Google” also highlights Google’s Campus co-working spaces for entrepreneurs and its Google Developers Launchpad programs for providing mentorship and equity-free support. In addition to promoting Google’s own accelerators and events, the new site links to community programs and tech hubs run by third parties. Continue reading ‘Startup with Google’ Site Bundles Resources in Central Hub

SoftBank Leads Investment In Uber That Could Hit $10 Billion

SoftBank Group wants to buy 17 percent to 22 percent of Uber Technologies, via a combination of share purchases from the company and a tender offer to employees and investors. The deal would only work if SoftBank can convince Uber’s shareholders to sell their stock at a discount. According to sources, the bank’s investment could total as much as $10 billion, which would make it the largest-ever single investment in a private venture-backed startup. SoftBank also wants two board seats, adding to Uber’s nine current directors. Continue reading SoftBank Leads Investment In Uber That Could Hit $10 Billion

YouTube Video Is Increasingly Popular as Viewers Go Mobile

Video consumption is continuing its transition from the living room to mobile devices. Android users in the U.S. watched nearly 1 billion hours worth of YouTube video content in July — the most time ever spent over a month in a single streaming video app. According to App Annie, the Android version of YouTube’s app accounted for about 80 percent of the 12 billion hours Americans spent between July 2016 and July 2017 using the top 10 Android apps for streaming video. Total time spent by consumers using video streaming apps jumped 45 percent from the previous year. Following YouTube is Netflix, Twitch, Hulu and Amazon Video. Continue reading YouTube Video Is Increasingly Popular as Viewers Go Mobile

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