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

Apple, Now a Content Creator, Speaks Up for Net Neutrality

After remaining quiet on the topic over the past months, Apple has finally made its position clear on net neutrality, urging the current administration to preserve it and prevent service providers from interfering or slowing Internet traffic. In its comments to the Federal Communications Commission, Apple also asked chair Ajit Pai not to end the ban against “fast lanes” that allow broadband providers to charge for delivery of specific content, something that could impact consumers of Apple’s fare. Continue reading Apple, Now a Content Creator, Speaks Up for Net Neutrality

Google Debuts YouTube Shared Viewing App For iOS Users

Google’s Uptime app, that lets users watch YouTube videos in real time with friends, is now freely available to iOS users following its invite-only limited beta test. The beta, which started in March, was updated a few times, adding the ability to play and share music videos, as well as connect to Facebook to find friends to watch videos with. Users can also chat, leave comments and place emoji on top of the video. A replay of a shared video will include the ability to see comments at the time in the video they were made. Continue reading Google Debuts YouTube Shared Viewing App For iOS Users

Amazon Debuts Touchscreen Echo Show, Adds Video Calls

Amazon will ship a touchscreen version of its Echo speaker, the Echo Show, on June 28. Now available for pre-order at $229.99 or two for $360, Echo Show has the same capabilities as the first Echo, with the Alexa voice assistant, but adds a built-in display that shows information generated by Alexa queries. Users who have the Alexa app can make or receive a video call through Show; a new “Drop In” feature lets friends and family make a call at any time, and the call receiver has 10 seconds to reject it or switch it to audio-only. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Touchscreen Echo Show, Adds Video Calls

HTML5 Instant Games Threaten to Disrupt the App Store Model

The Android and iOS app stores have been dominant in gaming, but the advent of HTML5 may change that up. Developers will be able to create instant games, which they hope will grab the attention of more consumers. Games based on HTML5, which run in a browser and don’t require a download, are already being built into social media platforms and messaging systems. Instant game advocates argue that apps can be hard to find, require heavy advertising, and have to be downloaded and installed in order to play. Continue reading HTML5 Instant Games Threaten to Disrupt the App Store Model

Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Both Amazon and Google are thinking about turning their respective home speakers — Echo and Google Home — into home telephones. Knowledgeable sources say the tech giants could introduce the feature this year, with the goal of gaining yet more control over consumers’ home lives. But the companies are also finding that it’s not so simple, facing issues related to privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services — as well as the potential that consumers will be wary that their conversations are being recorded. Continue reading Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

GoPro to Lay Off 200 Employees, Tony Bates Stepping Down

Following failed attempts at becoming a media company, GoPro announced it plans to shutter its entertainment division and cut 15 percent of its staff, about 200 full-time positions. Former Microsoft exec and Skype CEO Tony Bates, president of GoPro since 2014, will step down by the end of the year. Despite high-profile hires, including Charlotte Koh from Hulu Originals and Bill McCullough from HBO Sports, as well as a 2014 Emmy for its Hero 3 camera and a variety of athlete endorsements, GoPro has been unsuccessful in pushing its entertainment offerings. After losing about half its value this year, the company hopes that restructuring will help return it to profitability. Continue reading GoPro to Lay Off 200 Employees, Tony Bates Stepping Down

Slack Faces Messaging Competition From Microsoft, Facebook

Group messaging is heating up. Startup Slack Technologies, valued at $3.8 billion, got it going and, now, Microsoft, with Teams, and Facebook, with Workplace by Facebook, are moving in on the space. Slack has been expecting this level of competition for some time, and it’s one of the reasons behind the company’s recent partnership with IBM to use Watson artificial intelligence services. All of this makes it clear that tech companies, big and small, see messaging as the next big thing after email. Continue reading Slack Faces Messaging Competition From Microsoft, Facebook

Microsoft Rolls Out Skype for Business, Android/iOS Updates

Having shown Skype for Business in preview in April, Microsoft officially debuted the business version of the popular communications app, and announced updates to the Android and iOS Skype for Business apps. Skype for Business features include full-screen sharing, one-click to join, and edge-to-edge video. The updated apps allow users to present remotely with PowerPoint directly from a mobile device. Mac users got Skype for Business six months ago, and the “full and final Windows version” was introduced 18 months ago. Continue reading Microsoft Rolls Out Skype for Business, Android/iOS Updates

New Microsoft Group Aims to Link AI Research with Products

Microsoft is reorganizing itself to better address the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence. The company says it has opened a new organization, staffed by 5,000 employees, that combines its sizeable research group and AI-enabled products including the Bing search engine and Cortana virtual assistant. The new group’s creation had a setback when computer scientist Qi Lu, who had overseen Bing and Microsoft Office products, suffered a serious bicycling accident and had to temporarily leave the company.   Continue reading New Microsoft Group Aims to Link AI Research with Products

Testing VR and AR as Next Wave of Videoconferencing Tools

Several companies and academic institutions are studying the use of virtual reality as a way to replace the videoconference call. Among those experimenting in the field is the NYU Media Research Lab, which showed a video of researchers using Samsung Gear VR headsets to collaborate in a simulated environment. The Bank of Ireland and U.K. utility National Grid PLC have also tried out early VR software. Skype, the Microsoft company often used for videoconference calls, is working on an augmented reality solution. Continue reading Testing VR and AR as Next Wave of Videoconferencing Tools

EU Proposes Regulations for Online Communication Services

The European Union’s executive arm is poised to propose that online communication services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp be regulated similarly to telecoms, a move that telecom executives have long advocated as creating a level playing field. Telecoms would actually prefer that the EU repeal regulations on user privacy among other specifics but, in lieu of that, are content to see their industry-specific regulations extended to online communication services, most of which are currently free. Continue reading EU Proposes Regulations for Online Communication Services

Drivetribe: Fox Invests in Digital Platform for Auto Enthusiasts

21st Century Fox just invested $6.5 million in the London-based Drivetribe, a new digital media platform for car fans. This comes two weeks after early Facebook investor Jim Breyer and venture capital fund Atomico, led by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, invested $5.5 million. Entrepreneur Ernesto Schmitt, former “Top Gear” hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, and the show’s former executive producer Andy Wilman are the creators behind Drivetribe, which launches in November. Continue reading Drivetribe: Fox Invests in Digital Platform for Auto Enthusiasts

EU Rules to Create Parity Between Internet Apps and Carriers

Deutsche Telekom and Spain’s Telefónica have long lobbied the European Union to either repeal some of the onerous regulations governing carriers or to extend them to Internet-based text-message and voice-call services, including Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp. Now, carriers might get their wish as the EU’s executive body is on the verge of suggesting more rules for Skype, WhatsApp and their ilk: tighter privacy and security, and an easier way for consumers to move information when switching services. Continue reading EU Rules to Create Parity Between Internet Apps and Carriers

Code Reveals Potential Features for Snapchat Including Video

Developers have discovered code within the current version of Snapchat that may offer clues about new features coming to the popular messaging app. While Snapchat may not roll out the features, it does show that the company has been working on ways to ramp up competition with other messaging apps such as WeChat and FaceTime. The hidden code provides a framework for the integration of stickers to sell within the app and an enhanced video chatting system that works more like a phone call. Continue reading Code Reveals Potential Features for Snapchat Including Video

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