Salesforce to Purchase Slack Technologies for $27.7 Billion

Salesforce.com inked a $27.7 billion cash-and-stock deal to buy Slack Technologies. The purchase, double any other Salesforce acquisition, positions the company to compete with Microsoft and Alphabet. Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff pioneered software subscriptions running on remote servers, which evolved into tech tools for businesses. Slack Technologies chief executive Stewart Butterfield pioneered online collaboration tools as an alternative to email but, when COVID-19 hit, Slack was slow to pick up video tools. Continue reading Salesforce to Purchase Slack Technologies for $27.7 Billion

Facebook Plans to Buy Customer Service Startup Kustomer

Facebook disclosed plans to buy Kustomer, a customer relationship management startup, in a deal valued by sources at close to $1 billion. Crunchbase stated the New York-based Kustomer has raised about $170 million in venture capital funding. Kustomer would help Facebook provide customer support on its main platform and its services such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. The deal, subject to regulatory scrutiny, comes as Facebook is already being investigated for its acquisition of startups as anticompetitive behavior. Continue reading Facebook Plans to Buy Customer Service Startup Kustomer

Investments in Bitcoin Increase During the COVID Pandemic

Cryptocurrency Bitcoin is on a roll, rising to a record high since the advent of the global coronavirus pandemic. In March it had skidded to below $4,000. This time, however, its growth is not being driven by the same speculative forces that led to its peak of $19,783 in 2017. Instead, American companies and other traditional investors are gravitating to Bitcoin as an alternative asset, similar to gold, that enables them to place part of their financial portfolio outside the influence of governments and the traditional financial systems. Continue reading Investments in Bitcoin Increase During the COVID Pandemic

Major Surge in Online Sales for Black Friday, Cyber Monday

This year’s Black Friday was a marked contrast to those of previous years, due to the rise in COVID-19 cases and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid crowds. Brick-and-mortar stores were the losers, with Morgan Stanley analysts estimating a 20 percent drop in sales compared to last year. Instead, according to Adobe Analytics, shoppers spent $9 billion online on Friday, capturing a 21.6 percent increase from the previous year, and the second biggest number ever for online sellers. Meanwhile, consumers shelled out $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday for a new single-day sales record. Continue reading Major Surge in Online Sales for Black Friday, Cyber Monday

Facebook Tech Problems Impact Ad Campaigns, Businesses

After Facebook’s “conversion lift” tool overestimated the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, impacting marketers total spend, the company is offering millions of dollars in credit. The error was undetected for a year beginning August 2019. Some of the advertisers said their confidence in Facebook’s metrics is now shaken, especially at a time of cutting costs and concern over ad spending. Small businesses are also seeing their accounts blocked without explanation and no recourse due to Facebook’s increased reliance on AI and automated filters. Continue reading Facebook Tech Problems Impact Ad Campaigns, Businesses

Amazon to Surpass Walmart as Top Global Private Employer

Amazon is on track to become the world’s largest private employer within two years. The company has added 427,300 more employees between January and October this year, for a total workforce of 1.2+ million around the world. Two years ago, its workforce was less than 650,000 people. The National Retail Federation reported that sales at Amazon, the top e-commerce player, will grow by as much as 30 percent compared with last year’s holiday season. The company has earmarked $500 million for employee holiday bonuses. Continue reading Amazon to Surpass Walmart as Top Global Private Employer

Game Consoles See Revenue Growth with Digital Distribution

With the coronavirus pandemic, more people are staying at home and, according to Newzoo, 700+ million of them are playing video games on consoles. The market research firm said the console industry is slated to rake in $45 billion in revenue this year. Microsoft and Sony have unveiled new consoles, and Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad stated that consoles are a “much more profitable business” than a decade or more ago, especially since digital distribution of games enables the game companies to enjoy bigger profit margins than before. Continue reading Game Consoles See Revenue Growth with Digital Distribution

Apple Makes Additional Changes to App Store Commissions

To help businesses hold paid digital events during the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple stated that companies offering virtual events or digital classes via iPhone apps won’t have to pay the 30 percent commission fee ordinarily applied to App Store in-app purchases. This concession will extend through the end of June 2021. Apple will also reduce its commission for smaller developers. Meanwhile, Epic Games, which with other developers has been fighting Apple over its in-app commission fee, now has an ally in Nvidia. The GPU and gaming company is testing its GeForce NOW gaming platform on Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. Continue reading Apple Makes Additional Changes to App Store Commissions

This Holiday Season to Feature Virtual Shopping Experiences

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed the holiday season in ways big and small. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is still on, but without spectators, just a sign of the times for the merchant evolving to a primary digital presence. Last month, two Macy’s stores, in Delaware and Colorado, became fulfillment centers rather than places to shop. Other retailers, among them Ralph Lauren, Gap and Clarins Group, are opening virtual stores that create a consumer experience; some are slated to stay online for months after Christmas. Continue reading This Holiday Season to Feature Virtual Shopping Experiences

Biden Reiterates Commitment to Create Universal Broadband

President-elect Joe Biden and top Democratic allies in Congress, including James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), are focused on significantly increasing federal spending on broadband to improve Internet access and affordability, especially in rural areas. The effort is more urgent as the pandemic continues, and the first step towards this goal is part of the new coronavirus stimulus package. Biden already endorsed the relief bill, passed by the House, that includes $4 billion for Internet access to low-income Americans. Continue reading Biden Reiterates Commitment to Create Universal Broadband

Studios Adapting to Pandemic Limitations with Film Releases

WarnerMedia chief executive Jason Kilar revealed that his company plans to release blockbuster “Wonder Woman 1984” simultaneously in theaters and on its HBO Max streaming service on Christmas Day. He noted the changed environment, in which box office revenue alone doesn’t measure a film’s success but also by the number of new subscribers it generates for the studio’s streaming service. The distribution plan for the much-anticipated release is a sign of how much media companies have evolved to put more emphasis on streaming. Continue reading Studios Adapting to Pandemic Limitations with Film Releases

‘Ripple Effect’ Team Outlines Safety Protocols and Workflows

During a November 19th Digital Town Square hosted by the Entertainment Technology Center and Equinix, ETC specialist Erik Weaver led an online session on the making of “Ripple Effect,” ETC’s latest R&D short film that tested new technologies and workflows, including the cloud, virtual production and remote editing and VFX. The production also tested the tools and procedures that meet or exceed industry standards for a safe set during COVID-19. Weaver, who executive produced “Ripple Effect,” was joined by executive producer Greg Ciaccio, who also headed up post and production technologies, and other members of the production team. Continue reading ‘Ripple Effect’ Team Outlines Safety Protocols and Workflows

Universal, Cinemark Sign Deal for Shorter Exclusivity Window

Comcast’s Universal Pictures teamed with Cinemark Holdings, the third largest theater chain in the U.S., to permit online distribution of movies after three weekends (or 17 days) in theaters. The exception is movies that gross $50+ million domestically during their first weekend, lengthening the exclusivity window to five weekends or 31 days. Universal inked a similar deal with AMC Entertainment in July. Pre-pandemic, the exclusivity window was 2-1/2 months from a film’s premiere in theaters until it could be distributed to homes. Continue reading Universal, Cinemark Sign Deal for Shorter Exclusivity Window

Nvidia Debuts New Version of A100 GPU for Supercomputers

At the beginning of its SC20 supercomputing conference, Nvidia unveiled its 80GB version of the A100 GPU (graphics processing unit) based on its Ampere graphics architecture and aimed at AI and graphics for supercomputing. The chip is intended to enable faster real-time data analysis for business and government applications. This new version doubles the memory of the predecessor, debuted six months ago. Nvidia executive Paresh Kharya noted that 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the last two years. Continue reading Nvidia Debuts New Version of A100 GPU for Supercomputers

REMINDER: Virtual Production Webinar Slated for This Week

The next ETC Digital Town Square — Breaking Down “Ripple Effect”: A Case Study on COVID-19 Safety Protocols, Advanced Workflows and Virtual Production — will be hosted by Equinix and the Entertainment Technology Center@USC on November 19, 1:00-3:30 pm PST. Free and open to the public, the webinar will dive into “Ripple Effect,” a recent live-action short produced by ETC that leveraged Safetyviz as well as remote and virtual production to improve safety in the return to media production. Register today for your virtual front row seat to this important webinar. Continue reading REMINDER: Virtual Production Webinar Slated for This Week

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