Microsoft’s Q3 Sales Jump, Driving Near $2 Trillion Valuation

Microsoft quarterly numbers exceeded analysts’ expectations and drove stock up 50 percent, bringing the company close to a $2 trillion valuation, second only to Apple’s. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to remote working and remote learning drove strong uptake of the company’s cloud computing services and video game units. Although chip shortages are slowing down hardware sales, chief executive Satya Nadella reported that digital adoption curves “aren’t slowing down … they’re accelerating.” Continue reading Microsoft’s Q3 Sales Jump, Driving Near $2 Trillion Valuation

Facebook Reveals Audio Products, Including Clubhouse Rival

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced an upcoming suite of new audio products including a push into podcasting and Live Audio Rooms, an audio-only version of the Rooms videoconferencing product, intended to rival the popular Clubhouse audio app. Live Audio Rooms will roll out this summer as a test to public figures and groups. Users will be able to record and distribute their conversations and eventually charge for access to the rooms via a one-time fee or subscription. Meanwhile, Clubhouse closed a new Series C funding round. Continue reading Facebook Reveals Audio Products, Including Clubhouse Rival

Microsoft to Buy AI and Speech Recognition Provider Nuance

Microsoft is on track to acquire Nuance Communications, an AI and speech recognition software company, for about $16 billion. The company intends to expand its offerings in medical computing; Nuance already has speech and text data related to healthcare, an established customer base and the transcription tool Dragon. According to Microsoft, the purchase will “double the size of the healthcare market where it competed to almost $500 billion.” With the purchase, Microsoft could also develop advanced AI solutions for the workplace across numerous industries. Microsoft’s last big purchase was LinkedIn, for $26.2 billion in 2015.  Continue reading Microsoft to Buy AI and Speech Recognition Provider Nuance

Pew Research Study Finds Social Media Use Remains Stable

A new report from the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of U.S. adults use social media, a number that has been stable over the past five years. The survey drilled down into use of a variety of individual sites and apps, finding that YouTube and Facebook still are dominant, with 81 percent and 69 percent respectively of those surveyed reporting using those sites. YouTube and Reddit were the only platforms that saw “statistically significant” growth since 2019. Forty percent said they ever use Instagram. Continue reading Pew Research Study Finds Social Media Use Remains Stable

Spotify, LinkedIn, Facebook to Compete in Live Audio Space

Spotify acquired Clubhouse rival Betty Labs, which produces live sports audio app Locker Room, for an undisclosed amount of money. Although Locker Room will stay live in the App Store, Spotify will rebrand it with a new name and broaden its focus to include music and culture as well as sports. In addition to the iOS version, Spotify will eventually add an Android version. LinkedIn and Facebook are also developing live audio features as the trend continues to gain traction. These apps would compete with existing platforms Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Discord. Continue reading Spotify, LinkedIn, Facebook to Compete in Live Audio Space

Roku Purchases Quibi Shows, May Produce Original Content

Roku is apparently planning to expand its VOD offerings by producing its own original content, having placed a LinkedIn ad in January looking for a “lead production attorney … [with] substantial experience in television and film production either at a studio, network, streaming service or entertainment law firm [for its] expanding slate of original content.” The ad also asked for someone with “experience working with Hollywood guilds and unions.” Roku recently purchased original content from the startup Quibi. During the holiday quarter, Roku experienced a 58 percent jump in revenue. Continue reading Roku Purchases Quibi Shows, May Produce Original Content

Microsoft Introduces Its Viva Suite of Remote Working Tools

Microsoft debuted Viva, a package of tools to enable better employee management including a range of human resources-related software for payroll, tracking employee performance and resources for staff on benefits, career development and other life and work aspects. Chief executive Satya Nadella called the toolset “essential,” adding that “the very best tools and systems” for remote working are crucial in difficult times. During the coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft has seen an earnings boom in cloud-computing, laptops and video games.

Continue reading Microsoft Introduces Its Viva Suite of Remote Working Tools

Canada Confronts Clearview AI Over Facial Recognition App

Canada has denounced facial recognition app Clearview AI and, despite the lack of legal authority, demanded that the company delete all Canadian faces from its database. Canada’s privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien stated that the company puts all of society “continually in a police lineup.” Clearview AI has scraped 3+ billion photos from social media networks and other public sites. Canada is the first country to take such a strong stand against the app that is currently in use by 2,400+ U.S. law enforcement agencies. Continue reading Canada Confronts Clearview AI Over Facial Recognition App

Cloud Computing, Gaming and Laptops Drive Microsoft Sales

Microsoft reported its fiscal Q2 net income rose 30+ percent to $15.5 billion, the result of COVID-19-driven remote working, increased video game playing and cloud computing. The company has also seen increased sales of its Surface laptops, which facilitate remote working and learning. Chief executive Satya Nadella has prioritized Microsoft Teams workplace-collaboration software, dubbing this last year as “the dawn of a second wave of digital transformation sweeping every company and every industry.” Continue reading Cloud Computing, Gaming and Laptops Drive Microsoft Sales

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

Microsoft Q1 Revenues Rise in Part Due to Azure Cloud Unit

Microsoft’s sales rose 12 percent to $37.2 billion, with a net profit of $13.9 billion for Q1 of its fiscal year, exceeding Wall Street expectations. Its cloud unit Azure’s revenue jumped 48 percent from the same quarter last year, driving the quarter’s results, said chief financial officer Amy Hood. Much of the dramatic leap in Azure’s use can be attributed to online demands created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, the company’s gaming content business showed a 30 percent increase in sales from last year. Continue reading Microsoft Q1 Revenues Rise in Part Due to Azure Cloud Unit

Impact Creative Rolls Out App to Connect Writers with Execs

In Hollywood, screenwriters are hired based on personal relationships and past successes but filmmakers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard believe the paradigm needs to change. “Promising writers blow years of their lives trying to get agents and have their work seen by the right people,” said Howard. For two years, their startup, Impact Creative Systems (formerly Imagine Impact) offered an eight-week bootcamp to help writers get their scripts ready to pitch. Now, they’ve added the free-to-join Creative Network app to connect them with executives. Continue reading Impact Creative Rolls Out App to Connect Writers with Execs

Pinterest Debuts Story Pins, Other Tools Aimed at Influencers

Pinterest is debuting two features intended for lifestyle influencers: Story Pins, which is similar to the increasingly popular stories feature available on Snapchat, Instagram and other platforms; and “creator profiles,” which allow influencers to show off their work. For Story Pins, which is already available to a select group of influencers, the creator can post photos and vertical videos with overlaid text and voice-over narration but doesn’t need to link to an outside website. Story Pins are not ephemeral, and followers can comment and react to them. Creator Profiles highlight projects via Story Pins. Continue reading Pinterest Debuts Story Pins, Other Tools Aimed at Influencers

Ex-Facebook Scientist Reveals Slow Action on Fake Accounts

A recently fired Facebook data scientist, Sophie Zhang, sent a 6,600-word memo giving specific examples of how the social media company ignored or was slow to act on solid information on fake accounts undermining global politics and elections. That included her proof that, in Azerbaijan and Honduras, government leaders and political parties used fake accounts to shift public opinion. She found similar evidence of coordinated campaigns to impact candidates or elections in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, India, Spain and Ukraine. Continue reading Ex-Facebook Scientist Reveals Slow Action on Fake Accounts

Twitter Hack Technique Is Being Replicated for Other Attacks

Last month, three alleged hackers were arrested for manipulating Twitter to control 45 accounts of high-profile figures including Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden and Elon Musk. Now, the technique these young malefactors used — dubbed “phone spear phishing” — is being used by so many other bad actors that experts dub it a crime wave. Phone spear phishing, also known as “vishing,” a mashup of “voice phishing,” has been used this last month to attack banks, web hosting companies and cryptocurrency exchanges, said investigators. Continue reading Twitter Hack Technique Is Being Replicated for Other Attacks

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