Zoom Debuts End-to-End Encryption for Free User Accounts

At its annual Zoomtopia event, Zoom announced the debut of end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for free accounts in four stages. The first phase, which launches next week, will be a 30-day technical preview to gather feedback. Chief executive Eric Yuan stated the company will improve its integration of “office chatroom products” from Slack Technologies and Microsoft and also introduced its Zapps platform that allows users to bring third-party apps into video calls and a new integrated platform for classes and events. Continue reading Zoom Debuts End-to-End Encryption for Free User Accounts

Microsoft Inks Deal With OpenAI for Exclusive GPT-3 License

Microsoft struck a deal with AI startup OpenAI to be the exclusive licensee of language comprehension model GPT-3. According to Microsoft EVP Kevin Scott, the deal is an “incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology.” Among potential uses are “aiding human creativity and ingenuity in areas like writing and composition, describing and summarizing large blocks of long-form data (including code), converting natural language to another language.” Continue reading Microsoft Inks Deal With OpenAI for Exclusive GPT-3 License

Advertising Opportunities Emerge for Mobile During Pandemic

App Annie reported that, in the first half of 2020, users spent 1.6 trillion hours on mobile devices, a big leap from the same period in 2019. App Annie market insights director Amir Ghodrati stated that, even if millions of people are out of work, it’s crucial for brands and companies to advertise on mobile devices, to acquire new users and enable them to set up new app habits. According to App Annie, psychologists say it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, those habits are solidifying. Continue reading Advertising Opportunities Emerge for Mobile During Pandemic

Microsoft Cloud Service Revenues Skyrocket Past $50 Billion

Microsoft reported that sales rose 13 percent to $38 billion in its fiscal Q4, for a net profit of $11.2 billion. Largely due to continued demand for its Azure cloud-computing services, both figures exceeded Wall Street expectations. Microsoft’s revenue from the commercial cloud division “surpassed $50 billion for the first time ever in the latest fiscal year.” The company is also the target of a complaint Slack filed with the European Commission, accusing it of using its market power to crush rivals. Continue reading Microsoft Cloud Service Revenues Skyrocket Past $50 Billion

Zoom Intros Its First Collaboration Device for the Home Office

The coronavirus pandemic will likely require people to continue to work remotely and Zoom Video Communications has responded with Zoom for Home, a new line of professional videoconferencing devices for those working from home. The first product, manufactured with DTEN and available next month, includes a 27-inch touchscreen with three wide-angle cameras and eight microphones, for improved video and audio. Zoom chief product officer Oded Gal noted that people on Zoom meetings all day long “prefer not to use a laptop for all these meetings.” Continue reading Zoom Intros Its First Collaboration Device for the Home Office

Microsoft Introduces Teams Updates to Reduce User Fatigue

As COVID-19 keeps schools and businesses shut down, Microsoft has unveiled updates for its video communication platform Teams to help online meeting participants feel more connected. One such feature is Together Mode, which lets participants set the call to a shared background image so everyone feels a bit more like they’re sitting in the same room. The genesis of the feature came when Stanford University professor Jeremy Bailenson realized how fatiguing videoconferences could be, and contacted his friend, Microsoft Research scientist Jaron Lanier. Teams is also adding emoji, video filters, and integration of Tasks and Cortana. Continue reading Microsoft Introduces Teams Updates to Reduce User Fatigue

Microsoft Closes Mixer and Partners With Facebook Gaming

Less than a year ago, Microsoft’s Xbox unit signed two very popular streamers to its Mixer video game streaming platform: Ninja (Tyler Blevins) and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek. But their presence didn’t build the huge global fan base for Mixer that Microsoft hoped for. It’s therefore no surprise that Microsoft is shuttering Mixer, but more surprising, perhaps, that it will partner with Facebook on its xCloud mobile game service. From July 22, visitors to Mixer will be diverted to Facebook Gaming. Continue reading Microsoft Closes Mixer and Partners With Facebook Gaming

Microsoft Teams Faces Videoconferencing Rivals Zoom, Slack

Zoom Video Communications skyrocketed when the coronavirus pandemic necessitated remote working and learning. But Microsoft doubled down on creating competitive features for Microsoft Teams, and then promoting its videoconferencing and collaboration software to companies and organizations in need. When Zoom was temporarily sidelined by security issues, Microsoft saw its opportunity to step in. In New York City’s school district, for example, Microsoft established 110,000+ Teams while Zoom usage was on pause. Continue reading Microsoft Teams Faces Videoconferencing Rivals Zoom, Slack

Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

Microsoft 365 corporate vice president Jeff Teper wants Microsoft Teams — the company’s fastest growing business app — to overtake Windows, currently on 1+ billion active devices. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams is experiencing significant growth, with 75 million daily active users as of April 29, a 70 percent leap in six weeks. In April, 200+ million participants used Teams in a single day. Meanwhile, Microsoft is still promoting Skype, which in March passed 40 million daily active users (up 70 percent from the previous year), but for a different customer base. Continue reading Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

Executive Spotlight: Interview with Bluescape’s Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the CEO of Bluescape, the leading visual work platform. He is a serial entrepreneur and advisor with a broad and deep knowledge of technology, business and financial markets. Prior to Bluescape, Jackson co-founded Ziploop Inc. (acquired by Snipp Interactive in October 2017), served on the boards of Eventbrite, DocuSign and Kanjoya; took Intraware to IPO, and was president/COO of DataFlex following its acquisition of Granite Systems, among other achievements. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Jackson about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Bluescape and the services it deploys to the media & entertainment space. Continue reading Executive Spotlight: Interview with Bluescape’s Peter Jackson

Cloud Services Experience Record Revenue, Slowing Growth

According to Canalys, by the end of Q1 2020, companies spent a record $31 billion on cloud infrastructure, 34.5 percent growth from $23.1 billion for Q1 2019. Despite increased spending, however, the growth trajectory is slowing: Q1 2019 showed a 39.3 percent year-on-year (YoY) increase and Q4 2019 a 37.2 percent year-on-year increase. Cloud spending therefore grew only 2.6 percent or $800 million quarter-on-quarter by end of March 2020. Canalys attributes growth to the shift to remote working during the pandemic. Continue reading Cloud Services Experience Record Revenue, Slowing Growth

Pandemic Tests Big Tech Firms, Slows VC Money for Startups

This week, big tech companies such as IBM and Intel will report quarterly earnings, followed by Apple, Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft next week. Some companies — such as Amazon, Intel, Micron Technology and Microsoft — are doing well, even growing, whereas Facebook and Alphabet deal with a dramatic plunge in advertising. Even Apple issued a “rare profit warning.” The pandemic is hitting startups particularly hard, as venture capital money dries up and they are forced to lay off staff. Continue reading Pandemic Tests Big Tech Firms, Slows VC Money for Startups

‘Zoombombing’ on the Rise, Zoom Works to Improve Security

As use of Zoom Video Communications’ conferencing services have soared, the company’s chief executive Eric Yuan has had issues scaling up the popular app. The nine-year-old tool, once a favorite in the business world, is now ubiquitous among a wide swathe of consumers, educators and others. Issues with privacy and hacking have arisen, and Yuan admitted he “messed up” on security, especially with the claim — proven false — that Zoom offered end-to-end encryption. Yuan said the full encryption feature will be available in a few months. Meanwhile, some users are switching to other platforms. Continue reading ‘Zoombombing’ on the Rise, Zoom Works to Improve Security

Microsoft Unveils New 365 Personal/Family Plans This Month

Microsoft rolled out its new Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscriptions, to be available April 21. The plans, which will replace and enhance current Office 365 plans, are priced at $6.99 per month for Personal (one person) plans and $9.99 per month for Family (up to six people) plans. Both of the new plans include Office and access to a Microsoft Family Safety app and new features in Microsoft Teams for consumers, both of which will debut later this year. Other new features will continue to be unveiled over time. Continue reading Microsoft Unveils New 365 Personal/Family Plans This Month

Work-at-Home Software on the Rise Amid COVID-19 Concerns

As more companies ask employees to work from home due to the global spread of the coronavirus, Google, Microsoft and Zoom have responded by providing their workplace software for free. Microsoft’s Teams saw a 500 percent increase in meetings, calls and conference usage in China since the end of January, and demand is rising in the U.S. as work-from-home policies are instituted. Many Microsoft employees have been instructed to work from home and, last week, their Teams chat volume rose 50 percent, with video/audio meetings up 37 percent from a week earlier. Continue reading Work-at-Home Software on the Rise Amid COVID-19 Concerns

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