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.

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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

Tech Employees Organize to Launch Alphabet Workers Union

The Alphabet Workers Union was just formed by 400+ Google engineers and other workers. The formation of this union, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), is the result of years of activism at the Big Tech company focused on new policies on pay, harassment and ethics. The union was organized in secret for about a year and elected its leadership last month. Unlike most unions, this “minority union” represents only a small number of the company’s 260,000 full-time employees and contractors. Continue reading Tech Employees Organize to Launch Alphabet Workers Union

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

Companies Examine Feasibility of Working-from-Home Model

More people are working from home now and some of them may not return to offices once the coronavirus pandemic eases its grip. Twitter, for example, said most of its employees could work from home indefinitely. OpenText Corporation in Canada announced plans to close more than half of its 120 global offices, and New York media company Skift will vacate its Manhattan headquarters when its lease expires in June. Big Tech companies, however, have invested significantly in their spaces and their switch to remote working is uncertain. Continue reading Companies Examine Feasibility of Working-from-Home Model

Pixar’s Catmull, Hanrahan Honored With ACM’s Turing Award

Computer graphics pioneering researchers Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan were awarded the A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery and are splitting the $1 million prize money. Catmull recruited Hanrahan, a fellow computer graphics researcher, to found Pixar in 1986. Catmull started his work as a grad student at the University of Utah’s graphics lab in 1970 and vowed to create a feature film from computer generated imagery. Catmull and Hanrahan, between them, have received eight Academy Awards. Continue reading Pixar’s Catmull, Hanrahan Honored With ACM’s Turing Award

Twitter Settles With Activist Investor, Dorsey Keeps Position

Twitter and activist investor Elliott Management have come to an agreement to keep chief executive Jack Dorsey in his position, at least for now. Elliott Management, a $40 billion hedge fund that has a 4 percent stake in Twitter, sought to oust Dorsey from his position, claiming that, by splitting his attention between Twitter and Square, the chief executive let the former company lose its competitive edge and slip behind rivals. On February 21, Elliott nominated four candidates for Twitter’s board to add to the pressure. Continue reading Twitter Settles With Activist Investor, Dorsey Keeps Position

CES 2020: How Keynotes Will Impact the 2020 Conversation

Are CES keynote presentations and conference programs a crystal ball to the future? Do they shape the conversation and influence the trends that will ultimately emerge from the annual tech and innovation gathering that begins this Sunday, January 5 in Las Vegas? Or are they a calculated mix of corporate hype and politics supporting the agenda of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), owner of CES? In our experience at CES, especially the most recent years, the answer tends to be all of the above. The keynote lineup is remarkable this year for what is not on the stage as much as who is. The new decade dawns with an emphasis on ways to apply technology and innovate on the advances predicted for the past 20 years. Continue reading CES 2020: How Keynotes Will Impact the 2020 Conversation

Black Friday Experiences New E-Commerce Sales Records

Online sales boomed this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, with record-breaking $4.2 billion in purchases on Turkey Day, followed by $7.4 billion spent on Black Friday. Although this was a new high — up $1.2 billion from last year’s Black Friday — it didn’t meet Adobe Analytics’ prediction of $7.5 billion. Salesforce reported $7.2 billion in sales, even lower than Adobe’s numbers. Of those numbers, $2.9 billion in sales were conducted on smartphones that day. Top-selling electronics included Apple laptops, AirPods and Samsung TVs. Continue reading Black Friday Experiences New E-Commerce Sales Records

Amazon Forms Coalition for Voice Assistant Interoperability

Amazon created the Voice Interoperability Initiative to achieve software compatibility among digital voice assistants, encouraging its widespread adoption. Although 36 companies have joined the initiative, Apple and Google have not. Their absence is a significant impediment to the initiative’s goals, since Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant software are installed by default in most of today’s smartphones. Amazon’s Alexa, meanwhile, has no presence on smartphones, although its Echo speakers are a hit with consumers. Continue reading Amazon Forms Coalition for Voice Assistant Interoperability

Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Congress just received an open letter on behalf of the Business Roundtable, an association comprised of the chief executives of the U.S.’s biggest companies. Signed by 51 tech company executives, the letter asks legislators to create a federal law on data privacy, thus avoiding the patchwork-quilt of state laws now being passed. Amazon, AT&T, Dell, IBM, Qualcomm, SAP, Salesforce, Visa, Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, State Farm and Walmart are just some of the companies whose chief executives signed the letter. Continue reading Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Firms Pursue Frontline Workers, Walmart Expands VR Use

Microsoft, Google and Salesforce are now targeting the use of their technologies to an estimated two billion workers who don’t sit behind a desk. Microsoft, with its HoloLens, has been the most aggressive in pursuing so-called frontline or firstline workers who do production, sales and service work. Its chief executive Satya Nadella noted the potential growth in this sector. Walmart now uses virtual reality to assess the skills of an employee and determine if she is ready to move up to middle management. Continue reading Firms Pursue Frontline Workers, Walmart Expands VR Use

Password-Free Logins Getting Closer to Becoming a Reality

WebAuthn, with the approval of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the FIDO Alliance, just became an official web standard for password-free logins. After W3C and the FIDO Alliance first introduced it in November 2015, WebAuthn gained the support of many W3C contributors including Airbnb, Alibaba, Apple, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, PayPal, SoftBank, Tencent and Yubico. With WebAuthn, which is supported by Android and Windows 10, users can log-in via biometrics, mobile devices or FIDO security keys. Continue reading Password-Free Logins Getting Closer to Becoming a Reality

At Davos, a Call for Worldwide Oversight of Tech, Including AI

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, several countries’ leaders called for a global regulation of technology. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose country is chair of the Group of 20 nations (G20) this year, said he would push for an international system to oversee use of data when the group meets for its annual June summit in Osaka. Abe he would like the Osaka G20 to be “the summit that started worldwide data governance,” with a focus on expanding World Trade Organization rules to include data. Continue reading At Davos, a Call for Worldwide Oversight of Tech, Including AI

CES Panel: Confronting the Fear that AI Will Replace Humans

JT Kostman, managing director of applied artificial intelligence at Grant Thornton, is preparing a TED Talk on AI that he may title “Dear Humans: We Mean You No Harm. Love, AI.” In a CES 2019 panel, moderated by Alice.com’s Elizabeth Gore, experts talked about the pain points in integrating AI into today’s world, including the general fear that AI will replace humans in the workforce. Accenture’s North America lead for M&E Lynn McMahon agreed that the buzz of machines taking over the world has risen. Continue reading CES Panel: Confronting the Fear that AI Will Replace Humans

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