Dell Debuts Features for PCs and Laptops Ahead of CES 2021

In advance of CES 2021, Texas-based computer tech company Dell unveiled the latest in its PC and laptop products. Notable are the Latitude 9420 and 9520 laptops with SafeShutter, which Dell says is the first webcam shutter that automatically opens and closes by synching with videoconferencing applications. These laptops, which are upgraded with 11th Gen Intel Core vPro processors, also have secure mic and mute keys. Additionally, Dell reported that the 9420 will have additional enhancements specific to remote working. Continue reading Dell Debuts Features for PCs and Laptops Ahead of CES 2021

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

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

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

Zoom Clarifies its Relationship with Law Enforcement and FBI

Zoom founder and chief executive Eric Yuan said his company will assist the FBI and law enforcement by providing end-to-end encryption only to paying customers, but not for the majority of those who use its free version, “in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose.” During widespread U.S. protests over the death of George Floyd, Yuan’s comments did not go over well, with some users threatening to switch to rival services. But his words were misinterpreted and taken out of context. “We plan to provide end-to-end encryption to users for whom we can verify identity, thereby limiting harm to vulnerable groups,” explained Yuan. Continue reading Zoom Clarifies its Relationship with Law Enforcement and FBI

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

Executive Spotlight: A Talk With Tony Driscoll of Warner Bros.

For the third week of ETC’s Executive Spotlight series, in which we interview leaders from our member companies about how they are adapting business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had an opportunity to speak with Tony Driscoll, SVP of emerging technology strategy & data services at Warner Bros. Technology. Previously with AT&T, Driscoll is currently responsible for his studio’s strategies involving emerging trends and tech-driven innovation opportunities. He also works in close coordination with the WarnerMedia Innovation Lab. Warner Bros. has been using various technologies for remote collaboration since the offices began closing due to the pandemic in early 2020. We caught up with Tony at his home office. Continue reading Executive Spotlight: A Talk With Tony Driscoll of Warner Bros.

Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

Zoom has gotten a lot of attention as the popular video chat platform that’s soared in usage since the COVID-19 shutdown. But Houseparty is another video chat platform with free mobile and desktop apps that’s gaining traction. Originally targeting teens, Houseparty offers features designed to encourage interaction, such as jumping into a conversation or playing trivia games remotely. In the last month, Houseparty has had 50 million signups, about 70 times its typical number in some markets, said cofounder and chief executive Sima Sistani. Continue reading Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

Zoom Use Skyrockets, Revealing Privacy and Security Issues

Remote conferencing services company Zoom Video Communications has become an overnight success as more Americans stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. Zoom, once mainly used by businesses, is now being used for everything from yoga courses to happy hours, but is also stretching the tool’s limits to serve both those who pay for the premium service and consumers who gravitate to the free version. There’s also a dark side to Zoom’s uptick: online trolls who “Zoombomb” meetings, and concerns about the San Jose-based company’s privacy policies. Continue reading Zoom Use Skyrockets, Revealing Privacy and Security Issues

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

Facebook Turns to Robots to Advance Artificial Intelligence

Humans learn from experience to not “do dumb things,” and Facebook chief AI scientist Yann LeCun is trying to create a version of that for robots, saying that systems that learn “models of the world” are our best shot at advancing artificial intelligence. Unlike a rewards/demerits-based reinforcement learning, Facebook’s tack is to instill curiosity, by giving the robot freedom to try new things. With New York University, Facebook also dramatically reduced the number of tries to teach a robotic arm to grasp an object. Continue reading Facebook Turns to Robots to Advance Artificial Intelligence

AISense Teams Up with Zoom for Voice Transcription Product

AISense, a company that offers a voice transcription service, is partnering with videoconferencing service Zoom to bring a product to market in 2018 that will provide automatic transcriptions for Zoom’s customers. AISense’s technology uses machine learning to provide a full text record of what is said, and Zoom’s videoconferencing is its first practical use. AISense also just raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Horizons Ventures, with Draper Associates, Draper Dragon, David Cheriton, and Bridgewater Associates. Continue reading AISense Teams Up with Zoom for Voice Transcription Product

Anytime: Amazon May Be Developing a New Messaging App

Amazon may be developing a standalone messaging app called Anytime that would allow people to connect without the need to include phone numbers, which is how other messaging apps such as Viber and WhatsApp typically connect. The company has reportedly been running a survey to gather feedback about a service “for smartphones, tablets, PCs and smart watches designed to let people chat with text and video, send each other fun photos with filters, play games and engage with other Amazon services,” reports TechCrunch. Earlier this year, AWS launched a communication service called Chime for enterprise customers. Continue reading Anytime: Amazon May Be Developing a New Messaging App

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