Tag Archive | "Microsoft"

It Doesn’t Really Matter What Microsoft Does, Says Slack CEO

“Whatever Microsoft does we’re still going to do the same thing that we would do for customers,” says Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield. “If the performance of our applications, like the number of milliseconds it takes to startup, is an important thing for customers, we will do that. If shared channels are an important feature we will develop shared channels. It doesn’t really matter what Microsoft does. We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.”

Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, discusses the potential impact of competition with Microsoft in an interview by FORTUNE at Brainstorm Tech 2019:

It Doesn’t Really Matter What Microsoft Does

First, Microsoft is an incredible company. I’m a big admirer. They also have been a great partner for us. There are 500,000 active developers on the Slack platform and Microsoft would like them using Azure. Azure has also been a great partner. We just launched Office 365 calendar integration and a bunch of other stuff. So they’re big enough that they end up working with and competing with all kinds of people around the world. We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it (Microsoft competition with Slack). 

Whatever Microsoft does we’re still going to do the same thing that we would do for customers. If the performance of our applications, like the number of milliseconds it takes to startup, is an important thing for customers, we will do that. If shared channels are an important feature we will develop shared channels. It doesn’t really matter what Microsoft does. But having said that I think the emphasis has been a little bit different. Our emphasis has been really broadly on interoperability because we would like to be the two percent of your software budget that’s a multiplier on the value of the other 98 percent. 

There are 1,600 apps in the app directory but there are also 450,000 different applications developed internally by our customers that are actively used every week on the Slack platform. That can be things like notifications flowing in or workflow approvals or purchase orders. It’s really varied from teams in finance, legal, engineering, sales, and customer support. That activity is really important to us and is where we see Slack going.

Size Doesn’t Matter, Real Traction With Customers Does

Five years (from when Microsoft was still in Albuquerque) they kind of pulled the rug out from under IBM which was at the time the biggest, most powerful, and most valuable company in the world. Go forward about 17 years and this one is kind of mind-blowing. Microsoft has a 95 percent share of operating systems with Windows. It has 90 plus percent share of internet browsers with Internet Explorer. It bought Hotmail, had MSN, and had probably the biggest engineering presence for stuff online.

It literally controlled almost all of humanity’s access to the Internet and they saw this little company in Mountain View starting to make a real business around search. Over the next couple of decades, tens of billions of dollars into that, and their (Bing) market share is now 9 percent or something like that. 

You might think that’s special because the people at Google are real geniuses. But the same thing happened six or seven years later. In 2007, Google sees Facebook where people are spending a lot of time on social networks and that might be a good medium for advertising as well. If you wanted to comment on a video on YouTube you had to use Google Plus. I think the only time that Google ever promoted anything on its home page it was Google Plus. It was also promoted in Gmail and it didn’t matter. The fact that they had a thousand times more engineers and a thousand times more resources (didn’t matter). 

They had access to maybe over a billion users even by that point and it just didn’t make a difference. The lesson that we take from that is that a smaller company, if it has real traction with customers, in some cases, has a bit of an advantage against a large incumbent with multiple lines of business. This is like the first 40 or 50 pages of The Innovators Dilemma. There are plenty of companies that have been crushed as well. I think that it’s hard to maintain a real focus on quality and on user experience and the bigger you get the harder it is. 

If the competition was based on the quality of user experience and that’s where all the effort is that would be probably more daunting for us. If it’s based on their bigger distribution I don’t think that’s really a threat.

It Doesn’t Really Matter What Microsoft Does, Says Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield

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Ad customizers are now available in all Microsoft Advertising accounts

Create ad customizer feeds in the UI or import them from your Google account.



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Microsoft Advertising says it’s keeping average position reporting

Position-based impression share metrics are now available.



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Parallel tracking, more custom parameters coming to Microsoft Advertising for improved tracking

Parallel tracking, currently in beta, will be rolling out soon.



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Price extensions now supported in Microsoft Advertising Editor

Create and manage price extensions in bulk.



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Microsoft goes open source with one of its Bing algorithms

Microsoft’s Space Partition Tree and Graph algorithm enables developers to apply vector search to traditional, audio and visual queries.



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Microsoft AI CTO: A Cloud AI Service Behind Every Device

What could change us from having to wrestle with physical devices? That was the question posed by Microsoft AI CTO Joseph Sirosh at the 2018 AI Summit in San Francisco. He was specifically referring to a prosthetic, but that is only an example of how Cloud AI Services could impact the usefulness of all devices.

Joseph Sirosh, AI CTO at Microsoft, talks about how a Cloud AI Service will eventually be driving every device:

Top Macro Trend: A Cloud AI Service Behind Every Device

The most important macro trend is a cloud AI service behind every device. It might be a prosthetic, it might be any device that you use in your house. Of course, your apps on your phone have AI services behind them eventually, some of them already have AI, but others well. Everything in the world that is connected with Wi-Fi or Internet connectivity can now be backed up by an AI service. That’s very powerful and profound when you think about it.

Now, think about this one, the grip classification (on a prosthetic). How it works is there’s a muscle sensor that I’ve attached to my arm here, there’s a camera in the hand. So, through the electronics, it goes to an Azure Custom Vision Service, where our classification model has been set up, a deep-learned model that recognizes objects and classifies it to the right action and then that triggers the appropriate grip classification in the Servo motors connected to an Arduino board in the arm.

The Magic Provided by a Cloud AI Service

Two undergraduates built this. Hamayal Choudhry from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Samin Khan from the University of Toronto. They did this for the Microsoft Imagine Cup. They were the winners in 2018. Building this took them a few weeks. Of course, then the magic was provided by a cloud AI service to be able to make this device intelligent. That’s a power. Even an undergraduate can build something as powerful as this today.

Why is this Revolutionary?

So, why is this revolutionary? Step back and think about this device. Look, there are over a million amputations per year. That’s an amputation every 30 seconds. WHO estimates that 30-100 million people in the world live with limb loss. Only 5 to 15 percent of these have access to prosthetics, even though prosthetic devices have been around since the Egyptian times. Even though these devices have been there, they have been purely physical devices and very severely limited. Limited by cost.

The bionic arms that you have heard about today, they cost tens of thousands of dollars and it takes a lot of effort to fit them on you. They’re limited by availability, very few people have access to it, and they’re limited by the interface you can attach to the body.

Breaking Physical Limits via Cloud AI Service

Above all, they’re limited by the nervous system that we have because we’ve got to train ourselves to use that device. In fact, literally, we had to force our will into these devices to be able to use them effectively. How could we change all of that? What could change us from having to wrestle with physical devices? How could we break these limits? The answer is an AI or a cloud AI service backing it up.

Think about this, what if you had low-cost electronics to build with it? What if we could change the game of availability with 3D printing? So, you can print these things anywhere in the world. What if you had a Cloud AI service behind it that provided the ability to recognize things and make the movements? What if it could be personalized? What if it could be adapted? What if other people, your friends could train your arm to make the right kind of movements, in the right kind of environments? How could you have customizability of all types? What if you could tap into the knowledge of the world beyond our senses through the cloud service so that you can keep improving it? What if all of these things came together for a very low cost like the $ 100 it took for this arm to be built?

That would be revolutionary, right? Imagine, now every prosthetic in the world or orthosis in the world which is, let’s say you break your arm and [inaudible] sling and you need assistance? What if you could get something very cheap that you could move around but it’s controlled by a Cloud AI service and all you have to do is express your intent to that Cloud AI service somehow and it does the more complex task of actually doing the grasp?

Affordable, Intelligent, Cloud-Powered and Personalized

See, this is the difference that the services can make. What you do is you express your intents and your constraints, and the service generates the behavior you need. So, it’s a generative service. The behavior is generated but from high-level intention that you communicate. So, the future is affordable, intelligent, cloud-powered, personalized, prosthetic devices and really devices of every type. That’s hugely revolutionary.

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Microsoft Now Has a Free Version of Teams, Takes on Rival Slack

Microsoft is gearing up for its yearly Inspire event and has drummed up interest with the announcement of a free version of Microsoft Teams.

The Teams platform has been around since 2016 and 200,000 companies are now using it. However, the lack of a free version or a freemium tier and the $ 60 annual fee made it inaccessible to freelancers and small businesses.

This oversight may have been costly, as small and medium businesses comprise more than 90 percent of businesses worldwide. Unlike Microsoft, Slack has had a free version of its service since its launch in 2014, which helped the work chat application gain a lot of attention and subscriptions.

It’s better late than never as far as Microsoft is concerned, as the free version of Teams will include most of the features paid subscribers enjoy. Of course, these features have limits that will hopefully encourage people to sign up for an Office 365 subscription.

The Teams free version boasts unlimited search and chat messaging and includes support for up to 300 people. It also has integrated audio and video group calling. Users also have unlimited app integrations, so they can add applications like Trello without fear. It will also have guest access and a limited file storage of 10GB. Each member will have 2GB of private storage.

Microsoft is also introducing improvements like cloud recordings of meetings, inline message translation for members who speak a different language and background blurring for video calls.

In contrast, Slack’s popular free version is limited to 10 app integrations, 10,000 searchable messages, and 5GB of storage. There are no options for guest accounts or group video chats, but one-on-one video chatting is offered. In short, Teams has fewer restrictions as long as you keep the team to less than 300 people.

However, Microsoft is limiting full integration of desktop versions of Excel and Word to paid Office 365 subscribers. But users of the free Teams platform can enjoy the web versions of key Office apps from Office Online.

The free version of Microsoft Teams is available now in 40 languages. Companies that have reached the limits of the app have the option to upgrade to an Office 365 subscription for as little as $ 5 a month per user.

[Featured image via Microsoft]

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Microsoft Ventures Into Checkout-Free Retail, Takes on Amazon

Microsoft is reportedly taking on Amazon, as the company ventures into retail territory. The company is said to be looking into checkout-free shopping, an innovation that Amazon has pioneered.

Reuters reported that at least six people have talked to them about Microsoft developing technology that will give retail companies the option to have cashier and checkout-free shops. Microsoft is said to have partnered with fellow Redmond-based company AVA Retail. The company develops systems that can collate information about shoppers. This time around, it will be working with the renowned software company on innovations that could be used on brick-and-mortar stores.

Interestingly, Microsoft will not be installing said technology in their own stores. According to the sources, it has instead reached out to Walmart about the possibility of a joint effort. If this pushes through, the two companies could give Amazon a run for its money.

Microsoft is said to have around 10 to 15 employees working on researching and developing their new retail technology. There aren’t a lot of concrete details at the moment, but one report said the research team has explored using cameras attached to shopping carts as a means to track the customer’s purchases.

If successful, this could potentially do away with the need for cashiers. It also means a store won’t need to put up hundreds of cameras the way that the Amazon Go pilot store did.

This approach suggests that Microsoft is looking to offer retailers a more cost-effective system. Stepping into the checkout-free store arena would also pit the software company against retail giant Amazon. Heated competition between the two is nothing new. Microsoft’s Azure cloud service is second only to Amazon’s AWS.

Walmart has declined to comment on the news and a Microsoft spokesman said the company “does not comment on rumors or speculations.”

There’s no question that Amazon leads the way when it comes to changing the face of retail. If Microsoft or other businesses want to get ahead of the company, or at least be on the same standing as Amazon, they better get a move on.

Amazon has already opened to the public its first cashier-less convenience store, Amazon Go, in Seattle early this year. Shoppers entering the store are required to swipe an app which enables computer-vision technology to monitor and track them and their purchases as they walk around the store. Once done with their shopping, consumers simply walk out and their purchases are charged via their Amazon app.

[Featured image via Pixabay]

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Microsoft is Reportedly on the Verge of Acquiring Github

Microsoft is reportedly in acquisition talks with GitHub, according to sources privy to the matter. Based on the Bloomberg report, the deal to purchase one of the biggest code repository companies will be announced as early as Monday.

Founded in 2008, GitHub was a popular hosting site of codes, projects, and documentation for several developers and companies. It is the commonly used platform for open-source software projects, boasting of more than 20 million developers working across 67 million repositories in 2017. GitHub has come a long way from having just 2,000 users when it first started 10 years ago.

Back then, Microsoft disparaged open-source programs built on GitHub because of its proprietary software in the market. Open-source software allows developers to play around, improve, and share codes, making it a threat to Microsoft applications. Over time, the software giant became more receptive to the idea, launching its own open-source community over a decade ago and shifting its bigger projects on GitHub in 2015.

These days, Microsoft is the top contributor to the site, while other big tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple also use GitHub. Microsoft’s seismic move to open-source technology, as well as cloud computing, began when CEO Satya Nadella took over the top post in 2014. Since then, the company has been pushing for ways to support Linux as it veers away from depending on the Windows operating system.

It’s likely that Nadella’s vision has impressed GitHub, opting to sell instead of going public. Although the terms of the deal remain under wraps, GitHub was reportedly valued at $ 2 billion in 2015. This was lower than its $ 5 billion asking price when acquisition talks were discussed previously, say sources familiar with the deal.  

 GitHub is viewed by many as the de-facto source code platform where developers can connect and collaborate. However,  it suffers from a few operational problems such as monetizing its products and turnover in its executive ranks. One of the company’s co-founders, Chris Wanstrath, stepped down as its CEO in August 2017. Since then, there has been no replacement while Chief Business Officer Julio Avalos handles daily leadership in the interim.          

GitHub posted losses of about $ 66 million for three quarters in 2016 but reported revenue of $ 98 million during the same year, according to Bloomberg. However, its annual revenue doubled to $ 200 million in 2017, driven mainly by its paying corporate accounts. The company began offering GitHub Enterprise, a paid option for corporations with additional features and services, such as 24/7 support, dynamic hosting alternatives, and private workspaces, among others.

With GitHub’s push for more corporate clients, investors anticipate an initial public offering in the future. The company seems to benefit significantly from selling out instead of going public, particularly since Microsoft appears eager to snap up the platform based on their intermittent talks over the years.

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