When Microsoft announced they’d won the bidding war for LinkedIn with a colossal $26.2 billion offer, it seemed, well, about as interesting as corporate enterprise acquisitions sound. Yet it’s a shrewd move for both: Integrating a business-oriented social network into Outlook or Windows would be promising for the software giant, while LinkedIn gets stability under its new corporate umbrella. But not everyone is happy about the deal: Salesforce is urging the European Union to block it, claiming the union would be anticompetitive.
Specifically, Salesforce’s chief legal officer Burke Norton argued that if Microsoft owns LinkedIn’s dataset of “450 million professionals in more than 200 million countries,” they could deny competitors from using it. But even the combination of software and social information could give an unfair advantage, sources told The New York Times. Of course, the company is hardly unbiased: Salesforce had a competing bid for LinkedIn.
Microsoft fired back, noting that the deal has already been cleared in the United States, Canada and Brazil, and that the advantage would not outpace Salesforce’s existing dominance in the customer relationship management (CRM) market. Whether the EU competition authority ends up blocking it or not, the call for scrutiny could lead to a deeper investigation into the deal, potentially dragging it out for months longer.
Source: PC World
Melinda Gates has been supporting the global fight against malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS with her husband since 2000. And she’ll continue to do so, but now she’s also building her own office and dedicating resources to tackle gender inequality in the tech industry. In an interview with Backchannel, Gates said her new initiative’s goal is to get more women working in technology and to get them to stay there. Gates is more than just the Microsoft founder’s wife: she worked in Redmond for a decade after getting her undergrad and MBA in computer science from Duke.
“I care about computer science,” she told Backchannel, lamenting the fact that there were more female computer science graduates back in the ’80s. While more and more women are going into law and medicine, female computer science graduates now only make up 18 percent of the total. It used to be 37 percent back in the ’80s. Gates stressed the importance of women’s presence in tech titans’ development labs to make sure they’re able to address the needs of half of the world’s population. She cited Apple’s Health app, as an example, calling its lack of ability to track menstruation a “blatant error” that might not have happened if there were more women working on its development.
“When you look in the labs at who’s working on AI, you can find one woman here, and one woman there. Your’e not even finding three or four in labs together.
The other thing I know from work around the world is that women truly only get empowered when there’s a collective of them. You get one woman down in a village trying to break the system. She can’t do it at the village level unless she’s got women around her. It’s the power of the collective. Then she can go demand her rights.”
Gates is still in the research stage of her new project, and it could take a couple of years to conjure up a course of action. What she knows, however, is that she wants to get to the root of things, starting with getting young girls in grade school interested in the field. One possible way to do that is to highlight women in the industry who can become role models for the younger generation.
If you have an idea you’d like Gates to consider, Backchannel is now compiling comments to write up a letter of advice for the philanthropist.
Via: The Verge
Twitter has been struggling lately. It’s been battling flat user growth, declining profits, an executive exodus and generally bad PR — especially around its handling of abuse. Many have speculated for months that Twitter should just sell itself. And, if the rumor mill is to be believed, the company is indeed looking for ways to make that happen. According to reports from CNBC, TechCrunch and Bloomberg, the social media giant is in the crosshairs of at least five suitors: Google, Salesforce, Microsoft, Verizon and Disney. Here’s a look at all five — plus one we came up with ourselves — to see what a Twitter acquisition could do for them.
Image credit: Morris MacMatzen / Reuters
Even though Google is a titan in many fields — search, mobile and maps, among others — it hasn’t done so well in social. Its first attempt was Orkut, which faded into obscurity despite some isolated popularity in Brazil. There was Wave, a real-time messaging platform that was so confusing the project flatlined almost as soon as it launched. There’s also Buzz, a now-discontinued social network which integrated directly with Gmail — a move that unfortunately resulted in users being able to see their friends’ and families’ email contacts.
And, of course, there’s Google+, the company’s most notable attempt yet at a becoming a social network. But even that has proved something of a disappointment. It doesn’t help that tactics like forcing everyone to use it for other Google services have been alienating for some. Today, many of its features feel more disconnected than they used to. Google Plus is now a place for discussion groups than a traditional social network.
Basically, then, for Google to acquire Twitter, which already has over 313 million users, would be an instant boon. It would give the search giant the social cred it’s been chasing for so many years. Plus, Google has a little something called YouTube to help Twitter with its video streaming ambitions.
Image credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters
Out of all the companies whose names have been floated as possible suitors, the unlikeliest is probably SalesForce. Known mostly for customer-relations management software, it’s decidedly enterprise-focused. At first blush, its interest in Twitter seems odd.
Yet it might not be. SalesForce already tried and failed to buy LinkedIn (Microsoft was the winner in that particular contest), so it would seem the company has long wanted to cash in on social. Plus, one of the features of its software is a plug-in that tracks mentions of brands on social media. SalesForce could leverage Twitter’s role as a customer communications tool to boost its own sales-and-marketing arsenal.
Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
Microsoft has never done particularly well at social. In 2011 it launched So.cl, a “search-based social network” that lets you share search results with friends, but it’s been unpopular, to say the least. Aside from that, most of the company’s investment in this space has been through acquisitions. A few years ago, it bought Yammer (a sort of Twitter for business), and it picked up LinkedIn earlier this year. Microsoft also tried and failed to buy Facebook back when it was a startup, but that obviously didn’t go as planned.
Acquiring Twitter would be the easiest and fastest way to make headway in social, but for Microsoft the deal would mean more than that. Despite a string of well-reviewed products like the Surface Book that have helped get consumers excited about Microsoft, the company may still seem stodgy to some, especially compared with younger rivals like Google and Facebook. Though Twitter itself is now a large, publicly traded company that doesn’t necessarily know what it’s doing, its user base is at least younger and more media savvy than Microsoft’s. That might be just what Satya Nadella and co. are looking for.
Mike Blake / Reuters
If you think Verizon is just a plain old wireless carrier, you have it wrong. The company has had its sights set on the media space for a while now. Last year it bought AOL (Engadget’s parent company), and a few months ago it announced its intention to buy Yahoo. (The purchase isn’t set to close until 2017.) Both deals were made in the name of increasing Verizon’s advertising portfolio.
And, seeing as Twitter is a pretty big media company in its own right — it’s often the place to go for breaking news, and the company has recently made a push around livestreaming — it could fit right into Verizon’s video ambitions. Plus, let’s not forget that Twitter is yet another source for advertising revenue. With all of these companies under one umbrella, Verizon might have enough ammo to compete against the likes of Google and Facebook.
Jacky Naegelen / Reuters
Another strange potential bedfellow in this Twitter acquisition rumorfest is Disney. To be fair, CEO Jack Dorsey is on Disney’s board, so they’re already friendly enough that getting early-stage discussions off the ground may have been easier than it would have otherwise. Also, Disney owns several media entities like ABC and ESPN, so having Twitter would be great as an in-house marketing tool.
The issue here is that Twitter is also used by its rivals — you know, Fox, CNN, Comcast, and every other brand on earth — and those companies might not feel so great having their engagement analytics in the hands of the competition. Twitter’s poor history of handling abuse complaints might not sit well with Disney’s squeaky-clean image either.
Fantasy pick: Amazon
Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters
While Amazon wasn’t named as a potential buyer, a Twitter acquisition would make some sense for the Seattle-based company. Sure, it’s largely known as an e-tailer, but Amazon has shown it isn’t afraid to experiment. It’s dabbled in hardware — the Kindle and Echo come to mind — and it’s making a strong play in video streaming too. And that video isn’t limited to just Prime subscribers: Amazon is also dabbling in live video after acquiring Twitch two years ago. Buying Twitter would provide yet another live vertical for Amazon and, of course, access to one of the world’s largest social networks. It might seem odd, but Amazon isn’t a normal company. And lest you forget, CEO Jeff Bezos already owns the Washington Post, indicating he might well have media mogul aspirations.
Regardless of who ends up owning Twitter, it seems clear that somebody will eventually need to buy it, if only to keep it alive. On Monday, Twitter was the place on the internet to congregate during the US presidential debate. It was a firestorm of heated commentary — lively, interactive and emotional. It is this quality that has made Twitter such an effective launchpad for political movements like the Arab Spring. The company might have problems making money and gaining users, but its value to modern society is clear. Let’s hope somebody can keep it going.
Microsoft has reorganized several disparate projects and programs into an entirely new Artificial Intelligence group. It will be the fourth major division after Windows, Office and cloud, reallocating over 5,000 computer scientists and engineers under its umbrella. The shift shows how much unified effort the tech giant believes the field needs, as well as internally standardized AI tech they can more easily integrate into customer products.
Microsoft Research chief Harry Shum will head the new AI division, according to GeekWire. In addition to his old department, the new group will include products like Cortana and Bing with the Ambient Computing and Robotics teams, as well as the company’s Information Platform Group. Collecting them all under one banner suggests how standardized they want their AI tech to be between disparate programs. It’s similar to how Microsoft internally pivoted to collectively harness the Internet in the mid-90s, GeekWire points out.
In a blog post, Shum said that the collaboration will build “an AI stack spanning infrastructure, services, apps and agents.” That will permit Microsoft’s mission shift to “democratize AI” by integrating it into more consumer, enterprise and developer projects. Hopefully, byproducts from the AI division’s R&D will produce fewer missteps like last March’s foul-mouthed Twitterbot and more advancements like their pilot project using AI to discover cancer treatments.
Source: Microsoft blog
When Skype updates on desktop and gives the “improving your experience” message it’s usually pretty easy to dismiss that as a bald-faced lie. But the latest iOS update actually sounds really useful. The VoIP service will now tap into Siri for making calls, pull contact information from the app into your contact list and, like Facebook Messenger before it, make incoming calls look like regular ones. It all sounds genuinely useful. As always, if the update hasn’t hit your iOS 10 device yet, that’s what the source link below is for.
Source: iTunes, Skype blog
Five of the biggest tech companies have launched a collaboration to help the public understand the benefits of artificial intelligence. The New York Times reported in early September that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon had been meeting to discuss an AI-related project. Now, the cat’s finally out of the bag. Their collaboration is officially called “Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society,” and it has a few goals other than to make sure people know that AI research isn’t all about creating killer robots.
Partnership on AI will support related research and recommend best practices in ethics, transparency and privacy when it comes to artificial intelligence studies. The project also aims to create an open platform where researchers and major players in the industry can communicate.
The initiative’s website explains its tenet as follows:
“We believe that artificial intelligence technologies hold great promise for raising the quality of people’s lives and can be leveraged to help humanity address important global challenges such as climate change, food, inequality, health, and education.”
All five founding companies have huge AI projects. IBM, as you know, has Watson, while Google has DeepMind, which you probably recognize as the the team behind AlphaGo. Amazon has Alexa, the voice assistance that’s loaded onto its Echo speakers, while Microsoft has Cortana and a whole bunch of chatbot projects. Finally, Facebook, depends on artificial intelligence for many of its features, including face recognition and its News Feed.
Despite the initiative’s solid lineup, people couldn’t help but wonder why it’s missing one key player: Apple. Microsoft’s Eric Horvitz, who serves as one of the project’s interim co-chairs, told The Guardian that they’ve been in discussions with Cupertino. “I know they’re enthusiastic about this effort,” he said, “and I’d personally hope to see them join.” Another missing name is Elon Musk’s OpenAI, a non-profit AI research project that promises to make its results available to all. That might eventually change, though, since the team plans to invite more companies and non-profits from around the world to be part of the effort.
Via: PopSci, The Guardian
Source: Partnership on AI
Even the most dedicated Gears of War fan might need a refresher course ahead of the franchise’s fourth numbered sequel. And that’s precisely what the new video from the developers at The Coalition is all about. What’s more, it’s direct feed footage of the first section of the game, aptly titled “Prologue.” So, you can see exactly what sorts of trouble you’ll be getting into in a few weeks.
The 22-minute video covers some of past Gears moments from different perspectives. Those include a battle from Aspho Fields (a key event in the universe’s fiction that hasn’t been in a game previously), Emergence Day when the humans of Serra came in first contact with the Locust enemies and the battle at Anvil Gate that ended the war with those subterranean monsters.
All that and the video sets up the legend of Marcus Fenix, father of 4’s protagonist, J.D.. This isn’t the first time Gears of War has had playable memories. In fact, 2013’s side story, Judgment, was based entirely around that narrative conceit. Kind of a clever way to tie all the games together, no? Sadly this video contains precisely zero new Run the Jewels tracks. Gears of War 4 comes out October 11th on Xbox One and Windows 10.
Source: Xbox Wire
Microsoft might lose a whole city of customers in Russia. According to Bloomberg, Moscow will begin replacing Redmond’s products with homegrown software as a result of Vladimir Putin’s urging to stop depending on foreign tech. Artem Yermolaev, the city’s head of information technology, told reporters that Moscow will begin by dropping Microsoft’s Exchange Service and by replacing Outlook on 6,000 computers with state-run carrier Rostelecom PJSC’s email system. Authorities are looking to deploy the email software to as many as 600,000 computers in the future. They might even replace Windows and the Office suite entirely, though there seems to be no solid plan for that at the moment.
The Russian president has been calling for companies and other entities to opt for local offerings for a while now, citing American corporations’ decision to shutter services in Crimea after his government annexed the peninsula in 2014. To ensure things go their way, Putin’s internet czar German Klimenko wants to raise taxes imposed upon American firms operating within Russia.
In recent years, Putin’s government has also been passing laws and imposing strict requirements to ensure a tight hold over the country’s tech sector. Back in 2014, it required websites accessible in Russia to store its citizens’ personal data in servers within its borders. Earlier this year, it started requiring internet providers to add backdoor access to their subscribers’ encrypted messages, as well.
Fox Sports Go is basically on every major streaming platform already, including Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Fire TV. And now you can add a gaming console to that list, with the app now available on the Xbox One. To give you a refresher, Fox Sports Go lets you watch live and on-demand videos from the NFL, MLB, NHL, UFC, NCAA football, UEFA Champions League and many more competitions. The only caveat is that you need a cable subscription to access it, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise — the cord-cutter life is rough.
Today’s announcement comes only a few weeks after Fox Sports Go launched on Chromecast, and right before that it was the Apple TV. It is, however, still missing from the PlayStation 4, though that may have something to do with Sony not wanting to overshadow its PS Vue offering.
Source: Fox Sports Go
Microsoft has unveiled Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge, a new system that will isolate the browser on Windows 10 Enterprise PCs, making them harder to hack. In a blog, the company wrote that it’s “the first operating system to ship this type of technology alongside a browser.” Using the Virtualization Based Security (VBS) recently introduced for Windows 10, Edge runs inside a small, virtual “PC,” keeping it separate from processes including storage, other apps and, most importantly, the Windows 10 kernel.
Microsoft says that while other browsers are “sandboxed” away from security-sensitive PC areas, they “still provide a pathway for malware and vulnerability exploits.” By contrast, Application Guard uses a hardware container to completely isolate Edge from the rest of the PC.
The system is only available on Windows 10 Enterprise for now, so administrators will need to choose sites that do and don’t run inside Application Guard. When it’s enabled, malware can’t penetrate the protective VM “box” around Edge to access the rest of the system. “Even if an untrusted site successfully loads malware, the malware is unable to reach beyond the isolated container to steal data or permanently compromise devices or the network,” Microsoft wrote.
Running Edge in a virtual machine will slow it down a bit, but Microsoft says it uses the minimum resources necessary to keep it light. The other hassle is that an Application Guard-enabled session won’t save your cookies or other data, because closing the browser completely wipes all memory of the session. Those things mean that, for now, the VM-protected Edge system isn’t quite ready for non-enterprise users just yet. However, in an age of constant hacking, a browser that isolates your system from danger seems like an idea whose time has come.