Group of employees calls for end to Microsoft’s $480M HoloLens military contract


This post is by Lucas Matney from TechCrunch


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More than 100 Microsoft employees have signed a letter sent to CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith criticizing the company’s plans to build HoloLens AR tech for the military, the organizing group said Friday. The development is part of a $480 million military contract that Microsoft won this past November.

The group’s letter demands that the company cancel their work on the contract and cease development of weapons technologies. “We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” the letter further states.

Microsoft has been focusing its augmented reality efforts on enterprise customers but had aggressively pursued the military contract, beating out other applicants including billions-backed startup Magic Leap. The contract is essentially a pilot program to begin outfitting the U.S. military with augmented reality visors

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What business leaders can learn from Jeff Bezos’ leaked texts


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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The ‘below the belt selfie’ media circus surrounding Jeff Bezos has made encrypted communications top of mind among nervous executive handlers. Their assumption is that a product with serious cryptography like Wickr – where I work – or Signal could have helped help Mr. Bezos and Amazon avoid this drama.

It’s a good assumption, but a troubling conclusion.

I worry that moments like these will drag serious

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When do you go native?


This post is by Jon Evans from TechCrunch


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So you’re a startup founder. Or you’re in charge of a new project at a big company. (Or maybe you just imagine being either of these things.) And you suddenly realize: you have to make a whole slew of massive decisions right now, based on imperfect information, which will reverberate for months or years, and may spell the difference between success or failure.

Among the most dreaded and dangerous decisions are the technical ones. Your web stack. Your cloud provider. Your datastore. But it’s fair to say that the most contentious, lately, is for projects which involve a smartphone app. There, the biggest question of all, the one which must be answered before any work is done, and the one which will probably hang over you for years, is: do you go native?

What that means is: do you build separate native Android and iOS apps, each from scratch

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Microsoft video teases HoloLens 2 ahead of MWC launch


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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One of Mobile World Congress’s most anticipated reveals isn’t a phone at all. Microsoft is expected to announce the next generation HoloLens headset at an already-announced event on February 24, and the company’s doing a bit more to stoke the flames.

Granted, there’s really not much to see in this new teaser. Vague forms of chips and cables take shape out melted ice, rocks and air— frankly, it’s the kind of thing you release when you don’t actually want to show anything off.

<

p class=”p1″>Perhaps even more important than the video itself is the source. Technical Fellow Alex Kipman is one of the key people behind the original HoloLens, so who better to reveal the second gen? The original headset was ahead of the mixed reality wave,

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Someone could scoop up Slack before it IPOs


This post is by Ron Miller from TechCrunch


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Earlier this week, Slack announced that it has filed the paperwork to go public at some point later this year. The big question is, will the company exit into the public markets as expected, or will one of the technology giants swoop in at the last minute with buckets of cash and take them off the market?

Slack, which raised over $1 billion on an other worldly $7 billion valuation, is an interesting property. It has managed to grow and be successful while competing with some of the world’s largest tech companies — Microsoft, Cisco, Facebook, Google and Salesforce. Not coincidentally these deep-pocketed companies could be the ones that come knock, knock, knocking at Slack’s door.

Slack has managed to hold its own against these giants by doing something in this space that hadn’t been done effectively before. It made it easy to plug in other services, effectively making Slack

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Microsoft Azure sets its sights on more analytics workloads


This post is by Frederic Lardinois from TechCrunch


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Enterprises now amass huge amounts of data, both from their own tools and applications, as well as from the SaaS applications they use. For a long time, that data was basically exhaust. Maybe it was stored for a while to fulfill some legal requirements, but then it was discarded. Now, data is what drives machine learning models, and the more data you have, the better. It’s maybe no surprise, then, that the big cloud vendors started investing in data warehouses and lakes early on. But that’s just a first step. After that, you also need the analytics tools to make all of this data useful.

Today, it’s Microsoft turn to shine the spotlight on its data analytics services. The actual news here is pretty straightforward. Two of these are services that are moving into general availability: the second generation of Azure Data Lake Storage for big data analytics workloads and

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Africa Roundup: Zimbabwe’s net blackout, Partech’s $143M fund, Andela’s $100M raise, Flutterwave’s pivot


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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A high court in Zimbabwe ended the government’s restrictions on internet and social media last month.

After days of intermittent blackouts at the order of the country’s Minister of State for National Security, ISPs restored connectivity per a January 21 judicial order.

Similar to net shutdowns around the continent, politics and protests were the catalyst. Shortly after the government announced a dramatic increase in fuel prices on January 12, Zimbabwe’s Congress of Trade Unions called for a national strike.

Web and app blackouts in the southern African country followed demonstrations that broke out in several cities. A government crackdown

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Skype can now blur the background during video calls


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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Thanks to the rise of WhatsApp and other free calling and messaging apps, Skype is no longer the go-to service it once was for many people. But the company just added a new feature which might raise its appeal among users.

The Microsoft-owned service’s latest addition is a screen-blurring feature designed to obscure your messy room or any other background details that you’d rather weren’t on display to the other party on the line.

Skype said that the feature — which is similar to the blurring added to Microsoft Teams last year — uses artificial intelligence to keep the focus on the caller. That also means it will detect features such as hair, hands and arms.

The feature is rolling out to Skype for desktop, the web and mobile although it doesn’t support all devices yet. It can be enabled in Skype’s settings or from the video call button inside the service.

If You’re Going to Play Fortnite on Your Phone, Use a Controller


This post is by Tercius on The Inventory, shared by Tercius to Lifehacker from Lifehacker


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As of last week, Fortnite, the biggest game in the world and the bane of high school teachers everywhere, finally allows you to use Bluetooth controllers on mobile devices.

Read more…

Microsoft really, really, really doesn’t want you to buy Office 2019


This post is by Frederic Lardinois from TechCrunch


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Microsoft launched a new ad campaign for its Office suite today. Usually, that’s not something especially interesting, but this one is a bit different. Instead of simply highlighting the features of Word and Excel, Microsoft decided to pitch Office 365 and Office 2019 against each other (as an extra gimmick, it used twins to do so, too). But here’s the deal: Microsoft really doesn’t want you to buy Office 2019, and the ads make that abundantly clear.

The reason for that is obvious: Office 365 is a subscription product while Office 2019 (think Office Home & Student or other SKUs) comes with a perpetual license, so that’s a one-time sale for Microsoft. Subscriptions are a better business for Microsoft in the long run (hence its recent focus on products like Microsoft 365, too).

For the longest time, the annual non-365 Office release was simply a snapshot of the

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Microsoft’s Build developer conference returns to Seattle May 6 to 8


This post is by Frederic Lardinois from TechCrunch


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Microsoft’s Build developer conference is returning to Seattle May 6 to 8. This is a bit of a surprise since Microsoft itself leaked May 7 to 9 as Build’s dates last month, after all. But then Google’s announced exactly those dates for its I/O confab and like last year, Microsoft probably had to scramble a bit and we’ll get back-to-back developer keynotes from Microsoft and Google in early May.

To say that timing is a bit awkward is an understatement, but we’ll be there and do our thing and then fly out to California at night and do it all over again for Google I/O. For developers, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue, though, given that the target audience for both events is quite different.

Build is typically Microsoft’s biggest show for developers. Other events, including its massive Ignite show in Orlando, have a stronger emphasis on IT

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After 5 years, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has transformed more than the stock price


This post is by Ron Miller from TechCrunch


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Five years ago today, Satya Nadella took over as CEO at Microsoft, and by most any measure has been wildly successful. It’s common to look at the stock price as the defining metric of Nadella’s tenure, but the stock price triumph has followed something more fundamental and harder to measure, how he changed the culture of the entire organization.

Nadella’s term at Microsoft has paralleled my own here at TechCrunch. I started in April of 2014, and in one of my first posts, I wrote about the difficulty of substantive change inside an organization the size of Microsoft. In those early moments of both of our tenures, I recognized a subtle shift was taking place, one towards service, something Microsoft hadn’t been exactly known for under his predecessors, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates.

Microsoft’s five-year stock price journey under Satya Nadella. Stock chart: Yahoo Finance

But Nadella’s inauguration came at

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Microsoft acquires DataSense management from BrightBytes to step up its education play in Azure


This post is by Ingrid Lunden from TechCrunch


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One of Microsoft’s oldest and biggest verticals for its Azure cloud business has been education, and today it announced an acquisition that it hopes will help it deepen its reach: it has acquired DataSense — a data management platform that can be used to collect, integrate and report information from across a range of online education applications and services — from an educational technology company called BrightBytes, to integrate the functionality into Azure.

DataSense is a master platform that’s used by schools and educational authorities both to ingest information as well as report it to state and other authorities as part of their reporting, used to manage data for millions of students in the US, BrightBytes says.

It looks like the deal actually closed in December, according to data from PitchBook, although it’s only being announced today.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, but as a

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Watch the tech-centric Super Bowl ads from Amazon, Microsoft and others


This post is by Anthony Ha from TechCrunch


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Another year, another batch of Super Bowl commercials from tech giants like Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

In fact, Amazon will have different ads focusing on different areas of the business: one highlighting products that won’t be taking advantage of its voice-powered assistant Alexa, and another previewing “Hanna,” an upcoming show on Amazon Prime.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is highlighting some of the ways technology can actually make people’s lives better — perhaps as a corrective to the ongoing backlash against the tech industry.

There will be star-studded spots from somewhat less ubiquitous companies too, with Bumble enlisting Serena Williams to deliver a message of empowerment and Squarespace depicting Idris Elba’s attempts to build his own website.

This year, we’ve also got commercials from non-tech companies like Pringles that place voice assistants and robots front-and-center. And while there are plenty of car commercials, I tried to stick to the ones that actually focused

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AWS and Microsoft reap most of the benefits of expanding cloud market


This post is by Ron Miller from TechCrunch


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While it appears that overall economic activity could be slowing down, one area that continues to soar is the cloud business. Just this week, Amazon and Microsoft reported their cloud numbers as part of their overall earnings reports.

While Microsoft’s cloud growth was flat from the previous quarter, it still grew a healthy 76 percent to $9.4 billion or a $37.6 billion run rate. Meanwhile AWS, Amazon’s cloud division, grew 46 percent to $7.4 billion or a $29.6 billion run rate. That’s up from $5.11 billion from a year ago. As always, it’s important to remember that it isn’t necessarily an apples to apples comparison as each company counts what they call cloud revenue a little differently, but it gives you a sense of where this market is going.

Both businesses also face the law of large numbers in terms of growth, that is, the

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Microsoft highlights the Xbox Adaptive Controller in emotional Super Bowl ad


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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Once upon a time, people had to wait for the Super Bowl to watch the ads. Those dark days are over. Now you can have companies sell you products on-demand, any time, day or night. Amazon has already debuted its latest Alexa ad, and now Microsoft’s getting in on the action — and this one’s a bit of a tear-jerker.

The software giant’s Super Bowl spot highlights some of the work it’s done to increase the accessibility of its products. Front and center is the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a $100 ad-on that makes the console more accessible to gamers with a range of different needs. The spot features a number of different children (and their parents) who are better able to enjoy gaming using the device. 

The Adaptive Controller was created with input from a number of different groups, including The AbleGamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, SpecialEffect,

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Grab raises $200M from Thailand-based retail conglomerate Central Group


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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Grab’s fundraising push continues unabated after the Southeast Asian ride-hailing firm announced that it has raised $200 million from Central Group, a retail conglomerate based in Thailand.

Central’s business covers restaurants, hotels and more than 30 malls in Thailand, while it has operations in markets that include Vietnam and Indonesia. Its public-listed holding companies alone are worth more than $15 billion.

Singapore-based Grab confirmed that this deal is not part of its ongoing Series H fundraising, but is instead an investment into its Thailand-based business. Rumors of the deal were first reported by Reuters last year.

Following this investment, Central said it will work with Grab in a number of areas in Thailand, including bringing its restaurants into the Grab Food service, adding Grab transportation to its physical outlets and bringing Grab’s logistics service into its businesses.

The investment represents the first time an investor has bought into a local Grab country unit, and

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Microsoft Azure revenue growth slows in Q2


This post is by Frederic Lardinois from TechCrunch


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Microsoft announced its quarterly earnings today. For the most part, those earnings came in around Wall Streets expectations, without any major surprises and a total revenue of $32.5 billion. Given the company’s bets on cloud computing, what’s maybe most important, though, is that Azure recorded revenue growth of 76 percent. That’s the same growth the company booked in the last quarter and still respectable growth, but depending on your perspective, you can also read it as growth flatting out.

“Our strong commercial cloud results reflect our deep and growing partnerships with leading companies in every industry including retail, financial services, and healthcare,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “We are delivering differentiated value across the cloud and edge as we work to earn customer trust every day.”

Azure falls into Microsoft’s “Intelligent Cloud” category, which includes other server products and enterprises services. In total, those services booked $9.

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Many Xbox Ones aren’t working right now due to Xbox Live outage


This post is by Greg Kumparak from TechCrunch


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If you just tried to turn on your Xbox One and were met with nothing but a black screen: you’re not alone.

A particularly bad outage in Xbox Live’s core services is causing the console to get stuck at boot. Microsoft is aware of the outage, and says they’ve “identified the cause”.

The issue seems to be impacting enough users that even Microsoft’s server status page is having a hard time

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How business-to-business startups reduce inequality


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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When considering the structural impact of technology companies on our economy and society, we tend to focus on questions of scale and monopoly.

It’s true that the FAANG companies and more recent winners (Airbnb, Uber) have surfed a combination of network effects, preferential access to capital and classic efficiencies of scale to generate tremendous value for their shareholders—to the detriment of new entrants who attempt to unseat them.

At their high water mark in mid-2018, FAANG alone made up 11% of the total market cap of the S&P 500 and 38% of the

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