Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘microsoft’ Category

Chasing Dragons and Developers

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Okay, Sanity Check. 

Were you more upset with the Kentucky Derby winner kerfluffle, or last night’s shocking GoT episode?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Spoiler alert: Daenerys is down to a single dragon, and her advisers are dropping like flies. And another nearly 90 minute episode? HBO definitely got its game on for the final season!

But it’s Monday, and it’s time for a tech sanity check as well.

We’re starting to get some sneak previews into coming developer confabs.

VentureBeat is reporting that this week’s Microsoft Build will feature lots of AI, assistants, and bots (Cortana), as well as lots of IoT. No shocker there.

Also expected to feature: Azure and the hybrid cloud, containers, serverless, blah blah blah.

And…MS 365, Windows 10, HoloLens, GitHub, Visual Studio, .Net…and Edge/Chromium.

And Apple’s WWDC? 

The Verge is counting out rumors, including the possibility of a new Mac Pro and a new external monitor (possibly as big as a 31.6-inch 6K screen using mini-LED backlighting to help with contast).

You know, so you can watch last week’s GoT’s “Long Night” episode over and over again in the dark and actually see movement.

Software-wise, expect an iOS dark mode, iPad apps on the Mac, Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts on the Macs, and updates to the iPad’s home screen and multitasking, among others.

And lest you forget, the 2019 Red Hat Summit kicks off officially tomorrow in Boston, MA.  

Follow @RedHatSummit and #RhSummit on Twitter for all the latest, and get the basic deets on the Red Hat FAQ page. 

And be sure to show off those newfangled Red Hat tattoos!

Written by turbotodd

May 6, 2019 at 10:50 am

The Long Night of White Walkers and Home Shares

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It’s Monday, and if you’re a loyal “Game of Thrones,” you’re dreams were probably filled with the lingering aftermath of the battles of “The Long Night,” the most recent episode in the series’ final season and one that stretched out well over its typical hour.

I’m not going to give away any of the plot points but will say this: After watching that episode, do you think either Daenerys Targaryen or John Snow are prepared for future leadership??!

And I’d be remiss without a hat tip to “Avengers: Endgame,” which debuted at theatres around the world and broke a new record for all time box office open: $1.2B! Showings in Austin were pretty much sold out, and it sounds like that may have been the case around the world.

Now on to some of the key tech and marketing news of the day. SearchEngineLand is reporting that Bing Ads is rebranding itself as “Microsoft Advertising,” with the new name reflecting a broader focus on ad inventory, data and targeting capabilities.

And SEL tells us we should care because:

The rebrand emphasizes a focus on personalization and AI. “In the next year, we’re introducing more advertising products with built-in AI, more connected to your data and your business,” Rik van der Kooi, corporate VP for Microsoft Advertising, said in a blog post Monday.

The AI backbone that powers Bing has given the company the “right to innovate,”David Pann, general manager of global search business at Microsoft said during a keynote discussion at SMX East last year. He cited MSAN and LinkedIn integrations as one example.

The story cites Microsoft Advertising as having 500K advertisers (Google apparently passed the 1M mark in 2009). By comparison, Facebook said last week that 3M advertisers are using Stories Ads.

On the homesharing front, Marriott has announced it is officially getting into the homesharing business, after having run a small pilot entitled “Hostmaker” in 2018 in London.

Its new homesharing business now operates in more than 100 different markets, and of these, 40 were in markets where Marriott had not previously had a presence (Amalfi Coast, North Lake Tahoe, Saint-Tropez, among them).

As to the pilot results:

Nearly 90 percent of guests who booked a Tribute Portfolio Home as part of the Hostmaker pilot were loyalty members, and more than 75 percent were traveling for leisure with family and friends. The average length of stay for Tribute Portfolio Homes guests was more than triple the normal hotel stay, at 5.1 nights, and the average size of home booked was more than two bedrooms.

And as to the new, full-fledged operation:

In running this new business unit, Marriott will act more like an online travel agency or distribution platform, like Airbnb or Booking or HomeAway, for the selected property management companies it has chosen to work with. The company would not disclose the commission structure it has put into place.

Homeaway and AirBNB, you’d better keep the lights on!

Speaking of keeping the lights on, Amazon made a noteworth investment in India today, according to a report from TechCrunch.

Amazon announced the launch of a person-to-person (P2P) payment capability via Amazon Pay for Android users in the country.

Using this tech, customers will now be able to:

…make instant bank-to-bank transactions through the UPI platform on the localized version of the Amazon app, allowing them to settle bills and other expenses with friends, lend or return money to family, pay for services and more. Notably, the new P2P service also will allow customers to make payments from their bank account to local stores or to Amazon delivery associates at the doorstep, who will scan a UPI QR code within the Amazon app.

The globaly e-payments war, like the GOT’s long night battle, is just getting enjoined, and it’s going to be interesting to watch the potential nexus of that battle with the one going on with cryptocurrency.

Keep those Valyrian steel swords sharp!

Written by turbotodd

April 29, 2019 at 11:08 am

Show Me the Money

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Facebook had a big quarter. Or, should I say, a BIG quarter.

Despite all the privacy snafus and regulatory chafing, the company reported Q1 revenue of $15.08B, with advertising revenue up 26% at $14.91B. 

Also, Facebook explained it would set aside $3B to cover expenses associated with a fine from the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy practice (although the fine apparently could go as high as $5B).

Facebook also indicated that its Facebook stories feature now has 500M daily users across both FB and Messenger, and WhatsApp’s status has 500M daily users (poor Snapchat has a paltry 190M DUs by comparison).

In other words, Facebook sneezes, the rest of the ad industry still catches cold.

Microsoft also announced big earnings, reporting Q3 revenue was up 14% to $30.6B and net income was up 19% to $8.8B. Intelligent Cloud Revenue was up 22% to $9.7B. 

Earlier today, the company became only the third U.S. company ever to pass a market cap of $1T (the other two were Apple and Amazon).

But it’s not just the techs who are in tech.

TechCrunch reported that Walmart announced earlier today a new “store of the future,” a sort of proving ground for emerging tech, including A.I.-enable cameras and interactive displays.

Code-named “IRL” (for, the “Intelligent Retail Lab”), the store operates out of a Walmart Neighborhood Market and contains over 30,000 items. Not unlike Amazon Go’s convenience stories:

the store has a suite of cameras mounted in the ceiling. But unlike Amazon Go, which is a grab-and-go store with smaller square footage, Walmart’s IRL spans 50,000 square feet of retail space and is staffed by over 100 employees.

Plus, in Walmart’s case, these A.I.-powered cameras are not being used to determine what items customers are buying in order to automatically charge them. It still has traditional checkout stations. Instead, the cameras will monitor inventory levels to determine, for example, if staff needs to bring out more meat from the backroom refrigerators to restock the shelves, or if some fresh items have been sitting too long on the shelf and need to be pulled.

The idea is that the A.I. will help the store associates know more precisely where and when to restock products. And this, in turn, means customers will know the produce and meat is always fresh and in stock when they arrive.

The system apparently generates so much data, 1.6TB per second, that it necessitates a big data center on site.

And yet it seems to be obviously avoiding getting into the business of automated checkout solutions (which Amazon has tackled head on), instead “using the A.I. system to ensure that there are shopping carts available at all times and that registers are open and staffed.”

But don’t kid yourself…it’s probably only a few years before we’ll be seeing a virtual Sam hologram himself welcoming you to the new and improved Ai-driven Walmart.

Save Money. Live Better.

Written by turbotodd

April 25, 2019 at 10:41 am

Common Sense AI

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Microsoft announced that it is acquiring conversational AI and bot development software vendor XOXCO, Inc., an Austin-based firm, for an undisclosed amount.

According to a report from ZDNet, XOXCO was founded in 2008, and has been working on conversational AI since 2013.

One of its products, Howdy.ai, has been described as one of the first commercially available bots for Slack that helps schedule meetings.

Though it may be great for scheduling meetings, a new article in WIRED suggests that artificial intelligence and deep learning could stand to gain some common sense:

Deep learning is the reigning monarch of AI. In the six years since it exploded into the mainstream, it has become the dominant way to help machines sense and perceive the world around them. It powers Alexa’s speech recognition, Waymo’s self-driving cars, and Google’s on-the-fly translations. Uber is in some respects a giant optimization problem, using machine learning to figure out where riders will need cars. Baidu, the Chinese tech giant, has more than 2,000 engineers cranking away on neural net AI. For years, it seemed as though deep learning would only keep getting better, leading inexorably to a machine with the fluid, supple intelligence of a person.

But some heretics argue that deep learning is hitting a wall. They say that, on its own, it’ll never produce generalized intelligence, because truly humanlike intelligence isn’t just pattern recognition. We need to start figuring out how to imbue AI with everyday common sense, the stuff of human smarts. If we don’t, they warn, we’ll keep bumping up against the limits of deep learning, like visual-recognition systems that can be easily fooled by changing a few inputs, making a deep-learning model think a turtle is a gun. But if we succeed, they say, we’ll witness an explosion of safer, more useful devices—health care robots that navigate a cluttered home, fraud detection systems that don’t trip on false positives, medical breakthroughs powered by machines that ponder cause and effect in disease.

I look forward to having an argument with a bot…someday.

Written by turbotodd

November 14, 2018 at 11:05 am

Posted in 2018, AI, microsoft, Uncategorized

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RIP Paul Allen

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The news just came across the wire that Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen died today at the age of 65.

Allen died of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same cancer he overcame nine years ago but which he announced earlier this month had returned and for which he was seeking treatment. 

His family released a statement, which in part said:

While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much-loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend. Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern. For all the demands on his schedule, there was always time for family and friends. At this time of loss and grief for us – and so many others – we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day.

Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, and after leaving the company went out to found and chair Vulcan Inc., an entity which managed his various business and philanthropic efforts. 

Allen was also the founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and throughout his lifetime gave away more than $2 billion to such causes that included education, wildlife and environmental conservation, the arts, and health and community services.

Written by turbotodd

October 15, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Posted in 2018, microsoft, obituary

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Bing Me An Uber

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A headline in today’s Wall Street Journal: Toyota investing $500 million in Uber in driverless-car pact.

Toyota’s investment values Uber at roughly $72 billion, slightly higher than where SoftBank Group Corp. valued the company earlier this year with its funding.

Through the deal, Uber will integrate self-driving technology into Toyota Sienna minivans for use in Uber’s ride hailing network.

And as the Journal story observes:

For ride-sharing concerns like Uber and Lyft Inc., autonomous vehicles could cut their biggest expense: paying human drivers. For auto makers such as Toyota, the potential of self-driving cars to power car-sharing services represents a major challenge to an industry dominated by individual car ownership.

The Journal also reminds us that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is looking to take the company public next year and has been selling off unprofitable operations while “putting new focus on rentable bikes and scooters.”

Could a Lime or Bird acquisition be in the offing? 

Also on today’s AI frontiers, Search Engine Land is reporting that Bing is introducing a new “Spotlight” news feature which showcases a timeline of how a story has evolved, differing perspectives from news sources, and related social media posts on a topic.

Uh, can we see the full timeline in Spotlight for the Mueller investigation?

Yeah, there’s probably not enough AI on the planet to fully grok that timeline yet.

Lest you worry that the “Spotlight” will render human editors irrelevant, the Search Engine Land story indicates Bing explained that the perspectives and stories “are compiled using a combination of both AI and experienced human editors.”

Bing monitors millions of queries and news articles every day and identifies impactful stories that evolve over a period of weeks or months. We look at various user signals such as queries and browser logs, and document signals from publishers such as how many publishers cover a story, their angles, and how prominently they feature the story on their site.  For controversial topics, in the Perspectives module, we show different viewpoints from high-quality sources. For a source to be considered high quality, it must meet the Bing News PubHub Guidelines, which is a set of criteria that favors originality, readability, newsworthiness, and transparency. Top caliber news providers identify sources and authors, give attribution and demonstrate sound journalistic practices such as accurate labeling of opinion and commentary. Behind the scenes, we leverage our deep learning algorithms and web graphs of hundreds of millions of web sites in the Bing index to identify top sources for national news, per category, query, or article. Our goal is to provide broader context for impactful stories, from politics to business to major disasters, and much more.

All the news that’s fit to algo.

Written by turbotodd

August 28, 2018 at 9:21 am

Posted in 2018, AI, algorithms, microsoft, news

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Blockchain Mo’

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The cryptocurrency momentum continues in spite of a fluctuating Bitcoin, suppression in China, and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s recently professed skepticism about the fate of cryptocurrencies.

Dimon warned that “governments will eventually crack down on cryptocurrencies and will attempt to control it by threatening anyone who buys or sells bitcoin with imprisonment.”

Of course, we have to separate the emerging digital currencies themselves from the underlying blockchain technology that makes currencies like bitcoin work.

Just today, Fortune’s “The Ledger” blog reported that Oracle has introduced blockchain cloud services to help its clients link their existing inventory and supply chain software to a secure, distributed transaction system.

And Juniper Research recently released a report that indicated IBM is leading the way on blockchain tech, with more than 40 percent of tech execs and leaders in the blockchain sector ranking IBM at the top.

Go here to learn more and to get started with the IBM Blockchain Platform.

Written by turbotodd

October 3, 2017 at 9:48 am

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