Displaying items by tag: Microsoft

PCCW Global launches Online Cloud Connect to Microsoft Azure

Written on Tuesday, 31 October 2017 10:31

PCCW Global, the international operating division of HKT, Hong Kong’s premier telecommunications service provider, has launched the Online Cloud Connect service providing connectivity to Microsoft Azure.

This is an innovative Network-as-a-Service product that extends a customer’s MPLS network service to both Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365, benefiting them by providing a service which is insulated from the public Internet with improved and predictable performance and vastly reduced latency.

The Online Cloud Connect service leverages the capabilities of PCCW Global's Software Defined Network (SDN) and is an evolution beyond traditional and existing cloud connect services in the market. Enterprises and institutions gain flexibility, scalability, reliable performance and control over their connectivity to the cloud to fit their requirements at any given time.

Mr. Jordick Wong, Senior Vice President, Product and Vendor Management, PCCW Global, said, “Through an intuitive, easy to manage online service portal, our MPLS customers can now establish their own private connection to Microsoft Azure very easily and conveniently.”

Wong added, “The service portal offers online ordering and automatic provisioning together with flexible subscription packages starting from as little as a one-hour timeslot. Customers can subscribe to the bandwidth they require from a range of 50 to 1000 Mbps at the point of demand, and pay as they go without any human interaction being required.”

The Online Cloud Connect service is in the process of further extending its online ordering and automatic provisioning capabilities to include other major public cloud service providers.

Amazon and Microsoft announced that Alexa, Amazon’s AI personal assistant, will soon be able to communicate with Cortana, the personal assistant for Windows 10, and vice versa. Users of Amazon’s Alexa-controlled Echo speaker will be able to turn on their device and say, “Alexa, open Cortana,” or turn to their Windows 10 device and say, “Cortana, open Alexa.”

The two US technology giants said Alexa and Cortana will begin talking to each other later this year. Under the agreement, Microsoft customers first will be able to access Alexa via Cortana on Windows PCs, and later on Android and iOS devices, said Andrew Shuman, corporate vice president, Cortana Engineering.

Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana's unique features like booking a meeting or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email – all using just your voice. Similarly, Cortana customers can ask Alexa to control their smart home devices, shop on Amazon.com, interact with many of the more than 20,000 skills built by third-party developers, and much more.

"Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us," said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. "Bringing Cortana's knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal."

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said, "The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience.”

Tractica analyst Mark Beccue speculates that Amazon and Microsoft have mutual interest in developing the ability for their AI assistants to communicate, because neither company has enough presence in the mobile space to stand alone.

He told TechNewsWorld: “Neither Microsoft nor Amazon have the market penetration that Apple and Google do. Their virtual assistants are not very multimodal yet. Maybe they feel stronger together.”

Both Amazon and Microsoft have their own strengths that they can bring to the table; for example, Microsoft is stronger in productivity and search, whereas Amazon is known for e-commerce and has a vast ecosystem of skill applications, including many related to smart home technologies.

Some of the most prominent figures in the US technology sector have publicly expressed their dismay and anger following the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last week. Microsoft, Apple and Facebook have all announced they will implement measures in a bid to fightback against the rise of white supremacists in the US.

Apple CEO, Tim Cook criticized President Trump’s response to the events last week - and in a letter to his employees said counter-protesters were standing up for human rights. Cook said, “I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.”

Cook revealed that Apple would contribute $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, who are both human right groups. In addition to this, he said it was suspending its Apple Pay support on websites that sell white supremacy clothing and accessories. E-commerce platform PayPal has also implemented similar measures.

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella also voiced her concern at the violence in Virginia, and said there was absolutely unequivocally no place for such racist rhetoric in the US. In a letter to employees, Nadella said, “There is no place in our society for the bias, bigotry and senseless violence we witnessed this weekend in Virginia provoked by white nationalists.”

Cloud security and performance firm Cloud-flare also publicly announced that it has now terminated its account with neo-Nazi outlet ‘The Daily Stormer. The publication drew widespread criticism following the publication of a hate-filled feature on the victims of the Charlottesville violence.

Social media colossus Facebook has also moved swiftly to take action and suspended the account of infamous white supremacist Christopher Cantwell’s accounts on both Facebook and Instagram. Twitter has also removed the online account of The Daily Stormer from its platform.

President Trump drew criticism from technology leaders following his appointment to The White House in November. His controversial policies on immigration were widely condemned in Silicon Valley, and while President Trump has taken steps to build relationships with technology firms in Silicon Valley since taking office – there scathing criticism of his response to Charlottesville will not be well received by either Trump or his republican administration in Washington DC.

Published in Government

A group which represents a number of major US technology firms has appealed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to retract its proposed plans to reverse a landmark decision taken in 2015 which prohibited internet service providers from blocking or slowing consumer access to online content.

The Internet Association which represents companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Netflix and Microsoft has filed a complaint to the FCC in relation to the reversal on the decision made in 2015. It cited that the dismantling of the established net neutrality rules would create significant uncertainty in the market and disrupt a careful balance that has led to the current circle of innovation in the broadband ecosystem.

In May, Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressed his opposition to the order implemented by the Obama administration in 2015. The FCC voted 2-1 to advance the chairman’s plans to reverse the order which would reclassify internet service providers as if they were utilities. Pai has previously enquired if the FCC has authority or should keep its rules barring internet companies from blocking, throttling or giving ‘fast lanes’ to some websites, known as ‘paid prioritization’.

The FCC chairman has claimed that the order by the Obama administration is unnecessary and harms jobs and investment, and whilst he hasn’t committee to retaining any rules, he has stated that he would prefer an ‘open internet’. However, representatives on the Internet Association said that there is no reliable evidence whatsoever to reinforce Pai’s claim that ‘provider investment’ had fallen.

It has been disclosed that over 8.3m public comments have been filed on the proposal, and Pai will face questions at a US Senate hearing later this week. US telecommunications entities such as AT&T, Verizon Communications and Comcast Corp all vehemently opposed the order in 2015, saying that the order discouraged investment and innovation.

Telecommunication providers have insisted that they strongly support open internet rules and will not block or throttle legal website without legal requirements. However, they have conceded that ‘paid prioritization’ makes sense at times, citing self-driving cars and healthcare information. Internet firms say opening the door to prioritization could enable providers to "destroy the open nature of the internet that allows new or smaller streaming video providers to compete with larger or better-funded edge providers."

Internet providers have expressed their desire to see Congress resolve the long-running dispute over net neutrality and open internet protections. The Internet Association said it was open to alternative legal bases for the rules, either via legislative action codifying the existing net neutrality rules or via sound legal theories offered by the commission.

Published in Government

US technology leaders Microsoft has shocked its workforce by announcing that it plans to cuts ‘thousands’ of jobs as part of company reorganization strategy. However, it’s been reported from a source close to Microsoft that most of the reductions will be made outside of the US, and will target staff in its sales and marketing departments.

Some analysts are claiming that the restructuring of the organization is being driven by the fact Microsoft aims to double down on its fast-growing cloud business. Microsoft shares have suffered a decline and are down 0.7% at $68.63. The Washington-based company employs 120,000 people globally, and figures indicate that around the marketing and sales staff account for around 19% of that figure.

In addition to this, the source also claimed that some Microsoft employees have already been informed of their fate, although in some locations, the firm allegedly plans to notify employees that their jobs are under consideration.

Since assuming responsibility as CEO in 2014, Satya Nadella has been praised by many for reenergizing Microsoft, and he has certainly sharpened the organization’s focus on its cloud computing unit in a bid to counter a prolonged slowdown in the PC market.

However, the news still come as a huge surprise to many, with the scale of the job losses really taking some technology analysts by surprise. According to them Microsoft are under the tutelage of a dynamic and driven leader in Nadella, and are performing extremely well overall, despite the decline in its share price.

Published in Finance

Apple tops Gartner’s list of 100 leading vendors in IT

Written on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 12:38

Gartner, Inc. unveiled its top global 100 vendors in IT in 2016 list based on their revenue across IT (excluding communication services) and component market segments. In the Gartner Global Top 100: IT vendor, Apple was the largest vendor with more than $218 billion in IT revenue — approximately $79 billion larger than the No. 2 vendor, Samsung.

For the first time, Gartner published a ranking of the top 100 largest tech companies in the world based on estimates for their revenue across IT (excluding communication services) and component market segments. Technology business leaders can use the Gartner Global Top 100: IT to benchmark competitive performance against a shift from the Nexus of Forces (the convergence of social, mobility, cloud and information that drive new business scenarios) to digital business as the driver of IT purchasing.

"The needs of IT buyers are shifting. CEOs are focused on growth and are more focused on realizing business outcomes from their IT spend," said John-David Lovelock, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "The Nexus of Forces has been the focus of attention for many years; however, the impact of digital business is giving rise to new categories."

The top three vendors (Apple, Samsung and Google) can attribute much of their size to their solid alignment with the Nexus of Forces, according to Gartner. Microsoft was a large and influential company when the Nexus of Forces began, having grown to market leadership during the web and e-business phase, and has managed to pivot to remain relevant.

IBM gained its size and market dominance in the very earliest IT markets when servers, storage and consulting services dominated, according to Gartner. The need for these devices and services, along with mobile phones and PCs will remain — cloud will underpin all digital business initiatives — but they will become more commoditized and less of a driver for new projects and spending.

As enterprises increasingly digitalize their products and services, digital giants (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) can become involved in, or even take over, the digital experience. Gartner predicts that by 2021, 20 percent of all activities an individual engages in will involve at least one of the top seven digital giants.

"Digital giants effectively become gatekeepers for any business that delivers digital content and services to consumers," said Mr. Lovelock. "Any company that wants to engage consumers in, or through, their digital world will have to consider engaging with one or more of these digital giants."

The focus of the digital giants has mainly been in the consumer, citizen and employee world. Because the digital giants have not yet been as focused on business to business (B2B), there is an opportunity for other companies to take the lead.

"In the B2B world of selling technology solutions to large enterprises, some of the digital giants have already had significant impact," said Mr. Lovelock. "For example, Amazon Web Services' cloud is disrupting enterprise hardware and software businesses dramatically. Apple's iOS devices are dominant within enterprise mobility, and Google's presence beyond search into browsers, cloud office and more is growing."

Published in Telecom Vendors

Corporate data is becoming what oil is to Saudi Arabia, says Clear Peak analyst Brad Cowdrey – outrageously profitable. There is so much valuable data available to corporations today, he says, and its potential uses are “proliferating so rapidly” that not using it would be “negligent”. But the dominance of tech giants that rule the data world has prompted calls for them to be broken up, the same way Standard Oil was in the early 20th century, over antitrust concerns.

Data in the digital era has spawned the dominance of renowned technology giants. Today, the world’s most valuable listed firms all deal in big data: Alphabet (parent company of Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. These tech titans have seen their profits surge in recent years, collectively racking up over $25 billion in net profit in the first quarter of 2017. Alphabet is estimated to be worth a staggering US$498 billion compared to Apple's market cap of around US$495 billion.

Google’s 21st century data-driven mindset treats information “as a principal asset – like oil – that must be actively managed and leveraged,” says Cowdrey. But the value of firms like Google that profit from handling the data of billions of people has prompted calls for antitrust regulators to restrain those who control its flow – but some reports suggest that traditional watchdog methods are outdated.

The success of the dominant tech giants has undoubtedly benefited customers worldwide. For instance, Google’s search engine and Google Maps app has fundamentally simplified the lives of people around the world, the same way Amazon’s one-day delivery services have, and also Facebook’s revolutionary social media platform. Many of the services provided by these tech giants are free-of-charge, but customers end up paying in a less traditional way: handing over valuable data.

The cause for concern, a report by The Economist suggests, is that having so much knowledge about consumers gives internet giants “enormous power”. As of the first quarter of 2017, Facebook had 1.94 billion monthly active users feeding valuable information into the platform for the company to monetize into advertizing ventures. In the third quarter of 2012, the number of active Facebook users had surpassed 1 billion, making it the first social network ever to do so.

Regulators are entrusted to make sure that huge companies, like Facebook, don’t obtain too much power. But it has been suggested that the old way of approaching anti-competition concerns, such as in the era of oil dominance, is now “outdated”. New approaches are needed to tackle anti-competition in the modern tech industry.

Antitrust regulators came down hard on the oil industry in May 1911, when the US Supreme Court called for the dissolution of the Standard Oil Company, ruling it was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The court’s decision forced Standard to break into 34 independent firms spread across the US. Many of these companies have since split, folded or merged; today, the primary descendents of Standard include ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.

Antitrust concerns soon affected the tech industry as the influence of American tech giants burgeoned. In April 2012, the US Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and a group of book publishers alleging they colluded to fix e-book prices. The plan was put in place by Apple and the publishers because the companies feared Amazon, which was selling e-books below cost and was monopolizing the market.

Apple also faced a lawsuit filed in 2011 seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for monopoly abuse regarding its App Store. Apple was accused of creating a monopoly by making its App Store the only place to purchase iPhone applications. Lack of competition thus pushed App Store prices higher.

Meanwhile, Google has been fighting multiple claims by the European Commission which has accused the company of blocking rivals in the lucrative online search advertising market. Google also rejected allegations that it abused the market dominance of its Android mobile phone operating system.

“Google has come up with many innovative products that have made a difference to our lives. But that doesn’t give Google the right to deny other companies the chance to compete and innovate,” said Margrethe Vestager, European Competition Commissioner, at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, in July 2016.

The Economist report claims the traditional antitrust methods of the past are no long useful and need to adapt to the 21st century. For example, antitrust regulators watch out for how large companies have grown to determine when they should intervene. But in today’s digital era, antitrust regulators need to take into account the extent of firms’ data assets when assessing the impact of major deals, rather than the size of the company itself.

Another key trigger for regulators to monitor today is the amount of money which firms are willing to fork out to acquire another company. If the amount is unusually high, it could indicate that the company is attempting to eliminate a “nascent threat”.

For instance, Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp, which had no revenue to speak of before it was acquired, should have raised flags when the instant messaging app was purchased for $19 billion. Facebook even attempted to acquire another rival, Snapchat, which rejected the offer.

Antitrust regulators need to become more “data-savvy” when analyzing the market today, the report says, such as using simulations to “hunt algorithms colluding over prices” or finding ways to boost promotion of competition.

Another solution could be to force online services to hand over data and give more control to those who supply it. In that respect, consumers would have more knowledge about exactly what information companies have about them and companies could be forced to reveal how much money they make from consumer data.

Governments could play a role by encouraging the emergence of new services in the industry by opening up more of their own data, the report suggests, or “managing crucial parts of the economy as public infrastructure” similar to India’s digital identity system, Aadhaar.

A further suggestion is for governments to “mandate the sharing of certain kinds of data” with the consent of users. This approach has been picked up in Europe by financial services requiring banks to make customers’ data accessible to third parties.

However, not all data is intended to be made public, and therein lies the problem with the information sharing era. Governments face a difficult time ahead, attempting to regulate the data economy which, for now, is dominated by a few giants – similar to the oil industry in its infancy.

The Economist report suggests that governments should share more data to equal out the competition and allow more businesses to thrive in the area of data and technology, but too much data sharing could threaten the privacy citizens and national security. While there is no simple solution, the need for effective regulation of the data economy is dire.

Published in Featured

Microsoft unveils new “versatile” Surface Pro

Written on Thursday, 25 May 2017 08:56

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday, May 23, unveiled the new Surface Pro, the next generation of the iconic product line and the most “versatile laptop on the planet.” The new Surface Pro delivers the most performance and battery life in a laptop that is this thin, light and quiet.

Surface took the category it created and pushed it a step further by bringing up to 13.5 hours of battery life, making it more than 2.5 times faster than Surface Pro 3, and providing unmatched versatility and mobility in a new, lighter, more refined design.

Surface Pro is not only a powerhouse laptop, but also a mobile creative studio with a vibrant 12.3” PixelSense™ touch display that supports the new Surface Pen, the “fastest pen ever”, and Surface Dial2 both on- and off-screen.

Twice as accurate as the previous version and enhanced by Microsoft’s PixelSense Accelerator custom silicon, the new Surface Pen and new Surface Pro together set the industry standard for faster, more fluid writing and drawing, and now Surface Pen supports tilt3 for more natural shading.

Inking in applications across Windows 10 and Microsoft Office 365, including the new Microsoft Whiteboard app, will unlock ways for people to use digital ink to be more creative, collaborative and productive.

“With Surface Pro we created a new category and challenged the status quo of the laptop,” said Panos Panay, corporate vice president, Microsoft Devices. “With every release since we have continued to push boundaries — redefining the ultimate laptop with Surface Book and making the classic laptop feel fresh again with Surface Laptop. With the introduction of the new Surface Pro we are once again advancing the category by delivering the versatility of a powerhouse laptop and a mobile creative studio in one thin, lightweight device.”

The new Surface Pro has been redesigned from the inside out to give people more performance and 50 percent more battery life than the Surface Pro 4. Everything has been streamlined and refined — from softer, rounded edges to cameras built to fade into the bezel. At just 8.5mm thin and starting at 1.69 pounds the new Surface Pro is lighter than the bag it will be carried in, and packs the power of a 7th generation Intel® Core™ processor into a new fanless,5 whisper-quiet design.

The new Surface Pro Signature Type Cover delivers a high-quality scissor mechanism and 1.3 mm of key travel for faster and more accurate typing. A full-size glass trackpad with five-finger multi-touch capabilities allows for ultimate precision, and the entire keyboard is wrapped in soft yet durable Alcantara® material, creating a comfortable palm rest and beautiful aesthetic.

The new Surface Pro will also be available with LTE Advanced later this year to provide even greater mobility to let people work, collaborate and create from anywhere.

Starting at $799 USD, the new Surface Pro allows people to customize their experiences with an array of colorful options for the new Surface Pro Signature Type Cover, the new Surface Pen and the Microsoft Surface Arc Mouse. Each comes in rich tone-on-tone colors to match your personal style: Platinum, Burgundy and Cobalt Blue.

The new Surface Pro will launch on June 15, 2017, in 25 markets including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Published in Gadget

Microsoft recently unveiled its glossy new Surface Laptop and an updated version of Windows 10 intended to appeal to the education sector which Apple has strength in. The laptop, which is set to be released in June, will sell for $999.

The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop is capable of 14.5 hours of battery life and weights just 2.76 pounds. It has a fabric keyboard and comes in four colors including cobalt blue and burgundy. The model is different from Microsoft’s Surface Book unveiled in 2015 and sells for $1,499. The market for the Surface Laptop, according to Microsoft executive Panos Panay in charge of Surface products, is for students who would otherwise buy Apple MacBooks.

Speaking at a launch event in New York, Panay said: “A lot of students use MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros,” and stressed that Microsoft’s new laptop is thinner and lighter than these Apple devices and has a longer battery life, which is ideal for students.

Microsoft also announced Windows 10 S, which is a streamlined version of the operating system designed for classrooms. The operating system features a faster login experience ideal for students and only runs applications downloaded from the Windows Store to ensure security.

The Windows 10 S will be available in devices by Samsung, Toshiba, HP and Dell this summer, starting at $189. These affordable devices will place Microsoft at a competitive level with Google’s affordable Chromebook devices.

Microsoft has a mission to “democratize the educational opportunity for every student,” said chief executive Satya Nadella speaking about the product announcements. But ultimately, Microsoft wants to be a part of the lucrative education market. With its new products, Microsoft could lure a new generation of consumers to its brand.

Google’s Chromebook was launched six years ago which runs its own operating system of Windows. The device soon became a popular product in the broader PC market. Research firm IDC reported in April that the commercial PC marker “came out strong” in the first quarter of 2017 “mostly backed by Chromebooks.” 

Published in Gadget

Canada's largest communications company Bell and Microsoft Canada announced the availability of an expanded suite of Microsoft Azure cloud services, including Compute, and Backup and Disaster Recovery, on Canada's largest broadband network for business.

Bell and Microsoft previously announced a partnership in which Bell became the first Canadian communications provider to offer enterprise access to Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute through Bell Cloud Connect, a dedicated broadband solution for business customers.

"Bell customers can directly access Microsoft's growing portfolio of Azure cloud services over Bell's unparalleled private broadband network, enabling them to migrate workloads to the cloud securely and cost-effectively," said Tom Little, President of Bell Business Markets. "Bell Cloud Connect and Microsoft Azure enable Canadian businesses to move confidently to the cloud."

"We are seeing more businesses migrate to the cloud and are thrilled to expand our partnership with Bell to provide business customers access to more Microsoft Azure cloud services," said Janet Kennedy, President of Microsoft Canada. "Bell's reach, coverage and experience working with enterprise scale customers, together with Microsoft's leading cloud solutions, will further Canadian business innovation and competitiveness."

Bell has the largest national data centre capacity, offering customers access to 28 highly secure, high capacity centers across the country. Bell's unique hybrid cloud solutions allow customers to optimize workloads and host their business critical data on either public or private cloud by leveraging co-location and virtualized services.

"Canadian organizations' adoption of cloud has shifted dramatically over the last several years," said David Senf, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions, IDC. "The benefits of an expanded architecture that includes on-premises, hosted and cloud options helps organizations execute faster on new projects, which is critical in the new age of digital transformation. Additionally, network proximity and performance are becoming increasingly critical for hybrid cloud connectivity for strong but flexible security. A strong foundation for cloud performance and security starts at the network."

Bell's Business Cloud ecosystem continues to evolve through new partnerships and services, allowing customers to benefit from additional solutions, enterprise applications and business tools.

Driven by industry-leading innovation and supported by strong expertise, Bell Business Markets offers a comprehensive national portfolio of products and services for large and medium business and government customers, including data centre solutions, unified communications, security and professional services supporting business ICT needs.

With strong business communications expertise and networks that are unrivalled in the industry, Bell designs, builds and operates the critical infrastructures that power many of the largest networked organizations in Canada and around the globe.

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