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Google Launches New Artificial Intelligence Research Center

December 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s confirmed plans to open an artificial intelligence (AI) research center in China to target the country’s local talent, even as the U.S. search firm’s products remain blocked in the country.

Google said in a statement the research center is the first of its kind in Asia and will comprise a small team operating out of its existing office in Beijing.

Chinese policy makers have voiced strong support for AI research and development in the country, but have imposed increasingly strict rules on foreign firms in the past year, including new censorship restrictions.

Google’s search engine is banned in the Chinese market along with its app store, email and cloud storage services. China’s cyber regulators say restrictions on foreign media and internet platforms are designed to block influences that contravene stability and socialist ideas.

While tightening restrictions are likely to hamper a re-entry to the Chinese market for Google, the firm has increasingly focused on exposing its AI products in China.

This year Google held a Go tournament in cooperation with local authorities in eastern China, pitching its AI against Chinese world champion Go player Ke Jie. The event was highly publicized overseas but local media was muted.

Earlier this month Google CEO Sundar Pichai made an appearance at a conference run by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top cyber regulator, where he steered away from market access issues to discuss the potential of AI.

Google said the new Chinese AI research center will join a list of similar overseas centers operating in New York, Toronto, London and Zurich.

Microsoft Brings ‘Digital Whiteboard’ To Windows 10

December 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is adding its Whiteboard ‘digital canvas’ app to Windows 10, providing a new way for employees to collaborate on creative work and share ideas.

Whiteboard, aimed at Surface owners, makes use of the device’s stylus and touch inputs to share drawings. Users can jot down notes, make precise illustrations or search for images on the web from the app. It can also create tables, diagrams and flowcharts, which are updated in real time and automatically saved to the cloud.

“It’s designed for teams that need to ideate, iterate, and work together both in person and remotely, and across multiple devices,” the Microsoft Whiteboard team wrote in a blog post.

“This is certainly a step in the right direction for a more modern and natural style of collaboration,” said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Whiteboard is specifically tied to Windows 10, “thus limiting its cross-platform appeal,” he said. “Still, I am pleased to see that Microsoft is so highly focused on improving the way people create and share information.

The preview has been available for a few months as a private beta, where it was used by customers for a variety of purposes such as real-time product design collaboration with clients.

The app is free for individual use, but requires an Office 365 subscription for multiple users. The plan is for Whiteboard to also replace a similar app that currently runs on Microsoft’s SurfaceHub digital whiteboard.

Richard Edwards, distinguished analyst at Freeform Dynamics, said that launching Whiteboard on Windows 10 gives Microsoft a number of opportunities: “It gives Surface owners a chance to show off the capabilities of their devices, it gives Whiteboard users a glimpse of what Microsoft Hub can bring to meetings [and] it brings the PC back into the meeting room, offering an alternative to Apple and Google devices,” he said.

“And if we factor in the imminent arrival of Always Connected PCs, then it becomes part of a much bigger come-back programm for the corporate – and maybe consumer – laptop.”

Lepofsky sees the launch as a part of the growth of digital canvas tools, allowing employees to share information easily and collaborate within a single document. “For far too long we have limited ourselves in the digital platforms to constraints from the physical world,” he said. “We don’t need to design for a rectangular piece of paper anymore.”

While he sees Whiteboard as promising, it will be important to see which partners are able to create integrations for the app.

Said Edwards: “How this app works alongside Office apps will determine its value an utility to business users.”

Google Blocks YouTube On Amazon Devices

December 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A growing public spat in the technology industry escalated even further when Google said it would block its video streaming application YouTube from two Amazon.com Inc devices and criticized the online retailer for not selling Google hardware.

The feud is the latest in Silicon Valley to put customers in the crossfire of major competitors. Amazon and Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc, square off in many areas, from cloud computing and online search to selling voice-controlled gadgets like the Google Home and Amazon Echo Show.

 The stakes are high: many in the technology industry expect that interacting with computers by voice will become widespread, and it is unclear if Amazon, Google or another company will dominate the space. Amazon’s suite of voice-controlled devices has outsold Google’s so far, according to a study by research firm eMarketer from earlier this year.

“Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV,” Google said. “We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

Amazon said in a statement, “Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website.”

It said it hoped to resolve the issue with Google as soon as possible but customers could access YouTube through the internet – not an app – on the devices in the meantime.

The break has been a long time coming. Amazon kicked the Chromecast, Google’s television player, off its retail website in 2015, along with Apple Inc’s TV player. Amazon had explained the move by saying it wanted to avoid confusing customers who might expect its Prime Video service to be available on devices sold by Amazon.

Amazon and Apple mended ties earlier this year when it was announced Prime Video would come to Apple TV. Not so with Google.

 In September, Google cut off YouTube from the Amazon Echo Show, which had displayed videos on its touchscreen without video recommendations, channel subscriptions and other features. Amazon later reintroduced YouTube to the device, but the voice commands it added violated the use terms and on Tuesday Google again removed the service.

The Fire TV loses access to its YouTube app on Jan. 1, Google said. Amazon has sold that device for longer than the Echo Show, meaning more customers may now be affected.

Can IBM’s Quad9 Block Botnets

November 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

IBM has partnered with the Global Cyber Alliance (GCA), an organisation founded by law enforcement and research firms to help reduce cyber-crime, to launch a free public Domain Name Service (DNS) system.

While that might not sound so fascinating, the interesting thing is that the new DNS system, named Quad9, will block domains associated with botnets, phishing attacks, and other malicious internet hosts. This is especially good news for businesses that don’t run their own DNS blacklisting and whitelisting services, as it will make them much safer.

Quad9, which is named as such du to its 9.9.9.9 Internet Protocol address, works in the same way as any other public DNS server, such as Google’s, but the difference is it won’t return name resolutions for sites that are identified via threat feeds the service aggregates daily.

“Anyone, anywhere can use it,” said GCA’s president and chief operating officer, Phil Rettinger, in an interview with Ars Technica, adding that the service will be “privacy-sensitive” with no logging of the addresses making DNS requests.

“We will keep only [rough] geolocation data,” he said, explaining that this will be used to track the spread of requests associated with particular malicious domains. “We’re anonymising the data, sacrificing on the side of privacy,” he added.

So where does IBM come in? According to GCA, the computer giant will provide the power behind one of Quad9’s major threat feeds, one of which is IBM’s X-Force. This converts the feeds into a database that is then de-duplicated.

So whenever a Quad9 user clicks on a website link or types an address into a web browser, Quad9 checks the site against IBM X-Force’s threat intelligence database of over 40 billion analysed web pages and images. The other 18 feeds the service taps from include threat intelligence partners including Abuse.ch, the Anti-Phishing Working Group, Bambenek Consulting, F-Secure, mnemonic, 360Netlab, Hybrid Analysis GmbH, Proofpoint, RiskIQ, and ThreatSTOP.

Quad9 then generates a whitelist of domains never to block, using a list of the top one million requested domains, as well as a “gold list” of safe providers, such as major Internet service sites like Microsoft’s Azure cloud, Google, and Amazon Web Services.

The blocked sites, whitelist, and gold lists are then converted into a Response Policy Zone (RPZ) format before being pushed out to the clusters of DNS servers around the world maintained by Packet Clearing House via DNS zone transfers. The DNS server clusters, which are each load-balanced with dnsdist, use a mix of Unbound and PowerDNS servers to deliver responses.

As of launch, there were clusters of DNS servers configured in 70 different locations around the world, and Quad9 expects to have 100 sites up and running by the end of the year. It’s also free, but will need to be continually funded as the GCA is a non-profit.

IBM said that telemetry data on blocked domains from Quad9 will be shared with threat intelligence partners for the improvement of their threat intelligence responses for their customers and Quad9.

Courtesy-TheInq

HP Set To Offer New Cloud Service Called OneSphere

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

HPE is planning to announce a new product called OneSphere that could help companies track when employees use public clouds like Amazon Web Services.

HPE filed a trademark application late last month for OneSphere. The description of the product included with the application is wide ranging but has several references to hardware, and implies that OneSphere will help customers track and reduce the amount of money they’re spending on clouds like AWS.

The trademark application said that  OneSphere could move applications across computing environments – from AWS to a corporate data centre, for example.

The exploration of those areas is a rather a good idea but somewhat strange given that HPE chose to wind down its public cloud, which competed with the likes of AWS and Microsoft Azure in early 2016.

HPE is preparing to unveil OneSphere later this month.

HPE does use the term “cloud management” to market some of its software products. So the company isn’t looking to go in an entirely new direction. But HPE appears to be readying something that involves hardware, while most competing products for public cloud management have been software-only. Much of HPE’s revenue comes from hardware.

Since splitting off from HP,  HPE has offloaded a few of its previous properties, including its enterprise services business and non-core software holdings. Meanwhile, Microsoft has acquired a cloud cost management start-up called Adallom and incorporated the technology into Azure.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon Decides Against Offering ‘Skinny Bundle’ Video Service

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc has decided to cancel plans to launch an online streaming service bundling popular U.S. broadcast and cable networks because it believes it cannot make enough money on such a service, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The world’s largest online retailer has also been unable to convince key broadcast and basic cable networks to break with decades-old business models and join its a la carte Amazon Channels service, the sources said and has backed away from talks with them.

 The reversals come a month after the abrupt departure of Roy Price from his job as head of Amazon Studios, the company’s high-profile television production division, following an allegation of sexual harassment, which he has contested.

They show how difficult it is for Amazon to change entrenched habits in the U.S. entertainment business in the same way that it has done in retail, cloud computing and other areas.

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment.

Video has become an important tool for Amazon in generating subscriptions for its U.S. $99-a-year Prime membership service. It is on track to spend some $4.5 billion or more on video programming this year, analysts estimate.

On Monday it made waves in the entertainment world with the purchase of global television rights to “The Lord of the Rings,” planning a multi-season series to draw more viewers to Prime.

Such an offering, known in the industry as a “skinny bundle,” is a way of capturing younger viewers who are dropping traditional, expensive cable or satellite TV packages in favor of channels watchable on smartphones and tablets.

But in recent weeks, Amazon decided not to move ahead with a service on the grounds that it would yield too low a profit margin and did not necessarily indicate the direction the TV business will eventually go, the sources told Reuters.

Amazon could still decide to change course and introduce a skinny bundle, but the talks are over, the sources said.

Qualcomm To Power Alibaba

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Qualcomm and Alibaba have ported Alibaba Cloud Link One to run on the Qualcomm MDM9206 global multi-mode LTE IoT modem.

This is all part of a cunning plan to allow developers to quickly develop and deploy solutions that connect with the Alibaba Cloud using LTE IoT connectivity and client software running directly on the LTE system-on-chip (SoC).

Qualcomm pre-integrated the Alibaba Cloud Link One on to the MDM9206 modem, so that module manufacturers and IoT Tight and cost-effective integration between edge devices and the cloud.

The porting fixes a vast array of the existing and emerging LTE IoT use cases, including smart transportation (e.g. bike sharing), smart cities, as well as industrial IoT applications in areas such as smart grid, smart metering (e.g. electricity, gas, water), asset tracking and more.

It means that Qualcomm will have a foot in the door as more of our hardware becomes sentient and cloud based.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Makes Upgrades Simpler With ‘Subscription Activation’ Feature

November 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has upped the Windows subscription ante by allowing enterprise IT to dispense with the traditional wipe-and-image OS deployment method in favor of an automatic-on-reboot metamorphosis from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise.

The new feature, dubbed “Subscription Activation,” works with Windows 10 1703 – the April 2017 feature upgrade – or later, and requires access to Azure Active Directory (AAD). (The more common, on-premises Active Directory will serve in a pinch, as long as it’s synced with AAD.) It also, more obviously, demands a subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise, such as those included in the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 plans, or the newer Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 deals.

Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, saw one sure-fire advantage to Subscription Activation. “The place that is interesting [to me] is for businesses repaving PCs when they get them,” said Miller in a recent interview. “Say you get a new Surface, but it’s just running [Windows 10] Pro, because OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] cannot ship Enterprise.”

Typically, IT personnel take that new device, wipe the Windows 10 Pro operating system from the system, then load the corporation’s customized Windows 10 Enterprise image onto the personal computer. Subscription Activation makes all that moot.

Cisco Nearing Deal To Acquire Broadsoft

October 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Cisco Systems Inc, the world’s largest networking gear maker, is closing in on a deal to acquire U.S. telecommunications software firm BroadSoft Inc for close to $2 billion, a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

The deal, which comes after Reuters first reported in August that BroadSoft was exploring a sale, would allow Cisco to further diversify away from its stagnating switches and routers business by giving it a stronger foothold in selling unified communications software to big telecommunications firms.

If deal negotiations are completed successfully, Cisco’s agreement to buy BroadSoft could be announced as early as Monday, the source said, asking not to be identified because the deal discussions are confidential.

Cisco declined to comment. BroadSoft did not immediately return a request for comment. Bloomberg News reported earlier on Sunday that Cisco was close to a deal to acquire BroadSoft.

With its traditional business of making switches and routers seeing revenue declines, Cisco, like other legacy technology firms, has been focusing on high-growth areas such as security, the Internet of Things and cloud computing.

The BroadSoft deal would be Cisco’s second major acquisition this year following the $3.7 billion acquisition of privately-held AppDynamics Inc in March.

Based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, BroadSoft provides software and services that enable mobile, fixed-line and cable service providers to offer unified communications over their internet protocol networks.

BroadSoft has historically sold its products to large telecommunications companies such as Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc, which then resell the software to their business customers.

Dropbox Debuts ‘Showcase’ New Product Aimed At Freelancers

October 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Dropbox has rolled out a new portfolio feature, Showcase, designed to help independent workers and small teams of professionals display and share documents more easily.

The idea is that freelance workers such as architects and designers can store content in Showcase before sharing information with clients. Documents are arranged in a branded portfolio in a “secure and polished way,” with customizable layouts, said Dropbox director of product, Vishal Kapoor. It is also possible to add text captions to files to introduce content topics to help create a narrative around what’s being shared.

Dropbox, which recently rebranded to appeal to “creatives,” has identified a large target audience: it is estimated that 35% of the U.S. workforce is now freelance, a group that as of 2016 totaled to 55 million people.

“Dropbox has quite a following in creative and media companies,” said ESG senior analyst Terri McClure. “Showcase complements that really well – it’s really nice for when a story needs to accompany files or other collateral. In the creative space, it is really important to control the narrative and set the stage for discussions.”

Showcase is aimed at overcoming some of the problems users face when sharing documents. For example, a marketing consultant might want to know if their client has actually opened more than just the first of a batch of five files. With Showcase they can track who has viewed, downloaded or commented on documents within the portfolio.

Files stored in Showcase are synced with Dropbox, meaning that any changes are instantly updated.

While Showcase is targeted at independent workers, it is just as suited to small teams of people within large companies, said Kapoor.

“Say a large enterprise has sales and marketing that are collaborating with each other. When the work is done they share it internally within the organization or externally outside of the organization,” he said. “We think that Showcase is not just limited to independent workers, but scales very well.”

Showcase is launching as part of a new pricing tier: Dropbox Professional. This also includes Dropbox Smart Sync, unveiled earlier this year, which lets users view all of their Dropbox documents from a single device, whether they are stored locally on a hard drive or in the cloud.

“There are millions of freelancers and self-employed small business users that need many of the features previously available only in the business plans,” said ESG’s McClure. “This fixes that.”

The Professional tier is available for $199 a year and includes 1TB of storage. It offers data protection and security features such as two-step authentication and remote-wipe, as well as priority chat support.

Amazon, Google Take Feud Public

September 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

In a rare public feud between titans of technology, Amazon.com Inc said on Tuesday its Echo Show devices could no longer play videos from YouTube because the site’s parent, Google, stopped supporting the service.

The spat is the latest in Silicon Valley in which competitive tensions stood in the way of customers. Amazon and Google square off in many areas, from cloud computing and online search, to selling voice-controlled gadgets like the Echo Show.

In a statement, Amazon said, “As of this afternoon, Google has chosen to no longer make YouTube available on Echo Show, without explanation and without notification to customers. There is no technical reason for that decision, which is disappointing and hurts both of our customers.”

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, said instead that the development was no surprise.

 “We’ve been in negotiations with Amazon for a long time, working towards an agreement that provides great experiences for customers on both platforms,” it said in a statement. “Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience. We hope to be able to reach an agreement and resolve these issues soon.”

The Echo Show had displayed YouTube videos without integral features, from video recommendations to channel subscriptions. Google has been in a similar dispute with Microsoft Corp in the past.

It was not clear how many customers were affected. Amazon only started selling the Echo Show in June, which comes with a touchscreen and responds by voice command.

Amazon’s suite of Echo devices, including the Echo and Echo Dot, have outsold the voice-controlled Google Home, according to research firm eMarketer. Amazon has ambitions to make it normal for people to control computers by voice – and to place orders for its online retail business by voice, too.

“It’s a bit of a blow to Amazon,” said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research. “YouTube is one of the big video services that they had in addition to their own. For that to disappear means a big chunk of the possible video content you could watch on Echo Show is now gone.”

The Verge, a technology news website, earlier reported the news.

Skype For Business Being Replaced By Microsoft’s Team Product

September 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft’s Skype for Business will be replaced by Teams, which will become the primary communications client within Office 365.

The Teams instant messaging platform – which is bundled with the company’s Office 365 productivity suite – was launched only six months ago as a rival to Slack. According to Microsoft, there are now 125,000 organizations using the software globally.

Teams is already running on Skype’s cloud-based infrastructure for video and audio calls, which Microsoft is “evolving rapidly.”

“We are excited about this new infrastructure because it will provide both speed of innovation as well as higher quality communication experiences,” the company said in an announcement pegged to its Microsoft Ignite event in Orlando, Fla.

Skype for Business had been the primary tool for video conferencing and enterprise chat since taking over from chat application Lync.

Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said the decision to phase out Skype for Business in favor of Teams should be met by customers in “a positive light,” as it will further simplify Microsoft’s product portfolio.

“Reducing the number of applications that end users have to choose between should lead to a more seamless collaboration experience,” he said.

Gartner research director, Larry Cannell, called the decision a “bold move” as Microsoft faces tough competition in the enterprise collaboration market. “With Teams, Microsoft isn’t just taking on Slack or Cisco or whomever, they are trying to change the rules of the game for team collaboration on their own terms,” he said.

“By replacing the desktop Skype for Business Online client with Teams, Microsoft is exposing the Teams experience to a significantly broader audience,” Cannell said.

Team will replace Skype for Business “over time,” Microsoft said in a blog post, though it plans to continue to support both on-premise and cloud Skype for Business deployments. A new version of Skype for Business Server will also be released in the second half of 2018.

Salesforce Launches Fund For Artificial Intelligence Start-ups

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The venture arm of Salesforce.com Inc is launching a $50 million fund to invest in start-ups employing artificial intelligence, the cloud computing firm told Reuters.

Salesforce, whose software helps businesses sell, market and track customer activity, has been increasing its use of AI since launching its ‘Einstein’ technology a year ago, which uses automation and data-driven features.

“There’s a tremendous surge in companies who are providing unique AI innovations,” said John Somorjai, executive vice president of Salesforce Ventures. “We want more of those companies to do these innovations on Salesforce’s platform.”

Salesforce revenues and income have grown rapidly in recent quarters, and it has boosted spending on research and development in the face of tough competition from rivals such as Oracle Group and Microsoft Corp.

Venture capital investment in AI start-ups is rising quickly. For 2017, global financing for AI start-ups is projected to surpass $10.8 billion – nearly double the $5.6 billion spent in 2016, according to research firm CB Insights.

Since its founding in 2009, Salesforce Ventures has deployed more than $700 million in funding to over 250 start-ups, Somorjai said. With its new fund, Salesforce is hoping to attract more developers to build AI apps that work in tandem with its products.

“What we’re doing with this fund is really doubling down on that commitment to bring more AI-centric solutions to our customers,” Somorjai said.

The company said that it was also expanding the number of AI tasks employed by its ‘Einstein’ technology.

Trello Add Native Desktop Project Management App

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Trello subscribers can now access the project management tool directly from their desktop after the launch of native Windows and Mac apps.

The software had previously been browser-based only, meaning that Trello boards could easily get lost amid a multitude of browser tabs.  The company said in a blog post that the desktop app should make the software simpler to use, since Trello has added a navigation sidebar to help keep track of boards in a similar fashion to channels on collaboration tools such as Slack.

Other features include “more granular” keyboard shortcuts and desktop notifications. Those using the latest Mac Book Pro laptops will also be able to open boards and create new cards from the Mac’s Touch Bar.

A desktop presence is an important option for collaboration or productivity tools, said Gartner research director Larry Cannell. “To be successful, workers need to be using them on a day-to-day or minute-by-minute basis,” he said.  “Why should Outlook and a web browser be the only apps open on a desktop? For teams using Trello, this will be a welcomed addition.”

The company also announced Wednesday that Trello boards and cards can now be embedded in separate applications, including Bitbucket, Dropbox Paper and Confluence Cloud.

“By embedding Trello cards and boards inside the apps you use to plan, work, and communicate, teams can stay connected and see who’s doing what (and what needs to get done) without switching apps,” the company said in a blog post.

According to Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, the addition of features such as the desktop app shows how Trello’s technology has evolved since its acquisition by collaboration software provider Atlassian for $425 million earlier this year.

“The big picture here is how Trello – and the entire Atlassian portfolio for that matter – is evolving,” said Castañón-Martínez.

“The company is enhancing its products with new features that allow users to be more effective with their work; for example, interacting with other users across other Trello boards and across other applications. This enables them to get more work done in one place rather than jumping around between applications.”

He called creation of the desktop app a “natural progression” for Trello.

“It is evolving from an application into a workspace,” he said. “The benefit for the end user will be that it enables them to work with less distractions. Jumping between applications is a productivity-killer.”

Microsoft Updates Teams Collaboration Software

September 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has added enhancements to its Teams collaboration software, including guest account access and beefing up security and management capabilities for IT admins.

The guest access means that Office 365 users can now add people from outside their company to a team, enabling third-party users to participate in chats, join meetings and collaborate on documents.

The new feature means that IT staff will now be able to centrally manage guest accounts, enabling them to add, view or, if necessary, revoke access.

“This is a very significant milestone for Teams, as up until now it was only available for internal use,” said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research. “Now customers will be able to collaborate with people outside of their firewall, opening up a much broader range of use-cases.”

Anyone with an Azure Active Directory account can be added as a guest in Teams.

Microsoft said that there are currently more than 870 million Azure Active Directory user accounts.

While guest users must have an Azure Active Directory account to use Teams, there are plans to allow anyone with a Microsoft Account to be added as a guest. If a guest doesn’t have an existing Microsoft Account, they would have to create a free account using their email address, whether they use Outlook or other email providers such as Google’s Gmail.

Guest user access will fall under the same compliance and auditing protection as the rest of Office 365, the company said.

Security is an important factor when enabling guest access for users. With this in mind, Microsoft said that guest accounts will be added and managed within Azure Active Directory via Azure AD B2B Collaboration. Azure Active Directory provides features such as conditional access policies for guest users as well as machine learning algorithms to detect anomalies and suspicious incidents, and it can automatically trigger security processes such as multi-factor authentication when required.

The addition of guest access brings Teams in line with competing messenger tools such as Slack and Cisco Spark, which also enable external access, as well as Microsoft’s own Yammer collaboration software.

“It is encouraging that Microsoft is rolling out the ability to allow external users to collaborate in Teams, but it is a feature most collaborative applications have had for a while,” said IDC research director Wayne Kurtzman.

“To be a serious contender in the collaboration applications market, has to catch up with the market on a lot of features and functions,” he said.

In addition to the new features, Microsoft offered insights into how Teams is faring six months after its launch. According to the company, 125,000 organizations have now used the Slack competitor, compared to 30,000 back in January. That leaves plenty of room for growth, of course; Microsoft claims there are currently around 100 million Office365 users globally.

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