Microsoft Adds New Chat-Based Service for Workers

A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

SAN FRANCISCO – Taking a cue from competing online services like Slack, which let workers chat and share information on the job, Microsoft is adding a new program called “Teams” to its Office 365 suite of internet productivity software.

Analysts say Microsoft is catching up to a trend in which a host of tech companies – even Facebook – are competing to offer specialized online networks for organizations, as workers increasingly find email and simple document-sharing services are too limited for communicating and collaborating.

Like competing services, Microsoft’s new “Teams” product provides a central place online for workplace groups to chat, share files and perform other tasks. But unlike competitors, Microsoft is offering the ability to easily transition into other widely used Microsoft programs, such as Outlook for email and calendars and Skype for voice and video conferences. “Teams” can also incorporate artificially intelligent “bots” and other software programs created by outside developers.

Workplace software is a big business for Microsoft. While the giant tech company is best known for making the Windows operating system for PCs, it racked up more than $26.4 billion in revenue last year from workplace “productivity” programs like Office, which includes software for email, calendars, word-processing and other functions. Although other divisions bring in more revenue, Microsoft’s “productivity” division is its most lucrative, with $12.4 billion in operating profit.

But the company has been threatened by new offerings from big competitors like Google, as well as upstarts like Slack, which provide a central meeting place online where teams of workers can hold running conversations and share files that are easily accessible.

Microsoft bought the workplace social networking service Yammer for more than $1 billion in 2012 and will continue that service, which some companies use as an interactive bulletin board. Analysts say newer, competing services have more functions. And new companies like Slack have entered the market by making their services easily available to individual departments or groups.

But Microsoft has the advantage that its email and other programs are already widely used by companies, which could make it easier to add Teams. It’s also touting that Teams offers encryption and other security measures, along with the ability to integrate with software from outside developers.

“Yes they are late to the market, but they have recognized that and they have done a lot of work to circumvent that problem,” said Vanessa Thompson, an analyst with IDC.




Microsoft: Windows flaw used by hackers linked to Russians

FILE - This July 3, 2014, file photo, shows the Microsoft Corp. logo outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Wash. Microsoft is cutting jobs announced Wednesday, May 25, 2016, as the company continues its attempts to salvage a rocky entrance into the smartphone market. (AP Photo Ted S. Warren, File)

This July 3, 2014, file photo, shows the Microsoft Corp. logo outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Wash.  (AP Photo Ted S. Warren, File)

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft says a newly discovered flaw in its Windows software was used by a hacking group that other researchers have linked to Russia’s government and computer intrusions at the Democratic National Committee.

The flaw was detected by researchers at Google, who recently alerted software makers Microsoft and Adobe Systems about vulnerabilities in their programs. Adobe issued a fix for its software last week. Microsoft says it’s testing a patch and will release it next week.

Microsoft acknowledged the problem Tuesday, saying only that it affected older versions of Windows and was used by a group called Strontium to target “a specific set of customers.”

The security firm Crowdstrike and others have linked Strontium, also known as “Fancy Bear,” to recent attacks on government, media and political targets in several countries.




Google’s Duo App Joins Crowded Field of Video Calling

A man walks past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

A man walks past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

SAN FRANCISCO – Knock, knock, Google’s video chatting app has arrived.

The app, dubbed Duo, represents Google’s response to other popular video calling options, including Apple’s FaceTime, Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s Messenger app.

Duo isn’t much different from the other video chatting services, except that it gives a glimpse at who is making the call, helping the recipient decide whether to answer. Google calls this feature, “Knock, knock.”

The new app, announced in May, is being released Tuesday as a free service for phones running on Google’s Android operating system as well as Apple’s iPhones.

Like FaceTime for iPhones, Duo only requires a person’s phone number to connect. Many other services require both participants to have account logins to use their video calling options.

Google has been offering video calling through its Hangout feature for several years, but the internet company is now tailoring that service for business meetings.

Duo is being billed as a simpler, more reliable way to see friends and family as you talk to them.

It is the first of two new mobile apps that Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., has planned for this summer. The Mountain View, California, company also is preparing to unveil a new messaging app called Allo featuring a robotic assistant that will suggest automated responses to texts.

 




SBA Announces 11 New Members of Small Business Tech Coalition

SAN JUAN – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced Tuesday the addition of 12 new members to its Small Business Technology Coalition (SBTC): Bench, Canvas, Dash Data, Google, Gusto, Intuit, LinkedIn, Paychex,Square, Thumbtack and Yelp.

“With the addition of these partners, SBA’s Small Business Technology Coalition continues to grow its unprecedented collection of educational and training resources from the world’s most iconic technology companies. These partners play a vital role as we work to educate entrepreneurs on the range of resources and technology available to help them connect to customers, scale, and conduct business safely anywhere in the world,” SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said in the news release.

Yvette Collazo, SBA's Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands district director

Yvette Collazo, SBA’s Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands district director

SBA launched the public-private partnership to provide small businesses with access to educational and training resources from technology innovators and industry leaders earlier this year. AmazonBox, Facebook, LegalZoom, Microsoft, Salesforce and Zenefits originally partnered with SBA to announce that the SBTC would make digital education and training available to small businesses across the United States to help them compete.

“Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands entrepreneurs are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to tap into innovative training programs that will help them advance their small businesses, and become more competitive in today’s changing economy,” SBA District Director Yvette T. Collazo added in  the release.

Resources include webinars, white papers and guided trainings. Topics include online commerce and payment platforms, back-office operations support, productivity solutions, improving customer service and shopping experiences, cybersecurity, social media marketing and brand awareness, digital content management, doing business online through e-commerce, mobile centricity, and managing accounting and payments.

More information on the SBTC is available at: www.sba.gov/techcoalition.




Court Blocks Seizure of Microsoft-held Emails Stored Overseas

A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

SAN JUAN – In a victory for privacy supporters, a federal appeals court has ruled that U.S. investigators cannot compel Microsoft to turn over customer emails stored on a server outside U.S. borders.

The information was provided by Foreign Policy. In a case decided last week by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, federal agents sought the email records of an individual implicated in a drug investigation whose email records were stored on a server in Ireland. The individual’s location was not revealed.

Microsoft, which has offices around the world, including Puerto Rico, argued that if compelled to turn over emails stored abroad, the company may face a deluge of similar requests — with dire privacy consequences. Chinese authorities, for example, could order the company to produce email records stored in the United States under similar legal reasoning, the company’s lawyers have argued.

In her ruling, Judge Susan Carney found that the Justice Department could not rely on the Stored Communications Act to require Microsoft to produce material stored overseas, and that a warrant for digital data turns on where that data are stored.

“Because the content subject to the warrant is located in, and would be seized from, the Dublin data center, the conduct that falls within the focus of the [Stored Communications Act] would occur outside the United States, regardless of the customer’s location and regardless of Microsoft’s home in the United States,” Carney wrote.

The case has been closely watched by Silicon Valley firms because it has huge implications for the government’s ability to compel companies to turn over information.




Pokemon Go’s Digital Popularity Is also Warping Real Life

A sign outside of Kawika's Ocean Beach Deli advertises Pokemon Go related activities to passersby in San Francisco, on Monday, July 11, 2016. The Pokemon Go craze marks a turning point for augmented reality, technology that superimposes a digital facade on the real world. And that, in turn, has led to new weirdness, like property owners getting annoyed at legions of monster-hunters tramping nearby or store owners using the game to attract customers. (AP Photo/David Hamilton)

A sign outside of Kawika’s Ocean Beach Deli advertises Pokemon Go related activities to passersby in San Francisco, on Monday, July 11, 2016. (AP Photo/David Hamilton)

LOS ANGELES – The Pokemon Go craze has sent legions of players hiking around cities and battling with “pocket monsters” on their smartphones. It marks a turning point for augmented reality, or technology that superimposes a digital facade on the real world.

But the game’s popularity has created unintended consequences in everyday life, from annoyed property owners dealing with hordes of monster hunters to store owners using the game to attract customers. Though perhaps that’s to be expected from a game that has players visit real-world landmarks such as train stations, churches and museums in order to find and trap cartoon creatures.

Here’s a look at some of the bigger Pokequestions that have emerged since the game went live last Wednesday:

CAN DIGITAL LURES LEAD TO REAL CASH?

Some shops are exploring ways to use Pokemon Go to drum up business.

An Atlanta cafe owned by digital ad agency Huge turned out to be roughly 30 feet away from two prominent “Pokestops” – game representations of physical landmarks where players can stock up on digital game gear. So it spent about $40 in real money to add digital “lures” to the stops, refreshing them every 30 minutes. The lures increase the chance that rare Pokemon with names like “Starmie” and “Poliwag” turn up nearby – drawing players in turn.

“Our corner was essentially lit up all day long,” says Huge executive creative director Derek Fridman.

In San Francisco, enthusiastic players working for Kawika’s Ocean Beach Deli likewise set out lures and branded the store as a “charging station” for drained phones. (The game is notoriously hard on batteries.)

Given that the shop is bracketed by Pokestops on one side and a battle arena on the other, players “have no choice but to walk past us,” says owner David Nottage III. “So we put up some signs.” The deli plans additional Pokemon-related activities in the future.

WHO’S TO BLAME WHEN PLAYING REALLY GETS OUT OF HAND?

In St. Louis, police say robbers perched near attractive digital spots to rob players engrossed in the game. A man who lives in a former church says his home – now also a Pokestop – has become a digital magnet for Pokemon Go players, who sometimes block his driveway and passing traffic as they pull over to stare at their phones.

Phoenix police are telling people not to trespass while playing the game. New York’s subway is warning people not to jump onto the tracks to chase digital “Rattatas.” The National Safety Council implored players not to play and drive.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. called playing the game inside its walls “extremely inappropriate” and is trying to remove itself from the game. At the Associated Press bureau in Los Angeles, an outdated reference to a statue no longer on the property beckons Pokemon players in from the street.

Todd Richmond, a director at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, says a big debate is brewing over who controls digital assets associated with real world property.

“This is the problem with technology adoption – we don’t have time to slowly dip our toe in the water,” he says. “Tenants have had no say, no input, and now they’re part of it.”

HOW BIG CAN AUGMENTED REALITY GET?

Stock in Nintendo, which part owns Pokemon Go, jumped 25 percent on Monday and another 13 percent Tuesday, adding nearly $8 billion to its market value as investors assessed the breakout game.

But Jefferies analyst Atul Goyal says that’s just the beginning. He now targets a share price of 30,000 yen, nearly a third higher still. Nintendo is transitioning from console games to smartphone games, and “it has just started that journey,” Goyal says.

The game’s success on smartphones also could spur faster development from hardware makers – Microsoft with its HoloLens, the secretive startup Magic Leap, or Google, which could still revive its failed Glass headgear, says Timothy Carone, a professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

“The reaction (to Pokemon Go) is a quick of vote of ‘Yeah, they got this right,'” Carone says. “My guess is that a lot of developers have gone back to figure out how to take this approach.”

DOES THIS AFFECT MY PRIVACY?

Adam Reeve, principal architect of security firm Red Owl, however, found that Pokemon Go required overly broad permission for those using a Google account as a sign-in. Even setting aside the location data collected by the app, he said, the app is a “huge security risk.”

He noted the app, in theory, could allow Pokemon Go to read one’s Gmail, send email as you and access your Google search history.

On Monday, Niantic said in a blog post that it never intended to request such sweeping data access, hasn’t collected information beyond the user’s ID and email address, and is working with Google to pare back the authorization.




Apple’s Mac no Longer Bucking PC Industry’s Sales Slide

In this April 30, 2015, photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook responds to a question during a news conference at IBM Watson headquarters, in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

In this April 30, 2015, photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook responds to a question during a news conference at IBM Watson headquarters, in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

SAN FRANCISCO – After defying industry trends in recent years, Apple is feeling the slowdown in global purchases of laptop and desktop computers.

Apple shipped 4 to 8 percent fewer Mac computers during the second quarter of 2016, compared with a year earlier, according to new estimates from two research firms – even while some of its bigger rivals managed to find growth in the PC business.

Apple enjoyed steady increases in Mac sales for most of 2014 and 2015, while the rest of the PC market was in a slump. Although the leading PC-makers sell more units, Apple’s Macs tend to command both higher prices and consumer loyalty.

But Apple Inc. has been reporting a dip in Mac unit sales since the end of last year, and estimates released Monday suggest that trend is continuing. Analysts estimate Apple shipped 4.4 million to 4.6 million Macs in the quarter ending June 30.

PC sales overall have been declining for the last four years, as more consumers and businesses turn to smartphones and other gadgets. Global PC shipments fell to 62.4 million in the last quarter, down 4.5 percent from a year earlier, according to researchers at International Data Corp. Analysts at a second firm, Gartner, estimated that drop at 5.2 percent.

Lenovo, the world’s biggest PC-maker, saw shipments fall more than 2 percent around the world, to 13.2 million, despite a strong showing in the United States.

But HP, Dell and ASUS all increased their shipments during the last quarter, according to both research firms. Analysts said those companies benefited from a healthy U.S. market, consumer interest in new laptops running Google’s Chrome software, and seasonal purchases by public agencies.

Microsoft’s new Windows 10 software hasn’t given PC sales much of a boost. Analysts say that could change in coming months, as the end of a promotional offer means consumers will no longer be able to upgrade older Windows machines for free.

Some Apple fans say an update for the popular MacBook Pro laptop is overdue, while the Cupertino, California, company has been promoting its iPad Pro tablet, which works with a detachable keyboard. Apple enjoyed eight consecutive quarters of year-on-year Mac sales increases before posting a 4 percent drop in units sold during the last three months of 2015. That was followed by a 12 percent drop in the first quarter of this year.

Macs are a small part of Apple’s overall business, however, since the company makes most of its money from iPhones. Apple will report second-quarter sales on July 26.




Companies Bail Out On GOP Convention after Facing Pressure

FILE - In this Monday, June 13, 2016, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Trump has promised to liven up the 2016 Republican National Convention. But some of America’s biggest corporations are bailing on the party. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

In this June 13 photo, Donald Trump speaks at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

SAN FRANCISCO – Donald Trump has promised to liven up this year’s Republican National Convention. But some of America’s biggest corporations are bailing on the party.

Apple recently became the latest company to give the GOP’s presumptive nominee the cold shoulder; it won’t contribute money or products to the Republicans’ big shindig in Cleveland this month. HP Inc. is also withholding support, while Microsoft is giving products only, not cash. Beyond the tech industry, Ford, JPMorgan Chase and United Parcel Service have opted to withhold support.

Most of these companies are also taking a pass on donating to the 2016 Democratic convention. In previous election cycles, though, several of them have given Republican organizers more – sometimes far more – in cash or donated products than they have the Democrats, making their pullback from the Republican gathering this year more dramatic.

WHY COMPANIES ARE UNEASY

The reasons aren’t completely clear. None of these companies publicly described its decisions as a repudiation of Trump. Several declined to discuss their thinking, while others said their sponsorship plans were decided months before Trump emerged as the front-runner for the GOP nomination.

In many cases, however, their decisions became known after civil rights groups launched a public effort – including billboards, letters and online messages – aimed at persuading companies to withhold support for an event celebrating a candidate who’s campaigned with incendiary proposals , racial rhetoric and harsh comments about immigrants and women.

“Of course it’s because of Trump,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who has studied party conventions for more than 30 years. Business executives, he said, don’t want to alienate customers who may be offended by Trump’s statements. “Just as candidates don’t get votes from people they insult,” he said, “corporations don’t get business from people they insult.”

Even so, Republican convention organizers say their fundraising is going well. More than 100 donors have contributed a total of $57.5 million, or about 90 percent of what’s needed, said Emily Lauer of the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee. She declined to provide a list of sponsors. Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

APPLE AND THE REPUBLICANS

Apple made headlines after Politico reported the tech giant won’t support the GOP convention because of Trump’s divisive statements. Apple declined to comment on its plans for either convention this year, although Lauer confirmed to The Associated Press that the company isn’t a sponsor for the GOP gathering. A spokeswoman for Democratic organizers declined to comment.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly supported diversity and fair treatment of immigrants. Trump, meanwhile, has publicly blasted the company for manufacturing its products abroad and for resisting FBI demands to help unlock an encrypted iPhone used by an extremist killer in San Bernardino, California.

As if to underscore that Apple’s dispute is with Trump, but not the GOP, Cook hosted a California fundraiser for House Speaker Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans last week. Ryan has endorsed Trump, but opposed his call to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the country and criticized a Trump remark as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Apple hasn’t been a big cash donor to past conventions, although it gave $165,000 in computers and other tech gear for the 2008 GOP gathering and $140,000 worth of products to that year’s Democratic event. It also loaned iPhones to organizers of the 2012 Republican convention.

DOWN IN THE VALLEY

Another well-known tech company, Hewlett-Packard, gave a total of $1 million in cash and tech gear for the two previous GOP conventions. While organizers of the 2012 Democratic convention didn’t accept corporate cash, HP gave $100,000 to the Democrats’ gathering in 2008.

HP has since split into two corporations; neither is donating to either convention this year. Meg Whitman, the chairman of HP Inc. and CEO of spinoff Hewlett Packard Enterprise, has been a prominent Republican fundraiser over the years. But she has called Trump “a dishonest demagogue” and said his nomination would be disastrous for the party.

Not every Silicon Valley company has followed suit. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has criticized Trump’s proposal for a wall on the Mexican border to block illegal immigration. But his company said it’s providing “financial and other support” to both conventions. Google said it will be the official “livestream provider” of online video from both events.

Microsoft said in April that it’s providing tech products to both party conventions this year but will give cash – it hasn’t said how much – only to the Democratic event. Microsoft has made hefty donations to past Republican conventions. It gave $815,000 in cash and more than $700,000 in products in 2012, while providing $1.3 million in cash and products to the Republican gathering in 2008.

By contrast, Microsoft has given less support to previous Democratic gatherings. It provided $71,000 in software for the 2012 Democratic convention and $640,000 worth of products in 2008.

ELSEWHERE IN THE FORTUNE 100

Several other companies said they’re not supporting either party’s event this year. UPS donated more than $400,000 in cash and services to the GOP convention in 2012 and a similar amount to the Republicans in 2008, while providing $125,000 worth of donated services to the Democrats in 2012 and far less in 2008. Spokeswoman Kara Ross said her company decided last year that it wouldn’t give to either event in 2016, citing budgetary reasons unrelated to Trump’s candidacy.

Similarly, Ford Motor Co. says it decided to sit out both conventions last year, well before Trump emerged as the front-runner. JPMorgan Chase says it decided near the start of 2016 to donate money instead to youth employment programs in this year’s host cities. Both companies gave cash to the Republican convention in 2012 and equal amounts to both party gatherings in 2008.

Coca-Cola has also reconsidered its support. The soft-drink maker donated $666,000 in cash and another $100,000 worth of beverages to the Republican event in 2012, while donating $70,000 worth of products to the Democrats that year, after giving equal gifts of $150,000 to each party gathering in 2008. It gave $75,000 to each party’s host committee in 2015, but said in late March that it won’t give any more this year. The company declined to comment further.

Activists had urged Coca-Cola and other companies to withhold support for the GOP convention, citing what they called Trump’s “hatred and violent rhetoric.”

“We don’t run this campaign every four years,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director for the activist group Color of Change. “This is a moment where corporations should be saying this is not something they want their brand connected to.”




Liberty, Microsoft Partner to Offer Connectivity and Productivity

SAN JUAN – In its efforts to offer productivity tools and solutions to small and midsize enterprises on the island, Liberty Business has partnered with Microsoft.

en-US-Office-Mod-E-Business-Is-Better-Office16-356-desktopThe partnership was inaugurated by offering Office 365 for small businesses, Microsoft’s cloud-based subscription service, which includes features for team productivity.

With the software suite, customers get up-to-date apps for use across devices, combined with services such as OneDrive online storage, Skype for Business, Delve, Yammer and enterprise-grade security features.

“It’s a perfect way to integrate…both brands and their customer base,” said José Padró, business developer for Microsoft.

Business customers who purchase Office 365 through Liberty also receive a personalized assessment of their business needs.




Intech Recognized as Microsoft Country Partner of the Year

SAN JUAN — Integration Technologies Corp. (Intech) has won the 2016 Microsoft Country Partner of the Year Award for Puerto Rico. The company was honored among a global field of Microsoft partners.

San Juan-based Intech offers consulting in a variety of technologies including cloud, information security, networks, and unified communications and collaboration.

The Microsoft awards were presented in several categories, with winners chosen from a set of more than 2,500 entrants from 119 countries and honor partners that have demonstrated excellence in delivering Microsoft solutions.

Intech“We started our Microsoft Cloud and Information Security practice only two years ago. Today, it enjoys unparalleled success with tremendous reception from the marketplace as well as from industry partners and has become the centerpiece for our growth strategy in the region,” Henry S. Gordillo, Intech’s president and chairman, said in a recently published announcement.

Dr. Eliut D. Flores, director of Cloud and Information Security at Intech, explained the market’s needs within these technologies and Intech’s differentiation and value proposition stating that: “Most clients, while interested in the cloud, are often uncertain on how to design and execute a secure, scalable and reliable move to Microsoft’s Azure, as well as on how to manage and operate it once there. Intech’s Secure Cloud 360º is a family of products and services that cost-effectively address those concerns by protecting and supporting clients at each step of the process: from assessing their needs through planning, implementing, migrating, managing and optimizing their presence on Microsoft Azure, Office365, Enterprise Mobility Suite [EMS], and Operation Management Suite [OMS]; augmenting the clients’ ROI [return on investment], cost-savings, and business performance.”

“Intech is a prime example of the excellent talent we see in our Microsoft partner community to deliver innovative and transformative solutions,” Gavriella Schuster, general manager, Worldwide Partner Group, Microsoft Corp., added in the release.