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  1. Microsoft’s CEO looks to a future beyond Windows, iOS, and Android The future of the next 46 billion devices Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images “What do you think is the biggest hardware business at Microsoft?” asked Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella last week during a private media event. “Xbox,” answered a reporter who had been quizzing Nadella on how the company’s hardware products like Surface and Xbox fit into the broader ambitions of Microsoft. “No, it’s our cloud,” fired back Nadella, explaining how Microsoft is building everything from the data centers to the servers and network stack that fit inside. As the reporter pushed further on the hardware point, a frequent question given Microsoft’s focus on the cloud, Nadella provided us with the best vision for the modern Microsoft that moves well beyond the billion-or-so Windows users that previously defined the company. “The way I look at it is Windows is the billion user install base of ours. We continue to add a couple of hundred million PCs every year, and we want to serve that in a super good way,” explained Nadella. “The thing that we also want to think about is the broader context. We don’t want to be defined by just what we achieved. We look at if there’s going to be 50 billion endpoints. Windows with its billion is good, Android with its 2 billion is good, iOS with its billion is good — but there is 46 billion more. So let’s go and look at what that 46 billion plus 4 [billion] looks like, and define a strategy for that, and then have everything have a place under the sun.” Microsoft’s Surface Pro X. Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge Microsoft has talked about the potential for rapid Internet of Things (IoT) growth from sensors and simple devices for years, all while the company has been building a cloud empire and quietly acquiring companies that will help it manage these billions of cloud-connected devices. Some analysts claim that there are already 22 billion connected devices, growing to 50 billion connected devices this year, by 2025, or 2030 depending on which study you believe. There might be disagreement on exactly how many devices will be connected to the internet and when, but Nadella has reorganized Windows and Azure to get ready for them. “Sometimes I say, ‘Hey, look. Should I call Windows... Azure Edge?’” revealed Nadella during the same media event last week, noting that’s what the operating system essentially is today by using the hardware to expose an app model. “Our new organization that manages all of this at the core kernel level and the hardware ... that team is the same. Whether it is something that is on Surface or something on Azure host, it’s literally the same people.” While we often hear Nadella quote philosophers or poets in memos, investor calls, and during onstage appearances, it’s rare to hear him be so direct and succinct about Microsoft’s ambitions. You don’t need to decipher his language here to understand that Microsoft is looking far beyond iOS, Android, and Windows to build Azure into what the company calls “the world’s computer.” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Photo by Amelia Krales / The Verge It’s easy for consumers to misunderstand Nadella’s new Microsoft that’s focused on Azure and cloud computing or worry the company could be turning into another IBM. Microsoft will need to tread carefully if it wants to avoid such comparisons. But the company is certainly being ambitious in its efforts to create a cross-platform environment that spans the world’s computing devices — whether that’s making distributed computing possible with elastic processing power and storage or using Xbox technology to build microcontrollers for its Azure Sphere operating system that’s built on top of a custom Linux kernel. Microsoft also faces huge challenges from competitors that also want to manage these billions of internet-connected devices. Amazon, ARM, Dell, Huawei, Cisco, IBM, Intel, Google, HP, Oracle, Qualcomm, Samsung, and more are fighting over this potential market, but there’s no clear winner in sight. The software giant will also need to convince competitors, and partner with many, if it’s even going to get close to pulling off this ambitious bet. That’s why we’ve seen Microsoft partner with Amazon on Alexa and Cortana integration, Samsung for Android apps, Walmart on tech for grocery stores, Sony on the future of gaming in the cloud, and many more in recent years. Nadella has obviously steered Microsoft in a different direction since taking over as CEO nearly six years ago. The results were evident after just a year, and the company reorganized its Windows division nearly two years ago to prepare for a world beyond Windows. Nadella’s message back in October when Microsoft embraced Android for the Surface Duo was that the operating system doesn’t matter, and it’s all about the app model and experience. It’s an obvious acknowledgment of how mobile computing has shifted the way we communicate and work, and it’s a nod that Microsoft is looking far more broadly to get back to its roots as a software company — not just the maker of Windows and Office — and try not to miss the next big thing. That doesn’t mean Windows is dead or that Microsoft will give up on it anytime soon. It’s just not as important as it once was to the company when you consider the future Nadella is building Microsoft toward. “We are absolutely, no question, allocating a lot to what is that next big thing,” explained Nadella last week. “But at the same time, we’re also not saying that’s our way back to saying all of iOS, all of Android, and all of Windows will suddenly be subsumed by this one thing. If anything, what people have come to realize is that Windows is there with a billion users, iOS is there with a billion users, and Android is there with 2 billion users. It’s not like one killed the other.” Source: Microsoft’s CEO looks to a future beyond Windows, iOS, and Android (The Verge)
  2. Microsoft CEO believes backdoors aren't the answer Satya Nadella chooses privacy and public safety over backdoors (Image credit: Mike Moore) As Apple is once again in the midst of another fight over encryption following a recent shooting at Pensacola naval base, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella weighed in with his thoughts on the encryption question. During a recent meeting with reporters, Nadella reiterated Microsoft's opposition to encryption backdoors while also expressing support for future legal and technical solutions, saying: “I do think backdoors are a terrible idea, that is not the way to go about this. We’ve always said we care about these two things: privacy and public safety. We need some legal and technical solution in our democracy to have both of those be priorities.” However, Microsoft's CEO also expressed support for key escrow systems which researchers have previously proposed versions of. Encryption debate The encryption systems Apple uses on its iPhones first became a point of controversy following the 2016 San Bernardino shooting. At that time, the company was urged by law enforcement agencies to help them unlock the shooter's iPhone as it may have contained valuable information. While Apple ultimately ended up not unlocking the iPhone involved in the 2016 attack, a recent shooting at a naval base in Pensacola has reopened the encryption debate. A Saudi national undergoing flight training with the US Navy killed three people and injured eight in the attack. However, two iPhones linked to the attacker are still protected via Apple's device encryption and remain inaccessible to investigators. Nadella may be against backdoors but Microsoft's CEO did not say that companies should never provide data under such circumstances. He did make the case for possible legislative solutions when it comes to encryption though, saying: “We can’t take hard positions on all sides... [but if they’re] asking me for a backdoor, I’ll say no. My hope is that in our democracy these are the things that arrive at legislative solutions.” Source: Microsoft CEO believes backdoors aren't the answer (TechRadar)
  3. Speaking today at the Microsoft Government Leaders Summit in Washington DC, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made the case for edge computing, even while pushing the Azure cloud as what he called “the world’s computer.” While Amazon, Google and other competitors may have something to say about that, marketing hype aside, many companies are still in the midst of transitioning to the cloud. Nadella says the future of computing could actually be at the edge where computing is done locally before data is then transferred to the cloud for AI and machine learning purposes. What goes around, comes around. But as Nadella sees it, this is not going to be about either edge or cloud. It’s going to be the two technologies working in tandem. “Now, all this is being driven by this new tech paradigm that we describe as the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge,” he said today. He said that to truly understand the impact the edge is going to have on computing, you have to look at research, which predicts there will be 50 billion connected devices in the world by 2030, a number even he finds astonishing. “I mean this is pretty stunning. We think about a billion Windows machines or a couple of billion smartphones. This is 50 billion [devices], and that’s the scope,” he said. The key here is that these 50 billion devices, whether you call them edge devices or the Internet of Things, will be generating tons of data. That means you will have to develop entirely new ways of thinking about how all this flows together. “The capacity at the edge, that ubiquity is going to be transformative in how we think about computation in any business process of ours,” he said. As we generate ever-increasing amounts of data, whether we are talking about public sector kinds of use case, or any business need, it’s going to be the fuel for artificial intelligence, and he sees the sheer amount of that data driving new AI use cases. “Of course when you have that rich computational fabric, one of the things that you can do is create this new asset, which is data and AI. There is not going to be a single application, a single experience that you are going to build, that is not going to be driven by AI, and that means you have to really have the ability to reason over large amounts of data to create that AI,” he said. Nadella would be more than happy to have his audience take care of all that using Microsoft products, whether Azure compute, database, AI tools or edge computers like the Data Box Edge it introduced in 2018. While Nadella is probably right about the future of computing, all of this could apply to any cloud, not just Microsoft. As computing shifts to the edge, it’s going to have a profound impact on the way we think about technology in general, but it’s probably not going to involve being tied to a single vendor, regardless of how comprehensive their offerings may be. Source
  4. One of the great privileges of my job is meeting with people around the world who are pushing the bounds of technology to make a difference. These change-makers are solving some of our world’s most pressing challenges, often overcoming the odds to do so. As I reflect on the year, I want to celebrate 10 people and teams who inspired me in 2018 with their ambition to think big and take action, and also with their commitment to never lose sight of those whose lives they are trying to better. From a Ghanaian teacher who taught his students Word on a chalkboard, to a young entrepreneur in Paris who is reimagining recycling, to a Microsoft team in the United States working to improve outcomes in the foster-care system, these change-makers’ stories made me pause and reflect on the incredible opportunity each of us has to impact and spark change in our organizations, our local communities and the world. I hope their stories inspire you as much as they inspired me. The students, teachers and volunteers defining the future of computer science education In the U.S., there will be 1.4 million computer science-related jobs by 2020, but only 400,000 graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. Our TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program aims to close this gap by bringing computer science education to high schools across the United States. Volunteers from Microsoft and other organizations partner with teachers to team-teach computer science to students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn to code. Earlier this month, I met with students and teachers from Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science (AMS) in the Bronx and Williamsburg Preparatory High School in Brooklyn who are participating in the program. The group from AMS — students Braylin and Danasha, along with teacher Tyree Alexander and volunteer Ray Contreras (a senior at Hunter College who is pursuing a BA in computer science) — and Williamsburg Prep — students Khendra and Patrick, and their teacher Wayne Tobias — shared the impact TEALS has had on their lives and how it is preparing them for the future. I was so impressed by the commitment of teachers like Wayne, who told me how he had worked in finance and then started his own graphic design company, prior to changing careers to teach math more than a decade ago, and of Tyree, who sought out TEALS because computer science education had been unavailable to Ray when he attended the school. Ray now returns each week to his alma mater to help Tyree teach computer science. The results speak for themselves: TEALS students score above the national average on computer science exams and, within two years of working with a TEALS volunteer, the majority of classroom teachers are able to teach computer science on their own, building the foundation for sustainable computer science education in U.S. high schools. Heathrow Airport’s Samit Saini and Komal Tekchandani For 13 years, Samit Saini worked as a security officer at Heathrow Airport in London, checking bags and reading X-ray machines. Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport — 80 million passengers passed through last year alone — and Samit noticed how challenging it was to communicate with international travelers because of language barriers. Samit asked his IT department whether there was an automated solution to replace the sheets of paper listing common phrases and their meanings in different languages, which security officers relied on, but he was told it was too expensive and there wasn’t enough funding. That didn’t stop Samit, though. With the aid of online tutorials, he learned PowerApps and built a simple translation app on his own. It was such a success that Samit now works as a full-time IT user-adoption specialist at the airport, training others how to use PowerApps. The Heathrow team has built more than a dozen apps to date, improving the efficiency of processes that were previously done with paper and pencil. I was struck by the impact Samit and his manager Komal Tekchandani were able to have as individuals on the airport’s digital transformation journey. By democratizing access to technology, today it’s possible for anyone with a big idea and the passion to see it through to change entire institutions for the better and, in the process, advance their career trajectory. Ghanaian teacher Richard Appiah Akoto When Richard Appiah Akoto was preparing his students in rural Ghana for a national IT exam earlier this year, he refused to let a lack of working computers get in the way. In remarkably accurate detail, Richard drew the Word user interface on his classroom chalkboard so his students could learn how to use it. “I wanted to teach them how to launch Microsoft Word, but I had no computer to show them. I had to do my best,” Richard said. “I drew the features and labeled them correctly so that they would know what was what. Then I drew what you would see on your computer screen after launching Word.” His illustrations went viral, and our teams rallied to support him, providing the school with a computer lab. John Steinbeck wrote: “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist … it might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” To me, Richard exemplifies the dedication and creativity of so many great teachers who go above and beyond each day for their students. John Cronin of John’s Crazy Socks Having a diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities is essential for any company that wants to maximize its impact. A small company that's demonstrating this is John’s Crazy Socks in Melville, New York. Twenty-two-year-old John Cronin, along with his father Mark, started the company two years ago. The online store sells thousands of socks that are about as unique as you can imagine — from socks with donuts to socks with dad jokes to socks with emoticons. But what truly makes John’s Crazy Socks unique is that John has Down syndrome and has made inclusion the cornerstone of the business. More than half of the full-time 35-person staff is made up of employees with a disability, and John has even testified before a congressional committee on the power of small businesses to empower people with disabilities. The company, which operates on our cloud, recently gave employees Office 365 accounts, and for many of them it was the first time they ever had an email account of their own. I find John’s energy and his love for the business to be contagious. His dad reflects with pride: “When John was born, there were so many people telling us all the things he wouldn’t be able to do. We just let John define that.” High school students Mikayla Sharrieff, Bria Snell and India Skinner After water fountains at their high school in Washington D.C. were taken out of commission because of potential lead contamination, Mikayla Sharrieff, Bria Snell and India Skinner developed their own method to purify lead-contaminated water. They entered it into a prestigious NASA-sponsored science competition and were the only all-black, all-female team to make it to the finals. Disturbingly, that made them the target of hackers spewing racism who tried to manipulate the voting system and ruin their chance to win. What grabbed my attention when I read about them in the news was their ingenuity and determination to be role models for their peers. “In the STEM field, we are underrepresented,” Mikayla told The Washington Post. “It’s important to be role models for a younger generation who want to be in the STEM field but don’t think they can.” I invited Mikayla, Bria and India to our annual hackathon at Microsoft, where they collaborated on a project to inspire more girls to learn to code, developing a curriculum that other students will be able to use to form coding clubs. I also had the opportunity to spend some time chatting with them, along with their mentor Marissa Jennings, founder and CEO of SOCIALgrlz, and they shared with me their aspirations for using technology to empower women and girls in local communities. I’d love to have them at Microsoft one day, but, wherever they land, I’m convinced they are well on their way to changing the world, and I’m confident they’ll inspire countless others to do the same. Yanbing Bai of Tohoku University In March 2011, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded shook the northeastern coast of Japan, causing a tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people and prompted the world to re-examine how it responds to disasters. One of the people leading this new thinking is researcher Yanbing Bai and the team at Tohoku University’s International Research Institute of Disaster Science, located in a region that was hit especially hard by the earthquake. I met Yanbing during a recent visit to Tokyo, and he shared the work he is doing to help relief workers stand a better chance of saving more lives when the next disaster strikes. Historically, it has been very challenging and time-consuming for local authorities to review satellite imagery of areas impacted by a disaster to coordinate their emergency response. Yanbing is applying our latest computer vision technology to address this, building a system to automatically create an informational footprint of the disaster area. We awarded Yanbing a grant as part of our AI for Earth initiative, which is focused on applying AI to solve global environmental challenges and is part of our broader AI for Good work. His pioneering research is one example of why we launched an initiative focused specifically on AI for Humanitarian Action this fall. Having a diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities is essential for any company that wants to maximize its impact. A small company that's demonstrating this is John’s Crazy Socks in Melville, New York. Twenty-two-year-old John Cronin, along with his father Mark, started the company two years ago. The online store sells thousands of socks that are about as unique as you can imagine — from socks with donuts to socks with dad jokes to socks with emoticons. But what truly makes John’s Crazy Socks unique is that John has Down syndrome and has made inclusion the cornerstone of the business. More than half of the full-time 35-person staff is made up of employees with a disability, and John has even testified before a congressional committee on the power of small businesses to empower people with disabilities. The company, which operates on our cloud, recently gave employees Office 365 accounts, and for many of them it was the first time they ever had an email account of their own. I find John’s energy and his love for the business to be contagious. His dad reflects with pride: “When John was born, there were so many people telling us all the things he wouldn’t be able to do. We just let John define that.” High school students Mikayla Sharrieff, Bria Snell and India Skinner After water fountains at their high school in Washington D.C. were taken out of commission because of potential lead contamination, Mikayla Sharrieff, Bria Snell and India Skinner developed their own method to purify lead-contaminated water. They entered it into a prestigious NASA-sponsored science competition and were the only all-black, all-female team to make it to the finals. Disturbingly, that made them the target of hackers spewing racism who tried to manipulate the voting system and ruin their chance to win. What grabbed my attention when I read about them in the news was their ingenuity and determination to be role models for their peers. “In the STEM field, we are underrepresented,” Mikayla told The Washington Post. “It’s important to be role models for a younger generation who want to be in the STEM field but don’t think they can.” I invited Mikayla, Bria and India to our annual hackathon at Microsoft, where they collaborated on a project to inspire more girls to learn to code, developing a curriculum that other students will be able to use to form coding clubs. I also had the opportunity to spend some time chatting with them, along with their mentor Marissa Jennings, founder and CEO of SOCIALgrlz, and they shared with me their aspirations for using technology to empower women and girls in local communities. I’d love to have them at Microsoft one day, but, wherever they land, I’m convinced they are well on their way to changing the world, and I’m confident they’ll inspire countless others to do the same. Yanbing Bai of Tohoku University In March 2011, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded shook the northeastern coast of Japan, causing a tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people and prompted the world to re-examine how it responds to disasters. One of the people leading this new thinking is researcher Yanbing Bai and the team at Tohoku University’s International Research Institute of Disaster Science, located in a region that was hit especially hard by the earthquake. I met Yanbing during a recent visit to Tokyo, and he shared the work he is doing to help relief workers stand a better chance of saving more lives when the next disaster strikes. Historically, it has been very challenging and time-consuming for local authorities to review satellite imagery of areas impacted by a disaster to coordinate their emergency response. Yanbing is applying our latest computer vision technology to address this, building a system to automatically create an informational footprint of the disaster area. We awarded Yanbing a grant as part of our AI for Earth initiative, which is focused on applying AI to solve global environmental challenges and is part of our broader AI for Good work. His pioneering research is one example of why we launched an initiative focused specifically on AI for Humanitarian Action this fall. Entrepreneur Cassandra Delage of Plast’if We know that the jobs of today will not be the jobs of tomorrow, which is why it’s so important that we invest in programs that equip today’s workforce and youth with the skills they will need in the future. I saw this firsthand at our AI School in Paris, which we designed to provide immersive training in both the hard and soft skills that will increasingly be required in every industry. It was inspiring to meet with students from different backgrounds and with limited technical experience — former teaching assistants, lawyers, business people, even those who did not have the opportunity to graduate from high school — who within seven months of intensive training, followed by 12 months of apprenticeship, will now be ready for new careers in AI and data science. All of them disprove the illusion that a university computer science degree is required to pursue a career in technology. While there, I met Cassandra Delage, a young entrepreneur with an ambitious dream of reimagining recycling. Her company, Plast’If, has created what might be best described as a “recycling vending machine.” You take plastic, put it in the machine and it’s converted into a useful object you can take with you. Notably, she improved it with students at the AI School, creating an ML model that recognizes the plastic, deploying it on an inexpensive computer and then integrating it with a 3D printer — turning her novel idea into reality. Cassandra’s startup is the perfect encapsulation of how advances in technology can create new opportunity, helping to address enormous societal issues — like sustainability — while preparing people with critical new skills. Foster parent and Microsoft colleague Ruthie Seale We start our leadership team meetings each week highlighting a team or individual at Microsoft or outside the company that is passionate about how technology can make a difference in the world. One example that moved me this year was the work of one of our teams to apply Dynamics 365 and other Microsoft technologies to improve outcomes among Arizona’s most vulnerable populations — the more than 15,000 children in foster care. Their aim is to create a unified solution that will support more than 1,400 child welfare workers in the state. Child welfare workers will have a better understanding of the population they are serving to deliver more personalized support and, whenever possible, offer preventative services that keep children at home instead of placing them in foster care. It’s an initiative spearheaded by Ruthie Seale, in our services business, who understands the stakes firsthand, knowing all too well what happens when children fall through the cracks of the foster care system. Ruthie shared how she and her family united with her son, Jon, when he was a 14-year-old struggling foster child. He’s now 26, has found a job he enjoys and is on a good path. In part because of her own family’s experience, Ruthie is so personally and deeply connected to the mission of her customer. It exemplifies what I encourage each employee at Microsoft to do: Connect their own purpose and passion with their work and use Microsoft as a platform to pursue it. Dr. Johnetta MacCalla and Dr. Ayanna Howard of Zyrobotics I am incredibly optimistic about the opportunity we have to apply advances in technology to empower the more than 1 billion people around the world with disabilities. That’s one reason why we started our AI for Accessibility initiative earlier this year, which provides grants and support to research organizations and NGOs, as well as entrepreneurs, who are bringing their passion and enthusiasm to help people with disabilities fully participate in our society and economy. Our first AI for Accessibly grantee, Zyrobotics, has built a reading-fluency program for students with diverse learning needs, providing support to students from low-income homes who may not otherwise have access to speech-language or occupational therapists. We’ve subsequently provided grants to 8 other innovators. By creating custom speech models with Azure AI, Zyrobotics can identify when a student using its programs might need interactive feedback, much like a therapist would recognize and provide. I visited CEO Dr. Johnetta MacCalla and CTO Dr. Ayanna Howard in Atlanta this fall, and they shared with me how they are able to offer personalized help for each child. That’s something they would not have been able to do without AI — and it demonstrates the potential we have to apply advances in technology to amplify human capability, and, in the process, change lives. The “heritage activists” at Iconem I’m always excited to learn about new and unexpected ways that people are experiencing the benefits of AI. Around the world, ancient sites are being destroyed by both natural and man-made disasters — but with the help of digital technology, French startup Iconem is bringing them back to life. The team of "heritage activists" is using Azure AI to stitch together hundreds of thousands of photos from historical sites into high-resolution 3D models that help experts assess damage and people experience parts of their cultural heritage that otherwise would be lost forever. To date, Iconem has documented landmarks like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, as well as sites in war-torn parts of Iraq and Syria. My colleague Leine Toukatli, a Microsoft attorney who fled Damascus in 2015, was deeply moved by their recreation of the famous Umayyad Mosque. “I felt like I [was] in a dream, like I’m really in Syria,” she said. “I felt the sun inside the mosque.” Iconem founder Yves Ubelmann sums it up best: “It’s a way to keep history alive. … If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you go.” _________________________________________________________________________ Each of these change-makers show us how one individual or team, driven by passion and ingenuity, can empower others and have meaningful impact in the world. And it’s one reason I am so optimistic as I look ahead at how each of us can shape what comes next in 2019 and beyond. source
  5. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is trying to distinguish the business technology giant from its technology brethren by focusing on digital privacy. That’s one of the takeaways from Nadella’s opening talk on Monday from Microsoft’s annual Build conference for developers in Seattle, Wash. This year, Microsoft’s big coder conference was sandwiched between Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference last week and Google’s upcoming Google I/0 event, starting later this week. Part of Nadella’s opening talk centered on user privacy, which Nadella referred to as “a human right,” echoing Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent public comments in the aftermath of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. Both Microsoft and Apple stand to benefit and win public trust if they can portray their companies as bastions of user privacy compared to companies like Facebook and Google . All of these giant tech companies are amassing large quantities of data that they in turn use to improve their respective artificial intelligence technologies—these AI technologies are then used to create more compelling products, like Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, for example. But the controversy over political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica improperly obtaining Facebook user data highlights the issues these tech companies face as they must both protect the consumer and business data they collect while using that same information to improve their own services. One way Nadella is attempting to convince businesses that Microsoft (msft, +1.12%) can improve its AI technology while protecting user data is by promoting a computing technique called homomorphic encryption. Although still a research-heavy technique, homomorphic encryption would presumably let companies analyze and crunch encrypted data without needing to unscramble that information. Nadella is pitching the technique as a way for companies to “learn, train on encrypted data.” The executive didn’t explain how far along Microsoft is on advancing the encryption technique, but the fact that he mentioned the wonky terms shows that the company is touting user privacy as a selling point for its Azure cloud business. Here’s a few more takeaways from Nadella’s talk: Microsoft likes Drones and Chips The business technology giant signed a partnership with Chinese drone-giant DJI and mobile computing giant Qualcomm. Under the drone partnership, DJI will use the Azure cloud computing service as a “preferred cloud provider” (it can still choose competing cloud companies like Google, example), and will create a software development kit that works with Windows 10. The goal is for coders to build Windows apps that can be used during corporate drone projects, like using the robots to take pictures of rooftops for damage inspections. So the next time a company flies a drone out to look at a rooftop, the drone can take video and send it back to the laptop for someone to analyze. Microsoft also partnered with Qualcomm on a new software developer kit to let coders build devices like cameras that can recognize objects. This initiative seems similar to Amazon’s DeepLens camera technology. Microsoft Believes in AI and Ethics Nadella briefly mentioned the company’s internal AI ethics team whose job is to ensure that the company’s foray into cutting-edge techniques like deep learning don’t unintentionally perpetuate societal biases in their products, among other tasks. He said that coders need to concentrate on building products that use “good A.I.,” in which the “the choices we make can be good choices for the future.” Expect more technology companies to talk about AI and ethics as a way to alleviate concerns from the public about the tech industry’s insatiable appetite for data. He also talked about Microsoft’s Project Brainwave computer chip initiative that is now available for Azure coders in a test or preview version. Nadella pitched Project Brainwave as a way for developers to perform AI tasks quicker by using the company’s specialized chips (FPGAs) built by Intel. He bragged about Microsoft’s specialized chips when compared to Google’s own custom chips (TPUs), saying that they were faster at some tasks, a claim the search giant would likely differ on. The Kinect is Back Microsoft may have killed its Xbox Kinect video game sensor in 2017, but the body-tracking device has since been reborn as a business tool. Nadella talked about Microsoft’s Project Kinect for Azure, and said that the new hardware device has “some of the best skeletal tracking object recognition,” which could make it useful as a tool to incorporate on drones so they can avoid obstacles. The new Kinect won’t be sold to consumers, but developers can sign on to receive a Kinect hardware kit that they can use to build their own tracking devices. Microsoft Pledged $25 Million to AI for Accessibility Grants Nadella ended his talk by saying that Microsoft will debut a five-year program in which the company will give $25 million worth in grants to researchers, non-government organizations, and developers so they can build AI-powered apps to help the lives of the disabled. These types of apps would do feats like look at the image of a signpost, and then say what the signpost means out loud to a person with hearing disabilities. The purpose of the grants is “so you can bring your ingenuity and passion to help the 1 billion-plus people in the world who have disabilities,” Nadella said. Source
  6. Although Satya Nadella is being widely praised as a terrific choice as Microsoft’s new CEO, he won’t be completely free of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, his two predecessors who will stay on at the company as a technology advisor and a board member, respectively. The very well-connected Bob Cringely writes that that Nadella would be wise to keep Gates at his side early in his tenure because he’ll need Gates to help him to get Ballmer to back off if he decides to diverge from the outgoing CEO’s plan to remake Microsoft into a devices and services company. “Ballmer still owns 333 million Microsoft shares, has a huge ego, and that ego is likely to be invested at first in bullying Nadella toward following line-for-line the devices and services strategy Ballmer came up with last year that so far isn’t working too well,” Cringely writes. “If Nadella wants to veer very far from that path by, for example, getting rid of Nokia or making Microsoft an enterprise software company, only Gates will be able to stand between the two men and, frankly, spare Nadella’s job.” Although this may sound overly gossipy, remember that Cringely made a name for himself by being Silicon Valley’s go-to gossip columnist and that Game of Thrones-style tales of palace intrigue are well documented at Microsoft. Cringely also confirms other reports that we’ve read about Ford CEO Alan Mulally being spooked about the prospect of having Gates and Ballmer watching over his every move, something that should be less of a problem for Nadella since he’s reportedly Gates’ preferred choice as Ballmer’s successor and because the two men apparently see eye-to-eye more often than not. So what do all of these personnel moves mean as far as actual products go? Cringely sees Microsoft eventually realizing that Windows Phone will always be the world’s No. 3 mobile platform and will move more aggressively to get its software onto Android-based devices. “Microsoft is fully entrenched in the enterprise and the future success of the enterprise will depend on the company’s ability to seamlessly integrate all its data center offerings with mobile clients,” he writes. “They can do that by being successful with Windows Phone except that won’t happen or they can embrace Android and do whatever it takes to make Android work beautifully in a Microsoft environment.” Oh, and one more piece of gossip from Cringely that should soothe the nerves of gamers everywhere: He thinks that the Xbox is safe because Microsoft needs to have a winner in the consumer electronics space and the Xbox seems like it’s the only one for the time being. Source
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