Tag Archives: capabilities

Box Skills Kit to hit market soon in general release

SAN FRANCISCO — Box Inc. said it will launch a key piece of its Box Skills AI system, with expanded capabilities for customers to build and train their own AI-based content management tools in December 2018.

In addition to the expected commercial release of Box Skills Kit, the cloud content management vendor revealed new AI and workflow automation tools, Google integrations, security features and third-party app integrations at its BoxWorks 2018 conference.

A few hundred Box enterprise users have been using prefab Box Skills, the Box Skills Kit and Google integrations in private beta over the past year; the Google connections now are available in public beta.

Box also previewed a new Automations feature for workflow automation and a new data security system, Box Shield. Both are slated to be released in beta in early 2019, along with AI-driven Box Feed updates and notifications feature.

Box said Automations and an updated version of Box Tasks, with which users can assign things and deadlines to co-workers, will be out in beta in early 2019.

Activity Stream embeds third-party apps

All this came after Box unveiled Activity Stream, a collaboration system that enables users to work inside the Box platform with popular third-party apps like Slack, Salesforce and DocuSign. That product is expected to go into beta next year.

Users at the conference said they welcomed the open platform design of Activity Stream, Box’s progress on workflow automations, and the impending commercial availability of Box Skills Kit, which will include audio intelligence, video intelligence and image intelligence Skills, as well as the customization features.

The whole focus on workflow and integrations is really positive.
Rich LibbyCIO, Herbalife

“The whole focus on workflow and integrations is really positive,” said Rich Libby, CIO at natural supplements manufacturer Herbalife.

“I have all kinds of workflows that rely on Box documents where Box is not the final destination but stops along the track, so I’m excited to do that,” Libby said of using the Automations feature. “We have all kinds of contracts and agreements that we have to do offline or on email … so putting it on DocuSign will be great.”

Box highlights partner strategy

At the BoxWorks keynote, Box chief product and strategy officer Jeetu Patel  introduced speakers from Box partners like Apple, Google, Slack and ServiceNow.

BoxWorks executives meet media at BoxWorks 2018 conference
Box Inc. CEO Aaron Levie and Jeetu Patel, Box chief product officer, field media questions at BoxWorks 2018.

“In the digital workplace, what you need is a fundamentally modern set of tools to equip your users with so they can start innovating at a very different velocity,” Patel said of Box’s partner strategy. “For these tools to be effective they need to work seamlessly with your content. Regardless of the application that you the user may be working in, we want to make sure you can work with content in Box.”

Analysts said Box appears to be successfully executing a series of product advancements in a range of areas that users have been calling for, though some outstanding questions remain, particularly about the cost of Box Skills and Box Skills Kit.

The AI tools for developers work with AWS, Google, IBM and Microsoft AI, enabling users to customize and derive insights from Box content using those different engines. Users will apparently have to pay both the AI vendors for their services, as well as Box on a volume pricing basis.

Box Skills costs uncertain

“There is a lot of power in combining multiple Box features, like Skills and Automations,” said Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research who was at the conference at the George R. Moscone Convention Center.

“As the number of documents, images and videos stored in Box increases, the number of business use cases increases and the potential for AI goes up,” Lepofsky said. “What customers need to be aware of is these AI calls cost additional on top of Box.”

That cost does not appear to be fully worked out yet.

“The business model is actually quite simple for now. Skills Kit really just leverages our core platform, so it’s sort of a volume-based business model with the volume of data you’re moving back and forth between Box and third-party AI providers,” Box CEO Aaron Levie said in a Q&A session with reporters and analysts.

“We want to make it really, really easy to adopt Box Skills and make it easy to deploy it at scale, so we think it’s the fastest way customers are going to adopt this technology,” Levie said.

Beta user eyes commercial release

Meanwhile, a Box Skills beta user, Rich Guerra, head of application development at Farmers Insurance, said in an interview that he’s looking forward to using Box Skills Kit to develop AI applications for adjusters to enable them to work with videos and voice recording transcriptions from customers.

Farmers, which has standardized content on the Box platform, is also in the midst of a large-scale project to move legacy content from an old IBM on-premises file management system into the Box cloud.

As for Automations, “I was just texting our account rep how excited we were to take a look at that,” Guerra said. “The automation of the workflow is something we’re looking at to increase efficiency for adjusters, to make the process a lot easier.”

Box creating a cloud ecosystem

Overall, Box has done reasonably well in coordinating its far-flung product undertakings and positioning itself as a “Salesforce-like hub” of content services and collaboration, said Bola Rotibi, an analyst and research director at Creative Intellect Consulting.

“They’ve gotten a bit slicker than in the past,” Rotibi said of the orchestrated announcements on the first day of the conference.

“There are areas they can sharpen — like how much people are going to have to pay for Custom Skills — but I think they’re working behind the scenes to simplify that,” Rotibi said. “On the positive side, what I really like is the contextual integration of the third-party apps.”

Nice inContact adds analytics, omnichannel support to CXone

Nice inContact has expanded the analytics and quality management capabilities of its flagship cloud contact center, CXone, as businesses increasingly look to such tools to boost sales and customer satisfaction.

CXone Quality Management Analytics Pro uses speech and text analytics to monitor customer-agent interactions. It lets companies make sure agents are saying the right things — for promotional or regulatory purposes — and flags inappropriate behavior.

The system also identifies trends by tracking conversations based on keywords, categories and the sentiments being expressed by customers. The trend discovery should help managers coach agents and develop customer engagement plans.   

In addition to the analytics and quality management system, Nice inContact added to CXone omnichannel support for Instagram and the Japanese messaging app Viber, while also giving businesses the ability to schedule tweets and Facebook posts. 

The vendor announced the changes this week as part of its summer 2018 update to CXone, a contact-center-as-a-service platform the vendor launched one year ago. The vendor said 250,000 agents in more than 100 countries now use the platform, including some employed by Fortune 100 companies. 

The summer update also gave businesses more tools for complying with the General Data Protection Regulation, such as automated and manual controls over which customer interactions get recorded, retained and deleted. 

Contact center analytics gets results for businesses

In a recent survey, 700 IT and business leaders cited analytics as the top technology for transforming customer experiences, according to Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.

Businesses that had already deployed agent performance analytics credited the tools with a 121% increase in customers won, a 68% increase in self-service use, a 45% improvement in customer ratings and a 41% increase in digital sales, Gareiss said.

“Nice inContact is focusing where our research says it should focus,” Gareiss said. “Specifically, Nice inContact is focusing on agent analytics, where our research showed significant success correlations.”

Nice inContact competitors, including Five9, 8×8, Cisco and Genesys, have also been investing heavily in AI-powered analytics and management for contact centers. Google also recently entered the fray, with the release of an AI platform designed to integrate with the products of any vendor.

Beyond analytics, this year, cloud contact center vendors have been focused on delivering intelligent call routing — a tool for finding optimal customer-agent pairings — and using AI to give agents better information faster during customer conversations.

Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud gets transaction processing

Oracle is now offering transaction processing capabilities as part of its Autonomous Database Cloud software platform, which is designed to automate database administration tasks for Oracle users in the cloud.

The vendor launched a new Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing (ATP) cloud service, expanding on the data warehouse service that debuted in March as the first Autonomous Database Cloud offering. The addition of Oracle ATP enables the automated system to handle both transaction and analytical processing workloads, Oracle executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison said during a launch event that was streamed live.

Ellison reiterated Autonomous Database Cloud’s primary selling point: that automated administration functions driven partly by machine learning algorithms eliminate the need for hands-on configuration, tuning and patching work by database administrators (DBAs).

That frees up DBAs to focus on more productive data management tasks and could lead to lower labor costs for customers, he claimed.

“There’s nothing to learn, and there’s nothing to do,” said Ellison, who also repeated previous jabs at cloud platforms market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) and previewed the upcoming 19c release of the flagship Oracle Database software that underlies Autonomous Database Cloud.

Cloud success still a test for Oracle

However, while Ellison taunted Amazon for its longtime reliance on Oracle databases and expressed skepticism about his competitor’s ability to execute a reported plan to completely move off of them by 2020, Oracle lags behind not only AWS but also Microsoft and Google in the ranks of cloud platform vendors.

Make no mistake, Oracle still has to prove themselves in the cloud.
Adam Ronthalanalyst, Gartner

“Make no mistake, Oracle still has to prove themselves in the cloud,” Gartner database analyst Adam Ronthal said in an email after the announcement.

And Oracle isn’t starting from a position of strength. Overall, the technology lineup that Oracle currently offers on its namesake cloud doesn’t match the breadth of what users can get on AWS, Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform, Ronthal said.

But Oracle ATP “helps close that gap, at least in the data management space,” he said.

Together, ATP and the Autonomous Data Warehouse (ADW) service that preceded it “are Oracle coming out to the world with products that are built and architected for cloud,” with promises of scalability, elasticity and a low operational footprint for users, Ronthal said.

Oracle's Larry Ellison speaking at the launch of Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing
Larry Ellison, Oracle’s executive chairman and CTO, introduces the Autonomous Transaction Processing cloud database service.

The Autonomous Database Cloud services are only available on the Oracle Cloud, and Oracle also limits other key data management technologies to its own cloud platform; for example, it doesn’t offer technical support for its Oracle Real Application Clusters software on other clouds.

In addition, Ronthal noted that it’s typically more expensive to run regular Oracle databases on AWS and Azure than on Oracle’s cloud because of software licensing changes Oracle made last year.

“Oracle is doing everything it can to make its cloud the most attractive place to run Oracle databases,” Ronthal said.

But now the company needs to build some momentum by convincing customers to adopt Oracle ATP and ADW, he added — even if that’s likely to primarily involve existing Oracle users migrating to the cloud services, as opposed to new customers.

Oracle’s autonomous services get a look

Clothing retailer Gap Inc. is a case in point, although the San Francisco company’s use of Oracle databases could grow as part of a plan to move more of its data processing operations to the Oracle Cloud.

For example, Gap is working with Oracle on a proof-of-concept project to convert an on-premises Teradata data warehouse to Oracle ADW, said F.S. Nooruddin, the retailer’s chief IT architect.

That’s a first step in the potential consolidation of various data warehouses into the ADW service, he said. Gap also plans to look closely at Oracle ATP for possible transaction processing uses, according to Nooruddin, who took part in a customer panel discussion during the ATP launch event.

Gap already runs Oracle’s retail applications and Hyperion enterprise performance management software in the cloud.

As the retailer’s use of the cloud expands, the Autonomous Database Cloud technologies could help ensure that all of its Oracle database instances, from test and development environments to production systems, are properly patched and secured, Nooruddin said.

Ellison said Oracle ATP also automatically scales the transaction processing infrastructure allotted to users up and down as workloads fluctuate, so they can meet spikes in demand without paying for compute, network and storage resources they don’t need.

That capability appeals to Gap, too, said Connie Santilli, the company’s vice president of enterprise systems and strategy. Gap’s transaction processing and downstream reporting workloads increase sharply during the holiday shopping season — a common occurrence in the retail industry. But Santilli said Gap had to build its on-premises IT architecture to handle the peak performance level, with less flexibility for downsizing systems when the full processing resources aren’t required.

Cloud costs and considerations for Oracle users

In taking aim at AWS, Ellison again said Oracle would guarantee a 50% reduction in infrastructure costs to Amazon users that migrate to Autonomous Database Cloud — a vow he first made at the Oracle OpenWorld 2017 conference.

Meanwhile, Ellison said Oracle customers can use existing on-premises database licenses to make the switch to Oracle ATP and ADW, avoiding the need to pay for the software again. In such cases, users would continue to pay their current annual support fees plus the cost of their cloud infrastructure usage.

The ATP and ADW services layer the automation capabilities Oracle developed on top of Oracle Database 18c, which Oracle released in February as part of a new plan to update the database software annually. During the ATP launch, Ellison disclosed some details about the planned 19c release and the capabilities it will add to Autonomous Database Cloud.

When databases are upgraded to the 19c-based cloud services, the software will automatically check built-in query execution plans and retain the existing ones if they’ll run faster than new ones, Ellison said. That eliminates the need for DBAs to do regression testing on the plans themselves, he added.

Other new features coming with Oracle Database 19c include the ability to configure Oracle ATP and ADW on dedicated Exadata systems in the Oracle Cloud instead of sharing a multitenant pool of the machines, and to deploy the cloud services in on-premises data centers through Oracle’s Cloud@Customer program.

Oracle’s official roadmap shows 19c becoming available in January 2019, but Ellison claimed that was “worst case” and said the new release may be out before the end of this year.

Confluent Platform 5.0 aims to mainstream Kafka streaming

The Confluent Platform continues to expand on capabilities useful for Kafka-based data streaming, with additions that are part of a 5.0 release now available from Confluent Inc.

The creation of former LinkedIn data engineers who helped build the Kafka messaging framework, Confluent Platform’s goal is to make real-time big data analytics accessible to a wider community.

Part of that effort takes the form of KSQL, which is meant to bring easier SQL-style queries to analytics on Kafka data. KSQL is a Kafka-savvy SQL query engine and language Confluent created in 2017 to open Kafka streaming data to analytics.

Version 5.0 of the Confluent Platform, commercially released on July 31, seeks to improve disaster recovery with more adept handling of application client failover to enhance IoT abilities with MQTT proxy support, and to reduce the need to use Java for programming streaming analytics with a new GUI for writing KSQL code.

Data dips into mainstream

Confluent Platform 5.0’s support for disaster recovery and other improvements is useful, said Doug Henschen, a principal analyst at Constellation Research. But the bigger value in the release, he said, is in KSQL’s potential for “the mainstreaming of streaming analytics.”

Doug Henschen, Constellation ResearchDoug Henschen

Besides the new GUI, this Confluent release upgrades the KSQL engine with support for user-defined functions, which are essential parts of many existing SQL workloads. Also, the release supports handling nested data in popular Avro and JSON formats.

“With these moves Confluent is meeting developer expectations and delivering sought-after capabilities in the context of next-generation streaming applications,” Henschen said.

That’s important because web, cloud and IoT applications are creating data at a prodigious rate, and companies are looking to analyze that data as part of real-time operations. The programming skills required to do that level of development remain rare, but, as big data ecosystem software like Apache Spark and Kafka find wider use, simpler libraries and interfaces are appearing to link data streaming and analytics more easily.

Kafka, take a log

At its base, Kafka is a log-oriented publish-and-subscribe messaging system created to handle the data created by burgeoning web and cloud activity at social media giant LinkedIn.

The core software has been open sourced as Apache Kafka. Key Kafka messaging framework originators, including Jay Krebs, Neha Narkhede and others, left LinkedIn in 2014 to found Confluent, with the stated intent to build on core Kafka messaging for further enterprise purposes.

Joanna Schloss, Confluent’s director of product marketing, said Confluent Platform’s support for nested data in Avro and JSON will enable greater use of business intelligence (BI) tools in Kafka data streaming. In addition, KSQL now support more complex joins, allowing KSQL applications to enhance data in more varied ways.

Joanna Schloss, director of product marketing at ConfluentJoanna Schloss

She said opening KSQL activity to view via a GUI makes KSQL a full citizen in modern development teams in which programmers, as well as DevOps and operations staff, all take part in data streaming efforts.

“Among developers, DevOps and operations personnel there are persons interested in seeing how Kafka clusters are performing,” she said. Now, with the KSQL GUI, “when something arrives they can use SQL [skills] to watch what happened.” They don’t need to find a Java developer to interrogate the system, she noted.

Making Kafka more accessible for applications

KSQL is among the streaming analytics capabilities of interest to Stephane Maarek, CEO at DataCumulus, a Paris-based firm focused on Java, Scala and Kafka training and consulting.

Stephane Maarek, CEO of DataCumulusStephane Maarek

Maarek said KSQL has potential to encapsulate a lot of programming complexity, and, in turn, to lower the barrier to writing streaming applications. In this, Maarek said, Confluent is helping make Kafka more accessible “to a variety of use cases and data sources.”

Moreover, because the open source community that supports Kafka “is strong, the real-time applications are really easy to create and operate,” Maarek added.

Advances in the replication capabilities in Confluent Platform are “a leap forward for disaster recovery, which has to date been something of a pain point,” he said.

Maarek also said he welcomed recent updates to Confluent Control Center, because they give developers and administrators more insights into the activity of Kafka cluster components, particularly schema registry and application consumption lags — the difference between messaging reads and messaging writes. The updates also reduce the need for administrators to write commands, according to Maarek.

Data streaming field

The data streaming field remains young, and Confluent faces competition from established data analytics players like IBM, Teradata and SAS Institute, Hadoop distribution vendors like Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR, and a variety of specialists such as MemSQL, SQLstream and Striim.

“There’s huge interest in streaming applications and near-real-time analytics, but it’s a green space,” Henschen said. “There are lots of ways to do it and lots of vendor camps — database, messaging-streaming platforms, next-gen data platforms and so on — all vying for a piece of the action.”

However, Kafka often is a common ingredient, Henschen noted. Such ubiquity helps put Confluent in a position “to extend the open source core with broader capabilities in a commercial offering,” he said.

4 steps to engage employees with new live events in Microsoft 365 – Microsoft 365 Blog

Earlier this month, we announced new intelligent event capabilities in Microsoft 365 that enable anyone to create live and on-demand events for teams and across the organization. Today, we invite you to use the public preview of live events in Microsoft 365 and discover new ways to foster connection and engagement between leaders and employees at every level in your organization.

More than ever before, employees in the modern workplace seek work environments that unlock creativity, make their lives more productive and fulfilling, and foster a sense of connection with their organization’s mission and purpose.

A critical first step for your organization to thrive in this new culture of work is to drive alignment of your people around shared purpose and goals. Leaders realize that organizations who do this well have an advantage in attracting and retaining an engaged workforce.

Here are four ways your organization can enable leaders and employees to connect with new live events in Microsoft 365:

1—Use live events to kickstart interactive discussions across your organization

Today, executives at Microsoft—including CEO Satya Nadella—use Microsoft 365 to connect and communicate with employees around the globe. Now, any company or organization with Microsoft 365 can create these moments of high engagement, where people are focused on leaders and their messages and ask questions to clarify or reinforce conversations in the community.

Using Microsoft Stream, Teams, or Yammer, you can create a live event wherever your audience, team, or community resides. Attendees receive notifications and can participate in real-time, with high-definition video and interactive discussion using web, mobile, or desktop.

Following an event, it’s easy to make the recording available on an event page, allowing you to watch the event on your own schedule and catch up quickly with powerful AI features that unlock the content of the event recording. The recording is automatically transcribed and detects changes in speakers—making it simple to search for content later.

For employees who are in different time zones or unable to attend live, the conversation keeps going, so they still feel connected to leaders and peers—helping to overcome geographical or organizational boundaries.

The event and recordings are powered by Microsoft Stream, the intelligent video service in Office 365.

Image of a laptop open to display a live event in Microsoft 365.

2—Foster sustained dialogue in open communities

Give everyone a voice—before, during, and after a live event in Microsoft 365—with Yammer communities that span functions or the entire organization. Providing a forum for employees to be heard is an important piece of transforming a culture. These communities are where people can come any time to raise ideas, concerns, or questions, and where leaders can reply in an authentic way.

An active Yammer community builds trust and a sense of connection and belonging. And it provides a forum where employees who might not feel comfortable speaking out during a live event can connect directly with leaders.

With inline message translation, live events in Microsoft 365 empowers people to express themselves in their own language.

3—Create an intranet site for leaders to share events, blogs, video, news, and resources

Communicate at scale as a leader with a continuous, online presence using content, conversation, and video channels within a SharePoint communications site. You can optimize for news distribution and blogs, and deepen engagement with related content, polls and surveys, and readership analytics.

This is also a great spot to share recorded events for later viewing. Simply create a dedicated page for each event where employees can submit questions and comments in advance. Leaders and organizers can then use this input to craft the messaging and content of the events.

4—Plan corporate communications and measure impact

Executive and internal communications may be managed by a team of one or a team of many—but it takes careful planning and execution to ensure success. Microsoft Teams—the hub for teamwork in Office 365—is ideally suited to work together in the creation and production of events and other executive communications. It provides an effective backstage for your live event, giving you a shared space to work with speakers and approve content before sharing with a broader audience.

Once you have begun engaging your audience, every message within a Yammer community has a visible count of how many people your post has reached. This helps both community organizers and employees understand what is being read. Group insights demonstrate how the knowledge and information created in the community benefit people—regardless of their membership status in the group. For example, passive visitors may gain value from group conversations and apply the information elsewhere in their daily work. You can also see the number of views for an event recording and across a channel, and how many people liked the video. Pages and news articles also have statistics to understand readership.

Empowering all leaders across an organization

Leadership, of course, does not just refer to organizational leaders. Leaders of communities may be subject matter experts, functional managers, or passionate individuals who are leading areas of expertise, practices, or interest groups. These same capabilities in Microsoft 365 can enable leaders at any level to create and sustain connection with their communities.

Patrick Yates, manager of Diversity and Inclusion at TDS Telecom, considers community connections and engagement an important part of the employee experience, and a boon to recruiting talent. “Younger generations entering the workforce especially want a modern, inclusive environment—to be part of something that’s larger than themselves.”

Connect your employees and leaders today

Experience the public preview of live events in Microsoft 365, and get started on connecting your leaders and employees today. We will be adding additional features and functionality based on your feedback in the Tech Community.

To create a live event, you will need an Office 365 E3 or E5 license and your admin must give you permission to do so. To attend a live event, you need an Office 365 license for authenticated users. Public (anonymous) access is possible in specific configurations.

For more information on the intelligent event capabilities, visit the Microsoft 365 live events post on Tech Community.

New to Microsoft 365 in June—streamlining teamwork and security – Microsoft 365 Blog

This month, we introduced several new capabilities that improve user experience, streamline the management of common tasks, and enhance identity-driven security measures. We also want to hear your feedback, so that we can make sure these updates are relevant and useful to you.

Streamlining the way you work

Updates to the Office 365 user experience—We announced updates for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook that are designed to embrace the breadth and depth of Office 365 features, while simplifying the user interface and improving accessibility. These updates include a simplified ribbon to encourage focus and collaboration, modern colors and icons to improve rendering and accessibility, and AI-powered search to quickly surface relevant information. These changes will start to roll out to Microsoft 365 and Office 365 subscribers over the next few months.

Connect Office 365 Groups to SharePoint sites—Office 365 Groups can now connect to existing SharePoint sites, allowing newly created Office 365 groups to integrate with your existing SharePoint infrastructure. Connecting a group to a site provides a single starting point to find content, team news, and communications with modern pages, libraries, and lists—without losing any previous content or permissions.

A screenshot displays a SharePoint page. A dropdown from Settings in the upper right shows the user is about to connect a new Office 365 group.

Reduce distractions with Outlook for Android—We introduced “Do Not Disturb” in Outlook for Android to help you reduce distractions and get more done. Now, subscribers can set timed or scheduled periods when email and calendar notifications will be paused. For those with multiple Outlook accounts, Do Not Disturb settings can be customized for each email address—enabling granular control over how you spend your focus-hours.

An animated screenshot highlights the steps a user needs to take to set their Outlook to

Manage progress in Microsoft To-Do—This month, we introduced “Steps in Microsoft To-Do—a new feature that allows you to break down tasks into smaller, incremental steps—making large projects more manageable. Now, when a you create a To-Do item, you can add a range of detailed steps that are tracked through to completion. We also introduced the ability to share your To-Do lists, enabling you to work together on tasks and complete projects with colleagues and friends.

An animated screenshot highlights a user sending a 1:1 invitation link to a teammate.

Dictation in OneNote—Office 365 subscribers with Windows 10 can now take advantage of hands-free dictation using nine languages in OneNote. Dictation provides a simple, yet transformational, way to express ideas and capture notes using only your voice. You can also make edits using your keyboard without having to pause the recording. Simply click or tap the Dictate icon and start speaking.

Adobe PDF integration in Office 365—Last September, we expanded our strategic partnership with Adobe to focus on integrations between Adobe Sign and Office 365 products, like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and Outlook. This month, the Adobe Document Cloud team announced new capabilities for OneDrive and SharePoint that provide improved fidelity when working with PDF documents. Once integrated by your administrator, PDF services provide rich previews of PDF documents in OneDrive and your SharePoint sites, and allow you to combine several files into a single PDF in your document library.

A screenshot displays documents in SharePoint. A Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have been selected and are ready to combine.

Securing the modern workplace

We introduced several new important capabilities that strengthen your organization’s identity-driven security, and ensure important data is kept safe.

Secure your organization with baseline security policy in Azure Active Directory—We introduced the preview of a baseline security policy in Azure AD that enforces multi-factor authentication for privileged accounts. This new policy will apply to all organizations that have Azure Active Directory and help secure the most important accounts in your tenant. Customers can opt in to the baseline protection policy in preview, and at general availability will be opted in by default with the ability to opt out at any time.

Block legacy authentication using Azure Active Directory conditional access—This month, we introduced the preview of conditional access support for blocking legacy authentication, which enables organizations to stop users from authenticating to legacy apps. Identity attacks such as password spray almost exclusively target these older client apps. This feature improves the overall security of your IT environment by getting users to move to more modern clients that support modern authentication mechanisms.

Enhance data classification across your organization—The new Label Activity Explorer in Office 365 provides a quick overview of how the data in your organization has been labeled—allowing you to investigate risky or abnormal activity. To help you manage labeling across the lifecycle of your organization’s content, we enhanced the Data Governance dashboard with new features like the Data Governance toolbox, added links and tools for common data governance tasks, and provided a single resource for guidance.

A screenshot of the Security & Compliance Center in Office 365. The user is exploring the Label Activity Explorer in the Data governance dashboard.

Other updates

  • Microsoft Teams has reached FedRAMP Moderate Compliance and will start rolling out to U.S. Government Community Cloud (GCC) customers on July 17, 2018.
  • Visio Online is now available in Microsoft Teams. Coworkers can now collaborate on Visio Online diagrams from within their team or channel without toggling between apps.
  • SharePoint Swoop—our new enterprise reality show—features a team of MVP experts with just three days to help a Microsoft 365 customer modernize their intranet.
  • At Computex 2018, we outlined our vision for how partners can build intelligent edge devices and solutions.

Visual Search from Bing now lets you search what you see

Today we’re launching new intelligent Visual Search capabilities that build upon the visual technology already in Bing so you can search the web using your camera. Now you can search, shop, and learn more about your world through the photos you take.
These new Visual Search capabilities are available today in the US on the Bing app for iOS and Android, and for Microsoft Launcher (Android only). They’ll also begin rolling out today for Microsoft Edge for Android, and will be coming soon to Microsoft Edge for iOS and Bing.com. Just click the camera button to get started:

                         
For example, imagine you see a landmark or flower and want to learn more. Simply take a photo using one of the apps, or upload a picture from your camera roll. Bing will identify the object in question and give you more information by providing additional links to explore.


                        

You can even shop from your photos for fashion and home furnishings. Let’s say you see a friend’s jacket you like, but don’t know its brand or where to purchase. Upload a pic into the app’s search box and Bing will return visually-similar jackets, prices, and details for where to purchase.

We’ll be working hard over the coming months to add more capabilities to Visual Search, so your input on these features is greatly appreciated, as always. We hope you’re as excited by Visual Search as we are!

– The Bing Team

Microsoft Teams mobile app matures, but interoperability lags

Microsoft has been building out the capabilities of the Microsoft Teams mobile app in recent months, adding features more advanced than those traditionally supported by unified communications mobility clients. Nevertheless, the vendor has more work to do to catch up with rival Cisco and to provide a seamless mobile experience to businesses.

Microsoft is on par with the meeting features in Cisco Webex Teams mobile, but Cisco can give users a more seamless experience for scheduling and joining meetings from their mobile phones. That’s because Cisco Webex Teams and Cisco Webex rely on the same back-end cloud infrastructure, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass.

“Cisco has been very, very mobile-centric for a long time, so I wouldn’t expect Microsoft to have the same maturity in the mobile client,” Kerravala said. Nevertheless, recent improvements to the Microsoft Teams mobile app are “a good start.”

Microsoft users must juggle multiple UC mobile apps

Microsoft still has separate mobile apps for Teams and Skype for Business that require users to toggle between apps. Users can generally only access Teams meetings from within the Microsoft Teams mobile app, rather than from the mobile apps for Outlook or Skype for Business.

“The ability to schedule and join calls or meetings needs to be a lot more consistent,” Kerravala said. “So, if I’m in Outlook mobile and I can start a Skype for Business meeting, I should be able to start a Teams meeting.”

This gap in interoperability could cause headaches for businesses, as they attempt to migrate users from Skype for Business to Teams in keeping with Microsoft’s directive that it will eventually phase out the former.

Microsoft is encouraging customers that use the cloud version of Skype for Business to begin using Teams simultaneously. The vendor recently gave users the ability to transfer contacts and groups from Skype for Business to Teams and made instant messaging exchanges between the two clients persistent for Teams users.

Recent features added to the Microsoft Teams mobile app included the ability to join audio and video meetings in Teams or request a meeting to call them on their mobile devices. Once in a meeting, the Microsoft Teams mobile app lets users upload files, share their screens and control presentations.

Team collaboration elevates mobile clients

Team collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Teams and Slack are growing in popularity because they provide a single platform for communicating synchronously and asynchronously and for getting work done through third-party integrations.

That model for unified communications (UC) has made mobile clients even more significant, as vendors compete to deliver products that help users stay connected to colleagues and data whether they are in the office or working remotely, analysts said.

“The lines between communication, collaboration and conferencing are blurring,” said Alan Lepofsky, a principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif. “One of the biggest challenges for vendors is to create consistent experiences across various device types.”

Traditional UC mobile apps were built primarily around calling and messaging, but mobile phones already provide those same capabilities over cellular networks. The mobile apps for Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams now give users access to nearly all of the files and collaboration tools available to them on the desktop.

“For all the manufacturers in this space, their singular goal should be [the following]: Can the user eradicate the term, ‘I’ll take care of that when I’m back in the office?'” Kerravala said.

Apple plans to disable Facebook web tracking capabilities

Apple plans to disable some Facebook web tracking capabilities in the next version of iOS and Mac operating systems.

At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the company’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi explained the new antitracking features that will be rolled out in the next iteration of Apple’s web browser Safari. The features are meant to prevent Facebook and other companies from collecting user data automatically.

Specifically, Federighi called out the “Like” and “Share” buttons that appear on countless websites. In order to use either of those buttons, or leave a comment in the comments section, the user has to be logged into Facebook. But even if the user doesn’t click on the buttons, they can still be used to track that person just because they loaded the webpage.

“We’ve all seen these like buttons and share buttons,” Federighi said on stage at WWDC. “Well, it turns out these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not. So this year, we’re shutting that down.”

With the Facebook web tracking features disabled, Safari users will see a pop-up on sites with the Facebook buttons that will ask if they want to allow ‘facebook.com’ — or any other site with web trackers enabled — to use cookies and website data. Users will be able to opt out of tracking and keep their browsing activity private. Safari will change how it loads websites so that it requires users to consent to their data being tracked.

Facebook web tracking was called out specifically by Federighi, but Google has similar tracking abilities and will also be affected. Both Facebook and Google use web tracking to deliver targeted ads to users and collect data.

In the next version of the macOS Mojave, Apple will also disable what it calls “fingerprinting” by data companies. The companies collect information on the configuration of a particular device, including the fonts it has installed and the plug-ins that are enabled, to create a unique device profile and then use that to track the device from site to site.

“With Mojave, we’re making it much harder for trackers to create a unique fingerprint,” Federighi said. “We’re presenting webpages with only a simplified configuration system. We show them only built-in fonts. And legacy plug-ins are no longer supported, so those can’t contribute to a fingerprint. And as a result, your Mac will look like everyone else’s Mac, and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device and track you.”

These are not the first steps Apple has taken to reduce web tracking. At the 2017 WWDC, the company introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention, which limited the capabilities of third-party trackers and their use of cookies. However, this is the first time Apple has directly called out and taken steps to prevent tracking by Facebook and Google specifically.

In other news

  • The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is looking to purchase and set up a cloud browser for its employees. According to a request for information (RFI) from the Defense Information Systems Agency, the DoD intends to have its 3.1 million employees move to a cloud browser because the department believes it would be more secure to have employees browse the web via a remote server that operates outside the DoD network than to have it happen on their own devices. This is a technique the RFI called “cloud-based internet isolation” and has been gaining interest among enterprises. In 2017, security company Symantec acquired the company Fireglass with the intention of bolstering its browser isolation capabilities.
  • The email and password data of 92 million users of the genealogy website MyHeritage was exposed in a data breach, according to the company. A security researcher found a file named ‘myheritage’ on a private server not connected to MyHeritage that contained the email addresses and hashed passwords of users who had signed up before October 26, 2017, which is the date of the data breach. In a statement, MyHeritage said that the hackers don’t have the actual passwords and there was no evidence that any of the information had been used. “We believe the intrusion is limited to the user email addresses. We have no reason to believe that any other MyHeritage systems were compromised,” the blog post MyHeritage said credit card data is stored with third-party providers and actual DNA and family-related data are all on segregated systems, so they weren’t affected by the breach.” We have no reason to believe those systems have been compromised.”
  • The malware VPNFilter targets more devices than previously thought, according to updated research from Cisco Talos. VPNFilter was previously found to be infecting small office and home office routers and network-attached storage devices from several different vendors. Now, the researchers at Cisco Talos believe the malware is targeting more makes and models of those devices, and doing so with additional capabilities. New vendors now affected by VPNFilter are Asus, D-Link, Huawei, Ubiquiti, Upvel, ZTE, Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear and TP-Link. VPNFilter also now has the ability to deliver exploits to endpoints using a man-in-the-middle attack. “With this new finding, we can confirm that the threat goes beyond what the actor could do on the network device itself, and extends the threat into the networks that a compromised network device supports,” Cisco Talos’ William Largent wrote in the blog post detailing the new findings.