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Watch Communications and Microsoft announce partnership to bring broadband internet to Indiana, Ohio and Illinois – Stories

Deployment of technologies, including TV white spaces, is expected to cover more than four million people in the region, including 815,000 people in rural areas currently without access to broadband

REDMOND, Wash. — July 9, 2019 — On Tuesday, Watch Communications and Microsoft Corp. announced an agreement aimed at closing the broadband gap, and the rural digital divide in particular, in the states of Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. The partnership is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which is focused on extending broadband access to three million people in rural America by July 2022.

The FCC reports that more than 21 million Americans lack broadband access. According to Microsoft data, 162 million people across the United States are not using the internet at broadband speeds, including approximately 17 million people in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Watch Communications will deploy a variety of broadband connectivity technologies to bring these areas under coverage, with an emphasis on wireless technologies leveraging TV white spaces (e.g., unused TV frequencies) in lower population density or terrain-challenged areas to achieve improved coverage. The areas expected to benefit include 50 counties in Indiana, 22 counties in Illinois, and most counties in Ohio.

“Every person deserves the same opportunity. But too often and in too many places, these opportunities are limited by where people live and their access to reliable and affordable broadband access,” said Shelley McKinley, general manager, Technology and Corporate Responsibility, Microsoft. “Microsoft is working across the country to close this gap. We’re partnering with Watch Communications to improve broadband access in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio and build on the incredible work being done by state and local leaders on this issue on behalf of their citizens.”

“Public-private partnerships, collaboration and understanding local initiatives are key to enabling connectivity success. Providing rural broadband can be difficult, so working as a team to solve the digital divide requires partners. We are excited to partner with Microsoft on this initiative,” said Greg Jarman, chief operating officer, Watch Communications.

Improved connectivity will bolster economic, educational and telehealth opportunities for everyone in the region, and could be particularly impactful for this region’s farmers. Together, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio account for more than $38.5 billion in agricultural value, with all three ranking in the top 16 states by agricultural output, according to the USDA. With broadband access, farmers can take advantage of advanced technologies such as precision agriculture which can help better monitor crops and increase yields.

In addition, Watch Communications and Microsoft will work together to ensure that once connectivity is available, people know how to use it and can get the training needed to fully participate in the digital economy, access educational opportunities and access telemedicine.

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State by State View

Indiana

This is Microsoft’s first Airband Initiative deployment in Indiana. The need for improved connectivity is acute — the FCC broadband mapping report shows that more than 673,000 people in Indiana do not have access to broadband, and Microsoft data suggests that more than 4.3 million people are not using the internet at broadband speeds in the state. The partnership between Watch Communications and Microsoft is expected to cover more than 1 million Hoosiers, more than 440,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved.

Watch Communications was a recent award winner of funds from the FCC to extend broadband services in Indiana. As a result, Watch Communications has been working with Indiana counties to develop the deployment approach that best meets the needs of the local communities. In addition to broadband, Watch Communications has been working to use its network to design an IoT network to serve Indiana businesses.

This also builds on Microsoft’s presence in Indiana. Last October, Microsoft and the Markle Foundation announced the launch of Skillful Indiana, focused on bringing investment, training, tools, and innovative methods to support workforce development in the state. In addition, the Hope FFA chapter in Indiana was recently awarded Microsoft FarmBeats Student Kits, which will help FFA students develop essential digital skills for precision agriculture and IoT technologies.

Ohio

Watch Communications was a recent award winner of funds from the FCC to extend broadband services in Ohio. As a result, Watch Communications has been working with Ohio counties to develop the deployment approach that best meets the needs of the local communities.

“You can’t be a part of the modern economy or education system without access to high-speed internet, and we are taking steps in Ohio to extend broadband to those who are underserved across the state,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “Thank you to Microsoft for being among the leaders on this and for being willing to consider innovative solutions to help extend opportunity to people in Ohio who need it.”

This is Microsoft’s second Airband Initiative deployment in Ohio, following an August 2018 agreement between Microsoft and Agile Networks. The need for improved connectivity is acute — the FCC broadband mapping report shows that more than 621,000 people in Ohio do not have access to broadband, while Microsoft data suggests that more than 6.9 million people are not using the internet at broadband speeds in the state. The partnership between Watch Communications and Microsoft is expected to cover approximately 2.5 million people, more than 288,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved.

This also builds on Microsoft’s presence in Ohio. Microsoft’s TEALS program is helping to deliver computer science education to Ohio students. In addition, the Arcadia FFA chapter and Triad-OHP FFA chapter in Ohio were recently awarded Microsoft FarmBeats Student Kits, which will help FFA students develop essential digital skills for precision agriculture and IoT technologies.

Illinois

This is Microsoft’s second Airband Initiative deployment in Illinois, the first being a September 2018 agreement between Microsoft and Network Business Systems to bring broadband internet to people in Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota. The need for improved connectivity is acute — the FCC broadband mapping report shows that more than 680,000 people in Illinois do not have access to broadband, while Microsoft data suggests that more than 6.6 million people are not using the internet at broadband speeds in the state. The partnership between Watch Communications and Microsoft is expected to cover more than 275,000 people, more than 80,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved.

About Watch Communications

Founded in 1992, Watch Communications is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) using a combination of fixed wireless and fiber technologies to serve residential and business customers throughout Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Watch Communications began as a wireless cable TV provider and expanded service offerings in 1998 to include Internet. Since its creation, Watch Communications has focused on unserved and underserved small and rural markets.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, [email protected]

Lindsey Gardner, Watch Communications Media Requests, (419) 999-2824, [email protected]

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Salesforce Datorama acquisition to bolster Marketing Cloud

The Salesforce Datorama acquisition is expected to enhance the Salesforce Marketing Cloud system and better compete with Adobe — the CRM software vendor’s main competitor in the marketing space.

The Salesforce Datorama acquisition marks the fourth purchase for the vendor this year, following its acquisitions of Attic Labs, CloudCraze and MuleSoft. The cost of buying Datorama, according to reports, was about $800 million.

Datorama uses AI and machine learning to provide marketing intelligence and analytics to help organizations identify which campaigns work best and what the next best marketing tactic should be. Salesforce appears to be looking to the Israel-based company’s technology to bolster its Einstein AI-backed business intelligence software.

The move will strengthen Salesforce’s portfolio in marketing and analytics, said Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research.

“Datorama looks at every piece of analytics around the campaign to figure out why one was more successful than another. Salesforce has been building out its Marketing Cloud and [has] been doing specific acquisitions to bolster its marketing and ad-tech capabilities,” Wang said.

Not all observers think the Salesforce Datorama acquisition was the best move to help with marketing analytics.

Datorama customers have used the product more for reporting, rather than analytics, according to Tina Moffett, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

“Datorama’s strong suit is in its ability to connect disparate data sources — from Facebook and ad servers and email providers — into one central system, and it uses AI to do that,” Moffett said. “A lot of the organizations that we’ve talked to use Datorama as a central reporting and dashboard tool.”

Building capabilities through acquisition

When you see this acquisition, you have to think the next thing for Salesforce is ad tech.
Ray Wangprincipal analyst and founder of Constellation Research

Salesforce has been visibly working to improve Marketing Cloud and has done so mainly through acquisitions.

That campaign started with acquiring ExactTarget in 2013 and turning it into the core Marketing Cloud system. Salesforce then bought Krux in 2016 to improve Marketing Cloud’s data management capabilities and soon renamed Krux to Salesforce DMP.

Salesforce’s acquisition of Datorama AI marketing software fits the same theme, but the purchase may have surprised some.

“Salesforce’s [approach] is to build capabilities through acquisitions,” Moffett said. “For them to focus on marketing performance measurement and then acquire a company wasn’t that big of a shock. I think what was a big of a surprise was that it was Datorama.”

Surprise or not, Salesforce appears to have big plans for Datorama.

“Salesforce’s acquisition of Datorama will enhance Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud with expanded data integration, intelligence and analytics, enabling marketers to unlock insights across Salesforce data and the myriad of technologies used in today’s marketing and consumer engagement ecosystem,” Ran Sarig, Datorama CEO and co-founder, wrote in a blog post.

Meanwhile, Wang said he could see the Salesforce Datorama acquisition laying the groundwork for another Salesforce product: an advertising cloud.

“When you see this acquisition, you have to think the next thing for Salesforce is ad tech,” Wang said.

Salesforce graphic with Marketing Cloud logo
Salesforce acquired Datorama, an AI marketing analytics company, to help bolster its Marketing Cloud (pictured).

Salesforce sets sights on Adobe

Salesforce’s focus on strengthening Marketing Cloud also is apparently aimed at Adobe — another marketing software giant.

The two software goliaths have battled fiercely in recent years, and the Salesforce Datorama acquisition should be viewed in the context of that technological arms race, Wang said.

“From a Marketing Cloud perspective, it’s Salesforce and Google versus Microsoft and Adobe, and that’s what people need to recognize when considering their investments,” he said.

The big tech leaders all are trying to make it easier for organizations to connect the dozens of marketing tools that most large enterprises use.

“The bigger issue is the fact that most organizations run 40 to 50 martech solutions and want to know how to consolidate [their data],” Wang said. “Everyone is looking for one vendor to make this easier, and the integrations that Datorama has are important and allow you to connect those different pieces.”

Taking a risk: putting defeat aside to claim her win

I never expected to find myself homeless at 24.

In high school, I was that student who could give my work only 60 percent of my effort yet still get an A. It just came easy to me. And I had a plan: I’ve always loved Japan and wanted to attend university there once I graduated.

But by my senior year, I was struggling with depression. I started missing classes and watched my grades suffer. Things fell apart, and I didn’t get into the school I wanted. So, I made a new plan: I would attend a local college, improve my grades, and then reapply.

I ended up starting and restarting college at three different schools, but none panned out due to unexpected circumstances. My depression resurfaced. At one school, I learned I wouldn’t be able to transfer the earned credits that I needed to go to the school I wanted. It felt like every time I took a risk, it didn’t pay off the way I wanted it to.

I felt defeated. But I kept trying.

I got a job at a hotel chain before I eventually ended up working as a production assistant on the set of an indie film in Los Angeles. It was a great opportunity, and I learned a lot, including what it was like to live independently in a different state. When we wrapped filming, I realized I missed the cold, the rain, and my mom, and I headed back to Seattle to live with her.

Beyond occasional babysitting gigs, there were no “bites” during my job search. To help deal with my depression, I decided to get a dog who I could love and who would love me unconditionally.
I adopted Starship Trooper—a Labrador retriever, American Staffordshire terrier, and Rottweiler mix. I wasn’t making much money, and I realized that I should be feeding him better than bulk dog food. That food was trash. I thought, “I can’t keep doing this. What if he gets sick? I can’t even afford a vet.”

I reached out to a company that had contacted me earlier and started a new retail job in June.

But by August, our landlord had decided to sell his home. Because we were on Section 8 (a housing subsidy program), we couldn’t find a new place to live before we had to vacate. Unfortunately, most landlords wouldn’t consider us as tenants because the program carries a stigma.

We were homeless.

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My mom and I went from spending the first, terrifying night in our car to “couch surfing” at the homes of family members and then to motels. Unfortunately, I had to leave Trooper at boarding facilities. I finally had the dog I had always wanted, but I couldn’t even see him. It wasn’t cheap, either.

Through this challenge, my mom and I stuck together. I was working to support us, with one goal: to survive. She took care of home base, and we searched for a new place to live. It was nerve-wracking and stressful, but we managed to find a townhouse by October.

At my job, I learned that my manager had worked there for 20 years and still had to work weekends to make ends meet. I refused to accept that for myself. I didn’t want to just survive; I wanted to thrive.

My younger sister reintroduced me to the Year Up program, which paid a stipend and provided six months of career training along with a six-month internship with a Seattle company. You had to be no older than 24 at the start of the program, and I was weeks away from turning 25.

I thought, “If I’m going to do this, I have to do this now.”

Jameela Roland and her dog, Trooper

Jameela Roland and her dog, Trooper

After six months of professional and technical training courses, Year Up assigned me to an internship. I was shocked to see that I was assigned to Microsoft, which I envisioned was more for coders. The internship was for a studio technician working with video content.

Within the first week, I was asked to slice video footage. By week two, I was able to go on location for a video shoot, which was so cool!

I had a great time in the role and learned so much, but I didn’t expect a job offer from Microsoft. But, at the end of my internship, I was the first person to be hired by Microsoft directly after my Year Up graduation. I had already been looking for my next job in that space, which felt daunting because I didn’t have a formal education and it was outside of the purview of Year Up’s support system. I was excited to have found a role on a team dedicated to helping me achieve my goals and grow my professional presence.

At my Year Up graduation, I served as the keynote student speaker. This led to me being invited to speak at a Congressional hearing with the Year Up founder about opportunities for youth to break the cycle of poverty. It was all so unexpected and exciting.

I’m currently a business operations associate managing workload and video post-production work, plus I coordinate video shoots, deadlines, and more. I’m loving what I do, and I’m learning every day.

Life is so much better. I’ve since moved out on my own, and I appreciate that I have the security to take care of things when the unexpected arises, for Trooper and myself. I’m happy that my mom doesn’t have to be concerned about me and can now focus on herself. Because of my new career, our relationship has evolved from a caretaker relationship to a friendship. We still partner up, but now it’s when we want to, not because we have to.

College didn’t pan out, but I realize now that I didn’t properly assess risk when making my early choices. I didn’t realize all I could lose until I became homeless. When it’s time to do something different, I’ve learned to ask, “What can I lose? What can I gain?” I’m grateful that I took a risk and participated in the Year Up program.

Now I feel like a sprout on the ground. I’m ready to grow, and I’m getting the sunlight I need to do so. At Microsoft, I’m not just in the system, subject to movements beyond my control; I’m part of the system, contributing to the greater environment of change.

Are you a Microsoft employee with a journey to share? Drop us a line from your work email at MicrosoftLife (at) microsoft.com.

Cloud, mobility, telephony to fuel UCC market growth, report says

The global unified communications and collaboration market is expected to see sizable growth over the next several years, fueled by cloud technologies, telephony platforms and mobile devices. The UCC market is expected to grow more than 9% annually from 2017 to 2024, according to a report from Global Market Insights Inc., a research firm based in Selbyville, Del. 

In 2016, the UCC market was estimated at more than $27 billion. The market is predicted to surpass $57 billion by 2024, according to the report.

Growing cloud systems are expected to boost UCC market growth in the coming years. The cloud-based UCC market should see favorable gains between 2017 and 2024 across various business sectors. Hybrid models, in particular, should see increased adoption, as enterprises meld on-premises and cloud services.

Telephony platforms are expected to hold a significant UCC market share of more than 25% by 2024, as enterprises deploy these applications on a large scale to enable real-time communications. Additionally, IP phones will grab a larger share of the telephony market, as they offer added benefits over analog phones and cost less than traditional telephone services, the report said.

The popularity of mobile devices and increased acceptance of BYOD across businesses on a global scale should also boost UCC market growth. UCC technology uses BYOD policies to enable communication with mobile resources. BYOD workplaces can also help companies cut hardware and service costs.

Among UCC vendors, acquisitions continue to play a key role in the consolidation of the market, as major players strive to extend their global presence and gain more market share.

Wrinkl group messaging platform launches

The business messaging market just got a little more crowded. Wrinkl, a cloud-based group messaging platform, launched last week. The collaboration software looks to address certain deficiencies of email and group chat.

By combining the immediacy of group messaging with email capabilities, Wrinkl aims to reduce the number of fragmented communications that occur across multiple applications. Users can keep conversations in one place, creating a system of record.

Wrinkl is accessible via desktop and available for download in Google Play and Apple’s App Store. The group messaging platform’s features include the following:

  • One-to-one sidebars offer private communication within larger group conversations.
  • Email integration allows users to send and receive emails within a Wrinkl channel. Responses are private to the recipient, even in group channels, but can be shared with the group.
  • Users can add messages to lists, which could include to-do lists or other items to track.
  • Surveys can be created without leaving a conversation and include people outside the group. Responses are grouped together as they come in. Results are rendered with graphs and visualizations for further analysis.

Plantronics releases UC-compatible headset

Plantronics Inc., an audio communications provider based in Santa Cruz, Calif., introduced this week a Bluetooth neckband headset with earbuds. The Voyager 6200 UC features active-noise cancellation and integration with UC applications.

The headset expands Plantronics’ Voyager series of enterprise headsets and its portfolio of stereo Bluetooth devices. The headset is certified for Microsoft Skype for Business, and it’s compatible with Cisco Jabber, Microsoft Teams and several other software apps.

Plantronics headset
The Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC headset features a neckband that vibrates to indicate an incoming call or alert.

Among other features, the Voyager 6200 UC provides a wireless range up to 98 feet and up to nine hours of talk time and 16 hours of listen time. In addition, the neckband vibrates to indicate an incoming call or alert, and users can pair up to eight devices and connect to two devices simultaneously.

The Voyager 6200 UC is supported by Plantronics Manager Pro, which allows IT managers to monitor and maintain devices companywide, including usage and acoustic analysis. With Manager Pro, IT can configure the user experience and use predictive analytics to detect compatibility issues. Manager Pro is available as a subscription service, sold separately from the Voyager portfolio.

The Voyager 6200 UC is available in black and sand colors through Plantronics authorized partners. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $299.95.

Building a modern campus

Microsoft is embarking on a major redevelopment at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. The project is expected to take five to seven years and will include the removal of 12 existing buildings and the construction of 18 new buildings along with new running and walking trails, open spaces and sports facilities. An artist’s rendering shows how the campus will look when the project is completed. Credit: Microsoft

At Dreamforce, Salesforce applications take center stage

Apps, Einstein and Quip are expected to be the focus at Dreamforce, with Salesforce keeping any new clouds it may be building under wraps.

For its first 18 years, Salesforce focused inward, building its clouds and the infrastructure to support them. This year, with many business processes covered by one cloud product or another, Salesforce is turning its attention outward — to the applications side of the aisle — hoping that building out its community of developers will help propel new growth.

Salesforce applications will be a big focus at the start of Dreamforce, the company’s annual conference, which is expected to draw more than 170,000 attendees, according to a recently published report by USA Today. In its initial announcements ahead of Dreamforce, Salesforce focused on existing products and how to improve the user experience, including a bevy of app-building tools.

Einstein apps and bots

The company’s apps can now be embedded into Einstein with the release of myEinstein, which allows users to create custom AI models. Salesforce Einstein AI bots can also employ artificial intelligence to assist with customer service workflows. Einstein Prediction Builder enables admins to craft AI models that predict business outcomes.

Salesforce Einstein AI was the big reveal at last year’s Dreamforce — the accumulation spending more than $1 billion on AI-centric companies. And while no new clouds or platform-wide products were unveiled this year, some analysts see this year’s Dreamforce as a Part Two to last year’s Part One.

“It’s an evolution from what [Salesforce] talked about last year,” said John Bruno, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Right now, Einstein is still in the early adopter phase. That being said, the stuff Salesforce has done has matured [Einstein] over the past year.”

Apps extend to Apple, Google stores

One key example of that, according to Bruno, is the availability of Einstein Prediction Builder, which allows companies to embed AI functionality into its own business processes.

“Prediction Builder is Salesforce stepping out and saying, ‘Everything you’ve known Salesforce to be as a platform is in the past,'” Bruno said. “Prediction Builder is the next generation of that. Salesforce placed its bets on AI being the future, and, if that’s the case, you can’t rely on the first-party capabilities you put out there.”

Beyond improving and building out Einstein, Salesforce released several other upgrades, many of which focused on building Salesforce applications and company branding.

The Salesforce mobile application will go from Salesforce1 to mySalesforce — allowing for employees at all levels to build custom Salesforce applications. App builders can also publish Salesforce applications to the App Store or Google Play with a Listing Wizard capability. Lightning received the app upgrade with myLightning, including better branding capabilities and an improved App Builder.

Quip makes collaboration push

Quip also received an application-centric upgrade, with Live Apps embedding real-time collaboration and document viewing, a calendar app that can be used to track projects, and workflow templates for quick document and spreadsheet use for specific industries and projects.

The added collaboration features for Quip can lead to the question of whether this is Salesforce positioning itself to challenge the Slacks and Microsoft Teams of the world. Salesforce denies any posturing, saying that Slack remains a partner.

Salesforce wants to be the one place where employees conduct all of their work-related activities.
Bill Quinn, director of customer experience solutions, Tata Consultancy Services

“Slack and Quip are allies in changing the way people work, and Slack continues to be a great partner of ours,” said Rafael Alenda, vice president of marketing at Quip. “Slack has seen success in communication, while the Quip Collaboration Platform is focused on document, collaboration and, in the end, transforming the enterprise culture into something much more modern, less reliant on emails and less reliant on meetings.”

Alenda added that with an open API, Quip could be embedded into other document-based tools that customers use.

While Salesforce continues to play nice with Slack, others see it as the company subtly positioning itself into the growing collaboration market.

“I think they’re essentially working to make Salesforce the ‘hub’ for all the work you do as an employee,” said Bill Quinn, director of customer experience solutions at Tata Consultancy Services, based in Mumbai, India. “Salesforce wants to be the one place where employees conduct all of their work-related activities. It started with Chatter but has grown with Quip.”

To help companies with development of Salesforce applications, Trailhead has also been expanded into myTrailhead. The move allows customers to create custom learning pages with their own content and branding to assist with onboarding and company-specific skills.

More information regarding these features and other future features will be released throughout the week at Dreamforce. Be sure to check back to SearchSalesforce for updates.