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Free Educational Content in Minecraft Marketplace!

Venture into digital worlds instead of the real one!

The world is upside down right now. We’re learning lots of new phrases like social distancing, contact tracing, and stop snacking just because you’re bored. Everyone around the world is coming together to do their part, whether that’s working on finding a vaccine, delivering food and supplies, or staying indoors. Whatever the case, all of our daily routines have been thrown completely out of whack. It’s easy to get scared at a time like this, which is why focusing on something can help you stay calm. 

Educators around the world are doing everything they can to provide digital lessons for the half a billion students who are out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not an easy task and we want to do our part to help keep young minds sharp and stimulated. 

If you head over to the Minecraft Marketplace, you will find some of our favorite lessons from Minecraft: Education Edition in a brand new Education category. These educational worlds can be played on your own, with your kids, parents or friends. From the comfort of your home, you can tour the International Space Station or even explore the inside of a human eye. We’ve also included ten worlds from our Marketplace creator community! Thanks to creators Everbloom, Jigarbov, Lifeboat, Razzleberries, The World Foundry, Blockworks, and Imagiverse you can explore renewable energy, marine biology, Greek history, and more! The worlds include lesson plans like creative writing activities, build challenges, and tricky puzzles. 

All of these worlds are launching today and are free to download through June 30, 2020.

Anyone with Minecraft for Bedrock platforms can find these worlds by launching Minecraft and visiting the in-game store. Minecraft is available on Android & iOS, Kindle Fire, Windows 10 PC, Gear VR, Oculus Rift, Fire TV, Xbox One, Windows MR, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4. 

You can find the complete content list here: https://www.minecraft.net/en-us/marketplace/education

To learn more about distance learning with Minecraft: Education Edition, visit: https://aka.ms/remote-learning-blog

Stay safe, wherever you are. We’ll get through this.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

New homepage, features, and more! – From the Myxer

We‚Äôre barely into 2020, and yet so much has happened in such a short time. We know many of you, like the Mixer team here in Redmond, are practicing ‚Äúsocial distancing,‚ÄĚ learning how to ‚Äúflatten the curve,‚ÄĚ and otherwise taking precautions amid the outbreak of COVID-19. We‚Äôre proud and heartened by the stories you‚Äôve shared and the ways we‚Äôve seen Mixer streamers and their communities using Mixer to stay in touch digitally and support each other during this challenging time. Thank you for continuing to make the Mixer community shine as a positive and welcoming place for new and existing members alike.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been hard at work behind the scenes on a set of new features and capabilities based on feedback we’ve heard from you. These are focused on improving discoverability, empowering communities of all sizes and making it easier to find your new favorite Mixer creators. We’re rolling them out starting today.

  • New Mixer homepage ‚Äď We‚Äôve refreshed the Mixer homepage across all platforms to give more focus to featured content as well as provide smart, AI-powered recommendations. The most immediate change you‚Äôll notice on your homepage is that we‚Äôre introducing a new layout that displays all featured creators at the same time.

    Below the ‚ÄúFeatured,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúTop Category,‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúPartner Spotlight‚ÄĚ sections, you‚Äôll also find brand new content rows. These rows will highlight and recommend streams from community events, cultural moments, and more tailored content as time goes on. The rows will be a mix of AI-powered personalized recommendations and editorially programmed content, ensuring you can discover and join even more communities across Mixer.

  • Auto-Hosting for everyone ‚Äď We‚Äôve spent the last month testing Auto-Hosting with Mixer Partners and now we‚Äôre excited to share it with every streamer. With this feature, you‚Äôll be able to create a list of specific streamers that you want to automatically host when you‚Äôre offline. We‚Äôve added a host of customization options as well.

    You’ll be able to set your Auto-Host list to host in a priority order or to pick at random. With showcase, you’ll be able to set custom Auto-Host time durations. This means Auto-Host could switch to a new streamer from your list every hour (you determine the time) instead of when that hosted streamer goes offline.

    You can access your Auto-Hosting setting in the Broadcast dashboard.

  • Higher-Quality Emotes ‚Äď This top community ask is no longer ‚ÄúSoon™‚ÄĚ, it‚Äôs finally here! Starting today, we‚Äôre enhancing all emotes to 28 pixels across all platforms, introducing new prefixing requirements and completely refreshing our global emotes. New global emotes will be visible today and all partner emotes will be updated over the next few weeks.
  • Ad Break (Beta) ‚Äď Our Mixer Partners have been testing advertising pre-roll for the last few months and now we‚Äôre expanding our advertising testing with an Ad-Break beta. With this, Partners can choose when they want to run ads during their stream. This was a request from the Mixer Partner community, and we‚Äôre excited to be testing it as part of the full package of monetization opportunities on Mixer.
  • Xbox Viewing Improvements ‚Äď We‚Äôre continuing to add more features to the new Mixer viewing experience on Xbox. This new experience is built from the ground up to get you to your favorite streamers as fast as possible. With the April Xbox One system update that‚Äôs in some Insider rings now, you‚Äôll see the additions of emotes and subscriber badging in chat.

    Ember messages will also get the flair they deserve to help them stand out. We’ve also made it easier to access stream settings for selecting chat layout or video quality. Outside of this latest Xbox One system update, we also expect to have Gift Subs available in the new experience in the coming weeks.

  • Partner Badging on Homepage ‚Äď To make it easier to find Mixer Partner channels, we‚Äôre adding the new badging to the homepage as well.

  • Notifications UX Improvements ‚Äď We‚Äôve added a new notification bell to the pages of channels you follow, so you have better control over which channels will trigger ‚Äúgo live‚ÄĚ notifications.

  • Clips Creation Improvements ‚Äď Clip creation is now available for more viewers of Mixer Partners and Verified channels in the Mixer app on iOS and Android. Clip creation on mobile respects the Rank, Subscriber, and Moderator permissions that the channel owner has set.

There’s much more coming, and we’re excited to share details soon. Going forward, we will be posting more frequent community updates on this blog. They’ll cover everything from events, to community news and features! Stay tuned for more updates and please keep sharing your feedback on Twitter with us at @WatchMixer.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Honeywell quantum computing system passes IBM out of the gate

Honeywell International Inc. jumped into the quantum computing race this week with a system that uses trapped ion technology.

The new Honeywell quantum computing system, which has a Quantum Volume of 64 , is double that of existing quantum systems from companies such as IBM and D-Wave Systems. The company expects to deliver the system in 90 days.

The company attributes the system’s 64 rating to its new quantum charge coupled device (QCCD) architecture, which will allow Honeywell to increase its Quantum Volume by an order of magnitude each year for the next five years.

“The performance metric the [quantum computing] community is agreeing on now is Quantum Volume,” said Tony Uttley, president of Honeywell’s quantum solutions group. “We have seen over time that it matters more how low an error rate your system has, not just how many physical qubits you have. The right question to ask is how many effective qubits do you have.”

Honeywell chose the trapped ion approach, which is similar to the approach startup IonQ employs in its quantum system, because it allows you to start with “a perfect qubit,” Uttley said.

“When you start with a perfect qubit in your system, any errors that then occur can be more easily traced back to things you put into the surrounding infrastructure,” Uttley said. “What Honeywell is good at is taking a systems engineering approach to complex system design, so we are aware of all the potential entry points of error.”

Some analysts believe the new QCCD architecture the system uses could give Honeywell at least a temporary lead in the game of performance leapfrog many quantum system makers find themselves in. But Honeywell will have to keep leaping if they hope to maintain that lead over time.

“They have to do some things beyond the [QCCD architecture] in order to achieve these huge Quantum Volume numbers they are talking about, like and integrating more capabilities at the chip level,” said Paul Smith-Goodson, analyst-in-residence for quantum computing at Moor Insights & Strategy. “But what they have right now looks pretty solid going forward.”

They have to do some things beyond the [QCCD architecture] in order to achieve these huge Quantum Volume numbers … but what they have right now looks pretty solid going forward.
Paul Smith-GoodsonAnalyst-in-residence for quantum computing, Moor Insights & Strategy

The technologies in the new Honeywell quantum computing system began development 10 years ago, according to Uttley. Some of those technologies are borrowed from its various control systems, a market the company has built a reputation in decades ago.

“As [quantum systems] get bigger and start to resemble process control plants, that plays to our core strength,” Uttley said. “Being able to control massively complex systems in a way that simplifies an operation you need to do is something we have a long history with.”

Another analyst agreed that Honeywell’s expertise in developing and manufacturing control systems gives them a technology advantage over quantum computing competitors that have never ventured into that business.

“Their experience in precision manufacturing and environmental controls should allow them to create a quantum system that blocks out more environmental noise which, in part, helps them achieve higher Quantum Volume,” said James Sanders, a cloud transformation analyst with 451 Research.

Along with the new system, Honeywell’s venture capital group, Honeywell Ventures, has made an investment in Cambridge Quantum Computing and Zapata Computing Inc., both producers of quantum software and quantum algorithms that will work jointly with Honeywell. Cambridge Quantum Computing focuses on a number of markets including chemistry, machine learning and augmented cybersecurity. Zapata’s algorithms focus on areas such as simulation of chemical reactions, machine learning and a range of optimization problems.

“We already work in vertical markets we believe will be profoundly impacted by quantum computing, like the aerospace, chemicals, and oil and gas industries,” Uttley said. “We already have domain experts in areas now that will focus on use cases applicable to quantum computing.”

The company is also partnering with JPMorgan Chase to develop quantum algorithms using Honeywell quantum computing. Last fall, Honeywell announced a partnership with Microsoft that will see the software giant provide cloud access to Honeywell’s quantum system through Microsoft Azure Quantum services.

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Small business analytics success hinges on resources, skills

The inability to harness the power of data and turn it into fuel for growth hampers the success of many SMBs.

Unlike large enterprises with massive budgets, SMBs are often unable to employ data scientists to build and maintain analytics operations and interpret data to make fully informed decisions. Instead of investing in small business analytics strategies, they rely on instinct and experience, neither of which is foolproof.

Onepath, an IT services provider based in Kennesaw, Ga., sought to quantify the struggles of the SMBs it serves. It surveyed more than 100 managers and executives of organizations ranging in size from 100 to 500 employees to gauge their experience with analytics, and on Thursday released a report entitled “Onepath 2020 Trends in SMB Data Analytics Report.”

Key discoveries included that despite dedicating time and money to analytics, 86% felt they weren’t able to fully harness the power of data, 59% believed analytic capabilities would help them go to market faster and 54% felt that they risked making poor business decisions without the benefits of data analysis.

Phil Moore, Onepath’s director of applications management services, spoke with SearchBusinessAnalytics about the report as well as the difficulties involved in small business analytics efforts.

In Part I of this two-part Q&A, he discussed the findings of the report in detail. Here he talks about the perils SMBs face if they don’t develop a data-driven decision-making process.

As the technology in business intelligence platforms gets better and better, will SMBs be able to improve data utilization as well as large enterprises?

Phil MoorePhil Moore

Phil Moore: The Fortune 500s of the world have deep pockets and can hire their army of IT guys and go after it, but the small and medium-sized businesses tend to have far less volume of data unless they are in the unique position where they are a high-data business. But the core [of the SMB market] is around legal, construction, health care, doctor’s offices, and their data doesn’t get to the volume of larger organizations. They’re just looking for the metrics that help them run their business more efficiently, help them service their clients.

If you go to the other bookend and see an Amazon, of course they’re on a grand scale in terms of the size of their business. And they’re using analytics all up and down throughout their business, whether it be shipping, fulfillment, robotics, managing their warehouses. The SMB market won’t have the same types of complexities that the big guys have. The market is different.

Are there SMBs who are able to harness the power of data?

The survey shows that 86% of the companies that are taking a swing at analytics — that have some solution — say they’re underachieving, and they could be getting more out of their data.
Phil MooreDirector of applications management services, Onepath

Moore: The survey shows that 86% of the companies that are taking a swing at analytics — that have some solution — say they’re underachieving, and they could be getting more out of their data. That leaves 14% that are delighted with what they’re getting. There are always leading guys, the cutting edge, the folks that are more technology-centric or that appreciate and understand the value of technology and how it can help the business. Those guys are going to lead the way.

What will happen to companies that don’t figure out a way to use data, and is there a timetable for when they need to get with it?

Moore: If you break down the SMB market into the different disciplines — health care, legal, construction — the folks that get and use analytics, their first benefit over their competitors is a better line of sight to their business. They’re going to be able to make crisper decisions, which lead to either faster delivery of something to the market or better customer service, which indirectly will lead to higher profits. Right away they get a competitive advantage over their competitors that aren’t using analytics, that are running their business by shooting from the hip — which is running it with their intuition and their knowledge and their experience. That knowledge and experience may get proven wrong with data, because the eye in the sky doesn’t lie. At some point, things get revealed in the data that lead to transforming business decisions.

For example, in the IT space, one of the transforming business decisions is how to go to market, changing from charging by the hour for every hour worked when a ticket is opened to offering a fixed-price, all-you-can-eat model. The data shows a fixed price will still be profitable if they optimize internal processes. So, IT companies are shifting, and the companies that are now going to market with a fixed-price, all-you-can-eat support model are crushing the guys that are still out there charging by the hour. The guys charging by the hour either have to transform or die. Those transformations that get driven by the data will happen in an industry-vertical way.

Is it critical small business analytics expenditures to be part of the budget right off the bat?

Moore: Yes, but the challenge we see is that they know they want to have analytics but they don’t know how to budget for it. Therefore, it becomes unaffordable. One of the things we’re trying to do is make it affordable so people can bridge the mental gap from wanting analytics but not being able to get it by offering a monthly, low-entry, very affordable template set of [key performance indicators], so once they see the value they know how to put a dollar figure on the value and then adjust their budget for the next year. If you go to a small business and tell them they need analytics and need to budget for it, they struggle with how much to budget. They put a line item in the budget but they don’t know what they’re getting, so it often winds up getting cut from the budget.

Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Live from BETT: What’s new in EDU‚ÄďFostering an accessible, inclusive classroom that works for all students | | Microsoft EDU

It‚Äôs Day 3 of¬†Bett, where we‚Äôve been bringing you updates and insights into how to use¬†the latest and most effective¬†ed tech tools and resources.‚ÄĮIt‚Äôs our¬†final day¬†live streaming from London. We¬†explored¬†how educators can help students develop communication, and collaboration skills while using free tools like Office 365 Education and Microsoft Teams in our Day 1 episode¬†here¬†and we shared how you can prepare students for jobs of the future in our Day 2 episode¬†here.‚ÄĮToday, we want to talk about how to use built-in accessible tools at no extra cost and the power of joining an innovative and caring community of like-minded innovators in education.

Today, we‚Äôll dive into¬†ways to provide students with¬†personalized¬†learning,¬†how to foster inclusion¬†to meet the needs of¬†all the¬†learners¬†in your classroom,¬†and the¬†power of¬†joining a global community¬†devoted to improving equity¬†in education.¬†At Microsoft,¬†we‚Äôre committed to providing you and your students with¬†built-in accessibility tools at no extra cost.‚ÄĮThese can improve¬†language,¬†literacy and numeracy skills and give students of all abilities independence and the opportunity to learn without stigma.¬†¬†

In this episode we will show you how:‚ÄĮ¬†

  • You can use available¬†Immersive Reader¬†features¬†in the¬†new Microsoft Edge‚ÄĮ¬†
  • You can now use¬†Office¬†365 Education¬†online for free, from anywhere,¬†with¬†built-in tools for‚ÄĮaccessibility‚ÄĮ¬†
  • You can promote student confidence and¬†capacity¬†to learn and improve independently with¬†powerful learning tools¬†

For starters, we want to share this inspiring story about Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the entire community is focused on creating equitable, inclusive and accessible learning environments. Check out this case study and video below to learn about how the district went about meeting the needs of all students and how administrators support teachers in accessing education technology in ways that advance teaching and learning goals. 

Video for Live from BETT: What‚Äôs new in EDU‚ÄďFostering an accessible, inclusive classroom that works for all students

The new‚ÄĮMicrosoft Edge‚Äď supporting inclusive learning¬†

The web¬†should¬†have¬†built-in flexibility and accessibility¬†to support you and every student in your classroom.‚ÄĮThe new‚ÄĮMicrosoft‚ÄĮEdge‚ÄĮweb browser¬†supports inclusive classrooms¬†with‚ÄĮbuilt-in‚ÄĮMicrosoft Learning Tools¬†and¬†helps‚ÄĮevery student learn and benefit from the web.¬†Immersive Reader¬†capabilities in Microsoft Edge help¬†students, particularly struggling readers,¬†stay engaged and promote reading skills.‚ÄĮWhile using Microsoft¬†Edge,‚ÄĮteachers‚ÄĮand students¬†can‚ÄĮuse Immersive Reader¬†to¬†change‚ÄĮtext‚ÄĮsize‚ÄĮto improve readability‚ÄĮand‚ÄĮhear‚ÄĮtext‚ÄĮread‚ÄĮaloud.¬†Additional‚ÄĮImmersive Reader‚ÄĮcapabilities‚ÄĮthat‚ÄĮallow users to customize their experience will come later this year.¬†

Learning Tools 

Today’s classrooms have students with diverse learning needs, and as teachers, we know you have a strong desire to effectively reach every one of your students. Microsoft Learning Tools enable teachers to provide differentiated support to all students in reading, writing, and math as well as communication. We have updates below! 

Reading 

Immersive Reader 

We’re thrilled that the Immersive Reader learning tool continues to come to more platforms. The full-screen reading experience improves the readability of content in many ways, including by enabling users to tailor text size, fonts, spacing, line focus, read-aloud capabilities and more.

Here’s some additional Immersive Reader news: 

  • Spotlight on The Young Women‚Äôs Leadership School of Astoria and Azure AI partner Buncee: We‚Äôre inspired by the way that schools like the Young Women‚Äôs Leadership School of Astoria (TYWLS) are using Immersive Reader to empower readers of all ages and reading abilities. Learn more about their story and how Azure AI is enabling partners to build accessible applications in our blog.

Video for Live from BETT: What‚Äôs new in EDU‚ÄďFostering an accessible, inclusive classroom that works for all students

  • Six new immersive Reader partners:¬†Today we are excited to highlight six new partners who are integrating the Immersive Reader:¬†Flocabulary,¬†Haldor,¬†Helperbird,¬†itsLearning,¬†Kidblog¬†and¬†Pear Deck.¬† These are the latest of six partners that have integrated the¬†Immersive Reader, which is an¬†Azure Cognitive Service.¬† To see the growing list of Immersive Reader partners, bookmark¬†this link.¬†
  • Office Lens for iOS¬†and Android¬†both now have the full Immersive Reader experience integrated with the latest updates for both iPhone and iPad. Office Lens on Android (all platforms) will be shipping a similar update in¬†spring. Office Lens is a free¬†mobile scanning app. It offers a great way to capture text from a document or elsewhere without manually having to retype it.¬†
  • Language updates:¬†Parts of speech in Immersive Reader allows students to label nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. We‚Äôve rolled out parts of speech¬†for Arabic.¬†We‚Äôve also added the ability to translate to and from the Maori and Gaelic¬†languages¬†in the Immersive Reader. These will also be available in Live Presentations in PowerPoint for the Web.¬†
  • Immersive Reader for Microsoft Forms‚ÄĮis¬†now¬†available¬†globally for students and educators, so they can leverage Immersive Reader tools as they create or take a quiz.‚ÄĮ¬†

Writing 

Dictation¬†(speech to text) is an important technology that allows people to easily type with their voice. It is especially helpful for those with dyslexia, dysgraphia or mobility impairments.‚ÄĮIn addition to about a dozen¬†languages¬†already available, we‚ÄĮare¬†rolling‚ÄĮout Dictation support‚ÄĮin public preview‚ÄĮfor‚ÄĮfive¬†new languages:¬†Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.‚ÄĮThese languages will start rolling out in Word, OneNote, Outlook and PowerPoint Desktop and web¬†in late January.‚ÄĮ¬†¬†

Math 

Equation Tools in OneNote for Windows 10  

We’re thrilled to let you know that we’re starting to roll out Equation Tools in OneNote for Windows 10. Equation Tools allows students to input and make changes to math equations more easily than by typing those in with a keyboard. To get started, all you do is press the Equation button in the ribbon Insert tab in OneNote on your Windows 10 device and choose from a range of structures and math symbols to build up equations.  

We believe an inclusive math class is one where students have a variety of methods for inputting equations because we know different learners have different styles and needs, and we’re so glad to add this resource to the classroom toolbox!  

Math Assistant in OneNote for iPad 

We‚Äôre excited to announce we‚Äôre bringing Math Assistant in OneNote to iPad users this spring. We heard you say you wanted Math Assistant on this platform, and we worked hard to make it happen. It‚Äôs easy to use‚Äďall you do¬†to get started is log into your Office 365 Education account in OneNote on your iPad and press the Math button on the¬†ribbon¬†Draw tab.¬†

You’ll be able to use the tool to help you solve equations and see solution steps to help build student understanding. Look out for additional updates to the app, such as the ability to graph equations and generate practice quizzes, which is popular on other platforms, after Bett and ahead of back-to-school season.  

For more on inclusive math tools, check out this interactive guide.  

Windows graphing calculator for Windows 10 

We’re excited to announce that Windows Calculator is getting a new feature: graphing mode. We’re adding this feature to every Windows 10 and 10S PC for students and teachers to help with instruction related to graphing concepts. Educators and students will be able to use this free tool right from their devices, without having to buy an expensive graphing calculator. It will help users plot and analyze multiple equations and manipulate equation variables to help understand how changes to equations affect graphs. 

The graphing mode in Windows Calculator is available now through our Microsoft Insider program and will be refined and released for a general audience before back-to-school season.  

We’re excited to make this feature available to Windows 10 users, offering a built-in, easy-to-use tool that can help create a more inclusive learning environment. Many of you have asked if educators can disable the feature if they need to, for assessments for example, and the answer is yes. It’s yours to use with your students, as that makes sense. 

We welcome your feedback. We’ve open sourced the Windows Calculator app on GitHub, which means those of you who are computer science educators, or have some background knowledge, can study the source code, build system, unit tests and product roadmap and offer new ideas for improvements. We always enjoy seeing educators, and sometimes their students, get involved in this kind of collaboration. If you see a feature that is missing, build it yourself and add it to the graphing calculator! You can read more here. 

Communication‚ÄĮ¬†

OneNote‚ÄĮLive Captions.¬†As we noted in our Bett kickoff post, a¬†recent study at the‚ÄĮUniversity of South Florida St. Petersburg¬†(USFSP),‚ÄĮfound that 42 percent‚ÄĮof students use closed captions to help maintain focus and‚ÄĮ38 percent‚ÄĮuse interactive transcripts to help them better retain information.‚ÄĮIn addition, student outcomes improve with the use of transcripts.‚ÄĮThis month, we are rolling out a private‚ÄĮpreview‚ÄĮof OneNote that allows any student to connect OneNote to a Microsoft Translator captions‚ÄĮvia a‚ÄĮJoin Code‚ÄĮand‚ÄĮreceive the captions and‚ÄĮtranslation stream.‚ÄĮ¬†

This allows captions‚ÄĮfrom the educator speaking‚ÄĮto‚ÄĮflow directly‚ÄĮinto OneNote‚ÄĮfor reading, while still allowing the student to take notes.‚ÄĮIn addition, the student can pause the captions, highlight portions, and then have the entire transcription saved as a page into OneNote.‚ÄĮThis‚ÄĮfeature will benefit all learners but especially those who may be hard of hearing or speak multiple languages.¬†We‚Äôll start by rolling out¬†OneNote Live Captions¬†in¬†private Beta in early February¬†with more general availability to follow.‚ÄĮ¬†

Empower Every Voice with Flipgrid: Microsoft’s free video discussion platform!

NEW! Edit captions, launch the Immersive Reader on video transcripts, and more.¬†Flipgrid enables you to empower¬†every voice in your classroom by recording and sharing¬†short, awesome videos ‚Ķ together!¬†Since last year, Flipgrid revolutionized the camera, adding trimming and rearranging clips, whiteboard mode, live inking, and more. Furthermore, every video is now automatically transcribed and close-captioned by Microsoft Azure. Take engagement to the next level by ‚Äústicking‚ÄĚ videos ANYWHERE with¬†the transformative Flipgrid AR.¬†Inspired by your feedback and ideas, the Flipgrid team is¬†constantly innovating¬†and improving for you, your community, and your peers from 190 countries around the world.

Wrapping it up 

Thanks for checking out our latest episode of What’s New in EDU, live from Bett 2020 and those we brought you earlier in the week. We’ve enjoyed meeting so many innovative and passionate educators here in London. And we hope you found the information we brought you to be helpful. Please check out our new tech tools, free teacher training resources, STEM and computer science materials and advice on boosting future-ready skills in your students. As always, share your feedback with us on Twitter by tagging @MicrosoftEDU! 

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Ex-SAP exec steers Episerver CMS toward digital experience market

NEW YORK — The Episerver CMS is morphing into a digital experience platform, led by CEO Alex Atzberger, the former SAP C/4HANA customer experience platform lead. He departed SAP in October and joined Episerver last month.

We sat down with Atzberger at NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show to discuss recent Episerver acquisitions such as Insite Software, future acquisitions, how digital experience and customer experience differ, why he left SAP and his vision for Episerver’s acquisition and product roadmap.

How did you end up at Episerver? Things happened kind of fast after you left SAP.

Alex Atzberger: It happened very fast. When I desired to leave SAP, I looked for a cloud company with triple-digit [hundreds of millions of dollars in] cloud revenue. I was looking for something in CX, the most exciting and fastest-growing part of enterprise software. And I was looking for something that had the right strategic mindset.

[Episerver] had been acquired by Insight Partners, which had put money into the business, so they’re at an inflection point. They are the leader in what is still king, which is content. Even if you look at commerce-centric businesses, content matters a lot. And how do you marry content and commerce together? There are very few companies that have both of those embedded, and Epi is one of them. It worked out well, and the timing was perfect, very fast.

You’ve only been at Episerver for a month, but how would you describe your vision for the company and the product roadmap moving forward?

There are a couple of trends that continue to be very important: One, understanding everything about your customer, and two, serving up the next best action.
Alex AtzbergerCEO, Episerver

Atzberger: We have an untold story. People are really, really happy with this technology. One big part of the strategy, going forward, is expansion in North America, and telling the story of Epi.

Because of the size of the U.S. market, we have to decide on which specific verticals to focus on. There’s a large part of the economy that is not digital, that is somehow forgotten. These companies will not work with [platform vendors] that are too large; they need [vendors] that are large enough to serve, but small enough to care about the results. … Ultimately commerce and content are the face of so many brands, the heart of your business. … We’re going to focus on that market, and bringing automation to content, using AI and automation to scale [digital operations].

Do you feel like you’re competing with your old company SAP, since Episerver CMS is now on its way to being a full-featured digital experience platform with content and commerce clouds?

Atzberger: When I built the SAP CX platform, we built it under the notion of connecting supply chain and demand chain. It was really a relevant message for very large companies that were looking at one platform. Epi is much more focused on the digital experience, truly understanding the digital customer, and doing it in such a way that companies between, say, a million and a billion, are the sweet spot. It’s 80% or 90% whole different [market].

What happened at SAP? Bill McDermott left [in October], and you weren’t far behind. It was all very quick.

Atzberger: If you look at the big picture, it was 15 years [at SAP]. We all want to be CEO of a company. At one point it becomes harder, and you basically end up being part of a company for life.

There’s too much innovation going on, too much excitement going on that I wanted to be part of as well. Ariba and CX are a massive part of SAP. I’m very proud of that and I’m proud of what SAP has done as a company. With the CEO change it was a natural point [to depart].

How do your past experiences at SAP and SAP Ariba color what you’ll be doing at Episerver?

Atzberger: Those involved transformation, and I think it’s going to be a bit of the same here, rallying people around a common cause and a common brand.

The acquisition of B2B e-commerce company Insite Software, which caters to manufacturers and distributors, happened within days after you joined Epi. The deal probably was in the works before you started, right? Did you have final sign-off on the acquisition, or was the deal finished before?

Atzberger: Yes, it was in the works. The strategic direction was important in speaking about it with [Epi’s private equity owners] Insight Partners. There’s a huge B2B commerce opportunity.

When the acquisitions of Insite and [product content tagging automation technology] Idio were discussed with me, not only was I supportive of them but also it attracted me to Episerver as a company. The acquisitions made it so much more compelling to be at this place, at this time. I went to Minneapolis and met [Insite Software CEO] Steve Shaffer, and saw how well they executed against their goals. It left me inspired. I left Minneapolis thinking, ‘This is part of the future of Epi.’

What can you tell me about how you’re thinking about future acquisitions? You’re growing, you’re flush with cash. You can’t be done. What’s next?

Atzberger: We’re not done. Our focus now is the integration of Idio and Insite. What’s interesting to me is that there are a couple of trends that continue to be very important: One, understanding everything about your customer, and two, serving up the next best action. Everything that we do in the foreseeable future will be focused on the digital experience, and helping our customers get better and more informed data about their customers so they can make better decisions.

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For Sale – 27‚ÄĚ mid 2011 iMac i7 / 16gb For spares its repair

I was using it, then it stopped. I spoke to Apple Support and the booked me into Cambridge Store Genius. They ran a diagnostic and it passed all their tests and he suspected that it was a hard drive fail. It is classed as vintage and he says Apple would not repair it. I have already replaced with a new one so want this one gone. The guy in Apple removes the hard drive for me and that us not included. As for condition I can see no marks but he warned me that there may now be dust between glass and screen. Can take pictures if needed. It is boxed and comes with mouse only.

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Microsoft Teams to add smartphone walkie-talkie feature

Workers will soon be able to turn their smartphones into a walkie-talkie using Microsoft Teams. The feature is one of several Microsoft unveiled this week targeting so-called frontline workers, such as retail associates, nurses, housekeepers and plumbers.

The walkie-talkie feature will let groups of employees speak to each other by pressing a button in the Teams mobile app. The audio will travel over Wi-Fi and cellular networks, meaning users will be able to communicate with colleagues anywhere in the world. The feature will be available in private preview in the first half of 2020.

Many retailers, hospitals, airlines and hotels still rely on physical walkie-talkie devices. In recent years, startups like Orion Labs and legacy vendors like Motorola Solutions have begun selling smartphone walkie-talkie apps. Those mobile apps come with benefits like location tracking and integration with other business technologies.

Microsoft’s smartphone walkie-talkie feature is not innovative. But if it works well, the capability could help Microsoft boost adoption of Teams among workers who otherwise wouldn’t use the app. Microsoft has made targeting frontline workers a priority since late 2018.

In addition to the walkie-talkie app, Microsoft said Thursday it would add to Teams a task feature for creating and assigning small projects to employees. The system will give businesses a dashboard to track tasks in real time across multiple departments or store locations. It will launch in the first half of 2020.

Microsoft will also expand the scheduling capabilities of Teams by integrating the app with popular workforce management platforms by Kronos and JDA Software. Those integrations will let businesses keep existing scheduling software in place while giving workers the ability to swap shifts and request time off through Teams.

Microsoft is not the only collaboration vendor targeting frontline workers, said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan. But Microsoft has a leg up on competitors because it can offer businesses so many complementary cloud services. Those include the customer relationship manager Dynamics 365 as well as e-commerce and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms within Microsoft Azure.

New identity and access features for Microsoft Teams

Additional features targeting frontline workers include SMS sign-in, off-shift access controls and shared-device sign-out. These features will roll out between now and the middle of the year. 

Workers will soon be able to sign into their Azure Active Directory account (which controls access to Teams) using only a mobile phone number. IT admins will decide which groups of employees use the method.

IT admins will also be able to prevent frontline workers from accessing Teams when they are not on the clock. Temporarily blocking access will help businesses comply with labor laws.

Finally, for Android, Microsoft will add an “end shift” button to shared mobile devices and tablets that will clear app logins and browser sessions. Purging that data will prevent employees from accessing information they shouldn’t. ¬†

Collectively, the latest features show that Microsoft wants to take Teams beyond the 30% of corporate employees who work in offices, Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, said. “I think Microsoft is aggressively trying to expand the reach of Teams.”

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Customer experience world catches up on CCPA regulations

The California Consumer Privacy Act went into effect Jan. 1 but will not be enforced until July 1. Those in the customer experience realms of sales, marketing, e-commerce and customer service who’ve already created GDPR compliance plans are a good chunk of the way to CCPA compliance, experts say.

CX teams who work for companies outside California may view CCPA compliance as a lower priority than GDPR, because it only represents one U.S. state. That is the case for a majority of clients of Blue Fountain Media, a New York-based digital agency specializing in marketing, e-commerce and overall customer experience, said general manager Brian Byer.

“This particular law isn’t going to be what drives the behavior across the entire United States,” Byer said. “Being a New Yorker, California is looked upon as being a little quirky, and once this becomes a federal mandate you will see a massive consumer effect. As of today, until somebody gets a massive fine, it’s going to be something consumers aren’t as cognizant of as, say, HIPAA compliance if they’re going to the doctor every week.”

Nationally, consumer data protection proposals are under consideration in Washington and Oregon as well, prompting some companies such as Microsoft to make CCPA compliance its national standard as it prepares for users to scrutinize cloud companies’ data-privacy practices as a patchwork of state laws may eventually lead to a national umbrella regulation.

CCPA regulations chart
CCPA regulations touch numerous teams involved with customer experience.

Differences, similarities to GDPR

For CX teams, protecting customer privacy under CCPA is similar to the European GDPR law, which took effect in 2018, in that a core principle involves consumers’ “right to be forgotten,” or requiring a company to delete their personal data.

The differences between the two laws are borne of the different mindsets of the European and California legal systems, said IDC legal analyst Ryan O’Leary. CCPA makes an exception for customer loyalty programs, which are not covered under the law, while the GDPR doesn’t. CCPA also puts more responsibility on consumers to opt out of their data use for commercial purposes, rather than the company that holds the data.

Another difference with CCPA is that it gives consumers separate control over sale of their consumer data, the extent of which will remain somewhat “up in the air” until regulators decide what will and won’t be enforced, O’Leary added. But California consumers, in effect, can tell a company to hold on to their data, but not to sell it.

If you’re not selling the data, but third parties you’re working with are leveraging your consumer data and going ahead and selling it, you could be held liable.
Ryan O’LearyAnalyst, IDC

“Businesses have to provide a clearly visible and worded opt-out link on their websites [for data sales],” O’Leary said, adding that cloud software platforms add more legal questions about who is responsible for data-selling violations — which can add up quickly, with fines of $7,500 per violation — for selling a consumer’s data after consumers have opted out. “If you’re not selling the data, but third parties you’re working with are leveraging your consumer data and going ahead and selling it, you could be held liable.”

That said, O’Leary added that he sees companies trying to limit the number of opt-outs — and therefore, the compliance load — by making it harder to do. Those can include benign “are you sure?” boxes, more onerous web forms, or even requiring consumers to call a contact center to opt out over the phone. It’s all legal, fitting in with CCPA’s mandate requiring companies to offer consumers two modes of contact for consumers to opt out of personal data retention.

What companies CCPA covers

Despite the fear of potential CCPA fines that could intimidate digital marketing and call center teams for mishandling consumer information, not every company is affected by the regulation. First, a company has to do business with Californians. Second, the law covers only companies that either do $25 million in gross revenue, receive personal information from at least 50,000 consumer or derive at least 50% of annual revenue from selling consumers’ personal information.

Some nonprofits may be excluded, according to Jackson Lewis attorneys Joseph Lazzarotti and Jason Gavejian in their analysis of the law, which also includes which data points that the law considers personal information, such as biometric data, education records and even “audio, electronic, visual, thermal, olfactory or similar information.”

For CX teams using cloud platform technology platforms, complying with CCPA and other potential consumer data-protection laws coming down the pike involves unifying consumer data and breaking down data silos — something they’re been working on already for business purposes, said IDC’s O’Leary.

“The first step in complying with these types of laws is to clean up your house and information governance practices,” O’Leary said. “We really need to stop thinking and working in silos. We need to start data mapping. There’s plenty of tools and consultants out there to help. ‚Ķ It will cost, but [consumer trust] is worth any cost to get a handle on your data, where it is and who has it.”

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