Spotify so far has been content to partner far and wide on hardware, via its Spotify Connect platform, which allows anyone building a connected speaker, mobile device or piece of AV equipment to turn their gadget into a Spotify speaker. But a new job listing suggests it will soon build hardware of its own, and it’s looking for people to help make that happen.
The job listing, spotted by The Guardian, seeks an ops manager for “hardware product,” and the first line of the description says outright that “Spotify is on its way to creating its first physical products,” though it doesn’t go into detail bout what those products might be. Chances are good that these will be smart, connected speakers of some kind, however, since it seems like a logical first step into the hardware world for software-focused Spotify.
A dedicated Spotify smart speaker could be a very good thing, especially if it integrates some kind of assistant tech, and could help the streaming leader translate its software success into an ecosystem of products with a bit more range in terms of diversifying their business. The question would be what Spotify could offer that devices from existing partners cannot, and whether Spotify would continue its strategy of embracing such an open ecosystem of hardware partners if it’s also making its own.
Another possibility is that Spotify explore dedicated streaming devices (a low-cost, Spotify-specific iPod-type media player seems like an idea with legs, for instance). But based on this listing, it seems like it’s still early days for any gadget strategy from the streaming music provider.
If you use a PC, then you know that transferring files between your phone and your computer can be a huge pain. Well, Microsoft finally has a solution.
A new app called Photos Companion lets you move photos between your phone and PC using a wireless connection. Think of it as a bit like Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s AirDrop, except it works with both iOS and Android devices.
Get started by scanning a QR code from the Photos app in Windows 10 — this links your phone and PC, provided they are both connected to the same Wi-Fi network. After you scan the code, you’ll be able to transfer your photos to your computer.
A project from Microsoft’s Garage, the company says it designed the service with students in mind, since it’s common for groups of students to begin projects on mobile devices and finish them on a shared classroom computer.
But the app also helps solve what has long been one of Windows’ biggest pain points: It’s just not that easy to move photos from your phone onto your computer. The new app is still not quite as seamless as AirDrop, but considering it works with iPhones and Android devices, it’s far simpler than most other solutions.
February 17, 2018 / Comments Off on Download this: Microsoft’s new app makes photo transfers much easier
Over the last few years, Microsoft has launched a number of programs for startups that range from free BizSpark credits for Azure and Microsoft’s developer and productivity tools, to Microsoft Ventures and the Microsoft Accelerator programs around the world. These different programs never quite told a cohesive story about Microsoft’s commitment to startups, though. Now, however, the company is launching Microsoft for Startups, a program that aims to bring technology and marketing expertise to startups and that — maybe most importantly — includes a co-selling program that allows startups to piggyback on Microsoft’s existing sales force.
In addition, Microsoft is tweaking some of its existing programs to better support the startups in its ecosystem.
In total, Microsoft is committing $500 million over the course of the next two years to run joint sales engagements and offer to startups access to technology and community spaces.
But let’s get the bad news out of the way first: The number of credits for startups in the BizSpark and BizSpark Plus program will go down (though not for startups currently enrolled in these programs). Microsoft argues that this isn’t a big deal, though, and that its free offerings are still competitive with those of its rivals.
Charlotte Yarkoni, Microsoft’s corporate VP of growth and ecosystem, told me that she spent quite a bit of time with startups in and outside of the Microsoft ecosystem after she took this new role about a year ago. What she heard wasn’t that startups wanted more free credits — instead, they wanted more help from Microsoft to bring their products to market.
At the same time, Microsoft was also looking for ways to differentiate its startup programs from those of its competitors. “We started building around this concept of helping to broaden the reach for startups and go beyond the typical cloud credits to how we build a different program,” said Yarkoni. “How can we evolve our accelerator program and pull that forward and also think through how we can build more of a campus and neighborhood feel.”
The result of this is Microsoft for Startups, which includes a number of different components. The first is an expansion of the Microsoft Reactors project. These are physical spaces where entrepreneurs, developers, investors and others can meet and where Microsoft hosts a number of different social events and classes. Microsoft currently operates these in Redman, Seattle, San Francisco and New York. It’s now looking to open new ones in London, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Berlin, Shanghai and Beijing, and Yarkoni tells me that it may move its existing Reactors to larger spaces as their leases come up.
Microsoft Ventures, the company’s vehicle for investing in startups at the Series A to D stage, won’t see any major changes. “Ventures continues to expand and is run by a team that is very focused on our near-, mid- and long-term horizon needs,” Yarkoni said. “That program continues on as it is.”
The largest change will come to the Microsoft Accelerators program. This program is now called Microsoft ScaleUp, and for those startups that qualify for it, this program will now include the option of co-marketing and co-selling through Microsoft’s sales force.
“We tried to build a way to plug our startups into our sales engine,” Yarkoni said. Startups will get all the usual accelerator benefits, including access to Microsoft’s technology and expertise, but in addition, Microsoft is training and incentivizing its own sellers to sell these startups’ tools to its customers. These startups do need to be ready for this, of course, and for the most part, we are talking about B2B startups here that target the enterprise market.
One of the first companies in this program, which Microsoft has been quietly testing for a few months now, is the marketing intelligence platform Affinio. Affinio CEO Tim Burke, whose company went through the Microsoft Accelerator program in Seattle in 2016, told me that Microsoft is not just giving his company a clear playbook to follow, but also providing help with creating collateral like content, case studies and video content. He also stressed that Microsoft didn’t just give him a checklist to follow but that he had plenty of check-ins and meetings with Microsoft to push this ahead. “The unique thing with this is that Microsoft has this down to a science — all the way down to the playbook,” Burke said. He also stressed that he has seen a shift in how Microsoft approaches startups. “You can see and feel the shift,” he told me. “It’s amazing how the organization as a whole has bought in. Everybody knows the goal and direction.”
Affinio, which mostly targets larger enterprises, has already made a sale through this program, with 20 more in the pipeline. The plan is to push more than 100 sales opportunities into this system by the end of the quarter.
This is obviously exactly the success story that Yarkoni is talking about. It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t Microsoft’s first foray into cross-selling third-party products. It also recently launched a somewhat similar program for ISVs, and it’s taking its lessons from this to Microsoft for Startups.
Just as important as this new project, though, is the overall revamp of Microsoft’s startup programs. Instead of the somewhat scattershot approach it adopted a few years ago, it looks like Yarkoni plans to make this program into a more cohesive project that gives startups more incentives to work with Microsoft (and potentially Azure, Teams, Visual Studio and its other tools) at an early stage.
For the longest time, startups have also been somewhat wary of working with Microsoft, which wasn’t always known as being the easiest company to work with. At the same time, competitors like Google have been expanding their work with startups through similar accelerator programs. A bit of competition here is surely going to help founders in the long run.
February 14, 2018 / Comments Off on Microsoft revamps its startup programs with $500M commitment and new co-selling program
People like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the game where you basically re-enact a version of Battle Royale with you as one of the contestants in the human survival game. It had huge success in alpha prior to its full launch on PC, and now we know that console gamers also love the heck out of it – despite reports of buggy experiences with the Xbox One version.
Bugs aside, Xbox One’s PUBG player community now exceeds four million people. That’s a really big number, especially considering that PUBG for Xbox One only came out last month, and that the total number of console sales to date for the Xbox One is somewhere around 30 million based on current estimates.
If you read this because you don’t know what the heck ‘PUBG’ is, then now is the time to find out: Microsoft just pushed an update for the game with a bunch of bug fixes and content additions, and it’s giving people who buy the game before the end of this month bonus in-game credits to dress up your character.
January 25, 2018 / Comments Off on PUBG takes the Chicken Dinner with 4 million players on Xbox alone
On Monday, the world’s largest strip club — Sapphire Gentleman’s Club — became something else: The most subversive art show in Las Vegas.
All week, in Vegas, the Consumer Electronics Show takes over the city. CES is the biggest tech trade show of the year — a veritable debutante ball for electronics brands, and whatever they’re rolling out to the public (and the press) that year. And yet, this massive mecca of stripping located just off the Las Vegas Strip had somehow become the site of one of the most widely–covered events at this year’s CES:
Two pole-dancing robots.
So, of course, we had to go check it out.
When we showed up at Sapphire, we couldn’t hide our extreme disappointment. The robot strippers had been banished to the long, dimly lit entryway of the club — not, say, the main stage (as we’d been promised over the phone). We’d been duped. And yet, there was a silver lining around our weird adventure to Sammy Davis Jr. Drive — where Sapphire can be found, a road that runs just parallel to (and right in the shadow of) the massive casinos that light the Vegas sky.
At face-value, the robot strippers weren’t much more than a great way to demonstrate how the long tradition of chauvinism at CES isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon (to say nothing of the way that CES initially didn’t feature any women in its keynote speakers lineup this year, until heavy backlash prompted a turnaround).
But that also goes without pointing out a crucial detail about these sexless, gyrating androids.
The robots were originally created by British artist Giles Walker for a project called Peepshow, as a commentary on the increasing reach of the surveillance state, and to challenge notions about the voyeurism of government-controlled security cameras. The artist explained that he created them as a response to “mechanical Peeping Toms,” or CCTVs, being placed around Britain back in 2010 when the robots were constructed.
And yeah, sure: They were robot strippers. They looked ridiculous. Like something out of a Disney World Tomorrowland ride gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Two robots with cameras for heads, gyrating on stripper poles, as one of the most covered spectacles at CES? There’s poetry to that.
But they also represented the harshest critique of CES yet — one sharper than any blog post, fire tweet, or scorching hot take could mount. They call into question the increasingly invasive, perverse reach technology (and its corporate architects) keep taking in our lives.
It’s been one of the few moments of CES that’s not fawning news coverage by wormy journalists taking selfies with interview subjects (and the products those subjects have made). Even though the artwork was inspired by the British surveillance state, it’s a pretty convenient criticism of the increasingly invasive nature of corporate tech.
Large corporations regularly abuse users’ trust. When we use our favorite gadgets and services, the companies that make them are surveilling our every move, collecting data. Whether you realize it or not, someone is always watching you — and potentially eavesdropping. And two robots with cameras for heads, gyrating on stripper poles, as one of the most covered spectacles at CES? There’s poetry to that.
Because if people remember CES 2018 for anything that distinguishes it from the conventions of years past, it’ll be for the way big companies got bigger, as they went around announcing partnerships, almost as if on trend.
These partnerships, of course, are designed to only further the increasing reach and scope of multinational conglomerates. They want more — more of your money, more of your data, more influence on your daily life, and the way you go about it.
And if artificial intelligence is, as this year’s CES would have you believe, the not-at-all-far-off future, it means that Google and Amazon and Apple are gonna try to put AI in literally everything, everywhere: Your car, your home, your office, your kitchen, your bathroom, and your bedroom.
If CES is a celebration of the year’s biggest technology trends, consider the counterculture at Sapphire. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But it still gives us a reason to remind ourselves (and you) that tech companies are coming for your data, and will begin logging your daily behavior in a way that never seemed imaginable just a few years ago. And they’re doing a great job at distracting you as they do it.
Google, Amazon, Samsung, Microsoft, Intel, and so many others are vying to create elaborate profiles of your preferences, habits, and real-world behaviors to sell you more things. While we embrace so many of these new advancements — willingly, or latently, out of convenience — it’s important to remember that companies are logging everything: your searches, locations, online browsing patterns, and much more. Including your fantasies.
The future is here, and it’s always watching. Keep your eyes up here.
January 10, 2018 / Comments Off on The pole-dancing robots of CES 2018: An eyewitness report