All posts by Roland Moore-Colyer

Salesforce will buy Tableau Software for $15.3bn to augment its analytics

Roland Moore-Colyer

10 Jun, 2019

Salesforce is set to buy data visualisation company Tableau Software for $15.3 billion (£12 billion), as the cloud-centric CRM company looks to boost its analytics capabilities.

The acquisition will be an all-stock deal for Salesforce and is set to be the company’s largest to date. It also plays into Salesforce’s healthy appetite for purchasing companies that can complement its main cloud services; the company has purchased 60 other firms in just 20 years.

While Salesforce already has its own data analytics service in the form of Salesforce Einstein, once the acquisition is complete Tableau’s analytics software is set to augment and expand the CRM platform’s scope for delivering analytics and data visualisation.

“Tableau helps people see and understand data, and Salesforce helps people engage and understand customers. It’s truly the best of both worlds for our customers–bringing together two critical platforms that every customer needs to understand their world,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce. “I’m thrilled to welcome Adam [Selipsky, president and CEO of Tableau ] and his team to Salesforce.”

Keith Block, co-CEO at Salesforce added: “Data is the foundation of every digital transformation, and the addition of Tableau will accelerate our ability to deliver customer success by enabling a truly unified and powerful view across all of a customer’s data.”

Selipsky said that by joining Salesforce, Tableau will be able to “help people everywhere see and understand data”.

How exactly Salesforce will work Tableau into augmenting analytics services remains to be seen, as Tableau will still operate independently of the Salesforce band and remain in its Seattle headquarters with Selipsky at its helm.

But it will mean Salesforce is set to gain access to Tableau’s customer base, numbering some 86,000 organisations worldwide, which include Netflix, Schneider Electric, and Verizon.

The acquisition of Tableau is slated to be completed by the close of Salesforce’s third fiscal quarter of its current financial year, which ends 31 October.

Microsoft and Sony partner on cloud-based gaming and tech development

Roland Moore-Colyer

17 May, 2019

Despite being rivals in the gaming world, Microsoft and Sony have entered into a partnership to work on cloud technology to support game streaming and AI services.

Both companies have signed a memorandum of understanding which will see them jointly work on future cloud services based on Microsoft's Azure infrastructure that will support more "enhanced entertainment experiences", notably centred on streaming content and games.

The partnership is an odd one at first glance, given Microsoft's Xbox division is a direct rival to Sony's PlayStation business. Sony also has an existing game streaming service, PlayStation Now, and Microsoft is poised to launch its own offering with xCloud.

At a base level, Sony could boost its PlayStation Now service with the reach and power of the Azure cloud, while Microsoft could gain another major customer on its world-spanning infrastructure.

But the partnership looks to be more about exploring and developing cloud technologies with Microsoft noting that it will involve "building better development platforms for the content creator community".

Sony's chief executive, Kenichiro Yoshida, acknowledged the rivalry between the two companies, but painted the partnership as one that will be more focused on the exploration and creation of new technologies.

"For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas. I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content," said Yoshida. "Additionally, I hope that in the areas of semiconductors and AI, leveraging each company’s cutting-edge technology in a mutually complementary way will lead to the creation of new value for society."

Speaking of semiconductors and AI, the partnership will see the joint development to new intelligent image sensor technology, tapping into Sony's work on image sensors for cameras combined with Microsoft's Azure-based AI technology.

This proposed work will not only involve Microsoft and Sony creating semiconductors and services that can be incorporated into their own products and services, notably cloud and edge computing systems, but will also be aimed at producing products for enterprises to use.

Furthermore, the joint venture will also explore how Microsoft's AI platform and tools can be integrated into Sony's consumer products to create "highly intuitive and user-friendly AI experiences".

By working together both companies could improve their overall gaming, cloud-based service, and smart tech portfolios. And while details of how exactly this will work are vague, it could see the development of new technologies that have an immediate benefit to both companies' consumer customers and yield benefits for their enterprise customers later on down the line.

Intel’s data centre business struggles but 10nm server chips are coming sooner than later

Roland Moore-Colyer

26 Apr, 2019

Despite being a leader in the server chip market, Intel’s revenue from its data-centric business has dropped by 5%, according to the company’s 2019 first quarter financial results.

While the chip maker reported a 5% hike in cloud revenues in its Data Centre Group, revenues for the arm dropped by 6%. What’s more, overall revenue from its data-related businesses raked in $4.9 billion, which is down from $5.2 billion in the same quarter for 2018.

One of the areas contributing to this decline was the 4% drop in average selling prices and the 8% drop in the volume of units Intel shifted for its data centre platform, which is a continuation of the rather sharp slowdown Intel’s server equipment sales encountered last year. Historically, this has been a booming business for the chip maker.

Yet, while Intel’s data-centric business isn’t as healthy as it would like, revenue from selling desktop and laptop processors rose by 4% to generate $8.6 billion for the company. This rise came in spite of static PC shipments and problems Intel encountered around chip shortages.

Intel’s chief executive Robert Swan also noted that next-generation laptop processors built on the 10nm process node – thereby increasing the number of transistors in a processor to improve power and efficiency – will arrive this year.

“Our confidence in 10nm is also improving,” Swan said in an earnings call transcribed by Seeking Alpha. “In addition to the manufacturing velocity improvement I described earlier, we expect to qualify our first volume 10nm product, Ice Lake, this quarter and are increasing our 10nm volume goals for the year.”

This next-generation of processor could help keep Intel’s PC-centric business ticking along. Swan noted 10-nanometre chips will be rapidly brought from the PC business and into Intel’s data centre chips.

“Historically there has been a 12-18 month gap between client chips and servers. On 10nm that will be much shorter, all we’ll say is it will be a fast follow, some time in 2020, and earlier rather than later,” Swan added.

With a decline in demand from data centre customers and the investment Intel is making into getting its 10nm fabrication ready for the production of chips at volume, the company has reduced its earnings forecast for the full 2019 fiscal year to $69.0 billion from a previously estimated $71.05 billion.

Nevertheless, the determined push to 10nm chips in both the PC and data centre space world could see Intel continue to do well in the PC market while also giving its data-centric business a shot in the arm come some point in the future, most likely 2020.

Microsoft rakes in $30.1bn thanks to strong cloud growth yet again

Roland Moore-Colyer

20 Jul, 2018

Microsoft has reported strong revenue results in its 2018 fourth quarter financial results, unsurprisingly thanks to growing its cloud sales.

The Redmond company raked in $30.1 billion in total revenue for the quarter, a 17% increase over the same quarter 12 months earlier, with the company netting more than $8 billion in profit.

A large part of that revenue hike was driven by the 23% growth Microsoft’s cloud business enjoyed, bringing in $9.6 billion for the company.

“Our early investments in the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge are paying off, and we will continue to expand our reach in large and growing markets with differentiated innovation,” said Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.

Redmond boasted customers such as Marks & Spencer, General Electric, Starbucks and Telefonica as users of its cloud services, helping fuel its growth.

And that growth is likely set to continue as Microsoft also revealed a strategic partnership with Walmart, which will see the US retail giant make use of Microsoft Azure and the Microsoft 365 suite across its entire enterprise.

With a plethora of large businesses adopting digital transformation doctrines, whereby they shift from legacy IT systems to cloud-based services and make deeper use of digital systems and data, and Microsoft offering the second largest cloud platform in the world, it is no surprise that cloud is driving Redmond’s business success.

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That being said other areas of Microsoft are also enjoying growth, notably its More Personal Computing arm, which includes the Surface and Xbox hardware and services, that grew by 17% to haul in $10.8 billion.

Refreshed models of the Surface Pro line up and the release of the Surface Go are likely to help keep the More Personal Computing arm ticking along in hardware revenue, especially now that PC sales seem to be growing again for the first time in six years.

Microsoft closed out its entire fiscal year with a record-breaking $110 billion in total revenue, a 14% rise on the year before and an indicator that Microsoft is in rude health. 

Image credit: Microsoft 

Microsoft 365 gains smart video conferencing with automatic speech-to-text transcription

Roland Moore-Colyer

13 Jul, 2018

Microsoft 365, Redmond’s complete software suite for enterprises and education, now supports live video conferencing augmented with facial reignition and autonomous speech-to-text transcription features.

The new video conferencing feature allows users to set up either live or on-demand streams of events within the cloud-powered Microsoft 365.

Facial recognition automatically detects who in a group video conference is chatting and allows watchers to jump to a specific speaker, while automated speech-to-text transcription provides transcripts and timecodes to the conference which Microsoft 356 users can then use to search for specific quotes or parts of a video conference.

“Events can be as simple or as sophisticated as you prefer. You can use webcams, content, and screen sharing for informal presentations, or stream a studio-quality production for more formal events,” explained Ron Markezich, corporate vice president at Microsoft.

Such features demonstrate how Microsoft is keep to put its work on machine learning and artificial intelligence into its cloud-based products and services. Examples of that in action can also be seen with Microsoft putting its Cortana artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant into Windows 10 by default, as well as pushing elements of the smart technology into some of its analytics services.

Alongside the new video conferencing features, Microsoft also revealed MyAnalytics, a tool that surfaces reminders and tips for employees, which Redmond has dubbed “nudges” that are aimed to prevent workers from taking on more work than they can handle based on analysis of their activity in Microsoft 365, say reminding them of other commitments before accepting an Outlook invite for another meeting or working out of hours.

Workplace Analytics is a similar tool that has also been added to Microsoft 365, only the data it collects is based on teams of workers activities and, through the use of Microsoft Graph, analyses how said teams can work more effectively, serving up information to help users run more effective meeting or create time to focus on work. That data can be aggregated across an organisation to help it work out where it can work more collaboratively and effectively.

Microsoft also noted its Teams collaboration service is now free to use, which will likely boost its appeal in the face of other popular workplace services such as Slack and Workplace by Facebook.

Image credit: Microsoft 

Microsoft Azure Stack underpins Thales’ military Nexium Defence Cloud

Roland Moore-Colyer

14 Jun, 2018

Defence firm Thales has taken Microsoft’s Azure Stack and repurposed it for use in military field operations, to enable armies to keep their data secure while benefitting from working within a cloud environment.

Microsoft worked with the French contractor to integrate its ‘cloud-in-box’ platform with Thales’ own connectivity, encryption, and end-to-end cyber security products, allowing armed forces to keep sensitive data within their own infrastructure.

“Together with Thales, we will be able to provide a flexible cloud platform with an unequalled level of security that will help overcome challenges within the defence industry,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, Microsoft’s executive vice president and president of global sales, marketing and operations.

Providing a form of cloud connectivity in the field is not the most complex of operations, given it’s fairly straightforward to package servers, network connectivity, compute and storage components into a portable and durable package – SAP has done this with onshore data harvesting and processing systems for the Extreme Sailing series.

But doing it in a secure fashion that keeps data within a military infrastructure but still enables developers to build apps and services on top of the cloud system, is more of a challenge.

Thales’ Nexium Defence Cloud works around this by creating a “highly secluded” private cloud that uses the Azure Stack as a baseline system onto which Thales adds its security and connectivity technology. This keeps the data within the system either when it’s at military headquarters or deployed to forward operating bases.

Given connectivity can be disrupted in conflict zones and operations theatres, the cloud can operate offline, giving it a degree of autonomy from the infrastructure based back at a military headquarters.

This level of flexibility is something Thales claims other secured defence clouds cannot currently offer.

In the future, Thales plans to boost Azure Stack with the Guavus Reflex analytic platform to allow for real-time in-the-field data analysis without relying on a connection back to HQ. This could make it easier for military forces to tap into sensor data gathered by field sensors or exchange data with mobile apps used by soldiers “augmented” with the latest technology.

The military industrial complex is vast and a lucrative market with a healthy appetite for technology, which both Thales and Microsoft could further tap into with the Nexium Defence Cloud.

Image credit: Microsoft 

Microsoft pushes Windows 10’s Fluent Design into Office

Roland Moore-Colyer

14 Jun, 2018

Microsoft is bringing its Fluent Design language over from Windows 10 and adding it into Office, with the goal of simplifying the user interface of the suite’s productivity apps.

The likes of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook are all set to receive a simplified ribbon that is smaller and contains icons that Microsoft says will be easier to use.

New animations, icons and subtle colour changes have been added as part of the shift to Fluent Design, thereby giving Office a lick of digital paint to de-clutter and modernise its user interface.

The web version of Office is also being built on a new platform, which Microsoft noted will enable it to run faster than before.

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Office and Windows marketing, explained the move to Fluent Design was centred around “three Cs”; customers, context, and control.

The idea behind these three areas was to research and analyse how Redmond’s customers use the Office suite and drive changes focused around them, with designs that understand the context of what users want to do and are working on in Office apps, as well as giving them control over how they want to interact with the apps.

“These updates are exclusive to and Office 365 – the always up-to-date versions of our apps and services. But they won’t happen all at once. Instead, over the next several months we will deploy new designs to select customers in stages and carefully test and learn. We’ll move them into production only after they’ve made it through rigorous rounds of validation and refinement,” noted Spataro.

The changes will be rather subtle at the start; alongside the new ribbon in the apps and icon and colour changes, Microsoft will boost the search function in Office, introducing “zero query search” which will serve up smart search recommendations based on the user’s interactions with the Office apps, thanks to the use of Microsoft Graph and the company’s machine learning technology.

Over the coming months, Fluent Design will get pushed into the Office suite for both desktop and web use, starting with then coming to Outlook for Windows in July and Outlook for Mac in August.

Image credit: Bigstock

Dropbox and Salesforce enter into cloud service integration partnership

Roland Moore-Colyer

9 Mar, 2018

Dropbox and Salesforce have entered into a partnership which will see the two cloud-native firms mix their services together.

The partnership will not only involve service integration but will also see the two companies enter into shared marketing efforts and have a joint commitment to broadening the adoption of each other platforms.

From the get-go, Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud services will receive access to the Dropbox platform. This will allow customers to create customised and branded folders in the two Salesforce cloud services, while the integration should allow a company to easily work with firms on the same platform. For example, a retailer using Salesforce Commerce Cloud could create a Dropbox folder to access product images or creative briefs from an external creative agency.

The second prominent integration will see users of Salesforce Quip get access to Dropbox stored content, such as videos, slides and photos, through the cloud service. This will also see Dropbox add in support for Quip documents.

Such integrations should make it easier for salespeople and marketers to carry out their customer relationship management activity within a single platform rather than bouncing in between apps.

Alongside these integrations, both standard Dropbox and Dropbox Enterprise will make deeper use of Salesforce services.

“This deeper partnership with Salesforce is a great opportunity to build new value for our mutual customers,” said Quentin Clark, SVP of engineering, product and design at Dropbox. “We’re looking forward to delivering these new integrations so our customers can get the most out of their tools.”

Dropbox and Salesforce have been bedfellows before, with the Dropbox for Salesforce app being available on Salesforce’s AppExchange. And Salesforce has been an investor in Dropbox since 2014, so a closer relationship between the two cloud firms is not surprising.

The new service integrations are slated to debut in the second half of 2018, with pricing yet to be announced.