FG, Microsoft Partner To Boost Nigeria’s Economic Sustainability Plan

Logo of Microsoft

 

Just as global technology giants including Google Inc., HUAWEI, and top social networking company, Facebook, another international tech heavyweight, Microsoft Corporation, has disclosed plans to partner with the Federal Government for the benefit of the Nigerian people, especially young people.

Specifically, Microsoft is now offering support for the Digital Transformation pillar of the Federal Government’s Economic Sustainability Plan. This will be a continuation of the technology company’s investment in Nigeria after the establishment of an African Technology Development Centre in 2020, all in affirmation of the efforts of the Buhari administration in the creation of a viable technology ecosystem in Nigeria.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, (SAN), on Thursday, noted in a virtual meeting with Microsoft Corporation team led by its President, Mr Brad Smith that the company’s interest in supporting the efforts of the Federal Government is a welcome development and could be leveraged to address issues affecting the youths especially in engaging them productively.

File photo of Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

While Google Inc. in July 2020 announced plans to establish its first Google Launchpad Space outside the United States in Lagos, Facebook, in September of same year made public its decision to open an office in Lagos as part of its planned expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa. HUAWEI on the other hand last November promised the Vice President that the company will position Nigeria as a technology center for the African continent.

Speaking on the need to constantly engage with the youths, the Vice President noted that Nigeria’s case is peculiar given that the youths constitute a larger percentage of the country’s population hence the need for all stakeholders to pay more attention to that demography.

His words: “It seems to me that there is just a wave of general anger around the world and people are generally impatient. Impatient with government, impatient with practically all of the formal structures there are.

“But I am open and happy to hear what views there might be on trying to engage and engage even more with young people (and in our case, that is 70% of our population, if not more). So, we are really talking not just about the youth population but the Nigerian populace because that is the majority. So, whatever it is that we are able to deploy to be more inclusive, to engage even more, is really a solution for the entire populace as opposed to a solution for just a segment of our population especially given the fact that young people constitute 70% or even more.”

Speaking on the government efforts in developing the technology space especially in boosting viable sectors of the economy, Prof. Osinbajo noted that “we have a digital innovation initiative which we hope will be the foundation for doing far more in the digital space than we are doing at the moment.”

Continuing, Prof. Osinbajo emphasized that “just looking at agriculture, this is obviously something that we’ve spent quite a bit of time and resources on especially in the past few years. We have also seen the development of a good number of agric-tech type companies and fin-techs that are also working in the agric sector. So, it’s a whole load of innovation around the agric tech space, especially in the past few years. So, I think we really are up for programmes that will support these sorts of agric-tech initiatives”.

Referring to the partnership with Microsoft, especially the establishment of the development centre, the Vice President said “I have always wondered how Microsoft can just be a much more effective partner with us as a country.

“Beginning with the African Development Centre which I think is excellent, I think it shows the commitment of Microsoft in developing the digital centre here in Nigeria. And it also shows the company’s confidence in the sort of talents that we have and the commitment of government to ensuring that we develop that talent in the best possible ways that we can.”

Assuring investors in the Nigerian economy of the commitment of the Buhari administration in creating the right environment for businesses to thrive, the Vice President said “we are all working to create the right environment for innovation and creativity. That remains an issue that we are dealing with on a daily basis, and I think that the challenges are the challenges of the sort that we are going to have to be dealing with (in my view) even in the coming years.”

On his part, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Isa Pantami, said the Federal Government has already put in place the necessary structures to partner with Microsoft and other tech companies in developing Nigeria’s technology ecosystem.

He said the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy, the National Policy on E-governance, among others, have been adopted by the Buhari administration to support the growth of technology and innovation in the country.

Earlier in his remarks, Mr. Smith, noted that his company’s vision for investment in Nigeria was one that would lead to the creation of Africa’s most viable technology ecosystem.

Mr Smith said the company’s investment in Nigeria is a demonstration of its enthusiasm about the digital transformation ongoing in Nigeria under the Buhari administration.

He proposed a 90-day timeline for stakeholders on the government side and from Microsoft, to iron out details of the various areas of collaboration.

Other participants at the meeting include Microsoft Corporation’s Country Manager for Nigeria and Ghana, Mr Akin Banuso, among others.

EU To Unveil Tough Measures To Curb Tech Giants

This file illustration taken on October 1, 2019 shows the logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google displayed on a tablet in Lille, France. DENIS CHARLET / AFP
This file illustration taken on October 1, 2019 shows the logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google displayed on a tablet in Lille, France. DENIS CHARLET / AFP.

 

The European Union on Tuesday will unveil tough draft rules targeting tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook, whose power Brussels sees as a threat to competition and even democracy.

The landmark proposals — which come as Silicon Valley faces increasing scrutiny around the world — could shake up the way Big Tech does business by menacing some of the globe’s biggest firms with mammoth fines or bans from the European market.

EU sources told AFP the long-trailed legislation would see the internet behemoths facing fines of up to 10 percent of their EU turnover for breaking some of the most serious competition rules.

It also proposes banning them from the EU market “in the event of serious and repeated breaches of law which endanger the security of European citizens”, one of the sources said.

The Digital Services Act and its accompanying Digital Markets Act will lay out strict conditions for doing business in the EU’s 27 member countries as authorities aim to rein in the spread of disinformation and hate speech online, and Big Tech’s business dominance.

Around ten of the largest companies — including Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft — would be designated as internet “gatekeepers” under the legislation and subjected to specific regulations to limit their power over the market.

But the proposals will go through a long and complex ratification process, with the EU’s 27 states, the European Parliament, and a lobbying frenzy of companies and trade associations, influencing the final law.

“The idea is not to do away with the large platforms, but to impose rules on them to prevent them from posing risks to our democracy,” the EU’s industry commissioner Thierry Breton said.

– Illegal content –

The details of the proposals have until now been carefully guarded by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, even though a few have leaked.

France and the Netherlands have already come out in favour of Europe having all the tools it needs to rein in the gatekeepers, including the power to break them up.

The main intention of the new rules is to update legislation that dates back to 2004, when many of today’s internet giants either did not exist or were in their infancy.

For the past decade the EU has taken the lead worldwide in trying to grapple with the power of big tech, for example slapping billions in antitrust fines on Google, but critics believe the method has been too cumbersome and done little to change behaviour.

The EU has also ordered Apple to pay billions of euros in back taxes to Ireland but that decision was quashed by the EU’s highest court.

The Digital Services Act is now being touted as a way to give the commission sharper teeth in pursuing social media platforms when they allow illegal content online, such as extremist propaganda, hate speech, disinformation and child pornography.

Activist group Avaaz called the proposed legislation a “bold and brave move” and insisted Brussels must make sure it is fully enforced.

“This is a strong framework and the EU has the heft and democratic values to hold the platforms to account, regulate the reach of disinformation and protect the free speech of the users,” Avaaz legal director Sarah Andrew said.

Under the Digital Markets Act, the EU is seeking to give Brussels new powers to enforce competition laws more quickly and to push for greater transparency in their algorithms and use of personal data.

Tech giants will also need to inform the EU ahead of any planned mergers or acquisitions under the regulations, Breton said.

The EU’s moves comes as regulators around the world have increasingly become concerned about the financial and social power of big tech.

US authorities have taken up the call, with several major antitrust cases putting Google under the gun in addition to a legal bid to strip Facebook of its Instagram and Whatsapp products.

Britain’s government was on Tuesday also expected to announce proposed legislation to tackle “online harms” by introducing the threat of huge fines for internet giants.

 

Russia Denies Microsoft Claims Of Healthcare Cyber Attacks

 

 

Moscow on Tuesday vehemently rejected claims by Microsoft that Russia was behind cyberattacks on companies researching coronavirus vaccines and treatments, saying it was being made a scapegoat.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency RIA Novosti it had become “politically fashionable” to pin the blame for cyber attacks on Moscow.

Russia announced in August that it had registered the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V — named after the Soviet-era satellite — but did so ahead of large-scale clinical trials.

In October, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had also registered its second coronavirus vaccine, EpiVacCorona.

“We do not need anything other than a normal approach towards the projects we already have in Russia and are promoting including in cooperation with foreign partners,” Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov also claimed that Russian companies themselves were frequently becoming targets of foreign cyber attacks.

He said Russia and the United States should allow experts to look into the issue.

“However, Washington has persistently steered clear of such dialogue,” Ryabkov added.

Last week, Microsoft urged a crackdown on cyber-attacks perpetrated by states and “malign actors” after a spate of hacks disrupted healthcare organisations fighting the coronavirus.

The US tech giant said the attacks came from Russia and North Korea.

The Kremlin has previously denied US claims that Russian military intelligence was behind cyberattacks targeting Ukraine’s power grid, the 2017 French election, and the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, describing them as “Russophobia”.

AFP

Microsoft Outlook Email Service Suffers Worldwide Breakdown

 

Microsoft’s Outlook email service suffered major problems on Thursday that saw people around the world encounter difficulties accessing their accounts via the web and mobile devices.

According to US tech website The Verge, the breakdown began around 0600 GMT.

“We’ve determined that a recent configuration update to components that route user requests was the cause,” Microsoft said in a tweet.

A Microsoft spokesman told AFP its engineers had resolved the issue and services were returning to normal.

Microsoft provides email and office software services to businesses.

-AFP

TikTok Rejects Microsoft Offer, Oracle Sole Remaining Bidder

This photo illustration taken on September 14, 2020 shows the logo of the social network application TikTok (L) and a US flag (R) shown on the screens of two laptops in Beijing. – US tech giant Microsoft said on September 13 its offer to buy TikTok was rejected, leaving Oracle as the sole remaining bidder ahead of the imminent deadline for the Chinese-owned video app to sell or shut down its US operations. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP)

 

American tech giant Microsoft said Sunday its offer to buy TikTok was rejected, leaving Oracle as the sole remaining bidder ahead of the imminent deadline for the Chinese-owned video app to sell or shut down its US operations.

TikTok is at the center of a diplomatic storm between Washington and Beijing, and President Donald Trump has set Americans a mid-September deadline to stop doing business with its Chinese parent company ByteDance — effectively compelling a sale of the app to a US company.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported that Oracle had won the bidding war, citing people familiar with the deal, although the company did not immediately confirm that to AFP.

But two Chinese state media outlets — CGTN and China News Service — said Monday that ByteDance will not sell TikTok to Oracle either, citing unnamed sources.

The Oracle bid would need approval from the White House and Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a source told the Journal, with both parties under the belief it would meet US data security concerns.

Microsoft had indicated at the beginning of August that it was interested in acquiring TikTok’s US operations, but announced Sunday that bid had been rejected.

“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft,” it said in a statement.

“We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests.”

In early August, Trump issued an executive order stating that if a purchase agreement was not reached by September 20, the platform would have to close in the United States.

Trump claims TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.

– Disputed dangers –

In late August, China’s commerce ministry published new rules potentially making it more difficult for ByteDance to sell TikTok to a US entity by adding “civilian use” to a list of technologies that are restricted for export.

ByteDance had vowed to “strictly abide” by the new export rules.

“We believe Microsoft would only buy TikTok WITH its core algorithm which the Chinese government and ByteDance was not willing to budge,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a note.

“Given the need now to get a green light from Beijing after its export rules were changed a few weeks ago, TikTok’s days in the US likely are numbered with a shutdown now the next step,” the analyst said.

Downloaded 175 million times in the United States, TikTok is used by as many as a billion people worldwide to make quirky, short videos on their cellphones. It has repeatedly denied sharing data with Beijing.

Microsoft said it would have “made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation.”

A deal with Microsoft could also have included Walmart, which joined forces with the tech giant during negotiations.

Ives said that even with Microsoft out of the picture, “while Oracle is technically the remaining bidder, without willing to sell its core algorithm we see no TikTok sale on the horizon.”

“Oracle could be a technology partner, but a sale/divestiture of the US operations for TikTok remains the focus.”

TikTok meanwhile has filed a lawsuit challenging the US crackdown, contending that Trump’s order was a misuse of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act because the platform is not “an unusual and extraordinary threat.”

Controversially, Trump has demanded that the US government get a cut of any deal, which critics contend appears unconstitutional and akin to extortion.

The bidding for TikTok comes during a broader deterioration of relations between the world’s top two economies in recent months, with both exchanging fierce recriminations over trade, human rights, and the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP

Microsoft Says Its TikTok Buyout Offer Rejected

CORTE MADERA, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 26: The showroom at Microsoft store sits empty on June 26, 2020 in Corte Madera, California. Microsoft announced that it plans to close all of its 83 brick-and-mortar stores and switch to an online only platform. The company says it will keep their New York City, London, Redmond, Washington and Sydney, Australia storefronts open to showcase their technology but not to sell their products. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

 

US tech giant Microsoft said Sunday its offer to buy TikTok was rejected, as a deadline looms for the Chinese-owned video app to sell or shut down its US operations.

TikTok has been at the center of a diplomatic storm between Washington and Beijing, and President Donald Trump gave Americans a deadline to stop doing business with TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance — effectively compelling a sale of the app to a US company.

Trump claims that TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage.

“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft,” the US tech giant said in a statement referring to TikTok’s owner.

“We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests,” the statement added.

Following Trump’s executive order, Microsoft and Oracle were possible suitors to take over TikTok operations.

Microsoft said that it would have “made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation.”

TikTok has filed a lawsuit challenging the crackdown by the US government, contending that Trump’s order was a misuse of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act because the platform is not “an unusual and extraordinary threat.”

Downloaded 175 million times in the US, TikTok is used by as many as a billion people worldwide to make quirky, short-form videos on their cellphones. It has repeatedly denied sharing data with Beijing.

AFP

Windows, Gates And A Firewall: Microsoft’s Delicate Castle In China

 

Microsoft, which is in talks to buy part of Chinese video app TikTok, is one of the few US tech titans that have managed to succeed in China.

The software giant has kept its business alive in the country by complying with strict local laws, despite the communist nation’s wide-reaching censorship.

Here are some key points about the technology and gaming group’s operations in the world’s second-biggest economy.

A pioneer

Microsoft arrived in China in 1992 and opened its largest research and development centre outside the United States. It now employs around 6,200 people in China.

The ubiquitous Windows operating system is used in the vast majority of computers in China — despite Beijing promising in recent years to develop its own operating system. The company’s success has a downside, however, as its software is widely pirated.

The important Chinese market, which is very restrictive for foreign firms, represents a drop in the ocean of Microsoft’s business, accounting for barely 1.8 percent of its turnover, president Brad Smith said at the beginning of the year.

Microsoft’s Bing is one of the few foreign search engines operating in China — although it is far behind its local competitors Baidu and Sogou, which dominate the market.

Bill Gates

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has long embodied a model of success in the eyes of many Chinese people and his books are bestsellers in the country.

President Xi Jinping visited the company’s headquarters on a state visit to the US in 2015, where he met with Gates and his wife.

Today, as the head of his humanitarian Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 64-year-old has the prestige of a head of state in Beijing.

In February Xi wrote Gates a letter thanking him for his support during the coronavirus epidemic.

Censorship and control

China censors all subjects considered politically sensitive in the name of stability, and internet giants are urged to block unwanted content online.

Refusing to comply with Beijing’s strict demands, American giants Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, as well as Wikipedia and several other foreign media, are blocked by China’s “great firewall”.

Microsoft, however, operates its professional LinkedIn network in the country by complying with the draconian censorship rules through a local joint venture.

Skype and Teams, its other two big platforms, are also available in China.

It’s not all smooth sailing though, with Bing temporarily taken offline last year, prompting speculation the search engine had been blocked by censors.

Smith told Fox Business News at the World Economic Forum in Davos that “there are times when there are difficult negotiations with the Chinese government.”

The Greatfire.org website, which tracks online censorship in China, accused Bing a few years ago of redacting results containing sensitive information.

– Video games –
In 2000 Beijing halted the sale of all consoles because of their alleged negative effects on the “mental health” of young users, although they remained available illegally.

After the ban was lifted, Microsoft in 2014 was the first foreign firm to break into the video games market in China with its Xbox One console.

Also in 2014, the Chinese competition authorities opened an anti-monopoly investigation against Microsoft and its Windows software.

Around 100 inspectors raided the group’s offices in four Chinese cities, confiscating files and questioning employees.

Trump Gives TikTok 6 Weeks To Sell Itself To US Company

The verdict against Haneen Hossam, Mowada al-Adham and three others came after they had posted footage on video-sharing app TikTok. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

 

 

US President Donald Trump gave popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok six weeks to sell its US operations to an American company, saying Monday it would be “out of business” otherwise, and that the government wanted a financial benefit from the deal.

“It’s got to be an American company… it’s got to be owned here,” Trump said. “We don’t want to have any problem with security.”

Trump said that Microsoft was in talks to buy TikTok, which has as many as one billion worldwide users who make quirky 60-second videos with its smartphone app.

But US officials say the app constitutes a national security risk because it could share millions of Americans’ personal data with Chinese intelligence.

Trump gave the company’s Chinese parent ByteDance until mid-September to strike a deal.

“I set a date of around September 15, at which point it’s going to be out of business in the United States,” he said.

Whatever the price is, he said, “the United States should get a very large percentage of that price because we’re making it possible.”

Trump compared the demand for a piece of the pie to a landlord demanding under-the-table “key money” from a new tenant, a practice widely illegal including in New York, where the billionaire president built his real estate empire.

“TikTok is a big success, but a big portion of it is in the country,” he said. “I think it’s very fair.”

But Trump also threw a surprise new condition in any deal, saying the sale of TikTok’s US business would have to result in a significant payout to the US Treasury for initiating it.

“A very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States, because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen,” Trump told reporters.

“They don’t have any rights unless we give it to them,” he said.

Sell or shut down

The pressure for a sale of TikTok’s US and international business, based in Los Angeles, left the company and ByteDance facing tough decisions.

Trump has made TikTok the latest front in the ongoing political and trade battles between Washington and Beijing.

The app has been under formal investigation on US national security grounds because it collects large amounts of personal data on all its users and is legally bound to share that with authorities in Beijing if they demand it.

Both its huge user base and its algorithm for collecting data make it hugely valuable.

But being forced by the US government to sell at least its US business or be shut down — and to then split the sale price with the US Treasury as Trump is demanding — was an almost unheard-of tactic.

Shutting down could force users to switch to competitors, and many content creators are already encouraging followers to follow them on other social media platforms.

“The most obvious beneficiaries are Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, with Snapchat likely being the biggest beneficiary,” said investment analysts at Lightshed Partners.

Earlier Monday, ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming acknowledged the hefty pressure and said in a letter to staff, reported by Chinese media, that they were working around-the-clock “for the best outcome.”

“We have always been committed to ensuring user data security, as well as the platform neutrality and transparency,” Zhang said.

However, he said, the company faces “mounting complexities across the geopolitical landscape and significant external pressure.”

He said the company must confront the challenge from the United States, though “without giving up exploring any possibilities.”

According to Britain’s The Sun newspaper Monday, as a possible consequence of the pressure, ByteDance is planning to relocate TikTok’s global operations to Britain.

Pushing back

China’s foreign ministry pushed back Monday, calling Washington hypocritical for demanding TikTok be sold.

“The US is using an abused concept of national security and, without providing any evidence, is making presumptions of guilt and issuing threats to relevant companies,” said spokesman Wang Wenbin.

“This goes against the principle of market economy and exposes the hypocrisy and typical double standards of the US in upholding so-called fairness and freedom,” he added.

Microsoft To Continue TikTok Acquisition Talks After Meeting Trump

 In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020 Microsoft Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Satya Nadella, gestures as he addresses the Future Decoded Tech Summit in Bangalore. Manjunath Kiran / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020 Microsoft Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Satya Nadella, gestures as he addresses the Future Decoded Tech Summit in Bangalore. Manjunath Kiran / AFP

 

Microsoft announced Sunday it would continue talks to acquire the US operations of popular video-sharing app TikTok, after meeting with President Donald Trump who seemingly backed off his earlier threats to ban the Chinese-owned platform.

“Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” the company said in a statement, acknowledging the “importance of addressing the President’s concerns” over national security.

Microsoft added that it would continue negotiations with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, with the intention of “completing these discussions no later than September 15.”

The statement came after Trump on Friday said he would ban the app, which is especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short-form videos and has an estimated one billion users worldwide.

TikTok should be sold or blocked in the US, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told ABC earlier Sunday, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News the president would “take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.”

TikTok denies it could be a tool for Chinese intelligence, with its US general manager Vanessa Pappas declaring Saturday: “We’re not planning on going anywhere.”

‘Biggest loser’

“The United States would be the biggest loser if it banned TikTok,” Daniel Castro, vice president of the think tank Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said Saturday.

“All of its data centers are outside of China, and there is no evidence that it presents a national security threat.”

In this file photo illustration taken on November 21, 2019, the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok is displayed on a tablet screen in Paris. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

 

Trump said he would use an executive order to ban TikTok, or the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a law granting the president powers to regulate international trade in the face of an “unusual and extraordinary threat” from abroad to US foreign policy, national security or the economy.

His threat has caused great concern for US TikTok users, particularly content creators who make money on the platform.

Many of them have posted links to their Instagram or YouTube accounts so as not to lose followers if the platform is ultimately blocked.

In its statement, Microsoft said it plans to “build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections.”

Buying TikTok would give Microsoft a chance to break into the social networking market.

The IT group currently owns the professional networking platform LinkedIn, and Teams, an internal messaging service for companies.

‘Bizarre’

Pappas promised Saturday to create 10,000 US jobs at TikTok over the next three years, in addition to the 1,500 current employees.

“Don’t fall for this,” responded senior Trump aide Peter Navarro, a fierce China critic and a main architect of the trade war with Beijing.

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on August 01, 2020 shows the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris, and US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 30, 2020. JIM WATSON, Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

“China has hired a whole bunch of American lobbyists. They put a puppet CEO in charge of that company,” he told Fox News, referring to former Disney executive Kevin Mayer, who became the CEO of TikTok in May.

On Friday evening Trump indicated he opposed a takeover of TikTok by an American company, a solution nevertheless agreed to by most of the involved parties, including ByteDance, according to The New York Times.

“This is getting bizarre. A 100 percent sale to an American company… mitigates any reasonable data protection concerns,” tweeted Alex Stamos, a former Facebook head of security and a researcher at Stanford University.

“If the White House kills this (sale) we know this isn’t about national security,” he added.

 

 

AFP

Microsoft Sees Growth Amid Pandemic Computing Demands

 

 

Microsoft on Wednesday reported rising revenues in the past quarter amid strong demand for cloud computing services from pandemic-hit businesses and consumers and big gains in its Xbox gaming operations.

Profits in the quarter ending June 30 fell 15 percent to $11.2 billion, the result of increased tax charges compared with a year ago.

Revenue meanwhile rose 13 percent to $38 billion, led by strong gains in its cloud computing and its Xbox gaming services.

Chief executive Satya Nadella said Microsoft was equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic with its “integrated, modern technology stack.”

“We are seeing businesses accelerate the digitization of every part of their operations from manufacturing to sales to customer service,” Nadella told a conference call.

Microsoft shares dipped some 2.5 percent in after-hours trade on the results, which were largely ahead of forecasts.

Its shares have been trading at near record levels amid a surge of some 50 percent since March, giving it a market value of more than $1.6 trillion.

Revenue from Microsoft’s “intelligent cloud” division which includes its Azure enterprise business rose 17 percent to $13.4 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter.

In the personal computing segment including the Windows operating system, revenues were up 14 percent to $12.9 billion.

Within that segment, Xbox gaming service revenues rose 65 percent and sales for its Surface devices were up 28 percent.

Xbox hardware revenue increased 49 percent, as Microsoft boosted the number of consoles sold even with a newer version expected later this year.

“This was a breakthrough quarter for gaming,” Nadella said.

“We saw record engagement and monetization… as people everywhere turned to gaming to connect, socialize and play.”

Microsoft saw a more modest six percent revenue rise in its productivity and business operations which include the Office software suite and LinkedIn.

Daniel Ives at Wedbush Securities called the Microsoft results “robust,” led by its cloud computing that benefits from the work-from-home trend.

“This current remote work from home environment is further catalyzing more enterprises to make the strategic cloud shift with Microsoft the main beneficiary as evidenced by the solid results this evening,” Ives said.

Earlier Wednesday, the workplace messaging platform Slack filed an EU antitrust complaint against Microsoft, alleging that the integration of the “Teams” service into the Office software suit represented unfair competition.

Microsoft said Teams was growing because it offers video, which Slack does not.

 

 

-AFP

Fortnite Superstar ‘Ninja’ Takes Gameplay To Youtube

 In this file photo taken on July 27, 2019 Richard Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja, speaks to the crowd at the start of the 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals - Round Two on July 27, 2019, at Arthur Ashe Stadium, in New York City. - Fortnite superstar Tyler "Ninja" Blevins returned to the streaming world on July 8, 2020 with a match on YouTube, after Microsoft pulled the plug on the Mixer platform where he had an exclusive contract. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)
(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 27, 2019 Richard Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja, speaks to the crowd at the start of the 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals – Round Two on July 27, 2019, at Arthur Ashe Stadium, in New York City. – Fortnite superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins returned to the streaming world on July 8, 2020 with a match on YouTube, after Microsoft pulled the plug on the Mixer platform where he had an exclusive contract. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)

 

 

Fortnite superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins returned to the streaming world Wednesday with a match on YouTube, after Microsoft pulled the plug on the Mixer platform where he had an exclusive contract.

Blevins had amassed nearly 24 million subscribers at his YouTube channel shortly into a Fortnite match he had tipped fans off to in a tweet.

“You know what’s crazy man?” Blevins asked rhetorically during banter with teammates during the game stream.

“Like not streaming for a month I almost  forgot that nobody knows what’s going on with, like, me.”

In August of last year, Blevins  left Amazon-owned Twitch, telling fans they would only be able to find him on rival gameplay streaming platform Mixer.

The move was considered a win for Microsoft, luring viewers to Mixer and playing into the technology company’s efforts to bolster its gaming community.

But Microsoft last month said it is throwing in the towel on its Mixer livestream platform, and teaming up with Facebook to better compete with rivals like Twitch and YouTube.

Microsoft Mixer will be shuttered on July 22 with gamers encouraged to transition to Facebook Gaming.

Online battle royale game “Fortnite” is a global sensation, with entertaining play and commentary a hit with online viewers.

Blevins is one of a clutch of gamers who stream themselves playing Fortnite and recoup riches and rock star adulation from a vast and youthful following.

He told AFP last year his life took a swift turn when he discovered Fortnite, a blockbuster  that swept the gaming sector when it came out in 2017 and claims 200 million players, more than eight million of whom are playing at any one time.

 

 

AFP

Microsoft To Permanently Close All Retail Stores

CORTE MADERA, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 26: The showroom at Microsoft store sits empty on June 26, 2020 in Corte Madera, California. Microsoft announced that it plans to close all of its 83 brick-and-mortar stores and switch to an online only platform. The company says it will keep their New York City, London, Redmond, Washington and Sydney, Australia storefronts open to showcase their technology but not to sell their products. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

Microsoft said Friday it will close all of its stores and move its retail operations online, keeping just four locations and transforming them into “experience centers.”

The move means the more than 80 Microsoft stores closed due to the coronavirus pandemic will not reopen as the tech giant enters “a new approach to retail,” according to a statement.

“Microsoft will continue to invest in its digital storefronts on Microsoft.com, and stores in Xbox and Windows,” the statement said.

The four locations that will become Microsoft Experience Centers are in London, New York, Sydney and at the company’s Redmond, Washington headquarters.

Retail team members will “serve customers from Microsoft corporate facilities and remotely providing sales, training, and support,” the company said.

Microsoft said it will set aside $450 million to cover the costs of closing the locations. The number of employees who would be affected was not immediately available.

“Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” said Microsoft corporate vice president David Porter.

Microsoft in recent years has been relying more on its services such as cloud computing, with the retail locations focusing on its Surface tablets and laptops as well as Xbox gaming gear. But the physical stores failed to gain the momentum of rival Apple.

Independent technology analyst Neil Cybart said the closures were because “the Surface business increasingly looks to be losing momentum in the consumer space.”

The impact of the pandemic has not yet been reflected in Microsoft’s financial results. It posted a net profit of $10.8 billion from January to March, up 22 percent year-on-year, on a turnover of $35 billion.

Despite production delays for its Surface range, the group believes it is well-positioned to weather the crisis, thanks in particular to the explosion of cloud computing.

In an era of social distancing, Microsoft can also count on its teleworking, distance, and education software and services.

However, it has just closed down video game streaming platform Mixer, leaving the field open to the industry giant Twitch, owned by Amazon, and its two rivals, YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming.

-AFP