Microsoft Reportedly Developing Its Own Slack Rival Called Skype Teams

Team-messaging app Slack has recently developed a sizeable user base and earned envy from other apps that allow group messaging. Microsoft is now reportedly coming up with its own rival group chat app under its Skype brand named Skype Teams.

In basic functionality, Skype Teams seems to be fairly similar to Slack as it allows you to chat with other users in the team individually or in groups, as reported by MSPowerUser. Skype Teams will also allow you to share files as well as send emojis just like Slack does. Ther’s also a ‘Fun Picker’ that lets you add gif images and memes to your conversations.Microsoft Reportedly Developing Its Own Slack Rival Called Skype Teams

Further, users can respond to particular comments, as on Facebook threads, and also start video chats at any point during a conversation. Skype Teams will essentially provide users with Slack’s functionality along with core features that you expect from a Skype product.

Microsoft will be adding the ability to schedule online meetings to the app, which might be extremely useful as the app is targeted at teams. The app will also come with an integration with Office 365 apps as well as OneDrive. It will also feature support for the Skype Bot framework, and it will be interesting to see how Microsoft leverages its AI chops to counter Slackbot.

According to the report, Microsoft will be releasing Skype Team apps for Web, Windows, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

Competition can often lead to innovation and there might be certain set of users who might be more suited to Microsoft’s offering due to Office 365 integration. However, for more information about the app, we will have to wait for official announcement by the company.

Google Improves Safe Browsing to Help Site Owners Fight Malware

Google has been trying to fight the growing threat of cybercrime with its Safe Browsing initiative that among other things warns users if a website is potentially unsafe or has been hijacked. Affected websites are labelled with a malware warning to inform people why the site has been blocked and owners to fix the malware.

In an attempt to help website owners understand the reasons for blocks, Google has now updated the information available in Search Console in the Security Issues report to provide more, detailed explanations of six different security issues detected by Safe Browsing, including malware, deceptive pages, harmful downloads, and uncommon downloads. Once the malware has been highlighted, Google also suggests various courses of action (tailored for each type of issue) that the user can take to address the source of the problem.

Google Improves Safe Browsing to Help Site Owners Fight Malware

The company’s Safe Browsing team said in a blog post that, “We on the Safe Browsing team definitely recommend registering your site in Search Console even if it is not currently experiencing a security issue. We send notifications through Search Console so webmasters can address any issues that appear as quickly as possible.”

There’s no denying that today’s digital age is very vulnerable to cybercrimes. Just in the past few weeks we’ve heard of hackers auctioning NSA’s surveillance tools and the leaking of Last.fm’s user data. It’s safe to say that the Internet and everything on it is up for grabs. Google, for its part, is trying to curb the problem, seeing as how its search engine is used by almost everyone on the planet with an access to the internet.

“Our goal is to help webmasters provide a safe and secure browsing experience for their users.”

These new features not only help Google in making its own search engine safer for users but they also make it easier for site owners, especially the less technical owners, to find the root cause of the malware and fix it before the site (and potentially personal information) is compromised.

Microsoft Reportedly Developing Its Own Slack Rival Called Skype Teams

Team-messaging app Slack has recently developed a sizeable user base and earned envy from other apps that allow group messaging. Microsoft is now reportedly coming up with its own rival group chat app under its Skype brand named Skype Teams.

In basic functionality, Skype Teams seems to be fairly similar to Slack as it allows you to chat with other users in the team individually or in groups, as reported by MSPowerUser. Skype Teams will also allow you to share files as well as send emojis just like Slack does. Ther’s also a ‘Fun Picker’ that lets you add gif images and memes to your conversations.

Microsoft Reportedly Developing Its Own Slack Rival Called Skype Teams

Further, users can respond to particular comments, as on Facebook threads, and also start video chats at any point during a conversation. Skype Teams will essentially provide users with Slack’s functionality along with core features that you expect from a Skype product.

Microsoft will be adding the ability to schedule online meetings to the app, which might be extremely useful as the app is targeted at teams. The app will also come with an integration with Office 365 apps as well as OneDrive. It will also feature support for the Skype Bot framework, and it will be interesting to see how Microsoft leverages its AI chops to counter Slackbot.

According to the report, Microsoft will be releasing Skype Team apps for Web, Windows, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

Competition can often lead to innovation and there might be certain set of users who might be more suited to Microsoft’s offering due to Office 365 integration. However, for more information about the app, we will have to wait for official announcement by the company.

NOW Music+ Streaming Service Launched by Sony, Universal

NOW Music+ Streaming Service Launched by Sony, Universal

Two major record labels are rolling out a low-priced music streaming service in the United Kingdom, a rare foray by record companies directly into the field and another sign the industry is finally moving towards more flexible pricing.

Now That’s What I Call Music, a joint venture between Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment that releases a popular series of compilation albums, is finalising a streaming app called NOW Music+ that will offer playlists of hit songs for 4.99 pounds ($6.62 or roughly Rs. 440) a month, or 5.99 pounds if purchased in Apple’s App Store, people familiar with the matter said.

“NOW Music+” was quietly activated this summer amid preparations for a broader rollout, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Although the app is limited to the UK for now, “this may change in the near future,” the company writes on its website.

The move comes at a pivotal moment for the music industry: streaming is rapidly emerging as the labels’ leading source of revenue, but they continue to engage in tough negotiations with tech companies over licensing terms, which heavily influence final pricing for consumers.

With streaming companies struggling to turn a profit and overall music revenues remaining well below the CD era, labels are under pressure to bridge the divide between the free, ad-sponsored tiers popularized by Spotify and YouTube and $9.99 all-you-can-listen-to subscriptions without ads.

Amazon is working on a service that will let users stream music on their voice-powered Echo speakers for less than a normal subscription, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Meanwhile Pandora is putting the finishing touches on a premium radio tier that will cost users about $5 a month, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

“We are moving away from one-size-fits-all subscriptions,” said Ted Cohen, Managing Partner of TAG Strategic, a digital entertainment consultancy. “There is a certain spoken and unspoken imperative by all the rights holders to make the pie a little bit bigger.”

Sony and Universal declined to comment. Amazon, Spotify and Pandora also declined to comment.

Although the NOW app features a limited catalogue and does not allow users to listen to songs on demand, it will put the labels in a somewhat competitive position with the streaming companies, which are increasingly important partners, said analyst Mark Mulligan of MIDiA Research.

As they launch the NOW app, the labels must “tread carefully because you can only go so far competing with your retail partners,” Mulligan said.

Still, Mulligan said, the industry is taking an overdue step in creating more options than a $9.99 monthly subscription or a free, ad-supported stream.

“They’re making people choose between a Lexus and getting the bus with nothing in between,” Mulligan said. “There’s no other market that behaves like that.”

Introductory discounts and special plans for families and students have already begun to lower the price that many consumers pay.

“The services are exhausting the number of people who will pay $10 a month, and the way to continue to grow the industry is to offer discounts in some way,” said David Pakman, a partner at Venrock who headed early Apple Music efforts.

Nevertheless, it can be challenging to persuade consumers to pay for a limited subscription service with so much free content at their fingertips.

Rdio, the streaming service whose assets were acquired by Pandora last year, rolled out a plan that let consumers download 25 songs per day for $3.99 per month, but the company had to accept worse financial terms to get the labels on board, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Cur Media, a high-profile music startup touting budget subscriptions, disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission last month that it had laid off all its employees.

Still, many in the tech camp say they are eager to experiment with price.

“I happen to believe in my heart of hearts that there is an entire host of transactions between $0 and $10,” said Ethan Rudin, chief financial officer of online music store Napster.

Intel to Spin Out McAfee Unit, Sell Stake in Business to TPG

Intel Corp said it would spin out its cyber security division, formerly known as McAfee, and sell a majority stake in it to investment firm TPG for $3.1 billion in cash.

TPG will own 51 percent of the new entity, valuing the entire company at $4.2 billion including debt.

Intel, which bought McAfee for $7.7 billion in 2011, will retain a 49 percent stake in the business.

The deal ends a failed effort by Intel to stake out a major position in the computer security business. At the time of the acquisition, Intel spoke of integrating McAfee security technology into its chips, but little came of those plans.

Intel to Spin Out McAfee Unit, Sell Stake in Business to TPG

Intel executives at the time also said they hoped the acquisition would give it a piece of the emerging business of protecting corporations from sophisticated espionage, but newer players such as Mandiant, now a unit of FireEye, came to dominate that business.

At the same time, PC growth slowed, eroding the traditional McAfee customer base’s potential.

The unit, rebranded as Intel Security Group in 2014, will revert to the McAfee brand name following the closing of the deal, expected in the second quarter of 2017.

McAfee’s founder, John McAfee, was for a time on the run from a murder investigation in Belize and is a pariah in the industry. He recently sued Intel to get back the right to use his name.

Chris Young, Intel Security’s general manager, will be named chief executive of the new company.

Intel Security’s revenue rose 11 percent to $1.1 billion through the first half of this year, the company said in a statement.

TPG, which is making a $1.1 billion equity investment in the company, first approached Intel’s board about a potential transaction for McAfee around a year ago, sources familiar with the matter said.

TPG also led a $120 million investment round for security startup Tanium last year and was the lead investor in a $100 million funding round in internet security firm Zscaler.

NBC Universal Patents a Way to Detect BitTorrent Pirates in Real-Time

NBC Universal, an American media conglomerate, has been granted a new patent that can help track files being shared by groups via peer-to-peer networks in real-time. The patent titled “Early detection of high volume peer-to-peer swarms”, seems to be way forward for NBC Universal in its ongoing attempts to restrict piracy of its copyrighted content.

NBC Universal Patents a Way to Detect BitTorrent Pirates in Real-Time

The new patent will essentially help the company identify the swarm’s popularity and take anti-piracy measures before is “too late to do much good.”

“Early detection of high volume swarms in a peer-to-peer network, including a data feed of peer-to-peer swarm activity, and an analytics engine processing the data feed and identifying the high volume swarms that have parameters that exceed a threshold. The system can include a pre-processing section for conditioning the swarm data for the analytics section. There can also be a verification section that confirms that the peer download file matches the target file,” notes the patent documentissued by USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office).

“The early detection provides for enhanced anti-piracy efforts, improved allocation of network resources, and better business decision-making,” it adds. NBC Universal says that the “P2P infrastructure has many advantages” but it also has led to abuses.

Of course, piracy of digital assets on peer-to-peer networks is considered to be one of the biggest losses incurred by content owners, estimated to be in billions of dollars annually.

“These costs are typically passed along to the consuming public in terms of increased costs for legitimate purchased works and higher charges for increased deterrents to the piracy,” NBC Universal added.

Torrentfreak points out that Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal, back in 2007 received criticism when it wanted to “actively throttle BitTorrent traffic.” It is not clear when the company intends to implement the new patent to restrict content piracy of copyrighted content. Notably, the patent was applied for back in 2009 but only granted last week. The methods needed to detect and target particular torrent files presumably need to be updated.

New Educational App Rewards Users With Real Cash

South Korea-based educational startup BeNative has launched CashEnglish, an app that rewards users with real cash for playing educational games.

The app is available in Hindi, English, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese and Korean, with more languages coming up soon, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

New Educational App Rewards Users With Real Cash

After making more than one million fans on its Facebook page, CashEnglish launched a beta version on bothAndroid and iOS platforms for free this month.

Since then, it has already become the top downloaded educational game in several countries around the world.

Users of CashEnglish have the chance to win cash prizes awarded weekly as they solve puzzles and climb the leaderboard.

Over $1,000 (roughly Rs. 68,000) in prizes was awarded in the first week alone, with the grand prize winner taking in $500 (roughly Rs. 36,000).

“People used to have to pay for education and since then, we’ve seen a huge push in the industry towards free online service. But we’re looking to take it one step further where people all over the world will actually get paid to learn,” said Alan Moonsoo Kim, CEO, BeNative, in a statement.

“We intend to disrupt the industry so that others have no choice but to follow,” he added.

Female Pet Owners May Be Less Likely to Die of Stroke

U.S. women over age 50 and generally healthy were less likely to die of cardiovascular events like stroke if they had a cat or dog, the researchers found.

After accounting for the increase in physical activity required of dog owners, owning a cat instead of a dog was still tied to a lower risk of death from stroke.

Female Pet Owners May Be Less Likely to Die of Stroke

The researchers studied almost 4,000 adults age 50 and older without major illnesses who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 1988 to 1994 and who reported their pet ownership.

Participants also answered questions about physical activity, weight and height, cigarette smoking and other health risk factors. More than half were overweight or obese.

About 35 percent of people owned a pet, most often a dog. Pet owners tended to be younger, more often were married, and more often were white.

According to the National Death Index, as of 2006, 11 of every 1,000 non-pet owners had died of cardiovascular disease, compared to about 7 of every 1,000 pet owners.

Specifically for stroke, male pet owners were just as likely to have died, but female pet owners were about 40 percent less likely to have died of stroke.

Most of this association was driven by cat ownership, according to results in High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Prevention.

“Anecdotally, we believe that walking a dog is good for heart, reducing life pressure andblood pressure as well,” said senior author Jian Zhang of the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University in the U.S.

“I strongly believe that putative benefits of keeping a dog have not yet fully translated into reality, and we found that pet owners did not walk pets, certainly, dogs, more often than others,” Zhang said. “This explains why owning a dog did not reduce CVD mortality among dog owners.”

Cat owners may have a personality that protects their hearts, rather than cats actually having a concrete effect on heart health, he said.

“We are short of overall assessment of the associations of companion animals with human health, and our study should not be interpreted to encourage more people to own pets, either dog or cat,” Zhang said. “Pets are good, but have to be kept responsibly.”

“In my study, there was a tendency for pet owners to have a higher risk of dying,” said Dr. Richard F. Gillum of Howard University College of Medicine in Washington D.C., who was not part of the new study but did study the same NHANES surveys.

Most findings show no association between pets and survival, he said.

“Data from NHANES are really inadequate to settle the question, since one can only determine there was a pet in the household, but not the number of pets or whether the study participant was the owner, cared for it or interacted with it,” Gillum said. “So we need to wait for better studies before making any firm conclusions about pets and survival among their owners.”

“Even if there were a reduction of death from stroke among women with cats, of what importance is that in public health terms if they are just as likely to die as other women, just from another cause,” he said.

Facebook Takes on Twitch, YouTube With ‘Live’ In-Game Streaming

Facebook on Monday announced that it is getting into the e-Sports game, jumping into the field of video games as spectator sports against Amazon-owned Twitch and Google’s YouTube Gaming.

Facebook Takes on Twitch, YouTube With 'Live' In-Game Streaming

Later this month, people will be able to use Facebook accounts to log in to Blizzard Entertainment computer games such as “World of Warcraft.”

The move will pave the way for Blizzard game fans to use the leading social network’s Live video service to broadcast play in real time, the companies said in a joint release.

California-based Blizzard, owned by video game publisher Activision, is in the process of creating a “Go Live” feature that would let players stream on-screen action to Facebook timelines, according to the companies.

Blizzard games in line for the Facebook streaming capability included freshly released “Overwatch.”

The collaboration will add social features to Blizzard games while highlighting Facebook as a platform for sharing, viewing and discussing play, the companies said.

“Our collaboration on ‘Overwatch’ demonstrates Facebook’s commitment to partnering with AAA game companies, while further empowering Blizzard gamers to connect and share the content they’re most passionate about with the friends they play with around the world,” said Facebook global games director Leo Olebe.

“Overwatch” is a team-based shooter game played online.

Facebook earlier this year ramped up its challenge to Twitter-owned Periscope with upgrades to the social network’s live video broadcasting feature.

A new featured was added to the Live streaming feature at Facebook to let people “broadcast: to groups at the social network or in scheduled “events.”

Facebook Live launched in the middle of last year and was initially limited to celebrities but recently opened to a wider audience of broadcasters.

e-Sports heavyweights
Getting into the e-Sports game will pit Facebook against heavyweight rivals including pioneering firm Twitch and popular online video sharing service YouTube, owned by Google-parent Alphabet.

Yahoo E-sports launched about two months ago as an online venue for live tournaments, commentary, features, interviews and more tailored for the booming trend of video games as spectator sports.

The rollout of YouTube Gaming in the middle of last year marked the public debut of an online spot where video game lovers can find commentary, live play, on-demand snippets and more.

The online arena for video game channels incorporates the search smarts of Google to surface fresh or must-see content.

US online retail giant Amazon snatched up Twitch and its huge audience for live-streamed gaming in 2014.

The acquisition was one of the largest in Amazon’s history $970 million (roughly Rs. 6,488 crores) in cash for the three-year-old Internet company.

Twitch Interactive streams games being played for non-playing viewers to watch, and hosts gaming events.

It allows viewers to chat with the players and others, lending it some of the qualities of social networking websites, and it also sells advertising to generate income.

Snapdeal Opens Data Sciences Centre in California

Online marketplace Snapdeal on Monday said it has established a data sciences centre in San Carlos, California to get top global talent and build high-value solutions.

The centre will focus on big-data and advanced analytics to add clarity to Snapdeal’s consumer-centric initiatives, help shape business strategy and optimise the operational efficiencies using data. The centre is headed by Nitin Sharma, Senior Vice President, Data Sciences.

Snapdeal Opens Data Sciences Centre in California

“We have set up a data science engine in California, which is home to domain talent, to further augment our efforts in creating a superior customer experience and strengthen our supply chain. Snapdeal is extensively working on data mining through an existing analytics team,” Rohit Bansal, Co-Founder, Snapdeal said.

The centre houses experienced data scientists from leading global brands like Groupon, Google, Yahoo and Amazon and is headed by Nitin Sharma, Senior Vice President, Data Sciences, the company said in a statement.

“Under Nitin’s leadership the data science team will focus on elevating Snapdeal’s growth-focused strategy and to provide insightful guidance. The richer understanding of the customers by capturing and integrating the information on their buying behavior will drive habit commerce and is in sync with our vision of 20 million daily transacting users by the year 2020,” Bansal added.

“We have a highly accomplished team which can distil key patterns, consumer preferences and hidden correlations by quickly analyzing huge quantities of data. We will bring fresh insights to the existing work and will enhance customer experience through better planning and forecasting,” added Nitin Sharma, Senior Vice President, Data Sciences at Snapdeal.