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India’s richest man takes on Zoom

India’s Reliance Jio Platforms, which recently concluded a $15.2 billion fundraise run, is ready to enter a new business: Video conferencing.

On Thursday evening, the firm — backed by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man — formally launched JioMeet, its video-conference service.

Like Zoom and Google Meet, JioMeet offers unlimited number of free calls in high definition (720p) to users and supports as many as 100 participants on a call. But interestingly, it’s not imposing a short time limit on a call’s duration. Jio Platforms says a call can be “up to 24 hours” long. The service currently has no paid plans and it’s unclear if Jio Platforms, which has a reputation of giving away services for free for years, plans to change that.

Jio Platforms, which began beta testing JioMeet in May this year, said the video conferencing service offers “enterprise-grade” host controls. These include: password protection on each call, multi-device login support (up to five devices), and ability to share screen and collaborate.

Other features include the ability to switch “seemingly” from one device to another, and a ‘Safe Driving Mode’ for when a participant is in commute. Hosts can also enable a ‘waiting room’ to ensure participants have to ask for permission to enter a call.

Reliance Jio Platforms is taking on Zoom with JioMeet, which looks a lot like Zoom

JioMeet is available for use through Chrome and Firefox browsers on desktop, as well as has standalone apps for macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android. It also has an Outlook plugin.

In a call with analysts earlier this year, Jio executives had described JioMeet as a platform that they think would some day have features to enable doctors to consult their patients, prescribe them medicine, and have a system in place to let them buy medicines online and get test results digitally. Similarly, they said JioMeet will allow teachers to host virtual classrooms for their students, with the ability to record sessions, assign and accept homework, and conduct tests digitally.

JioPlatforms, which is India’s top telecom operator with about 400 million customers, operates a number of digital services including JioMusic, a music streaming service; JioCinema, which offers thousands of TV shows and movies; and JioTV, which allows users to watch more than 500 TV channels. All of these services are available at no additional charge to Jio Platforms subscribers. It costs less than $2 a month to be a Jio subscriber.

The launch of JioMeet today comes as tens of millions of Indians are working from home and using video conferencing services for work and to stay in touch with friends.

Zoom app, currently the most popular video conference service in India, on Android had about 35 million monthly active users in the third week of July, up from about 4 million users during the same period in March, according to mobile insights firm App Annie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. (Android powers nearly 99% of smartphones in India.)

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Looking back on an unprecedented quarter: customers embrace technology to advance industry innovation, respond to COVID-19 and plan for the future

It is predicted that by 2030, there will be a $4 trillion opportunity focused on new mobility services, as the automotive and transportation sectors converge.

This year has been unlike any other. As we welcomed the new decade, we witnessed industry-leading innovations by our customers and partners at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and National Retail Federation (NRF) conferences in January. We announced ambitious new sustainability initiatives and how we plan to help our customers reduce their carbon footprint. Then COVID-19 changed everything, disrupting business as usual and forcing organizations across industries to navigate a new landscape. As we work through the effects of the pandemic together, it is incredible to see how technology is enabling our customers to be agile and maintain business continuity. We are also seeing them adapt and scale to sustain critical products and services — all while preparing for a post-pandemic comeback and the new normal.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivers the opening keynote at NRF 2020, sharing his thoughts on the future of retail and how technology can help the industry transform.

Groundbreaking innovation across industries

The first quarter of calendar year 2020 began with a strong focus on what is next in automotive and our participation at CES, a global technology event. The industry is transforming at an incredible speed, quickly shaping the future of mobility and the automotive experience by using cloud, edge, IoT and AI services. Faurecia, a leading automotive technology company is using the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform, Teams and Project xCloud to help people stay connected, productive and entertained while in the car. LG Electronics is working to build its automotive infotainment systems with our Azure cloud and AI services, and ZF is transforming into a software-driven mobility provider using Microsoft’s cloud services and developer tools.

At NRF, the world’s largest retail conference, Satya Nadella delivered the opening keynote, sharing ways we are working with retailers to help them better understand their customers, empower employees with digital tools, create a more intelligent supply chain through co-innovation and ultimately reimagine their businesses. During the event, Walgreens Boots Alliance announced it is piloting an immersive mixed reality training program for its employees using HoloLens 2. IKEA shared how it is deploying Microsoft Teams to more than 70,000 workers (including first-line employees) to increase productivity, and H&M shared how Azure IoT is helping propel its continued work toward a more sustainable future for the fashion industry by offering smart garment recycling bins in select stores around the world. Canada Goose, one the world’s largest makers of luxury performance apparel, showed how the company is building on the principle of the endless aisle using Dynamics 365 Commerce software to offer its entire range of products to customers without any physical stock in the store, and Home Depot bet on Microsoft PromoteIQ to help maximize the nearly 170 million monthly visitors on its e-commerce site with the PromoteIQ end-to-end commerce marketing platform. Samsung announced a new smartphone with a push-to-talk button that will leverage the new Walkie Talkie feature available in Microsoft Teams, providing first-line workers like retail employees easier ways to communicate on the job.

In February, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bosch Group and ZF Friedrichshafen signed up as steering committee members of the Open Manufacturing Platform — founded by Microsoft and BMW in 2019  — to help manufacturing companies accelerate innovation at scale through cross-industry collaboration, knowledge and data sharing.

The emergence of a pandemic

As the fight against COVID-19 continues, I am encouraged by how customers are using technology to respond.

On the frontlines, care teams are using technology to scale their triage process to address the overwhelming number of patients needing care and to ease volume in the system. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a COVID-19 assessment bot, powered by Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service running on Azure, to help organizations screen patients for potential infection and care options. These bots use artificial intelligence to help pre-screen patients and provide guidance on care plans, reducing the burden on medical professionals. Swedish Health Services built a mobile app to help hospital staff and administrators monitor resources, protective gear and ventilator use. The app syncs with hospital dashboards powered by the Power Platform emergency response solution to help manage bed count and inventory of critical supplies while sharing the information across the region to help other health professionals prepare their facilities.

Telemedicine is also enabling healthcare providers to continue delivering treatment. For example, Microsoft Teams has allowed doctors at St. Luke’s University Health Network to safely perform more than 75,000 virtual visits with patients vulnerable to the virus, while minimizing direct exposure and preserving valuable resources like masks and gloves.

In education, we are working with schools around the world to enable a remote learning system that fosters a culture of learning outside the classroom — as schools, universities, students and parents adopt the tools necessary for distance-learning models. That includes making Teams available for free for students and educators. The University of Bologna moved 90% of courses for its 80,000 students online to Teams within three days. AI is also playing a critical role in keeping students engaged and learning. The University of Sydney built an AI-infused bot using Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services that responds to students’ questions about COVID-19, providing instant answers and access to additional resources. At Case Western Reserve University, medical students are using Microsoft HoloLens to continue immersive remote learning without falling behind in classwork. In a larger-scale effort to support educators, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is launching a global e-learning initiative to minimize educational disruptions and maintain social contact.  Microsoft has joined this coalition to contribute resources and technology expertise to ensure #LearningNeverStops.

In response to the COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) directed the majority of its workforce to work remotely and created the Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) Environment to provide secure teleworking capabilities to millions of users across the entire department. Our continued work with the DoD will lead to the single largest tenant of Office 365 and Microsoft Teams in the coming weeks, with the speed of deployment exceeding anything before it.

A quiet Microsoft Commons in Redmond, Washington as employees work from home in the time of COVID-19.

We are working across industries to accelerate research for a cure for COVID-19 and recently announced our participation in a new consortium alongside C3.ai and top universities to apply AI toward this pandemic challenge. The institute’s work aims to slow the spread of COVID-19, speed the development of medical treatments, predict its evolution and improve public health strategies. Additionally, Microsoft joined the White House-led consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers worldwide access to the most powerful High Performance Computing resources to significantly accelerate the pace of scientific discovery. As we strive to support our customers through technology, we are also doing our part to ensure our employees remain safe while contributing to efforts to protect public health and the well-being of our communities.

Planning for the future

In recent weeks, we have shared details about groundbreaking new partnerships in the financial services sector, major league sports and consumer goods and services. BlackRock is moving its Aladdin platform to Microsoft Azure, the NBA is redefining and personalizing the fan experience through Azure and its AI capabilities, and last week, as part of our deep partnership with the NFL, Microsoft Teams and Surface were part of the technology solution that brought the first-ever virtual NFL Draft to life. Just today, The Coca-Cola Company announced it is standardizing business operations on Microsoft’s cloud to modernize how the company engages with employees and customers. In addition, in late March, we announced an agreement to acquire Affirmed Networks, a leader in fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network solutions. This acquisition, which closed last week, will allow us to evolve our work with the telecommunications industry, building on our secure and trusted cloud platform for operators, while we continue to focus on interoperability and strong partnerships with suppliers, emerging innovators and other stakeholders to extend cloud-based, software-defined networking into the world of 5G connectivity.

I am deeply inspired by how our customers and partners across every industry are harnessing digital tools to navigate an uncertain landscape. While COVID-19 has disrupted lives, the resilience we see today gives me confidence that we will be prepared to build a new normal together, full of opportunity and powered by innovation and ingenuity.

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Microsoft says video calls in Teams grew 1,000% in March

With the COVID-19 pandemic making work from home the default for those companies that are able to do so, it’s no surprise that we are seeing a massive rise in the usage of video chat tools like Zoom, Google Meet and Teams . We’d already heard some updates from Zoom and Google, but today Microsoft joined the parade with a new report on how its Teams users have adapted to the rise of remote work.
Back on March 16, the company reported 900 million meeting minutes in Teams . Now, less than a month later, it says that it saw a new …

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Microsoft Teams goes down — just as everyone starts working from home

Microsoft Teams, the collaboration software that rivals Slack, is currently down.
A lot of workers are staying at home because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Countries are shutting borders, entire industries are struggling, the U.S. Federal Reserve has slashed interest rates, and governments are scrambling to protect their populations …

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U.S. Air Force and Microsoft partner to empower airmen with modern IT

The U.S. Air Force is breaking the glass as a leader in harnessing the power of cloud, rapidly rolling out modern services to enable airmen to advance the mission through more effective collaboration. As part of their digital transformation journey to achieve global access, persistence, and awareness for the 21st century, the U.S. Air Force is deploying targeted workloads that allow airmen to focus on their missions rather than spending time managing IT infrastructure.

Mission focus and efficiency

A key part of their digital transformation strategy is leveraging the technology industry’s capabilities for cloud infrastructure, allowing the U.S. Air Force to re-tool and refocus their resources. As part of our collaboration with the U.S. Air Force, we’re deeply aligned on a joint mission to drive IT enhancements that enable airmen to be more efficient and effective. Building out the capabilities for this targeted mission focus started with planning for how the organization will manage their data in the future, deploying core functions such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive and other capabilities delivered through the Microsoft 365 suite of productivity applications.

Improved total cost of ownership

The rapid deployment of cloud tools at this scale is made possible by the U.S. Air Force’s leadership in building the multi-cloud factory Cloud One, a migration center of excellence designed as a foundation for future innovation. Leapfrogging more traditional cloud migration strategies with a Platform as a service (PaaS)-first approach and secure systems boundary, Cloud One enables the U.S. Air Force to rapidly transform legacy systems into modern apps and exploit the agility, scale and global presence afforded by the cloud.

William Marion, U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief Information Officer, says that Cloud One is the U.S. Air Force’s “path to the cloud, but further it is fundamental to the Digital Air Force and the future of Multi-Domain Operations. It enables our teams to achieve unprecedented cost efficiencies and productivity through automation, agile software development at scale, and a streamlined process for moving applications to production.”

Cloud One has recalibrated what internal teams expect from a cloud migration, providing all the foundational cloud capabilities including networking, monitoring, access control and identity. In addition, apps deployed to Azure Government inherit the platform’s security controls by design, further reducing operational costs and freeing up resources to focus on the mission.

Focus on security and compliance

The U.S. Air Force understands the importance of a dynamic, foundational risk management framework that can react quickly to cyber-attacks and changes in the threat landscape. With Microsoft 365 Government and Azure Government, they can obtain the scale and performance of modern cloud tools while maintaining compliance with the strict compliance requirements of the Department of Defense (DoD), including DoD Impact Level 5.

Next-generation collaboration

One of the primary goals of the U.S. Air Force is to empower airmen to collaborate and execute their missions with modern technology best practices. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Enterprise IT and Cyber Infrastructure Division (AFLCMC/HNI) at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts has planned, tested and started deployment of Microsoft Teams to improve project management and teamwork. With geographically separated organizations, Teams will streamline collaboration and communication between airmen across the globe.

The massive scale of this U.S. Air Force organization – wide rollout requires massive change management – so we’ve developed a joint plan with focused training, deployment and service adoption to drive mission-focused use cases. The plan includes learning events with modern modalities, creating consumable resources to enable airmen to learn more about how Teams can work for their unit. This includes product immersion events, ask-me-anything events, and video content so airmen can learn efficiently from wherever they are in the world.

These advances in productivity, cloud acceleration, and collaboration are a result of ongoing teamwork across the 16th Air Force, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and the Defense Information Systems Agency. As thought leaders and innovators, these organization have planned, built and deployed modern IT experiences at massive scale using Microsoft 365 Government and Azure Government, enabling airmen to continue to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.

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Source: The Official Microsoft Blog

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U.S. Air Force and Microsoft partner to empower airmen with modern IT

The U.S. Air Force is breaking the glass as a leader in harnessing the power of cloud, rapidly rolling out modern services to enable airmen to advance the mission through more effective collaboration. As part of their digital transformation journey to achieve global access, persistence, and awareness for the 21st century, the U.S. Air Force is deploying targeted workloads that allow airmen to focus on their missions rather than spending time managing IT infrastructure.

Mission focus and efficiency

A key part of their digital transformation strategy is leveraging the technology industry’s capabilities for cloud infrastructure, allowing the U.S. Air Force to re-tool and refocus their resources. As part of our collaboration with the U.S. Air Force, we’re deeply aligned on a joint mission to drive IT enhancements that enable airmen to be more efficient and effective. Building out the capabilities for this targeted mission focus started with planning for how the organization will manage their data in the future, deploying core functions such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive and other capabilities delivered through the Microsoft 365 suite of productivity applications.

Improved total cost of ownership

The rapid deployment of cloud tools at this scale is made possible by the U.S. Air Force’s leadership in building the multi-cloud factory Cloud One, a migration center of excellence designed as a foundation for future innovation. Leapfrogging more traditional cloud migration strategies with a Platform as a service (PaaS)-first approach and secure systems boundary, Cloud One enables the U.S. Air Force to rapidly transform legacy systems into modern apps and exploit the agility, scale and global presence afforded by the cloud.

William Marion, U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief Information Officer, says that Cloud One is the U.S. Air Force’s “path to the cloud, but further it is fundamental to the Digital Air Force and the future of Multi-Domain Operations. It enables our teams to achieve unprecedented cost efficiencies and productivity through automation, agile software development at scale, and a streamlined process for moving applications to production.”

Cloud One has recalibrated what internal teams expect from a cloud migration, providing all the foundational cloud capabilities including networking, monitoring, access control and identity. In addition, apps deployed to Azure Government inherit the platform’s security controls by design, further reducing operational costs and freeing up resources to focus on the mission.

Focus on security and compliance

The U.S. Air Force understands the importance of a dynamic, foundational risk management framework that can react quickly to cyber-attacks and changes in the threat landscape. With Microsoft 365 Government and Azure Government, they can obtain the scale and performance of modern cloud tools while maintaining compliance with the strict compliance requirements of the Department of Defense (DoD), including DoD Impact Level 5.

Next-generation collaboration

One of the primary goals of the U.S. Air Force is to empower airmen to collaborate and execute their missions with modern technology best practices. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Enterprise IT and Cyber Infrastructure Division (AFLCMC/HNI) at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts has planned, tested and started deployment of Microsoft Teams to improve project management and teamwork. With geographically separated organizations, Teams will streamline collaboration and communication between airmen across the globe.

The massive scale of this U.S. Air Force organization – wide rollout requires massive change management – so we’ve developed a joint plan with focused training, deployment and service adoption to drive mission-focused use cases. The plan includes learning events with modern modalities, creating consumable resources to enable airmen to learn more about how Teams can work for their unit. This includes product immersion events, ask-me-anything events, and video content so airmen can learn efficiently from wherever they are in the world.

These advances in productivity, cloud acceleration, and collaboration are a result of ongoing teamwork across the 16th Air Force, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and the Defense Information Systems Agency. As thought leaders and innovators, these organization have planned, built and deployed modern IT experiences at massive scale using Microsoft 365 Government and Azure Government, enabling airmen to continue to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.

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Source: The Official Microsoft Blog

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Microsoft Teams has been down this morning

Microsoft Teams, the collaboration platform that competes with Slack, has been down since about 8:30 am ET. Microsoft reports the outage was due to an expired certificate.

Microsoft first posted that an outage was in progress on its Office 365 Status Twitter feed about 9:00 am ET, stating the company was looking into the problem.

At approximately 10:00 am ET, the company posted the reason for the problem, an expired certificate, which frankly, has to be pretty embarrassing for the group responsible for keeping the Teams service running.

About an hour ago, the company updated the status again, indicating it had begun deploying the updated certificate.

Some customers have begun reporting on Twitter that service has been restored.

Microsoft has kept the status updates pretty business like, but has not apologized to its 20 million users as of publication. The company is in the midst of a battle for hearts and minds in the enterprise collaboration space with Slack, and a preventable outage has to be awkward for them.

The company will no doubt do a post-mortem to figure out how this mistake happened and how to prevent this kind of issue from taking down the site again. While every service is going to experience an outage from time-to-time, it’s up to the organization to understand why it happened and put systems in place to keep a preventable incident like this one from happening again in the future.

Source: TechCrunch

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Lenovo is bringing smart displays to the office with a Microsoft Teams device

Lenovo sells pricey ThinkSmart Hub conferencing devices. It also sells far less expensive smart displays. Next week at CES it will announce that it will be crossing the streams on the two distinct product lines with the arrival of the ThinkSmart View. The device looks to essentially be a Google Assistant-style smart display, repurposed for the office setting.

Instead of centering around Google’s home AI, however, the system is essentially powered by Microsoft Teams. Basically, it’s a way for offices to offer up a devoted Teams audio/video conferencing device at the fraction of the cost of its other enterprise solutions. The View starts at $349 (or $449 with an included pair of Bluetooth headphones for open offices). Compare that to the $1,800 asking rate for last year’s ThinkSmart Hub 500.

The device probably makes the most sense for smaller conference rooms and SMBs on higher budgets. It could, too, work at individual desks or for remote workers, though it’s going to take heavy use to justify the purchase of one of these, versus just installing Teams on your PCs. Still, it’s an interesting push for the smart display category, as manufacturers look for life beyond the kitchen and bedroom.

Benefits include quick access to Teams meetings and a physical shutter for privacy. No reason why Lenovo couldn’t also do one of these for Google office Hangouts, as well. They certainly beat paying exorbitant prices for one of those Microsoft or Google smart whiteboards.

The View launches this month.

Source: TechCrunch