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Daily Crunch: Microsoft backs Cruise

Autonomous vehicle company Cruise raises a $2 billion new round, Netflix keeps growing and WhatsApp faces more privacy concerns. This is your Daily Crunch for January 19, 2021.
The big story: Microsoft backs Cruise
Cruise announced today that it has raised $2 billion in new funding at a $30 billion valuation, with Microsoft joining as a new investor. (Previous backers GM and Honda also participated.)
This includes a long-term strategic partnership between the two companies, with Cruise using Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform for its yet-to-launch autonomous vehicle ride-hailing service. Microsoft is also becoming the preferred cloud provider for GM as part of the deal.
“ …

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The pandemic was top of mind in the tech of CES 2021

Of course COVID-19 was bound to be an unavoidable topic during the first-ever all-virtual CES. After all, the topic is at front of mind regardless of the topic these days. Close to a year into the pandemic, presenters still understandably feel obligated to address the always-present elephant in the room. Sometimes it was as simple as acknowledging the strangeness of moving from the Las Vegas Convention Center to a Microsoft-powered virtual venue. Other times it felt far more forced.
When it comes to the technology itself, there’s no doubt that the pandemic is going to have a profound effect …

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Finding purpose and unlocking potential at Envision

This week, I was thrilled to take part in Envision, our brand-new digital series for senior business leaders, which we’re co-producing with our close partners Accenture and Avanade.
Hosted by Stephanie Mehta, editor-in-chief of Fast Company magazine, our first episode featured dynamic speakers and a conversation that centered on thought leadership topics such as digital resilience, the future of work, and how individuals and organizations alike can find purpose and drive momentum.
We also aired localized versions of the program, which allowed leaders to discuss business news and topics relevant to their region, such as the impact of COVID-19 …

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Microsoft teams up with Warner Bros., LeBron James and Bugs Bunny to empower a new generation of developers

Digital skilling has taken center stage in 2020 – and as the importance of well-rounded, at-home learning has grown, this will continue to shape culture and education in the year ahead. The World Economic Forum predicts 77 percent of jobs in the next decade will be in technology, with creativity among the top skills sought by employers. As a company, we are committed to bringing these new skills to the workforce through our Global Skilling Initiative, announced earlier this year with the goal of helping 25 million people worldwide acquire these new digital skills.
To help bridge the digital skills gap and inspire the …

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Successful COVID-19 vaccine delivery requires strong tech partnerships

As a society, we continue through the journey of this global pandemic, but there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. There are currently two COVID-19 vaccines under accelerated review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European regulatory authorities that have reported safety and efficacy data in phase three clinical trials.¹ Unlike the common flu vaccine, each of these COVID-19 vaccines poses similar and unique challenges in terms of procurement, distribution, administration and management. At Microsoft, we have been working with public- and private-sector organizations around the world to help support this monumental task of …

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Austin-based ReturnSafe raises $3.25 million for its employee health management tools

ReturnSafe, a symptom checking and contact tracing employee health management toolkit for businesses, has raised $3.25 million in financing from investors including Fifty Years and Active Capital. 
With companies looking to reopen operations and have their employees return to work safely, management toolkits that track employee health are piling into the market offering all sorts of strategies to maintain a safe work environment.
These include offerings from companies like WorkSafe; or the ProtectWell tool from Microsoft and UnitedHealth; or NSpace, which has similar features and a scheduling tool for booking office space safely.
For its part, ReturnSafe is boasting six figure …

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Google expands its cloud with new regions in Chile, Germany and Saudi Arabia

It’s been a busy year of expansion for the large cloud providers, with AWS, Azure and Google aggressively expanding their data center presence around the world. To cap off the year, Google Cloud today announced a new set of cloud regions, which will go live in the coming months and years. These new regions, which will all have three availability zones, will be in Chile, Germany and Saudi Arabia. That’s on top of the regions in Indonesia, South Korea, the U.S. (Last Vegas and Salt Lake City) that went live this year — and the upcoming regions in …

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GitHub says goodbye to cookie banners

Microsoft -owned GitHub today announced that it is doing away with all non-essential cookies on its platform. Thanks to this, starting today, GitHub .com and its subdomains will not feature a cookie banner anymore, either. That’s one less cookie banner you’ll have to click away to get your work done.
“No one likes cookie banners,” GitHub CEO Nat Friedman writes in today’s announcement. “But cookie banners are everywhere!”
The reason for that, of course, is because of regulations like GDPR in the U.S. and the EU’s directive to give users the right to refuse the …

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Amazon asks judge to set aside Microsoft’s $10B DoD JEDI cloud contract win

It’s been more than two years since the Pentagon announced its $10 billion, decade long JEDI cloud contract, which was supposed to provide a pathway to technological modernization for U.S. armed forces. While Microsoft was awarded the contract in October 2019, Amazon went to court to protest that decision, and it has been in legal limbo ever since.
Yesterday marked another twist in this government procurement saga when Amazon released its latest legal volley, asking a judge to set aside the decision to select Microsoft. Its arguments are similar to ones it has made before, but this time takes aim …

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AWS goes after Microsoft’s SQL Server with Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL

AWS today announced a new database product that is clearly meant to go after Microsoft’s SQL Server and make it easier — and cheaper — for SQL Server users to migrate to the AWS cloud. The new service is Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL. The tagline AWS CEO Andy Jassy used for this service in his re:Invent keynote today is probably telling: “Stop paying for SQL Server licenses you don’t need.” And to show how serious it is about this, the company is even open-sourcing the tool.
What Babelfish does is provide a translation layer for SQL Server’s proprietary …

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