Amazon and Microsoft Team up Again on Machine Learning

November 21, 2017

Recently, tech giants Amazon and Microsoft made public a new partnership. No, they’re not splitting Seahawks season tickets in their mutual hometown of Seattle. In fact, they are pooling their collective brain powers to advance machine learning and we should all sit up and take notice. We learned this from a recent InfoQ article, “Microsoft and Amazon Collaborate on Machine Learning.”

As the article states about the pair’s new AI product, Gluon:

Gluon is an open-source deep learning and neural network solution that is exposed through a Python-based API. It comes with prebuilt neural network components that can be created on the fly and used to train algorithms making it easier to define, debug, iterate and reuse components.


Gluons brings support for programming techniques not found in other frameworks, such as dynamic graphs, and has deep support for sparse data which is often found in natural language processing.

This might sound like a strange one-off, but we are actually seeing this kind of partnership cropping up more and more. In fact, these two recently paired to make sure their virtual assistant programs could communicate with one another, which were met with great acclaim. Perhaps the days of incompatibility are over in the tech world and it will no longer matter if you are a Mac or a PC, maybe someday, if partnerships like this continue, they will work together no matter what.

Patrick Roland, November 21, 2017

Microsoft Does Not Make Renault Go Vroom Vroom

November 15, 2017

In the formula one racing world, Renault was performing poorly.  Then Google stepped in, poured its artificial intelligence technology into Renault’s gas tanks, and bragged about how the formula one team is underperforming.  In a PR blunder, The Register shares how Microsoft boasted about helping Renault in last place, “Microsoft’s AI Is So Good It Steered Renault Into Bottom Of The F1 League.”

We all know that Microsoft likes to be the best of the best and they like to brag about their success, but sometimes the company really needs to keep its mouth shut.  Microsoft sang its own praises when it explained how they helped the Renault Formula 1 racing team achieve its current seventh-place standing.  How did they help achieve this honor?  By using none other than Azure Machine Learning, Stream Analytics, Dynamics 365, and other Microsoft software to bolster the racing team.

Renault said that being seventh is “pole position in our world.”  They employ Microsoft’s technology to analyze data from thousands of sensor channels and to analyze vehicle performance.

The idea, says Microsoft, is to use the machine learning to perform calculations and analysis that would otherwise take up the time of a team of engineers.


Additionally, the Windows giant says the Renault design team is using its HoloLens augmented reality platform to study and improve car and engine designs – something that d’Imbleval sees not only more successful Formula One teams, but also the fans themselves, taking up in the coming years.

The article then explains that in the future fans will be able to wear HoloLens and have access to the same data as the drivers.  Interesting thought, but Nascar is already doing something similar.  Also bragging about the seventh place is not the best way to upset your software Microsoft.

Whitney Grace, November 15, 2017

More .NET Spying Issues

November 7, 2017

George Orwell, like many science fiction authors, imagined dystopian futures, but also the possibility of grander technology.  In his quintessential novel 1984, Orwell discussed the consequences of a society controlled by completely by the government and how an advanced spy network allowed the entity to do so.  While Orwell imagined this future, he probably could not conceive of how the technology would actually work.

Today we do and many consumers are victims of spying.

Technology companies state that the spying is unintentional, but do we really believe that?  Gitbhub had a post titled, “.NET Core Should Not Spy On Users By Default”  The .NET Core is a set of tools Microsoft developed and Microsoft has a history of spying on their users.  Remember how Windows 10 spied on users?  A Microsoft representative posted that the default spying protocol is actually a good thing, because

The data we collect does not identify individual users. We’re only interested in aggregate data that we can use to identify trends. The telemetry feature is configurable, so you can turn it on/off at any time. It is also scoped, only applying to tools usage, not the rest of the product. We think that this is a good trade-off and recognize that not everyone will like it. We do know, however, that many people will like the product improvements that will come from this insight.

Spying is spying, whether the data cannot be identified.  Also everything digital leaves a footprint somehow, so the representative is more than likely misspeaking (using double think?).  The spying option should never be a default unless an advisory is given to users and they allow it.  At least, Apple does it with all of their users.

Whitney Grace, November 7, 2017

Yet Another Way to Make Search Smarter

November 3, 2017

Companies are always inventing new ways to improve search.  Their upgrades are always guaranteed to do this or that, but usually they do nothing at all.  BA Insights is one of the few companies that offers decent search product and guess what?  They have a new upgrade!  According to their blog, “BA Insight Makes Search Smarter With Smarthub.”  BA Insight’s latest offering is called the Smarthub that is specifically designed for cognitive search.  It leverages cloud-based search and cognitive computing services from Google, Elastic, and Microsoft.

Did I mention it was an app?  Most of them are these days.  Smarthub also supports and is compatible with other technology, has search controls built from metadata, machine learning personalization analytics, cognitive image processing, and simultaneous access to content from over sixty enterprise systems. What exactly is cognitive search?

‘Cognitive search, and indeed, the entire new wave of cognitive applications, are the next leap forward in information access.  These apps rest on a search backbone that integrates information, making it findable and usable.  Companies such as BA Insight are now able to not only provide better search results, but also uncover patterns and solve problems that traditional search engines can’t,’ said Sue Feldman, Co-Founder and Managing Director at the Cognitive Computing Consortium.  ‘There’s a cognitive technology race going on between the big software superpowers, which are developing platforms on which these applications are built.  Smart smaller vendors go the next mile, layering highly integrated, well designed, purpose-built applications on top of multiple platforms so that enterprises can leave their information environments in place while adding in the AI, machine learning, and language understanding that gets them greater, faster insights.’

It sounds like what all search applications are supposed to do.  I guess it is just a smarter version of the search applications that already exist, but what makes them different is the analytics and machine learning components that make information more findable and personalize the experience.

Whitney Grace, November 3, 2017

Short Honk: Ah, Microsoft. We Love Edge. We Do, We Do

November 2, 2017

There are more weighty issues in online search and content processing. One example is the cheeseburger emoji. Another is the growing hostility to Silicon Valley methods.

I read “Microsoft Edge Crashes Mid Presentation Forcing Microsoft Employee to Download Google Chrome.” I noted this passage:

Microsoft actually uploaded the entire presentation to YouTube, complete with the part where the employee downloads Google Chrome,

The crash wasn’t enough. The fact that MSFT used Chrome was not enough. But what was enough was uploading the promo for Google to YouTube.

What did NFL commentators used to say before political correctness forced the program to discontinue hard hits? Was it “Come on, man” or was it “Jacked Up.”

I recall a Verizon VP who once used the phrase “fluster cluck.”

You pick a way to describe the situation if your Windows 10 download and reboot does not interrupt your online session.

Stephen E Arnold, November 2, 2017

Bing out, Google in for Siri and Spotlight

October 26, 2017

Was it only a matter of time? Softpedia News reports, “Apple Replaces Microsoft’s Bing with Google for Siri and Spotlight on iOS, macOS.” The company explains the change will make the user experience within these services more consistent with Safari, the browser used by iOS and macOS. Writer Marius Nestor reports:

As of today, Apple chooses to use Google instead of Microsoft’s Bing for web search results on Siri for iOS and macOS, as well as on the Spotlight feature of macOS Sierra or High Sierra and iOS’ built-in search functionality. In a statement given to TechCrunch this morning, Apple confirms the switch from Bing to Google for web search results provided by either Siri or Spotlight on both iOS and macOS operating systems, claiming that the drastic change has to do with consistency across all of its supported Mac and iOS devices, but we know that Google paid Apple $3 billion to remain default search engine on iOS and macOS.

Though Bing diehards can re-enable that search engine within the Safari browser, but not for Siri or Spotlight. Apple emphasizes they maintain “strong relationships” with both Google and Microsoft.

Cynthia Murrell, October 26, 2017

Google and Android Are Fragmented

October 25, 2017

Google and Android are usually linked in arm and arm proving that the latter is the superior phone.  There might be problems, however, with Google’s newest augmented reality program ARCore.  The news comes from Venture Beat’s story, “Android’s Fragmentation Will Give Google’s ARCore Problems.”  Google released the ARCore to compete with Apple’s ARKit, but problems occur with fragmentation.

One of the reasons is that there are 24,000 smartphones that use the Android OS.  This would not be an issue, except all of these devices use one of seven different versions of the Android software.  It is difficult, nay, impossible for all of the smartphone developers to agree on a set of standards.  Apple has the benefit of being a singular company without that issue.

The ARCore will only run on high end smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Pixel, that do not have the fragmentation problem.  Google also does not have a happy developer community, because they are forced to make multiple copies of the same app for the different Android versions.

Ultimately, if you don’t have happy developers, you won’t have great content, which means you won’t have users. Just look at Microsoft’s Windows Smartphone: it failed to attract developers to build its mobile ecosystem, which former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer blamed for the demise of the company’s smartphone unit.

Android has fragmentation issues with the ARCore as well as a fragmented developer community.  Things could and probably will change in who dominates the phone market, but for now, Apple remains on top.

Whitney Grace, October 25, 2017

HP Enterprise Spins Software Division into Micro Focus International

October 23, 2017

It would seem that the saga of HP’s lamented 2011 Autonomy acquisition is now complete—Reuters announces, “Hewlett Packard Enterprise to Complete Software Spin-Off.” Reporter Salvador Rodriguez explains:

The enterprise software businesses, which include the widely used ArcSight security platform, have been merged with Micro Focus International Plc (MCRO.L), a British software company. HPE was formed when the company once known as Hewlett-Packard split into HPE and HP Inc in November 2015.


The spin-off comes as HPE adjusts to the rapid shift of corporate computing to cloud services offered by the likes of Inc (AMZN.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O). HPE aims to cater specifically to customers running services both on their own premises and in the cloud, said Ric Lewis, senior vice president of HPE’s cloud software group, in an interview.


The spin-off marks the end of HP’s unhappy tangle with Autonomy, which it acquired for $11 billion in an aborted effort to transform HP into an enterprise software leader. The ink was barely dry on the much-criticized deal when the company took an $8.8 billion writedown on it.

But wait, the story is not over quite yet—the legal case that began when HP sued Autonomy ’s chief officers continues. Apparently, that denouement is now HPE’s to handle. As for Micro Focus, Rodriguez reports it will now be run by former HPE Chief Operating Officer Chris Hsu, who plans to focus on growth through acquisitions. Wait… wasn’t that what started this trouble in the first place?

Cynthia Murrell, October 23, 2017

Bing Gains on Google in Desktop Search

October 20, 2017

Many were skeptical that Bing could make any inroads into Google’s market, but now TechRadar reports, “Bing Search Has Taken Over a Surprising Amount of Google’s Turf.” Citing comScore’s figures for desktop PC searches made this past March, writer Darren Allan tells us that, in the US, one out of three desktop searches used Bing and in the UK, one out of four did. Globally, Bing’s market share is 9%, a figure that includes Microsoft-powered Yahoo and AOL searches. What is behind Bing’s unforeseen success? Allan reflects:

The spread of Windows 10 is the primary factor, with Microsoft’s newest OS maintaining a steady rate of growth as time goes on, as we saw with the latest figures on that front yesterday. Windows 10 is fronted – quite literally, from setup onwards – by Cortana, and searches conducted via the digital assistant are powered by Bing. As Windows 10 continues to gather pace, and more folks begin to use Cortana on the desktop, naturally more searches will come Bing’s way. And to some extent, Google getting flak for anti-competitive practices in Europe, as seen last month when the search giant was hit by a massive fine for favoring its own shopping services in results, isn’t likely to hurt Bing’s prospects either. We’ve certainly had several non-techie friends hear anti-Google news hitting the headlines, prompting them to think about using alternatives. This search might lead folks to Bing’s door. And finally, the fact that Microsoft will now pay you to use Bing could tempt some folks, as well.

Yes, Microsoft Rewards is bribing users to make the switch. I suppose every incentive helps. Will such tactics, along with Windows’ dominant desktop position and Google’s reputation problem, continue to support Bing’s rise in the search market? Stay tuned.

Cynthia Murrell, October 20, 2017

Microsoft AI: Another Mobile Type Play?

September 27, 2017

I read a long discussion of Microsoft’s artificial intelligence activities. The article touches briefly on the use of Bing and LinkedIn data. (I have distributed this post via LinkedIn, so members can get a sense of the trajectory of the MSFT AI effort.

I noted several quotes, but I urge you to read the original article “One Year Later, Microsoft AI and Research Grows to 8k People in Massive Bet on Artificial Intelligence.”

[1] Microsoft is looking to avoid missing giant opportunities as it did with mobile and social media, so it is giving its AI strategy a lot of attention and resources

[2] Artificial intelligence is one of the key topics of Nadella’s upcoming book, Hit Refresh.

[3] The initial announcement between Microsoft and Cortana might not be the end of the AI collaboration between the Seattle-area tech giant…

[4] We’ve [Microsoft AI team] largely built what I would call wedges of competency — a great speech recognition system, a great vision and captioning system, great object recognition system…

[5] When you think about the Microsoft Graph and Office Graph, now augmented with the LinkedIn Graph, it’s just amazing.

[6] Now, the question is whether Microsoft “can really execute with differentiation.

[7] Microsoft is looking to avoid missing giant opportunities as it did with mobile and social media, so it is giving its AI strategy a lot of attention and resources.

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2017

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