Artificial intelligence news from Amazon and Microsoft, updates to the collaboration suite you probably didn’t even know Facebook makes, and some skin-crawlingly bad news about what probably lurks within your PS4 gaming console are all among the stories we didn’t find time for this week.By Rich Freeman
Attentive ChannelPro readers may have noticed that a pretty good portion of the headlines on our home page in the past week began with the words “Ingram” and “Micro,” mostly because the giant disti kept us scrambling for days to keep up with all the news from its Cloud Summit in Phoenix. Good thing no one else did anything of note this week!
Well, a guy can dream anyway. Here’s a look at the stories we probably should have squeezed in between all those Ingram pieces.
Let’s begin with Amazon Web Services, shall we? The public cloud computing leader usually uncorks a torrent of updates at its first Global Summit of the year, and this week’s event in San Francisco was no exception. Several of the announcements made there touched on artificial intelligence in one way or another, and we’ll have more on them shortly. The two others most likely to be of interest to you, dear reader, are:
- The addition of contracts to the AWS Marketplace, which will enable sellers to charge and buyers to pay for third-party SaaS solutions in monthly or annual installments, rather than solely on a pay-as-you-go basis.
- The launch of a new tool called CodeStar that’s designed to make setting up and managing AWS-based development projects easier.
Just a thought, but maybe Amazon should invest some effort in making security easier too. Recent research from Threat Stack suggests that a whopping 73 percent of AWS users have at least one critical security flaw in their environment.
About those AI announcements...There were three of them in all, two of which help coders create software that talks:
- Amazon Lex, a service based on the technology that enables Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant to engage (albeit crudely) in conversations, is now generally available.
- Amazon Polly, a service that converts text into lifelike human speech, now includes functionality for synchronizing said speech with visuals (useful if you want to add narration to a video, say) or making Polly whisper her words (useful if you’re writing software for libraries, I guess).
Also new from Amazon this week is an update to the artificially intelligent Rekognition image detection and recognition service that enables it to filter out obscene or objectionable images, which could be handy if you want to keep the truly awful stuff that can pop up in a seemingly benign Google search away from your application.
Come to think of it, this was a moderately big week for AI news. For instance:
- Microsoft revealed that its forthcoming SQL Server 2017 database will include built-in machine learning capabilities, customizable templates for solutions powered by the Cortana Intelligence platform, and AI-enhanced performance and security optimization functionality.
- IBM gave its already overworked Watson platform yet another job to do, this time helping marketing professionals fine-tune their campaigns.
- Lenovo disclosed plans to spend $300 million a year for the next four years on R&D, with artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet of Things topping its priority list.
Guess who else is interested in AI? Why, Facebook, of course. Hard to imagine a tech company that prominent not paying close attention to what could turn out to be the biggest thing to hit techdom since cloud computing. At its F8 developer conference this week, Facebook discussed new image reading technology with some broad similarities to Amazon Rekognition, a new deep learning framework called Caffe2, and AI-related partnerships with Amazon, Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm, among others.
There was also a lot of talk about virtual and augmented reality, including the introduction of a new camera (pictured) for capturing 360-degree virtual reality video, and some interesting if slightly science fiction-y discussion about technology that could someday turn your thoughts directly into text.
And, hey, did you know Facebook makes collaboration software? Neither did we. But a Slack/Microsoft Teams-like solution called Facebook Workplace (or Facebook at Work, as it was known during beta testing) has, in fact, existed since last October and is reportedly now in use at over 1,000 businesses. Facebook is pleased enough about that momentum, moreover, to continue investing in the product. This week, it announced new integrations with Box, Dropbox, Microsoft Office, and Salesforce, as well as new security and compliance tie-ins with Netskope and Skyhigh Networks, among others.
AI wasn’t the only thing on Microsoft’s collective mind this week. There was also room in there for Docker. At its DockerCon user event this week, the container vendor announced an alliance with Microsoft, Avanade, Cisco, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise to containerize, and thereby modernize, legacy applications. All on its lonesome, however, Microsoft also revealed plans to enable containerized Linux applications to reside on the same Windows Server 2016 hosts as their containerized Windows-based brethren, so companies can host all of their Docker containers on the same infrastructure instead of shelling out for two.
Also out of Microsoft this week was word that...
- It has acquired team productivity app maker Intentional Software, and with it company founder, ex-Microsoft employee, and general tech world legend Charles Simonyi.
- Added Groups distribution list functionality to the Mac, iOS, and Android versions of Outlook.
- Equipped Azure Analysis Services with a cheaper “basic” tier, backup and restore functionality, and tighter integration with Azure Active Directory.
And who else had product news this week, you ask? Well, here’s your answer:
- ASUS shipped a desktop PC optimized for virtual reality and equipped with both a 7th Generation Intel Core processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10 series GPU.
- BIOSTAR introduced what it says is the world’s first mini-ITX motherboard for AMD’s new Ryzen CPU platform.
- LogicMonitor launched a configuration management solution for devices and applications.
- 2017 ChannelPro vendor on the vanguard ObserveIT added analytics and real-time response capabilities to its insider threat security solution.
- Red Hat launched a new edition of its virtualization platform designed to integrate more closely with its hybrid cloud technologies.
- Riverbed moved to add wired and wireless LAN capabilities to its SteelConnect SD-WAN solution by purchasing Xirrus.
- Samsung pulled the wraps off its new 7th Generation Intel Core-powered, stylus-equipped Galaxy Book 12 2-in-1 (pictured).
- Zendesk rolled out a new SDK that lets developers provide access to technical support from directly within mobile apps.
There were vendor stories a-plenty that didn’t involve products too. Like these, for example:
- Avnet named Philip Gallagher (pictured) global president of its core distribution business, announced an alliance agreement with Bel Fuse, and expanded its relationship with Xilinx.
- Citrix unveiled a new 2-tiered program aimed at encouraging its partners to add services to software sales.
- Communications vendor CoreDial announced an integration between its flagship SwitchConnex platform and the ConnectWise Manage PSA solution.
- Guidance Software and Lastline announced a partnership that will enable the former vendor’s end point security software to tap into the latter vendor’s automated incident response workflows.
- HPE completed its previously announced acquisition of Nimble Storage, and ahead of schedule at that.
- Malwarebytes announced that it’s teaming up with Internet of Things security vendor ForeScout to deliver solutions that shield managed and unmanaged devices alike from attack.
- The federal judiciary weighed in on who gets to use the product name Unity, declaring Nexsan the winner over Dell EMC.
- SwiftPage threw a 30th birthday party for its Act! CRM solution.
- Westcon-Comstor added Servion’s hosted contact-center-as-a-service solution to its cloud computing line card.
This week’s stats ticker:
- 45 percent of employees admit to engaging in insecure behaviors during the workday and only 18 percent of them say it’s because they didn’t know any better, according to Dell.
- Quantum computing will be a $10.7 billion global market by 2024, according to HSRC.
- Internet of Things solutions for healthcare organizations will be an even bigger $158.07 billion global market by 2022, according to Markets and Markets.
Buggy hardware. Allow us to pass thanks along on behalf of Sony to Kotaku for helpfully pointing out to the world that the PS4 gaming console in your living room is probably chock full of cockroaches right now.
Yep, we couldn’t believe it either, but it seems the dark, enclosed spaces PS4s tend to occupy are popular with bugs, as is the warm, still air the devices contain. Indeed, at least some repair specialists say something like half the PS4s they see contain roaches, most of which are quite thoroughly dead.
The good news is that CNBC has posted a helpful story of its own offering advice on turning your PS4 back into the insect-free piece of hardware you once naively thought it was. Most of it involves keeping the device off the floor and out of cabinets, blasting the interior with compressed air now and again, and maybe taking it into the shop for some professional de-infestation occasionally.
The best advice of all, though? Do not bring someone else’s PS4 into your home unless you’re really, really sure it’s clean or are so desperate for a chance to play Star Wars Battlefront II that admitting a few cockroaches into your home feels like a small price to pay.