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Facebook Releases TikTok Competitor, Microsoft Enables Teams For Hybrid Workplaces & More News

August 07, 2020 Digital Workplace
David Roe
By David Roe

In a recent report from the financial newswire Bloomberg, Andrea Walne, a partner at Manhattan Venture Partners is cited as saying that the trading of ByteDance shares in late May — ByteDance being the current owner of TikTok — is reflective of the global wave of consumers who agree that ByteDance can displace Facebook as the leading social network.

That may or may not be true and only time will tell, but Facebook is certainly seems to be taking the possibility seriously as it has just launched Instagram Reels, a new way to create short videos on Instagram. With it, users can share reels with their followers in Feed and if they have a public account they can make them available to the wider Instagram community through a new space in Explore.

It is not a new concept for Facebook as it had already released something like TikTok in 2018 known as Lasso that had a short life and was finally closed-down last year. In 2019 it also released a version of Reels in Brazil called Cenas with another, similar version, released in Europe too. You get the picture: Instagram Reels may be fortuitous but it its not a bolt out of the blue.

And it is only fortuitous if you believe that Facebook is completely ignoring the main show in the social network space this week, which is the announcement that Microsoft is in negotiations to buy the American assets of TikTok.

We have already seen how, among other things, buying TikTok would a) give Microsoft a major position in the market b) give it a pile of user data that it may be able to use across a lot of its other apps. There is another reason why the Microsoft news could be a problem for Facebook. If the sale goes ahead it gets a ready-made young audience for its social network, which in the coming years and through different incitements, could  be turned into life-long users of other Microsoft products. That is why the Reels release now is not just by chance. Facebook has taken the plunge in what could seen as an attempt to win this young audience away from Microsoft before Microsoft even has a chance to sign any agreement with ByteDance, if indeed such an agreement is signed.

For Facebook offering Reels like this could also turn the same users into Instagram clients. For the moment, those that use the 15-second clips that are posted in TikTok, and are likely to be posted in Reels soon, are unlikely to be the same audience that currently use Instagram, where users share the more studied, even professional photos that you find on Instagram. If Facebook markets Reels as a sideshow to Instagram, then the younger Reels users could also be persuaded into Instagram for life.

Its an interesting move and while at first look there does not appear to be an enterprise interest here, this is about audiences and dominating the social network space, now and into the future. This, for course, will have a major impact on the enterprise tech space.

Microsoft Prepares Teams for Hybrid Work Environments

Sticking briefly with Microsoft and networks, the company has yet again made some new additions to Teams that should make it easier to combine working-from-home with working in the office.

While Gartner has predicted a substantial percentage of the workforce will continue to work at home once the Covid-19 pandemic has passed, it seems more likely, as the crisis continues with no foreseeable end, that most workers will engage in hybrid working where they will work part of the time at home and part in their offices.

In a blog post about the Teams upgrades, Nicole Herskowitz, Microsoft Teams general manager wrote that many company leaders are now investing in long-term resilience to strengthen their organizational agility, while proactively managing cost and risk of current economic uncertainty. “In recent months, the shift to remote and hybrid work has catalyzed organizations of all sizes, and across every industry, to rethink how their people and teams communicate and collaborate. Many of our customers are now navigating a new COVID-19 response phase, moving on from “remote everything” to a more sustainable, hybrid workplace, blending remote work and physical offices,” she wrote.

In response to the pandemic, many organizations transformed their workplaces into digital workplaces operating through video meetings first, then to 1:1 video calls with colleagues, then to large events and conferences. In sum, video communications have kept many workplaces operating over the past four months.

To facilitate this kind of workplace, Microsoft is enabling Teams meetings to scale to 20,000 people, which appears to be designed for virtual conferences with very large audiences. For smaller "gatherings" it is also enabling interactive meetings, but limiting them to 1,000 participants, with a seamless shift to a "view only" mode after the limit is met.

Organizations will also be able to add structure to meetings too by adding company’s branding to meetings for a professional look and feel. They will also be able to connect business applications to manage at scale and automate workflows.

One other new development that is worth noting is the opening of the public preview of the new Endpoint Data Loss Prevention (DLP), which extends data loss prevention to devices. Building on Microsoft Information Protection, Endpoint DLP extends the existing DLP capabilities in Microsoft 365 to all devices, helping users meet compliance requirements and protect sensitive information.

All of this is designed to make remote working and meeting easier and points to a future where hybrid, if not entirely remote working models become the norm.

Hyland’s Brainware Improves Intelligent Data Extraction

Meanwhile, Westlake, Ohio-based Hyland has announced the release of Brainware Foundation, the latest release of Hyland's intelligent data extraction and text analytics software.

Brainware Foundation EP1 includes key enhancements to functionality, usability and security – most notably the addition of a new handwriting recognition engine. As a result, digital workplace employees can use Microsoft's cloud OCR engine through Azure Computer Vision, an intelligent content analysis tool within the portfolio of Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services. 

Hyland’s OnBase Foundation was released last September. At the time, Hyland said Foundation marked the first in what would be a series of Foundation product releases across Hyland's content services platform — incorporating new technology and offering more frequent releases to provide users with quicker, easier access to enhancements and new functionality.

Brainware Foundation EP1 is the latest and gives enterprises access to more data contained in documents as its capture capabilities includes data from written documents — even badly written documents — as well as more traditional documents. Data extraction can be performed in a single pass on free-form printed or scripted writing without anchors, constraint boxes, color dropout, or additional OCR/ICR engine.

OnBase Foundation also offers stronger connections with Hyland's other content services offerings, including Content Composer, the customer communications management product; ShareBase, a cloud-based document sharing and collaboration solution; and Brainware for intelligent capture. It also has deeper integrations with core business systems and increased support for Office 365.

Zoom Improves Meetings Experience

Meanwhile, San Jose, Calif.-based Zoom is not finished overhauling its video conferencing service. While much has been written recently about its privacy problems and how Zoom intends to sort them out, the company is also looking at ways to make the video call experience between individuals or teams better.

Among the new improvements, which Zoom says will empower workers to improve the video experience they offer, are new filters, reactions, improved lighting capabilities, and enhanced noise suppression. Zoom is also adding options that allows users to "touch up" camera views to improve how workers look.

While all of this might add some fun to meetings, from a work point of view the most important new additions is the enhanced noise suppression. The background noise suppression features low, medium, high and audio settings, which can be adjusted according user's individual needs. Google offers a similar option within its own video call software, Google Me.

These are only small improvements and are more about appearances then about work or video conferences. However, with a whole bunch of improvements introduced over the past few weeks to enhance its privacy credentials and ease the concerns of worried enterprise leaders that have seen millions of remote workers turning to Zoom to communicate during the health crisis, maybe it is indeed time for fun. These upgrades are just that and should make Zoom video communication a lot more attractive.

Atlassian Buys Mindville Asset Tracking

Finally this week, Sydney-based Atlassian, which makes collaboration and issue-tracking software for teams, has announced that it has bought Mindville. Mindville is an asset tracking and configuration management company based in Sweden. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Today’s digital enterprises often have tens or even hundreds of thousands of assets and services that they need to track and manage,” Noah Wasmer, Atlassian’s head of tech teams, wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition. “Mindville Insight provides enterprises with full visibility into their assets and services, critical to delivering great customer and employee service experiences.”

By combining rich contextual information from disparate development tools with infrastructure-related information from Mindville, IT teams can now leverage Jira Service Desk to better anticipate the impact of changes to critical business services and respond to the unexpected faster.

Mindville has more than 1,700 customers around the world, including companies like Spotify and Samsung, and organizations such as NASA. For its part, Atlassian is best known for its issue tracking application Jira, and its team collaboration and wiki product Confluence.

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