Microsoft Roundup: Oracle Deal, Skype, GCHQ Letter, Gaming, Datacenter, Other

Microsoft MSFT and Oracle are collaborating in the cloud, the EU has ruled on SkypeOut and tech companies have joined opposition to GCHQ suggestion. These and other news covering gaming, datacenter, advertising and other areas are covered in this roundup-

Microsoft-Oracle Deal

Microsoft and Oracle ORCL are teaming up so that joint customers can transfer their workloads to the cloud very easily and use their common user name to receive support from either company, as may be required. Oracle is still the leader in the database segment but hasn’t succeeded in getting its 430,000 customers to use its infrastructure services.

Microsoft’s database offering follows Oracle’s and while both have competing CRM offerings as well, they are outdone by Salesforce CRM. On the infrastructure side however, Microsoft is growing into a very strong second to Amazon’s AMZN AWS, helped in part by its collaborative approach.

EU Court Rules on Skype

The European Court of Justice, upon reference of the Belgian Institute of Postal and Telecommunications Service (IBPT) and a Belgian court, has said that Microsoft’s SkypeOut service, which allows users to call from computers to a fixed or mobile line for a fee, may be treated as a telecom service.

Skype, which will now comply with the ECJ’s ruling, had argued that current EU rules protected it from the more rigorous regulation commonly required of telecom companies because it didn’t transmit signals itself or provide the kind of electronic communications services defined by the rules.

But a couple of years ago, the European Commission adopted rules for the sector known as the European Electronic Communications Code that seek to bridge the gap between traditional telecom players and new-age services like Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger. EU countries have to be in compliance with these rules by 2020-end, which is likely the reason for the ECJ’s ruling.

Open Letter Condemning GCHQ Proposal

The UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ, in its Lawfare blog, explored the idea of listening in on encrypted communications between parties on the platforms created by technology companies.

Apple AAPL, Alphabet GOOGL, Microsoft and Facebook’s FB WhatsApp have now joined an international coalition of civic society organizations, security and policy experts that say this isn’t such a great idea.

While the argument that these grey areas create problems for law enforcement and security agencies may be valid, the suggested cure could lead to unintended consequences, such as undermining the security of the network. It is also against the right to privacy and free expression of global citizens.

GCHQ isn’t however talking about largescale snooping over the entire population, but the creation of a back door that could allow snooping on wrong doers or suspects, impacting just their devices or the ones that they communicate with. Tech companies like Apple have for long argued that it isn’t possible to create such back doors without undermining security.

In any case, as long as the law allows a defendant to not say “things that would incriminate himself,” there seems to be some legal recognition for this sentiment. Terrorism is leading to changing paradigms because the suggestion that terrorists deserve human rights is so ridiculous.

Gaming News

Microsoft is going platform agnostic with the launch of its Xbox Game Pass for PC. The service offers access to more than 100 titles from external (like Bethesda, Deep Silver, Devolver Digital, Paradox Interactive and Sega) and Microsoft-owned studios on Windows 10 for a monthly fee. The service, which mirrors that for the Xbox console, reduces the need for making individual purchases.

Also, as with Game Pass for the Xbox, some games will be available on the service the same day they are released. There will also be discounts of up to 20% for buying games from the Microsoft Store. What we don’t know is if there are any special concessions or adjustments for players that are already subscribed to the original Game Pass for the Xbox console.

Microsoft has also announced that it intends to add to the 20-odd PC games on Steam and it will also add to other storefronts going forward.

Moreover, with its intended support of native Win32 apps in the Microsoft Store, developers will be able to distribute the same file on Steam, the Epic Games Store and the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft has released its $60 Pro IntelliMouse in the U.S. with its more powerful 16,000DPI sensor with a 12,000FPS refresh rate, allowing the user to customize three of the five buttons for a better gaming experience. On the outside, the textured device sports a braded cable and multi-colored light on the back that can be adjusted to match the gaming setup.

Datacenter News

UCLA Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine have decided to use Microsoft’s cloud computing services and AI tools to interpret, analyze and gain insights into huge volumes of its clinical and research data to facilitate collaboration among researchers for the benefit of faster medical discoveries and better patient care. Microsoft’s standard platform will in addition enable management and take care of the security of the information.

Microsoft’s alliance with Nasdaq enables individual and other investors and students to tap into real time U.S. equity market data right in their worksheets. Microsoft is enabling the service by connecting a number of platforms and services including Excel, Bing and MSN.

Microsoft has acquired the property it was using as its engineering lab about 8 miles from its Redmond headquarters for $6.2 million. It intends to upgrade the property, adding/replacing 18 new buildings and creating 2.5 million square feet of additional office space to house another 8,000 employees.

Hardware/OS News

The Verge has reported that Microsoft has in the works a dual screen device/laptop running a lightweight version of Windows that could be called Windows Lite or Core OS, or something similar. Microsoft is apparently working closely with Intel on this to launch a prototype within 6 months. Hardware partners can only get to it after that, so it will likely reach the consumer sometime next year.   

In a recent blog post by corporate VP of consumer and device sales Nick Parker, the company dreamed about a new LTG 5G connected OS that will have all the ingredients to make it “perfect” in its eyes. Not only will it be flexible, enabling integration into different device types, but it will also facilitate seamless invisible updates in the background, all the while remaining super secure.

Oh, and apps will automatically be optimized for efficiency with AI and be controlled with commands using a pen, your voice, your touch or your eyes. This has increased speculation that the dream OS is in the works.

Microsoft Excel is making its "Insert Data from Picture" feature available on the iOS app, which as the name indicates, allows quick conversion of data from pictures into Excel, readying it for further processing. The AI-powered image recognition tool has already been released for Android.

Advertising News

Microsoft’s LinkedIn, which has a small advertising business and accounts for about 5% of its revenue, has made an interesting acquisition. The target is called Drawbridge and was originally created when its founder Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan left Google to advance her goals of data democratization through solutions and technologies for use by brands and enterprises to deliver personalized experiences. Sivaramakrishnan was a senior data scientist at AdMob when that company was acquired by Google.

In 2016, Drawbridge raised $25 million to expand its cross-device graph (digital identity solution) to new geographies, mainly Europe and Asia. That year, the company made it to the sixth position on the Silicon Valley Business Journal's list of fastest-growing private companies, having posted a three-year growth of 359% to $66 million in 2015.

The company has raised $69 million to date.

Separately, Microsoft has taken offline its database of 10 million images of nearly 100,000 individuals used to train facial recognition systems around the world, including by military researchers and Chinese firms such as SenseTime and Megvii.



Microsoft shares carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.


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