TechSummit Rewind 168

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Lyft confirms $600M in new funding at $7.5B valuation

Lyft

Lyft has raised a new $600 million round of funding form a mix of new and existing investors at a valuation of $7.5 billion post-money.

Contributing investors in this found include Alliance Bernstein, Baillie Gifford, KKR, and Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP), along with previous backers Rakuten and Janus Capital.

In a blog post, the company said that it’ll be investing in the “people behind our business, making sure to take care of our drivers, passengers, and team members.”

“We’re working hard bringing Lyft’s mission to life, improving people’s lives with the world’s best transportation. This begins by focusing on the people behind our business, making sure to take care of our drivers, passengers, and team members. We have big plans on the horizon, and will continue investing in new technology and hospitality in order to create experiences that passengers and drivers will love.”

-John Zimmer, Lyft president

Instagram Direct unites ephemeral & permanent messaging; counts 375M users

Instagram

Instagram Direct will now combine disappearing ephemeral photo and video messages with traditional permanent text and image messages in the same one-on-one and group threats.

Direct usage has spiked to 375 million users since ephemeral messaging launched in November.

“Direct is our best friends experience, for just goofing around on the couch and sharing with your best friends.”

-Robby Stein, Instagram sharing product lead

Google: pay model prevents salary discrimination

Google-new-logo-700x438

In a blog post, Google claimed that it has a rigorous process to ensure employees are paid equitably regardless of gender.

The Department of Labor sued Google, a government contractor, in January to release salary data and documents that the company has refused to provide. In court in San Francisco Apr. 7, the Department of Labor claimed that women at Google face “systemic compensation disparities.”

“The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”

-U.S. Department of Labor, to The Guardian

“Our analysis gives us confidence that there is no gender pay gap at Google.”

-Eilen Naughton, Google VP of people operations

According to Naughton, the company’s annual process for determining compensation starts with suggested compensation for each employee that’s based on an employee’s role, seniority, the campus where they work, and their performance. Managers have “limited discretion” to adjust employees’ salaries “providing they cite a legitimate adjustment rationale.”

“This suggested amount is ‘blind’ to gender; the analysts who calculate the suggested amounts do not have access to employees’ gender data.”

-Eilen Naughton

Google’s AutoDraw uses machine learning to help you draw like a pro

Google AutoDraw

Google is launching a new experiment called AutoDraw that uses machine learning algorithms to match your doodles up with professional drawings to make you look like you know what you’re doing.

AutoDraw works on both your phone or desktop with a pretty straightforward experience. You simply start drawing your best pizza, or house, or dog, or whatever and the algorithms will play Pictionary to figure out what you’re trying to draw. It then tries to match your creation with drawings in its database, and if it finds any possible matches, it’ll show them in a list at the top of your virtual canvas. If you like one of those options, you click on it and AutoDraw polishes up your artwork.

Artists can donate their drawings to the project here.

Dropbox for Android now lets you scan, save documents

Dropbox logo.jpg

Dropbox users can now scan and save documents with their Android devices as PDFs. The feature rolled out to iOS users in June.

Users will be able to aim their device at documents, make tweaks like cropping or rotating if necessary, and then saving it to Dropbox as PDF files for later access.

People whose organizations pay for Dropbox Business can search for text within scanned documents with optical character recognition.

Qualcomm sues Apple for hobbling iPhone chips to make Intel look better

After Apple hit Qualcomm with a barrage of lawsuits earlier this year, the chipmaker is countersuing Apple. Qualcomm filed its Answers and Counterclaims to Apple’s January lawsuit today, filed in the Southern District of California.

The full details are in this 139-page document released by Qualcomm, but the company has five key complaints here – including the claim that Apple deliberately didn’t use the full potential of Qualcomm chips in iPhone 7 phones so that they wouldn’t perform better than Intel-provided modems.

According to Qualcomm, Apple “chose not to utilize certain high-performance features of the Qualcomm chipsets for the iPhone 7,” and when Qualcomm iPhones supposedly outperformed Intel iPhones, Apple “falsely claimed that there was ‘no discernible difference’ between” the two variants.

Qualcomm also says that Apple prevented it from revealing to customers “the extent to which iPhones with Qualcomm’s chipsets outperformed iPhones with Intel’s chipsets.” The company also says that Apple “threatened” it to keep quiet about the differences between Intel and Qualcomm iPhones, preventing Qualcomm from “making any public comparisons about the superior performance of the Qualcomm-powered iPhones.”

Other complaints include claims that Apple breached and mischaracterized agreements and negotiations with Qualcomm, encouraged attacks on the company in a number of markets by misrepresenting facts and making false statements, and interfered with Qualcomm’s existing agreements with other companies.

In the countersuit, Qualcomm seeks – among other things – damages from Apple for “reneging on its promises in several agreements,” and to stop Apple interfering in deals with manufacturers for iPhone and iPad parts.

Microsoft says goodbye to Windows Vista

Microsoft is saying adieu to Windows Vista over 10 years after it debuted. Support for Windows Vista ended Tuesday, meaning users will need to move to a more recent version to retain access to security updates.

Codenamed Longhorn, Vista was originally going to revolutionize Windows with a new file system and user interface. Microsoft’s development of the operating system spiraled out of control however, and the company was forced to reset its plans to focus on shipping a stable version of Windows in the middle of its development phase.

The WinFS file system was eventually canceled, but Microsoft attempted to turn the Windows file system into a giant database that could be searched quickly, with linked data sets and related relationships between files mapped out by the system.

Windows Vista also introduced a new Aero user interface, turning windows into glass panels with blurred borders. A sidebar provided easy access to widgets, and the Start menu was tweaked to focus on a new way to search in Vista. Microsoft also launched a flip 3D feature that would render the live contents of windows in a 3D view to essentially replace alt+tab. However, its graphical intensity led to it not gaining traction.

These graphically intense parts led to criticism. Older hardware didn’t perform as well, and Microsoft introduced confusing “Vista Ready” stickers on PCs that didn’t always mean it could handle Aero Glass well. Vista also became known as a resource hog especially on laptops, and at the peak of netbooks, most PC makers opted for Linux-based options or Windows XP as the low-cost machines couldn’t keep up with Vista.

Overall, Vista will most likely go down as a flop that had good intentions but missed the mark with consumers.

Roku TVs now learn what you watch, suggest related shows

Roku is now rolling out a software update focused at Roku TV owners – units that have its media software directly integrated into televisions. One of the more standout features here is called “More Ways to Watch,” offering viewing suggestions that pop up on screen, based on what you’re currently viewing.

Yes, Roku will now know what you’re watching, presuming that you opt in to the feature after installing the update, or after you turn on your Roku TV set for the first time.

To be clear, Roku is only tracking your viewing behavior when you’re watching through an input – like your digital antenna or cable box.

This is enabled through the use of automatic content recognition (ACR), which is common to smart TVs.

According to Roku’s privacy policy, the data will be used for personalized recommendations and personalized ads, as well as to measure the viewership of ads and programming. This viewing data will also be combined with other demographic data Roku has on you.

If you’re tuned into an old episode of your favorite show, for example, Roku might mention that it’s available on streaming services like Netflix. You could then choose to switch to Netflix and continue watching without the commercial breaks of live TV.

It may also suggest related shows to the one you’re viewing.

The recommendations appear as a pop-up on screen, but if you’re not into that, you can disable the pop-up overlay and access them with a press of the remote control.

You can either use the right arrow button to view the ACR results, or the OK button to bring up the info dialog box.

These recommendations will be supported on HD and FHD Roku TVs and 2017 4K Roku TVs with the launch of Roku OS 7.6. 2016 4K Roku TVs will get the feature this summer.

Also included is a feature to make a list of favorite channels with a broadcast antenna; the addition of thumbnail images when using the Live TV Pause feature; support for Closed Captions on Live TV Pause’s “replay” feature; support for a faster resume from standby on some Roku TVs; and support for custom input names on Roku TV.

Both players and TVs get access to an expanded search that can track content on over 300 streaming channels, up ten-fold from a year ago.

The update is rolling now to all Rokus released from May 2011 on.

Slack passes five million daily users, launches in-message drop-down menus for apps

Slack has surpassed five million daily active users, up a million from six months ago. The number of paying customers has also gone up to over 1.5 million from 1.25 million.

The team chat app counts over 38,000 paying teams among its ranks, with half of its daily users from outside North America (specifically the UK, Japan, Germany, France, and India).

At the end of January, Slack had 3.5 million users simultaneously connected.

Since its third-party app directory launched over a year ago, the number of available apps has grown over 500 percent to at least 900. According to Slack, at least 90 percent of paid teams are actively using at least one app.

“We’re really happy with the app directly. It’s a strong ecosystem, and we’re really proud of it.

“Slack is your communication platform where software is embedded into the conversation. We have a suite of different features on our platform. Before we had the slash command … bot users … and message buttons. Message menus are the next step of that functionality.”

-Ceci Stallsmith, Slack head of platform marketing

Message menus are drop-down menus that developers can incorporate into their Slack apps. Not everything can be responded to with a couple of buttons, but when you’re dealing with information pulled from a database, a drop-down menu may be best. For example, if you’re connecting Slack with a customer relationship management tool like Salesforce, you could incorporate a Message menu to show relevant accounts to the user.

Developers can use five different menu types:

  • Static menus: A set of fixed choices
  • User menus: Members of a Slack team
  • Channel menus: Public channels
  • Conservation menus: All channels (public and private) & direct messages
  • Live menus: Dynamic based on a server’s response

Slack is launching Message menus with 16 partners:

  • Front: Bring your team’s external communication (email, social, SMS, messaging, and voice) into one shared inbox
  • Growbot: Encourages and listens for team appreciation, automatically adding positive reactions and saving team wins forever
  • Kip: A smart penguin that helps workplaces, organizations, and teams coordinate their group purchases
  • Lever: Make it easy to engage your entire team in the hiring process. Users can post announcements to Slack channels through #mention notes on individual candidate profiles
  • MailClark: Send and receive emails, tweets, Twitter DMs, and Facebook messages within Slack
  • Memo (formerly Pogo): Save and find code snippets, meeting notes, links, Slack messages, or other short work notes – inside Slack or on the web
  • Nikabot: Keep track of your team members and projects, and get reminders about the day’s missing information
  • OpsGenie: An alerting and on-call management solution that gives Dev & Ops teams flexible schedule management, escalations, and notifications
  • ai: Engage your team and boost participation with recurring polls in Slack
  • Slaask: Allows Slack to function as a “real-time customer service app shared among your team.”
  • Statsbot: A personal analytics assistant powered by AI to give data insights inside chats
  • SurveyMonkey: Gathering feedback with surveys
  • To-Do Bot: A to-do list inside Slack
  • Troops: Centralize Salesforce workflow in Slack, helping companies “update and share information in order to make better decisions”
  • Workato: Eliminate app hopping and get work done across cloud apps like Salesforce, Zendesk, Github, JIRA, Mixpanel, and more without leaving Slack
  • Zylo: Directly survey users of cloud applications across your business in Slack

“[Message] menus points to the fact that we see the conversation you’re having in Slack at the heart of what you’re trying to do. We’re adding functionality that allows developers to use the message as a canvas.”

-Ceci Stallsmith

Message menus are available now.

Dailymotion plans major relaunch focused on premium content, less on user videos

Dailymotion is about to abandon its user-generated content roots.

The video site, now majority owned by French media conglomerate Vivendi, is planning to relaunch in June with a focus on providing a curated feed of professionally produced content.

The new Dailymotion will provide a “daily digest” of topical video programming, centered around news, sports, music and entertainment, according to company CEO Maxime Saada.

“We want to highlight the ‘daily’ in Dailymotion.”

-Maxime Saada, Dailymotion CEO

Dailymotion first launched in 2005, and has long been compared with YouTube.

At launch, the new Dailymotion will be available on Ios, Android, and Apple TV with later support following for Google Chromecast, Xbox, Android TV, and PlayStation.

Users will still be able to post their own video on the platform, but it won’t be “the main purpose of the platform” going forward, according to Saada.

The new design will feature an Instagram-like look on mobile, according to company chief product and technology officer Guillaume Clement, with a new video player built entirely from scratch.

Daliymotion is in the process of on-boarding an expanded lineup of content partners, but Vivendi-owned Universal Music Group is already in the mix. Saada didn’t reveal specifics on what the platform’s ad-revenue split with content partners will be, however he did say that “we intend to be more generous than existing platforms.” YouTube gives 55 percent of ad revenue to its partners under its standard agreements.

The new Dailymotion has three sections: a personalized feed with videos of accounts you follow; a search and discovery section, with suggestions about trending content; and a library for saving videos to watch for later. It will also let users follow topics like “politics” or “pop music” In their feeds.

“We want you to always have the feeling there will be more video.”

-Guillaume Clement, Dailymotion chief product and technology officer

The new Dailymotion apps also feature a shrink-back feature that keeps the current video playing in a video on the bottom of the app while a user browses older content.

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