Technology Roundup – Microsoft Azure launches services, Amazon restricts ads from device rivals

Published on: September 23, 2020
Author: Amy Liu

Microsoft Azure launches services that compete with Twilio, Amazon

Microsoft (MSFT +1.2%) launches Azure Communication Services, which allows developers to add video, voice, chat, and text messaging across applications, websites, and mobile platforms.

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The tech giant says Communication Services can improve “customer engagement with Azure AI translation and sentiment analysis for chat messages.”

Developers can access the features through APIs and SDKs, which positions Azure Communication Services as a Twilio (TWLO -0.5%) competitor.

Taking on Amazon Web Services’ Ground Station, Microsoft also launches Azure Orbital, a processing platform for satellite data.

Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich tells GeekWire that Microsoft is essentially building a “ground station as a service.” He says there are plenty of customers collecting satellite imagery that want to ” leverage cloud services on top of that, as well as the IoT aspect.”

Orbital partners KSAT and SES will provide additional satellite connectivity and communication services, respectively.

Slack (WORK -1.2%) competitor Microsoft Teams is getting a slate of new features, including virtual commutes and Headspace-partnered meditations to improve mental health.

Next month, Teams will roll out productivity insights that use Workplace Analytics.

The Azure cloud platform is an increasingly important part of Microsoft’s business, though the growth is decelerating. In the FQ4 report in July, Azure revenue was up 50% Y/Y, down from the 61% growth in FQ3.

Amazon restricts ads from device rivals – WSJ

WSJ sources say Amazon (AMZN +2.8%) is blocking some rivals from advertising their devices on the e-commerce giant’s platform.

Amazon reportedly prohibits the competitors from buying sponsored-product ads that would appear in searches that could also feature Amazon devices.

Roku can’t even purchase ads tied to specific searches for its products.

Amazon bans some companies from even selling rival products on the platform.

Three years ago, Amazon pulled Google’s rival devices from the site, which led to Google removing YouTube support on Amazon devices. The tech giants later decided to play nice and returned the products/service.

AT&T, Microsoft collaborate on streamlining IoT connectivity

AT&T (T -0.3%) and Microsoft (MSFT +0.3%) are teaming up on delivering an integrated Internet of Things solution via Azure Sphere.

The aim is to streamline cloud connectivity for IoT devices.

An easy-to-install AT&T-powered guardian device is combined with secured architecture to offer an end-to-end solution for connecting machines and equipment to the cloud, bypassing the need for public Internet, the companies say.

So “fast food restaurants, coffee shops, elevators, hospitals, manufacturing plants” can connect devices to their own cloud environment without facing the security risks of connecting to Wi-Fi via a third party.

AT&T’s global SIM enables connectivity in more than 200 countries, across 500 carriers.

The two companies had entered a major cloud/5G partnership (said to be worth more than $2B) in July 2019.

Intel receives U.S. license for supplying to Huawei

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) says the company has received licenses from the United States government to continue supplying certain products to Huawei.

The news was first reported by China Securities Journal and was later confirmed by an Intel spokesperson.

New restrictions went into effect on September 15 that ban U.S. companies from supplying products or services to Huawei without a license.

SMIC, China’s largest chipmaker, has also requested U.S. permission but reports suggested the company might join Huawei on the restriction list.

South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix reportedly asked for a license but hasn’t yet received permission, according to Bloomberg sources.

Intel shares are up 0.6% to $50.01.

How’s work from home going? Apple sees permanent changes

Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings recently called remote work “a pure negative” and JPMorgan’s (NYSE:JPM) Jamie Dimon warned of “a lot more damage by people staying home,” but not everyone is seeing WFH in that light.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook doesn’t believe the company will “return to the way we were because we’ve found that there are some things that actually work really well virtually.”

In fact, Apple has created products including new Apple Watches and iPads that are launching on time this year, despite the need for most employees to work away from the office due to COVID-19.

He still notes that remote work is “not like being together physically” and that impromptu meetings in the office could spark creativity.

10% to 15% of Apple employees have already gone back to the office and Tim Cook hopes the majority of staff can return to the company’s new campus in Silicon Valley sometime next year.