Threads emerges from stealth with $10.5M from Sequoia for a new take on enabaling work conversations

Posted by on 27 February, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

The rapid rise of Slack has ushered in a new wave of apps, all aiming to solve one challenge: creating a user-friendly platform where coworkers can have productive conversations. Many of these are based around real-time notifications and “instant” messaging, but today a new startup called Threads coming out of stealth to address the other side of the coin: a platform for asynchronous communication that is less time-sensitive, and creating coherent narratives out of those conversations.

Armed with $10.5 million in funding from Sequoia, the company is launching a beta of its service today.

Roussau Kazi, the startup’s CEO who co-founded threads with Jon McCord, Mark Rich and Suman Venkataswamy, cut his social teeth working for six years at Facebook (with a resulting number of patents to his name around the mechanics of social networking), says that the mission of Threads is to become more inclusive when it comes to online conversations.

“After a certain number of people get involved in an online discussion, conversations just break and messaging becomes chaotic,” he said. (McCord and Rich are also Facebook engineering alums, while Venkataswamy is a Bright Roll alum who worked with McCord on another startup before this.)

And if you have ever used Twitter, or even been in a popular channel in Slack, you will understand what he is talking about. When too many people begin to talk, the conversation gets very noisy and it can mean losing the “thread” of what is being discussed, and seeing conversation lurch from one topic to another, often losing track of important information in the process.

And there is an argument to be made for whether a platform that was built for real-time information is capable of handling a difference kind of cadence. Twitter, as it happens, is trying to figure that out right now. Slack, meanwhile, has itself introduced threaded comments to try to address this too — although the practical application of its own threading feature is not actually very user friendly.

Threads answer is to view its purpose as addressing the benefit of “asynchronous” conversation.

To start, those who want to start threads first register as organizations on the platform. Then, those who are working on a project or in a specific team creates a “space” for themselves within that org. You can then start threads within those spaces. And when a problem has been solved or the conversation has come to a conclusion, the last comment gets marked as the conclusion.

The idea is that topics and conversations that can stretch out over hours, days or even longer, around specific topics. Threads doeesn’t want to be the place you go for red alerts or urgent requests, but where you go when you have thoughts about a work-related subject and how to tackle it.

These resulting threads, when completed or when in progress, can in turn be looked at as straight conversations, or as annotated narratives.

For now, it’s up to users themselves to annotate what might be important to highlight for readers, although when I asked him, Kazi told me he would like to incorporate over time more features that might use natural language processing to summarize and pull out what might be worth following up or looking at if you only want to skim read a longer conversation. Ditto the ability to search threads. Right now it’s all based around keywords but you can imagine a time when more sophisticated and nuanced searches to surface conversations relevant to what you might be looking for.

Indeed, in this initial launch, the focus is all about what you want to say on Threads itself — not lots of bells and whistles, and not trying to compete against the likes of Slack, or Workplace (Facebook’s effort in this space), or Yammer or Teams from Microsoft, or any of the others in the messaging mix.

There are no integrations of other programs to bring data into Threads from other places, but there is a Slack integration in the other direction: you can create an alert there so that you know when someone has updated a Thread.

“We don’t view ourselves as a competitor to Slack,” Kazi said. “Slack is great for transactional conversation but for asynchronous chats, we thought there was a need for this in the market. We wanted something to address that.”

It’s may not be a stated competitor, but Threads actually has something in common with Slack: the latter’s launched with the purpose of enabling a certain kind of conversation between co-workers in a way that was easier to consume and engage with than email.

You could argue that Threads has the same intention: email chains, especially those with multiple parties, can also be hard to follow and are in any case often very messy to look at: something that the conversations in Threads also attempt to clear up.

But email is not the only kind of conversation medium that Threads thinks it can replace.

“With in-person meetings there is a constant tension between keeping the room small for efficiency and including more people for transparency,” said Sequoia partner Mike Vernal in a statement. “When we first started chatting with the team about what is now Threads, we saw an opportunity to get rid of this false dichotomy by making decision-making both more efficient and more inclusive. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Threads to make work more inclusive.”

The startup was actually formed in 2017, and for months now it has been running a closed, private version of the service to test it out with a small amount of users. So far, the company sizes have ranged between 5 and 60 employees, Kazi tells me.

“By using Threads as our primary communications platform, we’ve seen incredible progress streamlining our operations,” said one of the testers, Perfect Keto & Equip Foods Founder and CEO, Anthony Gustin. “Internal meetings have reduced by at least 80 percent, we’ve seen an increase in participation in discussion and speed of decision making, and noticed an adherence and reinforcement of company culture that we thought was impossible before. Our employees are feeling more ownership and autonomy, with less work and time that needs to be spent — something we didn’t even know was possible before Threads.”

Kazi said that the intention is ultimately to target companies of any size, although it will be worth watching what features it will have to introduce to help handle the noise, and continue to provide coherent discussions, when and if they do start to tackle that end of the market.

 

Posted Under: Tech News
New VMware Kubernetes product comes courtesy of Heptio acquisition

Posted by on 26 February, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

VMware announced a new Kubernetes product today called VMware Essential PKS, which has been created from its acquisition of Heptio for $550 million at the end of last year.

VMware already had two flavors of Kubernetes, a fully managed cloud product and an enterprise version with all of the components such as registry and network pre-selected by VMware. What this new version does is provide a completely open version of Kubernetes where the customer can choose all of the components, giving a flexible option for those who want it, according to Scott Buchanan, senior director of product marketing for cloud native apps at VMware.

Buchanan said that the new product comes directly from the approach that Heptio had taken to selling Kuberentes prior to the acquisition . “We’re introducing a new offering called VMware Essential PKS, and that offering is a packaging of the approach that Heptio took to market and that gained a lot of traction, and that approach is a natural complement to the other Kubernetes products in the VMware portfolio,” he explained.

Buchanan acknowledged that a large part of the market is going to go for the fully managed or fully configured approaches, but there is a subset of buyers that will want more choice in their Kubernetes implementation.

“Larger enterprises with more complex infrastructure want to have a very customized approach to how they build out their architecture They don’t want to be integrated. They just want a foundation on which to build because the organizations are larger and more complex and they’re also more likely to have an internal DevOps or SREOps team to operate the platform on a day-to-day basis,” he explained.

While these organizations want flexibility, they also require more of a more consultative approach to the sale. Heptio had a 40-person field service engineering team that came over in the acquisition, and VMware is in the process of scaling that team. These folks consult with the customer and help them select the different components that make up a Kubernetes installation to fit the needs of each organization.

Buchanan, who also came over in the acquisition, says that being part of VMware (which is part of the Dell family of companies) means they have several layers of sales with VMware, Pivotal and Dell all selling the product.

Heptio is the Kubernetes startup founded by Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda, the two men who helped develop the technology while they were at Google. Heptio was founded in 2016 and raised $33.5 million prior to the acquisition, according to Crunchbase data.

Posted Under: Tech News
Microsoft announces an Azure-powered Kinect camera for enterprise

Posted by on 24 February, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Today’s Mobile World Congress kickoff event was all about the next Hololens, but Microsoft still had some surprises up its sleeve. One of the more interesting additions is the Azure Kinect, a new enterprise camera system that leverages the company’s perennially 3D imaging technology to create a 3D camera for enterprises.

The device is actually a kind of companion hardware piece for Hololens in the enterprise, giving business a way to capture depth sensing and leverage its Azure solutions to collect that data.

“Azure Kinect is an intelligent edge device that doesn’t just see and hear but understands the people, the environment, the objects and their actions,” Azure VP Julia White said at the kick off of today’s event. “The level of accuracy you can achieve is unprecedented.”

What started as a gesture-based gaming peripheral for the Xbox 360 has since grown to be an incredibly useful tool across a variety of different fields, so it tracks that the company would seek to develop a product for business. And unlike some of the more far off Hololens applications, the Azure Kinect is the sort of product that could be instantly useful, right off the the shelf.

A number of enterprise partners have already begun testing the technology, including Datamesh, Ocuvera and Ava, representing an interesting cross-section of companies. The system goes up for pre-order today, priced at $399. 

Posted Under: Tech News
Say hello to Microsoft’s new $3,500 HoloLens with twice the field of view

Posted by on 24 February, 2019

This post was originally published on this site

Microsoft unveiled the latest version of its HoloLens ‘mixed reality’ headset at MWC Barcelona today. The new HoloLens 2 features a significantly larger field of view, higher resolution and a device that’s more comfortable to wear. Indeed, Microsoft says the device is three times as comfortable to wear (though it’s unclear how Microsoft measured this).

Later this year, HoloLens 2 will be available in the United States, Japan, China, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Australia and New Zealand for $3,500.

One of the knocks against the original HoloLens was its limited field of view. When whatever you wanted to look at was small and straight ahead of you, the effect was striking. But when you moved your head a little bit or looked at a larger object, it suddenly felt like you were looking through a stamp-sized screen. HoloLens 2 features a field of view that’s twice as large as the original.

“Kinect was the first intelligent device to enter our homes,” HoloLens chief Alex Kipman said in today’s keynote, looking back the the device’s history. “It drove us to create Microsoft HoloLens. […] Over the last few years, individual developers, large enterprises, brand new startup have been dreaming up beautiful things, helpful things.”

The HoloLens was always just as much about the software as the hardware, though. For HoloLens, Microsoft developed a special version of Windows, together with a new way of interacting with the AR objects through gestures like air tap and bloom. In this new version, the interaction is far more natural and lets you tap objects. The device also tracks your gaze more accurately to allow the software to adjust to where you are looking.

“HoloLens 2 adapts to you,” Kipman stressed. “HoloLens 2 evolves the interaction model by significantly advancing how people engage with holograms.”

In its demos, the company clearly emphasized how much faster and fluid the interaction with HoloLens applications becomes when you can use slides, for example, by simply grabbing the slider and moving it, or by tapping on a button with either a finger or two or with your full hand. Microsoft event built a virtual piano that you can play with ten fingers to show off how well the HoloLens can track movement. The company calls this ‘instinctual interaction.’

Microsoft first unveiled the HoloLens concept at a surprise event on its Redmond campus back in 2015. After a limited, invite-only release that started days after the end of MWC 2016, the device went on sale to everybody in August  2016. Four years is a long time between hardware releases, but the company clearly wanted to seed the market and give developer a chance to build the first set of HoloLens applications on a stable platform.

To support developers, Microsoft is also launching a number of Azure services for HoloLens today. These include spatial anchors and remote rendering to help developers stream high-polygon content to HoloLens.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft never positioned the device as consumer hardware. I may have shown off the occasional game, but its focus was always on business applications, with a bit of educational applications thrown in, too. That trend continued today. Microsoft showed off the ability to have multiple people collaborate around a single hologram, for example. That’s not new, of course, but goes to show how Microsoft is positioning this technology.

For these enterprises, Microsoft will also offer the ability to customize the device.

“When you change the way you see the world, you change the world you see,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, repeating a line from the company’s first HoloLens announcement four years ago. He noted that he believes that connecting the physical world with the virtual world will transform the way we will work.

Posted Under: Tech News
Refurbished Computers Making a Difference

Posted by on 15 June, 2015

Each day we all have an opportunity make a difference in the lives of other people. Each of us has unique ways we can make that happen. Whether donating through a charity, through a small kindness offered to a stranger, helping out special people in our own lives, and the list can go on and on.

If you take a moment to look at charities, there are a variety of ways in which you can help, as there are so many charities available. Whether your choice is donating money to a charity, donating food to a food pantry, or donating clothes to a shelter, each of us can make a difference. The key to this is finding a charity that means something to you and a charity where you can make a difference.

At Innovative Computer Products we are so pleased to have found a charity where we can make a difference, and that organization is CFY (www.cfy.org). Through CFY and our One for One Program we are able to reach out to the neediest students who have no means of obtaining home technology.

Donating refurbished computers is the key to our One for One Program. For every refurbished desktop computer we sell at Innovative Computer Products, we donate one refurbished desktop computer to CFY. CFY is such a worthy organization and through their own means along with our One for One Program, the technology is truly getting out there to the families that need it. Last year we were able to donate over two thousand refurbished computers to CFY through our One on One Program.

CFY has many different ways you can make a difference in their organization, and we urge you to do so. While our method is donating computers, maybe your method will be with your money, time or talent, or possibly computer donation as well. Your contribution will make a difference in the lives of children.

Please consider helping CFY – you can make a difference.

Posted Under: General, Refurbished IT Hardware
7 Reasons to Consider Refurbished IT Hardware

Posted by on 26 January, 2015

IT hardware procurement process can be a challenging one for any organization.  If you are an IT professional or a business owner, there are various options available that must be sorted through to meet key priorities and requirements.  When it comes to buying IT hardware, refurbished equipment is a viable option to consider seriously. It provides an array of undeniable benefits including performance, quality and flexibility at great price points.  Following are seven notable benefits your organization can rely on when opting for refurbished IT equipment.

Cost

Companies can procure refurbished IT equipment at a mere fraction of OEMs’ pricing. Opting for refurbished IT hardware can help stretch budget, afford larger projects, and even have extra hardware on hand in case of disaster recovery or if any backup is necessary.

The latest and highest end technology is not always an affordable option for small businesses, schools, and nonprofits. However, by choosing refurbished IT hardware, one can gain access to the latest technology regardless of their budget.

Refurbished hardware is an excellent way for organizations to increase buying power while benefiting substantial cost savings.

Quality

IT refurbishers go above and beyond when it comes to quality control. Experienced, trained and certified technicians rigorously test, diagnose and refurbish all IT hardware to ensure that its performance – both functionally and cosmetically – rivals that of any brand-new computer.

Microsoft registered refurbishers (MRR) are an elite group of refurbishers who take quality to whole new level by following Microsoft’s certified refurbishing processes. The MRR certification enables refurbishers to load and authenticate Windows OS legally on any Windows-based machine.

Sustainability

Refurbished IT hardware is very eco-friendly. If “going green” is a priority in your technology choices, buying refurbished IT hardware is an ideal decision. Refurbishing and reusing not only prevents electronics from ending up in landfills, but also eliminates the need to manufacture new electronics.

Buying and using refurbished equipment is a form of electronic recycling that offers numerous benefits to both the organization using it and the environment.

Flexibility

IT hardware refurbishers will work within and according to a customer’s needs and requirements as well as their limitations. Typically, this much flexibility is not available when buying directly from traditional retailers.

Refurbishers can customize specs to meet exact technology hardware requirements and offer a variety of prices to meet virtually any budget. They also offer flexible warranty, extended coverage options, payment options and terms, such as PayPal, net terms and more.

Warranty

IT refurbishers can offer among the best warranties available today. In many cases, they provide hassle-free advance replacements, which mean replacement product will be shipped out before receiving the product being returned. This system offers a level of convenience and customer service that simply cannot be found when buying directly from OEMs. IT refurbishers offer flexible warranty options and extended warranty coverages as well.

Obtain Hard to Find or Obsolete Equipment

Sometimes, finding legacy equipment can be very challenging. Refurbishers are well-equipped sources of OEM discontinued hardware, which is helpful for companies running proprietary software and hardware that sometimes requires older hardware.

Selection

When compared to OEMs, you’ll find many IT hardware refurbishers offer a much larger inventory pool, including brands such as Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo and more.

Clearly, these advantages point to one undeniable conclusion: refurbished IT hardware can provide customers with substantial flexibility, service and savings. Whether you are a small business, educational institution, nonprofit or part of any organization that requires IT equipment to function, an IT refurbisher can provide one-stop-shopping for all of your IT needs.

Posted Under: Refurbished IT Hardware
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