Google and Microsoft Can Use AI to Extract Many More Ad Dollars from Our Clicks – TOM SIMONITE 08.31.17 07:00 AM

When Google and Microsoft boast of their deep investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning, they highlight flashy ideas like unbeatable Go players and sociable chatbots. They talk less often about one of the most profitable, and more mundane, uses for recent improvements in machine learning: boosting ad revenue.

AI-powered moonshots like driverless cars and relatable robots will doubtless be lucrative when—or if—they hit the market. There’s a whole lot of money to be made right now by getting fractionally more accurate at predicting your clicks.

Many online ads are only paid for when someone clicks on them, so showing you the right ones translates very directly into revenue. A recent research paper from Microsoft’s Bing search unit notes that “even a 0.1 percent accuracy improvement in our production would yield hundreds of millions of dollars in additional earnings.” It goes on to claim an improvement of 0.9 percent on one accuracy measure over a baseline system.

Google, Microsoft, and other internet giants understandably do not share much detail on their ad businesses’ operations. But the Bing paper and recent publications from Google and Alibaba offer a sense of the profit potential of deploying new AI ideas inside ad systems. They all describe significant gains in predicting ad clicks using deep learning, the machine learning technique that sparked the current splurge of hope and investment in AI.

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Microsoft calls for end of government hacking techniques – Joe Uchill 05/14/17 08:48 PM EDT


On the heels of a widespread ransomware attack that may have used leaked National Security Agency hacking methods, Microsoft is calling for governments to cease stockpiling secret means of bypassing software security.

“Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen,” wrote Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, on a company blog Sunday evening.

WanaDecrypt0r, alternately known by names like Wanna Cry, struck hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 100 nations since the attack began Friday morning, with victims ranging from hospitals in the U.K. to a telecom in Spain, U.S.-based FedEx to the Russian Ministry of the Interior.

WanaDecrypt0r was so virulent in part because it used a Windows hacking tool that appears to have been stolen and leaked from the NSA. Though Microsoft had patched the security hole in Windows that tool used in March before it was leaked in April, businesses often lag in installing updates for reasons including industry-specific software being incompatible with the most current version of operating systems.

“[I]n February [we called] for a new “Digital Geneva Convention” to govern these issues, including a new requirement for governments to report vulnerabilities to vendors, rather than stockpile, sell, or exploit them,” wrote Smith.

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Microsoft: All security issues from NSA leaks patched in current software Joe Uchill 04/15/17 06:42 AM EDT


Microsoft says all of the security flaws exposed in Friday’s leak of National Security Agency (NSA) hacking tools were already fixed in supported versions of its software.

In a late Friday blog post, a top Microsoft security figure lists the NSA hacking tools published Friday by the leakers known as “The Shadowbrokers,” and notes the specific software update that patched each flaw that every individual tool exploited.

“Today, Microsoft triaged a large release of exploits made publicly available by ShadowBrokers. Understandingly, customers have expressed concerns around the risk this disclosure potentially creates,” Phillip Misner, principal security group manager of the Microsoft Security Response Center, wrote in the corporate blog post.

The ShadowBrokers have been leaking NSA hacking tools since August. Until January, the group regularly posted source code paired with letters written in broken English offering to auction or sell the remaining archive of tools.

The ShadowBrokers resurfaced last week with a release of files it said were meant as a protest against President Trump abandoning the populism he campaigned on. Friday’s release, containing Windows hacking tools and evidence the NSA may have hacked a slew of banks in the Middle East, once again offered the tools for sale, suggesting the federal government pay them to stop leaking.

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Apple and Microsoft are fighting a secret war for the future of technology – Matt Weinberger June 26 2016


Apple CEO Tim Cook.AP

Slowly but surely, the traditional notion of the computer is dying.

Since the advent of the Apple II and the rise of the mass-market consumer PC, you hear “computer” and you think “monitor, mouse, keyboard,” in some variation.

But ever since the iPhone first launched in 2007, there’s been a shift, first away from the PC and toward tiny, pocket-sized computers with touchscreens.

And then, as processing power got cheaper and the internet got more ubiquitous, we got something else entirely.

Thanks to the rise of gadgets like the Amazon Echo, Google Chromecast, Microsoft HoloLens, the Nest thermostat, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, that’s no longer the case. A computer can be something you talk to in plain speech, or that you wear on your face. It can be little more than a screen, or have no screen at all.

Now a computer can look like literally anything and go anywhere. It’s only the beginning.

For Microsoft and Apple, the two companies synonymous with the PC, this transition presents something of a crisis point. They’ve spent the last several decades carefully cultivating communities of developers writing the software that makes the world hum. Now the rug hasn’t quite been pulled out from under them, but the potential is there.

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Why LinkedIn is worth $26 billion to Microsoft – Updated by Timothy B. Lee on June 13, 2016, 1:10 p.m. ET

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman will be a wealthy man as a result of the deal.		-- Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for New York Times

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman will be a wealthy man as a result of the deal. — Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for New York Times

In one of the year’s biggest technology deals, Microsoft is buying LinkedIn for $26 billion.

If you’re in a profession that makes heavy use of LinkedIn, this deal may make perfect sense to you. But if you’re in a profession that doesn’t use LinkedIn much, you might be surprised to learn that LinkedIn is not only still in business but is worth $26 billion.

But this is no blunder. LinkedIn isn’t a very cool company, but neither is Microsoft, and LinkedIn has a thriving business focused on helping professionals find jobs and companies find workers.

Beyond the dollars changing hands, the acquisition of LinkedIn cements a broader shift in Microsoft’s corporate strategy that many consumers still haven’t noticed. Microsoft’s early success came from dominating the market for PC software, followed by a period of struggle in which it tried to basically copy that business over to the mobile world and failed.

But under the leadership of relatively new CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft is shifting to become a company that primarily sells online services to business customers. LinkedIn fits this new strategy perfectly, and it will help Microsoft both broaden the set of business customers it can serve and deepen the relationship with those it already serves.

LinkedIn has a thriving business

I remember the surprise I felt a couple of years ago when I learned that LinkedIn has been enjoying robust growth. I joined LinkedIn about a decade ago, but I didn’t find it very useful. I gradually became more annoyed by the deluge of emails from distant acquaintances asking to “add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” so I eventually deleted my account, hoping that would make the emails stop. (It didn’t.)

But my experience is not universal. While journalists like me do most of their professional networking on Twitter, there are lots of professions where LinkedIn is considered an essential networking tool. Today the site has more than 100 million monthly active users.

LinkedIn is most valuable in professions where a bulging Rolodex was once a prized professional asset. If you are a sales professional, for example, LinkedIn is both an indispensable way to learn about potential clients and an essential way to find out about new job opportunities.

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HP Enterprise to Spin Off, Merge Services Business – By Don Clark and  Tess Stynes Updated May 24, 2016 7:50 p.m. ET

Deal with Computer Sciences creates IT-services provider with $26 billion in annual revenue

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the former H-P business that focuses on corporate technology customers.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the former H-P business that focuses on corporate technology customers. — Photo: Bloomberg News

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. plans to spin off most of its technology services operations and merge them with those of Computer Sciences Corp. , in an $8.5 billion transaction that marks HP Enterprise’s latest adjustment to a shifting landscape that is roiling the market for corporate technology.

HP Enterprise will shed a business that accounts for roughly 100,000 employees, or two-thirds of the Silicon Valley giant’s workforce.

The deal, a blockbuster follow-up to the breakup of Hewlett-Packard Co. last fall, will create a corporate technology services specialist that will be led by Computer Sciences executives and have roughly $26 billion in annual revenue, the companies said. The remaining HP Enterprise operations will concentrate mainly on software, server systems, networking and storage hardware.

HP Enterprise said its estimate of the value of the services unit includes a 50% stake in the new venture created with Computer Sciences, valued at about $4.5 billion, as well as a cash dividend of $1.5 billion and the assumption by Computer Sciences of about $2.5 billion of liabilities.

The move is evidence of ongoing turmoil in the corporate computing market as business spending tightens and traditional data centers give way to cloud computing. HP Enterprise faces increasing competition from cloud-computing vendors including Inc. and Microsoft Corp. that sell metered access to raw computing power over the Internet. Customers must decide whether to opt for cloud services, maintain conventional data centers, or build their own private cloud-like facilities—a business especially targeted by HP Enterprise.

The combined spinoff and merger, which will focus HP Enterprise more tightly on hardware sales, represents a doubling down by Chief Executive Meg Whitman on a breakup approach to the shifting landscape in contrast to the merger strategy taken by Dell Inc. and EMC Corp.

“We are creating two great companies that are going to be more focused on a narrower set of businesses,” Ms. Whitman said in an interview.

Operations affected by the deal include technology outsourcing and other businesses that were part of Hewlett-Packard’s purchase of Electronic Data Systems in 2008 for $13.9 billion.

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