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Microsoft acquires Wand Labs to make texting rock

Wand Labs is a peek into the future of texting, and Microsoft has just ponied up and bought the whole company. What does this say about Microsoft’s strategy?

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Microsoft on a buying spree

Looks like Microsoft’s acquisition streak isn’t over yet, and their most recent purchase is a big vote of confidence for the future of the mobile experience.

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Microsoft acquired startup Wand Labs for an undisclosed sum, according to FastCo. Wand Labs aims to connect apps through chat, so you can do more with less taps.

Microsoft taps into trends to innovate

Through this move, Microsoft wants to expand the capacity of its core business by integrating modern innovations in trends. We saw a focus on big data through the acquisition of LinkedIn, which gives them access to a plethora of user information. They very clearly want to focus on connectivity through chatbots and app integration.

Microsoft built its business on bundling; now, they appear to be deconstructing that golden bundle. Another FastCo article states that the company has taken steps to free up their suite of Office products into component parts. This gives developers and end users more flexibility and customization.

Wand Labs’ technology would allow these products to share data with ease.

Let’s talk about the genius of Wand Labs

From what we’ve seen thus far, Wand’s abilities are impressive. With Wand, you can grant friends access to YOUR apps or services across multiple devices.

For example, Spotify playlist data could be enjoyed on YouTube or Rdio. Wand acts as the Rosetta Stone for app languages and formats.

The app turns disparate code into a master key computer language that can now transcend apps. The implications are huge. Not only can your apps talk to one another, but Wand’s interface contains plugins that allow you to use apps that you don’t even download on your device!

Furthermore, you can share app functionality with contacts, giving them access to everything from your Twitter account to your WiFi password.

What we can learn from this acquisition

While this is all well and good for Microsoft, we can learn a lot about the direction of the mobile experience from their strategic decision.

Back in the days when desktops ruled the land, you had a single portal through which you could access lots of content. The app experience dismantled that function on mobile devices Wand exists as a browser for your phone that turns messages into actions and shuffling data between apps.

Considering all this, and considering the sheer popularity of messaging apps, Wand appears to be a big part of the mobile landscape’s future. Building apps in accordance with that need for connectivity should be on the mind of anyone looking to develop an app as part of their business offering.

#WandLabs

Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin's live music scene.

Tech News

Tech industry takes big wallop as coronavirus continues to spread

(TECH NEWS) The spread of the coronavirus is rattling tech industries, as they struggle to produce or deliver their devices so the tech giants’ stock value plummets.

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coronavirus

As more cases of coronavirus, COVID-19, appear in yet more countries, people are starting to freak out about catching it. The problem doesn’t stop there, though. The corresponding punch in the gut to the tech industry will have far-reaching effects–beyond not being able to buy the latest version of your favorite device.

Besides bringing health protocols to a high alert status, the coronavirus is creating a secondary scare in the tech industry. Some companies have massive portions of their supply chain and production based in China, some in Wuhan, where the virus first began to spread. The tech industry is definitely taking a painful hit. The virus is affecting supply, production, delivery, and sales.

In turn, tech company stocks are starting to tank, at least temporarily. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft. Facebook, Google reportedly lost more than $230 billion in a day. Ouch, buddy. That’s gonna leave a mark.

The fear remains that this is only the beginning. With coronavirus having landed in at least 48 countries, the fear is not unfounded. As countries scramble to deal with containment, treatment, and educating their populace, Wall Street and other major stock markets are predicting a global economic slowdown.

As of this writing, the coronavirus is not yet an official pandemic, according to WHO. This may change. A lot is riding on getting the spread of the virus under control. Doctors and scientists frantically work on a way to treat or cure it. Meanwhile, news agencies, public health organizations such as the WHO and the CDC work to dispel rumors, replacing them with timely and practical information. The big takeaways: wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you cough, stay home if you’re sick.

Smartphone producers are bound to be the worst impacted, with production predicted to decline 12 percent this quarter compared to previous years, reaching a 5-year low. The Mobile World Congress cancelled their annual phone show in Barcelona due to the virus. The MWC is one of, if not the, the biggest phone show in the world.

Apple announced they will not meet their quarterly goals, due to the impact of the coronavirus, hitting the tech giant on a few levels. Factories have been closed, though some are already reopening. Apple isn’t only feeling the impact due to supply and production concerns, but also because their global sales goals include sales within China, and sales are down.

Predictions are similarly dismal for smartwatches, laptop PCs, and smart speakers. The DRAM and NAND flash markets will likely stay on top of things, as they have production largely automated.

Amazon has not yet voiced much about their own issues, but we know from the stock market that it can’t be pretty. Amazon also has an estimated half of its products coming out of China. Like the other big companies, they are poised to lose a lot and see their stock value stripped of its sheen.

Video game console manufacturing is another industry to watch. However, they seem fairly protected for now, with the bulk of their business taking place toward the end of the year. New product launches, the PS5 and Xbox Series X will launch closer to the winter holidays, which gives the science industry pros time to fight and contain the spread of COVID-19 before it causes too much chaos in the gaming industry.

We have yet to see where this will all end. COVID-19 is on the move, and it’s taking these tech giants–and our global economy–on a scary, roller coaster ride. Despite the stock market taking a nosedive and tech labor and supply streams being hard-hit, you’re still more likely to catch the flu than the coronavirus. While we watch for better news, cross your fingers and remember to wash your hands. This one’s coming in hot.

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Tech News

Five inexpensive VPNs to keep your data yours

(TECH NEWS) If you work on public internet or are just looking to beef up your internet security VPNs could be your answer. Here are five worth looking into.

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remote work vpns

We must speak, as we so often do, of l33t h4x0rz.

Let’s get blunt. We have reached the point in the evolution of technology where access to your personal data is equivalent to access to everything you own. Data security breach, which involves fewer twentysomethings with improbable hair and more Russian state actors than 90s movies led me to believe, can be the end of a business, especially a small one.

Frustratingly, the mainstream market hasn’t really produced perfect solutions for that. At present, you really have two options.

Option one, you roll with AppleFacebookGoogleSoft. Different companies, same model: hand your data to a giant organization with an affirmative interest in keeping it confidential. That can work! It can also, y’know, not. A lot.

Option two, full infogeek. Pull together All The Information and put it behind tight security you control. We’re big fans of this. On the other hand, we’re geeks. Doing this successfully requires knowledge, specialty tools and changes in behavior that may not be practical for you.

Ain’t exactly optimal, those options. So for the love of the white hat, what’s to do? Where’s the middle ground between “put it in a big sack and hand it to HugeCorpCo” and “lock every 0 and 1 in a painstakingly handcrafted box?”

Meet your friends, VPNs. Virtual private networks aren’t just the irritating things you have to sign into before another constructive day on the cube farm. For any entrepreneur or freelancer who isn’t into a rad Linux solution, VPNs are a straight-up necessity. They’re how you Internet without people keeping logs (your ISP does), tracking your activity (everybody does), or carrying off your innocent data to the dark web or the Kremlin.

Better yet? There are lots of good ones that are inexpensive, reliable, and only a Google away. Here’s 5. Unranked, because every VPN is a beautiful snowflake.

IPVanish wins at efficiency. They own 100 percent of their resources, rather than outsourcing any work to third parties. That means high speed and optimal security, since their commitment to keeping zero information on their clients can’t be undercut by nosy contractors.

NordVPN has tech wizardry going for it, with double encryption and even an optional kill switch that automatically disconnects you from the Internet if anything goes amiss with the VPN. Nord also wins at most devices per subscription, and will happily wrap up to 6 of your robots in the warm embrace of infosec.

Private Internet Access, in addition to winning the Most Straightforwardly Named Product Ever award I just made up, is great for power users, with unlimited bandwidth and a subscription allowing up to 5 devices. It’s also super simple, designed to run in the background while you go about your digital day, so for folks who aren’t looking for bundled apps or a shiny interface, this is your guy.

PureVPN gets compatibility cred, since it’s usable across Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows and even provides proxy workarounds for Chrome and Firefox. It also has a frankly enormous server network, which is good news for speed freaks.

TunnelBear, in addition to being adorable, is extremely user friendly. It’s kind of the anti-PIA, with a rich interface and lots of shiny features. Those features include neat security tricks like Intellibear, allowing users to selectively VPN into particular sites, and Vigilant Mode, which makes like Nord and blocks Internet traffic in case of outages.

Snowflake jokes aside, the list really isn’t ranked, and for reason. Your VPN will be your gateway to the Internet. What works for you is totally contingent on what you do and what you need. There are only two definitive rules.

One, never free. A free trial is fine. “Free VPN” is online shorthand for “place all your information in this bucket, which I will then steal, seal and sell to the Internet’s many, many buyers of evil buckets of data.”

Two, it’s a numbers game. There are countless choices for VPNs on the market. The entries on our list offer substantially similar services to dozens of others. What makes our 5 special?

Twelve bucks. The maximum cost of each of the 5 VPNs above is less than twelve dollars per month. Most cost less: spring for a subscription and you can get the average cost down to 2 or 3 dollars monthly. But month to month, no obligation, even the most expensive entry on the list – that’s a tie between NordVPN and PureVPN – costs you less than twelve dollars a month.

Beat that for peace of mind.

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Tech News

How to personalize your site for every visitor without learning code

(TECH NEWS) New tool from Proof lets you personalize your website for visitors without coding. Experiences utilizes your users to create the perfect view for them.

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experiences welcome page

What if you could personalize every step of the sales funnel? The team over at Proof believes this is the next best step for businesses looking to drive leads online. Their new tool, Experiences, is a marketer-friendly software that lets you personalize your website for every visitor without coding.

Using Experiences your team can create a targeted experience for the different types of visitors coming to your website. The personalization is thought to drive leads more efficiently because it offers visitors exactly the information they want. Experiences can also be used to A/B test different strategies for your website. This could be a game changer for companies that target multiple specific audiences.

Experiences is a drag-and-drop style tool, which means nearly anyone on your team can learn to use it. The UX is meant to be intuitive and simple, so you don’t need a web developer to guide you through the process. In order to build out audiences for your website, Experiences pulls data from your CRM, such as SalesForce and Hubspot, or you can utilize a Clearbit integration which pull third-party information.

Before you go rushing to purchase a new tool for your team, there are a few things to keep in mind. According to Proof, personalization is best suited for companies with at least 15,000 plus visitors per month. This volume of visitors is necessary for Experiences to gather the data it needs to make predictions. The tool is also recommended for B2B businesses since company data is public.

The Proof team is a success story of the Y Combinator demo day. They pitched their idea for a personalized web experience and quickly found themselves funded. Now, they’ve built out their software and have seen success with their initial clients. Over the past 18 months, their early-access clients, which included brands like Profitwell and Shipbob, have seen an increase in leads, proposals, and downloads.

Perhaps the best part of Proof is that they don’t just sell you a product and walk away. Their website offers helpful resources for customers called Playbooks where you can learn how to best use the tool to achieve your company’s goals be it converting leads or engaging with your audience. If this sounds like exactly the tool your team needs, you can request a demo on their website.

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