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MICROSOFT

Microsoft Teams gets Yammer integration, secure private channels and more

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You’re forgiven if you thought Yammer — Microsoft’s proto-Slack, not quite real-time chat application — was dead. It’s actually still alive (and well) — and still serves a purpose as a slower-moving social network-like channel for company and team-wide announcements. Today, Microsoft announced that, among other updates, it will offer a Yammer integration in Teams, its Slack competitor. Yammer in Teams will live in the left-hand sidebar.

With this, Microsoft’s two main enterprise communications platforms are finally growing together and will give users the option to use Teams for fast-moving chats and Yammer as their enterprise social network in the same way Facebook messenger and its news feed complement each other.

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Oh, and Yammer itself has been redesigned, too, using Microsoft’s Fluent Design System across all platforms. And Microsoft is also building it into Outlook, too, to let you respond to messages right from your inbox. This new Yammer will roll out as a private preview in December.

With this update, Teams is getting a number of other new features, too. These include secure private channels, multi-window chats and meetings, pinned channels and task integration with Microsoft To Do and Planner (because having one to-do app is never enough). Microsoft is also making a number of enhancements to Teams Rooms, with upcoming support for Cisco WebEx and Zoom meetings, the Teams Phone System, which is getting emergency calling, and the IT management features that help admins keep Teams secure.

A Teams client for Linux is also in the works and will be available in public preview later this year.

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MICROSOFT

Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard Inc. for $68.7 billion

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Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard Inc. for $68.7 billion

Today, Microsoft announced plans to acquire video game maker Activision Blizzard Inc. for $68.7 billion. When the deal is completed, Microsoft will become the world’s third-large gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony, according to a company statement.

Game franchises from Activision, Blizzard and King studios that are part of the deal include “Warcraft,” “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush.” Bobby Kotick will continue as CEO of Activision Blizzard. When the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.

Why we care. This is a giant acquisition for audiences and content production. Gamers will have new options as the industry shifts and continues to evolve. Subscribers to Microsoft’s Game Pass portfolio, for instance, will benefit from the launch of Activision Blizzard games into that service. But that’s just 25 million subscribers in Game Pass. Activision Blizzard boasts nearly 400 million monthly active players in 190 countries.

Looking ahead maybe two years or more, the metaverse promises to be an all but limitless virtual reality layer built on top of the internet. Gaming companies already have deep experience with in-game advertising, and the metaverse could take that space to a whole new level. Whether Microsoft has this in mind, we don’t know, but this acquisition boosts Microsoft Gaming’s position as one of the biggest gaming companies in the world.

Kim Davis contributed to this article.


Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. 

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MICROSOFT

Why Microsoft’s Cortana Was Almost Called “Bingo”

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Microsoft almost named its Cortana voice assistant after the Bing search engine. But, the company changes its plans after Steve Ballmer’s retirement.

While Microsoft discontinued the Windows Phone in 2017, its AI-enabled assistant Cortana continued to live on iOS and Android until March 31, 2021. Plus, it still exists in Windows PCs to this day.

In an interview by Alice Newton Rex, former Microsoft Product Manager Sandeep Paruchuri tells the origins of Cortana’s name and what it could have been named instead.

Cortana Was Almost Called Bingo

According to the Big Bets newsletter, Cortana was supposed to be called Bingo. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wanted to name its new AI assistant after Bing in an ode to its search engine.

Ballmer reportedly wanted all its products to be Microsoft-branded. With Bing being a critical part of its AI recommendation system, it’s easy to make the connection with the name Bingo.

In addition, Microsoft’s AI assistant would be able to use its existing legacy branding to help propel its next generation of products.

Thankfully, Ballmer was on his way out, and his successor, Satya Nadella, had other plans. Not only was the AI-enabled assistant given the green light for release, but it also got to keep its much-loved name, Cortana.

The Role of Halo in Cortana’s Naming

Named after the fictional Halo character, also an AI assistant, Cortana was initially supposed to be just a name used in development. Serving as an advisor to the player character, Master Chief, Cortana is an in-game AI that every Halo player is familiar with.

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Acting as a metaphor, Sandeep mentioned how the development team believed she was the perfect metaphor for their goals, an assistant that was always looking out for you.

As featured in Microsoft’s 20th-anniversary documentary, Power On, Halo plays a crucial role in Microsoft’s history. With its release, Halo was a revolutionary title among FPS games, and it played a vital role in putting Microsoft’s Xbox on the map.

The massive PR frenzy that accompanied the leaked name of the AI as Cortana was too much to ignore. With long-time Xbox players and Halo fans behind it, Cortana became one of the selling points of its now defunct Windows Phone platform.

What’s in Cortana’s Name?

They say art imitates life, but in Microsoft’s case, it’s the opposite. Who could have known that an inside joke among developers could lead to naming one of its products after a video game character?

While Microsoft could’ve named Cortana after Bing, its leak saved us all the embarrassment of calling out Bingo out in public. Although Bingo would have been an interesting callback to Microsoft’s popular service, it doesn’t have the same futuristic ring as Cortana.

For this reason, Microsoft’s choice to choose Cortana over Bingo seems to be the better one. Unfortunately, it still couldn’t save Cortana from being shut down by Microsoft for good.

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MARKETING

Microsoft Advertising Launches Health Insurance Ads

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Microsoft Advertising announced a new ad format for Bing Search named health insurance ads. Microsoft said advertisers are already seeing a 4X increase in return on ad spend (ROAS) and lower costs per acquisition (CPAs) with this new format.

Microsoft Advertising Health insurance ads are “intent-triggered rich placements that provide real-time information to consumers and inspire action, all with no keywords required,” Microsoft said. These are positioned on the right rail of the Bing search engine results page running alongside mainline text ads, you can showcase your healthcare plans more prominently than ever.

Here is what they look like:

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Health insurance ads are dynamically generated based on the data you specify in your feed file, such as your plan type, the organization category, federal registration status, and URLs. The more details you provide in the feed file, the more information Microsoft can include in your ads.

These ads give you:

  • Customized ads: Submit and schedule your feed, and based on the attributes you provide, Microsoft will create relevant, personalized ads.
  • Improved return on ad spend: See more volume, increased click-through rates (CTR), and lower cost-per-click (CPC) rates.
  • Time-saving automation: With no keywords required, the ads are created by feed files that use Microsoft AI automation and are fully equipped for bulk upload.

To sign up for the beta for Health insurance ads, you first need to reach out to your Microsoft Advertising rep or contact the Microsoft support team. Once you are in the beta, you will need to provide a feed. A comprehensive feed with rich attributes such as image URLs and contextual keywords is critical for your success with Health insurance ads.

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Forum discussion at Twitter.

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