Welcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our weekly analysis of the most interesting and important news, stories, and events in the world of modern software and analytics.
This week, we continue to tinker with the TWiMS format, with more quick links to stories of interest. Our top story? Microsoft jumping back into social media with a whopping purchase of LinkedIn.
TWiMS Top Story:
Microsoft to Buy LinkedIn for $26.2B in Cash, Makes Big Move Into Enterprise Social Media—TechCrunch
What it’s about: Microsoft and LinkedIn sealed up the week’s top tech story right out of the gate. On Monday the companies announced that Microsoft would buy the professional social networking site for $26.2 billion in cash, with the deal expected to close later this year, making it the largest acquisition in Microsoft history. LinkedIn will continue to operate as its own unit, retaining its existing branding and other elements, with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner reporting to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Its financials will be included as part of Microsoft’s Productivity and Business Processes segment, home to Office and Dynamics CRM.
Why you should care: That’s a pretty clear indicator of what this deal boils down to: enterprise software, increasingly built, run, and delivered via cloud platforms like Microsoft’s Azure. “This is about the coming together of the leading professional cloud and the leading professional network,” Nadella said in an interview with Bloomberg. “This is the logical next step to take. We believe we can accelerate that by making LinkedIn the social fabric for all of Office.”
It’s also more evidence of a complete wardrobe change for Microsoft under Nadella’s watch. Not so long ago, people were bemoaning Windows 8, mocking Microsoft’s continued failure to launch in mobile, and playing premature funeral music for the Windows franchise in light of declining PC sales. Now, Windows 10 has largely wiped away the bad reception of its predecessor, the Azure cloud platform is thriving, and the walls around Microsoft’s ecosystem are being knocked down to enable modern cross-platform integration. Major acquisitions are never a guaranteed success—as Microsoft had learned the hard way—but the LinkedIn buy appears to have plenty of upside. As Fast Company’s Ruth Reader noted, LinkedIn could become the glue that finally binds together several fascinating but incongruous pieces of Microsoft’s portfolio of online services, including Yammer, Skype, and Sunrise—and, yes, Office and Dynamics, not to mention Azure. And, if nothing else, Microsoft just bought a fantastic, albeit extremely expensive, living database for its enterprise sales force to mine. LinkedIn might be the boring social network, and Microsoft might be the stuffiest of tech titans, but boring can be lucrative, especially in the enterprise.
- Microsoft Pays $26.2 Billion for LinkedIn in Biggest Deal Yet—Bloomberg
- Read Microsoft CEO’s Memo to Staff About LinkedIn Acquisition—The Verge
- Why Microsoft Buying LinkedIn for $26B Is a Smart Move—Fast Company
- Microsoft and LinkedIn: Nadella Spends Like He Means It—ComputerWeekly.com
- LinkedIn Deal May Spur More Large-Cap Software, Internet M&A—Bloomberg
- 15 Short Stories About LinkedIn’s Early Days—Coding VC
- Microsoft-LinkedIn Deal to Benefit Office 365, Dynamics CRM—TechTarget
What it’s about: Proponents of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like to herald it as the end of traditional banking. Not surprisingly, that terrifies big financial institutions, yet they remain deeply interested in the fundamental technology underpinning these cryptocurrencies: the blockchain. (Unfortunately, Blockchain is notoriously difficult to adequately summarize in a sentence. Wikipedia says a blockchain is “a distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of data records hardened against tampering and revision.” But we suggest you check out the introduction to blockchain on GitHub, written by Marley Gray, Microsoft’s director for blockchain business development and strategy. In particular, read the section that begins “Blockchain=Cryptographically Authentic, Shared, Distributed Ledger.”
However you define it, though, in his examination of the state of blockchain technology in the financial industry, Fast Company’s Steven Melendez doesn’t find fear and loathing—instead he discovers huge firms embracing it, attracted by the possibility of radically reducing the costs of necessary and massive functions such as recording stock trades. “This kind of feels like when the internet started,” Suresh Kumar, BNY Mellon CIO tells Melendez. “There is an expectation that, okay, this is something new and different, so there is some value to leveraging it, and the question is: Okay, what are the implications of that for the traditional services, and what kind of services can be enabled that were not practical before?”
Why you should care: When you see disruption approaching, you can turn around and pretend it’s not there and risk being blindsided when it arrives. Or, you can start asking questions like “How can we leverage this to make ourselves better?” Cryptocurrencies themselves aren’t really the disruptor; rather, it’s blockchain technology, and financial institutions are paying heed—which could potentially pay massive dividends down the line. Nor is blockchain tech just a banking story; there’s a slew of coverage this week about blockchain beyond the financial world, too. For instance, Microsoft’s LinkedIn buy (see above) drowned out its announcement of Project Bletchley, the company’s latest Azure-driven effort to bring open blockchain technology to the enterprise on a potentially grand scale. And there’s plenty more in the links below, too. Bitcoin (and the search for its elusive creator) has generated most of the blockchain-related press coverage to date, but the underlying technology is finally getting its due.
- Blockchain’s Benefits Extend Beyond the Financial Services Sector—The Wall Street Journal
- How Blockchain Technology Can Prevent the Next Financial Crisis, Disrupt Uber, and Give Us Control of Our Data—Quartz
- Introducing Project ‘Bletchley’—GitHub
- Microsoft Builds on Azure Blockchain as a Service with Project Bletchley—ZDNet
- PwC and Z/Yen to Explore Blockchain Use in Wholesale Insurance—CryptoCoinsNews
- IMF Economist Examines Bitcoin Blockchain’s Role in Banking—CoinDesk
- The Blockchain Could Give a Big Boost to Local Economies—WIRED
- The Technology That Is Out to Disrupt Wall Street Has Been Overhyped—Business Insider
- Blockchain Is Not Going to Change the World—Forbes
- Step-by-Step Guide to a Blockchain Implementation—TechTarget
What it’s about: Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) took place this week and it delivered the goods—if by “goods” you mean “a megaton of software-related news to wade through and analyze.” The tech press happily obliged, with a slew of coverage, recaps, and analysis. Here are some of the key themes and announcements coming out of WWDC 2016:
- iOS 10 is coming (shocking, we know), and it appears to be a doozy of a release, including significant updates to Maps and Messages.
- Mac OS X is now macOS, with a new version—macOS Sierra—slated for a fall debut.
- Apple Pay is coming to the web, at least for Safari users.
- Siri is coming to the desktop. Apple is also opening Siri up to app developers.
- watchOS is getting a major update with watchOS 3.
Why you should care: Apple’s devices might still be the company’s core products, but this WWDC was clearly about software. The New York Times’ reporting team put it in tougher terms: “With its hardware sales now slowing, Apple is under pressure to fix its software and online services, which have become increasingly important to consumers. So at its annual conference for software developers on Monday, the iPhone maker tried to demonstrate that it was still a purveyor of high-quality software and services.” Indeed, with devices increasingly commoditized, software is king—and it had better be great if you want to win and keep users. If WWDC 2016 is an indicator, Apple seems to be getting the message, though some observers still ding Tim Cook’s company for segmenting software on a device-by-device basis, rather than leveraging the internet as the core of the digital experience.
- Everything You Missed at WWDC 2016—PCMag
- Apple Developer Conference: A More Open Siri, and Other Upgrades—The New York Times
- Apple Expands Siri to Work With Third-Party Apps—CNET
- It’s Tim Cook’s Apple Now: What WWDC 2016 Teaches Us About His Vision for the Company—Fast Company
- Apple’s iOS 10 Finally, Truly Begins the Mobile Messaging War—TechCrunch
- Inside iOS 10: Apple Maps Will Remember Where You Parked Your Car—AppleInsider
- Apple’s Midlife Opportunity—NewCoShift
- Think Different (Again): How Apple Plans to Compete in the AI Personal Assistant Wars—Fast Company
- What You Need to Know About Apple’s Software Upgrades—The New York Times
- WatchOS 3 Might Actually Fix Most of My Problems With the Apple Watch—Ars Technica
- Apple Pay Is Coming to a Website Near You—If You Use Safari—Bloomberg
- Follow the Users: Why Messages Got the Biggest Upgrade in iOS 10—Macworld
Don’t miss these other important stories from the world of modern software this week:
Court Backs Rules Treating Internet as Utility, Not Luxury—The New York Times
A federal appeals court delivered a major victory for net neutrality backers, ruling in a 2-to-1 decision that internet service providers should be treated as utilities and subject to tight government regulation. “The decision affirmed the government’s view that broadband is as essential as the phone and power and should be available to all Americans, rather than a luxury that does not need close government supervision,” writes Cecilia Kang in The New York Times. The FCC rules will prevent ISPs from creating internet “slow lanes” and otherwise manipulating how content is delivered to users. AT&T said it would continue to fight the rules, with a Supreme Court case possibly in the works.
Bots might be one of the most talked-about topics in tech right now, but when the hype fades, they’ll eventually need to earn their keep. VentureBeat lists seven ways bots might do that, including—wait for it—Bots-as-a-Service (BaaS), especially in enterprise software. “I’m willing to bet that for B2B bots, the SaaS model is going to be the business model that floats to the top,” writes Ross Simmonds, whose post first appeared over at Medium.
Why I Quit Twitter—and Left Behind 35,000 Followers—The New York Times
Most Twitter users can only dream of drumming up 35,000 followers, but New York Times Deputy Washington Editor Jonathan Weisman is bidding that audience adieu—at least until Twitter starts enforcement of its Terms of Service around hateful conduct and harassment. In a Times Insider column, Weisman details his extensive encounters with anti-Semitism on the service and how this led to his decision to call it quits.
Queen’s Birthday Honors List Recognizes More Women in IT—ComputerWeekly.com
Britain’s long-running Queen’s Birthday honors list is being hailed as a welcome sign of the growing number of women in the UK’s tech industry as well as a sign of growing diversity across the board: “The government also claimed the 2016 Birthday Honours list was the most diverse since the founding of the Order of the British Empire in 1917, with 8.2% of honorees coming from a black, Asian, or minority ethnic background,” writes ComputerWeekly.com’s Alex Scrogdon.
Bloomberg Global Tech Issue—Bloomberg
What it’s about: We’re not quite sure what’s going on with this design and UI, but the online version of Bloomberg’s Global Tech Issue, which also appeared in the June 13 edition of Bloomberg Businessweek, offers plenty of cool reading for the weekend, including a look at life with China’s wildly popular “everything” app, WeChat, and the 100-year-old man who lives in the future—which happens to be “in the middle of nowhere in Florida.”
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