man reading paper on the subway
PHOTO: Manuel Pena

Microsoft’s annual Ignite is scheduled to happen in late September and the Redmond, Wash.-based company is already starting to push out announcements. Among them is the announcement it is pulling the Office 365 and Microsoft 365 product roadmaps together

In a statement to Office 365 users and reported by Mary Jo Foley in ZDNet, Microsoft stated: "In mid-September, the Office 365 Roadmap will become the Microsoft 365 Roadmap and will move to a new web location. In addition to retaining all the current information and functionality of the existing Office 365 Roadmap, the new site will include Microsoft 365 product features from Windows 10, Enterprise Mobility Suite, and Azure."

Satya Nadella unveiled Microsoft 365 last year at the company's Inspire conference. Having the CEO release a product gives some indication of its importance for the company. Microsoft 365 brings together Office 365, Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility and Security. In doing so, it delivers a complete, intelligent and secure solution to empower employees and marks, according to Nadella, a fundamental shift in how the company will design, build and go to market to address our customers’ needs for a modern workplace.

The current Office 365 Roadmap has been public since 2014, as part of Microsoft’s drive to become more transparent. The roadmap listed features in the pipeline, features about to be released and features it has already released over the previous year.

The new combined roadmap will include information about new releases and updates as well as features that are targeted further into the future across all the apps and across all the features. The rejigging of the roadmap follows a reorganization of the company last March that saw Microsoft splitting its Windows and Devices Group and moving the pieces into two new engineering units: Experiences and Devices under executive vice president Rajesh Jha, and Cloud and AI under executive VP Scott Guthrie. The new roadmap with its new URL will be public by the time of the Ignite conference.

Slack Lands $427 Million in Funding

And just as Microsoft gears up for Ignite, Slack is again snapping at its heels, this time with the announcement it has raised $427 million in funding. The new funding round puts the value of the company at $7.1 billion, 40 percent higher than this time last year. This brings the total raised by the San Francisco company to $1.3 billion.

According to a statement from Slack, the lead investors in this round were Dragoneer Investment Group and General Atlantic, joined by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. and funds advised by Wellington Management, and Baillie Gifford and Sands Capital, as well as existing investors. The statement explains:

“We pursued this additional investment to give us even more resources and flexibility to better serve our customers, evolve our business, and take advantage of the massive opportunity in front of us. Even with our rapid growth in just four years — we now have more than 8 million Daily Active Users (DAUs) and more than 70,000 paid teams — there is still enormous potential to change the way that people and organizations collaborate and work together.”

In sum, Slack aims to become the de facto replacement for email in the workplace and will use the funds to build both the app and build the teams behind the app. At the end of July, Atlassian announced it was discontinuing HipChat and Stride, and would a migration path to Slack for all their customers. HipChat Cloud and Stride, Slack said at the time, would be used to better support that path to Slack, while Atlassian is making a small, but symbolically important investment in its business.  

Will this be enough to counter Microsoft Teams, or the collaboration capabilities of Google’s G Suite? Both companies have been steadily building out their products over the years with Microsoft even releasing a freemium version of Teams in July. While funding of $427 million is indeed impressive, funding alone is not enough to give it the traction it needs to knock Microsoft off its perch. What it does in the coming months as it takes aim at the top collaboration spot in the enterprise remains to be seen, but it will have to be good.

Intel Makes New AI Buy

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel has made another artificial intelligence (AI) acquisition in the shape of Vertex.AI, a Seattle-based startup that sells tools for developers to add deep learning capabilities to their applications. According to a statement on the Vertex home page, Vertex.AI is now part of Intel’s Artificial Intelligence Products Group and that Intel plans to continue developing PlaidML as an open source project.

PlaidML is Vertex’s deep learning engine and Intel says it will continue to support a wide range of hardware as part of the PlaidML project. PlaidML enables developers to deploy AI models on any kind of device, be it Windows, Linux or MacOS

TechCrunch, which first reported the acquisition, said Vertex founders Choong Ng and Jeremy Bruestle designed PlaidML to create a framework that bridges the gap between AI software and various kinds of hardware.

“The lack of portable, developer-friendly tools prevents most organizations from realizing the power of deep learning for their business.A year ago, we saw a way to solve the compatibility and portability problems all at once, for all platforms, using a new software approach. It’s required rethinking how we implement the algorithms, and it’s been a challenge to engineer — but the payoff is worth it," Ng wrote.

Google Faces More Legal Woes

Also this week, Google is in the spotlight again, this time over tracking the location of Android users. Following an Associated Press investigation, it emerged that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based Google now faces a potential class action lawsuit over the revelation that it continues to store users' location data even if they turn off Location History.

The lawsuit was filed on the same day Google updated its help page to clarify that with Location History off it still stores some location data in other services such as Google Search and Maps. The lawsuit accuses Google of falsely representing what 'History Location off' means to its millions of iPhone and Android users and seeks a class action status consisting of an Android Class and an iPhone Class. The suit was filed by Napoleon Patacsil in San Francisco federal court, so stay tuned.

Quick Base Releases Kanban reports

Finally this week, Cambridge, Mass.-based Quick Base, which offers no-code application development platforms, has announced the release of Kanban reports, a new feature that combines the simplicity of intuitive drag-and-drop card views with the power of the Quick Base platform.

Kanban allows teams to organize, visualize, update and act on work in progress, helping them manage their processes and projects in an agile way. Kanban reports display work items as cards organized in customizable columns, which could represent status, phase, people or any other attribute important to your process, all while incorporating the power of Quick Base’s platform.

By integrating the Kanban system into the Quick Base platform, the company looks to give business professionals the ability to manage processes and projects more effectively across teams and the entire organization. It also aims to let business users quickly create their own applications.