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Slack CEO: Microsoft is ‘unhealthily preoccupied with killing us’

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Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield claimed earlier this month that Microsoft Teams isn’t a competitor to Slack. In an interview with The Verge, Butterfield has revealed that, inside Slack, the company feels that “Microsoft is perhaps unhealthily preoccupied with killing us, and Teams is the vehicle to do that.”

Butterfield sat down with Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel for a wide-ranging interview that discusses Slack’s battles with Microsoft Teams, the future of Slack, new Slack features, and much more. It’s well worth a listen.

Butterfield expands on why he thinks Microsoft is “unhealthily preoccupied” with Slack and compares Teams to more of a competitor to Zoom. Slack obviously has its own voice and video calling features, but it’s not the primary focus of the app, and often, businesses integrate Zoom or Cisco’s WebEx instead. Microsoft has been moving businesses from Skype for Business to Teams, which traditionally focused on voice and video calling.

Ultimately, Butterfield thinks Microsoft is trying to force the Teams comparison because “Microsoft benefits from the narrative that Teams is very competitive with Slack. Even though the reality is it’s principally a voice and video calling service.”

Microsoft’s Slack comparison from July 2019.
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Butterfield highlights a Microsoft press release from July last year that specifically mentions Slack’s daily active users compared directly to Teams. “No software company has ever done that,” explains Butterfield. “Like, maybe at the height, Oracle would do something like that … But literally, no one else would ever do that. Microsoft has never done that before.”

Butterfield believes this “speaks to the commitment they have there” and that Microsoft’s efforts are uniquely targeted at Slack. He even references a Verge interview where Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365, claims Slack won’t have the “breadth and depth” to reinvent work. Butterfield says if you Google for “Slack Spataro,” you’ll find a “bunch of shit-talking about how Slack isn’t very good,” but the same can’t be found for Spataro and Okta, Google, or Amazon.

Butterfield thinks this is because Microsoft’s entire Office empire is threatened if Slack does well, whereas if Zoom does well, it only threatens video and voice calling. “In a different universe where Slack is incredibly successful over the next two years and 98 percent of knowledge workers use Slack, it does matter to Microsoft because the relative importance of email is hugely diminished,” explains Butterfield. “If email becomes less important, then that whole $35, $40 billion-a-year collaboration productivity business unit is threatened.”

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Mixer is getting a big Fortnite tournament series hosted by Ninja

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Microsoft’s Mixer streaming platform is making a bigger splash in the live event game with a new tournament series starting this week featuring Fortnite player Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. Called Ninja Battles Featuring Fortnite, the weekly tournament series will take place starting this week on May 28th and lasting every Thursday through July, reports Deadline.

The event will be hosted on Ninja’s Mixer channel, which is the platform’s most popular channel since the streamer left Twitch last August to join Microsoft’s competitor as part of a lucrative multiyear streaming deal. Ninja’s high-profile departure, orchestrated in part by his management team at the talent agency Loaded, inspired a wave of new contracts spanning the entire live-streaming ecosystem. In the months after Ninja left Twitch, several popular gaming entertainers followed him and signed new deals with other streaming platforms.

Just in the last few months alone, Twitch and YouTube have locked down popular creators like Imane “Pokimane” Anys and YouTube megastar Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg to their respective platforms.

Ninja Battles Featuring Fortnite will feature $400,000 in prize money and bring together 60 Fortnite pros and other big names in the Twitch and broader live-streaming world, including Nicholas “Nick Eh 30” Amyoony, Fortnite World Cup champion Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, and Faze Clan streamers Nate Hill and Soleil “Ewok” Wheeler. Everyone will be streaming from the comfort of their home during the pandemic.

Ninja will of course be a centerpiece of the event, which is being co-produced by Ninja himself and his management team Loaded. He’ll participate in the competitions, while popular community members “BallaTW” and “MonsterDface” will commentate. Notably, Ninja was the first streamer to host a live and in-person Fortnite tournament in early 2018, just months after the game first came out and long before developer Epic Games formed an official esports circuit for the title.

“I joined Mixer to push boundaries, create different types of streaming content and interact with fans in new ways,” Ninja said in a statement. “Ninja Battles brings a new kind of gameplay to the community. I am excited to share this competitive experience with my fans as well as have my fellow gamers and friends participate.”

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Cortana now lets you schedule meetings by voice inside Outlook

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Microsoft is adding new abilities to Outlook’s “Play My Emails” feature, allowing you to use voice control to organize your emails and day-to-day schedule. The company originally released Play My Emails for Outlook last November, letting Microsoft’s AI assistant Cortana read emails out loud to users.

With the new features, Cortana will allow you to accept or decline meetings as well as set up a meeting with someone. If someone emails you regarding important or time-sensitive information, it will suggest setting a meeting during the next available 30-minute time slot on your calendar. Cortana will also give you an option to view your schedule and select a time to set up a meeting, and it’ll allow you to add emails to your task list.

Use Cortana to join a Microsoft Teams meeting, too.
Image: Microsoft

The new update will also include support for the recently released Microsoft Surface Earbuds, allowing owners to use Outlook voice commands and navigate their emails by swiping back and forth on the surface of the earbuds. Additionally, Cortana will soon allow you to quickly join a Microsoft Teams meeting if you’re behind on your schedule, so you can join the meeting within a minute before it’s slated to start or join once it’s in progress.

Microsoft is releasing this feature first on iOS devices, though Android support is slated to roll out “in the coming weeks,” according to the company.

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Windows 10 May 2020 Update now available with built-in Linux kernel and Cortana updates

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Microsoft is releasing its Windows 10 May 2020 Update today. It’s the latest “major” update to Windows 10, and its big features include the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 and Cortana updates. Microsoft released a final version of the update to testers last month, and everyone on Windows 10 can get access to the May 2020 Update through Windows Update today.

The biggest change to the May 2020 Update is that it includes the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL 2), with a custom-built Linux kernel. This Linux integration in Windows 10 will greatly improve the performance of Microsoft’s Linux subsystem in Windows. Microsoft is also promising to update this kernel through Windows Update, and it will be open source so developers can create their own WSL kernel and contribute changes.

WSL 2 won’t include Linux GUI application support or GPU hardware acceleration just yet, as Microsoft is promising both of these features for future Windows updates.

The May 2020 Update also includes some big Cortana improvements. Cortana can now be undocked from the Windows 10 taskbar, and it includes the ability to choose between typing or talking to the digital assistant. This includes tweaks to the overall Cortana interface to make it more conversational, and Microsoft has also added quick searches to the search home interface with this latest update. These include quick access to weather, news, today in history, and new movies.

You can download the Windows 10 May 2020 Update by checking for updates in Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update.

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