Microsoft is doubling down on retail, and it wants to be the first place companies turn to beef up their tech offerings to compete with Amazon.
Today, Microsoft unveiled several new retail- and logistic-centric tools from Dynamics 365, the company’s enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management offering. The new capabilities focus on helping retailers connect their in-store and digital experiences and using technology to gain new insights for the business. Here is a look at a few of the new tools:
Dynamics 365 Commerce aims to bridge gaps between retailers’ digital and physical stores, creating a seamless “omni-channel” experience. Microsoft said in a blog post it is working with Seattle-area winery Chateau Ste. Michelle to “power a comprehensive customer engagement platform capable of integrating distinct brands across all its direct-to-consumer sales channels.”
Microsoft is leveraging its expertise in artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to help retailers understand what’s going on inside their stores. The new Dynamics 365 Connected Store app lets retailers monitor and analyze customer behavior via cameras and sensors, track temperatures in frozen food cases and send real time alerts to employees when extra personnel is needed in a specific area of the store.
Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection aims to “decrease fraud costs and help increase acceptance rates for customer payment transactions with e-commerce merchants,” according to the blog post. The application uses AI that learns and adapts to “evolving fraudulent patterns” in combatting payment and account creation fraud.
In addition to the retail tools, Microsoft unveiled Dynamics 365 tools for automating customer service and using IoT sensors to predict maintenance needs for manufacturing equipment before something goes wrong.
Microsoft has made retail an important pillar of its business in recent years as technology in the industry has evolved and companies look for an edge against Amazon. Microsoft has formed partnerships with many of Amazon’s retail rivals in recent years, including Walmart, Kroger and others, to develop new cloud-based technologies for e-commerce and the in-store experience.
It was another historic night for comedy and Amazon Prime Video at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday as the streaming network took home best comedy series for the second year in a row, this time for the critical hit “Fleabag.”
Along with that win, “Fleabag” captured three other awards, including lead actress in a comedy series and writing in a comedy series for star Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She’s the second person in Emmy’s history to win those two awards in the same year and the first since Tina Fey did it for “30 Rock” in 2008.
Late show hosts Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel roasted the event at one point for going without a host. And in a nod to Amazon, they were even upstaged by the tech giant’s voice assistant Alexa, who read the list of nominees and called out Waller-Bridge as the winner in the comedy actress category.
In the comedy series category, “Fleabag” beat out “Barry” (HBO), “The Good Place” (NBC), “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon), “Russian Doll” (Netflix), “Schitt’s Creek” (Pop), and “Veep” (HBO).
Harry Bradbeer also won for “Fleabag” for directing in a comedy series. Ben Whishaw won for supporting actor in a limited series or movie for his role in Amazon’s “A Very English Scandal.”
“For a director, something like Fleabag only comes along once in your life… I have to thank Phoebe, thank you for coming into my life like some kind of glorious grenade.” –Harry Bradbeer, Directing for a Comedy Series #Emmys
Last year’s big comedy winner for Amazon, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” garnered a couple more wins Sunday night, with Tony Shalhoub and Alex Borstein winning in the comedy supporting actor and actress categories.
Including the Creative Arts Emmys which were presented prior to Sunday, Amazon captured 15 total wins. HBO was the big network winner with 34 total wins, and Netflix had 27.
HBO took the top honor of the night with a best drama series win for the final season of the fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”
Fandom is probably best-known for its network of fan wikis. The San Francisco-based entertainment platform was originally founded in 2004 as Wikicities, by Angela Beesley Starling and Wikipedia co-creator Jimmy Wales. It later rebranded to Wikia in 2006, a name that some of its wikis still use, and to Fandom in 2016.
If you’ve used a fan wiki at all in the last year, it was probably hosted on a Fandom site. The company claims it hosts over 385,000 individual communities, covering virtually every show, book, comic, game, anime, film, or assorted hobby that you could hope to imagine.
Now Fandom is trying its hand at game publishing.
UnderMine, a challenging dungeon crawler, is the first game to be published through Fandom’s new arm. It’s developed by Thorium Entertainment, a two-man studio headquartered in Vancouver, B.C., and debuted via Steam Early Access Aug. 20.
Donovan Duncan, president of Fandom, said that moving into video game publishing is an experiment.
“I’m a gamer myself, and more and more, you notice that discoverability is an issue these days,” Duncan said in a phone interview. “There’s not a lot of curation for games in general. That was the identified need. There are a lot of things coming out, so where can we step in and play this role?”
To help support the launch, the official UnderMinewiki is hosted on Gamepedia, a video game wiki Fandom recently acquired of Gamepedia.
“Much of the business is akin to what we do at Fandom, where we try to identify the IP that we think will have the biggest impact for us and the largest number of fans,” Duncan said. “We thought, what If we take this one step further? We think UnderMine’s going to be a really great game with a great fanbase. What if we partner with them, and actually facilitate the launch of the game?”
UnderMine is a 2D “roguelike” dungeon crawler, featuring elaborate old-fashioned pixel art. It’s set in a fantasy world, where both a plague of monsters and a series of recent earthquakes have been traced back to the caverns below a local gold mine. Arkanos the Archmage has been sent to find out what’s happening.
You do not play as Arkanos. Instead, you’re one of an endless number of disposable peasants that Arkanos is using as cannon fodder. Armed with a pick and accompanied by a canary, you go down into the mine to fight monsters, collect gold, grab relics, solve puzzles, and evade traps.
Also, you’ll die. Frequently.
There’s no way back up to the top level of the mine from below. Any time you jump into the tunnels, it’s a one-way trip. You can find food and potions to restore your health, and relics that provide you with powerful new abilities, but every mistake can cost you dearly. Sooner or later, your luck’s going to run out.
When you die, you respawn on the top level of the mine with half your gold, as an identical peasant in a different-colored tunic. That gold can be spent to acquire a variety of permanent, passive upgrades, because of course Arkanos is going to charge you for his help, which will persist through your next death. Any other relics, blessings, and other buffs you got on your last trip are gone for good.
There’s a dark comedy to it all. Your path through UnderMine is built on a thick carpet of dead peasants, each one of whom got you just a little bit further into the mines. Each run, even if you failed, gets you one more upgrade, or blueprint, or attempt at a boss.
Each time you enter the mine, your trip is a little different; I was told by the developers at PAX West, at their table in the Indie Megabooth, that each room in UnderMine is about 40 to 60 percent handcrafted, with the rest made up by procedural generation. You do see some repetition, but in general, each run through UnderMine ends up substantially different than the one before it. You can also find relics hidden within each floor of the caverns that change up your miner’s abilities, sometimes dramatically.
The development team on UnderMine is made up of Vancouver’s Derek Johnson and Seattle’s Clint Tasker, with music and sound design by Sono Sanctus, a sound and music design company in Grand Rapids, Mich. Tasker and Johnson first met during their time at Relic Entertainment in Vancouver while working on strategy games like Warhammer: Dawn of War II and Company of Heroes.
The current road map for UnderMine is that it will spend eight months in Steam Early Access before reaching a full release around the middle of 2020. A lot of games tend to spend much longer in their Early Access state, but according to Johnson, they’d planned for that. “I was told by other developers, ‘Don’t release everything you have in Early Access,’” he said. UnderMine has updated twice since its initial release, adding additional monsters, encounters, features, and functions.
According to Duncan, if being UnderMine‘s publisher works out for Fandom, it may mark the beginning of the company taking an active curation role for other mediums, such as TV and movies. “We see it almost as a responsibility of ours,” he said. “If we find something good, we want to show it to people. We believe there’s an element of curation that we can provide, and a level of visibility that we can provide for those games that have what our customers are looking for.”
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is talking up his Starship Mk1 prototype super-rocket in Texas, less than a week in advance of an eagerly awaited update on his plans for Starship trips to the moon, Mars and beyond.
Today’s sneak preview came in a flurry of tweets addressing some of the finer design points for Starship Mk1, which looks like a silvery silo equipped with rocket fins as it sits at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in South Texas. The 30-foot-wide, roughly 150-foot-tall prototype — and a similar Mk2 structure taking shape at SpaceX’s site in Florida — are meant to blaze a trail for an even bigger two-stage rocket, with the pointy-ended Starship sitting atop a Super Heavy first-stage booster.
During a live-streamed presentation that’s set for Saturday at the Boca Chica site, Musk is expected to discuss plans for testing and flying the Starship system over the next few years.
Musk has said Starship (previously known as the BFR) could take on flights to Mars by the mid-2020s, plus crewed trips to the moon and supersonic point-to-point trips between destinations on Earth. He didn’t address those beyond-Earth visions in today’s tweets, but in a discussion with his followers, he did get into the nuts and bolts of Starship design — including what’s going to be packed inside the prototype’s nose cone, or fairing.
Musk also said there are some aspects of the design that he’s not yet “fully bought into.” Here’s how the Twitter thread spun out:
Nose tip has forward movable fins, cold gas attitude control thrusters, header tanks for landing, composite pressure vessels, several large batteries, etc. Placed up there to balance high mass of Raptors & rear fins at the bottom.
So it appears as two’s the magic number on this beast! Makes sense. Will they tuck in on ascent when attached to super heavy? 3 landing legs was super aerodynamically unstable on ascent (full stack) and also unstable on decent when landing.
Can the body flaps move in an axis other than dihedral? If they can only articulate dihedrally, how does that work when it gets to the tail down portion of landing? Doesn’t that portion of descent require some kind of canard articulation through the X axis?
Some of SpaceX’s fans shared their own pictures of the Starship Mk1, and hazarded guesses as to the rocket’s final design:
SpaceX crews are hard at work today, crews are seen lifting and attaching the second fin to StarShip. Also spotted was a raptor engine, here is a size comparison with a crew member seen inspecting the engine. pic.twitter.com/I4UJ1vC55H
IBM filed a lawsuit against Zillow this week, accusing the real estate giant of piggybacking off its patented technology to build key parts of its home value estimation and search features. … Read More
Car-sharing is stalling in Seattle. Lime is shuttering LimePod, a spokesperson confirmed Wednesday, marking the second closure of a free-floating car-sharing service in Seattle in two months. … Read More
In his relentless pursuit to try to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems around sanitation, disease eradication and climate change, Bill Gates is practically robotic in his quest for information and in his inability to give up. … Read More
At the end of July, more than 50 Seattle-area girls accomplished something most kids don’t: they completed a working prototype of an original video game in three weeks. They did this as part of the Girls Make Games series of camps, which have reached 6,000 girls in 61 cities worldwide since 2014.
Girls Make Games was founded by the husband-wife duo of Ish Syed and Laila Shabir, a Pakistani native who came to the United States in 2005 to study at MIT. During her studies and after graduation, Shabir saw a disparity between the number of girls playing games and the number of girls making them. This gave her the inspiration to create camps specifically for girls where they could express their ideas without the judgment or gender stereotypes that can come from co-ed camps.
“I was kind of terrified at first,” said Katherine, a 15-year-old who attended this year’s camp in Seattle. “I actually learned more than I expected, and I think we accomplished a lot more than I thought we could’ve in the three weeks we had.”
Katherine and her team built a game called Splintered Memories, where Lilith, the player character, must enter other people’s dreams to collect pieces of her mentor’s soul. Katherine primarily did the coding for the project.
“I loved coding,” she said. “That was my favorite part, doing the coding and programming for our game.”
The camp had a such a positive impact on Katherine that she’s now considering pursuing a career within the industry, which is ultimately the goal of Girls Make Games. Seattle-area schools including DigiPen and the Academy of Interactive Art are also working to get more women behind the scenes making games instead of just playing them. But there’s a long way to go.
One of the reasons for the stagnant numbers of women developers can be due to a lack of education about the opportunities within the industry, according to Shabir.
“Education is the single most effective catalyst for social change, both at individual and community levels,” she said. “We empower young girls with the tools and knowledge to create their own games and show them that there’s more than one path to the industry.”
But recently high profile allegations of sexual harassment and assault throughout game development have put the industry in a negative spotlight. Just last month, for example, a number of women took to Twitter to share allegations of assault within the industry.
“This year has been a big one for the games industry showing its true colors, and it has left me greatly disappointed and pessimistic about my possible future in games,” said Kat Baird, a student at DigiPen.
These events are starting to give pause to those who had been looking to enter the industry.
There’s also a growing backlash against women who speak out, similar to the Gamergate situation in 2014, which involved the large scale harassment — and in some cases death threats — to a variety of women in the gaming industry.
“One of the biggest challenges for women in the game industry is when they are faced with a hostile and sexist workplace that doesn’t recognize that it is (or doesn’t care.) For many reasons, it can be dangerous and unstable,” said Sarah Belhumeur, a local game artist and co-founder of The Diversity Collective within the Seattle Indies organization.
Belhumeur, however, remains optimistic.
“Change is happening,” she said. “I’ve witnessed large companies establish diversity initiatives for the first time. A lot of this change requires the existing systems to recognize that there’s a problem and start creating actionable plans to reverse biases, support the growth of diversity, and be more inclusive.”
Belhumeur also said support groups for minorities in the industry can be key to getting women to not only to enter the industry, but stay once they get there.
“It’s challenging to feel like you don’t belong or like you need to change who you are to fit within a toxic culture,” she said. “The takeaway from this should be that you do belong, you are valid, and you have the support of every other woman in games cheering you on.”
Shabir agreed with Belhumeur.
“We elevate and celebrate role models. We bring these girls together, so they’re validated in who they are – girls who love playing and making games,” she said.
To learn more about Girls Make Games, check out this documentary about the program below.
Sure, you can look at Hope Cochran‘s LinkedIn page and follow her path through Stanford University degrees in economics and music, tracing her professional journey through successful startups, multiple gigs as chief financial officer and ultimately landing in her role as the first female managing director of Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group.
But don’t start making assumptions about the story those data points might suggest. The tale is Cochran’s to tell.
The music degree, which also encompassed opera, began as a cheap way to get singing lessons she desperately wanted. Economics was the more practical yin to her artistic yang. But the surprising truth is that Cochran says she has used her music degree to a much greater extent than her econ studies — though the latter was admittedly useful for landing job interviews.
“The skills I gained by spending many hours in a practice room are the skills I use today,” Cochran said. “It has taught me to be on stage, have a presence, and handle a crowd or a large room.”
Then there’s the series of leadership roles that seemed to flow neatly from one to the next. Cochran was a co-founder of SkillsVillage, which she sold to PeopleSoft; she was CFO of Clearwire through its sale to Sprint; and Cochran was CFO of King Digital, creators of Candy Crush, where she led the company through an IPO and an acquisition by Activision.
That tidy summary, cautions Cochran, obscures the hard knocks along the way.
“It all looks very pretty. There were a lot of moments where it was falling apart, and I felt those deeply and I know you can get beyond them and through them,” she said. “The journey is not what it looks like on paper.”
Cochran has strategies for navigating the tough times.
“I tend to go to a very calm place and be very analytical and take the emotion out of it,” she said. Then she works up five potential solutions to the problem — and implements four of them. “I’m not sure which one of them will succeed, but we don’t have time to do them one at a time.”
Cochran said she’s adept at managing chaos, and is able to bring a team along by being clear about the objectives and goals of her many-pronged attack. Her other trick is hiring folks who can likewise multitask, and then taking the time to make sure their job is aligning with their personal, life goals. Cochran gives people the opportunity to explore different roles to broaden their skills and find fulfillment, even if the move can be hard on the company in the short-term.
“That is when they perform for you. That is why they juggle so much,” she said, “because they know I have their back at a different level.”
Cochran will be one of the featured speakers at the 2019 GeekWire Summit, speaking about investing trends on the venture capital panel.
We caught up with Cochran for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: Seattle
Computer types: Dell
Mobile devices: Samsung 9, Kindle (my fav!), Verizon WiFi Hotspot — a lifesaver
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Excel, love it and hate it; Candy Crush, just got to say thank you!; Starbucks mobile ordering, saves so much time; The Riveter
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? My workspace is portable. I can pick up my laptop and move anywhere. I am often on the road, so an airplane is a common workspace for me.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Have priorities and then periodically check them against your actual calendar. Does your calendar reflect your priorities? Does your time spent reflect what your goals and priorities are? Which meetings and events should you have said no to?
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? I am not much of a social networker. LinkedIn so I can find awesome people and Facebook to keep track of my kids activities.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? 17
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 25 with two of them being all-day meetings.
How do you run meetings? I try to be prepared and intentional. If a meeting doesn’t have action items at the end, that feels like a waste of time.
Everyday work uniform? Whatever Armoire and Stitch Fix send me! I hate shopping and these companies are a lifesaver.
How do you make time for family? They are a priority. I look at my day and if there are moments where they need me, I schedule around it. I don’t have many barriers between the workday and personal life. Often I work late at night because during the day I was at a kid’s activity.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Riding horses. I can’t have my cell phone with me while I am jumping fences. It is about the only time I don’t have my cell phone with me.
What are you listening to? Musicals. I’m a Broadway geek.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? The DL, a newsletter by Madrona colleague Daniel Li; Bloomberg; CB Insights
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates, “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens.
Night owl or early riser? Sleep: I just don’t get enough of it. I always schedule meetings earlier when I need more time, because at about 11 p.m. I am mush.
Where do you get your best ideas? On my horse.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? My dad, Michael Flannery, who was CEO of a Puget Sound area lumber company. He recognizes talent, is calm in a storm, is full of integrity, and puts those who work for him before himself.
The climate crisis surged to the top of the tech industry’s agenda this week, encouraged by a groundswell of activity from workers at Amazon, Microsoft, Google and other big tech companies, as part of broader global efforts to bring attention to the issue.
It’s the latest example of rising activism inside the tech industry, as a new generation of workers pushes employers to speak out and take action on political, social and environmental issues.
PAX, the gaming convention created by Seattle-based Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins as an offshoot of their gaming webcomic Penny Arcade, has expanded from a single show in Bellevue, Wash. more than 15 years ago to four giant events spread across the entire U.S., plus one in Australia.
It’s been a wild ride since that inaugural convention, both for PAX and Penny Arcade. At last month’s annual PAX West event in Seattle, GeekWire sat down with Holkins and Penny Arcade producer Elyssa Grant to talk about PAX, the official Acquisitions Incorporated D&D Dungeon Manual, “actual play” podcasting, and indie developers.
In June, Penny Arcade launched its first official D&D manual in partnership with Renton, Wash.-based Wizards of the Coast. The book brings some structure to Acquisitions Incorporated, a show that began as a D&D podcast over ten years ago hosted by Wizards of the Coast producer Chris Perkins, along with Holkins and Krahulik.
It has since grown in popularity and expanded to live performances at most PAX events during which Holkins, Krahulik, and the other Acquisitions Inc. players don elaborate character costumes and play their D&D campaigns in front of huge audiences.
Since the launch of the book, Penny Arcade has taken its show on the road, including a first-ever appearance at the Indianapolis tabletop gaming convention Gen Con. “Penny Arcade has never had a show that I was not at,” said Holkins, who was not at Gen Con. “It’s an index of how things have changed for Penny Arcade that we can execute on something like that, and I’m not necessarily the point of it — Acquisitions Incorporated is pretty strong, it’s sort of its own thing.”
With over a decade of podcasting their D&D campaigns for the entertainment of others, it’s entirely possible that Acquisitions Incorporated was the first ever podcast in what is now known as the “actual play” podcast genre. During actual play podcasts, players record their role-playing game sessions and release it as a show for listeners. There are hundreds or even thousands of actual play podcasts available now, across every genre and RPG play system you can imagine.
Is Acquisitions Incorporated credited as the first to kick off the entire genre?
“You can’t say that, I don’t think,” said Holkins, only after criticizing the term “actual play” as “weird, like ‘blog’ or ‘vlog,’” as well as being unclear and “not useful language.”
“I know that if it was happening [in 2009], or if somebody else was doing it, we didn’t know about it,” continued Holkins. “Podcasting is an industry now — a booming, profitable industry.”
Grant noted how “when we originally pitched the idea to Wizards of the Coast, their response was, ‘why would anyone want to sit and watch people play this game?’”
“It was hard to fathom,” she added. “They thought, ‘this is a game that you sit down and do, not watch’ — boy, has that shifted.”
Holkins compared podcasting a D&D campaign like Acquisitions Incorporated to “attract mode” on old arcade games because it draws in listeners, piques their curiosity, and “it’s only a matter of time before you put a quarter into that machine,” he noted.
“That does not comport with reality,” Holkins said.
Holkins said that PAX 10, a curated list of ten new indie games shown at PAX events, was created specifically to give free booth space to indie developers.
“I have a tremendous heart for independent developers. The vast majority of the games I play are independent,” Holkins said.
“If it were true [that PAX mutes indie developers], I would pull the biggest lever I could to fix it,” he added. “That’s why I come to this show, and that’s where I spend my time, and I’ve seen a lot of awesome [indie] stuff this year.”
So what’s next for Penny Arcade? There aren’t likely to be any new PAX events announced any time soon. “Five PAX’s is a lot,” said Holkins. For now, the crew is enjoying the existing conventions and creating content such as Acquisitions Incorporated; spinoffs like “Acquisitions Incorporated Presents” (a series of game modules for players); and “Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated,” a “legacy” style card game, with optional “C” Team miniatures.
— Identity management startup Auth0 hired Barry Plaga as chief financial officer and Shiven Ramji as chief product officer.
Plaga was previously the CFO and COO of Guidance Software. Ramji served as the senior vice president of product at DigitalOcean before joining Auth0.
“Barry and Shiven bring incredibly deep experience and a proven history of taking fast-growing technology companies to the next level,” said Auth0 CEO and co-founder Eugenio Pace. “We are very excited to welcome them to the team, and will leverage their collective expertise to propel Auth0 through its next phase of growth.”
— Nordstrom promoted Ken Worzel to chief operating officer, a newly created role. Worzel was previously chief digital officer and president of Nordstrom.com.
“In his nearly 10 years at Nordstrom, Ken has been an integral part of the leadership team to ensure we are meeting the evolving needs of customers,” said Erik Nordstrom, co-president of the company. “Ken has a long history of strengthening our competitive position and relevance.”
Earlier this year, a pair of Nordstrom technology executives left the company. At the time, Nordstrom’s chief technology officer was planning to reorganize the retailer’s digital division. The company said the executive departures were not related to the reorganization.
— Sara Gupta joined Amperity as vice president of sales for the western region. Gupta was formerly general manager of global retail at Bazaarvoice, a digital marketing agency.
“After spending several years working with some of the biggest brands and retailers globally, the conversations always turned to their need to better understand and serve their customers in a much more personalized way — a strong data foundation being central to achieving that,” Gupta said in an emailed statement. “It didn’t take me but a second to realize how impactful and powerful this company is in enabling brands to personalize at scale. And I needed to be a part of it.”
In July, Amperity raised $50 million to take on Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle and others with its customer data platform.
— Cameron Borumand was promoted to principal at Ignition Partners, an early-stage tech investment firm based in Seattle and Silicon Valley. Prior to joining Ignition in 2017, Borumand co-founded seed-stage investment firm Curious Capital and worked as a technology investment banker at Vaquero Capital.
“Not only has Cameron sourced great opportunities, he has represented Ignition at the highest level in the Seattle community and delivered superior quality diligence, investment thoughtfulness, and rigor,” Kellan Carter, partner at Ignition Partners, said in a statement.
— DuckDuckGo, a search engine that promotes user privacy, hired longtime Microsoft executive Steve Fischer as vice president of business development.
CIO Index is the world's largest professional network for CIOs - of the CIO, for the CIO, by the CIO.
Over 75,000 CIOs and other IT Executives use CIO Index to Learn, Network and Share.
Mon - Fri 9:00am - 5:00 pm
375 North Stephanie St., Ste 1411, Henderson, NV 89014