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AI

Salesforce boosts customer data platform strategy as rivals circle

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Salesforce today announced AI enhancements enabled by the Einstein platform into its customer data platform (CDP), just as rivals large and small are making similar investments. Salesforce is also tightening integration between the ecommerce cloud platform and the CDP, as well as making it possible to segment audiences in real time based on factors like membership status, loyalty tier, and points balance.

Announced during Salesforce Connections 2021, these offerings headline a wider series of updates Salesforce is making across its Digital 360 portfolio of applications and services as part of its overarching Customer 360 strategy. Other new offerings range from reports that analyze customer journey by channel to features that make it simpler to engage customers via Snapchat and WhatsApp platforms.

There’s also now a Progressive Web Application (PWA) Kit and Managed Runtime. Enabled by headless services provided by Salesforce, they enable developers to more easily decouple front-end and back-end technologies to create customize application experiences. This capability should allow organizations to accelerate digital business transformation initiatives, allowing them to make use of Salesforce application programming interfaces (APIs) to drive faster development of applications while retaining control over the front-end application experience.

Building a ‘single source of truth’

In terms of strategic initiatives, the Salesforce CDP is a crucial battle for Salesforce. Rather than housing their customer data in a traditional customer relationship management (CRM) application, which can be more challenging to access, organizations have started to employ CDPs as a way to make that data more accessible to a range of omnichannel applications that drive multiple digital business transformation initiatives. The CDP, in effect, becomes the hub around which customer engagements occurring in real time over email, phone, social media platforms, and mobile applications are all tracked. The result is data that’s more accessible to a range of omnichannel applications. In effect, the CDP becomes the hub around which customer engagements — whether occurring in real time over email, phone, social media platforms, and mobile applications — are all tracked.

“It’s a powerful single source of truth,” said Lidiane Jones, executive vice president and general manager for Commerce Cloud at Salesforce.

The source of truth in many cases is now at the core of digital business transformation strategies that require companies to finally unify customer data in a way that makes business insights actionable in near real time, rather than generating yet another business intelligence report long after it’s too late to have any meaningful impact on the outcome.

Taking on disparate rivals

The challenge for Salesforce is the fact that rivals large and small are all making similar CDP investments. While a CDP doesn’t replace the need for a CRM application for a sales team, it does play a more strategic role by enabling organizations to engage customers in a much more consistent fashion. Engagements that occur across social media networks and mobile applications can be more easily personalized, monitored, and analyzed. IT vendors, spanning from makers of marketing automation platforms to providers of enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, are all vying to become providers of the CDP any organization standardizes on.

Salesforce is clearly betting on the fact that much of the data that organizations are looking to shift into a CDP already resides in its CRM and marketing applications. In its most recent quarter, the company reported revenue of $5.96 billion, a 23% increase over the same quarter a year ago. Salesforce also revealed it expects revenue for the second quarter to exceed $6.22 billion. Overall, the company is expecting revenue for the full 2022 fiscal year to range between $25.9 billion to $26.0 billion, representing a 22% growth rate.

Competing against rivals in the CRM space is one thing. Battling for market share against everyone from Adobe and Microsoft to Oracle and SAP for dominance of an emerging CDP market may be quite another undertaking, especially for a company that still reported a slight loss for its most recent quarter. Regardless of the outcome, the contest for CDP dominance will most certainly be nothing less than brutal in the months ahead.

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Categories
Tech News

Facebook Clubhouse rivals to be announced next week

Clubhouse is the new kid on the social media block that everyone seems to want to be, acquire, or even kill. From Facebook to Twitter to even Telegram, social networking services are quickly jumping on the audio-only broadcast train, putting their own unique twists and features. There is perhaps no other social media company so intent in surpassing Clubhouse than Facebook, and the giant is set to announce not a single Clubhouse competitor but a handful of features that put audio front and center.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long been reported to have fallen head over heels with Clubhouse, or at least the concept of it. He had directed the company’s New Product Experimentation (NPE) group to come up with various apps and services that will rival or even beat Clubhouse’s growing fame. Surprisingly, Facebook hasn’t come up with a single 1:1 Clubhouse competitor but will instead launch a suite of features and services under a “Social Audio” banner.

Vox reports that Facebook has no less than four audio projects to reveal on Monday. One is simply an extension to its Messenger Rooms, giving users an audio-only option to the video conferencing service it launched just last year. There might also be a new product or feature that will let Facebook users record and post brief voice messages, something similar to what Twitter has already implemented recently.

Beyond extensions to existing services, Facebook is also expected to announce a completely new product that does resemble Clubhouse a bit, allowing uses to listen to and interact with speakers on an audio-only “stage”. This sounds pretty close to the “Hotline” service Facebook NPE started testing last week. There are also rumors about a partnership with Spotify that may revolve around podcast discovery, a new venture that the audio streaming giant has recently jumped into.

The report says that while Facebook may announce these new products tomorrow, their exact availability still remains up in the cloud. Their debut, however, couldn’t come at a worse time for Clubhouse just as the nascent social network’s future is being put into question. Despite its popularity, Clubhouse’s reach remains limited due to its invite-only system and exclusivity on iOS, though an Android port might finally be launched next month.

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Categories
Tech News

US woman arrested after making Deepfakes of daughter’s cheerleading rivals

A Pennsylvania woman was arrested last week after police discovered she’d created “Deepfake” videos of her daughter’s cheerleading rivals in an apparent effort to harass and intimidate them.

Charged with multiple misdemeanors, the woman’s alleged crimes involve sending videos to the cheerleading team’s coaches and the girls targeted that had been altered using AI-powered software to make it appear as though members of the team were engaging in lewd or rule-breaking behavior.

The case is being handled by Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub’s office, which recently told reporters the woman also sent anonymous messages to the victims harassing them, including making statements urging the cheerleaders to take their own lives.

Local news reports indicate the woman’s actions were intended to force her daughter’s rivals off the squad – all indications are that the daughter was unaware of her mother’s actions.

Background: Detectives tracked down the woman after tracing phone numbers used to send messages to the cheerleaders. According to reports, the phone numbers lead to a company that sells Deepfakes to marketing teams. It’s unclear at this time if the woman works for the company, solicited its work, or created the Deepfakes herself.

Quick take: Don’t believe everything you see. Deepfakes have been around for a few years now, and a number of people have been arrested for their misuse.

We’ve seen them used to entertain and amaze, but it’s been clear since their inception that Deepfakes represent a danger to society.

Luckily, there’s still ways to detect Deepfakes. But that could change quickly as developers figure out how to overcome the platform’s shortcomings.

As the skill and technology-level required to discern the difference between a Deepfake and the real thing continue to rise, we’re almost certain to see more situations like this.

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Published March 15, 2021 — 17:46 UTC



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Categories
Computing

HP Pavilion x360 Convertible 14: A good laptop with better rivals

The HP Pavilion x360 Convertible 14 (dw0097nr) is a competent convertible laptop for handling the day-to-day workload of a work-from-home or distance-learning experience. It also offers some unique features, including a rare cellular option and a full-sized SD card slot. The USB-C and HDMI ports allow for two additional displays, including 4K support. While these attributes work in the Pavilion x360’s favor, its middling performance and underwhelming battery life make other laptops we’ve tested in its price range seem like a better deal.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them. 

HP Pavilion x360 Convertible 14 dw0097nr tent mode Mark Hachman / IDG

As a convertible, HP’s Pavilion x360 Convertible 14 rotates easily into tent mode. The hinge is engineered well, preventing the laptop from sagging, even as it approaches a 180-degree angle.

HP Pavilion x360 Convertible 14 basic features

HP’s Pavilion x360 Convertible 14 hasn’t been on the market for long, but you may find that you’ll have a difficult time buying one—evidence of the buying spree brought on by the need to work/study from home during the pandemic. The laptop is currently available for $700 on HP.com, but in the course of the review it was sometimes sold out. 

In case you can’t find it, HP representatives recommended some virtually identical alternatives. The $650 HP Pavilion x360 Laptop 14t-dw000 lacks the Optane memory option and LTE WWAN. The $586.95 HP Pavilion x360 14t-dh200 is even more similar, though it also lacks WWAN options and you’ll need to pay a bit more for the 1080p display option. Both the 14t-dw000 and 14t-dh200 were in stock at press time, however, and should offer comparable performance.

Keep in mind that in all these machines, the processor’s “G1” suffix denotes the minimal amount of graphics capability provided. Higher-end members of Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake family offer more visual horsepower. 

Here are the specs for the unit we tested: 

HP Pavilion x360 Convertible 14 dw0097nr primary Mark Hachman / IDG
  • Display: 14-inch (1920×1080, WLED) multitouch, 250 nits (rated)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-1035G1
  • Graphics: UHD 620
  • Memory:  8GB DDR4-3200 SDRAM (1 x 8 GB)
  • Storage: 256GB SSD+16GB Optane
  • Ports: 1 USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps, charging, display), 2 USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 (formerly USB 3.1, 5Gbps), 1 HDMI 2.0, SD card slot, 3.5mm jack, SIM slot (as reviewed) 
  • Camera: 720p (user-facing)
  • Battery: 41.3Wh (reported), 43Wh (rated)
  • Wireless: WiFi 6 (Intel Wireless-AC 9461 802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5, with Connected Modern Standby; Intel LTE (XMM 7360) SIM slot (as reviewed)
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Dimensions (inches): 12.76 x 8.70 x 0.74 inches
  • Weight: 3.55 pounds
  • Color: Natural Silver (Exterior)/ Ash Silver (Interior)
  • Price:  $700 at HP.com

Overall build quality and display

HP’s Pavilion x360 14 emerges from its box a bit on the heavy side, though that’d only be an issue if you actually traveled with it. Our review unit boasts the rather generic Natural Silver exterior. A narrow band of silver runs around the edge of the Dark Ash Silver keyboard deck.

Because the Pavilion is a 360-degree convertible, it flips smoothly from clamshell back into tent mode, supporting its own weight. During a year when we’ve been stuck inside most of the time, I’ve grown to appreciate laptops that can serve as portable entertainment centers during off hours.

Above the keyboard lies an unobtrusive grille from which the Pavilion x360 14 vents its warm air. The laptop puts out a steady whoosh of fan noise, even occasionally during routine tasks such as typing this review. It’s both soft and fairly constant enough, however, to fade into the background as white noise. 

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