Facebook Takes on Slack and Microsoft And Other Small Business Tech News This Week

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California on May 1, 2018. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 — Facebook adds more tools to Workplace to court business customers.

Though largely identified with its consumer brands, Facebook is now adding more tools to its Workplace third-party app integration product to attract business customers. The new improved Facebook Workplace will now have a so-called Integration Directory of more than 50 software services including Microsoft Corp’s SharePoint, SurveyMonkey, and Atlassian’s Jira, which helps developers manage projects and build software. (Source: Reuters)

Why this is important for your business:

The social media giant is determined to be a player in the workplace collaboration space, taking on Microsoft Teams and Slack with its upgraded Workplace application. That means more options for businesses like yours and mine. Would you use Facebook as business productivity tool?

Note: My company, The Marks Group PC, is a Microsoft partner.

2 — PwC says the lack of trust in AI assistants like Alexa could hinder adoption.

Tech leaders such as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella say that voice and conversational artificial intelligence (AI) represent a new age of computing, but PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) disagrees. A PwC report released this week found that poor understanding of what AI assistants can do and a general lack of trust are hindering the growth of assistants like Alexa and Siri. Among the 18 percent of survey respondents who said they don’t own a device with a digital assistant, more than half said they were concerned about their privacy. (Source: Venture Beat)

Why this is important for your business:

Wait – only 18 percent don’t own a device? So 82 percent do? What about them? I think if you ask the 82 percent (I’m one of them) you’ll probably find that, while AI Assistants still have a long way to go, most of that group would welcome their help in the office and at home if it increases their productivity. If the 82 percent are won over, I’m sure the rest will soon be.

3 — The winners of Microsoft Ventures’ first global AI startup competition take home millions.

This week, Microsoft announced three regional winners of its AI startup competition. From North America, Europe, and Israel, the winners took home a combined $3.5 million in venture funding from M12 (formerly known as Microsoft Ventures). The competition is an efficient way for Microsoft to find up-and-coming AI companies beyond its typical bandwidth, while also giving entrepreneurs a chance to land funding. (Source: Geek Wire)

Why this is important for your business:

Microsoft and other big tech giants are plowing their money into artificial intelligence startups. Is that an opportunity for you?

4 — Stripe expands its Atlas startup kit to let founders form LLCs.

This week, payments company Stripe announced that Atlas, its all-in-one service that helps founders incorporate in Delaware, can now be used to set up Delaware-based limited liability companies. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your business:

For only $500, a company can form a new entity, get a tax ID as well as a U.S. business bank account and Stripe account, access expert tax and legal advice, and receive tools for handling taxes along with a number of services—plus access to the Stripe Atlas Community for networking and extra resources. Sounds like a good deal.

5 — The Smithsonian’s new tour guide isn’t human.

Last week, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, introduced a new employee to the public—a 4-foot interactive humanoid robot named Pepper. Its job is to show people around the museum.  Programmed to answer commonly asked questions and tell stories, the robot can react and make gestures and has an interactive touch screen. It even entertains museum visitors by dancing and posing for selfies. (Source: CNET)

Why this is important for your business:

Before you freak out about robots running the world, relax.  As I wrote here, Pepper’s cousin Fabio recently had some issues and had to be taken out of service for doing things like unexpectedly yelling out “hello gorgeous!”  This industry still has a ways to go.