Productive Meetings – Microsoft Takes us Closer to Actualizing an Oxymoron

Meetings have traditionally been met with mixed reactions from participants, particularly in organizational settings. The main gripe being that they are often inefficient drudgery. With the introduction of AI-enabled efficiency tools and actions, Microsoft has finally addressed large parts of the problem, and may have contributed to overcoming criticisms and lamentations that meetings tend to generate.

Image: AI generated notes, tasks, and highlights from meeting

Microsoft has steadily been accelerating their investment in AI and its integration into their range of product offerings. Their recent investment of $10B in OpenAI has been the most visible and declarative of their intent to build AI in almost everything they develop.

Back in July 2019, Microsoft bet on OpenAI with an investment of $1B, at the early stage of AI development. And in 2020, they developed a supercomputer for OpenAI, with more than 285,000 CPU cores, 10,000 GPUs, and 400 gigabits per second of network connectivity for each GPU server – a computing behemoth. Over the year, Microsoft has remained focused and steadfast in ramping up their investment in what they rightfully consider to the next tech frontier.

Having recently integrated AI (the ubiquitous ChatGPT) with search in Microsoft’s Bing (intriguing, even worrisome, early glitches aside) the company is rolling out more AI integrations throughout their product offerings. The latest may very well be the most impressive to date.

Microsoft’s integration of OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 AI language module (the one that powers the uber popular ChatGPT) into their Microsoft Teams Premium heralds a slew of imaginative and productive features that make meeting outcomes truly useful.

The big new AI-enabled feature in Microsoft Teams Premium is Intelligent Recap. It features AI-generated notes, tasks, meeting sections (or chapters), personalzed timeline markers, and a number of other tools. Meeting confidentially protection measures are also incorporated.

In the future, one can reasonably expect to see even more productivity features such as AI-generated file suggestions, email drafts, and even draft project plans & timelines – all gleaned from meeting discussions.

The year 2023 is looking to become an inflection point for AI development and adoption. Microsoft looks like its straddling the initial curve intelligently. How long they continue to do that, and what competitors have in the offing will be quite enterprising.

Pirates and their Servers in the Sky

The Pirate Bay, the hugely popular BitTorrent tracker site based out of Sweden (effectively, the world’s largest file sharing site), is planning to “send out some small drones”  to float servers “some kilometers up in the air”, in an attempt to avoid jurisdiction over copyright infringement and to evade law enforcement on land.

Their idea involves sending unmanned Low Orbit Server Stations (LOSS) into airspace miles above ground, aided by the growing availability of cheap radio equipment and tiny computers. These floating servers will be connected to via radio transmitters at potential speeds of (according to The Pirate Bay) 100Mbps per node up to 50km away. Moreover, for law enforcers planning to crackdown, the servers “will have to be shut down with aeroplanes in order to shut down the system. A real act of war.”

As a Business Insider article points out, the well-hidden servers,whose locations are known only to the site’s administrators, may end up violating air traffic rules and be easily brought down by the militaries’ own Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the technical name for ‘drones’. The premature/ unrealistic plans are, nonetheless, an indication of the direction the technology of cyber piracy is taking. Soon, as The Pirate Bay puts it, “when time comes we will host in all parts of the galaxy, being true to our slogan of being the galaxy’s most resilient system.”

The Late Tribute: Jobs is No More

It has been five months since Steve Jobs passed away (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011). While the world has moved on from mourning the passage of the maven, not a day passes that some blog, some tech site does not reference his contributions. This will persist for a long time to come – such was the gift, the genius of Jobs.

In an amazing coincidence, I was in the US, in fact, very close to Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California – the HQ of Apple Inc., when news broke of his passing, and had come out of an Apple Store less than an hour back. As a latecomer to the world of iPods, iPhones, Macs, OS X and Apple in general, I was nonetheless swept away by the marvel of Job’s creations, his farsightedness and above all, his boldness in defining what the user experience could be. His death came as a shock in slow motion, increasing in intensity, rather than diminishing.

In an earlier post, I had talked about his life and philosophies a little. Here is just a throwback to the inevitable questions, “Will there be another Steve Jobs?”

My answer, “Never”.

It is the same answer I would give to the question, “Will the world ever stop celebrating the life, times and works of Steve Jobs?”

Apple’s Steve Jobs Quits, AAPL Dips

Steve Jobs has quit as the CEO of Apple Inc (AAPL). His letter read:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.


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Cognitive Computing – Computers Thinking like Human Brains

IBM has developed a microprocessor capable of figuratively “rewiring” its connections as it encounters new information, similar to how biological synapses work, thereby emulating the human brain. That is how the system could learn, rather than be programmed.

Synaptic connections between brain cells physically connect themselves depending on experiences. The process of learning is essentially the forming and strengthening of these connections. A computer can simulate such a system by paying more “attention” to important inputs, and paying less attention to others.

Also, the human brain can perform complex tasks rapidly and accurately using “as much energy as a 20 watt light bulb in a space equivalent to a 2 liter soda bottle”.

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Mobile Users Get Smarter (Phones)! Apple & Android Rise, Nokia Falls

According to a recent report by Gartner Inc., sales of smartphones were up 74% year-on-year, accounting for 25% of overall sales of mobile devices in Q2, 2011, up from 17% in Q2, 2010.

Having led smartphone sales over the last five years, Nokia is set to lose its top spot as the largest seller of smartphone in Q3, 2011, according to Gartner. These are in terms of smartphone sales to end users. In terms of shipments to vendors, Nokia has already lost the top spot to Apple (and the 2nd place Samsung), according to research firms Strategy Analytics and IDC Research.

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