Apple: iPhone 7 helps US giant return to growth

iPhone 7 on sale in Apple store

Apple has reported its highest quarterly revenue, as the iPhone 7 helped it return to a growth in sales in the final three months of 2016.

In its first full quarter since the iPhone 7’s release, Apple reported net sales of $78.4bn (£62.3bn), up 3% on the same period a year ago.

Chief executive Tim Cook said Apple had sold “more iPhones than ever before”.

It had also set new records for revenues from its Mac, Apple Watch and services divisions, he said.

“We’re thrilled to report that our holiday quarter results generated Apple’s highest quarterly revenue ever, and broke multiple records along the way,” Mr Cook said.

Apple had suffered three quarters in a row of falling revenue as intensifying competition, particularly from Chinese rivals, hit sales of its flagship iPhone.

In April, the firm reported its first fall in quarterly revenue since 2003, hurt by slowing sales in China.

A continued slowdown in iPhone sales led to Apple then reporting a drop in annual revenue in October, the first such fall in 15 years.


Apple shares rose 3% in after-hours trading following signs of a recovery in the latest results.

The firm said it had sold 78.3m iPhones in the three months to 31 December, up from 74.8m a year before.

It reported revenue of $54.3bn from iPhone sales, plus $7.2bn from the Mac, $5.5bn from the iPad, $7.1bn from services and $4.0bn from other products, including the Apple Watch.

However, Apple warned that iPhone sales would miss analysts’ expectations in the current quarter.

It suggested that customers were holding back on phone upgrades in anticipation of the launch of the tenth anniversary iPhone later this year.

Toyota asks U.S. dealers to help fight Republican border tax push

WASHINGTON — Days before a group of Republican lawmakers were due to discuss their party’s controversial proposal to tax all imports, Toyota Motor Corp. sent an urgent message to its U.S. dealers — tell the politicians the tax would seriously hurt car buyers.

Some of Toyota’s 1,500 dealers heeded the call and contacted members of the House of Representatives’ tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, urging them to rethink their proposal, according to people familiar with the effort. Imposing a 20 percent tax on imports would force consumers to pay potentially thousands of dollars more for vehicles, they warned.

The Japanese automaker’s mobilization of its army of dealers underscores the growing alarm among some of the world’s largest companies that sell imported goods in the U.S. They fear a big tax on imports would hurt their sales and profits and put them at a disadvantage to rivals more reliant on U.S.-made products.

“Cost is going to go up, as a result demand is going to go down. As a result, we’re not going to able to employ as many as people as we do today. That’s my biggest fear,” Toyota’s North America CEO Jim Lentz said in an interview, echoing comments he made at the NADA convention in New Orleans last week.

Toyota dealers employ more than 97,000 people in the U.S.

Out of public eye

While companies and industry groups frequently lobby Congress, the threat of an import tax has mobilized an unusually broad swath of firms at home and abroad. That lobbying effort is taking place largely out of the public eye partly to avoid potential conflict with President Donald Trump, who has attacked companies for manufacturing abroad for U.S. consumers.

Earlier this month Trump targeted Toyota, threatening to impose a hefty fee on the world’s largest automaker if it builds its Corolla cars for the U.S. market at a plant in Mexico.

The White House said last week that a border tax is one option under review to pay for a wall with Mexico, although what exactly Trump is planning to do is still not clear. He has pledged to impose a “big border tax” on Mexican imports.

The plan proposed by House Republicans would cut corporate income tax to 20 percent from 35 percent, exclude export revenue from taxable income and impose the 20 percent tax on imports.

Companies that rely heavily on imports say a border tax will outweigh the benefit of a lower headline corporate tax.

As car dealers are reaching out to members of Congress in their districts, Toyota and other automakers are lobbying lawmakers in states where they have large manufacturing plants and employ thousands of workers.

The No. 3 vehicle seller in the U.S. behind General Motors and Ford Motor Co., Toyota imports about 1.2 million vehicles to the U.S. market annually, half of its 2.4 million U.S. sales. It employs 40,000 people directly.

Toyota and the automakers are not alone in this lobbying effort.

Target Corp. CEO Brian Cornell, for example, traveled to Washington to meet members of the House Ways and Means Committee. He told them an import tax could impact consumers’ ability to buy essential goods, such as baby supplies that are made overseas and imported to the United States, according to a person familiar with the talks. Target spokeswoman Dustee Jenkins confirmed the visit.

The largest U.S. electronics retailer, Best Buy, headquartered down the road from Minneapolis-based Target, has circulated a flyer to lawmakers. It cites an analyst forecast that a 20 percent tax would wipe out the company’s projected annual net income of $1 billion and turn it into a $2 billion loss.

Some positives?

Not everyone in corporate America is worried about a new border tax.

Several aerospace companies including Boeing Co., United Technologies Corp. and Raytheon Co. said in earnings calls last week that a border tax could be positive for net exporters like them.

“We see the aerospace sector as fundamentally having an advantage in that regard,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said.

The American International Automobile Dealers Association, however, called the proposal “heart stopping,” in a letter last week to 9,500 dealers selling vehicles like Toyota, Volkswagen, and BMW.

Opponents of the border tax may have already found some allies.

Republican Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, where BMW has a large plant, said the importance of foreign automakers such as BMW and Toyota to the economy needs to be considered when making laws.

“I cannot overstate how significant that industry is to my state,” Gowdy said in an interview, adding that he and his wife both drive Toyotas.

Trump: Pharmaceutical executives told to cut drug prices

President Donald Trump meets with pharmaceutical executives

US President Donald Trump has called on pharmaceutical bosses to cut “astronomical” drug prices.

During a White House meeting with senior pharmaceutical executives he told the firms to manufacture more of their drugs in the US.

However, he also vowed to help the firms by speeding the approval of new medicines and by cutting taxes.

His pledges helped to send shares in many of the biggest US drugmakers higher on Tuesday.

Drugmakers have faced intense criticism from US politicians – including Mr Trump – as well as insurance companies and patients’ groups over the high cost of new medicines and price hikes in some older generic drugs.

Among those attending the meeting were the bosses of Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Amgen and the head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) lobbying group.

“US drug companies have produced extraordinary results for our country but the pricing has been astronomical for our country, we have to do better,” Mr Trump told them in the meeting.

“We have to get even better innovation, and I want you to move your companies back to the United States,” he said.

To help the firms, Mr Trump said his administration was “going to be lowering taxes big league”.

“We’re going to be getting rid of regulations that are unnecessary – big league,” he added.

The president’s promise to speed up approvals by the Food and Drug Administration for new medicines sparked strong gains in pharmaceutical shares.

Shares in Merck and Amgen rose by about 1% while Novartis was up more than 2% on Wall Street.

The Nasdaq Biotech Index gained nearly 3% after the meeting and the S&P 500 health care index rose 1.4%.

Investors had sold off shares in drugmakers in recent weeks following heavy criticism from Mr Trump – supported by Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders – over drug pricing.

However, senior pharmaceutical executives welcomed Mr Trump’s proposals on Tuesday to cut taxes and loosen regulations.

“We believe if these policies are enacted, it will translate to up to 350,000 new jobs over the next 10 years as a result of growth in the biopharmaceutical industry,” said Stephen J. Ubl, chief executive of PhRMA.

Amgen chief executive, Robert Brad, said in the meeting that his firm would add 1,600 jobs in the US – a move welcomed by the president.

Senate confirms Elaine Chao to head U.S. Transportation Department

WASHINGTON — The full Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm Elaine Chao to run the Department of Transportation in a 93-6 vote.

Chao was the first Asian-American woman to hold a Cabinet position when she served as Labor Secretary from 2001 through 2009 under President George W. Bush. She previously was the Transportation Department’s deputy secretary under President George H.W. Bush.

Trump has signaled the key role Chao will play as the administration carries out his campaign pledge to revitalize U.S. infrastructure with up to $1 trillion in funding, a goal that will require broad support from Congress. Trump, in his nomination announcement, called her record and experience “invaluable assets in our mission to rebuild our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Trump has announced plans to invest $550 billion in highway, airport and other infrastructure projects.

Major challenges

Chao will confront significant changes in the transportation landscape brought about by new technologies such as vehicle automation, in addition to long-standing challenges such as auto safety recalls that have tested established approaches to regulating the auto industry.

“Secretary Chao is an experienced leader, and an excellent choice for this important position,” Ziad Ojakli, Ford Motor Co.’s group vice president of government and community relations, said in a statement following Chao’s nomination. “Her knowledge and expertise will be an asset to the incoming Administration.”

Among Chao’s tasks will be deciding how to advance or revamp the Obama administration’s guidance for autonomous vehicle deployment issued in September.

NHTSA direction

Another will be shaping the direction of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the DOT agency in charge of regulating auto safety.

Under previous Administrator Mark Rosekind, the agency adopted a more aggressive enforcement stance following a string of high profile, deadly vehicle defects.

It has also pursued voluntary, non-binding initiatives to advance safety, such as a deal with most major automakers to make automatic emergency braking systems a standard feature on all new light vehicles by 2022.

Chao came to the U.S. from Taiwan with her parents at age 8 “speaking no English” according to a biography on her website. After graduating from Harvard Business School, Chao worked at Citicorp and Bank of America before she was tapped to be Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration within the Transportation Department, according to her biography. She later rose to be the department’s No. 2 official.

She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Chao has been a member of Wells Fargo’s board of directors since 2011, and is on the board of News Corp. Since June, she’s been a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington.

Reuters, Bloomberg and Automotive News contributed to this report.

Exxon Mobil profits halve in 2016 to $7.8bn

Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing to become U.S. Secretary of State on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 11, 2017.

Annual profits at Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly listed oil and gas firm, fell by 51% to $7.8bn (£6.2bn) last year.

The company wrote off $2bn from the value of undeveloped gas fields in the Rocky Mountains in the US.

It also on low oil and natural gas prices for the past two years.

Exxon’s former chief executive, Rex Tillerson, is likely to become the next US secretary of state.

He is the first choice for the job of the newly-elected President Donald Trump.

“Financial results for the year were negatively impacted by the prolonged downturn in commodity prices and the impairment charge,” said Darren Woods, who replaced Mr Tillerson as chief executive officer.

Despite this, the company’s shareholders received $12.5bn in dividends for last year.

The gas field write-off is partly a response to pressure from the US authorities at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Last September it asked the company to explain why, in the light of the big fall in oil prices, it had not cut the book value of some of its assets, when the firm’s main rivals had all done so.

At the time Exxon said it was “fully complying” with a request from the SEC for accounting information.

But the annual results .

Brent crude, the international benchmark, finished 2016 priced at about $56.80 a barrel, down 48% compared with two years earlier.

VW’s emissions scandal yields a new cash-for-clunkers program

Scott Nichols was happy with his 2013 Jetta SportWagen TDI and planned to keep it for years. Then it surfaced Volkswagen AG had been breaking emissions laws, souring him and his wife on the brand and thrusting them back into the market for a new Honda.

“We were really disappointed, because it was in fact too good to be true — this car with really good gas mileage and all the pep that it has,” said Nichols, who works at a private high school east of Los Angeles with his wife. “We researched this, we wanted something that was going to last a long time and now we have to go back and buy another car.”

VW must buy back or fix as many as 562,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. into 2019. This will lead the German automaker to essentially mimic the U.S. government and its cash-for-clunkers program, which lured Americans into buying cars during the recession. Just as the feds doled out $3 billion to get Americans trading in gas guzzlers, VW could spend about $10 billion subsidizing new-vehicle purchases to replace diesels spewing excessive emissions.

The buybacks may extend a streak of U.S. auto sales gains that cash-for-clunkers started. Already, VW has repurchased or terminated the leases of about 96,000 vehicles, more than last year’s annual increase. The industry will use all the help it can get — in January, sales probably slowed to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of about 17.3 million vehicles, down from 17.9 million a year earlier, according to the average of 11 analyst estimates.

“That is certainly one of the reasons we expect vehicle sales to continue to grow this year and next,” Jeff Schuster, LMC Automotive’s senior vice president of forecasting, said of the buybacks. Without the “VW Effect,” sales probably would start to slide a little, he said.

VW bump

VW diesel owners who wouldn’t otherwise have been in the market may purchase about 210,000 additional new vehicles, 60,000 this year and 150,000 in 2018, LMC Automotive estimates. Automakers sold a record 17.55 million cars and light trucks in the U.S. last year.

Honda Motor Co., the automaker benefiting from the Nichols family’s decision to replace their Jetta, may join Volkswagen as the lone major automaker to boost sales in January from a year earlier. Analysts project gains of about 4 percent for Honda and 20 percent for combined sales of the VW and Audi brands.

Sales may fall about 2.4 percent at General Motors and 2.8 percent for Ford Motor Co., while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV may see a 14 percent drop, according to analyst estimates.

Honda trade-in

The Nichols originally traded in a Honda Fit subcompact for the VW in 2013, when they had only one child. Ahead of an appointment to sell their Jetta in March, and with two kids now, they’ve already bought a new Odyssey minivan.

VW is managing to keep some diesel owners in the fold. About 20 percent of customers selling back their cars at Linden Volkswagen in New Jersey are sticking with the brand, said Mike DiFeo, who runs the outlet and heads VW’s national dealer council.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that number starts to creep up,” he told reporters Saturday at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans. Angrier customers may be selling their VWs back first, and less-dissatisfied owners could be more inclined to cut the brand some slack.

VW’s settlements prohibit the company or its dealers from encouraging consumers to buy a new VW over any other brand. The automaker overcame its diesel scandal to dethrone Toyota Motor Corp. last year as the world’s best-selling automaker for the first time, propelled by surging demand in China.

Although Toyota isn’t targeting VW diesel owners, about 7 percent of Prius Prime buyers are coming out of diesel-powered Jettas, compared with almost none for Toyota’s previous plug-in hybrid, Jim Lentz, Toyota’s CEO for North America, said Sunday in New Orleans.

Processing hires

VW has hired about 1,300 contractors to process its diesel program-related paperwork and staff call centers, shortening the average hold time to less than 5 minutes, said Hinrich Woebcken, who became VW of America’s CEO last April. More than 1,000 cars have been fixed and returned to the used-car market, he said.

Alec Gutierrez, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book, has a 2013 Jetta SportWagen TDI, just like Nichols. Gutierrez bought his new for about $27,500, or $2,000 off the sticker price, and has driven it for about 40,000 miles.

Rather than stick with his VW for another year or so, Gutierrez bought a Subaru Outback crossover for more space to haul around two kids. While the Jetta probably has a market value of $12,000 or less, he said he’s projected to get about $25,000 through the buyback program.

He noted: “It really doesn’t make sense not to take advantage of the offer.”

Ally’s Q4 net income falls 5.7%

Ally Financial Inc., one of the nation’s largest auto-retail lenders, today reported a 5.7 percent decline in fourth-quarter net income, to $248 million, as consumer auto loan and lease originations fell.

Ally said the smaller profit was due to higher provisions for loan losses — primarily in automotive lending — which rose 11 percent from a year earlier to $267 million, and higher noninterest expenses, which increased 7.9 percent to $721 million.

Net financing revenue edged down 0.4 percent to $991 million. Revenue from other sources gained 10 percent to $392 million due in part to higher auto-finance fee income, Ally said.

Auto loan and lease originations in the fourth quarter fell 12 percent year-over-year to $8.2 billion. Of those originations, 86 percent were funded via Ally Bank, up from 76 percent a year earlier.

Mix of business

General Motors dealers accounted for about 37 percent of originations, down from 40 percent a year earlier. Fiat Chrysler dealer originations rose 1 percentage point to 27 percent, while other brands accounted for 36 percent, up from 33 percent a year earlier.

Used-vehicle volume accounted for 41 percent of Ally’s originations, up from 37 percent a year earlier, while leases accounted for 8 percent, down from 11 percent. The remainder was new retail, including subvented new retail of 1 percent this year vs. 3 percent a year earlier.

“Long term, we remain focused on plans to gradually diversify the asset base and sources of revenue,” Ally CEO Jeffrey Brown said in a statement. “Efforts to expand other parts of the company are generating real results, including the corporate finance group which saw a 42 percent increase in pre-tax income.”

Leases, insurance

Ally’s auto financing unit reported pretax income of $298 million on the quarter, a drop of about 11 percent. Ally attributed the income decline to “lower lease revenue from a smaller lease portfolio, as well as lower lease gains resulting from declining used vehicle values.”

Add in automotive insurance pretax income of $69 million, down 12 percent, and pretax income from dealer financial services slipped 11 percent to $367 million.

Net financing revenue in the auto financing unit rose 0.7 percent to $907 million, a gain Ally attributed to “deliberate pricing actions more than offsetting lower lease gains.”

2016 results

For the full year, Ally’s net income fell 17 percent to $1.07 billion.

The net income drop came despite a 5.3 percent rise in annual net financing revenue to $3.96 billion. Ally said it received $392 million in income from the sale of a Chinese joint venture in 2015, accounting for much of the decline in income in 2016.

Auto originations on the year fell 12 percent to $36 billion.

“In 2016, Ally made significant progress in its evolution as a leading, digital financial services company, and has strong momentum heading into 2017,” Brown said.

Related Downloads

Alexa and Google Home’s dirty little secret: 97% of voice apps are only used for one week

echo.jpg

With 1.5 million apps buried in the app graveyard of disuse and neglect, and hundreds of thousands more teetering on oblivion, the venerable mobile app has seen better days. Even so, the mobile app economy is much better off than the explosive, if forgettable, voice app economy, according to a new VoiceLabs report.

Forgettable, that is, because users don’t seem to be able to remember how or when to use the roughly 7,000 Alexa-powered voice apps. In my own family, we pretty much only know how to ask Alexa to set timers, read our Kindle books, and play Hamilton. For the voice-first revolution to really hit its stride, it seems some changes are in order.

Losing track of the apps

As an Amazon Echo owner, each week Amazon emails me to tell me “What’s new with Alexa?” This past week it was the Ditty skill, which transforms simple spoken messages (e.g., “I love you”) and turns them into musical dittys. The same email informed me how to access quotes from the movie Groundhog Day.

SEE: Why an app-focused strategy could lead to mobile failure

Each week new skills (or apps) of various degrees of (in)utility are announced (CNET touts its picks of 2016 here), with developers now offering over 7,000:

alexa-skills.pngalexa-skills.png

Now, if only we could remember them. Any of them.

According to the VoiceLabs report, a week after we first enable a new voice app (on Alexa or Google Home, the Google equivalent), there’s a mere 3% chance that it will still be in use a week later. For mobile apps, retention rates aren’t sky-high (13% for Android and 11% for iOS), but they’re much higher than voice apps. Indeed, so forgettable are most voice apps that 69% of all voice apps earn just one star (or none) on their respective app stores.

Getting to Voice 2.0

Of course, the problem might not be that the apps are bad, but rather that discovering them and enabling them is too hard. Imagine trying to uncover a gem within the millions of apps in Apple’s App Store without the benefit of search or a graphical user interface, and you start to see the difficulty inherent in a “headless” voice-controlled app universe.

Though Amazon has invested heavily in developer tooling and documentation to drive third-party experimentation on its Alexa platform, the reality is that consumers don’t want to have to enable and remember specific skills. We just want to interact with an AI-driven device and rely on its intelligence to understand what we want. We don’t want to have to think about this or that developer and this or that skill. We just want to speak and have the AI respond.

SEE: Why mobile app developers may soon be looking for a new job

In this way, Google might have the edge on Amazon, given that Google has been training AI for many years with petabytes upon petabytes of data, both homegrown (using Google Voice, Google Maps, and other Google products) and indexed (the vast treasure trove of the internet). For now, Amazon’s Alexa has the edge according to CNET and other reviewers, but Google’s broader and deeper data set seems better positioned to tune its AI to replace multitudinous apps with the one app we really need: Artificial intelligence.

That’s not the sort of thing we’ll easily forget.

How Oklahoma will use Silver Spring Networks’ IoT platform to deploy 250K smart streetlights

sean2008-streetlights.jpg

Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) announced Tuesday that it will be deploying up to 250,000 LED streetlights across the state using Silver Spring Networks’ IPv6 IoT platform.

Smart streetlights are a common entry point for smart city technology, and OG&E filed for an LED upgrade from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to enable the deployment throughout the state. “OG&E is one of the first utilities in the country to really embrace LEDs and controls,” said Brandon Davito, vice president of smart cities and lighting for Silver Spring Networks.

“With this program, OG&E is establishing a robust lighting infrastructure that can be leveraged for immediate benefits and can also be used to deploy more advanced services and applications over time,” Davito said.

SEE: The 5 IoT products a smart city needs in 2017 (TechRepublic)

The new platform could also help OG&E provide better service to its customers, enhance safety, and lower costs, said Ken Grant, vice president of sales and marketing for OG&E. And, lower costs could mean lower electric bills for its customers.

streetlight-solution.jpgstreetlight-solution.jpg

Once smart streetlights are in place, it’s easy to add sensors and video in order to monitor everything from parking and traffic to crowd size and weather.

“Streetlights have a really strong business case. Doing an LED upgrade offers a tremendous amount of energy savings. The quality of the light is quite a bit better as opposed to the light that comes from traditional fixtures, and LED lights are also controllable. There’s the ability to dim them, and if emergency situations occur they can be brought up and brought down [in brightness],” Davito said.

The return on investment is easy to justify for municipalities. In Los Angeles, the city spent $57 million to convert nearly 80% of it’s 215,000 streetlights to LED smart lights, and the city saves $9 million annually on energy costs, as previously reported by TechRepublic.

In Florida, Silver Spring Networks has been working with Florida Power & Light Company, which has deployed 500,000 smart and connected streetlights in Miami and south Florida since 2014, Devito said.

OG&E hasn’t released a date on when the streetlight deployment will begin in Oklahoma.

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. OG&E has partnered with Silver Spring Networks to use its IoT platform for 250,000 smart streetlights throughout the state.
  2. Silver Spring Networks has used the same IoT platform in south Florida for the installation of 500,000 smart streetlights.
  3. Smart streetlights are one of the most common entry points for a smart city because the ROI can be quickly established, and they can be leveraged for other improvements.

Slack targets big business with Enterprise Grid and new intelligent features

gridh.jpg

Slack Enterprise Grid, announced Tuesday, could help more large businesses get work done with Slack’s popular enterprise chat platform. The platform targets organizations with between 500 and 500,000 users, and includes a host of new features to improve productivity.

Since its launch in 2013, Slack has been adopted by all types of companies. However, a Slack blog post noted that large, complex organizations often have different needs, which is where Enterprise Grid comes in.

Enterprise Grid is built on the idea that bigger companies often “operate as a team of teams,” a Slack press email said. So, the platform offers more flexibility in terms of how communication can be structured than the standard Slack product, in an effort to improve efficiency, according to the blog post.

SEE: Slack: The smart person’s guide

With Slack Enterprise Grid, customers get access to unlimited Workspaces and shared channels. The goal is for large enterprises to set up their Slack deployments in a way that better mirrors the communication structure at their company.

“What’s different is that at the organizational level, administrators can control permissions and configure integrations on a per-workspace basis,” the post said. “This gives each team a focused place to work, where they can access the people, information, and applications that matter the most to their projects.”

In the past, the only option was for each team in an organization to have its own Slack instance, the post said. However, Enterprise Grid allows an organization to have one instance of Slack spanning the entire organization. This gives users better access to information they may need to retrieve or people they might be working with.

“With grid-level identity, users sign in to Slack once and are given access to all their workspaces with one set of direct message conversations,” the press email said.

Slack is now HIPAA and FINRA compliant, and that is effective immediately on the new platform. Enterprise Grid also integrates with identity providers and identity management systems to improve user management. Additionally, it supports eDiscovery, data loss prevention (DLP), and offsite backup integrations. Data is already encrypted in standard Slack and will continue to be in Enterprise Grid.

As part of the Enterprise Grid news, Slack also announced a new partnership with SAP, which will be building a set of bots for Slack. Bots from SAP products like Concur, SuccessFactors, and the SAP HANA Cloud platform are among those planned.

New Search, Learning and Intelligence (SLI) features were also debuted alongside Enterprise Grid. Faceted Search offers better search filtering, while Prioritized Reading helps users determine their most relevant channels. Channel Highlights show the key messages from that channel, and Daily Briefings bring a streamlined feed of a user’s most important messages. A new Universal Search tool provides “relevant results across all types of information, including people on your team identified as experts on the topic, channels where the topic is frequently discussed, and related files, all in a single set of results,” the press email said.

The unveiling of Enterprise Grid comes only a few days after Slack added threaded conversations to help add context to chat threads. The addition of Enterprise Grid will be important for Slack to keep up its steam and better target traditional organizations, especially as Microsoft’s competitor product, Teams, is growing, recently claiming use by 30,000 organizations.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Slack launched Enterprise Grid, a new platform geared toward businesses with 500 to 500,000 employees.
  2. Enterprise Grid offers new features like unlimited Workspaces, identity management, and security improvements.
  3. Slack must continue to add new features and innovate to compete in an ever-growing market.