Microsoft beat revenue expectations in its third quarter thanks to soaring demand for its cloud services as people worked from home during the pandemic, the company said in its earnings call on Tuesday.
Here are the six key takeaways from the call:
1. Microsoft’s revenue hit $41.7 billion, beating expectations
Microsoft said revenue hit $41.7 billion, up 19% from the same period last year, beating predictions of $41.03 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Revenue in its “Intelligent Cloud” division was $15.1 billion, up 23%. Azure, the company’s cloud-computing platform, grew revenue by 50%.
“Digital technology will be the foundation for resilience and growth over the next decade,” CEO Satya Nadella said.
2. LinkedIn is doing really well, and we’re spending 80% more hours on it
Revenue for professional networking site LinkedIn increased 25%. The number of conversations on the site rose by 43%, and content being shared rose 29%.
Overall, the hours people spent on LinkedIn was up by 80%.
It now has 756 million members.
Microsoft said it expected continued revenue growth as the advertising and employment markets recover from the pandemic.
3. Teams now has more than 145 million daily active users, nearly double the amount last year
The workplace chat platform Teams has almost doubled its daily active user numbers to more than 145 million since last year.
Nadella said that, even in countries where workers are returning to the office, such as Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea, Teams was still growing.
4. Xbox Series X and S consoles are in high demand, and Minecraft is still adding users
There was “record engagement” in its gaming segment, with revenue up 50%, CFO Amy Hood said.
Xbox hardware revenue climbed 232% thanks to the release of new consoles. Demand for the Series X and S consoles “significantly exceeded” supply, Hood said.
Xbox content and services revenue was up 34%, fueled by Minecraft’s popularity. The sandbox video game has more than 140 million monthly active users, up 30% since last year. Players have spent more than $350 million on add-ons since 2017.
5. Dividends and share buybacks increased from last year
Microsoft returned $10 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases, up 1% compared to the same time last year.
6. The US military is using Microsoft’s AI services
Azure’s artificial intelligence platforms are being used by big public and private organizations, including AT&T, Duolingo, and the US Army.
“We’ve seen dramatic advances in research and development by OpenAI whose models are trained and hosted exclusively on Azure, ” Nadella said.
The US Army will use HoloLens mixed-reality headsets, integrating with Microsoft’s cloud services. The headsets will give troops “next-generation night vision,” the US Army said in a press announcement last month.
Apple employees may soon not need to travel very far to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
According to Reuters, Apple is working with Walgreens Boots Alliance to give employees the COVID-19 shot at their workplaces. A website is being set up for employees to make a vaccine appointment. The shot is voluntary for Apple workers, per Reuters.
Bloomberg previously reported that the tech giant offers paid time off for employees’ vaccine appointments as well as paid sick leave. Other companies like McDonald’s and Aldi also offer its employees paid time off so that workers would be able to get the COVID-19 shot.
Apple and Walgreens Boots Alliance didn’t immediately respond to Insider for comment.
Apple is one of a number of companies making it easier for its workers to get the shot. Last month, Amazon had set up on-site vaccination centers for warehouse workers in Missouri, Nevada, and Kansas.
According to Silicon Valley Business Journal, Cisco is already giving voluntary vaccinations at the company. A spokesperson for Intel told Silicon Valley Business Journal that it will soon be rolling out a similar program for its workers and members of their household in its Santa Clara and Arizona offices.
Outside of the tech industry, automaker company Ford and United Auto Workers has also set up on-site vaccination programs to employees in Southeast Michigan; Lima, Ohio; and Kansas City, Missouri, making it easier for some employees to get vaccinated.
“It has been a stressful experience finding a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in the area,” a quality inspector at Michigan Assembly Plant said in a press release. “Now that stress has been lifted with Ford offering on-site appointments for its employees. I can’t wait to get my first shot.”
Roblox is eyeing an older age demographic as it explores potential growth opportunities for its online gaming platform.
The company, which allows users to easily develop and play video games, said on Friday during its investor day that it has a goal of appealing to a wide age range — six to 60 years old.
“We have tremendous success reaching the 13 and under audience, our goal however is to create a platform and brand that appeals to all ages,” Chief Business Officer at Roblox, Craig Donato, said during the investor day presentation.
To achieve that goal, the online game platform is working on content ratings that match users with experiences that are appropriate for their age, according to Donato. Roblox also personalized its search and discovery based on a person’s age, geography, and skill level, among other factors.
Donato said the company expects that older users will invite friends of their own age.
Roblox is also expanding its demographic reach by enabling deeply immersive experiences through dynamic simulation, faster loading, and unique rendering, according to Donato.
The gaming giant is popular among over half the children in the United States, according to CNBC. As of July 2020, Roblox had over 150 million monthly active users, the company said.
The platform mainly allows children to create and play video games and chat with their friends. But with the large presence of children on Roblox, moderation concerns were raised and created a challenge for the company, Insider previously reported.
In a case that lacked moderation, a group of players simulated an assault on a 7-year-old’s character in a game on Roblox. The company now offers security features that parents can use to restrict chats or the type of games children play.
On Monday, the video game platform said that it plans to go public via a direct listing in March on the New York Stock Exchange and will issue 198.9 million shares, according to a company filing it submitted to the SEC.
On February 19, health officials in Franklin County, Massachusetts, learned they’d be receiving 350 new doses of COVID-19 vaccine to make available to their residents at a local clinic.
But less than 10 minutes after the scheduling link was posted to the state website, all of the appointments were scooped up – 95 percent of them by out-of towners, Emergency Preparedness Program Manager Tracy Rogers told Insider.
“Most of them were all gone at the same time, so we knew it was not a human being that could be doing it that quickly,” she said. “Then we found out that there is both a Twitter hashtag and a website that people can go to and sign up and the bot will just scour the state website all day long signing them up.”
Bots, autonomous internet tools designed to perform specific functions, have started to pop up in an effort to help Americans find and schedule vaccine appointments. But when online vaccine registrations rolled out, some people were left frustrated because appointment slots would disappear while patients, usually seniors who were among the first wave of people who could be vaccinated, were in the middle of trying to sign up.
Registration systems around the US have been challenging, especially to those who are less tech-savvy.
Some of the new bots are built to scan vaccine websites to determine when a clinic is adding new appointments, and then alerting the human overseeing them to post an alert online, the Associated Press reported.
Others are “scalper” bots that automatically book appointments, according to the AP.
While the bots might be well-intended, the downside is that they might not be sophisticated enough to factor in local regulations.
In Franklin County, a community of just over 70,000 residents, this week’s clinic was intended to be limited to locals.
It was expected that some portion of the appointments would be made by people living outside of the county, but in this case, almost no Franklin residents had the opportunity to register.
“It’s a wonderful service. It’s a great thing,” Rogers said of developers building bots to help seniors sign up. “But the bot doesn’t read where we said this was restricted to Franklin County residents only.”
Many people who signed up for the Western Massachusetts clinic were from the Boston-metro area.
Others who signed up for clinics in Franklin and the neighboring Western Massachusetts community of Berkshire County were driving more than three hours from Cape Cod for the shots.
Rogers said officials in Franklin County were able to meet with state legislators to get permission to cancel all 350 appointments and then reschedule the clinic, making it “private.”
Doing so means the new clinic’s registration link would not be available on the state’s website.
Details were instead distributed to local seniors’ centers, the Council on Aging, and other groups so they could assist with signups. Within two hours of reposting the new link, all of the appointments were rescheduled by local residents and people in nearby rural Massachusetts communities.
Rogers told Insider the problem has been fixed for now, but she’s not sure how long the state will give the county permission to keep vaccine clinics private.
Some eastern Massachusetts residents who were allowed to keep their appointments never showed up.
“The found out they got in at Gillette Stadium and they never called us to cancel,” Rogers said.
On Monday, the company announced that site was up and running with a Tea Party co-founder serving as interim CEO. Mark Meckler, an attorney, political activist, and founder of the Tea Party Patriots, replaced former CEO and co-founder John Matze, who was fired by the company’s board earlier this month.
In a statement Monday, Meckler said, “Parler was built to offer a social media platform that protects free speech and values privacy and civil discourse,” highlighting the platform’s focus on freedom of speech. “Parler is being run by an experienced team and is here to stay. We will thrive as the premier social media platform dedicated to free speech, privacy and civil dialogue,” the statement said.
A spokesperson did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.
Parler is largely funded by Rebekah Mercer, a conservative megadonor whose family was among the most influential backers of then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Dan Bongino, a conservative activist, has also said he’s a co-owner.
The company came under scrutiny after the Capitol insurrection as evidence emerged that the rioters had used Parler and other platforms to coordinate the attack.
James filed the antitrust case against Facebook in December, alleging the company has illegally stifled competition to protect its monopoly power. She is leading a bipartisan group of 48 attorneys general from around the country.
Users, she said, have no alternative to Facebook. The company acquired the photo-sharing app Instagram in 2012 and messaging app WhatsApp in 2014.
“Facebook used its power to suppress competition so it could take advantage of users and make billions by converting personal data into a cash cow,” James said in a December statement.
James is also leading several attorneys general in a bipartisan antitrust investigation against Google parent company Alphabet for its alleged monopoly. “These companies are not too big to fail or to break up,” she told Bloomberg.
In early 2020, Democrats in the US House of Representatives concluded that Facebook, Alphabet, Apple, and Amazon had a monopoly of power. In October last year, the Justice Department introduced an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet. Google was then the first tech company to see major antitrust action, since the federal government sought to break up Microsoft in the 90s. The action posed a threat to other tech giants such as Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, who could face sweeping changes as a result.
Despite the ongoing impact of COVID-19, 2020 was a historic year for Cambodian telco Cellcard. Led by CEO Ian Watson, Cellcard rolled out Cambodia’s first 5G use case – a telemedicine service introduced across four key health facilities in the capital of Phnom Penh to help cope with the pandemic.
This was a significant milestone for both Cellcard and Cambodia, a country with one of the least developed digital infrastructures in the Southeast Asia region. When Watson joined the company in 2012, Cambodia was still very much playing catch up to some of its more developed neighbors. However, by 2018, and with an investment of over US$300 million, Cellcard had established a 4G LTE network that covered 90% of the country. 5G will be the next stage of this evolution.
Technological development aside, 2020 has also represented a transformation in Cellcard’s business strategy, with more emphasis being placed on the large Cambodian youth market to help drive digital adoption, with a particular focus on growing and supporting the country’s young gamer community.
Cambodian demographics favour the youth market
The attraction of the youth segment in Cambodia is clear. Out of a population of roughly 17 million, it is estimated that close to 50% are under the age of 25. As these young people start to come online and access the internet, mobile is the dominant platform. Cambodia now has roughly 21 million mobile connections, with over 14 million enjoying 3G or 4G broadband access.
Cellcard has launched various youth-focused initiatives over the past 12 months. In May, it brought together a number of its musical ambassadors for a Cellcard 4U Virtual Concert to entertain Cambodian families at home during COVID-19. More than 1.7 million viewers watched the concert live on the night on the local MYTV channel, with an additional 5 million online video views of the concert highlights.
In July, the company announced its support to local education infrastructure by establishing an e-learning platform for continued education in a joint collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) and Ministry of Posts (MPTC). The app allowed students across Cambodia to continue their studies online, with Cellcard providing free data access between select hours.
But it is one youth demographic sub group in particular where Cellcard has been concentrating its marketing and customer engagement activities this year, and that is gamers. Over the past three years, Cellcard has been investing in promoting and facilitating a mobile gaming culture, and these efforts were ramped up significantly in 2020 with the formal launch of an esports division
“In a market where 48% of the population are under the age of 25, operators and brands have to be youth focused,” says Watson. “There is enormous growth potential for Cellcard in the youth segment. Previously it has been known as the operator for the older business and professional segment, but this is changing as we evolve our digital offerings to be youth centric, especially our move to lead esports in Cambodia.”
Using gaming and esports to drive smartphone penetration
Cellcard’s gaming legacy began just three years ago, with the launch in 2017 of Super Data Race, a Pokémon-style mobile game. Several other popular mobile games followed, but what really transformed Cellcard’s youth appeal has been how it has tapped into the emergence of a hugely popular esports community.
Cambodia has seen a rapid rise in demand for gaming and esports among its youth, not only domestically but also internationally as gamers connect with their peers in the wider region through regional competitions and livestreamed matches. Cellcard was Cambodia’s first telco to stage an esports tournaments back in 2018 and since then has been nurturing the gaming community across the country.
Earlier this year Cellcard launched PlayGame, Cambodia’s first gamer platform, supported by PlayGame Unlimited, a data plan created exclusively for gamers. PlayGame, which partners with leading global game developers such as Tencent, Netease and Moonton, gives customers access to a full range of gaming experiences including online esports tournaments that offer cash prizes and in-game incentives. This year, Cellcard has held almost 200 esport and arcade tournaments and live-stream events, garnering 75.9 million impressions on the PlayGame platform
The company is also working closely with gaming influencers, with 20 dedicated gamer influencers on its roster. Leveraging these relationships, the company this year developed its own esports-focused TV Show called PlayGame TV. The show is dedicated to celebrating and sharing the gamer lifestyle in Cambodia and features its influencer talent pool as hosts. The first season of eight episode aired simultaneously on local free-to-air TV and Facebook and reached over 9 million viewers.
“We have some of Cambodia’s best performing social media channels including one million-plus fans on TikTok,” says Watson. “Our engagement rates are high as we are very active with social influencers and content creators which is driving more youth customers to Cellcard.”
Youth engagement is already delivering results
The investment in youth and in particular the promotion of esports and gaming is already having a positive result on Cellcard’s business. The company says that gaming helping it drive smartphone penetration and data usage, particularly in provincial areas. Cellcard has increased the mobile data traffic over its network by 32% this year, while the proportion of young consumers on its customer base has grown from 26% to 40%
Cellcard says it is confident it is on the right track and will continue to lead the esports agenda and grow the gamer and Esports community in the country. The company says it will continue to add more billing and payment choices to give gamers more convenient transaction options.
At the same time Cellcard is continuing to expand its 4G LTE network – as well as beginning to open its 5G network – which it says will further improve speeds and counter latency and jittering issues for gamers. Ultimately, Cellcard argues that increased digital access will benefit not just gamers or young people, but Cambodia as a whole.
“We have entered the digital age, and telecommunication companies such as Cellcard are playing a key role in driving transformation of the people, of companies and of the nation,” says Watson. “Digital empowerment will transform people’s lives for the better by advancing education, health, agriculture and manufacturing, and deliver to all Cambodians, access to the world.”