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NYT Wordle today — answer and hints for game #1119, Friday, July 12
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NYT Connections today — hints and answers for Friday, July 12 (game #397)
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Heathrow forced into bigger cut of passenger landing fees
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Black British Business Awards announce 2024 finalists
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A newly discovered GitLab flaw carries a severity score of 9.6, making it critical.

Unified endpoint management (UEM) describes a set of technologies used to secure and manage a wide range of employee devices and operating systems — all from a single console.

Seen as the next generation of mobility software, UEM tools incorporate several existing enterprise mobility management (EMM) technologies — including mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) — with some of the tools used to secure desktop PCs and laptops.

“UEM in theory ties this all together and gives you that proverbial one pane of glass, so you can see the state of all of your endpoints,” said Phil Hochmuth, program vice president at IDC. “It gives you visibility into what people are doing with corporate data, corporate apps, on any conceivable type of device.”

The ability to manage various device types in one place is increasingly important as businesses face a growing cybersecurity threat, said Tom Cipolla, senior director analyst at Gartner. “We need to patch faster; everybody acknowledges that,” he said. “UEM gives people a consolidated view into their environment and a consolidated patching and configuration management approach.”

The evolution of mobile management – MDM, MAM, and more

At its core, UEM consists of several device management technologies that emerged to help businesses control employee mobile devices. The first iteration of such tools was MDM, which arrived about a decade ago.

Introduced in response to the initial wave of smartphones used in the workplace, MDM was designed to help IT centrally provision, configure, and manage mobile devices that had access to corporate systems and data. Common MDM features included security configuration and policy enforcement, data encryption, remote device wipe and lock, and location tracking.

However, as employee bring-your-own-device (BYOD) schemes became more prevalent in the office — driven first by the iPhone’s popularity, later by the growth of Android — vendors began to offer more targeted management of apps and data. MAM capabilities delivered more granular controls, focusing on software rather than the device itself; features include app wrapping and containerization, and the ability to block copy/paste or restrict which apps can open certain files.

MAM features were soon packaged with MDM and other tools, such as mobile identity management and mobile information management, and sold as comprehensive enterprise mobility management (EMM) product suites. Those suites led to the next stage in the evolution of device management: UEM.

What is UEM?

UEM merges the various facets of EMM suites with functionality typically found in client management tools (CMT) used to manage desktop PCs and laptops on a corporate network. One example is Microsoft’s Intune, which combined its MDM/MAM platform with Configuration Manager (formerly System Center Configuration Manager) in 2019.

UEM platforms tend to have comprehensive operating system support, including mobile (Android, iOS) and desktop OSes (Windows 11, macOS, ChromeOS, and, in some cases, Linux). Some UEM products support more esoteric categories too, including IoT devices, AR/VR headsets, and smartwatches.

Unlike traditional CMT products, UEM tends to be available as a software-as-a-service, cloud-based tool, allowing management and updates of devices such as desktop PCs without connection to a corporate network. 

The emergence of UEM has been partly driven by the inclusion of API-based configuration and management protocols within Windows and macOS, enabling the same level of device management that was already possible with iOS and Android devices.

It speaks to a wider development, too, of the convergence of mobile and traditional computing devices, with high-end tablets often on par with laptops in terms of processing power. “You have a real blurring of the lines between what is mobile computing and what is traditional endpoint computing,” said Hochmuth.

Why invest in UEM tools?

All of these devices — mobile, desktop, Windows, Mac, in the office and remote — require a unified approach to end user device management, an approach that can provide a variety of benefits, say analysts.

Among these is the opportunity for simplified and centralized management. In short, it’s more efficient for one team to provision and manage all devices from a single tool, rather than have separate support teams and tools that were traditionally divided between mobile and Windows or macOS computers. 

“If you have a separate software product or management platform for four different operating systems, that can be cumbersome and expensive,” said IDC’s Hochmuth. “Converging down to one or two is a goal for a lot of organizations.”

UEM products can reduce manual work for IT, with the ability to create a single policy — such as requiring device encryption — that can be deployed to many devices and operating systems. The same goes for patching.  

By ensuring consistent policies across apps, devices and data, UEM tools can reduce risk, with less complexity and fewer opportunities to misconfigure policies. 

There are cost benefits in replacing separate PC and mobile management applications too. “Getting rid of one software platform and all the licensing associated with that is a cost saving. That’s not the primary driver, but it’s definitely a reason to explore UEM,” said Hochmuth. 

The UEM vendor market

The global market for unified endpoint management software is forecast to grow from $5.9 billion in 2023 to $8.9 billion in 2028, according to IDC data. The rate of yearly growth is set to slow, however, from around 16% to 6% during this period. 

There are a variety of vendors, from big-name firms to smaller, more targeted companies. Microsoft (Intune) and VMware/Broadcom (Workspace One) are often considered the UEM market leaders with the broadest offerings and largest market share by revenue. BlackBerry UEM, Citrix Meraki Systems Manager, IBM MaaS360, ManageEngine, Cisco, and Ivanti UEM are also popular products.

“All these companies have roles or verticals or use cases that they address specifically,” said Hochmuth. For instance, BlackBerry is often viewed as strong in regulated markets, such as finance or healthcare, due its focus on encryption, while Microsoft has a more of a “horizontal” product with general business use cases.  

Among the vendors that have taken a more specialized approach is Jamf, which is focused purely on Apple devices running everything from macOS to tvOS, and SOTI, whose products are tailored to certain industries, such as warehouse workers with ruggedized mobile devices.

UEM reaches mainstream adoption

Gartner defines UEM as being “a late-stage maturity market,” meaning “widespread adoption has already occurred,” said Cipolla. 

IDC data indicates that around two-thirds of US businesses have now deployed a UEM tool. That doesn’t mean most organizations will use a single UEM platform, however. 

Among those that have deployed UEM, around 70% have two or more  management products in place, said Hochmuth.   For example, an organization might have one tool to manage certain Windows devices, another for both mobile and macOS devices, and then a legacy PC management tool still in use for another set of Windows devices. “The norm is more the mixed type of organizations that have different tools and multiple UEMs,” said Hochmuth, though the trend in recent years has been towards consolidation of these tools.

What’s on the horizon for UEM? AI and autonomous endpoint management 

An ongoing trend related to UEM is the rise of digital employee experience (DEX) software. DEX tools can provide IT with data and insights into how employees interact with devices and applications, with the ability to measure usage and highlight performance problems. “That’s a growth area that all the UEM vendors are pushing into,” said Hochmuth.

Also coming to UEM tools: the integration of artificial intelligence (AI). “This space in particular, is incredibly ripe for help from an AI product,” said Hochmuth. 

AI could help manage a longtime challenge for endpoint management — scale. That’s because the wide range of devices, vulnerabilities, and configurations that have to be managed.

“The pure amount of data given off by thousands of devices running different operating systems, it’s super chaotic,” said Hochmuth. “That’s a perfect use case for an AI tool that could sift through data, help you find information you need, or even more importantly, automate a lot of the manual patching, updating, configuration – the reactionary type things that people in IT ops do. Anticipating when someone might need a fix before something breaks: AI could really help with that.”

Gartner’s Cipolla points to the emergence of autonomous endpoint management (AEM), a term that describes the combination of UEM and DEX, with additional automation and AI-assistance capabilities. “The idea is to take the human out of the middle doing the research and the leg work, and put them in control of the automation,” said Cipolla.

Several UEM vendors have already begun to incorporate AEM-like functionality into their software, said Cipolla. But it’s still early for the technology, meaning it will likely be at least a couple of years before AEM tools become more fully developed and more widely used by organizations. “It’s not a product yet, it’s a future idea, it’s a concept. As the vendors work on their ideas, it becomes a market,” he said. 

As Apple faces continued waves of regulation, Apple Pay is about to open up in Europe, allowing rival payment services to gain access to the NFC chips inside iPhones to enable one-click payments.

The motivation behind forcing Apple to open up is to stimulate competition in the mobile payments space. It should enable rival services to offer mobile payments and settles a long-running dispute between Apple and the European Commission. 

What this means to Apple Pay

Under the arrangements, Apple will allow third-party wallet providers access to the NFC chip inside iOS devices without requiring them to use Apple Pay or Apple Wallet. It means rivals can now compete directly with the Apple service, and in theory means customers can choose a payment system they prefer. This relies on an extensive number of commitments, captured in a 36-page document published today.

What Europe says

“From now on, competitors will be able to effectively compete with Apple Pay for mobile payments with the iPhone in shops,” Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president in charge of competition policy, said in a statement. “So, consumers will have a wider range of safe and innovative mobile wallets to choose from.”

EC authorities have put some steel around the agreements. They will by law remain in force for 10 years and apply throughout the EEA. “Their implementation will be monitored by a monitoring trustee appointed by Apple who will report to the Commission for the same time period,” the European Commission said.

In the event Apple fails to keep its commitments, it faces a fine of up to 10% of its total annual turnover without having to find an infringement of EU antitrust rules, or a “periodic penalty” payment of 5% per day of its daily turnover for every day of non-compliance.

How will it work?

A look at the 36-page agreement suggests how the new system will work. First, developers of payment systems will need to obtain entitlements to access a series of APIs Apple will make available to support rival payment systems, but only those operating in the European Economic Area. 

The company will also work to support evolving standards; developers will be subject to developer fees, but no fees related to the use of the NFC system. That sounds like Apple will not receive a cut of payments made.

For consumers, it will be possible to choose a preferred payment system (including Apple Pay) with a new section in Settings. The iPhone will also maintain a register of installed payment apps that want NFC access, and you’ll be able to select which one to use, rather like rifling through payment cards in your real wallet.

You’ll also be able to use Apple Pay on Apple Watch and choose another system for your phone.

What about disputes?

If a developer/payment provider thinks they aren’t getting fair treatment from Apple, they will be able to submit a written complaint to the monitoring trustee. Appointed and reimbursed by Apple and approved by the European Commission, the trustee will be an independent party who monitors the company’s compliance to the agreement.

The trustee may recruit a support team of up to three advisors, and there are strict controls in place to prevent trustees running off to work for Apple or its competitors within a certain time frame. There will also be an Appeal Board to adjudicate in the event a dispute requires independent oversight. 

What about the DMA?

Apple’s decision to reach a constructive settlement concerning Apple Pay in Europe could yet turn out to be a harbinger of similar future détente regarding Europe’s Digital Markets Act. While recent statements from Vestager suggest she has little empathy for Apple’s arguments, the company has already revised some of the arrangements it proposed to bring its business practises into line with the DMA or similar rules looming in other nations.

There’s no reason to think it won’t continue to reach a constructive, if unenthusiastic, dialogue. It does remain open to question whether the agreements will go far enough for Europe or for some of the company’s loudest critics. 

But for the next decade, at least, you’ll be able to use whatever payment system you like across the European bloc as easily as you may already use Apple Pay.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

New report highlights the importance of recognition in workforces
New report highlights the importance of recognition in workforces

Boostworks, a leading provider of employee reward and recognition, benefits delivery and wellbeing solutions’, has launched the findings of its latest research-based whitepaper: The Heart of Workplace Engagement.

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New report highlights the importance of recognition in workforces

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With the arrival of AI, Slack adds a new chapter to its story

It’s been 10 years since Slack launched its popular chat application and ushered in an era of fast-paced and more casual business communications. While the email inbox hasn’t yet been consigned to the past, the effect Slack has had on office work is clear, making it easier (at times, too easy) to share information and interact with colleagues, regardless of where they are. 

For the company’s new CEO, Denise Dresser, the introduction of AI-based tools is an opportunity for the company to continue to shape the way work gets done. “I could not be more optimistic about what the future of AI is going to bring to the future of how we all work,” Dresser said. “We celebrated our 10th anniversary in February and I feel like Slack was made for this moment of generative AI…, for Slack to again lead the next decade of this AI-powered future of work.”

The launch of Slack AI earlier this year is one of bigger changes to Slack’s application in recent years. A revamped user interface rolled out in 2023 sought to retain ease of use even as new functions were added. The changes ranged from canvas documents to lightweight video and voice calls and a task management tool, with automation continuing as a major focus via Workflow Builder

There have been some major changes in personnel, too. Co-founder and Stewart Butterfield announced his departure in 2022, a year after Slack’s $27.7 billion acquisition by Salesforce, and other senior leaders have since moved on. Butterfield’s successor, Lidiane Jones, was CEO for just a year before taking over at dating app company Bumble. That makes Dresser, who joined in November 2023, the third boss in a little over a year. 

Among her priorities are plans to bring Slack’s new native capabilities — such as the recently launched lists tool — to customers in a “broader way,” while continuing to build AI into the platform after the general availability launch of Slack AI in February

Another focus has been to more deeply integrate Slack into the Salesforce ecosystem in terms of both product and customer sales strategy. Dresser’s background at Salesforce — where she has held several senior executive roles since 2011 — should help align the two businesses, said Will McKeon-White, senior analyst at Forrester. Her appointment will help in “creating better joint go-to-market motions, in all the rationalization and operationalization that needs to happen with any of these motions — I’m quite a fan of that,” he said. 

Slack’s headwinds

Dresser takes over at a time of slowing growth for the business. Quarterly revenue growth during FY2024 and into FY2025 has reached between 16% and 20% year over year, roughly half as high as quarterly growth shown in Slack and Salesforce earnings reports between 2020 and 2023. 

“Slack has been facing more headwinds recently,” said McKeon-White, pointing to internal challenges such as integration efforts after the Salesforce acquisition, a fast-changing competitive environment (with a wider range of rivals such as Zoom competing more directly), and a shift in customer purchasing post-pandemic.

After businesses scrambled to roll out communication software during the COVID-19 outbreak to facilitate remote work at scale, many later sought to reduce the number of applications they use. The global market for collaboration software continued to see double digit growth, according to IDC data for 2022, when the market was valued at $33.9 billion, though the rate of increase slowed as the pandemic eased. 

Slack appears to have felt the change more acutely, said McKeon-White, due to a formidable competitor: Microsoft’s Teams, which launched in 2016 as a response to Slack’s runaway workplace success. 

For customers invested in the Microsoft 365 suite, it made sense to use what they were already paying for. “Our research shows — and I think the market shows — that a fair amount of companies have gone in that direction and said Teams is ‘good enough,’” said Irwin Lazar, president and principal analyst at Metrigy.

Microsoft has now unbundled Teams from M365 for new subscribers (following an antitrust battle with European regulators), but that’s unlikely to benefit Slack in a significant way, analysts have said.  And yet, many organizations support both apps, said McKeon-White, as businesses seek to deploy multiple communication tools to meet employee needs. 

“So, while there has been that gradual attrition and centralization, there’s now an emerging counter movement to that,” he said.

“There is competition between Slack and Teams, but when they’re used together, when they’re integrated, there’s also a synergy,” said Wayne Kurtzman, IDC’s vice president of social, community and collaboration. “So additional growth may actually come from the synergy of having both in the enterprise.”

In a crowded field, still room to grow

Despite the challenges, Slack remains in a strong position to grow, say analysts. Efforts to add functionality to the platform have paid off, making the application even more useful to customers. “The enhancements to the platform are leaning into their strengths, which is as a center of collaboration and automation in an organization…,” said McKeon-White.  

Dresser argued that the value of Slack is clear and cited the company’s own customer survey data; it indicatea a 47% productivity increase, a 36% increase in win rate for sales users, 32% faster case resolution time in customer service, and a 37% acceleration for decision making in marketing.

Said Dresser: “I find it’s not hard to make the case [to customers]; it’s focusing on the business outcome of the platform itself. Slack is where work gets done and our results and outcomes really speak to that.”

The clearest opportunity for growth lies in selling Slack to Salesforce customer organizations, said McKeon-White, though this remains a work in progress. “That is a ready-made pipeline for them, effectively, but will require some joint go-to-market efforts and additional contract value…. That might be something like platform discounts and other similar motions,” he said.

Slack hasn’t moved as aggressively to integrate with Salesforce as it might have, though the launch last year of Sales Elevate, which makes Salesforce data more easily accessible in the collaboration app, is a sign of an improvement. “I think that’s where there’s a huge opportunity to make Slack the front-end of Salesforce,” said Lazar.  If I’m a salesperson or sales manager, or if I’m using Salesforce marketing campaigns, then I can manage all the different Salesforce features within Slack, and I have the ability to collaborate,” he said.

McKeon-White also sees potential for Slack to further tailor its app to specific job roles and industries. Features like lists and Workflow Builder enable Slack to be tailored to internal use cases, such as procurement, for example, or IT, and there are  opportunities to cater to specific verticals such as a healthcare or retail organization more intently.

Slack can also increase revenues from existing customers, said Lazar, as it continues to evolve. “Most of their growth is going to happen within their existing customer base by adding new feature functionality and adding higher-level licenses, or converting people over to the Enterprise Grid product,” he said. 

Slack’s AI future

A major focus for the company, as with all vendors in the collaboration and productivity software space, is the addition of generative AI (genAI) tools. 

Slack AI launched earlier this year, with three features:

  • AI powered search. This provides personalized answers to questions based on an organization’s knowledge base. Slack AI helps users locate subject matter experts, or find information on anything from work projects to understanding unfamiliar acronyms.
  • Channel recaps. This highlights key discussion points for a Slack user after a period away from the app, or for those who have recently joined a channel.
  • Thread summaries. This feature recaps faster-moving discussions, provides thread summaries, and offers an overview of long conversations, with links to sources in each summary that enable users to check information where necessary.

Slack AI’s advantage lies in its ease of use, with little or no training required, Dresser said.

With the arrival of AI, Slack adds a new chapter to its story

Slack AI search allows users to more quickly find information that could be buried in channels and chats.

Slack

“One of our product principles is ‘don’t make me think’ and that’s a key part of how we’re thinking about AI,” she said. That means ensuring Slack is embedded in “the most logical places that drive immediate productivity, and maybe a little bit of joy and delight in the process.” She points to the AI recap feature. “I love starting my day out with ‘recap,’ so that when there are channels that I don’t necessarily read all day long, I get a quick recap of what happened and I’m on with my day.”

Slack, like all tech companies, is still working to overcome some of genAI’s limitations. Hallucinations are an inherent problem for large language models(LLMs), particularly in a workplace context where accuracy is vital. Dresser said Slack attempts to mitigate the impact of hallucinations with citations that link back to the original source of information. “It allows people to feel that it is less of a black box,” she said. “They can actually see the specific conversation that led to the summarization of that result. It’s little things like that that provide the transparency that helps you build trust.”

Slack CEO: Trust matters

Trust around the use of customer data is a hot topic, too. Slack users recently vented frustrations at terms of service that some interpreted as the company seeking to use customer data to train its AI models. While Slack explained that the terms related to the use of “traditional” machine learning algorithms for relatively benign purposes (channel and emoji recommendations, for instance) rather than using messages to train LLMs as some had feared, the situation underlined the tensions around access to customer data. 

“We did hear from customers that we needed to be more clear, so we immediately updated our language on the website, so customers know exactly where we stand,” Dresser said. “Trust is our top priority. When we built generative AI natively into Slack, it was a huge area of our focus. 

“We do not develop LLMs or other generative AI models using customer data, full stop.”

Slack is not alone in tackling genAI’s various difficulties. “This is like the pre-game show for AI,” said Kurtzman. “It is the very beginning. Things are not where we imagine they should be. Slack is doing well with AI that’s tuned to identify content within a conversation and identify value within the conversation. But everyone’s AI is continually improving.”

Despite widespread interest in the technology, there’s still a long way to go in terms of broad adoption. A recent Slack survey showed that only 32% of respondents have accessed AI in their jobs, with half doing so on a weekly basis. 

Part of that is because of cost, part of it is uncertainty about whether generative AI can deliver value, given the additional cost to users. Slack AI costs an additional $10 per user each month — that’s less expensive than others, but still a significant outlay as AI assistants become widely available.

“For organizations who have used it [Slack AI], they seem to be very happy with it,” said McKeon-White. “But getting the budget together in order to justify another internal AI experiment is fairly difficult today: It turns out AI is expensive, especially if you try to do it for all of your organization.” 

“On the whole, we believe that pricing will eventually be baked into everything as AI becomes ubiquitous,” said Kurtzman. “But for today, the [additional] pricing generally returns value fairly quickly.” 

The initial Slack AI feature such as conversation summarization are useful, but can make it hard to justify the cost. “I think initially it’s a tough sell,” said Lazar, at least until Slack AI can integrate a wider range of data sources from third-party apps, which could significantly increase its capabilities.

Still, early Slack AI customers have already noted its utility, said Dresser; an internal analysis of pilot customers indicated it saves users an average 97 minutes a week, for instance. “We’re still in the very early days…, but the results are really positive. Starting in the right places, in a trusted manner, right in the flow of work, will be the way that I think the world begins to adopt…AI,” she said.

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