Microsoft offices
1. Microsoft is preparing for foldable Windows devices
Microsoft is in the process of adapting Windows to work on foldable devices and plans to make big investments in both these devices and dual-screen hardware for both Windows and Surface. The company will adapt Windows as well as its many built-in apps to work across foldable displays and devices with dual screens. PC makers had developed a range of 2-in-1 devices for Windows 8 more than five years ago, so there will undoubtedly be a similar effort for dual-screen and foldable devices for Windows in the near future. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: The next big thing in hardware will be foldable devices and Microsoft – as well as other tech leaders from Samsung to Dell – are working on phones, tablets and even laptops that will one day in the near future be able to fold up into a much smaller gadget. Foldable devices will change the way offices look, hotel rooms are designed and what you and your employees will take on the road. The impact for you? Prepare to replace your company’s current hardware with these things – it’s going to happen sooner than you think and everyone’s going to want one.
2. Study: 73% of consumers want self-service technology
A recent survey by IoT and mobile device management firm SOTI shows that approximately 73 percent of 526 shoppers surveyed prefer retail self-service technologies such as self-checkout over engaging with store associates — a 10.6 percent increase from last year. In addition, about three-quarters of respondents said retailers that use mobile technology — both self-service mobile tools and mobile tools used by sales associates — help provide a faster shopping experience, which is a huge (67 percent) increase from last year. (Source: Retail Dive)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: The takeaway is this: Even though people say they care about the fate of workers replaced by machinery, in reality they really don’t care as much just as long as they can get in and out of store as fast as possible. More and more businesses are succeeding with self-service technology and that trend is only going to increase over the next few years. If you’re in public accounting, have you considered automated replies to common questions?
3. Network speeds poised for giant leap forward in 5G
Verizon Wireless launched the world’s first 5G network in October in certain parts of Houston, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis, with much of the wide band already done across the US. Installing 5G network equipment is the next step, so 5G service will be available at high-traffic locations like stadiums and airports first before becoming more widely available in cities across America. (Source: Boston Herald)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: By the second quarter of this year, 5G technology will make hyper-fast internet speeds possible for smartphones, drones, robots, and cars. These speeds — which are 20 times faster than 4G — could help spread the use of AI and other cutting-edge technologies for your business.
4. Google raises G Suite prices
G Suite, Google’s competition for Microsoft Office 365, will soon cost more. Google announced that it will raise the price of both the G Suite Basic and G Suite Business productivity suites for the first time ever. G Suite Basic will go up from $5 per user per month to $6, and G Suite Business will go from $10 to $12. Microsoft’s small-business–oriented product, Office 365 Business Essentials, is still $5 per user per month with an annual commitment, and Office 365 Business Premium is $12.50 a month with the same terms. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: When cloud companies like Netflix (and yes, they’re a cloud provider) and Google start raising prices it raises a significant concern from my clients about control over their costs. Can cloud providers just bump up their prices 20 percent as they please? And if they do, what recourse does a small business have that’s fully vested in their cloud-based system? Ask your cloud vendor these questions and evaluate your risks.
5. A New Jersey small business is nearly ruined by a hacker
Owners of a small online business in Asbury Park, N.J., were hacked this past holiday season by someone who re-routed the website for their company — Epoch Trading Post — to a porn site. (Source: Asbury Park Press)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Scary. And real. According to the article, the hackers grabbed the domain name and faked ownership of the site so digital companies couldn’t give it back to them. They aren’t alone. In fact, 61 percent of small and midsized businesses experienced a cyberattack in 2017. Ultimately, Epoch Trading Post had to change its name and recreate its online presence from scratch, abandoning the brand that had existed since 2015.
6. LendingFront raises $4M in funds to modernize small-business lending
Newark, N.J.-based small-business lending software provider LendingFront has announced it raised a $4 million, Series A funding round to help modernize small-business lending with a cloud lending software program. The company says it will use the funding to provide banks and financial institutions access to LendingFront’s underwriting and SMB credit technology under its end-to-end white label software platform and also to expand the company’s sales, marketing and engineering teams. (Source: ROI-NJ)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Companies like LendingFront are using cloud-based technologies to speed up the approval and the administrative process of loan management for its banking customers. If you’re a business owner or advising one, just know that this technology exists, is common and is growing in use among financial institutions who make it a priority to provide fast service while keeping costs down. If your bank is still awash in paper and operating like it’s the 1990s, it may be time to reconsider your long-term financial relationship with them.
Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook testifying before the Senate
7. Sheryl Sandberg says Facebook is now blocking 1 million fake accounts every day
At a recent conference, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged that Facebook failed in 2016 to understand how the threat to customer data had shifted from governments trying to access information to governments using the platform to sow dissent and spread misinformation. She said the company continues to scrutinize groups and pages to ferret out bad actors. ‘We’re blocking more than 1 million fake accounts every day, sometimes just when they are created,’ Sandberg said. She also admitted that Facebook did not do a good job managing its platform. “People trust us with their data,” she added, “and we have to protect it.” (Source: Venture Beat)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: The social media giant has 10 million small businesses with Facebook pages in the U.S. and 6 million advertisers, most of them small companies. In other words, a lot of us rely on Facebook to attract new customers and engage with our communities. The company’s recent problems have seriously affected its credibility but it’s good see that they’re fighting back. Don’t abandon Facebook. I think they’re getting their act together. Besides, where else are you going to go?
8. Chrome to take ad blocking worldwide in July
In July 2019, Google plans to expand Chrome's ad-blocking technology worldwide, after offering it for almost a year in North America and Europe. The company’s senior product director of Chrome says that the browser will “filter” online ads and stop showing all ads on sites in any country that repeatedly display “disruptive ads.” In addition, Chrome will delete all ads from sites that displayed advertisements identified as the most annoying on the web. (Source: Computer World)

Why this is important for your clients: It’s important if your clients are advertising products overseas and … well … their ads are annoying. Up until now you could get away with it as long as they weren’t advertising in North America and Europe. But now their ads in other countries may be blocked. It’s worth a re-visit.
9. New Evernote CEO vows to spend 2019 fixing note-taking app’s long list of problems
The CEO of Evernote, Ian Small, says that he’s committed to fixing a long list of problems with the note-taking app this year. In 2018, the company cut 15 percent of its staff and lost many top executives as a result of these issues, but now Small says he promises to create a “more coherent, more consistent Evernote experience for every version of the product we ship.” He’ll focus on restructuring the way the company designs and delivers software updates and on overhauling the core infrastructure that powers the app. (Source: Venture Beat)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: This story came at an opportune time for me because I’ve been recently thinking of moving away from Evernote at my company to another group note-taking application. I’ve been getting complaints of poor performance, glitches and an outdated interface. Given Small’s promises above, though, I’m going to stick it out for another few months and hope to see enough fixes to make me a fan again.
10. New features for Microsoft Teams chat app further company’s push to woo retail and service workers
In an effort to become the tech provider of choice for first-line workers in industries such as retail, hospitality and manufacturing, Microsoft is offering a set of new features for its collaboration app, Teams. The features, which build on a capability unveiled in 2018 that lets employees manage and swap schedules, are designed to help workers better communicate with each other and to allow companies to manage access to important information and give feedback. (Source: Geek Wire)

Why this is important for your clients: The features will include a better and more customizable mobile interface that will have location sharing, a smart camera and the ability to record and share audio messages as well as templates, APIs and a feature called "Praise," which will allow employees to give each other shout-outs. If this is the kind of stuff that interests you - and it should - then it may be worthwhile to take a harder look at Microsoft Teams. Particularly if you already own Office!