Your Monthly Biz Tech Roundup from Seeto

As April begins, we wrap up the first quarter of 2023. As we jump headlong into the second quarter of the year, we’re here to wrap up everything that happened in the world of business tech during March. From a serious vulnerability in Microsoft Outlook to more AI news than you can shake a stick at, we’re covering the news and views you need to know this month.

With so much happening, we’ve honed in on What You Need to Know Now and saved our Seeto Take for next month.

This month’s featured solution is Bob’s Business – our pick for online training for your business.

Need To Know

Google Workspace

Slick company-wide branded backgrounds arrive in Google Meet

Marketing teams rejoice! Google Workspace now supports company-wide branded backgrounds. No matter where your team are connecting from, they can now properly rep your company brand by choosing an admin-provided branded background. You’ve been able to use custom backgrounds for some time, but now marketing teams can supply official backgrounds that properly represent their company’s specific brand and style.

Read more at the Google Workspace Updates blog

Inflation hits Google Workspace pricing

Google has announced price increases for Google Workspace’s Business plans. Unwelcome as price increases are, existing users have a month’s reprieve with increases for existing subscribers arriving from mid-April. In addition, Google now offers annual payment plans, which let you commit to a year of Workspace at the old rate.

If you’re worried about Google Workspace price increases, Seeto may be able to help cut costs and keep your payments monthly with an annual commitment. Reach out to the Seeto team or contact us for more information.

Read more at Ars Technica

Google’s “main thrill in life is a makeover”

Like Cher Horowitz, Google loves a makeover. (I’m owning the reference, Clueless is a classic). Google Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides have a streamlined new look. One of the benefits of using modern subscription software is that the products are always improving and eagle-eyed Google Workspace users will have seen some nice quality-of-life improvements to the design of popular apps rolling out over the last few weeks.

Microsoft 365

Look Ma, I’m an Avatar

Every day can be a bad hair day now that Microsoft has announced 3D digital avatars to take our place in Teams calls. From May we won’t even need to look at our teammates, as they transform into digital versions of themselves on screen. In the shorter term, new visual effects filters such as frames and styles are coming to Teams to allow users to better express their personalities in online meetings.

Read more at The Reg
Read more at BigTechWire

New tools from Microsoft

Initially announced last year, Microsoft Loop, Microsoft’s answer to and mash-up of Notion’s workspaces and clever shareable components that let you turn any page into a real-time block of content is now available in preview. As you might expect, collaboration and generative AI are built-in and clever Loop components will become available across Microsoft 365 applications.

In addition, a generative AI tool called “Copilot” is currently in test with selected businesses and expected to roll out in the “coming months”. Revealed at its recent Future of Work event, users will be able to create content in Office apps using text requests.

Read more about Microsoft Loop at The Verge
Read more about Copilot at Engadget

Hassle-free 2FA

Imagine not having to install Microsoft Authenticator but still enjoying the security benefit of multi-factor authentication. Microsoft 365 users will soon be able to receive their MFA codes through the Microsoft Outlook app on their mobile phones thanks to Authenticator Lite, which is currently in preview. Remember: this change may require you to update your BYOD policy as it can bring new mobile devices into scope for Cyber Essentials – we won’t be enabling this by default.

Read more at Office 365 Reports

AI in the world of work

March has been a busy month for AI in the world of business technology.

Google previews Bard, its answer to ChatGPT

After CEO Sundar Pichai issued a “code red” before Christmas and Google’s founders made a surprise return to day-to-day operations, Google has now (somewhat disastrously) previewed and started rolling out Bard, its AI chatbot to selected users.

After giving factually incorrect information in the live launch demo, reviewers describe the chatbot’s responses as “anodyne”, inoffensive, and not always factually correct. Bard is connected to the internet, unlike ChatGPT, and has access to more up-to-date data, but it doesn’t always seem to quite understand what it’s on about or be able to move beyond generalities.

Google have grand ambitions and is looking to the future, releasing an impression of how AI could help Google Workspace users to work smarter, not harder. A release date seemed a long way off, but the first public testers are just getting their hands on this tech.

Read more about the Google Bard launch at Computing
Read a review of Google Bard in The Guardian
See a preview of what generative AI in Gmail and Google Docs could look like at Ars Technica
Read more about the roll-out at BGR

Microsoft gives ethics the heave-ho

In a potentially worrying development, Microsoft has laid off its entire ethics and society team. Now, they still have an Office of Responsible AI, which creates rules and principles for the use of AI. As we see it, they still have the policy, but they don’t necessarily have on-the-ground enforcement of the policy. Given AI has the potential for harm (1000+ tech leaders recently highlighted “profound risks to society and humanity”) and presents a real risk to Microsoft, particularly as questions around whether copyrighted material was used to train AI models continue to plague the space.

Read more at The Verge

OpenAI goes ClosedAI and releases ChatGPT successor

OpenAI has announced its successor to GPT-3, which powers ChatGPT, the imaginatively named GPT-4. It’s capable of processing both images and text and rumour has it that Microsoft will be building this version of OpenAI’s technology into their forthcoming products.

It’s great to have new technology, but one concern about this new release is that OpenAI (who have previously open-sourced their research) have chosen not to provide any information on its training data, energy demands or how the model was created. Increased competition seems to have been a driver for this, but the community is concerned that it’s difficult to develop safeguards when they don’t understand the technology and OpenAI are saying understanding the technology allows people to find ways to abuse it. Time will tell.

Read the release announcement on the BBC
Read more about OpenAI closed-sourcing their research at The Verge

Using AI at work: smart hack or IP nightmare?

Goldman Sachs recently reported that AI could boost worker productivity to a degree that annual world GDP could jump by 7%; however, it hasn’t had a warm reception in every organisation. With such a transformational technology, the rules of engagement are still being written. Social norms will need to change. Society will dictate when it’s appropriate to use AI to communicate, in performance evaluations and in our day-to-day work. In the short term businesses are worried about confidential information and IP being shared with a data-hungry tech business, particularly as legal, tech and leadership teams are yet to develop a position on using these tools. Shadow IT – technology used in your organisation without the organisation’s consent –  is bad but shadow IT that can funnel up and reuse your data for profit is worse.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal (possible paywall)

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Silicon Valley Bank collapse

We’re not weigihing in on why Silicon Valley Bank collapsed, its UK rescue or bankers’ bonuses. Instead, we’re here to tell you that criminals have spotted an opportunity and, if you haven’t seen SVB themed spam and scams, expect it. Thousands of businesses were forced overnight to send out updated bank details to continue to receive payments and as you might imagine, this created a fertile field for phishing campaigns, SVB-themed domain names to be registered and other attacks.

Read more about the collapse in The Guardian
Read a timeline of the collapse at Pragmatic Engineer
Read about SVB-themed cyber attacks at The Reg

More Tech News

Make Slack work for you

Slack makes work easier, but too much Slack can be distracting. We’ve found some top tips to tame your notifications and be more productive on Slack.

Read more at Sifted

New Cyber Security Tools for SMBs from the National Cyber Security Centre

The National Cyber Security Centre has launched two new products to support small businesses in keeping themselves safe. These are the Cyber Action Plan and Check Your Cyber Security services. The Cyber Action Plan is completed online in under 5 minutes and serves up tailored advice on improving business’ cyber security. Once completed, the Check your Cyber Security service can be used to identify and fix cyber security issues. As NCSC tools are often only available for public sector organisations, making these available to all small businesses is a good step from the NCSC.

Read the announcement and get access at the NCSC

London has competition as a startup leader

With the demise of Tech Nation and a new contract being awarded to a major bank, there are fears that the UK is looking less attractive as policies and financial incentives aren’t matching the Chancellor’s rhetoric about fostering a vibrant tech scene. London is home to a tenth of Europe’s fastest growing companies, but the UK as a whole has been overtaken by Italy and Germany. Combined with cuts to R&D tax credits for startups, growing businesses are looking increasingly to the European mainland to boost their growth. Britain might be a nation of shopkeepers, but our nearest neighbours are rolling out the awnings and lifting the shutters. We can only wait to see what the effects will be.

Read more in the FT
Read more about coming R&D tax credit changes at UK Tech News

Is the work-anywhere, digital nomad lifecycle a new driver of gentrification?

Portugal has done well from digital nomads, it is a desirable place to live, with a comparatively low cost of living,  great climate, beaches and delicious pastries. The problem is that by drawing in desirable migrants on digital nomad visas, they’re quickly pricing out the locals. Rents and houseprices are rising, as Portugal attracts comparatively wealthy foreigners to their shores, which is developing into a local housing crisis in Portugal’s biggest cities.

Read more in The New European

150 is the magic number

Growing startups are realising that their organisations change dramatically when they reach 150 employees. This article from Quartz looks at how communication and decision-making naturally have to change when startups surpass 150 staff. Flat hierarchies and consensus decision-making become more arduous and beyond this point, communication needs to be rethought. As the article says, at some point, you can no longer yell and have everyone hear you.

Read more at Quartz

Recent OS Updates

Last updated 4 April 2024

Windows

Microsoft currently supports Windows 10 and Windows 11.

  • Windows 10 version 22H2 (10.0.19045)
  • Windows 11 version 22H2 (10.0.22621) and version 23H2 (10.0.22631)

macOS

Apple officially supports the following Mac operating systems:

  • macOS Sonoma 14.4.1
  • macOS Ventura 13.6.6
  • macOS Monterey 12.7.4

iOS and iPadOS

The supported iPhone and iPad operating systems are:

  • iOS 17.4.1
  • iPadOS 17.4.1

Android

Google supports the following Android operating systems:

  • Android 14
  • Android 13
  • Android 12
  • Android 11

Note that your device manufacturer may not support every version that Google produces security fixes for.

Learn how to check and update your Android version here.