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Data Sheet—Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. As usual, Apple kicked off its annual developers conference with a plethora of news. For the first time ever, some of its female executives got into the act. Facebook is experimenting with location beacons, another service that could appeal to advertisers. Plus, at least one big airline is withholding data from online travel sites. It’s part of the industry’s push to engage more directly with consumers. Enjoy your Tuesday!

TOP OF MIND

An avalanche of Apple advances. There was literally something for everyone during the world’s most valuable company’s conference kickoff—unless, of course, if you were expecting an Apple TV launch, like some analysts. Nothing was very revolutionary and many launches were anticipated, but here are five highlights:

  1. Its streaming music service will go live by the end of June, starting at about $10 per month. (By the way, big rival Spotify intends to counter that price.)
  2. Apple Pay will soon work in any store using a Square reader, thanks to a new deal. Plus, the mobile payments service supports a wider variety of credit cards.
  3. Apple Watch will soon support native apps (like calendars or weather services) that don’t require a nearby iPhone.
  4. The Newsstand application within Apple iOS will soon be history, replaced with a content reader that looks very much like Flipboard.
  5. The next Mac OS X operating system update, called El Capitan and due in the fall, will run on any hardware that supports Yosemite.

TRENDING

Facebook’s mobile app will soon support location beacons. That means users can receive contextual updates, called Place Tips, when they walk into a retailer or other location-based businesses. By the way, Microsoft phone owners who are heavy users of Facebook may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

It’s getting tougher to priceshop airlines fares. That’s because some airlines are getting stingy about sharing data. Both Delta Air Lines and Lufthansa have made it more difficult to book seats through online travel services. “The more that the airlines can get the fliers to book on their own sites, the more opportunity the airlines have to engage with those travelers,” travel industry analyst Douglas Quinby told The New York Times.

eBay’s future falls flat. In a regulatory filing, the online marketplace projects sluggish 5% revenue growth for 2016, after it splits from PayPal. That news was not welcomed by investors.

Another day, more chip consolidation news. Add Atmel, which sells electronics microcontrollers for Internet of things applications, to the list of chipmakers exploring a sale. Reuters cites sources that say the company is evaluating alternatives ahead of its CEO’s retirement in August.

Meanwhile, there’s been a hiccup in the deal that will merge Integrated Silicon Solution and Cypress Semiconductor. The two haven’t figured out how to handle potential antitrust objections.

 

THE DOWNLOAD

Another cloud call-center startup that has people talking

Now more than ever, it’s difficult to control what customers say about a business. So it’s in every company’s interest to pay close attention to how its support team handles complaints and inquiries about its products or services.

That’s just one reason Facebook’s grand plan to reinvent customer service dialogs with its Messenger chat platform captured so much attention. Another segment undergoing rapid upheaval courtesy of cloud services: call centers.

One of the latest entries driving positive word of mouth is Talkdesk, a four-year-old startup originally from Portugal that has closed a $15 million Series A financing round including lead investor DFJ and existing backer Storm Ventures.

The company’s technology, developed as part of a Twilio contest, is used by 2,000 customers—most of them small or midsize businesses—including the likes of Weather.com and Edmunds.com. Although it doesn’t disclose its revenue, sales increased by 10x over the past year.

Talkdesk’s proposition is simple: help businesses set up distributed call centers far more quickly that traditional systems by using a cloud service as the host. Talkdesk’s offering competes with services from the likes of 8×8, Five9, Genesys and NewVoiceMedia (to name just four).

“We are seeing a massive evolution in the call center technology space that, until now, has been dominated by antiquated solutions,” said DFJ partner Josh Stein, in a a statement. “This is the classic cloud-software eats the world storyline that we have seen before.”

Like its rivals, Talkdesk is building an ecosystem of partners, especially with vendors that sell established customer relationship management systems such as Salesforce, SugarCRM, Zendesk and Zoho.

The company employs around 70 people, and its new funding will go toward expanding its design, engineering and marketing resources.

Research firm DMG Consulting predicts that the number of call center seats created by cloud services will grow 20% this year. The market has actually been growing faster. DMG Consulting follows about a dozen cloud vendors closely.

Said DMG Consulting President Donna Fluss, in a statement:

We have never seen this market in a stronger position. Competition is fierce, innovation is at an all-time high, vendors are executing, and users have so many choices for leveraging the real and quantifiable benefits of the cloud. The slower adoption is actually a positive sign of market maturity—it shows that vendors are able to track and delineate sales of these solutions more accurately than ever before­—rather than a market slowdown.

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ALSO WORTH SHARING

High-profile disruptors score high-profile hires. It looks like Google display advertising specialist Neal Mohan is headed to Dropbox to head product management, reports Re/code. Plus, Hadoop software player Cloudera nabbed Google cloud expert Daniel Sturman to lead engineering. Meanwhile, data center security upstart Tanium hired FireEye’s David Damato as its first chief security. Damato led one of the company’s most experienced incident response teams, including the group working on the Anthem Health breach.

Fast-growing software company Bigcommerce—which powers the Enfamil, Gibson, Marvel, and Pergo online stores—just hired a new CEO. He replaces co-founder Eddie Machaalani, who is now executive chairman.

Game on for Amazon. It’s hiring more in-house developers to work on original content for its burgeoning video games division.

Pivotal, the EMC-VMware spinoff, invests in speedier answers with the acquisition of the Quickstep “query hastening” technology.

Sam’s Club is stocking up on drones, ahead of this year’s holiday retail season.

Pick your words carefully. Crystal, a new email assistant, analyzes the personality of intended recipients and offers stylistic advice for messages.

MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS

How to email Tim Cook, Warren Buffett and Fortune 500 CEOs by Erin Griffith

Why Google’s self-driving vehicles mean the end of car insurance by Jeff John Roberts

The 10 best U.S. cities for retirement by Anne Fisher

As Supreme Court nears landmark decisions, justices face scrutiny over ethics, transparency by Elizabeth G. Olson

How this ex-Apple executive keeps his employees happy by Bob Borchers

ONE MORE THING

Who’s the designated driver? The government is testing ignition sensors that will keep vehicles from starting if the person behind the wheel surpasses the legal blood-alcohol content limit.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

Red Hat Summit: Energize your enterprise. (June 23 – 26; Boston)

Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 – 15; Aspen, Colorado)

LinuxCon North America: All about open source. (Aug. 17 – 19; Seattle)

VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)

Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 – 18; San Francisco)

.conf2015: Splunk’s “get your data on” gathering. (Sept. 21 – 24; Las Vegas)

Cassandra Summit: Largest gathering of Cassandra database developers. (Sept. 22 – 24; San Francisco)

BoxWorks 2015: Cloud collaboration solutions. (Sept. 28 – 30; San Francisco)

Workday Rising: Meet and share. (Sept. 28 – Oct. 1; Las Vegas)

HP Engage: Big data, big engagement. (Oct. 4 – 6; San Diego)

Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 – 8; Orlando, Florida)

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: World’s largest gather of women technologists. (Oct. 14 – 16; Houston)

Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 – 29; San Francisco)

TBM Conference 2015: Manage IT like a business. (Oct. 26 – 29; Chicago)

QuickBooks Connect: SMBs, entrepreneurs, accountants and developers. (Nov. 2 – 4; San Jose, California)