Judge dismisses Oracle lawsuit over $10B Pentagon JEDI cloud contract

Oracle has been complaining about the procurement process around the Pentagon’s $10 billion, decade-long JEDI cloud contract, even before the DoD opened requests for proposals last year. It went so far as to file a lawsuit in December, claiming a potential conflict of interest on the part of a procurement team member. Today, that case was dismissed in federal court.

In dismissing the case, Federal Claims Court Senior Judge Eric Bruggink ruled that the company had failed to prove a conflict in the procurement process, something the DOD’s own internal audits found in two separate investigations. Judge Bruggink ultimately agreed with the DoD’s findings:

We conclude as well that the contracting officer’s findings that an organizational conflict of interest does not exist and that individual conflicts of interest did not impact the procurement, were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the administrative record is therefore denied.

The company previously had filed a failed protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which also ruled that the procurement process was fair and didn’t favor any particular vendor. Oracle had claimed that the process was designed to favor cloud market leader AWS.

It’s worth noting that the employee in question was a former AWS employee. AWS joined the lawsuit as part of the legal process, stating at the time in the legal motion, “Oracle’s Complaint specifically alleges conflicts of interest involving AWS. Thus, AWS has direct and substantial economic interests at stake in this case, and its disposition clearly could impair those interests.”

Today’s ruling opens the door for the announcement of a winner of the $10 billion contract, as early as next month. The DoD previously announced that it had chosen Microsoft and Amazon as the two finalists for the winner-take-all bid.

You can now register for the Minecraft Earth closed beta

Take the real-world exploration of Pokémon GO and mash it up with the building elements of Minecraft, and you get Minecraft Earth.

While there’s no launch date for the game, Mojang has been saying for a while now that a closed Beta would go live sometime “this summer”. If you’re looking to get in there early, good news: they just opened up registration.

You can find the Beta registration page here.

Alas, since it’s a closed Beta, registering doesn’t guarantee you access — but in its FAQ about the Beta, the team notes that they’re planning to open it up to “hundreds of thousands of players” eventually, so your odds of getting in probably aren’t too bad. You’ll need to be over the age of 18, have a device running iOS 10/Android 7 or newer, and a Microsoft or Xbox Live account to get registered.

TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey got a super early look at the game back in May — you can find his thoughts on it right over here.

Mojang also released a video teaser this afternoon, wrapping up much of what the game will offer in just under 3 minutes:

Microsoft’s $399 Azure Kinect AI camera is now shipping in the U.S. and China

Earlier this year, at MWC, Microsoft announced the return of its Kinect sensor in the form of an AI developer kit. The $399 Azure Kinect DK camera system includes a 1MP depth camera, 360-degree microphone, 12MP RGB camera and an orientation sensor, all in a relatively small package. The kit has been available for pre-order for a few months now, but as the company announced today, it’s now generally available and shipping to pre-order customers in the U.S. and China.

Unlike the original Kinect, which launched as an Xbox gaming accessory that never quite caught on, the Azure Kinect is all business. It’s meant to give developers a platform to experiment with AI tools and plug into Azure’s ecosystem of machine learning services (though using Azure is not mandatory).

To help developers get started, the company already launched a number of SDKs, including a preview of a body-tracking SDK that is close to what you may remember from the Kinect’s Xbox days.

kinect developers

The core of the camera has more to do with Microsoft’s HoloLens than the original Kinect. As the company notes in its press materials, the Azure Kinect DK users the same time-of-flight sensor the company developed for the second generation of its HoloLens AR visor. And while the focus here is clearly on using the camera, Microsoft also notes that the microphone array also allows developers to build sophisticated speech solutions.

The company is positioning the device as an easy gateway for its users in health and life sciences, retail, logistics and robotics to start experimenting with using depth sensing and machine learning. We’ve seen somewhat similar dev kits from others, including Microsoft partner Qualcomm, though these devices don’t usually have the depth camera that makes the Kinect DK a Kinect.

Microsoft says Teams now has 13M daily active users

Teams, Microsoft’s two-year-old Slack competitor, is the company’s fastest-growing application in its history. That’s something Microsoft has said in the past, but for the first time, Microsoft today also announced actual user numbers for the service ahead of its Inspire partner conference next week. Teams now has 13 million active daily users, Microsoft said, and 19 million weekly active users. Microsoft also today said that Teams is now in use by 91 of the Fortune 100 companies.

The company isn’t afraid of putting those numbers up against Slack, which IPOed only a few weeks ago. Jared Spataro, Microsoft Corporate VP for Microsoft 365, doesn’t mention Slack by name in his blog post, but the company put together a little graphic that clearly shows why it is now willing to share these numbers.

The last official number from Slack is that it had 10 million daily active users in January. Without update numbers from Slack, it’s hard to say if Teams now has more users, but unless Slack’s growth accelerated in recent months, that’s probably the case.

2019 07 11 1047In addition to disclosing these numbers, Microsoft also announced a number of updates to Teams that range from features like priority notifications, which take the annoyance of chat notifications to a new level by pinging you every two minutes until you respond, to read receipts, new moderation and cross-posting options for Teams channels and a time clock feature that lets employees clock in and out of work shifts right from the Teams mobile apps.

Because Inspire is an event for Microsoft partners, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Microsoft is also launching a few new Teams features that involve its resellers and other partners. These include the ability to integrate teams with compliance recording partners like ASC, NICE and Verint Verba, as well as a contact center solution in partnership with Five9, Nice InContact and others. The most important of these announcements, though, is surely the fact that Microsoft is launching a new partner-led Teams trial (PDF) that will enable Microsoft 365 partners to offer a free six-month trial of Teams to customers on the Exchange-only or Office 365 Business plan. This will surely bolster Microsoft’s user numbers for Teams in the coming months, too.

A91 Partners, a new VC fund from former Sequoia Capital India execs, closes $351M maiden fund

India’s growing number of startups now have one additional VC fund that will listen to their business ideas. A91 Partners, a new VC fund founded by former partners at Sequoia Capital India, has closed their maiden fund at $351 million.

A91 Partners will focus on high growth startups in consumer, technology, financial services, and healthcare sectors in India, Abhay Pandey, a partner at A91 told TechCrunch in an interview.

A91, whose maiden fund is one of the largest for any VC funds in India, will focus on early as well mid-stage startups that are looking to raise between $10 million and $30 million, Pandey said. Earlier this year, it invested about $14.2 million in Sugar, a cosmetics brand.

“In our experience, some companies get to this stage after having raised capital and some bootstrap their way into that position,” he added. Other than him, V.T. Bharadwaj, Gautam Mago, Prasun Agarwal — all former partners at Sequoia Capital India, and Kaushik Anand, formerly of CapitalG are also partners at A91. They founded the fund late last year.

The inspiration of the name comes from the country code of India, which is 91. The letter A is inspired from Ashoka, India’s greatest emperor.

“We are excited about the opportunity ahead of us and look forward to partnering with founders building enduring businesses for tomorrow’s India,” the founding members said in a statement.

“Our role in this development and growth is to partner with exceptional founders to build the next generation of enduring Indian businesses. While fulfilling this role, we aspire to build an enduring, excellent, uniquely Indian investment firm,” they said.

A91 raised about 80% of the $351 million capital from overseas investors that include foundations, endowments, family offices and fund of funds, Pandey said. Some of these include the International Finance Corporation and Asia Alternatives, as well as Adams Street and Swiss-based LGT Capital Partners.

India’s tech startups have raised more than $20 billion in the last two years. The country’s growing startup ecosystem is increasingly attracting major VC firms in the nation. SoftBank and Tiger Global, two large global VC funds, count India as one of their biggest markets.

In recent years, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook have also begun to infuse money in India’s startup space. Google has invested in delivery startup Dunzo, while Amazon has taken stake in more than half a dozen local companies. Facebook invested in social commerce app Meesho last month.

Earlier this year, Microsoft expanded its M12 corporate venture fund (formerly known as Microsoft Ventures) to India with an investment in Innovaccer, a six-year-old SaaS startup. Samsung Venture, the investment arm of the South Korean technology conglomerate, made its debut investments in Indian startups on Wednesday.

SAP’s CEO Bill McDermott will join us at TC Sessions: Enterprise

You can’t talk about enterprise software without talking about SAP, class="crunchbase-tooltip-indicator"> the German software giant that now has a market cap of more than $172 billion, making it Europe’s most valuable tech company. To talk about his company and leadership in a rapidly changing environment for enterprise software, SAP CEO Bill McDermott will join us for a fireside chat at our TC Sessions: Enterprise event on September 5 in San Francisco.

McDermott joined the company as the CEO of SAP America in 2002. He then joined the executive board in 2008 and became co-CEO in 2010. Since becoming the first American to head the company in 2014, McDermott has continued to increase the company’s annual revenue and, maybe more importantly, expanded the company’s product range.

Chances are you know SAP mostly for its Hana in-memory database offering and CRM and enterprise resource management systems. Hana is important enough that all of the major cloud suppliers offer virtual machines specifically tuned for it, something they don’t do for any other piece of software. But SAP also offers services around data and networks management, IoT, blockchain and HR. Its more than 300,000 customers span virtually every industry and include government agencies around the globe, and the company itself has offices in virtually every country in the world.

Plus, with the acquisition of Qualtrics, SAP now helps organizations couple operational data with the power of the experience – matching what customers do with why they do it.

We will talk to McDermott about the trends he’s seeing in the industry, including his company’s open data alliance with Microsoft and Adobe, his plans to double his company’s market cap, the role that open source now plays in enterprise software and how owning a Long Island deli prepared him for his current job.

Outside of SAP, McDermott also serves on the board of directors of companies like Under Armour, Dell SecureWorks and ANSYS.e

Early Bird tickets are on sale for just $249 when you book here, but hurry prices go up by $100 soon! Students, grab your discounted tickets for just $75 here.

India’s Android antitrust case against Google may have some holes

India ordered an investigation into Google’s alleged abuse of Android’s dominance in the country to hurt local rivals in April. A document made public by the local antitrust watchdog has now further revealed the nature of the allegations and identified the people who filed the complaint.

Umar Javeed, Sukarma Thapar, two associates at Competition Commission of India — and Aaqib Javeed, brother of Umar who interned at the watchdog last year, filed the complaint, the document revealed. The revelation puts an end to months-long interest from industry executives, many of whom wondered if a major corporation was behind it.

The allegations

The case, filed against Google’s global unit and Indian arm on April 16 this year, makes several allegations including the possibility that Google used Android’s dominant position in India to hurt local companies. The accusation is that Google requires handset and tablet vendors to pre-install its own applications or services if they wish to get the full-blown version of Android . Google’s Android mobile operating system powered more than 98% of smartphones that shipped in the country last year, research firm Counterpoint said.

This accusation is partly true, if at all. To be sure, Google does offer a “bare Android” version, which a smartphone vendor could use and then they wouldn’t need to pre-install Google Mobile Services (GMS). Though by doing so, they will also lose access to Google Play Store, which is the largest app store in the Android ecosystem. Additionally, phone vendors do partner with other companies to pre-install their applications. In India itself, most Android phones sold by Amazon India and Flipkart include a suite of their apps preloaded on the them.

“OEMs can offer Android devices without preinstalling any Google apps. If OEMs choose to preinstall Google mobile apps, the MADA (Mobile Application Distribution Agreement) allows OEMs to preinstall a suite of Google mobile apps and services referred to as Google Mobile Services (GMS),” said Google in response.

The second allegation is that Google is bundling its apps and services in a way that they are able to talk to each other. “This conduct illegally prevented the development and market access of rival applications and services in violation of Section 4 read with Section 32 of the Act,” the trio wrote.

This also does not seem accurate. Very much every Android app is capable of talking to one another through APIs. Additionally, defunct software firm Cyanogen partnered with Microsoft to “deeply integrate” Cortana into its Android phones — replacing Google Assistant as the default virtual voice assistant. So it is unclear what advantage Google has here.

Google’s response: “This preinstallation obligation is limited in scope. It was pointed out that preinstalled Google app icons take up very little screen space. OEMs can and do use the remaining space to preinstall and promote both their own, and third-party apps. It was also submitted that the MADA preinstallation conditions are not exclusive. Nor are they exclusionary. The MADA leaves OEMs free to preinstall rival apps and offer them the same or even superior placement.”

The third accusation is that Google prevents smartphone and tablet manufacturers in India from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android on other devices.

This is also arguably incorrect. Micromax, which once held tentpole position among smartphone vendors in India, partnered with Cyanogen in their heyday to launch and market Android smartphones running customized operating system. Chinese smartphone vendor OnePlus followed the same path briefly.

Google’s response: “Android users have considerable freedom to customise their phones and to install apps that compete with Google’s. Consumers can quickly and easily move or disable preinstalled apps, including Google’s apps. Disabling an app makes it disappear from the device screen, prevents it from running, and frees up device memory – while still allowing the user to restore the app at a later time or to factory reset the device to its original state.”

Additionally, Google says it requires OEMs to “adhere to, a minimum baseline compatibility standard” for Android called Compatibility Definition Document (COD) to ensure that apps written for Android run on their phones. Otherwise, this risks creating a “threat to the viability and quality of the platform.”

“If companies make changes to the Android source code that create incompatibilities, apps written for Android will not run on these incompatible variants. As a result, fewer developers will write apps for Android, threatening to make Android less attractive to users and, in turn, even fewer developers will support Android,” the company said.

The antitrust is ongoing, but based on an initial probe on the case, CCI has found that Google has “reduced the ability and incentive of device manufacturers to develop and sell devices” running Android forks, the watchdog said. Google’s condition to include “the entire GMS suite” to devices from OEMs that have opted for full-blown version of Android, amounts to “imposition of unfair condition on the device manufacturers,” the watchdog added.

The document also reveals that Google has provided CCI with some additional responses that have been kept confidential. A Google spokesperson declined to comment.

India’s Android antitrust case against Google may have some holes

India ordered an investigation into Google’s alleged abuse of Android’s dominance in the country to hurt local rivals in April. A document made public by the local antitrust watchdog has now further revealed the nature of the allegations and identified the people who filed the complaint.

Umar Javeed, Sukarma Thapar, two associates at Competition Commission of India — and Aaqib Javeed, brother of Umar who interned at the watchdog last year, filed the complaint, the document revealed. The revelation puts an end to months-long interest from industry executives, many of whom wondered if a major corporation was behind it.

The allegations

The case, filed against Google’s global unit and Indian arm on April 16 this year, makes several allegations including the possibility that Google used Android’s dominant position in India to hurt local companies. The accusation is that Google requires handset and tablet vendors to pre-install its own applications or services if they wish to get the full-blown version of Android . Google’s Android mobile operating system powered more than 98% of smartphones that shipped in the country last year, research firm Counterpoint said.

This accusation is partly true, if at all. To be sure, Google does offer a “bare Android” version, which a smartphone vendor could use and then they wouldn’t need to pre-install Google Mobile Services (GMS). Though by doing so, they will also lose access to Google Play Store, which is the largest app store in the Android ecosystem. Additionally, phone vendors do partner with other companies to pre-install their applications. In India itself, most Android phones sold by Amazon India and Flipkart include a suite of their apps preloaded on the them.

“OEMs can offer Android devices without preinstalling any Google apps. If OEMs choose to preinstall Google mobile apps, the MADA (Mobile Application Distribution Agreement) allows OEMs to preinstall a suite of Google mobile apps and services referred to as Google Mobile Services (GMS),” said Google in response.

The second allegation is that Google is bundling its apps and services in a way that they are able to talk to each other. “This conduct illegally prevented the development and market access of rival applications and services in violation of Section 4 read with Section 32 of the Act,” the trio wrote.

This also does not seem accurate. Very much every Android app is capable of talking to one another through APIs. Additionally, defunct software firm Cyanogen partnered with Microsoft to “deeply integrate” Cortana into its Android phones — replacing Google Assistant as the default virtual voice assistant. So it is unclear what advantage Google has here.

Google’s response: “This preinstallation obligation is limited in scope. It was pointed out that preinstalled Google app icons take up very little screen space. OEMs can and do use the remaining space to preinstall and promote both their own, and third-party apps. It was also submitted that the MADA preinstallation conditions are not exclusive. Nor are they exclusionary. The MADA leaves OEMs free to preinstall rival apps and offer them the same or even superior placement.”

The third accusation is that Google prevents smartphone and tablet manufacturers in India from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android on other devices.

This is also arguably incorrect. Micromax, which once held tentpole position among smartphone vendors in India, partnered with Cyanogen in their heyday to launch and market Android smartphones running customized operating system. Chinese smartphone vendor OnePlus followed the same path briefly.

Google’s response: “Android users have considerable freedom to customise their phones and to install apps that compete with Google’s. Consumers can quickly and easily move or disable preinstalled apps, including Google’s apps. Disabling an app makes it disappear from the device screen, prevents it from running, and frees up device memory – while still allowing the user to restore the app at a later time or to factory reset the device to its original state.”

Additionally, Google says it requires OEMs to “adhere to, a minimum baseline compatibility standard” for Android called Compatibility Definition Document (COD) to ensure that apps written for Android run on their phones. Otherwise, this risks creating a “threat to the viability and quality of the platform.”

“If companies make changes to the Android source code that create incompatibilities, apps written for Android will not run on these incompatible variants. As a result, fewer developers will write apps for Android, threatening to make Android less attractive to users and, in turn, even fewer developers will support Android,” the company said.

The antitrust is ongoing, but based on an initial probe on the case, CCI has found that Google has “reduced the ability and incentive of device manufacturers to develop and sell devices” running Android forks, the watchdog said. Google’s condition to include “the entire GMS suite” to devices from OEMs that have opted for full-blown version of Android, amounts to “imposition of unfair condition on the device manufacturers,” the watchdog added.

The document also reveals that Google has provided CCI with some additional responses that have been kept confidential. A Google spokesperson declined to comment.

The startups creating the future of RegTech and financial services

Technology has been used to manage regulatory risk since the advent of the ledger book (or the Bloomberg terminal, depending on your reference point). However, the cost-consciousness internalized by banks during the 2008 financial crisis combined with more robust methods of analyzing large datasets has spurred innovation and increased efficiency by automating tasks that previously required manual reviews and other labor-intensive efforts.

So even if RegTech wasn’t born during the financial crisis, it was probably old enough to drive a car by 2008. The intervening 11 years have seen RegTech’s scope and influence grow.

RegTech startups targeting financial services, or FinServ for short, require very different growth strategies — even compared to other enterprise software companies. From a practical perspective, everything from the security requirements influencing software architecture and development to the sales process are substantially different for FinServ RegTechs.

The most successful RegTechs are those that draw on expertise from security-minded engineers, FinServ-savvy sales staff as well as legal and compliance professionals from the industry. FinServ RegTechs have emerged in a number of areas due to the increasing directives emanating from financial regulators.

This new crop of startups performs sophisticated background checks and transaction monitoring for anti-money laundering purposes pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act, the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) and FINRA rules; tracks supervision requirements and retention for electronic communications under FINRA, SEC, and CFTC regulations; as well as monitors information security and privacy laws from the EU, SEC, and several US state regulators such as the New York Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”).

In this article, we’ll examine RegTech startups in these three fields to determine how solutions have been structured to meet regulatory demand as well as some of the operational and regulatory challenges they face.

Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering

Superhuman removes email location logging, will turn read receipts off by default

Superhuman, the buzzy and currently invite-only email startup that you might have come across even if you yourself don’t have access if you’ve ever encountered a “Sent via Superhuman” email signature, is making some changes based on community feedback. These include removing location logging altogether, getting rid of all existing location data and turning off read receipts by default and making them an opt-in feature for users.

The email app’s default email tracking behavior (embedding the commonly used advertising tool of a “pixel” in emails to report back to senders info like whether an email’s been opened or not) raised a number of concerns, centered around this blog post by former Twitter design executive Mike Davidson. Davidson’s post generated a lot of community response, and now Superhuman founder Rahul Vohra has issued a response to that response, including a list of actions that his company is taking to address concerns. Specifically, Superhuman’s product changes are focused around mitigating the potential for abuse of sharing location data – which could be very dangerous in the hands of a sender with ill intent for their recipient.

These include immediately stopping any location logging for any emails sent by the service, and also rolling out new versions of the app that don’t show location data in the interface. All existing logged location data will also be deleted so it’s not even discoverable through means other than the UI, Vohra says in a blog post detailing the changes.

Superhuman won’t be getting rid of its “read status” feature entirely however — it’ll still provide info to Superhuman users about whether or not an email was opened. This feature will be turned off by default, however, so it’s on users to activate it. Note that that still doesn’t change anything for recipients of Superhuman emails with read receipts turned on — they don’t get an option to consent to sending read receipts. Finally, Superhuman will enable disabling of remote image loading, which is itself a way to block incoming tracking pixels.

Vohra said on Twitter the reason Superhuman hasn’t issued a response to this previously, despite a few days of heated conversation about their company, is that the startup was considering how best to address the concerns. As Matthew noted in an article Tuesday on the subject, this is actually how discussion and debate should work.