Microsoft-Coronavirus Changes to Work Permanent; Teen iPhone Ownership All Time High; Facial Recognition Gaining on Masked Faces; Disney + Passes New Milestone

It’s not only Zoom (with related security issues) that has seen an enormous leap in usage….so has Microsoft Teams with its built in video for meetings. Theverge.com reports that Microsoft has seen a 200% bump in use since mid March. They are up from 900 million minutes a day to 2.7 billion meeting minutes! In fact, they saw an increase from 32 million daily active users to 44 million in just a week last month. Microsoft has scaled up server space for Stream, and has opened up the limit from 10,000 participants to 100,000! Microsoft believes this will become the new normal. They are predicting that companies will have to change it up, and have some people come in to the office on X days and others on Y days, with many working from home the majority of the time. They point to China, where the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, but they are still seeing double the active daily Teams users. We’ve covered Zoom, but besides it and Microsoft, Google and Slack have also seen huge bumps in usage.

The iPhone continues to dominate the teen category, with some 85% of teens surveyed by Piper Sandler owning iPhones (or more accurately their parents owning them!), and 88% expecting an iPhone to be their next phone. According to macrumors.com, the figure is up 2% from last year. 8% said they planned to get an Android, down from 10% a year ago. The new version of the cheaper iPhone SE could push Apple’s penetration into the teen market past 90%. This survey of teens has been done annually since 2001.

There has been a lot of scary stuff going on in facial recognition…as we noted in a story yesterday about a company that has scraped billions of pics from the net to go into a database they sell to law enforcement. A new wrinkle is all the mask wearing due to the coronavirus. Venturebeat.com says Google’s facial recognition system to unlock thePixel 4 is designed to recognize an owner and open even if they have on sunglasses, or have shaved or grown a beard, but it is totally worthless when someone is wearing a mask due to the coronavirus. Apple’s Face ID is similarly confounded. With Apple, you can make an additional account and train the iPhone to recognize you with the mask on, as it can do so with just the top half of your face. Photos in the police database of companies like Clearview AI can’t fare any better than the phones, with people all walking around in masks. Now, they are scrambling to build work arounds which they hope will get them to the claimed 95% accuracy (which is pretty dubious….most experts say none of the large database systems are into the 90% accuracy range yet…most are in the mid to upper 80s. If you are rocking a Pixel or you have an iPhone and don’t want to teach it to recognize you with the mask, just go back to using the password unlock for now. This is one situation where fingerprint ID systems on phones may surge in popularity!

Only active since last fall, Disney Plus has now passed 50 million subscribers. That number has also increased dramatically from just two months ago when the House of Mouse reported 22 million subscribers. According to theverge.com, this comes on the heels of adding service in the UK, India, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland. This is massive growth, and a big user base, but it is still dwarfed by Netflix, with their 167 million subscribers. Disney owned Hulu has 30 million users, but that is US only for now. The streaming service couldn’t be more timely, with theatrical releases on hold and the parks closed, Disney has been able to release Frozen 2 and Onward to streaming to help push subscribership.



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