Is the tech talent crunch really over? Twitter’s commitment to privacy on an international level expires and a Canadian retail icon puts humanoid robots to the test in its stores.
Welcome to Hashtag Trending for Friday, March 10th.
I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US – here’s today’s top tech news stories.
Is the talent crunch over?
With the number of layoffs that have been announced in the tech industry, it could be tempting to think that the resource crunch, the great shortage of tech talent – might indeed be over.
According to US outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the tech industry led the way in layoffs in the US in February, trimming 21,000 jobs, which is 28 per cent of all layoffs and job cuts in the US. That’s a substantial amount, but it’s still a big improvement from January where close to 40,000 jobs were lost according to the same report.
And we’ve all heard about huge and potentially ongoing savaging of the workforces at Meta, Twitter and other firms.
But according to Mbula Schoen a senior director at research firm Gartner Inc. – “the tech talent crunch is far from over.” Her recent report notes that “current demand for tech talent greatly outstrips supply,” and the firm, which is known for its predictions, expects that this will be the case until 2026 based on forecasts that they have of IT spending.
The report also details that those who are being laid off in the tech industry are largely from business functions, rather than those in tech roles. Further, she states, that there are an increasing number of opportunities for IT jobs outside the large tech companies.
What accounts for these reductions? According to Schoen’s report, many of the reductions in the last few months were “driven by public companies seeking to optimize share prices and to satisfy shareholder’s desire for reduced spending.
And while these layoffs have been thought of as a necessary adjustment after an “overly-optimistic” hiring spree during COVID crisis, Schoen’s report say that the data shows that “new hires were not necessarily impacted.”
The report further notes that the layoffs were more indicative of organizations prioritizing key products and services – a strategic adjustment versus a total cutback.
Further, Gartner research shows that “companies behind the 10 largest layoffs in tech talent still employ 150,000 more people in total than at the beginning of 2020.
Moreover, the report notes that companies, and CIOs in particular are struggling to find and hold key talent. It advises that companies need to revise their value proposition and spread their net wider to non-traditional areas in order to attract and retain the talent they need.
It’s a warning that they should heed. Organizations that have been struggling to compete for resources – like the U.S. Pentagon are stepping up and offering new levels of job flexibility and other perks to attract and hold some of the tech talent that might be looking for something different in the workplace.
Microsoft’s search engine Bing is now attracting 100 million daily active users a month, since the launch of it’s AI chatbot, according to Yusu Mehi, Microsoft’s VP for Modern Live, Search and devices. Microsoft acknowledges that Bing’s share of the search market is still in the single digits, it held less than a 5 per cent share last year, but a rough back of the envelope calculation that this new trend, if maintained, would more than double its best showing for any month of 2022.
Bing’s mobile search, according to Microsoft, has shown a sixfold increase since the addition of the AI component.
It’s clearly attracting new users for the first time. Mehdi noted that one-third of Bing’s daily active users are new. Further, Microsoft is also reporting that there is are strong growth in engagement, with people conducting more searchers.
While Microsoft attributes part of this to the increase in users and market share for their new Edge browser, the real story is undoubtedly the AI chatbot addition that has made Bing’s search results more relevant and more interesting.
On average, Microsoft is seeing three chats per session and over 15 per cent of these sessions are asking Bing to generate new content. And in looking at these numbers, we have to remember that Bing’s new search is still not available to everyone.
Clearly, despite the stumbles, issues and the reported “hallucinations” of Sydney, the name that someone thought was a excellent name for an AI entity – Microsoft has given its search engine a real boost and for the first time, has shown itself as a potential threat to the dominance of Google’s search engine.
But before you start saying “Bing” it or “Sydney” it, we shouldn’t count Google out of the running because of its own false start with its – Bard AI. Google’s staff are doubtlessly working overtime to get the Bard launched and competing with Bing.
So is it Bard or Bing? Nobody is certain except of one thing. With all that artificial intelligence, couldn’t we have come up with better names?
This Twitter outage has some real impact.
We’ve covered a couple of major Twitter outages in North America, but one that’s flown under the radar has a major impact. Twitter’s Tor and onion browser-based service uses this anonymous browser, the same tools that hackers use on the dark web, to make Twitter available in countries where the social network is banned.
Why did it go off the air? Apparently, according to an article in Tech Crunch, Twitter’s Tor service has gone dark because Twitter has failed to renew its certificate. The certificate for Twitter’s onion site expired on March 6th just before the first anniversary of the Tor project.
Pavel Zoneff, director of strategic communications at the Tor Project, the nonprofit organization behind the anonymous global network, told TechCrunch that the site “is no longer available seemingly with no plans to renew.”
But even if you go past the warning that the certificate has expired and that you are on an unsafe site, you see a Twitter error page, indicating perhaps, that Elon Musk’s commitment to privacy and free speech may not extend to those who need it the most.
Facebook, the BBC and even Tech Crunch are among a list of companies that do maintain accessible sites and there is a link to a full list in the text of this article on itworldcanada.com
Grammarly gets an AI boost
The ubiquitous app Grammarly that reminds us when to put the apostrophe In its editing of our text has been updated with new generative AI functionality. The new tool is called GrammarlyGo and will be available to most users in April.
“Rahul Roy-Chodhur, Grammarly’s global head of product, explained the impetus behind the new functionality in a blog post. “Poor communication erodes relationships, stifles business growth and results, and slows feedback loops that devour our time, just to name a few effects.” He further quoted research the company did with The Harris Poll last year, which “established that poor communication costs US businesses up to $1.2 trillion annually — or $12,506 per employee.”
In addition to correcting your grammar and spelling, GrammarlyGo will make suggestions for how to improve your writing including how to change the tone for difference scenarios and audiences. Using generative AI allows it to understand situational context and make suggestions to get the right messaging in different circumstances.
It will also generate outlines and ideas – a one-click cure for writer’s block.
GrammarlyGo will be available with the company’s premium product lines and will also be made available to some selected Grammarly Free users.
Canadian Tire Corporation that became famous for its tools for home and auto repair has launched a new futuristic technology for its stores.
The company has been testing a pilot using humanoid robots in it’s Mark’s work warehouse clothing chain. The robots, referred to in an article in the Register as “mechanical interns” were tasked with 110 different retail tasks in the front and back of the store. They picked and packed merchandise, filled shelves on the floor, cleaned, tagged, labelled and more.
The devices were first trained by their creators, Vancouver based Sanctuary AI in lab which in a replica of the store.
And while the robots were under the control and guidance of human operators, Geordie Rose, co-founder and CEO of Sanctuary AI, was encouraged by their performance. He reported that the robots performed “many necessary but rudimentary tasks that people note finding unsatisfying or unfavorable.”
The robots are humanoid, right down to having hands that allow them to perform relatively delicate tasks.
So are these new robots a threat to retail jobs? Or do they just perform the work that humans don’t find interesting, allowing staff to focus more on customer service and sales?
Part of that will depend on the cost. On this point, Ben Reed, chief marketing officer at Sanctuary AI is a little less clear. The Register reported that he said in an email, “Our model is focused on providing labor as a service to customers. The hourly pricing varies from business to business and the complexity of the tasks needing to be performed.”
Source: The Register
Those are the top tech news stories for today
Links to these stories can be found in the article posted on itworldcanada.com/podcasts. You can also find more great stories and more in-depth coverage in itworldcanada.com or in the US at Technewsday.com
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I’m your host Jim Love – Have a Fantastic Friday!