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Power

Google wants to bring back the enterprise web application — with Chrome at the center

The Modern Computing Alliance includes 11 prominent tech companies that have agreed to design their products to work better together as part of a new effort to resurrect web applications.

Google wants to bring back the enterprise web application — with Chrome at the center

The alliance members have pledged to devote engineering time toward making their products work better together.

Image: Google

After a year during which businesses embraced cloud-based enterprise software at an astounding pace, Google wants to make its Chrome browser and Chrome OS devices the preferred vehicle for a new way of working.

Google has assembled 11 enterprise tech companies in the Modern Computing Alliance, which will be unveiled Thursday. The idea behind the alliance is to encourage enterprise software vendors to work closely with Google and Intel to improve the performance of their services on Chrome and Chrome OS, and also resurrect the concept of "progressive web applications," said John Solomon, vice president for Chrome OS at Google.

"We've realized that the demands for computing are becoming increasingly complex," Solomon said in an interview with Protocol. "Many systems today are not optimized for all-day videoconferencing in a rich application environment, and that is because the end-to-end systems are not designed with that in mind."

The alliance members have pledged to devote engineering time toward making their products work better together, said Chris Walker, vice president and general manager for mobile client platforms at Intel, an inaugural member.

"This is an engineering-first work group," Walker said. Solomon agreed: "There's a tremendous opportunity [in just] performance improvements, not to mention security improvements."

Many of the enterprise tools embraced by remote workers this year — including alliance members Zoom, Slack and Box — are used through desktop or mobile apps on Macs, PCs, iPhones and Android devices. Through the alliance, Google wants to encourage software vendors to build web applications as performant and easy-to-use as their desktop alternatives — so long as Chrome or Chrome OS is the target.

"If an enterprise decides that they want to use Chrome OS to modernize their endpoint computers, we want to make sure that the applications they run today run unbelievably well from a performance perspective, from a security perspective, [including] identity and infrastructure," Solomon said.

About a decade ago, progressive web applications were considered the path forward for mobile developers looking to avoid creating two different applications for iOS and Android, but they never really caught on. Back in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg actually considered the time spent trying to develop a web application "the biggest mistake we've made as a company."

But a lot of things have changed this year. Companies are relying on cloud enterprise software for just about everything right now; meetings that used to take place in conference rooms without devices are now being conducted entirely online. And IT controls designed for physical networks and buildings don't work when we're working from home.

Standardizing on Chrome or Chrome OS apps developed through the alliance will give IT departments better data about how their workers are using their tools, as well as "recommendations on how to optimize workflow experiences and automate repetitive tasks, to facilitate improved system efficiency," according to a Google blog post.

"The web has come a long way," Solomon said. "The technologies available with Service Workers, and the way Chromium [the open-source version of Chrome] has come along, the web platform has developed so much that you're seeing progressive web apps now that are performing across areas no one could have imagined."

The other companies participating in the Modern Computing Alliance include Box, Citrix, Dell, Imprivata, Okta, RingCentral, Slack, VMware and Zoom. More details are expected to be released in the first half of 2021 on products co-developed through the alliance, and Google is actively soliciting other companies to join.

Correction: This article was updated at 1:01 p.m. PT to correct Chris Walker's title.

Power

Yes, GameStop is a content moderation issue for Reddit

The same tools that can be used to build mass movements can be used by bad actors to manipulate the masses later on. Consider Reddit warned.

WallStreetBets' behavior may not be illegal. But that doesn't mean it's not a problem for Reddit.

Image: Omar Marques/Getty Images

The Redditors who are driving up the cost of GameStop stock just to pwn the hedge funds that bet on its demise may not be breaking the law. But this show of force by the subreddit r/WallStreetBets still represents a new and uncharted front in the evolution of content moderation on social media platforms.

In a statement to Protocol, a Reddit spokesperson said the company's site-wide policies "prohibit posting illegal content or soliciting or facilitating illegal transactions. We will review and cooperate with valid law enforcement investigations or actions as needed."

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
Protocol | Enterprise

SAP unveiled a big sales promo. It's a bid to juice cloud customer numbers.

The move is the culmination of CEO Christian Klein's efforts to turn around the German software giant.

SAP unveiled "RISE with SAP" on Wednesday.

Image: SAP

SAP CEO Christian Klein is trying out a major sales gambit in his attempt to get more customers onboard the software giant's signature cloud platform.

A new offer unveiled on Wednesday called "RISE with SAP" bundles together several products, including the flagship S/4 HANA platform, under one contract with a flat cost, a promotion that the company is hoping will encourage more users to more quickly switch from the on-premise services that dominated the company's product line until the last few years.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Microsoft wants to replace artists with AI

Better Zoom calls, simpler email attachments, smart iPhone cases and other patents from Big Tech.

Turning your stories into images.

Image: USPTO/Microsoft

Hello and welcome to 2021! The Big Tech patent roundup is back, after a short vacation and … all the things … that happened between the start of the year and now. It seems the tradition of tech companies filing weird and wonderful patents has carried into the new year; there are some real gems from the last few weeks. Microsoft is trying to outsource all creative endeavors to AI; Apple wants to make seat belts less annoying; and Amazon wants to cut down on some of the recyclable waste that its own success has inevitably created.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Protocol | China

More women are joining China's tech elite, but 'Wolf Culture' isn't going away

It turns out getting rid of misogyny in Chinese tech isn't just a numbers game.

Chinese tech companies that claim to value female empowerment may act differently behind closed doors.

Photo: Qilai Shen/Getty Images

A woman we'll call Fan had heard about the men of Alibaba before she joined its high-profile affiliate about three years ago. Some of them were "greasy," she said, to use a Chinese term often describing middle-aged men with poor boundaries. Fan tells Protocol that lewd conversations were omnipresent at team meetings and private events, and even women would feel compelled to crack off-color jokes in front of the men. Some male supervisors treated younger female colleagues like personal assistants.

Within six months, despite the cachet the lucrative job carried, Fan wanted to quit.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a Reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

People

Google's union has big goals — and big roadblocks

Absence of dues, retaliation fears and small numbers could pose problems for the union's dream of collective bargaining, but Googlers are undeterred.

Recruiting union members beyond the early adopters has had its challenges.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images

When the Alphabet Workers Union launched with more than 200 Googlers at the beginning of the year, it saw a quick flood of new sign-ups, nearly quadrupling membership over a few weeks. But even with the more than 710 members it now represents, the union still stands for just a tiny fraction of Google's more than 200,000 North American employees and contractors. The broader Alphabet workforce could prove difficult to win over, which is a hurdle that could stand in the way of the group's long-term ambitions for substantive culture change and even collective bargaining.

The initial boom of interest from Googlers was thrilling for Alex Peterson, a software engineer and union spokesperson. "It's really reinvigorating what it means to actually be a community of Googlers, which is something that's been eroding over the past four or five years, or even longer."

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (@ anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

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