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The Week in Mobile: September 25 – October 1, 2016

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Tech giants form AI partnership, iMessage App Store gains traction, Google and Apple to challenge Amazon’s Echo and more

Each week we round up the top news stories, think pieces and other content that centers on the fast-paced, quickly changing world of mobile technology. We tell you which companies are employing clever mobile strategies, illuminate new ways of thinking about mobile and offer a peek at meaningful trends in the industry. This content is designed to inspire you and your company to take advantage of the many benefits mobile can offer.

Tech Giants Form AI Partnership

Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft have come together to form the “Partnership on AI”. The group’s intent is to educate the general public about artificial intelligence, set best practices, discuss challenges and explore opportunities. As major players in the AI space, it appears these companies have come together largely to dispel user concerns and set ethical guidelines. A representative from each company will sit on the board, along with a handful of members from non-profit, academic and policy communities. Noticeably absent, is participation from Apple, who has recently made a number of PR moves to highlight its use of AI in the face of claims it has fallen behind in the emerging space.

Apple’s iMessage App Store Growth

With the launch of iOS 10, iMessage has moved closer to becoming a full blown platform, which is already gaining significant traction among developers. After just over a week since launch, Apple’s iMessage App Store is home to over 1,650 apps. Although the majority of iMessage apps are sticker packs, there are over 400 that bring games, transportation, movie times and more onto the iMessage platform.

Google and Apple to Challenge Amazon’s Echo

Amazon’s voice-activated home assistant, Echo, is about to face some new rivals. During Google’s I/O conference in May, the company introduced its own home assistant product. The device, called Home Hub, is now expected to launch to the general public during Google’s October 4 event. What’s more, Apple is reportedly taking its own smart-home device from research to prototyping. Apple’s take on the home assistant will be powered by Siri and, like its competitors, will act as an omni-present control for various IoT devices in the home.

Uber Ups Security with Image Recognition

Uber is beefing up security by using mobile image recognition to verify a driver’s identity before they begin their shift. Now, drivers will be prompted to take a selfie on their device before they pick up their first passenger for the day. Facial recognition software compares the selfie to records on file to confirm each driver’s identity. If the image checks out, the Uber app will start pulling up passengers. Otherwise, the driver will be temporarily suspended while Uber confirms the driver’s identity.

Skype Takes Advantage of iOS 10 SiriKit

Following the launch of iOS 10, Skype has updated its app to take advantage of Apple’s newly released SiriKit API, which allows developers to incorporate Siri capabilities into their own apps. Users can now initiate Skype calls directly through Siri. What’s more, by leveraging iOS 10’s CallKit, users can receive Skype calls when outside of the app and they will appear just like a normal iOS call. These updates provide a more seamless user experience and allow users to tap into Skype functionality without ever opening the Skype app.

Facebook at Work to Launch in October

Facebook’s enterprise communication platform will launch on October 10 at an event in London. The platform, called Facebook at Work, was first introduced in 2014 and has since been in closed beta testing. Facebook at Work will finally make its public debut, entering a crowded space led by platforms like Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce Chatter and Slack.

Blackberry Gives Up on Smartphone Production

Blackberry is finally throwing in the towel on smartphone production. The company says it will now outsource phone production in order to shift focus to software development, where the company has seen more success in recent years. The move comes as no surprise, given Blackberry has long been in the shadows of its competitors — namely Apple and Samsung — when it comes to device sales. Not only will Blackberry be able to turn its attention to software, but it will hopefully be more likely to turn a profit with production in the hands of overseas partners.

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