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Microsoft Edge for iOS and Android adds single sign-in, can now block Chrome and Safari access to some apps

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Firefox and Edge to add Google’s WebP image format
WebP image format gets new life courtesy of Microsoft and Mozilla. Apple is last browser maker without WebP support.

Microsoft is making it easier for users of its Edge browser for iOS and Android to access applications via single sign-on, while give tools to administrators to prevent these workers from using Safari or Chrome to access some enterprise apps.  

The mobile version of Edge for iOS and Android now supports “conditional access” protection and single sign-on, making it more attractive for enterprises to deploy Microsoft’s mobile Edge as the go-to browser for accessing web apps, assuming they’re connected to Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory or Azure AD. 

According to Microsoft, the browser now comes with the same application management and security capabilities that once required an Intune Managed Browser. 

The single sign-on component means workers can more easily access apps such as Microsoft Outlook as well as web apps that are connected to Azure AD, be they software-as-a-service (SaaS) or on-premise delivered. 

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

This means workers only need to sign-in to an Azure AD-connected web app once and don’t need to enter their credentials again afterwards. Instead they would use the Microsoft Authenticator app on iOS or the Intune Company Portal app on Android. 

On an iPhone, users will be able to sign-in to multiple Azure AD-connected apps in one go, assuming they support single sign-on. Users are prompted to register their device in order to sign-in to the accounts.  

The conditional access component means that organizations can mandate that workers use a Microsoft Intune protected browser such as Edge by using “application-based conditional access policies”. 

In short, admins can prevent workers from using Chrome or Safari to access specified enterprise web apps in order to prevent what Microsoft says is the risk of data leakage from “unprotected browsers”.   

“You can now enforce policy-managed Microsoft Edge as the approved mobile browser to access Azure AD-connected web apps, restricting the use of unprotected browsers like Safari or Chrome,” Microsoft explains.  

“This allows you to secure access and prevent data leakage via unprotected browser applications. A similar protection can be applied to Office 365 services like Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, the Office portal, and access to on-premises (intranet) sites via the Azure AD Application Proxy.

“Users attempting to use unmanaged browsers such as Safari and Chrome will be prompted to open Microsoft Edge instead. On first attempt, users will be prompted to install the Microsoft Authenticator on iOS or the Intune Company Portal on Android.”

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Geek+ raises another $100M for its warehouse robots – TechCrunch

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Two things are for certain: 1) There continues to be a lot of excitement around warehouse robotics and 2) Geek+ is extremely good at raising money based on that fact. The Beijing-based warehouse robotics firm just raised another $100 million in funding, labeled a “Series E1,” with participation from Intel Capital, Vertex Growth and Qingyue Capital Investment.

The last time we wrote about the company was still fairly early on in the pandemic — June 2020 — when it had just raised a $200 million Series C. Meantime, the company raised an undisclosed Series D last year. Certainly there’s no lack of investor interest in the firm at the moment, with this most recent round valuing Geek+ at somewhere around $2 billion.

I’d say it’s probably a good idea to get funding while the funding’s good. While the space will almost certainly continue to grow, there’s likely to be a bit of a correction here, as investments respond to broader market trends. Meanwhile, Geek+ is posting impressive numbers, including $150 million in revenue last year, coupled with $300 million in orders. As pandemic waves continue to result in shutdowns in China and elsewhere, it’s easy to see why companies continue investing in these technologies.

Geek+ mentions “global expansion” as one of the primary motivators for its seeking additional funding. Notably, fellow Beijing-based firm, ForwardX Robotics expanded into the U.S. earlier this month, on the heels of its own Series C. In July, Geek+ announced deployments in both North and South America. The firm also has multiple partner deals in Europe.

“With the first-mover advantage, Geek+ has already developed a solid competitive advantage in global markets, bringing in a constant driving force for business development,” Geek+ founder and CEO Yong Zheng said in a release. “This, coupled with our three technology pillars of robotics, systems, and algorithms, has not only allowed Geek+ to develop a full product line, but also improve R&D efficiency while reducing R&D costs.”

Of course, stateside expansion finds the companies competing with an already crowded market of domestic warehouse robotics firms that offer a variety of both greenfield and brownfield solutions for automating the warehouse space. Geek+ produces a variety of different robotics systems, though at its core, the company offers a Kiva-style wheeled robot designed to cart around inventory shelves.

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WhatsApp is adding new privacy options, including screenshot blocking and a stealth mode – TechCrunch

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WhatsApp is introducing a small flurry of privacy-minded tweaks into the messaging app, the company announced on Tuesday. The Meta-owned globally ubiquitous messaging service says the changes aim to give users more control over their experience while introducing “added layers” to protect their private communications.

WhatsApp will introduce an option for users to privately use the app without being visibly online, something it calls “online presence control.” The feature, which rolls out to everyone this month, will let WhatsApp users curate which contacts can see their online status while hiding it from others. The list of contacts who can view your online status doesn’t have a cap and you can swap people in and out at any time. The company says that the update will come to both its desktop and mobile app offerings.

The company is also testing screenshot blocking for “view once” messages, which disappear after being opened a single time. WhatsApp introduced a disappearing media option a year ago, reminding users at the time that they wouldn’t be able to know if the recipient was saving any shared photos and videos as screenshots. The feature is in testing for now but the company hopes to get it out to users broadly “soon.” (It’s worth remembering that anyone can still take a photo of their screen with a different device, which should make you think twice about getting too comfy on apps with disappearing messaging.)

The last change is another small quality of life update, but a notable enough one. This month, WhatsApp will allow users to leave groups privately without sending out a mass notification that they bailed. Group admins will still get notified, but generally this change should make moving through groups on the app more fluid and less awkward. This change will also roll out to both the desktop and mobile version of the app.

WhatsApp Head of Product Ami Vora described the additions as a boost to the app’s “interlocking layers of protection,” which aim to bolster its status as a prominent encrypted messaging option.

The company has made other efforts over the years. Last fall, it closed one possible weak spot in its encrypted messaging service, adding end-to-end encryption for backups stored in the cloud.

“We’ll keep building new ways to protect your messages and keep them as private and secure as face-to-face conversation,” Meta Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said of the new features.

The company’s own messaging isn’t always as tight though: A confusing privacy policy update in early 2021 prompted a backlash, sending users to rival apps. That same update is still reverberating more than a year later, and the European Commission launched a formal investigation into its concerns about the app’s consumer protections earlier this year.

 

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Big funds ‘screwing with Series A market but not seed market’ says veteran VC Mike Hirshland – TechCrunch

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Mike Hirshland is enjoying 2022. Despite the market’s zigs and zags, he has spent much of his time this past summer in Rhode Island, where relatives from afar have gathered on and off for an extended family reunion. He and partner Raanan Bar-Cohen were also able to close their fifth fund with $150 million in capital commitments at winter’s end —  ahead of the stock market collapse that would follow. Indeed, the two now have around $375 million in assets under management at their 11-year-old venture firm, Resolute Ventures.

Yet another reason to feel cheery is what’s happening at their stage of the market, where after a rapid run-up, valuations are slowly but surely coming back down to earth, suggests Hirshland. He says that while Resolute’s pace has been “remarkably consistent,” leading to roughly 10 investments each year that draw initial checks from the firm in the $1 million to $1.5 million range, the “biggest departure” in its history was last year. It was then that both round sizes and valuations ballooned, prompting the firm to write bigger checks while also forcing it to walk away from “really big, really pricey seed rounds” with valuations so lofty that Hirshland feared their next round would be problematic.

That’s not to say it’s all been a walk in the park. Some of Resolute’s best-performing portfolio companies, including Opendoor and Bark & Co., have had their struggles since going public through tie-ups with special purpose acquisition companies.

Another of Resolute’s bets, Clutter — which is also backed by Sequoia Capital and SoftBank — has also found it harder to grow its business than it might have imagined earlier. The outfit merged with a rival in February to bolster its odds of succeeding, but Hirshland, who remains “quite bullish” on Clutter, admits that it isn’t always easy to profitably “move atoms.”

What is not a concern for Hirshland, he insists, is competition. He says Resolute backs founders based largely on their vision and the firm’s belief that the team can build something compelling. (“I’m essentially indifferent if it’s day 1 or day 365, when they can show me some code,” he says.) He argues that other firms, no matter their public messaging, aren’t quite as open-minded, especially not right now.

In fact, asked about later-stage firms like Tiger Global and Insight Partners that have been shifting more of their attention to younger startups, Hirshland, talking with TechCrunch over Zoom, shrugs his shoulders. “Big funds are really screwing with the Series A market,” he says, “but in the seed market, we’re not seeing these guys come that far down.”

Even if they did, adds Hirshland, it wouldn’t last long. “You always see firms announce these big seed initiatives because when things get competitive, people move earlier. But when the shit hits the fan, they go back to focusing on their bread and butter and the cycle just continues.”

Resolute has so far invested roughly $10 million in initial checks from its newest fund. Some of its more recent investments include Signl, a startup that sells business intelligence tools to investors and whose founders sold an earlier company, Bitium, to Google in 2017.

Resolute also recently invested in Nobl9, a so-called service level objective platform whose founders also sold a previous company (Orbitera) to Google.

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