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Microsoft Challenges Slack with New Office Chat App



REDMOND, WASH.—In the last couple of years at Microsoft, some old habits have been tossed away, like obsessively placing Windows software at the centre of all the company’s big bets. But the company would still dig trenches to protect Office, its $23-billion-a-year software franchise.

Microsoft this week took the wraps off Microsoft Teams, an addition to the Office package that will allow professionals to huddle virtually with colleagues in private chat rooms to talk about anything from work projects to where to get lunch.

If you think Microsoft Teams sounds a little like Slack, the relatively new chat service that has pulses pounding among Silicon Valley investors and customers, you would be correct.

In fact, if this were 1997, a more bellicose time at Microsoft, people inside the company would be whispering that the new application was a Slack killer. But the tone is different these days, even if the intent is essentially the same.

“Look, my job No. 1 is to make sure that the 85 million users I have on Office 365, we go meet their needs and keep growing that base,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in a conference room last week on the Microsoft campus. “This is not to take away any success anyone else has. We’ve always had lots of tools out here that have competed and also coexisted.”

Microsoft Teams is the most significant new addition in years to Office 365, the current name of the Microsoft software suite, which has, over the years, migrated from the PC to become a product delivered over the internet that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other applications. Bill Gates, a Microsoft co-founder and now technology adviser, even had a hand in its creation.

The reception to Microsoft Teams will help determine whether Nadella, who became chief executive of the company in early 2014, can extend his recent run of success.

Microsoft is finally viewed as a credible player in cloud computing. A new desktop PC it announced last week, the Surface Studio, is earning favourable comparisons to Apple hardware. And the company’s stock is even trading near a high.

Microsoft plans to use distribution, an old standby, to get people using Microsoft Teams, bundling it with the business version of Office 365 at no additional cost.

“We are orders of magnitude bigger in terms of the users we serve,” said Rajesh Jha, executive vice-president of Office engineering at Microsoft.

Customers generally pay $5-$20 a month to subscribe to Office 365. Nadella’s 85-million figure is the number of active monthly business users of the software.

Samir Diwan, chief executive of Polly, a startup in Seattle that has created polling software that works with Slack and Microsoft Teams, said Microsoft had an advantage because Slack did not yet have the credibility Microsoft enjoyed among the biggest companies.

“That’s where Microsoft has an inherent advantage around security,” Diwan said.

But distribution power does not guarantee victory for Microsoft or any other big tech company. Its influence with Windows did not help it vanquish Google in Internet search. Google was unable to use search and YouTube to beat Facebook in social networking. And Facebook has not yet figured out how to make Snapchat go away even as it introduces its own Slack competitor.

“The moral of the story is if you’re a large incumbent with many lines of business, it is incredibly difficult to take on a smaller, focused startup that has traction in the market,” said Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and chief executive of Slack, which took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on Wednesday welcoming Microsoft to the market.

Slack has about four million daily active users, 1.25 million of whom are paying for the software. (Basic Slack functions are free, but people can pay $6.67 or more a month for features like unlimited searching of message archives.) The San Francisco company, which introduced its product just over three years ago, was valued by private investors at $3.6 billion when it raised money last spring.

What is more, most people are using Slack because they want to, not because it is being shoved down their throats by a corporate IT department. Slack has been embraced by many as a more efficient way for teams to communicate than email, which is not designed for real-time conversations.

“You want to use the best tool possible, not the one that’s included with your subscription product,” said James Allworth, a business strategist and co-host of a technology podcast, Exponent, who has not used Microsoft Teams.

Messages in Slack are archived and searchable, and people can use it on mobile devices and PCs. Butterfield said Slack had particularly helped create more transparency across boundaries inside companies, allowing, for example, marketing teams to see what sales staff are talking about and engineers to eavesdrop on product designers.

Atlassian, a company that held an initial public offering last year, also has a team communications product: HipChat.

In a demonstration last week at Microsoft’s headquarters, executives showed how Microsoft Teams both resembles Slack and adds to its innovations. Like Slack, the software lets people pepper their messages with GIFs and emojis. Microsoft Teams can connect with other applications and services like Twitter and GitHub.

The most noticeable difference is that Microsoft Teams organizes conversations into threads, grouping messages on the same topic to make conversations easier to follow than they are in Slack’s unthreaded message streams. It has customizable tabs for making it simpler to get to commonly used services and files, like budget spreadsheets.

Mira Lane, principal architect of Microsoft Teams, demonstrated how people could spontaneously start video conferences inside the software if they would rather hash things out face-to-face. “It’s a really low-friction way of having an ad hoc meeting,” Lane said.

Butterfield of Slack said the service had plans to support both threaded conversations and video conferencing in the future.

Microsoft began working on Microsoft Teams about 18 months ago, after Gates encouraged Brian MacDonald, a respected Microsoft engineer credited with creating Outlook, the company’s flagship email application, to come up with a new take on productivity applications.

“We’d have pretty frequent conversations, sometimes group reviews, sometimes one-on-ones,” MacDonald said.

Microsoft does not always build a new product when it wants to expand the range of Office. About four years ago, it paid $1.2 billion to acquire Yammer, a social networking app that had found a following in the tech industry.

So, did Microsoft consider buying Slack?

“It’s not something that I looked at,” Nadella said, adding that he did not know if others who work for him seriously considered it.

Butterfield declined to say whether he was approached by Microsoft about a deal, but it would not have mattered if it had. “I think we’ve been pretty clear publicly, and in private conversations with everyone else in the industry, that we have no interest in being acquired,” he said.

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Beauty Week is back at Hudson’s Bay in Toronto and it’s time to get glam



Beauty enthusiasts rejoice! Beauty Week at Hudson’s Bay is back in Toronto for another year. It’s time to stock up on all of your fall essentials and, maybe discover some new ones. 

From Friday, August 18 to Sunday, August 27, you can expect a truly elevated beauty experience in-store with incredible special offers, limited-time gifts, and exciting activations. 

If you’re a diehard beauty lover, you’ll already know that Hudson’s Bay is the place to shop thanks to its extensive range of over 195 skin and makeup brands from both luxury labels and masstige brands — including Tata Harper, Estée Lauder, YSL, Nars Cosmetics, Bobbi Brown, and so much more.

Throughout The Bay’s Beauty Week, visitors can take in some at-counter activations and interactive expert-led tutorials, where there will be chances to get makeup touch-ups from top-tier brands, try a spritz of the most alluring fragrances, and sample tons of new products.

This year’s Beauty Week highlight is the ‘Best in Beauty’ tote, a meticulously-curated selection of 30 deluxe samples from an array of top-tier brands like Dr. Barbara Sturm and Shiseido spanning skincare, fragrance, and makeup — all in a super sleek bag.

The tote, which is valued at over $300, is retailing for just $39 and is a fantastic way to explore new products (without breaking the bank). However, there is a limited quantity, so if you want to get your hands on one, you’ll need to be fast.

Wondering exactly what Beauty Week’s free gifts with purchases entail? If you spend over $95 at Lancôme, you will receive a six-piece set valued at $130. Or, you can get an Estée Lauder gift valued at $170 with purchases over $80. (And that’s just to name a few.)

If you’re a Hudson’s Bay Rewards member, you’ll also get $20 in Hudson’s Bay rewards when you spend over $100 on beauty.

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The Canadian Armed Forces are hiring for several non-combat military jobs



The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have several non-combat jobs, some of which do not require a college degree or past work experience.

Life in the forces has several benefits, such as paid education plans (college, university and graduate-level programs), 20 paid vacation days, health and dental coverage for you and your family, maternity and paternal leave, and pension plans. You can learn more about the benefits in detail here.

And to make it easier to gauge if you qualify, the listings also include related civilian jobs to see if it’s your ideal role.

Financial services administrator

Related civilian jobs: Financial records entry clerk, financial manager, accounting technician, bookkeeper, budget officer, cashier clerk, business planner technician, and verification manager.

Description: You’ll help budget resources for all military activities besides providing financial assistance.

Education: You need to have completed Grade 10.

Duties: As a financial services administrator, you’ll be responsible for bookkeeping and managing budgets. You’ll also provide support in accounts payable and accounts receivable.

Work environment: Those in this role work at CAF bases, on ships or overseas. You might also be expected to help special operation units, recruiting offices, schools, and medical organizations.

Postal clerk

Related civilian jobs: Mail clerk, mail sorter.

Description: You’ll provide postal services to members and their families at bases and establishments.

Education: Grade 10. No previous work experience or related career skills are required.

Duties: As the postal clerk, you’ll handle mail duties.

Work environment: Besides a postal office, you may work on a ship or a mobile postal van. You might be expected to serve with Royal Canadian Navy, the Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force in Canada and abroad.

Dental technician

Related civilian jobs: Dental assistant, dental hygienist.

Description: You’ll be helping dental officers provide dental services to CAF members, their families, and dependents.

Education: Level II dental assisting diploma from an accredited college or a National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB) certificate.

Duties: Those in this role will be responsible for various responsibilities, including disinfection and sterilization of dental equipment, applying rubber dams, placing cavity liners, and controlling bleeding. In addition, you’ll assist in laboratory procedures like creating casts, custom trays, and mouthguards.

Work environment: This role will require you to work in a military dental clinic, a Mobile Dental Clinic, an Air Transportable Dental System, or onboard a ship. You might be expected to work on a base in Canada or other operations in other parts of the world.

Human resources administrator

Related civilian jobs: Records administrator, data entry supervisor, receptionist, office manager, executive assistant, payroll clerk, and information management technician.

Description: Provide administrative and general human resources support.

Education: Grade 10. No previous work experience or related career skills are required.

Duties: In addition to human resources administration and services, you’ll be handling pay and allowances, managing automated pay systems, and maintaining personnel records.

Work environment: HR administrators work at all CAF bases in Canada. They also work on ships and overseas to support the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, or Royal Canadian Air Force operations.

Medical assistant

Related civilian jobs: Emergency medical responder, ambulance and first aid attendant, registered nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, and hospital orderly.

Description: Successful candidates will help treat the sick and injured in CAF units. You’ll be assisting and supporting nursing and medical officers.

Education: Minimum of Grade 11 biology, Grade 10 physics or chemistry, and Grade 10 math.

Duties: You’ll provide initial care and essential life support treatments in trauma cases. You’ll help with health assessments (hearing and vision tests, perform basic lab procedures, etc.) and initiate and manage medical records and reports. You’ll also be expected to provide support and first aid during training exercises.

Work environment: Medical assistants may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force or the Canadian Army as part of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group. Those in this role are exposed to the same risks as the forces they support.

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Porter’s new loyalty program promises to match Air Canada’s Aeroplan status



Porter Airlines is once again stirring the pot among Canadian airline rivals, now going after Air Canada’s Aeroplan members by offering to match their loyalty status to an equivalent of their own.

The beloved airline, which recently ranked as having the best cabin service in North America, challenged the competition for the second time this year, after previously deploying a similar tactic against WestJet in the spring. 

Earlier in April, Porter presented customers with a limited-time offer to match the loyalty status of WestJet’s patrons with VIPorter levels.

Now, they’re offering Aeroplan members to seamlessly transition to an equivalent VIPorter Avid Traveller status based on their existing membership tier.

Members can then take advantage of an array of travel perks that come with flying Porter, including seat selection, baggage, and flight changes.

For those currently holding an Aeroplan membership, there are two ways to acquire the Avid Traveller status for the rest of 2023:

Status-Based Match:
  • Aeroplan 25K members = VIPorter Venture
  • Aeroplan 35K members = VIPorter Ascent
  • Aeroplan 50K, 75K, and Super Elite = VIPorter First
Flight Segments-Based Match:
  • 5 flight segments = VIPorter Passport
  • 8 segments = VIPorter Venture
  • 17 segments = VIPorter Ascent
  • 28 or more segments = VIPorter First

Members will have to first submit their applications on Porter’s website. Registration will remain open until September 6, 2023.

In order to maintain their membership level through 2024, customers will have until the end of 2023 to reach the following reduced qualifying spend (QS) targets:

  • Passport = $500 in QS
  • Venture = $750 in QS
  • Ascent = $1500 in QS
  • First = $2500 in QS

Over the past year, Porter has launched an aggressive expansion strategy, including everything from introducing longer flights on newly-purchased jet planes flying out of Toronto Pearson, free WiFi, and a new all-inclusive economy experience.

With Canadians losing both Swoop and Sunwing as WestJet incorporates both into their mainline business, Porter’s direct competition is welcome to keep prices competitive.

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