Microsoft integrates Israeli technology to improve videoconferencing

A year after acquiring Israeli streaming company Peer5, Microsoft launched new technology based on the company’s developments to deploy high-quality video streaming in large-scale live broadcasts.

The technology, developed at Microsoft’s main R&D center in the city of Herzliya, will be integrated into Teams, the tech giant’s business communications platform and its answer to Zoom and Slack, whose popularity soared at the start. of the COVID-19 pandemic, when telecommuting and hybrid work environments began to become more popular.

Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011, but it was never really considered a business tool. Skype for Business was finally discontinued last summer. Microsoft chose to work on Teams to use its strength as the main OS (operating system) and software supplier, with a market share of more than 70% for desktop OS (Windows), and offer professional communications – chat, meetings, conferencing – to businesses, as a free add-on to Microsoft 365 Business.

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In January, Microsoft officials said Teams had surpassed 270 million monthly active users. Before the pandemic, the software had about 32 million users.

Microsoft Israel said in a statement that Peer5’s technology will help dramatically improve video streaming quality in large-scale live broadcasts without overloading networks and “allow organizations to host streaming events for millions of people.” users simultaneously”, such as company-wide training programs and virtual town halls.

Peer5 was founded in 2012 by Israeli entrepreneurs Hadar Weiss, Guy Paskar and Shachar Zohar, and later offered an enterprise content distribution service (ECDN) that works in the browser to optimize bandwidth usage through mesh network technology. The company said it conducted live events, via videoconference, with up to two million concurrent users; its products have been used by over a billion people worldwide.

Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, right, vice president of Microsoft Corporation, general manager of the Microsoft Israel Research and Development Center and technical director of Microsoft Security, with Hadar Weiss, product manager at the Microsoft Research and Development Center Israel. (Credit: Netanel Tobias)

“When many employees are streaming at the same time, the network is congested,” Hadar Weiss explained in a publication last year announcing the Microsoft acquisition. “It can happen at a town hall meeting, a big training session, or when everyone opens a link to a video that was just emailed. Our technology solves this problem in the most efficient way possible, without modifying the existing network infrastructure. »

Weiss, product manager at Microsoft Israel’s Research and Development Center, said in a comment shared with the Times of Israel that their “new technology reduces network saturation and enables live video streaming at scale, securely and in high quality, while optimizing network performance”.

“It is designed to enable businesses to seamlessly and securely live stream international meetings, town hall meetings and provide company-wide training to help people and businesses stay connected and engage with their employees from virtually anywhere,” added Weiss.

“As remote work has become more popular, the ability to connect internally has become vital, as video meetings improve communication with their employees and keep them engaged with the company,” Microsoft Israel said.

Separately, Microsoft plans to expand its footprint in Israel over the next few years, with five additional sites in the country and an R&D workforce that will double by 2025.

Microsoft’s new offices in Herzliya. (Credit: Amit Geron)

Microsoft currently operates development centers in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Nazareth, and two years ago opened a 46,000 square meter campus for its R&D headquarters in Israel. At the end of 2020, Microsoft employed around 2,300 people in Israel – 2,000 of them in R&D, working on projects including cybersecurity, AI technologies, big data and healthcare. Around 300 people work in sales and marketing.

The company said it has seen substantial growth in 2020 and 2021 across its development centers and hopes to add more than 2,500 engineers and other positions in the coming years to build a local workforce of more than 4,500 people.

The five planned sites include a second site in Tel Aviv that will accommodate more than 1,000 employees on a 25,000 square meter lot, an additional space of approximately 17,000 square meters adjacent to the Herzliya site for an additional 1,000 employees, and two new development sites slated to open next year in Beersheba and Jerusalem to tap talent from “underrepresented sectors, such as ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs,” the company said.

The location of the fifth site is still under consideration and will take into account key factors such as workforce diversity, travel and work-life balance, Microsoft said.

Microsoft opened a local branch in Israel in 1989 and established its first R&D center in Israel — its first outside the United States — in 1991.

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