Microsoft Is Powering the CDC’s Coronavirus Assessment Bot – Adweek

Microsoft Is Powering the CDC’s Coronavirus Assessment Bot – Adweek

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is putting Microsoft’s artificial intelligence capabilities to potentially life-or-death use.

The health agency tapped the computer giant’s technology to build a chatbot, called Clara, that asks potential coronavirus patients a series of questions in hopes of screening whether or not they are suffering from symptoms of COVID-19, assessing risk factors and disseminating relevant information. The bot is built on Microsoft Azure’s Healthcare Bot service, a virtual AI-powered medical assistant already in use at major hospitals across the U.S.

It’s one of several chatbot portals that healthcare providers across the country have quickly rolled out in hopes of weeding out patients who are not in dire need of testing and reducing risk to frontline workers. But a recent analysis of eight of these chatbots from medical trade Stat News found that the advice they dispensed can vary widely, particularly as tech companies rush new COVID-19-specific products onto the market.

Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot was first developed as a research project in 2017 and became widely available to others in early 2019. It seeks to communicate with patients in conversational natural language and can be customized to the needs of a particular organization or integrated with hospital medical records.

The need to test anyone with cold- or flu-like symptoms creates “a bottleneck that threatens to overwhelm health systems coping with the crisis,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. The company hopes that the bot will “free up doctors, nurses, administrators and other healthcare professionals to provide critical care to those who need it.”

Screenshots of the Clara chatbot interacting with people


Microsoft is also making a set of assessment bot templates available for organizations to use or modify to better serve their own audiences, including a risk evaluator, one that dispenses up-to-date FAQs and one that provides worldwide metrics. The company claims to be fielding more than 1 million messages per day from people concerned about coronavirus across all of the versions of its Healthcare Bot at various hospitals and public health agencies.

While the field of AI that powers chatbots, natural language processing, is currently in the midst of a transformation due to research breakthroughs, many of them backed by Microsoft, bots that can wholly generate dialogue on their own are far from ready for commercial use. Like Clara, most of the chatbots currently on the market are based on a more straightforward automation and maps of yes/no questions.

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Microsoft Redesigns Office App Icons

Microsoft Redesigns Office App Icons

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Changes in the digital world are happening rapidly and every industry is affected. That is why great companies keep up with trends, so they don’t become part of the past.

Microsoft revealed new, modern Office App Icons. But did they preserve the authenticity of the globally known brand?

Microsoft Redesigned The Office App Icons

Office Icons – What’s New?

Trends require new ways of doing things, especially when it comes to brand image.

The history of Office includes designers that have been cautious with change, and they took care with this redesign. The goal was to keep icons recognizable to over a billion users across the globe while adding lighter and bolder colors. These changes to the Office icons are the first in 5 years since Microsoft updated productivity suite logos.

Apps that represent the new branding are Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, OneNote, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer and Skype.

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We now have bolder colors, combined with a different structure of the icon itself. Icons consist of two panels – one with the letter and the other is sort of a background that provides depth and 3D context.

Two things Microsoft accomplished with the redesign

If we look closer, these icons are speaking a modern language, but they have kept something that is truly important for every brand with tradition: familiarity. If you combine it with simplicity, then you can be sure you won’t scare loyal users.

Two things Microsoft accomplished with the redesign

Microsoft has implemented both into new Office icons, which is moving in the right direction.

Office is no longer just a line of apps that you download and use on your PC; today it is a cloud-based subscription service that works on numerous platforms. That’s why this redesign is a natural part of the evolution of Office apps.

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Microsoft Office hits pause on forcing Bing search in Chrome, Firefox

Microsoft Office hits pause on forcing Bing search in Chrome, Firefox

Microsoft recently announced a new “extension” as part of an update to its Office 365 ProPlus software that forcibly changes company-wide Chrome and Firefox search engine defaults to Bing search, automatically, from what is likely set to Google. After considerable backlash, the company is reversing course, a bit.

In a predatory fashion, the extension automatically seeks out, through the network and local device file systems, installations of independent browsers (Chrome and Firefox were mentioned) in order to edit configuration files outside its own software ecosystem.

A compromise

In a halfhearted reversal, Microsoft will compromise with modifications that comply more with administrators’ wishes to make the extension optional. This will result in a timeline delay, as well. Rather than automatically changing default search engines for Chrome and Firefox to Bing, administrators are now required to opt-in for it to do so, and actions will initially be limited to only Active Directory joined devices.

This means, at first, the extension won’t act like a worm that traverses the whole network looking for vulnerable computers — until sometime “in the future.”

In the future we will add specific settings to govern the deployment of the extension to unmanaged devices. 


It’s still troubling Microsoft plans to do this but is understandable when considering what is often done in tandem with an organization’s rules. IT infrastructure setup and maintenance require super-user levels of control over software installation and configuration settings.

The problem is when organizations are less restrictive, allowing users to install Chrome and Firefox rather than limit them to using Microsoft Edge or past versions of IE. Browser applications get very personalized when authenticated with Google and/or Firefox Accounts for services such as Google search.

No matter how convenient the ability to search for docs and refs from shared drives and Microsoft applications via Chrome and Firefox default search is, users of those browsers should be able to do that through company resources and manage search defaults on their own.

Security implications

In more restrictive organizations, like those that require secure access to sensitive information by authenticated staff, having “overlord” control over networked machines is a vital component of IT systems operations. In those cases, it is commonplace to disallow software installations in the first place.

It stands to reason security incidents can increase when browser search with Microsoft in Bing accesses network resources. Administrators have to take care when considering such applications. They certainly didn’t ask for the features the new extension provides and rightly view the move as one of pure marketing.

It’s when users are allowed to install programs that policy and operations should be less impinging. Automatically changing default search settings to Bing while only providing last-minute instructions for administrators who must take action to prevent the extension from executing was a very poor way to introduce a controversial procedure in Office 365 setup.

Why we care

Ironically, ink from the press about the backlash gave the search capability of Microsoft in Bing a spotlight that the extension may not have received otherwise. Microsoft should not resort to leveraging its Office 365 install base to switch user-defined search defaults from a desired choice to Bing in order to unfairly compete. It demonstrates how much it would like to take search market share away from Google. Bing integrated with Microsoft search competes fairly well with its unique results from network resources, something Google can only emulate with its own suite of interoperable services appearing in search results.

About The Author

Detlef Johnson is the SEO for Developers Expert for Search Engine Land and SMX. He is also a member of the programming team for SMX events and writes the SEO for Developers series on Search Engine Land. Detlef is one of the original group of pioneering webmasters who established the professional SEO field more than 20 years ago. Since then he has worked for major search engine technology providers, managed programming and marketing teams for Chicago Tribune, and consulted for numerous entities including Fortune 500 companies. Detlef has a strong understanding of Technical SEO and a passion for Web programming.

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3 Major Differences Between Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising

3 Major Differences Between Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising

It does not take much effort for an advertiser to import their campaigns from Google Ads straight into Microsoft Ads. But the most common mistake I tend to see is optimizing Microsoft Ads in the exact same way as with their Google Ads account. There are several differences between the two advertising platforms that advertisers need to remember to better optimize their campaigns.


Microsoft Advertising search ads might look similar to Google Ads, but it’s important to remember the differences. 

In this post, I’ll share three major differences between Google and Microsoft that you need to know to get started. That way, next time you go in and optimize the mentioned areas in the channels, you will feel confident you are making the right decisions!

Ad scheduling

One way users can target their ads, or even just make certain bid adjustments, is with ad scheduling. Advertisers can choose the time of day and day of the week they would want their ads to be shown. They can also schedule times to make certain bid adjustments. What advertisers may have to be careful of doing is making the same ad schedule adjustments in both Google Ads and Microsoft Ads by default. It’s important to remember that these are different channels, so you need to know how ad scheduling works for each channel and check the data to see what performs best for your account.


In Google Ads, when you go to edit your ad schedule (as seen above), Google reminds you what time zone your account is in. This is because your ad schedule in Google is based upon the time zone you chose when you created your Google Ads account. In the image above, the account is Pacific Time and targeting all days at all hours. If this account is targeting the United States but wanted to change the hours to 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., then they would have to keep in mind that users on Eastern Time would see the ads from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. If this does not sound ideal, the advertiser will have to create separate campaigns if they want to keep every time zone set to the same hours.


Now with Microsoft Ads, ad scheduling works differently. As seen in the image above, you can see Microsoft’s ad scheduling is based on the location of the person viewing the ad. So the same advertiser could still target the entire United States, keep the hours to 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and not have to have several campaigns to execute this.

Search partner targeting options

Both Google Ads and Microsoft Ads have search partner networks. These are other sites allowing advertisers to expand the reach of their search network ads beyond the main and domains. In this section, there are a few differences between the channels. The search partner networks differ between Google and Microsoft, and the way we can target each network is different, too. Also, Google’s search partners are set at the campaign level. In Microsoft, we can adjust our ad network distribution at the ad group level.

Google’s Search Partner Network includes hundreds of websites (, for example), as well as other Google sites, such as YouTube. By default, Google will automatically include your campaigns in the Search Partners setting. If you see the results for search partners is subpar when segmenting your campaign data, it only takes two clicks of your mouse to remove partners and save the settings. Unfortunately, in Google, targeting search partners is either an “all in” or “all out” feature. You cannot target just the search partners in Google.


When adjusting your ad distribution settings in Microsoft Ads, you’ll be able to see that besides Bing, your ads could show on the AOL and Yahoo networks. Now, unlike Google, there is not an option to target your search network ads on just, which is unfortunate. Even if you wanted to target just search network sites, you still have to pick the option of Bing, AOL, and Yahoo lumped together.


What I like about the ad distribution in Microsoft Ads is they have options separating their partners by “owned and operated” and “syndicated search partners.” Now for whatever reason, if you see that one of the partner options performs significantly better than the others, you have the ability to use a “target only” targeting method for your ad groups. That’s a big difference in how you can optimize your campaigns to try and maximize performance as much as possible on these channels.

In-market audiences for search

If you want to bid differently to groups of users who are more likely to be actively researching or ready to buy in a specific category of products or services, Google Ads and Microsoft Ads both allow advertisers to add these in-market audiences to setwork campaigns. We also have the option to use these audiences from a targeting or observation (bid only for Microsoft) capacity in our settings. In both channels, we can also increase our bids on these audiences by up to 900%, or decrease bids for these audiences by up to 90%


What the major difference is for these audiences between the two channels are actual options we have to add to our campaigns within each channel. For example Microsoft has a “Social” category with subcategory options, like “Romance & Relationships” or “Takeout & Delivery.” Google does not have these options. And there are several other categories or subcategories each channel has that the other doesn’t. Take some time to see if you missed out adding additional in-market audience layers to your campaigns because you assumed they were the same between the channels. 

At the time of writing this post, I couldn’t find a list of all the in-market audiences available in Google. But here is a list of all of the Microsoft in-market audiences that are updated as new ones are added.

Remember, Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising are separate channels

The ability to easily export Google Ads account information to Microsoft Advertising is a huge time-saver. But that doesn’t mean Microsoft Advertising is a copy-and-paste channel. You may not get as much traffic in Microsoft as you do with Google, or you may not spend as much with Microsoft as you do with Google, but you need to optimize for each platform in order to get the benefits of a cross-platform strategy. Here are the three key differences to review:

  1. Ad scheduling
  2. Search partner targeting options
  3. In-market audience for search campaigns

The more we know how to use the channels, the better our optimizations will be. I only mentioned a few of the differences between the two channels, but I’m sure there are plenty more we could talk about. If you have any more to contribute, let us know in the comments below.

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