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HONG KONG, Sept 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Bullet Messenger, a Chinese messaging app, has racked up millions of downloads since its debut just a few weeks ago, using a stripped-down design to chip off a chunk of a sophisticated, billion-user market.

The Beijing-based company launched its app on Aug 20, and within a week became the most downloaded free offering on Apple Inc’s App Store in China.

Analysts say its rapid ascent, driven by Chinese internet users’ craving for alternatives to the ubiquitous WeChat, underscores just how fast China’s mobile internet landscape can change.

“The cycle of disruption in the Chinese internet space is getting much, much faster,” said Matthew Brennan, co-founder of tech consultancy China Channel.

“There is an increasingly large amount of easy money chasing increasingly fewer opportunities, while there is also a very large pool of talented entrepreneurs now, so people know how to scale businesses fast — there is an established playbook,” he added.

Some analysts have described Bullet Messenger as a potential challenger to Tencent Holding’s WeChat — although it lags far behind the Chinese super-app, which has more than one billion users.

Bullet’s minimalist design stands out, as does a feature that instantly turns voice messages into text as the user speaks, and sends each voice message with a transcript that can be edited.

Users say the technology, supplied by Chinese voice technology firm iFlytek Co, allows them to chat faster without having to type or listen to voice recordings — a time-consuming act for the receiver that is considered impolite in WeChat etiquette in China.

Skype brings HD video calling

LOS ANGELES, July 20, 2018 (News Wires) - Microsoft has outlined several of the new features coming with the latest version of Skype (8.0) for Windows 10. Faced with increasingly fierce competition - even on desktops, from web-based versions of Messenger and WhatsApp - Microsoft is improving the Skype user experience to make its messaging platform even more intuitive.

Skype 8.0 brings HD (1080p) video and screensharing calls, allowing users to get together with one to 24 people at once.

Microsoft is also making the service more interactive by letting users react to messages in group conversations, like on social media, by mentioning other participants using the @ symbol followed by their name.

With Microsoft’s update, Skype users can share up to 300MB of files at a time (photos, videos, documents, etc.) simply by dragging and dropping them into the conversation window.

Moreover, files and links shared in conversations can be found in one handy location - the chat media gallery - making them easier to find at a moment’s notice.

Skype also integrates a notification centre featuring all of a user’s mentions and reactions to their messages, as well as bots, artificially intelligent programs for help with things like searching for news or booking tickets.

SAN JOSE, May 2, 2018 (News Wires) - Facebook gave its popular Messenger app the ability to translate missives in real time, deploying artificial intelligence to enable text conversations between people using different languages.

Messenger has become a tool for businesses to connect with customers, and the ability to converse with customers in a variety of languages could help bump up advertising.

“The ability to speak with anyone without any language barrier is something we are really excited about,” Messenger chief David Marcus said as Facebook kicked off its annual developers conference here.

Buyers and sellers in Marketplace at Messenger will be able to communicate across languages, according to Marcus.

The feature will launch with English and Spanish translations of Marketplace conversations in the US and will be extended to general Messenger use in coming weeks, the service said in a blog post.

Additional languages and countries are to be gradually added.

Messenger already has an artificial intelligence capability called “M” that enhances the service, but applying it to translations is something new.

Other companies also are using artificial intelligence to break language barriers.

Amazon employs it in a translation feature in its leading platform for hosting content or services in the internet cloud, while Microsoft uses it for translations in its Skype messaging service.

Google last year hit the market with Pixel ear buds capable of real-time translation of conversations in dozens of languages.

Pixel Buds were quickly branded an internet-Age version of the alien “Babel Fish” depicted in famed science fiction work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In the literature, inserting a Babel Fish in an ear enabled a person to understand anything spoken in any language.

Pixel Buds work wirelessly with second-generation Pixel smartphones to handle real-time translations.

Meanwhile, Netherlands-based startup Travis was at the Consumer Electronics Show gadget extravaganza early this year with a small device capable of translating conversations between people speaking different languages in real time.

“Technology connects us as far as we are accessible to each other, but those true connections aren’t going to happen until we all understand and are understood by each other,” US Travis representative Robb Selander told AFP while demonstrating the device, which taps into online computing power.

Messenger boasts some 1.3 billion monthly users, who engage in about eight billion conversations a month.The experience is further enhanced by some 300,000 apps developed for the service.

“The platform is really thriving now,” Marcus said.

A Messenger feature also unveiled at the developers conference allows companies to send “bubbles” that can be clicked on to trigger augmented reality experiences through smartphone cameras.

For example, Messenger users could check out a version of the newest Nike sneaker; see what a Kia might look like outside their home; or virtually try on Sephora makeup.