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  1. Google really loves Microsoft’s Surface Duo dual-screen phone Google believes in Microsoft’s dual-screen future (Image credit: Hiroshi Lockheimer) One of the most senior Android executives has shown off his Surface Duo device, hinting that Google is mightily impressed with Microsoft’s upcoming dual-screen phone. While we’ve seen the Surface Duo being shown off by various Microsoft employees, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella back in January, the fact that it’s being shown off by people at Google suggests that the company is really getting behind Microsoft’s upcoming phone – and hints that the two companies are working together to make sure it’s a hit. An image of the Surface Duo was tweeted by Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president of Android, Chrome, Chrome OS, Photos and communication products, who’s clearly a big fan of the device. A Microsoft phone that’s worth getting? Although Microsoft has been trying to avoid calling the Surface Duo a smartphone, that’s what it is, essentially, as it’s a communication device that can make and receive calls. It has two 5.6-inch screens that can turn it into an 8.3-inch tablet-like device, and unlike previous phones by Microsoft, it runs Google's hugely popular Android operating system. This could be key to its success, as previous Microsoft phones ran its unloved Windows Mobile OS, which suffered from a lack of apps. Teaming up with Google seems to have paid off, and Microsoft has been working with the company to create a version of Google that runs on a dual screen device. Microsoft is also working on a larger Surface Neo device that runs Windows 10X, a version of Windows 10 made for dual screen devices, but that has recently been announced as being delayed until 2021. The Surface Duo, however, is still pegged for a holiday 2020 release, and if it’s now in the hands of higher ups at Google, it seems like Microsoft is confident that it’s ready to ship soon. Via MSPowerUser Google really loves Microsoft’s Surface Duo dual-screen phone
  2. Microsoft confirms that the Xbox Series X will arrive in November Microsoft confirmed today that its next-generation Xbox, the Series X, will arrive in November. Originally unveiled as the Xbox Series X in December and known as Project Scarlett before that, the console was originally slated for the more vague 'holiday 2020' season. But today, Halo Infinite was delayed, and it's going to arrive in 2021 instead of 2020. Being the headlining launch title for the Series X, some might have assumed that the hardware was delayed as well, but that's not the case. Microsoft was quick to say that the Xbox Series X is still coming this year, and it's coming in November. The firm also reiterated that there is still plenty to do between the two launch dates. There will still be over 50 launch games, and of course, you can play your entire library of Xbox One games on the Series X, and that library includes anything that's playable on the Xbox One. That includes Xbox 360 and Xbox games that are playable via the Backward Compatibility program. There are still plenty of unknowns around the Xbox Series X. For one thing, we don't know how much it will cost, and we probably won't know until Microsoft launches another unknown, the Xbox Series S, which is set to be a lesser, more inexpensive version of the console that's been hyped for the past year. Microsoft confirms that the Xbox Series X will arrive in November
  3. Microsoft opens xCloud game streaming beta early tomorrow Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers get early access Microsoft is allowing Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to try its new game streaming feature (xCloud) early tomorrow, August 11th. The software giant will launch a new version of the Xbox Game Pass beta app for Android, which includes game streaming. While the game streaming feature, known previously as xCloud, will be officially available on September 15th, anyone can grab the beta app from the Google Play Store and try it early from tomorrow onward. “As we approach the launch of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on September 15, we’re entering a limited beta period to ensure a smooth transition of the cloud gaming experience to the Xbox Game Pass app on Android,” explains a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “Existing Xbox Game Pass (Beta) app users will get the opportunity to test a subset of the available titles as we ready the experience for broader availability next month. This limited beta is critical to providing the best possible experience for members at launch and should not be considered indicative of the final experience or library.” This game streaming beta won’t have the full 100 or more games that will be available next month, but expect around 30 or so titles to play tomorrow. Microsoft is still planning to discontinue its Project xCloud Preview on September 11th, ahead of the general launch on September 15th. If you’re interested in trying out game streaming (xCloud) tomorrow, then you’ll need to be an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriber and have the Xbox Game Pass (beta) app from the Google Play Store. Microsoft opens xCloud game streaming beta early tomorrow
  4. Microsoft’s new Xbox Series S console confirmed in leaked controller packaging The second, cheaper next-gen Xbox gets a name Microsoft is rumored to be unveiling its second, cheaper next-gen Xbox console this month, and it looks like it will definitely be called Xbox Series S. The Verge has obtained photos of Microsoft’s new next-gen Xbox controller in white, complete with packaging that mentions the Xbox Series S. Twitter user Zak S was able to purchase the controller today, and we’ve confirmed it’s genuine. The new controller was sold on a resale site today, and the side of the packaging notes that the controller works with both Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. Microsoft has not officially unveiled an Xbox Series S yet, nor has the company even confirmed a white Xbox Series X controller. Xbox Series S on the packaging. A mysterious white Xbox Series X controller also appeared online last month, complete with the new D-pad, textured triggers, and new share button. This new leak matches the previous controller leak, and retail packaging suggests that these could be appearing in stores soon. The Xbox Series S will likely be Microsoft’s second cheaper next-gen Xbox, that’s been codenamed Lockhart. A Microsoft document, leaked back in June, shed some further light on the company’s plans for two next-gen consoles. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X devkit, codenamed “Dante,” allows game developers to enable a special Lockhart mode that has a profile of the performance that Microsoft wants to hit with this second console. The Lockhart console is expected to include 7.5GB of usable RAM, around 4 teraflops of GPU performance, and ship with the same CPU found on the Xbox Series X. Microsoft is rumored to be unveiling the Xbox Series S some time in August, and it will likely play a big part of the company’s Xbox All Access subscription plans that bundle an Xbox console and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass) for a monthly fee. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to comment on the next-gen Xbox controller leak, and we’ll update you accordingly. Microsoft’s new Xbox Series S console confirmed in leaked controller packaging
  5. Bill Gates calls Microsoft’s TikTok deal a poisoned chalice Microsoft’s complicated deal even has Gates wary Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has described the company’s potential TikTok deal as a poisoned chalice. In a wide-ranging interview with Wired, Gates makes it clear that Microsoft acquiring parts of TikTok won’t be easy or simple. “Who knows what’s going to happen with that deal,” says Gates. “But yes, it’s a poison[ed] chalice.” He also notes that being a big player in the social media business “is no simple game,” as Microsoft will have to contend with a whole new level of content moderation. Asked if Gates is wary of Microsoft getting into the social media game, he suggests that Facebook having some more competition is “probably a good thing” but that “having Trump kill off the only competitor, it’s pretty bizarre.” Gates seems as confused as the rest of us about how this potential TikTok deal is proceeding, especially with President Trump suggesting the US Treasury will need some type of cut from any acquisition. “I agree that the principle this is proceeding on is singly strange,” says Gates. “The cut thing, that’s doubly strange. Anyway, Microsoft will have to deal with all of that.” Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Photo by Ryan Manning / The Verge Gates’ comments come just days after Microsoft confirmed it was pursuing a deal to buy TikTok’s operations in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Reports have also suggested Microsoft might be considering buying all of TikTok’s global operations, with the Financial Times suggesting talks around this particular deal are at the “preliminary” stage. President Trump also claimed last week that he was a day away from banning TikTok in the US, before later setting a deadline of September 15th for Microsoft to conclude its potential acquisition and avoid TikTok being banned. It’s a complicated deal that would give Microsoft a big presence in the social networking space at the risk of being part of a larger trade war between the US and China. Gates is clearly wary of the acquisition, but we’re about a month away from seeing if it becomes a reality. Bill Gates calls Microsoft’s TikTok deal a poisoned chalice
  6. Microsoft splits Ignite 2020 into two virtual events, second one to be held in early 2021 Back in January 2020, Microsoft announced that it will be moving Ignite back to September after having held the conference in November for the 2019 iteration. Ignite is one of the biggest events for the Redmond giant, and was slated to take place from September 21 through September 25 this year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the company could no longer schedule it as an in-person event. Today, Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Chris Capossela announced that the company will be splitting Ignite into two virtual events that will consist of “48-hour digital gathering”, in place of the week-long event that it has historically been. The first part of the conference will be held from September 22 to September 24, while the second iteration is scheduled for some time in early 2021. Registrations for this year’s Ignite will open on September 3. The CMO adds that the conference next year will connect with its technical communities and that the firm will “share the latest product developments”. He adds: We’ve learned from the global digital events we’ve held this year that we now have the opportunity to bring the whole global community together in one place to create a truly worldwide event. For this reason, we’re not going to be holding Microsoft Ignite Tour events in different cities around the world this year; instead Microsoft Ignite will bring all global participants together and include the opportunity for local community meetups, will have language localization, and participants will also be able to get skill building with Microsoft Learn and certifications. Capossela also mentions that the second Ignite conference slated to be held next year will not be replacing its Build conference, which is typically held in May. Considering that the company announced that it will move all events until July 2021 into a digital format, it is likely that Build 2021 will be a virtual event. It is not clear if the two Ignite event will continue to be virtual-only conferences, or if the company will move it back to an in-person event in the future. Microsoft splits Ignite 2020 into two virtual events, second one to be held in early 2021
  7. Reorg brings important parts of Windows OS development back under Panos Panay’s control Two years ago Microsoft moved Windows core development under the Azure team, signalling a further de-emphasis on Windows Client development in favour of their fast-growing server business. The resurgence of Windows (largely due to COVID-19 of course), must have caused Microsoft to rethink, as they have just moved part of the Core OS and Intelligent Edge (COSINE) team to the control of Panos Panay, who is already in charge of Windows + Devices (ie Windows desktop and Surface). The changes are expected to create more of an end-to-end servicing and shipping experience, according to Mary Jo Foley’s internal sources. Microsoft is also forming a new Windows, Developers and Experiences (WDX) Engineering team, which combines the Windows Experiences and Developer Ecosystem Platform teams, all also under the control of Panos Panay, who said: “The mission of Windows + Devices is to build platforms and products that create and complete magical experiences with all of Microsoft, to empower every person and organization to achieve more.” This business stands on three core pillars: Deliver iconic experiences across Microsoft, lighting up both modern work and life. Grow the business of Windows and Surface, delivering the best of Microsoft and creating end-user pull. Lead the industry through innovation and technology, enabling our ecosystem of partners to thrive. “Today, we are building upon our momentum and the company is leaning on us to lead the next phase of the Windows vision for our ecosystem with over [one billion customers and counting]. In taking the next step, our focus is on product-making, aligning experiences across the company, and inspiring our broad and vibrant ecosystem. Our desire is to create end-user pull across all segments of the business. As we move forward, I’m energized and passionate about the incredible opportunity in front of us.” The new Windows, Developers, and Experiences (WDX) Engineering team, which is a combination of the Windows Experiences and Developer Ecosystem Platform teams will focus on commercial customers, developers, and consumers, and will “enable ongoing Windows growth and innovation, with a focus on our people-centered and product-making culture.” A new Windows, Developers, and Experiences PM team that is a combination of the Windows Experiences PM team and Developer Ecosystem Platform PM team will focus on the input stack and “the UI construct,” and will engage with Microsoft’s developer audience. “The team will focus on customer delight and innovation which lead to Windows growth,” Panay claims. A new Windows product planning, ecosystem (including the Windows Ecosystem Enablement team), Store, and 1st– and 3rd-party apps team will “lead the Windows product vision forward by connecting planning, execution, and rhythms to our broad ecosystem,” Panay writes. “This alignment is critical at this stage as we create a center of gravity for both Windows client and the overall Windows business.” The Devices team will develop product and roadmap across Program Management and Hardware Development. “This will establish a single point of ownership for the Surface business and combine the product leadership together across all products including Foldables,” Panay explains. The Devices Portfolio and Operations (DPO) team will cover end-to-end business strategy for Windows and Devices, framing and funding for long-term business goals, and will have responsibility for Supply Chain, Packaging, and Release Management. On the Azure side, Microsoft is creating a new Azure Core team, which will unite Compute, Networking and Storage Services. The Azure team will also retain a stake in Windows development, especially the Windows core, with that staying under the control of Executive Vice President of Azure Jason Zander, with the focus on Azure Edge. There’s also a new “Azure for Operators” team that is about 5G/virtual networking and will include officials from Microsoft’s Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch Networks acquisitions, and Microsoft Corporate Vice President Yousef Khalidi. This team will work closely with the Azure Edge unit. We hope the changes will result in an improved Windows development story, which seems to have largely stalled in recent years. Reorg brings important parts of Windows OS development back under Panos Panay’s control
  8. Microsoft commits to being a zero-waste company by 2030 At the start of the year, Microsoft announced that it was taking steps to become a carbon negative company by 2030 - meaning that it will be removing more carbon from the environment than it will be emitting. Additionally, the company vowed to remove all of its historical carbon emissions from the environment by 2050. Now, Microsoft is making further commitments to fight climate change, with president Brad Smith announcing today that all of the Redmond giant's direct operations, products, and packaging will be zero-waste by 2030. To do this, the company will reduce "nearly as much waste" as it generates, and it will reuse or recycle waste from its operations and products. The goal is to, by 2030, manufacture all Surface devices and packaging with recyclable materials, in addition to diverting as much as 90% of the waste originating from its campuses and datacenters, as well as at least 75% of construction and demolition, from landfills. This commitment entails a series of steps, starting with the introduction of circular centers, which will be located next to datacenter campuses and regions. When decommissioning a server, circular centers will allow Microsoft to determine, on the spot, which parts can be recycled, reused, or sold. Microsoft has piloted this concept in its Amsterdam circular center and said it reduced server downtime, increased availability of network parts for itself and partners, and also reduced the cost of transporting new servers to the location. As it expands the concept, Microsoft says circular centers could increase the reuse of its servers and components by 90% by 2025. Microsoft also announced that it will be removing single-use plastics from the packaging of its business-to-business primary products as well as in its datacenters by 2025. Other steps include working to create better waste data so the impact of waste can be more easily analyzed and understood; a $30 million Closed Loop Partners' funds to accelerate the development of products that help reduce waste in various industries; technology to help Microsoft's customers understand how much waste they are emitting; and enlisting the help of Microsoft employees by creating an internal waste data dashboard, as well as internal challenges to encourage employees to reduce their own waste. Adding this new commitment on top of its goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030, Microsoft's efforts to fight climate change are certainly commendable. Other major tech companies have been making similar commitments, too. Microsoft commits to being a zero-waste company by 2030
  9. The biggest problem with Microsoft’s fractured TikTok deal No one has ever split up a social network along regional lines — is it even possible? Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Microsoft has six weeks to close one of the strangest deals in tech industry history. On Sunday, the company publicly announced it was in talks with President Trump to buy portions of TikTok from its Chinese parent company ByteDance. For months, Trump has been raising national security concerns about TikTok, even threatening to ban the app, and now he’s presenting a sale to Microsoft as a last chance effort to save it. If the deal goes through, it would give Microsoft a new vantage on social networks and solve a variety of US national security concerns around TikTok’s newfound popularity. But there’s a problem at the heart of the deal that no one on either side has addressed — and it’s serious enough to doom the entire project if it can’t be resolved. Microsoft isn’t bidding for TikTok; it’s bidding for the portion of TikTok in four countries: the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. No one has ever split up a social network along regional lines, much less under threat of a national ban from the president. Peeling those four countries away from the rest of TikTok would be enormously difficult, and even if it were successful, it would leave Microsoft with an undersized and strangely regional social network, presenting significant investment and revenue challenges. Trump, ByteDance, and Microsoft have a lot to hash out over the next six weeks, but if they can’t solve that central problem, then none of it matters. And that central problem is much harder than anyone is willing to admit. In practical terms, Microsoft is probably limiting the deal to four countries because it has to. Through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), Trump has the power to force ByteDance to sell its US holdings. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are the countries most closely aligned with the US in national security matters — most notoriously, as part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network (minus the UK) — and it’s likely that they’re on this list because they’re willing to make a similar move. When the US raised similar doubts about Huawei, the UK followed America’s lead, but only under duress, and Europe still hasn’t made the leap. Given the muddled justification and Trump’s pariah status among other major democracies, this is likely as far as the US can extend its influence in this particular fight. But while the four-country approach makes sense for Trump, it’s not clear that it makes sense for Microsoft. No one has ever acquired a regional section of a social network before, and peeling away the Microsoft-owned portion of TikTok will be harder than it looks. As TikTok officials keep reminding us, the app is based in California, but the majority of its users are still in Asia or Europe. India’s TikTok ban has put a dent in those numbers, but Microsoft would still be buying less than a third of the total platform. We don’t know exactly which portions of TikTok’s operations Microsoft would get in the deal, but if the point is to sever TikTok from China, the company will have to rebuild any teams or infrastructure that are currently operated by ByteDance. In essence, TikTok will split into two apps (let’s call them MS-TikTok and BD-TikTok), with separate servers, a separate codebase, and separate users. That would impact nearly everyone who works with the app: advertisers would reach fewer users with a single ad buy, influencers would have a smaller pool to go viral in, and users would have less content to pick from. TikTok succeeds when it can show users interesting posts, and without K-Pop stans or African dance memes, it will be harder to deliver on that. Even letting users share content from one network to another — sharing a Turkish TikTok to a US account, say — would require significant engineering work, work that would only be more difficult as the two apps continued to develop on different tracks. Given the concerns about algorithmic propaganda, it’s not clear such sharing would even be allowed. Splitting the network would also be expensive. Even after the initial shock of rebuilding the ByteDance infrastructure, Microsoft will be stuck with a smaller audience and a smaller pool of revenue. Any investments into the platform — important work developing new features, say, or a new ad format — will be spread out over a much smaller pool of users, which means less money, less investment, and less growth. This is the iron law of scale, the power that let Facebook become so profitable so quickly as its user base grew. MS-TikTok would be taking that journey in reverse, assuming similar costs with far fewer users and far less revenue as a result. That new version of TikTok would be wildly less profitable, and with BD-TikTok already owning the market in the rest of the world, it’s not clear how much room there would be to scale up. That’s not the only factor in the deal, to be sure. As Tom Warren laid out yesterday, there would be lots of advantages for Microsoft in owning a social network, even a small, region-locked one. The threat of CFIUS action really is an extraordinary circumstance, and it’s possible that ByteDance will sell at fire-sale prices, making the whole thing worthwhile. There’s so much we don’t know about the deal and so much still to be determined, so it would be foolish to discount it completely. But the deal that’s been proposed relies on an unprecedented kind of corporate and technological fission. The internet is borderless by nature, and most social networks take advantage of that to run globe-spanning empires from comparatively regional headquarters. Paring the network back into national terms, with users in Korea seeing a different app from those in Hawaii, is a monumental task. It would be difficult under the best of circumstances. But doing it on a frantic six-week timetable, cheered on by a belligerent president and an ever-changing set of national security restrictions, seems downright impossible. The biggest problem with Microsoft’s fractured TikTok deal
  10. The challenges Microsoft faces in buying TikTok’s US arm Tech group has until September 15 to resolve myriad problems in securing deal. Enlarge Getty Images 91 with 62 posters participating Microsoft has said it wants to buy the US arm of TikTok, the Chinese viral short-video app that is in the crosshairs of regulators and the White House. But a deal, which is likely to run to several billion dollars, faces myriad technical and political challenges and will have to satisfy Zhang Yiming, the app’s founder, his powerful investors both in China and the west, and the Trump administration. Microsoft said it would aim to complete a deal by September 15, but in an internal letter to staff on Monday, Zhang said the talks were “preliminary” and the exact details had not been worked out. Here is what is left to be decided. How much is TikTok’s US business worth? The two sides have not agreed on a price, said one person close to the deal. How to value TikTok’s US business unit, which includes Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is tricky. TikTok has spent heavily on promotion and content in order to grow its popularity and is not profitable in the US. It also faces increasing competition, including from Facebook, which plans to launch a rival service, Instagram Reels, as early as this week. Enders Analysis, a consultancy, estimated TikTok has about 50 million daily active users in the US, giving it a larger audience than Twitter and almost as big as Snapchat. That makes TikTok a “very hot property” for Microsoft, said Jamie MacEwan, an analyst at Enders, who described TikTok’s advertising business as “nascent” and estimated that it would have $500 million of US revenues this year. The current range under discussion is between $15 billion and $30 billion, the person said, but the gap between the sides reflects the uncertain prospects for the app, as well as the forced nature of the sale. Microsoft has said it may also invite some current US investors of the video app’s Chinese owner ByteDance, such as General Atlantic and KKR, to have minority stakes. The White House is keen not to be seen as expropriating a company from one set of US owners to give it to another, said one person close to the deal. Can TikTok be carved out of ByteDance? It remains unclear exactly what Microsoft would buy and how TikTok’s US business can be separated from its global operations. Currently, TikTok shares much of its code, including the algorithms that dictate which videos are shown to users, with its Chinese sister app Douyin and Chinese engineers work on both platforms, according to employees. ByteDance has spent some time splitting the app’s back-end operations, said one project manager in Beijing, who added: “We’ll have to do it in a big rush now.” How TikTok evolves in the future, if Microsoft develops code for the US app but ByteDance continues to make code for other territories, remains a big question. Under the terms of the proposal put to the White House, Microsoft would allow TikTok to operate independently in the same way that it has done since it acquired LinkedIn in 2016, said one person familiar with TikTok’s thinking. Users would still be able to access global content—from European and Asian TikTok users—through a sharing agreement with ByteDance, the person said. Such maneuvering may put off users and lead them to switch to rival apps. “Carving it up into pieces would put a huge damper on its overall growth,” predicted Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer. Could anyone else make a rival bid? While there are rumors that another company may swoop for TikTok, Facebook, and Google would face antitrust concerns. Other potential buyers might include Apple, which has failed to make any progress into social media over the past several years, and Walt Disney, whose family-friendly brand could dovetail with the generally young and light-hearted nature of TikTok. But a move by either company would bring new exposure to the legal and reputational risks of policing a vast network of user-generated content. “Legacy media is simply unwilling strategically or unable financially to look at a transformative acquisition, with TikTok perhaps the most exciting growth story in media right now,” analysts at LightShed TMT wrote in a note on Monday. The company that might provide the best product fit with TikTok is Snap, given Snapchat’s similar young audience and often playful content. But Snap’s valuation of about $31 billion would likely leave it too small to take on a bid for TikTok alone. Will a deal fix TikTok’s political problems? The Trump administration appears split over how to treat TikTok, with several figures keen on forcing a sale to a US company, but some, including Peter Navarro, the White House trade adviser, calling for an outright ban on the app. President Donald Trump on Monday said either Microsoft or another US company would have to buy TikTok by September 15 or it would be banned. In China, Microsoft is by far the most trusted US tech company, where it has had a presence for 28 years. Its largest R&D centre outside of the US is in Beijing, and several Chinese tech founders—including ByteDance’s Mr Zhang—are Microsoft alumni. “Microsoft could be seen as a white knight,” said a former Microsoft China executive who still does business with the company. “The most important thing is to settle this quickly. If US attacks go on and on, TikTok could go down the drain if the US can rally other countries against it. If another company had purchased it, it would have inflamed more nationalism in China.” Does it make sense for Microsoft? The US group’s strategy has long been to expand into the main applications on its computing platforms—though in the consumer world, acting as the provider of back-end computing has been a more natural fit than trying to become the operator of pure consumer services. A 2007 strategic investment in Facebook failed to bring it a deeper role as a platform provider for a booming area of online activity—something it could make up for with TikTok, while also latching on to a younger generation. The software company has said owning Skype taught it how to operate mass online consumer services, and bringing another anchor tenant to its Azure cloud platform would give it a big leg up against arch-rival Amazon. It would also give it one of the richest online video repositories, a ready-made data set for training its AI algorithms. But Microsoft has often failed with pure consumer products and has a decidedly mixed record with acquisitions. The exception has been gaming, where the Xbox console and Minecraft—chief executive Satya Nadella’s first acquisition—have thrived as standalone services. But jumping into social media would put the group under a political spotlight and it would highlight a business weakness: apart from its Bing search engine, Microsoft has had little success at using advertising to monetize its online services, notably writing off more than $6 billion after one failed advertising acquisition. “Microsoft has the resources, balance sheet, and experience to create a digital advertising ecosystem while also providing other synergies such as a cloud and search offering that could be used as well,” said Youssef Squali, analyst at Truist Securities. “That said, we caution that Microsoft has not been very successful historically with deals focusing on consumers [or] advertising.” The challenges Microsoft faces in buying TikTok’s US arm
  11. Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming will launch on September 15th on Android Available in 22 countries, but no iOS support at launch Microsoft will launch its game streaming service, known as Project xCloud, on September 15th exclusively on Android devices. Project xCloud will be bundled as part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, priced at $14.99 per month, with a promise of more than 100 games available on Android tablets and phones. Game streaming will be limited initially to Android; iPhone and iPad users will have to wait. “It’s our ambition to scale cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass available on all devices, but we have nothing further to share at this time regarding iOS,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. The lack of iOS support at launch will be disappointing to iPhone and iPad owners but not exactly surprising. While Microsoft has been testing xCloud on iOS, the company previously revealed its testing was limited due to Apple’s App Store policies. Microsoft hasn’t revealed which Apple policies are preventing xCloud from launching on iOS, but Google’s Stadia service is also not available on iPhones or iPads. Valve’s Steam Link app took nearly a year for Apple to approve even though it primarily streams games from your home PC. Apple has also faced questions over its 30 percent cut of in-app purchases and strict App Store policies from the House Judiciary Committee recently as part of a tech antitrust hearing. Microsoft is now pushing ahead with its xCloud launch on September 15th regardless, although it appears the company is referring to it as the “cloud gaming” feature of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. It’s launching in 22 countries next month, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Cloud gaming feature, or xCloud as we know it today, will also launch as a beta while Microsoft works to scale it to the millions it expects to use the service around the world. Microsoft will end its free xCloud preview on September 11th, and the company is planning to launch an updated Xbox Game Pass app with game streaming on September 15th. Interestingly, the versions that will be published on the One Store in Korea and Galaxy Store for Samsung users globally will both include “in-app purchase capabilities,” according to Microsoft, suggesting that the Google Play Store version will not. Microsoft is also partnering with Razer, PowerA, 8BitDo, and Nacon to create accessories and controllers that are ready for xCloud. You’ll also be able to use existing Xbox One controllers or even Sony’s DualShock 4 controllers to play games on xCloud. Microsoft isn’t detailing all 100-plus games that will be available for game streaming just yet, but the company is providing a list of 36 titles that are coming: Ark: Survival Evolved Bleeding Edge Costume Quest 2 Crackdown 3 (campaign) Destiny 2 F1 2019 Forza Horizon 4 Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Gears of War 4 Gears 5 Ultimate Edition Grounded Halo 5: Guardians Halo Wars: Definitive Edition Halo Wars 2 Halo: The Master Chief Collection Halo: Spartan Assault Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Killer Instinct Definitive Edition Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Minecraft Dungeons The Outer Worlds Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition Ori and the Will of the Wisps Quantum Break ReCore: Definitive Edition Ryse: Son of Rome Sea of Thieves: Anniversary Edition State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition Sunset Overdrive Super Lucky’s Tale Tell Me Why The Bard’s Tale Trilogy Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut Wasteland 3 Wasteland Remastered Yakuza Kiwami 2 Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming will launch on September 15th on Android
  12. Microsoft points to October end-of-support for older Office apps accessing 365 services As of Oct. 13 the company will stop supporting older versions of Office applications connecting to Office 365 and Microsoft 365 services. Martyn Williams/IDG Microsoft recently reminded customers that starting Oct. 13 the company will not support older versions of Office applications connecting to Office 365 and Microsoft 365 services. In a support document dated July 20, Microsoft listed the applications that will be "supported for connecting to Office 365 (and Microsoft 365) services" such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise, formerly known as "Office 365 ProPlus;" Microsoft 365 Apps for business, previously "Office 365 Business;" Office 2019; Office 2016, but only the Windows version. The Office editions left in the cold are those provided with "perpetual" licenses – ones customers paid for once, not repeatedly as for Office or Microsoft 365 subscriptions – including Office 2013 on Windows, which is to receive support until April 11, 2023; Office 2010 for Windows; and Office 2016 for Mac. The last two exhaust general support on Oct. 13. (Mac versions of Office are supported for only five years, rather than the decade Windows' editions receive.) Although excluding some Office applications from Office 365 service support may seem harsh – especially when those applications are owed years of support – Microsoft softened the blow considerably. "We won't take any active measures to block other versions of the Office client, such as Office 2013, from connecting to Office 365 services, but these older clients may encounter performance or reliability issues over time," the Redmond, Wash. developer stated in the support document. With support lost more from omission than commission, Microsoft argued that customers "will almost certainly face an increased security risk" and "find themselves out of compliance" rather than be suddenly suspended from accessing, say, OneDrive. Microsoft has long played with the support of Office applications connecting to Office 365 services. Three years ago, the company said that perpetual-license versions of Office would be able to connect to Microsoft's cloud-based services only during the first half of their 10-year support lifecycle. It set Oct. 13, 2020 as the date when the new policy would take effect. But in September 2018, Microsoft gave Office 2016 a reprieve, saying that that suite would be able to connect to the services through October 2023. Office 2019's support for Office and Microsoft 365 services also expires in October 2023. Microsoft Microsoft's matrix spells out what Office is supported until when for connecting to Office and Microsoft 365 services. Microsoft points to October end-of-support for older Office apps accessing 365 services
  13. Karlston

    Why Microsoft wants TikTok

    Why Microsoft wants TikTok Forty-five days to close the deal AtAt first glance, a Microsoft acquisition of TikTok seems a little unusual. Microsoft has spent years walking back consumer plays like the Groove Music service, the Kinect Xbox accessory, its Microsoft Band fitness device, Windows Phone, and more recently the Mixer streaming service. Microsoft has been favoring its enterprise software and services, and even Cortana has transitioned to be productivity-focused. How does a service that caters to dancing teenagers fit with Microsoft’s buttoned-up business demographic? If you dig a little deeper into Microsoft’s future ambitions, though, a move to acquire TikTok’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand could benefit many of Microsoft’s existing businesses while also setting the company up as a real competitor to YouTube and Facebook. TikTok on an iPhone. Data, data, and more data The key part of any TikTok deal will be the data and users Microsoft gains access to. This is the driving force behind concerns from the Trump administration over TikTok’s potential ties to the Chinese government and how that data might be misused. Microsoft acknowledges the data’s importance in its blog post confirming acquisition talks, noting that “Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.” This data could be used by Microsoft in a variety of ways. The software giant has long used Xbox Live to fuel parts of Microsoft Research for future software and hardware projects, and the usage data helps game developers and Microsoft better understand how people use their Xbox. Understanding how people interacted with and used the Kinect accessory for the Xbox ultimately helped Microsoft develop and improve HoloLens, too. TikTok could help correct a Microsoft blindspot and even influence how other software and services are developed inside the company. Microsoft has all the data it needs on business usage of software, but it hasn’t been successful with pure consumer services in recent years, which has left the company with a gap of insight into consumer behaviors. That’s particularly relevant when you consider that a large number of young Americans are growing up in an environment dominated by Android, iOS, and Chromebooks in classrooms. With Gmail also dominating consumer email usage and document sharing through Google Docs, it’s possible to grow up in the US without needing any Microsoft software or services. Microsoft missed the mobile revolution and has been playing catch-up ever since, but it doesn’t want to miss an entire generation of future workers. TikTok gives Microsoft a direct line to millions of youngsters using the app to watch videos and even those who use it to create content. Microsoft has tried desperately to adapt its Windows operating system to be more consumer-friendly with video creation apps, but TikTok offers an easy way for millions to create videos from their phones instead. Microsoft’s Surface Pro X. Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge Microsoft could take advantage of that direct access to TikTok users with ads for Surface, Xbox, and other products, or even as another base for its game-streaming ambitions. Google is planning to leverage YouTube to integrate its Stadia streaming service, and TikTok would give Microsoft a response with xCloud game streaming. Microsoft had been planning to use Mixer for Xbox game streaming, but the service never gained enough traction, and the company was forced to strike a deal with Facebook for xCloud integration instead. It’s not hard to imagine watching a Call of Duty video on TikTok and then being able to click and instantly play the game as it streams to your phone via Microsoft’s xCloud service. Microsoft also has broad ambitions for artificial intelligence that go beyond just the workplace. While its initial foray into AI-powered chatbots for consumers didn’t go to plan, Microsoft does need a consumer testing ground for its AI work that goes beyond Office. TikTok already utilizes AI for facial recognition with the app’s popular filters and in the recommendation engine that drives the For You feed. TikTok’s AI feed dictates exactly what you see in the app, and the algorithm improves the more people use TikTok. TikTok has also been venturing into augmented reality, with both filters and ads that utilize AR. Microsoft’s AR ambitions have been largely limited to its HoloLens hardware, Windows Mixed Reality headsets, and some experiments on mobile with Minecraft. TikTok would be another gateway into the mobile world of AR for Microsoft. A complicated acquisition Microsoft doesn’t offer any clues as to how its acquisition could directly affect TikTok features, apart from noting it “would build on the experience TikTok users currently love.” Exactly how Microsoft could operate TikTok in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is unclear. This leaves large swathes of the world, particularly across Asia and Europe, with a version of TikTok that will potentially have different features to Microsoft’s version. How Microsoft operates TikTok in the US and beyond will be key to its future success if the company is able to acquire operational control. One of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s first big acquisitions was Minecraft maker Mojang. It has been a huge success, particularly as Minecraft has continued to grow and Microsoft has largely left the Mojang studio to continue to develop the game independently. Equally, Nadella’s acquisition of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion has also been a success story for Microsoft. The company has been operating LinkedIn separately, with some clever integration points with Office where it makes sense. Microsoft has access to a giant enterprise social network to fend off competition from Google and Facebook in the workplace, and the company continues to dominate with Office as a result. Even GitHub appears to be a successful acquisition for Microsoft. The software maker has also been operating this business separately, but again, it’s a key point of data for Microsoft to understand how developers are responding to the world’s app needs. If Microsoft’s TikTok deal is successful, then it’s likely the company will also be run separately. Microsoft’s messy acquisitions of Skype and Nokia’s phone business have been lessons in how not to aggressively integrate businesses. Microsoft is also new to the world of content moderation and the associated headaches that brings, so it’s unlikely Microsoft will attempt to deeply integrate TikTok or re-brand it in any way. Acquiring TikTok in English-speaking countries also helps avoid some of the moderation complexity faced by Facebook and Twitter. Oddly, Microsoft doesn’t list TikTok’s UK operation as a target for acquisition. (The UK, US, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada are also intelligence sharing partners under the Five Eyes alliance.) Running TikTok separately could allow Microsoft to leverage its all-important data and integration points but also position TikTok as the YouTube and Facebook rival Microsoft has always wanted. Microsoft teamed up with News Corporation and NBC Universal back in 2006 to launch its Soapbox on MSN Video service. It failed to compete with YouTube and was shut down a few years later, leaving Microsoft to adopt YouTube as the primary way it shares its own videos. Microsoft also experimented with its own social network, Socl, back in 2012 before shutting down the service five years later. Microsoft always understood the potential for Facebook’s growth, after initially investing $240 million in Facebook back in 2007. TikTok is rapidly turning into the next big consumer social media space, acting as a direct competitor to Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, both in terms of scale and the features involved in sharing and commenting on videos. It’s difficult to say exactly how Microsoft’s potential TikTok takeover will progress. It’s an unusual deal for the company, particularly with the US government’s ongoing threats. Microsoft doesn’t typically confirm it’s in acquisition talks before deals are made, and the company’s odd blog post specifically thanks President Trump for his personal involvement. The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft’s blog post may have been prompted specifically by allies of the president pressuring the company to acknowledge the deal publicly. It’s a complex deal, and Microsoft is trapped in it. Owning the network could benefit the company, but if it happens, it would also benefit President Trump, who could claim to have unwound one of China’s stickiest footholds in the US tech ecosystem. And he wouldn’t be shy about highlighting his involvement. There will likely be more twists and turns in the TikTok talks in the coming weeks, but now that Microsoft has committed to finishing these discussions no later than September 15th, the clock is TikTok-ing. Why Microsoft wants TikTok
  14. Microsoft reveals redesigned, much faster Xbox store Rolling out to some Xbox Insiders on August 5th and everyone this fall Image: Microsoft Microsoft has announced a significant overhaul of its digital store for Xbox, and the end result is a much faster browsing experience and more straightforward navigation. “Far more than a typical app update, we’ve rebuilt the experience from the ground up to be faster, safer and easier to use than ever before,” wrote the Xbox team’s Cody Bird in a blog post. The new Microsoft Store app for Xbox will roll out to some Xbox insiders on August 5th before expanding to other testers in the coming weeks and ultimately reaching all Xbox One owners — and the Xbox Series X — this fall. To me, the current store can be a genuine hassle to browse, and this feels like a huge step in the right direction. The new store is dramatically faster than the current version. Microsoft says it’s “more than twice as fast as before” and can load in under two seconds — sometimes even in less than a second. It’s been restructured to make it easier to get to whatever section you want using the Xbox controller. The side navigation pane is similar to the Xbox app for PC. You can get a good feel for all the changes by watching the Major Nelson video below. The revamped Xbox Microsoft Store has been fully optimized for the era of Game Pass, and it now shows more details about a title at the top level as you browse without making you dig deeper. The design does a better job highlighting deals / sale pricing, and makes it easy to compare various editions of a game where applicable to know what you’re getting with each choice. Image: Microsoft There’s a focus on parental controls; users must now be signed in to browse the Xbox store, and content filters should ensure younger players in your house don’t see anything inappropriate. Image: Microsoft Microsoft has also thought of some smaller, helpful additions. There’s now a “recently viewed” section that’ll let you get back to a game you’ve been considering but haven’t yet added to your wish list. “The new Microsoft Store on Xbox is just the first of many updates we’re rolling out in the coming weeks, all built to keep the gamer at the center of the entire gaming experience,” Bird said. Microsoft is expected to announce a lower-cost Xbox Series S sometime this month as it continues to prepare for a holiday face-off with Sony’s PlayStation 5. Microsoft reveals redesigned, much faster Xbox store
  15. Microsoft says CEO Satya Nadella has talked to Trump about buying TikTok Talks are expected to be completed by September 15th Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge In a blog post Sunday, Microsoft said it was “prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” following a conversation between its CEO Satya Nadella and President Trump. It’s the first time the company has confirmed reports it was in talks to acquire the video sharing platform. “Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” the blog post reads. It adds that the company expects to move “quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020.” The blog post also says that “the two companies have provided notice of their intent to explore a preliminary proposal that would involve a purchase of the TikTok service in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and would result in Microsoft owning and operating TikTok in these markets.” It’s unclear how Microsoft would sever those countries from other areas where TikTok operates, like Europe and Africa. Microsoft also did not commit to undertaking the purchase entirely on its own, saying that the company “may invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in this purchase.” President Trump had threatened to ban TikTok in the US on Friday. Trump indicated to reporters that he was ready to sign a document to order the TikTok ban as early as Saturday, either via an executive order or emergency economic powers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the possibility of a ban as early as July 7th, saying it was “something we’re looking at.” TikTok is a subsidiary of Beijing-based ByteDance, and critics have called out its privacy practices and potential ties to the Chinese government. Pompeo also compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies that have been designated as threats to US national security. The blog post describes the discussions as “preliminary,” but addresses the privacy concerns, saying the company would “ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States. “To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States,” the post continues, “Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred.” Microsoft says CEO Satya Nadella has talked to Trump about buying TikTok
  16. Microsoft reportedly puts TikTok acquisition talks on hold The Trump administration had threatened to ban the app for weeks Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Talks between Microsoft and TikTok parent company ByteDance were paused after President Trump voiced his opposition to the deal, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. And while the deal does not appear to be dead, both parties are reportedly trying to get a handle on where the Trump administration stands, and if it plans any future action against the Chinese-based video sharing app. President Trump told reporters Friday he was planning to ban TikTok from operating in the US. “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. Bloomberg reports the president said he was ready to sign a document to order the ban as early as today, either via an executive order or emergency economic powers. “I will sign the document tomorrow,” he said on Friday night, indicating that a ban could take effect “essentially immediately.” Microsoft was in advanced talks with ByteDance prior to the president’s comments, the WSJ said. Trump’s remarks led TikTok to agree to add 10,000 jobs in the US. Whether that will still hold after the president’s comment was unclear Saturday. A deal was possible as early as Monday, according to the WSJ. Reuters reported Saturday that ByteDance had agreed to sell its American operations to prevent the Trump administration from banning it in the US, and, that Microsoft would be in charge of protecting US user data. The plan would have allowed another American company to take over TikTok in the US. The administration has threatened to ban the video-sharing app for several weeks; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on July 7th a ban was “something we’re looking at.” President Trump said Friday “we’re banning them from the United States,” but didn’t provide specifics other than he planned to take action as early as Saturday. TikTok US General Manager Vanessa Pappas said in a video on Saturday that “we’re not planning on going anywhere” and the company is “here for the long run.” TikTok is a subsidiary of Beijing-based ByteDance, and has been scrutinized for its privacy practices and potential ties to China’s government. Pompeo has compared TikTok to Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies the Trump administration has designated as threats to US national security. Last month, TikTok users and K-pop fans encouraged followers to buy tickets to President Trump’s rally in Tulsa but not show up, in an attempt to leave seats at the rally empty. Turnout for the rally was lower than the Trump campaign had expected. Reports on Friday suggested the Trump administration would potentially force TikTok’s Chinese owner to divest it, and several published reports indicated Microsoft was in advanced talks to acquire the company. US law doesn’t have any precedent for blocking software, the way China’s Great Firewall does. UPDATE August 1st, 4:31PM ET: Adds information that the talks between Microsoft and ByteDance appear to be paused Microsoft reportedly puts TikTok acquisition talks on hold
  17. Windows Defender now labels CCleaner as a Potentially Unwanted Application Last year Microsoft denied that they blacklisted Registry Cleaner CCleaner on Microsoft Answers, saying: CCleaner is not in any Microsoft Blacklist and there are no Blacklists regarding other domains in the official Microsoft forums Today Microsoft is no longer as reticent, and has officially marked CCleaner as a Potentially Unwanted Application on their Microsoft Security site: Microsoft did not explain why it made the decision, but the company has never been a fan of registry cleaners. CCleaner has in the past been compromised to deliver malware to Windows PCs, but this is some years ago, and a bit long to hold a grudge. There have also been some issues with CCleaner not being compatible with Windows 10, though those issues have now been fixed. In general, however, CCleaner provides features which are already built into Windows 10 and is somewhat redundant in this day and age. Nevertheless, the company will probably not be happy with Microsoft taking such direct action against it. via BleepingComputer Windows Defender now labels CCleaner as a Potentially Unwanted Application
  18. Microsoft's Surface Neo page no longer says it's coming this holiday season Last October, Microsoft's Panos Panay did something that he's never done before. He showed off two products a full year before they were to be released. That included a dual-screen PC called the Surface Neo and a dual-screen phone called the Surface Duo. It didn't work out. Microsoft announced back in May that Windows 10X was being repurposed for single-screen devices, and dual-screen support was being pushed back indefinitely. Strangely though, the company didn't update its product listing for the Surface Neo for months, leaving it as saying that it's shipping this holiday season. That's changing today. Everything is exactly the same, where it says, "A groundbreaking new dual-screen device that redefines how you get things done. With two 9” screens, a revolutionary 360° hinge, touch, pen, keyboard, and incredible new Windows experiences, Surface Neo enables you to do more, anywhere." That sentence used to be followed by, "Coming Holiday 2020." Some may have speculated that this PC will actually ship with regular Windows 10, and then have a Windows 10X variant when it's available. After all, that's what Lenovo is doing with its ThinkPad X1 Fold. It's clearly not the case for the Surface Neo though, which was meant to be the hero device for Windows 10X. The latest rumors are that dual-screen support for Windows 10X now isn't coming until 2022. Between now and then, it's not only being targeted at single-screen PCs, but more specifically, it's being targeted at low-end single-screen PCs. Microsoft's Surface Neo page no longer says it's coming this holiday season
  19. Microsoft will pitch virtualized Windows-as-a-subscription service, update and maintain VMs for customers A recent job posting by Microsoft indicates the company may be crafting a new device-as-a-service subscription offer for Microsoft 365 customers that won't actually include the device. Thinkstock Microsoft may be crafting a new subscription offer for Microsoft 365 customers that will be, for all intents and purposes, a device-as-a-service minus the, well, devices. According to a job opening posted by Microsoft last month, the service will "change the way millions of enterprises consume Windows Desktops and applications." ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley first reported on the job listing and its likely implications. Although the posting was viewable as late as the morning of July 21, by later that day it had been scrubbed, perhaps a hint that Microsoft did not intend for it to attract media attention. Built on the back of Windows Virtual Desktop "Microsoft Cloud PC is a strategic, new offering that is built on top of Windows Virtual Desktop to delivering Desktop as a Service," the posting announced, using Desktop with a capital D. Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) virtualizes Microsoft's operating system – Windows 10 specifically – on the company's Azure cloud service, letting customers run the OS, Microsoft's Office applications and third-party apps. Rather than run all that locally, say from a PC's solid-state drive, WVD runs programs remotely. Azure's servers, where the virtualized instances of Windows run, stand in for an at-hand personal computer, while the device in front of the user acts as a terminal in 20th century-style server-client computing. Licenses to WVD are provided free of charge to customers equipped with subscriptions to any of several Microsoft 365 and Windows 10 Enterprise plans. However, customers pay in a metered fashion for running the virtual machines and associated applications on Azure, as well as for the storage space those VMs demand. In a rough way, the more each user at "Example Inc." remotely runs his or her virtual Windows 10, the more the company pays Microsoft. While the program manager opening did not delve into details of what Microsoft called Cloud PC, the service will clearly be sold by subscription. Microsoft said Cloud PC would be dealt out "at a flat per-user price," just as are all other subscription-based services the Redmond, Wash. firm offers. Cloud PC would presumably be charged on a monthly basis, like other Microsoft subscriptions. Thus, while WVD uses a pay-for-what-you-use model, Cloud PC will be an all-you-can-consume service, the former using a cafeteria pricing model, the latter a buffet-like scheme. Cloud PC will rely on the same technologies as WVD, with Azure as its foundation. However, to account for the inevitable gluttons, Microsoft will have to have sufficient compute and storage capability to serve these new PC Cloud customers. It will be very interesting to see how Microsoft prices the service. Microsoft A Microsoft job opening hinted at a service, "Cloud PC," that would offer corporate customers virtualized Windows 10 that the Redmond, Wash. firm would service and maintain. Management minus hardware Nowhere in the job post did Microsoft refer to Cloud PC as a "device-as-a-service." Desktop-as-a-service? Sure. But devices were nowhere to be found. There's a reason for that. First, a quick historical note: Microsoft already has a device-as-a-service (DaaS) in play. Called Microsoft Managed Desktop, or MMD, it's a traditional DaaS that provides hardware on a set replacement schedule, assuming the chores of acquiring new PCs and disposing of old ones. Microsoft unveiled it almost two years ago. As part of MMD, Microsoft also assumes management of Windows and Microsoft 365 enterprise apps – the latter are the locally-stored applications, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and so on – including the servicing of PCs with monthly security updates and twice-annual feature upgrades for Windows 10 and Microsoft 365's apps. (Other DaaS providers promise some similar management, but Microsoft, for obvious reasons, has an advantage over its rivals here.) Microsoft pitched MMD as an offloading of drudgery from customers' IT professionals. "MMD enables customers to maximize their IT organizations' focus on their business while Microsoft manages their modern desktops," wrote Bill Karagounis, then the MMD's general manager, in that Sept. 17, 2018 announcement. Clearly, Cloud PC will provide, at a minimum, that level of management. "Microsoft's vision of Cloud PC is that it is the only [Microsoft] 365-powered user compute experience delivered from Azure and managed by Microsoft," the position-open listing stated (emphasis added). Under this assumption, Microsoft would maintain the virtual machine instances for customers, updating with monthly "quality" updates (what the firm labels the Patch Tuesday follies) and the once-maybe-twice-a-year feature upgrades – as well as, presumably, all other fixes for Windows 10 and Microsoft 365's apps. That alone, may be worth the price of Cloud PC admission. "VDI is like a large cattle ranch," said Wes Miller, analyst at Directions on Microsoft, referring to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, a generic nameplate for the practice of using virtual machines to provide virtual desktops. "There's a ton of servicing," he continued, "when there's a virtual machine for each user." And so, tons of work for IT under, say, the WVD model. "In my interpretation [of Cloud PC], [Microsoft] offers to run the ranch," Miller said. The compute, he added, was already centralized on Azure with MVD, but with Cloud PC and Microsoft's promise to manage the virtual machines, "They've removed all the complexity of VDI." A subscription format for Cloud PC would be a logical next step for Microsoft, Miller agreed, ticking off several milestones of how it pitched and sold Windows. "It would be a natural outgrowth of how it's moved on from 30 years ago, first with something like a one-time car purchase, then SA [Software Assurance] then a one-size-fits-all Microsoft 365. [Microsoft 365] gets you the service and software, but now you had this [Cloud PC] abstraction layer over it. That becomes one more layer to remove the friction." There must still be hardware, of course, in front of the user, but WVD – and thus Cloud PC – allows non-traditional hardware to run Windows and Windows applications. "They still have to run a Windows app for certain types of work, but they want a better form factor," posited Miller. "Chromebooks and iPads [for example] may not need to run Windows desktop apps all day, every day." Microsoft, of course, hasn't shared any details of Cloud PC, but if it relies on WVD, as the job posting declared, customers should expect that availability would, like WVD, be restricted. The editions eligible to access Windows 10 with WVD, are: Microsoft 365 E3/E5 Microsoft 365 F3 Microsoft 365 A3/A5/Student Use Benefits Microsoft 365 Business Premium Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5 Windows 10 Education A3/A5 "Legacy Windows apps will always have a role," Miller argued. "[WVD and so Cloud PC] remove the unreliability of the PC itself." Microsoft will pitch virtualized Windows-as-a-subscription service, update and maintain VMs for customers
  20. Microsoft’s Surface Duo looks like it’s ready to launch FCC and Bluetooth listings appeared this week Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge Microsoft has spent the past few weeks teasing the Surface Duo on Twitter, and it now looks like the dual-screen device is ready to launch. Microsoft’s new Android-powered device first appeared at the FCC earlier this week, and today it has shown up on the Bluetooth SIG certification page. Devices typically appear in FCC and Bluetooth listings just a few weeks away from launch. Recent rumors had suggested the Surface Duo might appear in July, but it’s clear the device isn’t ready to launch this month. Instead, it looks increasingly likely that Microsoft will launch the Surface Duo in the coming weeks. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company had originally planned to focus on the Surface Duo and dual-screen devices at Build earlier this year. These plans changed once it was clear Build would be held virtually due to the pandemic, and Microsoft also pushed back its Windows 10X dual-screen plans to far beyond 2020. Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge While some developers already have access to dual-screen developer units, Microsoft had planned at one point to get Surface Duo to developers a lot sooner. Like many things, the pandemic has impacted Surface Duo launch plans, but we understand Microsoft is still hoping to ship the device by the end of September. Adding fuel to the Surface Duo launch rumors, phone leaker Evan Blass has also hinted that the Surface Duo will appear on AT&T’s network in the US. Blass typically obtains marketing images and materials of unreleased phones a few weeks or months before they’re about to launch, which also suggests that the Surface Duo is nearly ready to go. Microsoft has also spent the summer teasing the Surface Duo on Twitter ahead of its launch. Microsoft’s communications chief, Frank Shaw, posted a photo of the Surface Duo earlier this month, just days after Surface chief Panos Panay teased the device on Twitter with what appeared to be a new bumper case. This same case also appeared in a video on LinkedIn featuring Microsoft executive Brad Anderson last week. Microsoft first unveiled the Surface Duo at a press event in New York City back in October, promising a holiday 2020 launch for the device. While the company has not shared official hardware specifications just yet, leaks have suggested it will include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM, up to 256GB of storage, and include two 5.6-inch displays. Microsoft’s Surface Duo looks like it’s ready to launch
  21. The big winner in Slack’s Microsoft fight could be Google Slack is about to face even greater competition SlackSlack surprised Microsoft with a competition complaint in Europe yesterday. After arguing for months that Microsoft Teams isn’t a true competitor to Slack and is more akin to Zoom, Slack finally admitted what was clear all along: Microsoft Teams is a competitor, and Slack is finding it hard to compete with Microsoft. It’s not a surprising admission, but if Slack is finding it hard to compete with Microsoft, then it’s going to face even greater headaches once Google finally gets its act together. After fumbling with communications apps for years, there are early signs that Google is now ready to take on Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. Google’s enterprise play has huge implications for Slack’s EU antitrust bid — and the company’s future beyond it. Slack looks set to face two giant tech companies leveraging their dominant products to take a big slices of the workplace communications business. If Slack manages to convince the EU to take action against Microsoft’s bundling, it still faces the looming threat of Google bundling its own apps and services in a similar way. And for antitrust crusaders, G Suite shows that the bundling problem is much bigger than Microsoft. Slack’s competition complaint, published yesterday, is targeted solely at Microsoft and focused on the company’s bundling of Teams with its Office 365 subscription. “What we’re asking for is that Teams be separated from the Office suite and be sold separately with a fair commercial price tag associated with it so it competes on the merit with our product,” explained David Schellhase, Slack’s legal chief, in a call with reporters yesterday. “It really is as simple and straightforward as that.” Slack for IPhone. Microsoft has bundled a variety of productivity apps with its Office suite for decades, and it chose to bundle Teams free to Office 365 customers when it launched back in 2016. This bundling, alongside tight Office integration, has made it hard for Slack to convince businesses that are already paying for Office to pay extra to get Slack. But Google looks set to replicate that tactic. G Suite, which includes regular Gmail users, passed 2 billion active users earlier this year, and G Suite’s new boss, Javier Soltero, said at the time that “changing the way people work is something we are uniquely positioned to do.” Soltero arrived at Google recently after a four-year career at Microsoft, a company he joined originally when the software giant acquired Acompli, which later became Outlook for iOS. He’s already demonstrated his expertise for spotting trends and filling the gaps with apps and services that were good enough for Microsoft to acquire. If he can repeat this at Google, then Slack has another giant competitor ready to bundle and leverage its popular communications and productivity apps. Google has already shown signs it’s moving toward catching up with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. Google made Meet free earlier this year to try to compete with Zoom’s sudden popularity, and it has started integrating the videoconferencing app deeply into Gmail and Google Calendar. The next step toward true Slack and Teams competition is Google’s early work toward integrating Google Chat, Rooms, and Meet into Gmail. This won’t arrive until later this year, but it’s clearly a big priority at Google. Google Meet Gmail integration. If Google can truly execute here and provide a more coherent communications platform that merges email, chat, and video calls into a single experience, then that’s as big a threat to Slack as well as Microsoft Teams. Slack didn’t have a good answer to the looming threat of Google, and why Google’s bundling approach is less of a threat than Microsoft’s. “Google and Microsoft are different,” says Schellhase, responding to a question about why Microsoft’s work with Teams is different from Google’s recent approach. “Microsoft has a dominant position with the Office productivity suite and all of the ancillary software. There’s no law against having a dominant position, but there are laws about how companies that have dominant market share have to behave. One thing they cannot do is tie a new independent product to the dominant product that they’ve got.” If you look at the raw numbers between Google and Microsoft’s reach or dominance, Office is used by around 1.2 billion people, and Google says G Suite is used by 2 billion. The key difference between these numbers is that the vast majority of people who are using Office are using it as part of a work license or subscription, whereas the overwhelming majority of what Google calls G Suite users are the approximately 1.5 billion Gmail users who probably aren’t all using the service for work. So far, Google hasn’t focused on leveraging those free users into enterprise clients — but when it starts, it could become a major player overnight. Microsoft dominates the workplace with Office, but Google clearly dominates consumer usage of email, search, and with services like YouTube. Google’s free services are used for work, too. This is especially true in education, where G Suite and Chromebooks continue to take over classrooms across the US. Google’s ability to bundle and integrate Meet free with Gmail should still be a cause for concern for Slack, even if the company isn’t willing to admit that or fight that battle just yet. It’s still not clear whether the European Commission will even formally investigate Slack’s complaint. We likely have months of uncertainty until a decision is made, and these are keys months ahead for Microsoft, Google, Slack, Zoom, and many others fighting for how businesses and students communicate. “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella back in April. Businesses have been flocking to services like Microsoft Teams and Zoom during the pandemic. While Microsoft Teams overtook Slack usage with 13 million daily users a year ago, that wasn’t enough to prompt an EU complaint. It’s clear that the digital transformation that businesses are being forced to accelerate during this pandemic has pushed many more to Microsoft Teams instead of Slack. Microsoft Teams usage skyrocketed nearly 40 percent in a single week at the beginning of the pandemic, moving from 32 million to 44 million. That shift hasn’t slowed down either, with Microsoft revealing back in April that Teams is now at 75 million daily active users. Slack has said it has broken user records due to increased demand for remote working, but the company has only said 12.5 million concurrent Slack users so far. That number is also different from the 12 million daily active users Slack previously disclosed back in October. Microsoft has responded to Slack’s EU complaint, and the company used the opportunity to highlight an area it feels Slack missed out on: videoconferencing. While Slack does actually support videoconferencing, Microsoft says, “With COVID-19, the market has embraced Teams in record numbers while Slack suffered from its absence of video-conferencing.” Slack’s videoconferencing is far inferior to Teams, and it’s the big reason behind Slack partnering up with Amazon to transition to Chime for voice and video calling. Slack’s miss on reliable video calling and videoconferencing highlights one of the main differences between Microsoft Teams and Slack. Microsoft has leveraged its investments in Lync and Skype and rolled them into Teams and chat, while Slack has brilliantly adapted IRC for the workplace and has ambitions to truly eliminate business email. The differences between Slack and Teams have allowed both to compete for different customers, especially as Microsoft caters to the Office crowd and Slack for a combination of G Suite, Zoom, and other tools. Google is looming large, though. The tighter integration of Google Meet into Gmail hits at a Slack weakness, and if Google is able to produce a compelling Slack competitor, then Slack will face far bigger problems than Microsoft alone. The big winner in Slack’s Microsoft fight could be Google
  22. Slack says Microsoft is back up to old bad tricks, “browser war” style Remember when Netscape said Internet Explorer was a problem? Enlarge Aurich Lawson / Getty Images 113 with 89 posters participating Slack—the now-nearly ubiquitous, purple work-chatting platform—has filed a formal complaint alleging that tech titan Microsoft is unlawfully abusing its power to squeeze newer rivals out of the market—almost the exact same accusations Microsoft infamously faced 20 years ago. San Francisco-based Slack filed a complaint with the European Commission detailing "Microsoft's illegal and anti-competitive practice of abusing its market dominance to extinguish competition in breach of European Union competition law," the company said today. The complaint centers on Microsoft Teams, the company's chat and video-conference platform. Teams is a competitor product not only to Slack but also to popular conference service Zoom, Google's Meet and chat services, and other video services. Slack alleges that the way Microsoft bundles Teams into its distribution of Office—widely used enterprise software such as Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel—gives Microsoft an unfair advantage against the competition. "What we are asking for is Teams be separated from the Office Suite and sold separately with a fair commercial price tag, so it competes on the merits with our products," Slack's general counsel, David Schellhase, explained. "Competition and antitrust laws are designed to ensure that dominant companies are not allowed to foreclose competition illegally." "Microsoft is reverting to past behavior," Schellhase added, referring to a landmark US antitrust case against the company from the late 1990s. "They created a weak, copycat product and tied it to their dominant Office product, force installing it and blocking its removal, a carbon copy of their illegal behavior during the ‘browser wars.’ Slack is asking the European Commission to take swift action to ensure Microsoft cannot continue to illegally leverage its power from one market to another by bundling or tying products." The European Commission does not necessarily have to investigate Microsoft just because Slack has filed a complaint. Based on the EC's current strong interest in probing alleged anticompetitive behavior from tech companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook, however, the commission seems primed to take the accusations seriously. All of this has happened before... When most people think about antitrust law, they think about monopolies being broken up. The last time a company in the United States was forced to break up, though, was January 1, 1984, when AT&T split into the seven regional "Baby Bell" phone carriers. (By the time 30 years had passed, all of those smaller firms had once again merged back into either AT&T or Verizon.) But antitrust is about way more than just monopolies. It covers a whole range of anticompetitive behaviors. At the highest level, competition law basically says that it's fine to be dominant in your market—but that it's illegal to use that position to cheat or to bully other firms out of competing against you. The last time the Department of Justice tried to break up a company, however, the conglomerate in the hot seat was... Microsoft. In 1998, the DOJ took Microsoft to court, alleging the company was behaving as an illegal monopoly and also that it was harming companies such as Netscape by unlawfully bundling its Internet Explorer browser with the Windows operating system. In May 2000, the court ruled that Microsoft had indeed broken the law, and the next month, it ordered Microsoft to be broken up: one company to produce Windows, and another to produce all other Microsoft software, such as Office and IE. Microsoft all but immediately appealed and eventually won out, reaching a settlement with the DOJ in 2001. That settlement avoided any breakups, instead requiring Microsoft to share its APIs with third-party companies. Internet Explorer remained the Internet's most commonly used browser until Google's Chrome finally surpassed it in popularity about five years ago. (Chrome itself now faces some of the same allegations of stagnation and anticompetitive behavior.) “They want to kill us” Just last month, The Wall Street Journal ran a deep dive into Microsoft's Teams strategy, writing, "Microsoft's Teams software gives it a hook to lure and keep customers for its broader portfolio of services based in the cloud, where companies increasingly store their data and run applications." The paper went on to describe the relationship between Microsoft and Slack as "an especially intense feud." "They want to kill us, as opposed to have a great product and make customers happy," Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield told the WSJ. Slack says Microsoft is back up to old bad tricks, “browser war” style
  23. Microsoft’s AI-powered ‘Eye Contact’ feature is finally coming to the Surface Pro X It’s similar to Apple’s upcoming FaceTime feature in iOS 14 Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge Microsoft’s AI-powered “eye contact” feature for the Surface Pro X is finally starting to roll out, months after it was originally announced for the ARM-powered Surface laptop last year. The new feature is rolling out now as part of Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 20175, which means that it likely isn’t too far from a broad release. According to Microsoft, the new feature relies on the “artificial intelligence capabilities of the Microsoft SQ1 processor” to adjust where your eyes are looking in a video call or chat to make sure that you always appear to be making eye contact with the camera — even if the lens is off to the side or you’re looking down at your display. When enabled, the eye contact correction will automatically apply to any app that uses the front camera (like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet), although it only works when the Surface Pro X is in landscape mode. An interview with VentureBeat from last fall indicates that the technology involves the unique AI capabilities of the ARM-based SQ1 processor, enabling the feature on the Surface X. That means that it won’t be available on regular, x86 Windows computers — the kind of processing going on here just draws too much power to be practical on a regular machine. If this sounds familiar, that’s because Microsoft isn’t the only company working on AI-corrected gazes: Apple has been working on a similar “FaceTime Attention Correction” feature for some time, with early versions of the functionality showing up in iOS 13 betas last year before getting pulled from the final release. Apple’s iOS 14 website does list the feature, though, so iPhone and iPad users won’t have too long to wait before they’re able to fake paying attention during long FaceTime calls, too. Microsoft’s AI-powered ‘Eye Contact’ feature is finally coming to the Surface Pro X
  24. Microsoft's cloud-based Universal Print is now in public preview Announced back in March, Microsoft today said that its Universal Print service is available in public preview. The service is a cloud-based printing solution that's meant to make your IT department's life a bit easier by moving one more thing from on-prem to the cloud. It takes Windows Server's print functionality and lets Azure do all of the work. Admins can view all of their printers that are registered through the service on a dashboard, and obviously they can use that dashboard to manage them. Obviously, there are no printers that natively support the feature just yet, so you'll have to use a Universal Print proxy application. Microsoft had originally said that it's working with Canon on this, but this time it just said it's working with printer manufacturers, so presumably, there are more partners on-board. From the end user perspective, nothing changes. They can continue printing the way that they always have. It should be a bit easier on IT, just as migrating things to the cloud tends to be, since it's less hardware to manage. You'll need to be running version 1903 of Windows 10 Enterprise or Education, and you'll need to have an Azure AD tenant. Microsoft's cloud-based Universal Print is now in public preview
  25. Microsoft releases Process Monitor tool Procmon for Linux Microsoft revealed some time ago that it had plans to port some of the tools provided by Sysinternals to Linux. One of the tools mentioned was Process Monitor, or short ProcMon, and a preview of the application is now available for Linux. Process Monitor is an advanced monitoring tool for Windows that displays real-time data such as Registry, process and thread activity. It is a powerful tool that supports logging the information to files for later analysis. The program is highly configurable, supports non-destructive filters, the capturing of thread stacks, process details capturing, and boot time logging of operations. The Linux version of Procmon is now available on GitHub. The open source tool has been released as a preview. Since it is released as a preview, it is limited to systems running Ubuntu 18.04 with kernel 4.18 up to 5.3 at the time of writing. Several users tried to build or install the process monitor tool on Ubuntu 20.04 systems and failed. Microsoft plans to add more configurations to the system requirements in the future to take these systems into account. Installation instructions on Ubuntu 18.04 devices are straightforward. Run the following commands: wget -q https://packages.microsoft.com/config/ubuntu/$(lsb_release -rs)/packages-microsoft-prod.deb -O packages-microsoft-prod.deb sudo dpkg -i packages-microsoft-prod.deb sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install procmon Build instructions are provided as well on the project's GitHub website, and Linux users may download a .deb file from the releases section on the project's GitHub page. You may run procmon -h after installation to display the help screen. Here are a few example commands that you may run: sudo procmon // runs the process monitor tool to trace all processes and syscalls. sudo procmon -p 1337 -c procmon.db // traces the process 1337 in headless mode and saves the data to the file procmon.db sudo procmon -p 1337 -e read,write,openat // traces syscalls read, write, and opennat of process 1337 sudo procmon -f procmon.db // opens the trace file procmon.db within the interface. Closing Words Procmon is a powerful system monitoring tool for advanced uses. The Linux version comes without the help file that the Windows version of Procmon includes. Since it is offered as a preview, it is possible that a help file will be provided once the program is offered as a stable release. Microsoft releases Process Monitor tool Procmon for Linux
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