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  1. Microsoft has released a new update for Windows 7 that comes to resolve an issue introduced earlier this week by Patch Tuesday monthly rollup KB4480970. Windows 7 update KB4487345 is now available for download with just one fix, resolving access to network shares that was previously broken down for the Administrators group. Microsoft explains in the official KB article of KB4487345 for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows Server 2008 R2: “This update resolves the issue where local users who are part of the local ‘Administrators’ group may not be able to remotely access shares on Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 machines after installing the January 8th, 2019 security updates. This does not affect domain accounts in the local ‘Administrators’ group.” The update isn’t pushed to devices on Windows Update, but is only offered through the Microsoft Update Catalog website. This means Windows 7 users need to get it manually to install it on their computers. Most likely, the next monthly rollup shipping in the February Patch Tuesday would also include this fix.Activation issue also resolvedEarlier this week, Microsoft also resolved an issue that many associated with the release of monthly rollup KB4480970 and causing activation failures on volume licensed Windows 7 KMS clients. Microsoft says this issue has nothing to do with the Windows 7 monthly rollup and it was just a coincidence that the activation error appeared after this update became available. “The timing of this issue coincides with the release of the January updates (KB4480960 and KB4480970) that were released on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. These events are not related. The issue has been corrected on the backend Microsoft Activation and Validation servers. If you are affected by this issue, please follow the guidance in the Knowledge Base Help article, KB4487266,” it says. The monthly rollup continues to be available for Windows 7 devices on Windows Update. Source
  2. Microsoft was awarded a $1,760,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract under the DoD Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) to provide the Department of Defense with Microsoft Enterprise Services in accordance with the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, Section 208.74. The services Microsoft will provide the DoD for the five years, the ordering period of the contract, will also cover the needs of the Coast Guard and the Intelligence Community, on a worldwide basis, with a contract completion date of January 10, 2024. According to the Department of Defense press release, "Support includes Microsoft product engineering services for software developers and product teams to leverage a range of proprietary resources and source-code, and Microsoft premier support for tools, knowledge database, problem resolution assistance, and custom changes to Microsoft source-code when applicable." Through the IDIQ contract it was awarded, Microsoft will provide the U.S. Department of Defense with support for the following engineering and technology products: Enterprise-wide and organization-specific architectural planning, solution design and innovation, and infrastructure optimization Implementation, deployment and knowledge transfer of Microsoft products, cloud technologies and network solutions support Access to technical support, problem resolution, solution workshops, strategic guidance Assistance to customers with technical issues pertaining to developing cloud, intranet, internet strategies, prototyping and implementation and development of solutions spanning infrastructure and application areas. As detailed on the U.S. General Services Administrations' website: Microsoft already providing cloud services to 7,000 US agencies According to Microsoft, more than 80% of U.S. government agencies already use its Azure cloud platform via the Microsoft Azure Government offering, specifically designed to match the requirements of U.S. federal, state, and local government entities. Moreover, 7,000 federal, state, and local government agencies use Microsoft's cloud platform, totaling over 6 million government users serviced via six government-only datacenters and two distinct DoD-specific cloud regions. At the moment when the above report was issued by Microsoft, its Azure Government cloud platform had "58 compliance certifications, including FedRAMP High, DFARS, and IRS 1075 – more than any other cloud provider." Microsoft's push into the government cloud storage services couldn't come at a better time considering that US federal spending is estimated to reach at least $6.5B during 2019 and that the US government's cloud adoption is accelerating to centralize all its data and services. Source
  3. The “original gangster of big tech” has managed to dodge the bad headlines and congressional grilling that have ensnared its rivals by working with regulators and advocating its own solutions. Quietly but confidently, Microsoft is back. For the first time in almost a decade, it’s the most valuable company in the world while its archrival Apple stumbles. It’s been lauded for its smart pivot into AI and cloud services in recent years and its acquisition of the popular GitHub software development platform. And it’s almost completely avoided the privacy debacles and questions about monopolistic tendencies that have dogged Facebook, Google, and Amazon, which have resulted in those companies facing negative headlines on a daily basis, nasty lawsuits, and their top executives being grilled in U.S. Congress. Microsoft sells targeted ads against search results, and users have complained about how their data is secured in the cloud, the company hasn’t received nearly the same level of scrutiny, and it’s been years since its executives were hauled before Congress. That’s despite the fact that Microsoft owns LinkedIn, which has raised eyebrows with its uncanny skill at suggesting connections for its 600 million users, and was recently probed in Ireland for using email addresses of 18 million non-members to buy targeted ads on Facebook. And European governments have raised concerns about the storage of user data in the cloud via Office 365, and how Microsoft plans to address those issues. And through a partnership with Facebook, Microsoft’s Bing search engine was able to see the names of “virtually all” Facebook users without their consent through 2017. And just this week, Microsoft announced a deal with Kroger’s to set up retail experiences, in which displays will feature digital ads personalized to the individual shopper, raising privacy issues as well as potential cutbacks in retail jobs. There are a few key reasons why Microsoft’s practices haven’t generated the same level of scrutiny from regulators–and the company’s history is a big part of it. “They’ve been around the block, they’ve been the evil perpetrator before, and they’ve already learned how to play very nicely with regulators,” Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at the Center for Internet and Society Stanford Law School, tells Fast Company. “That’s one of the reasons you don’t see Microsoft executives being hauled in to Congress: They have a long-standing relationship, through lobbyists, policymakers–they’ve been in this space for decades.” In fact, it’s been over two decades since Microsoft’s bespectacled, youthful CEO Bill Gates testified to Congress and was grilled on whether the company’s “breathtaking growth” hurt competition in the software industry. And it was sued by the federal government, which accused it of running a monopoly, in a bitter, hard-fought case that took years to settle. Those confrontations taught Microsoft many lessons, including how to anticipate the concerns of regulators, reorganize the company in a way that satisfied anti-trust concerns, and make privacy a part of its organizational structure. “Microsoft took that action against them extremely seriously and really changed the organization as a result,” King says. “They had close to 20 years where they had basically re-architected their entire organization to have people who deal with privacy issues from a legal standpoint, from software standpoint, from the usability, computer interaction standpoint embedded throughout the entire organization. That is unlike any of the other tech companies.” After a series of antitrust investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Microsoft received a number of consent decrees, as the regulators looked closely at Microsoft’s practices, prices, and growing market share. In 2000, there was a court judgment to split up the company, which was later overturned. “They’re the original gangster of big tech, known for sucking the air supply from their competition in the 1990s [Netscape] with implicit subsidies,” says Scott Galloway, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and one of the most vocal critics of big tech. “Had the DOJ not put the brakes on Microsoft, we might not have Google today, favoring Bing as the dominant search engine.” And Microsoft has taken steps to address privacy issues. In 2016, France ordered the company to stop tracking Windows 10 users, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation criticized it for sending all kinds of telemetry data, including location, text input, touch input, and sites you visit, back to Microsoft. The company responded with a combination of more transparency—revealing what info it collects on Windows 10 users—and giving them more control, by letting users choose between basic and full levels of data collection. “Microsoft hasn’t (yet) given any reason for Congress to call them to testify on Capitol Hill. While big tech has been ripe with scandal in 2018, Microsoft remains unscathed,” Galloway notes. “While we keep barking at the moon about Facebook and Apple, Microsoft just keeps plugging along. It’s impressive.” The company’s current CEO, Satya Nadella, who assumed the role five years ago, has also earned praise for navigating the latest wave of regulatory scrutiny and privacy challenges. “The award for tech CEO of the year goes to Satya Nadella, who’s proven himself as a competent, responsible leader, able to protect the firm and its users from conflict,” says Galloway, praising the executive’s leadership and insight. Navigating roadblocks in Europe But it doesn’t mean the broader discussion about user privacy and data collection hasn’t touched them, especially as the company grows and adds more online communities like GitHub to its universe of products and services. Over the last few months, an army of European regulators and government agencies have shed light on some of the parent company’s global user data collection practices at LinkedIn and elsewhere, even as the company is pressing forward with new initiatives, further broadening its reach and market standing. By all accounts, Europe has been more proactive than the U.S. in probing American tech giants and asking tough questions about their privacy and consumer data practices. And Microsoft voluntarily extended Europe’s tough GDPR rights to its worldwide customer base, though it’s not clear how it could he held accountable for violating voluntary rules in the U.S. In a November report, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner detailed how LinkedIn U.S., which serves as LinkedIn Ireland’s data processor, had “processed hashed email addresses of approximately 18 million non-LinkedIn members and targeted these individuals on the Facebook Platform with the absence of instruction from the data controller.” As a result of this audit, the Irish regulator told LinkedIn “to cease pre-compute processing and delete all personal data associated with such processing.” The regulators found the company targeted non-LinkedIn members in violation of existing provisions. LinkedIn has said it compiled with the regulator’s demands. “We fully cooperated with the Data Protection Commission’s 2017 investigation of a complaint about a European advertising campaign, and found the global processes and procedures we had in place were not followed,” says Kalinda Raina, head of global privacy at LinkedIn. “We took appropriate action and have made the internal changes to help protect against this happening again.” As a result of this audit, LinkedIn says it ended globally the so-called “pre-computation” practice, which previously allowed new members to discover their connections when they joined LinkedIn. ‘Alarming’ privacy concerns led to changes Data privacy questions are not limited to LinkedIn. Microsoft stored sensitive data from users of Office, including subject lines from emails and full sentences that are run through a spelling and grammar checker or the translation tool, according to an audit commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Justice & Security, which found “alarming” privacy concerns and a lack of “opt-out” options for users from having their data collected. The agency reached an agreement with Microsoft on October 26, which made changes to satisfy its customers’ preferences. While the Dutch Ministry of Justice & Security is not the country’s regulator, its report does pinpoint several gaps in Microsoft’s practices. “Covertly, without informing people, Microsoft does not offer any choice with regard to the amount of data, or possibility to switch off the collection, or ability to see what data are collected, because the data stream is encoded,” said Privacy Company, the file-storage and file-sharing venture started by internet mogul Kim Dotcom, which compiled the report for the Dutch ministry. When it comes to telemetry issues for Office 365 and Windows, Microsoft promises to do more. “We have done work in the past year to give customers more choice and transparency in what diagnostic data is shared with Microsoft, and we will do more in the coming months,” said Julie Brill, deputy general counsel and corporate vice president for privacy and regulatory affairs, in a statement to Fast Company. “There are often tradeoffs between disabling diagnostic data, and our ability to ensure security, reliability, and the functionality of product features–so we always work to make sure customers understand the impact of each option. Our approach has always been designed around feedback from customers, and we deeply value their continued input.” Concerns about the widespread use of Microsoft products by government agencies and how this data is stored offsite is not limited to Europe. In China, most Western social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked, while LinkedIn has thrived and currently boasts 41 million users. To survive in the country, LinkedIn has worked with Beijing, setting up a joint venture with local partners and routinely removing posts and profile pages that are considered politically sensitive, such as those related to the Tiananmen Square massacre. Just last week, New York-based Chinese activist Zhou Fengsou, who was a student leader in the Tiananmen protests, was informed that his page had been blocked. “While we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China,” the company told Zhou in a message. Further, privacy and consumer data watchdogs say that the United States government agencies and regulators are significantly behind Europe. Microsoft appears to recognize the responsibility. “Every one of our solutions is reinforcing our core intelligent cloud and intelligent edge platform,” Nadella said on the last earnings call. “Not only are we optimistic about the opportunity for us and for our customers, we also recognize our responsibility.” The increased focus on cloud computing adds more urgency to the questions about how data is compiled and used, as Microsoft’s range of products and partnerships, in the private and public sectors. “Privacy considerations are fundamental to any acquisition and start with seeking out partners who have shared values,” says Microsoft’s Julie Brill in response to questions. “There is always more we can do on privacy at Microsoft, and the same is true for anyone we acquire.” Forward march on military contracting Like other tech giants, especially Amazon and Google, Microsoft is a longtime government contractor, but it’s largely avoided the negative headlines amid a surge in activism by tech workers outraged over how their products are used. In November, the Redmond, Washington-based company outbid multiple leading tech companies and defense contractors to win a $480 million contract with the U.S. government, committing to provide its augmented reality HoloLens devices. The U.S. Army will use Microsoft technology to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide, and engage before the enemy.” The company is still in the running for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project, a $10 billion contract to provide cloud services for the Department of Defense and expand Microsoft’s engagement with the U.S. government. Unlike Google, Microsoft has gone full steam ahead with government contracts that have sparked criticism among employees across the tech sector. Earlier this month, Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith expressed ethical concerns over the use of AI by the military, but he reiterated its commitment to work with the Pentagon, saying that “we think it’s more productive to be engaged than disengaged in shaping how the technology is used.” And unlike Google, Microsoft doesn’t seem as bothered by employee criticism, highlighted most recently by a blog post in October written by company staffers that urged company management not to bid on the U.S. military project JEDI. In June, 300 employees threatened to resign over its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which remains active. “They’ve been around longer than many of the other firms, so are very skilled at playing the government game, especially given what they learned based on past actions against them by various governments,” says Lauren Weinstein, a technology consultant based in Los Angeles and cofounder of People for Internet Responsibility. Anticipating future concerns Going forward, the company is trying to be proactive about potential new data privacy regulations and other rules that rein in Silicon Valley, which are widely expected since there is a bipartisan consensus for such oversight of the tech sector. Last month, Microsoft expressed in a blog post its concerns about facial recognition technology’s potential for abuse. Earlier this year, a study identified racial and gender discrimination in AI facial recognition. In the post, the company said, “We should not wait for governments to act,” and committed itself to creating safeguards to address the tech in the first quarter of 2019. It remains unclear what that means for Microsoft’s own Azure facial recognition technology, which it has been busy promoting on its site. The company also recently stood out from its competitors by backing the French government’s Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace initiative, an international effort to regulate the internet and combat online censorship and hate speech. Conspicuously missing from the signatories: the U.S. government. Microsoft certainly seems all too aware of the importance of stressing user control in its new products. It recently launched a partnership with Mastercard to create a “digital identity,” emphasizing that this tool will allow users “to verify their digital identity with whomever they want, whenever they want.” It remains unclear how this initiative across financial, commerce, digital, and government services will help to create a “decentralized” identify, raising fresh concerns about Microsoft’s reach and access to user data, and how they’re collecting and using it. Arthur Patel, principal program manager in Identity Engineering at the company, insists that “Microsoft does not have and will not have access to Mastercard customer data.” And in a statement, Joy Chik, corporate vice president in the Identity division of Microsoft’s Cloud and artificial intelligence group, said, “We believe people should be in control of their digital identity and data, and we’re thrilled to first work with Mastercard to bring new decentralized identity innovations to life.” For now, it’s likely up to Europe to keep Microsoft, and their tech rivals in check. As Fast Company‘s Mark Sullivan noted, it remains unclear if any congressional action on data privacy will take place this year, or get punted into 2020. And Galloway says the U.S. regulation is “absolutely” falling behind Europe. “Compared to the U.S., Europe tends to have tougher anti-trust rules and consumer privacy protections,” he says. “I think we are headed toward a reverse D-Day. Just like we saved Europe in the middle of the 20th century, they’re going to save us from the tyranny of technology.” Source
  4. LG Joins Microsoft to Accelerate Autonomous Vehicles Business LG will apply Microsoft's AI knowledge to its Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), Driver-Status Monitoring Camera (DSM) and Multi-Purpose Front Camera products and incorporate Microsoft's Virtual Assistant Solution Accelerator in LG's infotainment systems. LG Joins Microsoft to Accelerate Autonomous Vehicles Business (Representative image) LG Electronics has partnered Microsoft to help grow its autonomous vehicle and infotainment system business by leveraging Microsoft's Azure cloud and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies along with LG's future self-driving software developments. LG will apply Microsoft's AI knowledge to its Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), Driver-Status Monitoring Camera (DSM) and Multi-Purpose Front Camera products and incorporate Microsoft's Virtual Assistant Solution Accelerator in LG's infotainment systems.With Azure Data Box service, data captured on the road can be uploaded automatically to create a library that helps the self-driving software grow even smarter, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. "Working together, we can empower automakers to deliver differentiated mobility experiences, create new services and revenue opportunities, and to build safer, more intelligent and more sustainable vehicles," said Sanjay Ravi, General Manager, Automotive Industry at Microsoft. Microsoft Azure will drastically reduce the time required for LG AI self-driving software to learn and evolve. Azure can help AI self-driving software learn diverse patterns displayed by drivers as well as recognise and distinguish between pedestrians and other objects. "Our expectation is that the combination of Microsoft's advanced cloud infrastructure with LG's fast-growing automotive components business will accelerate the self-driving auto industry as a whole," said Kim Jin-yong, President of the LG Vehicle Component Solutions Company.With help from Azure, LG's vehicle infotainment system will allow drivers to easily and quickly check traffic conditions on the road, search for nearby restaurants, call up favourite songs and more. Source
  5. Microsoft’s Bing search engine is facing heat for reportedly including images of child pornography in its search results. The issued was described on Thursday by TechCrunch, which said it commissioned a study on the images propagated by Bing from AntiToxin Technologies, an Israeli startup focused on online safety, in response to an anonymous tip. Images of child pornography, the definition of which does not require a minor to be engaged in a sexual act, are considered illegal contraband under U.S. federal law and is further considered illegal in at least 93 other countries. Attempting to duplicate the results of AntiToxin’s study, or otherwise access child pornography online, may lead to your arrest. You have been warned. Error loading player: Network error According to the report, searches on Bing for known pedophile terms return a wide range of illicit content depicting child abuse. Worse, an algorithm employed by the site to recommend similar search terms reportedly functioned normally in response to these searches, assisting the researchers in locating additional child porn images. The study noted, for example, that researchers searched for a chat website popular among teens along with the word “kids.” Bing reportedly suggested other related searches, including one for 13-year-old girls. That term reportedly surfaced “extensive child pornography when searched.” Gizmodo did not independently verify the results of AntiToxin’s research, which was reportedly conducted in conjunction with law enforcement. Microsoft confirmed there was an issue, but refused to answer any of Gizmodo’s questions and only provided a brief statement, the veracity of which seems questionable. From TechCrunch’s report: TechCrunch reporter Josh Constine, who has previously reported on child exploitation over WhatsApp, said that Microsoft responded to inquiries by saying that an engineering team was currently working to address the problem. While some of the search terms used by AntiToxin appear to be banned now, he wrote, “others still surface illegal content.” Microsoft appeared to claim otherwise. A public relations firm forwarded Gizmodo the following statement, attributed to Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jordi Ribas: When Gizmodo asked Microsoft to confirm that it had actually blocked all of the search terms that returned sexually explicit images of children—because TechCrunch was clear it had not done so—the company’s PR representative replied: “I checked with Microsoft and the company has nothing further to share.” In light of the seriousness of its dilemma, you’d expect Microsoft to try to be as transparent as possible about the steps it’s taking to remedy the problem. That doesn’t seem to be the case. The company reportedly took a more defensive posture initially in response to the report, comparing itself to Google—never miss an opportunity!—and saying dumb shit like, “we do the best job we can.” Microsoft’s best is apparently inadequate. Of the company’s initial response, Constine added: Circulated images of children being abused is a plague on many platforms. It’s been an issue for Facebook, it was a problem on Vine, and it reportedly continues to be a problem for WhatsApp. How Microsoft responds to this report in both the short and long term is crucial. And simply blocking the obvious list of search terms AntiToxin’s team was able to conjure up is in no way sufficient. In fact, it may only be burying the problem. Source
  6. What just happened? Microsoft’s Direct3D division has amassed quite the collection of GPUs over the years. Rather than relegate the cards to storage bins, the team decided to transform its office hallways into a GPU museum celebrating the past 35 years of graphics history. You’ll likely want to budget some extra time if you ever get the opportunity to take a stroll down the office halls of Microsoft’s Direct3D division. When you’ve been developing a graphics application programming interface (API) for as long as they have, you’ll naturally accumulate a lot of hardware. In Microsoft’s case, it’s more than 400 different GPUs spanning 35 years of hardware history. Rather than put the old graphics cards in storage, the team decided to transform its office hallways into a museum of GPU history. Fortunately for us, they’ve documented some of the history over on the Microsoft Developer blog. There’s some memorable hardware here including the GeForce 256 (the first graphics card I owned that required active cooling), an Xbox developer kit and a 3DFXVoodoo card. For some inexplicable reason, whoever was in charge of photography failed miserably (400 x 300 resolution in 2019? C’mon). With any luck, Microsoft will read the comments and upload high-res versions for our enjoyment. Pretty please? Source
  7. Microsoft takes on Amazon Go with Kroger ‘smart supermarket’ Microsoft has partnered with supermarket chain Kroger to create a hi-tech store, using cloud computing to combine elements of online shopping with a high street store. As part of a test phase, Kroger has refitted two stores to test out key features of the new approach; including ‘digital shelving’ which update pricing information and advertising, informed by embedded sensors which tally the popularity of each product in real-time. These can be targeted using Microsoft’s own AI software which can predict a shoppers age and gender or, with the individual’s permission, highlight vegetarian and gluten-free options where appropriate. The two outfitted Kroger locations, in Monroe, Ohio and Redmond, Wash., will feature digital shelving displays with real-time price updates and product information, as well as digital advertisements personalized to each shopper. Video analytics systems will alert store associates to low inventories. Location-specific data will be stored and processed on Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure. Microsoft and Kroger will jointly market the technology to other retailers, the companies said. “Our partnership brings together Kroger’s world-class expertise in the grocery industry with the power of Azure and Azure AI,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement. “Together, we will redefine the shopping experience for millions of customers at both Kroger and other retailers around the world, setting a new standard for innovation in the industry.” The pilot is reminiscent of Amazon’s new age Amazon Go pilot, which detects the items a shopper has picked up and scans them automatically as the shopper leaves, eliminating the need for traditional cashiers. Amazon is reportedly planning a broad expansion of Go, including in Whole Foods stores, putting pressure on traditional grocers to offer similarly innovative shopping experiences. source
  8. Microsoft has decided to pull all the non-security Office 2010 updates that it shipped earlier this month after users reported an issue breaking down Microsoft Excel. Specifically, the January 2019 rollout included four updates for Office 2010, two updates for Office 2013, and eight others for Office 2016. Update for Microsoft Excel 2010 (KB4461627) Update for Microsoft Office 2010 (KB4032217) Update for Microsoft Office 2010 (KB4032225) Update for Microsoft Office 2010 (KB4461616) After installing the patches, users discovered that Microsoft Excel was no longer able to launch, and uninstalling them resolved the issue. Microsoft acknowledged the bug on January 5, only three days after originally beginning the non-security update rollout, so the company updated the official KB page with information on how to remove the said patches in order to restore the full Excel functionality. “After you install this update, you may experience difficulties in Microsoft Excel or other applications. To resolve this, uninstall the update by following the instructions in the ‘More information’ section,” Microsoft explains, pointing users to a step-by-step tutorial on how to remove the updates from each supported version of Windows, including Windows 10.Updates pulledMicrosoft also reveals that “this update is no longer available,” so devices that haven’t already installed them would no longer get the patches from Windows Update. Botched updates aren’t something entirely new for Microsoft, and they are, in fact, one of the main concerns every month when the company begins its Patch Tuesday cycle. The January 2019 Patch Tuesday rollout is scheduled to begin today, and as it happens every month, cumulative updates for Windows 10 and monthly rollups for Windows 7 and 8.1 would also be published. However, it’s worth noting that this particular release is specifically focused on resolving security issues, though non-security improvements would also be included. As far as Office users are concerned, today’s rollout will bring patches for the productivity suite as well, with the full changelog to be published when the release begins. Source
  9. A hot potato: 2018 was the year that people's data and the way companies protect it was thrown under the spotlight. It’s now been discovered that Microsoft is working on a project that will give users control over the information that is collected about them. Twitter user Longhorn first discovered Project Bali, which is the work of the Microsoft Research team. They describe it as "a project that can delete all your connection and account information (inverseprivacyproject)." [email protected]_released Microsoft Bali is a project that can delete all your connection and account information (inverseprivacyproject). It's currently in private beta still. ZDNet found a link to the Bali Project page, though it has now been taken offline. The ‘About’ section describes it as a "new personal data bank which puts users in control of all data collected about them [...] The bank will enable users to store all data (raw and inferred) generated by them.” The concept of inverse privacy was the subject of a 2014 paper by Microsoft researchers. Put simply, it describes pieces of your personal information that a party has access to, but you don’t. The authors write that users could benefit from owning this data. Bali creates a personal data bank that allows users to view and manage the data companies hold on them; people can also share and even monetize this information, if they wish. Not only could the project be good for users, but businesses willing to take part would likely earn more trust from the public. Bali had been described as still in the “initial stages” on its website, and Microsoft hasn’t revealed any details about the project, so don’t expect to see the final product for some time. source
  10. A Microsoft patent application for a new type of device was discovered today and it focuses on a device with reduced display borders. The patent application aims to address the challenges involved around manufacturing display device with reduced borders. First spotted by us, the patent titled ‘Minimizing border of a display device’ was filed by Microsoft way back in August 2016 and published by the U.S. Patent Office on December 4, 2018. In the detailed description section of the patent application, Microsoft explains that the implementation of the technology may provide an overall reduced size for the devices without reducing the display area. “Disclosed herein are electronic devices and systems with a minimized border and methods of manufacturing such devices and systems,” the company notes. “Such an electronic device having a display unit or screen with a minimized border may include a television, computer monitor, laptop or mobile computer, tablet computer, handheld computing device, communication device such as a mobile phone or smartphone, or any other electronic device having a display screen,” Microsoft explains. Image Courtesy: USPTO The company has developed a solution to deal with challenges that could be experienced when manufacturing devices with minimized border. The abstract section of the patent application has explained the method. “Display devices with a minimized border and methods of manufacturing display devices are described herein. In one example, a display unit is provided, the display unit having a display active area disposed between an encapsulation layer and a substrate such that the encapsulation layer encloses the display active area between a surface of the encapsulation layer and a surface of the substrate. A section of the display unit is cut at one edge of the display unit such that a portion of the encapsulation layer and a portion of the substrate are removed from the display unit while no display active area is removed. The cut section of the display unit is then sealed,” Microsoft explains. source
  11. Apple’s problems worldwide have substantially affected the company’s market cap, and following the revised revenue guidance in early January, it has become the fourth most valuable firm in the US. After previously becoming the first company worth $1 trillion, Apple declined significantly in the last couple of months, particularly due to slow iPhone sales and legal problems that eventually led to an injunction on iPhone sales in Germany and China. On Friday, Apple recovered 3.9 percent to be worth $700.9 billion, but still remaining the fourth in the charts in a top concerning US companies. Google’s parent company Alphabet was placed third with $748 billion, while Microsoft and Amazon remained number one and number two thanks to 4.65 percent and 5.01 percent hikes. Microsoft has a market cap of $782.4 billion, while Amazon is pretty close with $770.6 billion. Apple’s decline Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said earlier this week that one of the reasons the iPhone isn’t selling as well as anticipated is the trade tension between China and the United States. “What I believe to be the case is the trade tensions between the United States and China put additional pressure on their economy. We saw, as the quarter went on, things like traffic in our retail stores, traffic in our channel partner stores going down, the reports of the smartphone industry contracting,” he said. On the other hand, the United States President Donald Trump says Apple has “gone up hundreds of percent since I’m president,” adding that the company is “going to be fine.” “Don’t forget this, Apple makes their product in China, I told Tim Cook who is a friend of mine who I like a lot, make your product in the United States, build those beautiful plants that go on for miles it seems. Build those plants in the United States, I like that even better,” Trump said. Analysts forecast a bigger drop in terms of Apple revenues in the coming quarters, especially as sales after the holiday season are projected to decline. source
  12. The latest patent filed by Microsoft details the useful battery protection mode. In the patent filing, Microsoft has detailed how the new battery protection mode could be enabled on devices and how it is designed to improve the battery performance of the hardware. The patented feature is quite useful for devices that are plugged in for longer periods of time or rarely used in an unplugged state. First discovered by us, the patent titled ‘Battery Protection Mode’ was filed by Redmond-based Microsoft in June 2017 and it was published by USPTO yesterday (January 3, 2019). The patent pages contain common language describing a battery protection mode. In the patent application, techniques for a battery protection mode are described where the device would switch itself to a mode where a maximum permitted to charge is already determined. Image Courtesy: USPTO The patent is for a pretty simple mode to increase overall battery life. The background section describes the problem: “Many devices today utilize some form of battery for various power needs, such as a primary power source, a backup power source, and so forth. Battery life is a primary concern, particularly with mobile devices such as mobile phones, portable computing devices, wearables, and so forth. Devices with batteries that are consistently plugged into alternating current (AC) power are prone to experience battery issues due to sustained 100% charge levels. This is particularly true with lithium-ion batteries,” the background section of the patent explains. The idea, as hinted in the background section, is to switch the device to a battery protection mode which will temporarily reduce the maximum permitted battery charge level. Image Courtesy: USPTO Microsoft’s proposed solution is, of course, explained in the summary section of the patent: “Techniques for a battery protection mode are described. According to techniques described herein, an electronic device can operate in a standard charging mode where a battery of the device is permitted to be charged to full capacity. However, when a trigger event occurs, the electronic device transitions to a battery protection mode where a maximum permitted charge for the battery is reduced from the standard charging mode. In at least one implementation, the trigger event represents a timer that elapses to indicate that the battery has been under external charging power for a threshold period of time. Alternatively or additionally, the trigger event represents state information for a battery, such as received from a fuel gauge that monitors battery state,” the company explains. It’s important to note that in October 2018, Microsoft rolled out a Battery Limit feature for Surface devices to help the lithium-ion batteries last longer. The patent could be detailing the same feature or there is also a chance that the company is working on an improved battery limit feature for more devices. source
  13. Now Microsoft brings its password-less sign-in to all Windows Insider testers. Microsoft's latest Windows 10 19H1 Insider Preview for the fast ring expands the availability of password-less sign-in and a revamped Windows Hello PIN reset from Windows 10 Home to all Windows 10 editions. Microsoft rolled out its new password-less sign-in option to Windows 10 Home edition insiders in December with build 18305 and, with the new 18309 build, has now made it available to insiders on all editions. The 19H1 builds are expected to be available to all Windows 10 users in the first half of 2019. With the new preview, users with a Microsoft account with a phone number can use an SMS code to sign in and set up an account, and from there use Windows Hello Face, fingerprint or a PIN to sign in. Users who don't already have a password-less phone number account can create one in the Word app on iOS or Android. Microsoft has also expanded the availability of its streamlined Windows Hello PIN reset procedure, which can be tested by clicking the 'I forgot my PIN' link when signing in to Windows with a PIN. The Narrator app that reads out text is also getting some improvements. Users no longer need to download language packs to add voices in other languages. This task can now be done by going to Narrator Settings and clicking 'Add more voices'. Actions in Narrator Home such as QuickStart and settings are now buttons, while a new 'Narrator + 5 twice' command renders current character phonetics. There are also improvement in the reading of controls while navigating and editing, table reading in PowerPoint, reading and navigating with Chrome, and interacting with Chrome menus. There's also a long list of bug fixes, including one for the new Windows Sandbox that was introduced in build 18305. The feature allows users to run untrusted executables in a sandbox without risking infecting the host. For some users, Windows Sandbox and Windows Defender Application Guard were failing to launch in preview build 18305, but that should be fixed in this latest build. Source
  14. The voice commands that many of us issue on a daily basis have become akin to second nature when speaking to Alexa on an Echo speaker, Google Assistant on a smartphone, or Siri on a smartwatch; however, voice commands can also be invasive within specific environments. You may not want to have to blurt out voice commands when you are having a party at your house or when you are out in public, but Microsoft might have the solution — a new way to issue voice commands by barely speaking at all. A new patent filed by the company showcases what Microsoft is calling Silent Voice Input — a new method of communicating with our digital devices using voice but also spares us the social embarrassment of issuing voice commands loudly in public settings. The patent itself focuses on a small acoustic device that uses a user’s breath to determine speech; the device detects the airflow from a users month when breathing-in in an attempt to understand language. Unlike typical speech where an individual exhales air, speaking at a very low volume is accomplished by breathing inward, also known as ingressive breathing. Microsoft believes this difference is the key to better understanding speech at an extremely low volume. Patent imagery shows the device flush against a user’s nose as voice commands are issued in order to capture every minute movement of air. In regard to usability, Microsoft’s patents showcase the technology being used in a stand-alone microphone of sorts, in addition to a smartwatch, smart ring, smartphone, headphones, and what appears to be a remote controller. The patent takes the time to note how the new invention can be implemented into a variety of devices, providing a more comfortable voice issuing experience in different settings. Whether Microsoft will actually implement the technology is yet to be seen, but may provide a more socially acceptable method for issuing voice commands on the go. Microsoft patents technology that uses ingressive airflow for AI voice commands Soon we could be whispering sweet nothings to Cortana What just happened? Microsoft has filed a patent for technology that suggests users of voice assistants whisper commands while inhaling. The idea seems to be an attempt to make voice input more discrete, but does it? Several companies have been pursuing efforts to put people more at ease when speaking to their voice assistants in public. Google has worked considerably on making its AI more natural conversationally. Another company called Furhat Robotics thinks that giving voice assistants a face will make people more comfortable. Regardless of the method of getting there, most firms are looking at ways to encourage people to be more overt using AI in public. Microsoft, on the contrary, seems to be moving in the opposite direction. According to a patent filed by the Redmond-based tech giant, ingressive airflow whispering is the answer. The suggestion is that users could whisper to their voice assistants thus making it less obvious they are using an AI. Only instead of whispering normally, the user would whisper while inhaling. The reason for using ingressive airflow is that it causes less distortion for the microphone. Unfortunately, the mic must be placed very close to the mouth for it to pick up the commands. The design calls for the placement of the pick-up device to be within two millimeters. The filing shows several types of devices that could be embedded with the input technology including smartwatches, rings, TV remotes, and small handheld microphones. However, none of these designs seem all that discrete. It is debatable whether someone would feel more or less comfortable holding their watch right up to their mouth rather than just issuing an audible verbal command. Alternatively, it could be useful for times when normal voice levels are not quite appropriate, like when others are sleeping. Microsoft has not announced any devices using the technology, and as a patent, there is no guarantee that it will ever come to market. If it does, I’m not sure I’d be one to embrace it. I’m quite comfortable remaining a closet user. Source Source
  15. Skype on Windows 10 Word of new first-party Microsoft webcams leaked late last month and now some new news has surfaced over at Petri that suggests that their working product codenames are Bari and are occasionally referred to as Aruba as well. As Brad Sams mentions in his report, Aruba is often used to refer to Microsoft’s Surface Hub 2 which all but confirms that at least one version of these new webcams will be implemented into future Surface Hub models. These Bari webcams are also rumored to feature 4K resolution, depth sensors, and potential support for Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles. With the depreciation of the Kinect, these new webcams could well be a replacement of sorts for the Kinect’s facial recognition login functionality and, if they include a built-in mic, even Xbox or Cortana voice commands. They’ll likely also be promoted as a way to stream video game gameplay on Mixerand Twitch. Source
  16. XBOX LIVE is down this morning with Microsoft confirming issues with server status and core online features. Xbox Live is down today with sign in problems (Image: MICROSOFT) Microsoft has confirmed that core online services for Xbox Live are currently down. Today's outage is causing issues on both Xbox One and Xbox 360 platforms and is leaving many console owners unable to sign in. Xbox One users are currently seeing error codes, such as 0x87dd0006, instead of the usual sign in welcoming page. The tech giant has not confirmed what caused today's outage or how long it might last. "We believe we have identified the issue causing some members to have problems signing in to Xbox Live," a recent message from the support team reads. "Thanks for your patience as the team works to resolve the issue." No ETA has been provided on how long today's outage may last, however, it doesn't appear to be a worldwide issue. And this probably means that Microsoft will be able to fix it pretty quickly. MFL... source
  17. New Xbox One hardware coming soon? (Image: MICROSOFT) XBOX ONE news this week includes reports of Microsoft’s plans to offer surprise new hardware to Xbox One X and Windows 10 gamers. Microsoft is rumoured to be working on all kinds of new hardware for their Xbox gaming brand. Having lost out to Sony PlayStation in terms of sales, it appears the company are focused firmly on the future. This reportedly includes some surprise new hardware plans for their Xbox One X and Windows 10 platforms. Many fans are starting to look at what will be coming next regarding console gaming. There are hopes that the next Xbox will be announced in 2019, followed by a massive launch in 2020. And if this does come true, you can probably expect Sony PlayStation to do the same with their PS5. But it also sounds like Microsoft are not finished upgrading their current line of Xbox One consoles. So what could be coming next in 2019 for the Xbox One X and Microsoft Windows 10 gaming platforms? Recent Xbox One news suggests that Microsoft will be reviving their Kinect features in a familiar format. New 4K-capable webcams could be released in the future for Xbox One and Windows 10 New accessories for existing consoles and PCs would certainly help beef up Microsoft’s hardware sales. When the company released new controllers for their Xbox One consoles, it was hailed as a success and sold out immediately. So it wouldn’t be surprising if the same happened with new Webcams coming to the market. Thurrott reports that 4K-capable webcams are in development at the tech giant and would help replace the Kinect, which was ditched earlier in the Xbox One’s lifecycle. It would allow players to sign-in into their console by moving in front of the camera and would not be limited to just one person. It sounds like Microsoft will be releasing two different webcams, one for Windows and another for Xbox One. The PC version will reportedly bring Windows Hello facial recognition to any PC, providing a further layer of security and accessibility. Windows Hello works not only for logging into a machine but also for websites and apps which use the program. While Android and Apple's iPhone X offer facial recognition in varying forms, Windows Hello represents a potentially more advanced solution thanks to the high-end depth-sensing cameras and possible third-party fingerprint hardware that can be used. A new webcam for the Xbox One and Xbox One X would just be the latest new accessory launched for the Microsoft consoles. The company recently launched support for keyboard and mouse in 14 games. The biggest games that support this feature so far is Fortnite and Warframe, with more expected to be announced in 2019. DayZ and Warface are expected to be the next games to add keyboard support, while players can also try it out on War Thunder and Vermintide. The first official wireless mouse and keyboard is being launched by tech company Razer, later this year. However, while the new feature is pretty accessible, there are a few notable drawbacks. This includes not being able to use a mouse on Home or within the Xbox user interface while navigating the dashboard. You will also need to use your controller to configure your mouse, as settings do not support mouse interaction. Expect to hear more from Microsoft on their future hardware plans in the coming months, some of which will affect the Xbox One and Xbox One X. Source
  18. Looking back at Microsoft’s 2018, you could make the argument that the company ended on an all-time high. After all, it’s the most valuable company in the world. But our readers buy Microsoft products, not Microsoft stock. From that perspective (and with all due respect to Microsoft’s enterprise business, which isn’t part of what we cover here at PCWorld), Microsoft’s record was conservative and somewhat underwhelming, with a few exceptions. Microsoft added merely a flourish or two to its existing Surface lineup, for instance, and both feature updates to Windows 10 have turned out to be fairly inconsequential. As we’ve done in recent years, we list the highlights, low points, and yes, “what the hell was that??!” moments, closing with what we think Microsoft needs to work on most for 2019. [ Further reading: Our best Windows 10 tricks, tips and tweaks ] WIN: Microsoft’s conference room of the future Everyone loves a killer tech demo, and Microsoft showed off a doozy at its Build conference: a conference room of the future where Cortana could both hear and see, identifying users as they walked in. The demo showed off not only Microsoft’s AI technologies, but also its transcription and translation capabilities, as well as the power of its cloud services. Microsoft’s vision may never come to pass, but let’s hope it does. This is exactly the type of forward-looking thinking we like to see. Microsoft’s demo managed to incorporate transcription, translation, machine vision, cloud services, and even a mysterious Cortana speaker. FAIL: Windows 10 S In March, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore went on record claiming that Microsoft “expect the majority of customers to enjoy” Windows 10 in S Mode in 2019. That may still happen, but whew!—right now, it looks like a major overstatement on Microsoft’s part. To be fair, Windows 10 S has two redeeming features: One, it enables demonstrably longer battery life within laptops that used Qualcomm processors; and two, it forces the use of Microsoft Edge, which has finally evolved into a decent browser. The ease with which users could “switch” out of S Mode meant that user engagement time was probably minimal. Here’s the problem: The Venn diagram merging those who use Edge and who also use a Qualcomm-based PC probably amounts to a small fraction of the user base. Everyone else just sees Microsoft trying to force a locked-down OS upon them. WTF: Microsoft’s consumer conundrum continues Is Microsoft still a consumer company? Microsoft’s decision to join Movies Anywhere, its talk of extending Game Pass to PC games, and numerous initiatives within its Xbox console division (from buying up major studios to Xbox Games to the Xbox Adaptive Controller with Gold and Game Pass) says the company still is. The demises of Windows phones, Groove Music, and (possibly?) Cortana suggest it isn’t. For many, the face of Microsoft’s consumer efforts is its Xbox division. We just wish there were a consumer advocate across the company, so that people using Windows could be assured of having a PC-centric games store to complement the Xbox marketplace. No one knows from year to year what Microsoft’s stance will be, sowing uncertainty. WIN: The Xbox Adaptive Controller There’s one consumer area where Microsoft has delivered consistently. Year in and year out, Microsoft champions those who don’t use its products in ordinary ways, and designs extraordinary means of allowing those people access. The PC boasts technologies from eye tracking to Windows’ Narrator. But the Xbox has lacked something similar—until the Xbox Adaptive Controller debuted. Though the massive, iconic touchpads dominate the Xbox Adaptive Controller, it’s the flexibility the ports engender that enables gaming for a large number of people who would otherwise go without. Boasting two large touchpads that make gaming easier for those with limited mobility, the controller also boasts several input jacks to adapt the gaming experience for particular needs. The Adaptive Controller is an exemplary product, and worthy of praise. FAIL: Microsoft ends free Windows 10 upgrade In January, the “assistive loophole” closed, ending the last opportunity to upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 for free. Now, you’re forced to pay $139 for Windows 10 Home, and sometimes more for standalone media. While we see where Microsoft’s coming from, we would have chosen a different path. Microsoft should have taken steps to prevent new Windows 8 licenses from being sold, and continued to charge for new Windows 10 licenses. But in our view, it should always be free to upgrade from Windows 8, or even Windows 7. Man, doesn’t 2016 seem like ages ago? WIN: Windows 10 DirectX ray tracing is magic Up until now, PCs have modeled real life by simulating textures painted onto 3D polygons—enough to put out a pretty convincing simulacrum of an alien planet, but still a bit off. Microsoft, together with Nvidia’s RTX hardware, unveiled a new version of DirectX that enables ray tracing—actually modelling photons as they fly through the air. It’s essentially true photorealism: expensive, computationally intensive, and utterly jaw-dropping. PC graphics changed forever this year, and Microsoft enabled the shift. Nvidia Ray tracing—modeling “photons” as they fly through the air, reflect, and move through translucent surfaces—is hugely expensive and still limited in its use by games. But doesn’t it look marvelous? FAIL: Windows 10 April and October 2018 Updates Both of Microsoft’s Windows 10 feature updates for 2018 felt underwhelming from the get-go, without the customary introductory hoopla that has accompanied past releases. Consider our Windows 10 April 2018 Update review: Timeline and Near Sharing were the marquee features, though I doubt either gets much love from users. (I use the notification-blocking Focus Assist pretty frequently, though.) Mark Hachman/IDG Windows 10’s Timeline feature. How much do you use it? As for the Windows 10 October 2018 Update—oy, the less said, the better. A step down from the April 2018 Update, Cloud Clipboard and the Your Phone app were its neatest tricks. But the October Update will forever be known for being pulled after it was found to delete data, and then later reissued in November. Microsoft scarcely promoted one of its key victories: polishing Edge to become a decent browser. WTF: Edge’s shift over to Chromium But even if Edge has finally succeeded, no one cares. At the beginning of 2017, Microsoft’s built-in Edge browser held 3.32 percent market share, according to Net Applications. By November 2018, it had reached 4.22 percent. Little did we know that shortly after we were blessing Edge with a positive recommendation we would be writing that a future version of Edge will be built on Chrome. Microsoft seems to believe that users will prefer an Edge-flavored version of Chrome. Will users buy it? We’re doubtful. Either way, it’s a puzzling shift, and essentially concedes the browser crown to Google. Mark Hachman / IDG How many features of Edge, such as its per-site media autoplay controls, will carry over to “Microsoft Chromedge”? WIN: Office 2019 and the triumph of subscriptions A win for Microsoft, a loss for you: When the standalone Office 2019 debuted this year, you could just feel Microsoft’s lack of enthusiasm. As we noted way back in 2017, Microsoft doesn’t want you to buy Office 2019. Instead, the company wants you to pay and pay and pay for Office 365, in a subscription that renews every year. Microsoft Water bill, gas bill, Office bill, trash bill, property tax... Office 2019 is therefore a slice in time, while Office 365 continues to add features every month. In Microsoft’s defense, that’s a perfectly valid model, and the company highlights the new features that it continually adds. But you can’t help but feel a bit used by Office-as-a-service, too. FAIL: Cortana stumbles, fades into the background Remember just two years ago (!!) when we were surprised to see Google Assistant emerge as something more than just a series of notification cards? Today, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant vie for dominance, while Cortana has remained relatively static (and Siri’s just an afterthought). As for Cortana? Besides the Harman/Kardon Invoke smart speaker—which was being dumped for $50 on Black Friday—and a thermostat from Johnson Controls, Cortana never really established itself in the home nor the car. Cortana’s integration of Amazon Alexa, while a positive, could also be seen as a capitulation. Meanwhile, Cortana chief Javier Soltero, who spoke well of Cortana and its future within various apps, has decided to depart the company. Mark Hachman / IDG Cortana can still be triggered via the Search box on the Windows 10 Taskbar, but she seems more like a reminder engine than anything else. Cortana’s a bit of a mystery—not quite dead, but without the pride of place it once enjoyed within Windows. I still use it frequently, but for many Cortana is simply nonexistent. source
  19. Over the past three months, the price of Apple shares (red iine) has fallen faster than the price of Microsoft shares (blue line). Microsoft is enjoying a little glory, having unexpectedly regained its position as America's most valuable publicly-quoted company – albeit, I think, temporarily. It lost out to Apple and then Amazon in the race to be valued at more than a trillion dollars, and it hasn't exactly risen to the top. In fact, in the last quarter, Microsoft's value slumped by more than $100 billion. What's happened is that the value of Microsoft shares fell less than those of other leading technology companies. As you will have noticed, American stock prices are undergoing a "correction" after a bull run that lasted almost a decade. Microsoft shares have declined along with the rest of the market. It's just that shares in members of the FAANG group have fallen further. FAANG stands for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google (ie Alphabet). Jim Cramer from the Cramer's Mad Money TV program originally picked out the FANG group of companies in 2013 as rapidly-growing stocks to watch. Microsoft wasn't part of it, because its stock price had spent a decade going nowhere, even though Steve Ballmer had roughly tripled revenues and doubled profits after becoming CEO in 2000. The FAANG idea caught on, and investors drove up the prices of FAANG stocks. When the market turned, they drove them down again. (I assume that many of the investors who bought at low prices were selling to collect their winnings.) Of course, there was more to the change in direction than sentiment. Facebook suffered the worst stock decline because of a troubled year under pressure for privacy failings and problems with Russian bots and fake news. Google suffered partly because of staff protests against working on military projects and possibly entering the search market in China. Apple suffered from a range of set-backs. For example, Apple said it would stop providing unit sales numbers for its major products. With unit sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs all past their peak, analysts worried that further declines were likely. These fears were exacerbated by news of Apple suppliers scaling back forecasts, and by analysts predicting lower sales of the latest iPhones. Apple's share price also suffered because of worries about the impact of America's trade war with China, where its products are manufactured. Microsoft's share price was more resilient, for two main reasons. One was Azure's success in cloud computing, which is seen as a reliable source of future profits. Another is faith in Satya Nadella as a long-term CEO who has already turned the company around. (Microsoft has only had three CEOs – Gates, Ballmer and Nadella – in 43 years.) Either way, the stock prices tell the story. At the time of writing, Microsoft's share price is only down by $18 to $98, compared to its 52-week high of $116. In comparison, Apple's is down by $81 to $152, Google's by $283 to $1,009, and Amazon's by $640 to $1,411. Which means Microsoft is down by less than 15 percent while others are down by more than 30 percent. The net result is that Microsoft now has a market capitalization of $752 billion. This is still a long way short of $1 trillion, but it's narrowly ahead of Apple ($720bn), Google/Alphabet ($706bn) and Amazon ($690bn). Facebook ($378bn) and Netflix ($106bn) are much smaller companies and not in the race. Both Apple and Amazon have bigger annual revenues than Microsoft, and Apple is making three times as much money (table, below). Since a company's share price represents the discounted value of its future profits, you should expect Apple to have a bigger market cap, in the long run. However, share prices are not necessarily logical, and as British economist John Maynard Keynes observed, "In the long run we are all dead". What will happen in the future is anybody's guess. All numbers are in billions of US dollars. Revenues and profits are for the previous 12 months, not financial years. Profit is the net income attributable to common shareholders after taxes and dividends. All numbers are from Yahoo Finance on December 27, 2018. SOURCE
  20. Microsoft is believed to be working on adding USB-C to its Surface family of products, but by the looks of things, the company doesn’t want to go for the traditional approach and just put this port on its devices. Instead, what it wants to do is to take the existing design and improve it in a way that would make it more convenient for users whether they rely on USB-C for data transfers or charging. One possible result of this work is described in a patent called “Magnetically activated latch mechanism” and which technically details how a USB-C port can rely on magnets to easily keep the cable in place all the time. Basically, the magnetic port would work similarly to Microsoft’s very own Surface connector that already allows you to attach and remove the cable effortlessly. Microsoft believes the same idea can be used for USB-C too, which makes a lot of sense in terms of usability given customers already love the Surface connector. Possibly launching next year For our more tech-savvy readers, Microsoft describes its improved USB-C design in the abstract section of the patent: “A magnetic receptacle is described. The receptacle includes an electronic connector having an engagement feature on one or more sides of the electronic connector. The engagement feature is configured to engage a latching feature on a magnetic protrusion. The receptacle includes one or more receptacle magnets positioned adjacent the magnetic receptacle configured to deactivate the latching feature on the magnetic protrusion. In one implementation, a magnetic plug is described. The plug includes a plug tip. The plug includes one or more latching features. The plug includes one or more plug magnets positioned adjacent the plug tip. The one or more plug magnets are configured to cooperate with one or more receptacle magnets to transition the one or more latching features between an engaged state and a disengaged state.” As for when USB-C could make it to the Surface lineup, just don’t hold your breath for it, though I personally expect this to happen next year when new models are projected to see daylight. source
  21. The AchieVer

    How Microsoft lost the web

    Microsoft's announcement earlier this month that it was dumping its own browser technology for Google's - turning Edge into a Chrome clone - was a stunning acknowledgement that the company had lost its decades-long battle for browser supremacy. "We intend to adopt the Chromium open-source project ... to create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers," Joe Belfiore, a corporate vice president in the Windows group, wrote in a Dec. 6 post to a company blog. But while Belfiore blew the open-source horn, he didn't bother to recap how Microsoft reached this point when earlier in the century, it was thedominant browser maker, accounting for more than 90% of all usage after it laid waste to Netscape Navigator. Microsoft's fall was long but never inevitable. Mistakes, as they say, were made. We identified six that contributed to the decline of Redmond's browser empire. [ Related: How to replace Edge as the default browser in Windows 10 — and why you should ] Microsoft never matched rivals' tempo of change Although Google updated Chrome every six to eight weeks from the browser's 2008 inception - and Mozilla accelerated Firefox's pace to every six weeks beginning in 2011 - Microsoft stuck with a glacial cadence. Internet Explorer received new features only with new major releases, which were separated by as many as five years (IE5 to IE6) and as few as one (IE10 to IE11). In the 10 years since Chrome's debut - a span during which Google revamped the browser 70 times - Microsoft refreshed IE just four times (IE8 through IE11). Even Edge, which Microsoft trumpeted as its "modern" browser, advanced at a torpid pace. At its speediest, that tempo meant Microsoft added new features to Edge only every six months. While cheetah-like compared to IE, Edge was a tortoise to Chrome's and Firefox's hares. At one point, reports surfaced that Microsoft would sever the upgrade ties between Windows 10 and Edge so the latter could be updated more frequently. The separate schedule for Edge was to kick off in the fall of 2017. [ Got a spare hour? Take this online course and learn how to install and configure Windows 10 with the options you need. ] Didn't happen. Microsoft halted all work on IE Microsoft called it quits on IE with version 11, the one included with Windows 10. From 10's mid-2015 debut, IE was maintained, yes, with security fixes, but new features? Not a chance. Instead, the company devoted all its browser-building resources to Edge. That meant Microsoft abandoned almost all of its customers to the competition. At the beginning of 2016, about 89% of all Windows PCs ran Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 or 8.1. Nearly 9 out of every 10 Windows machines, then, looked at a dead-man-walking browser if they ran IE. With IE in stasis, and Chrome and Firefox upgrading seven or eight times annually, it's no surprise that users deserted IE for something fresher. IE successor was offered only on Windows 10 The decision that Edge would run only on Windows 10 - marking a clean break with Microsoft's browser legacy - was the essence of hubris. Clearly, Microsoft expected customers to adopt Windows 10 in droves, many more and far faster than any previous upgrade. The likely explanation for the anticipated rush: Microsoft gave away Windows 10 for 12 months. The brash goal of 1 billion Windows 10 devices within two to three years of release - by mid-2018 at the latest - was evidence of that reasoning. With install numbers like that, a billion when the world's PC count was 1.5 billion, and the not-yet-understood-to-be-obsolete idea that a default browser would always win, it's easy to understand why Microsoft had very high hopes for Edge. Microsoft anticipated that IE's losses - it had to figure the upgrade-or-else mandate would cost it some users - would be made up for, or nearly so, by Edge's quick climb. It didn't work out that way. A failure to make Edge competitive Even with aggressive tactics to keep Edge the default - it was much harder to make a rival the primary browser in Windows 10 than it had been in earlier versions of the OS, for instance - the browser never managed to attract more than a bit over a third of all Windows 10 users. By November 2018, that figure was down to just 11%. That's a historic repudiation of a default browser. While some of that rejection was due to Chrome's gravitational pull - that browser grabbed nearly a third of all user share by the end of 2015, then kept climbing - Edge's own failings also played a part. Top of the missing-feature list: Edge lacked support for add-ons of any kind at debut, a forehead-slapping omission. Microsoft itself acknowledged an even greater failing when it announced it would ditch the home-grown EdgeHTML rendering engine for Blink, which comes out of the Chromium open-source project and powers Chrome. "People using Microsoft Edge (once based on Chromium) will experience improved compatibility with all web sites," Microsoft said in the blog post that publicized the decision (emphasis added). EdgeHTML, in part because of its lackadaisical upgrade cadence, was rarely able to catch up, or if it did, maintain equality, with Chrome in properly rendering pages or rendering them at speed. As Chrome climbed in usage, sites were built or revamped to best work in Chromium, just as early in the century sites had been designed with IE6 in mind. Edge never shed a reputation of balking at loading pages or displaying them as intended. By going "full-Chromium," Microsoft will make Edge's compatibility problem moot by, perhaps, the end of 2019. IE users told to upgrade years before their browsers were to retire Computerworld has maintained that Microsoft's errors preceded Edge, that the company threw away a large part of its browser strength nearly a year before Windows 10's launch. In August 2014, Microsoft said it would slash support for IE by demanding that Windows users upgrade to the most-recent version of the browser fit for their OS. The order scratched a year of support from IE7, four years from IE8 and IE9, and seven years from IE10. (At the time, IE8 was the most popular version of the browser.) Only IE11 survived with support intact. The ruling was unprecedented; no browser maker had ever commanded users to abandon a browser with support still owed them. But if Microsoft expected a sudden uptake of IE11, it was soon disappointed. After the mandate went into effect in January 2016 - when 53% of all those running a Microsoft browser were forced to switch - a stunning decline in user share began. During 2016, Microsoft's global browser share plunged by more than half. And rather than swell its user share, IE11 shed more than 30% in the first nine months of that year. It's always very difficult to prove a counter-factual - what would have happened if Microsoft had not forced over half of IE's users to give up their preferred browser? - but there seems a causal link between the order and IE's frenzied decline. Told that they had to switch browsers in any case, a huge portion of users decided that they might as well switch to Chrome, at the time IE's biggest rival, as change what version of IE they had, or worse, their edition of Windows. Flunking the mobile test In November 2018, Chrome lorded over all other mobile browsers. According to analytics vendor Net Applications, 62% of the global mobile browser user share belonged to Google's browser. (Another 1% was owned by the aged Android browser.) Apple's Safari had 29%, thanks to the iPhone and iPad. The third-place mobile browser? Firefox, with less than 2%. Meanwhile, Microsoft's various browsers accounted for just a sliver of mobile: six-tenths of one percent, a number so small it fit within Chrome's rounding. None of those numbers are even mildly surprising. Chrome desktop benefits from its cross-platform popularity on mobile (where it's a required factory install on Android handsets if the Play Store is to be included); Safari would be even more of an afterthought on desktop if it wasn't the default on iOS. And Microsoft fumbled its foray into mobile, thus losing any support its desktop browsers might have derived from the smartphone side. After writing off billions of dollars because of the Nokia disaster, Microsoft has steered clear of phones, playing only in the tablet/hybrid market. If things had turned out differently, it's possible that Edge would own enough combined desktop-mobile market share that developers would be forced to craft sites to suit it, which in turn would ensure Edge's survival as a distinct browser. That might have occurred in a different timeline, but not this one. IDG/Gregg Keizer Microsoft lost the browser battle in 2016 (darker lines), when the user share of Internet Explorer and Edge plummeted by 46%. (Data: Net Applications.) source
  22. While 2018 was a year of iterative updates, Apple, Google and Microsoft all released some of their best products yet, even if they weren’t as innovative as some would like. While many flagships went without any upgrades – we didn’t even see a new MacBook or Surface Book – devices like the MacBook Air and Surface Laptop 2 saw significant upgrades which impacted the user experience. However, 2019 should see the big three push their hardware further than before – especially as 7nm and 10nm AMD and Intel processors become mainstream. So, what can we expect to see from Apple, Google and Microsoft throughout the next year? Apple in 2019 Apple’s release schedule in 2018 was all over the place. After the insanely powerful iMac Pro dropped in December 2017, we got an iPad aimed at students in March, followed by a lot of nothing. We were left waiting for WWDC 2018 for new MacBooks, but that show came and went without any new hardware. It wasn’t until the new MacBook Prolaunched, totally under the radar in July, that we started seeing new hardware. We’re not sure Apple is going to follow the same kind of release schedule in 2019, but now that it became the world’s first trillion-dollar valuation company this past year, we figure Apple can basically do whatever it wants. New Mac Pro. We’ve been anticipating the new Mac Pro for a while now, but we know its coming, and we know it’s coming in 2019. The only thing we don’t know is when in 2019 we’ll see the new Mac Pro. Apple has come out and said that the computer will be modular and upgradeable, and if the iMac Pro was any indication, we might be seeing an extremely powerful Mac – we just want to know whether it’ll look like a trash can again. New MacBooks. When it comes to Apple’s 2019 lineup of MacBooks, we’re not quite sure what’s going to happen. We’ll see a new MacBook Pro, that’s a given – Apple hasn’t missed an annual upgrade for its flagship professional laptop to date. However, beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. Apple skipped the 12-inch MacBook for the new MacBook Air this year, though that laptop has more in common with the now-defunct MacBook Pro without Touch Bar. Regardless, expect to see new Intel silicon inside these laptops – Apple’s in-house computer processors are still years away. iPhone XI. Another year, another iPhone. Apple releasing a new iPhone is inevitable, and the rumors are already starting to roll out. It might be thinner and lighter than ever before, thanks to a new touch-integrated OLED display,and Apple might even include its own modem, making it an almost all-Apple device. Also, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple take another three-pronged strategy with its iPhone models this year, with two high-end models and an entry-level version alongside them. Finally, don’t expect to see a 5G iPhone in 2019: Apple will surely sit on that for a while longer. New iPads. Apple knocked it out of the park with the iPad Pro – it can outpower many full-blown laptops, on top of the fantastic new design. With the next non-pro iPad, we can see Apple bringing over the same bezel-less design as well as FaceID, like it did with the iPhone XR. We’ve also seen rumors of a new iPad Mini arriving in 2019. We fully expect to see more drastic software improvements than hardware, as iOS needs some serious work to both remain competitive in the phones space and improve productivity for its ‘Pro’ tablets. Google in 2019 Even if we didn’t get the Pixelbook 2, Google still had an exciting year, with products like the Pixel 3 and the Google Pixel Slate. Google also doubled down on its Home line of smart speakers and smart-home technology – something we’re sure we’ll see more of in 2019. However, with an arguably poor outing this year, we wonder whether Google will continue making tablets – or at the very least go back to the drawing board. Also, we’ve seen very little from Google in the home entertainment department in 2018, so perhaps we’ll revisit that in 2019. Pixelbook 2. We wanted to see the next Pixelbook in 2018 – the original is by far one of the best Chromebooks we’ve ever used. However, Google had other plans, instead releasing the Google Pixel Slate: a sort of half-tablet half-Chromebook hybrid. While we’re sure the Google Pixel Slate will have its niche, we hope Google will launch a true Pixelbook 2 with 8th-generation Core processors. The Pixel Slate doesn’t set as strong of a standard for other Chrome devices as Pixelbook did, simply put. Google Pixel 4. The Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL are awesome – everything from the camera to the hardware makes either two of the best phones you can buy today. Of course, we’re sure that Google is brewing the follow-ups as we speak. What’s to come in that? Rumors are nowhere to be found yet, but we’d anticipate Google doubling down on its incredibly useful camera and machine learning software, because that’s what’s selling the Pixel 3 phones more than anything. Mid-range Pixel phones. Google has made plenty of flagship phones in its time, but we’ve seen new Pixel devices hinted at in the latest ARCore update. These rumored devices are code-named Bonito and Sargo, and just like all other Pixel phones, are named after fish. We’d love to see new Pixel phones that almost anyone can afford – especially if Google keeps that camera software intact. All in all, this would be an incredibly smart move for Google. Microsoft in 2019 When it comes to hardware, it’s hard to predict what Microsoft is going to do in 2019, as its release schedule is all over the place. However, you can bet that you’ll see new Surface devices along with Windows 10updates. We might even see the next Xbox creep out of the woodwork Surface Book 3. The Surface Book 2 is still one of the best laptops on the market, even if it launched way back in October 2017. This year, however, we should see the Surface Book 3 launch, packed with Intel 9th-generation processors and Nvidia Turing graphics. If Microsoft could provide the Surface Book 3 with a 4K display and a black color option, that’d just be gravy. Surface Pro 7. We’re putting our money on another Surface Pro launching next year, but hopefully with more drastic improvements. Microsoft followed the Surface Pro 2017 with the Surface Pro 6 this year, packing 8th-generation processors and some snazzy new color options … but that’s it, really. We’d love to see a Surface Pro 7 with even smaller bezels and USB-C connectivity for 2019. Surface Phone. It seems like we’ve been waiting for the Surface Phone for ages, but we feel like 2019 might be the year we finally see it. The latest rumors about the Surface Phone, code-named Andromeda, point to it being a foldable smartphone, which would make it prime competition for Samsung’s similar device, also likely launching in 2019. source
  23. While Microsoft and Slack continue to battle it out at the top of the collaboration software market, a variety of forces could re-shape that fight in the year ahead. The booming team collaboration market is likely to continue booming in 2019 as companies roll out chat apps more widely across their operations. With Microsoft leveraging the ubiquity of its Office suite to push Teams, and Slack doubling down on its still-evolving enterprise push, the two leaders in the market are likely to continue to try and one-up each other in the search for new customers. At the same time, a host of other firms, from Facebook to Google, Cisco and more, will continue to build out their own team chat platforms. IDC, by the way, expects the collaboration market to generate $3.5 billion in revenues in the year ahead, up from $2.9 billion in 2018. With that background in mind, here are some of the key trends analysts expect to see in 2019 when it comes to collaboration software. Slack to ramp up enterprise push as IPO looms 2019 is set to be a significant year for Slack, with expectations rising for a Goldman Sachs-backed IPO on top of what has already been a busy 12 months. Slack in the past year has undertaken a string of acquisitions that expand the reach of its platform and continued to build on its enterprise-readiness, adding various features such as enhanced analytics, enterprise key management and a speedier desktop app. But Slack has more to do, according to Raúl Castañón Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research. “For Slack…, [the priority] is to continue expanding their customer base with Enterprise Grid,” he said. “Their customer base is still very much along the lines of how they started, which is [deployment by] teams within a larger organization, or with smaller organizations.” [ Become a Microsoft Office 365 administrator in record time with this quick start course from PluralSight. ] Given Slack’s interest in more wide-scale deployments across large enterprises, “I think they are still not where they would like to be.” Adding shared channels for Enterprise Grid customers is a priority, said Angela Ashenden, Principal Analyst at CCS Insight. Though the feature is currently available for Slack's core product, technical challenges have delayed a wider launch so far. “The challenge for Slack is to create a story that allows it to be supported at an enterprise level. A lot of that is going to be around security and scalability and how they handle cross-organization collaboration, as in organization-to-organization collaboration,” she said. Slack also still has limitations in terms of its cloud hosting locations. “That has to be one of the big things to sort out [in 2019] if they want to support enterprise. It is still U.S.-only for hosting for Slack, which is a big limitation for them,” said Ashenden. Microsoft Teams gains ground; will it be more than a Skype for Business replacement? Two years after its unveiling, Microsoft Teams has firmly established itself as a real rival to Slack. In the past 12 months, Teams has essentially replaced Skype for Business Online as Microsoft's central communications tool, and a free version is now available - a clear swipe at Slack, which has had sustained success with its freemium model. The app is now used by 329,000 organizations worldwide, Microsoft said during its 2018 Ignite conference, up from 125,000 a year earlier. (That’s still some way behind the 500,000 organizations touted by Slack.) Thanks to Teams’ inclusion within the Office 365 product suite, it is likely a matter of time before Teams is the most widely used team chat app – though just how often it is actually used remains a cause of debate. Unlike Slack, Microsoft doesn't break out daily active user figures. A recent Spiceworks' report claims that Teams is set for the fastest growth of all business chat apps over the next two years. The survey indicates that 41% of respondents expect to use Teams by 2020, compared to 18% for Slack. There is plenty of room for improvement for Teams, too. Ashenden stressed that Microsoft can do more to encourage users to coordinate team work within the app. “They have a massive penetration with Teams, but the problem is that a lot of that is Office 365 driven numbers. So it is being chosen by IT, but it is not necessarily being used by employees. Furthermore, Teams in many cases is being used as a replacement for Skype for Business rather than for its team chat capabilities. “I think that over time that will start to become a bit of a challenge,” Ashenden said. “So they have to look at what it was originally designed for, the 'teams' piece of it, and develop that so that it is more competitive.” She added that more can be done to integrate Teams into a user's workflow, which would require more third-party integrations and process automation “They have some of the piece in there with things like Flow, but at the moment it is a bit too challenging to do,” she said. “If they don't go down that route, Teams will just be a replacement for Skype and if you want do all of those processes then you look to Slack. That will be the big priority that I would expect them to be working on next year.” Ashenden sees a wider trend towards automation, as indicated by Slack’s acquisition of Missions and Trello’s recent purchase of Butler. “Automation of personal workflows is a trend that we're seeing escalate rapidly in the enterprise collaboration space, with a recognition that collaboration technology needs to better fit into our way of working, rather than the other way around,” she said. Team collaboration/unified communications overlap Microsoft Teams reached “feature parity” with Skype for Business Online this year, essentially bringing unified communications (UC) capabilities to its team chat product. It has also added AI capabilities such as background blur and cloud transcription aimed at making users more comfortable with video. “The popularity of video chat, whether you like it or not, is making its way into office norms,” said Wayne Kurtzman, a research director at IDC. “The video and audio is getting better, and easier to use,” he said. “Expect more announcements around AI integration with video calls such as transcription, smart playback and task assignment.” Castañón Martínez expects the team collaboration/UC overlap to continue and that could mean trouble for UC vendors, many of which have also developed their own team chat tools. “There is definitely a shift from unified communications into team collaboration,” Castañón Martínez said. “I don't think that the strategy of some of the UC players is necessarily working to counter that, so the question I think is how much more will team collaboration keep chipping away from UC.” He believes that some businesses could start to question whether they need unified communications for all their staff when they could simply rely instead on a tool such as Slack. “There are some companies that because of the nature of their business, could be well suited for that,” Castañón Martínez said, such as startups or digital native companies. “Not just because they tend to be more tech-savvy or tech-oriented than other companies, but mainly because of the type of workers. If they have a higher percentage of knowledge workers, and they are in a stage where they might have a strong employee base of engineers and developers, it just makes sense because that is how they communicate. So, I think that we might see some shift in that sense.” Market consolidation? Or opportunity for all? Atlassian’s Stride app was the first major chat app to fall away from a fast-growing market that has seen an array of offerings emerge from vendors – both large and small – in recent years. This could be a sign of changing dynamics. “The fact that even Atlassian, with all of its experience in the team chat space, decided that it is not somewhere it wanted to play is quite telling,” said Ashenden. “So we can expect to see more – consolidation is a big word – but more exits, let’s say.” Castañón Martínez was referring to the decision in July by Atlassian to dump Stride and urge users to move to Slack. The decision caught Stride users off-guard, and eventually prompted Atlassian co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes to apologize. One possible scenario: acquisitions. Ashenden noted that Slack acquiring task management app Asana is one such potential deal that would make sense, allowing Slack to play a greater in role in the management as well as communications around workplace productivity. Acquiring Asana could be a better fit than building out its own features, she said. “It would make more sense to partner with someone that already does it well and has a good audience,” she said. “And Asana, for me, that looks like the most likely option, because they already have strong integrations in place, they are one of the primary partners, they have a lot of common customers between the two companies. They have similar cultures as well …, which always makes a huge difference, so I think that would be logical.” That said, as the market continues to grow, it is not a winner-takes-all world; there is opportunity for a variety of vendors. “The team collaboration market still has a lot of room to grow. That means that there is an opportunity for other vendors, not just Slack,” said Castañón Martínez. He points to relatively untapped segments of the workforce, such as frontline workers, who often rely on consumer tools to communicate and collaborate. “Slack – and team collaboration in general – is mainly for knowledge workers and that is a specific segment. There are many, many other workers out there, and in terms of volume there are more service workers than knowledge workers,” he said. “So I think it is just getting started. I don't discount other competitors that Slack has, even if they are much smaller right now; they could grow and become real challengers.” And still, the future is bright for email Claims that team chat tools would replace email appear to premature – for now, at least. According to Spiceworks’ survey, only 16% of IT professionals believe chat apps will replace email within three to five years. That’s compared to 25% who made the same prediction back in 2016. So while Slack might be pinning its hopes on channels becoming the most common method of business communication, its acquisition of Astro is aimed at helping it build out its own email management capabilities, letting users reply to emails without switching between apps. It was not the only company to acquire email capabilities; Facebook Workplace snapped up RedKix. “It’s not quite dead yet,” said Kurtzman. “Expect new ways to leverage emails in a team environment.” source
  24. Xbox One news this week includes reveals on what comes next (Image: MICROSOFT) Microsoft will remain the company with the most powerful console in the market for the foreseeable future, according to a new shock prediction. This will be seen as good news for the tech giant but perhaps not something that fans will want to hear. Microsoft’s mid-generation shift with the Xbox One X has proven very popular with Xbox gamers. It has sold well and the gamble Microsoft took of launching a high-priced version of their current console has paid off handsomely. And according to a new analyst prediction, the Xbox One X may remain the most powerful console until 2021. Many fans are ready to find out what is coming next in console gaming and are particularly interested in finding out what kind of specs will be available. And IDC analyst Lewis Ward believes that both Sony and Microsoft may wait until 2021 to launch their next wave of gaming machines. There have been several other reports that suggest that this will happen sooner, but Ward believes timing will be based on how well sales continue. When asked by Gamingbolt whether Microsoft will look to launch their next console before Sony’s PS5, Ward gave a prediction on how things could go down. “I’m not sure,” Ward said. Trailer: Introducing the Xbox One X - E3 “My model currently projects both consoles will debut in 2021, a year later than many analysts seem to think. “What happens to sales in 2019 will likely determine who is right, and narrow the launch window for next-gen consoles.” Other reports have suggested that Microsoft is planning to release a new Xbox console in 2019, however, it will be another variant in their Xbox One line. This will be the last Xbox One console Microsoft will release and will be different in one very large way. The tech giant plans to release an Xbox that will be digital-only, removing the disc drive and making it a much smaller device. This will also reduce cost and make it the cheapest new Xbox to buy in 2019, while also offering something for those people who own extensive digital libraries. There is also talk of some kind of program that will allow Xbox gamers to turn their physical titles into digital ones. A new Xbox One console in 2019? (Image: MICROSOFT) The source of these reports is Thurrott.com, which also claims that Microsoft has massive plans for their cloud gaming department and software offerings. This follows shock news concerning the sales of the Xbox One X, Microsoft’s new benchmark gaming machine. As mentioned above, sales of the Xbox One has fallen behind the Xbox 360; however, the Xbox One X is a relatively new product with a higher price tag. And according to industry analyst with NPD, Mat Piscatella, the Xbox One X is having a great year. “Xbox One sales show the highest growth of the three major hardware platforms in the U.S. this year, and the Xbox One X, in particular, has been performing phenomenally," he reveals. “year-over-year growth like this at this point in the cycle has never been seen before, driven by the launch of the Xbox One X and new content delivery efforts. “It's a mid-generation turnaround the market's never seen before. This qualifies as phenomenal, even if not market leading.” It will be interesting to find out whether major Xbox and PlayStation news will be announced next year, or if fans will have to wait longer. source
  25. Microsoft has a couple of ultra-HD webcams in the pipeline for 2019. According to industry blogger Paul Thurrott, the tech giant is set to release one model for Windows 10 PCs and another for the Xbox One The first of these new devices will enable PC owners to take advantage of biometric authentication based on the Windows Hello platform. Until now this technology, which allows for face, iris and fingerprint recognition, has only been available on computers in the Microsoft Surface range. The goal is to extend this functionality to any machine running Windows 10. But whether this expanded feature set will be enough to convince regular users to pay for a second webcam remains uncertain. The new model for the Xbox One will offer face recognition, which will allow players to log in automatically simply by moving in front of the camera. The feature will also be available to multiple users, which will expedite the launch of gaming sessions. Both the cameras, expected to launch in 2019, will be USB-C compatible. source