Tag Archives: microsoft

Microsoft is releasing Office 2019 next year

Microsoft is announcing its next major release of Office today at Ignite in Orlando, with a planned release for next year. Office 2019 (arriving in the second half of 2018) will include the usual Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook client apps, alongside server versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business. Microsoft is planning to release preview copies of Office 2019 in the middle of 2018, and the software is primarily designed for organizations that aren’t using the cloud Office 365 versions.

Office 2019 will include better IT capabilities for businesses that aren’t using Office 365, and new ink features like pressure sensitivity, tilt effects, and ink replay. Excel will also include new formulas and charts for data analysis, and PowerPoint will pick up the morph and zoom animation features that Office 365 customers are currently taking advantage of. Microsoft says it will share more on Office 2019 in the coming months, but for now it sounds like if you’re on Office 365 you’ll still have the most up-to-date features.



Microsoft and Facebook’s massive undersea data cable is complete

Microsoft, Facebook, and the telecoms infrastructure company Telxius have announced the completion of the highest capacity subsea cable to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean. The cable is capable of transmitting 160 terabits of data per second, the equivalent of streaming 71 million HD videos at the same time, and 16 million times faster than an average home internet connection, Microsoft claims. The cable will be operational by early 2018.

Called Marea, which is Spanish for “tide,” the 4,000 mile long subsea cable lies 17,000 feet below the ocean surface and extends between Virginia Beach, Virginia and the city of Bilbao in Spain. Marea also stretches a route south of most existing transatlantic cables. Because of this, Microsoft says the cable will provide resiliency for those living in the US and Europe by safeguarding against natural disasters or other major events that might cause disruptions to connections like those seen during Hurricane Sandy. More importantly to Microsoft and Facebook: both companies have large data center operations in Virginia.

“Marea comes at a critical time,” said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft. “Submarine cables in the Atlantic already carry 55 percent more data than trans-Pacific routes and 40 percent more data than between the US and Latin America. There is no question that the demand for data flows across the Atlantic will continue to increase.” For most of the route, the cable — made up of eight pairs of fiber optic cables enclosed by copper — lays on the ocean floor. Some parts are buried to protect from shipping traffic, usually in areas closer to the shore.


In a blog post, Microsoft said the project was completed nearly three times faster than usual, in under two years. Marea’s cables are an “open” design, which will allow it to evolve as technology does, and as the population of internet users around the world jumps. The Marea cable also provides a path to network hubs in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, where the next billion internet users are anticipated to come from.

Tech companies are increasingly moving into the infrastructure space, funding new cables themselves, rather than joining telecom consortiums which operate undersea cables already. Google has also invested in two cables that run from the US to Japan, South America, and other countries in Asia. With the Marea cable, Facebook and Microsoft’s investment gives them more control over the vast amounts of data they need to move quickly around the world. Both companies will benefit from improvements in cloud services for products like Microsoft’s Office 365, Azure, and Xbox Live, and Facebook’s Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.



Microsoft and Amazon partner to integrate Alexa and Cortana digital assistants

Amazon and Microsoft are partnering to better integrate their Alexa and Cortana digital assistants. Alexa users will be able to access Cortana, and vice versa on a range of devices, although the integration will be a little awkward initially. As first reported by The New York Times, someone using an Alexa device will have to say “Alexa, open Cortana” to get talk to Microsoft’s digital assistant, and someone using Cortana will have to say “Cortana, open Alexa” to talk to Amazon’s. It appears that both companies have simply created skills on each others platforms to enable the basic integration.

This cross-platform integration will also allow Alexa users to access some of the more unique aspects of Cortana. Microsoft has built its digital assistant more directly into its Office products, and now Alexa will get that functionality via Cortana — accessing work calendars and email, for example. While Microsoft is still tempting developers to create their own Cortana skills, existing Cortana users will be able to call up Alexa to get access to the ones that Cortana is missing. This might mean controlling smart home devices, or shopping on Amazon.


It’s a surprise move by both companies, and comes just as Microsoft is preparing to launch a Cortana speaker with Harman Kardon and push its digital assistant into cars, thermostats, and more devices. Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Google have all built rival digital assistants that have been seen as walled gardens blocked off from each other, and this partnership signals a move to make them work better together.



Microsoft’s new iPhone app narrates the world for blind people

Microsoft has released Seeing AI — a smartphone app that uses computer vision to describe the world for the visually impaired. With the app downloaded, the users can point their phone’s camera at a person and it’ll say who they are and how they’re feeling; they can point it at a product and it’ll tell them what it is. All using artificial intelligence that runs locally on their phone.


The company showed off a prototype of Seeing AI in March last year at its Build conference, but from today, the app is available to download for free in the US on iOS. However, there’s no word yet on when it’ll come to Android or other countries.

The app works in a number of scenarios. As well as recognizing people its seen before and guessing strangers’ age and emotion, it can identify household products by scanning barcodes. It also reads and scan documents, and recognizes US currency. This last function is a good example of how useful it can be. As all dollar bills are the same size and color regardless of value, spotting the difference can be difficult or even impossible for the visually impaired. An app like Seeing AI helps them find that information.


The app uses neural networks to identify the world around it — the same basic technology that’s being deployed all over Silicon Valley, powering self-driving cars, drones, and more. The app’s most basic functions are carried out directly on the device itself. This means they can be accessed more quickly and in situations where there’s no stable internet connection. However, Seeing AI’s experimental features — like describing an entire scene or recognizing hand-writing — require a connection to the cloud.


Speaking to The Verge at a Microsoft event in London, Saqib Shaikh, the tech lead on Seeing AI, said he most commonly used the app for reading documents like signs and menus. He points out the app doesn’t just perform the basic task of optical character recognition technology, but also directs the user — telling them to move the camera left or right to get the target in shot.

Shaikh says that the difference between this and similar apps is the speed of the neural nets: “One of the things we wanted to do was face recognition on device, and we’ve done that so within a few milliseconds you’ll hear the result. It’s all about the speed, and we try to do as much as we can on the device.”



Microsoft’s next big Windows update will use AI to fight malware

Windows Fall Creators Update will come with a hefty serving of security upgrades, made timely by the increasingly rampant cyberattacks targeting the platform these days. In a blog post, Microsoft has revealed how the upcoming major update will level up Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, a Win 10 enterprise service that flags early signs of infection. According to CNET, Windows enterprise director Rob Lefferts said the upgrade will use data from Redmond’s cloud-based services to create an AI anti-virus that will make ATP much better at preventing cyberattacks.

One of the AI’s features is the ability to instantly pick up the presence of a previously unknown malware on a computer. Microsoft can then quickly quarantine the malware in the cloud and create a signature for its identity that can be used to protect other computers from it. Lefferts says about 96 percent of cyberattacks use new malware, so this feature sounds especially helpful. It could certainly change the way Microsoft rolls out defense measures, since it currently takes researchers hours to conjure one up. By the time they’re done, the malware might have already made its way to more computers.

While ATP’s new security features will initially only be available to enterprise customers, CNET says Microsoft has plans to roll them out to ordinary users. In addition, the company wants ATP to support “more platforms beyond Windows” and has begun working to make that happen. Microsoft will release Fall Creators’ preview between September and October, so these features (and more) will start hitting some businesses’ and companies’ PCs around that time.



Microsoft’s new Skype redesign is a radical change that looks like Snapchat

Microsoft acquired Skype nearly six years ago, and ever since then it feels like the messaging service has been experiencing an existential crisis. Skype has been slowly transitioning from a peer-to-peer service to the cloud, and it’s been a bumpy ride with many design changesand issues. While Microsoft has managed to add features like free group video calling and Skype for Web, the software giant has struggled with the design and feature set of Skype as it attempts to compete with challengers like FaceTime, Messenger, WhatsApp, and more.


Microsoft is once again redesigning Skype today.

Described as “the next generation of Skype,” the new design focuses on messaging. Skype is well known and used widely for video and audio calls, but iMessage, WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat and other messaging services have taken the lead for today’s conversations. The new Skype messaging interface now includes three sections in a conversation: find, chat, and capture. Find lets you search through a conversation, or find images, restaurants, and even add-ins like YouTube or Giphy to add content into a message. Chat is the basic conversation view you’d expect with options for emoji or picture additions, but the newest section is capture.

Capture feels a lot like Snapchat within Skype, and it immediately launches into the camera to let you take pictures or hold down for video. As you hold down for video you’ll immediately recognize one of the more subtle design changes in this new version of Skype, a squiggly line that represents the amount of time for a recording. This line is also used for calling, or when contacts are typing. Once you’ve captured a video or picture you can then add stickers, text, or simply annotate it, all just like Snapchat.

Skype is also introducing a new Highlights feature that’s a lot like Snapchat stories. Highlights lets you post a stream of photos and videos that friends can view and react with emoticons. Even in text- or video-based conversations you’ll be able to react on Skype with emoticons. It seems the new Skype UI is really designed to make you use more and more of the new chat features available.

Even calling is getting redesigned for this new version of Skype. You can drag and drop people around in conversations, and react with emoticons during calls. During my limited testing it felt a lot smoother than regular group video chats, but I didn’t feel the need to blast emoticons at people.


Today’s Skype design is just the latest in a long line of changes over the years. Microsoft has been trying many different ways to get people to use Skype messaging instead of competitors. Skype Qik was an attempt to take over mobile video messaging that flopped, and Microsoft has been tweaking its Skype mobile interface for years to better improve messaging. Nothing has had a big impact, and Skype is still widely used for video and audio calls. Microsoft has the user base and brand recognition for the calling part of Skype, but it’s desperate for Skype to be considered a true messaging service.



Microsoft is taking aim at digital artists with substantial Surface Pen updates

Just a few days ago, Microsoft announced an upgrade to its Surface Pro touchscreen computing device (Redmond hates when you call it a “tablet”). You might have missed it because not a whole heck of a lot has changed. The Surface Pro now has the latest 7th-gen Intel processors, extended battery life up to 13.5 hours, and a swanky new keyboard covered in Alcantara, a material that feels a bit like suede, but is made from polyester and polyurethane to make it durable. What has significantly changed, however, is the Microsoft Surface Pen, and that could be a big step forward for Microsoft in its current efforts to court the creative class.

The Surface Pen no longer comes bundled with the Surface Pro, but it has gotten performance bumps in almost every column of its spec sheet.

One of the most-notable upgrades is the shortened latency of 21 milliseconds, which is twice as fast as the previous model. According to professional illustrator Clint Baker, responsiveness is key for being able to capture the nuance of an artist’s style. “I want drawing on a digital format to feel just like drawing on paper or canvas,” he told me via email.

Baker says he does about 70 percent of his illustration work digitally using a stylus. He’s currently using a Wacom Cintiq, which is one of the standard setups in the illustrating profession. The large, pro-grade Cintiq displays keep the response rate down around 12 milliseconds, but Microsoft’s Surface Pen is actually faster than Wacom’s more-portable Cintiq displays, which are more comparable in terms of size and price and have a response rate around 25 milliseconds. Apple, not surprisingly, doesn’t disclose the latency of its Pencil.


Pressure sensitivity is another area where the Surface Pen has jumped in performance. It now recognizes 4,096 different levels of pressure, up from 1,024 in the previous model. Baker says this is another important feature. “So much personality comes out in line quality—and that has to do a lot with pressure.” Even the high-end Wacom Cintiq drawing displays only claim 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity.

The Surface Pen now recognizes the angle of the stylus for controlling line shape and shading. This feature is popular in the Apple Pencil. Microsoft also claims to have reduced the parallax performance, meaning the line you draw will appear closer to the tip of the pen as you move along. The glass of the screen can sometimes make you feel as though you’re separated from the drawing, which can be distracting.

Microsoft has also announced some updates to its pen-based software, like a new Whiteboard app, which acts as a space for collaborated drawing and note taking. The virtual “pencil case” can also now help brushes and Pen settings commute with you between apps.



Bill Gates told new grads to read this book. Now it’s surging on Amazon

Since stepping down as Microsoft’s chief executive in 2000, Bill Gates has seen his reputation transform from that of a hard-nosed businessman intent on shutting out the competition — which produced comparisons to oil magnate John D. Rockefeller — to that of a wise, inspiring philanthropist seeking to solve some of the world’s toughest social challenges.

Now, Gates regularly dispenses the wisdom he’s gained over the years in an effort to get people to dream bigger, think more positively and be a force for good. He’s even willing to give all this advice for free.

On Monday, Gates delivered what seemed like an entire graduation speech in the span of 14 tweets.

Like the best commencement speeches, Gates’s tweetstorm is a personal reflection on the ways he’s grown since he was a young adult. He admits that it took him “decades” to learn about inequality, and he says he no longer believes there is only one way to measure intelligence. He also articulates a philosophy that drives what he does: the notion that the world is steadily getting better, not worse.

The argument for that, Gates said, is laid out in a 2011 book called “The Better Angels of Our Nature.” Written by Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, the book attempts to explain why, as the New York Timesput it, “our era is less violent, less cruel and more peaceful than any previous period of human existence,” despite headlines that may scream to the contrary.

“That matters,” Gates tweeted, “because if you think the world is getting better, you want to spread the progress to more people and places.”

So it’s probably no surprise that, in light of Gates’s recommendation, “Better Angels” is surging on Amazon. As of Monday afternoon, it had risen in Amazon’s sales rankings by more than 6,000 percent in the previous 24 hours. (Update: As of Tuesday morning, the book had risen 605,000 percent to claim the number-two spot on Amazon’s movers-and-shakers list.)



Windows Story Remix is packing eye-popping pro skills in an amateur package

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could simply take your videos, photos and music and tell an application to turn those into a nice video presentation? With Windows Story Remix, that’s what Microsoft is trying to attempt. This new application, which will launch with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update later this year, combines all of the new features in this upcoming version of Windows 10 into a simple to use, machine learning-based application that automatically creates professionally-looking videos for you.

A product like this always looks great in on-stage demos, of course, but if the final result is anything like what the company showed today, then it’s definitely worth a closer look.

After you give the application the videos and photos you want it to work with — and maybe a soundtrack, too — it sets off to build the video. In doing that, it looks for scenes with a lot of action or where people smile, for example. If there are multiple people in those videos, you can even decide who should be the “star” of the final cut. And if multiple people take videos of the same event from multiple angles, Story Remix will try to integrate all of those into a cohesive video. And all images and videos are automatically tagged, of course, so you can easily search for people or objects. All of that is, of course, powered by Microsoft’s AI capabilities.


In the demo, those videos look great, of course, but in some ways, the fact that Microsoft has seemingly made it very easy to edit and customize these machine-built videos may just be the application’s biggest asset. If you want to change the font of your titles or make a clip a little bit longer, that’s easy to do. But that’s nothing special. Every other video app does that, too, and even Google Photos does some of this with it’s automatically created videos.

What makes Story Remix stand out is that it, for example, allows you to write on a video with your Surface Pen, then anchor that text to a person or object, and as the video pans, that text will stay right in place. You can even got a step further and do this with any 3D object you find on Remix 3D, which is tightly integrated with Story Remix. Say you want to turn a soccer ball into a fireball. You simply find a nice fireball in the Remix 3D library (and that fireball could even be part of a more complex Remix scene), anchor it to the ball, and you’re done. You can also anchor objects to the ground.

Using modern web technologies, users will be able to easily share their montages across the web.

Story Remix will launch with the Windows 10 Fall Creators update, which we expect to hit a computer near you around September.


Microsoft’s Windows Story Remix uses machine learning to make your videos look awesome

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Microsoft. It’s complicated

Looking back at Steve Jobs’ tenure at Apple, it’s impossible to separate the role Microsoft and Bill Gates played. The companies helped pioneer the industry and define an era. The two CEOs partnered at various times, competed all the time, and challenged one another in ways that helped shape the landscape of technology. It’s a complex relationship – which you can witness in this amusing video compilation of Steve Jobs best quotes about Microsoft.

During the development of the Macintosh in the early 80s, Microsoft was an important ally. Apple needed groundbreaking softwares for it’s upcoming platform and Microsoft was one of the few companies developing for it. It was a crucial phase for Apple.

The strength of their relationship could be witnessed at an Internal Apple Event in Hawai where Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh to a few Apple VIPs. Bill Gates sugarcoated the Mac and Steve Jobs loved every moment of it.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were so close at the time that according to a Guardian article, they even double-dated occasionally.

But all good things must end.

Steve Jobs had this dream where Apple would dominate the computer business and Microsoft would own the application-side of that business. The OS would naturally also by controlled by Apple.

But Bill Gates wasn’t blind. He understood that the Graphical User Interface was the future of computing. He also knew that it would quickly make its DOS operating system irrelevant and threatens Microsoft to become (just) a software company dependent of Apple. Bill Gates had bigger plans.

For years, Microsoft had engineers secretly copying the Macintosh OS and working on its own version of a Graphical OS: Windows. Not long after the Internal Event in Hawaii, Steve Jobs learned the crushing news. Microsoft wanted to compete with Apple; Bill Gates deceived him.


For the next 15 years, Apple would engage in a strange relationship with Microsoft. On one end, Microsoft was prying marketshare away from Apple, on the other, it was one of its biggest partner. Steve Jobs would soon leave Apple and create NeXT but would not succeed to make a dent in Microsoft’s dominance.

Along the way, Jobs often sparred with Microsoft, criticizing the company’s lack of creativity.

“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste,” Jobs said in the 1996 public television documentary “Triumph of the Nerds.” “They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.”

In a New York Times article that ran after the documentary aired, Jobs disclosed that he called Gates afterward to apologize. But only to a degree.

”I told him I believed every word of what I’d said but that I never should have said it in public,” Jobs told the Times. ”I wish him the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”


But if Steve was still bitter about Bill, why would he keep a letter of Bill next to his bed during his last moments?

Though to say…

What both men really thought of each others or what really happened behind the curtain will probably never be known. You have to hope that these titans truly shared mutual respects and eventually found grounds to appreciate each others. Bill Gates seems to have:

Bill Gates statement at the passing of Steve Jobs

I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work.

Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives.

The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.

For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.

Bill Gates, 2011.




Microsoft brings developers home for Build 2017

Microsoft Build 2017 kicks off Wednesday morning in Seattle, a homecoming for the tech giant after years of holding its annual developers conference here in San Francisco.

That’s an apt rally-the-troops move considering the escalating battle between some of tech’s biggest companies in the arenas of artificial intelligence, home-assistant hardware and augmented reality.

Some 5,500 developers have heeded the Redmond, Wash., company’s call, helping Build sell out in a day. As Facebook, Apple and Google do with their big developer confabs, Microsoft will use the event to evangelize about its strategy while urging software pros to spend time developing much-needed apps for Microsoft’s ecosystem.

Chat-bots were the big story out of Build 2016 — CEO Satya Nadella pronounced the artificial-intelligence helpers “the new apps” — but famously fizzled out of the gate when, days before the conference, hackers turned Microsoft’s Tay bot into an epithet-spewing racist.

That said, expect bots to be back.

“Last year, Microsoft got ahead of Google, Facebook, Apple and even Amazon on the notions of bots and AI,” or artificial intelligence, says Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights & Strategy. “Bots have ended up so far to be a non-event, but AI is on fire. Microsoft needs to provide updates and enhancements on both.”

Moorhead also anticipates updates on the next generation of Windows 10, which is due out in September, as well as details on Microsoft’s cash machine, its cloud computing platform Azure.

“Azure is the number two public cloud platform to Amazon (and its Amazon Web Services), and I’d like to see Microsoft to give clarity into their hybrid-cloud solution, Azure Stack,” he says, referring to a platform that helps businesses combine on-premise computing power with cloud computing.

Bank on Build 2017 being used to tout Microsoft’s efforts to bite off a piece of Amazon’s booming Echo market. The Alexa-powered home assistant speaker, which just got video capability, is being matched by a new offering from Samsung-owned Harman Kardon, which just unveiled its Invoke speaker, powered by Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana.

After three years under Nadella, Microsoft’s stock price (MSFT) is at an all-time high anchored largely to consistent gains from Azure. But the most recent quarter revealed weaknesses, particularly in Surface hybrid tablets, which experienced a 26% sales drop.

Expect Nadella to kick things off with a keynote that continues to stress his mantra, “empowering everyone on the planet” through its suite of cloud-based productivity tools ranging from Office to recently purchase LinkedIn.

Build 2017 will undoubtedly also showcase some kind of gee-whiz demo related to the company’s groundbreaking mixed-reality headset, HoloLens, an untethered device that at present remains in the hands of developers only.

While a $300 mixed-reality headset from partners Acer and HP was just announced, don’t expect that experience to echo that of $3,000 HoloLens, which Microsoft is betting on as the next generation of computing device that rids us all of our desktops and laptops as our keyboards and monitors suddenly hover in front of us.

Build 2017 takes place at the Seattle Convention Center Wednesday through May 12, and some of its big sessions will be live streamed.




Soon you’ll be able to chat with your search results with Microsoft’s Bing bots

Microsoft is planning to allow developers to add bots to the company’s Bing search results. The software giant has been testing this functionality for at least a month, and previous reports revealed the testing was mainly limited to Seattle. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge the company is ready to expand this further at its Build developer event next week.


Microsoft published its Build schedule this week, and one particular session reveals “you can add your custom bots to Bing.” The existing bot test on Bing.com can be found by searching for a restaurant like Monsoon in Seattle. A new option lets you chat with the restaurant through a Skype bot, and you can ask questions like opening hours or parking information.

Microsoft originally launched its bots platform at Build last year, and custom bots on Bing.com will be a new way to extend these further outside of Skype and Microsoft’s own bots platform. We’re expecting to hear a lot more about Bing’s bots at Build next week.



How to buy and read ebooks in Edge as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update

As part of the Windows 10 Creators Update (see our full review here), Microsoft has added e-reading capabilities to its Edge browser. It’s a bit quirky, given its infancy, but with a bit of practice you can be lounging by the pool with an electronic novel in no time.

The first question you’ll ask: Does it surpass Amazon’s Kindle app. Well, sort of: The Kindle app available for Windows tablets rejected my (correct) Amazon password, a bug that numerous other users have reported. (The Kindle for PC app buried within Amazon’s site works, however).

Edge offers pretty much what you want from an e-reader app anyway: a progress bar, the ability to resume where you left off (mostly), and solid text-formatting options. Reading ebooks is also an opportunity to take full advantage of a detachable Surface tablet, as opposed to a traditional notebook PC.

The Windows Store makes buying ebooks easy

Windows’ ebook-buying process begins with Windows 10’s Store app, which as of the Creators Update adds an ebook store alongside its selection of apps, games, music, and movies. All told, the Store app has evolved into a respectable marketplace.

Not surprisingly, the ebook store looks remarkably like the other categories: At the top of the screen are a few “hero” selections, a handy link to some free classics, and some links to “top” and “featured” books. How many books does Microsoft offer? “Hundreds of thousands,” according to a company representative, with plans to offer New York Times bestsellers as well as other top titles across a range of genres.

Scroll down, and you’ll see the handiwork of Microsoft’s curators, with collections of different genres and other featured works. Though there’s a search box, you can’t do something as basic as search for “cookbooks.” That term appears in the genre-based collections at the bottom of the main page, however. 

As I was writing this in mid-March, Microsoft had not highlighted any sales or discounts, something the company will need to do if it truly wants to compete. My own poking around revealed some price differences between ebooks sold on Kindle vs. the Microsoft Store: Jim Edwards’ Rookie Cooking was $11.69 on Microsoft and $17.09 on Amazon; more popular ebooks like Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, however, were priced comparably. Amazon competes notoriously hard on price, however, so it’s possible that any discrepancies simply escaped its notice. Disappointingly, some books, like the Harry Potter series, simply weren’t available in the Microsoft Store as of this writing.



Microsoft Provides More Details About Edge Improvements in the Creators Update

Microsoft today provided a rundown of the new features we can expect its in Edge web browser in the Windows 10 Creators Update.

I highlighted all of these features previously in my Windows 10 Creators Update Preview. But today’s Microsoft missive provides a bit more information. So here’s a quick overview.

Tab management

In the Creators Update, Microsoft Edge picks up a ton of new tab management features that the firm says are aimed at addressing “the chaos and clutter of the web and the fear of losing tabs.”

The idea here is clear enough: With Windows 10 users spending over 50 percent of their time browsing the web, navigating among your open tabs can quickly become an arduous task.

“People often have many tabs open at any given time, resulting in stress about losing open tabs, not being able to pick up where they left off, or simply losing focus due to information overload,” Microsoft Edge general manager Drew DeBruyne writes in a new Windows Experience post.

With that in mind, Edge will offer the following new features in the Creators Update:

Show tab thumbnails. Now, you can see a preview of all open tabs visually: Just select the new Show tab previews control to toggle this display. (You can still mouse-over individual tabs to see each tab preview individually too, as before.)

Set tabs aside. Using a new Set these tabs aside control, you can now get a fresh start, as Microsoft says, removing distractions and providing a clean browser, while being able to pick up right where you left off at any time. (Just select the Tabs you’ve set aside control to do so.)

More browser capabilities

Microsoft has long innovated in bringing low-level OS capabilities like hardware rendering to its web browser,s. And Edge is not different: In the Creators Update, it will pick up a number of new experiences. These include:

3D capabilities. Edge utilizes WebVR technologies to provide virtual reality experiences in the web browser. And this will work with coming Windows Mixed Reality hardware, DeBruyne says. “We continue to explore how 3D content can revolutionize the web, and we’re hard at work in standards bodies to deliver a new interoperable immersive web,” DeBruyne notes. “These are exciting times, and we’re thrilled to participate.”

eBooks. Microsoft Edge will add support for the EPUB e-book format and for the new e-book store experience in the Windows Store. This feature also integrates with Cortana, and provides spoken-word reading of e-books.

Easier online shopping. In the Creators Update, Edge picks up support for the Payment Request API, which enables integration with Microsoft Wallet and whatever payment methods you’ve configured. “On participating websites, users will have the option to checkout quickly using their payment information stored securely in Microsoft Wallet so they don’t have to navigate through traditional checkout flows and repeatedly enter the same payment and shipping address information,” DeBruyne explains.

Extension improvements. Edge picked up support for browser extensions last year. With the Creators Update, this functionality will be expanded to include more APIs and thus more capabilities, including access to Favorites, roaming data between PCs, and the ability to securely communicate with other installed applications.

Core improvements. This new version of Edge is “faster, safer, and more efficient than ever,” DeBruyne says, thanks to constant low-level refinements. Microsoft promises more information about this work soon.



Microsoft Edge can now read your ebooks out loud to you

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Ebooks will play an important role in the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update: Microsoft will include a native ebook store into the OS and Insiders can already check out the new ebook section in the Windows Store.

The latest Windows 10 build takes the native ebook experience to a new level as the Edge browser can now read your ebooks aloud. All you need to do is press the “Read aloud” button located at the top-right corner of the browser, sit back, relax and listen. Edge will also highlight the words being read along.

Let Microsoft Edge read your ebooks aloud

This new feature also supports all non-store EPUB files. For the time being, the list of supported languages is limited to the following languages: r-EG, ca-ES, da-DK, de-DE, en-AU, en-CA, en-GB, en-IN, en-US, es-ES, es-MX, fi-FI, fr-CA, fr-FR, it-IT, ja-JP, nb-NO, nl-BE, nl-NL, pt-BR, pt-PT, sv-SE, tr-TR, zh-CN.


Here’s how the Redmond giant describes the new in-browser ebook reading experience:

Last week many of you asked about this and we are proud to announce that Microsoft Edge will now read aloud your e-books! Just press the “read aloud” button at the top-right corner after opening one of your e-books and listen to Microsoft Edge read you the book with focus on the line and the word being read along.

The new ebook section allows users to modify the font and size of the text and create bookmarks. You can use the table of contents or seek bar at the bottom of the browser to navigate through your ebook collection and ask Cortana to define specific words. You can also use Edge to read your favorite ebooks even when you’re offline.

Have you tested out the new Microsoft Edge ebook experience? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.



LinkedIn Is The New Facebook: Here’s What You Need To Know

LinkedIn has been around since 2003. But lately, something has changed. Content that was once frowned upon on Facebook is now the new normal on LinkedIn.

The business social networking site LinkedIn has become the new Facebook.

What happened?

When I first uploaded a photo of myself on LinkedIn back in 2007 my colleagues chided me for posting my “glam shot.” I’ve noticed more and more executives posting a few headshots in different poses. Adding the inquiry to their network “which photo should I use in my profile pic?”

Cringe-worthy? Maybe. The new normal? Certainly.

This behavior wouldn’t have struck me as particularly unusual on Facebook. Even less so on Instagram, and Snapchat. I would have scrolled or swiped through to the next piece of content.

So why does this bother us when we see it on LinkedIn?

Ten years ago the unspoken understanding was that if you were on the platform, you were there to get a new job. LinkedIn even allowed you to hide your profile from others in your company. Ensuring your boss would never see your profile and assume you were on the hunt.

The content and the conversations were v-e-r-y dry. This lighter “Facebookification” of content didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a gradual progression of cultural acceptance and norms.

People who remember those “dry days” feel uneasy when they see this new edgier content. This is where they went into “stealth mode” to get a new job after all. They would have never asked their networks feedback about their profile photo. Heck, they never even uploaded a photo!

Others who have just joined are just mapping their normal social media behavior from other networks onto the business site. They don’t see anything wrong with it.

How did this happen?

Back when Facebook was gaining popularity among my generation (X) it was slow moving. Some posted updates from the mundane “John is: excited it’s Friday!” To the silly “Joe sent you an invite to play, (insert game name here).”

Today Facebook has become an extension of everything in our lives.

It’s our town hall, poker night, kids soccer game. It’s our girl’s night out, our news channel, and vacation. Lately, it’s even become out political rally.

It’s human nature. And it’s a definitive cultural shift.

What can we do about it?

The more comfortable people get with a social media platform, the more uncomfortable the content they share becomes. If the lighter, even silly content bothers you, do what I do. Let LinkedIn help you curate your news feed.

If you see content you don’t like, just click on the three dots in the upper right-hand corner of the post.

When you do this, LinkedIn offers you three options:

  1. Hide this post
  2. Unfollow
  3. Report

For me, this was a necessary change to ensure that I have a great experience on LinkedIn. I do the same on Facebook too.

Like every other platform before it, LinkedIn is evolving. They’ve just released a new interface and it looks more like Facebook than ever. I love it.

LinkedIn is the new Facebook. Deal with it.



Microsoft launches Skype Lite for India that works on slow internet and supports Aadhaar

Satya Nadella announces ‘Skype Lite’, a verion of the popular communication app that has Aadhaar integration and the abiilty to work even on slow mobile data networks.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Wednesday announced the integration of Skype and Aadhaar to launch ‘Skype Lite’, a new communication tool aimed at slower mobile internet connections.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Wednesday announced the integration of Skype and Aadhaar to launch the ‘Skype Lite’ for low speed mobile internet connections, which will be supported by Aadhaar and will enable technology that can empower people and organisations.

At a keynote address on day two of Future Decoded event, Nadella said that one can chat with ‘Aadhaar Verified’ users on both the regular Skype app and the new Skype Lite app while interacting for job interviews, government services and other services.

“Your next Skype Job interview might need Aadhaar verification. You can soon enter your Aadhaar number over Skype to verify yourself for an interview. The service can be extended for government services as well,” said Nadella.

“The Aadhaar data will be deleted automatically from the device once the “Aadhaar Verified” Skype chat is over,” he added.

Talking about the phenomenal entrepreneurial energy in India, which is transforming very rapidly, Nadella said, “It is phenomenal and exciting to see State Bank of India wanting to move to hybrid cloud infrastructure.”

He added that the finance sector is also undergoing digital transformation which is why the State Bank of India (SBI) has opted for the cloud, and will be adopting Office 365.

He also applauded the efforts of Andhra Pradesh, CM N. Chandrababu Naidu who has taken bold decisions to make the state a first cloud state.

“They will use cloud services to help service citizens of the state,” added Nadella.

Giving example of automobile industry and how some of these firms are relying on the Microsoft Cloud to change their business, he applauded Tata Motors who will be joining Microsoft on the cloud.

“They will build the ability to collect data, rendezvous with the Cloud, reshape the maintenance, warranty and more importantly the experience of the driver,” he said.

“I had a chance to meet an entrepreneur who is reshaping healthcare. This entrepreneur is using data to reshape diagnostic capabilities. The fact that diabetes can be monitored in a more effective manner can reshape healthcare,” he added.

However, on Tuesday, Nadella and Flipkart announced their partnership on the cloud as Flipkart will be exclusively using Microsoft Azure as its public cloud.

Nadella also met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, assuring the government of its initiatives in healthcare and education. Nadella also participated in a round table at NITI Aayog, tapping into cloud computing for good governance in the country.



Microsoft CEO says artificial intelligence is the ‘ultimate breakthrough’

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked off a three-day visit to India in the nation’s startup hub, Bengaluru, by speaking on a number of topics close to his heart, meeting the startup community and announcing a critical partnership with Flipkart.

“First one is cloud and AI, and they kind of go together,” said Satya Nadella. The fact that you have the power of the Internet and infrastructure to read large amounts of data is what powers artificial intelligence. And India is well on its way to rolling out technologies and services powered through the cloud and magic of AI, according to Satya Nadella.

The second thing that’s exciting, according to Nadella, is the power of Cortana, which is like the third runtime when it comes to humans’ interaction with computers is concerned. Natural language processing and the ability to converse with a computer, phone, gadget or service — powered through Microsoft Azure Cloud — is the ultimate promise of Cortana. And it’s also being rolled out around several products and partnerships (Microsoft & Tata Motors, for instance).

And thirdly, just like Tim Cook spoke about this last week, Satya Nadella also believes that Augmented Reality holds a revolutionary potential in its applications through breakthrough technology — like the Microsoft HoloLens. He spoke about just how excited he was the very first time he tried on the Microsoft HoloLens, trying to go through a virtual anatomy class, something that blew his mind away in terms of the limitless potential of AR and VR technology.

On Entrepreneurship

Three years after being appointed as Microsoft CEO in February 2014, Satya Nadella — who’s an alumnus of Manipal Institute of Technology batch of 1988 — also had discussions on digital transformation in India, the need for intelligent cloud, and other topics to ensure speedy digitization of the nation. In terms of startups, Satya Nadella said there was a lot of potential for entrepreneurs to achieve great things by solving unique problems in India through the power of technology, reaffirming Microsoft’s commitment to building the relevant tools and technology platform that enables and empowers others to build great technologies on top of them.

Microsoft & Flipkart strategic partnership

Flipkart will adopt Microsoft Azure as its exclusive public cloud platform, the partnership was announced by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Flipkart Group CEO Binny Bansal at an event in Bangalore.



Google and Microsoft agree crackdown on piracy sites in search results

Google and Microsoft pledged on Monday to crack down on sites hosting pirated content that show up on their search engines.

In what is being called a first of its kind agreement, Google and Microsoft’s Bing will demote U.K. search results of copyright infringing websites. Under the “code of practice”, Bing and Google have agreed to remove links to infringing content from the first page of results.

The voluntary agreement was brokered by the U.K. Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the government department that deals with patents and copyright issues, who called it a “landmark” deal.

Search engines, in particular Google, have clashed in recent times with organizations that represent rights holders about how best to tackle pirated content. Even Google’s YouTube has come under fire from the music industry over copyright in the past.

“Consumers are increasingly heading online for music, films, e-books, and a wide variety of other content. It is essential that they are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites,” Jo Johnson, U.K. minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation, said in a press release on Monday.

The BPI (British Phonographic Industry), which represents the U.K.’s recorded music industry, and the Motion Picture Association are also part of the agreement.

Both Bing and Google currently allow copyright owners across the globe to make a request for the removal of a link. In the past 12 months, Google has taken down 915 million links following requests from copyright holders. Bing took down over 91 million links between January and June 2016, according to a Microsoft transparency report.

The code was agreed on February 9 and will come into force immediately. It sets targets for reducing the visibility of infringing content in search results by June 1, 2017.



Amazon Echo: Now Alexa can check your Microsoft Outlook calendar, and voice calls could be coming soon

Users of Amazon’s Echo smart speaker can now set Outlook as a default calendar for the Alexa service to access.

Outlook users can set Microsoft’s web-based calendar as the default option for their Amazon Echo and other Alexa-powered devices: Microsoft said this includes accounts with email addresses ending in @outlook.com, @hotmail.com and @live.com.

They can then check or add events by voice. For example, you can ask: “Alexa, add ‘dinner with Katie’ to my calendar,” or “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?”

It’s not the first calendar for Alexa; the service has integrated Google Calendar since it was launched, but it also shows Microsoft’s determination to have its services available on as many devices as possible, even if it doesn’t make them.

The move also reflects the continuing momentum behind Amazon’s smart device with its embedded voice-powered digital assistant, Alexa, which has evolved from a novelty into the next big thing in technology. The Alexa service is being integrated with devices ranging from from washing machines to smart door locks.

Also, according to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon is also looking at how the Amazon Echo could be used for voice calls too. It’s hardly a big stretch: the device already has a microphone, a speaker and a web connection: however, according to the WSJ there are still privacy and regulatory issues to be resolved.

Check Amazon’s support website for instructions on how to set Outlook as the default calendar.



First look at Windows 10’s upcoming store for e-books

Microsoft is working on a new a store for e-books in Windows 10. The software giant actually started building in features related to the Books store late last year with the release of EPUB (a popular file type for e-books) support on Microsoft Edge.

We were today able to get an early look at the new e-books store in an internal build of Windows 10 Mobile, but the feature is also going to be available for PCs and tablets running Windows 10. The new e-book store will be integrated into the Windows Store as a dedicated section where users will be able to buy books from a range of different publishers and authors. Buying a book from the Windows Store works just like how you would buy an app, game or a music album — simply find a book you want to buy, and hit the Buy button to purchase it.


Once purchased, you can start reading the book on Microsoft Edge which is also getting a dedicated section for Books in Windows 10. This is where you will be able to find all the books you have purchased from the Windows Store which is pretty neat. Thanks to Microsoft Edge’s strong EPUB support, you will be able to add bookmarks into any book you are reading or easily view the table of contents. You can also customize the EPUB Viewer’s theme, change the font size and even the font family to fit your needs.

Here are a couple of other screenshots of the new feature:


The new bookstore will be coming to Windows 10 with the Creators Update, which is scheduled to arrive this April. The feature will be available for both Windows 10 PCs and Mobile devices.

Microsoft Making Late Entry In E-Books To Take On Amazon

Nearly 10 years after Amazon introduced its Kindle e-book business, Microsoft has decided finally the time is right for a Windows competitor.

The next update to Windows 10, known as the Creators Update and expected in April, includes a new e-book section in Microsoft’s digital media store, which already sells movies, TV shows, games and music. The e-books store was included in a test version of the upcoming Windows and discovered this week by the web site MSPoweUser, which posted a variety of pictures highlighting new features.

The e-books, published in the EPUB format, can be read on a PC in Microsoft’s Edge browser or on mobile devices running Windows, the web site said.

With publishers now firmly in control of e-book pricing, Microsoft’s prices appeared in line with what existing e-book sellers charge, at least in the test version. Broadcaster Megyn Kelly’s memoir, Settle for More, for example, was listed at $15, the same price as in Apple’s iBooks Store, Google’s Play store, and Amazon’s Kindle store.

Microsoft declined to comment about the new e-book effort. The company said only that it often tests new features in early versions of Windows, which it makes publicly available via its Windows Insider program. “We regularly test new features and changes to existing features to see what resonates well with our fans,” the company said in a statement to Fortune. “Stay tuned for more information soon.”

Microsoft’s decision to take on Amazon’s (AMZN, +0.14%) popular Kindle store comes as other players have faded and the entire e-book market among traditional publishers has shrunk. E-book sales tracked by the Association of American Publishers, which doesn’t count self-published works, dropped 19% in the first seven months of 2016 compared to the prior year.



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