Category Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft Suggests Ways Technology Can Improve Lives



Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, shared thoughts on the U.S. election. The main idea of the blog post is “building new bridges”. He points out some ways that technology can be used to improve lives and heal a divided country.

Here is a summarized version of Microsoft’s ideas:

Broadband has become the electricity of the 21st century, vital for everything from patients needing telehealth consultations to children who are attending school from home. Today, too many rural families find there is no broadband service available, while too many underprivileged urban families find no broadband service that is affordable. A nation that would not tolerate millions of Americans living without electricity should no longer accept millions of families without broadband.

Technology-fueled automation increasingly impacts all of our jobs. Digital tools, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to make almost all of us in every job category more successful – but only if we have easier access to the new digital skills that are increasingly indispensable to the jobs of the future. … We need to make digital skills available to everyone.

Across the political spectrum, Americans share not just a commitment to, but a reverence for, democracy. …At Microsoft, this led us this election cycle to work across the political aisle to protect Republican and Democratic candidates alike. We conclude this election year even more convinced of the importance of using technology to protect not just the democratic process, but our fundamental freedoms. More than ever, we need ongoing technology innovation and stronger partnerships across the public and private sectors to better defend democracy.

…People of all political backgrounds care deeply about the privacy of their data and the security of their internet services. … Yet we continue to live with a national electronic privacy law enacted in the dial-up era of the 1980s, and when it comes to issues such as safeguards for facial recognition, we have no national law at all. We need new laws fit for the future.

…Regardless of political party, people want our economy to prosper. … We believe that technology innovation needs to create more business opportunities for every part of the economy as well as ushering in a new era for enhanced public sector services and efficiencies.

This is the first blog post I’ve seen since the winner of the 2020 presidential election was announced, that offers some actionable suggestions about how to make the people’s lives better. It appears to call upon lawmakers, and perhaps business leaders as well, to make these changes. The incoming administration could make use of these ideas.


Microsoft Adopts 10 Principles for the Microsoft Store



Microsoft has released 10 principles for their Microsoft Store on Windows 10. It appears to be done in response to Apple’s recent decisions regarding their App Store and Epic Games. Microsoft states that the 10 principles build on the ideas and work of the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) to promote choice, ensure fairness, and promote innovation on Windows 10 and the Microsoft Store on Windows 10.

The 10 principles include:

  • Developers have the freedom to choose whether to distribute their apps for Windows through our app store. We will not block competing app stores on Windows.
  • We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s business model or how it delivers content and services, including whether content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.
  • We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s choice of which payment system to use for processing purchases made in its app.
  • We will give developers access to information about the interoperability interfaces we use on Windows, as set forth in our Interoperability Principles.
  • Every developer will have access to our app store as long as it meets objective standards and requirements, including those for security, privacy, quality, content and digital safety.
  • Our app store will charge reasonable fees that reflect the competition we face from other app stores on Windows and will not force a developer to sell within its app anything it doesn’t want to sell.
  • Our app store will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their users through their apps for legitimate business purposes.
  • Our app store will hold our own apps to the same standards to which it holds competing apps.
  • Microsoft will not use any non-public information or data from its app store about a developer’s app to compete with it.
  • Our app store will be transparent about its rules and policies and opportunities for promotion and marketing, apply these consistently and objectively, provide notice of changes and make available a fair process to resolve disputes.

There has been an ongoing legal battle between Epic Games and Apple which started when Epic Games created a direct payment option in which Epic Games lowered the prices for consumers who used it. Apple responded by terminating the Epic Games account on the App Store.

Microsoft’s 10 principles are a clear signal to software developers that Microsoft is not going to make the kinds of decisions that Apple has been making. I think this is a good thing. However, as a Mac user, I have concerns that this will result in even fewer developers making their video games Mac-compatible.


Microsoft’s Bid for TikTok was Rejected



ByteDance has selected Oracle as TikTok’s technology partner for its U.S. operations, The New York Times reported. This decision comes after President Trump issued an executive order that requires ByteDance to divest from its U.S. TikTok business withing 90 days (from the issuing of the order).

Microsoft released the following statement:

ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft. We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests. To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combating disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement. We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas.

Politico reported that the exact value or structure of the deal between Oracle and TikTok was not immediately clear. Will Oracle own part or all of TikTok’s assets? According to Politico, a source familiar with the matter described Oracle as a technology partner to TikTok and did not describe the transaction as a sale.

From this, it appears that ByteDance has potentially fulfilled at least part of President Trump’s executive order. ByteDance could be in the process of divesting from its US business with TikTok, and might able to do it before the deadline of September 20.

Another part of the executive order requires TikTok to destroy all data that was obtained from the application in the United States. If TikTok has not been outright sold to Oracle, I cannot help but wonder which company is going to be held responsible if that data is not destroyed.


Microsoft will Launch xCloud Streaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate



Microsoft really wants players to use Xbox Series X (but is not going to force them into it). Instead, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer laid out several advantages that Xbox Series X has over previous Xbox consoles in post titled: “You Are the Future of Gaming”. One of the enticements described in that post is an enhancement to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership.

Finally, today we’re announcing that this September, in supported countries, we’re bringing Xbox Game Pass and Project xCloud together at no additional cost for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members. With cloud gaming in Game Pass Ultimate, you will be able to play over 100 Xbox Game Pass titles on your phone or tablet. And because Xbox Live connects across devices, you can play along with nearly 100 million Xbox Live players around the world…

The Verge reported that Microsoft is planning to launch a game streaming service that is currently called Project xCloud for free to paying Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers. In short, the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate combines Xbox Live access, a Xbox Game Pass subscription, and (starting in September) xCloud game streaming into a single $14.99 monthly subscription.

Another really cool thing about the Xbox Series X is that you will be able to play four generations of games on it on day one. Microsoft says that makes it the largest lineup for any new console ever, with thousands of games to play. Their intent is for all Xbox One games that do not require Kinect to play on Xbox Series X at the launch of the console.

I haven’t played on a console in a long time. But, back in the day, I found myself really annoyed when a newer version of a console would come out because it typically meant the games I was enjoying would not function on the newer console. Adding backwards compatibility is a fantastic idea, especially because it allows people to keep playing their favorite games.

The Microsoft post started off by emphasizing that they want to make the Xbox community safe, accessible, and welcoming. There’s a link to their community standards in the post. Microsoft says “harassment and hate take many forms, but none have a home on Xbox”. That’s good for players, and also for Microsoft. Players tend to leave gaming environments that become too toxic.


Microsoft Announced Together Mode



Microsoft announced Together mode, a new feature in Microsoft Teams. This is one of many new features that are designed to make working remotely more streamlined, inclusive and engaging. It is also designed to reduce meeting fatigue.

It makes sense for Microsoft to have enhanced Microsoft Teams with new features. In March of 2020, Microsoft sent out an email to approximately 50,000 Microsoft employees in the Seattle area that instructed them to begin working from home. At the time, many companies were assuming that the COVID-19 pandemic would be over in a month or two.

Months later, it became apparent that the United States was unlikely to quell the pandemic anytime soon. In that timeframe, Microsoft created features that would make Microsoft Teams better.

Together mode is a new meeting experience in Teams that uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background, making it feel like you’re sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class. Together mode makes meetings more engaging by helping you focus on other people’s faces and body language and making it easier to pick up on the non-verbal cues that are so important to human interaction.

Microsoft says that Together mode with auditorium view is rolling out now and will be generally available in August. The company has plans to bring more views to Together mode in the future.

It is my understanding that some people who have been working from home for months are beginning to miss the office. They want to be in the same physical space as their co-workers again. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t safe to do as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

I think Microsoft’s Together mode could make some people, who feel lonely at home, a bit happier. There is something about visually seeing everyone together online that can feel like you are actually together. Anyone who has played video games that require teams of players to focus on the same goal has experienced this.


I’m on Windows 10 and I’m OK with that – for now



OK, for 5 years or so now I’ve been primarily using a Chromebook. I’ve been through three. It’s not that I didn’t have Windows around, the desktop in my office is Windows and the laptop was on my kitchen counter is Windows. I used it while cooking so I could keep an eye on messages, plus I have recipes in Evernote. 

Well, that kitchen laptop is currently my work machine. The keyboard on my Chromebook, an Asus C206, died. Literally no keys work. Yes, I’ve tried to fix it in many ways. I’ve declared it DOA. 

So that laptop that was on my kitchen counter is suddenly my work machine. It took me a day to get used to it. I’m used to an 11 inch and that keyboard size. This is 17 inches and my fingers were getting lost on the keyboard. However, by day 2 I was basically fine, I adjusted. 

I did have to turn off the touchpad, I use an external mouse so it isn’t necessary. Worse, my wrist brushed it while typing and deleted a whole story. In Chrome OS turning it off is as easy as Shift-Search-P. It’s a little harder in Windows, but it isn’t rocket science. 

I also remembered this is a touchscreen when I went to wipe a spot off the screen. I didn’t use this very much so I’d forgot. Things happened when I touched it to wipe the spot off. 

However, I’ve been scouring online and picked out a new Chromebook. So I’ll be heading back to one very soon, just need to place my order and wait for delivery. In the meantime, I’m OK on Windows 10. I know Windows well, it was just a matter of getting my fingers used to the bigger keyboard. 

So what are all of you using these days? Let us know. And stay healthy out there. 


Judge Temporarily Blocks Microsoft’s JEDI Contract



JEDI saga continues! A federal judge has ordered a temporary block on the JEDI cloud contract, which Microsoft was selected for (over Amazon) by the Department of Justice. The judge’s action was in response to a suit filed by Amazon.

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud computing contract is intended to modernize the Pentagon’s IT operations. It could be worth as much as $10 billion over a decade. Personally, I don’t think Microsoft or Amazon would be in a dire situation as a result of not getting the JEDI contract. But, here we are.

CNBC reported that in January of 2020, Amazon’s cloud computing arm, AWS, filed a formal motion asking the court to pause Microsoft’s work on the JEDI cloud contract. The court granted that motion today.

Earlier this week, Amazon said that it wants to question President Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and former Defense Secretary James Mattis over the JEDI contract. Amazon has stated that the evaluation process included “clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias.”

Personally, I feel like this is a spat between two incredibly rich corporations over a contract that they both want – but neither of them actually need in order to stay in business. I’m finding it hard to care about the outcome of this case.