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 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, 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.
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.
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.
Cortana’s days are numbered. Microsoft announced that Cortana services will no longer be supported after January 31, 2020. This warning could give those who were using Cortana some time to find a different digital assistant. Here is the support note from Microsoft’s UK site:
To make your personal digital assistant as helpful as possible, we’re integrating Cortana into your Microsoft 365 productivity apps. As part of this evolution, on January 31, 2020, we’re ending support for the Cortana app on Android and iOS in your market. At that point, the Cortana content you created – such as reminders and lists – will no longer function in the Cortana mobile app or Microsoft Launcher, but can still be accessed through Cortana on Windows. Also, Cortana reminders, lists, and tasks are automatically synced to the Microsoft To Do app, which you can download to your phone for free.
Microsoft continued by stating that after January 31, 2020, the Cortana mobile app on your phone will no longer be supported and there will be an updated version of Microsoft Launcher with Cortana removed.
The Verge reported that Microsoft is “planning to kill off” its Cortana app for iOS and Android users in the UK, Canada, and Australia. The Verge also reported that Microsoft confirmed that the Cortana app will disappear in the UK, Australia, Germany, Mexico, China, Spain, Canada, and India on January 31, 2020.
It appears that Cortana users in the United States will still have access to the Cortana app, but it is not certain for how much longer after the end of January. Now is a good time for Cortana users decide if they want to start using the Microsoft To Do app, or if they need to start looking for another digital assistant.
Microsoft announced that it is a strong supporter of California’s CCPA law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020. Microsoft is going to extend the privacy protections in the CCPA to all Microsoft customers in the United States.
Under CCPA, companies must be transparent about data collection and use, and provide people with the option to prevent their personal information from being sold. Exactly what will be required under CCPA to accomplish these goals is still developing. Microsoft will continue to monitor those changes, and make the adjustments needed to provide effective transparency and control under CCPA to all people in the U.S. While many of our customers and users find that the data controls we already offer them through our GDPR commitment will be stronger than those rights offered by the new California law, we hope this step will show our commitment to supporting states as they enact laws that take us in the right direction.
Reuters reported that the California law is expected to harm profits over the long term for technology companies, retailers, advertising firms, and other businesses dependent on collecting consumer data to track users and increase sales.
According to Reuters, Microsoft products that collect data include its Cortana and Microsoft Edge browsers, Bing web search engine, Windows 10 system, Xbox and Skype.
Microsoft pointed out the “lack of action by the United States Congress to pass comprehensive privacy legislation”. The company noted that “in the absence of strong national legislation”, California’s law will be adhered to by Microsoft not only for people in California, but also Microsoft customers across the United States.