Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft Wants To Build Its Own Mobile Gaming Store



As the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigates Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft recently revealed in its filings with the CMA that it plans to create a new “Xbox Mobile Platform” that will include mobile games by Activision and King, TechCrunch reported.

According to TechCrunch, Microsoft also added in its filings with the CMA, “Mobile revenues from the King division and titles such as ‘Call of Duty: Mobile’, as well as ancillary revenue, represented more than half of Activision Blizzard’s revenues and in the first half of 2022.”

The Verge reported that Microsoft is building an Xbox mobile store to directly offer games on mobile devices, challenging Apple and Google. The software giant first hinted at a “next-generation” store it would “build for games” earlier this year, but has now quietly revealed details of the plans in filings with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The Verge posted a portion of Microsoft’s filings:

The transaction will improve Microsoft’s ability to create a next generation game store which operates across a range of devices, including mobile as a result of the addition of Activision Blizzard’s content. Building on Activision Blizzard’s existing communities of gamers, Xbox will seek to scale the Xbox Store to mobile, attracting gamers to a new Xbox Platform. Shifting consumers away from the Google Play Store and App Store on mobile devices will, however, require a major shift in consumer behavior. Microsoft hopes that by offering well-known and popular content, gamers will be more inclined to try something new.

According to The Verge, Microsoft could leverage ‘Call of Duty: Mobile’ and ‘Candy Crush Saga’, two hugely popular games published by Activision and King, respectively, and Microsoft could leverage these titles to help build out a game store to rival Google Play and the App Store. Given Apple’s policies blocking third-party app stores on iOS, it’s difficult to imagine Microsoft competing on iPhones anytime soon. But that’s clearly not stopping it from envisioning an Xbox mobile app store.

Forbes reported: “While we may have all suspected this was probably the case, Microsoft, as part of its ongoing effort to get its acquisition of Activision Blizzard approved, has revealed that Sony has been blocking Call of Duty from coming to Games Pass, and may continue to block it even if the deal ultimately goes through.

Forbes pointed out that Microsoft told the CMA: “The agreement between Activision Blizzard and Sony includes restrictions on the ability of Activision Blizzard to place Call of Duty title on Game Pass for a number of years.” According to Forbes, this is significant because this is part of the deal that Phil Spencer referenced when he said Microsoft had the “intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard.”

It would be interesting if the U.K.’s CMA decides against Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard specifically because Sony has objections to allowing Microsoft to have access to ‘Call of Duty’. Perhaps the CMA could allow the transaction to go through, but without ‘Call of Duty’.


Microsoft’s Adaptive Accessories Have A Release Date



Microsoft has announced that its range of Adaptive Accessories will be available to purchase starting October 25th in select markets, The Verge reported. The Adaptive Accessories were first announced in May and are designed to address common issues that can prevent people from getting the most out of their PC, especially if they have difficulty using a traditional mouse and keyboard.

According to The Verge, the wireless system includes a programmable button, an adaptive mouse, and the Microsoft Adaptive Hub, which connects up to four Microsoft Adaptive Buttons to as many as three devices.

The mouse is a small, square-shaped puck that can clip into a palm rest with a removable tail and thumb support. The mouse and button can be customized using a range of modular components, enabling users to find the best fit to suit their usability requirements. For example, the adaptive buttons let you add eight programmable inputs to your computer, allowing them to be used as a joystick or D-pad.

Back in May, Microsoft provided some explanation about the Microsoft adaptive accessories:

The new Microsoft adaptive accessories provide a highly adaptable, easy-to-use system. Each piece is designed in partnership with the disability community to empower people who may have difficulty using a traditional mouse and keyboard to create their ideal setup, increase productivity, and use their favorite apps more effectively. A traditional mouse and keyboard may pose obstacles for someone with limited mobility.

These adaptive accessories can perform a variety of functions, thereby alleviating a pain point for those who find it challenging to get the most out of their PC. The Microsoft adaptive accessories have three main ways that work best for your specific needs.

Right now, it is unclear what the price of the Microsoft Adaptive Accessories will be. However, The Verge reported that the mouse and button support 3D-printed accessories for a fully personalized experience, and both Business and Education customers will be able to 3D-print adaptive grips from Shapeways for the Microsoft Business Pen and Microsoft Classroom Pen 2. Community designers have previously made free printable files available for other accessibility accessories, such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

I think it is wonderful that Microsoft is making games more accessible to people who require adaptive tools in order to get the most out of the video games they play. This could literally be a “game changer” for people who struggle with keyboards and/or mouses, and who could benefit from using a joystick or D-pad instead. I say this as a person with disabilities that can cause me to stop playing a video game due to the pain in my hands.


Windows 11’s Widgets Button Will Now Show Taskbar Alerts



Microsoft is rolling out a taskbar notification system to its Windows 11 widgets this week, The Verge reported. According to The Verge, Microsoft’s weather widget returned to Windows 11 earlier this year, it’s largely been a static experience that displays a sunny icon when the weather is good and an umbrella when its raining and “sucks to be outside”.

As of this week, Microsoft is now adding live animations to this taskbar widget. All Windows users will start to see these new widget notifications in the coming days and weeks, thanks to an update to the Windows Web Experience Pack that powers Microsoft’s widgets feature. The notifications on the taskbar weather widget, and include alerts for thunderstorms and even ticker alerts when stocks you’re following go up or down, The Verge reported.

Microsoft provided a support article titled “Stay up to date with widgets”. It explains that if you have the latest version of Windows but still don’t see all the widgets features below, it may be because some features are being rolled out to customers over several weeks and aren’t available to all customers at once.

Each widget is powered by a different app or service. To see what is powering a widget, select the More Options (…) in the upper-right corner of the widget, and look for the “Powered by” message at the bottom of the menu. Each individual widget is an extension of its corresponding app or service and is controlled by the settings for that app or service. This means the way to change your privacy settings for a widget is to change them for the app or service that powers that widget.

The support article also states that you can pin or unpin widgets and customize the widgets board to suit your needs.

Windows Central reported that the widgets will display alerts that could consist of severe weather warnings, stock changes, and breaking news.

According to Windows Central, the new widget functionality arrives in the form of a store update for the Web Experiences Pack, which is normally updated automatically, but users can manually search for the update by heading to the Microsoft Store app and selecting “Get Updates”. That said, it can take a while for all users to see the update.

Overall, it sounds like Microsoft is going to slowly roll out the new widgets to Windows 11 users. The Verge reported that Microsoft is planning to release its next major OS update on September 20. The update will include new app folders in the Start menu, drag and drop on the taskbar, new touch gestures, and more.


Xbox Tests Xbox Game Pass In Ireland and Columbia



Xbox Insider announced today that in Columbia and Ireland, Xbox Insiders can begin to preview a plan that allows multiple people to share Game Pass Ultimate benefits. The post was written by Sr. Technical Program Manager, Tyler Mittleider.

According to Xbox Insider, this makes it even easier to play the best Game Pass games with friends and family across console, PC, and cloud by enabling you to add up to four people to your subscription, all with their own unique access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate games, content, and benefits.

Those who want to participate in the preview need to purchase the “Xbox Game Pass – Insider Preview Game Pass plan in the Microsoft Store. Check out release notes here.

Things to know about this preview:

The people you share your membership do not have to be Insiders but must reside in the same country as you. Enrollment is limited and will remain open while the offer is available.

Joining the Game Pass – Insider Preview will convert the time remaining on your membership to time in the new plan, based upon the monetary value of the old membership. For example, a full month of Ultimate will be converted to18 days of membership for this plan. This way you won’t lose any of the remaining value on your existing subscription upon conversion. Conversion is final, and users must wait for their new membership to expire before returning to a remaining membership.

Conversion is not available for invited group members. Before joining a group, a group member can cancel their existing subscription or wait for it to expire. If they do not have a Microsoft account, invited friends and family will have to create a new Microsoft account and sign in with it to participate.

Members with Xbox All Access won’t be able to participate in this preview.

In Columbia, parts of the copy for the preview have not been localized and might be displayed in English.

GameSport reported that rumors of an Xbox Game Pass family plan surfaced earlier this year, and this test will determine how the service can be applied to a wider range of users.

The announcement by Xbox of its test of the Xbox Game Pass in Ireland and Columbia appears to be conformation of the rumor. Personally, I think it is a good idea for Xbox to test out a Game Pass that allows people to add others to their group (who live in the same country as the Games Pass holder does).

I also think this could be good for accessibility. As a person who has several disabilities, I tend to find that using a controller hurts less than gaming on a keyboard. Xbox requires a controller. If the test works out well, it might be incentive for gaming companies to put their games on Xbox.


Microsoft and Netflix Partner For New Ad-Supported Tier



Microsoft posted on the Official Microsoft Blog a post titled: “Netflix names Microsoft as partner for new consumer subscription plan”. Part of it says:

We’re thrilled to be named Netflix’s technology and sales partner to help power their first ad-supported subscription offering.

At launch, consumers will have more options to access Netflix’s award-winning content. Marketers looking to Microsoft for their advertising needs will have access to the Netflix audience and premium connected TV inventory. All ads served on Netflix will be exclusively through the Microsoft platform. Today’s announcement also endorses Microsoft’s approach to privacy, which is built on protecting customer’s information.

This is a big day for Netflix and Microsoft. We’re excited to offer new premium value to our ecosystem of marketers and partners while helping Netflix deliver more choice to their customers…

Netflix posted on their About Netflix website a post titled: “Netflix to partner with Microsoft on new ad supported subscription plan”. It was written by Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer of Netflix, Greg Peters. Part of the post says:

In April, we announce that we will introduce a new lower priced ad-supported subscription plan for consumers, in addition to our existing ads-free basic, standard and premium plans. Today we are pleased to announce that we have selected Microsoft as our global advertising technology and sales partner.

Microsoft has the proven ability to support all our advertising needs as we work together to build a new ad-supported offering. More importantly, Microsoft offered the flexibility to innovate over time on both the technology and sales side, as well as strong privacy protections for our members…

The Verge reported that Microsoft will become Netflix’s “global advertising technology and sales partner” upon rolling out the cheaper option. (This is, of course, referring to the “ad-supported” option.)

According to The Verge, Netflix’s decision to choose Microsoft: recalls a close relationship between the two for streaming launches. The first version of Watch Instantly that streamed mostly B-movies used Microsoft’s Silverlight technology to deliver video instead of the more common Flash Player until it was replaced by HTML5, and the Xbox 360 was the first console with an HD Netflix streaming app.

How well will the “ad-supported” subscription plan go over with customers? That remains to be seen. It is possible that people who want to watch things on Netflix, but who don’t have a lot of money to spend on subscription services, might give it a try.

On the other hand, Netflix and Microsoft could potentially stuff way too many ads into the “ad-supported” plan. Doing so would be a big mistake, especially if ads pop up in Netflix’s TV shows or movies, entirely breaking the immersion that people want to feel while being entertained.


CMA Investigates Microsoft Acquisition of Activision Blizzard



The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it is investigating the anticipated acquisition by Microsoft Corporation of Activision Blizzard, Inc. The CMA stated that July 6, 2022 is the launch of the merger inquiry, and it gave notice to the parties. From the CMA:

“6 July 2022: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act of 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.”

CNBC reported that the U.K’s Competition and Market Authority said its investigation would consider whether the deal may harm competition – “for example, through higher prices, lower quality, or reduced choice.” According to CNBC, the CMA set a September 1 deadline for its initial decision.

CNBC also reported that Lisa Tanzi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and general counsel, said regulatory scrutiny of the deal was to be expected, adding the company would “fully cooperate” with the CMA.

If approved, CNBC reported, the acquisition would have huge implications for the $190 billion video game industry, handing control of incredibly lucrative franchises including Call of Duty, Candy Crush and Warcraft to one of the world’s biggest tech companies.

TechCrunch reported that the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also currently investigating the Microsoft – Activision Blizzard deal. According to TechCrunch, the FTC regulators have been known “to scupper, or add provisions, to deals, as well as nod them through.”

All of this comes as Activision Blizzard faces what seems to be an ongoing series of controversies. The company was the subject of a two-year investigation by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which it described as having a “‘frat boy’ workplace culture” and a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”

TechCrunch pointed out that CEO Bobby Kotick reportedly knew about, yet failed to act, over sexual misconduct and rape allegations.

In short, Activision Blizzard is currently, and has been, a mess. While it is important to keep in mind that there are some wonderful, creative, people who work for that company, it is the inaction of the CEO and the Board that is allowing the controversy to continue. I honestly hope that the regulators allow the Microsoft – Activision Blizzard merger – if for no other reason than to give the employees a better work environment.


Microsoft Introduces Microsoft Defender – A 365 Online Security App



Microsoft introduced its Microsoft Defender. It is a new Microsoft 365 online security app for you and your family.

Everyone deserves to feel safe online. Securing your personal data and devices is more challenging than ever, increasing malicious threats, more time online, and many connected personal devices can leave us feeling vulnerable. It’s time for online security that provides simplified and secure protection to meet you where you are.

Microsoft Defender for Individuals is a new security app designed to keep individuals and families safer online. Available for Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers starting on June 16, 2022, Microsoft Defender helps simplify your online security through one, unified view into your family’s protections, across your personal phones and computers.

The footnotes attached to parts of that paragraph include: “App requires a Microsoft 365 Family or Personal subscription, and is available as a separate download.” A second footnote says: “App is available on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS in select Microsoft 356 Family or Personal billing regions.”

Microsoft says that Microsoft Defender extends the production already built into Windows Security beyond your PC to your macOS, iOS, and Android devices. This, too, comes with a footnote which says: “New malware protection is not available where these protections exist in iOS and Windows”. Yet another footnote says: “Security tips are available on Windows and macOS only.”

Corporate Vice President, Security, Compliance, Identity and Management, Vasu Jakkal, wrote a post titled: “Making the world a safer place with Microsoft Defender for individuals”. Here are some key points from that post:

What does Microsoft Defender Do?

Microsoft Defender is simplified online security that meets you and your family where you are by bringing multiple protections together into a single dashboard. It provides online protection across the devices you and your family use. It offers tips and recommendations to strengthen your protection further. And, as you grow your digital footprint by adding family members and devices, Defender grows with you and keeps your defenses up-to-date using trusted technology.

  • This seamless solution, which includes continuous antivirus and anti-phishing protection for your data and devices, will enable you to:
  • Manage your security protections and view security protections for everyone in your family, from a singe, easy-to-use, centralized dashboard.
  • View your existing antivirus protection (such as Norton or McAfee). Defender recognizes these protections within the dashboard.
  • Extend Windows device protections to iOS, Android, and macOS devices for cross-platform malware protection on the devices you and your family use the most.
  • Receive instant security alters, resolution strategies, and expert tips to help keep your data and devices secure.

Personally, I am pleasantly surprised that Microsoft is extending Microsoft Defender to not only people who use PCs and Android devices, but also to those of us who use macOS and iOS devices. It is unusual for a tech company to extend its security protections to those outside of its “universe” of products.