Tag Archives: Microsoft

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.


Microsoft Is Retiring The Internet Explorer Browser



Microsoft has announced it will kill off its much-maligned legacy internet browser Internet Explorer close to 27 years after it graced desktop computers in 1995, The Guardian reported. From June 15, the desktop app will be disabled and users will be redirected to Microsoft’s Edge browser instead.

On the Windows Experience Blog, Microsoft explained what happens now for everyday users.

The future of Internet Explorer is in Microsoft Edge. Internet Explore (IE) has been retired and is no longer supported. If any site you visit needs Internet Explorer, you can reload it with IE mode in Microsoft Edge. Select “Continue” to get started with Microsoft Edge, the fast and secure browser built for Windows.

Your favorites, passwords, history, cookies, and other browser data will be automatically brought over to Microsoft Edge so you can seamlessly continue browsing. You can manage this later in Settings on Microsoft Edge.

Engadget reported that, just short of its 27th birthday, Microsoft will no longer support the Internet Explorer 11 desktop app for Windows 10’s usual Semi Annual Channel as of June 15th. According to Engadget, you’ll still receive IE11 support if you’re using Windows Server 2022 or an earlier iOS release with a long-term service extension. But this marks the end of software updates for most people.

Wikipedia provides some history of Internet Explorer. It was formerly called Microsoft Internet Explorer and Windows Internet Explorer. It was a series of graphical web browsers developed by Microsoft and included in the Microsoft Windows line of operations systems, starting in 1995. Microsoft spent over US $100 million per year on Internet Explorer in the late 1990s, with over 1,000 people involved in the project by 1999. Internet Explorer was once the most widely used web browser, attaining a peak of about 95% usage share by 2003.

Personally, I remember using Internet Explorer back in 1995, when I was in college. At the time, it seemed like a wonderful tool to use to look up things that some of my college classes required me to find online – and then make use of in a paper.

I don’t miss using Internet Explorer because I’ve since moved from a PC to a Mac. However, there are people who lament the loss of Internet Explorer. The Wall Street Journal reported that some people have developed emotional connections to their internet browsers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Internet Explorer is just the latest technology to get tossed into the digital dump. Diehards clung to their BlackBerry devices long after much of the world moved on to candy-colored smartphones. Now, the demise of the old browser is prompting sentimental feelings.


Microsoft Agrees to Respect Activision Blizzard Unionization



Microsoft said Monday it would respect the rights of Activision Blizzard workers to join a union, and would enter into a so-called labor neutrality agreement with major media union Communications Workers of America, which has been helping video game workers organize, The Washington Post reported.

According to The Washington Post, if Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is approved, the new labor agreement will take effect for the video game giant 60 days after the deal is finalized.

The Wall Street Journal reported that earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled a set of principles aimed at demonstrating its willingness to work with unions. The company said it wouldn’t discourage employees from using their legal right to form and join unions and wouldn’t try to complicate the process of unionization for its employees.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the principles marked Microsoft’s latest attempt to carve out a position distinct from other technology companies on a sensitive subject in the industry. U.S. tech companies have long avoided unions, and some have tried to discourage employees from joining them. Microsoft reported a global workforce of more than 180,000 last year. None are currently unionized in the U.S.

The New York Times reported: A group of nearly 30 employees at one of Activision’s studios voted to unionize through an N.L.R.B. election in May despite Activision’s opposition to holding the election. But completing such a process can be time consuming, with unions and employers sometimes spending months or even years litigating the results.

According to The New York Times, through the agreement, workers will have access to an expedited process for unionizing, overseen by a neutral third party, in which they will indicate their support for a union either by signing cards or confidentially through an electronic platform.

Chris Shelton, the president of the Communications Workers unions, said in an interview, “This process does give us and Microsoft a way to do this quote unquote election without spending the time, the effort and the controversy that goes along with an N.L.R.B. election.”

Personally, I’m happy to see that Microsoft is willing to work with unions. That’s a huge change from Activision Blizzard King, where the high-ups have been fighting against unionization. The Wisconsin workers in Raven Software were able to unionize – but not before Activision engaged in union-busting attempts. Raven contractors worked on franchises like Activision’s Call of Duty games.

It would be wonderful if the Activision Blizzard King workers, who have been struggling to get the company to accept their unionization efforts, can easily join a union after the Microsoft acquisition. If so, this would set a huge precedent for workers at other gaming companies.


Xbox Gaming On Your Samsung Smart TV – No Console Required



Xbox Corporate Vice President, Gaming Experiences & Platforms, Ashley McKissick, made an announcement about Xbox Gaming on your Samsung Smart TV. You can play games – without requiring a console. From the announcement:

Our mission at Xbox is to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet. We are committed to achieving this vision by delivering great games and services, and enabling more people to play than ever before. That’s why we created Xbox Game Pass and continue expanding Cloud Gaming to new devices – so that we can open up the ways people can play across the devices they already own; PC, console, mobile, tablet devices, and now Smart TVs.

The announcement says that as of today, the Xbox team provided an update on their approach and vision to embed Xbox experience into Smart TVs. They are now bringing the Xbox app to Smart TVs, starting with their partner Samsung.

Together, Samsung and Xbox partnered to bring Xbox Game Pass to the millions of Samsung Galaxy phones around the world, and now they are partnering again to bring their Xbox gaming experience to their 2022 Smart TVs. Ashley McKissick says you can experience cloud gaming on Smart TVs on June 30 in 27 countries.

They are bringing the Xbox App to Samsung Smart TVs first, and our intent is to explore other TV partnerships as part of this next evolution in our vision.

Here are some more details:

Playing Xbox games on 2022 Samsung Smart TVs gives Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members easy and instant access to over 100 high-quality games, including Xbox Game Studios titles on the same day they release. You can also play Fortnite without a membership through cloud gaming.

If you are getting a new Samsung 2022 Smart TV, you will now have more ways to play games in your house.

If you’re new to gaming, this is an easy way to get into the fun without needing to buy a PC or console and also to join a thriving community of over 25 million Game Pass members worldwide.

To me, this sounds like it could be a good way to get new gamers interested in playing games that are on Xbox. My concern is that it won’t work as well on a Smart TV as it does on a console or mobile device. Hopefully, Xbox tested that out and is confident that gaming works just as well on a Smart TV as it would on a console or PC. If not, there will very likely be complaints by disgruntled gamers.

In related news, The Verge reported that Microsoft is working on Project Moorcroft, a program designed to bring early game demos to Xbox Game Pass subscribers. The demos will be similar to the limited levels and early samples of games that fans would typically spend hours in line to play at E3 or PAX.

According to The Verge, the game demos are a lot of work for developers, especially getting them ready for what was the usual annual E3 conference. Microsoft’s plan is to focus on independent developers and any game developer will be compensated and able to view how their demos preform.