Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft Warns of New Cyberattacks Targeting U.S. Elections

Microsoft warns that it has detected cyberattacks targeting people and organizations involved in the upcoming presidential election. This includes unsuccessful attacks on people associated with both the Trump and Biden campaigns.

The activity we are announcing today makes clear that foreign activity groups have stepped up their efforts targeting the 2020 election as had been anticipated, and is consistent with what the U.S. government and others have reported. We also report here on attacks against other institutions and enterprises worldwide that reflect similar adversary activity.

Microsoft has observed:

  • Strontium, operating from Russia, has attacked more than 200 organizations including political campaigns, advocacy groups, parties and political consultants
  • Zirconium, operating from China, has attacked high-profile individuals associated with the election, including people associated with the Joe Biden for President campaign and prominent leaders in the international affairs community.
  • Phosphorus, operating from Iran, has continued to attack the personal accounts of people associated with the Donald J. Trump for President campaign.

Microsoft believes that more federal funding is needed in the U.S. so states can better protect their election infrastructure. The company encourages Congress to move forward with additional funding to the states and provide them with what they need to protect the vote and our democracy.

Based on what Microsoft observed, it would be a good idea to stay vigilant when online. Shenanigans are happening that could affect the outcome of the upcoming election. We all need to take a step back and question election-related social media posts before spreading what might be misinformation from a foreign country.

Microsoft Officially Announces Xbox Series S

Microsoft has officially announced the Xbox Series S after someone leaked information about it, Engadget reported. The Xbox Series S will be priced at $299 (ERP) and will be released on November 10, 2020.

In a tweet, the Xbox Twitter account announced: “Let’s make it official! Xbox Series S | Nex-gen performance in the smallest Xbox ever. $299 (ERP). Looking forward to sharing more! Soon. Promise.”

Xbox has also posted the “Xbox Series S – World Premier Reveal Trailer” on YouTube. the Xbox Twitter account announced: “Let’s make it official! Xbox Series S | Nex-gen performance in the smallest Xbox ever. $299 (ERP). Looking forward to sharing more! Soon. Promise.”

Xbox has also posted the “Xbox Series S – World Premier Reveal Trailer” on YouTube. The trailer is about a minute and a half long. It starts very artsy, with the Xbox S appearing to form itself before the viewer’s eyes. It also provides some details about the Xbox Series S.

Features Include:

  • Next-Gen Performance in the smallest Xbox ever
  • Nearly 60% smaller than Xbox Series X
  • Next-Gen Speed
  • Custom NVME SSD powered by Xbox Velocity Architecture
  • Incredibly fast load times
  • Seamless game switching
  • All digital gaming experience
  • Next-Gen frame rates up to 120FPS
  • Better with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
  • Play over 100 high quality games
  • Games optimized for next gen
  • All-digital
  • 1440P at up to 120 FPS
  • DirectX Raytracing
  • Variable rate shading
  • Variable refresh rate
  • Ultra-low latency
  • Custom S12 GB SSD
  • 4K Streaming Media Playback
  • 4K Upscaling for games

Engadget pointed out that (according to reports) both the Series S and Series X will be available to buy on November 10th. Series S could be offered as part of a $25-per-month Xbox All Access financing option. The Xbox Series X will reportedly cost $499 and be made available via a $35-per-month Xbox All Access financing option.

I think Microsoft made a good decision to release this information shortly after it had been leaked. Doing so reduces the chance of people making assumptions about the veracity of the leaked information. It also gives consumers time to consider whether the Series S or Series X is the best choice for them.

DoD Reaffirmed JEDI Cloud Contract to Microsoft, Amazon Complains

The ongoing drama between Amazon and the Department of Defense about the JEDI contract continues, after a pause in August. Today, the Department of Defense announced that it has re-evaluated its decision to award the JEDI Cloud to Microsoft, and reaffirmed that decision.

The Department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI Cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the Government. The JEDI Cloud contract is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that will make a full range of cloud computing services available to the DoD. While contract performance will not begin immediately due to the Preliminary Injunction Order issued by the Court of Federal Claims on February 13, 2020, DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform.

Amazon does not appear to have accepted that outcome. The company posted a response explaining why they will continue to protest what they have described as a “politically corrupted contract award”.

Amazon feels that the review by the Department of Defense “was nothing more than a ‘do-over’ for Microsoft to fix its non-compliant proposal.” Amazon also complains that the Department of Defense cited price as a major factor in the previous decision, and Amazon feels that it offered a lower price than Microsoft did.

Personally, I doubt that Amazon’s decision to continue fighting against the Department of Defense’s choice to go with Microsoft is going to change anything. I find it incomprehensible that Amazon wants to sink more time and effort into something that is unlikely to go their way. But, this is the “hill they want to die on”, and Amazon clearly intends to keep pushing.

Xbox Series X Launches This November

Microsoft announced that Xbox Series X will launch in November of this year. No specific date was given, but its more information than we had before. In December of 2019, all we knew was it would available “holiday 2020”. That’s the good news.

The bad news, for Halo fans, is that the release of Halo Infinite has been shifted to 2021. Studio Head of Halo Infinite, Chris Lee, posted information on the Halo website.

The decision to shift our release is the result of multiple factors that have contributed to development challenges, including the ongoing COVID-related impacts affecting us all this year. I want to acknowledge the hard work from our team at 343 Industries, who have remained committed to making a great game and finding solutions to development challenges. However, it is not sustainable for the well-being of our team or the overall success of the game to ship it this holiday.

Microsoft points out that when Xbox Series X launches in November, it will have thousands of games to play, spanning four generations. It will also have 100 optimized for Xbox Series X titles. On day one, it will have:

  • More than 50 games planned for this year across generations and optimized for Xbox Series X, including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Dirt 5, Gears Tactics, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
  • New games developed for Xbox Series X and launching with Xbox Game Pass, including The Medium, Scorn, Tetris Effect: Connected, and more.
  • More than 40 popular games newly optimized to take full advantage of Xbox Series X, such as Destiny 2, Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Madden NFL 21, and more.
  • A shared library of great games through Xbox Games Pass.

It is reasonable that those who were really looking forward to the release of Halo Infinite will be disappointed that it is being delayed. They might be able to find something fun to play while they wait. If nothing else, the delay gives them something to look forward to in a world where COVID-19 has made things very stressful.

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.

Pentagon Watchdog Says White House Didn’t Influence Decision on JEDI

The Defense Department’s inspector general found that the White House “doesn’t appear to have influenced” the decision on which company to award the JEDI contract to, CNBC
reported. According to CNBC, the inspector general noted in the report that it had limited cooperation from White House officials throughout its review, and could not complete its assessment of allegations of ethical misconduct.

Bloomberg reported that the 317-page report issued by the DoD’s inspector general’s office found that giving the JEDI contract to a single company – Microsoft – rather than dividing it among competitors was “consistent with applicable acquisition standards.”

Bloomberg also said that the report stated that the White House had limited cooperation with the inquiry. According to Bloomberg, the inspector general said the assertion of a “presidential communications privilege” resulted in the Defense Department general counsel instructing officials “not to answer questions about potential communication between White House and DoD officials about JEDI.”

Here’s some background for those who haven’t been following along:

Microsoft was selected over Amazon for the JEDI contract in October of 2019. JEDI stands for “Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure”. The contract, from the Department of Defense, could be worth over $10 billion over a decade.

In November of 2019, Amazon filed a notice that it will formally protest the decision on JEDI.

In February of 2020, a spokesperson for Amazon Web Services told CNBC (to paraphrase) that Amazon felt the President should not be allowed to use the budget of the DoD “to pursue his own personal and political ends”. A few days later, a federal judge put a temporary block on the JEDI cloud contract.

In March of 2020, Amazon asked a federal court to require the Pentagon to broaden its scope of a reevaluation of its decision to award Microsoft the JEDI contract.

Overall, I don’t see how Amazon can come out ahead on this situation at this point. I’m also confused about why a company with so much money is concerned about a contract that could be worth over $10 billion dollars over a decade.