Microsoft program provides a decade of updates for Windows IoT devices

If you have an essential Internet of Things device running Windows 10 IoT Core Service, you don’t want to be worried about security and OS patches over a period of years. Microsoft wants to help customers running these kinds of devices with a new program that guarantees 10 years of updates. The idea is that as third-party partners build applications on top of the Windows 10 IoT Core Services, these OEMs, who create the apps, can pay Microsoft to guarantee updates for these devices for a decade. This can help assure customers that they won’t be vulnerable to attack on these critical systems from unpatched applications. The service does more than provide updates though. It also gives OEMs the ability to manage the updates and assess the device’s health. “The Windows IoT Core service offering is enabling partners to commercialize secure IoT devices backed by industry-leading support. And so
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Microsoft Azure will soon offer machines with up to 12 TB of memory

Do you have an application that needs a lot of memory? Maybe as much as 12 terabytes of memory? Well, you’re in luck because Microsoft Azure will soon offer virtual machines with just that much RAM, based on Intel’s Xeon Scalable servers. The company made this announcement in concert with the launch of a number of other virtual machine (VM) types that are specifically geared toward running high-memory workloads — and the standard use cases for this is running the SAP Hana in-memory database service. So in addition to this massive new 12 TB VM, Microsoft is also launching a new 192 GB machine that extends the lower end of Hana-optimized machines on Azure, as well as a number other Hana options that scale across multiple VMs and can offer combined memory sizes of up to 18 TB. Another new feature of Azure that’s launching today is Standards SSDs. These will
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Microsoft promises to keep GitHub independent and open

Microsoft today announced its plans to acquire GitHub for $7.5 billion in stock. Unsurprisingly, that sent a few shock waves through the developer community, which still often eyes Microsoft with considerable unease. During a conference call this morning, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, incoming GitHub CEO (and Xamarin founder) Nat Friedman and GitHub co-founder and outgoing CEO Chris Wanstrath laid out the plans for GitHub’s future under Microsoft. The core message everybody on today’s call stressed was that GitHub will continue to operate as an independent company. That’s very much the approach Microsoft took with its acquisition of LinkedIn, but to some degree, it’s also an admission that Microsoft is aware of its reputation among many of the developers who call GitHub their home. GitHub will remain an open platform that any developer can plug into and extend, Microsoft promises. It’ll support any cloud and any device. Unsurprisingly, while the core
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Microsoft has acquired GitHub for $7.5B in stock

After a week of rumors, Microsoft today confirmed that it has acquired GitHub, the popular Git-based code sharing and collaboration service. The price of the acquisition was $7.5 billion in Microsoft stock. GitHub raised $350 million and we know that the company was valued at about $2 billion in 2015. Former Xamarin CEO Nat Friedman (and now Microsoft corporate vice president) will become GitHub’s CEO. GitHub funder and former CEO Chris Wanstrath will become a Microsoft technical fellow and work on strategic software initiatives. Wanstrath had retaken his CEO role after his co-founder Tom Preston-Werner resigned following a harassment investigation in 2014. The fact that Microsoft is installing a new CEO for GitHub is a clear sign that the company’s approach to integrating GitHub will be similar to hit it is working with LinkedIn. “GitHub will retain its developer-first ethos and will operate independently to provide an open platform
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Monetizing computing resources on the blockchain

A while back, a blockchain startup approached me with their pitch, a decentralized social media application in which users can earn money by simply doing what they already do on other platforms, such posting updates, photos and videos.

I would have been intrigued had they sent me the message a couple of years ago. But not so much after observing the space for more several years.

Several blockchain applications profess to enable users to monetize various resources, whether it’s their unused storage and CPU power, or the tons of data they generate every day.

Regardless of whether they will succeed to deliver on their promises or not, these projects highlight one of the problems that haunts the centralized internet.

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Microsoft is reportedly acquiring GitHub

New reports out of Redmond this weekend have Microsoft set to purchase the popular coding site GitHub. Bloomberg is citing “people familiar with the matter,” stating that the deal could be announced as early as tomorrow.

The new story follows similar reports late last week of discussions between the two parties. The deal certainly makes sense for Microsoft, as the software giant continues to actively court developers. As for GitHub, the company is said to have been “impressed” by Satya Nadella, who has actively courted coders and coding initiatives since taking the reins at the company, back in 2014.

“The opportunity for developers to have broad impact on all parts of society has never been greater,” Nadella told the crowd at his address during last year’s Build. “But with this opportunity comes enormous responsibility.”

Dramatic, perhaps, but acquiring GitHub would give the company access to some 27 million software

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The Microsoft Launcher for Android now lets you track your kids’ whereabouts

Microsoft is launching an update to its Android launcher today that gives parents the ability to track their kids’ location. This is one out of a number of parent- and kid-focused announcements the company made today. Others include the ability to block sites in Microsoft Edge on Android and the launch of MSN Kids, a new curated news website for children. At the core of these new features are Microsoft’s family group settings that already allowed you to do things like track a child’s activity on Windows 10 and Xbox One devices or limit screen time in general. “As a mother to a young and curious daughter, I deeply understand the need for tools to help balance the use of technology in the home as well as out of the home,” writes Shilpa Ranganathan, the General Manager of Microsoft’s Mobile Experiences group, in today’s announcement. “It’s especially near and
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HoloLens acts as eyes for blind users and guides them with audio prompts

Microsoft’s HoloLens has an impressive ability to quickly sense its surroundings, but limiting it to displaying emails or game characters on them would show a lack of creativity. New research shows that it works quite well as a visual prosthesis for the vision impaired, not relaying actual visual data but guiding them in real time with audio cues and instructions. The researchers, from CalTech and University of Southern California, first argue that restoring vision is at present simply not a realistic goal, but that replacing the perception portion of vision isn’t necessary to replicate the practical portion. After all, if you can tell where a chair is, you don’t need to see it to avoid it, right? Crunching visual data and producing a map of high-level features like walls, obstacles, and doors is one of the core capabilities of the HoloLens, so the team decided to to let it do
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Microsoft’s Twitch rival Mixer gets a revamp, including new developer tools for interactive gameplay

Microsoft is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its game streaming service and Twitch competitor, Mixer, with a host of new features, including a refresh of the user experience and the launch of an expanded developer toolkit called MixPlay. The new streamer tools will roll out along with the revamped version of Mixer .com across desktop and mobile web, and will initially be available to Mixer Pro subscribers. The company claims the service saw more than 10 million monthly active users in December 2017 – a figure, we should point out, may be higher because of holiday sales and the accompanying bump in game downloads and playtime seen across platforms. However, Microsoft also says that the Mixer viewing audience has grown over four times since its launch, and the number of watched streams has grown more than five times. These are still not hard numbers, but third-party reports have put
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Microsoft acquires conversational AI startup Semantic Machines to help bots sound more lifelike

Microsoft announced today that it has acquired Semantic Machines, a Berkeley-based startup that wants to solve one of the biggest challenges in conversational AI: making chatbots sound more human and less like, well, bots. In a blog post, Microsoft AI & Research chief technology officer David Ku wrote that “with the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI center of excellence in Berkeley to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in language interfaces.” According to Crunchbase, Semantic Machines was founded in 2014 and raised about $20.9 million in funding from investors including General Catalyst and Bain Capital Ventures. In a 2016 profile, co-founder and chief scientist Dan Klein told TechCrunch that “today’s dialog technology is mostly orthogonal. You want a conversational system to be contextual so when you interpret a sentence things don’t stand in isolation.” By focusing on memory, Semantic
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Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is an inspiring example of inclusive design

Every gamer with a disability faces a unique challenge for many reasons, one of which is the relative dearth of accessibility-focused peripherals for consoles. Microsoft is taking a big step towards fixing this with its Xbox Adaptive Controller, a device created to address the needs of gamers for whom ordinary gamepads aren’t an option. The XAC, revealed officially at a recent event but also leaked a few days ago, is essentially a pair of gigantic programmable buttons and an oversized directional pad. 3.5mm ports on the back let a huge variety of assistive devices like blow tubes, pedals, and Microsoft-made accessories plug in. It’s not meant to be an all-in-one solution by any means, more like a hub that allows gamers with disabilities to easily make and adjust their own setups with a minimum of hassle. Whatever you’re capable of, whatever’s comfortable, whatever gear you already have, the XAC
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A $400 Microsoft Surface may be on the way

Microsoft’s always taken a premium approach to its Surface line, showing users what its operating system can do when run on top of the line hardware. It’s a model that makes sense for a company with so many ties to third-party hardware manufacturers. But the line that’s been so focused on the high-end needs of “creative professionals” may be getting a budget addition in the near future.

According to a new report from Bloomberg, Microsoft is eyeing the end of the year to release a $400 version of the Surface designed to compete more directly with Apple’s ubiquitous tablet. Of course, many have tried and largely failed to take on the iPad — including Microsoft itself.

The company launched the Surface RT half a decade ago, without making much of a splash. These days, the tablet herd has thinned a bit, and Microsoft has established itself as a maker

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Music payments startup Exactuals debuts R.AI, a “Palantir for music royalties”

Exactuals, a software service offering payments management for the music industry, is debuting R.AI, a new tool that it’s dubbed the “Palantir for music”. It’s a service that can track songwriting information and rights across different platforms to ensure attribution for music distributors. As companies like Apple and Spotify demand better information from labels about the songs they’re pushing to streaming services, companies are scrambling to clean up their data and provide proper attribution. According to Exactuals, that’s where the r.ai service comes in. The company is tracking 59 million songs for their “Interested Party Identifiers” (IPIs), International Standard Work Codes (ISWCs), and International Standard Recording Codes (ISRCs) — all of which are vital to ensuring that songwriters and musicians are properly paid for their work every time a song is streamed, downloaded, covered, or viewed on a distribution platform. Chris McMurtry, the head of music
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Microsoft announces the Surface Hub 2

Do you remember the Surface Hub? Chances are you forgot it even existed. And yet, Microsoft just announced a second version of the Surface Hub. The company hasn’t shared any specifications or price, but it won’t be available before 2019 — selected customers will test the Surface Hub 2 starting this year. The Surface Hub was a crazy expensive digital whiteboard that could handle anything from video conferences to document collaboration. Microsoft says that there are 5,000 companies using Surface Hubs, including half of Fortune 100 companies. It’s unclear if each company has bought one Surface Hub or a thousand. But it seems like there was enough interest to work on a second version. At heart, it’s still a gigantic touchscreen-enabled display. It runs Windows 10 and supports the Surface Pen. Compared to the previous version, Microsoft has drastically reduced the bezels. It looks like a modern TV now, but
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Skype, Interrupted

Skype, was once a beloved product, one that I loved using every day. It was a product I wrote about long before it was trendy. I sent the team feedback. Like all tiny apps that are good at what they do, it became popular and grew really fast. It was sold to eBay, and then re-sold to Microsoft. And that’s when the magic disappeared. Through series of mergers and managers, Skype became an exact opposite of what I loved about it — independent outsider which was great at — chat, messaging and phone calls. It had just enough features, and its desktop client was minimal in its perfection.  Now, as I tweeted in the past, it is “a turd of the highest quality.” Bloomberg took a closer look at the Skype and its decline. Microsoft argued that the “criticism is overblown and reflects, in part, people’s grumpiness with software updates.” They say that now the focus is the corporate market. But that doesn’t deny the fact that it is a terrible interface, inhuman and difficult to use. It lacks any imagination — a fact that is repeatedly reinforced on social media every time you bring up Skype and its user experience.  “It is like Tim Tebow trying to be a baseball player,” I told Bloomberg reporters. “The product is so confusing, kludgey and unusable.” Continue reading "Skype, Interrupted"

The UK and USA need to extend their “special relationship” to technology development

The UK and the USA have always had an enduring bond, with diplomatic, cultural and economic ties that have remained firm for centuries.

We live in an era of profound change, and are living with technologies set to change things ever faster. If Britain and America work together to develop these technologies for the good of mankind, in a way that is open and free, yet also safe and good for our citizens, we can maintain the global lead our nations have enjoyed in the fields of innovation.

Over past months we have seen some very significant strides forward in this business relationship. All of the biggest US companies have made decisions to invest in the UK. Apple is developing a new HQ in the

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Microsoft’s Snip Insights puts A.I. technology into a screenshot-taking tool

A team of Microsoft interns have thought up a new way to put A.I. technology to work – in a screenshot snipping tool. Microsoft today is launching their project, Snip Insights, a Windows desktop app that lets you retrieve intelligent insights – or even turn a scan of a textbook or report into an editable document – when you take a screenshot on your PC. The team’s manager challenged the interns to think up a way to integrate A.I. into a widely used tool, used by millions. They decided to try a screenshotting tool, like the Windows Snipping Tool or Snip, a previous project from Microsoft’s internal incubator, Microsoft Garage. The team went with the latter, because it would be easier to release as an independent app. Their new tool leverages Cloud AI services in order to do more with screenshots – like convert images to translated
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After buying Flipkart, Walmart seeks allies to join its fight against Amazon in India

The rumors are true: Walmart has bought a controlling stake in India’s Flipkart. This isn’t a straight-up acquisition, however, because, rather than going it alone, the U.S. retailer is enlisting strategic allies as it takes its fight to Amazon in a new region. Walmart has an existing offline retail business in India, but enter the online space puts it up against Amazon, which has made massive strides since entering India in 2012. That perhaps calls for something special, which is one reason why Walmart is buying just 77 percent of Flipkart and leaving space for others with expertise to come join. Walmart confirmed that “some” existing investors will retain their stakes, including Tencent the $500 billion Chinese giant — and Tiger Global, both of which have board sets, and Microsoft, which was part of a $1.4 billion investment last year. Added to that, Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal has committed
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Microsoft is looking to entice app developers with a better store revenue split

In the fractured, spammy world that is consumer PC software downloads, Microsoft is looking to make their Microsoft Store a more central hub but they need the help (and enthusiasm) of developers. In a major showing of good will, Microsoft is changing up their revenue sharing structure to give developers a bigger cut. Developers of consumer apps (not including games) for PC, Windows Mixed Reality, Windows Phone or Surface Hub will now receive 85 percent of revenue from downloads — as opposed to 70 percent — when the app is tracked down through the Microsoft Store. What’s more interesting is that Microsoft is bumping this figure up to 95 percent when the app is deep-linked externally from somewhere like the app developer’s site. While Apple and Google both structure their revenue sharing models based on how long a user is engaging with an app, even after 12 months of usage, the
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Microsoft and Red Hat now offer a jointly managed OpenShift service on Azure

Microsoft and Red Hat are deepening their existing alliance around cloud computing. The two companies will now offer a managed version of OpenShift, Red Hat’s container application platform, on Microsoft Azure. This service will be jointly developed and managed by Microsoft and Red Hat and will be integrated into the overall Azure experience. Red Hat OpenShift on Azure is meant to make it easier for enterprises to create hybrid container solutions that can span their on-premise networks and the cloud. That’ll give these companies the flexibility to move workloads around as needed and will give those companies that have bet on OpenShift the option to move their workloads close to the rest of Azure’s managed services like Cosmos DB or Microsoft’s suite of machine learning tools. Microsoft’s Brendan Burns, one of the co-creators of Kubernetes, told me that the companies decided that this shouldn’t just be a service
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