AR Game Minecraft Earth Launches This Summer

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This summer Microsoft will be launching an augmented reality game called Minecraft Earth. And it wants to be bigger than Pokémon Go.

Microsoft says it will kick off a closed beta of Minecraft Earth this summer on iOS and Android. Naturally, there are going to be limited slots, and you’ll also have to be 18 or older to sign up. And while the plan is to get Minecraft Earth completely global, it’s going to start off with a gradual rollout in select locations. You can also expect it to support all the languages in the original game, at least.

I never got into Minecraft, but I look forward to trying this game out.

Microsoft Employee Says Whites, Asians Discriminated Against

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Messages posted by an unknown female Microsoft programmer in internal Yammer boards say that white and Asian men are being discriminated against.

To be clear, I am referring to the fact that senior leadership is awarded more money if they discriminate against Asians and white men. I have an ever-increasing file of white male Microsoft employees who have faced outright and overt discrimination because they had the misfortune of being born both white and male.

Microsoft’s 2018 demographic report shows that 55.1% of employees are Caucasian, 31.9% are Asian, and 73.4% are male. Personally, I think it’s a bit telling if you feel oppressed by more equality and diversity.

eBooks and the Nature of Ownership

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Microsoft closed its eBook store several weeks ago. People lost their books, but at least the company refunded them. Because of this, Michael Kozlowski of Good e-Reader says people are experiencing a “crisis of confidence” in eBooks.

I believe that ebooks are suffering from a crisis of confidence.  It is beginning to be quite difficult to trust a retailer to not disappear overnight with your ebooks, no matter how big they are…A recent study published in the journal Electronic Markets found that the vast majority of  people felt a constricted sense of ownership of ebooks versus physical books, based on the fact that they don’t have full control over the products.

He also mentions how a lot companies use DRM on eBooks, which factors into the “You license, not own, your eBooks” argument. I’d like to point out that Apple Books doesn’t apply DRM to most if not all of its books. I can take books I buy on there and move it to another service if I want, which makes me feel as if I truly own them.

Iranian Hackers Target Hundreds of Firms Including Microsoft

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Iranian hackers attacked hundreds of global firms over the last two years. Those targeted included Microsoft. The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft traced the attack against it to a group called Holmium. It had been tracking the group for 4 years. At the time of this writing, it had not been reported that Apple was a target.

The campaign, the scope of which hadn’t previously been reported, stole corporate secrets and wiped data from computers. It caused damages estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity and affected oil-and-gas companies, heavy-machinery manufacturers and international conglomerates in more than a half-dozen countries including Saudi Arabia, Germany, the U.K., India and the U.S., according to researchers at Microsoft, which deployed incident-response teams to some of the affected companies.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Echos Tim Cook on Privacy

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MacBook with a Spying Eye

At the Mobile World Congress 2019, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella echoed publicly the notions of Apple’s Tim Cook on customer privacy. Computerworld’s Jonny Evans has the story.

Nadella’s Microsoft seems to be moving in a similar direction as the old guard of more responsible technologists join forces to combat the unintended consequences of tech firms who have moved fast and loose in their treatment and support for user privacy.

Evans concludes: “Ultimately, it’s all about trust.”

Hey You, Stop Buying Microsoft Office 2019

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In a weird new commercial Microsoft pit Office 365 against Office 2019 in an obvious ploy to sell more subscriptions.

Unsurprisingly, in the new ads, which give the actors twins various challenges to perform in the likes of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Office 365 beats Office 2019 every time. Yawn. The ads aren’t very good and you will cringe a few times…

Hint: You can directly buy Office 365 in the new Mac apps.

Apple Outspent by Rivals in Record Year of Tech Lobbying

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U.S. Capitol Building

Tech firms spent a record amount lobbying the U.S. Government in 2018. Re/Code reported that Apple spent $6.6 million, slightly down from $7.2 million the year before. Although significant, Apple’s outlay was lower than that of the other major tech firms. For example, Google spent $21 million, while Amazon spent $14.2 million, and Facebook spent $12.6 million. Microsoft too outspent Apple, spending $9.5 million. In total, the firms invested $48 million in lobbying in 2018, up 13% from the year before.

Lobbying growth among the tech giants — especially companies that leverage user data for advertising revenue — comes as they are falling under increased government scrutiny. Facebook in particular faces a record Federal Trade Commission fine over apparent violations of data privacy practices in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that was revealed last year.

Cortana no Longer an Alexa or Google Home Competitor

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Google Home smart speaker

Microsoft no longer sees its Cortana digital assistant as a competitor to the more popular Alexa and Google Home. The company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said that it should be further integrated with its rivals’ platforms instead, The Verge reported. Microsoft and Amazon already partnered for some Cortana/Alexa integration, and this is clearly where Microsoft intends to take the product next – more of an app or service across multiple platforms, not hardware to be sold.

CEO Satya Nadella revealed that Microsoft no longer sees Cortana as a competitor to Alexa or Google Assistant. “Cortana needs to be that skill for anybody who’s a Microsoft 365 subscriber,” explains Nadella, referencing Microsoft’s new consumer subscription push. “You should be able to use it on Google Assistant, you should be able to use it on Alexa, just like how you use our apps on Android and iOS so that’s at least how we want to think about where it’ll go.”