TestFlight closed beta of Cortana apparently underway
Microsoft has reportedly started to test a version of the Cortana voice-powered virtual assistant on iOS. Following after earlier reports the software producer was accepting signups from "Windows Insiders" in the US and China for the trial, the Windows-centric rival to Siri is apparently undergoing a closed beta test via TestFlight, with a lot of the core functionality of the assistant apparently being included in this initial release.
Gaming news summary for November 24, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, Thief makes its way to Mac, a developer creates an unauthorized PlayStation 4 Remote Play app for PC, Futurama: Release The Drones is announced for mobile devices, and Microsoft reveals its Games with Gold titles for December.
There's a Bing app?
Not only is there a Bing app for iOS, but it is now Bing 6.0. That's a lot of revisions for a product you may not even have realized exists -- but then that could be the life story of search engine service Microsoft Bing. While Google remains a verb, and Bing barely enters the language, Microsoft has been improving it and this new version is very good.
Two different approaches to future-proofing the future
Microsoft, always that great predictor of the future, seems to have decided that mobile and desktop devices should, must, and will converge into one Windows-shaped thing at some point in the future. Apple, particularly its CEO Tim Cook, is so far denying any such seismic shift will happen with its mobile and desktop OSes, and all the company is looking for is love for Apple devices. This may seem like one of the bigger philosophical arguments of our unenlightened age -- but there is another way to look at the debate.
Visual Studio announcements include new apps for Mac-based development
Microsoft is porting an emulator for Android that will run on OS X, one that has already been released for Windows. Revealed during the Microsoft Connect 2015 conference earlier today, the software giant confirmed it would be creating a version of Visual Studio Emulator for Android to the Mac, as part of a collection of Mac-related announcements involving its Visual Studio programming suite of apps.
Gaming news summary for November 12, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, Blizzard ships a Hearthstone expansion, JJ Abrams works on a new game, the NPD claims the Xbox One beat the PlayStation 4 in hardware sales last month, and Nintendo holds its first Nintendo Direct presentation since the passing of company president Satoru Iwata.
Gaming news summary for November 10, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, EA ships the companion app for Star Wars Battlefront early, Twitch adds two-factor authentication among other announcements, Rocket League gains a free "Mutator" update, and the first Xbox 360 games coming to Xbox One under the new Backward Compatibility mode are revealed.
Will have limited features compared to Windows version
Microsoft is planning to bring its Cortana voice-powered personal assistant service to iOS, and is looking for a pool of iOS users to help the company beta-test the technology. The company is now accepting signups in the US and China from "Windows Insiders," or those who helped beta-test Windows 10, and will limit the number of people who can get early releases of the software. Microsoft has been testing Cortana for iOS for six months already, and there is no known release date for a final version.
Tier changes for OneDrive affects Office 365 subscribers, free users
Microsoft is changing the amount of space available on its OneDrive, following the abuse of the cloud storage service by some users. Effectively reversing a change from one year ago, Office 365 Home, Personal, and University accounts will lose their unlimited OneDrive allowances in favor of a fixed maximum of 1TB, with other alterations to plans including the removal of the 100GB and 200GB plans, a new lower-capacity tier, and the reduction of the free storage allocation from 15GB to 5GB.
What's the gear you can't leave home without?
It's like looking at photos of people standing in front of bookshelves: you want them to get out of the way so you can see what books they have. Similarly, whenever there's a review anywhere of a bag, admit it: you're curious to see what people are carting around in them. There is a serious point: until you buy one, you can only get a sense of the size of a bag by seeing what they're capable of carrying. No, it's just nosiness, isn't it? With the sole aim of hoping to twist your arm into showing us what's in your kitbag, here's the contents of mine.
Spot the difference if you can
Microsoft made no secret of how it had bought the companies behind calendar app Sunrise and email app Accompli. Now it's making a big deal of how it will be taking the best features from those and putting them right into its own Outlook. Microsoft Outlook 2.0.0 for iOS is the start of this process and for all the promise of what's coming next, it is just a start. If nobody told you, you might not spot for quite a while that anything is different at all -- unless you used the old Sunrise app.
Gaming news summary for October 27, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, the producer of PayDay 2 defends the introduction of microtransactions to the game, Microsoft dates the upcoming update to the Xbox One interface, and Sony makes a number of announcements during Paris Games Week.
It's not 140 years of computing experience between the three, it's only 118
Got an hour to kill and nothing to fill it with? Good -- because its tilme for this week's episode of The MacNN Podcast! We toss it up a bit as one of our staff is out gallivanting, so instead of Charles doing hosting duties, Mike takes the center chair this week, with Charles as his trusty sidekick. That's not all though! The pair are joined by William from One More Thing to round out the jovial cast of characters. If you didn't just see a '70s sitcom opening sequence in your head, you're doing today wrong.
Apple's word processor likes to hide its best features
Pages is the anti-Microsoft Word. Where Word has every single conceivable feature going -- and quite a lot of them work, even! -- it does rather show them to you. Despite the promise of the Ribbon making it easier to find what you want, Word users still have to hunt through buttons and icons that they'll never need to know, nor care about. In contrast, Pages does less, and looks like it does a gigantic amount less. We've had people ask us about swapping to Word because Pages doesn't do X or Y -- when it does.
I know you're shocked
Yesterday, we extolled every virtue of Microsoft on the Mac that we could find, and we found plenty. We found much to praise about its breadth of software, we found enough to laud about its sticking with Apple, and we even found enough to evangelize about Microsoft's brilliant design. Yes. Microsoft's. Look it up. Unfortunately, as we said yesterday, coming to praise Microsoft is because we also come to bury it.
Revenue down 12 percent from year-ago-quarter
Microsoft posted its first quarter earnings for fiscal year 2016 yesterday evening, and surpassed its own expectations, as well as those of analysts. The company posted $20.4 billion in revenue, down 12 percent year over year. Expected contraction in the company's Productivity and Personal Computing departments were offset by growth in cloud services, as expected. Operating income came in at $5.8 billion, with a net income of $4.6 billion.
Oh, yes it is. Don't look at us that way
We're not kidding. Microsoft is the best and the most important Mac developer outside Apple itself. Yet, we had to make it clear we're serious, and you did give us that funny look until we said the word "important." You're thinking okay, you can accept important, but unfortunately, you struggle with the word "best," because without question you have had problems with Microsoft software. Settle down, because tomorrow at precisely this time, we're going to examine how Microsoft is the worst OS X developer ever, but today, let's celebrate.
It's easy to criticize the new massive ad campaign -- but it shouldn't be
From rumor to fact in 48 hours. The big PC powerhouses Microsoft, Dell, Intel, Lenovo, and HP have launched a new program, reminding web surfers and cable watchers about all the things that computers can do. We have two difficulties about criticizing the new "PC Does What" ad campaign: where to begin and how long have you got? There is not one single chance that you saw this and didn't wonder how in the world it ever came into anyone's head, let alone the world.
Microsoft Store trade-in promotion gives more to Mac owners
Microsoft is attempting to coax customers to switch over to Windows 10, as part of a Trade Up promotion, with Mac users being offered the bigger rewards. The scheme's site claims customers buying a Windows 10 from a Microsoft Store in the United States between October 14 and October 20 will be able to trade in a notebook for up to $200, while Macs being traded in will provide a rebate of up to $300.
Company also asks developer, public testers to focus on Mail
Late on Wednesday, Apple issued a fourth OS X 10.11.1 El Capitan beta to both developers and pre-registered public beta testers with the usual mix of undocumented bug fixes and tweaks, but specifically noted that testers should run the latest beta to test both Apple's own Mail program and Microsoft Office 2016, just days after Microsoft issued its own patch and a fix for Microsoft Office 2011 installs (which helped some users but did not resolve all problems) running on El Capitan.
Slogan derived to remind consumers of the capabilities of modern PCs
In an unprecedented technology company collaboration, computing magnates Dell, HP, Intel, Lenovo, and Microsoft are teaming up in an advertising campaign to boost the flagging PC industry. The slogan for the advertising effort, said to be "PC Does What" could be announced as early as Thursday, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Patch may not fix all users' problems with the productivity suite
Microsoft has issued an update to Office 2016, that appears to fix most users' crashing problems -- but not quite all. The MS15-110 security update also patches an exploit allowing for remote code execution, and a host of other fixes and improvements to the application suite.
Server connection issues resolved, OS X 10.11.1 beta doesn't help 2016
A bit earlier today, Microsoft issued the first of what is likely to be a series of updates to fix its products under OS X 10.11 El Capitan. First on the block is a patch for Microsoft Office for Mac 2011, repairing the Outlook bug which caused crashes and the spinning beachball on connection attempts.
Microsoft fitness tracker has curved display, tracks altitude
Microsoft has unveiled its second-generation fitness wearable at its Windows 10 devices event today, using the same name as its predecessor. The Microsoft Band refines the physical design of the original fitness tracker from last year with a 320x128 curved AMOLED display, combined with a thermal plastic elastomer silicone vulcanate band, with Microsoft adding a few other features and functions to the iOS, Android, and Windows Phone-compatible device.
Entry price, but few technical details available for new slabs
[Updated with pricing information of various configurations] Alongside the reveal of the HoloLens developers kit and the new version of the Band wearable, Microsoft refreshed its Surface Pro, in addition to adding a new laptop to the line. The Surface Pro 4 brings new processors, a higher-resolution screen, and a new pen to the now 12.3-inch device. The Surface Book is a larger convertible device, with a 13.5-inch detachable screen.
HoloLens Development Edition to cost $3,000, available for pre-order
Microsoft is preparing to ship developer kits for the HoloLens, its attempt at an augmented reality headset, the software company revealed during today's Windows 10 devices event today. The HoloLens Development Edition will be made available to purchase in the first quarter of next year, priced at $3,000 per kit, with Microsoft starting to accept applications for the headset's development kit from later today.
Timetable for fix not clear. Problems span 2011 and 2016 versions
In the wake of escalating user reports over the weekend, Microsoft has issued a terse acknowledgement of problems with its software and OS X 10.11 El Capitan. Once thought to only affect Microsoft Outlook, the problems span all of Office 2011 and 2016 for OS X and range from minor graphical corruption not affecting a document, to the inability of the Office suite, as well as Outlook, to launch at all.
Gaming news summary for October 1, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, Twisted Pixel is spun off from Microsoft Studios, Activision admits there are issues with Tony Hawk 5, Nintendo breaks 1 million sales of Super Mario Maker, and the Humble Bundle starts offering games via subscription.
Companies clean up mess that began with Motorola Mobility, will work together
In a surprise move, Google and Microsoft have agreed to settle and dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between the two companies dating back to 2010, and say they have "agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers." The action will terminate some 20 active lawsuits filed in both the United States and Germany, though financial terms between the the parties was not disclosed. The action includes cases originally brought against or by Motorola Mobility.
Gaming news summary for September 29, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, Alien: Isolation for Mac is delayed, a BattleTech Kickstarter exceeds expectations early, Microsoft prepares for holiday sales of the Xbox One, and Sony readies itself for a PlayStation 4 firmware update taking place tomorrow.
Microsoft claims 10.5-inch screen size cutoff for free editing, saving
Microsoft is calling the iPad Pro's larger size not a "true mobile device," and as such, will require an Office 365 subscription to allow users to edit and save documents. At this time, the end user agreement for the iOS version doesn't specify this restriction, but the Android and Windows Store version both have the restrictive clause.
Subscription-free versions of Office 2016 suite available to purchase
A standalone version of Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac has been released, on the same day Microsoft launches Office 2016 for Windows. Already available to download for Mac users since July as part of Office 365 suite, today's release is the first time the most recent version of Office is being offered for purchase on Mac without requiring the subscription, with both Office Home & Student 2016 and Office Home & Business 2016 versions being offered.
Skype issues affecting users logging in, making calls to contacts
Skype is currently enduring major issues affecting its users in a number of countries around the world over the last 24 hours. The Microsoft-owned messaging and calling service is having problems with various aspects of the service, including its login and status systems, messaging, and other services, preventing some users from being able to communicate with others, with Microsoft advising it is aware and attempting to rectify the situation.
Gaming news summary for September 18, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, Destiny: The Taken King breaks download records on PlayStation, a developer accidentally reveals there is a sequel to The Last of Us on the way, Microsoft releases an update to the Xbox 360 firmware, and EA removes female players from FIFA 16 following NCAA involvement.
You say ethernet, we say ethernet a different way
MacNN's other podcast continues with the return of Malcolm Owen. He's the one who knows things while William Gallagher just pretends he does. This week they are knowing and pretending to know about iOS 9 and the various ways of mispronouncing technology terms.
New Lumia smartphones, Surface may launch at Microsoft event
Microsoft has revealed it is holding an event in New York early next month, and has started to invite members of the media to attend. The event, taking place on the morning of October 6, is apparently major enough to be broadcast live online and via the Xbox One game console, with the hints from the software giant so far advising there will be some "exciting news" concerning Windows 10 devices.
Up to 6GB of hidden files downloaded to Windows 7, 8 PCs, report discovers
Microsoft is forcing users of earlier versions of Windows to download Windows 10, whether they elect to upgrade to the newer operating system or not. The company has confirmed Windows 7 and Windows 8 installations are automatically downloading files for the upgrade to Windows 10, with users facing a loss of between 3.5GB and 6GB of storage and a slower connection while they download, even if the user does not want to make the upgrade at all.
Stop reading now and go buy it
Okay, no messing: this is a gorgeous keyboard that we were instantaneously smitten with, and then came to like more and more in our testing. The Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard is a simply superb piece of work, and a pleasure to write on. Fair warning: with a few mild caveats, the rest of this entire Hands On is going to be in much this same style -- so if you're already convinced, just know that it's available on Amazon for about $70, and away you go.
Gaming news summary for September 11, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, Pokemon Go is revealed as a mobile game coming out next year, Dota 2 switches to the Source 2 engine, and Microsoft starts the shuttering process for its Xbox 360 independent developer programs.
Pencil for iPad Pro will work with new inking tools in Office apps
Following after the company's surprise appearance during the launch of the iPad Pro in yesterday's Apple special event, Microsoft has revealed more information of what to expect from its Office apps when iOS 9 ships. Multitasking, inking, extended wireless keyboard support and intelligent search functions have been outlined in an official blog post, alongside some updates that will affect the Apple Watch when watchOS 2 is released.
Gaming news summary for September 8, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, a former Microsoft executive suggests the company could have avoided the Xbox One launch PR issues, Elite: Dangerous gets closer to shipping on Xbox One, Arma 3 and Satellite Reign reaches Mac, and some versions of Minecraft get cross-platform play between desktops and mobile.
In digital world, boundaries for countries, law enforcement mean little
As has been predicted for some time, the US government is clashing with technology companies over the encryption of personal data when it comes to law enforcement. The Justice Department is accusing Apple of disobeying a court order that it turn over text messages, in real time, between suspects in a guns-and-drugs case who are using iPhones. Apple has said the messages are encrypted without third-party keys, and thus it cannot comply with the order. Microsoft is also fighting the government, over whether emails stored outside the US should be given to US officials.
Ubiquitous phone tool gets easier to use
We really are ungrateful louts, aren't we? Look at what Skype does: it lets you make worldwide phone calls for free and right from your Mac or your iOS device. You can make actual phone calls from it to cell phones and landlines for fractions of the cost it used to be. Yet ask anyone about Skype and they are likely to flick their eyes to the sky and curl their lip. For we forget every single brilliant thing Skype does and we only remember every single time it fails to do them. It's as if it is our God-given right to talk immediately and without the faintest hiccup to anyone, anywhere. Mind you, have you tried using it lately? It's a right pain in the – anyway, Skype 6.0 for iPhone aims to sort that out.
Microsoft, ad company StarCom Mediavest not responsible for paid ads
The California-based Machinima Network has agreed to settle US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it engaged in deceptive advertising by paying "influencers" to post YouTube videos endorsing Microsoft's Xbox One system and several games. Under the proposed settlement, Machinima is prohibited from similar deceptive conduct in the future, and the company is required to ensure its influencers clearly disclose when they have been compensated in exchange for their endorsements.
Gaming news summary for September 1, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, EA announces there will be a beta of Star Wars Battlefront, buyers of physical copies of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for PC get a nasty surprise, Nintendo brings the New 3DS to the United States, and Microsoft brings out an "Elite" version of the Xbox One with faster storage.
New group attempts to make video codec free from H.264 patent mess
Seven leading Internet companies today announced formation of the Alliance for Open Media -- an open-source project that will develop next-generation media formats, codecs and technologies in the public interest. The Alliance's founding members are Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Netflix. The new organization is committing its collective technology to meet growing Internet demand for top-quality video, audio, imagery and streaming across devices of all kinds and for users worldwide.
Microsoft's hit operating system is two decades old
Memory is such a funny thing. Reportedly, Windows 95 was made generally available on August 24, 1995, but I so clearly remember it only just squeaking in to the tail end of that year. I remember thinking that's typical Microsoft, and also typical of the then-idiotic fashion of naming your software after the year. That never really caught on outside Microsoft (various versions of the iLife and iWork suites excepted).
iTunes, and Swatches, and Bear stocks, oh my!
We hope your Sunday is going well so far. Today, as with nearly every Sunday, we share what informed us, or just plain tickled us. We're not just highlighting our own writing -- anything that we've discussed behind the scenes here at MacNN is fair game! Read on for thoughts on the events of the week in the tech world including more Swatch's impending assault by Apple legal ninjas, a Patreon for a site friend, French rumors about the new iPhone launch, and more!
October Microsoft press event rumored to feature Surface Pro 4, Lumia 950
Rumors are circulating that Microsoft is planning a major refresh of its hardware offerings in October, ahead of the Christmas season. Expected at the show is a revision to the Surface Pro lineup with Intel's Skylake processor in part to utilize Windows Hello biometric login, Lumia 950 and 950XL handsets already widely leaked, and some discussion of a smaller Xbox One console -- although rumors of the latter seem especially poorly validated, with little to confirm the release.
Better than ever –– but still PowerPoint
We may like Excel 2016 a lot and think that Word 2016 is much improved but the summary for those and their stablemate PowerPoint 2016 is that you should definitely get them if you're already committed to the older versions. If problems with the older software are making you wary of continuing with Office, then what we're saying is you're right to look around but the 2016 versions are contenders. They're no longer mandatory, but they're contenders.