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Microsoft Launches 'Flow' Workflow Service Management App for iOS

Microsoft yesterday launched a management app for its online workflow service and IFTTT competitor, called Flow. For those unfamiliar with the idea, services like IFTTT let you connect different digital platforms and automate actions between them, like having all Gmail attachments save to a Dropbox account, or making every new entry added to a contact list sync to a Google spreadsheet. Flow first debuted in April as a web service for creating workflows for two or more cloud services, simplifying things like file synchronization and data organization. But Flow also supports a number of other triggers, like receiving a text message when a particular person emails you, or automatically following a Twitter account that mentions your business in a tweet and adding it to a database. With the launch of the iOS app, Flow now supports workflow options for more services, but keeps the focus on integrations with Microsoft's own business tools, such as Office 365, Dynamics CRM, PowerApps, and Yammer. Automation for business-related services like MailChip, GitHub, Salesforce, and Slack are also supported. The iOS app lets users manage existing 'flows' created from the web service, allowing users to disable them, view their properties, and generate error checking reports to ensure they're working properly. There's also a searchable activity feed in the app that shows all recent Flow actions, which can be tapped to get more details on. The app also supports push notifications for trigger issues, and Microsoft promises it will soon include the ability to create new

Microsoft Follows LinkedIn Acquisition With Chatbot-Based 'Wand' Buyout

Microsoft has announced it is acquiring natural language and AI messaging startup Wand Labs as part of a larger strategy to build out "conversation as a platform" (via TechCrunch). Founded in 2013 by former Google staffer Vishal Sharma, Wand Labs' stated aim is "to tear down app walls, integrate your services in chat, and make them work together so you can do more with less taps". Previously, Wand apps focused on using conversational interfaces to allow users to perform collaborative tasks, such as enabling a friend to control a Nest thermostat, for example. (All Wand apps have been removed from the App Store since the announcement.) "I'm proud of the work my team has done and what we've already accomplished in this emerging space," said Sharma in a statement on the Wand Labs website. "I'm delighted to be joining a company that shares our passion and enthusiasm for this new era where conversation is the central focus. Making experiences for customers more seamless by harnessing human language is a powerful vision and one that motivates me and my team." The terms of the buyout have not been disclosed, but the fledgling Silicon Valley startup has just seven employees – a world away from Microsoft's recent $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, which has 9,700 full-time employees with offices in 30 cities around the world. The two deals are likely related, however, as Microsoft appears to be maneuvering significant investment in the direction of conversational chat bot services backed by big data, natural language processing, and predictive analytics.

Microsoft Takes Inspiration from Apple, Launches Surface Upgrade Plan for Businesses

Microsoft today launched the Microsoft Surface Membership, an upgrade plan for Surface devices that allows business customers to "get the latest Surface devices, accessories, support and training." The new plan was first spotted by Thurrott.com (via Engadget). The plan is similar to Apple's iPhone Upgrade Plan. The Surface Membership is available for three Surface devices with payment plans that can be spread over 18, 24 or 30 months. The Surface 3 is $32.99 per month for 30 months, $37.99 per month for 24 months, and $48.99 per month over 18 months. The Surface Pro 4 is $51.99 per month for 30 months, $58.99 per month for 24 months, and $70.99 per month for 18 months. The Surface Book is $79.99 per month for 30 months, $89.99 per month for 24 months, and $108.99 per month for 18 months. All Microsoft Surface Memberships come with Surface accessories, which include the Surface Type Cover for the Surface 3, both the Type Cover and pen for the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Pen for the Surface Book. Members will also get phone and in-store tech support, one-on-one personal training, in-store discounts on future hardware and software and the Microsoft Complete for Business Extended Service Plan with accidental damage. Finally, users will be able to upgrade to the latest Surface devices when they launch. Apple announced the iPhone Upgrade Plan last year alongside the iPhone 6s, allowing customers to pay a monthly fee for their devices and upgrade every year. Apple's plan is also limited to iPhones and does not include discounts for future hardware, though it does

Microsoft and Xamarin Plan WWDC Afterparty to Discuss Development of iOS Apps

Microsoft recently announced that it will be holding an afterparty at WWDC this year, taking place next week on Monday, June 13 following Apple's State of the Union keynote (via WinBeta). In partnership with its software-focused company Xamarin, Microsoft's party is centered around "The Future of Apps," and is confirmed to last from 5 PM to 8:30 PM PDT, located in Twitter's headquarters near the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Any iOS and OS X developer is welcome to attend Microsoft's party, even if you aren't directly attending WWDC, and the company is also giving anyone who checks in a chance to win either an Apple Watch Sport or Xbox One every hour. Microsoft hopes to discuss the latest iOS apps and updates created by the company at the event -- everything from Outlook to Excel and SwiftKey apps for iPhone and iPad devices -- including their future on the platform. Likewise, Xamarin's inclusion in the afterparty will generate some talk surrounding its Test Cloud platform, which lets developers run and test every feature of their apps "on more than a thousand devices," without having to worry about inconsistencies fragmenting data due to different smartphone designs and OS interfaces. The company's tools in the past have helped developers design apps for iOS, Android, and Windows platforms. Xamarin Test Cloud lets teams test every feature on more than a thousand devices and on every commit. Catching bugs before release shortens development cycles and allows more time for innovation. We'll also be offering exclusive one-on-one time with a Xamarin Test Cloud

Microsoft Lays Off Nokia Employees, Exits Consumer Phone Business

Microsoft has laid off hundreds of employees tied to its smartphone business, as the company finally exits the consumer phone market and attempts to streamline its worldwide mobile division (via The Verge). The move will impact up to 1,850 jobs worldwide, said Microsoft's head of Windows and devices Terry Myerson, while up to 1,350 of the positions will be in Finland. The cuts are expected to be completed by the year's end. The move signals the final nail in the coffin for Microsoft's Nokia business, which the company acquired under former CEO Steve Ballmer's management for $7.2 billion in 2014. Today's announcement will see $950 million written off, adding to the $7.6 billion the company wrote off last year when it cut 7,800 jobs to refocus its Windows Phone plans. Microsoft is now shorn of almost all of its 25,000 former Nokia employees, and will only retain a small number in R&D roles. Last week, the company announced it was selling off its feature phone business to FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn, for $350 million. All indications point to an end of Microsoft's Lumia phones and a focus on a single Surface phone, with Myerson promising "great new devices" in an internal memo to employees, although he withheld any specific timeframe. The immediate focus for Microsoft and its new CEO, Satya Nadella, is more likely to remain on bringing the company's software and services to iOS and Android devices, rather than risk another consumer phone failure anytime soon. Microsoft has been scaling back its consumer phone ambitions ever since its ill-fated Nokia

Microsoft's 'Word Flow' Keyboard for iPhone Launches in the U.S. App Store

After a closed beta earlier in the month, Microsoft today has launched its Word Flow Windows Phone keyboard in the United States iOS App Store for free. As expected, the iOS version of the app comes with a handful of themes for users to customize the keyboard with, along with the ability to speed up one-handed texting with its unique "Arc mode." Word Flow keyboard's "Light" theme Arc mode bends the keyboard into a circular shape, hugging whichever side of the iPhone a user's dominant hand will be typing on, allowing for more efficient one-handed typing than a traditional iOS keyboard. Its default interface doesn't differ from other third-party keyboards, letting users switch between tapping and swiping on the fly to enter text. As with Apple's included keyboard, Word Flow has a predictive text feature, and users can even turn on a word learning option that will bolster the app's predictive capabilities for each user by sending keyboard information to Microsoft. Elsewhere in the app, users will also be able to upload their own pictures as customized keyboard themes, and even track their typing speed once Word Flow is granted full access in Settings. Word Flow keyboard with a custom image theme Anyone who wants to check Word Flow out can download it from the App Store for free [Direct Link], although it is currently limited to United States users

A Look at Microsoft's Upcoming Word Flow Keyboard, Now in Closed Beta Testing

Rumors in January suggested Microsoft was working to bring its Word Flow Windows Phone keyboard to iOS, and now the company's keyboard project has entered a private beta testing phase. Starting this week, a limited number of testers have been given access to the Word Flow iOS keyboard. MacRumors reader Ruben has shared some images and information with us, giving us our first look at the design and the features Microsoft plans to implement. According to Ruben, the keyboard is "incredibly reliable for a beta," with features like sounds, themes, and the much-anticipated one-handed "Arc" mode, accessed with a drag gesture. In its default mode, the Word Flow keyboard looks a lot like a standard iOS keyboard, but its one-handed mode sets it apart from other offerings. With one-handed mode turned on, the keyboard morphs into a half-moon shape, arranging the letters to one side of the device for easy thumb access. The Word Flow keyboard supports both standard typing and swipe-based typing, as is one on third-party keyboards like Swipe and SwiftKey. Standard keyboard features like auto correction and word prediction are included, with options to enable or disable a word learning feature that improves word predictions by sending keyboard usage information to Microsoft. Multiple Word Flow themes are included, including light and dark options, and there are also tools for creating custom themes based on images taken from the iPhone's Photo Library. Additional information shared by iMore yesterday covers other features like quick access to Contacts through autofill

Microsoft's Surface Book Ads Borrow Music From Apple to Focus on Things a Mac 'Just Can’t Do'

Following the launch of a few ads focused around the advantages of Windows 10 PCs over Macs, this week Microsoft continued its campaign with new commercials showcasing the Microsoft Surface Book. The ads feature wildlife photographer Tim Flach describing the pros of the Surface Book, pointing out a few things that he "just can't do" on a Mac. The first video showcases Flach's "initial impressions of the Surface Book," with the photographer commenting on the detail provided by the two-in-one laptop/tablet device. Flach also detaches the top half of the Surface Book to directly edit and manipulate his photographs. He ends the video stating, "I can't do that on my Mac." The second ad delves deeper into the powers of the Surface Pen and its 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, with Flach comparing the experience he had with Microsoft's device to his time as a painter. Despite the touch-screen similarities the Surface Book shares with the iPad Pro, Microsoft keeps the comparison specifically to Apple's Mac line in each video. As pointed out by a reader of The Loop, the score for Microsoft's new ads skews close to a Retina MacBook Pro commercial from 2012. Both videos use variants of "Song" by Kidstreet, with Apple's ad playing the "String Version" of the tune and Microsoft's playing the "Reimagined" version. A third video posted to the company's YouTube channel echoes much of the sentiment of the first two. Microsoft sells the Surface Book starting at $1,499 and goes up all the way to $3,199 thanks to a boosted 1TB flash storage and Intel Core i7 processor.

Microsoft's HoloLens Developer Edition Launches March 30 for $3,000

Microsoft has announced that developers who applied to pre-order the HoloLens Development Edition will begin to receive invitations to purchase the device for $3,000, with shipments beginning on March 30 in the U.S. and Canada. The development kit bundles the HoloLens with a carrying case, Bluetooth 4.1 clicker, wired charger, and an extra nose piece. Microsoft technical fellow Alex Kipman said broader consumer availability remains "further down the line." Microsoft HoloLens is a cordless, self-contained Windows 10 holographic headset that mixes virtual reality with augmented reality. HoloLens has see-through holographic lenses with an advanced optical projection system to generate multi-dimensional holograms that allow you to see holographic objects in your world. The headset is also equipped with multiple sensors and a built-in camera that analyze your surrounding environment. The mixed-reality headset is powered by 32-bit Intel architecture and 2GB of RAM. The device also has 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, USB 2.0, 64GB internal storage, and up to three hours of battery life. Microsoft will be including seven new apps, games, and tools on the HoloLens, and it encourages developers to create additional experiences for the mixed reality headset leading up to its Build developer conference on March 30. Microsoft's augmented reality efforts precede Apple, which is rumored have a secret team of hundreds of employees working on a virtual reality headset. Our Apple VR roundup recaps the company's ambitions and competitors like Microsoft's HoloLens,

Microsoft Says Windows 10 PCs 'Do More' Than Macs in Latest Ads

Microsoft has shared a new series of ads called The Bug Chicks that promote what it believes are advantages of Windows 10 PCs over Macs. Each ad has the tagline "Windows 10 PCs do more. Just like you." The first ad introduces The Bug Chicks, who are identified as "real people paid for real opinions," and focuses on how PCs allow them to teach kids about insects using PowerPoint and other Windows 10 apps and features. The other three ads highlight individual Windows 10 PC features, including Cortana, Inking, and Hello. Each 15-second spot deliberately mentions how "even the new Macs don't have that" or "Mac doesn't have a touchscreen." "Windows 10 and Cortana" demonstrates how Microsoft's personal voice assistant can be used on the desktop to find any file by simply asking. The advantage will be short-lived, however, as Siri is reportedly coming to OS X 10.12 later this year. "Windows 10 and Inking" shows how select Windows 10 PCs have touchscreens that allow you to write and sketch directly on the screen, unlike Macs. Meanwhile, Apple has previously admitted it has no plans to release a touchscreen Mac."We don't think it's the right interface, honestly," said Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering at Apple, in an interview with CNET. "Mac is sort of a sit-down experience." […] "We've really focused on building the best track pads we can, something where it feels [like] your posture's relaxed, it's a comfortable machine to use," he said. "And, of course, over the years we've experimented with all the technology, but we found it

iPad Pro Outsells Microsoft Surface in Launch Quarter

The latest numbers from market research firm IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker show that Apple remains the largest vendor in a declining tablet market, shipping 16.1 million iPads in the fourth calendar quarter of 2015. While the iPad continues to be the best-selling tablet, its worldwide market share remains only 24.5 percent despite the all-new iPad Pro launching in early November. iPad shipments declined 24.8 percent compared to the year-ago quarter, when they totaled 21.4 million for 28.1 percent market share. The stagnant iPad sales during the holiday shopping season may be more attributable to the lack of an iPad Air refresh in 2015, however, as the iPad Pro outsold Microsoft Surface tablets in its debut quarter in what IDC describes as a "successful" launch. "Despite lukewarm reviews, the iPad Pro was the clear winner this season as it was the top selling detachable, surpassing notable entries from Microsoft and other PC vendors," said Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Analyst with IDC. "It's also important to note that the transition towards detachable tablets has presented positive opportunities for both Apple and Microsoft. However, Google's recent foray into this space has been rather lackluster as the Android platform will require a lot more refinement to achieve any measurable success.Samsung continued to be the second largest tablet vendor with 9 million tablets shipped in the fourth quarter for 13.7 percent market share, an 18.1 percent year-over-year unit decline. Amazon, Lenovo, and Huawei rounded off the top five, with 5.2 million, 3.2

Microsoft to Bring Windows Phone Keyboard to iOS With Unique One-Handed Mode

Microsoft is working on bringing its Word Flow Windows Phone keyboard to iOS devices and new images shared by The Verge offer a look at some of the included features, such as a one-handed mode for larger phones like the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus. To enable one-handed typing, the keyboard has an arc-like design with letters radiating out from the iPhone's display to be reached with just a thumb. The keyboard can be used this way on either the left or right side of the device, so it works for both right-handed and left-handed users. Microsoft's own devices have a one-handed mode, but it shrinks the letters down to one side rather than rearranging the keys. Microsoft's upcoming iOS keyboard also has a standard view like any other third-party keyboard, and it's said to be similar in design to the Word Flow keyboard used on Windows 10 Mobile devices. The Word Flow keyboard, first introduced with Windows Phone 8.1, is seen as a defining feature of the mobile Windows experience. It features swipe-based typing like the third-party Swype keyboard on iOS, and it also features a built-in word prediction engine, automatic word corrections and shortcuts, multi-language support, emoji recommendations when typing, and more. News of Microsoft's work on a third-party iOS keyboard first surfaced earlier this month after Microsoft began sending out beta invites to select people for testing purposes. It is not known when the keyboard might be ready to launch to the public, but The Verge says it will be available "in the coming months." Third-party keyboards have not

Microsoft Opens Early Access 'Office Insider' Program to Mac Users

Microsoft has opened up its Office Insider program to users on Macs, following the launch of the service on Windows Desktop, Windows Mobile, and Android devices last November (via ZDNet). The program lets users who are signed up as Office 365 subscribers gain early access to new features and innovations within the suite of Microsoft Office applications. To sign up for the program on a Mac, all users need to do is opt-in to the Office Insider build within the latest Microsoft Auto Update pop-up box. Those who do choose to be a part of the testing will be about one to three weeks ahead of the final release for each new beta-testing feature, according to a few Microsoft officials. The company encourages those interested to check out the company's Office Insider information page to learn more about the early-access program. Separately, Microsoft yesterday brought a suite of new features to the iPad and iPhone, introducing new drawing tools for the iOS devices that center on the use of 3D Touch for the iPhone 6s and the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro. 3D Touch on the iPhone allows for access to Quick Actions from the home screen, while a draw tab can be found in each Office application on iPads to add personal notes and sketches to any

Microsoft Office Update Brings Drawing Tools for iPad, 3D Touch for iPhone 6s

Microsoft today updated its suite of Office apps designed for the iPad and the iPhone, adding features to take advantage of the iPad Pro's Apple Pencil and the 3D Touch function in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have all been updated with the new tools. On iPads, there's a new Draw tab that can be found in each of the three apps. The drawing tools in this tab allow iPad owners to use a pen, finger, or Apple Pencil to write, draw, highlight, and annotate various Microsoft Office documents. Hand-drawn shapes can even be transformed into customized shapes. Draw is limited to the iPad and not available on the iPhone at this time. On the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have new 3D Quick Actions that are accessible on the iPhone's Home screen. The Quick Actions let users create new documents or quickly open recently created documents. For all iOS 9 users, Microsoft Office documents will now show up in Spotlight search, making it easy to locate files. All three apps are also gaining a new cloud font feature, which provides on-demand access to fonts. PowerPoint includes one additional new feature not found in the other updates, a Morph update that allows Morph to be used to move several objects at once.What's New - Annotate with Ink: With the tools on the new Draw tab, use your pen, finger, or Apple Pencil to write, draw, and highlight. (iPad only) - 3D Touch: Use 3D Touch from the home screen to quickly create or open a file. (iPhone 6s or 6s Plus only) - Fonts from the cloud: Download fonts on demand, when you need them.

Microsoft Offering Up to $250 Off Band 2 With Apple Watch Trade-In

A new program from Microsoft is encouraging Apple Watch users to switch over to the Microsoft Band 2 with a few tiers of trade-in initiatives (via Cult of Mac). The company is offering "as much as" $150 for the aluminum Apple Watch Sport, $200 for the stainless steel Apple Watch with a Sport band, and $250 for the Apple Watch with Milanese Loop. The Microsoft Band 2 itself costs $250, so the Milanese Loop trade-in offer is the only one available that would fully pay off the price of the wearable band. Microsoft is also accepting other wearables for users to trade for a new Band 2, including a FitBit Flex ($10), Sony SmartWatch 3 ($25), and Pebble Time Steel ($25). For any successful trade-in, a device must abide by a few stipulations listed by Microsoft: • Device's housing and band are completely intact without cracks or missing parts. • Device is completely functional, including: -All keys work. -Device powers on. -Device screen is not cracked or broken. -Device screen responds to touch -No security codes or PIN codes are required to operate the device. The program runs for a few more weeks, ending on February 7, and is available only to users on the Microsoft Online Store in the United States and Canada. Microsoft unveiled the Band 2 at an event back in October, and launched it the same month, introducing a new curved screen with durable Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and an improved touch display on the wearable smartwatch. Response to the new generation of the Microsoft Band wasn't entirely positive, so the company's new trade-in program could be an

Office 2016 for Mac Updated With Full Screen Outlook and More

Microsoft has released an update for its Office 2016 for Mac suite that addresses multiple security vulnerabilities, fixes bugs and adds select new features across Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. Version 15.8.0 allows Outlook to be used in full-screen mode for viewing multiple messages or invitations side by side. The update also makes it easier to find available Outlook conference rooms at your desired meeting time. In Word, PDF files can now be saved to flash drives. Meanwhile, Excel and PowerPoint have gained new selection panes to keep track of worksheet objects and slideshow objects respectively, and rearrange their placement and order. In OneNote, shapes can now be added to notebook pages and now support the built-in shapes gallery. OneNote, Excel and PowerPoint all received general bug fixes. The free update is available from Microsoft AutoUpdate within Office 2016 for Mac, or the Microsoft Download Center, and requires OS X Yosemite 10.10 or later and a valid Office 365

Microsoft Considering Smaller Xbox One as Potential Apple TV Rival

Microsoft may be gearing up to launch a new Xbox One gaming console in 2016, with a download-only device that would be noticeably smaller than the current Xbox One and enter the market as a potential rival to the new Apple TV. According to a report from Petri IT Knowledgebase (via Business Insider), the console would also see a price cut to match the current market of streaming-centric devices. Keeping with the Xbox brand, the slimmer Xbox One would be able to download games from the Windows Store, but the power restraints of a smaller box would likely prevent access to the full Xbox games store. This casual-leaning app marketplace is another category in which the Xbox would compete directly with the new Apple TV, which introduced a similar App Store for the first time on Apple's living room device when it launched in October. The report gave no mention as to whether the Siri-like Kinect would be integrated as well. Microsoft is said to be looking at a late 2016 launch for the new Xbox One, which would be sold in concert with current models akin to the slimmed down Xbox 360 S that launched five years after the original 360. The company has introduced design refreshes and low-tier prices on its gaming consoles in the past: as low as $199 for the 256MB Xbox 360 Arcade and 4GB Xbox 360 E. Although the Xbox One has seen multiple price cuts, it's yet to have a major hardware

Microsoft Allowing OneDrive Users on Free Tier to Keep 15GB Free Storage and Camera Roll Bonus

In November, Microsoft made the controversial decision to reduce its unlimited OneDrive storage to 1TB for Office 365 Home, Personal and University subscribers starting early next year. OneDrive's free storage will also be reduced from 15GB to 5GB, and the 15GB camera roll bonus will be discontinued. Microsoft's decision was poorly received by OneDrive customers, who created an online petition called "give us back our storage" with over 70,000 votes. The backlash has prompted the company to apologize and introduce a new offer for OneDrive customers to keep their 15GB free storage and 15GB camera roll bonus. Microsoft Group Program Manager Douglas Pearce (via The Verge):In November we made a business decision to reduce storage limits for OneDrive. Since then, we’ve heard clearly from our Windows and OneDrive fans about the frustration and disappointment we have caused. We realize the announcement came across as blaming customers for using our product. For this, we are truly sorry and would like to apologize to the community. […] In addition, for our biggest fans who have been loyal advocates for OneDrive, we are adding a new offer that lets you keep your existing 15 GB of free storage when the changes happen next year. If you also have the 15 GB camera roll bonus, you’ll be able to keep that as well. From now until the end of January, you can sign up to keep your storage at the link below.OneDrive users who sign up by January 31, 2016 will be able to keep their 15GB of free storage and 15GB camera roll bonus, even after Microsoft reduces its free storage tier to

Microsoft Launches Official 'Cortana' App for iOS and Android Devices

Microsoft today officially launched its virtual assistant Cortana as a downloadable app for iOS and Android platforms (via Business Insider). Similar to Apple's Siri personal assistant, Cortana allows Windows users to set reminders, preview the weather, and answer basic questions thanks to integrated internet search abilities. Other Cortana for iOS and Android features include the following: •Set and get location and time reminders across your PC and phone. •Track packages, flights, scores, stocks, and other important info across your PC and phone. •Use Cortana’s Notebook to view, edit and manage your interests •Get information and answers to all kinds of questions. If you’re looking for it, Cortana can help find it. •Have a little fun in your down time — ask anything, get jokes, and much more. Microsoft detailed a few features for Cortana at Business Insider's Ignition Conference in New York City, including abilities like asking Cortana for help with your voice without having to open up the app. Unfortunately, most of those features won't be available to iOS users due to certain developer restrictions that fence off Cortana from becoming fully integrated into iOS. On the other hand, a few Android smartphones will gain a leg up on the iOS version of Cortana thanks to a partnership between Microsoft and start-up company Cyanogen, which runs a custom version of the OS on select Android devices. With Cyanogen software, Android users will have essentially all of the abilities Windows Phone users have over Cortana, including being able to speak to the personal

Microsoft's Holiday Ad Spreads Message of Peace Outside Apple's 5th Avenue Store

In the spirit of the holiday season, Microsoft today released a new ad that focuses on calling for peace between the company and its public rival, Apple. The 60-second advertisement sees Microsoft employees making their way from the company’s new Fifth Avenue store in New York City over to Apple's flagship store to share a festive carol with the Apple employees and others. The ad's event took place on November 16, with Microsoft employees from around the country joining together in New York City -- along with a local NYC children's youth choir -- to sing "Let There Be Peace On Earth" to a group of Apple workers. Microsoft had to get permission from Apple to film outside the storefront, according to AdAge, due to New York City's strict security rules. Beginning December 3, the ad will run on television, along with the debut of a longer two minute version online. Most of Microsoft's messaging over the past few years has been in spots that directly compared the company's products with its rivals', with a focus on Apple, and listing reasons why customers would prefer the Microsoft option. Last year the company compared the Surface Pro 3 with the MacBook Air to the tune of a Christmas jingle for its main holiday commercial, so this year's peace-centered message is definitely a