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Microsoft Releases Redesigned Cortana App for iOS

Microsoft today released an updated Cortana app for iOS, which features an overhauled interface and new features like music and podcasts support. For those unfamiliar with Cortana, it is Microsoft's version of Siri or Alexa, an AI-based personal assistant that can answer questions and complete small tasks. Microsoft has been testing the revamped version of Cortana since October. The new interface is focused on conversational experiences with Cortana, plus it includes support for music and podcast suggestions, and a focus on setting reminders, timers, and meetings. Cortana 3.0 offers up a new conversational experience when asking questions, and there is a new dedicated spot for setting up and managing Cortana devices. Microsoft's full release notes for the update are below:What's new: · A new conversational experience for answers · A new place to manage and set up your Cortana devices · Listen to music and podcasts on the go · Stay on top of your tasks managing meetings, emails, reminders and To Do on the go · Join your next Skype or Teams meeting by simply asking CortanaMicrosoft's Cortana app for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link

Dark Mode Coming to Microsoft Office for Mac

With the release of macOS Mojave in September, Apple introduced a Dark Mode to its desktop operating system that some users prefer the look of, or just find more forgiving on the eyes. Many third-party apps have followed suit with their own darkened interfaces, and now it looks like a similar interface option is also headed for Microsoft Office. MS PowerPoint in Dark Mode Microsoft Office product manager Akshay Bakshi has been teasing as much on social media, with two tweets posted on October 29 and 30 indicating that users of Office for Mac will soon have the ability run at least some apps included in the productivity suite in a new native Dark Mode. Look closely at the Pictures icon. Office running on macOS Mojave in Dark Mode. #OfficeInsiders #office365 pic.twitter.com/xDSTFvNr5q— Akshay Bakshi 🎉 (@AgentAkki) October 29, 2018 According to the tweets, Dark Mode will be available in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, featuring new dynamic ribbon and icon styling. Users signed up to the Insiders Fast community getting access to the visual refresh first in build 181029. 📣 Office Visual Refresh and Dark Mode support rolling out now to Insiders Fast with build 181029! 🎀 New Ribbon and icon styling in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. 🌙 Dark Mode in Word, Excel and PPT on macOS Mojave. https://t.co/gTrEQbJoiN#OfficeInsiders #office365 pic.twitter.com/rTvFvOsqE1— Akshay Bakshi 🎉 (@AgentAkki) October 30, 2018

Microsoft Testing Revamped Version of Cortana App for iOS

Microsoft is testing a version of its Cortana app for iOS and Android devices that features a major interface overhaul and new features, according to Windows Central. The updated app, which is being tested by beta testers, features a user interface that's focused on conversational experiences with Cortana, along with support for music and podcast suggestions, and a focus on setting reminders, timers, and meetings. For those unfamiliar with Cortana, it is Microsoft's personal assistant, available on Microsoft devices and other devices through iOS and Android apps. It is equivalent to Apple's Siri, Samsung's Bixby, and Google's Google Assistant. Full release notes for the new features in the current beta are below:- An update to the UI enabling conversational experiences with Cortana and a new place to manage and set up your Cortana devices - Listen to music and podcasts on the go. Just ask Cortana to play your favorite tunes and podcasts with Spotify, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn on your phone or through a paired Bluetooth device - Stay organized and on task. Set reminders, timers and create meetings with your voice - Join your next Skype or Teams meeting by simply asking Cortana. You can also manage your calendar or send a quick email by voiceFollowing the beta testing period for the app, the new features with the redesigned interface will roll out to the official Cortana for iOS app. Cortana for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Passes Away at 65 Following Battle With Cancer

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen passed away today at age 65 following complications from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Allen earlier this month announced that he was again undergoing treatment for the cancer, which he was first treated for in 2009. A childhood friend of Bill Gates, Allen co-founded Microsoft with Gates in 1975. He worked at Microsoft until 1983 when he faced his first fight with cancer after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. After his time at Microsoft, Allen used his wealth to invest in real estate, aerospace, sports teams, and filmmaking. Allen was the owner of the Portland Trailblazers and the Seattle Seahawks, as well as part owner of the Seattle Sounders FC. He operated Vulcan Real Estate, funded multiple sports venues, and owned Vulcan Productions, a television and film production company. Following his death, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Allen's contributions to Microsoft and the tech industry were "indispensable."Paul Allen's contributions to our company, our industry, and to our community are indispensable. As co-founder of Microsoft, in his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world. I have learned so much from him - his inquisitiveness, curiosity and push for high standards is something that will continue to inspire me and all of us at Microsoft. Our hearts are with Paul's family and loved ones. Rest in peace.Bill Gates said that Allen wasn't content with starting one company, and instead channeled his intellect and compassion "into a second

Skype Calling Features Coming to Alexa Devices Later This Year

Microsoft has revealed that Skype is coming to Alexa devices. The partnership between Microsoft and Amazon means that owners of devices in Amazon's Echo range will soon be able to make outgoing Skype voice and video calls, accept incoming Skype calls, and also make SkypeOut calls to most phone numbers around the world. Announcing the upcoming feature in a blog post, Microsoft said device owners will be able to say something like "Alexa, call Jimmy on Skype," or if Jimmy is calling you on Skype, they'll be able to say, "Alexa, answer." This isn't the first time Amazon and Microsoft has seen fit to merge existing products and services. The two companies partnered on Alexa and Cortana integration last year. "Since then, we've added Alexa integration on Xbox and are continuing to work together to bring the best of Skype and Alexa together to enable intelligent communications for our users," said Gaurav Sareen, corporate vice president for Microsoft. "We're excited to continue bringing the best of Microsoft and Amazon together."Skype calling on Alexa will begin rolling out later this

Skype Introduces Call Recording Feature for Mac and iOS

Microsoft today announced that it has added call recording functionality to the latest version of Skype available on Mac and iOS. Skype says that the new call recording feature is cloud-based, with Skype informing every participant in a given call that a call is being recorded. Call recording for video chats includes everyone's video and screens that are shared during the call, with the call available to be saved and shared for the next 30 days. There is no way to record the audio portion of a video chat without also recording the video. On both mobile and desktop, call recording can be initiated by clicking or tapping on the "+" icon at the bottom of the screen and then selecting "Start recording." Once call recording has been initiated, participants will see a mobile banner letting them know that a recording is in progress. Call recording is available in the current version of Skype, which can be downloaded from the Skype website on the Mac or the App Store on iOS. [Direct Link]

Skype Redesign Ditches Snapchat-Like Highlights Feature to Focus on 'Simplicity'

Microsoft is to simplify the user experience of its Skype mobile and desktop apps, with the aim of returning the platform's focus to core services like calling and messaging. In announcing the decision in a blog post, Microsoft acknowledged that the Snapchat-style redesign it introduced last year "didn't resonate with a majority of users" and had "overcomplicated" the platform, and said it hoped the new changes would make the service faster to learn and easier to use. As a result, the Highlights and Capture features are being removed from the mobile app, leaving options for Chats, Calls, and Contacts at the bottom of the interface. Microsoft says users can download any Highlights they have posted in Skype until September 30, 2018. Meanwhile over on desktop, buttons for Chats, Calls, Contacts, and Notifications are being moved to the top left of the application window, which should make more sense for veteran Skype users. In addition, contacts are being "updated for simplicity" to make them easier to discover. Visually, Microsoft says it has "toned down" the range of the gradients available in the light and dark themes, and it's also reintroducing the simplified Skype "Classic" blue theme, with subtle adjustments for contrast and readability. Lastly, some decorative elements have been removed from the Skype interface to provide users with "a more elegant experience" that brings the focus back to content. "This is only the beginning and you can expect many more updates over the next several months as we continue to simplify and improve the core

Microsoft Office Experiencing Activation Issues on Mac and PC [Fixed]

Microsoft Office appears to be experiencing activation issues on both Mac and PC today, according to several user reports on Twitter. MacRumors also received emails from multiple readers affected. At least some Office 365 subscribers who have attempted to use Word, Outlook, and other apps in the Microsoft Office suite have been prompted to reactivate their license, but the process fails to complete. Affected users have encountered various errors while Office apps hang on "activating" or "looking for licenses," which eventually leads to a window that says "no license found," with seemingly no workaround. Hi @Microsoft,Is @Office365 having trouble with it's activation service right now? Just updated @Office for #macOS and it asked to be activated (again). Tried 3x over the past half-hour or so. pic.twitter.com/9VeLR0bVOC— Henry Ferlauto (@HTFIII) August 16, 2018 The issue appears to be affecting not only individual users, but businesses and universities and with enterprise licenses. Update: A spokesperson for Microsoft says "our team has addressed the issue and is continuing to monitor to ensure complete

Microsoft Plans to Keep Skype Classic Available 'for Some Time' Following User Backlash

Microsoft last month announced plans to shut down Skype 7, aka Skype Classic, on PCs and Macs in September, with the company encouraging customers to instead upgrade to the latest version of Skype, Skype 8. Skype 8, first introduced last year, features a total design overhaul that has not been popular with some customers, which led some Skype users to be unhappy with Microsoft's announcement. As of today, as pointed out by Windows blog Thurrott, Microsoft has changed its mind following user feedback. In a forum post, the Skype team says that support for Skype 7 will not end in September, with the end of life date extended to an unknown time.UPDATE: Based on customer feedback, we are extending support for Skype 7 (Skype classic) for some time. Our customers can continue to use Skype classic until then.It is not clear how long "some time" will be, but customers who prefer the design of Skype 7 can continue using that version of Skype instead of upgrading to Skype 8. The Skype team also said that it is listening to customer comments and plans to introduce features customers have requested into Skype 8. Classic Skype for Mac can be downloaded directly from Microsoft, as can Skype 8.

Microsoft Joins Movies Anywhere, Syncing Movies Purchased on Xbox/Windows With iTunes

Microsoft today announced that it is joining Disney's expanded Movies Anywhere service, allowing customers who purchase films on Xbox and Windows 10 to link their content to Movies Anywhere (via The Verge). Thanks to the new addition, this means that any supported movie you purchase through Microsoft Movies & TV will now also be available on other linked Movies Anywhere accounts, including iTunes. Digital retailers supporting the service now include iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, VUDU, Google Play, FandangoNOW, and Microsoft Movies & TV. Movies Anywhere supports films from Disney, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros., meaning that most of the latest releases can be found on the service. If the films you purchase come from these studios, and you have your Microsoft and iTunes accounts connected to Movies Anywhere, you'll be able to sync purchases between the two platforms. Microsoft Movies & TV now supports Movies Anywhere! Purchase Movies Anywhere eligible films from Microsoft Movies & TV and watch on supported platforms: Xbox, Windows, iOS, Android, and streaming devices. Sync your accounts to access your entire Movies Anywhere library on Microsoft Movies & TV, no matter where you purchased. As a bonus for syncing your Microsoft Movies and TV account with Movies Anywhere, the companies are gifting X-Men: Days of Future Past to its customers for a limited time. Head to Microsoft's FAQ page for more information on how to link the two accounts. Disney originally expanded Movies Anywhere from "Disney Movies Anywhere" last October, growing the

Highly Requested Dark Mode Comes to Outlook Web Mail Service

Microsoft today launched a much-requested dark mode for its Outlook.com web mail service. The company teased the new mode earlier this month, suggesting it would be reminiscent of last year's Halloween theme for Outlook. The new dark mode actually adopts shades of grey to generate panel contrast, providing a more polished look as a result. You can enable it from the Quick settings menu (the cog wheel icon in the upper right). Currently it only works with the default blue theme. The dark mode for Outlook.com is one of the most highly requested features for Microsoft's web mail service, according to listings on the Outlook.com feedback site, although there's still no word on whether a similar mode is coming to the mobile Outlook app. Last month, Microsoft launched a rebranded version of its Microsoft News app for iOS with a dark mode. Several other iOS apps have similar modes, including Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, and Twitch, while Apple's upcoming macOS Mojave also includes dark mode

Microsoft Recommends All Customers Upgrade to Skype 8 With Skype 7 Set to Be Sunset in September

Microsoft today highlighted Skype 8 and recommended that customers upgrade to the new software as the company plans to retire Skype 7, aka Skype classic, later this year. Skype 8 includes free HD video and screensharing calls with up to 24 people, reaction options for messages in conversations and @mentions to get someone's attention in a group chat, a chat media gallery for viewing photos and links, customizable themes, a notification panel, and options to share photos, videos, and files over Skype that are up to 300MB in size. In the future, Microsoft plans to add additional features that include read receipts, private conversations with end-to-end encryption, call recording, profile invites, and group links for initiating a call with multiple people. Skype 8 features are also rolling out on the iPad starting today. Microsoft is encouraging all Skype users to update to the new 8.0 version of the software as earlier versions of Skype will stop working on September 1, 2018. Microsoft says it is discontinuing older versions of Skype in order to provide the best possible Skype experience with no quality or reliability issues. Note: A previous version of this post listed the 8.0 update as new, due to the fact that Microsoft published a blog post announcing it as new this morning. Our readers have pointed out that Skype 8 has been available for some time, with 8.25 listed as the current version of the

Microsoft Takes on Apple's Entry-Level iPad With 10-inch 'Surface Go' Starting at $399

Microsoft yesterday unveiled the 10-inch Surface Go, the company's smallest and lightest tablet computer to date. Priced at $399, the device is aimed at the same $500-and-under market as Apple's 9.7-inch iPad, which starts at $329. Looks-wise, the Go is basically a smaller version of the $799 Surface Pro, including the integrated kickstand and a front-facing camera above the 1800 x 1200 resolution IPS touchscreen display. On the right side of the Go is a magnetic Surface Connector port for charging and connecting to a desktop dock, one USB-C port, and a headphone jack, with a microSD card slot located underneath the hinge. Inside, the Go features a fanless Kaby Lake dual-core Intel Pentium Gold processor, 4GB or 8GB RAM, and 64GB or 128GB solid-state storage. Microsoft claims the Go has up to 9 hours of battery life. Weighing in at 1.15lbs, the Go is slightly heavier than Apple's iPad. Like the Surface Pro, the Go supports the $99 Surface Pen (Apple added Apple Pencil support to its $329 iPad in March) and optional keyboard cover, which starts at $99 in black, with four color options costing $129. The optional Surface Mobile Mouse costs $35. Off the shelf, Surface Go devices will run Windows 10 in "S mode", a streamlined version of Microsoft's desktop OS that only runs verified apps downloaded from the Windows Store, although customers can switch to the regular version of Windows 10 at no additional cost. For business customers, Microsoft is also offering a Surface Go with Windows 10 Pro installed for $449. The $399 Surface Go ships August 2 in the

Microsoft 'Movies & TV' App Reportedly Coming to iOS

Microsoft may be working to bring its Windows-based Movies & TV app to iOS devices, according to Windows Central. The app lets users browse and play movies and TV shows purchased from Microsoft's Store, but it's only available on Windows 10, Xbox, and Windows 10 Mobile, and Microsoft is apparently eager to bring it over to rival platforms to give consumers more of a reason to buy from its catalog of video content. While most people have moved over to streaming content via services like Netflix, there is still a whole lot of content that isn't immediately, or ever, available to stream. Lots of people buy digital movies and TV content, and Microsoft has a huge store that a lot of people seemingly ignore or don't know about because there is no mobile companion app for their phone. But it appears Microsoft is now finally working on bringing its Movies & TV service to iOS or Android, according to sources familiar with the matter.Microsoft killed off its Groove Music streaming service last year, which led many to assume the same fate would befall its Movies & TV service. However, since the death of Windows 10 mobile in October, Microsoft has seen fit to bring over some popular apps like Edge and Windows Launcher to iOS and Android, and it looks as if the company counts Movies & TV in that select list. That said, sources told Windows Central not to expect the iOS and Android version of Movies & TV anytime soon, since the app is still a work in

Microsoft Developing Dual-Screen 'Pocketable' Surface Device

Microsoft is working on a pocket-sized dual-screen Surface device according to information sourced from Microsoft internal documents and shared by The Verge. Called Andromeda, Microsoft's dual-screen Surface project has been in development for at least two years and it's designed to "blur the lines between mobile and stationary computing," according to an internal document. Andromeda rendering via David Breyer "It's a new pocketable Surface device form factor that brings together innovative new hardware and software experiences to create a truly personal and versatile computing experience," is exactly how Microsoft describes the device internally.Microsoft's device will feature a wraparound display that bridges the gap of the hinge when it is fully opened, and according to The Verge, December renderings shared by David Breyer are "identical" to the current prototype versions of the upcoming Surface. The pocketable Surface can be folded in either direction or laid flat, as can be seen in the renderings. Andromeda rendering via David Breyer Microsoft is said to be experimenting with stylus input for the pocket Surface, with prototype devices equipped with styluses and notepad-like apps for note taking. The Verge's sources warn that work on Andromeda could be ceased at anytime, but Microsoft is said to have tentative 2018 release date plans, which would mean development on the device is nearing completion. Some nebulous rumors have suggested Apple too is exploring some similar concepts, working with LG to develop an iPhone with a foldable display. Apple

Microsoft's Edge Browser for iOS Gaining Built-In Adblock Plus Functionality

Microsoft is testing built-in Adblock Plus integration in its mobile Edge browser available for both iOS and Android devices, reports The Verge. With built-in Adblock Plus functionality, Edge browser users on iOS will not need to download a separate ad blocking app, which may attract more users to Microsoft's browser. Adblock Plus can be enabled in Microsoft Edge's settings, with no add-on app required. Google has built ad blocking into Chrome for Android devices, but it is somewhat limited and not available on iOS devices. As noted by The Verge, Adblock Plus is a more aggressive ad blocking option. iOS Safari users can, of course, install one of several ad block apps available in the iOS App Store, but there is no native ad blocking functionality in Safari. Adblock Plus is available in a beta capacity on both Android and iOS devices at the current time, with Microsoft planning to roll the feature out to all Edge for iOS and Android users in the near future. Microsoft has made its Edge browser available across a range of devices, including iPhones, iPads, and Android devices in addition to Windows computers. The Edge browser includes syncing of favorites, passwords, and reading lists, along with a "Continue on PC" option for transferring what you're reading from the mobile Edge browser to the

Microsoft Updates Bing iOS App With AI-Powered Visual Search

Microsoft has announced a new visual search feature for its Bing app that lets users snap a picture with their phone's camera and use it to search the web. The new visual search function builds on the AI-powered intelligent search capabilities already used by Bing, and works pretty much like Google Lens: Users take a photo of something or upload one from their camera roll, and then the search engine identifies the object in question and offers additional information by providing links to explore. The feature appears as an icon in the Bing app's search bar, and can be used to search for everything from landmarks to breeds of dog, but Microsoft is pushing it as a way to shop from photos for clothes and home furniture: Let's say you see a friend's jacket you like, but don't know its brand or where to purchase. Upload a pic into the app's search box and Bing will return visually-similar jackets, prices, and details for where to purchase. Visual Search is available today in the U.S. via the Bing app [Direct Link]. Microsoft says the feature will also roll out soon for Microsoft Edge on iOS as well as Bing.com, which remains a search engine option in Apple's latest version of Safari

Microsoft Launches Rebranded 'Microsoft News' App for iOS With Dark Mode and More

Microsoft today announced a rebranding of its news engine that's been powering sites like MSN.com since 1995, which the company is simply calling "Microsoft News." The name will replace the previous "MSN News" smartphone app beginning today across devices for iOS, Android, Microsoft Edge, Windows 10, Skype, Xbox, and Outlook.com (MSN.com will retain its name). The revamped app curates news via publishing partners, human editors, and artificial intelligence, ensuring readers are up-to-date on the topics they care about. News sites include over 3,000 brands in all major global markets, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC News, and more, all including text and video content. Users can personalize the app by prioritizing favorite news topics and selecting interests to follow in the news feed. Microsoft says that publishing partners can connect with their audiences and earn money for the content that users read within Microsoft News. In terms of UI features, the iOS app includes a dark theme, supports the iOS widgets feature, has customizable breaking news alerts, and more: - New personalization upgrades, including the ability to tailor interests to follow in your news feed – such as World News, Personal Finance, Fitness and many more – and to roam interests across devices and local news options for top cities - Simplified access through seamless integration with iOS and Android widgets - Continuous reading, for a smooth content experience Microsoft News comes one month after Google revamped its own Google News app on iOS devices, with a few similar

Microsoft Debuts Office 2019 Preview for Mac Enterprise Users

Microsoft today announced the launch of a new Office 2019 for Mac Preview, which is available starting today for its commercial customers. Office 2019 for Mac, which includes new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote, is the next perpetual update to Office for Mac and will ship alongside Office 2019 for Windows during the second half of 2018. The new software is designed for customers who aren't yet using Microsoft's Office 365 subscription service and prefer instead to have access to perpetual non cloud based apps. According to Microsoft, Office 2019 for Mac introduces a roaming pencil case and ribbon customizations across all Office apps, a new focus mode in Word, a focused inbox in Outlook, new charts and functions in Excel, and morph transitions, in-click sequence, and 4K video export in PowerPoint. The update also includes features for IT designed to simplify deployment and management, such as command-line tools for centrally controlling how and when Office updates are provided to users and support for industry-standard MDM policies and preferences. The new additions to Office 2019 for Mac are already included in the Office 365 ProPlus plan available to businesses, but are not available in Office for Mac 2016, the current perpetual Office version. Microsoft has also prepared a website that lists all of the available features for the Office 2019 for Mac Preview. Microsoft users interested in joining the Office 2019 for Mac Preview can do so by following the directions available on Microsoft's support site.

Microsoft Planning Low-Cost Surface Line to Compete With Apple's $329 iPad

As Apple's iPad and Microsoft's Surface continue to compete in the tablet market, a new report out today by Bloomberg claims that Microsoft is planning its next tablet line to be lower-cost in an effort to attract people to Surface products who aren't interested in the more expensive Surface Pro. The move is directly aimed at competing with Apple's recently launched $329 iPad, and could see Microsoft debut the devices as soon as the second half of 2018. According to people familiar with the company's plans, the tablets will be priced at around $400, so they would still be more expensive than Apple's cheapest options. They will be the first Surface devices to adopt USB-C and rounded edges "like an iPad," instead of the square corners of the current devices. Storage tiers will include 64GB and 128GB, as well as LTE options, and the devices will feature 10-inch screens. The Surface Pro In an effort to make the tablets 20 percent lighter than the high-end $799 Surface Pro, Microsoft is believed to sacrifice battery life by as much as "four hours fewer" than the current generation (13.5 hours for Surface Pro). Not much is known about the insides of the upcoming tablets, but the people said that Intel will supply the main processor and graphics chips. The devices will continue to have the kickstand for upright typing and video watching seen in current Surface models, and they will run Windows 10 Pro. Ultimately, the company is trying to enter the low-cost market again after previous attempts with the Surface RT in 2012 and the Surface 3 in 2015, which both started at