“Microsoft Monday” takes a look back at the past week of news related to Microsoft. This week, “Microsoft Monday” includes details about a red Xbox One controller being released tomorrow, the accidental release of a Forza Horizon 3 developer version, Minecraft surpassing 25 million copies sold for PCs and Macs, a few Windows 10 user interface tweaks, a connected vehicle deal signed with Renault-Nissan and more!
A Red Xbox One Controller Is Being Released Tomorrow
Tomorrow Microsoft is going to release a matte red version of the Xbox One controller. As of now, the red Xbox One controller appears to be limited to GameStop and the Microsoft Store at a retail price of $64.99. The red version of the Xbox One controller joins black, white and blue Xbox One controller options. And there are special edition versions of controllers with game themes and two types of Xbox One Elite controllers: a Gears of War 4 limited edition and a black-and-silver version.
Microsoft Accidentally Releases Developer Build Of Forza Horizon 3
Microsoft and Playground Studios released a car pack update earlier this month, but it was actually the wrong version according to a Forza forum post. The car pack update ended up being a 53GB download and a new profile created in that version would not be playable in any other release. When the glitch was detected, the update was pulled. Interestingly, Engadget pointed out that the glitched release appears to have leaked details about Porsche cars coming to the game in the form of add-ons.
Minecraft Hits More Than 25 Million Copies Sold For PCs And Macs
Minecraft, the flagship game created by Mojang, has hit over 25 million copies sold on PCs and Macs to date. You can see the 25 million milestone published on the Mojang website where it also shows the number of copies being sold on a daily basis. As a whole, Mojang hit 100 million copies sold about six months ago across all of its platforms, according to Neowin. Minecraft is currently available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 10, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Raspberry Pi, Apple TV, Gear VR, etc.
Mojang partnered with Telltale Games for the Minecraft: Story Mode. And there is a Minecraft movie coming in 2019. Microsoft acquired Mojang for $2.5 billion in 2014 due to the success of Minecraft.
Windows 10 User Interface Tweaks
Microsoft is preparing to make some user interface changes to Windows 10 — which is currently being referred to internally as “Project NEON.” MSPowerUser posted some leaked screenshots of the new user interface and you will notice the animation, blur effects and windows toolbars appear to be transparent.
MSPowerUser suggested that the changes in the design are similar to what we saw with the Aero Glass elements in Windows Vista and Windows 7. The blurred sidebar, backgrounds and navigational elements for the apps are known as “Side-Nav Acrylic”, “Background Acrylic” and “In-App Acrylic” respectively. Some of these minor design changes are expected to arrive when Windows 10 Redstone 3 releases in the fall of 2017.
Microsoft Announces Connected Vehicle Platform Deal With Renault-Nissan
Microsoft has announced a new deal it signed with Renault-Nissan, which will be the first Connected Vehicle Platform customer. The Connected Vehicle Platform is a “set of services built on the Microsoft Azure cloud and designed to empower auto manufacturers to create custom connected driving experiences.”
The Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform will collect sensor data that can be used in other Microsoft products. For example, the Cortana digital assistant could be voice activated in vehicles to set up service appointments at auto repair shops.
Peggy Johnson, the executive vice president of business development at Microsoft, said that there are five core scenarios that auto partners are looking to prioritize through the Connected Vehicle Platform. This includes “predictive maintenance, improved in-car productivity, advanced navigation, customer insights and help building autonomous driving capabilities.”
Microsoft technology has been used in cars for years now. Microsoft SYNC was introduced at the North American International Auto Show in January 2007. Some of the other auto partners that will integrate Microsoft products into its vehicles include BMW, Volvo and Toyota.
Xbox Live Hits 3.9 Billion Hours Of Usage In November And December 2016
During the months of November and December 2016, Xbox Live hit an “all-time high” of 3.9 billion hours spent — which is a 23% increase year-over-year, according to Xbox.com. A major reason why Xbox Live hit an all time high is because nearly 400 new games were released in 2016 such as Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3. Of the 3.9 billion hours spent playing on Xbox Live, over 265 million hours were through the Xbox 360 games available within Xbox One Backward Compatibility program such as Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 2 and Skate 3.
Plus gaming on Windows 10 saw tremendous growth. Over 2.5 billion hours of gaming was logged in Windows 10 for November 2016 alone, a 127% increased compared to the same time one year earlier.
Forza Horizon 3 has over 14 million players on Xbox One and Windows 10. And 23 million Versus Multiplayer and Horde matches were played since it launched on Gears of War 4. Another milestone is that Xbox One users created over 2.4 million customized Xbox Wireless Controller designs through the Xbox Design Lab.
Microsoft Flow Adds Support For 13 More Services
Last week, Microsoft announced that Flow now works for 13 more services. Microsoft Flow is an automated workflow service that performs tasks based on rules that you set between different applications. Flow is often compared to IFTTT.
According to a company blog post, Microsoft Flow can now connect to these 13 services:
• Azure Resource Manager exposes the APIs to manage all your Azure resources.
• Azure Queues storage provides cloud messaging between application components. Queue storage also supports managing asynchronous tasks and building process work flows.
• Chatter is an enterprise social network for your company that allows employees to connect and collaborate in real time.
• Disqus is a service for web comments and discussions that makes commenting easier and more interactive, helping publishers power online discussions.
• Azure DocumentDB is a NoSQL service for highly available, globally distributed apps. Sign in to your DocumentDB account to create, update, and query documents and more.
• Cognitive Services Face API allows you to detect, identify, analyze, organize, and tag faces in photos.
• Freshdesk is a cloud-based customer support solution that will help you streamline your customer service and make sure your customers receive the support they deserve. The Freshdesk connector is intended for Freshdesk agents to manage tickets and contacts.
• Google Contacts is an online address book, integrated across your Google products and more.
• GoToMeeting is an online meeting tool that allows you to schedule your own meetings or watch for the ones you are invited to.
•HipChat is group chat, video chat, and screen sharing tool for teams of all sizes. Built for business, HipChat is persistent, searchable, and loaded with items your team will love.
• Medium is a vibrant network of thinkers who care about the world and making it better. Connect to your Medium account to track new publications, write stories, and more.
• MSN Weather provides the very latest weather forecast, including temperature, humidity, and precipitation for your location.
• WordPress is web software that you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app.
Microsoft To Reorganize Certain Departments On February 1st
According to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Microsoft is set to conduct a massive management reorganization including the creation of a digital team focused on cloud services. The reorganization — which will affect the sales, partner and services teams under the Worldwide Commercial Business group headed by EVP Judson Althoff — is expected to take place on February 1st.
The Enterprise & Partner Group (EPG) will be merged with the Small and Mid-Market Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) group. Chris Weber, the corporate VP of midmarket solutions and partners, will oversee the combined businesses.
Microsoft will also combine the Worldwide Public Sector and Industry Businesses, which will be overseen by corporate VP Toni Townes-Whitley. A new “One Commercial Partner” business is being created to combine a number of partner teams within the company and it will be led by Ron Huddleston. The new digital team that will be handling cloud services will be led by corporate VP of Microsoft Services Anand Eswaran.
Will the reorganization cause any layoffs? Fortunately, a Microsoft spokesperson told ZDNet that will be no layoffs due to the shift. “Like all companies, Microsoft reviews its resources and investments on an ongoing basis,” said the spokesperson.
Microsoft And Mattel Partner On A Connected Room Hub
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Mattel unveiled a new product within its nabi brand. The product — which is called Aristotle — is a connected room hub that was built through a partnership between Mattel, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Silk Labs. The purpose of Aristotle is to provide assistance to parents while entertaining children through the use of artificial intelligence.
“The platform’s Artificial Intelligence will utilize three distinct AI engines, including Microsoft Cognitive Services and the Silk Intelligence Platform. These multi-levels of AI enable Aristotle to learn patterns and autonomously act upon user habits to aid in child development and learning. Aristotle’s AI will also have a unique personality that will appeal to parents and kids and will be presented as the great descendent of Aristotle himself,” said Mattel in a press release.
The Aristotle device consists of a webcam and a speaker that responds to commands. The speaker has LED lights built-in that functions as nightlights, task indicators and for gaming purpose. Aristotle is able to recognize the kids based on their voices and names to offer personalized functionalities.
According to PCWorld, parents can also program Aristotle so that it only responds to commands after hearing the word “please.” And if Aristotle hears a child crying, parents can be alerted with a notification. Plus Aristotle can be programmed so that it triggers an event based on something that happens. For example, a lullaby can be played if Aristotle hears a child crying. And Aristotle knows multiple languages so it can respond in Spanish if a child is in the process of learning that language.
To make certain the privacy of the child is maintained, Aristotle was created with COPPA compliance. And there aren’t any default passwords so it prevents hackers from spying on children. Plus the data is encrypted to and from the cloud. To purchase Aristotle, Mattel will be selling it for $299 starting in June 2017.