Last month, a post from the GDC 2019 scheduling website hinted that Microsoft was preparing to launch a new software development kit that would sync your Xbox Live data to any compatible iOS app. This week, Microsoft confirmed the launch of the cross-platform mobile SDK, enabling developers to build achievements, Gamerscore, friend lists, clubs, and more into iOS and Android apps (via The Verge).
Game developers will be able to "pick and choose" the parts of Xbox Live they want to integrate into their apps, and all of the features will be enabled on the consumer side through a single sign-in to their Microsoft account. The company is using Minecraft as a template for what other developers can do in this space.
“We believe so strongly in community, and Xbox Live really being at the heart of our gaming community,” explains Kareem Choudhry, Microsoft’s gaming cloud chief in a media briefing this week.
“If you watch what we’ve done, especially with Minecraft, over the past few years we’ve taken Xbox Live to as many platforms as Minecraft is on as possible. Really uniting all those communities together with a consistent singular experience for those gamers.”
The new SDK is part of the "Microsoft Game Stack" initiative, which has the goal of bringing together Microsoft's tools and services to help both indie and AAA developers create games.
At the moment, there are a few iOS games with Xbox Live features like achievements, but they're only available in games that were released by Microsoft Studios. With the new SDK, these features will greatly expand to any developer willing to implement them into their iOS and Android apps, and progress made on mobile (like the player's gamerscore) will sync back to Xbox consoles.
Earlier news suggested the same abilities would be coming to Nintendo Switch, but at this time Microsoft said that it doesn't have "any specific announcements as it relates to Switch today." With the new SDK, Microsoft will have a chance to greatly expand its reach in the smartphone gaming market, which has boomed in recent years thanks to games like Fortnite and a renewed interest in mobile gaming from companies like Nintendo.
The MacBook Air, last updated in 2018, is Apple's most affordable notebook machine, with pricing that starts at $1,199 for the newest hardware. Microsoft also makes a comparable machine, the Surface Laptop 2, which came out right around the same time Apple released its 2018 MacBook Air update.
In our latest video, we decided to pit the MacBook Air against Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2 to determine which machine is the better value and the best buy.
Both the MacBook Air and the Surface Laptop 2 are thin, light machines, with each one weighing in right around 2.75 pounds. The Surface Laptop 2 has a 13.5-inch display with a 2256 x 1504 resolution, while the MacBook Air has a 13.3-inch display with a resolution of 2560 x 1600, so all in all, design wise, these two machines are quite similar, though the Surface Laptop 2 offers a 3:2 display.
The Surface Laptop 2 comes in a matte black color (it's also in burgundy and blue) that we were a fan of because it's a nice deviation from the standard gold, silver, and space gray shades Apple uses for its notebooks. Inside, the MacBook Air is all aluminum, but the Surface Laptop 2 uses an Alcantara fabric design, which has become a key feature of the Surface lineup.
When it comes to key feel, the MacBook Air wins out, though those who are not fans of the butterfly key design might not agree. The MacBook Air also has a better trackpad, which is unsurprising because most PCs can't match the feel of the Force Touch trackpad with its haptic feedback.
Both laptops have a questionable port situation, with the MacBook Air limited to two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports and Surface Laptop 2 featuring a USB-A port, a proprietary charging port, and, inexplicably, a Mini DisplayPort, an odd choice for a modern laptop. It has no USB-C ports, which is disappointing given that USB-C is the standard device and accessory makers alike are transitioning to.
The MacBook Air uses Touch ID in lieu of a password to make logging in faster, while the Surface Laptop 2 uses Windows Hello for facial recognition. Future Macs might adopt Face ID, but for now Touch ID is just as useful. Each of these laptops features a 720p webcam, which are both terrible, and while both have decent sound, the MacBook Air's speakers are crisper and clearer at max volume.
Each of these machines features similar internal specs, and both are designed for simple tasks rather than heavy duty video editing or 3D work. You can do light editing or use Photoshop on these machines, but that's not their primary purpose.
With these thin, light laptops with low-powered processors, battery life is impressive. Both the MacBook Air and the Surface Laptop 2 offer somewhere around 10 to 12 hour battery life for everyday tasks like using email and browsing the web.
Price is the major differentiator between the Surface Laptop 2 and the MacBook Air, and could push some to choose the Surface Laptop 2 instead of the MacBook Air.
The base model Surface Laptop 2 features a 1.6GHz 8th-Gen dual-core Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage all for $999, while the base 2018 MacBook Air, offering similar specifications with less storage -- a 1.6GHz 8th-Gen dual-core Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD -- is priced starting at $1,199.
The Surface Laptop 2 and the MacBook Air are similar enough that choosing one over the other ultimately comes down to ecosystem and operating system preference. Microsoft's machines, of course, run Windows, which an Apple product user might not prefer, while Windows users won't want a machine running macOS.
What do you think of Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2? Let us know in the comments.
Microsoft is working on a new software development kit that will allow your Xbox Live data to sync "to almost every screen" that you own, including iOS devices, Android smartphones, and Nintendo Switch, in addition to existing support on Xbox consoles and Windows PC. The SDK will bring your Xbox achievements, friends list, clubs, and more to supported iPhone and iPad games in the future (via Windows Central).
The news comes from the GDC 2019 scheduling website, hinting at more details for the feature to come during the conference, which takes place in San Francisco the week of March 18. Microsoft already supports cross-platform play for certain smartphone games, like Minecraft on iOS, but the new SDK is described as a big expansion to this existing feature, since it would support games besides first-party, Microsoft-owned titles.
Now Xbox Live is about to get MUCH bigger. Xbox Live is expanding from 400M gaming devices and a reach to over 68M active players to over 2B devices with the release of our new cross-platform XDK.
Xbox Live players are highly engaged and active on Xbox and PC, but now they can take their gaming achievement history, their friends list, their clubs, and more with them to almost every screen.
This will break down barriers for developers that want their communities to mingle more freely across platforms. Combined with PlayFab gaming services, this means less work for game developers and more time to focus on making games fun.
The SDK will allow developers to build cross-platform Xbox Live achievements, social features, multiplayer modes, and more into games created for iPhone, Android, and Nintendo Switch. This will allow Microsoft to greatly expand its reach in the smartphone gaming market, which has boomed in recent years thanks to games like Fortnite and a renewed interest in mobile gaming from companies like Nintendo.
Even Sony announced interest in expanding its presence on mobile devices in early 2016, creating a new company called "ForwardWorks" to specifically focus on smartphone gaming. As of now, ForwardWorks has mostly developed games for release in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, and there have been no big first-party IP mobile games released from the company, akin to Nintendo's Super Mario Run.
More details on Microsoft's new Xbox Live SDK should be coming next month, following the GDC session.
With support for the now-discontinued Windows 10 Mobile devices set to end on December 10, 2019, Microsoft is recommending that its current Windowa 10 Mobile customers move to an Android or iOS device instead.
Microsoft made the recommendation in a Windows 10 Mobile support document (via Thurrott) explaining its plans to stop offering security updates and patches for Windows 10 Mobile.
With the Windows 10 Mobile OS end of support, we recommend that customers move to a supported Android or iOS device. Microsoft's mission statement to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, compels us to support our Mobile apps on those platforms and devices.
Microsoft ended support for Windows Phone in July 2017 and stopped active development on Windows 10 Mobile in October of that year, leading to the death of the platform. Microsoft struggled to get app developers to write apps for the device, and it was also never able to establish a strong user base.
With the abandonment of Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft has been focusing on other platforms and has a wide array of apps available for both iOS and Android devices.
All customers who have a Windows 10 Mobile device will be able to keep using it after December 10, 2019, but no further updates will be available.
Microsoft today updated its suite of Office for Mac apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, with support for Dark Mode on macOS Mojave and several other new features. The updates are available to both Office 365 subscribers and to users who purchased Office 2019 for Mac as a one-time purchase.
The update also makes it easier to insert a photo from an iPhone or iPad into a PowerPoint slide using Apple's new Continuity Camera feature. This allows users to control-click in a PowerPoint window where you want the photo to appear, quickly take a photo on a nearby iPhone or iPad, and import it into a slide.
And with v16.20 some customers will see our Ribbon Visual Refresh with new icons and styling in Office 365 for Mac, as we begin rolling out and getting your feedback! On macOS Mojave, the new icons adapt to Light and Dark Mode as well! #Office365pic.twitter.com/2iLdWNx7qD
Office for Mac apps can be updated via the Microsoft AutoUpdate mechanism by navigating to Help > Check for Updates in each app. For a full list of new features, read the Office for Mac version 16.20 release notes.
Microsoft today announced that it expects to bring its Edge web browser to the Mac, possibly as early as next year.
"Microsoft Edge will now be delivered and updated for all supported versions of Windows and on a more frequent cadence. We also expect this work to enable us to bring Microsoft Edge to other platforms like macOS," said Microsoft.
The news was revealed as part of Microsoft's larger announcement and will be rebuilt based on the open source Chromium rendering engine, with the first preview build expected to be available in 2019. It's unclear if the preview will initially be limited to Windows or extend to the Mac simultaneously.
Edge succeeded Internet Explorer as Microsoft's default web browser on Windows in 2015, with a mobile version later released for iOS and Android. It will be Microsoft's first web browser on Mac since Internet Explorer for Mac received its last feature update over 15 years ago, in June 2003.
Microsoft this week shared a new ad on its Microsoft Surface YouTube channel, this one aimed at promoting the Surface Go. As the ad begins, a little girl stares into the window of a Microsoft Store and begins singing about her preference for the Surface Go over Apple's iPad, to the tune of the song "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."
She sings, "Grandma don't run out and buy an iPad, it was fine when I was six but now I'm 10. My dreams are big so I need a real computer, to do all the amazing things I know I can." Microsoft's ad is aimed at Apple's own "What's a Computer?" ad campaign, which began in 2016 and showed off a few of the things that the iPad Pro can do as a replacement to a traditional laptop computer.
Microsoft's description of the video includes a reference to needing a "real computer": "Big dreams need a real computer, like the Surface Go, to help make them come true. This holiday season, discover all the possibilities with the Surface Go. Portable, powerful and starts at $399."
The Surface Go launched over the summer at a price point of $399, making it a direct competitor to Apple's cheaper iPads. 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.
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Apple this afternoon released an update for iCloud for Windows, which is the iCloud software designed to run on the Windows operating system for those who have both Windows machines and own Apple devices.
Earlier this month, Microsoft blocked the iCloud for Windows software from being downloaded by Windows users after Apple discovered an incompatibility that could result in problems updating Shared Albums after users upgraded to Windows 10 version 1809.
At the time, Microsoft said that it was working with Apple to provide a version of the iCloud software compatible with the latest version of Windows 10.
The fix isn't mentioned by Apple, but the company did revise a support document that had previously suggested iCloud for Windows was only compatible with Windows 10 through the April 2018 update rather than the most recent update.
Microsoft today surpassed Apple to become the world's most valuable publicly traded company as a result of Apple's continually declining share price, reports Business Insider.
Microsoft has reached a market capitalization of approximately $814 billion, while Apple's is now slightly less.
Apple earlier this year became the world's only trillion dollar publicly traded company, but it lost that status in November and its market cap has steadily declined since then over concerns of weak iPhone sales and its announcement that it will no longer share iPhone, iPad, and Mac sales on a unit basis.
According to Bloomberg, Microsoft's market cap has not previously matched Apple's since mid-2010, eight years ago.
Microsoft's growing cloud business and strong PC sales made Microsoft one of the few tech companies to grow in value following its September quarter earnings results. Apple's valuation, meanwhile, has fallen more than 20 percent since its own earnings results.
Microsoft shares hit a high of $105.94 in intra-day trading, while Apple's have dropped to a low of $170.27. As stock prices fluctuate, Microsoft and Apple are now competing for the most valuable company title with the lead company shifting back and forth.
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:
· 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 Cortana