Microsoft brings its To-Do app to Mac

Source: Microsoft more

Microsft in 2017 said it would shut eventually down Wunderlist, a company it acquired, in order to forge ahead with its own “to do” app. It has since launched To-Do, as the app is called, on Windows, iOS, Android and the web and expanded its feature set. Today, it’s bringing the app to the Mac, as well.

The company announced this morning its To-Do app is live on the Mac App Store, where it will support most of the core features right away, including the ability to create and manage tasks, works offline, share lists, utilize tags, and more. It will also integrate with Microsoft Outlook to pull in your “Flagged” email list and will support integration with Planner soon, allowing you to see any items assigned to you.

The Mac version also takes advantage of its new platform to offer a handful of keyboard shortcuts, like ?2 to minimize the app so it only displays the list view, and ?1 to return to viewing all your lists. You can click on a task’s text to edit it directly from the list view, as well. 

It’s worth noting that Microsoft built this native Mac app using 100 percent AppKit, it says.

At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference this month, the company announced a new set of tools — called Project Catalyst — that allow developers to bring their iPad apps to the Mac by leveraging their existing codebase. This is expected to bring more Mac apps to Apple’s Mac App Store over time, as it simplifies the process of maintaining multiple apps for various platforms. Twitter, for example, said on Friday that it would leverage Project Catalyst to bring its app back to the Mac.

Microsoft, however, went a different route.

A big question now is what today’s news will mean for Wunderlist — an app that has a near-perfect 4.9 out of 5 stars rating on the Mac App Store and the No. 21 most popular free app in the store’s Productivity category.

As of today’s launch, Microsoft To-Do has seen a surge of downloads and jumped ahead of its predecessor. It now claims the No. 11 spot in the same category (as of the time of writing).

Microsoft had earlier promised that it wouldn’t close down Wunderlist until it was confident that it has “incorporated the best of Wunderlist into To-Do.” Some of the company’s initial concerns were adding support for list sharing in To-Do and rolling out support for all platforms — which Microsoft has now done with this Mac app launch.

We’ve asked Microsoft if it will comment on its updated plans for Wunderlist and will update if the company has a response.

In the meantime, the new Mac version of To-Do is a free download from the Mac App Store here.


Microsoft brings its To-Do app to Mac

Mobile games now account for 33% of installs, 10% of time, and 74% of consumer spend

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Mobile gaming continues to hold its own, accounting for 10% of the time users spend in apps — a percentage that has remained steady over the years, even though our time in apps overall has grown by 50% over the past two years. In addition, games are continuing to grow their share of consumer spend, notes App Annie in a new research report out this week, timed with E3.

Thanks to growth in hyper-casual and cross-platform gaming in particular, mobile games are on track to reach 60% market share in consumer spend in 2019.

The new report looks at how much time users spend gaming versus using other apps, monetization, and regional highlights within the gaming market, among other things.

Despite accounting for a sizable portion of users’ time, games don’t lead the other categories, App Annie says.

Instead, social and communications apps account for half (50%) of the time users spent globally in apps in 2018, followed by video players and editors at 15%, then games at 10%.

In the U.S., users generally have 8 games installed per device and globally, we play an average of 2 to 5 games per month.

The number of total hours spent games continues to grow roughly 10% year-over-year, as well, thanks to existing gamers increasing their time in games and from a broadening user base including a large number of mobile app newcomers from emerging markets.

This has also contributed to a widening age range for gamers.

Today, the majority of time spent in gaming is by those aged 25 and up. In many cases, these players may not even classify themselves as “gamers,” App Annie noted.

While games may not lead the categories in terms of time spent, they do account for a large number of mobile downloads and the majority of consumer spending on mobile.

One-third of all worldwide downloads are games across iOS, Google Play, and third-party app stores.

Last year, 1.6+ million games launched on Google Play and 1.1+ million arrived on iOS.

On Android, 74 cents of every dollar is spent on games with 95% of those purchases coming as in-app purchases not paid downloads. App Annie didn’t have figures for iOS.

Google Play is known for having more downloads than iOS, but continues to trail on consumer spend. In 2018, Google Play grabbed a 72% share of worldwide downloads, compared with 28% on iOS. Meanwhile, Google Play only saw 36% of consumer spend versus 64% on iOS.

One particular type of gaming jumped out in the new report: racing games.

Consumer spend in this subcategory of gaming grew 7.9 times as fast as the overall mobile gaming market. Adventure games did well, too, growing roughly 5 times the rate of games in general. Music games and board games were also popular.

Of course, gaming expands beyond mobile. But it’s surprising to see how large a share of the broader market can be attributed to mobile gaming.

According to App Annie, mobile gaming is larger than all other channels including home game consoles, handheld consoles, and computers (Mac and PC). It’s also 20% larger than all these other categories combined — a shift from only a few years ago, attributed to the growth in the mobile consumer base, which allows mobile gaming to reach more people.

Cross-platform gaming is a key gaming trend today, thanks to titles like PUBG and Fortnite in particular, which were among the most downloaded games across several markets last year.

Meanwhile, hyper-casual games are appealing to those who don’t think of themselves as gamers, which has helped to broaden the market further.

App Annie is predicting the next big surge will come from AR gaming, with Harry Potter: Wizards Unite expected to bring Pokémon Go-like frenzy back to AR, bringing the new title $100 million in its first 30 days. The game is currently in beta testing in select markets, with plans for a 2019 release.

In terms of regions, China’s impact on gaming tends to be outsized, but its growth last year was limited due to the game license regulations. This forced publishers to look outside the country for growth — particularly in markets like North America and Japan, App Annie said.

Meanwhile, India, Brazil, Russia and Indonesia lead the emerging markets with regard to game
downloads, but established markets of the U.S. and China remain strong players in terms of sheer numbers.

With the continued steady growth in consumer spend and the stable time spent in games, App Annie states the monetization potential for games is growing. In 2018, there were 1900 games that made more than $5 million, up from 1200 in 2106. In addition, consumer spend in many key markets is still growing too — like the 105% growth in two years in China, for example, and the 45% growth in the U.S.

The full report delves into other regions as well as game publishers’ user acquisition strategies. It’s available download here.


Mobile games now account for 33% of installs, 10% of time, and 74% of consumer spend

Apple is making corporate ‘BYOD’ programs less invasive to user privacy

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

When people bring their own devices to work or school, they don’t want I.T. administrators to manage the entire device. But until now, Apple only offered two ways for I.T. to manage its iOS devices: either device enrollments, which offered device-wide management capabilities to admins or those same device management capabilities combined with an automated setup process. At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference last week, the company announced plans to introduce a third method: user enrollments.

This new MDM (mobile device management) enrollment option is meant to better balance the needs of I.T. to protect sensitive corporate data and manage the software and settings available to users, while at the same time allowing users’ private personal data to remain separate from I.T. oversight.

According to Apple, when both users’ and I.T.’s needs are in balance, users are more likely to accept a corporate “bring your own device” or BYOD program — something that can ultimately save the business money that doesn’t have to be invested in hardware purchases.

The new user enrollments option for MDM has three components: a managed Apple ID that sits alongside the personal ID; cryptographic separation of personal and work data; and a limited set of device-wide management capabilities for I.T.

The managed Apple ID will be the user’s work identity on the device, and is created by the admin in either Apple School Manager or Apple Business Manager — depending on whether this is for a school or a business. The user signs into the managed Apple ID during the enrollment process.

From that point forward until the enrollment ends, the company’s managed apps and accounts will use the managed Apple ID’s iCloud account.

Meanwhile, the user’s personal apps and accounts will use the personal Apple ID’s iCloud account, if one is signed into the device.

Third-party apps are then either used in managed or unmanaged modes.

That means users won’t be able to change modes or run the apps in both modes at the same time. However, some of the built-in apps like Notes will be account-based, meaning the app will use the appropriate Apple ID — either the managed one or personal — depending on which account they’re operating on at the time.

To separate work data from personal, iOS will create a managed APFS volume at the time of the enrollment. The volume uses separate cryptographic keys which are destroyed along with the volume itself when the enrollment period ends. (iOS had always removed the managed data when the enrollment ends, but this is a cryptographic backstop just in case anything were to go wrong during unenrollment, the company explained.)

The managed volume will host the local data stored by any managed third-party apps along with the managed data from the Notes app. It will also house a managed keychain that stores secure items like passwords and certificates; the authentication credentials for managed accounts; and mail attachments and full email bodies.

The system volume does host a central database for mail, including some metadata and five line previews, but this is removed as well when the enrollment ends.

Users’ personal apps and their data can’t be managed by the I.T. admin, so they’re never at risk of having their data read or erased.

And unlike device enrollments, user enrollments don’t provide a UDID or any other persistent identifier to the admin. Instead, it creates a new identifier called the “enrollment ID.” This identifier is used in communication with the MDM server for all communications and is destroyed when enrollment ends.

Apple also noted that one of the big reasons users fear corporate BYOD programs is because they think the I.T. admin will erase their entire device when the enrollment ends — including their personal apps and data.

To address this concern, the MDM queries can only return the managed results.

In practice, that means I.T. can’t even find out what personal apps are installed on the device — something that can feel like an invasion of privacy to end users. (This feature will be offered for device enrollments, too.) And because I.T. doesn’t know what personal apps are installed, it also can’t restrict certain apps’ use.

User enrollments will also not support the “erase device” command — and they don’t have to, because I.T. will know the sensitive data and emails are gone. There’s no need for a full device wipe.

Similarly, the Exchange Server can’t send its remote wipe command — just the account only remote wipe to remove the managed data.

Another new feature related to user enrollments is how traffic for managed accounts is guided through the corporate VPN. Using the per-app VPN feature, traffic from the Mail, Contacts, and Calendars built-in apps will only go through the VPN if the domains match that of the business. For example, mail.acme.com can pass through the VPN, but not mail.aol.com. In other words, the user’s personal mail remains private.

This addresses what has been an ongoing concern about how some MDM solutions operate — routing traffic through a corporate proxy meant the business could see the employees’ personal emails, social networking accounts, and other private information.

User enrollments also only enforces a 6-digit non-simple passcode, as the MDM server can’t help users by clearing the past code if the user forgets it.

Some today advise users to not accept BYOD MDM policies because of the impact to personal privacy. While a business has every right to manage and wipe its own apps and data, I.T. has overstepped with some of its remote management capabilities — including its ability to erase entire devices, access personal data, track a phone’s location, restrict personal use of apps, and more.

Apple’s MDM policies haven’t included GPS tracking, however, and nor does this new option.

Apple’s new policy is a step towards a better balance of concerns but will require that users understand the nuances of these more technical details — which they may not.

That user education will come down to the businesses who insist on these MDM policies to begin with — they will need to establish their own documentation, explainers, and establish new privacy policies with their employees that detail what sort of data they can and cannot access, as well as what sort of control they have over corporate devices.


Apple is making corporate ‘BYOD’ programs less invasive to user privacy

Skype publicly launches screen sharing on iOS and Android

Source: Microsoft more

Skype is taking one of its most popular desktop features to mobile devices: screen sharing. The company announced on Tuesday that its mobile screen sharing feature is now out of beta testing, allowing both iOS and Android users to share their phone’s screen while on a call.

The feature could be used for work-related purposes, as Microsoft has suggested in the past — like sharing a PowerPoint presentation. But it could also be used for fun — like swiping through a dating app while a friend gives their feedback, or for online shopping alongside a friend. More practically, it could be used to give remote tech help, like when your dad can’t find a setting on his iPhone. (True story).

Mobile screen sharing was first introduced into beta in April for testers, but is now available to all mobile users.

To access the option, Skype users will tap the newly added “…” (more) menu in the app. This is where you’ll find other recently launched features, as well, including call recording and subtitles.

Also new in this release of Skype for mobile, is a redesigned calling screen that now lets you dismiss the call controls with one tap. A second tap dismisses all the controls to make the video call itself the focus. And another tap brings all the controls back.

Despite Skype’s advanced age, the mobile communications app still has some 300 million monthly users. It hasn’t stopped the rollout of new features that allow it to remain relevant in an age where so much messaging is done through chat apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat or through built-in communication services like iMessage and FaceTime.

While not all its changes have been a success — last year Skype had to roll back its overly colorful Snapchat-inspired makeover, for example — it still often adds useful features like HD video, encryption by way of the Signal Protocol, and call recording, to name a few.

Mobile screen sharing works on Android 6.0 and higher, and on iOS (iPhone and iPad) with iOS 12 and up. You will only see the option if you’ve updated to the latest release.

Other platforms that support screen sharing include Linux, Mac, Windows, and Skype for Windows 10 (version 14).


Skype publicly launches screen sharing on iOS and Android

Microsoft’s new language learning app uses your phone’s camera and computer vision to teach vocabulary

Source: Microsoft more

Eight Microsoft interns have developed a new language learning tool that uses the smartphone camera to help adults improve their English literacy by learning the words for the things around them. The app, Read My World, lets you take a picture with your phone to learn from a library of over 1,500 words. The photo can be of a real-world object or text found in a document, Microsoft says.

The app is meant to either supplement formal classroom training or offer a way to learn some words for those who didn’t have the time or funds to participate in a language learning class.

Instead of lessons, users are encouraged to snap photos of the things they encounter in their everyday lives.

“Originally, we were planning more of a lesson plan style approach, but through our research and discovery, we realized a Swiss army knife might be more useful,” said Nicole Joyal, a software developer intern who worked on the project. “We wound up building a tool that can help you throughout your day-to-day rather than something that teaches,” she said.

Read My World uses a combination of Microsoft Cognitive Services and Computer Vision APIs to identify the objects in photos. It will then show the word’s spelling and speak the phonetic pronunciation of the identified vocabulary words. The photos corresponding to the identified words can also be saved to a personal dictionary in the app for later reference.

Finally, the app encourages users to practice their newly discovered words by way of three built-in vocabulary games.

The’s 1,500-word vocabulary may seem small, but it’s actually close to the number of words foreign language learners are able to pick up through traditional study. According to a report from the BBC, for instance, many language learners struggle to learn more than 2,000 to 3,000 words even after years of study. In fact, one study in Taiwan found that after 9 years of learning a foreign language, students failed to learn the most frequently-used 1,000 words.

The report also stressed that it was most important to pick up the words used day-to-day.

Because the app focuses on things you see, it’s limited in terms of replacing formal instruction. After gathering feedback from teachers and students who tested an early version, the team rolled out a feature to detect words in documents too. It’s not a Google Lens-like experience, where written words are translated into your own language — rather, select words it can identify are highlighted so you can hear how they sound, and see a picture so you know what it is.

For example, the app pointed at a student’s school supply list may pick out words like pencils, notebooks, scissors, and binders.

The app, a project from Microsoft’s in-house incubator Microsoft Garage, will initially be made available for testing and feedback for select organizations. Those who work with low literacy communities at an NGO or nonprofit, can request an invitation to join the experiment by filling out a form.

 


Microsoft’s new language learning app uses your phone’s camera and computer vision to teach vocabulary

Microsoft aims to train and certify 15,000 workers on A.I. skills by 2022

Source: Microsoft more

Microsoft is investing in certification and training for a range of A.I.-related skills in partnership with education provider General Assembly, the companies announced this morning. The goal is to train some 15,000 people by 2022 in order to increase the pool of A.I. talent around the world. The training will focus on A.I., machine learning, data science, cloud and data engineering and more.

In the new program’s first year, Microsoft will focus on training 2,000 workers to transition to a A.I. and machine learning role. And over the full three years, it will train an additional 13,000 workers with A.I.-related skills.

As part of this effort, Microsoft is joining General Assembly’s new A.I. Standards Board along with other companies. Over the next six months, the Board will help to define A.I. skills standards, develop assessments, design a career framework, and create credentials for A.I. skills.

The training developed will also focus on filing the A.I. jobs currently available where Microsoft technologies are involved. As Microsoft notes, many workers today are not skilled enough for roles involving the use of Azure in aerospace, manufacturing and elsewhere. The training, it says, will focus on serving the needs of its customers who are looking to employ A.I. talent.

This will also include the creation of an A.I. Talent Network that will source candidates for long-term employment as well as contract work. General Assembly will assist with this effort by connecting its 22 campuses and the broader Adecco ecosystem to this jobs pipeline. (GA sold to staffing firm Adecco last year for $413 million.)

Microsoft cited the potential for A.I.’s impact on job creation as a reason behind the program, noting that up to 133 million new roles may be created by 2022 as a result of the new technologies. Of course, it’s also very much about making sure its own software and cloud customers can find people who are capable of working with its products, like Azure.

“As a technology company committed to driving innovation, we have a responsibility to help workers access the AI training they need to ensure they thrive in the workplace of today and tomorrow,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president and president of Global Sales, Marketing and Operations at Microsoft, in a statement. “We are thrilled to combine our industry and technical expertise with General Assembly to help close the skills gap and ensure businesses can maximize their potential in our AI-driven economy.”


Microsoft aims to train and certify 15,000 workers on A.I. skills by 2022

Oh no, there’s A.I. whiskey now

Source: Microsoft more

Forget all those whiskey brands from musicians and celebs — there’s A.I. whiskey now. Microsoft this week announced it has teamed up with Finnish tech company Fourkind and Sweden-based distillery Mackmyra Whisky to create the “world’s first whisky developed with artificial intelligence.”

Oh no!

Here’s how it will work.

As part of the distillation process, whiskey first spends time — typically years — sitting in charred wooden casks. This turns the clear liquor a darker color, and gives it a unique flavor. How long it stays in the casks, and what the casks held before — like bourbon, wine, sherry, etc. — helps create a specific recipe. Master distillers tweak all these variables along with the different ingredients used to create the whiskey in the first place to come up with a variety of blends.

Until now, this entire process is done by humans with a specialized set of skills. For the A.I. blend, Mackmyra is turning part of the job over to the machines.

The distillery is feeding its existing recipes, sales data and customer preferences to machine learning models, so the A.I. can suggest what recipes it should make next.

The A.I., Mackmyra says, is capable of generating over 70 million different recipes. And it will highlight those it predicts will be most popular and of the highest quality, based on the cask types that are currently on hand.

These models are powered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and Azure cognitive services. Fourkind developed the A.I. algorithms involved, explains Microsoft in its announcement.

However, the distillery notes it’s not actually replacing its Master Blenders with A.I. Instead, it’s using the A.I. to create the recipes which are then curated by the (still human) experts.

“The work of a Master Blender is not at risk,” insists Angela D’Orazio, Mackmyra’s Master Blender. “While the whiskey recipe is created by A.I., we still benefit from a person’s expertise and knowledge, especially the human sensory part, that can never be replaced by any program. We believe that the whiskey is A.I.-generated, but human-curated. Ultimately, the decision is made by a person.”

Microsoft says this is the first time A.I. has been used to augment the process of making whiskey. The finished product will be available in Autumn 2019.

Despite not knowing how the juice turns out, Fourkind wants to turn its algorithms to other industries where complex recipes are involved — including those for other beverages, and also things like perfumes, sweets, or sneaker designs.

This would not be the first time that A.I. has been put to work in a more artistic field.

For example, at Google’s I/O developer conference this month, the company showed off how A.I. could be used in artistic endeavors — including music, visual art, and even fashion.

Of course, when A.I. is tasked with making art, the end results tend to be strange, unworldly and sometimes a little frightening.

Which begs the question: how the hell will an A.I. whiskey taste?

(via TNW

 


Oh no, there’s A.I. whiskey now

Skype’s big redesign publicly launches to desktop users

Source: Microsoft more
 Earlier this year, Skype introduced a revamped version of its application offering a heavier focus on media sharing and social expression tools, in an effort to better compete with more modern social communication services, like Slack and even Snapchat. Today, the company is publicly launching the new version of Skype to the desktop, including on Mac, Windows 10 (November 2016 update and… Read More
Skype’s big redesign publicly launches to desktop users

Windows Ink, Cortana improvements and more arrive in the latest Windows 10 build out now

Source: Microsoft more
ink3-1024x683 It’s going to be a good Friday for those testing the latest releases of the Windows 10 operating system, as Microsoft is today rolling out a new build of its PC and mobile OS, which will allow users to try the newly announced Windows Ink experience for the first time. Windows Ink, announced at the Build 2016 event last month, offers improved pen support for Windows 10 PCs, including… Read More
Windows Ink, Cortana improvements and more arrive in the latest Windows 10 build out now

Windows Ink, Cortana improvements and more arrive in the latest Windows 10 build out now

Source: Tech News – Enterprise
ink3-1024x683 It’s going to be a good Friday for those testing the latest releases of the Windows 10 operating system, as Microsoft is today rolling out a new build of its PC and mobile OS, which will allow users to try the newly announced Windows Ink experience for the first time. Windows Ink, announced at the Build 2016 event last month, offers improved pen support for Windows 10 PCs, including… Read MoreWindows Ink, Cortana improvements and more arrive in the latest Windows 10 build out now