Tag Archives: Microsoft’s

Powering our customers: the innovation story behind Microsoft’s earnings – The Official Microsoft Blog

With Microsoft’s fourth quarter earnings, we delivered double-digit revenue growth across all segments anchored by the growing success in our commercial cloud as technology helps our customers power their innovation. Recently organizations like GE, PGA, NBA, Marks & Spencer, Starbucks, InMobi  Bayer and Telefonica shared how they are leveraging cloud and artificial intelligence to support growth and deliver great employee and customer experiences. Across industries and solution areas, here are some of the latest examples.

This week we unveiled a strategic partnership with Walmart as the company’s preferred cloud provider and strategic partner to accelerate its digital transformation in retail. Through a five-year agreement, Walmart has selected the full range of Microsoft cloud solutions, including Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 for enterprise-wide use, to help standardize across the company’s family of brands. Using a broad base of cloud, AI and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, the company plans to further its mission in creating incredibly convenient ways for customers to shop and empower associates to do their best work.

We announced Campbell Soup Company selected Microsoft Azure. The much-loved soup and snack company announced plans to drive IT transformation with the help a global hybrid cloud solution. Campbell chose Azure to increase the flexibility, agility and resiliency of its always-on IT, provide employees with real-time access to customized information and insights, and optimize its complex supply chain.

At Microsoft Inspire this week, I was also thrilled to feature on stage Carlsberg and its ongoing digital transformation. For 171 years, the Carlsberg Group has been brewing for a better today and tomorrow. Now, the iconic brewery group is leveraging AI and IoT on Azure to bring more science to the craft of beer, increase speed to market and improve quality control through the “Beer Fingerprinting Project.”

Also onstage at Inspire, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared how Walt Disney World Resort technology and conservation teams partnered with Microsoft to help develop the “tiniest smart homes” for the songbirds called purple martins. Purple martins are a unique species of bird that travel between South and North America each year to raise a family, but unfortunately their population is in decline. By outfitting birdhouses at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, using Azure IoT Edge with computer vision and building models to recognize important events, Disney scientists are able to learn more about the species and help inspire a new generation of conservationists in the parks. The scientists have unprecedented insight now into the nesting behavior of the purple martins. They are also creating new experiences for guests and have even built an augmented reality game on a tablet to help guests learn about what it takes to be a great purple martin parent.

We are seeing additional momentum in Azure IoT with one of our first customers for the new Azure Sphere. For more than 70 years, Sub-Zero and Wolf have built a legacy of innovation in food preservation and preparation. As the company looks toward the next wave of innovation, along with its new Cove dishwasher brand, Sub-Zero sees an opportunity to create more personalized experiences through connected products. Securing these products over the lifetime of the device is a top priority, and they are planning to use Azure Sphere as a comprehensive solution for future products to address security holistically at every layer.

When it comes to the modern workplace solution, we are seeing continued momentum across customers in the enterprise. The nearly 40,000 employees of Eli Lilly are on a mission to make medicines that help people live longer, healthier, more active lives. That is why Lilly takes a collaborative approach to discovering and developing new medicines — between lab researchers and the rest of the company, as well as with a global network of physicians, medical researchers and healthcare organizations — and has selected Microsoft 365 to bring together scientists across hundreds of locations and organizations and truly empower the workforce.

Across our Windows 10 and Surface business, we see customers taking advantage of how the right device can light up the modern workplace for employees. Melbourne-based infrastructure, building and rail leader John Holland selected 1,200 Surface Pros with LTE to power its field workers across large geographical construction zones. Using cellular and Wi-Fi, the Surface devices seamlessly connect workers with key information like blueprints and documents at project sites. As a Microsoft 365 E5 customer, the company has also deployed Surface Hub and Surface Book 2 devices. By standardizing on Microsoft modern workplace, John Holland is helping deliver a better experience to employees and a higher standard to customers.

With growing investments in Dynamics 365 as our third cloud, we are continuing to drive value for customers across various industries. National Oilwell Varco (NOV), a leading provider of technology, equipment and services for the global oil and gas industry, is deploying Dynamics 365 across its sales and field service networks worldwide. This deployment enables NOV to optimize productivity and minimize downtime by streamlining business processes and delivering a mobile-first approach to field service operations. NOV is investing in state-of-the-art technology and cloud services to deliver premier, customized experiences to customers.

Across every industry, businesses are expanding their digital business. These are just some of the most recent examples of leading enterprises choosing Microsoft solutions to help them transform customer experiences, fuel employee creativity and collaboration, innovate operations and bring new products to market.

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Microsoft bills Azure network as the hub for remote offices

Microsoft’s foray into the rapidly growing SD-WAN market could solve a major customer hurdle and open Azure to even more workloads.

All the major public cloud platforms have increased their networking functionality in recent months, and Microsoft’s latest service, Azure Virtual WAN, pushes the boundaries of those capabilities. The software-defined network acts as a hub that links with third-party tools to improve application performance and reduce latency for companies with multiple offices that access Azure.

IDC estimates the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) market will hit $8 billion by 2021, as cloud computing continues to proliferate and employees must access cloud-hosted workloads from various locations. So far, the major cloud providers have left that work to partners.

But this Azure network service solves a big problem for customers that make decisions about network transports and integration with existing routers, as they consume more cloud resources from more locations, said Brad Casemore, an IDC analyst.

“Now what you’ve got is more policy-based, tighter integration within the SD-WAN,” he said.

Azure Virtual WAN uses a distributed model to link Microsoft’s global network with traditional on-premises routers and SD-WAN systems provided by Citrix and Riverbed. Microsoft’s decision to rely on partners, rather than provide its own gateway services inside customers’ offices, suggests it doesn’t plan to compete across the totality of the SD-WAN market, but rather provide an on-ramp to integrate with third-party products.

Customers can already use various SD-WAN providers to easily link to a public cloud, but Microsoft has taken the level of integration a step further, said Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass. Most SD-WAN vendors are building out security ecosystems, but Microsoft already has that in Azure, for example.

This could also simplify the purchasing process, and it would make sense for Microsoft to eventually integrate this virtual WAN with Azure Stack to help facilitate hybrid deployments, Laliberte said.

It’s unclear if customers trust Microsoft — or any single hyperscale cloud vendor — at the core of their SD-WAN implementation, as their architectures spread across multiple clouds.

The Azure Virtual WAN service is billed as a way to connect remote offices to the cloud, and also to each other, with improved reliability and availability of applications. But that interoffice linkage also could lure more companies to use Azure for a whole host of other services, particularly customers just starting to embrace the public cloud.

There are still questions about the Azure network service, particularly around multi-cloud deployments. It’s unclear if customers trust Microsoft — or any single hyperscale cloud vendor — at the core of their SD-WAN implementation, as their architectures spread across multiple clouds, Casemore said.

Azure updates boost network security, data analytics tools

Microsoft also introduced an Azure network security feature this week, Azure Firewall, with which users can create and enforce network policies across multiple endpoints. A stateful firewall protects Azure Virtual Network resources and maintains high availability without any restrictions on scale.

Several other updates include an expanded Azure Data Box service, still in preview, which provides customers with an appliance onto which they can upload data and ship directly to an Azure data center. These types of devices have become a popular means to speed massive migrations to public clouds. Another option for Azure users, Azure Data Box Disk, uses SSD disks to transfer up to 40 TB of data spread across five drives. That’s smaller than the original box’s 100 TB capacity, and better suited to collect data from multiple branches or offices, the company said.

Microsoft also doubled the query performance of Azure SQL Data Warehouse to support up to 128 concurrent queries, and waived the transfer fee for migrations to Azure of legacy applications that run on Windows Server and SQL Server 2008/2008 R2, for which Microsoft will end support in July 2019. Microsoft also plans to add features to Power BI for ingestions and integration across BI models that are similar to Microsoft customers’ experience with Power Query for Excel.

Surface Go Is Microsoft’s Big Bet on a Tiny-Computer Future

Panos Panay is the betting type. You can see the evidence in Microsoft’s Building 37, where two $1 bills stick out from beneath a Surface tablet sitting on a shelf.

When I ask Panay about the dollars during a recent visit to Microsoft, he says it was a wager he made a few years back on a specific product. I ask if it was a bet on Surface RT, the very first Surface product Microsoft made, and he seems genuinely surprised. “I would have lost that bet, and I’m going to win this one,” he says. “It’s about a product that’s in market right now.” And that’s all he’ll volunteer.

Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, isn’t there to talk about the ghosts of Surface’s past, or even the present. Panay wants to talk about his next big bet in the Surface product lineup: the brand-new Surface Go. But to call it “big” would be a misnomer, because the Surface Go was designed to disappear.

Ian C. Bates

If you’ve followed the trajectory of the Surface product line, you might say that the Surface Go previously existed in some form, if not as a prototype then in sketches and leaks and rumors and in our own imaginations. But Panay insists that this new 2-in-1 device is not the offspring of anything else—not the Surface RT, not the Surface 3, and not the Surface Mini (which served as a kind of fever-dream notepad for Panay, but never shipped).

Instead, the new Surface Go is an attempt to bring most of the premium features of a $1,000 Surface Pro to something that’s both ultra-portable and more affordable.

Ian C. Bates

Like a Surface Pro, the Go is a “detachable”—a tablet that attaches to Microsoft’s alcantara Type Cover keyboard. It has the same magnesium enclosure; a bright, high-res touchscreen display that has a 3:2 aspect ratio and is bonded with Gorilla Glass; a kickstand in the back that extends to 165 degrees; support for Microsoft’s stylus pen, which attaches magnetically to the tablet; a Windows Hello face recognition camera, for bio-authentication; two front-facing speakers, an 8-megapixel rear camera; and on and on. It’s a veritable checklist of Surface Go’s external features.

But the Surface Go is tiny. It measures just 9.6 by 6.9 by .33 inches, with a 10-inch diagonal display. It also weighs 1.15 pounds. The first time I saw the Go, Natalia Urbanowicz, a product marketing manager at Microsoft, pulled the thing out of a 10-inch, leather, cross-body Knomo bag to show just how easily it can be tucked away. It’s light enough to mistake for a notebook; the last time I felt that way about a computer was when Lenovo released the YogaBook back in 2016.

Ian C. Bates

The Go also happens to be the least expensive Surface ever. When it ships in early August, it will have a base price of $399. That’s for a configuration that includes 64 gigabytes of internal storage and 4 gigabytes of RAM, and ships with Windows 10 Home in S Mode (the S stands for “streamlined,” which means you can only download apps from the Windows Store). You’ll also have to shell out extra for a Type Cover keyboard and stylus pen.

From there, specs and prices creep up: A Surface Go with 256 gigabytes of storage, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and LTE will cost you more, though Microsoft hasn’t shared how much yet. All configurations have a microSD slot for additional storage too.

The Surface Go is not the first 10-inch Surface that Panay and his team have shipped. The original Surface had a 10.6-inch display. And in 2015, Microsoft released the 10.8-inch Surface 3. It started at $499, and ran a “real” version of Windows, not Windows RT. But it was also underpowered; and, Panay admits now, it had an inelegant charging mechanism.

“To this day I regret the charging port on Surface 3,” Panay says. “I’d convinced myself that this ubiquitous USB 2.0 connector was going to solve the thing people asked me for: Can I just charge it with the charger I already have? And what I learned is that people want a charger with the device, they want a very seamless charging experience…I know that seems small, but I don’t think I can overstate that every single little detail can be a major difference maker.”

Panay says there’s been clear demand for a successor to the Surface 3, which would, by definition, have been the Surface 4. But “that evolution wasn’t right,” he says. “That would be too close to the original Surface Pro, and that’s not what this product should be at all.” Instead, he’s been noodling something like the Surface Go—codenamed “Libra”—for the past three years.

The new Surface Go benefits from all those learnings. It has the same Surface Connect port as the Pro lineup, along with a USB-C 3.1 port for data transfers and backup charging. It’s supposed to get around nine hours of battery life. It also runs on an Intel Pentium Gold processor. This is not one of Intel’s top-of-the-line Core processors, but it’s still a significant jump up from the Cherry Trail Atom processor in the Surface 3.

Pete Kyriacou, general manager of program management for Surface, says Microsoft has worked closely with Intel to tune the processor for this particular form factor. “If you compare the graphics here to the Surface Pro 3 running on an i5 [chip], it’s 33 percent better; and if you compare it to the i7, it’s 20 percent better,” Kyriacou says. “So we’re talking about Pentium processing, but, it’s better from a graphics perspective than a Core processor was just three years ago.”

A lot about the new Surface has been “tuned”—not just the guts of the Go, but its software, too. “We tuned Office, we then tuned the Intel part, we tuned Windows, we made sure that, in portrait, it came to life,” Panay says. “We brought the Cortana [team] in to better design the Cortana box—we went after the details on what we think our customers need at 10 inches.”

There’s usually a tradeoff when you’re buying a computer this small. You get portability at the expense of space for apps and browser windows. The Surface Go has a built-in scaler that optimizes apps for a 10-inch screen, and Microsoft says that it’s working with third-parties to make sure certain apps run great. There’s only so much control, though, you have over software that’s not your own. I was reminded of this when I had a few minutes to use the Surface Go, went to download the Amazon Kindle app in the Windows Store, and couldn’t find it there.

Making the Surface smaller was no small feat, according to Ralf Groene, Microsoft’s longtime head of design. Groene walks me through part of Building 87 on Microsoft’s campus, where the design studio is housed and where Groene’s team of 60 are tasked with coming up with a steady stream of ideas for potential products.

Ralf Groene, Microsoft’s head of design.

Ian C. Bates

Behind a door that says “Absolutely No Tailgating”—a warning against letting someone in behind you, not a ban on barbecues and cornhole—a small multimedia team makes concept videos. “Before products get made, we have a vision, we have an idea, and we express it in a video,” Groene tells me. If the video is received well by top executives, they know they have a winner. “Since there’s usually a timeline on how long processors are good for, we try to build as many iterations as possible of a product within that timeline.”

Once the Surface Go got the go ahead, Groene’s job became that of a geometrist: How do you fit all this stuff into a 9.6-inch enclosure? Going with magnesium again was an easy choice; it’s up to 36 percent lighter than aluminum, Groene says, and Microsoft has already invested in the machinery needed to work with magnesium. Some of the angles of the Go’s body are softer—Groene calls these “curvatures and radii”—making it more comfortable to hold close for extended time periods, like if you’re reading or drawing.

By far the biggest challenge was the Go’s Type Cover keyboard. The factor that always stays the same is the human, Groene says, and that includes fingers. Shrink a keyboard too much in your quest to make a laptop thin and light, and you’ll inevitably get complaints from people that their fingers are cramped, or that they land on each key with an unsatisfying thud. (Or worse, that the keyboard is essentially broken.)

The Go’s keyboard is undoubtedly smaller than the one that attaches to the Surface Pro. But it still has a precision glass trackpad, and a key travel that Groene says is fractionally less than the key travel on the Pro.

Ian C. Bates

Most notably, the Go’s keyboard uses a scissor-switch mechanism that was designed to give, as Groene describes it, the right “force to fire.” Each key is also slightly dished, a decision that Microsoft made after watching hours of footage of people typing, captured with a high-speed camera. The keys are supposed to feel plush and good under your fingers and not at all like a tiny accessory keyboard. (I only used the keyboard on the Go for a brief period of time, so I can’t really say what it would be like to use the keyboard to, say, type of a story of this length.)

I mention to Groene that Apple has long held the stance that touchscreens aren’t right for PC’s, something that Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi underscored in a recent WIRED interview when he said that they’re “fatiguing.” And yet, Microsoft is pretty committed to touchscreen PCs. What does Microsoft’s research show about how people use touchscreen PCs?

Groene first points out that the Surface laptop is the only one in Microsoft’s product line that has a classic laptop form factor and a touchscreen; the others are detachables, or, there’s the giant Surface Studio PC. But, more to the point, he says, “By offering multiple ways to get things done doesn’t mean that we add things. It’s not like the Swiss army knife, where every tool you put in makes it bigger.”

Sure, if you sit there for eight hours holding your arm up, it will get tired, Groene acknowledges. But that’s not the way people are supposed to use these things. “It’s the same thing with the pen. ‘We don’t need the pen because we are born with ten styluses,’” Groene says, wiggling his fingers, making an oblique reference to a well-known Steve Jobs quote about styluses. “However, having the tool of a pen is awesome when you want to go sketch something.”

“We are trying to design products for people,” he says, “and we don’t try to dictate how people use our devices.”

Ian C. Bates

So who is this tiny Surface Go actually made for? It depends on who you ask at Microsoft, but the short answer seems to be: anybody and everybody.

Urbanowicz, the product marketing manager, says Go is about “reaching more audiences, and embracing the word ‘and’: I can be a mother, and an entrepreneurial badass; I can be a student, and a social justice warrior.” Kyriacou, when describing the Go’s cameras, says to “think about the front line worker in the field—a construction worker, architect, they can capture what they need to or even scan a document.” You can also dock the Go, Kyriacou points out, using the Surface Connect port, which makes it ideal for business travelers. Groene talks about reading, about drawing, about running software applications like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Almost everyone talks about watching Hulu and Netflix on it.

Panos Panay initially has a philosophical answer to this. It’s his “dream,” he says, to just get Surface products to more people. “I mean, that’s not my ultimate dream. But there are these blurred lines of life and work that are happening, and if you collect all that, Go was an obvious step for us.”

The evening before Panay and I chatted, he went to the Bellevue Square shopping center with his son, and at one point, had to pull out his LTE-equipped Surface Go to address what he said was an urgent work issue. His son asked if it was a new product, and Panay, realizing the blunder of having the thing out in public, tucked the Go in his jacket. To him, that’s the perfect anecdote: The lines between work and family time were blurred, he had to do something quickly, and when he was done, he could make his computer disappear.

Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer.

Ian C. Bates

Panay’s team also has a lot more insight into how people are using Surface products than it did eight years ago, he says, when Surface was still just a concept being developed in a dark lab. To be sure, Microsoft has been making hardware for decades—keyboards, mice, web cameras, Xbox consoles. But when Microsoft made the decision to start making its own PCs (and ultimately, take more control over how its software ran on laptops), it was a new hardware category for the company. It was a chance to get consumers excited about Microsoft again, not just enterprise customers.

The first few years of Surface were rocky. The first one, known as Surface RT, seems to be something that Microsoft executives would rather forget about; I don’t see it anywhere in the product lineups that Microsoft’s PR team has laid out ahead of my visit. Its 2012 launch coincided with the rollout of Windows 8, which had an entirely new UI from the previous version of Windows. It ran on a 32-bit ARM architecture, which meant it ran a version of the operating system called Windows RT. Depending on who you ask, the Surface RT was either a terrible idea or ahead of its time. (Panay says it was visionary.) Microsoft ending up taking a massive write-down on it the following year.

Since then, Microsoft has rolled out a series of Surface products that, due to the company’s design ethos, a newer operating system, and plain old Moore’s Law, have only gotten better. In 2013 it introduced the Surface Pro line, which are still detachables, but are built to perform like a premium laptop and can cost anywhere from $799 to $2,600. There’s the Surface Book line; the Surface Book 2 starts at $1,199 and clocks in around 3.5 pounds, making it a serious commitment of a laptop. The Surface Studio is a gorgeous, $2,999, all-in-one desktop PC, aimed at creative types. The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s MacBook Air. It starts at $799, and got largely positive reviews when it launched last year.

Even still, Microsoft’s Surface line has struggled to make a significant dent in the market for personal computing. HP and Lenovo dominate the broader PC market, while Apple leads in the tablet category (including both detachables and slate tablets).“From a shipment perspective, the entire Surface portfolio has been fairly soft,” says Linn Huang, an IDC research director who tracks devices and displays. “It was growing tremendously, and then the iPad Pro launched and Surface shipments have either been negative, year-over-year, for the past several quarters, or flat.”

Microsoft has new competition to worry about, too: Google’s inexpensive Chromebooks, which in a short amount of time have taken over a large share of the education market.

“Do I think about Chromebooks? Absolutely,” Panay says, when I ask him about them. “Do I think about iPads? Absolutely. I use multiple devices. It’s exhausting. But this product is meant to bring you a full app suite.” Panay is highlighting one of the drawbacks of lightweight Chromebooks: Their lack of local storage. Meanwhile, he says, Surfaces are designed to let people be productive both locally on the device, and in the cloud when they need to work in the cloud.

And, while Panay says he’s keeping an eye on Chromebooks, he insists that Microsoft didn’t build Go to compete with Chromebooks. That said, Surface Go will have a school-specific software option: IT administrators for schools can choose whether they want a batch of Go’s imaged with Windows 10 Pro Education, or Windows 10 S mode-enabled.

Panay wouldn’t comment on Microsoft’s plans for the future beyond Surface Go, although there have long been rumors of a possible Microsoft handheld device, codenamed Andromeda. If the Surface Go is something of a return to a smaller, 10-inch detachable, then a pocketable device that folds in half, one that could potentially run on an ARM processor, would be something of a return to mobile for Microsoft. Qualcomm has also been making mobile chips that are designed to compete directly with Intel’s Core processors for PCs.

For now, though, Panay is throwing all his chips behind the Surface Go, and making a big bet that this little device is the one that will make the masses fall in love with Surface. He tends to chalk up past Surface products, even the ones that didn’t do well, as simply before their time. Now, with the Go, he says, “it’s time.”


More Great WIRED Stories

Bing adds new intelligent visual search features

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Microsoft’s new intelligent visual search technology allows users to discover information about objects captured in images without having to pick and choose a handful of keywords to fit into a search box.

The AI-powered visual search feature is available on Bing mobile apps.

“Sometimes, it is almost impossible to describe what you want to search for using words,” explained Vince Leung, product lead for Bing Images at Microsoft.

For example, imagine hiking through a meadow and seeing a flower that you’ve never seen before. You want to know what it is and whether you can get it at your local garden store to plant at home. Bing’s Visual Search can help you identify and find more information from your snapshot of the flower.

Or, perhaps you’re in the market for a new couch and spot one you like in a high-end home furnishing store, but the price tag is beyond your budget. By taking a picture of the couch, Bing’s Visual Search can help you find couches that match the style with prices that may meet your budget.

The visual search feature uses Microsoft’s computer vision algorithms, which are trained with datasets containing vast amounts of labeled images, as well as images from around the web. From the training images, the algorithms learn to recognize dogs from cats, for example, and roses from daisies.

What’s more, the learning process is never done; the performance of the algorithms improves as they get more data.

“While there have been strides for many years to get to this point,” noted Leung, “with the advent of cloud computing we are able to accelerate our ability to make sense out of pixels.”

Related:

John Roach writes about Microsoft research and innovation. Follow him on Twitter.

Wild Me joins AI for Earth | Stories

A new investment from Microsoft’s AI for Earth program will accelerate Wild Me, an organization that identifies and tracks individual animals using machine learning and computer vision

REDMOND, Wash. — June 14, 2018 — On Thursday, Microsoft Corp. announced that Wild Me, a Portland-based nonprofit organization that focuses on combatting extinction with citizen science and artificial intelligence, will become a new featured project in its AI for Earth program. This deeper level of investment and engagement will enable Wild Me, and its wide range of users and supporters, to more effectively and efficiently use software and AI to combat extinction.

“The world is facing a major biodiversity crisis, and Wild Me’s work in harnessing computer vision and machine learning to monitor and track individual animals is truly groundbreaking,” said Bonnie Lei, AI for Earth project manager at Microsoft. “Microsoft hopes to accelerate Wild Me’s conservation impact by enabling wider usage of its open source algorithms through making them available on Microsoft Azure as APIs, and boosting the speed and accuracy of its entire Wildbook platform by migrating it over to Azure.”

Wildbook is an open source, cloud-based software platform — created by Wild Me in collaboration with faculty and students at Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Illinois-Chicago — that brings together AI, computer vision, scientific research and citizen science to help protect endangered species. Using images uploaded from conservationists, researchers and citizen scientists, the software helps identify and track animal populations, monitor their migrations and interactions, and evaluate threats to inform and improve conservation efforts.

“Wildbook democratizes science and conservation,” said Tanya Berger-Wolf, director at Wild Me and professor at University of Illinois-Chicago. “The partnership with Microsoft will allow us to enable science and conservation at planetary scale and high resolution over time, space and individual animals.”

Wild Me will be the fifth AI for Earth featured project, joining land cover mapping, Project Premonition, FarmBeats and iNaturalist. With 111 grantees in 27 countries, AI for Earth puts Microsoft’s cloud and AI tools in the hands of those working to solve global environmental challenges. Through grants that provide access to cloud and AI tools, opportunities for education and training on AI, and investments in innovative, scalable solutions, AI for Earth works to advance sustainability across the globe.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777,

rrt@we-worldwide.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Jaguar Land Rover, BI Worldwide share GitLab migration pros and cons

Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of popular code repository vendor GitHub also thrust competitor GitLab into the spotlight. A quarter-million customers tried to move code repositories from GitHub to GitLab last week in the wake of the Microsoft news, a surge that crashed the SaaS version of GitLab.

Enterprises with larger, more complex code repositories will need more than a few days to weigh the risks of the Microsoft acquisition and evaluate alternatives to GitHub. However, they were preceded by other enterprise GitLab converts who shared their experience with GitLab migration pros and cons.

BI Worldwide, an employee engagement software company in Minneapolis, considered a GitLab migration when price changes to CloudBees Jenkins Enterprise software drove a sevenfold increase in the company’s licensing costs for both CloudBees Jenkins Enterprise and GitHub Enterprise.

GitLab offers built-in DevOps pipeline tools with its code repositories in both SaaS and self-hosted form. BI Worldwide found it could replace both GitHub Enterprise and CloudBees Jenkins Enterprise with GitLab for less cost, and made the switch in late 2017.

“GitLab offered better functionality over GitHub Enterprise because we don’t have to do the extra work to create web hooks between the code repository and CI/CD pipelines, and its CI/CD tools are comparable to CloudBees,” said Adam Dehnel, product architect at BI Worldwide.

GitLab pipelines
GitLab’s tools include both code version control and app delivery pipelines.

Jaguar Land Rover-GitLab fans challenge Atlassian incumbents

Automobile manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, based in London, also uses self-hosted GitLab among the engineering teams responsible for its in-vehicle infotainment systems. A small team of three developers in a company outpost in Portland, Ore., began with GitLab’s free SaaS tool in 2016, though the company at large uses Atlassian’s Bitbucket and Bamboo tools.

As of May 2018, about a thousand developers in Jaguar Land Rover’s infotainment division use GitLab, and one of the original Portland developers to champion GitLab now hopes to see it rolled out across the company.

Sometimes vendors … get involved with other parts of the software development lifecycle that aren’t their core business, and customers get sold an entire package that they don’t necessarily want.
Chris Hillhead of systems engineering, Jaguar Land Rover’s infotainment systems

“Atlassian’s software is very good for managing parent-child relationships [between objects] and collaboration with JIRA,” said Chris Hill, head of systems engineering for Jaguar Land Rover’s infotainment systems. “But sometimes vendors can start to get involved with other parts of the software development lifecycle that aren’t their core business, and customers get sold an entire package that they don’t necessarily want.”

A comparison between tools such as GitLab and Bitbucket and Bamboo largely comes down to personal preference rather than technical feature gaps, but Hill said he finds GitLab more accessible to both developers and product managers.

“We can give developers self-service capabilities so they don’t have to chew up another engineer’s time to make merge requests,” Hill said. “We can also use in-browser editing for people who don’t understand code, and run tutorials with pipelines and rundeck-style automation jobs for marketing people.”

Jaguar Land Rover’s DevOps teams use GitLab’s collaborative comment-based workflow, where teams can discuss issues next to the exact line of code in question.

“That cuts down on noise and ‘fake news’ about what the software does and doesn’t do,” Hill said. “You can make a comment right where the truth exists in the code.”

GitLab offers automated continuous integration testing of its own and plugs in to third-party test automation tools. Continuous integration testing inside GitLab and with third-party tools is coordinated by the GitLab Runner daemon. Runner will be instrumental to deliver more frequent software updates over the air to in-car infotainment systems that use a third-party service provider called Redbend, which will mean Jaguar Land Rover vehicle owners will get automatic updates to infotainment systems without the need to go to a dealership for installation. This capability will be introduced with the new Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV in July 2018.

Balancing GitLab migration pros and cons

BI Worldwide and Jaguar Land Rover both use the self-hosted version of GitLab’s software, which means they escaped the issues SaaS customers suffered with crashes during the Microsoft GitHub exodus. They also avoided a disastrous outage that included data loss for GitLab SaaS customers in early 2017.

Still, their GitLab migrations have come with downsides. BI Worldwide jumped through hoops to get GitLab’s software to work with AWS Elastic File System (EFS), only to endure months of painful conversion from EFS to Elastic Block Store (EBS), which the company just completed.

GitLab never promised that its software would work well with EFS, and part of the issue stemmed from the way AWS handles EFS burst credits for performance. But about three times a day, response time from AWS EFS in the GitLab environment would shoot up from an average of five to eight milliseconds to spikes as high as 900 milliseconds, Dehnel said.

“EBS is quite a bit better, but we had to get an NFS server setup attached to EBS and work out redundancy for it, then do a gross rsync project to get 230 GB of data moved over, then change the mount points on our Rancher [Kubernetes] cluster,” Dehnel said. “The version control system is so critical, so things like that are not taken lightly, especially as we also rely on [GitLab] for CI/CD.”

GitLab is working with AWS to address the issues with its product on EFS, a company spokesperson said. For now, its documentation recommends against deployment with EFS, and the company suggests users consider deployments of GitLab to Kubernetes clusters instead.

Not a cliché: When being ‘out and proud’ is a call to action – Microsoft Life

One of Microsoft’s directors of government affairs kept his authentic self quiet and closed off for too long. Now, he’s working to make that path easier and safer for fellow LGBTQ+ people.

By Candace Whitney-Morris

John Galligan spent half of his adult life as a closeted gay man, a time he describes as not truly living. In fact, he said he didn’t start to live his life until his early thirties.

“I was trying to be something I wasn’t,” he said. “And that slow release of power and energy, it’s exhausting and was always affecting my work. Being very good at acting like something I wasn’t . . . it’s the art that I’d perfected.”

That all changed when Galligan met his partner, now husband, 20 years ago, who helped him accept who he was, to live as a gay man proudly, and to even confront some of his own prejudices about what he assumed people could or couldn’t handle. “I thought I was protecting people by not confronting them with who I was,” he said. “I was wrong.”

The past two decades with his husband have been a journey not only of love and fun, he said, but also in helping Galligan be more accepting of his own sexuality, who he is, and who he could become.

Galligan is now out and active in his community. He’s also a senior director for Microsoft’s global government affairs team, working to protect and advance the rights of all people, including those who are LGBTQ+ and who don’t feel safe or welcome.

Across the globe, the cultural views and tolerance around being gay still vary widely. Galligan’s team focuses in part on making sure LGBTQ+ employees are safe and supported within the walls of their workplace wherever they live.

“Microsoft can be a safe place for people to bring their authentic self, even if the outside world is hostile to them, even if their friends and family might not accept them,” he said. “They can come to a place that will accept them not just for who they are but also for who they can be.”

“I thought I was protecting people by not confronting them with who I was. I was wrong.”

Because Galligan knows what it’s like to not live his truth at work, he’s determined to help Microsoft support the rights of its employees and live up to its values of empowering every person on the planet—even when the outside culture is slow to adapt and when equality for LGBTQ+ people is lacking.

Before moving to Seattle, Galligan and his partner lived in Singapore, where there are still laws criminalizing homosexuality. And while these laws are rarely enforced, he did feel the discomfort of living in ambiguity. “The middle path is in some ways the most uncomfortable because it doesn’t challenge you to actually go out and confront systemic intolerance.”

That’s why it’s important to him that he doesn’t get too comfortable—that he remembers what some LGBTQ+ people and employees face and does what he can to help. Working in a company where the culture is attuned to human rights near and far reminds him of what inclusion feels like and what to strive for in his advocacy.

“Microsoft can be a safe place for people to bring their authentic self. They can come to a place that will accept them not just for who they are but also for who they can be.”

“I’ve never felt, in any way, excluded [at Microsoft]. I think that’s a tribute to the company, but I also think that’s a tribute to the tens of thousands of people who continue to move the company increasingly toward a diverse and inclusive environment.”

Galligan reminds himself all the time that there’s still so much to fight against. But when feelings of powerlessness threaten to steal momentum, he focuses on the power of individual contribution.

“I think the most weak and ineffectual thing we can do is to not think about what can be done on an individual level. I may not be able to change laws, but I can be proud of who I am and show others to be proud of who they are.”

He hopes that being a visible, comfortable, and confident gay man will inspire others to also be themselves and to take up the fight, because “being out and proud is not a cliché,” he said. “It’s a call to action.”

“Everyone can make a contribution, even if that contribution is to be yourself and use whatever influence you have to make the world and workplace more inclusive, more diverse, and more welcoming for everyone.”

Meet more Microsoft employees who are changing hearts and minds and advancing human rights.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/topic/pride/

See how Microsoft is celebrating Pride 2018 and how you an be an ally.
https://www.microsoft.com/pride

Learn how Microsoft and its LGBTQ+ employees push for change across borders.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/pride/

Everything We Announced at the Xbox E3 2018 Briefing – Xbox Wire

Sunday’s Xbox E3 Briefing was the largest in Microsoft’s history with more than 6,000 people, including more than 1,000 fans, invited to attend in the Microsoft Theater. Microsoft announced it is doubling its game development studios and showcased a record 52 games on stage including 18 console launch exclusives and 15 world premieres. The diverse lineup included games for every type of player, from exclusives like Forza Horizon 4, Halo Infinite and Gears 5, and independent titles like Session, Below, Ashen and Tunic to some of the biggest blockbuster games coming in the next year like Fallout 76, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Kingdom Hearts 3, Devil May Cry 5, Battlefield V, Metro Exodus and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, many enhanced to take advantage of the power of Xbox One X.

“There has never been a more exciting time to be part of the gaming industry, with creators large and small showcasing incredible new games for the more than two billion players around the world,” said Phil Spencer, head of Gaming at Microsoft. “At Microsoft, we are committed to empowering gamers to play the games they want, with the people they want, where they want.”

Investing in Development of Original Content

Microsoft announced it is doubling its game development studios by adding five new creative teams to the Microsoft Studios family. New investments include the formation of a brand-new studio, The Initiative, the acquisition of Playground Games, and letters of intent to acquire Ninja Theory, Undead Labs and Compulsion Games.

  • The Initiative. Based in Santa Monica, Calif., The Initiative is a brand-new Microsoft game development studio headed by industry veteran Darrell Gallagher that is working to create groundbreaking new worlds, characters and game experiences.
  • Playground Games. Microsoft has acquired U.K.-based Playground Games, a development partner since 2010 that has helped grow the Forza franchise to new heights. In addition to its work on this year’s Forza Horizon 4, Playground Games will have a team dedicated to bringing their open-world expertise to an entirely new project.
  • Ninja Theory. The relationship between Ninja Theory and Microsoft started in 2000 when Kung Fu Chaos was in development for the original Xbox and culminated in the release of Hellblade on Xbox One earlier this year. Microsoft’s intent to acquire Ninja Theory will help ensure the creative team has the resources and freedom to bring more ambitious games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to fans.
  • Undead Labs. Seattle-based Undead Labs is the creator of the popular State of Decay franchise, enjoyed by millions of fans worldwide. In the first two weeks since State of Decay 2 launched, more than two million fans joined the fight to survive and took down more than two billion zombies. By entering into a letter of intent to acquire Undead Labs, Microsoft is signaling its commitment to growing the franchise and taking the zombie survival-fantasy genre to new heights.
  • Compulsion Games. As We Happy Few nears its full, multiplatform release on Aug. 10, Microsoft has entered into a letter of intent to acquire Montreal-based Compulsion Games. By joining the team at Microsoft Studios, Compulsion will have the resources, platform and freedom to take even bigger creative risks and create even more ambitious worlds with its future projects.

“The original games we create at Microsoft Studios are some of our biggest assets,” said Matt Booty, corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios. “Our growth strategy is to continue to expand the worlds that players love, while developing all-new exclusive games that deepen their engagement with our platform. We are thrilled to welcome five new studios into the Microsoft family. We believe these teams have the collective creative power and operational excellence to deliver the next industry game changers.”

The addition of these creative teams reinforces Microsoft’s vision for gaming, which starts with a deep commitment to original content. The company is developing a portfolio of games on every device, including newly announced Microsoft Studios games. Revealed on stage today were three new Gears of War titles — Gears 5, Gears Tactics, Gears Pop! — along with Battletoads, Forza Horizon 4 and Halo Infinite, a Master Chief story and the next major release in the franchise built from the ground up on the new Slipspace engine.

Access to your Favorite Games Faster and Better than Ever

Microsoft announced several new titles joining the Xbox Game Pass catalog this year including Forza Horizon 4, Fallout 4, Tom Clancy’s The Division and The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, as well as several new ID@Xbox games being added on their release date. Microsoft also introduced new innovations to push digital gaming forward, including FastStart, an innovation from Microsoft’s Machine Learning Team, and plans from Microsoft’s Gaming Cloud Team to develop a game streaming service to unlock console-quality gaming on any device.

“We’ve been thrilled to see the positive impact Xbox Game Pass is having on the gaming ecosystem, including increasing the number of titles gamers play nearly 40 percent and increasing gameplay hours by almost 20 percent,” said Mike Nichols, chief marketing officer for Gaming at Microsoft. “With the ultimate freedom to explore and play over 100 great games, Xbox Game Pass delivers our members an incredible value in gaming.”

  • Xbox Game Pass. The Xbox Game Pass catalog continues to expand, with exciting new blockbuster titles available to members starting today, including Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited and Tom Clancy’s The Division. Microsoft also announced several notable titles launching through the ID@Xbox program that will be coming to Xbox Game Pass this year to coincide with their debut on Xbox One. These include Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Ashen, Afterparty and Phoenix Point, as well as blockbusters from some of our biggest first-party franchises such as Forza Horizon 4, Crackdown 3, Gears 5 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which will release later in 2018 and beyond.
  • FastStart (Xbox One). With FastStart, you can now jump into your game[i] twice as fast and play after downloading just a fraction of your title. FastStart identifies which files are needed to begin playing and prioritizes the download of those files first, enabling you to quickly jump into full-fidelity gameplay while the remainder of your title downloads in the background. Simply find the FastStart-enabled title you want to play, hit Download and your console will take care of the rest. It’s that simple.
  • Xbox Adaptive Controller (Xbox One, Windows 10). Beginning at 9 a.m. PT on June 11, preorders will begin in select markets for the first-of-its-kind Xbox Adaptive Controller, designed for gamers with limited mobility. Available exclusively through Microsoft Store for $99.99 USD, the newest addition to the Xbox family of controllers and devices is designed to be as adaptable as possible, so gamers can create a setup that works for them in a way that is plug-and-play, extensible and affordable.
  • Mixer, Microsoft’s live streaming service, is seeing continued growth with viewership doubling in just six months to more than 20 million. The majority of this is growth from viewers on mobile

 Best Place to Play Original, Blockbuster, and Independent Games

 Xbox One continues to be the best place to play the biggest blockbuster games with over 220 titles enhanced for Xbox One X, the world’s most powerful console, with new games leveraging the power of the platform from some of the world’s most talented creators like Fallout 76 from Bethesda Game Studios, Cyberpunk 2077 from CD Projekt RED, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 from Ubisoft Massive and dozens more. Independent game creators also continue to innovate on Xbox One with games like Session, Below, Ashen and Tunic coming to Xbox One as console launch exclusives.

  • Battlefield V (Electronic Arts). Available worldwide Oct. 19, 2018, enter mankind’s greatest conflict with Battlefield V as the series goes back to its roots in a never-before-seen portrayal of World War II. Take on all-out multiplayer across the world or witness human drama set against global combat in single player War Stories, including Nordlys — a first look shown in the Xbox E3 briefing — the story of a young Norwegian resistance fighter during the German occupation, you must pay an unthinkable price to save not only yourself, but also your family.
  • Black Desert (Pearl Abyss). Black Desert is a revolutionary MMORPG that delivers intense, fast-paced combat, profitable life skills and an expansive open world. Slay monsters, abominations and gods, or engage in relaxing life skills like crafting, fishing and cooking. Become your true self in this truly open world MMORPG
  • Crackdown 3 (Xbox One and Windows 10 Exclusive). Crackdown 3 brings the boom next February, where players will stop crime as a super-powered Agent in a sandbox of mayhem and destruction. Developed by Microsoft Studios in collaboration with Sumo Digital and Elbow Rocket, Crackdown 3 delivers cooperative mayhem, signature antics, explosive gameplay and an all-new multiplayer mode, Wrecking Zone, where destruction is your ultimate weapon powered by Microsoft Cloud. Available worldwide in February 2019.
  • Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course (Studio MDHR). In Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course, Cuphead and Mugman are joined by Ms. Chalice for a DLC add-on adventure on a brand-new island! With new weapons, new charms and Ms. Chalice’s brand new abilities, take on a new cast of multifaceted, screen-filling bosses to assist Chef Saltbaker in Cuphead’s final challenging quest.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt RED). Cyberpunk 2077 is a narrative-driven, open world RPG set in the most vibrant and dangerous metropolis of the future — Night City. You play as V, a hired gun on the rise, who just got their first serious contract. In a world of cyber-enhanced street warriors, tech-savvy netrunners and corporate lifehackers, today is your first step to becoming an urban legend.
  • Devil May Cry 5 (Capcom). A brand-new entry in the legendary over-the-top action series comes to Xbox One in spring 2019, complete with its signature blend of high-octane stylized action and otherworldly and original characters the series is known for. Years have passed since the legions of hell have set foot in this world, but now a new demonic invasion has begun, and humanity’s last hope will rest in the hands of three lone demon hunters, each offering a radically different play style. United by fate and a thirst for vengeance, these demon hunters will have to face their demons if they hope to survive. The devil you know returns in the most over the top, technically advanced, utterly insane action experience of this generation.
  • Dying Light 2 (Techland). The bold sequel to the open-world phenomenon, Dying Light 2 brings to life a unique post-apocalyptic vision of the Modern Dark Ages, where your parkour abilities and brutal combat skills are the only things that let you dive into darkness and emerge alive. Make morally grey decisions, shape the transformation of the City and ultimately decide its fate.
  • Fallout 76 (Bethesda Game Studios). The award-winning creators of Skyrim and Fallout 4 welcome you to Fallout 76 — a stunning prequel and the largest world ever created in the legendary Fallout universe. Set in the hills of West Virginia, you are one of the first to emerge, into a new and untamed wasteland.
  • Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One And Windows 10 Exclusive – World Premiere). In Forza Horizon 4, seasons change everything. This highly anticipated follow-up to 2016’s breakout hit Forza Horizon 3 brings players dynamic seasons in a shared open world that change every week. Experience beautiful, historic Britain in spectacular native 4K and HDR, collect over 450 cars, and become a Horizon Superstar. Forza Horizon 4 will launch worldwide on Xbox One, Windows 10 and Xbox Game Pass on Oct. 2, 2018, as an Xbox Play Anywhere title.
  • Gears 5 (Xbox One And Windows 10 Exclusive – World Premiere). As Kait, journey across the biggest, most beautiful Gears world ever created. Play solo or with a friend in local split-screen co-op, or online co-op and experience every mode in 4K Ultra HD resolution with stunning HDR at a smooth 60 frames per second. “Gears 5” will be released in 2019 on Xbox One and Windows 10 and will come to Xbox Game Pass on the same date as its global release.
  • Gears POP! (iOS and Android Exclusive – World Premiere). Gears Pop! brings together iconic Gears characters in a cute Funko Pop! style. The game is being developed in partnership with Funko (Nasdaq “FNKO”) and inspired by the Gears of War vinyl collectible figures. It’s the perfect slice of mobile mayhem, available on iOS and Android in 2019.
  • Gears Tactics (Windows 10 Exclusive – World Premiere). Gears Tactics evolves turn-based tactics games combining signature fast-paced brutal action and character-driven storytelling with customizable squads, upgradable weapons, and, of course, massive boss battles. Gears Tactics is also the first Gears game to be specifically designed for PC gamers.
  • Halo Infinite (Xbox One And Windows 10 Exclusive – World Premiere). The Master Chief returns in the next chapter of the legendary franchise in Halo Infinite. Developed by 343 Industries and created with the studio’s new Slipspace Engine, Halo Infinite debuted at the Xbox E3 2018 Briefing with a thrilling engine demo that provides a glimpse into the future of Halo, leading the franchise into new and unexpected directions.
  • Jump Force (Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc). The greatest heroes and villains from the 50-year history of Shueisha’s influential Japanese Weekly Jump manga will battle against each other across iconic locations across Earth in this anime fan’s dream come true! Featuring the world’s most popular and classic manga and anime franchises including Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Naruto, and many others, players will be able to compete in hyper-stylish arena brawls set against familiar backdrops of famous landmarks around the world, including New York City’s Times Square and the Matterhorn.
  • Just Cause 4 (Square Enix). Rogue agent Rico Rodriguez journeys to Solis, a huge South American world home of conflict, oppression and extreme weather conditions. Strap into your wingsuit, equip your fully customizable grappling hook, and get ready to bring the thunder!
  • Kingdom Hearts III (Square Enix). Kingdom Hearts III tells the story of the power of friendship as Sora and his friends embark on a perilous adventure and support each other through difficult times. Set in a vast array of Disney worlds, Kingdom Hearts follows the journey of Sora, a young boy and unknowing heir to a spectacular power. Sora is joined by Donald and Goofy to stop an evil force known as the Heartless from invading and overtaking the universe. Through the power of positivity and friendship, Sora, Donald and Goofy unite with iconic Disney-Pixar characters old and new to overcome tremendous challenges and persevere against the darkness threatening their worlds.
  • Metro Exodus (Deep Silver). Metro Exodus is an epic, story-driven first-person shooter from 4A Games that blends deadly combat and stealth with exploration and survival horror in one of the most immersive game worlds ever created. Explore the Russian wilderness across vast, nonlinear levels and follow a thrilling storyline that spans an entire year through spring, summer and autumn to the depths of nuclear winter. Inspired by the novels of Dmitry Glukhovsky, Metro Exodus continues Artyom’s story in the greatest Metro adventure yet.
  • Nier: Automata Become As Gods Edition (Square Enix). NieR: Automata is a revolutionary action RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by machine lifeforms and abandoned by mankind. As part of an android army created by humans to reclaim the planet, players will fight their way through the mechanical horde using a collective of close-combat weapons and ranged attacks.
  • Ori and The Will Of The Wisps (Xbox One And Windows 10 Exclusive). The highly anticipated sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps made its worldwide gameplay debut, showcasing Ori’s immersive world, dynamic combat mechanics, gripping enemy encounters and challenging puzzles in this story-driven adventure. Ori and the Will of the Wisps releases on Xbox One and Windows 10 in 2019.
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Console Launch Exclusive). PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), the tactical, high-octane battle royale phenomenon, debuted footage from two new maps: Sanhok, a smaller-scale, action-packed map inspired by the islands that dot the Southeast Pacific Ocean, and a snow-covered map currently in development. New footage also debuted of War Mode, a deathmatch-style battle royale gaming experience and the world premiere debut of the Ballistic Shield, a new tool for setting up quick cover for explosive and close-distance attacks. Sanhok and War Mode will debut on Xbox in late summer 2018.
  • Sea Of Thieves (Xbox One and Windows 10 Exclusive). Sea of Thieves, the shared-world multiplayer game that provides the quintessential pirate experience, returns with additional content that continues to grow and evolve the game. Releasing in July, Cursed Sails will bring a new threat to the seas in the form of terrifying skeleton ships. In September, Forsaken Shores will reveal a perilous new part of the world, filled with dangers that will test the skill and nerve of even the most hardened crews. Each update will be accompanied by a time-limited campaign that introduces content in a fun, engaging and memorable way. Sea of Thieves is now available on Xbox One, Windows 10 and Xbox Game Pass as an Xbox Play Anywhere title.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (Activision). A fantastical, dark and twisted new gameplay experience developed by the renowned team at FromSoftware and published by Activision. Directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a third-person, action-adventure game with RPG elements. The single-player game puts gamers in the protagonist role of a hard-hearted warrior whose mission is to rescue his master, a young lord, and exact revenge on his arch nemesis. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is scheduled for release in early 2019 for the family of Xbox One devices from Microsoft, including the Xbox One X. Preorders are available now at select retailers for the suggested retail price of $59.99.
  • Session (Crea-Ture Studios). Inspired by the golden era of skateboarding, the early 90s and early 2000, Session’s primary goal is to make you experience what skateboarding really is: an incredible sport where there are no other goals other than expressing your creativity and achieving success through hard work, perseverance and bits of madness for no one else other than yourself.
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Square Enix). Experience Lara Croft’s defining moment as she becomes the Tomb Raider. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara must master a deadly jungle, overcome terrifying tombs, and persevere through her darkest hour. As she races to save the world from a Maya apocalypse, Lara will ultimately be forged into the Tomb Raider she is destined to be.
  • Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition (Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc). Available this winter, Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition celebrates the 10th anniversary of this cherished RPG with new fully playable characters, events and other additional content never released outside of Japan. Follow Yuri Lowell, a former Imperial Knight, as he befriends a colorful cast of characters throughout the world of Terca Lumireis and finds himself in the middle of a nefarious plot that threatens the destruction of the entire planet.
  • The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (Square Enix). Have you ever dreamt of being a superhero? Meet Chris, a creative and imaginative 10-year-old boy who escapes reality with fantastical adventures as his alter ego, the Awesome Captain Spirit! Return to your childhood and play a touching and heart-warming one-of-a-kind narrative experience from the directors and development team behind the BAFTA award-winning game Life is Strange. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is an original story set in the Life is Strange Universe that contains links to the brand-new story an characters of Life is Strange 2.
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (Ubisoft). Developed by Ubisoft Massive and the same teams that brought you Tom Clancy’s The Division, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is an online open-world, action-shooter RPG experience set in a collapsing and fractured Washington, D.C. This rich new setting combines a wide variety of beautiful, iconic and realistic environments where the player will experience the series’ trademark for authenticity in world- building, rich RPG systems, and fast-paced action like never before. Play solo or co-op with a team of up to four players to complete a wide range of activities, from the main campaign and adversarial PvP matches to the Dark Zone — where anything can happen.
  • Tunic (Finji). Tunic is an isometric action adventure about a tiny fox in a big world. Embark on an adventuresome questabout set in that place just beyond the farthest you’ve ever been! Explore ancient ruins, fight monsters and uncover mysterious secrets. The world is big and scary — so be brave, little one!
  • We Happy Few (Compulsion Games, Gearbox Publishing). After debuting as an Xbox Game Preview title at the 2016 Xbox E3 Briefing, We Happy Few 1.0, which includes an all-new narrative and community-driven improvements, will launch on Xbox One and Xbox One X (with 4K and HDR support) on Aug. 10, 2018. We Happy Few is a narrative-driven action adventure game set in a drug-fueled, retrofuturistic 1960s England. Uncover the mystery of Wellington Wells as you play through the interwoven narratives of three moderately terrible citizens trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful denial.

Biggest Xbox Sale of the Year Happening Now

Microsoft also announced its Biggest Xbox Sale of the Year where gamers can find discounts on hundreds of games, accessories, Xbox Game Pass and Live Gold subscriptions, plus $50 off ANY Xbox One. For more information, visit Xbox Wire.

Be sure to preorder now at your Microsoft Store or local retailer. With retail locations across the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and Australia, and through Microsoft.com, fans can begin preordering their favorite games and select accessories and hardware from this year’s Xbox E3 2018 Briefing right now. For a list of Microsoft Store locations, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/locations/find-a-store.

Watch E3 Live Streaming on Mixer

For additional news, highlights, exclusive reveals and a behind-the-scenes look at some of your favorite games throughout the week of E3, watch Inside Xbox: Live @ E3 on Monday, June 11 at 3 p.m. PDT and tune in to live streaming on Mixer Tuesday, June 12 and Wednesday, June 13.

Not a cliché: When being ‘out and proud’ is a call to action – Microsoft Life

One of Microsoft’s directors of government affairs kept his authentic self quiet and closed off for too long. Now, he’s working to make that path easier and safer for fellow LGBTQ+ people.

By Candace Whitney-Morris

John Galligan spent half of his adult life as a closeted gay man, a time he describes as not truly living. In fact, he said he didn’t start to live his life until his early thirties.

“I was trying to be something I wasn’t,” he said. “And that slow release of power and energy, it’s exhausting and was always affecting my work. Being very good at acting like something I wasn’t . . . it’s the art that I’d perfected.”

That all changed when Galligan met his partner, now husband, 20 years ago, who helped him accept who he was, to live as a gay man proudly, and to even confront some of his own prejudices about what he assumed people could or couldn’t handle. “I thought I was protecting people by not confronting them with who I was,” he said. “I was wrong.”

The past two decades with his husband have been a journey not only of love and fun, he said, but also in helping Galligan be more accepting of his own sexuality, who he is, and who he could become.

Galligan is now out and active in his community. He’s also a senior director for Microsoft’s global government affairs team, working to protect and advance the rights of all people, including those who are LGBTQ+ and who don’t feel safe or welcome.

Across the globe, the cultural views and tolerance around being gay still vary widely. Galligan’s team focuses in part on making sure LGBTQ+ employees are safe and supported within the walls of their workplace wherever they live.

“Microsoft can be a safe place for people to bring their authentic self, even if the outside world is hostile to them, even if their friends and family might not accept them,” he said. “They can come to a place that will accept them not just for who they are but also for who they can be.”

“I thought I was protecting people by not confronting them with who I was. I was wrong.”

Because Galligan knows what it’s like to not live his truth at work, he’s determined to help Microsoft support the rights of its employees and live up to its values of empowering every person on the planet—even when the outside culture is slow to adapt and when equality for LGBTQ+ people is lacking.

Before moving to Seattle, Galligan and his partner lived in Singapore, where there are still laws criminalizing homosexuality. And while these laws are rarely enforced, he did feel the discomfort of living in ambiguity. “The middle path is in some ways the most uncomfortable because it doesn’t challenge you to actually go out and confront systemic intolerance.”

That’s why it’s important to him that he doesn’t get too comfortable—that he remembers what some LGBTQ+ people and employees face and does what he can to help. Working in a company where the culture is attuned to human rights near and far reminds him of what inclusion feels like and what to strive for in his advocacy.

“Microsoft can be a safe place for people to bring their authentic self. They can come to a place that will accept them not just for who they are but also for who they can be.”

“I’ve never felt, in any way, excluded [at Microsoft]. I think that’s a tribute to the company, but I also think that’s a tribute to the tens of thousands of people who continue to move the company increasingly toward a diverse and inclusive environment.”

Galligan reminds himself all the time that there’s still so much to fight against. But when feelings of powerlessness threaten to steal momentum, he focuses on the power of individual contribution.

“I think the most weak and ineffectual thing we can do is to not think about what can be done on an individual level. I may not be able to change laws, but I can be proud of who I am and show others to be proud of who they are.”

He hopes that being a visible, comfortable, and confident gay man will inspire others to also be themselves and to take up the fight, because “being out and proud is not a cliché,” he said. “It’s a call to action.”

“Everyone can make a contribution, even if that contribution is to be yourself and use whatever influence you have to make the world and workplace more inclusive, more diverse, and more welcoming for everyone.”

Meet more Microsoft employees who are changing hearts and minds and advancing human rights.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/topic/pride/

See how Microsoft is celebrating Pride 2018 and how you an be an ally.
https://www.microsoft.com/pride

Learn how Microsoft and its LGBTQ+ employees push for change across borders.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/pride/

Developers set to build AI for Accessibility apps

Software developers have responded favorably to Microsoft’s push for responsible computing and the ethical use of artificial intelligence technology.

The AI for Accessibility program is a $25 million, five-year effort to promote the development of AI applications for more than one billion people with disabilities worldwide. It consists of grants and investments for developers who create innovative AI apps for the disabled to run on the Microsoft Azure cloud.

“Just like with good user experience and UI, we need good AI,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in his keynote speech at the recent Microsoft Build conference. “We need to make this a first-class engineering discipline where the choices that we make can be good choices for our future.”

AI apps to improve lives

Microsoft hopes the AI for Accessibility program will generate applications that use AI to help blind, deaf or autistic people better communicate. At Build, Microsoft demonstrated how a deaf employee could better participate in meetings with the real-time transcription capabilities enabled by the company’s AI services. Other Microsoft technologies that could help developers build accessibility apps include the Microsoft Bot Framework, Microsoft Conversational AI tools, cognitive services in Azure Search and prebuilt models for speech, text and computer vision.

Rocky Lhotka, MagenicRocky Lhotka

Magenic, a software development shop in St. Louis Park, Minn., wants to build apps with AI to improve the lives of users, and includes those with disabilities, said Rockford “Rocky” Lhotka, Magenic’s CTO.

“Sometimes [our] software is fairly run-of-the-mill business software. Sometimes it is part of a solution that has direct impact on making people’s lives better in big or small ways,” he said. “When you get to work on a project that makes people’s lives better, that’s amazingly rewarding.”

Lhotka has a personal interest in this initiative. Two years ago he underwent a surgical procedure with what doctors told him was a 15% chance he’d be partially paralyzed. Fortunately, that did not happen, but it got him to think about how technology and software can be an equalizer in life.

“Something like partial paralysis often ends people’s lives as they know them,” he said. “With technology, though, there’s the very real possibility of people with severe medical conditions living life at a level they never could without those technologies.”

I want InterKnowlogy to stop building software for the company that is killing the world with cheeseburgers and start building more software that helps humanity … but I have to keep the lights on with ‘normal’ work.
Tim Huckabyfounder and chairman, InterKnowlogy

By providing seed grants to many people, the Microsoft program creates opportunities for new projects, devices and services that might not have otherwise been created.

“These technologies can be transformed to help solve general accessibility, transportation, communication problems and more,” said Kathleen Walch, an analyst at Cognilytica in Ellicott City, Md. She cited the impact of smart assistants to help those with hearing impairments communicate, and self-driving cars that one day will help transport the visually impaired.

New tools, support and therapies, such as a virtual assistant nurse, will help people with mental health conditions, and help doctors better diagnose and treat those patients.

InterKnowlogy, a software company in Carlsbad, Calif., also plans to develop AI apps for accessibility. In fact, AI for Accessibility just ought to be a $250 million program, said Tim Huckaby, founder and chairman of the company.

“I’d be willing to pivot the InterKnowlogy business to this if I could keep the lights on doing it,” Huckaby said. “I want InterKnowlogy to stop building software for the company that is killing the world with cheeseburgers and start building more software that helps humanity. We have done ‘projects of ethics’ for years. But, I have to keep the lights on with ‘normal’ work.”

Is AI ready for accessibility?

However, observers question whether the technology is mature enough to affect real change or whether it can only offer incremental help.

“So much of the AI-driven technology that Satya highlighted is going to radically transform the lives of so many people,” said Theresa Lanowitz, an analyst at Voke in Minden, Nev. “However, it will take a decade or more to create the technology, prove it beyond demos, and vet and test it across multiple regulatory agencies.”

When we see critical mass of use and the price drops, it will be earth-shattering, she said. “Until then, we just have to wait.”