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CIOs need an AI infrastructure, but it won’t come easy

CIOs are starting to rethink the infrastructure stack required to support artificial intelligence technologies, according to experts at the Deep Learning Summit in San Francisco. In the past, enterprise architectures coalesced around efficient technology stacks for business processes supported by mainframes, then by minicomputers, client servers, the internet and now cloud computing. But every level of infrastructure is now up for grabs in the rush to take advantage of AI.

“There were well-defined winners that became the default stack around questions like how to run Oracle and what PDP was used for,” said Ashmeet Sidana, founder and managing partner of Engineering Capital, referring to the Programmed Data Processor, an older model of minicomputer

“Now, for the first time, we are seeing that every layer of that stack is up for grabs, from the CPU and GPU all the way up to which frameworks should be used and where to get data from,” said Sidana, who serves as chief engineer of the venture capital firm, based in Menlo Park, Calif.

The stakes are high for building an AI infrastructure — startups, as well as legacy enterprises, could achieve huge advantages by innovating at every level of this emerging stack for AI, according to speakers at the conference.

But the job won’t be easy for CIOs faced with a fast-evolving field where the vendor pecking order is not yet settled, and their technology decisions will have a dramatic impact on software development. An AI infrastructure requires a new development model that requires a more statistical, rather than deterministic, process. On the vendor front, Google’s TensorFlow technology has emerged as an early winner, but it faces production and customization challenges. Making matters more complicated, CIOs also must decide whether to deploy AI infrastructure on private hardware or use the cloud.

New skills required for AI infrastructure

Ashmeet Sidana, chief engineer at  Engineering CapitalAshmeet Sidana

Traditional application development approaches build deterministic apps with well-defined best practices. But AI involves an inherently statistical process. “There is a discomfort in moving from one realm to the other,” Sidana said. Acknowledging this shift and understanding its ramifications will be critical to bringing the enterprise into the machine learning and AI space, he said. 

The biggest ramification is also AI’s dirty little secret: The types of AI that will prove most useful to the enterprise, machine learning and especially deep learning approaches, work great only with great data — both quantity and quality. With algorithms becoming more commoditized, what used to be AI’s major rate-limiting feature — the complexity of developing the software algorithms — is being supplanted by a new hurdle: the complexity of data preparation. “When we have perfect AI algorithms, all the software engineers will become data-preparation engineers,” Sidana said.

Then, there are the all-important platform questions that need to be settled. In theory, CIOs can deploy AI workloads anywhere in the cloud, as cloud providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, to name just some, can provide almost bare-metal GPU machines for the most demanding problems. But conference speakers stressed the reality requires CIOs to carefully analyze their needs and objectives before making a decision.

TensorFlow examined

There are a number of deep learning frameworks, but most are focused on academic research. Google’s is perhaps the most mature framework from a production standpoint, but it still has limitations, AI experts noted at the conference.

Eli David, CTO at Deep InstinctEli David

Eli David, CTO of Deep Instinct, a startup based in Tel Aviv that applies deep learning to cybersecurity, said TensorFlow is a good choice when implementing specific kinds of well-defined workloads like image recognition or speech recognition.

But he cautioned it requires heavy customization for seemingly simple changes like analyzing circular, rather than rectangular, images. “You can do high-level things with the building blocks, but the moment you want to do something a bit different, you cannot do that easily,” David said.

The machine learning platform that Deep Instinct built to improve the detection of cyberthreats by analyzing infrastructure data, for example, was designed to ingest a number of data types that are not well-suited to TensorFlow or existing cloud AI services. As a result, the company built its own deep learning systems on private infrastructure, rather than running it in the cloud.

“I talk to many CIOs that do machine learning in a lab, but have problems in production, because of the inherent inefficiencies in TensorFlow,” David said. He said his team also encountered production issues with implementing deep learning inference algorithms based on TensorFlow on devices with limited memory that require dependencies on external libraries. As more deep learning frameworks are designed for production, rather than just for research environments, he said he expects providers will address these issues.

Separate training from deployment

It is also important for CIOs to make a separation between training and deployment of deep learning algorithms, said Evan Sparks, CEO of San Francisco-based Determined AI, a service for training and deploying deep learning models. The training side often benefits from the latest and fastest GPUs.  Deployments are another matter. “I pushed back on the assumption that deep learning training has to happen in the cloud. A lot of people we talk to eventually realize that cloud GPUs are five to 10 times more expensive than buying them on premise,” Sparks said.

Deployment targets can include web services, mobile devices or autonomous cars. The latter may have power, processing efficiency and latency issues that may be critical and might not be able to depend on a network. “I think when you see friction when moving from research to deployment, it is as much about the researchers not designing for deployment as limitations in the tools,” Sparks said. 

Moving to a new home…

This is the last blog post that I am going to write as Virtual PC Guy. But do not fear, I am starting a new blog over at american-boffin.com, and all the Virtual PC Guy posts are going to remain intact.

You may wonder why I am making this change?

Well, there are several reasons.

  • It’s been a long time. I have written 1399 blog posts over 14 years – averaging one new post every other working day. When I started this blog, I had more hair and fewer children.
  • The world has changed. When I started writing as Virtual PC Guy, virtualization was a new and unknown technology. Cloud computing was not even invented yet. It is amazing to think about how far we have come!
  • The scope and impact of my work has drastically increased. When I started blogging, there were a very select group of people who cared about virtualization. Now, between cloud computing, the rise of virtualization and containerization as standard development tools – and the progress we have been making on delivering virtualization based security for all environments – more and more people are affected by my work.
  • I am a manager now. When I started on this blog I was a frontline program manager – and most of my time was spent thinking about and designing technology. I have been a program manager lead for almost a decade now – and while I do still spend a lot of time working with technology – I spend more time working with people.
  • Maintaining multiple blogs is hard. I have tried, from time to time, to start up separate blogs for different parts of my life. But maintaining a blog is a lot of work. Maintaining multiple blogs is just too much work for me.
  • Virtual PC Guy has a very distinctive style. Over the years I have toyed with the idea of switching up the style of Virtual PC Guy – but I have never been able to bring myself to do it.

For all these reasons – I have decided that the best thing to do would be to archive Virtual PC Guy (I have posts that are 10 years old and are still helping people out!) and to start a new blog.

On my new blog – I will still talk about technology – but I will also spend time talking about working with customers, working with people in a corporate environment, and about whatever hobbies I happen to be spending my time on.

I hope you come and join me on my new blog!


Xbox Live Gold Members Can Now Get A Jump Start On Black Friday Savings

Starting today, Xbox Live Gold members can take advantage of great deals on Xbox digital games during the Black Friday Gold Early Access sale. Xbox Live Gold members enjoy an exclusive 4-day head start on Black Friday, with savings up to 65% on Xbox digital games, movies, and TV shows. Plus, Xbox Live Gold members receive up to 10% more in savings on top of existing Black Friday game deals. Gold Early Access lasts until November 20, so now’s a great time to find that perfect gift for yourself, friends, or family.


Xbox One Deals

Please note: actual discounts and availability are subject to change and may vary by region and Xbox Live Account type.
Xbox Live Gold Members save up to 10% more off of the discounted sale price.


Xbox 360 Deals

Please note: actual discounts and availability are subject to change and may vary by region and Xbox Live Account type.
Xbox Live Gold Members save up to 10% more off of the discounted sale price.

Save Up to 65% on More Than 500 Black Friday Deals

This year there are more than 500 Black Friday deals on popular Xbox games and add-ons including Call of Duty: WWII Digital Deluxe, Destiny 2 Digital Deluxe, FIFA 18, NBA 2K18, Assassins Creed Origins, and many more. And don’t forget the many Xbox 360 fan favorites on sale, playable on Xbox One via Backward Compatibility, like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Red Dead Redemption, Skate 3, and more.

Save on Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Subscriptions

Not an Xbox Live Gold member? Get Xbox Live Gold for just $1 for your first month and join the greatest community of gamers on the most advanced multiplayer network. Get 2 – 4 free games every month, and save up to 50 – 75% on games for Xbox One from Microsoft Store. Sign in and save before this offer expires on November 27 (online only).

Need even more Black Friday gaming deals? For the first time ever, join Xbox Game Pass for just $1 for the first month and play over 100 great games, from exclusives like Halo, Gears of War and Fable, to critically-acclaimed indie titles like Limbo. Sign in and save before this offer expires on November 27 (online only).

A Better Way to Gift Xbox Games

Skip the holiday lines this year and give the gift of great games to your friends and family. Now you can gift select Xbox One games and downloadable game content as well as Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass subscriptions, right from Microsoft Store on your Xbox console, on Windows, or online. Limitations apply. See here for Terms and Conditions.

Black Friday deals will be available to everyone starting November 21, so check out Xbox.com to take advantage of these great deals before they end on November 27, 2017.


Play Madden NFL 18 Free This Weekend on Xbox One

The spectacle of Madden season is in full swing, and the virtual gridiron awaits you this week. Starting Thursday, October 19 at 9:00 p.m. PDT and going through to Sunday, October 22 at 11:59 p.m. PDT, you’ll be able to get hands on with the best-looking Madden NFL ever.

All Xbox players will have a chance to try the offline features of the latest edition of the storied franchise, including Longshot, Madden NFL’s first ever cinematic and playable story mode where your decisions lead forgotten prospect Devin Wade on his pursuit to hear his name called in the NFL Draft.

Madden NFL 18 Screenshot

Xbox Live Gold members can team-up with their friends to play Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) Squads online for 3 vs. 3 match-ups. Or even relive some of the best weekly games from the NFL in Madden 18’s Play Now Live feature. This allows you to use live updates containing the latest rosters, custom commentary, and up-to-date stats from NFL.com.

During the free trial weekend, Madden NFL 18 will also be on sale for 33% off, enabling you to carry over all your progress earned in the trial. So, grab a copy and see if you have what it takes to rule the gridiron!

In addition to the Madden 18 trial, this weekend marks the first head-to-head championship in the Madden Competitive Gaming Series, as four online contenders go head-to-head against four challenger event winners for the right to be crowned the Madden 18 Classic Champion. It’s high stakes with $100,000 prize purse at play. You can tune-in and catch the Madden Classic Live from Burbank this weekend on Mixer starting Friday, October 20 at 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. PT with finals on Saturday, October 21 from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. PT.

Microsoft Azure allies with nearForm for Node.js Developer Migration and Support Services

At Node.js Interactive 2017, starting tomorrow in Vancouver, BC, nearForm and Microsoft are announcing a new alliance to help customers migrate Node.js apps to Azure, and provide enterprise-grade support for them. By partnering with nearForm we are now bringing their multi-year expertise in architecting, designing and supporting Node.js apps to developers as they adopt Azure and build on top of our cloud.

Every day, more and more Node.js developers choose to build and deploy on top of Azure, and Microsoft continues in its commitment to make investments in the area. The recent announcements of Azure App Service on Linux and Azure Web App for Containers, combined with support for Node.js across Azure Functions, Azure Container Service and pre-provisioned VM images, provide developers a great range of choices to host their Node.js apps and services across several cloud compute models offered by Azure.

nearForm Migration and Developer Support Services

nearForm is recognized as a leader in architecting and developing full-stack JavaScript solutions. With world-class teams of software architects, designers, developers, DevOps engineers and open source tooling experts, nearForm takes its clients worldwide through a current-architecture review workshop to a fully deployed high-performance new stack on Azure in a short amount of time.

As part of the alliance, Microsoft and nearForm are announcing today the nearForm Migration and Developer Support services, which enables customers to confidently move to the cloud with Node.js on Azure. Beyond the migration of technology, nearForm can help businesses migrate to offering new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) capabilities: the nearForm design sprint is an intensive engagement which enables customers to generate a prototype of new business ideas in just five days. Customers can then work with nearForm’s Solutions teams to turn the prototype into a production system.

nearForm’s Developer Support service ensures that teams have direct access to the most knowledgeable Node.js developers in the industry, including Node.js Core contributors. This level of expertise can guide customers step-by-step through the process.

Customers interested in the Migration and Developer Services can request a quote from nearForm directly.


Free Node Clinic at Node Interactive 2017

Attendees at Node.js Interactive, in Vancouver from October 4-6, can request a Node Clinic at the event with nearForm’s Node.js experts and Microsoft’s Azure experts, including members of the Node.js Technical Steering Commitee. At each Node Clinic, clients can have a free, one-to-one, twenty-minute session to discuss any issues with their Node.js applications and services.

gamescom 2017: World’s Most Powerful Console Makes European Debut and Kickstarts Global Pre-orders

Today, during Xbox @ gamescom Live, we announced global pre-orders for Xbox One X starting today, with a limited edition, fan-inspired design of the world’s most powerful console that features a custom color and vertical stand and the words “Project Scorpio” printed on the console and Xbox Wireless Controller. Pre-orders are now open and available here. November 7 can’t come soon enough!

We also revealed more details about the most diverse line-up of games coming to the Xbox family of devices, highlighted by the news that over 100 new and existing Xbox One titles will be enhanced for Xbox One X to take advantage of the world’s most powerful console including Halo 5, NBA 2K18, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, ReCore: Definitive Edition, FIFA 18, Star Wars Battlefront II, Below and remastered versions of Disneyland Adventures, Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure and Zoo Tycoon. Head on over to Major Nelson for the full list of games planning enhancements for Xbox One X.

Regardless of what type of gamer you are, there has never been a better time to be Xbox fan.

Custom editions added to the Xbox One Family

Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition

Be the first to experience the Xbox One X designed for the biggest fans — the Project Scorpio Edition featuring a custom color, vertical stand, and “Project Scorpio” printed on both the console and controller. Available to pre-order now, starting at 499 USD / 449 GBP / 499 EUR, while supplies last.

Xbox One S Minecraft Limited Edition Bundle

For the countless enthusiasts who’ve sent us their designs, posted their requests, or simply dreamt of a console built out of grass and dirt blocks – this one’s for you. The Xbox One S Minecraft Limited Edition Bundle (1TB) includes a custom designed grass block console, Xbox Wireless Controller – Minecraft Creeper, Minecraft system sounds, vertical stand and transparent underside with Redstone circuit accents. This exclusive bundle also includes a full game download of Minecraft plus the Redstone Pack, a collection of unique skin packs. Available only in limited quantities, it’s a must-have for avid Minecraft players and collectors. The bundle is available for pre-order now and will be launching in all Xbox One markets, except China and Brazil, on October 3, 2017.

Xbox Minecraft Creeper and Pig Wireless Controllers

Prepare to create, explore, and survive your own Minecraft adventure with two new Xbox Wireless controllers: the Minecraft Pig controller, featuring an adorable pink Pig design – and the Minecraft Creeper controller, with that iconic green Creeper design. Both feature textured grip for enhanced comfort, and ABXY buttons with classic Minecraft font. Play the way you want to play with custom button mapping to personalize your controls and Copilot to play any game with two controllers linked so you can use them as one.  And with Bluetooth technology, you connect your controllers to play wirelessly with your Windows 10 PCs and tablets. Both of these controllers are available for pre-order now, and will be launching in the U.S. at Microsoft Stores and Target on September 5, 2017, and available more broadly beginning September 12, 2017.

Xbox One S Shadow of War Bundles

For those who can’t wait to get their hands-on Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the new Xbox One S Shadow of War Bundles are the best way to do it this October. Each bundle comes with an Xbox One S with either a 500GB or 1TB hard drive, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, an Xbox Wireless Controller, 1-month Xbox Game Pass subscription and 14-day Xbox Live Gold trial.

Xbox Design Lab comes to new countries

We’re thrilled to announce that we’re expanding Xbox Design Lab to over 20 additional European countries starting August 22, 2017.  This extends Xbox Design Lab beyond United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom, France and Germany.  On August 22, fans living in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden will be able to order their custom controllers online through local-language websites.  In addition, the European Union websites above will enable shipping to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Xbox One gets a new look and feel

The Xbox One family will receive a big update with a new look and feel later this fall – available now in preview – designed to make the Xbox gaming experience more personalized and social than ever. Now, you can customize your Xbox One Home to be uniquely yours and view all the content you love at-a-glance! Further details about what’s next for gamers on Xbox are available here.

One of our largest, most diverse games line-ups at gamescom 2017

During Xbox @ gamescom Live, we showcased one of our largest, most diverse line-up of games from developers around the world and highlighted our commitment to delivering amazing games and experiences for gamers on both console and Windows 10 PCs.

PlayerUnknown himself, Brendan Greene, joined the Xbox @ gamescom Live event to discuss the epic Battle Royale title that is coming exclusively to Xbox One in the Xbox Game Preview program later this year and to announce that the game will be published by Microsoft on Xbox One.  As an expansion of the partnership announced at E3, this collaboration will help Bluehole accelerate console development while maintaining quality across platforms and provide resources ranging from technical to sales and marketing.  For those that don’t know, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has seen runaway success in Early Access on PC and is a tactical, last-man-standing shooter being developed with community feedback where players must fight to locate weapons and supplies in a massive 8×8 km island to be the lone survivor.

We are proud to have great games coming to PC, including Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, Forza Motorsport 7, Crackdown 3, charming platformer Super Lucky’s Tale and cross-play between Xbox and PC on fan favorite Sea of Thieves. We are bringing more features and games to PC gamers around the world including things like Mixer broadcasting, updates to Game Mode, Game Bar and added support for HDR screenshots.

Xbox Game Pass

Building on the momentum from our new gaming membership, Xbox Game Pass, which gives you unlimited access to over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games – for one low monthly price, all in full fidelity, without any streaming or connectivity issues, we’re bringing Game Pass to eight new countries: Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey and UAE. Next month we will also add seven new titles including ReCore: Definitive Edition. It will also be available as a digital and retail purchase as well as a free upgrade to existing ReCore players.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

Journey into Ancient Egypt, the most mysterious place in history, during a crucial period that will shape the world. Discover the secrets behind the Great Pyramids, forgotten myths, the last pharaohs, and the origin story of the Assassin’s Brotherhood. For the last four years, the team behind Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag has been crafting a new beginning for the franchise. Fight in a completely new way where you transition seamlessly between unique ranged and melee weapons, and take on multiple enemies at once. Choose your Assassin skills while exploring the full country of Ancient Egypt, engaging in multiple quests and gripping stories along a journey that will change civilization. Available across the Xbox One family of devices starting October 27, 2017 and as an Xbox One X enhanced title alongside the console’s launch on November 7, 2017.

Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare

Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare is a full expansion coming to Halo Wars 2, featuring a new campaign with Blur cinematics, exclusive new multiplayer Leaders, new maps playable across Halo Wars 2 classic multiplayer and Terminus Firefight – a unique game mode in the expansion set on a dynamic map where players build bases and armies to defend against waves of enemy forces. Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare releases on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC on September 26 and as an Xbox One X enhanced title with 4K and HDR support on November 7.

Halo 5: Guardians

Announced earlier this year, Halo 5: Guardians returns as an Xbox One X enhanced title with 4K support and is set for release this holiday.

ReCore: Definitive Edition

ReCore: Definitive Edition lets players experience the game’s mysterious and dynamic world with enhanced visuals (increased resolution and HDR), a brand-new adventure, and the long-awaited T8-NK Corebot who joins Joule, Mack, Seth, Duncan, and Violet as they explore new environments and dungeons while battling the deadly Obsidian Cult. The game will be available next week, on August 29, and the enhancements and additional content will be provided as a free content update for current owners of original ReCore release. New players can download the ReCore: Definitive Edition within their Xbox Game Pass membership or purchase it for $19.99 as an Xbox Play Anywhere game for Xbox One and Windows 10 PC.

Forza Motorsport 7

Forza Motorsport 7 is the first Forza game built from the ground up for Windows 10 PCs. It is the ultimate racing experience with over 700 cars, dynamic skies and weather that are different every time you return to a track, a new career mode inspired by real-world motorsport and support for a wide range of PC configurations and peripherals. Also, for the first time ever, fans who want to test drive Forza Motorsport 7 on Windows 10 PCs can play the demo ahead of the game’s release. Forza Motorsport 7 is available for pre-order on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs as an Xbox Play Anywhere title, releasing globally on September 29 for Ultimate Edition with Early Access and October 3 for Deluxe and Standard Editions. Stay tuned to Xbox Wire and ForzaMotorsport.net for additional details on Forza Motorsport 7 demo in the coming weeks.

State of Decay 2

We’re taking a deeper look at how State of Decay 2 is bigger, badder and bolder than the previous game. The number one ask from fans was to bring four player co-op multiplayer, and that’s exactly what we did. State of Decay 2 features cross-platform co-op, where you and up to three of your friends can survive together regardless of which platform you prefer to play on.

Jurassic World Evolution

During today’s livestream Frontier Developments debuted their newest title Jurassic World Evolution, launching in summer 2018. Jurassic World Evolution places players in control of operations on the legendary island of Isla Nublar and the surrounding islands of the Muertes Archipelago and challenges players to build their own Jurassic World as they bioengineer new dinosaur breeds, and construct attractions, containment and research facilities. Every choice leads to a different path and spectacular challenges will arise when “life finds a way.” Find out more at https://www.jurassicworldevolutiongame.com.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Coming to Xbox One as a console launch exclusive in Xbox Game Preview later this year, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a tactical, last-man-standing shooter being developed with community feedback where players must fight to locate weapons and supplies in a massive 8×8 km island to be the lone survivor.

Sea of Thieves

With Sea of Thieves, we are extremely excited to show off cross-play for the first time, showing that Sea of Thieves is a game that brings players together, regardless of device. Alongside this, we’re delivering the PC experience our players expect, with the game playable in 21:9 and 4K and 60FPS on the show floor.

Since the Insider Program launched, players on both PC and console have shared valuable feedback that has already helped shape Sea of Thieves. Join the Insider Program for a chance to play the Technical Alpha and shape the game into the pirate game you’ve always wanted on Windows 10 PCs and Xbox One.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Wield a new Ring of Power and confront the deadliest of enemies, including Sauron and his Nazgul, in a monumental battle for Middle-earth. This open-world action RPG is brought to life through the expansion of the award-winning Nemesis System. The robust personalization from Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is now applied to the entire world where the environments and characters are all shaped by player actions and decisions, creating a personal world unique to every gameplay experience. Available as an Xbox Play Anywhere title across the Xbox One family of devices and Windows 10 starting October 10, 2017 and as an Xbox One X enhanced title alongside the console’s launch on November 7, 2017.


Available (finally) beginning September 29, 2017, as an Xbox Play Anywhere title, Cuphead is a classic run-and-gun action game heavily focused on boss battles. Inspired by cartoons of the 1930s, the visuals and audio are painstakingly created with the same techniques of the era, i.e., traditional hand-drawn cel animation, watercolor backgrounds and original jazz recordings. Play as Cuphead or Mugman (in single-player or local co-op) as you traverse strange worlds, acquire new weapons, learn powerful supermoves and discover hidden secrets while you try to pay back your debt to the devil!

Surviving Mars

Haemimont Games and Paradox Interactive debuted their first gameplay trailer for their upcoming management and survival game, Surviving Mars. In Surviving Mars, players will experience the wonder and danger of the red planet. From Landing your first rocket to building up a bustling metropolis of domes that house your first colony. Tackle the dangers of life support with the help of drones, survive meteor storms and discover mysteries. Welcome to life on Mars.

Disneyland Adventures

Experience the magic of Disneyland Park like never before. Take a journey where stories come to life and dreams come true, right in your living room. Disneyland Adventures allows children, families and Disney fans of all ages to explore Disneyland Park, step into adventures based on attractions, engage in challenging quests and interact with beloved Disney characters, remastered in 4K Ultra HD and HDR.

Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure 

Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure invites families and fans of all ages to experience the worlds of six beloved Disney-Pixar films like never before. Team up with characters from “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “Up,” “Cars,” “Toy Story,” and “Finding Dory” to solve puzzles and uncover hidden secrets, all remastered in 4K Ultra HD and HDR.

Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection 

Let your imagination run wild with Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection, now remastered in 4K Ultra HD and HDR. Build, manage, and maintain your dream zoo alone or with up to four players on Xbox Live. This zoo simulation will charm animal lovers of all ages.

Super Lucky’s Tale

Developed by Playful Corp., Super Lucky’s Tale is a delightful, playground platformer for all ages that follows Lucky, the ever-optimistic, energetic, and lovable hero, on his quest to find his inner strength and help his sister rescue the Book of Ages. Along the way, players encounter a hilarious supporting cast of friends and adversaries. Available on November 7, Super Lucky’s Tale will deliver a state-of-the-art gaming experience on the Xbox One family of devices and Windows 10 PCs and supports Xbox Play Anywhere.

For additional news, highlights, exclusive reveals and a behind-the-scenes look at some of your favorite games throughout the week of gamescom, check out news.xbox.com and be sure to tune in Monday, August 21, starting at 9:00pm CEST, 12:00pm PDT, for Age of Empires @ gamescom Live, streaming across all of our usual channels.

Hello, desktops. Meet Skype Preview

Starting today, the next generation of Skype is available in preview on desktop computers. It’s not yet complete and we need your feedback. We’re committed to providing a Skype experience you love, enhancing the way you talk, text, and experience the world—all from the comfort of your desktop.

For Mac and non-Windows 10 PC* users, Skype Preview delivers most of the great features of our next generation mobile experience but is specifically designed with desktop in mind, to take full advantage of the larger screen. Skype Preview puts chat front and center—making this the most expressive Skype ever. Group chats are livelier with new features that improve your connection with friends and family. You can also do more together in group calls, with real-time screen and photo sharing.

Animated image of a chat showing how to use the emojis to respond to a comment and to like a photo that was shared in the conversation.

We’re also previewing some features to make you more productive on your desktop. Try them out, let us know what you think, and share any ideas on how we can make them better.

  • @mentions, message reactions and a new notification panel—Stay on top of your day with help from the notification panel. Quickly jump back into conversations where you were @mentioned to see how people reacted to what you’ve said.

Image of a Skype group chat with notification panel displaying the list @mentions and reactions associated with the chat.

  • New chat media gallery—Finding shared content—such as links, documents, or media—in a chat has never been easier with the chat gallery.

Image of a chat where the Gallery pane is displayed showing an Excel workbook and a photo that has been shared in the conversation.

  • Enhanced group calls—Customize your group call experience with drag and drop ease. Say it with an emoji using our new in-call reactions, too!

Image of a group call showing how the in-call emoji can be used.

If you’re using Skype for Windows 10, great news! We’ve already started rolling out some of these features. To learn more, check out the Windows blog.

Skype brings people together to experience more every day and make life a little simpler and more convenient. Start experiencing it for yourself by downloading Skype Preview for non-Windows 10 PCs and Macs today at Skype Insider. Skype Preview will install alongside Skype classic, making it easy to switch back if needed. However, we recommend running one instance of Skype at a time so that you don’t get duplicate notifications for messages or calls.

Since this is a preview, it’s critical that we hear from you; simply click the heart on the menu and send us your thoughts. Or, tell us what you think in our Community. To learn more about the new Skype, visit the Skype.com feature page. For questions, please visit the FAQs.

*Windows 10 version 1511 (OS Build 10586) and older.

Indie Up! The First Wave of Creators Program Games Are Available Now

Back in March, we unveiled the Xbox Live Creators Program. Starting today, I’m excited to announce that any developer can directly publish their games to Xbox One and Windows 10. And, the first wave of games from the Creators Program are live right now for everyone on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs! This is an important step for Team Xbox as we continue to deliver a large and diverse lineup of games from creators big and small from around the world.

I’d like to tell you a little bit about the Creators Program, what it means for games to be available in the Creators Collection, why developers should signup, what gamers can expect, and look at some of the first games available starting today.

First, what is the Creators Program? Xbox empowers game developers large and small to create different types of games for every type of players. It’s all about offering a diverse range of games, and this program has that for sure! The Creators Program was established to enable developers to directly publish their games – any of their games – to Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs, with a simplified certification process and no concept approval required.

Developers that publish through the Creators Program have the freedom and independence to develop games that are truly unique, resulting in a collection with games that can be quirky and have varying degrees of polish, but are always interesting.

Here’s a quick look at the first titles that will be available via the program:

  • Animal Rivals, Blue Sunset Games: Animal Rivals is an action-packed couch party game for one to four players. Drop into the game and fight for the Animalonia’s throne as one of the furry contenders in different mini-games and locations. Game itself presents a unique art style mixing the cartoonish looks and satire approach. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
  • Block Dropper, Tresiris Games: Block Dropper is a fast paced, arcade style, 3D platformer. Try not to fall as you guide your character through the challenging single player mode or grab a friend to battle head to head in a local multiplayer Block Battle Arena. Tresiris is a small game studio based in Olathe, Kansas, who create fun and simple games with quality as their top priority. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
  • Crystal Brawl, Studio Mercato: Gauntlet meets NBA Jam in Crystal Brawl, a 2v2 capture-the-flag local multiplayer game that melds fast action with MOBA-like strategy. Choose from a variety of characters with different abilities, with a notable twist: each character has a unique ability that alters the terrain. Experiment with different character combinations to uncover hidden strategies! Studio Mercato is an independent game studio based in New York City. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
  • Derelict Fleet, Bionic Pony: Derelict Fleet is a fast-paced space combat game. You are tasked with defending a refugee fleet as you travel the stars searching for a new colony to call home. Bionic Pony is a small indie studio based in Tampa, FL that started making Xbox Live indie games in 2010. (Xbox One)
  • ERMO, Nonostante: ERMO is a relaxing puzzle game featured with a calming and peaceful graphics. Immerse yourself in the landscapes and colors of ERMO and let you be carried away. You will learn the rules in a few seconds, but ERMO will catch you for hours. (Xbox One)
  • GalactiMAX!, ONLYUSEmeFEET: In the vast darkness of space, GalactiMAX has the player shooting aliens for points to pierce the heavens in classic arcade shooter action! As more aliens are defeated, the player’s ship will increase in size and power. How big can this ship get?! (Xbox One, Windows 10)
  • kubic, Pixel Envision Ltd: kubic is a relaxing optical illusion puzzle game based on M.C. Escher’s art, impossible objects and other geometric designs. The object is to construct the goal configuration from a number of pieces. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
  • Space Cat!, GershGamesLLC: Shoot your way past an onslaught of enemies and bosses. Collect weapon upgrades like missiles, bombs, laser beams and much more. GershGamesLLC is a group of young hobbyists that makes for fun on the weekends. (Xbox One, Windows 10)
  • Stereo Aereo, The Stonebot Studio: Stereo Aereo is an action rhythm game that is inspired by the pop-culture influences of the 80’s. You, the player, have to make sure that the mediocre space rockband Stereo Aereo, gets to their life changing concert, on time, in this comic styled sci-fi game. (Xbox One, Windows 10)

Where can you find the games? On Windows 10 the games are in the Games category of the Store. On Xbox One, the games can be found in the Creators Collection, a special section of the Xbox One Store which you can find in the Games section. Why a special section? We think it’s awesome to open up development to anyway with no barriers – no traditional certification, no “concept approval,” and no limitations. But we also listened to feedback from players, parents and developers who let us know they love the curated store experience on Xbox One. This gives us all the best of both worlds: A curated store and a fully open marketplace in the Creators Collection.

For developers, publishing games through the Creators Program is easy. First, you can take advantage of tools you’re already using; like a retail Xbox One console, the free Dev Mode Activation app from the Xbox Store, and game engines like Unity, Construct 2, MonoGame, and Xenko. Second, there are minimal barriers to the program; use a Microsoft Developer account which can cost as little as $20, download the Xbox Live Creators SDK, create your game, and then ship it through a short and simplified certification process. That’s it!

Games published through the Creators Program have access to the full set of social features from Xbox Live, including sign-in and presence, use of your Gamertag, leaderboards, access to your Activity Feed, Game Hubs, Clubs, Party Chat, Game DVR, and broadcasting on Mixer.

As an open program, Creators Program games don’t have access to Achievements, Gamerscore, or internet multiplayer. To access those features, professional developers can go through the ID@Xbox program. Of course, there’s a path for games to move from the Creators Program to ID@Xbox during development (or even after they reach the Store) if a developer decides they want to add Gamerscore, Achievements, or internet multiplayer.

While ID@Xbox was designed for professional game developers who wish to use the full set of Xbox Live features through a full certification process, the Creators Program makes publishing a game accessible to anyone. Whether they’re small or budding studios, hobbyists, makers, teachers and students, or if they’re just learning the ropes – the Creators Program is a simplified way to create and ship games to the Xbox community.

We hope players will enjoy the games in the Creators Collection. You’ll find creative games, some familiar styles, and some brand-new experiences; really, whatever these imaginative developers chose to make. Gamers can expect the Creators Collection on their Xbox One, and the Window Store on their PC, to regularly add new games as developers finish their work. And these are unfiltered games directly from the developers themselves, so your feedback is of course welcomed.

This is just the beginning. We’ll be sure to spotlight more of the diverse array of Creators Program games that catch our eyes right here on Xbox Wire. I can’t wait to see all the games that these developers will create, and of course, I can’t wait to play them. Stay tuned for more, and in the meantime, have fun!