Microsoft Monday: Record-Breaking Charity Donations, Xbox Game Pass, Now Anyone Can Make Xbox Games – Forbes

A Dell laptop computer running Windows 10 (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Microsoft Monday is a weekly column that focuses on updates in regards to the Redmond giant. This week, Microsoft Monday includes details about the Xbox Game Pass, the Xbox Live Creators Program, the warning about unrecognized apps being installed, massive donations given to charities and nonprofits, an investment in Pickit and much more!

Microsoft Introduces Xbox Game Pass

Last week, Microsoft introduced a new service called Xbox Game Pass. Xbox game Pass will be arriving this spring, which gives users unlimited access to more than 100 Xbox One and backward compatible Xbox 360 games for $9.99 per month.

These games have been developed from top publishers like 2K, 505 Games, Capcom, SEGA, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and many more. Microsoft said that some of the games that will be available at launch include Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16 and SoulCalibur II.

Through Game Pass, you can download full titles to your Xbox One so that you don’t have to worry about streaming and bandwidth issues. And all of the Xbox One games available in the catalog along with the add-ons will have exclusive discounts for Xbox Game Pass members. And new games will be cycled into the subscription every month.

Before the Xbox Game Pass launches in the spring, Microsoft will be testing it with select members of the Xbox Insider Program in the Alpha Preview ring.

Now Anyone Can Publish Xbox Games Through Xbox Live Creators Program

Last week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced a new program called the Xbox Live Creators Program — which allows “anyone to rapidly publish Xbox Live-enabled games on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs, in a totally open way.”

Through the Xbox Live Creators Program, anyone can integrate Xbox Live sign-in, presence and social features in UWP games and publish games to Xbox One and Windows 10. This new program is especially beneficial for indie developers and teams. Previously, developers had to be part of an established game company or get accepted into the ID@Xbox indie game program, according to The Verge.

“With the Creators Program, anyone can integrate Xbox Live sign-in, presence, and social features into their UWP games, then publish their game to Xbox One and Windows 10. This means their title can see exposure to every Xbox One owner across the Xbox One family of devices, including Project Scorpio this holiday, as well as hundreds of millions of Windows 10 PCs, and millions of folks using the Xbox app on mobile platforms,” said Microsoft in a blog post.

Microsoft Is Going To Bring Mixed-Reality Content To Xbox One Devices In 2018

Along with announcing the Xbox Live Creators Program at GDC, Microsoft said it would be bringing mixed-reality content to the Xbox One family of devices including Project Scorpio in 2018.

During the event, Microsoft also introduced a developer edition of the Acer Windows “Mixed Reality” headset. These headsets will start shipping to developers later this month. The Acer Windows “Mixed Reality” headset has two high-resolution displays at 1440 x 1440 with a display refresh rate of up to 90 hertz. There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack, HDMI 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports. It will start shipping this holiday season.

Microsoft To Start Warning Users About Apps Being Installed That Isn’t From The Windows Store

Microsoft is testing a new feature that warns users from installing desktop apps that were downloaded outside of the Windows Store, according to MSPowerUser. The warning says “The app you’re installing isn’t from the Windows Store. Limiting installations to apps from the Store helps keep your PC safe and reliable.” Then users are presented with two options: “Install anyway” and “See more in Store.”

Currently, this feature is disabled by default, but you can enable it again by going to the Apps and Features category within Settings. There is also an option to only allow apps from the Store only.

Outlook 2016 For Mac Adds Support For Google Calendar And Contacts

In a blog post, the Outlook Team announced that Outlook 2016 for the Mac now has support for Google Calendar and Contacts. This feature was already on the Outlook apps for iOS and Android so it seemed inevitable that Microsoft would add it to the Mac version as well. This feature is available for the Office Insider Fast users first and then it will be rolled out to everyone else by the end of the year.

“Outlook for Mac has long supported connecting to and managing your Gmail. With these updates, Outlook will now also sync your Google calendars and contacts. The experience will be very similar to what you are familiar with in Outlook today, with support for all the core actions—such as add, delete, edit time and location. All changes will update back and forth with Gmail or Outlook for iOS and Android, so everything is in sync across all your devices,” said Microsoft in the blog post. “Up to now, many of Outlook’s best and most advanced email features have only been available to those with an Outlook.com, Office 365 or Exchange email address. With these updates, you will also be able to take advantage of several of Outlook’s advanced features with your Gmail account, including Focused Inbox and richer experiences for travel reservations and package deliveries. Additional advanced features will become available as we roll these updates out more broadly.”

Microsoft Philanthropies’ Provided Massive Donations To Nonprofits And Schools In 2016

According to GeekWire, Microsoft employees broke its record again last year by donating $142 million to approximately 19,000 charities through the Microsoft Philanthropies program. This is a 14% increase over the previous year. The donation program started in 1983 and $17,000 was raised at that time. About $1.5 billion was given to charities since then.

“Technology has the power to uplift, to connect, and perhaps most important, to save lives,” said Microsoft Philanthropies corporate VP and lead Mary Snapp. “Together with our grantees, partners and employees around the world, Microsoft Philanthropies is using the power of technology to help those impacted by some of the world’s biggest challenges, including economic disruption, inequality, disasters, war and famine.”

Microsoft Philanthropies actually formed last year. As part of the launch, it included a three-year initiative to donate $1 billion in cloud computing resources to nonprofits and schools. In total, Microsoft and its employees donated $650 million to charities last year. As part of the program, Microsoft donates $25 per hour of time volunteered to the charity and employee donations are matched up to $15,000 annually.

Microsoft Ventures Invests In Pickit

Microsoft Ventures has invested in a Swedish image startup called Pickit. Pickit has raised $4.6 million in Series A funding. Pickit provides an image service that offers curated content and corporate assets to 1.2 billion Office users. Pickit aggregates this content its own photographer community and from many image providers.

“Seamless management of photo content across different products is becoming increasingly important. Pickit’s offering and their strong team are already helping Microsoft Office users increase their productivity by streamlining what was a cumbersome and time-consuming process. We can’t wait to see what they do next,” said Microsoft Ventures Corporate Vice President Nagraj Kashyap in a statement.

Bill Gates Revealed What Happened The Early Rivalry Between Apple And Microsoft

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were friends and rivals for more than 30 years. Both of them were responsible for revolutionizing the  PC industry. In 1988, Apple filed a lawsuit against Microsoft to prevent Microsoft from implementing a graphical user interface into PCs that was similar to Apple’s Macintosh operating system. That lawsuit went on for about four years. And Xerox filed a lawsuit against Apple in 1990 and claimed that the screen display of the Macintosh computer used copyrighted technology that Xerox had created in its Star computer back in 1981.

And last week, Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates participated in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session where he revealed his take on the story. There were more than 17,000 comments written during the AMA session. Interestingly, Reddit user HalesOwnShrek asked Gates: “Did you copy Steve Jobs or did he copy you?”

Gates responded with: “The main ‘copying’ that went on relative to Steve and me is that we both benefited from the work that Xerox Parc did in creating graphical interface – it wasn’t just them but they did the best work. Steve hired Bob Belville, I hired Charles Simonyi. We didn’t violate any IP rights Xerox had but their work showed the way that led to the Mac and Windows.”

Minecraft Hits 122M Units Sold

Mojang, the game development company that Microsoft acquired for $2.5 billion, has announced that its flagship game Minecraft has hit 122 million units sold. This is 22 million units more than the 100 million milestone that was announced in June. But another accomplishment Mojang announced is that it is hitting 55 million individual players per month.

Microsoft Settles Class-Action Lawsuit Due To Misprinted Store Receipts

Microsoft will be settling a class-action lawsuit by paying $1.2 million over an accusation that receipts provided by Microsoft Stores contained too much information about customer payment information, according to The RegisterThe lawsuit was filed in 2015 in the Southern Florida US District Court by Carlos Guarisma. Guarisma said that the Microsoft Store in Aventura, Florida printed a receipt that violates the 2003 US Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA).

The law states that retailers are permitted to display the last five digits or the expiry date of a credit card or debit card on the receipt. However, Guarisma’s receipt from the Microsoft store allegedly showed ten digits. Plus the receipt also included the customer name and identity of the salesperson.

Microsoft agreed to pay out $100 to customers in the U.S. that shopped at a Microsoft Store with a credit or debit card between November 2013 and February 24, 2017. And as the lead complainant, Guarisma will receive $10,000.

“This was a technical bug that we fixed immediately when it was brought to our attention,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. “We’re pleased this matter is resolved and are committed to protecting our customers.”

Microsoft To Discontinue Skype WiFi

Microsoft has confirmed that the Skype WiFi service will be discontinued starting March 31st. The Skype team said that the service is being shut down so the team can focus on “core Skype features.”

This is what Skype said in a statement:

From March 31 2017, Skype WiFi will no longer be available. You won’t be able to download the Skype WiFi application, and if you still have Skype WiFi installed after March 31, the application will no longer be able to find and use hotspots.

You can still use your Skype Credit to enjoy Skype’s other features, such as calling mobiles and landlines in many destinations at great rates.

Skype WiFi is a service that allows users to get instant WiFi Internet access using your Skype Credit at more than 1 million WiFi hotspots worldwide. Unfortunately, Skype WiFi will no longer be available after March 31st and the mobile apps will no longer work as a hotspot finder. Anyone that has remaining credit that does not want to use it for other Skype features is recommended to contact customer services.

Microsoft Is Working With Google To Fix A Windows 10 Bug

Back in November, Google’s security division known as Project Zero published a warning about a vulnerability in Windows 10 Edge and Internet Explorer 11 — which could potentially enable hackers to spread malware and crash browsers. Google notified Microsoft about the issue privately on November 25th. And then the bug was publicly disclosed on Monday since Microsoft did not patch it within 90 days, according to Gizmodo.

Google researcher Ivan Fratric decided to hold off on revealing more details until the bug was patched.

“I will not make any further comments on exploitability, at least not until the bug is fixed,” said Fratric in the comments of the warning. “The report has too much info on that as it is (I really didn’t expect this one to miss the deadline).”

The National Vulnerability Database has listed the CVE-2017-0037 bug as one that could allow “remote attackers to execute arbitrary code.” This bug was listed as “high-severity.” Last week, Google researcher Mateusz Jurczyk disclosed another unpatched Microsoft bug that could expose potentially sensitive data stored in computer memory.

Hopefully Microsoft will have fixes for these bugs in a patch that is expected on March 14th. Originally Microsoft was planning to release a patch in February, but it was delayed.

Microsoft Monday includes seven days worth of updates from the Redmond-based software giant. What are your thoughts about the “Microsoft Monday” news from this week? Please leave a comment!

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