Microsoft Monday: WannaCry Ransomware, Fall Creators Update, Build 2017 Conference Announcements – Forbes

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opens the annual Build Conference in Seattle on May 10, 2017  (Photo credit GLENN CHAPMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Microsoft Monday is a weekly column that focuses on updates in regards to the Redmond giant. This week, Microsoft Monday includes details from the Build conference, the patching of a major Windows vulnerability, support for the original version of Windows 10 ending, Paul Allen’s plan to help protect elephants, a holographic Cortana appliance, the “WannaCrypt” ransomware attack and much more!

Satya Nadella Discusses Importance Of Preventing Dystopian Scenarios

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opened up the Build conference with a 1984-themed speech. According to Mashable, he started off by saying “with great technology comes great responsibility.”

“I do believe it’s up to us to ensure that some of the more dystopian scenarios don’t come true,” added Nadella. “Building trust in technology is crucial. It starts with us taking accountability for the algorithms we make, the experiences we create, and ensuring there is more trust in technology with each day.”

Microsoft Announces The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

The next major update to Windows 10 is being called the “Fall Creators Update,” which will be released in September 2017. As you may have noticed, this is the same naming convention that Microsoft previously used. The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update emphasizes on bringing the Windows experience to iOS and Android devices. Four of the new features being added to the Fall Creators Update include: Timeline, Pick Up Where You Left Off, Clipboard and OneDrive Files On-Demand.

The Timeline feature shows a list of apps and workspaces that you were using in other devices within the Task View area. And the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update has a Pick Up Where You Left Off option that allows you to resume sessions on multiple devices including iOS and Android. The cloud clipboard feature works across iOS, Android and Windows where users can copy content from a PC and paste it on a phone back-and-forth. And Microsoft OneDrive Files On-Demand allows users to quickly grab files from OneDrive without needing to sync them or download folders. This helps users preserve storage space on a device.

The Fall Creators Update also has a new Fluent Design (previously known as Project Neon). And the Microsoft Fall Creators Update includes a visual “Timeline,” which shows users what they were working on at different times. And from there, users will be able to pull documents, apps and websites.

Windows Story Remix

Microsoft has introduced a new Universal Windows 10 app called Windows Story Remix. The app automatically combines photos and videos to create video collages complete with royalty-free music. Story Remix also supports 3D motion tracking. Here is a video demo of how it works:

iTunes/Apple Music And Linux Is Coming To The Windows Store

As you may remember from last week, the Windows 10 S operating system will only allow apps downloaded from the Windows Store to run. This means that the Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome browsers cannot be used on Windows 10 S. And Bing will be the default search engine provider, which cannot be changed.

Interestingly, Apple will be adding iTunes/Apple Music to the Windows Store. And three versions of the Linux operating system will also be added to the Windows Store, including Ubuntu, Suse and Fedora. iTunes is not a surprise, but how the times have changed when it comes to seeing Linux being offered as a download on the Windows Store!

Microsoft Windows 10 Hits 500 Million Monthly Active Users

Microsoft has announced that it has hit 500 million monthly active users on Windows 10. This is up from 400 million as of September 2016.

This also means that Microsoft is halfway to reaching its goal in hitting 1 billion Windows 10-based devices by 2018. Even though the growth rate of Windows 10 seems to be slowing down since the time it was first introduced, Microsoft has been aggressively introducing new hardware like the Surface Studio, the Surface Book and the Surface Laptop with its latest operating system preinstalled.

Microsoft Cortana Hits 145 Million Users And Gets New Skills

Microsoft has announced that Cortana has hit over 145 million users and now the digital assistant has a new set of skills. Skills are essentially commands that the Cortana digital assistatn is able to follow, which can be created by third party developers the Cortana Skills Kit. Last week, Microsoft opened up the Cortana Skills Kit for public preview so that any developer can now access it.

New skills that have been added to Cortana includes Dark Sky and Domino’s Pizza. The Dark Sky skill allows you to ask Cortana weather-related queries. And the Domino’s skill on Cortana allows you to order pizza through the Cortana digital assistant (account required). Some of the other apps that utilize Cortana skills include OpenTable, Food Network, iHeartRadio and OpenTable.

These skills work on Cortana for Windows, iOS and Android. And it also works on the new Cortana-powered smart-home speaker called Invoke. Other manufacturers are planning to build smart-home speakers powered by Cortana in the near future as well.

Microsoft Bot Framework Now Being Used By Over 130,000 Developers

Microsoft’s Bot Framework is now being used by over 130,000 developers, up from 45,000 developers as of September 2016. At the Build event, Microsoft also revealed a number of new features for the Bot framework such as the ability to make payments inside bots and a way to publish bots to Skype for Business, Bing and Cortana. And Microsoft introduced Adaptive Cards, which allows cards presented in bots to be used in multiple apps.

29 Cognitive Services Are Now Available

Microsoft said that it now offers 29 Cognitive Services for developers to use in its apps. All of these Cognitive Services makes it easy to tap into artificial intelligence with only a few lines of code. Four of the newest Cognitive Services are Bing Custom Search, Custom Vision Service, Custom Decision Service and Video Indexer. And developers will be able to contribute to the Cognitive Services through a new Labs program.

Microsoft Emma Watch Helps People With Parkinson’s Deal With Tremors

Microsoft Research Innovation Director Haiyan Zhang spent around six months prototyping a wearable device that would help her graphic designer friend Emma Lawton. Lawton was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013. The device that Zhang prototyped is now known as the Emma Watch, which sends vibrations to get Lawton’s brain to focus on her right wrist. And this reduces the extra signals that cause muscle tremors.

“It’s still a surprise to me when my handwriting comes out the other side of it,” said Lawton via the Microsoft blog. “The device doesn’t stop my tremor. It gives me some control there. The writing, it’s not going to be perfect. But, my God, it’s better.”

The Emma Watch connects to a Windows 10 tablet, which controls the vibration speed. Through the app, rhythmic vibrations and random rhythms can be set up.

“I’ve been chatting with Emma, Parkinson’s researchers and experts to put together a deeper piece of research on how AI and wearables can better support people with Parkinson’s to manage their symptoms and medication intake,” added Zhang. “This would be an extension of the original Emma Watch project but could be quite an impactful piece of work. At the moment, it’s still only in the proposal stage.”

Microsoft Presentation Translator Can Now Translate Presentations In Real Time

Microsoft also showed a preview of an add-in for PowerPoint known as the Presentation Translator. The Presentation Translator automatically translates the text of a PowerPoint presentation in real-time without changing the original formatting. Currently, the service supports Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. And this add-in can be used to caption presentations for audience members that are deaf or have a hard time hearing. Currently, the Presentation Translator is in closed preview, but you can sign up for early access.

Microsoft Announces Azure Cosmos DB

At the Build developer conference, Microsoft announced the Azure Cosmos DB. Azure Cosmos DB is a globally distributed multi-model database that allows users to elastically scale throughput and storage across any number of Azure’s geographic regions. Azure Cosmos DB allows you to choose between five consistency models including strong, bounded staleness, session, consistent prefix and eventual. The retailer is already using Azure Cosmos DB.

“It offers throughput, latency, availability, and consistency guarantees with comprehensive service level agreements (SLAs), something no other database service can offer,” says Microsoft in a blog post. “Azure Cosmos DB is the next big leap in the evolution of DocumentDB and we are now making it available for you to use. As a part of this release of Azure Cosmos DB, DocumentDB customers (with their data) are automatically Azure Cosmos DB customers. The transition is seamless and they now have access to a broader range of new capabilities offered by Azure Cosmos DB.”

Microsoft Adds Azure Cloud Shell To Azure Portal

Microsoft also announced a new Azure Cloud Shell feature for the Azure Portal, which is the dashboard for managing apps that run on Azure. The Azure Cloud Shell adds a full Bash shell to the Azure portal. And support for Microsoft PowerShell will be coming soon. You will also be able to access the shell in the Azure mobile apps.

Microsoft Announces Batch AI Training

Microsoft also announced Azure Batch AI Training at the Build developer conference. What is Azure Batch AI Training? “Azure Batch AI Training is a new Azure offering, available in private preview only, that will allow developers and data scientists to configure an environment with parameters and run their models against multiple CPUs, multiple GPUs and eventually field-programmable gate arrays,” said Microsoft in a press release. According to TechCrunch, Microsoft said Azure Batch AI Training will support frameworks like Google TensorFlow and Microsoft Caffe.

Edge And IE Browser To Block Websites Signed With SHA-1 Certs

Microsoft is going to drop support for HTTPS certificates with the SHA-1 hashing algorithm. And Microsoft will warn users about a security problem on websites that have the SHA-1 hashing algorithm. Google Chrome also dropped support for the SHA-1 hashing algorithm in January followed by Firefox in February and Apple iOS/macOS in March.

Microsoft Maluuba Is Improving AI By Teaching Machines To Ask Informative Questions

One of the best ways to learn something is by asking informative questions. And now Microsoft’s Maluuba team is applying that logic to machine learning. We have become too accustomed to asking Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana questions. But these systems can be improved by asking questions and learning from the answers. Microsoft acquired Maluuba back in January 2017.

Microsoft Launches Azure IoT Edge

At the Build conference, Microsoft announced the launch of the Azure IoT Edge preview. IoT Edge makes it easier for IoT devices to run cloud services closer to the sources of data rather than having to move between data centers. IoT Edge can run on devices with Windows and Linux on devices as small as the Raspberry Pi.

“Azure IoT Edge enables IoT devices to run cloud services, process data in near real-time, and communicate with sensors and other devices connected to them, even with intermittent cloud connectivity. By enabling processing, analytics and action to happen closer to the source of the data, Azure IoT Edge empowers you to make faster and smarter decisions, while reducing bandwidth costs by sending only critical information to the cloud for further analysis. You and your organization can decide what IoT data to capture and send to the cloud by programming your edge device to process data locally. Then, send only the data you need to store and analyze in the cloud. By reducing the amount of data you transmit from device to cloud, you’ll reduce bandwidth costs and costs associated with storing and analyzing data in other business applications—but still benefit from enhanced insights,” wrote Microsoft Partner Director of Azure IoT Sam George in a blog post.


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