Dark Mode on iOS. (Microsoft Photo) Microsoft is doubling down on Dark Mode, bringing the popular option to switch from a white background to a black or grey one to more of its core services. The company says it plans to bring Dark Mode to its entire Microsoft 365 product suite — a combination of Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security. The push begins with an initial rollout today of Dark Mode on Outlook for iOS and Android, as well as Office.com. When the latest update of iOS launches, Microsoft will roll out Dark Mode for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneDrive, Planner, and To-Do on mobile. The addition of Dark Mode across more of the company’s products is all about choice, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Research & Design Jon Friedman wrote in a blog post. “It’s an apt metaphor for why we love Dark Mode: human needs unfold across an equally broad spectrum,” Friedman wrote. “Whether you want to reduce eye strain, improve battery life, or it just has aesthetic appeal, Dark Mode exemplifies our ability to craft simple and powerful Microsoft 365 experiences that give you choice and flexibility.” Welcome to the dark side. in is here. Learn more: — Microsoft 365 (@Microsoft365) Microsoft says it first introduced darker backgrounds back in 2010. It has steadily added Dark Mode to more programs, including major services such as Windows 10, Edge and Office. Jon Friendman. (Microsoft Photo) Dark backgrounds have become popular in recent years, with tech giants promoting the mode as an of new releases. The black backgrounds often look sleeker, and experts have touted health benefits of the setting as well. It’s become common knowledge that . For people who put in late hours, using a dark background instead of a light one reduces the amount of blue light they’re exposed to, leading to a better sleep after work is done, , a partially-sighted computer scientist at Cambridge University in the U.K. There are disadvantages too. It can be tough to see the backgrounds in well-lit rooms or when light reflects off the screen. In the blog post, Microsoft’s Friedman pointed to the 24/7 nature of work and the spread of productivity tools to everyday life as reasons dark backgrounds have become popular. People aren’t just using Microsoft products on their desktop from 9 to 5 anymore. “Our tools are used to keep up to speed on everything from work communication, to personal events that include friends and family, to changes in shared documents,” Friedman wrote. “This often means viewing email, calendars, or files in places where the default white mode may be less suitable, like darkened airplanes, movie theaters, or in bed at night.”
The Google I/O 2019 keynote took place this week, and I bring you a recap of the news, including my thoughts on the newly announced Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL mid-range smartphones in this episode of Geared Up. Will Google’s strategy of shipping a budget phone with one of the best cameras out there pay off? We also talk about the leaked iOS 13 features report from Bloomberg, and we’ve got a lot to talk about here. If you’ve been wondering what can we expect from Apple’s next major software release for the iPhone and iPad, this is what you’ve been waiting for. Google announced new features coming for Google Duplex, and we talk about how the Google Assistant will be able to help you even more in the coming months. Listen to the episode in the player above or subscribe to Geared Up in your favorite podcast app to listen on the go:
Microsoft today a new initiative that combines under a single umbrella all of the company’s gaming-related products for developers like Xbox Live, Azure PlayFab, Direct X, Mixer, Virtual Studio, Simplygon and Azure. That umbrella, , is meant to give game developers, no matter whether they are at a AAA studio or working solo, all the tools they need to develop and then operate their games across devices and platforms. “Game Stack brings together our game development platforms, tools and services like Direct X and Visual Studio, Azure and Playfab into a robust ecosystem that any game developer can use,” said Kareem Choudhry, the corporate vice president for the Microsoft Gaming Cloud. “We view this as a journey that we are just beginning.” It’s worth noting that developers can pick and choose which of the services they want to use. While Azure is part of Game Stack, for example, the overall stack is cloud and device agnostic. Undoubtedly, though, Microsoft hopes that developers will adopt Azure as their preferred cloud. These days, after all, most games feature some online component, even if they aren’t multiplayer games, and developers need a place to store player credentials, telemetry data and other info. One of the core components of Game Stack is , a backend service for building cloud-connected games, which now falls under the Azure family. Microsoft the service early last year and it’s worth noting that it supports all major gaming platforms, ranging from the Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch to iOS, Android, PC and web. With today’s announcement, Microsoft is launching a number of new PlayFab services, too. These include PlayFab Matchmaking, a matchmaking service the company adapted from Xbox Live matchmaking, but that’s now available to all developers and on all devices. This service is now in public preview. In private preview are PlayFab Party, a voice and chat service (also modeled after Xbox Party Chat), PlayFab Game insights for real-time game telemetry, PlayFab Pub Sub for pushing content updates, notifications and more to the game client, and PlayFab User Generated Content for allowing players to safely share content with each other. So while Game Stack may feel more like a branding exercise, it’s clear that PlayFab is where Microsoft is really putting its money as it’s competing with and , both of which have recently put a lot of emphasis on game developers, too. In addition to these announcements, Microsoft also today said that it is bringing an SDK for Xbox Live to iOS and Android devices so developers can integrate that service’s identity and community services into their games on those platforms, too.
(GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy) Microsoft plans to drastically expand the reach of Xbox Live, bringing the online community to iOS and Android devices. , which will let Xbox Live players take their groups, achievements, friends lists, games progress, and more to their smartphones, first surfaced in February. Microsoft confirmed the plan to bring Xbox Live to iOS and Android via a new software development kit ahead of the big Game Developers Conference next week. A GDC session description last month foreshadowed the expansion of Xbox Live, and it also included the Nintendo Switch console as one of the platforms set to become compatible with the service. In a pre-briefing with reporters, Kareem Choudhry, Microsoft corporate vice president of gaming cloud, said he didn’t have anything to announce related to the Switch. He also declined to share any details about compatibility with PlayStation 4 in a briefing with reporters ahead of the conference. The move fits with the tech giant’s larger strategy under CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft has increasingly been seeking to make its apps and services work across a variety of platforms, including those that the company has traditionally considered rivals. This strategy opens Microsoft up to a huge new audience on all kinds of devices. The expansion of Xbox Live extends its reach from the 400 million Xbox and Windows 10 gaming devices, to a couple of billion devices worldwide. The failure of its Windows Phone division left Microsoft without a major presence in the smartphone market, but that hasn’t stopped the company from making significant moves to integrate smartphone and console gaming. Perhaps the biggest of all is , a new initiative being developed to let users play high-powered Xbox games on their smartphones.
Microsoft Photo In a potentially seismic move for the video game industry, Microsoft is preparing to extend Xbox Live compatibility to several additional platforms, including Android and iOS mobile devices and the Nintendo Switch, according to a session description for next month’s 2019 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The session was reported by , and , but it had touted plans to show off a new software development kit “to enable game developers to connect players between iOS, Android, and Switch in addition to Xbox and any game in the Microsoft Store on Windows PCs.” Xbox Live users will be able to “take their gaming achievement history, their friends list, their clubs, and more with them to almost every screen,” the description said. This would extend Xbox Live’s reach from the 400 million Xbox and Windows 10 gaming devices, to a couple of billion devices worldwide. Microsoft declined to confirm or comment on the plans in response to GeekWire’s inquiry. However, such a move would fit with the tech giant’s strategy under CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft has increasingly been seeking to make its apps and services work across a variety of platforms, including those that the company has traditionally considered rivals. The SDK will be discussed at GDC 2019 as part of a session hosted by Team Xbox’s Jeffrey Shi and Ramsey Khadder, “.” The idea as proposed is to let the Xbox Live community take their groups, achievements, friends lists, games progress, and other means of engagement with them to non-Microsoft platforms, most notably the Switch, in the same way that Minecraft players can currently bring their data with them via Live if they change over to another system. There are a few other publishers in the games industry that attach their own independent networks to their games, most notably Ubisoft’s and Electronic Arts’s . When you install a new Assassin’s Creed or Madden game, you also run into requests to sign up for the related services. There’s also a larger movement in games right now towards “crossplay,” where certain cross-platform titles will allow you to go head-to-head against players on different services or consoles, which used to be anywhere from rare to impossible. Rocket League, Fortnite, Paladins, and SMITE, just to name a few games, all either have crossplay as of this writing, or intend to roll out the functionality soon. Last summer, Microsoft and Nintendo made big news by allowing Xbox and Switch owners to play together in Minecraft. Hey , since we can play together in now, did you want to build something? — Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) What’s different here is that Microsoft is extending the Xbox Live service, one of the pillars of its video game business, to platforms that are owned by what are ostensibly its direct competitors. Imagine an announcement by Netflix that it has reached a deal where you could watch several of its exclusive shows on Hulu, and you get an idea for how unusual this move could be. It does make sense, however, when viewed in conjunction with other initiatives like . Microsoft is still happy to sell you an Xbox if you want one, but this is consistent with its stated desire to focus on the services it provides, rather than the products it sells. It also opens up the possibility of Microsoft’s trademark first-party franchises being available for play on Android, iOS, or Nintendo devices, albeit with potential required engagement with Xbox Live. You could probably get a pretty good game of multiplayer Halo 5 or Sea of Thieves going on a Switch. Part of the session’s description also played up the appeal of the decision to independent developers, who ostensibly could “save time & expand their customer base” by offloading their social, communications, and multiplayer interactions onto Microsoft’s Xbox Live network. Instead of coding up your own account structure and online presence, the argument goes, why not simply plug into the preexisting, millions-strong Xbox Live user base? Microsoft has been criticized for its lack of platform exclusives, which tend to be the bread and butter of any video game console, but if its game plan is to use its high-engagement online service as a method of colonizing competitors’ marketplaces with its service portfolio, it’s a truly audacious move. It means that the value of the Xbox to Microsoft doesn’t necessarily involve a customer owning an actual Xbox. It also positions Microsoft as a social-network client for indies looking to build ready-made communities around their games, and gives Xbox Live a foothold on a variety of devices as the mobile gaming market continues to heat up.