If you want to be an Xbox Insider, Microsoft says you’ll now have to earn it

If you want Microsoft to let you through the velvet of rope of its Xbox Insider programs, be prepared to earn it—and up through four different tiers of beta access, to boot.Creators Update updated home xbox one

A Microsoft support post from Monday night confirms that there are now four rings of beta access within the Insider program, not one, and that applicants will literally be judged on how they participate to earn access. Only the most worthy will get to try out upgrades like the excellent Creators Update features for the Xbox One being rolled out now.

Users who are already part of the Xbox Insider program won’t have to do anything. They will find themselves automatically moved over and assigned to the new hubs over the next several weeks, Microsoft said.

The new rings of Xbox Insiders include the highest-priority ring, Alpha, followed by Beta, Ring 3, and Ring 4. Microsoft’s description of the new program utilized both the velvet glove as well as the iron fist: Users were concerned with the frequent updates that Microsoft pushed to Insiders, so the new tiers offer users a way to match the availability of new beta experiences to what users prefer.

There’s a catch, naturally: If you to advance through the ranks, so to speak,you’d better actually use the new software, test it, and provide enough feedback to justify including you. And if you take a break, sorry—your Xbox could drop to a lesser-priority ring while you relax on the beach.

 This is an enormous change to the way Microsoft treats its Insiders, allowing the true believers better access. There’s no indication that those fans will receive any news or information early, but it certainly allows those with an extra box or a real lust to be rewarded for their loyalty. It’s too early to tell, though, how Xbox Insiders will respond. Another question hanging in the air: Will Microsoft set up a similar program for Windows Insiders?

Creators Update updated guide xbox one

Microsoft

The new Creators Update for the Xbox One includes a new Guide, which Insiders have already.

Microsoft explains the rings in this way:

 The Alpha ring is the “cutting edge,” Microsoft says, and members will receive two to three updates per week, gaining access to new features and fixes “at the expense of potential bugs.”

 The second Preview ring will receive just one to two updates per week, with slightly less risk of encountering bugs.

The third Preview ring will receive about two to three updates per month, with system updates arriving even less frequently.

The fourth and final Preview ring typically receives new system updates about once per month. These builds are just about ready for public release, so will be the least buggy.

xbox clubs

Upgrades like Clubs have rolled out to Insiders first.

Naturally, the way in which users advance and fall back through the rings is the most interesting aspect of the whole program.

To confirm their ring ranking, Xbox One owners can open the Xbox Insider Hub on the Xbox One and check the System tab. That tab will also allow users to apply for upper-echelon rings, but only if their participation has potentially qualified them. If they’re nowhere near worthy, that option won’t appear.

“Xbox Insiders earn the right to participate in the respective Preview rings based on their activity, which is judged by Xbox Insider XP, forum activity, and overall console usage,” Microsoft’s post says. Users can move up through the four rings by completing quests, surveys, quick polls, and ratings within the Hub app; participating in games and betas, providing feedback via the official forums; reporting bugs, and simply using the console.

The three top-tier rings have limited capacity, according to Microsoft. The company said it will review each user’s status regularly and invite them to join a higher tier via a system message.

Naturally, users can also fall from grace. If your account drops significantly due to inactivity, you’ll be bounced to Ring 4, the lowest-tier ring, and be forced to work your way back up. Ring 4 is as far as you’ll fall, though, unless you voluntarily opt out of the Xbox Insider program entirely.

Thoughts? Microsoft knows this is a big change and wants your feedback. Presumably, posting in the support thread could boost your Insider standing as well.

To comment

Microsoft ‘My People’ Feature Pins Your Close Contacts Directly to Windows 10 Taskbar

Microsoft 'My People' Feature Pins Your Close Contacts Directly to Windows 10 Taskbar

  • Users can send messages through platform of their choice
  • Emoji animations named ‘shoulder taps’ introduced
  • Support for third-party applications to come later

There are currently so many social platforms out there that sometimes it becomes extremely cumbersome to keep track of all of them. Most people use multiple social platforms to stay in touch with each other and it is often annoying to switch between the platforms. This is where Microsoft’s ‘My People’ feature, which was launched on Wednesday, steps in.

The ‘My People’ feature, which will be tagged along with company’s ‘Creators Update’, will essentially give out message notifications to the user right from their desktop. It will further provide them with various platform options to reply from. It will further provide users with nifty little animations when emojis are sent to them by their contacts.

Users can easily share files with their contacts using My People by simply dragging and dropping the files onto the contact icon. These files will then be shared by either Skype or via mail.

These emoji animations are being referred to as ‘shoulder taps’ by Microsoft. In the demonstration of this feature, Allison O’Mahoney – Principal Group Program Manager at Microsoft – showed how My People makes it easier to see the mails referred by your contacts and switch back to the conversation in a smooth and easy manner.The entire concept behind the introduction of the My People feature is to remove the complications from conversations and provide users with messages from the people that matter the most, at the earliest. The feature works with email, SMS, and Skype. The support for Xbox Live and Skype for Business will be added later to the feature. The support for third-party applications is also expected to come later on.

Microsoft Sues US Government Over Data Requests

Microsoft Sues US Government Over Data Requests

Microsoft Corp has sued the US government for the right to tell its customers when a federal agency is looking at their emails, the latest in a series of clashes over privacy between the technology industry and Washington.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in federal court in Seattle, argues that the government is violating the US Constitution by preventing Microsoft from notifying thousands of customers about government requests for their emails and other documents.

The government’s actions contravene the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, the suit argues, and Microsoft’s First Amendment right to free speech.

The Department of Justice is reviewing the filing, spokeswoman Emily Pierce said.

Microsoft’s suit focuses on the storage of data on remote servers, rather than locally on people’s computers, which Microsoft says has provided a new opening for the government to access electronic data.

Using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the government is increasingly directing investigations at the parties that store data in the so-called cloud, Microsoft says in the lawsuit. The 30-year-old law has long drawn scrutiny from technology companies and privacy advocates who say it was written before the rise of the commercial Internet and is therefore outdated.

“People do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud,” Microsoft says in the lawsuit. It adds that the government “has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations.”

Surveillance battle
The lawsuit represents the newest front in the battle between technology companies and the US government over how much private businesses should assist government surveillance.

By filing the suit, Microsoft is taking a more prominent role in that battle, dominated by Apple Inc in recent months due to the government’s efforts to get the company to write software to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in a December massacre in San Bernardino, California.

Apple, backed by big technology companies including Microsoft, had complained that cooperating would turn businesses into arms of the state.

“Just as Apple was the company in the last case and we stood with Apple, we expect other tech companies to stand with us,” Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a phone interview after the suit was filed.

One security expert questioned Microsoft’s motivation and timing. Its lawsuit was “one hundred percent motivated by business interests” and timed to capitalize on new interest in customer privacy issues spurred in part by Apple’s dispute, said D.J. Rosenthal, a former White House cyber-securityofficial in the Obama administration.

As Microsoft’s Windows and other legacy software products are losing some traction in an increasingly mobile and Internet-centric computing environment, the company’s cloud-based business is taking on more importance. Chief Executive Satya Nadella’s describes Microsoft’s efforts as “mobile first, cloud first.”

Its customers have been asking the company about government surveillance, Smith said, suggesting that the issue could hurt Microsoft’s ability to win or keep cloud customers.

In its complaint, Microsoft says over the past 18 months it has received 5,624 legal orders under the ECPA, of which 2,576 prevented Microsoft from disclosing that the government is seeking customer data through warrants, subpoenas and other requests. Most of the ECPA requests apply to individuals, not companies, and provide no fixed end date to the secrecy provision, Microsoft said.

Microsoft and other companies won the right two years ago to disclose the number of government demands for data they receive. This case goes farther, requesting that it be allowed to notify individual businesses and people that the government is seeking information about them.

Increasingly, US companies are under pressure to prove they are helping protect consumer privacy. The campaign gained momentum in the wake of revelations by former government contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 that the government routinely conducted extensive phone and Internet surveillance to a much greater degree than believed.

Late last year, after Reuters reported that Microsoft had not alerted customers, including leaders of China’s Tibetan and Uigher minorities, that their email was compromised by hackers operating from China, Microsoft said publicly it would adopt a policy of telling email customers when it believed their email had been hacked by a government.

The company’s lawsuit on Thursday comes a day after a US congressional panel voted unanimously to advance a package of reforms to the ECPA.

Last-minute changes to the legislation removed an obligation for the government to notify a targeted user whose communications are being sought. Instead, the bill would require disclosure of a warrant only to a service provider, which retains the right to voluntarily notify users, unless a court grants a gag order.

It is unclear if the bill will advance through the Senate and become law this year.

Separately, Microsoft is fighting a US government warrant to turn over data held in a server in Ireland, which the government argues is lawful under another part of the ECPA. Microsoft argues the government needs to go through a procedure outlined in a legal-assistance treaty between the US and Ireland.

Twitter Inc is fighting a separate battle in federal court in Northern California over public disclosure of government requests for information on users.

The case is Microsoft Corp v United States Department of Justice et al in the United States District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 2:16-cv-00537.

Microsoft Brings Its Windows Phone Word Flow Keyboard to iOS

Microsoft Brings Its Windows Phone Word Flow Keyboard to iOS

Microsoft a week ago made its Hub Keyboard app available for Apple’s iOS platform. The Redmond tech giant however, continues to keep the rival company in focus as it has announced its Windows Phone Word Flow Keyboard is now available for testers on iOS. Worth mentioning is the fact thatMicrosoft in January had revealed its plans to bring the keyboard to Apple’s mobile platform, but had not detailed a launch date.

As spotted by The Verge, a new signup page asking users to “Register to Download Word Flow for iPhone” says the app is already in a closed beta release phase. Like the Windows Phone Word Flow Keyboard, the iOS version will also let users tap and swipe to type words, and features user-adaptive text prediction.

In addition, the Windows Phone Keyboard for iOS will come with two new features. The iOS users will get the ability to customise the keyboard background with their own custom image along with one-handed mode.

The Word Flow Keyboard debuted with Windows Phone 8.1 in 2014. The Swype-like keyboard allows users to glide over the display and type words. Like other popular keyboard apps, the Word Flow also features word and emoji prediction.

As we mentioned, Microsoft last week launched its Hub Keyboard to iOS. Made by the Microsoft Garage team, the keyboard app offers a range of features that enhance your typing and chatting experience. It integrates Microsoft products and services as well. If you have a PowerPoint slideshow named “report” saved in your OneDrive account, for instance, simply mentioning the word “report” when chatting with your colleagues will give you the option to share the download link of that file. You can also search for your SharePoint documents from your work, school, or university Office 365 accounts.

New Windows 10 Features Revealed In Windows 10 Roadmap Published By Microsoft

Windows 10 Roadmap

This week Microsoft has revealed more details about the new features you can expect to enjoy when using its latest Windows 10 operating system with the publication of a Windows 10 Roadmap, that provides details on a variety of upcoming enhancements and new support.

The new features which include Passport authentication, file-level encryption, further enhancements to Continuum and more were all revealed in a new Windows 10 roadmap which has been published by Microsoft this week together with new underdevelopment features.

Unfortunately the Microsoft’s Windows 10 Business roadmap doesn’t reveal which features will be available in the upcoming Windows 10 Anniversary update, that is expected to be made available during July 2016. So some of the features may not be available until Microsoft releases the next major update for Windows 10 in the form of Redstone 2, which is expected to be released during the spring months of 2017 according to rumours and sources near the action.

Features that are currently in development for release on the windows 10 operating system in the new future include:

– Touch input will be supported when connecting a Continuum-compatible phone to a touch monitor
– “Laptop” like accessory support (without CPU/OS) that can be compared with a Continuum-compatible phone
– Projecting on PCS (connect to monitors and screens that are connected to Windows 10 PCs via Continuum)
– PC to PC casting

Microsoft explain more bout the features you can expect to enjoy using Windows 10 in the future :

The Windows 10 roadmap provides a snapshot of what we’ve recently made generally available, released into public preview, are still developing and testing, or are no longer developing. Microsoft Passport and Windows Hello together offer convenient multifactor authentication and enterprise-grade security. Microsoft Passport is an easy-to-deploy, two-factor password alternative that unlocks your device and grants access to services using a PIN or Windows Hello, which supports fingerprint, facial, and iris recognition.

In today’s BYOD environment, enterprises can’t assume that devices accessing their networks are malware-free. Windows 10 helps ensure that unhealthy devices can be identified and gated from business resources using a combination of the Windows Device Health Attestation cloud service and mobile device management systems such as Microsoft Intune.* Windows 10 uses the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 hardware built into newer PCs to monitor startup processes services and determine if data is trustworthy. With Conditional Access, IT departments can detect and prevent low-level malware, and noncompliant devices can be denied access to specific applications like email and Microsoft SharePoint sites or to the entire corporate network.

Device Guard on Windows 10 puts you in control of your environment—and a step ahead of malware—with rigorous access controls that help protect the Windows system core and prevent untrusted apps and executables from starting. With it, you can lock down devices, granting access only to apps from trusted sources. Device Guard uses hardware-based isolation and virtualization to protect itself and the Windows system core from vulnerability and zero-day exploits. Its Hyper-V Code Integrity Service feature enforces best practices for running drivers and other software at the highest level of privilege.

BitLocker, a leading disk encryption solution, helps protects data when a device is lost or stolen. BitLocker has been significantly enhanced for Windows 10, offering market-leading security and performance features, as well as robust features that make it easier to deploy, administer, and monitor. With Windows 10, the need for a PIN has been eliminated on most device types; the single sign-on experience maintains BitLocker’s strong performance, reliability, and deployment benefits while still meeting security expectations.

Use your Windows 10 phone in amazing and astounding ways, including like a PC.* With a Continuum-compatible wired or wireless accessory, you can connect a monitor, keyboard, and mouse** or you can let your phone screen function as your virtual trackpad and keyboard. Change it to an entertainment, shopping, or browsing center: wirelessly project the web—along with movies, photos, or other supported content on your phone—to any monitor or television. What you see scales smoothly and displays beautifully on the bigger screen.