Microsoft Releases ‘Photos Companion’ iOS App for Quickly Transferring Photos to PC

Microsoft today released Photos Companion, an iOS app specially made for Windows 10 users to let them transfer photos from their Apple devices to PCs more easily. First circulated among beta testers in November, Photos Companion links with Windows 10's built-in photos app by way of a QR code, after which multiple photos can be sent over the same Wi-Fi network.

Microsoft hopes the app – the result of a Microsoft Garage project – will appeal primarily to students who don't back up their photos to a cloud service such as the company's own OneDrive, but need a convenient way to get content from their smartphones to Windows machines in an education setting.

We began developing a simple, experimental app for iOS and Android to see if we could unblock educators and help them begin using the Photos app in their classrooms. We knew that students often captured on multiple phones or tablets, but leveraged a single "project" PC to assemble their media and create their final project. We also knew that Wi-Fi access in the classroom was great between devices, but that any solution that required the cloud for transfer could be blocked by overloaded networks.

Our solution was to build an app that would support direct wireless transfer between any phone or mobile device and the Photos app on any Windows 10 PC. This would enable students to transfer media to their own computers … or to a shared, project PC … without worrying about network speeds or mobile data charges.
The app is part of Microsoft's wider mobile strategy to improve its iOS offerings, now that Windows 10 Mobile hardware is no longer a focus for the company. Microsoft officially ended support for Windows Phone back in July, and is no longer developing new features or hardware for Windows 10 Mobile.

Photos Companion is a free download from the App Store. [Direct Link]


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Microsoft’s Cortana Assistant Now Available on iPad

Microsoft today updated its Cortana app for iOS with native iPad support. The design looks essentially the same as the iPhone version, but with an interface optimized for the larger 7.9-inch to 12.9-inch screen sizes of Apple's tablets.


The release notes also mention that Cortana now opens 20 percent faster:
What's new:
Introducing a brand-new Cortana for iPad design. Enjoy an exclusive layout and interface for your iPad.
Cortana now launches 20% faster! Enjoy a lightning-fast experience.
Like rivals Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, Cortana is a digital assistant that can set reminders, schedule calendar appointments, respond to queries, and provide other information through machine learning techniques.

Apple only allows third-party assistants to function within their apps, however, limiting their usefulness versus Siri on iPhone and iPad. For example, Cortana can't be invoked with a voice command when an iOS device is locked.

Nevertheless, iPad users now have one more assistant to choose from alongside Siri and Alexa. Cortana is available for free on the App Store.


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Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iOS Gaining Real-Time Co-Authoring, Drag and Drop Support

Microsoft today announced a major update for its Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps, which will see the introduction of real-time co-authoring, drag and drop support on the iPad, universal link support for shared files, and more.

With support for real-time co-authoring, multiple people can contribute to and edit documents in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on iOS devices. Changes made by each user will sync within seconds, plus you'll be able to see everyone that's working on a document and what they're working on.


Real-time co-authoring support on iOS devices follows the introduction of the feature in Microsoft's Mac apps earlier this month.

Microsoft is also adding drag and drop support for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on the iPad, which means you'll be able to drag files between Microsoft apps and quickly add links, text, photos, graphs, and more.

The three apps will also support universal links, which means anytime you're sent a shared Word, PowerPoint, or Excel file, it'll open right in the app rather than requiring you to authenticate in a browser, and there are new Accessibility features like improved VoiceOver support for better navigation.

Microsoft today also announced major changes for the OneDrive app, which includes an overhauled interface, support for the Files app, drag and drop support, and several other new features.

Microsoft says the new functionality in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will be available "in the coming days" through updates available in the iOS App Store.

Microsoft Word [Direct Link], Microsoft Excel [Direct Link], and Microsoft PowerPoint [Direct Link] can all be downloaded from the App Store for free.


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OneDrive for iOS Updated With Redesigned Interface, Drag and Drop, and Files App Support

Microsoft released an update to its OneDrive app on Tuesday that adds support for the Files app in iOS 11 and brings a host of other new features many of which are responses to user feedback.

To begin with, the interface has been overhauled to make better use of screen space and make filenames easier to read, while an ellipsis button next to each item brings up a new contextual options menu, so users no longer need to long-press a file to take actions.


More generally, thumbnail images have been made larger, shared files are now easier to spot, and the multi-column list view on iPad has been redesigned to be less cluttered and give items and filenames more room to breathe. Another welcome enhancement in version 10.1 is expanded preview support for over 130 file types, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, RAW, 3D objects, high-precision DICOM, TIFF files, iWork Files, Java/C/Swift, and many more.

In addition, OneDrive now supports drag and drop, enabling users to drag files to emails and move them between open tabs on iPhone and iPad. Several iPhone X UI fixes are also in evidence, with the interface now displaying properly in landscape orientation, while a number of annoying bugs have been fixed, including one that made search results vanish whenever a file was opened.

OneDrive is a free download for iPhone and iPad available from the App Store. [Direct Link]


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End-to-End Encryption Comes to Skype Through Signal Partnership

Microsoft is testing a new "Private Conversations" feature in Skype, which is being introduced through a partnership with Signal.

Skype is using the Signal Protocol for the feature, allowing users to take advantage of strong end-to-end encryption for more secure communications.


Private Conversations are available for one-on-one conversations on Skype, with users able to initiate a private conversation by tapping on the "+" icon and then selecting "New Private Conversation." Once a conversation is initiated, it will be available only on the specific device where it was started.

Microsoft says Private Conversations offer several unique features:

  • A Private Conversation will have a lock icon next to your contact's name.

  • Preview messages from Private Conversations will not show in Chats or notifications.

  • Private Conversation capabilities are limited. You cannot edit a message or forward a file. From the chat window, only emoticons, files and audio messages are available to send.

  • Private Conversations are specific to a device. A new invitation must be sent and accepted, to change to another device.


Private Conversations are available today in a preview capacity for Skype Insiders, Microsoft's beta testing program for Skype.


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iTunes Not Coming to Microsoft’s Windows Store in 2017

At its Build developer event earlier this year, Microsoft said Apple was planning to bring its iTunes app to the Windows 10 store, making it easier for Windows users to find the software.

At the time, Microsoft said the app would be available in the Windows Store "by the end of this year," a deadline Apple now says it's not going to be able to make.


"We have been working with Microsoft to deliver the full iTunes experience to our customers and we need a little more time to get it right," an Apple spokesperson told ZDNet.

Both companies are still working to get iTunes into the Windows Store, according to ZDNet's sources, but there is no updated timeline on when it might be available. Apple also did not provide details on why it's taking so long to wrap up the transition to the Windows Store.

Most Windows users can download the iTunes software outside of the Windows Store, but Windows 10 S users will need to do without iTunes for the time being as that's a version of Windows that can only run apps available in the Microsoft Store.


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Xbox Party Chat Coming Soon to iOS and Android Apps

Microsoft this week announced that the beta for its main Xbox iOS app will soon allow testers to enable party chat and speak with friends who are in a party on Xbox One, with a wide launch expected to follow. Those interested can sign up for the Xbox app beta, run through Apple's TestFlight program, on Microsoft's website. The party chat mode is already available on the Android beta of the Xbox app, as spotted on Reddit (via Engadget).


Details on the party chat feature are scarce, but it appears that it will work similarly to Nintendo's Switch Online mobile app, although likely won't be as game-specific. Nintendo's app was created due to the fact that the Switch console itself lacks a voice chat feature, so players in online games like Splatoon 2 are required to use the Switch Online app if they want to talk with friends. As of today, Splatoon 2 is still the only game supported in the app, despite numerous other online games being available for Switch, like Mario Kart 8.

For the Xbox app, players will be able to chat with their friends who are playing on Xbox -- or on the mobile app themselves -- even when not at home near their console. Otherwise, the app allows users to view their friend list, send messages, post updates and game clips, purchase games on the store, and more. The Xbox app is available to download for free on the iOS App Store [Direct Link].


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Microsoft Edge Browser for iPhone Launches on App Store

Microsoft Edge for iPhone was officially released on the App Store today following nearly two months of public beta testing.


The alternative web browser will primarily appeal to iPhone users that use a Windows PC instead of a Mac thanks to a "Continue on PC" feature that can push a website from the mobile to desktop version of the browser.

Microsoft Edge for iPhone also syncs your favorites, passwords, and reading list across your devices. Other features include an all-in-one Hub View, built-in QR code reader, voice search, and private browsing mode.

Bing, Google, and Yahoo can be set as the default search engine in Microsoft Edge for iPhone, which has a similar design as the desktop version. The mobile version doesn't have Microsoft's Cortana assistant or built-in ad blocking.


On iOS, Microsoft is using Apple's WebKit engine, as required for all third-party browsers on the platform. From a compatibility perspective, Microsoft said Edge for iOS should match the version of Safari that is currently available for iPhone.

Keep in mind that, like other third-party web browsers, Microsoft Edge cannot be enabled as the default browser on iPhone.

Microsoft Edge for iPhone is rolling out on the App Store [Direct Link] now for iOS 9 and later. It's also available for Android smartphones on Google Play. Microsoft said iPad support will be added in the future.

The app appears to be available in the United States and United Kingdom only at this time. The browser has yet to be optimized for the iPhone X's screen size.


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Microsoft Edge Browser for iPhone Launches on App Store

Microsoft Edge for iPhone was officially released on the App Store today following nearly two months of public beta testing.


The alternative web browser will primarily appeal to iPhone users that use a Windows PC instead of a Mac thanks to a "Continue on PC" feature that can push a website from the mobile to desktop version of the browser.

Microsoft Edge for iPhone also syncs your favorites, passwords, and reading list across your devices. Other features include an all-in-one Hub View, built-in QR code reader, voice search, and private browsing mode.

Bing, Google, and Yahoo can be set as the default search engine in Microsoft Edge for iPhone, which has a similar design as the desktop version. The mobile version doesn't have Microsoft's Cortana assistant or built-in ad blocking.


On iOS, Microsoft is using Apple's WebKit engine, as required for all third-party browsers on the platform. From a compatibility perspective, Microsoft said Edge for iOS should match the version of Safari that is currently available for iPhone.

Keep in mind that, like other third-party web browsers, Microsoft Edge cannot be enabled as the default browser on iPhone.

Microsoft Edge for iPhone is rolling out on the App Store [Direct Link] now for iOS 9 and later. It's also available for Android smartphones on Google Play. Microsoft said iPad support will be added in the future.

The app appears to be available in the United States and United Kingdom only at this time. The browser has yet to be optimized for the iPhone X's screen size.


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Microsoft Stops Offering New Outlook.com Premium Subscriptions, Rolls Features Into Office 365

Microsoft today announced that its Outlook.com Premium feature, which offered features like an ad-free Outlook experience for $19.95 per month, is closed to new subscribers.

Outlook.com Premium features are now being added to Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal subscriptions.

Today, we began rolling out new benefits for Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal subscribers who use Outlook.com. These premium email features include an ad-free inbox, enhanced protection against malware and phishing, larger mailbox sizes, and premium customer support. In the coming months, we'll be introducing additional premium Outlook.com features to make personal email and calendar experiences for Office 365 subscribers more powerful, productive, and secure.
Office 365 subscribers will now get the same ad-free experience that was available with Outlook Premium, eliminating banner ads and advertisements in the message list.

More mailbox storage is also included, as is advanced security against email threats, including a feature for scanning attachments and checking incoming links. All Office 365 subscribers now get 50GB of mailbox storage, while free Outlook.com accounts will get 15GB of storage space.

Microsoft says that in addition to 365 subscribers, all loyal Outlook.com users whose mailbox is 12GB or larger will be updated to 50GB.

The premium Outlook features will be added to all 365 Home and Personal subscription accounts automatically for users that have @outlook.com, @hotmail.com, @live.com, and @msn.com accounts. Advanced email security features will not apply to @gmail, @yahoo, or other third-party email accounts.

Existing Outlook.com Premium subscribers can continue to renew their Premium subscriptions and receive the same benefits. Premium customers who have custom domains will be able to continue to use them, with domain renewal automatically included in yearly subscription fees. Custom domains are not a feature included in the new 365 options.

Office 365 Home is priced at $99.99 per year or $9.99 per month, while Office 365 Personal is priced at $69.99 per year or $6.99 per month. Office 365 Home can be installed on up to five PCs or Macs and five tablets and five smartphones, while Office 365 Personal is limit to 1 PC or Mac and can be installed on one tablet and one smartphone.

The new premium Outlook functionality is rolling out to Office 365 subscribers starting today, but could take a month to become available to all customers.



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