Microsoft Monday: Paul Allen Passes Away, 60K Patents Open Sourced, Edge For iOS Gets Siri Shortcuts


The Microsoft logo displayed outside the Microsoft Technology Center near Times Square (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“Microsoft Monday” is a weekly column that focuses on all things Microsoft. This week “Microsoft Monday” features news about Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen passing away, an investment in the Grab ride-hailing service, LinkedIn’s acquisition of Glint, 60,000 patents being open sourced and much more!

Cofounder Paul Allen Passes Away At 65

Forbes reporter Noah Kirsch has just published an article about how Microsoft cofounder, Vulcan founder and billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen died today from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 65.

Allen had announced that he was receiving treatment for lymphoma earlier this month. The last time he had received treatment for it was in 2009.

“All of us who had the honor of working with Paul feel inexpressible loss today. He possessed a remarkable intellect and a passion to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems, with the conviction that creative thinking and new approaches could make profound and lasting impact,” wrote Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf in a statement. “Millions of people were touched by his generosity, his persistence in pursuit of a better world, and his drive to accomplish as much as he could with the time and resources at his disposal.”

Allen founded Microsoft with his high school friend Bill Gates in 1975. And then he left the company in 1983 once he received a diagnosis for Hodgkin’s disease.

In 1988, Allen bought the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team for $70 million. This was followed by the acquisition of the Seattle Seahawks football team for $194 million in 1997.

And in 2010, Allen signed the Giving Pledge — which is a commitment to philanthropy formed by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett — and gave away $2.5 billion for charitable causes since then. At the time of his death, Allen’s net worth was estimated at $20.3 billion.

Investment In Grab Ride-Hailing Service

Microsoft announced that it made a strategic investment in Grab last week, which is a Singapore-based ride-sharing company. As part of the agreement, Grab is also going to adopt the Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud solutions platform over the next five years. And both companies will be collaborating on several technology projects involving big data, artificial intelligence and mobility solutions.

“This partnership signals a deep collaboration with Microsoft on an array of technology projects, including big data and artificial intelligence, that will transform the delivery of everyday services and mobility solutions in Southeast Asia,” said Grab president Ming Maa in a statement. “As a global technology leader, Microsoft’s investment into Grab highlights our position as the leading homegrown technology player in the region. We look forward to collaborating with Microsoft in the pursuit of enhancing on-demand transportation and seamless online-to-offline experiences for users.”

Grab currently operates in 235 cities in eight Southeast Asian countries. And Grab also operates a digital wallet service called GrabPay, which the company says is the leading player in Southeast Asia.

One of the artificial intelligence projects that Microsoft is working with Grab on involves new authentication systems such as mobile facial recognition. With the facial recognition service, drivers and customers can opt-in as a replacement for checking IDs for ride-sharing reservations. And Grab will also set up on-demand transportation booking options to Outlook users so that they can book rides within the mailing application and receive calendar reminder alerts.

Grab will also use Microsoft Azure’s data analytics services to be able to better predict and prevent fraudulent transactions. And Grab plans to utilize Microsoft’s natural language processing capabilities to “provide customers with contextualized real-time translations and create an AI chatbot so Grab users can engage in interactive experiences.”

Plus Microsoft’s machine learning and AI will power Grab’s “recommendation engine” to analyze user data and behavior to offer personalized services and content recommendations. And Grab plans to deploy Microsoft’s computer vision technology in a way where passengers will be able to take a photo of their current location so that it would be automatically sent as the actual address for the driver.

LinkedIn’s Acquisition Of Glint

Last week, Microsoft’s professional social network LinkedIn announced that it acquired an online employee survey company called Glint. The terms of the acquisition were undisclosed, but CNBC’s sources pegged the value at more than $400 million.

Glint sends surveys to employees in order to gain insights and learn more about job satisfaction. And managers are able to gain a better understanding of those insights from Glint’s dashboard.

Minecraft For Apple TV Being Discontinued

Mojang, the game development company behind Minecraft acquired by Microsoft in 2014, has announced that it is shutting down the Apple TV version of its flagship game due to lack of sales. The Apple TV version of the game was announced at an Apple event in October 2016. And then the game launched for $19.99 on the Apple TV two months later.

“Effective from Monday, 24 September, the Apple TV version of Minecraft will no longer be updated or supported. We’re grateful to the Apple TV community for their support but we need to reallocate resources to the platforms that our players use the most. Don’t worry though, you can continue to play Minecraft on Apple TV, keep building in your world and your Marketplace purchases (including Minecoins) will continue to be available,” says an announcement when you load up the game on the Apple TV according to MacRumors.

60,000 Patents Open Sourced

Microsoft announced last week that it is open sourcing 60,000 software patents as the company has joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), which is a defensive patent pool and community of patent non-aggression that is known for protecting Linux along with other open source software.

“We know Microsoft’s decision to join OIN may be viewed as surprising to some; it is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open source community over the issue of patents,” said Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Chief IP Counsel at Microsoft Erich Andersen in a statement. “For others who have followed our evolution, we hope this announcement will be viewed as the next logical step for a company that is listening to customers and developers and is firmly committed to Linux and other open source programs.”

The OIN was founded in 2005 and has been helping companies manage patent risks since then. And the OIN has been active in acquiring patents to help defend the open source community and provide education about the intersection of open source and intellectual property. Plus the OIN provides a licensed platform for about 2,650 companies around the world such as Google, IBM and Red Hat. The licensees range from individual developers and startups to the largest technology companies in the world.

This is not the only major open source commitment that Microsoft made this year. Earlier this year, Microsoft acquired GitHub for $7.5 billion.

According to ZDNet, Microsoft has 90,000 total patents and the OIN is covering 60,000 of them. A number of those 90,000 patents are still pending. And Microsoft has licensed all of the patents that it has in hand.

Cortana Team Reportedly Being Moved Into Office

According to a report by Brad Sams of Petri.com, Microsoft is reportedly going to shuffle around its Artificial Intelligence and Research division. It is believed that the organization headed up by Microsoft’s EVP of AI and Research Harry Shum will be moved into the Office team. And Shum may be preparing to depart from the company. As a result, Cortana will be handled by the Office team.

The Office team has reportedly been interested in having Cortana moved to their division. This was especially the case after Microsoft decided that Cortana would not be a standalone product.

Siri Shortcuts Added To Edge For iOS

Apple introduced a feature on iOS called Siri Shortcuts, which allows you to set up a series of steps based on your location or the time. For example, Siri Shortcuts can automatically set up a coffee order as you walk out of your home in the morning. And now Microsoft Edge for iOS supports Siri Shortcuts.

With Siri Shortcuts, you will be able to open Edge from the lock screen of iOS. Plus Microsoft will likely add more Siri Shortcuts for Edge on iOS soon.

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