“Microsoft Monday” is a weekly column that focuses on all things Microsoft. This week “Microsoft Monday” features news about additional Microsoft 365 subscription services, the expansion of MyAnalytics, a change coming to Windows 10 setup, GitHub free updates, a partnership with Kroger and much more!
New Microsoft 365 Subscription Services
Microsoft has added a couple of new Microsoft 365 packages to its subscription services, according to ZDNet. The two new Microsoft 365 subscription bundles have been added to the price list and will become available starting February 1st. These packages are intended for business customers who may not want to subscribe to the highest tier Microsoft 365 E5 bundle.
The Microsoft 365 Identity & Threat Protection package combines Microsoft Threat Protection, Microsoft Cloud App Security and Azure Active Directory at a cost of $12 per user per month. And the Microsoft 365 Information Protection & Compliance package includes Office 365 Advanced Compliance and Azure Information Protection at a price of $10 per user per month. Those prices do not include volume discounts.
Microsoft will continue offering it’s security and compliance features in the Microsoft 365 E5 bundle. These two new options are simply in addition to what was available before.
Microsoft has expanded the availability of the MyAnalytics service to any Office 365 and Microsoft 365 Enterprise and Business user (with Exchange Online rights) at no additional cost. MyAnalytics is currently available as part of Office 365 and Microsoft 365 E5. And it can be added on to E1 or E3.
Microsoft’s MyAnalytics service has been coined as “fitness tracker for work.” MyAnalytics provides details about how users spend their time at work and it makes suggestions about how to be more productive. For example, MyAnalytics measures how much time is spent at meetings, using Outlook and working on documents.
MyAnalytics uses artificial intelligence to analyze emails and automatically create to-do lists. And MyAnalytics offers these insights on the form of a dashboard and weekly emails.
Cortana To Be Silenced During Windows 10 Setup
Microsoft is going to starting muting Cortana while Windows 10 is being set up, according to The Verge. This feature was introduced a couple of years ago. Even though this feature may be useful for Windows 10 users at home, many IT admins find the feature to be frustrating:
So the Cortana voice-over feature on Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education will be muted. This change will be applied in the next Windows 10 update, which is currently codenamed 19H1.
The 19H1 update is expected to arrive in April. And it will include a new light theme, a sandbox feature, more emoji and new Fluent Design elements.
Useful Windows 10 Feature Coming
As Microsoft prepares to roll out a new version of Windows 10 in April, a new useful feature is expected to be added to the Home SKU version. It is the ability to allow users to pause automatic updates, according to Thurrott.com.
As of now, updates are pushed to Windows 10 Home devices as soon as they are released. But there isn’t an option to pause the updates. There is a way to do so on Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise.
In the most recent preview build of Windows 10 for Fast ring insiders, the Home SKU version allows users to pause updates for up to seven days. And it might be possible for Windows Home users to pause automatic updates for up to 35 days when the final version gets released.
Files On-Demand for Mac
Microsoft has started rolling out Files On-Demand for Mac. This feature enables users to see all of the files in OneDrive storage from Macs. And documents are downloaded from the cloud when they are needed.
As of last week, the feature started rolling out. And it will be available to Mac users with OneDrive for Business.
Microsoft and Kroger have announced a partnership today where digital shelves will be added to two pilot stores in Ohio and the state of Washington — which will be near the headquarters of each company. And the stores will be designed to make it easier for customers and workers find items around the store.
At these stores, customers will be able to create a shopping list through Kroger’s Scan, Bag, Go app. From there, the app uses sensors in the store to show customers how to find their items.
Back in June, Microsoft announced it was acquiring GitHub for $7.5 billion and a major new feature has been added to the developer repository service. GitHub now has a feature called GitHub Free that allows users to have unlimited private repositories for free.
This makes GitHub much more competitive against rival services such as BitBucket and Gitlab. And this was the most requested feature on GitHub for years.
In the past, the free version of GitHub only allowed users to make coding projects viewable. But users could not host private projects for free. Up to three collaborators can work on GitHub Free projects.
GitHub is also consolidating the GitHub Enterprise Cloud and GitHub Enterprise Server under a brand called GitHub Enterprise. This will be sold under one subscription option.
Air taxis could fly people across major cities by ‘mid-2020s,’ company says
In traffic-clogged cities such as Houston, Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles, it can take hours to drive a few miles during rush hour.
For years, inventors have been working toward a potential solution: vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. Though some know them as “flying cars,” early prototypes more closely resemble a hybrid version of an airplane and a helicopter with a hint of drone, rather than a conventional automobile.
Among the most highly anticipated examples of an air taxi is the Bell Nexus, an “urban air mobility vehicle” that debuted at this year’s CES technology show in Las Vegas. Bell Helicopter, which created the prototype, said the idea behind the technology is simple: Instead of idling in traffic, a commuter could order a flying taxi to shuttle them across town from above, bypassing the congestion below.
Uber, which has unofficially partnered with Bell Nexus, has said its fleet of air taxis would be able to travel 150 to 200 mph, allowing the company to whisk passengers across a sprawling metropolis such as Los Angeles in minutes instead of hours.
“It won’t be like an Uber that you order and it comes to your driveway,” said Robert Hastings, Bell’s executive vice president of strategic communications, noting that the company instead foresees using an app to figure out the location of the closest skyport, where you’ll rendezvous with your aircraft. “We believe this will be for short hops across a metropolitan area.”
“Getting to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport from the suburbs can be an hour-and-a-half drive, and we think these aircraft can make the same trip in eight minutes,” he added.
Hastings said the company believes the Bell Nexus is more than just a commuter aircraft. When cargo needs to be moved from a Walmart on one side of town to the other, he said, the company’s aircraft could be put to use.
The Bell Nexus seats up to five passengers, not including the pilot. The company originally planned to bypass a pilot, keeping the aircraft autonomous, but it has since included room for a pilot in the machine’s design, Hastings said. Larger versions of the aircraft could hold eight to 10 people, he said.
What does it look like inside? Hastings said the internet-connected cabin was designed to be plush and provide wide views of the outside world.
“It looks like you’re in a limousine on your way to prom,” one reviewer said, excitedly pointing out USB ports and cup holders.
The craft is powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system featuring six tilting fans. Those fans, the company said, would allow the vehicle to take off vertically and cruise at high speed when they’re positioned at 90 degrees.
The fans are being tested in a wind tunnel, Hastings said, and the company is confident that the flight controls can be designed to operate autonomously. The biggest challenge air taxis face, he said, is in building infrastructure and navigating regulatory issues and certification challenges through the Federal Aviation Administration. Inside the industry, experts think the FAA won’t certify vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for commercial transportation until they’re proved safe. Once that happens, experts say, a new wave of alternative transportation is likely to emerge quickly.
“We believe a very successful project would get an aircraft certified and manufacturable by the mid-2020s,” Hastings said. “The technology, for us, is not extremely difficult.”
Part of the local regulatory battle air-taxi companies will face involves persuading cities to tolerate even more overhead air traffic than they already do.
In addition to designing its 6,000-pound aircraft to be resistant to wind, rain and birds, Hastings said, the company has focused heavily on implementing a design that is as quiet as possible. They’ve done this, he said, by making the rotor blades smaller and by encasing the ends of the 8-foot blades – where most of the noise is created – inside circular ducts. The result, Hastings said, is that the blade’s sound changes from a “whop whop whop” to a “whoosh whoosh whoosh.”
The question for cities will be whether creating more traffic, this time from above, is an acceptable price to pay for relieving congestion.
“Everything is just getting more crowded and dense, and everybody is trying to solve that problem, and we think there’s one dimension that’s not being addressed – and that’s up,” Hastings said.
AAPL issues rare revision to earnings guidance, lowering expectations due to “fewer iPhone upgrades” & China struggles
Apple shares were halted this evening ahead of the market’s close. CNBC was first to report on the development. Shortly thereafter, Apple published a “Letter from Tim Cook to Apple investors” in which Cook announced a rare AAPL earnings revision for the first fiscal quarter of 2019.
This is what Apple is now forecasting:
Revenue of approximately $84 billion
Gross margin of approximately 38 percent
Operating expenses of approximately $8.7 billion
Other income/(expense) of approximately $550 million
Tax rate of approximately 16.5 percent before discrete items
This is the guidance Apple had previously offered back in November:
Revenue between $89 billion and $93 billion
Gross margin between 38 percent and 38.5 percent
Operating expenses between $8.7 billion and $8.8 billion
Other income/(expense) of $300 million
Tax rate of approximately 16.5 percent before discrete items
This compares to Q1 2018 when Apple reported $88.3b in revenue and $20.1b profit from 77.3m iPhones, 13.2m iPads, and 5.1m Macs sold
In the letter, Tim Cook outlined several reasons for this adjustment. Cook points to factors such as different timing of its iPhone launches, foreign exchange headwinds, struggles ramping new products, and economic weaknesses. Ultimately, Cook says this all resulted in “fewer iPhone upgrades than we had anticipated.”
First, we knew the different timing of our iPhone launches would affect our year-over-year compares. Our top models, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, shipped in Q4’18—placing the channel fill and early sales in that quarter, whereas last year iPhone X shipped in Q1’18, placing the channel fill and early sales in the December quarter. We knew this would create a difficult compare for Q1’19, and this played out broadly in line with our expectations.
Second, we knew the strong US dollar would create foreign exchange headwinds and forecasted this would reduce our revenue growth by about 200 basis points as compared to the previous year. This also played out broadly in line with our expectations.
Third, we knew we had an unprecedented number of new products to ramp during the quarter and predicted that supply constraints would gate our sales of certain products during Q1. Again, this also played out broadly in line with our expectations. Sales of Apple Watch Series 4 and iPad Pro were constrained much or all of the quarter. AirPods and MacBook Air were also constrained.
Fourth, we expected economic weakness in some emerging markets. This turned out to have a significantly greater impact than we had projected.
In addition, these and other factors resulted in fewer iPhone upgrades than we had anticipated.
Further, Cook outlined other factors potentially affecting iPhone performance: consumers adapting to a world with fewer carrier subsidies, US dollar strength-related price increases, and some customers taking advantage of significantly reduced pricing for iPhone battery replacements.
Cook also points to China as a pain point for Apple’s first quarter results. Cook says that revenue in China accounts for “over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline.” Cook says that the economic environment has slowed significantly in China due to trade tensions with the United States:
We believe the economic environment in China has been further impacted by rising trade tensions with the United States. As the climate of mounting uncertainty weighed on financial markets, the effects appeared to reach consumers as well, with traffic to our retail stores and our channel partners in China declining as the quarter progressed.
With all of that having been said, Cook also takes the opportunity to note that there are “many positive results in the December quarter” thus far. Cook says that revenue outside iPhone is up by almost 19 percent due to things like Apple Watch and AirPods. Apple’s wearables business is up almost 50 percent year-over-year, Cook says.
Cook also says Apple expects to set “all-time revenue records in several developed countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Korea.”
Ultimately, Cook says that Apple’s “profitability and cash flow generation are strong,” with the company expected to end the quarter with $130 billion in net cash. Further, Cook says that Apple is “confident and excited” about its product pipeline.
Most importantly, we are confident and excited about our pipeline of future products and services. Apple innovates like no other company on earth, and we are not taking our foot off the gas.
Cook also notes that Apple is “undertaking and accelerating” initiatives to improve its performance. One of these efforts, Cook says, is the process of trading in an old phone, financing the purchase of a new phone, and getting help in transferring data between devices:
We can’t change macroeconomic conditions, but we are undertaking and accelerating other initiatives to improve our results. One such initiative is making it simple to trade in a phone in our stores, finance the purchase over time, and get help transferring data from the current to the new phone. This is not only great for the environment, it is great for the customer, as their existing phone acts as a subsidy for their new phone, and it is great for developers, as it can help grow our installed base.
Companies are supposed to call the exchange where they are listed 10 minutes prior to announcing any news that could significantly affect the stock. That is what Apple seemingly did here, halting trading prior to making this announcement.
Trading of AAPL has since resumed. The stock is down nearly 8 percent in after-hours trading, falling to around $145 per share. Shares of Apple suppliers are also down, as reported by Reuters.
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