Microsoft tries its hand at a news bot with Rowe


Microsoft tries its hand at a news bot with Rowe

By Sarah Perez as written on
Like everyone else these days, Microsoft sure loves its bots. Now, the company has rolled out its own news-finding bot called “Rowe,” which lives inside the latest version of Microsoft’s Bing-powered personalized news reading app, News Pro. Rowe is an experiment with helping you keep up with the news that matches your current interests. You can ask the bot to show you news by typing in a topic, view today’s headlines, ask for other personalized suggestions or read the stories the bot has surfaced for you already.
Rowe, however, seems more like an assistive search engine, rather than a true AI-like bot, as its “personalized” suggestions are not as good as its ability to return articles on a given subject. And even then, its results are a bit limited. For example, if you type in a popular, but broad, subject like “U.S. Elections,” the bot returns just three top stories, one of which currently appears to be more of an op-ed/thought piece rather than hard news. That’s not a great experience.
Below its recommended stories, buttons appear that let you pull up more news articles on the subject, like those focused on “election predictions” or “polls,” in this case.

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Meanwhile, if you type a news topic that’s a bit more specific, the selection of stories may improve. For instance, asking Rowe about “Twitter 140” — a reference to Twitter’s plans to distance itself from its strict 140-character count rule — the bot returns popular stories from well-known sites like Yahoo, CNET and PCMag.
Rowe has one other weird and not entirely practical trick, too — if you upload a picture of yourself, it will surface news articles where the person in the story looks like you. Why? Uh, because it can? (Oh, and prepare to be either very flattered or very insulted by its results.)
The bot — initially spotted by the blog following Microsoft’s announcement — is the latest development from Microsoft’s News Pro app, which first debuted this January. A sort of standard news-gathering app, News Pro is Microsoft’s own take on something like Apple News, or the third-party app Smart News, perhaps.

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The app offers users a customized experience by connecting to your Facebook and LinkedIn in order to better understand your interests.
In practice, News Pro doesn’t do a great job at personalization yet, I’ve found. While it accurately suggests stories from areas like “computer hardware” and the “Internet” for me, it misses a number of possible suggestions that could be easily pulled from my ever-growing set of Facebook likes.

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Similarly, the bot feels rough around the edges, too. But this is not an “official” Microsoft product, we should point out — it’s an app from the company’s internal R&D incubator, Microsoft Garage.
Microsoft is hardly the only company experimenting with new ways to deliver the news via bots, however. Other efforts in the space include those running on Facebook Messenger’s bot platform, like bots from CNN, The WSJ, Business Insider or even yours truly; Telegram’s news bots; or independent efforts like Quartz’s app, and many more.
The updated app also introduces other features, including groups for discussing the news with others, for example.
Rowe is available in the updated News Pro app on iTunes here.


First step to the all new Skype for Business for Mac

We are excited to announce the start of the Skype for Business Mac Public Preview. Commercial customers can request an invite to test the Mac client at We’ll start by issuing invites to IT administrators to download the client and gradually expand the preview to everyone in the coming weeks.
The preview will release in three cumulative stages leading to public availability, planned for the third quarter of 2016. Today’s initial release lets you see and join your meetings. Let’s take a look at the functionality rolling out today and what’s coming in the future.
Preview phase one—Once you sign in, you’ll see your meetings for today and tomorrow, based on your Outlook calendar, displayed in the Skype for Business client.
View your meetings schedule.
Join any meeting with just one click and enjoy full screen video, content viewing, in-meeting chat and the ability to invite others to the meeting.


View your video meeting in full screen.
Preview phase two—We’ll be adding instant messaging, presence and contacts in the next preview release coming in early summer. You can continue to use Lync for Mac 2011 side-by-side with Skype for Mac Preview, giving you continued access to messaging and voice features.
Preview phase three—We will add telephony and related features later in the summer.

What to expect at the Skype for Business Preview site

To get started, IT administrators can sign up their organization by visiting the Skype for Business Preview site. Each day, we will issue invitations to IT administrators, with the goal of extending invitations to everyone in the coming weeks. Once an IT administrator downloads the preview client, they can manage its distribution to end users within their organization.
To learn more and see the new experiences in action, watch this demonstration of the Skype for Business Mac Public Preview.

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Office 365 Updates


Office 365 Updates

By Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, as written on, released in February
There are a number of exciting new capabilities in Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In addition, we released the first cumulative feature update since the initial September release of the Office 2016 apps—otherwise known as the “Deferred Channel” build—for our commercial customers. Read on for the details.

Enhancing the Office experience on mobile devices

We’re continuing to make Office on mobile devices even easier, more natural, fluid and contextual, so you can use Office to do more, faster, with whatever device you have in your hand.

Boosting Excel with more functions, charts and sharing options

We added more ways to manipulate, visualize, and share your data with Excel. New functions make it simpler and faster to build common calculations, and improved Formula AutoComplete helps you find the function you’re looking for (click here for more information). The launch of Excel 2016 brought you new chart types, such as Treemap, Sunburst and Waterfall. Now we added the Funnel chart for Windows desktops, tablets and phones, as well as Android, enabling you to display data in progressively decreasing proportions. Learn more here.

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The Funnel chart helps you display data in progressively decreasing proportions.

We’re also making it easier than ever to share what you work on in Excel with others. Excel is now more integrated into the Power BI service. This means you can now pin your workbook’s rich formatted charts and graphs directly to your Power BI dashboards and interact with them from anywhere—giving you even more options for telling your story through data. (Read more here; Power BI subscription required.)

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Pin your Excel workbook’s richly formatted charts and graphs directly to your Power BI dashboards.

Outlook improves connections with Office 365 Groups and adds one-click Archive

Outlook 2016 helps you stay connected with your Office 365 Groups by providing integrated access to your team’s shared inbox, shared calendar, OneNote notebook, OneDrive and more. Now we’re making it even easier for commercial Office 365 customers to browse, join and create Office 365 Groups right from within Outlook 2016. We’re adding a new Groups section to the ribbon with easy entry points to browse and join Office 365 Groups. Suggested Groups offer one-click access to relevant Groups you might like to join, personalized based on information in the Office Graph. You can also create new Groups from the ribbon.

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It’s even easier to browse, join and create relevant Office 365 Groups from within Outlook 2016.

We’re also introducing an Archive capability in Outlook 2016 that lets you quickly move messages out of your inbox and into another folder. This will allow you to triage your inbox with an experience similar to archiving in other email services like Archive is rolling out to Outlook 2016, coming soon for Outlook for Mac, and available today in Outlook on iOS, Android and the web.

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Archive is coming to Outlook 2016 to help you triage your inbox more quickly.

Office for Mac updates

Office has addressed key customer feedback with improvements and new features for Office for Mac.
We’ve seen over 150,000 downloads of early builds of Office for Mac apps through the Office Insiders program since initial availability last month. If you haven’t joined yet, opt in to the Office Insider build from the Microsoft Auto Update (MAU) tool on your Mac. To learn more about Office Insider on Mac, go to Follow the updates and get Office Insider support @OfficeInsider on Twitter.
Office 2016 build now available for commercial customers in Deferred Channel
We are releasing the first Office 365 Deferred Channel build, which is effectively the September 22, 2015 release of Office 2016 with four additional months of security updates included. Deferred Channel allows commercial customers to elect to receive cumulative packages of new Office features three times a year, instead of in monthly updates. This can be helpful for taking extra time to validate add-ins, macros, custom line-of-business applications, etc. Customers on Deferred Channel can get the new build of Office 2016 in the Office 365 User Software Page as well as the Office CDN.
You can learn more about what’s new in Office 2016 and Office for Mac. If you’re an Office 365 Home or Personal customer, be sure to sign up for Office Insider builds to be the first to use the latest and greatest in Office productivity. Commercial customers on both Current Channel and Deferred Channel can also get early access to a fully supported build through First Release.

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Sunday's Super Bowl the most high-tech ever

Cowboys Stadium's 600-ton, $40 million high-definition video screen might be the Super Bowl's most visible piece of technology.

Sunday's Super Bowl the most high-tech ever

By Doug Gross, CNN on
(CNN) -- It may not be on the minds of hot-wing-chomping sports fans who want to see Clay Matthews clobber Ben Roethlisberger or Hines Ward streak toward the end zone.
But, by all accounts, Sunday's Super Bowl will be the most high-tech ever.
From an in-stadium bank of servers storing 100 terabytes of data to an official Super Bowl app for the iPad (which fans will be able to bring into Cowboys Stadium in Dallas), computer technology is almost as integral to this year's game as helmets and shoulder pads.
"Essentially, every event we've had here the last two years has been a dress rehearsal for the next event," Pete Walsh, the Dallas Cowboys' chief technical officer,told Wired, a CNN content partner.
Opened in 2009, the $1.2 billion stadium, which seats more than 100,000, had technology as a prime focus from the beginning.
"When we started this process back in 2004, we were able to meet with different vendors and see their road maps for where technology was going to be in five or more years," Walsh said. "So we were able to take advantage of where technology was going to be rather than where it was."
Nowhere is the high-tech take on the gridiron classic more evident than in the stadium's data center: the bank of servers that support 30 organizations and 90 vendors, concession stands and the like in and around the stadium.
"As fans at home and at the stadium watch the game, most probably won't be looking for evidence of a virtualized server infrastructure with 100-terabyte SAN core," said Thomas E. Richards, president and chief operating officer of tech company CDW, which assisted the Cowboys with the setup. "Instead, they'll notice how great the game looks from the largest high-definition video board in the NFL or how easy it is to use ATM or credit cards at concessions."
The stadium's most visible piece of tech is what's billed as the world's largest high-definition video screen: a $40 million, 600-ton video board with 25,000 square feet of displays. It's 72 feet tall and 160 feet long.
(Everyone seems to like the high-tech board, with the possible exception of NFL punters.)
And, consider this as you nestle into your man cave. In addition to the monster screen, there are another 3,500 46-inch high-def screens scattered throughout the rest of the stadium.
A news release from Cisco, which partnered with the Cowboys on technology, including the screens, called the stadium "the most versatile and technologically advanced entertainment venue in all of North American football."
"We needed technology that would provide the ultimate fan experience and enable team operations to run more effectively," said Walsh. "With the new stadium, it was time to upgrade our infrastructure to the next generation and centralize everything in one data center."
The stadium's other big technological marvels are its massive retractable roof and 120-foot-high glass doors -- the largest operable glass doors in the world -- although they won't be much a factor during the game. The NFL announced last month that the roof will be closed during the Super Bowl so the league could have a "singular focus" on logistics.

Other tech at the game

As has become custom the past couple of years, Super Bowl officials will use GPS tracking devices to keep an eye on players, performers and even the Lombardi Trophy during their travels to and from the stadium.
The stadium will be equipped with free Wi-Fi for the fans in attendance, not to mention the teams themselves and the hordes of media covering the game. All major wireless companies have ramped up their signals around the stadium, too, to make sure their customers don't lose service.
AT&T says it has broken data-usage records at every event held at the massive stadium. Cowboys Stadium already has one of the largest distributed-antenna systems in the country, and AT&T has spent more than $10 million in network enhancements there, a spokeswoman said.

Super Bowl apps

Sunday will be the first Super Bowl since the advent of modern tablet computers -- in particular Apple's iPad. And the NFL has wasted no time, offering a free Super Bowl app on the device and a similar app for devices running Google's Android system.
Geared toward people attending the game, the app (Apple's is also compatible with the iPhone and iPod Touch) includes a 3-D map of North Texas with restaurant and bar locations, a tool to find parking, concessions and restrooms at the stadium, and the ability to see who else is at the game via mobile check-in apps.
ESPN and USA Today are among the media outlets that have developed their own game-specific apps.
Then, for the millions who really care only about the Super Bowl for its commercials, there's AdBowl.
The iPhone app, which complements a website started in 2001, lets users rate each commercial, with real-time results tallied to show which were hits and which ones flopped.
"Since AdBowl first launched, we've watched the fascination with high stakes advertising take hold of the nation and not let go," said Steve McKee, president of the company that runs AdBowl, in a written release. "Adding the iPhone app to the mix makes it easier than ever for people to vote."

Speaking of the ads ...

The emergence of social media will be obvious in those big-ticket ads.
Audi will make some Web history this year, including a Twitter hashtag at the end of its 60-second spot. Twitter users who use the hashtag #ProgressIs become eligible to win a test drive of Audi's R8 supercar and a $25,000 donation to a charity of their choice.
Audi's ad is scheduled for the game's first commercial break. Bridgestone and Mercedes-Benz also are expected to have Twitter tie-ins with their ads.
And, in a move they're surely hoping will be more successful than the glut of dotcom ads the Super Bowl saw in the early 2000s (we're looking at you,, online coupon sellers Groupon have snagged a spot during the game.

Use the PowerPoint app to start this year with a new, fresh coat of creativity. What’s your blank canvas?


Use the PowerPoint app to start this year with a new, fresh coat of creativity. What’s your blank canvas?

Try Office 365 to get the new Office 2016 apps!


The new light-weight CRM App for Outlook

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The new light-weight CRM App for Outlook

What is it?

With no installation, no configuration, and no additional log-in steps, you can now quickly track your important customer emails directly within Outlook, whether on your PC or Mac running the desktop version of Outlook, or on the go through Outlook Web Access on your laptop or phone (Windows, Android, or iOS). You can even see relevant information from Dynamics CRM Online about the person who sent you the email, or pop open the full form directly from within our new CRM App for Outlook.
What’s the difference between the new CRM App for Outlook and the existing CRM for Outlook Add-in?
The new CRM App for Outlook is a light-weight app directed to accomplish a few specific tasks like tracking and converting emails as well as reviewing a few details about the specific contacts and leads from the email. Alternatively, the CRM for Outlook add-in is a full client for Dynamics CRM that allows you to have complete access to all of Dynamics CRM’s functionality, including dashboards and full grids, and even allows you to work offline.

How do I get the new CRM App for Outlook?

Note: The CRM App for Outlook is rolling out over the next few weeks to CRM Online organizations independently following the CRM 2016 release. If you don’t see the below options, your organization hasn’t yet received the feature. This app requires Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Online and Exchange Online.
Dynamics CRM Online users can easily add the app to their Outlook directly from within Dynamics CRM Online. Simply click on the gear icon and choose Apps for Dynamics CRM. Then choose Add app to Outlook under the CRM App for Outlook heading. The app will show up in the user’s Outlook interface when reading or composing emails anywhere they use Outlook.
Dynamics CRM Online administrators also have the ability to push the app to user’s Outlook interfaces through the newly added CRM App for Outlook settings page. To do this, simply navigate to Settings > CRM App for Outlook and click on the Add App for All Eligible Users button. Optionally, you can select individual users from the grid to add the app on an individual level. Use the auto-add feature to ensure all newly added eligible users automatically get the app added to their Outlook.
Keep in mind that for both cases, in order for users to be eligible to get the app, they will need to have their Exchange mailbox configured with Server-Side Synchronization for incoming emails as well as have the Use CRM App for Outlook user role privilege.

I’ve been using the preview version of the app, do I need to do anything?

Yes. With the release of Dynamics CRM 2016, the preview program for the CRM App for Outlook will end. Thank you for all of your valuable feedback. Once your CRM Online organization is upgraded to Dynamics CRM 2016, the older app that was available during the preview period will no longer connect to your Dynamics CRM service, and will be removed from the Office Store. You will need to manually remove the app and then follow the instructions listed above to get the new, fully-supported app.
To remove an app from Outlook, simply open Outlook Desktop and choose Manage Add-ins from the File menu, or from Outlook Web Access, choose the settings gear icon, then Manage add-ins. From there, choose Dynamics CRM and then choose the uninstall button to remove the app.


#Microsoft Announces New Visual Studio Dev Essentials Program - a free program that brings together everything developers need to create applications on any device or operating system including Visual Studio Community and Visual Studio Code


Microsoft today announced the availability of Visual Studio Dev Essentials, a new, free program designed to provide any developer with everything they need to create applications on any device or operating system. The program provides easy access to popular Microsoft services, tools and resources as well as several new benefits to help developers get started building apps.
Liuson says, “Dev Essentials has a great set of benefits and tools – for free. This is Microsoft’s statement to the developer community about our learnings and about resources. And all of these things are accessible for all developers.”
Visual Studio Dev Essentials is a new, free program that brings together everything developers need to create applications on any device or operating system including Visual Studio Community and Visual Studio Code, and the free tier of Visual Studio Team Services. Dev Essentials adds priority forum support, training services from Pluralsight, Wintellect, and Xamarin, and—something that many have asked for—monthly credits to use in Azure, which will be coming in early 2016.


Longer nights mean more time indoors to let your imagination shine... Sign up for a FREE Trial of Office 365 and get the new 2016 apps.

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Try Office 365 to get the new Office 2016 apps!