Dark Mode on iOS. (Microsoft Photo) Microsoft is doubling down on Dark Mode, bringing the popular option to switch from a white background to a black or grey one to more of its core services. The company says it plans to bring Dark Mode to its entire Microsoft 365 product suite — a combination of Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security. The push begins with an initial rollout today of Dark Mode on Outlook for iOS and Android, as well as Office.com. When the latest update of iOS launches, Microsoft will roll out Dark Mode for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneDrive, Planner, and To-Do on mobile. The addition of Dark Mode across more of the company’s products is all about choice, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Research & Design Jon Friedman wrote in a blog post. “It’s an apt metaphor for why we love Dark Mode: human needs unfold across an equally broad spectrum,” Friedman wrote. “Whether you want to reduce eye strain, improve battery life, or it just has aesthetic appeal, Dark Mode exemplifies our ability to craft simple and powerful Microsoft 365 experiences that give you choice and flexibility.” Welcome to the dark side. in is here. Learn more: — Microsoft 365 (@Microsoft365) Microsoft says it first introduced darker backgrounds back in 2010. It has steadily added Dark Mode to more programs, including major services such as Windows 10, Edge and Office. Jon Friendman. (Microsoft Photo) Dark backgrounds have become popular in recent years, with tech giants promoting the mode as an of new releases. The black backgrounds often look sleeker, and experts have touted health benefits of the setting as well. It’s become common knowledge that . For people who put in late hours, using a dark background instead of a light one reduces the amount of blue light they’re exposed to, leading to a better sleep after work is done, , a partially-sighted computer scientist at Cambridge University in the U.K. There are disadvantages too. It can be tough to see the backgrounds in well-lit rooms or when light reflects off the screen. In the blog post, Microsoft’s Friedman pointed to the 24/7 nature of work and the spread of productivity tools to everyday life as reasons dark backgrounds have become popular. People aren’t just using Microsoft products on their desktop from 9 to 5 anymore. “Our tools are used to keep up to speed on everything from work communication, to personal events that include friends and family, to changes in shared documents,” Friedman wrote. “This often means viewing email, calendars, or files in places where the default white mode may be less suitable, like darkened airplanes, movie theaters, or in bed at night.”
VR’s most hyped game is getting a price bump later this month as it expands the amount of headsets that it’s playable on. We did a big deep-dive last week on Beat Saber, the best seller from a tiny Prague VR studio that’s pulling in big revenues. The game is part Guitar Hero, part Fruit Ninja, and you’ve got some light sabers to guide you through EDM tunes. It’s sold over 1 million copies. This week, the company Beat Games shared some updates that are likely to increase those revenues further as the company grows more confident that they’ve ironed out most of the game’s bugs. On May 21, Beat Games is bumping the price from $20 to $30 on Valve’s Steam store and the Oculus Home platform, bringing the price in line with the PS VR version. This price bump comes as the company abandons the “Early Access” title, a classifier that has long signified that a game is in beta and hasn’t had all of the kinks ironed out. With this, the studio detailed in a , they feel the game has reached a “stable version,” and that it is now a “full game.” When the game exits early access, it will be picking up a long-promised level editor so that gamers can create custom levels for their own audio tracks. The price change on May 21 isn’t an arbitrary date, that’s when Oculus will be releasing both of its new headsets, the Rift S and Quest. Speaking of the Quest, Oculus had introduced a feature called cross-buy that would enable users who already owned a copy of a game on Rift to let users download that game for free on Quest. On , Beat Games noted today that they won’t be supporting this for the base game, so Quest users will still have to pay up, though the studio said they will enable the feature for add-ons like additional music packs. Beat Saber is going to be unified across all platforms moving forward, meaning you won’t see certain versions getting updates that the others won’t get for a while. This opens up the potential for cross-platform multiplayer as the studio continues to work on a mode for multiple concurrent users. The price jump comes next week, you’ll still be able to score the game at the Early Access price before May 21.
(Screenshot Via Microsoft) A new augmented reality, mobile version of the popular Minecraft game looks to be on the way. Microsoft ended the opening keynote of its Build developer conference with a teaser video showing what appeared to be an AR adaptation of Minecraft, the world-building game that came under its umbrella with the $2.5 billion in 2014. The video ended with the date May 17 and directed viewers to the Minecraft website. What’s up to? Tune in to on May 17 to find out. — Microsoft (@Microsoft) The game is expected to use Azure Spatial Anchors, a program for building “mixed reality apps that map, designate, and recall precise points of interest that are accessible across HoloLens, iOS, and Android devices.” This suggests the game could come to HoloLens as well. The video shows Minecraft Creative Director Saxs Persson sitting on a bench outside the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, where Build is taking place. He leaves his phone on the bench, and it’s picked up by a bystander who sees the Minecraft AR game running on the device. There were few details about the new game, but it did have a similar look to the ever-popular Pokémon Go, the smash hit title that has been downloaded more than 500 million times. Pokémon Go maps its world on top of the real world, using actual points of interest as gathering points in the game. It will be interesting to see if the new Minecraft game adopts a similar philosophy or if Microsoft will take things in a different direction.
(Bigstock Photo) Developers planning to upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft’s Visual Studio code-writing platform will find a new and improved user interface that the company says will make writing and editing code much easier, as well as a new feature that lets them share code with colleagues. Visual Studio 2019 , and it is now generally available for download. Microsoft also will integrate the collaboration feature into both Visual Studio 2019 and Visual Studio Code, . (Click to enlarge) An application diagnostics dashboard in Visual Studio 2019. (Microsoft Screenshot) Both versions of Visual Studio ranked at , and Microsoft said that 8.1 million monthly active one-day users are working with the commercial product. Developers at companies and organizations of all sizes use Visual Studio to create and test their code before moving it into their code repositories, which . In the new version, Microsoft wanted to reduce the complexity of the user interface presented to developers as they work on their code and help developers take advantage of features they might not have realized were there with an improved search engine, said Amanda Silver, partner director of program management at Microsoft. “It kind of gives you more head space for thinking about the code you’re trying to write,” she said. Visual Studio 2019 also promises to help developers write cleaner code with an artificial intelligence-powered version of autocorrect for coders. It pays attention to code styles that different companies require their developers to use, and makes suggestions on how to improve or correct that code. (Click to enlarge) Intelicode helps software developers reduce coding errors with help from artificial intelligence in Visual Studio 2019. (Microsoft Screenshot) And Microsoft made a few nods to the growing impact of cloud computing on the way software is developed, as new ways of deploying and debugging code are changing old assumptions. Although Visual Studio is used to develop a wide range of applications across mobile devices and operating systems, cloud developers working with the 2019 version will find support for continuous integration/continuous deployment tools as well as Kubernetes, . At the time of , here appeared to be a fair amount of opportunity for Visual Studio and GitHub teams inside Microsoft to collaborate on new features that would help developers move between the two products. There’s nothing new to report on that front in the 2019 version, but Microsoft continues to improve the existing GitHub extension for Visual Studio and will likely incorporate the extension in a future release, Silver said. There’s also a 2019 version of Visual Studio for Mac coming out Tuesday, but a lot of the more advanced bells and whistles can only be found in the core product. The new Mac version comes with a new code editor that shares a common core with the one used in the Windows version, as well as several navigation and performance improvements.
Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé holds a Nintendo Switch during a fireside chat at the GeekWire Summit 2018 in Seattle on Wednesday. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire) For Nintendo, the past six years have been a lesson in learning from disappointment and rebounding with record-breaking success. Speaking on stage at the GeekWire Summit on Wednesday, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé talked about how the video game giant went from facing lower-than-expected sales with its Wii U console to creating the Nintendo Switch that flew off store shelves. The Nintendo Switch debuted last year and is already one of the most , with sales nearing 20 million units. The device, which doubles as a handheld and traditional console, helped from its previous console launch, the Wii U, which wasn’t as popular with gamers. But sometimes failures can lead to success, and that’s what happened for Nintendo. “We had launched the Wii U, following on the heels of the Wii, which had sold 100 million units globally,” said Fils-Aimé, who joined Nintendo in 2003. “The Wii U did not have that same level of success. But what we heard from consumers is that the proposition of a tablet that they could experience gameplay [with], coupled with the ability to play games on the big screen TV, was really compelling.” The Switch comes with a docking station, two Joy-Con controllers, and a Joy-Con Grip to make a more traditional controller. (Nintendo Photo) Consumers also wanted a system that could exist not only inside the home, but go with them on the bus or to the park. The Wii U wasn’t necessarily a “beta test” for the Switch, Fils-Aimé said, but it was essential for what ultimately became the Switch. “WIthout our experiences on the Wii U, we would not have the Nintendo Switch in terms of what we learned and importantly what we heard from our consumers,” he said. “They were telling us, ‘I want to play with this tablet, this gamepad for the Wii U, but as soon as I get more than 30 feet away it disconnects.’ So the core concept, something that you could take with you anywhere anytime, was really compelling.” Michael Pachter, a research analyst for Wedbush Securities, said Nintendo launched the Wii U too late and with limited software support. “The device was complicated and awkward, and it didn’t resonate with consumers,” he said in an email. “They then launched the Switch (also very late), but since it is essentially a handheld, it was familiar to anyone who grew up with a GameBoy device, and it had a ton of first and third party software support.” Asked about leadership tactics he used while guiding Nintendo through the Wii U letdown, Fils-Aimé said reinvention is “in our DNA.” “We reinvent ourselves every five, ten years,” he said. “We have to, in this fast-moving entertainment business.” Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé holds a Nintendo Labo, a new line of DIY kits, while on stage at the GeekWire Summit. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire) Having a balanced perspective on success and failure is also key, Fils-Aimé said, echoing a Nintendo philosophy about staying even-keeled. “When you’re doing well, don’t be excited about that high-flying performance,” Fils-Aimé said. “When you’re doing poorly, don’t be sad. Always have an even keel and always focus on the next big adventure. And that’s what we do.” The success of the Switch has been a boon for Nintendo’s bottom line. The company posted of $1.51 billion, a 9 percent increase from the year before, and operating profits of $275 million, up 88 percent over last year. “Nintendo isn’t going anywhere,” Pachter said. “They’re consistently profitable and have a large cash cushion, so I think they’ll be around for another 100 years.”