Xbox One will work with keyboard and mouse as of November 14th, starting with Fortnite

We knew the Xbox One was set to get keyboard and mouse support eventually, but now we know exactly when: November 14th.

Don’t expect all Xbox One games to play friendly with the new keyboard/mouse functionality right out of the gate. It’s up to individual developers to figure out if/how it works with their games and patch things up accordingly, so only a handful will support it at first.

But one of the first titles picking up support is a big one: Fortnite, the free-to-play third person shooter that has taken over the world, will roll out support with an update later this week. As will Warframe, the free-to-play coop shooter.

Bomber Crew, Strange Brigade, Warhammer: Vermintide 2, War Thunder, X-Morph: Defense, and Deep Rock Galactic will get support later in November, while Children of Morta, Vigor, Warface, Wargroove, DayZ, Minion Masters, and Moonlighter have pledged to add support at some less specific point down the road.

Windows 10 users finding their legit installs are being deactivated

For reasons that are currently unclear, Windows 10 Professional users are finding that their properly licensed installations are being deactivated.

On systems affected by the issue, Windows is complaining that a Windows 10 Home license key is being used with a Windows 10 Pro installation. To fix things, the system needs to be wiped and Windows 10 Home installed. Otherwise, a genuine Windows 10 Pro key needs to be used.

Microsoft has acknowledged that the problem exists and that some unspecified issue with the Windows Authentication servers is causing the problem, but as yet, there’s no fix. The Windows 10 Pro licenses do seem to be valid, and some resolution is promised within a couple of business days.

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Microsoft’s special Costco Surface Go is now available to all

Promotional image of a tablet device.

Surface Go is Microsoft’s cheapest Surface 2-in-1 available: $399 gets you a Surface Go with 4GB RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. But the next step up in specs was a lot more expensive: it takes an extra $150 to double the RAM to 8GB and replace the 64GB eMMC with a 128GB SSD, a change that should provide a healthy boost in disk performance.

Strangely, there was no model that split the difference; a 4GB machine with 128GB SSD would be a lot more practical for many users. That is, unless you chose to buy your Surface Go at Costco, where a special 4GB/128GB system was sold. Now, however, that spec is available to all through the Microsoft Store, for $499.

While 4GB is a little miserly in the year 2018, it’s not unprecedented at this price point. For a system used primarily for Web browsing, Microsoft Office, and media streaming, it’s just about acceptable—and with the relatively weak processor in the machine, you likely wouldn’t want to do much beyond those tasks anyway. The faster and larger SSD will ensure there’s abundant space for music, photos, and videos without having to micromanage storage.

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Grab pulls in $250M from Hyundai as ongoing round reaches $2.7B

Grab, the Singapore startup that bought Uber’s Southeast Asia business earlier this year, continues to announce strategic investors for its ongoing Series H funding round. The latest edition revealed today is Korean automotive firm Hyundai, which is investing $250 million.

Hyundai first invested in Grab in January, and it joins recently announced investors Microsoft (undisclosed) and Booking Holdings ($200 million) in the round, which is aimed at reaching at least $3 billion before the end of this year. Grab first announced a $1 billion investment from Toyota in June and that was doubled to $2 billion when a range of institutional backers joined. Those include OppenheimerFunds, Ping An Capital, Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Macquarie Capital, and today Grab disclosed two others: Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and Citi Ventures.

In total, these additions take that Series H round to $2.7 billion so far, Grab said. That means that Grab, which is valued at over $11 billion, has now raised more than $6 billion from investors including SoftBank and China’s Didi. That’s a figure that extends its record for a startup in Southeast Asia. Grab claims 125 million downloads across its eight markets in Southeast Asia and over 2.5 billion rides completed to date, up from two billion in July.

Like Toyota, Microsoft and travel giant Booking — which was formerly known as Priceline — Hyundai’s involvement includes a fairly hefty strategic portion: electric vehicles.

Grab said that it will work with the Korea firm introduce a series of EV pilots in Southeast Asia that’ll feature Hyundai and Hyundai-owned Kia vehicles. The companies began working on the rollout of Hyundai’s IONIQ vehicle in Singapore earlier this year and now they will add Kia EVs and explore opportunities beyond Singapore.

(Right to left) Euisun Chung, Executive Vice Chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, and Anthony Tan, Grab CEO, mark the new $250 million investment deal [Image via Bloomberg New Economy Forum]

Grab has an EV fleet in Singapore — size undisclosed — and it is working with Singapore Power to roll out a network of charging hubs and packages for Grab EV drivers as it expands that EV presence in the country. But this Hyundai partnership would represent its first EV foray into other markets in Southeast Asia, which has a cumulative population of more than 600 million consumers, although it didn’t name which markets or give a timeframe.

As in Singapore, Grab said its EV strategy will include engaging governments and “infrastructure players” to set up the right conditions for EVs, such as charging networks, maintenance packages for drivers and general research into how EVs perform in more humid environments.

Beyond the EV plans, Grab’s Series H is being put aside for a number of ventures which include its push to become an all-in-one ‘super app’ that goes beyond transportation to cover food deliveries, services on-demand, payments and fintech services, and more. There’s also likely an allocation for competition because, although Grab consumed Uber’s local business in the region, Indonesia-based rival Go-Jek is expanding in the region.

Go-Jek, which is aiming to raise $2 billion in its latest funding round according to sources, has entered Vietnam, is in the process of launching in Thailand and has just begun recruiting drivers for a Singapore rollout. That means Grab needs to keep a substantial amount of powder dry in case of the (likely) event that its battle with Go-Jek descends into a discount war, as was often the case during its rivalry with Uber.

That explains why it is raising an enormous $3 billion round despite having already removed Uber from the region via the buyout deal, which saw the U.S. ride-hailing giant take a 27.5 percent stake in Grab.

That deal, by the way, didn’t really go as planned. Not only was Grab over ambitious on the logistics, including plans to consume most of Uber’s 500 staff, but it misread the public reaction and incurred the wrath of regulators. Singapore’s consumer watchdog hit Uber and Grab with a total of $9.5 million in fines for the “anti-competitive” merger, while the pair got a lighter reprimand in the Philippines.

Village Global’s accelerator introduces founders to Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman, Eric Schmidt and more

Village Global is leveraging its network of tech luminaries to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The $100 million early-stage venture capital firm, which counts Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman and many other high-profile techies as limited partners (LPs), quietly announced on Friday that the accelerator it piloted earlier this year would become a permanent fixture.

Called Network Catalyst, Village provides formation-stage startups with $150,000 and three-months of programming in exchange for 7 percent equity. Its key offering, however, is access to its impressive roster of LPs.

To formally announce Network Catalyst, Village brought none other than Bill Gates to San Francisco for a fireside chat with Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz . During the hour-long talk, Gates handed out candid advice on building a successful company, insights on philanthropy and predictions on the future of technology. He later met individually with the founders of Village’s portfolio companies.

“I have a fairly hardcore view that there should be a very large sacrifice made during those early years,” Gates said. “In those early years, you need to have a team that’s pretty maniacal about the company.”

During the Q&A session, Gates regurgitated one of his great anecdotes. In the early days of Microsoft, he would memorize his employee’s license plates so he knew when they were coming and going, quietly noting who was working the longest hours. He admitted, to no one’s surprise, that he struggled with work-life balance.

“I think you can over worship the idea of working extremely hard,” he said. “For my particular makeup, it’s really true I didn’t believe in weekends or vacations … Once I got in my 30s,’ I could hardly imagine how I’d done that because by then something natural thing inside of me kicked in and I loved weekends and my girlfriend liked vacations and that turned out to be a great thing.”

Gates has been an active investor in Village since it emerged one year ago. VMWare founder Diane Greene, Disney CEO Bob Iger and Spanx CEO Sara Blakely are also on the firm’s long list of LPs.

Village is led by four general partners: Erik Torenberg, Product Hunt’s first employee; LinkedIn’s former chief of staff Ben Casnocha; Chegg’s former chief business officer Anne Dwane; and former Canaan partner Ross Fubini. They initially filed to raise a $50 million fund in mid-2017 but ultimately closed on $100 million in March. The firm relies heavily on scouts — angel investors and others knowledgeable of the startup world — to source deals. The scouts, in return, earn a portion of the firm’s returns.

Former Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt.

An accelerator program has been part of Village’s plan since the beginning.

Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, Fidelity CEO Abby Johnson, Hoffman, Iger, Blakely and Schmidt all worked with Network Catalyst’s debut cohort of founders. Village co-founder Anne Dwane said Hoffman and former Twitter CEO Ev Williams have signed on to work with the next cohort.

“It is about contacts, not content,” Dwane told TechCrunch. “The most important thing is who you can meet to help you take your business forward.”

San Francisco-based VeriSIM, a startup building AI-enabled biosimulation models, was among the debut class of companies that participated in Network Catalyst. Jo Varshney, the company’s founder and CEO, said the accelerator’s personalization and customization set it apart from competing options.

“It seemed like I had a team of people working alongside me even though I’m a solo founder,” Varshney told TechCrunch.

After completing the Network Catalyst program, Schmidt introduced Varshney to a number of investors. She quickly closed a $1.5 million seed round.

“One year in and I already have a one-on-one meeting with Bill Gates,” she added.”

Applications for the accelerator close on Dec. 7 with programming kicking off Jan. 14. Village plans to enroll at least 12 companies across industries.

Satya Nadella: The cloud is going to move underwater

Lowering <em>Leona Philpot</em>, Microsoft's first underwater serverpod, into the water.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that underwater server farms are part of the company’s plans for future data centers.

Microsoft has been experimenting with underwater servers for some time. Project Natick put a server pod underwater off the coast of California in 2016. Naturally enough, the pod uses water cooling, dumping waste heat into the ocean around it. It’s designed as a sealed unit, deployed for five years before being brought back up to the surface and replaced. Since then, Microsoft has deployed a larger pod off the coast of Scotland.

Speaking at the company’s Future Decoded conference in London, Nadella said that undersea deployments are “the way [Microsoft] will think about data center regions and expansion.” He cites proximity to humans as a particular advantage: about 50 percent of the world’s population lives within 120 miles of a coast. Putting servers in the ocean means that they can be near population centers, which in turn ensures lower latencies. Low latencies are particularly important for real-time services, including Microsoft’s forthcoming Xcloud game streaming service.

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Dark Mode Coming to Microsoft Office for Mac

With the release of macOS Mojave in September, Apple introduced a Dark Mode to its desktop operating system that some users prefer the look of, or just find more forgiving on the eyes. Many third-party apps have followed suit with their own darkened interfaces, and now it looks like a similar interface option is also headed for Microsoft Office.

MS PowerPoint in Dark Mode


Microsoft Office product manager Akshay Bakshi has been teasing as much on social media, with two tweets posted on October 29 and 30 indicating that users of Office for Mac will soon have the ability run at least some apps included in the productivity suite in a new native Dark Mode.



According to the tweets, Dark Mode will be available in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, featuring new dynamic ribbon and icon styling. Users signed up to the Insiders Fast community getting access to the visual refresh first in build 181029.

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The hybrid cloud market just got a heck of a lot more compelling

Let’s start with a basic premise that the vast majority of the world’s work loads remain in private data centers. Cloud infrastructure vendors are working hard to shift those workloads, but technology always moves a lot slower than we think. That is the lens through which many cloud companies operate.

The idea that you operate both on prem and in the cloud with multiple vendors is the whole idea behind the notion of the hybrid cloud. It’s where companies like Microsoft, IBM, Dell and Oracle are placing their bets. These died-in-the-wool enterprise companies see their large customers making a slower slog than you would imagine to the cloud, and they want to provide them with the tools and technologies to manage across both worlds, while helping them shift when they are ready.

Cloud native computing developed in part to provide a single management fabric across on prem and cloud, freeing IT from having two sets of tools and trying somehow to bridge the gap between the two worlds.

What every cloud vendor wants

Red Hat — you know, that company that was sold to IBM for $34 billion this week — has operated in this world. While most people think of the company as the one responsible for bringing Linux to the enterprise, over the last several years, it has been helping customers manage this transition and build applications that could live partly on-prem and partly in the cloud.

As an example, it has built OpenShift, its version of Kubernetes. As CEO Jim Whitehurst told me last year, “Our hottest product is OpenShift. People talk about containers and they forget it’s a feature of Linux,” he said. That is an operating system that Red Hat knows a thing or two about.

With Red Hat in the fold, IBM can contend that being open source, they can build modern applications on top of open source tools and run them on IBM’s cloud or any of their competitors, a real hybrid approach.

Microsoft has a huge advantage here, of course, because it has a massive presence in the enterprise already. Many companies out there could be described as Microsoft shops, and for those companies moving from on-prem Microsoft to cloud Microsoft represents a less daunting challenge than starting from scratch.

Oracle has brings similar value with its core database products. Companies using Oracle databases — just about everyone — might find it easier to move that valuable data to Oracle’s cloud, although the numbers don’t suggest that’s necessarily happening (and Oracle has stopped breaking out its cloud revenue).

Dell, which spent $67 billion for EMC, making the Red Hat purchase pale by comparison, has been trying to pull together a hybrid solution by combining VMware, Pivotal and Dell/EMC hardware.

Cloud vendors reporting

You could argue that hybrid is a temporary state, that at some point, the vast majority of workloads will eventually be running in the cloud and the hybrid business as we know it today will continually shrink over time. We are certainly seeing cloud infrastructure revenue skyrocketing with no signs of slowing down as more workloads move to the cloud.

In their latest earnings reports, those who break such things out, the successful ones, reported growth in their cloud business. It’s important to note that these companies define cloud revenue in different ways, but you can see the trend is definitely up.

  • AWS reported revenue of $6.7 billion in revenue for the quarter, up from $4.58 billion the previous year.
  • Microsoft Intelligent Cloud, which incorporates things like Azure and server products and enterprise services, was at $8.6 billion, up from $6.9 billion
  • IBM Technology Services and Cloud Platforms, which includes infrastructure services, technical support services and integration software reported revenue of $8.6 billion, up from $8.5 billion the previous year.
  • Others like Oracle and Google didn’t break out their cloud revenue.

Show me the money

All of this is to say, there is a lot of money on the table here and companies are moving more workloads at an increasingly rapid pace.  You might also have noticed that IBM’s growth is flat compared to the others. Yesterday in a call with analysts and press, IBM CEO Ginni Rometti projected that revenue for the hybrid cloud (however you define that) could reach $1 trillion by 2020. Whether that number is exaggerated or not, there is clearly a significant amount of business here and IBM might see it as a way out of its revenue problems, especially if they can leverage  consulting/ services along with it.

There is probably so much business that there is room for more than one winner, but if you asked before Sunday if IBM had a shot in this mix against its formidable competitors, especially those born in the cloud like AWS and Google, most probably wouldn’t have given them much chance.

When Red Hat eventually joins forces with IBM, it at least gives their sales teams a compelling argument, one that could get them into the conversation and that is probably why they were willing to spend so much money to get it. It puts them back in the game, and after years of struggling, that is something. And in the process, it has stirred up the hybrid cloud market in a way we didn’t see coming last week before this deal.