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    Microsoft crackdown disables emulators downloaded to Xbox consoles / ArsTechnica · Friday, 7 April - 15:36

It was nice while it lasted...

Enlarge / It was nice while it lasted... (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Back in 2020, we reported that emulator developers were using a hole in the Xbox Store's app distribution system to get around Microsoft's longstanding ban on emulators running on Xbox consoles . This week, though, many of the emulators that were distributed through that workaround have stopped working, the apparent victims of a new crackdown by Microsoft.

Xbox emulator makers and users can't say they weren't warned. In the "Gaming and Xbox" section of Microsoft's official Store Policies , section 10.13.10 clearly states that "products that emulate a game system or game platform are not allowed on any device family."

Microsoft's enforcement of this clause has historically focused on removing emulators published as "private" UWP apps to the Xbox Store. Those apps could be distributed to whitelisted users via direct links accessed on the system's Edge browser, getting around the usual approval process for a public store listing.

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    These angry Dutch farmers really hate Microsoft / ArsTechnica · Friday, 31 March - 13:46

Microsoft sign

Enlarge (credit: Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images )

As soon as Lars Ruiter steps out of his car, he is confronted by a Microsoft security guard, who is already seething with anger. Ruiter, a local councillor, has parked in the rain outside a half-finished Microsoft data center that rises out of the flat North Holland farmland. He wants to see the construction site. The guard, who recognizes Ruiter from a previous visit when he brought a TV crew here, says that’s not allowed. Within minutes, the argument has escalated, and the guard has his hand around Ruiter’s throat.

The security guard lets go of Ruiter within a few seconds, and the councillor escapes with a red mark across his neck. Back in his car, Ruiter insists he’s fine. But his hands shake when he tries to change gears. He says the altercation—which he will later report to the police—shows the fog of secrecy that surrounds the Netherlands’ expanding data center business.

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    Microsoft wins battle with Sony as UK reverses finding on Activision merger / ArsTechnica · Friday, 24 March - 19:37

Promotional image of a PlayStation 5 game console and controller.

Enlarge / Sony's PlayStation 5. (credit: Sony)

UK regulators reviewing Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard reversed their stance on a key question today, saying they no longer believe Microsoft would remove the Call of Duty franchise from Sony's PlayStation consoles.

Last month, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) tentatively concluded that a combined Microsoft/Activision Blizzard would harm competition in console gaming. At the time, the CMA said evidence showed that "Microsoft would find it commercially beneficial to make Activision's games exclusive to its own consoles (or only available on PlayStation under materially worse conditions)." The agency also raised concerns about the merger affecting rivals in cloud gaming.

The preliminary finding was a victory for Sony, which has consistently expressed doubts about Microsoft's promise to keep putting Call of Duty games on PlayStation. But Microsoft argued that the CMA's financial model was flawed and was able to convince the agency to reverse its conclusion. In an announcement today , the CMA said it "received a significant amount of new evidence."

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    Judge dismisses gamers’ claims that Microsoft/Activision merger will spoil gaming / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 21 March - 19:53

Judge dismisses gamers’ claims that Microsoft/Activision merger will spoil gaming

Enlarge (credit: INA FASSBENDER / Contributor | AFP )

Last December, Call of Duty gamers sued Microsoft , seeking to block its merger with Activision, partly because they alleged that the merger would set up Microsoft to dominate industry rivals, drive up prices, and reduce consumer choice. Yesterday, a California judge, Jacqueline Corley, granted Microsoft’s motion to dismiss the suit, saying that the gamers didn’t “plausibly allege” that the merger “creates a reasonable probability of anticompetitive effects in any relevant market.”

Gamers suing don’t plan to give up this fight that easily, though. They have 20 days to amend their complaint to include more evidence that demonstrates those anticompetitive effects are likely to harm them personally.

The gamers' lawyer, Joseph Alioto, told Ars that he believes they have ample evidence to satisfy the judge in this case. He confirmed that gamers intend to file their amended complaint as soon as possible. Rather than being discouraged by the judge’s dismissal, Alioto told Ars that the gamers were pleased by Corley’s order.

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    Microsoft plans mobile games app store to rival Apple and Google / ArsTechnica · Monday, 20 March - 13:30

Microsoft plans mobile games app store to rival Apple and Google


Microsoft is preparing to launch a new app store for games on iPhones and Android smartphones as soon as next year if its $75 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard is cleared by regulators, according to the head of its Xbox business.

New rules requiring Apple and Google to open up their mobile platforms to app stores owned and operated by other companies are expected to come into force from March 2024 under the EU’s Digital Markets Act.

“We want to be in a position to offer Xbox and content from both us and our third-party partners across any screen where somebody would want to play,” said Phil Spencer, chief executive of Microsoft Gaming, in an interview ahead of this week’s annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

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    Microsoft 365’s AI-powered Copilot is like an omniscient version of Clippy / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 16 March - 17:38

Microsoft 365 Copilot will attempt to automate content generation and analysis in all of the former Microsoft Office apps.

Enlarge / Microsoft 365 Copilot will attempt to automate content generation and analysis in all of the former Microsoft Office apps. (credit: Microsoft)

Today Microsoft took the wraps off of Microsoft 365 Copilot , its rumored effort to build automated AI-powered content-generation features into all of the Microsoft 365 apps .

The capabilities Microsoft demonstrated make Copilot seem like a juiced-up version of Clippy , the oft-parodied and arguably beloved assistant from older versions of Microsoft Office. Copilot can automatically generate Outlook emails, Word documents, and PowerPoint decks, can automate data analysis in Excel, and can pull relevant points from the transcript of a Microsoft Teams meeting, among other features.

Microsoft is currently testing Copilot "with 20 customers, including eight in Fortune 500 enterprises." The preview will be expanded to other organizations "in the coming months," but the company didn't mention when individual Microsoft 365 subscribers would be able to use the features. The company will "share more on pricing and licensing soon," suggesting the feature may be a paid add-on in addition to the cost of a Microsoft 365 subscription.

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    OpenAI checked to see whether GPT-4 could take over the world / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 15 March - 22:09

An AI-generated image of the earth enveloped in an explosion.

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

As part of pre-release safety testing for its new GPT-4 AI model , launched Tuesday, OpenAI allowed an AI testing group to assess the potential risks of the model's emergent capabilities—including "power-seeking behavior," self-replication, and self-improvement.

While the testing group found that GPT-4 was "ineffective at the autonomous replication task," the nature of the experiments raises eye-opening questions about the safety of future AI systems.

Raising alarms

"Novel capabilities often emerge in more powerful models," writes OpenAI in a GPT-4 safety document published yesterday. "Some that are particularly concerning are the ability to create and act on long-term plans, to accrue power and resources (“power-seeking”), and to exhibit behavior that is increasingly 'agentic.'" In this case, OpenAI clarifies that "agentic" isn't necessarily meant to humanize the models or declare sentience but simply to denote the ability to accomplish independent goals.

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