The Annoying Rise of Scam & Robocalls

Special Report: Have you noticed more & more robocalls or out & out spam phone calls making it to your mobile device? If you have – you are not alone. This has been getting on my nerves for a while now so I looked into just what was going on and why – these annoying calls are becoming more frequent.

An estimated 2.5 billion automated calls are being made each month, according to YouMail, which offers a robocall-blocking app. Three quarters of wireless customers feel like the number of unwanted calls has increased over the past year, and the calls cost Americans an estimated $350 million each year, according to Consumers Union.

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There is some good news. The FCC has reported that it wants to crack down on unwanted robocalls and the federal agency looking at ways to help us block them. It’s also been stepping up enforcement of illegal robocalls. Last week, the agency voted to fine a New Mexico-based company $2.88 million for making unlawful robocalls. And last month, the FCC fined a Florida resident $120 million for allegedly making almost 100 million illegal robocalls in a three-month period.

However ridding the world of robocalls entirely is tricky because some legitimate communications are made using automated call technology. That includes weather alerts and messages from schools, public utilities and political organizations. Phone companies don’t want to block legitimate calls that consumers may want to receive.

Here’s what you need to know to understand what’s going on with robocalls.

Annoying Calls Explained

Telemarketing tech that uses automated dialers to make so-called robocalls is pretty simple and inexpensive to set up and run. All you need is a computer connected to a modem and a program that selects and dials numbers from a database. Other features can be added too, such as recording calls or detecting when a person has answered.

Because the cost of making these calls has pretty much come down to zero and it’s possible to make the calls from offshore — where they’re harder to trace and crack down on — it’s become an easy and attractive method for scammers.

Why Are We Getting These Calls?

There are a few reasons.

  • You may have actually given your consent to a company to make these calls. And maybe you didn’t know you’d done so.
  • Your phone number has been reassigned and the previous person who had that number had consented to getting marketing calls and the company calling you hasn’t updated its list. (The FCC is currently considering a proposal to fix this issue. I’ll explain what they’re doing below.)
  • The people calling you are scammers and they don’t care about the law. This is probably the most likely answer to this question.
We May Have Done This To Ourselves!

If you have ever checked a box when signing up for a service, website or at a retailer asking if they can market directly to you, you may have given consent to receive marketing calls. Always double chec

FCC’s Recent Robocall Action Explained

Last week, the commission voted on two items related to ridding the world of unwanted robocalls.

First, it voted to evaluate a system that would let phone companies check if a number calling you is legit. This call authentication system could help improve third-party apps that allow consumers to block unwanted calls and allow phone companies to offer call blocking as a service.

The second thing it voted on was a proposal to consider how to prevent unwanted calls after a number has been reassigned to a different customer. Currently, legitimate companies that make telemarketing calls have no way of knowing if a phone number has been reassigned. This means customers who haven’t given consent for marketing calls are getting them. It also means that legitimate companies making these calls to customers who don’t want the calls are in violation of the law and are subject to stiff penalties.

To help resolve this issue, the FCC is considering whether wireless companies should be required to report when numbers have been reassigned so a database can be created. Companies could access the database so they aren’t calling numbers that have been reassigned to a new customer.

What We Can Do Now?

Ask your phone company to offer robocall-blocking technology — most of them offer some form of protection, although a few will charge you a fee.

If you use a robocall-blocking app or your carrier provides technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others. I have been using the truecaller” app for a few months now which has seemed to help quite a bit in respect to identifying robo & spam calls.  With this app, your phone still rings, however the caller identification reports the callers as “spam caller” which at least helps you avoid answering one of these calls. Check out truecaller here.

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Don’t pick up the phone when someone from an unknown or suspicious number is calling you. This is often how scammers know it’s a legit number to target and they may sell your number to other telemarketers and scammers.

File a complaint with the FCC or the FTC. The FCC can issue warning citations and impose fines against companies violating or suspected of violating the do-not-call rules. But it doesn’t award individual damages. The FTC can file lawsuits against companies or individuals violating its rules.

Consider filing a lawsuit, if you can find out who is making the calls. Companies are “strictly” liable for unwanted robocalls made without explicit written consent. And since damages start at a minimum of $500 per unwanted robocall, the penalties can add up.

Forward spam text messages sent from a phone number to 7726 (or SPAM). This free text exchange with the wireless carrier reports the spam number and you’ll receive a response from the carrier thanking you for reporting the spam.

If you need more information, check out the FCC’s website here.

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The War Against Fake News Continues

The battle against “fake news” continues, at least on social media.

Facebook reported earlier this week that it has targeted 30,000 fake accounts linked to France ahead of the country’s presidential election, as part of a worldwide effort against misinformation.

Facebook went on to state that it’s trying to “reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts.”

Facebook had previously ramped up its efforts against the spread of false news and misinformation on its service in December, a month after the U.S. presidential election. The company said at the time that it will focus on the “worst of the worst” offenders and partner with outside fact-checkers and news organizations to sort honest news reports from made-up stories.

This action is partially a result of Facebook being accused of allowing the spread of false news in the months leading up to the U.S. election, which may have helped change the results of the election.

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Last week, Facebook launched a resource (above image) to help users spot false news in 14 countries including the U.S., France and Germany. It’s a notification, available for a few days, that leads users to a list of tips for spotting false news and ways to report it.

Facebook’s other efforts include participating with other companies and tech industry leaders to establish a “news integrity” nonprofit organization to promote news literacy and increase the public’s trust in journalism.

I do expect that this fake news problem, which is now a world wide phenomenon will eventually be dealt with. However, how that will look, or how effective our efforts will be is unknown.

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Social Media Begins Responding to Fake News

Fake news is anything but fake, it is a very real problem. Both Facebook & YouTube which have been outlets for creators of fake news are starting to respond to this threat. In fact one of the biggest ways in which Russia interfered with the presidential election of 2016 was through the publishing of fake news stories which even included entire Facebook pages.

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Facebook’s Fake News Response

Facebook is launching a resource to help you spot false news and misleading information that spreads on its service.

The resource, similar to previous efforts around privacy and security, is basically a notification that pops up for a few days. Clicking on it takes you to tips and other information on how to spot false news and what to do about it.

Tips to spot false news include looking closely at website addresses to see if they are trying to spoof real news sites, and checking websites’ “about” sections for more information. Some sites might look like real news at first glance, but their “about” sections inform the visitor that they are in fact satire.

The new feature is part of a broader plan by Facebook to clamp down false news stories, which gained outsized attention in the months leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

False news, of course, was around long before the election. But supermarket tabloids peddling stories about aliens and celebrity miracles are less insidious than, say, “Pizzagate,” a false internet rumor that led a gunman to fire an assault weapon inside a Washington pizzeria in December.

This new resource should be launching soon. Watch for it.

YouTube’s Fake News Response

Youtube announced this past Thursday that is it is cracking down on fake news channels by no longer placing advertising on them until they’ve reached 10,000 overall views.

YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., also the parent company of Google, announced changes after several big companies pulled their advertising from the company because their ads were appearing with objectionable content.

The online video service said the changes are designed to make sure channels are legitimate and not stealing content.

In the past, the open-ended policy allowed amateur video creators to earn money and some work became viral and earned a considerable amount.

Several advertisers, including Walmart, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase, Pepsico, Starbucks and Johnson & Johnson, pulled out of YouTube after their ads appeared in extremist hate-speech videos.

YouTube, due to it’s reliance on advertisers and their growing reluctance to appear on fake news & hate filled stories is spearheading this response.

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Our Privacy Has Just Been Sold

I do not normally post articles here that have a political angle however today news out of the US Senate resulted in this one – which should worry each and everyone of us.

This morning, Republican senators voted to remove Obama administration restrictions designed to keep internet service providers (ISPs) from selling our private data. The vote passed along party lines, 50-48. This means that very soon – your private data will more then likely be sold to the highest bidder – without your control or your knowledge.

The Current Situation with Your Internet Data

The policy, originally proposed by then acting FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler outlined clear guidelines for how ISPs were to handle your data. In short, they could not use it without your permission and they certainly were not able to share sensitive information like browsing history and location data with advertisers.

The Effect on Your Privacy Effected by this New Action

As of today, that rule is a step closer to being a memory. Congress essentially just opened the floodgates to some of the sleaziest corporations on the planet using your data however they see fit, and they did it while assuring each of us that it was in our best interest.

Worse, the ruling could put the FCC in danger of not being able to create similar ones in the future. According to the Congressional Review Act:

Once a rule is thus repealed, the CRA also prohibits the reissuing of the rule in substantially the same form or the issuing of a new rule that is substantially the same, “unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the joint resolution disapproving the original rule.

If you’re wondering how we got here, follow the money: the 22 Republican senators behind the push to strike down the original ruling have pocketed more than $1.7 million from telecom companies since the 2012 election.

On its own, the lack of privacy each of us face on the internet is already a scary proposition. Removing the few guidelines that protect us from shady backroom deals is outright terrifying.

This is just the opening shot in an on-going war. Already through the Senate, up next is the House of Representatives, where it’s expected to get the needed number of votes thanks to a Republican-controlled House voting along party lines, and finally Trump’s desk. He’s expected to sign the bill.

It’s no secret what Trump and his Republican-controlled Congress plan to do to the internet: shift control to corporate interests. Newly-installed FCC chairman, Ajit Pai has made it clear he intends to dismantle net neutrality rules. Last month, he even went as far as blocking language in the privacy rules that required ISPs to adopt reasonable security measures to protect our data, and notify each of us when a breach occurs.

 

Overturning net neutrality guidelines, when coupled with a complete lack of privacy, seems to put all of us on a one-way collision course with the antiquated cable TV model. That means tiered pricing, prioritized service, and always-on monitoring of your internet activity. And thanks to this sacrifice at the alter of capitalism, ISPs are set to profit handsomely while doing away with any notion of an open internet.

For the rest of us, we’re at the mercy of a group of rich suits, a group we’re now trusting to ethically handle data containing our most sensitive information.

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Verizon Gives Up on Email Service

Do you use a Verizon email account? Pretty soon, that could be an AOL account. I missed this story entirely until my dad called me asking what he should do with his Verizon email account. At first I thought my dad was a victim of a phishing attack… but as is usually the case… my dad was right and I was wrong.

So after my dad called I did a little research and this is what I discovered.

Verizon has recently been notifying customers that it is giving up control of 4.5 million customer email accounts and will be migrating those accounts to AOL — a move that may give some flashbacks to the 1990’s. (Although I do not expect any free CD’s!)

Customers have 30 days to choose one of three options before they lose access to their accounts:

  1. Head over to AOL.
  2. Transfer their email to another provider or
  3. Leave their accounts alone to be deleted.

Verizon users who choose the AOL option will still be able to keep their existing addresses, which will carry the “verizon.net” ending. They will, however, have to let Verizon know that they want to hang on to their addresses and log in through AOL’s system from now on.

Why the change? According to an information page on Verizon’s website, the company stated that it realized there are “more capable email platforms out there”, including AOL Mail, which has been owned by Verizon since 2015.

Migrating from Verizon to AOL will apparently be easy. Users interested in keeping their email addresses will not have to do much. Verizon will migrate the contacts, calendars, email and other information to AOL for them.

Depending on your situation AOL may actually be the right choice, however this will also be a good time for many to look at service providers like Google & Microsoft.

For my dad, I am thinking AOL will be his best option.

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Hacking Made Easy

Network security is about to get a lot more complicated for IT departments.

Numerous hacking tools believed to be designed by the National Security Agency (NSA) recently hit the Internet, available at no charge to anyone who wants to download the files. The tools include 61 files that appear to target Windows machines.

The release of the hacking tools comes courtesy of the hacking collective calling itself the Shadow Brokers. The group previously announced that it planned to sell the tools to the highest bidders, but appeared to have backed off that plan after the sale failed to attract much interest.

This past Thursday, the group announced in a post written in broken English that it was ceasing its operations and would be going dark.

“TheShadowBrokers is deleting accounts and moving on so don’t be trying communications. “You are being disappointed? Nobody is being more disappointed than TheShadowBrokers.”

The post did not make it clear why the group decided to close its doors, although it did make reference to “political talk” and the increased risk inherent in its involvement with high-profile hacking cases.

While it is impossible to say for sure where the Shadow Brokers obtained the tools, samples of the malware files released by the group in August appeared to match programming code that had been obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden while working for the NSA, although he never released the files.

The tools are believed to have been designed by an outfit known as The Equation Group, itself a hacking team believed by many experts to be supported by the NSA.

The Hacking War Goes On

This may not be the end of the Shadow Brokers. The group said that it still has additional exploits and stolen passwords that it’s holding in reserve, which the group may release at a later date if it’s not paid to keep them off the market.

Why is the group is surrendering their most powerful tools now? According to one theory, the release is a sort of warning from the Russian government to the new U.S. administration not to escalate the ongoing cyber conflict between the two nations.

Another infamous hacker believed to be tied to the Russian government, Guccifer 2.0, also made an announcement the same day as the Shadow Brokers released the malware tools. Guccifer’s post denied reports from U.S. intelligence agencies that he or she is a Russian agent. Guccifer is the hacker who claimed responsibility for hacking into the emails of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and transmitting them to Wikileaks.

Will the 61 hacking tools that have been made available on the internet make it to a PC near you? Lets hope not. Today everyone should be using following good security practices – otherwise you really are taking a rick with your data and your personal information.

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Facebook’s Battle Against Fake News

Facebook is updating its “trending” feature that highlights hot topics on its social networking site, part of its effort to root out the kind of fake news stories that critics contend helped Donald Trump become president.

With the changes announced Wednesday, Facebook’s trending list will consist of topics being covered by several publishers. Before, it focused on subjects drawing the biggest crowds of people sharing or commenting on posts.

I believe it is this “focusing on the biggest crowds” that was Facebook’s error which resulted in so much fake news on people’s newsfeeds.

The switch is intended to make Facebook a more credible source of information by steering hordes of its 1.8 billion users toward topics that “reflect real world events being covered by multiple outlets,” Will Cathcart, the company’s vice president of product management, said in a blog post.

Facebook also will also stop customizing trending lists to cater to each user’s personal interests. Instead, everyone located in the same region will see the same trending lists, which currently appear in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and India.

This change in particular could widen the scope of information Facebook’s users see, instead of just topics that reinforce what they may have already heard or read elsewhere. The broader perspective might reduce the chances of Facebook’s users living in a “filter bubble” — only engaging with people and ideas with which they agree.

Questions about Facebook’s influence on what people are reading intensified last summer after a technology blog relying on an anonymous source reported that human editors routinely suppressed conservative viewpoints on the site.

Facebook fired the small group of journalists overseeing its trending items and replaced them with an algorithm that was supposed to be a more neutral judge about what to put on the list.

But the automated approach began to pick out posts that were getting the most attention, even if the information in them was bogus. Some of the fake news stories targeted Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton, prompting critics to believe the falsehoods help Donald Trump overcome a large deficit in public opinion polls.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially brushed off that notion as “crazy ,” but in December the company announced a slew of new measures to curb the spread of fake news.

To discourage the creation of fake news in the first place, Facebook also is banishing perpetual publishers of false information from its lucrative ad network.

Google, which operates an even larger digital ad network, has taken a similar stand against publishers of fake news.

My Take on Fake News

What are of this tells us is that social media and fake news is a very real problem and often results in people living in bubbles that they are comfortable with. This is very ironic considering that we have access to more information then ever before in human history. However people tend to only listen to what makes them comfortable and choose outlets that they agree with. This first happened with cable news channels (Fox News), now it is occurring on social media.

This is dangerous and suffocating to individual growth.

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Alexa will be Powering Sync Enabled Ford Vehicles

If you are the proud owner of a Ford with Sync3 check this out. Alexa is coming to Ford. For me this welcome be a welcome addition.

Exactly a year ago, Ford announced its plans to equip its vehicles with Amazon’s powerful voice-enabled service Alexa and it seems the auto-maker is finally closing in on its promise.

At CES, Ford announced that it will begin rolling out its new Alexa integration later this month. This means owners of Ford vehicles packing its Sync 3 entertainment system will be able to control their cars remotely by speaking to Alexa via the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Tap.

The implementation will take place in two phases, with a slew of additional features expected to follow later throughout the year.

The first stage will enable drivers to remotely turn the car engine on and off, check fuel levels as well as lock and unlock the doors. Eventually, Ford owners will be able to ask Alexa to find destinations, play music and read audiobooks, check news, place orders and control smart home appliances straight from the vehicle.

To connect Alexa to the internet, Ford is additionally implementing a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot capability on select Sync 3-equipped models. Powered by AT&T, the LTE hotspot will support up to 10 devices at a time.

The car-maker also announced its engineers are working on a solution which will allow Samsung Gear S2 and S3 owners to connect their smartwatches to Sync 3 for seamless integration with alerts and parking services.

That ought to make Ford’s new vehicles more appealing to gadget freaks, just like me.

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2016: The Year of the Hack

As you can see cyber-security concerns continued to worsen in 2016 and it appears there will be more problems in 2017. Cyber-security is now a full fledged geopolitical issue.

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2016 was a record-setter for hacking incidents. Unfortunately the headlines show no signs of slowing as we enter 2017. The concern with 2016 was that we experienced a much more diverse field of victims, ranging from celebrities, technology CEOs, political parties, Netflix and even the Olympics.

Netflix “Attacked” 

On December 21, the Netflix Twitter account was hit by hacking collective OurMine, “a self-described white hat security group.” The hackers tweeted a message saying they were “just testing” Netflix security, and suggested Netflix contact them to find out more. OurMine tweeted its message, along with an email address and logo, to the nearly 2.5 million Twitter followers of @netflix, which is Netflix’s U.S. account.

Political Hacks

One of the scarier trends in 2016 was the increased use of hacking to achieve geopolitical goals. Hacking groups linked to either the Kremlin or Russian president Vladimir Putin have been accused of reverting to Cold War tactics to weaken and delegitimize countries seen as political rivals.

A hack of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s database which resulted in the publication of private medical records for several U.S. athletes, was attributed to a group of Russian hackers going by the names “Team Tsar” and “Fancy Bear.” This group of hackers was also accused of hacking the Democratic Party’s network to find embarrassing information about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

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The attack against the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign was rumored to have been part of an orchestrated effort by Russia to use cyberwarfare to undermine the U.S. electoral process. While it’s impossible to say what, if any, effect the hack had on the election of Donald Trump, it has escalated tensions between the two countries and caused alarm within the U.S. intelligence community

Ransomware Attacks Continue To Surge – Public Transportation Exposed

2016 also brought a large increase in ransomware attacks, with individuals being targeted by hackers who encrypt their data in order to extort cash. Perhaps the largest such attack in 2016 was against the San Francisco transit system, which was targeted by a ransomware attack that resulted in travelers receiving free rides over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Bitcoins & Cryptocurrency

This year also saw the second largest bitcoin hack in history, resulting in the theft of more than $65 million of the cryptocurrency.

Point of Sale Concerns

A gang of Russian hackers also managed to break into more than 330,000 point-of-sale machines running software by Micros, an Oracle company. The hack hit cash registers used in food chains, hotels and retail stores.

Hospital Hacks

The U.S. hospitality industry suffered one of its largest hacks ever when 20 hotels owned by HEI Hotels and Resorts discovered malware running on point-of-sale machines used throughout the country. That hack may have resulted in the theft of customer data including account and credit card numbers.

Yahoo Troubles Continue

This year there was even information about past traditional hacks involving the theft of users’ email addresses and login information. Yahoo reported that in 2013, it suffered the largest breach in history, involving more than 1 billion user accounts. That exceeds the hack of 500 million accounts in 2014 that the company also reported this year.

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2016 Was Very Good For Microsoft

Our 2016 Technology Achievement winner goes to Microsoft. Microsoft, after stumbling for quite a few years has recently found its way and is now leading the technology sector in several very important arenas.

Lets take a look at Microsoft’s year.

Microsoft was in the news for all the right reasons throughout 2016. It beat expectations and made a ton of money in FY16, racked up more than 400 million Windows 10 installs by the end of September, launched a rival to Slack and even a program to create low-cost VR headsets.

Its achievements for the year don’t end there: Under the able leadership of CEO Satya Nadella the company has come to embrace the cloud, warm up to the open source community and create exceptional hardware and software products.

Windows 10

Let’s be real for a second: Microsoft did a poor job of onboarding people on to Windows 10, pushing the new OS to some machines that weren’t ready for it and forcing updates when they weren’t convenient for users.

Other than that, however, Windows 10 is pretty great. It’s quick, efficient and is a delight to use, especially as it had its teething troubles ironed out steadily after it first launched.

It also received a bunch of useful enhancements with the Anniversary Update, including Windows Ink to let touchscreen users scribble on sticky notes and screenshots, a more powerful Cortana that can be invoked even from the lock screen, the ability to view notifications from your phone on your desktop, deep-linking Live Tiles in the Start menu and improved battery life with Edge.

Microsoft has huge plans for its OS in 2017. The upcoming Creators Update, showcased at an event in October, will bring 3D content creation features to numerous Office apps, as well as an all-new Paint; gamers will be able to broadcast gameplay live from their desktop; MyPeople will let you view texts, Skype chats, and emails from your contacts all in one place.

It’s interesting to see Microsoft building out its desktop ecosystem steadily as a place for people to work, be creative and play – previous iterations of the OS only felt like a platform where you had to bring third-party applications to do whatever you needed to. Hopefully, the Creators Update is just the start of such features and functionality for Windows users.

Embracing Open Source

Microsoft has steadily taken to open sourcing several of its major projects in the recent past, and 2016 saw more of the same. At the start of the year, it open sourced its powerful Chakra JavaScript engine, as well as its Computational Networks Toolkit for building deep learning tools for things like speech recognition.

Later, it open sourced Xamarin – a tool for building cross-platform mobile apps -and PowerShell, its task-based command-line shell and scripting language for managing system tasks.

By September, the company had garnered more open source contributors on GitHub than Facebook, Docker, Google and Angular. That achievement may not be the strongest indicator of how actively open source the company is, but compare this to the scenario a decade ago, when Microsoft wouldn’t even have figured on that list at all.

And last month, Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation as a platinum member, which means that the company is committed to helping advance the development of numerous open source projects. That’s a far cry from when former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer labeled Linux “a cancer” 15 years ago.

Surface Studio

Microsoft blew people’s minds with its new and first-ever desktop computer, the Surface Studio. Packed to the gills with power and plenty of innovative features that truly are game changers for creators, it stands head and shoulders above anything else out there at the moment.

The all-in-in-on PC features a 28-inch 4500 x 3000 pixel touch-sensitive display that can rest at a 20-degree angle to allow you to work on it directly with your fingers, the intuitive Dial control or a Surface Pen.

At its premium price point (it starts at $3,000), it may not see a large audience, but Microsoft has set the standard for the next generation of computers at a time when it was expected that Apple would do so. It’s going much farther much faster with touchscreen tech than we’d have expected. The Surface Dial presents a clever new interaction method that we haven’t seen before too, and I expect that we’ll see more such controller interfaces in the future.

On its own, Microsoft isn’t yet a huge hardware rival to Apple; perhaps its biggest fight with the Cupertino brand is in the tablet space with the Surface Pro. But unlike Apple, it has tons of OEMs ready to follow its lead and push the boundaries of hardware on its platform, so the goal might only be to draw people to the capabilities and performance of Windows, for which the Surface Studio seems to be a fitting showcase.

Gaming

Microsoft made a few notable leaps forward in the gaming department as well. While its Xbox One console is still going strong, the company launched the upgraded version, the Xbox One S in June. It brings HDR support, 4K playback capability for streaming video, a 40 percent smaller chassis, an improved controller and now, Dolby Atmos sound.

Far more notable, however, was the company’s announcement of Project Scorpio, the next-gen console that’s slated to launch during next year’s holiday season. It promises true 4K output for games, thanks to eight CPU cores and 6 teraflops of graphics processing power. It’ll also support Xbox One titles and accessories.

Another achievement in this domain is the launch of Xbox Play Anywhere, which lets you buy select games on your desktop or Xbox One console and play them on either system, picking up right where you left off and without having to purchase a second copy.

Conquering Productivity Apps

Microsoft’s Office suite has long been one of its big earners, so it’s not surprising that the company doubled down on its productivity tools through the year.

For starters, it launched Teams, its rival to Slack’s messaging app for groups. Unlike its competition, it’s tightly integrated into Office 365, as well as Power BI and Skype with plenty of features for easy communication and collaboration in the workplace.

Microsoft also acquired LinkedIn for a whopping $26 billion. Following the deal in June, the social network for professionals has taken on a number of initiatives to improve its offering, including a redesign and overhaul of its messaging system, the launch of a placement service and a lite mobile site for users in India, and a tool to help you understand salary trends in your geographic area and domain.

Microsoft improved its Office and Office 365 apps a bunch by adding things like support for extensions in Office for Mac, enabling real-time collaboration in Office 365, and bundling Sunrise Calendar’s scheduling features into Outlook.

It also launched Flow, a rival to IFTTT with a focus on connecting productivity tools for automating tasks like sending out a customized email when a new SharePoint list item is added.

As you can see Microsoft was very busy and successful in 2016. I except more of the same from Microsoft in 2017.

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