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Microsoft hopes to leapfrog Google Stadia by taking xCloud to Android

More than 100 console-quality games streamed to Android users in 22 countries? Watch out, Stadia.

Microsoft xCloud on Android

Microsoft is wrapping cloud gaming within its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service, and it will allow people to play games such as Destiny 2, Forza Horizon 4 and Minecraft Dungeons on their Android devices.

Image: Microsoft

Step aside, Stadia. Microsoft on Tuesday announced that it would launch the world's most extensive cloud gaming service next month, delivering more than 100 console-quality games to Android users in 22 countries.

The announcement in some ways leapfrogs Microsoft's Project xCloud past Google's Stadia cloud gaming service, which debuted last year. While Stadia offers an optional subscription that includes about a dozen games, it mostly relies on a traditional sales model, with users paying full retail price (around $60) for top-end games that they can then play through a Chrome browser.

Microsoft, however, is wrapping cloud gaming within its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service, which offers a huge variety of games for about $15 a month across Windows, Xbox consoles and mobile Android devices. The company revealed about a third of the more than 100 games that will become playable on mobile Android devices next month, including hits such as Destiny 2, Forza Horizon 4 and Minecraft Dungeons.

Rather than download game software to a device and render graphics on local hardware, cloud gaming streams live interactive gameplay from data centers. The technology relies on both powerful cloud computing and robust high-speed connections to users. Microsoft's cloud gaming will require at least a 10-megabit wireless connection.

Helping players take their games on the go, Microsoft also announced partnerships with accessory makers including Razer and SteelSeries for mobile adapters that allow users to attach an Android device to a traditional game controller or add game controls to the outside of their phone.

As Microsoft readies to battle Sony with new game consoles this fall, Microsoft has been building a vision of gaming everywhere, powered by the company's Azure cloud platform, while Sony has been pushing a relatively traditional model of couch-based play. Microsoft said that almost any Android user in the United States, Canada, South Korea and much of Western Europe would have access to the new cloud gaming options. While Google competes in cloud gaming, Google has been relatively open in allowing others to offer gaming services via the Android operating system.

Apple, by contrast, has been far more restrictive. While Microsoft has tried xCloud on Apple systems, Apple has not allowed cloud gaming to reach the public on its devices yet. Microsoft also has not announced extensive plans for cloud gaming on desktops — a feature Stadia offers.

In addition to Microsoft and Google, Amazon and Nvidia are also working on or delivering cloud gaming services.

Microsoft wants to replace artists with AI

Better Zoom calls, simpler email attachments, smart iPhone cases and other patents from Big Tech.

Turning your stories into images.

Image: USPTO/Microsoft

Hello and welcome to 2021! The Big Tech patent roundup is back, after a short vacation and … all the things … that happened between the start of the year and now. It seems the tradition of tech companies filing weird and wonderful patents has carried into the new year; there are some real gems from the last few weeks. Microsoft is trying to outsource all creative endeavors to AI; Apple wants to make seat belts less annoying; and Amazon wants to cut down on some of the recyclable waste that its own success has inevitably created.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

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Everything you need to know about the Roblox direct listing

The company is expected to go public via direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange in February.

Roblox CEO David Baszucki is taking the company public.

Photo: Ian Tuttle/Getty Images

Roblox is a video game platform, though it describes itself alternatively as a "metaverse," "human co-experience platform" and "new category of human interaction." It's expected to go public via direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange in February.

In simpler terms, Roblox enables developers to build games within the Roblox virtual world, which looks like a crossover between Minecraft and Lego. Developers publish and distribute their games through Roblox to an audience of some 31.1 million daily active users.

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Hirsh Chitkara
Hirsh Chitkara (@ChitkaraHirsh) is a researcher at Protocol, based out of New York City. Before joining Protocol, he worked for Business Insider Intelligence, where he wrote about Big Tech, telecoms, workplace privacy, smart cities, and geopolitics. He also worked on the Strategy & Analytics team at the Cleveland Indians.

The current state-of-the-art quantum computers are a tangle of wires. And that can't be the case in the future.

Photo: IBM Research

The iconic image of quantum computing is the "Google chandelier," with its hundreds of intricately arranged copper wires descending like the tendrils of a metallic jellyfish. It's a grand and impressive device, but in that tangle of wires lurks a big problem.

"If you're thinking about the long-term prospects of quantum computing, that image should be just terrifying," Jim Clarke, the director of quantum hardware at Intel, told Protocol.

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Dan Garisto
Dan Garisto is a freelance science journalist who specializes in the physical sciences, with an emphasis on particle physics. He has an undergraduate degree in physics and is based in New York.
Protocol | Enterprise

How Salesforce, despite big setbacks, had a banner 2020

Amid the chaos of major layoffs and top executive departures, Salesforce announced a key acquisition and managed to report blockbuster earnings.

Marc Benioff is the CEO of Salesforce.

Photo: Kimberly White/Getty Images

On Aug. 27, Salesforce announced it would lay off around 1,000 employees.

The news came as a shock to many. At the beginning of the pandemic, CEO Marc Benioff committed to making no "significant" layoffs for 90 days. (The 1,000 job losses occurred 155 days after that pledge was made.) But any blowback to the announcement appears to have been brushed aside by some of the company's top leaders.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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Microsoft wants to use AR to see through fog and smoke

Apple autonomous cars, AI coffee orders, emailing help and other patents from Big Tech.

See what isn't there.

Image: Microsoft/USPTO

It's beyond dark out at 5:30 p.m. these days, so perhaps, as you're stuck at home with nowhere to go, you're tempted to log off your bad screen and onto your good screen a little earlier than you should. Perhaps that's what happened over at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as this was a bit of a fallow week for patents from Big Tech.

That being said, there were still a few neat ones out there: Microsoft is looking into using AR to actually augment what you see; Apple is hard at work on autonomous vehicles; and Facebook, for some reason, is very concerned about the longevity of magnetic tapes.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

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