Paul Thurrott's Short Takes: January 17

Because it’s been a while, this edition of Short Takes looks at Microsoft’s new carbon-negative push, thanking the NSA for finding a serious Windows 10 flaw, Microsoft’s new Edge browser, a new Walkie-Talkie feature coming to Teams, and much, much more.

Carbon-neutral? Please! Microsoft is going carbon-negative!

In its biggest-ever sustainability push—and, let’s face it, a nice slap in the face to holier-than-thou companies doing less, like Apple and Google—Microsoft said this week that it was going carbon-negative. That is, it won’t just offset its carbon output. It will offset more than its carbon output, by 2030. And it will do so so aggressively that, by 2050, it will have offset more carbon than it created in its entire history, since its founding in 1976. “Carbon-neutral is not enough to address the world’s needs,” Microsoft president Brad Smith wrote of this stunning development. “We see an acute need to begin removing carbon from the atmosphere, which we believe we can help catalyze through our investments.” I assume the rest of Big Tech will trip over themselves in the months ahead trying to catch up to what Microsoft is doing. Should be fun to watch.

“Microsoft Pledges To Remove From The Atmosphere All The Carbon It Has Ever Emitted”

It’s literally going to find the exact carbon it created.

NSA finds a very serious vulnerability in Windows 10

The US National Security Agency (NSA) discovered a bug in Windows 10 (and Windows Server 2016 and 2019) related to the Windows CryptoAPI that is apparently so severe that Microsoft needed to issue a zero-day fix this past week. This is notable for a number of reasons—I believe it is the first time the NSA, which is infamously secretive, has ever taken credit for finding a Windows vulnerability—though Microsoft claims that the underlying flaw hasn’t yet been exploited by hackers. “This #PatchTuesday you are strongly encouraged to implement the recently released CVE-2020-0601 patch immediately,” the NSA tweeted—yes, really—in a weird bout of transparency. “The certificate validation vulnerability allows an attacker to undermine how Windows verifies cryptographic trust and can enable remote code execution,” the NSA’s explanation notes. The good news? It doesn’t appear in impact older versions of Windows, including Windows 7, which was effectively retired this week.

“Microsoft’s Stock May Jump As Much As 9% Following Its Quarterly Results”

That is… curiously specific.

Microsoft releases the new version of its Edge browser

Microsoft on Wednesday released the first non-beta version of its new Chromium-based Edge web browser for users running Windows 7, 8.x, 10, and macOS. But the release was marred by two major issues, one which was known ahead of time: Even though this version is no longer considered pre-release code, it’s missing major functionality, including extension syncing, that Microsoft says it will add later. But more embarrassingly, many users reported getting the wrong language version of the new browser in its first day of availability, leading to humorous—OK, mostly angry—feedback from people suddenly confronted by Spanish, Polish, German, or some other language they don’t read or speak. Another classic Microsoft launch, in other words.

“iPhone 12’s processor may be powerful enough to run a MacBook Pro”

You never know!

Microsoft is bringing a “walkie-talkie” feature to Teams

Remember those annoying early cell phones that would squawk and let their owners speak out loud to each other like they were using World War II-era field phones and annoy everyone around them? Well, that feature is coming to Microsoft Teams! OK, not really. But Microsoft did reveal this week that it is bringing a feature called Walkie Talkie to Teams that it says is a “push-to-talk experience” that lets users communicate by voice securely using employee- or company-owned smartphones and tablets. Walkie Talkie works over Wi-Fi or cellular data, so it can be used across geographic locations, and it will be available in private preview sometime in the first half of 2020. Squawk!

“Satya Nadella credits Steve Ballmer for pushing Microsoft into the cloud”

Well, right. Also, the sky is blue.

Alphabet cross the $1 trillion market cap threshold

This week, Google parent company Alphabet joined Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon in the $1 trillion market cap club when its shares closed at $1,450.16 last night. It’s an amazing milestone, especially given the tech backlash that is dragging the company down in various antitrust battles. And, perhaps as dramatic, the incredible internal turmoil that is threatening to tear the once-quirky company apart. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down from day-to-day roles running the company. And employees are organizing—and being fired for it—because of sexual harassment charges against executives, Google’s work with the military, and Google’s firm stance against unions. But we do live in an anti-truth age of fake news. Maybe shareholders don’t see any of this or care. And simply want Google, especially, to keep pumping out its privacy-violating advertising.

“Google makes it easier to silence your Chrome tabs”

Easier than CTRL + w?

Apple Buys an AI Startup for $200 Million

Geekwire reports that Apple has paid $200 million to acquire an AI startup called Xnor.ai, which is interesting on at least a few levels. The first, of course, is that Apple is quietly snapping up companies with AI expertise in order to bolster its on-device AI capabilities; this makes sense since Apple doesn’t have a rich history of building out its own AI like competitors like Google and Microsoft. “We’ve been able to scale AI out of the cloud to every device out there,” Xnor.ai co-founder Ali Farhadi told GeekWire back in 2018. But the second, and this is more interesting to me, is that Xnor.ai was spun out of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (A12). Which was, of course, created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who sadly passed away in 2018. A12 had previously spun out a startup called Kitt.ai, which was acquired by the Chinese search giant Baidu in 2017 for an undisclosed sum. Not everything Allen touched turned to gold, of course. Just most of it.

“Forget Apple’s iPhone 11, This Is The Smartphone To Buy”

Please say it’s an iPhone 11 Pro. And yes, this same idiot used this same headline before.

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Paul Thurrott is an award-winning technology journalist and blogger with over 20 years of industry experience and the author of over 25 books. He is the News Director for the Petri IT Knowledgebase, the major domo at Thurrott.com, and the co-host of three tech podcasts: Windows Weekly with Leo Laporte and Mary Jo Foley, What the Tech with Andrew Zarian, and First Ring Daily with Brad Sams. He was formerly the senior technology analyst at Windows IT Pro and the creator of the SuperSite for Windows.