Microsoft Modern Keyboard With 'Hidden' Fingerprint Scanner Launched

HIGHLIGHTS

  • New Microsoft Modern Keyboard comes with a fingerprint scanner
  • It has been priced at $129.99 (roughly Rs. 8,500)
  • The fingerprint scanner is embedded inside the right Windows key

Microsoft on Thursday silently unveiled a new keyboard, called the Microsoft Modern Keyboard. Priced at Rs. $129.99 (roughly Rs. 8,500), the new Modern Keyboard is listed as “coming soon” on the company’s US website with no word when the accessory will go on sale. The highlight of the keyboard is that it comes with a fingerprint scanner that just looks like any other key on the keyboard.

“Our vision was to blend the Fingerprint reader into a keyboard, so it would appear to be any other key. We iterated relentlessly to improve each layer, making sure they came together to create a flawless typing experience that felt like any other key,” Microsoft says on the product page of the Modern Keyboard.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard With 'Hidden' Fingerprint Scanner Launched

The keyboard comes with aluminium frame and Microsoft claims it sports “highest quality” and is “virtually indestructible.”

The Modern Keyboard will allow Windows 10 users to enable Windows Hello fingerprint authentication on their devices. The fingerprint scanner has been placed on the second Windows key on the right side of the keyboard, and can be used for signing in to the system or any website using Windows Hello.

The Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint Scanner will work will Windows 8 and above devices, macOS 10.10.5 and above devices, Android 4.2 and above, and iOS 8 and iOS 9. Users need to make sure that the device should support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher for the Microsoft Modern Keyboard to work. Microsoft will also let users choose between using the Modern Keyboard with wireless/ wired interface.

It comes with dimensions 420.9×112.6×19.3mm and weighs roughly 420 grams. The wireless Microsoft Modern Keyboard runs on two AAA alkaline rechargeable batteries. Microsoft claims a battery life of up to 2 months on full charge. The Redmond giant will be offering one-year limited warranty on the keyboard.

WannaCry attacks prompt Microsoft to release Windows updates for older versions

The new patches include updates to Windows XP. Photograph: Jeff Christensen/Getty Images

Microsoft has released new security updates for older versions of Windows as it warns of potential cyber-attacks by government organisations.

The patches include updates to Windows XP, the operating system that was targeted by the WannaCry ransomware attack in May that attacked parts of the NHS and other companies worldwide.

Typically, Microsoft only issues updates for its operating systems that are still supported – for consumers, that means Windows 7 and newer (with the exception of Windows 8, which is meant to be covered by the free upgrade to Windows 8.1). But in the wake of the WannaCry outbreak, which saw a ransomeware worm take advantage of un-patched versions of windows to encrpyt millions of computers worldwide, Microsoft is reassessing that policy.

“Due to the elevated risk for destructive cyber-attacks at this time, we made the decision to take this action because applying these updates provides further protection against potential attacks with characteristics similar to WannaCrypt [alternative name to WannaCry],” Adrienne Hall, the head of Microsoft’s Cyber Defense Operations Center, said.

Although Microsoft has not said what characteristics of the new vulnerabilities have led it to believe there is the potential for state-sanctioned attackers, the WannaCry reference has led security experts to conclude that the company is referring to leaked NSA hacking tools, released online by an entity calling itself The Shadow Brokers. The Shadow Brokers were responsible for releasing the vulnerability, referred to by the NSA as EternalBlue, which led to WannaCry being able to replicate itself and do so much damage internationally.

WannaCry on a laptop
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Microsoft is worried about another WannaCry-style attack. Photograph: Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

WannaCry wasn’t the only malware that used EternalBlue to spread, but it was by far the most destructive. The Shadow Brokers have promised to release further vulnerabilities in the future, offering them to “subscribers” willing to pay $10,000 (£7,850) a month for the privilege.

The new patches fix 16 vulnerabilities, of which 15 are ranked by Microsoft as critical. Craig Young, security researcher at infosec firm Tripwire, said: “Anyone still using Windows 2003 or XP should install these patches ASAP with the expectation that they will be actively exploited in the near term. This move may indicate that Microsoft has been made aware of exploits that may be pending imminent release from the Shadow Brokers.

“WannaCry was orders of magnitude smaller than some successful malware campaigns of the past,” Young added. “We may not be so lucky the next time this happens.”

But some criticised the move, arguing that continuing to support older versions of Windows was just delaying the inevitable. Peter Bright, from technology site Ars Technica, said: “patching is the wrong decision: it sends a clear message to recalcitrant corporations that they can stick with Windows XP, insecure as it is, because if anything too serious is found, Microsoft will update it anyway … Every time an organisation resists upgrading to Microsoft’s latest operating system, it jeopardises its own security.”

The WannaCry outbreak led to criticisms of the NHS for the widespread use of outdated software across the health service. Windows XP was not affected by the malware (although the operating system is weak to the EternalBlue exploit, WannaCry itself persistently crashed before managing to encrypt drives), but a number of the affected systems were running Windows Vista, a slightly newer unsupported version of the operating system.

Windows 10 UPDATE – Microsoft planning BIG new patch full of great features

Windows 10 users will get a new Creators Update, available to download in September
Testing has begun for the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, ahead of a planned September 2017 release date for the big patch.

Fast Ring Insider testers received the update to download in the past few days and have been trying out the new features of Microsoft’s flagship OS.

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update brings with it changes to the Action Centre notification area, which now has a separate section for apps.

The Windows Phone keyboard will also be coming to PCs, with enhanced text prediction to the touch keyboard in Windows 10.

Windows 10 users will get a new Creators Update

There will also be a new touch keyboard layout, similar to the phone keyboard, for one handed use and Windows 10 users will be able to use dictation to input English or Chinese text on the desktop with the microphone button.

Voice commands can also be used for basic editing and punctuation as part of the new experience.

Users of the Edge browser are getting a brand new Full Screen Option (by hitting F11) and will be able to pin websites to the Taskbar.

While Microsoft have also added in new Cortana features, such as giving you reminders of upcoming events if you’ve taken a picture of the event’s poster and the voice assistant gets a new Lasso tool to circle relevant information on screen using a pen that supports Press and Hold.

Microsoft will also be adding in a brand new Emoji Panel to Windows 10.

By pressing the Windows and the full stop buttons, it will bring up the Emoji panel and you can quickly scroll through and pic the emoji you want.

The latest Windows 10 update, due out in a few months time, follows on from the most recent Creators Update in April.

It brought with major improvements to 3D modelling, virtual reality support and a new Game Mode for Windows 10 PCs that prioritised resources for games.

Windows 10 Creators Update is FINALLY here

If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10 yet and are wishing you had signed up during the official free upgrade period, you may still be in luck.

Express.co.uk recently revealed that despite the Windows 10 free upgrade offer ending last year, you could STILL download it for free.

The official end for the free upgrade was July 29 2016.

However, if you are currently running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, you may still be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for nothing by following a few simple steps.

Windows 10 Fall Creators UpdateMICROSOFT

The Action Center will get a new look with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Windows 10 Fall Creators UpdateMICROSOFT

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will let you pin websites to the taskbar from Microsoft Edge

Windows 10 Fall Creators UpdateMICROSOFT

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will also feature a new Emoji panel

Users need to go to the Download Windows 10 webpage and click the ‘Download tool now’ button.

After that has downloaded, people need to run the Media Creation Tool.

You can then choose ‘Upgrade this PC now’ if you have downloaded the Media Creation Tool onto the PC you want to upgrade and if you’re only upgrading one machine.

How Apple Lost Last Week to Microsoft

Last week, Apple and Microsoft had dueling product launch events. And in the tech version of this “Who wore it better?” contest, the winner seems to be: Microsoft.

That’s right. At least in the microcosm of last week, Microsoft has made Apple look like the square, after lifting the veil on a 28-inch touchscreen all-in-one desktop called the Surface Studio that immediately had tech enthusiasts drooling. Over a desktop.

(Also see: Everything You Need to Know About the Microsoft Surface Studio)

One could argue that this is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Microsoft, while on the rise again, still benefits from lower expectations than Apple. Introducing a new product, such as the Studio, is almost always going to be more exciting than upgrading an old line. But there is a common thread here, which we can use to analyze how these companies are thinking about the future – even more specifically, the future of touch and computing.

How Apple Lost Last Week to Microsoft

Touch itself, as a technology, isn’t new. But Microsoft did a good job of framing its incorporation of touch with the Studio as expansive, liberating, and a universal way to unlock potential. Who doesn’t want to think that they have a symphony, novel, or artistic masterpiece inside them, just waiting to be unlocked by the right new tools?

Apple, on the other, seems to have uncharacteristically flubbed its audience pitch. Speaking to analysts after its event, it seemed that “current MacBook Pro owners looking to upgrade” was the main audience Apple was going for.

That’s practical – Apple laptops sell well. It’s not inspiring, though, is it?

What makes this even more odd is that Apple is arguably the company that, arguably, did something really new for their company, at least – the Touch Bar shows off something we haven’t seen from Apple before. The Surface Studio looks gorgeous, but Microsoft’s essentially made an enormous version of its Surface tablet. It’s a very stylish and powerful one, but that’s basically what it is.

Given a couple of days, and a truly dazzling Apple event, that probably could have become the storyline for the Studio. But try to explain what exactly Apple did, and it’s surprisingly hard. They put a miniature iPhone screen at the top of the keyboard, that you could probably ignore if you wanted?

That’s a too-harsh assessment of the Touch Bar from someone who’s only played around with it for less than a half-hour altogether. But the Touch Bar certainly lacks a clarity of purpose that Microsoft managed to nail with its products – and managed to nail by not-so-subtly going after Apple’s traditional market of creatives.

Even Apple’s main on-stage demos, of photo-editing and a DJ, weren’t effective pitches for the MacBook Pro. The demos were fine, but there needed to be something communicated to a broader set of users that wasn’t just, “Hey, you can stop using those keyboard shortcuts you’ve committed to muscle memory over the years.”

Should it be all red lights and klaxons in Cupertino? Not necessarily. But there is a sense of longing for something more from Apple. Apple has a lot to prove, and it’s not proving it quite well enough. I’ve heard more “Well, I am a little tempted by the [insert competing product here]” from Apple fans this year than I’ve heard in a long time.

(Also see: MacBook Pro 2016 vs Microsoft Surface Pro vs HP Spectre 13)

Temptation isn’t enough to uproot a customer, particularly when you’ve done as good a job of keeping users in your ecosystem as Apple has. Apple will still make money, since Apple fans have proven in the past that they’re willing to pay a premium for its products, said Linn Huang, of the analysis firm IDC.

“Apple is in the position to say, with something new, that it can charge what it wants,” he said.

But that’s no way to retain happy customers, particularly for a firm that prides itself in manufacturing delight. Yet it’s somehow Microsoft – out of desperation, inspiration or a combination of both – that has managed to make products that are turning heads.

Apple should not panic. But it should at least take note.

Microsoft Planner Collaboration Tool Launched for Android and iOS

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The app is eligible for Office 365 work and school subscription only
  • Planner was launched last year in June
  • It competes with services like Trello and Asana

Microsoft Planner that was first only available on the Web, but it has now arrived on mobile as well. The Microsoft Planner app for Android and iOS has also been launched, making managing tasks and planning teamwork activities easier on the go.

The Redmond giant had launched Planner last year in June as part of its productivity suit of apps for Office 365 business and school users. Planner is a collaboration tool aimed at organising team activities, and works similar to apps like Trello and Asana. It is bundled along with the Office 365 suite for free, and allows management of projects, teams, workflows, assign tasks, chat with members, and much more.

Microsoft Planner Collaboration Tool Launched for Android and iOS

Now, the apps are available as a free download as well for all eligible Office 365 users. The app however doesn’t bring all the features that are available on the Web. On its blog, Microsoft explains, “Current Planner users can use this companion app to view and update their plans on the go, addressing feedback we’ve heard since the launch of the Planner Web app. For people who are new to Planner, you can first get started by visiting tasks.office.com. Once you’ve created your plans in the Web app, you can view and update those plans in the mobile experience.”

The Microsoft Planner app is fairly easy to use and lets you see all your tasks in one place. It lets you update the board when plans change by just dragging and dropping tasks between columns, and chat with members on the go. The app works currently only for Office 365 work or school subscription users only, and if you’re eligible, you can download the app from the App Store or Google Play Store for free.

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Rolls Out World's Largest Aeroplane, the Stratolaunch

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Microsoft’s Paul Allen has been building world’s largest aeroplane
  • It is called Stratolaunch, will be larger than Howard Hughes’ 1947 plane
  • It’s not to carry passengers, but rather rockets

The initial construction on the massive aeroplane Paul Allen has been quietly building in the California desert is complete, and the vehicle, which would be the world’s largest aeroplane with a wingspan wider than Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, was wheeled out of its hangar for the first time on Wednesday.

Called Stratolaunch, the plane has some impressive stats: a wingspan of 385 feet, or longer than a football field, a height of 50 feet. Unfueled, it weighs 500,000 pounds. But it can carry 250,000 pounds of fuel, and its total weight can reach as high as 1.3 million pounds.

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Rolls Out World's Largest Aeroplane, the Stratolaunch

But, really . . .. How big is it? It’s so big that it has 28 wheels and six 747 jet engines. It’s so big that it has 60 miles of wire coursing through it. It’s so big that the county had to issue special construction permits just for the construction scaffolding.

It’s so big that to truly get a sense of it, you have to see it from a distance – like a mountain.

But why is Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks, building such a massive plane?

It’s not to carry passengers, but rather rockets. The bigger the plane, the larger the rockets, or the greater the number.

Allen’s Stratolaunch company has partnered with Orbital ATK to “air launch” the company’s Pegasus XL, a rocket capable of delivering small satellites, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, to orbit. The rockets would be tethered to the belly of the giant plane, which would fly them aloft, and once at an altitude of 35,000 feet or so, the rockets would drop and “air launch” to space.

 

“With airport-style operations and quick turn-around capabilities,” the company said it believes “air launch” is a cheaper and more efficient way to get satellites into space than rockets that launch vertically and can be extraordinarily expensive.

For Allen, it’s all about LEO, or low-Earth orbit. He, and others, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, are betting that they can reduce the cost of launching small satellites to space. And that, in turn, will lead to new ways to beam the internet all across the globe, provide better Earth sensing capabilities, better communication, and open up all sorts of avenues.

“When such access to space is routine, innovation will accelerate in ways beyond what we can currently imagine,” Allen said in a statement a year ago. “That’s the thing about new platforms: when they become easily available, convenient and affordable, they attract and enable other visionaries and entrepreneurs to realize more new concepts.”

More than a decade ago, Allen had hoped to spark a revolution in space travel when he funded SpaceShipOne, which became the first commercial vehicle to cross the threshold of space. The project ultimately won the Ansari X Prize, and a $10 million (roughly Rs. 64.5 crores) award. He then licensed the technology to Branson and moved on to other pursuits. But with Stratolaunch, he is back in the space business.

“Thirty years ago, the PC revolution put computing power into the hands of millions and unlocked incalculable human potential,” he wrote. “Twenty years ago, the advent of the Web and the subsequent proliferation of smartphones combined to enable billions of people to surmount the traditional limitations of geography and commerce. Today, expanding access to LEO holds similar revolutionary potential.”

In a statement Wednesday, Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch’s chief executive, said the company would be “actively exploring a broad spectrum of launch vehicles that will enable us to provide more flexibility to customers.”

He added: “Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be actively conducting ground and flightline testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. This is a first-of-its-kind aircraft, so we’re going to be diligent throughout testing and continue to prioritize the safety of our pilots, crew and staff. Stratolaunch is on track to perform its first launch demonstration as early as 2019.”

Microsoft Releases Windows XP Security Patches for Additional Protection Against WannaCry-Like Cyber-Attacks

HIGHLIGHTS
Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP in 2014
The company issued free security patches for Windows XP last month
Microsoft has advised users to move to the latest versions of Windows
Microsoft was criticised last month for not providing free security patches to Windows XP users early enough to help protect against WannaCry ransomware. It seems like the Redmond-based company has taken the criticism seriously, as it has now included additional security updates for earlier versions of Windows as part of ‘Update Tuesday’. These updates are said to offer enhanced protection against cyber-attacks with characteristics similar to WannaCry.

While reviewing the security updates for June, Microsoft identified there certain vulnerabilities posed “elevated risk of cyber-attacks by government organisations, sometimes referred to as nation-state actors or other copycat organisations,” Adrienne Hall, General Manager, Cyber Defense Operations Center, said in her blog post on Tuesday.

In order to address these vulnerabilities, Microsoft is providing additional security patches with the update, even to those customers who are on earlier versions of Windows. “Due to the elevated risk for destructive cyber-attacks at this time, we made the decision to take this action because applying these updates provides further protection against potential attacks with characteristics similar to WannaCrypt,” Hall said. Notably, Microsoft officially ended the support for Windows XP in 2014.

Microsoft Releases Windows XP Security Patches for Additional Protection Against WannaCry-Like Cyber-Attacks

Microsoft says that if you are on Windows 10 or Windows 8.1, the currently supported versions, and have Windows Update enabled, you don’t need to do anything from your side. Further, the company has warned users that the “best protection” is to be on a modern up-to-date system and that “older systems, even if fully up-to-date, lack the latest security features and advancements.”

WannaCry ransomware, which erupted last month, hit more than 150 countries and encrypted files on more than 200,000 computers. In order to unlock the files, the malware creators reportedly demanded a ransom of $300 (roughly Rs. 19,300) worth of Bitcoins from the users. It seems like Microsoft has now taken a more pro-active approach to the situation and decided that it should provide further protection to those users who are on unsupported versions as well.

Windows Mixed Reality Development Kits Now Available for Pre-Orders; Microsoft Unveils Motion Controllers

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Microsoft earlier said it will ship development kits in March
  • The new VR controllers will not work with HoloLens
  • The new controllers don’t require any external sensors

In March this year, Microsoft announced that the company will start shipping development kits for Windows Mixed Reality (earlier called Windows Holographic) later in the month itself. However, the company seemed to have changed its mind later as it didn’t happen. Now the Redmond-based company has finally started taking pre-orders for the mixed reality development kits from HP and Acer. Microsoft also announced its own motion controllers for Windows 10 VR at its Build conference.

Windows Mixed Reality Development Kits Now Available for Pre-Orders; Microsoft Unveils Motion Controllers

Notably, Microsoft has still not announced the release dates for these development kits but interested users can now pre-order the development kits from the company’s website. While the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition has been priced at $299 (roughly Rs. 19,200), the HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition is available for pre-orders at $329 (roughly Rs. 21,200). The option for pre-orders is currently available for users in the US and Canada.

Both HP and Acer’s Windows Mixed Reality headsets come with some common features including two high-resolution liquid crystal displays with a 1440×1440 pixels resolution, front hinged displays, 95-degree horizontal field-of-view, display refresh rate up to 90Hz (native), built-in audio out and microphone support through 3.5mm jack, single cable with HDMI 2.0 (display) and USB 3.0 (data) for connectivity, and inside-out tracking. Additionally, the HP headset comes with double-padded headband and easy adjustment knob, as per Microsoft.

Microsoft has further provided the list of recommended system specifications for developers on its blog. Needless to say, you will need a powerful configuration to support the mixed reality development kit from the company.

microsoft vr controller story Microsoft VR Motion Controllers

Moving to the motion controllers for Windows 10 VR, Microsoft says “a customer who pairs a Windows Mixed Reality headset with motion controllers will have a rich and immersive experience across creativity tools, productivity, games, and entertainment.”

Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers don’t require any external sensors and offer “precise and responsive” movement tracking, as per company’s claims. The company says that it plans to market and sell these controllers on retail shelves this holiday. The company has confirmed that these controllers will not work with HoloLens headset, as per a report by CNET.

Microsoft announced that Acer will sell its Windows Mixed Reality headset and motion controller bundle priced at $399 (roughly Rs. 25,700) this holiday season.

Microsoft launches new Azure intellectual property protections

Microsoft wants to help its cloud customers feel better protected from intellectual property lawsuit threats. To that end, the company is launching a new feature that’s designed to give them additional shielding.microsoft stock campus building

The Azure IP Advantage program provides a trio of benefits. First, Microsoft will indemnify all Azure customers from intellectual property infringement claims resulting from their use of Azure products, including open source components.

Second, the company will allow customers that meet a set of criteria access to a “patent pick” program, which will allow them to transfer one Microsoft patent from a list of 10,000 to help them with defending against an infringement suit.

Third, in the event Microsoft transfers its patents to a non-practicing entity — sometimes called patent trolls — eligible Azure customers will get a license.

The system is supposed to help ease the transition to the cloud by giving companies extra peace of mind. Right now, lawsuits over intellectual property relating to open source technology in the cloud are rare, Forrester vice president and principal analyst Jeffrey Hammond said in an email.

But the frequency of cloud-based IP lawsuits rose 22 percent in the past five years, as Microsoft President Brad Smith pointed out in his blog post announcing the new protections.

“It’s an easy insurance policy for something that seems remote today to most enterprise IT shops and ISVs [indepedent software vendors], but it’s something that could become an issue in the future, long after they’ve made strategic bets on public cloud providers,” Hammond said.

Microsoft’s IP benefits are also something that could help it stand out in a crowded cloud market. The tech titan has tried to position its cloud as the friendliest home for enterprises while it competes with the likes of Google, Amazon Web Services, and IBM.

Hammond sees Microsoft’s action as a move to try and nip the potential cloud IP lawsuit problem in the bud before it becomes a bigger issue. Furthermore, it might help some companies that are evaluating the cloud.

“I think it will be most interesting to smaller ISVs that want to build a SaaS-based offering on a public cloud and conservative enterprise shops where the general counsel’s office still has concerns about adopting open source frameworks for strategic applications,” Hammond said.

The move could also help accelerate cloud lock-in for those companies that are gun-shy about intellectual property lawsuits targeting their cloud workloads. These protections only apply to what’s running in Microsoft Azure, so companies that leave Microsoft’s cloud will be leaving their coverage behind.

Similarly, those companies operating in a multi-cloud configuration won’t be entirely covered.

Microsoft already offered customers indemnification from intellectual property lawsuits resulting from the use of its services, but it didn’t cover the use of open source technology. Starting Wednesday, the benefits changed to also cover things like the use of Hadoop, which is the backbone of Microsoft’s Azure HDInsight product.

That means Microsoft will step in to defend its customers in the event that a patent troll or other firm goes after their use of Azure services, even if the issue at hand involves an open source component of the service they’re using.

In the event that an Azure customer faces a patent lawsuit over their technology, they can ask Microsoft for one of 10,000 patents that the company is making available for lawsuit defense as part of its patent pick program. The list of patents includes those from the U.S., as well as countries including Germany, Japan, and China.

Azure customers will be able to pick from such patents as “Honey Monkey network exploration” and “Secure recovery in a serverless distributed filesystem,” assuming they meet the conditions of the program.

The program is only available for Azure customers who spend more than US$1,000 on their cloud bills with Microsoft every month. Furthermore, they must have been sued for patent infringement over their patent workloads, and can only use the patent they get to defend against a suit. Any customer who has sued a fellow Azure customer for patent infringement over their Azure workloads in the past two years is ineligible.

Microsoft will transfer the patent that a customer picks for them to hold in perpetuity, solely for the purposes of defending against patent infringement lawsuits. The company will charge a customer taking advantage of the patent pick program for the administrative costs for transferring the patent.

If one invention is covered by different patents in different countries, Microsoft will transfer the patent that’s relevant for the locale in which its customer is defending against a lawsuit.

In the event that Microsoft transfers some of its patents to a non-practicing entity in the future, Azure customers spending at least $1,000 per month on their cloud bills for the previous three months will be covered by a license to those patents.

The company said that it does not typically sell patents to non-practicing entities. This service basically serves as an extra bit of insurance for concerned Azure customers.