ICYMI: March 22, 2016

ICYMI: March 22, 2016

Happy Tuesday! Please note our lead story features profanity, in context with a quote.


The biggest story of yesterday and why you should care today: A long-simmering topic in tech circles is whether or not the workaday culture is conducive to workers from a wide variety of backgrounds. In other words -- the diversity topic, especially as it applies to women in tech. On Thursday, March 17, 2016, Microsoft made the news for hiring women dancers in schoolgirl costumes to entertain the guests at its GDC 2016 party. Some female developers at the party were not entertained:

Kamina Vincent of the Game Developers’ Association of Australia tweeted last night, “this is the first fucking time I’ve felt this unwelcome at a gaming event.” She later described the party to us over email:

I arrived at the GDC 16 Microsoft party and saw two women who stood out. They were immediately noticeable from their outfits because they seemed dressed completely differently to everyone else for the event, wearing a cleavage enhancing crop top and short miniskirt. She introduced herself and asked if we were having fun. I asked what her role was at the party. She told me that they had been hired to speak with attendees and encourage them to the dance floor. As I continued my questions about her presence and role at the party she quickly excused herself from the conversation and joined a group of men on a nearby sofa. It was a conversation that left me feeling very uncomfortable and I chose this moment to leave the party. The men I saw interact with these women seemed to be enjoying the attention, happily chatting and taking posed photos with them. I did speak with several women after deciding to leave the party and their views were all consistent with mine.

Microsoft responded with alacrity.

On Friday morning, XBox Games marketing head Aaron Greenberg expressed his disappointment via Twitter and promised follow-up. XBox chief Phil Spencer also weighed in, sending an email to his team letting them know that the party was pretty much the exact opposite of the unit's goals, both internally and in a developer-facing capacity: 

Let me be very clear - how we represent ourselves as individuals, who we hire and partner with and how we engage with others is a direct reflection of our brand and what we stand for. When we do the opposite, and create an environment that alienates or offends any group, we justly deserve the criticism.

It's worth recalling that the company mission statement Satya Nadella sent out in 2015 includes this section:

We have the opportunity to exercise our growth mindset every day in three distinct areas …

· Diverse and inclusive. The world is diverse. We will better serve everyone on the planet by representing everyone on the planet. We will be open to learning our own biases and changing our behaviors so we can tap into the collective power of everyone at Microsoft. We don’t just value differences, we seek them out, we invite them in. And as a result, our ideas are better, our products are better and our customers are better served.

On Saturday, March 19, Microsoft's EVP of human resources, Kathleen Hogan, wrote the entire company to inform them that an internal investigation has been launched to see exactly how the party happened:

Microsoft’s Employee Relations Investigations Team is involved to make sure we have a full understanding of what happened.  And beyond this incident, we are strengthening our commitment to our diversity and inclusion efforts, while evaluating where we must take stronger action to show we are more resolute than ever to make progress and hold ourselves accountable.

Also happening: Apple introduced a raft of new products today, but the most notable thing about their keynote presentation was their emphasis on the social issues surrounding tech. Among the announcements: an introduction to "Liam," the robot who disassembles iPhones for recycling; promotion for the Apple Recycling program in its retail stores; the emphasis on Apple's commitment to solar energy and its packaging, which relies on either recycled paper or "responsibly managed" forests. Take with Tim Cook's opening statement that "we believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and your privacy," industry watchers are saying that Apple's big debut product was "social justice" and the company is shifting its focus:

 Apple’s fights are increasingly less with its direct competitors in the technology space than they are with the edges of society and reality that the company’s starting to butt up against: the environment, working conditions, privacy, diversity, even foreign relations. Technology has become an intrinsic part of all our lives, and that means it’s not isolated in its little bubble, but part of the big, scary world. Tim Cook’s Apple clearly aims to take that head on.



The most useful tech news and how-tos:

Try out Excel Online's new features.

Eight ways to update Windows XP so you can maximize safety even after formal support ends.

Nuke your browser history in Microsoft Edge & reset the browser.


The most amusing tech news:  In the future, "paying for braces" may not involve an installment plan with your local orthodontist, but the purchase of a 3-D printer. Just be aware of all the risks in DIY dentistry.


What we published yesterday: 

Four Ways to Improve Battery Life on Android — When it comes to battery life, the struggle is real. It’s the bane of existence for any smartphone user, particularly in the fragmented world of Android.

Apple Decides 600 Million PC Users with 5 Year Old PCs is a Sad Fact — Phil Schiller doesn't seem to grasp how often civilians in the non-tech sphere upgrade their hardware.

How do I get Redstone on my Windows 10 Mobile Eligible Device? — With the release of Windows 10 Mobile to some existing Windows Phone 8.1 handsets that means eligibility for testing Redstone builds of Windows 10 Mobile opened up to 18 new handsets.

Hardware Options to Move Up to Windows 10 Mobile — There are some decent hardware options currently available to officially get on Windows 10 - here are a few examples.

Amazon Applies Deeper Surface Pro 4 Discounts for Limited Time — While Microsoft is pricing some a select number of its Surface Pro 4 models at $100 off, Amazon.com is providing even deeper discount on some of the Surface Pro 4 editions Microsoft isn’t even touching.

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