Microsoft Teams overtakes Slack, Minecraft Earth beta, and more Microsoft news from this week

Every week, there's a lot to keep up with in the realm of Microsoft news and it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle, so we've rounded up some of the biggest stories from the week to check out. This week, Microsoft Teams may have stolen Slack's crown, Minecraft Earth is looking for beta testers, Cortana may learn to read your emotions, and much more.

Here's a rundown of some of the highlights from this week.

Microsoft Teams hits 13 million daily active users

Microsoft gave us some of the first solid user figures for Teams this week, and it looks like it may be outpacing its chief rival, Slack.

Teams currently stands at 13 million daily active users and 19 million weekly active users, according to Microsoft. While we don't have current numbers for Slack, the company reported through an SEC filing that it had reached 10 million daily active users as of January 31, 2019. Given Slack's trajectory, it seems likely that Teams has taken the top spot in terms of daily active users, but it's hard to compare without more current figures.

The new numbers also come alongside the announcement of some handy new feaures for Teams, including priority notifications for urgent messages, read receipts, and @mentions for specfic roles. You can find the full rundown at the Microsoft 365 blog.

Minecraft Earth closed beta starts in two weeks

While Microsoft didn't give a precise date, the Minecraft Earth closed beta test is set to begin "in the next two weeks." If that sounds like it's up your alley, you can sign up for the closed beta now. The iOS beta will start first with the Android version coming "soon thereafter."

Minecraft Earth brings Minecraft into the real world through, much like Pokémon GO does for Pokémon. Using augmented reality, Minecraft Earth overlays the blocky Minecraft world on top of the real world, letting you build structures and collect things in the spaces around you.

We recently went hands-on with Minecraft Earth at E3 2019 and came away pretty darn impressed, so be sure to check that out before diving in. Otherwise, you can head to the Minecraft site to learn more about how the beta will operate.

Cortana might become an empath

Microsoft has been hard at work on making Cortana much more contextual, but a recently published patent suggests the digital assistant might get the ability to read your emotions as well.

Using the contextual learning framework Microsoft is currently building into Cortana, the patent suggests it could be extended to react to the emotional state of its users. Essentially, Cortana would create a base profile for a user's emotional responses. From there, it could tweak that profile as needed, ultimately allowing Cortana to take into account the emotions displayed by the user when interacting.

As with all patents, this one is a dry read, but it provides a look at an interesting concept that could be either helpful or creepy, depending on your stance. It's also worth noting that Microsoft patents things all of the time that may never see the light of day, and this may wind up never rolling out at all.

Microsoft and Amazon competing for $10 billion 'War Cloud' contract

Microsoft's work with government agencies has sparked some controversy over the past year, but it's still charging forward in a competition with Amazon for a pretty lucrative contract with the U.S. miliary.

Worth $10 billion, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure plan (JEDI) is the Pentagon's initiative to use AI to improve war planning. The project requires massive amount of data and has seen both Oracle and IBM vying for the government's attention. It appears, however, that Microsoft and Amazon are now the top contenders for this "war cloud".

There are currently some legal problems for the deal involving Oracle's claim that the U.S. government unfairly favors Amazon for the project. In other words, we probably won't hear about the winner of the contract any time soon.

PC shipments up in Q2 2019, according to estimates

IDC and Gartner released their latest quarterly shipment estimates for the PC industry this week, and it's good news overall.

Tough both firms differ in exact figures, shipments were up at least 1.5 percent in the secondquarter of 2019. For its part, Gartner estimates 63 million devices were shipped in the quarter. IDC, on the other hand, places that figure at about 64.9 million.

Lenovo led the pack in overall shipment increases among manufacturers, with HP and Dell following up with modest increases of their own. These three companies bouyed the rest of the pack, which saw Acer, ASUS, Apple, and more dropping in the latest quarter.

And more ...

Those were some of the biggest pieces of news to come out of the week, but that's certainly not it. For more, hit up the links below.

Portable (and affordable) power accessories we love

Each and every one of these charging gadgets will keep your favorite gear and gadgets going for longer, and none of them costs more than $30.

VisionTek 8,000 mAh micro-USB power bank ($13 at Dell)

This compact dual-output powerbank can speedily recharge any and all your devices, thanks to a two-amp "fast charge feature," using its micro-USB out port. Its simple design includes an LED indicator, and it costs about as much as a single ticket to the movies.

Panasonic eneloop AA batteries (From $13 at Dell)

Panasonic's rechargeable batteries are among the best available, and just a couple of them will keep your favorite remote, mice or other peripherals powered up when you need them. They're also eco. And the company's affordable charger fits and charges both AA and AAA batteries at the same time.

Belkin Qi Wireless Charging Pad ($30 at Dell)

This unobtrusive Qi wireless charging pad looks good (and kind of like a UFO …) and easily charges all your Qi-compatible device up to 5W. Its LED indicator lights up when you're charging. And it costs just $30.

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