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Microsoft Store Shutting Down its ebooks Category

Microsoft would begin processing refunds back to users’ original payment methods, starting July

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A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

Seeming to have lost interest in competing with Amazon, Apple Books and Google Play Books, Microsoft is shutting down the ebooks category at the Microsoft Store.

Users would now no longer be able to buy, rent or pre-order ebooks from the software giant’s facility.

“Starting April 2, 2019, the books category in Microsoft Store will be closing. Unfortunately, this means that starting July 2019 your ebooks will no longer be available to read,” the company wrote in a post on its support page on Tuesday.

The move comes as part of the software giant’s strategy to help streamline focus points for Microsoft Store.

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Logo of Microsoft outside it’s office. Pixabay

However, users would still be allowed to read their rented books through the duration of the rental period.

For users who had already placed pre-orders, the company said, the orders are being cancelled and nothing is being charged for the purchases.

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“You’ll get a full refund for all book purchases. We recommend you pre-order at another digital book store,” the post said.

Microsoft would begin processing refunds back to users’ original payment methods, starting July. (IANS)

Next Story

Microsoft Rejects Request to Install Facial Recognition Technology in Officers’ Cars and Body Cameras

AI has more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, multiple research projects have found

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FILE - Brad Smith of Microsoft takes part in a panel discussion "Cyber, big data and new technologies. Current Internet Governance Challenges: What's Next?" at the United Nations in Geneva, Nov. 9, 2017. VOA

Microsoft recently rejected a California law enforcement agency’s request to install facial recognition technology in officers’ cars and body cameras because of human rights concerns, company President Brad Smith said Tuesday.

Microsoft concluded it would lead to innocent women and minorities being disproportionately held for questioning because the artificial intelligence has been trained on mostly white, male pictures.

AI has more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, multiple research projects have found.

“Anytime they pulled anyone over, they wanted to run a face scan” against a database of suspects, Smith said without naming the agency. After thinking through the uneven impact, “we said this technology is not your answer.”

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Microsoft concluded it would lead to innocent women and minorities being disproportionately held for questioning because the artificial intelligence has been trained on mostly white, male pictures. Pixabay

Prison contract accepted

Speaking at a Stanford University conference on “human-centered artificial intelligence,” Smith said Microsoft had also declined a deal to install facial recognition on cameras blanketing the capital city of an unnamed country that the nonprofit Freedom House had deemed not free. Smith said it would have suppressed freedom of assembly there.

On the other hand, Microsoft did agree to provide the technology to an American prison, after the company concluded that the environment would be limited and that it would improve safety inside the unnamed institution.

Smith explained the decisions as part of a commitment to human rights that he said was increasingly critical as rapid technological advances empower governments to conduct blanket surveillance, deploy autonomous weapons and take other steps that might prove impossible to reverse.

‘Race to the bottom’

Microsoft said in December it would be open about shortcomings in its facial recognition and asked customers to be transparent about how they intended to use it, while stopping short of ruling out sales to police.

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“Anytime they pulled anyone over, they wanted to run a face scan” against a database of suspects, Smith said without naming the agency. Pixabay

Smith has called for greater regulation of facial recognition and other uses of artificial intelligence, and he warned Tuesday that without that, companies amassing the most data might win the race to develop the best AI in a “race to the bottom.”

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He shared the stage with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who urged tech companies to refrain from building new tools without weighing their impact.

“Please embody the human rights approach when you are developing technology,” said Bachelet, a former president of Chile. Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw declined to name the prospective customers the company turned down. (VOA)