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How to enable and use Gmail’s Smart Reply and Smart Compose tools – The Verge

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Leading up to Gmail’s 15th birthday last year, Google added a lot of productivity and machine learning tools to its email service. (It may also have been trying to make up for the disappearance of its Inbox email app, but that’s an argument for another day.) Additions included a way for Gmail to write email subject lines for you and schedule an email to send at a later time.

It can be a little confusing to navigate some of Gmail’s features. In this tutorial, we’re going to focus on Gmail’s auto-completion tools Smart Reply and Smart Compose, which are designed to save time.

Letting a machine help write emails and subject lines for you can feel a bit unusual, but if you’re open to at least trying it out for yourself, here are the ways to automate your Gmail responses.

Enabling Smart Reply and Smart Compose

To allow Gmail to generate responses and email text, you first have to opt in from your Settings menu. If you are a regular Gmail user (instead of G Suite enterprise edition), here’s what to do:

On desktop

  • Click on the gear icon on the upper right side and find the Settings page.
  • Scroll down to the separate Smart Reply and Smart Compose options and choose “On” for either or both to enable the automated suggestions.
  • You can also choose to allow Gmail’s machine learning to personalize the suggestions based on the way you write your emails by choosing “Smart Compose personalization.” For example, if you greet your colleagues with “Hi, team” versus “Hello, everyone,” it will automatically drop in whatever you use most often.

If you use G Suite, you may notice that the option to toggle on Smart Compose is not available. Your G Suite admin must enable this for the organization, so contact the person in charge if you’d like to test this out at work.

On the Android or iOS app

  • Tap the hamburger icon on the upper-left side to open the side drawer. Scroll down to Settings.
  • Select the Gmail account you want to address
  • Tap the checkbox on Smart Reply and / or Smart Compose to toggle the mode on

Once the settings are turned on, your Gmail is set up to suggest replies and help auto-finish sentences based on your writing style.

What it looks like

Basically, you just start typing, and Gmail will begin suggesting words that might fit the sentence you’re writing.

Be aware that it won’t always come on for every email you write. Because Gmail needs context, you’ll likely find Smart Compose chiming in when you’re responding to an email or if you’re starting emails with some generic statements like “Nice to meet you” or “Hope you’re well.” If Gmail has a suggestion, an opaque set of text will appear next to what you’re typing.

On the desktop version of Gmail, you can press Tab to accept the suggestion. On the mobile app, if a suggested word or phrase appears, swipe right to add it to the email.

Smart Compose can also automatically fill in the Subject field.

Smart Compose can also automatically fill in the Subject field.

Smart Compose can also suggest email subjects. Leave the subject line blank, and start writing your email. Once you go back to fill out the subject line, Gmail will offer a suggestion that you can accept by pressing Tab on the desktop app or swipe right on mobile.

Smart Reply for canned responses

Smart Reply works a little faster than Smart Compose. Instead of suggesting words or short phrases for you, Gmail will offer three responses that might suit the email you’ve received. For example, if you’ve gotten an email reminding you of an appointment, Smart Reply may suggest responses like “Confirmed,” “Thanks,” or “I can’t make it.”

Tapping these responses will not send the email right away. You can add more text to the suggested answer before choosing to send it.

Smart Replay offers canned responses.

If you are in an email conversation with several people, be aware that responding with a Smart Reply will CC everyone on that email. You’ll have to manually remove the people you don’t want in that response, so it’s best to only choose Smart Reply for emails you mean to send to everyone in the thread.

Should you actually use it?

Choosing to let a machine write your emails may feel impersonal, but it’s not designed to write the whole email for you. Smart Compose and Smart Reply work best when you use them to add filler sentences or quickly respond to yes or no emails. Plus, Gmail has gotten a lot better at suggesting responses that will make sense 90 percent of the time. (In my experience, the responses tend to veer toward affirmative answers, so they may not work best if you’re less prone to agreeing to everything.)

Besides, if you give this a go and find that you’d rather type your own answers, just go back to Settings and toggle those features off.

Update July 6th, 2020, 5:10PM ET: This article was originally published on April 5th, 2019; the introduction and the directions for using Smart Replay and Smart Compose have been updated

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Apple's Services Bundle Is All About This 1 Metric – Motley Fool

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The idea of an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) services bundle has been around for about four years or so, but it might become a reality in just a couple months. The iPhone maker is readying a series of bundles for its various services, according to a report from Bloomberg

CEO Tim Cook has made services a major focus of the business as the average iPhone owner takes longer to upgrade their device. Apple’s well on its way to reaching Cook’s goal of doubling its services revenue from 2017 by the end 2020 after introducing several new services over the last couple years.

By offering bundles of those services to consumers, Apple has the potential to improve a key metric used by most subscription services companies: customer lifetime value.

Six iPhone 11 smartphones in different colors being splashed by water

Image source: Apple.

Increasing attach rates and retention

One of the simplest ways to increase customer lifetime value is improved retention and higher attach rates.

Apple has over 60 million Apple Music subscribers. But it only has about 10 million active accounts for Apple TV+ (still on free trials), and Apple Arcade’s expected to reach 12 million subscribers by year-end.

Bundled pricing should raise attach rates for the services while increasing the stickiness of those customers since they don’t want to lose their preferred pricing.

A bundle of Apple TV+ or Apple Arcade with Apple Music could expand the subscriber base for all three services. It would help Apple differentiate its music-streaming service from competitors like Spotify, which is growing faster than Apple Music and threatens its dominant position in podcasts. Meanwhile, it would introduce Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade to more customers.

Apple Arcade could be the most important Apple service to get consumers to adopt. While it might cannibalize some of Apple’s App Store revenue, it should generate incremental revenue for most casual mobile gamers while increasing loyalty to the iPhone.

Ultimately, higher attach rates for Apple’s services will lead to greater loyalty for iPhone owners and increased switching activity from competitors’ devices. That’s the real driver of customer lifetime value: longer customer lives.

Getting new services profitable faster

Apple is also planning a new virtual fitness class subscription service, Bloomberg reports, which would be included in higher-tier bundles. Bundling new services like this or News+, which hasn’t yet attracted many subscribers, could get them to scale fast enough to cover costs. 

Additionally, a fitness service could possibly benefit from reduced content costs if it’s bundled with an Apple Music subscription. The biggest driver of Peloton‘s (NASDAQ:PTON) cost of subscription revenue in 2019 was its growing music royalty expense. If Apple can negotiate the use of music in fitness classes as part of its Apple Music subscriptions, it would significantly reduce the number of subscribers needed to turn a profit.

A fitness service also ties in with Apple’s focus on health with the Apple Watch. Increased attach rates for the fitness service could lead to greater Apple Watch sales. Again, the tech titan is great at tying its services and devices together to increase the lifetime value of a customer.

The Apple bundle can make more money now

Driving incremental subscribers for services like Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade should be a top priority for Apple. Instead of paying a variable cost per subscriber on those services, like it does with App Store subscriptions, Apple’s costs are largely fixed based on its content budget. As such, the company can offer a discount for bundling those services and still produce incremental operating income.

That’s somewhat unique for bundling economics. For example, the cable industry will offer customers video service bundled with home internet service. The companies basically break even on video service, but increase the retention rates for home internet service, thus increasing customer lifetime value. 

But Apple can make a profit now and profit later (through increased customer longevity) with its bundle.

Focusing on Apple’s customer lifetime value, as driven by its services, is what will fuel the next stage of growth for the FAANG stock. Bundling services together to increase the longevity of the average device owner while potentially increasing operating profits in the short term is a powerful factor supporting Apple shares.

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Report: Ubisoft fired Assassin’s Creed Valhalla director – Polygon

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Ashraf Ismail, former creative director of the forthcoming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, who left that role in late June following social media allegations of sexual misconduct, has been formally terminated by Ubisoft. The news comes from an internal memo sent to Kotaku on Friday.

In the memo, Ubisoft Montreal employees were told that an outside investigative firm had looked into the matter, and Ubisoft determined “that Ashraf’s employment with Ubisoft had to be terminated.” The publisher told employees it would not divulge any details from the investigation.

Polygon has reached out to an Ubisoft representative for additional comment.

Ismail had worked for Ubisoft for the past 11 years and was creative director for 2017’s Assassin’s Creed Origins and 2013’s Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. In June, allegations emerged on Twitter that Ismail had carried on an extramarital affair with a streamer who met him at E3 2017.

Ismail stepped down June 24. “The lives of my family and my own are shattered,” he said in a tweet. “I am deeply sorry to everyone hurt in this.” Ubisoft confirmed Ismail’s leave of absence the same day, and told Gamasutra that it would begin an investigation into the matter.

The streamer who made the first allegation against Ismail said she had a consenting relationship with him, but also said he concealed his marriage from her, to the point of claiming the wedding band he wore was for show, so that his parents wouldn’t be asked why their son wasn’t married.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is scheduled for a Nov. 17 launch on Google Stadia, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, as well as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, which are expected to launch at that time.

Update: A Ubisoft representative confirmed the dismissal to Polygon. “As a result of investigations, Ashraf Ismail has been dismissed from Ubisoft and is no longer an employee,” they said.

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Apple has finally met its Fortnite match – The Verge

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Epic Games executed its most ambitious Fortnite live event yesterday, leading both Apple and Google to remove one of the world’s most popular games from their app stores. It was a well choreographed sequence of events designed to highlight the power Apple and Google hold over app stores, especially Apple’s walled garden. Epic Games has now filed lawsuits against both Apple and Google in a battle that’s likely to last months. Epic Games is uniquely positioned to pull off a stunt like this, and now poses a serious threat to how Apple, in particular, operates its App Store and iOS operating system.

Apple originally launched the App Store as a way to add value to the iPhone and sell more of its handsets. “It costs money to run it,” explained Steve Jobs in a Wall Street Journal interview at the launch of the App Store in 2008. “Those free apps cost money to store and to deliver wirelessly. The paid apps cost money, too. They have to pay for some of the free apps. We don’t expect this to be a big profit generator. We expect it to add value to the iPhone. We’ll sell more iPhones because of it.” Apple’s App Store is now a massive $519 billion developer ecosystem. It’s also a key part of Apple’s growing services business, which is the second biggest revenue driver for the company, behind the iPhone.

Yet Apple has maintained a lucrative 30 percent cut of in-app purchases for digital goods for more than a decade now. It’s a policy that continues to annoy developers and the basis for a fresh and very visible challenge from Epic Games.

The latest controversy kicked off when Epic implemented a “permanent discount” yesterday on the V-Bucks digital currency used within Fortnite to purchase skins and other virtual goods. The roughly 20 percent discount was made possible this week because Epic Games now offers its own in-app payment scheme within Fortnite on iOS and Android, blatantly bypassing Google and Apple app store guidelines. Both Apple and Google have, for years, forced developers to use their own in-app payment schemes that require developers to hand over a 30 percent cut of in-app purchases on digital goods, which is only lowered to 15 percent for long-term subscriptions after someone subscribes for at least a year.

Apple and Google both argue this huge 30 percent fee is necessary for them to maintain their app stores and the security and simplicity they provide, but developers don’t agree. Others have tried to fight Apple’s 30 percent tax in the past by encouraging customers to sign up to services or purchase digital goods outside of Apple’s App Store. Some have compromised by jacking up their iOS prices to help recoup the lost 30 percent.

While this policy is central to the battle between Epic Games and Apple and Google, the fight is ultimately about power, control, and Apple’s approach to games and the App Store. Epic Games is uniquely positioned to fight Apple and Google with a game that’s played around the world by more than 350 million people. The game maker demonstrated its own power yesterday.

While most iOS and Android apps have to be approved and updated through Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store, both companies make exceptions for games to allow developers to regularly update them within a shell app. You download a smaller container app, and then this app downloads the larger game files. Epic used this exception to its advantage, implementing its in-app purchase system without Apple or Google having to approve or deny it.

This blatant disregard for the rules left Apple and Google no choice but to remove Fortnite from their app stores. Epic’s quick, calculated response shows that the real target of its attention (and attention seeking) is Apple.

To start with, the company immediately launched a protest video inside the game designed to mock Apple’s iconic “1984” Macintosh commercial.

[embedded content]

Apple originally used this Super Bowl commercial to highlight IBM’s dominance back in 1984, comparing the corporation to the dystopian novel by George Orwell that focuses on totalitarian political systems. “Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation,” says Epic Games. “Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear.”

Epic’s also encouraging Fortnite players affected by the ban to tweet at Apple with the #FreeFortnite hashtag. Epic is using all of its own power to execute a marketing campaign designed to highlight Apple’s control and power.

Epic made no such viral video or campaign targeting Google.

Given that Google has largely followed in the footsteps of Apple’s App Store, it makes sense that Epic’s attention seeking would mainly target Apple. You can also still play Fortnite on Android by sideloading the app, avoiding the Google Play Store. There’s also a lot more controversy surrounding Apple’s policy decisions and the inability for consumers to install iOS apps from outside the App Store.

Apple’s power and control over the App Store has come under increased scrutiny this year. Developers have typically avoided publicly calling out Apple for fear of retribution, but things are starting to change. Spotify was the first to file a formal antitrust complaint with the European Union last year, arguing that Apple harms consumer choice and stifles innovation through the rules it enforces on the App Store.

The EU opened a formal investigation into Apple’s App Store and Apple Pay practices earlier this year, and Epic Games, Match Group, and Rakuten all joined Spotify in protesting Apple’s App Store fees.

At around the same time, Apple got caught up in a bitter dispute over Hey — a new subscription email app — just days before its annual developers conference. Apple initially approved the Hey app in the App Store before rejecting a bug-fix update because it claimed Hey violated the rules by not offering in-app subscriptions. This led to a public back-and-forth that highlighted the inconsistent way Apple applies its rules, and it revealed just how much developers are terrified of Apple.

The Hey incident also led the chairman of the House antitrust subcommittee to label Apple a bully and say that Apple’s App Store fees are “highway robbery.” Separately, Apple CEO Tim Cook then appeared at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, alongside the CEOs of Google, Facebook, and Amazon a month later. The Big Tech antitrust hearing saw all four companies try to convince Congress that their business practices aren’t anti-competitive monopolies.

Cook’s testimony was particularly interesting, as he tried to argue that Apple’s rules are applied fairly and evenly to all developers. “We treat every developer the same,” said Cook. “We have open and transparent rules. Those rules apply evenly to everyone.” We know this can’t be true. Apple created a special program for “premium subscription video entertainment providers” that allows apps like Amazon Prime Video to let existing subscribers avoid Apple’s in-app purchases and 30 percent cut.

It’s a deal we still don’t really know enough about, although documents show that Apple brokered a special deal with Amazon that involved a 15 percent cut instead of the typical 30 percent for in-app purchases. Either way, it’s certainly not part of what Cook calls Apple’s “open and transparent rules.” This is just one, albeit significant, example of Apple not applying its rules consistently. Apple also tried to argue that “client apps” are allowed for business apps but not consumer ones in its justification for rejecting the Hey email app, even though this distinction never appears in Apple’s App Store guidelines.

These inconsistencies and rules have irked developers for years, but many have simply been too scared to call Apple out. The iPhone maker is the judge and jury when it comes to approving apps, and if you’re rejected, then there’s often no appeals process unless you can generate the press and attention to force Apple to change its mind. Hey eventually returned to the App Store on a wave of publicity (and a minor functionality tweak to its app). It’s a playbook that Epic is now looking to reuse.

Epic Games is aligning itself to lead the fight for the entire industry, and the company has prior form. A mysterious “configuration issue” saw Xbox and PS4 owners playing against each other for the first time in Fortnite back in 2017, just months after Sony had refused to enable cross-platform play for both Rocket League and Minecraft. It put the focus squarely on Sony blocking cross-play, and eventually led to a public outcry when it was revealed Sony was blocking Fortnite cross-play between PS4 and Nintendo Switch players. Sony eventually backed down, after Epic Games laid the blame squarely on the PlayStation maker. Cross-play has since become an increasingly common feature in everything from Call of Duty to No Man’s Sky.

Epic Games’ rebellion against Apple and Google also comes just weeks after both Microsoft and Facebook spoke out against Apple. Microsoft condemned Apple for blocking its new xCloud game streaming service on iPhones and iPads. “Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass,” said Microsoft. Google is allowing Microsoft to launch xCloud on the Google Play Store, although in-app purchases on Android will only be available through Samsung’s Galaxy Store. Samsung also demands 30 percent of in-app purchases, but it also makes it clear that developers can negotiate an “alternative revenue share rate” during the certification phase for apps.

Facebook’s criticism of Apple’s App Store policies went a step further than Microsoft’s, describing Apple’s move to block its mini-games inside a Facebook Gaming app as a “shared pain across the games industry, which ultimately hurts players and devs and severely hamstrings innovation on mobile for other types of formats, like cloud gaming.”

BAFTA Presents Special Award to Epic Games

It’s clear that Epic Games wants things to change for both its own benefit and the broader benefit of the gaming community. Most smaller developers can’t afford to take on Apple or Google, but Epic Games is now valued at $17.3 billion and can certainly put up a fight. Games are also a key part of any mobile app store and a big part of how Apple generates revenue through its own App Store. Developers want a fairer cut of that revenue, but Epic also wants to shift Apple’s control here.

“We’re fighting for open platforms and policy changes equally benefiting all developers,” says Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney. “And it’ll be a hell of a fight!” It’s a fight that Epic has prepared for, and its lawsuit specifically alleges that Apple has a monopoly in the form of the iPhone, its iOS ecosystem, and the App Store that binds them all together.

Epic has enlisted the counsel of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, which includes Christine Varney, a former US assistant attorney general of the antitrust division for the Obama administration. Varney also served as the Federal Trade commissioner for the Clinton administration. Katherine Forrest, a partner at Cravath, is also part of Epic’s lawsuit. Forrest is a former judge and antitrust litigator, and the Cravath law firm was also part of Qualcomm’s lawsuit against Apple.

It’s easy to dismiss this as giant companies squabbling with each other, filing lawsuits, and ruining Fortnite on mobile devices, but the resolution will have far-reaching consequences for Epic Games and the many other developers that rely on mobile app stores. Apple has met a defiant competitor that’s been able to bypass App Store rules and put two prices side by side to demonstrate the “Apple tax” that so many developers are upset about. Epic Games might not win its lawsuit in the US, but this isn’t about a single lawsuit. Epic is weaponizing Fortnite as a means to highlight Apple’s App Store policies and rally hundreds of millions of players to demand change.

It’s a risky move that Epic might be forced to reverse, especially as mobile players could miss Fortnite’s next season. Epic has gambled that most people already have Fortnite installed on their phones and tablets, so it’s unlikely to immediately anger its community, which can now see how much cheaper V-Bucks could be. More importantly, it has put the App Store, Apple, and Google directly in the spotlight for a showdown that will involve lawsuits, regulators, and the fate of mobile app stores.

Epic doesn’t want Apple to pay its way out of a lawsuit or reach a special deal with the company. It wants regulators in Europe and the US to stand up and pay attention. Epic isn’t your typical Fortnite player that hides in a bush until they’re the last person standing, it’s trying to be the loud and colorful llama standing strong as the circle shrinks around Apple and Google.

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