This was one heck of a busy week due to not one, but two Microsoft events on the same day. Top that up with Patch Tuesday as well and that means that we have lots of stuff to go through in this week’s edition of Microsoft Weekly. Find out more in our latest digest covering October 8 – October 14!
One of Microsoft’s duo of events this week was the developer-focused Ignite 2022 conference. Microsoft had multiple announcements to make here, including the fact that its Edge browser is finally getting Workspaces (again!), which should especially benefit teams collaborating on shared content in a workplace. Other features in tow include some security and accessibility enhancements.
We learned that Microsoft is working on a new “Office” app but it will be called “Microsoft 365” instead because it will centralize the access for all apps on the service in a single location. It also revealed a range of new features coming to Outlook, Microsoft Editor, Microsoft Project, Viva, and Loop, along with a new service called Syntex. The company showcased some new tools in the form of Designer, Bing Image Creator, and its new Create website too.
There were a few interesting announcements in the Teams space as well, including Mesh avatars, a Teams Premium SKU, enhancements to Cameo, the Channels experience, and a whole lot more. Additionally, we found out that Windows 365 has found another home in the form of the Microsoft Store and that it has a new SKU for U.S. federal employees and contractors as well.
On the developer and enterprise side, Microsoft detailed improvements to the Azure cloud, Power Automate, Power BI, Dynamics 365, and cloud-powered security.
The other big event this week was Microsoft’s annual Surface hardware event. While the next iteration to the Surface Duo series was a no-show – although it could be getting a very interesting Android 12L update soon -, the Surface Pro 9 finally became official, complete with Intel and ARM processors, up to 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. That said, it does come in two distinct SKUs starting at $999 and $1,299 respectively so if you’re interested in the product, do check out all the details here.
Microsoft also showed its highly expensive Surface Studio 2+. Microsoft did not go for the Surface Studio 3 branding, seemingly because the updates are only in terms of the internals. The hardware comes in only one configuration with the Intel Core i7-11370H processor, the Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics card, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB solid-state drive. Other improvements include Wi-Fi 6 support (no Wi-Fi 6E), Bluetooth 5.1, three Thunderbolt 4 ports, and redesigned out-of-box accessories. It is priced at $4,499.
Finally, the third piece of hardware Microsoft displayed was the Surface Laptop 5. It’s a pretty standard laptop that comes in both 13.5″ and 15″ configurations but it’s interesting to see that it does not utilize Microsoft’s own Pluton security processors. The 13.5″ variant starts at $999 while the 15″ option starts at $1,299.
Of course, all of this information can be very overwhelming if you’re an existing Surface customer and are unsure about whether the latest stuff is worth upgrading to. The good news is that we have you covered with our dedicated Specs Appeals articles that compare the latest additions to the Surface family to their predecessors, check them out below:
Microsoft had other relatively smaller hardware to introduce at the same event too. Basically, it revealed its latest lineup of Adaptive Accessories, along with the Presenter+ and the Audio Dock for meetings.
Patch Tuesday… and more
Earlier this week, we witnessed the second Tuesday of the month too, which meant that it was time for the monthly Patch Tuesday.
Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 netted KB5018454 and KB5018474, respectively. These updates resolved issues with UDP packets being dropped from Linux virtual machines, along with some changes to Daylight Savings Time (DST). That said, there are two known issues in this release for Windows 7 and one for Windows 8.1 so do have a look at them before pulling the trigger on the update. And if you’re on Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, you might be interesting in knowing that both these operating systems are getting two more years of “unofficial” support.
Meanwhile, Windows 10 bagged KB5018410. Although there are no specific enhancements detailed in the changelog, Microsoft says that it has boosted the security of the OS. However, there are a couple of known issues along with their respective mitigations in this release too.
Finally, Windows 11 version 21H2 received KB5018418 and version 22H2 was treated to KB5018427. The changelog for these builds is very lengthy and details improvements to security, Microsoft Store, Widgets, file handling, and more.
Shifting gears to the Insider Program, we did not receive a “real” Dev Channel build (we did see a servicing build) this week due to a blocking bug. However, we did get our hands on two Beta builds in the week. Build 22623.741 fixed some issues with Taskbar and explorer.exe and build 22623.746 introduced some new features to the System Tray. Meanwhile, all people on build 22621.675 in the Release Preview Channel can now leverage tabbed File Explorer, among other things.
Microsoft detailed other enhancements that have recently been added to Windows 11 too. One of those is protection against brute force attacks through a policy configuration after installing this month’s Patch Tuesday update. The other is OS-powered Auto Color Management (ACM) on select SDR displays after the installing the Windows 11 2022 Update (version 22H2).
In rather interesting news, Microsoft accidentally leaked what appears to be a prototype of the next-gen version of Windows too. Although many thought that a screenshot of a PC with a floating Taskbar and a notifications area at top shown during Ignite was just a mockup, we later found out that the company has inadvertently leaked “Next Valley”, its upcoming major update to Windows.
But in terms of confirmed improvements coming to Windows 11, we have a screen recorder, iCloud Photos integration, and Apple TV and Music apps.
And if you don’t like Windows 11 in its current state, you can always take a look at Stardock’s Start11 customization software – version 1.3 is out now -, which offers some new and old functionalities which Microsoft is delaying in adding to the OS.
The headlining item in this week’s gaming section is that Xbox chief Phil Spencer seemingly teased what appeared to be Microsoft’s upcoming dedicated streaming box, the “Xbox Keystone”. The hardware is supposed to power the Xbox Cloud Gaming experience for those who exclusively want to play games via cloud streaming. However, there are indications from Microsoft itself that the device in the photo is an old prototype, which means that it may not end up looking like the same thing at all when it eventually releases.
While we are on the topic of cloud gaming, it’s also worth highlighting that Google has announced new Chromebooks geared towards the technology. Although its own Stadia initiative is now dead, Google has partnered with various firms to support gaming platforms like Microsoft Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) and Nvidia GeForce Now on its hardware.
Meanwhile, another partnership with Meta is bringing Xbox Cloud Gaming to the Meta Quest Store, offering the gaming service to the Quest line of headsets. The experience will be equivalent to playing games on a projected 2D screen, but in VR with an Xbox controller. Speaking of controllers, Microsoft has announced the Lunar Shift Special Edition Xbox Wireless Controller, it costs $69.99.
Additionally, the Redmond tech giant has released a new build for Xbox Insiders on the Alpha Skip-Ahead channel. The key improvement in this release is a 30% bitrate boost to Game DVR when recording at 720p and 1080p. The company also announced version 1.1 of the DirectStorage API, showcasing 3x faster loads with new GPU decompression techniques. However, the API is not currently being used by any game publicly.
Finally, talking about actual games, Sea of Thieves has another Adventure dubbed “The Herald of the Flame” ready for players. Meanwhile, Call of Duty and Forza Horizon are the headliners of this week’s Deals with Gold and Bomber Crew is now free via Games with Gold too, but if you’re a PC purist, check out this Weekend’s PC Game Deals – curated by our News Editor Pulasthi Ariyasinghe – instead.
Under the spotlight
This week, News Reporter Taras Buria wrote an editorial detailing the top five user interface and experience elements he wants Microsoft to address in Windows 11. It’s a balanced piece in which he explains that he likes Windows 11’s aesthetics but feels that there’s room for improvement.
Taras also penned a brief guide explaining how you can force-enable Widget settings in Windows 11 build 25211 or later through a third-party utility. If you’re an avid user of Windows 11 Widgets, you might want to check out the guide here.
Meanwhile, for all you secretive people out there, forum member Adam Bottjen has penned a guide detailing the process to securely hide your web browsing activities – which is, of course, research – from others.
Finally, Neowin co-founder Steven Parker has explained how you can get the Windows 11 2022 Update (version 22H2) on your supported PC right now if you can’t wait for the staggered rollout to reach you.
As we close of this edition of Microsoft Weekly, I want to highlight our most interesting news item of the week. It’s about a person getting the classic Doom to run on… Notepad. Well, it’s not exactly Notepad executing or processing code for the game, it’s a program using Notepad as a front end by sending it a stream of ASCII characters to quickly render and remove, giving the illusion of the game being run in the text editor. Regardless of whether it has any utility or not, it’s certainly a neat experiment and the person behind the project plans to release the source code publicly at some point in the future.
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