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EA forms new studio 'Full Circle' for the next Skate title's development
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Following years of fan requests for a new Skate, Electronic Arts finally confirmed last year that the popular skateboarding franchise is returning. The title now has a studio attached to it, with EA today unveiling Full Circle, a brand new game development studio set in Vancouver that is focused solely "on the next evolution of Skate."
Full Circle has gained Daniel McCulloch as its general manager, who has previously worked at Microsoft heading Xbox Live. “The fans wished Skate back into existence, and we want them to feel involved in the process from development to game launch and beyond," said McCulloch in a statement to VentureBeat. "We want them to feel like they are a part of Full Circle."
As the original announcement stated in June of last year, core developers from previous installments, Cuz Parry and Deran Chung, are attached to the game as designers. Currently, there is a large number of open positions available at Full Circle, with the studio looking for engineers, designers, animators, coordinators, artists, and other talents based in Vancouver as well as various parts of the U.S.
"We’re all about having fun and making great games that people want to play with their friends," added McCulloch. "And, we’re looking for more developers to help us build compelling worlds for players to explore."
The new Skate entry does not have release platforms, a launch window, nor a definite name attached to it yet. Considering the studio is still being populated, it will definitely be some time before the game materializes.
Surface Pro 7+ gets its first round of firmware and driver updates
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro 7+ a couple of weeks ago, being a relatively small upgrade over the existing Surface Pro 7. Now, the company has added the device to the Surface update history page, and there's already a set of firmware and driver updates available.
The updates are dated back to January 20, but the changelog has only now been posted, so we get an idea of the improvements included with them. This batch includes four different updates, but they're mostly focused on addressing issues with the display, as well as improving performance. Here's the full list:
Windows Update History Name Device Manager Name Update Surface - HIDClass - 126.96.36.199 Surface TCON device -Human Interface Devices Resolves screen refresh issues.
Surface - Monitor - 188.8.131.52 Surface Panel - Monitor Resolves the adaptive brightness issue.
Surface – Firmware – 10.24.139.0 Surface System Aggregator – Firmware Improves the power and graphics performance; resolves the USB-C issue. Surface - HIDClass - 184.108.40.206 Surface TCON device -Human Interface Devices (For LTE Advanced) Resolves screen refresh issues. Microsoft doesn't list any known issues with the Surface Pro 7+ after these updates. The updates should be installed automatically eventually, but if you'd rather not wait, you can check for updates manually in the Settings app. You'll need to be running Windows 10 version 20H2, the October 2020 Update, in order to get the updates. This shouldn't be much of a problem since the Surface Pro 7+ likely already ships with this version installed out of the box.
While the Surface Pro 7+ is branded as a minor refresh, it does get its own separate sets of updates, since there are some significant hardware changes on the inside. If you have a regular Surface Pro 7, a batch of updates was released a couple of weeks ago with general security and stability fixes.
Xbox Live now has 100 million active monthly users, Game Pass has 18 million subscribers
by Sylvester Addo
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the earnings for the second quarter of the firm's 2021 fiscal year today, which show that the company brought in $43.1 billion in revenue spurred by gaming, office and the cloud.
The demand for gaming saw Xbox earnings go up by 51 percent. This also includes Xbox content and services such as Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass, which saw an increase of 40 percent in revenue. The company also recorded a few firsts; exceeding $2 billion in revenue from third-party titles and surpassing $5 billion in gaming revenue for the first time.
Microsoft also shared that the Xbox Series X and Series S launch was the most successful in its history, with "the most devices ever sold in a launch month".
Nadella announced that Xbox Live now has more than 100 million monthly active users and Xbox Game Pass has 18 million subscribers. This shows Xbox Game Pass growing by about eight million subscribers in under a year with the company announcing it had over 10 million subscribers in April last year.
The growth can be attributed to the company's transformation of gameplay with cloud gaming being an example. Another significant factor is the ongoing COVID-19 situation in which people have found themselves spending more time at home, relying on digital forms of entertainment.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft earnings: $43.1B revenue driven by Office, gaming, and the cloud
by Rich Woods
Today, Microsoft published its quarterly earnings report, this time for the second quarter of its 2021 fiscal year, or the fourth quarter of the 2020 calendar year. The firm brought in an impressive $43.1B in revenue, a 17% (15% in constant currency) growth year-over-year. Operating income was $17.9B, a 29% (26% CC) increase, and net income was $15.5B, a 33% (29% CC) increase.
$43.1 billion in revenue is broken up into three categories. Productivity and Business Processes made $13.4B, a 13% (11% CC) growth year-over-year, Intelligent Cloud made $14.6B in revenue, a 23% (22% CC) increase, and More Personal Computing made $15.1, a 17% (15% CC) increase in revenue YoY.
First up is Productivity and Business Processes, which includes things like Office, LinkedIn, and Dynamics. Office Commercial products and cloud services revenue grew by 11% (9% CC), and that's against a strong year last year. That includes 21% (20% CC) growth in Office 365 Commercial revenue, while seat growth is up 15%. Non-cloud Office Commercial products declined by 26% (27% CC).
Office Consumer products and cloud services revenue is up 7% (6% CC) YoY, and that includes a 28% increase in subscribers to 47.5 million. LinkedIn revenue is up 23% (22% CC), with sessions growing by 30%. Finally, Dynamics products and cloud services revenue is up 21% (18% CC), including a Dynamics 365 cloud revenue increase of 39% (37% CC).
Next up is Intelligent Cloud, which is mostly about Azure. Server products and cloud services grew by an impressive 26% (24% CC), driven by 50% (48% CC) increase in Azure revenue. On-prem server products even grew, with revenue up 4% (3% CC), helped by the end of support of Windows Server 2008. Enterprise Mobileity installed base grew by 29% to 163 million seats, and Enterprise Services grew 5% (4% CC).
Finally, More Personal Computing includes all of the fun bits like Windows, Surface, and Xbox. Windows OEM revenue only grew by 1%, thanks to a strong quarter last year due to the end of support of Windows 7. That includes a 9% decline in Windows OEM Pro revenue, and a 24% increase in Windows OEM non-Pro revenue. Windows Commercial products and cloud services revenuew grew by 10% (8% CC).
Surface revenue is up 3% (1% CC), and Microsoft didn't say anything about why that's good or bad, although it's worth noting that there's been a high demand for personal computers this year thanks to people working from home. Search advertising revenue is up 2% (1% CC).
Finally, gaming revenue is up 51% (50% CC), including an 86% increase in hardware revenue thanks to the launch of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. It also includes a 40% (38% CC) increase in Xbox content and services revenue, thanks to both third- and first-party titles, and Xbox Game Pass.
By Hamza Jawad
Azure Availability Zones in the South Central U.S. datacenter region now generally available
by Hamza Jawad
Yesterday, Microsoft previewed a new cloud deployment model based on the Azure Resource Manager. A few days earlier, meanwhile, the tech giant announced that it would be holding a free Azure Quantum Developer workshop on February 2.
Today, in a further cloud-related announcement, Microsoft has unveiled the general availability of new Azure Availability Zones for the South Central U.S. region.
For those who are unaware, Azure Availability Zones work as physical locations that contain one or more datacenters utilizing independent power, cooling, and networking systems. Built within Azure regions, the main purpose of these zones is to persevere as an alternative in the case of datacenter failures. A service level agreement (SLA) of 99.99% virtual machine uptime further complements their functionality.
With increased resiliency for the Azure South Central U.S. region through this introduction, the new Availability Zones provide the following key features:
Microsoft is confident that its customers for the aforementioned region will now be able to experienced increased service availability, further data storage protection, and additional fault tolerance against datacenter failures.