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By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft reports $45.3 billion in revenue, Windows and cloud on the rise as Surface struggles
by Usama Jawad
Today, Microsoft revealed the results of the first quarter of its 2022 fiscal year, reporting $45.3 billion in revenue. This is a 22% increase compared to the same period in the previous fiscal year. Operating income also jumped to $20.2 billion, which is a 27% increase. Net income grew to $20.5 billion (GAAP) and $17.2 billion (non-GAAP), which is a positive change of 48% and 24%, respectively. This resulted in diluted earnings per share of $2.71 (GAAP) and $2.27 (non-GAAP), which is an impressive growth of 49% and 25%, respectively.
A lot of this revenue jump can be attributed to Microsoft's cloud business, which continue to do well in the quarter that ended on September 30, 2021. Office Commercial and cloud services revenue was up by 18% (16% in CC), while Office 365 Commercial grew by 23% (21% in CC). Similarly, Office Consumer products and cloud services jumped by 10% (8% in CC) as the company reported that Microsoft 365 Consumer now has 54.1 million subscribers. LinkedIn's revenue increased by 42% (39% in CC) and Dynamics suite grew by 31% (29% in CC). Microsoft also reported massive growth for Server products at 35% (33% in CC) and Azure at 50% (48% in CC). Overall, the company's revenue in the Productivity and Business Processes domain stood strong at $15 billion, an increase of 22% (20% in CC) while Intelligent Cloud commanded $17.0 billion, a growth of 31% (29% in CC).
In the area of More Personal Computing, Microsoft reported an overall revenue of $13.3 billion, which is an increase of 12% (11% in CC). This was spearheaded by Windows OEM revenue that grew by 10%, Windows Commercial (12%), Xbox (2%), and Search and news advertising revenue (40%). The company's Surface business continued to decline, and reported a revenue decrease of 17% (19% in CC). That said, Microsoft's new Surface hardware just launched a month ago, so this figure isn't too surprising. However, the report is notably missing the total number of Xbox Game Pass subscribers, which was officially reported to be at 18 million back in January of this year.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated that:
Overall, Microsoft returned $10.9 billion to shareholders via dividends and share repurchases. This is a growth of 14% compared to the same quarter of the previous fiscal year.
By Asher Madan
FIFA 22 and Judgment receive massive discounts in this week's Deals with Gold
by Asher Madan
Halloween takes place this weekend and Microsoft — as well as select publishers — have discounted a number of titles for the annual Xbox Shocktober Sale. It's going on until the end of the month. However, those hoping for new Deals with Gold are in luck. Today, the company updated the list to include games like FIFA 22 and Judgment.
Below, you'll find the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 games with their respective discounts. The deals marked with an asterisk are only valid for Xbox Live Gold members, so you'll need an active paid subscription for the additional discount.
Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One
Many of the games are also backward compatible so you can play them on your Xbox Series X|S or Xbox One. Even if you still only have an Xbox 360, this week you're in for a treat.
Which titles are you interested in? Did you buy any of them? Let us know in the comments below.
By Asher Madan
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Xbox Series X review: A fantastic but restricted adventure
by Asher Madan
This is a spoiler-free review of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
On the surface, Guardians of the Galaxy appears to be a standard third-person action game that places you in the shoes of Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord, as you race to save the galaxy from certain doom. However, it's much more than that due to the various mechanics introduced throughout this adventure. You'll gain new abilities, solve puzzles, resolve disputes, and, of course, shoot through legions of enemies.
While the combat and puzzles are great, Guardians of the Galaxy truly shines when it focuses on the dynamics between Peter, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. The game touches on a lot of poignant topics like the cost of war and discrimination, but at its core, it's all about overcoming loss. Through this, the title manages to become more than the sum of its parts. Read on for my impressions of this fantastic game from developer Eidos-Montréal and publisher Square Enix.
Many of you may be hesitant to pick up Guardians of the Galaxy because it's from the same publisher as Marvel's Avengers. Luckily, the focus on playing as one character, in a solely single-player game, is a refreshing change from what we got a year ago. There are no microtransactions or paid boosts. If you purchase the $69.99 Digital Deluxe Edition of Guardians of the Galaxy, you get a few high-quality outfits from the comics and films that don't impact gameplay whatsoever, like making you more resistant to damage. Better yet, the best outfits are earned through exploration and progression through the story.
It's worth keeping in mind that Guardians of the Galaxy takes place in a universe that's separate from the films. Each character has their own unique story that's revealed through this 25-hour-long experience.
Characters and story
The Guardians of the Galaxy are a team of misfits who have banded together in the wake of a massive galactic war. They take odd jobs in order to make enough units to survive in this post-war landscape. Think of them as "heroes" for hire. They're from different planets and come from dramatically different backgrounds. However, many of them have shared, conflicting pasts and it's a miracle that Peter, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot manage to work together so well.
If you're familiar with the comics or movies, you'll know that Guardians of the Galaxy takes a more lighthearted approach to universe-threatening events than, let's say, the Avengers game. This hilarious tone permeates the entire game and is enhanced by cameos from popular characters in the company's catalog, like Mantis.
If you're familiar with the latest Avengers films, you'll immediately recognize the scale of destruction possible if the main antagonist isn't stopped. If I told you what the tale revolved around, it'd ruin the surprise. Luckily, you'll know exactly what I'm alluding to once you pass the first mission. What I can say is that it's personal and definitely one every player can relate to.
Guardians of the Galaxy allows you to make a number of decisions that can take you down different branches. For example, there are dialogue and story choices like saving an animal instead of hiding a bunch of illegal equipment. Others seem like basic options to side with one character over the other, and don't have much of an impact on how the game plays out.
Choosing different prompts grants you varying allies and enemies. For example, if you successfully recount an incident where Star-Lord was inebriated and sang with a random alien, he'll help you down the line. Similarly, if you side with a character named Nikki Gold, she'll give you a device that lets you open any door on a ship called Hala's Hope. This can make traversing some environments a lot easier when you reach that part of the story. This also enhances replayability because the journey varies depending on your choices.
Prepare to manage interpersonal crises between all of the Guardians of the Galaxy members because there will be a lot. If you take the time to talk to everyone while they're on the Milano — your ship that's controllable during certain levels — you'll be able to learn more about them and hopefully, ease their anger or frustration towards you or other members of the team.
Guardians of the Galaxy only allows you to control Peter and his actions. The success of every battle and dialogue choice rests on your shoulders. In my opinion, this focus is better than being able to control every character because this adds a more strategic element to gameplay. You have to learn how to command your team properly. Additionally, imagine trying to solve puzzles by having to choose what each character did all the time. Better yet, having to switch to Groot during combat just to heal or resurrect an ally. That would detract from the focused gameplay that revolves around leading a team.
Star-Lord is great at shooting anything that moves with his blasters, but that's not enough. In order to effectively take down enemies, you have to constantly direct your teammates. If you push down on the Left Bumper on an Xbox controller, time slows down and you can choose a particular ability to use against any combatant. Rapidly lowering the health of an enemy also allows you to initiate takedowns by pressing the B and Y buttons together.
Gamora does amazing single-target damage with her blade and all of her other skills are tailored towards that. Drax, oddly enough, doesn't do as much damage as Gamora, but he strikes a good balance between taking down single targets and damaging a number of enemies if he's pouncing on the ground. Rocket is by far my favorite because he has some unbelievable gadgets at his disposal. He's the only one who can throw lethal grenades, and also possesses a barrage of endless missiles. His missiles — they're unlocked as you make more progress in the campaign — can take out half a dozen opponents at a time. Lastly, Groot is good at ensnaring enemies so the rest of the team can do increased damage. Eventually, he gains the ability to heal and resurrect. This comes in handy when you're facing the final bosses of Guardians of the Galaxy. Keep in mind that standard attacks don't have a cooldown, but all special abilities do. You'll have to wait a few seconds to use them again. This includes Star-Lord's deployable overshield and Groot's healing.
Sometimes, if you keep on encountering enemies at every turn, Guardians of the Galaxy can get a little frustrating. You just want to move on to the next area. However, it's not too repetitive. Luckily, the moment you start to feel some annoyance, the story leaps forward. The pacing is almost perfect in my opinion. What does get repetitive is the combat dialogue though. Your teammates say the same phrases again and again if you take a long time to clear an area.
Guardians of the Galaxy features forgiving combat at lower difficulties, but it gets very difficult as you crank it up. Luckily, the Huddle Up ability gives you a second chance by pausing the action. If your team's not doing so well, you can always trigger this, give them a pep talk by selecting one of two dialogue options that can either heal you or the entire team, and reset cooldowns. I'd use Huddle Up when you're truly desperate because there's no reason to waste it. However, when you use Huddle Up, it plays an amazing song so there may be an added incentive to trigger it when you're in the mood to hear the game's stellar '80s music selection during combat.
Guardians of the Galaxy often manages to surprise you because, just when you think you have the hang of combat, it'll throw a boss at you that's as tall as a skyscraper. Boss battles aren't the quick time event-laden fights you'd expect. You have to target certain body parts, dodge attacks, and use your teammates' abilities to succeed. For example, let's say you're fighting a famous monster from the Marvel universe that has tentacles. You'll have to tell Groot to ensnare its tentacles, that'll give you the opportunity to do a lot of damage, and eventually, Gamora will be able to slice them off.
As you progress through the game, you gain new blaster powers. These happen automatically and you don't have to do anything to unlock them. As mentioned earlier, you have to direct your teammates, but you also have to solve puzzles. For example, you may have to melt a frozen structure to create a passageway or freeze a pipe leaking poisonous fumes in a ship. Some enemies also have shields that can be disabled by hitting them with the appropriate elemental bullets.
Your teammates also have certain strengths that come in handy, but you have to tell Gamora, Rocket, Drax, and Groot what to do. Gamora can slice a number of structures and boost you to higher ground, Rocket can hack almost anything, Drax can lift heavy objects, and Groot can create bridges. You'll need to utilize your powers and that of your team's to traverse every level.
Apart from that, Guardians of the Galaxy features Perks that allow you to increase your health, the rate of fire, or even scan enemies during combat to uncover their weaknesses. I managed to unlock all but one Perk during my first playthrough, but I imagine it'll be possible when I start New Game Plus. You can easily find crafting materials scattered in every level and they can be used at Rocket's Workbenches to make you a more capable fighter.
Lastly, there are special abilities that can be unlocked through leveling up. After every enemy encounter, you gain experience and points. These points can be used to acquire new powers for yourself or your teammates. For example, Gamora gains devastating sword skills while Groot gets area-of-effect damage. Given the fact that you can't skip enemy encounters for the most part, you shouldn't have a problem unlocking everything during your first playthrough.
Environments and exploration
This game features some basic exploration — you can find additional outfits, artifacts, lore, and upgrade materials if you venture off the beaten path — but it's still very constrained. You're essentially going from one area to the next, either fighting enemies or solving puzzles, until the end of the level. The structure is a lot like Devil May Cry 5.
Guardians of the Galaxy guides you through each area and contains over a dozen chapters. The environments are varied and you'll get to see everything from barren wastelands to frozen mountains. The enemy variety also changes a lot based on where you're at. For example, you start by fighting basic blob-like creatures and eventually take down yeti-looking fiends.
While the environments in Guardians of the Galaxy aren't recycled, there are many combat scenarios that are, especially towards the end of the game when you're tracking down a mysterious figure from the Marvel universe. Here you basically have to keep on fighting through fog, again and again, in the same exact area, until you're given the option not to. This felt a little odd to me because it's unnecessary because the game is quite lengthy as is. There's no need to pad it further.
My only major complaint with Guardians of the Galaxy has to be its extremely linear nature when it comes to exploration and traversal. I've played countless games over the years, but this has to be one of the most rigid experiences ever. Luckily, there's one area in Guardians of the Galaxy that allows you to explore at length, and it's populated with a ton of mini-games. I won't spoil it for you, but you can go to a bar, get a drink, play the lottery, gossip, and do so much more. This was a welcome reprieve because I was really hoping Guardians of the Galaxy would allow for more freedom like the Mass Effect series.
Dialogue and music
Guardians of the Galaxy features some of the best voice acting I've ever heard in a video game. Every character is phenomenal and gives a perfect performance in my opinion. I'm usually one to nitpick when it comes to voice acting, but I honestly couldn't find any fault in this game. Drax is by far the funniest with his deadpan humor.
If you view the Xbox Series X gameplay posted above, you'll notice that everyone from Gamora to Mantis sounds natural and the conversations feel effortless. It's clear that a lot of care went into making sure the dialogue delivery was second to none because, given the film-like nature of this game, it's imperative to get that right.
Guardians of the Galaxy also features a killer soundtrack filled with hits from the 1980s. You won't be hearing a lot of the music that's in the game on YouTube because it's copyrighted. There are tons of amazing tracks that blend perfectly with gameplay. When you're on your ship, you can also select which tune to play. I've listed some of my favorite tracks below.
Never Gonna Give You Up performed by Rick Astley The Final Countdown performed by Europe Wake Me Up Before you Go Go performed by WHAM! Holding Out for a Hero performed by Bonnie Tyler We Built this City performed by Starship Hit Me With Your Best Shot performed by Pat Benetar Don't Worry, Be Happy performed by Bobby McFerrin Since You Been Gone performed by Rainbow There are over thirty fist-pumping classics in there that have universal appeal. You won't be disappointed. The rest of the soundtrack is also great and includes a bold musical score from composer Richard Jacques as well as ten original songs from Eidos-Montréal Senior Audio Director Steve Szczepkowski. Guardians of the Galaxy features a fictional band called Star-Lord — that's where Peter gets his nickname — and Szczepkowski wrote their music. While the tracks may not be as bombastic as Hit Me With Your Best Shot or Wake Me Up Before you Go Go, they fit well with the 1980s' theme.
Performance and visuals
Guardians of the Galaxy looks utterly incredible on Xbox Series X. Textures are unbelievable, but the standout feature has to be the characters' eyes. They're uncannily expressive and may just be the best eyeballs ever created in a video game. Guardians of the Galaxy is easily one of the best-looking games available right now on any platform, and there's a ray-tracing mode in the works for current-generation consoles.
The build I played lacked a major patch, but even without it, it's a polished title. I just encountered some camera glitches a few times when I was trapped in a corner fighting hordes of enemies. Other than that, there aren't any pressing issues on Microsoft's console. I didn't encounter any noticeable frame rate drops during my playthrough either.
From my analysis, Quality mode boosts the resolution to 4K, but locks the frame rate at 30 frames per second (FPS). The performance option lowers the resolution to 1440p, but the game gains the advantage of 60 FPS rendering. 60 FPS greatly improves the feel of combat because input lag is reduced.
I played the title on Quality mode because to me, Guardians of the Galaxy is more like an interactive film in an action game's wrapper. I wanted to experience it as the highest resolution possible on a 4K display. I'm glad I went with that because it was a glorious experience.
Guardians of the Galaxy isn't perfect, but Eidos-Montréal has done an excellent job with staying true to the source material and capturing the essence of every character. The game is about family, relationships, and overcoming loss, together. It has some incredibly dark moments that are masked well through the title's hilarious tone.
The combat, music, and voice acting are phenomenal, I just wish I had more freedom to explore the wondrous planets you land on. Had Guardians of the Galaxy adopted a semi-open world approach like the recent Tomb Raider games, it would've been a breakthrough experience. I'm hoping there's a sequel that gives us just that while maintaining the tone of the original.
You can purchase Guardians of the Galaxy from the Microsoft Store or the platform of your choice for $59.99. The game releases on October 26, 2021 for Nintendo Switch (Cloud), PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
Square Enix provided a review code for Guardians of the Galaxy. The game was tested on an Xbox Series X console.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft Weekly: Android on Windows, WHQL-signed malware, and 21H2 builds
by Usama Jawad
We're at the end of the week, which means that it's time to look at what happened in the world of Microsoft in the past few days. Windows 10 was primarily Microsoft's focus in terms of new builds, but as we know, the upcoming version 21H2 build is just enablement package so don't raise your expectations too much. More interestingly, Windows Subsystem for Android finally landed on preview builds of Windows 11. In the cybersecurity space, we also found out that Microsoft digitally signed a driver that was actually malware that can wreak havoc. Find out more about this in our weekly digest for October 17 - October 22.
After giving Windows 11 all the attention for the past few weeks, Microsoft finally decided to give some love to Windows 10 too. The company released builds 19043.1319 and 19044.1319 for Insiders running version 21H1 or 21H2, respectively, in the Release Preview ring. Both builds have identical change logs, which makes sense because 21H2 is just an enablement package for 21H1 after all. Tons of bugs were squashed including those that affected subtitles from displaying on certain streaming sites or video playing apps. Enhancements were also made in the department of memory leaks and ransomware protections. You likely won't notice any front-end enhancements if you install either of these builds though.
If you were thinking that build 19044.1319 will be the launch version of Windows 10 version 21H2 - when it eventually rolls out -, you'd be mistaken. Microsoft finally revealed that build 19044.1288 is a candidate build for that rollout and is now available for those on the Release Preview ring. The company has released ISOs too. The improvements offered in 19044.1319 will be provided in the next Patch Tuesday update. While a firm release date wasn't disclosed, Microsoft referred to version 21H2 as the "November 2021 Update", but also stated that out of the three noteworthy features promised for the update, a new Windows Hello for Business deployment method dubbed "cloud trust" won't be ready for primetime. You can find out more about what to expect from Windows 10 November 2021 Update in our guide here.
Windows 11 received some love in the form of build 22483 for the Dev channel too. It fixes some bugs related to Search and Settings but introduces some new ones to Search, Taskbar, and Start too. ISOs are available for install as well. Just a few hours ago, Microsoft released Windows 11 build 22483.1011 (KB5007484) to the Dev Channel, but that's just an update to test the servicing pipeline, it features no changes at all.
Android on Windows
Windows 11 did not feature Android app support, even though the feature was heavily touted when the OS was unveiled back in June. However, it appears that the general public will be able to get their hands on it soon as the capability was finally rolled out in the Beta channel this week. Those on 22000.xxx series Insider builds can install Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA), download the Amazon App Store, and give Android apps on Windows 11 a whirl.
Microsoft has also released developer guidance for those who want to test how their Android apps are running on Windows 11. It is important to understand that this is a preview release so some issues are to be expected. Microsoft has already noted that you might see some odd visual artifacts with certain applications on ARM64, performance may vary with concurrent apps, and apps that come out of modern standby will encounter issues. It's also noteworthy that the Amazon App Store currently supports only a handful of apps curated by Microsoft and Amazon. It's likely that more apps will appear as they pass the two companies' validation process. There is also a workaround to install Google Play services on Windows 11 right now, but proceed at your own risk.
While Android is getting support on Windows, Microsoft is recommending that developers who want to take advantage of the latest features in Windows apps should migrate away from the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and opt for Windows App SDK instead. Windows App SDK combines the capabilities of Win32 desktop apps as well as UWP.
Something that turned heads this week was the discovery of malware that was signed by Microsoft... kind of. Basically, a driver called "FiveSys" was submitted for Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certification, and Microsoft promptly digitally signed it. It was later discovered that Fivesys is actually malware in disguise, leading many to question the process behind Microsoft's program. The company typically verifies driver packages sent in by its various partner vendors through the Windows Hardware Compatibility Program (WHCP).
It was revealed that the Fivesys rootkit behaves in the following way:
In terms of other key characteristics, the associated whitepaper also mentions that the rootkit blocks registry modifications and also tries to block its competitors' access to an infected system.
This isn't the first time that something like this has happened. A malware called "Netfilter" was also validated by Microsoft back in June, likely in a similar fashion.
Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and gaming galore
There was a lot of notable gaming-related news this week. Microsoft revealed more details about the PC version of Halo Infinite. The game will ship with support for ultrawide and super ultrawide displays, and features like FOV sliders, dynamic resolution adjustment, triple key-bind options, and weapon model off-set control are also incoming.
The developer also mentioned anti-cheat mechanisms, but implied that user privacy would be respected and it won't be implemented in a way such that it inhibits the overall gaming experience in a negative way. Integration with Steam and Discord's social features were confirmed as well, and so was binding with Razer Chroma RGB. Local dedicated server hosting will be a feature on PC too, and any other PC or console connected to the local network will be able to join in for old school LAN parties.
Microsoft also revealed that it is partnering with AMD for raytracing support - which is not included in the launch version of the game -, and it launched a Halo Infinite-themed RX 6900 XT to celebrate this partneership. That said, the hardware is not available for sale and will likely be offered via giveaways on social media to evade scalpers.
In other news, Forza Horizon 5 has gone gold, and the game's size is north of 100GB across all platforms. Sea of Thieves crossed the 25 million players mark and celebrated the milestone with free in-game goodies. Tons of games including Outriders, Age of Empires IV, and Dragon Ball FighterZ are heading to Xbox Game Pass soon, and gamers also have Microsoft Flight Simulator GOTY Edition to look forward to in November.
Xbox Series X owners were treated to 4K dashboards, Night Mode, and Quick Settings changes. And if you're in the mood for gaming, Microsoft has a decent Xbox Shocktober Sale going on as well.
Support for end-to-end encryption in Microsoft Teams calls is now in public preview
512GB and 2TB Xbox Series X|S Storage Expansion Cards have been announced
Cyberpunk 2077 and Witcher 3 PS5 and Xbox Series X|S upgrades have been delayed to 2022
Visual Studio Code for the Web is now available in public preview
Privacy Management for Microsoft 365 is now generally available
PowerToys 0.48.1 Experimental is now out and includes Video Conference Mute utility and one fix
Microsoft has highlighted all the UI changes coming to Visual Studio 2022
Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub is the company's new platform for tech entrepreneurs
In this week's Closer Look, I discussed voice typing in Windows 11 and how it is a significant upgrade compared to its Windows 10 offering. Microsoft has updated the UI to follow the design language of Windows 11, but perhaps the most notable change is the fact that the feature is now powered by Azure Speech services, which means that it supports capabilities like auto-punctuation and tons of more languages.
You can read my thoughts about voice typing in Windows 11 here and check out our ongoing Closer Look series here.
And if you're interesting in trying out Android apps on Windows 11, check out Neowin's handy guide here.
Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.
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By Asher Madan
BioShock and Control receive massive discounts in Xbox's Shocktober Sale
by Asher Madan
It's almost Halloween and Microsoft — and select publishers — have discounted a number of titles for the annual Xbox Shocktober Sale. Games from the BioShock and Darksiders franchises are available for substantially less. Below, you'll find the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 games with their respective discounts. The deals and games marked with an asterisk are only valid for Xbox Live Gold members, so you'll need an active paid subscription for the additional discount.
Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One
Many of the games are also backward compatible so you can play them on your Xbox Series X|S or Xbox One. Even if you still only have an Xbox 360, this month you're in luck!
Which titles are you interested in? Did you buy any? Let us know in the comments below.