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Microsoft will become ‘water positive' by 2030
by Paul Hill
Microsoft has announced that it plans to become ‘water positive’ by 2030. This means that it will replenish more water than it uses by putting water into stressed basins. It also plans to make water more accessible to underserved communities.
While a lot of companies have emphasised on switching to renewable energy, water usage has been somewhat overlooked, but it is still a vital part of climate change and health discussions. Microsoft plans to invest in projects such as wetland restoration and the removal of surfaces like asphalt to help replenish water in basins that most need it.
According to the firm, a basin is stressed if the amount of water withdrawn goes over 40% of the renewable supply. Of the 16,396 basins worldwide, 4,717 basins are classified as stressed. Microsoft’s efforts will focus on 40 highly stressed basins.
Discussing how the private sector can act to help the water situation, Microsoft’s President Brad Smith said:
Aside from helping to replenish water, Microsoft wants to ensure that people can access it safely for drinking and sanitation. It will partner with NGOs to accomplish this and will ultimately ensure 1.5 million people get access to water. It will partner with Water.org at first to help underserved communities in Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Mexico. It will then expand to work with partners in China, Malaysia, and South Africa.
Microsoft reveals new Xbox Wireless Controller edition, Design Lab going offline temporarily
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft is on a roll with Xbox-related announcements today, and it has now announced a handful of new accessories being added to the lineup alongside the launch of the Xbox Series X and S on November 10.
First and foremost, Microsoft introduced a new color variant for the next-generation Xbox Wireless Controller. After the Carbon Black that ships with the Xbox Series X and the Robot White that comes with the Series S, Microsoft has now revealed Shock Blue, a new edition that will be sold separately. It has a blue faceplate in a completely new shade for the company, and that same blue spreads over to the analog sticks and menu buttons. The top portion, where you find the shoulder triggers and buttons, is black, and the back is white.
Additionally, for those that prefer playing on PC, Microsoft is updating its controller bundles to come with the next-generation Xbox Wireless Controller. Whether you're looking to get the controller bundled with the wireless adapter or with a USB Type-C cable, you'll find the Carbon Black version of the controller inside.
If you're not a fan of the new controller using AA batteries, Microsoft is also introducing the Rechargeable Battery + USB Type-C cable bundle, a successor to the Play & Charge Kit with a much more boring name. It serves the same function, but now with a USB Type-C cable instead of micro-USB, and it charges your controller in "under four hours".
Finally, Microsoft revealed that Xbox Design Lab, the tool that lets customers fully customize their Xbox Wireless Controller, is going offline temporarily starting October 14. The service will come back in 2021 with some unspecified updates. If you've been pondering one of the current designs, you'll need to do it before then.
All of the new accessories are shipping November 10, but you can preorder them at the same time as the new Xbox Series S and X, which is to say September 22, at 8AM Pacific Time. The new Xbox Wireless Controller can be had in any of the three existing colors for the same $59.99 price as the current models. The Rechargeable Battery + USB Type-C cable bundle will cost $24.99. The PC-oriented controller bundles - either with the wireless adapter or with a USB Type-C cable - weren't given prices as of yet.
The new Microsoft Store for Xbox is now available for everyone
by João Carrasqueira
Last month, Microsoft began testing a new Microsoft Store experience with Xbox Insiders, which promised to be faster and easier than the existing one. Today, the company announced that the new experience is now available to everyone on Xbox consoles.
As previously announced, the new experience is much faster than the previous Microsoft Store interface - more than twice as fast, according to Microsoft. The store should now load in less than two seconds, too. To help you find games more quickly, the store also now shows games your friends are playing, as well as which games are part of Xbox Game Pass.
On the topic of making it easier, the store now offers a few new capabilities, such as the ability to glance at your wish list or shopping cart to check on prices and sales. Filters can be accessed more easily with the X button, and "one-click scrolling" that makes it easier to move to the next page or channel. Additionally, there's a new navigation system with primary and secondary menus to make things easier to find.
Finally, on the topic of safety, the new Store experience now requires users to be logged in so things such as age restrictions can be enforced. The age rating information will also now be shown higher on the screen, and there's a new feature referred to as "ask to buy", so parents can be notified when purchases are about to be made.
Xbox Game Pass now has 15 million subscribers
by João Carrasqueira
The news of Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax Media, owner of Bethesda, is hard to miss considering the scale of the deal. However, alongside that announcement there was another major piece of news from Microsoft - Xbox Game Pass now has over 15 million subscribers.
First launched in June 2017, it took almost three years for Game Pass to reach 10 million subscribers, a goal it hit in late April, according to Microsoft. Now, in less than five months since then, the service has grown by another five million subscribers - a massive 50% increase.
Microsoft has gone to great lengths to make Game Pass a compelling service. Not only does it include all of its own-published games on launch day, it also gets many titles from other developers, such as Red Dead Redemption 2, which was added in May. Microsoft has also acquired a large number of studios in the past couple of years, bringing even more titles to the service on day one.
Most recently, Microsoft announced that EA Play, a subscription service focused on Electric Arts games, is being added to Xbox Game Pass at no additional cost, and it launched cloud streaming as part of Game Pass Ultimate, giving users the chance to play games even without a console or PC. And today, of course, came the news of the Bethesda acquisition, which will see its future games land on Game Pass as soon as they release. Major additions will likely continue to drive even faster growth for the service.
New Xbox beta mobile app brings console streaming to everyone, and more
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft's Xbox division is off to a strong start this week, with the company announcing the acquisition on ZeniMax Media, owner of Bethesda, earlier today. But that's not all for today, as Microsoft has also announced a new Xbox app for Android devices, which is now available in beta.
The new app has been rebuilt from the ground up, and it's designed to keep Xbox gamers connected wherever they are. First off, and perhaps most notably, there's the addition of Xbox remote play. Microsoft launched its cloud streaming service as part of Game Pass Ultimate last week, but this is referring to Xbox console streaming, which lets you connect to your console at home to play any game you have on it. Microsoft has renamed it to remote play, and now, you don't have to be an Xbox Insider to be able to do it.
Next up, there's a new unified notification center, where everything from party invites to friend requests and messages will show up. Notifications are synced across devices, so if you dismiss them on your phone, they won't be visible on your console either.
The notification center will also let you know when you have captured a screenshot or video on another device, and let you share it directly from the Xbox app. This is made easier by the new Xbox Wireless Controller and its dedicated share button, which are arriving alongside the Xbox Series X and S.
Another big feature of the app is the ability to use both text and voice chat with other Xbox friends and in parties. Additionally, the profile page has been redesigned, with a new Highlights section showing off videos or images you shared recently. In the About section, you can also see what games people have been playing, their Gamerscore, and more.
Finally, Microsoft says you'll be able to use the Xbox app to setup your Xbox Series X or S console when it launches in November. The company says this should be much faster, which makes sense considering how much easier it is to navigate smartphone interfaces. To do this, you can use the new unified search bar to search for "set up a console" to get started.
The new Xbox beta app is only available for Android, at least for now. You can download it here if you want to try the new features right now. Microsoft also announced that you can now sign into your Xbox account on as many devices as you want starting today. You'll still only be able to play games on one device at a time, but you can use a console to watch movies on your TV while gaming on your phone, for example.