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Microsoft Weekly: Windows updates, Xbox pre-order details, and Edge news
by Florin Bodnarescu
Among other things, we found out this week exactly when the Xbox next-gen pre-orders start, what new features folks can look forward to in Edge, and on which day the next Surface event may be. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of September 12 - 18.
We start the column this week with a set of optional updates for folks running the October 2018 Update, May 2019 Update, or the November 2019 Update. These are:
May 2019 Update / November 2019 Update (1903/1909): KB4577062, build 18362.1110 / 18363.1110 – adds a notification for IE11 users that Flash will reach end of support in December, as well as fixing an issue causing apps to go into unwanted repair cycles, 4K HDR content being darker than expected, lowering the likelihood of having missing fonts, reducing Windows Mixed Reality HMD distortions and aberrations, and fixing an issue that causes a device to stop after using a pen for several hours. October 2018 Update (1809): KB4577069, build 17763.1490 – contains the same IE11 and missing font fixes from above, but also fixes for East Asian character input and Korean IME-specific issues. Known issue: After installing KB4493509, devices with some Asian language packs installed may receive the error “0x800f0982 – PSFX_E_MATCHING_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND.” In other Windows news, Microsoft has pushed out build 20215 from the vNext branch to the Dev channel, with a number of fixes and quite a few known issues. The noteworthy small addition is the fact that Windows search now supports dark mode, but that’s only server-side, meaning it’s not technically part of this build.
And while we’re on the subject of builds, 19042.508 landed in the Release Preview channel, signaling that Microsoft is prepping for the release of 20H2, or what’ll most likely be the October 2020 Update. Like 1909, this is an enablement package, so it’s a rather small download.
New features present in 20H2, which are already included in version 2004, include the new Start Menu transparency effects, the replacement of Legacy Edge with the new Chromium Edge, and a couple of other small tweaks.
The update is rolling out to seekers in the RP channel, meaning those who go to Windows Update and opt into receiving it.
Xbox pre-order details
Since we’re on the eve of a new console generation, it’s worth noting that both Sony and Microsoft have now been pretty forthcoming in terms of both price and pre-order availability.
Unlike Sony though, Microsoft has set September 22 as the day it opens pre-orders for the Series S and Series X – something it had announced last week. This week however, the company also revealed the time at which pre-orders will begin. This will happen on September 22 at 8AM PT in the States, 8AM AEST in Australia, 8AM BST in the UK, 8AM PT in Canada, 9AM NZST in New Zealand, and 9AM CEST across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
As far as Xbox All Access is concerned, it will be available to opt for at the same times in the countries already listed, with the addition of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, all of which will have All Access ready for you starting at 9AM CEST on September 22.
In more service news, Game Pass subscribers can now play Company of Heroes on PC, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep and Forsaken on Android and console, as well as Halo 3: ODST on Android and PC starting September 22. On September 24, you’ll be able to play not only Warhammer: Vermintide 2 on Android and Xbox, but also Night in the Woods on Android, Xbox, and PC.
Leaving the subscription on September 30 are Panzer Dragoon Orta, Westerado: Double Barreled, and Yooka-Laylee on console, plus Bad North, DiRT Rally 2.0, and Dishonored 2 on both PC and console. Don’t forget that if you have Game Pass Ultimate, you already have access to the newly-launched Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming service on Android at no additional cost.
For folks who have Xbox Live Gold, Book of Unwritten Tales 2 plus Armed and Dangerous are now free to claim, and if you’ve had your eye on Borderlands 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, or others, Deals with Gold has you covered.
Xbox One owners have a few things to look forward to next week, as Mafia: Definitive Edition is set to hit stores – among other games, of course -, though be advised that the already launched Crysis Remastered does have some serious performance and visual issues on Xbox One X.
Switching to first-party games, Flight Simulator got its second patch with a ton of fixes, as well as a new development roadmap, SDK update, and much, much more. On the console side, more details have been revealed about Gears Tactics, including the arrival of a bunch of new features set to coincide with the release on console.
Lastly, while we’re on the subject of the console, Microsoft has updated its privacy settings on Xbox, and will now no longer be collecting voice data.
In case you’ve already switched to the new Edge browser on Windows, the good news is that if you have an iOS-based device, you’ll be able to set Edge as your default browser starting with iOS 14.
For folks in the Dev channel, as of version 87.0.637.0, the browser has a password generator feature that can suggest strong passwords. This is also present in the Canary channel, which in addition supports an upcoming feature dubbed Sleeping Tabs. You are now essentially able to suspend inactive tabs (and thus save resources), though enabling a flag with the same name is required for this to work.
Lastly, if you’re on a Mac and have been experiencing ‘Error code 6’ crashes, the company is working on a fix.
Microsoft’s bid for TikTok’s U.S. operations has been rejected by ByteDance. As a result of Project Natick, the Redmond giant has found underwater datacenters to be reliable and effective. The C++ extension for Visual Studio Code is now at version 1.0. Outlook on both iOS and Android has gotten a number of fixes and improvements in the latest update. Reactions are rolling out globally for both Yammer on the web and mobile. Microsoft and bp have partnered on Azure to advance sustainability. There’s now an open-source bug finding tool from Microsoft, called Project OneFuzz. Microsoft has announced new Threat Protection APIs, with the platform being ‘integration-ready’. Azure Files now has NFS 4.1 support, in preview. The ability to hyperlink shapes to pages, copy diagrams into other files, and more have come to Visio on the web. Azure NetApp Files now has cross-region replication support. Your Phone will receive a new Contacts tab, UI tweaks, and more. Skype 8.64 brings in message reaction customization, share sheet updates on iOS. Spotlight, the ability for folks to lock select video feeds in Teams, is now rolling out. The Redmond software giant has detailed features and enhancements made to OneDrive in August. Logging off
To end the week, and of course the column, we take a look at a smattering of Surface news, including a possible date for Microsoft’s next hardware event.
Kicking things off with existing devices, owners of both Surface Laptop 1 and 2 should be presented with a bunch of firmware updates that, above all else, will improve charging reliability. Also receiving firmware updates are the Surface Book, Surface Pro (5th-gen), and Pro 6, as well as the first-generation Surface Go.
In terms of what the future may bring, Microsoft is reportedly refreshing the Surface Pro X with new colours and a new SQ2 SOC. The SOC will be based on the second-gen Snapdragon 8cx, while the device itself should now also come in the traditional platinum colour of Surface devices.
As to when we could see all this revealed, according to reputable leakster WalkingCat on Twitter, the company could hold the next Surface event on October 1 or September 30 (depending on the time zone you’re in). This of course lines up with previous hardware events from the company which have – for the most part – been in October.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
By Usama Jawad96
Going into the next generation, Sony needs to stop its deceptive marketing tactics
by Usama Jawad
Let me say this right off the bat: When it comes to gaming, I'm platform-agnostic. I'll play on whatever machine offers a decent gaming experience, regardless of whether it's made by Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, or any PC-maker for that matter. I strongly believe that as long as you're satisfied with the gaming experience offered by a piece of hardware, you should enjoy it regardless of whether it packs the most powerful silicon on the market.
With that out of the way, let's start with the topic on hand. I have mostly played on the PlayStation 4 in this generation and have really enjoyed Sony's exclusives especially God of War, The Last of Us Remastered, Spider-Man, Horizon Zero Dawn, Death Stranding (which is not a PS4 exclusive anymore), and more. Sony has really built my trust in this generation and while I'm very excited about the budget-friendly Xbox Series S, the PlayStation 5 feels like a no-brainer to me as well given the absolutely incredible PS4 exclusives this generation.
However, before I dip my toes into the next generation of consoles, I need Sony to stop its deceptive marketing tactics which were quite clearly exposed in its PlayStation 5 showcase event earlier this week.
For starters, Sony Interactive Entertainment's Jim Ryan had been making a huge deal for the past few months about how the company believes in console generations. In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz back in May, the executive went on to say:
Notice the emphasis on the PlayStation 5 offering features not possible on the PlayStation 4 at all. Fans were led to believe that games were going to be built ground-up for the next-gen console, offering experiences that the current-gen is not capable of.
Following this statement, when Halo: Infinite was announced as a cross-gen exclusive by Microsoft, the company drew a lot of criticism from the online community, which claimed that the reason for the unimpressive visuals were likely due to the title being held back by current-gen hardware. Soon after this negative reception, Microsoft was forced to delay its highly-anticipated Xbox Series X|S launch title into next year.
Because Sony had so strongly stated that it believes in generations and its games taking full advantage of new hardware, it was praised by many for taking this bold step, unlike Microsoft.
Fast-forward to the Japanese tech giant's showcase event earlier this week, and and most of us learned via prominent game journalist Geoff Keighley - so not even via Sony directly, at first - that three of the company's supposedly exclusive PlayStation 5 titles, namely Horizon: Forbidden West, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and SackBoy A Big Adventure, are also coming to the PlayStation 4. Sony's Jim Ryan explains the company's change of heart as follows:
While I completely agree with Ryan that it simply wouldn't make sense from a business point-of-view to abandon a huge current-gen PlayStation community, it goes against everything the executive has been emphasizing for the past few months. None of these aforementioned titles were announced as cross-gen, and all of Sony's marketing material mention them as PlayStation 5 titles only. The community has noticed this U-turn and is understandably calling out Sony for it.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to sound like an entitled gamer. As the happy owner of a PlayStation 4, it's actually good to know that I'll be able to play upcoming AAA titles without shelling out hundreds of bucks for new hardware.
What's problematic to me is the lack of clear communication from Sony's end. It's disingenuous to customers to have them lambast Microsoft's cross-gen strategy for the past few months and then suddenly announce that you're planning on following that strategy too. Is the current-gen hardware then holding back PlayStation 5 titles too? Is it worth upgrading to the PlayStation 5 so early in the generation's cadence knowing that I'll be able to play most titles on current-gen hardware? I mean, sure, better frames-per-second, ray-tracing, and 4K textures sound like things worth upgrading to, but the absence of those never stopped me from enjoying all the PlayStation 4 exclusives I mentioned at the start of this piece.
At the end of the day, it's the offerings of the game itself that make me stick to certain hardware. If the gameplay of Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Horizon: Forbidden West is good enough for me on the PlayStation 4, maybe I don't even need to buy the PlayStation 5 for these particular games so soon.
Overall, I probably wouldn't have minded this move as much as long as Sony had made stuff like this clear from the start rather than harping about how it believes in console generations. It's the lost trust due to unclear communication that's the problem here, not the games launching with cross-gen capabilities.
But this is not the only place where Sony lost my trust. The other notable instance is the PlayStation 5 pre-orders fiasco. In an interview with Geoff Keighley back in July, Sony Head of Worldwide Marketing Eric Lempel stated that the company would give "plenty of time" before opening pre-orders. During the firm's showcase event earlier this week, no mention was made regarding pre-orders. Some people received emails from Sony with unique URLs to place orders for the PlayStation 5 but there was no mention of this even on the PlayStation Blog.
Keighley once again flew in to save the day and announced that PlayStation 5 pre-orders would open on Thursday, and shortly after, the PlayStation Twitter account also announced the same. Amidst this confusion, it appears some retailers chose to open pre-orders on the same day (that is, Wednesday) and then all hell broke loose, with practically every retailer making their PlayStation 5 listings active with the console being sold out in minutes. So much for the "plenty of time" being offered to customers to place their orders.
The thing is, this wasn't completely or directly Sony's fault. Some trigger-happy retailer decided to open pre-orders early and chaos ensued. The problem is, Sony as a major corporation launching a highly-anticipated should have foreseen this, it should have clearly announced pre-order dates beforehand, and it should have been more than a one-day notice.
Note that as someone who lives in Pakistan where Sony doesn't even officially launch consoles, the pre-order fiasco doesn't even bother me directly. What bothers me about this is that this is yet another instance of Sony's lack of clear communication. Due to the company's mishandling of the situation and not providing customers crystal-clear instructions, potentially hundreds of thousands of customers around the globe weren't even given a chance to be among the first to get their hands on the console come November, simply because they believed that Sony would indeed be giving them ample notice, as promised.
In the other camp, Microsoft is now capitalizing on Sony's misfires, and rightly so. It has poked fun at Sony's pre-order snafu, and just recently and clearly announced pre-order dates in various countries. With pre-orders starting on September 22, this is what I call "plenty of time" to decide whether you want to lighten your wallet right now or wait a bit.
Similarly, the company has also uploaded videos on its Xbox YouTube channel, highlighting Quick Resume and faster loading times capabilities on the Series S. Note that these videos highlight the power of the less-powerful $299 console, not the $499 Series X. To me, this is the epitome of confidence from Microsoft's part about its faith in its upcoming consoles as well as a very clear message to customers about the benefits they can expect from investing in the company's machines. One can safely assume that the performance on the Xbox Series X will be better. This is something that instills confidence for potential customers, and it's all thanks to the company's transparent communication over the past few months. Sure you might not like the titles available on the Series X|S consoles, and that is fine, but at least you know exactly what you're getting when you buy either of the two machines. This clarity has been missing from most of Sony's marketing material.
That said, there's still almost two months before the PlayStation 5 launches. Instead of making claims that it can't back up with its games and events, the company should instead focus on clearly telling consumers what they can expect when they purchase a PlayStation 5. The latest antics from the company have definitely fanned flames of "console wars" among the gaming community and are good for marketing, but they ultimately harm Sony's image when it can't live up to its promises. Right now, almost every Tweet by the PlayStation Twitter account is being criticized for how the company handled the pre-orders situation, and the frustration is understandable. With the next generation just around the corner, it isn't smart to alienate a loyal playerbase.
While these latest snafus by Sony don't turn me away from the PlayStation 5 (I really want to play God of War: Ragnarok!), but the firm's - unintentionally or intentionally - deceptive marketing tactics have diminished my trust, which means that I'll have to be very careful with setting expectations for next-gen, because I can't take anything Sony says at face value anymore.
By Usama Jawad96
Here's when you can pre-order Xbox Series X, Series S
by Usama Jawad
We have already known for sometime that Xbox Series X|S consoles are launching on November 10, with preorders open from September 22. However, following Sony's PlayStation 5 preorder fiasco, Microsoft seems to be taking extreme care to ensure that the same snafu doesn't happen for its customers.
To that end, Microsoft has detailed exactly when and where you'll be able to preorder Xbox Series X, Series S consoles from.
In a blog post, the company has stated that its upcoming consoles will be available in 37 countries by November 10, and 41 countries by this holiday season. From September 22, preorders for the Series X and SeriesS at $499 and $299, respectively, will start as follows:
Similarly, preorders will also open on the same at 9AM CEST across Europe, Middle East, and Africa at various retailers including Microsoft Store, Amazon, MediaMarkt, GameStop, FNAC, and Elkjøp/Elgiganten.
On the other hand, if you'd rather enroll in Microsoft's Xbox All Access program which allows you to lease the Series X|S for a monthly fee of $34.99|$24.99 bundled with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, pre-order start as follows on September 22:
Microsoft has specifically noted that pre-orders for Xbox All Access will not be available in Canada, France, Poland, and South Korea on September 22 but they will be open before the consoles' official launch. The company plans to share more details about its rollout soon.
Microsoft is updating the privacy settings on Xbox, no longer collecting voice data
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft has announced that it's building on the commitment shared in April of last year by updating the privacy settings for Xbox users. As it promised at the time, the updates aim to give users more control and provide more transparency regarding the types of data it collects.
In the coming weeks, when users first sign into their consoles, they'll see an overview of the data required diagnostic data that Microsoft collects. This message will also show up on Xbox Series S and X consoles when they launch on November 10.
The required diagnostic data includes error details that prevent games and apps running, errors with the console setup, and errors related to software updates. Naturally, this data is required so Microsoft can keep things working as you'd expect them to. The new message will let users learn more about the data being collected, though you'll be forced to accept it if you want to use the console.
One thing that's changed is that Microsoft is no longer collecting data from voice searches or speech-to-text conversions. According to the company, it collects data with the goal of supporting "positive player experiences" on the console, and it has concluded that this data isn't necessary for that purpose.
In addition to the required data, users will also be given the option to share optional diagnostic data, which includes actions you take while using the console, performance data, and enhanced error reporting with more details on the conditions that cause crashes or errors. Like with required data, you can learn more about what's being collected, and in this case, you can choose not to share said data. You can also change this setting after the fact in the console's settings.
Xbox Game Pass is gaining Company of Heroes 2, Destiny 2, Halo 3: ODST, and more
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Microsoft today revealed what Xbox Game Pass members are getting in the second half of September following the games that were delivered to the subscription program in the past couple of weeks.
The list isn't huge this time, but it does have some major releases such as Halo 3: ODST for PC, the return of Vermintide 2 for Xbox One, as well as Destiny 2 plus its Shadowkeep and Forsaken expansions. Moreover, thanks to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription gaining cloud gaming support tomorrow, many of the games incoming this month are also playable on Android devices through the cloud.
Here's everything that was announced today:
Company of Heroes 2 (PC) – September 17 Destiny 2: Shadowkeep and Forsaken (Android and Console) – September 22 Halo 3: ODST (Android and PC) – September 22 Warhammer: Vermintide 2 (Android and Console) - September 24 Night in the Woods (Android, Console, and PC) - September 24 Meanwhile, below are the games leaving the programs on September 30. As Rocket League is soon going free-to-play, it will also be leaving behind Game Pass.
Microsoft recently announced that Electronic Arts titles from EA Play would be joining the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and PC subscriptions at no extra cost. Also, the Game Pass PC variant will be leaving its beta tag behind on September 17, which means the monthly price tag is being bumped up to $9.99 mirroring the Xbox console variant.