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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.
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.