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Microsoft Weekly: Price fluctuations, Win32 reloaded, and hardware availability
by Florin Bodnarescu
This last week has brought a bit of indecisiveness from Microsoft in regards to Xbox Live Gold pricing, a commitment to Win32, and an expansion in hardware availability. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of January 17 – 23.
On Friday, Microsoft caused a bit of a reaction from its player base as it decided to unceremoniously – and rather randomly – bump up the price for Xbox Live Gold. The monthly membership was increased by $1 to $10.99, the three-month price by $5 to $29.99, and the six-month membership was bumped up to $59.99. The latter price is the same the service used to cost for an entire year, which means that in effect, Microsoft doubled the price for Gold at the yearly level.
Not surprisingly, the reaction was swift and angry, at which point the company thankfully backpedaled on this decision, further stating that pricing will remain that same, and that free-to-play multiplayer games will not require a subscription.
It is however very possible that the company was trying to make Xbox Game Pass Ultimate a no-brainer deal at $180 per year, versus the (previously new) $120 per year for Xbox Live Gold. In case you had any doubts that Microsoft really wants folks to adopt Game Pass, you get 12 months of Game Pass Ultimate and a Razer Kishi Controller when buying a Galaxy S21 from the UK’s EE wireless carrier.
And speaking of such things, the Games with Gold for February have been revealed, and they include Gears 5, Resident Evil, Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition, Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb, as well as Lost Planet 2.
For folks that do however prefer Game Pass, Remedy’s Control is now available to play as part of the subscription, along with a slew of other titles like The Medium, Desperados III, and many more. For the full lineup of titles, as well as games leaving the subscription, be sure to check out this link.
Finally, in more app news than anything else, the YouTube app on Xbox now has HDR support for videos.
As you’d imagine, Microsoft was busy handing out Insider preview builds this week as well, with build 21296 making its way to the Dev channel. Don’t get too excited though, as it includes two minor changes to the Clipboard and Storage Spaces, as well as a laundry list of fixes, but even more known issues. The vast majority of known issues are related to the newly introduced news and interests feature from the taskbar.
There’s also build 20285 for folks previewing Server builds, a build which currently has no changelog attached to it.
In other Insider news, build 19042.782 made its way to testers in the Beta and Release Preview channels, bringing about a substantial number of fixes, despite it being a mere cumulative update. On a somewhat related note, there are reports that Microsoft may start testing Windows 10 21H1 beginning with build 19043. To the surprise of few, this will most likely be an enablement package, just like 1909 and 20H2.
And speaking of those, Microsoft did also release some out of band updates for at least one of those versions, namely 1909. The Knowledge Base number for this update is KB4598298, and bumps the build number up to 18363.1350. There are a lot of fixes included, but the bug related to system and user certificates is still present. For its part, 1809 got KB4598296, which brings the build number up to 17763.1728 with the singular known issue listed as being the “0x800f0982 – PSFX_E_MATCHING_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND” message related to Asian language packs.
Finally, we’ll end with the story that’s hinted at in the title of this section, namely the Redmond firm’s commitment to Win32. It would appear that indeed, reports of its demise were greatly exaggerated, despite Microsoft’s best efforts to supplant it via Windows 8’s Metro UI and companion WinRT toolset, or Windows 10’s UWP approach. There’s also Project Reunion which aims to unify all of the disparate libraries and APIs, as well as Windows 10X which is still yet to prove itself – as it hasn’t even come out.
To aid with the transitionary period though, there’s now a toolset called win32metadata, which allows devs to more easily wrap Win32 APIs in order to take advantage of them for apps not written in C or C++. As to how successful this will be, remains to be seen
Folks following the company closely may know that it recently released its Surface Pro 7+ hardware refresh, but it’s worth noting that the “previous” generation is still up for grabs. Specifically, there’s now a Surface Pro 7 + Type Cover (with Fingerprint ID) which would normally cost $2,059.98 being sold for $1,699.98. If you’re in the market for such a device, this bundle will save you about $360.
Moving on to the more traditional laptop form factor, the Laptop Go is now available in India, while the Laptop 3 may soon receive another variant, as it’s been spotted passing through Bluetooth certification.
In terms of the education market, Microsoft has also released five new inexpensive options from partners, all of which support 4G LTE and range in price from $185 to $329. There’s also the Classroom Pen 2, which is now being sold for $19.99.
Microsoft, Cruise, and GM have teamed up to commercialize self-driving vehicles. Microsoft Lists is now available for iOS. An event centered on Azure SQL and Data Factory will kick off on February 3. The Redmond giant will hold a free Azure Quantum Dev Workshop on February 2. You can now receive notifications from Yammer communities in Teams. Microsoft To Do’s web app now supports AI-based task suggestions. Windows Terminal is set to gain a settings UI in its next version. Teams will be integrated into SAP solutions. Microsoft has stopped PAC donations. Logging off
We’re at the edge of this weekly column, so how else would we end, other than talking about Microsoft’s eponymous browser.
Kicking things off with some Insider news, folks in possession of a HoloLens 2 can now test out the brand-new version of Edge inside the AR environment, joining testers who’ve had access to it on other platforms for quite a while.
For example, Edge Dev’s build 89.0.767.0 is now out, adding minor autofill improvements, with the stable channel getting Edge 88 complete with history sync, sidebar search, and more. Also part of this release is Password Monitor, a built-in tool that lets you know whether your passwords have been compromised.
And lastly, if you find the default look of the browser a tad boring, there’s always the option to change things up a bit via custom themes. Yes, the browser has been able to add Chrome themes for a while, but now custom ones, based on Microsoft properties like Ori and the Will of Wisps have been added to Edge’s add-on store.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft backpedals on Xbox Live Gold pricing, free-to-play games won't require subscription
by Usama Jawad
A few hours ago, Microsoft received massive backlash for increasing the price of its Xbox Live Gold program for new customers. It announced that the price of a one-month subscription is increasing by $1 to $10.99, and price of a three-month membership is increasing by $5 to $29.99, and a six-month membership is now $59.99 - which was previously the cost of its annual membership.
Following feedback from users of the service, Microsoft has now backpedaled on the decision.
In a statement on the original blog post, the firm has announced that it will not be implementing the new price model, and that the price of Xbox Live Gold membership will remain the same. It stated that:
A notable change coming to the program is that you will not require a subscription to play free-to-play games like Fortnite or Call of Duty: Warzone. This will make the service more in line with Sony's competing PlayStation Plus program. However, this modification to the program is not immediately available and Microsoft will be working to deliver it "in the coming months".
When Microsoft announced the new pricing model a few hours ago, many believed that it was designed to push gamers to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which is arguably a better value proposition, but at $14.99/month. However, the price hike was considered to be in bad optics considering that the company is not adding any new features to the service, and free-to-play games still require a premium membership unlike Sony's PlayStation Plus. With the subscription model now reverted to the original and now packing a major improvement, it remains to be seen how the firm will entice users to join the Game Pass Ultimate program.
Cyberpunk 2077 gets its first major patch, brings stability improvements and bug fixes
by Anmol Mehrotra
CD Projekt Red (CDPR) has released the first major patch for Cyberpunk 2077. The new update brings the version to 1.1 and fixes a lot of issues. In a tweet, CDPR noted that this update “lays the groundwork” for future patches. Here is the full changelog for the update:
Apart from these, CDPR is also rolling out the following PC-specific changes including a fix for startup crashes on Nvidia GPUs. Here is the full changelog for the update:
Lastly, the update also brings fixes for PlayStation, Stadia, and Xbox specific issues. You can check the changelog for those below:
The new update is rolling out to PCs, PlayStation, Stadia, and Xbox users right now. Last week, CDPR shared the roadmap for Cyberpunk 2077 that included the details of the upcoming patches as well as a free DLC and a free upgrade for next-gen consoles.
The YouTube app for Xbox now supports HDR videos
by João Carrasqueira
In the summer of 2016, Microsoft introduced the Xbox One S, bringing support for HDR to the Xbox family for the first time. Now, after four and a half years, Google has implemented HDR video support into the YouTube app on Xbox consoles, as reported by FlatpanelsHD (via Windows Central).
HDR has become a fairly standard feature in modern TVs and every iteration of the Xbox since 2016 has supported it. YouTube itself also added support for HDR videos later that year, so it's certainly interesting that it took this long for those two things to come together.
It's not completely clear when the capability was added to the YouTube app, but FlatpanelsHD points out that it wasn't available on the Xbox Series X back in December. The report confirms HDR is working on both the Series X and the One S, and there's no reason why it wouldn't also work with the One X and Series S.
You'll need to make sure you have the latest version of the app for HDR to work, or you can download the app from here if you haven't yet. While HDR support in the YouTube app is good news, it doesn't look like it's working as well as some might hope just yet. The app only supports HDR in videos using Google's VP9, instead of adopting the more modern AV1 format, which has also been backed by Google. Hopefully, a future update will address that issue.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft is doubling the price of Xbox Live Gold
by Rich Woods
Today, Microsoft announced that it's increasing the price of Xbox Live Gold in a big way. The price of a one-month subscription is increasing by $1 to $10.99, and price of a three-month membership is increasing by $5 to $29.99, and a six-month membership is now $59.99.
Indeed, $59.99 is the same price that a year of the service used to cost, and for now, you can still get that on Amazon and at other retailers. You'll want to jump on that now though. You can also keep renewing your existing subscription for the same price as before if you have a six-month or annual subscription already.
Naturally, Microsoft wants gamers to switch to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which was originally meant to combine Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold, and has since added Xbox game streaming and Xbox Game Pass for PC to the value proposition. The company is still offering a deal where it will convert your Xbox Live Gold to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for no charge, up to three years. That means that if you have a year left on your Xbox Live Gold subscription, you can turn that into a year of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (yes, that even works if you buy that one-year subscription linked to above right now).
Microsoft says that in many markets, the price of Xbox Live Gold hasn't changed in years, and in some, over a decade. Indeed, in the United States, the service has been $59.99 a year for quite some time. Many have speculated that Xbox Live Gold might go away at some point in favor of Game Pass, and this price hike might be another step toward that.
Editor's note: We've added a note indicating that it's still possible to renew existing six-month or 12-month subscriptions at the previous price. We apologize for this oversight.
UPDATE: Microsoft has backpedaled on the decision to hike the Gold price.