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Microsoft Weekly: Edge Beta for Linux, a new Segoe font, and games galore
by Florin Bodnarescu
A number of things happened in the last seven days, including the arrival of Edge Beta on Linux, the unveiling of a new Segoe font variant, and even a refresh of the Azure logo. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of May 2 - 8.
Edge Beta for Linux
We should begin with a little info regarding Edge, as not much has happened with the browser this week.
For starters, build 92.0.878.0 made its way to the Dev Channel. While this would normally be pretty exciting, Microsoft says the build doesn’t change much, given that it came out just a few days after the previous build. The changes are so minor that the company didn’t even bother publishing its usual post about it.
Moving on to the stable version, namely version 90, folks may be experiencing problems with YouTube playback, namely crashing. This bug has been acknowledged by a Microsoft engineer, who suggested users disable hardware acceleration as a workaround. The same engineer confirmed that the company is working on a fix, but that the issue may be more significant than initially thought.
And since we’re taking a tour through the various Insider channels, it’s worth pointing out that over six months after the Dev channel availability of Edge for Linux, there is now a Beta variant for the open-source OS.
Lastly, Microsoft is now testing everse image search in the Bing sidebar. This does pretty much exactly what it sounds like it would, namely allows you to right-click on an image and search for it on Bing in the sidebar which appears on the right of the Edge browser. As per Reddit user Leopeva64-2 who stumbled upon this, the capability is available in Edge Dev, though we have not seen this on any of our test devices.
A new font
For Insiders in the Dev channel, Microsoft pushed out yet another preview build, 21376, which included the usual array of fixes and, rather interestingly a new Segoe font variant.
While Segoe UI itself has been used as a default system font going all the way back to Windows Vista, a number of variants have been revealed since, including Segoe Script, Segoe Pro, and what Microsoft used for its Modern design icons, Segoe MDL2 Assets.
The new font is called Segoe UI Variable and as the name implies, it’s meant to vary slightly depending on the use case. Segoe UI itself for example was originally designed to be optimal at 9pt sizes, while Segoe UI Variable tweaks the letter weight and tracking depending on the size.
For smaller text, the letters are more tightly tracked, have more weight and are more open, while at display size, text isn’t quite as tightly tracked and has amplified letter terminals. For those not familiar, tracking refers to the overall horizontal spacing between font characters. This is not to be confused with kerning, which refers to the proportional spacing between two individual letters, whereas tracking refers to, say, an entire word.
On the subject of change, we should touch on the fact that Microsoft is set to fully remove Flash from Windows 10 in July. While support for Flash was dropped by Adobe on December 31, 2020, and Microsoft released a manual update to remove it back in October of the same year, it was, as the name implies, not necessarily mandatory. Starting in July, the Redmond giant is set to push out the update to Windows 10 v1809 and above, automagically removing the media plugin.
To that end, the firm is also removing any update blocks for versions 2004 and 20H2 (May 2020 Update, October 2020 Update), allowing folks to freely upgrade to these supported variants. We’re on the verge of a new feature update anyway, so it’s not much of a surprise that Microsoft wants folks on the latest Windows 10 version, if possible.
Last but not least, to the dismay of perhaps three people, Windows 10X is allegedly delayed indefinitely, as Microsoft focuses on Windows 10 proper.
Since its original unveil at the end of 2019 with the dual-screen Surface Neo and Duo, the former device was delayed out of its Holiday 2020 release window, and Windows 10X was repurposed for single-screen devices - in stark contrast to its initial 'dual-screen devices first' approach. For now, it seems that the Redmond firm is putting 10X on the backburner, focusing its resources on the expected Sun Valley UI refresh coming to Windows 10 later this year.
In a rather surprising announcement, Microsoft decided to take the wraps off a sizeable selection of titles now supporting FPS Boost. More than quadrupling the number of supported games from 23 to 97, the latest additions include Dying Light, a number of LEGO games, ReCore, and more, with supported framerates from 60 to 120FPS.
There are good news on the Game Pass front as well, with FIFA 21, Red Dead Online, Psychonauts, Outlast 2 and many others either already available or joining the subscription very soon. Additionally, folks in the U.S. also get four months of Spotify Premium with Game Pass Ultimate, though this is available for new users only.
On the revenue share front, Microsoft dropped its cut from 30% to 12% on PC, and was planning to do the same on console, but it will no longer do so. An interesting tidbit about the company’s strategy relates to exactly why it lowered its split. As per the court documents filed in January, this is done “in exchange for the grant of streaming rights to Microsoft.”, in other words, xCloud. It’s not exactly clear whether the proposal was far enough along to even be discussed with console publishers, but for the time being, the revenue split on Xbox remains 30/70.
If you don’t think that’s such a great deal, maybe some of the Deals with Gold will pique your interest, like the discounts for Borderlands 3, Control, PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition, and others.
However, if you have no desire to buy more games and already own the latest iteration of Flight Simulator or the spin-off title Minecraft Dungeons, it’s worth checking for updates, as both first-party games have received a number of enhancements and fixes.
The latest monthly Office Insider build on the Mac has added the ‘Share to Teams’ capability in Outlook, and more. Microsoft has announced its automation tool for security testing AI systems, dubbed Counterfit. Live transcriptions will soon be added for unscheduled and channel meetings in Teams. Microsoft has announced Reading Progress for Teams for education. Whiteboard now has improved Teams integration, support for rich content like images and stickers, and more. The Redmond giant has detailed more education features coming through August. Excel on the web now supports Power BI-connected PivotTables. Microsoft has delivered oxygen, ventilators, and more to support India’s COVID-19 response. New customization options are now available for Reply-all Storm Protection in Microsoft 365. Microsoft customers in the EU will be able to store all their data in the region by 2022. The Redmond firm has warned of a widespread gift card scam targeting organizations. Logging off
We end the week with a refreshed Azure logo, an interesting Defender bug, and some Surface firmware updates.
Starting with Azure, Microsoft has decided that the logo for its cloud service needed a bit of a Fluent Design facelift, and as such unveiled a brand-new icon. Ditching the angular shape of the old logo, this one is much more reminiscent of say, the Visual Studio icon, though in some cases, it may remind folks of the Adobe or Autodesk logos.
On the flip side, what wasn’t needed was a rather weird Microsoft Defender bug, which ended up creating “thousands” of files in users' boot drives. Some folks saw small files less than 2KB in size, while other users reported multiple GBs of storage being eaten up. A fix is already rolling out, and if you’re on Microsoft Defender engine version 1.1.18100.5, you’ll be bumped up to 1.1.18100.6 following this update.
Finally, for owners of the Surface Pro 4, Studio, Laptop 1,2, and 4, Microsoft has released a slew of firmware updates meant to bring stability and security enhancements.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
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By Abhay V
Windows 10X reportedly delayed indefinitely, focus to shift to Windows 10
by Abhay Venkatesh
In what may be disappointing news for Windows fans, Microsoft is reportedly delaying the release of Windows 10X – its next-generation operating system – indefinitely. The report comes from Petri, citing information from those in the know of the matter.
Microsoft originally showed off Windows 10X in 2019 alongside the Surface Neo and Surface Duo. While the Surface Duo that was powered by Android made it to the market, the Neo was delayed and Windows 10X was repurposed for single-screened devices. A supposed near-final build of the modern OS even leaked and Microsoft was said to be readying the platform for release sometime this spring. That timeline moved once again to later in the fall this year, according to reports.
However, Petri reports that those plans have now changed, with Windows 10X now on the backburner. The company is reportedly moving resources back to Windows 10, which is expected to receive a major update codenamed Sun Valley later this year. As for 10X, there is no concrete information on if and when the OS will see the light of the day, and it is possible that the offering as we know it will never make it to users.
A few reasons for the decision, according to insiders, include the fact that the OS just was not ready. The firm reportedly believes that the “timing and market conditions” are not right and that the feedback from users, too, has not been as positive as it may have hoped to. While enthusiasts hoped to see 10X make it to new devices, marketing a brand-new OS on new devices, especially during the times of the pandemic that has seen the adoption of traditional Windows 10 PCs increase, might have been difficult. Add to the fact that at launch, the OS was said to lack support for traditional Win32 apps, which again might have worked against the offering.
Additionally, the report states that the company execs feel that Windows 10X doesn’t offer solutions that its customers want. Therefore, it makes sense for the Redmond giant to introduce certain features such as seamless updates and app containers to Windows 10 while working on a possible lightweight platform for release.
As it stands now, it is safe to assume that Windows 10X as we know it is dead and so are plans to introduce a lightweight Chromebook competitor OS. It is not clear if the company will publicly announce the plans that it has for Windows 10, including the visual overhaul and new Microsoft Store policies at its Build conference later this month. The report from Petri does state that the company will make “formal announcements” about the fate of the OS, so it will be interesting to see what those are.
By Rich Woods
Windows 10X reportedly delayed once again
by Rich Woods
Windows 10X has had a rough time of it. It was first announced in October 2019 as an OS for dual-screen devices, even releasing some emulators that you can still download. The last emulator was released in March 2020, and by May, Windows 10X was delayed. Not only was it delayed, but it was being repurposed for single-screen entry-level PCs. Microsoft said that it wanted to meet customers where they are, even though you'll still need to buy a new PC to get the new OS.
Any trace of the Surface Neo has been scrubbed from the company's website, and apparently, that's coming in 2022. Up until now, we've been planning on seeing a Windows 10X launch in the spring with all new devices, but according to a new report from Windows Central's Zac Bowden, that's not happening.
Instead, Windows 10X should be finalized some time this spring, with devices shipping in the second half of this year. Since Microsoft doesn't bother to actually communicate any of this stuff, it raises questions. After all, the last anyone heard about this from Microsoft, Windows 10X was still going to natively support Win32 apps, but we know from leaks that that isn't the case anymore. There have also been zero updates on the Surface Neo.
A delay for the single-screen version of Windows 10X does probably mean that the dual-screen version is further delayed, since dual-screen devices are effectively on the back burner. But also, every Windows 10X delay so far has also seriously affected the development of Windows 10. Last fall, Windows 10 got a minor update, and the reason for that was because Windows 10X was supposed to RTM. Windows 10X got pushed back to the spring, so Windows 10 is getting another minor update for 21H1.
Windows 10 version 21H2 is supposed to be a major update, bringing with it big design changes that are codenamed Sun Valley. On top of that, Windows on ARM PCs are finally getting x64 emulation, and we might even get Android apps on Windows 10 with Project Latte. If a Windows 10X delay means another minor update for Windows 10, this could all get pushed back to next spring.
But luckily, Bowden still says that Windows 10X is scheduled to be finalized this spring, so it shouldn't be enough of a delay to affect Windows 10. But from everything we've seen so far on this rocky road called Windows 10X development, anything is possible.
By Abhay V
Microsoft reportedly planning special virtual events for Windows, gaming, and more
by Abhay Venkatesh
Microsoft is reportedly planning to hold a series of special events geared towards its various offerings such as the cloud, gaming, Windows, and security. The Verge reports that the events are expected to be held over the next few months, with the first one slated to take place this week that focuses on Microsoft 365 and the “employee experience”, guessing from a tweet posted by the Microsoft 365 Twitter account.
While the Redmond giant shares information about its products as part of large conferences such as Build and Ignite, these events are supposedly more specific, product-related ones. It is possible that the company will use these events to share specific roadmaps, launch new products, or just showcase new capabilities added to its products in the various categories.
With a major Windows 10 redesign – codenamed Sun Valley – expected to begin being tested with Insiders, it will not be surprising to see the Windows event possibly aimed at sharing more information on that front. Windows 10X, the firm’s modern, lightweight OS, is also expected to be launched sometime in the next few months. While rumors suggest that the OS launch will be one without much fanfare, it will be interesting to see if the company leverages a special event to talk about its newest OS offering.
The firm might also choose to share its plans for first-party games and its xCloud game streaming platform via the events aimed at gaming. Microsoft is also expected to bring Xbox game streaming to Windows sometime this spring, so an event to announce the expansion of that service might make sense.
The pandemic has forced companies into moving to a virtual setup for its events and product launches, and Microsoft is no exception. It will be interesting to see if these events are a one-time thing, or if the company is experimenting with a pattern for the years to come.
By Rich Woods
Hands on with the leaked Windows 10X build for single-screen PCs
by Rich Woods
Early build of Windows 10X running on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Windows 10X has had a confusing history. First leaked as Windows Lite, it was Microsoft's newest attempt at a Chromebook competitor, following spectacular failures like Windows RT and Windows 10 S. But when Windows 10X was unveiled in October 2019, it was shown as an OS that's built specifically for dual-screen devices. Eventually, those plans were delayed indefinitely and it was back to being a single-screen OS. Panos Panay said that Microsoft wants to meet customers where they are, except you still have to buy a new PC to get it.
Microsoft has started publishing near-RTM builds of Windows 10X, and it was only a matter of time until a build leaked. So naturally, we went hands on with it.
The first thing you'll notice is a brand-new boot animation, and the whole look of the OOBE has changed too. The steps haven't changed too much though, asking very important questions like if you want to set up a second keyboard. Obviously, other things have been removed. You'll find that you can't set it up without a Microsoft account; if you try to disconnect from the internet, it won't work.
People seem to love to draw parallels to Chrome OS, but the only thing that they really have in common is that they're lacking legacy features. Windows 10X can't run Win32 apps, there's no command line, there's no Control Panel, and so on. In fact, you can't even run windowed apps. You can do split-screen apps, and that experience sort of reminds me of how Windows 10X worked on the dual-screen emulators.
Other than that, not a whole lot has changed since those days. Honestly, it's a little surprising that this is deemed ready to ship when it doesn't have support for windowed apps, but that should be indicative of the types of hardware that Microsoft plans to ship this on. Check out the hands-on video below.