7 Days: A week of Microsoft highs and lows, Windows 10 wonders, and Nintendo's big Switch

7 Days is a weekly roundup of the Editors' picks of what's been happening in the world of technology - written with a dash of humor, a hint of exasperation, and an endless supply of (Irish) coffee.

The sun has set on another week across the tech world, and what a week it’s been. As ever, there’s been no end of big announcements and intriguing rumors – and as always, 7 Days is here to make sure you’re up to speed with what’s been happening.

Image: The Register

Our journey around the tech world begins this week with news of a series of massive DDoS attacks that took down major web services such as Twitter, Netflix and Reddit on Friday.

Image: Shutterstock

Meanwhile, a major cybersecurity breach in India affected 3.2 million customers whose debit card details were stolen by attackers using malware to access payment systems there. Some banks have already blocked the cards, while others are prompting users to change their PINs without delay.

Image: wemeantwell.com

An extensive report has revealed that half of America's adult population is on the US government's facial recognition database, raising fresh concerns that law enforcement agencies are gathering data on citizens with insufficient oversight.

Over in the UK, the British government is steaming ahead with plans to introduce a national age verification system to access adult content online. Some groups have warned of potential privacy implications in authorities building a database of Brits' porn habits.

The BBC micro:bit mini-computer - co-developed with Microsoft, Samsung and ARM - will soon be available around the world. The ultra-low-cost device was designed to help children learn the basics of coding, and costs just $16.

It looks like Amazon may be preparing to launch its own internet service as part of its Prime subscription in Europe.

The next major version of Ubuntu - 17.04, due in April 2017 - will be called 'Zesty Zapus'. It will follow on from last week's Yakkety Yak release.

Nvidia revealed details - including specs, pricing and launch information - for its new GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti graphics cards this week.

Samsung launched its new CFG70 curved monitors, which it says are designed for serious gamers.

It looks like the dust is finally starting to settle around the explosive saga of Samsung's fiery flagship. But with the company's full global recall of the Galaxy Note7 still underway, the story isn't quite over yet - and Samsung is now facing a class action lawsuit in the United States.

But while the Galaxy Note7 gradually disappears from the market, rumors are already swirling around the new Galaxy S8, which is expected to arrive in the first quarter of 2017.

Samsung launched another new handset this week - the Galaxy C9 Pro, the company's first smartphone to feature 6GB of RAM.

Samsung also teased the upcoming launch of yet another new device, known as the 'Galaxy On Nxt'.

Huawei's Honor brand has focused on bringing solid specs to smartphones that cost a good deal less than you might expect. Its next handset, the 6X, looks set to offer some pretty decent mid-range specs, including dual rear cameras, for around $150.

Oukitel made quite a splash last year when it revealed the K10000, an Android smartphone with a staggering 10,000mAh battery - more than three times the capacity of most handsets. As Neowin was first to report this week, the company is now working on a successor to that device, with a new look and slimmer design.

LeEco announced the US launch of its new Android flagship, the Le Pro3, featuring Qualcomm's new range-topping Snapdragon 821 SoC and 4GB of RAM for as little as $299.

LG is preparing to launch a smaller spin-off of its new V20 flagship. The V34 has the same Snapdragon 820 SoC and 4GB RAM as the V20, along with its distinctive secondary display, but there are some differences, including IP67 dust- and water-resistance on the smaller device.

It's been eight months since Sony unveiled the Xperia Ear, but this week, it finally opened pre-orders for the aural digital assistant device, although it won't come cheap. And unlike Apple's new wireless AirPods headset, the Xperia Ear is a single unit - so it's not going to be much use for listening to music on the go.

HiSilicon's chips have made their way into a wide range of devices in recent years. This week, the company introduced its new flagship-class system-on-a-chip (SoC), the Kirin 960, which is expected to be a key component of Huawei's new high-end Mate 9 phone.

Qualcomm unveiled its latest lower-end and mid-range SoCs, the Snapdragon 427, 626 and 653, focusing on performance and connectivity improvements.

It looks like HTC's new premium phone, the Bolt, will - for some reason - use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 SoC, rather than the newer 820 or 821.

HTC seems to be making some bizarre decisions when it comes to its phones' specs these days. Last month, it launched the Desire 10 Lifestyle with the Snapdragon 400 SoC - a chipset that was originally announced three and a half years ago. A few weeks earlier, it unveiled the One A9s, featuring numerous specs that were inferior to its predecessor.

As you may well be aware, HTC is the manufacturer of Google's new Pixel and Pixel XL flagship phones. Google began shipping the new handsets this week to some of the first customers that placed pre-orders.

On Thursday, Google released its first Developer Preview of Android 7.1 Nougat, the latest version of the OS, which comes pre-installed on its new Pixel phones. The preview is the first to be made available for earlier devices - but it's only available for three devices so far.

Those who installed the Developer Preview soon found that a couple of Android 7.1 features that are available on the Pixels were removed in the build released for Nexus handsets. Google confirmed that that wasn't a mistake, and that Night Mode and fingerprint sensor gestures won't be available in Android 7.1 for Nexus devices.

While Android 7.1 is now on the radar, most companies still haven't begun rolling out Android 7.0. It looks like the wait will be over soon for LG G5 owners, though, as 7.0 is expected to reach that device in the next few weeks.

And there was good news on Friday for owners of the Moto G4 and G4 Plus, as Motorola officially announced the start of its Android 7.0 Nougat rollout for those handsets.

Intrepid Android users can now live life on the bleeding edge of the web, as Google brought its Chrome Canary browser to the mobile OS, offering access to the latest experimental features before their wider rollout.

Apple released the iOS 10.0.3 update on Monday - but only for its latest iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

It also rolled out iOS 10.1 beta 4 to developers and those on its public beta program on the same day, followed by beta 5 for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and macOS 10.12.1 Sierra beta 5 too.

On Wednesday, Apple sent out invites to its next major product launch, to be held next week. The company is expected to unveil its new line of MacBook Pro laptops there. The company is rumored to be ditching the 'traditional' USB Type-A ports on its new notebooks, and it's also said that Apple is considering new dynamic e-ink keys for future MacBooks.

However, it looks like Apple's car project has reached the end of the road. A report this week suggested that mismanagement and an 'incredible failure of leadership' has brought its automotive efforts to a screeching halt.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk's automotive efforts continue to go from strength to strength. Tesla revealed that all of its new cars will be fully autonomous, and Musk believes that the firm's self-driving technology will save countless lives.

On Wednesday, Microsoft rolled out Windows 10 Insider Preview build 14951 to the Fast ring, its latest release from the Redstone 2 Development Branch. The build introduced a range of new features, but as ever, it also brought various fixes and known issues both for PCs and for phones.

Some Windows 10 Mobile users reported major problems with trying to install build 14951 on their handsets, prompting Microsoft to publish some workarounds to deal with those issues on Friday.

Microsoft also rolled out Windows 10 Mobile build 14393.351 to the Slow and Release Preview rings on Friday. Frustratingly - but predictably - the company didn't bother to publish any release notes or changelog at the same time as its rollout began.

One of the key features of HP's new Windows 10 Mobile flagship - the Elite x3, which recently went on sale - is the ability to use desktop-class applications on the device through a cloud-based virtualization service. On Monday, HP revealed full details of its Workspace service, which will be priced from $579 per user per year.

In the UK, the Microsoft Store began selling Acer's year-old Windows 10 Mobile flagship last month, as a £449 bundle that included the phone, along with a desktop dock, mouse and keyboard. But this week, Microsoft suddenly discontinued that bundle and began selling the high-end handset for just £199.

Acer unveiled the Swift 7 at the end of August, calling it the "world's thinnest laptop" - just 9.98mm thick at its chunkiest point. This week, the sleek new Windows 10 notebook went on sale in the US, priced from $999.

For those who demand mighty computing performance on the go, Razer unveiled its new Blade Pro notebook. With a 17.3-inch 4K display, Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card, and up to 32GB of RAM, the device is priced from $3,699.

But those with more modest mobile computing requirements might be interested in this rather intriguing device. The Ockel Sirius A has been fully crowdfunded, and promises to be the "most versatile Windows 10 mini PC ever created" with a 6-inch Full HD touchscreen, Intel Atom x7 processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, and more ports than some tablets and notebooks.

Vensmile is taking a rather different approach with its new Windows 10 mini PC. Like the Ockel device, the Vensmile K8 also features a range of ports built into its main body, the top surface of which doubles as a mouse touchpad. But most unusually, the K8 comes with a flexible full-size keyboard that can wrap around the main body unit for maximum portability.

Eve-Tech announced that its upcoming Windows 10 hybrid device, dubbed the 'Surface Killer', will be officially called the Eve V, and that it will launch on Indiegogo next month. The specs of the device were heavily influenced by requests and suggestions made by the tech community; it will feature Intel's new 7th-generation Core processors, up to 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, and lots more.

In the US, Microsoft is again offering a free $150 gift code with certain Surface Book and Pro 4 models.

And in the UK, the company extended its 10% discount on the most affordable Surface Book model to feature a discrete GPU. That discount was originally supposed to end on October 16.

Microsoft published its latest earnings report on Thursday - and it was a particularly good quarter for its Surface hardware, cloud and Office businesses, among other parts of its global operations. The company reported $6 billion of net income on $22.3 billion of revenue.

Following those very healthy results, Microsoft's share price quickly rose to a new all-time high.

Microsoft published its 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report this week too, detailing its environmental efforts, philanthropic activities, and measures that it's taken to ensure the wellbeing and workplace safety of its global workforce.

Not everyone at Microsoft is happy about how the company treats its employees though. A judge has ruled that a class action lawsuit can proceed against Microsoft, relating to allegations that it discriminated against women in how it paid, promoted and evaluated its staff.

Microsoft didn't disclose exactly how many Windows phones it sold last quarter as part of its latest earnings report, but it did say that its phone revenue had fallen by $799 million (72%) year-over-year.

We had a look back through Microsoft's previous financial reports to dig out some numbers, and found that its phone revenues had fallen from $2.6 billion two years ago, to just $300 million last quarter. That astonishing drop of $2.3 billion (88%) shows the devastating effect of Microsoft's mobile restructuring efforts on its phone business.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft predicts that its phone revenue will decline further next quarter. But the company also warned that it expects Surface revenue to fall next quarter too.

Worryingly, the latest independent data from AdDuplex indicates that Windows 10 Mobile isn't growing at all. And while Microsoft's own phone sales have collapsed, there's little evidence that its hardware partners are selling Windows phones in any significant numbers.

There was slightly better news on the PC side of things, though, as installations of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update have doubled in just one month.

Microsoft sent out media invitations to an event in New York City on November 2. It's not yet clear exactly what the company has in store for that event, but we do know it will focus on Office.

Microsoft launched its Outlook.com Premium public preview in the US, priced at $19.95 for the first year, offering users an ad-free experience with support for custom domains.

Outlook's Focused Inbox feature has been available on iOS and Android for some time now, but Microsoft told Neowin last month that it would make its way to all devices in the near future. This week, Microsoft announced details of the feature's wider availability, including its release on Windows 10 from next month.

Microsoft is allowing users to log in to some of its services using their Skype name and password - an unexpected development, given the company's earlier efforts to focus more heavily on Microsoft Account credentials for signing in.

After months of warning that it would remove apps from the Windows Store that didn't comply with its new age-ratings policy by September 30, Microsoft finally made good on that threat this week. The company has now begun 'unpublishing' those non-compliant apps from the Store.

NatWest, one of the UK's largest banks, launched a new Windows 10 Mobile app with Continuum support.

But Amazon revealed that it is withdrawing its Kindle app from the Windows Store on October 27.

Among various details disclosed in its financial report this week, Microsoft revealed that it now has 47 million Xbox Live monthly active users. The company pointed out that that represents a 21% year-over-year increase - but it's also 2 million fewer users than last quarter.

Microsoft added three new Xbox 360 games to the list of those playable on the Xbox One - but one of those additions is actually five separate games. The Orange Box includes several titles from the much-loved Half-Life universe, and many gamers have been eagerly awaiting their arrival on the Xbox One Backward Compatibility program since it was originally announced in mid-2015.

Gamers also got excited after Rockstar Games dropped a big hint about a sequel to another hugely popular game. The company officially announced that Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming next fall, and you can get an early look at the game here.

But perhaps the most exciting gaming news of the week came from Nintendo, which unveiled its long-awaited new console. The Switch is a hybrid device that features an integrated display and controls for handheld gaming, along with a console dock for playing games on a TV. The controls on the device are actually detachable from the screen unit too, and can either be used independently or attached to a larger 'grip' accessory as a single controller.

Nintendo has also signed up a wide range of partners to support the Switch, which will include support for the Unity and Unreal gaming engines, opening up some thrilling possibilities for the console.

Very cool stuff - but of course, we'll have to wait and see just how good the Switch is in action...

Bonus content

Before we wrap things up for another week, let me first highlight a few extra bits around the site that I hope you’ll enjoy reading.

Rich Woods put together an unboxing video and shared his first impressions of the Elite x3, HP's new Windows 10 Mobile flagship. The Elite x3 was originally announced eight months ago, so it's been a long time coming...!

Rich also got his hands on the Android version of Lenovo's remarkable new Yoga Book in an unboxing video in which he also revealed some of his initial thoughts about the intriguing new device.

Timi Cantisano published unboxing photos of the Moto Z, which included a couple of surprises. He also shared his early impressions of the high-end handset after 24 hours of using it.

If you're returning your Galaxy Note7 under Samsung's global recall program, you might well be wondering which handset to get instead. Chris Schroeder shared his thoughts on a few alternative devices that you might want to consider.

And Justin Luna headed over to the Neowin forums where member 'warwagon' (Adam Bottjen) revealed that he had recently discovered a classic Apple IIGS computer in his basement. To his surprise, it turned out to be a limited edition version signed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Stay tuned to Neowin in the days ahead for what’s sure to be another exciting week, filled with official news, lots of updates, and plenty of insights from around the world of technology.

Don't forget that Microsoft will be holding a launch event on Wednesday, October 26, at which it's expected to unveil its new Surface all-in-one desktop PC, and perhaps one or two other devices. We'll be at that event in New York City to bring you details of everything that's announced, so make sure you stick around!

For now, though, there’s plenty more to read across the site – including loads of interesting discussions over on our forums.

From all of us
on the Neowin team,
have a great weekend!

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