7 Days: A week of Microsoft money, the wane of Windows phones, and fake 5G

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.

It’s the end of another busy week around the tech world, and there’s been no end of intriguing announcements, exciting rumors, and eye-opening insights. But don’t worry if you think you might have missed something, for 7 Days is here again to walk you through the week’s top tech news.

Our journey begins this week in Canada, where Lyrebird announced its development of a speech synthesis API that promises to create a realistic, 'emotional' copy of anyone's voice after hearing them speak for just one minute, raising some interesting ethical issues.

Meanwhile, AT&T announced upgrades to its 4G network - including improvements that some other carriers already made months ago - and branded them as "5G Evolution". That's nothing but a meaningless marketing term designed to 'wow' clueless consumers into believing that AT&T is technologically superior to its rivals - and the company was widely mocked for its foolish approach.

Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, announced plans to eliminate Title II net neutrality rules for broadband connections in the US. A vote on the proposal will be held on May 18.

uTorrent is the world's most popular BitTorrent client, and is currently distributed as a standalone application - but the next major version will run in users' default web browser, promising an improved user experience, and a broader range of features.

The developers of popular media center app Kodi spoke up about the prospect of using "low-level DRM" to deter piracy. While the app is not designed to enable piracy, it has become a firm favorite among those who download copyrighted content without paying for it, thanks to its flexible, open source design.

The European Court of Justice ruled this week that selling media player hardware with software configured to enable or facilitate piracy is now illegal.

Music streaming service Spotify is preparing to build "a category defining product akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo, and Snap Spectacles". Little is known about the device, which will be the company's first foray into hardware development.

Amazon unveiled its latest hardware on Wednesday: the Echo Look, a virtual "style assistant" built into a camera-equipped device that will help you to choose the perfect outfits, and shop for new ones - on Amazon, of course.

Facebook announced a huge expansion for the 'lightweight' version of its Messenger app, which it launched last year. Messenger Lite is now available in 132 new markets around the world.

AMD revealed its latest professional-class workstation graphics card, the Radeon Pro Duo. Equipped with two Polaris-based GPUs, it promises a monstrous 11 teraflops of graphics processing power.

Will 2017 finally be the year of Linux on the desktop? Well, it's probably not going to oust Windows anytime soon - but Ubuntu 17.10 is shaping up to be a major upgrade.

Moving on - from Ubuntu, to Uber...

It emerged this week that the global ride-sharing service had continued to track users' devices, even after they'd uninstalled its app. Given Uber's history of shady practices, this didn't exactly come as a great shock to many people, but the company insisted that it did not deliberately infringe users' privacy, and that the 'fingerprinting' technique it used was intended to prevent fraud.

Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly reprimanded Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick for violating the App Store's rules - but while few were surprised by Uber's actions, many people expressed their considerable disapproval over the fact that Uber faced no consequences for those actions, pointing out that smaller app developers would have been kicked off the store immediately.

On Monday, Apple released its fourth wave of developer betas for iOS 10.3.2, macOS 10.12.5 Sierra, watchOS 3.2.2, and tvOS 10.2.1. A fifth developer beta for the latest version of iOS arrived on Thursday.

Password management service provider LastPass said an issue with its two-factor authentication when using Google Authenticator has been fixed.

According to researchers at Check Point, nearly two million devices may now be infected with malware from apps downloaded via the Google Play Store, the first of which was uploaded in November 2016.

The frequency of Android security issues certainly strengthens BlackBerry's case for a 'hardened' version of Android 7.1 Nougat. TCL's latest BlackBerry handset, the KEYone, promises "unparalleled security", and after launching in London this week, it will go on sale in the US and Canada on May 31.

The long, slow rollout of the latest Android OS updates has continued in recent days, reaching another handful of devices:

Samsung's Galaxy S8 flagships continued to make headlines this week:

Samsung confirmed that it will "launch a new flagship phone in the second half" of this year, having previously said that it plans to offer "a better, safer, and very innovative [Galaxy] Note8".

Like the disastrous Galaxy Note7, Samsung's new Galaxy S8 flagships feature the company's dual-curved displays, which wrap around the left and right edges of each device. But Samsung is now rumored to be working on a display that curves into all four edges of a handset, giving a screen-to-body ratio of 98%.

You wouldn't want to drop that phone onto a sidewalk...

Samsung worked closely with Qualcomm to develop the Snapdragon 835 chipset used in its Galaxy S8 and S8+. The two companies are now said to be working together on the next-gen 'Snapdragon 845' processor, destined for the Galaxy S9.

Long before the S9 arrives, Google will release its second-generation Pixel handsets, at least one of which will apparently use the Snapdragon 835.

LG launched its new G6 flagship in India, taking on the Galaxy S8 with lower prices and a substantial cashback offer.

Chinese manufacturer Gionee revealed its new M6S Plus, featuring an upper-mid-range Snapdragon 653 processor, 6GB RAM, a 6-inch 1080p display, and a massive 6020mAh battery.

ZTE's Max XL launched in the US on Boost Mobile, priced at $129.99. Running Android 7.1.1 Nougat, it has an octa-core Snapdragon processor, 2GB RAM, a 13MP camera, and a generously-sized 3,990mAh battery.

Pretty decent specs for that price!

T-Mobile will soon be launching the Coolpad Defiant in the US. The Android 7.0 handset will offer entry-level specs at a price that's likely to be under $100.

Lenovo is reportedly preparing to shut down its ZUK Mobile business - but its spirit may well live on, as the company is said to be bringing its ZUI interface to some of its Moto devices.

Japanese manufacturer NuAns said in February that it was ditching Windows 10 Mobile for its next handset, in favor of Android 7.1 Nougat. The Neo Reloaded looks similar to its Windows-based predecessor - including its stylish range of covers, in a combination of materials, such as denim, leather, stone and wood.

The new Android handset has been available to pre-order in Japan for several weeks, but NuAns is now offering it internationally through a crowdfunding campaign, priced from $355.

Microsoft updated the beta version of its Arrow Launcher for Android devices, adding a wide range of new features, including Android for Work support.

Vizio revealed its new range of XLED TVs, priced from $799.99 for the 50-inch M-series model, up to $3,499.99 for the 75-inch P-series. The new TVs include voice support through the Google Assistant.

It also announced new soundbars, starting from just $79, and a $199 wireless speaker.

HP described its new DreamColor professional displays as "game-changing" - but you'll need deep pockets to afford the $3,999 31-inch 4K model.

Acer announced its new gaming monitors and notebooks, including a Predator gaming Ultrabook, which features an odd placement for the keyboard, in order to accommodate a transparent glass trackpad.

Acer also debuted its latest range of more 'conventional' Windows 10 devices, including notebooks and 2-in-1s.

Acer said that it will launch new Windows Mixed Reality headsets "later this year" for consumers and businesses. My colleague, Rich Woods (yep, that's him grinning above), had the opportunity to try out the company's Development Edition headset - check out his impressions of the head-mounted display here.

Microsoft released new firmware for its Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 - but only for those machines running its latest Windows 10 Creators Update.

The company also launched a 'graduation sale' offering discounts on a wide range of products, including up to $150 off the Surface Pro 4.

Microsoft published its latest quarterly earnings report on Thursday, revealing a chunky 26% drop in Surface revenue - hardly surprising, given that its Surface devices are now 18 months old, and completely outclassed by newer Windows 10 machines.

As in previous quarters, Microsoft's greatest successes came from its Cloud and Office businesses, helping it to bring in $5.7 billion in net income on revenue of $23.6 billion. There was healthy growth in its Windows business too.

But, unsurprisingly, it was another catastrophic quarter for Microsoft's Windows phone business. It brought in just $5 million (yes, million - that's not a typo) in phone hardware revenue during the entire quarter, compared with $1.4 billion during the same quarter two years ago.

Microsoft maintains that its phone platform is "alive and well", because it's still shipping Windows 10 Mobile builds - but it's rolling those builds out to a tiny number of devices, and its work on the OS has now been separated from the main Windows 10 Development Branch.

On Wednesday, Microsoft began rolling out the Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update - but just 13 handsets are officially supported. The update brings a handful of new features and improvements, but major additions that were previously promised did not make it into the update.

Older handsets can still get the Creators Update via the Windows Insider Program, but Microsoft has made it absolutely clear that it will be offering no support or assistance for those devices, so if you get in trouble, you're on your own.

The latest data from AdDuplex, published this week, revealed that almost 61% of Windows 10 Mobile devices are eligible to upgrade to the Creators Update, but that still leaves a huge proportion of handsets unsupported, in addition to all of the Windows Phone 8.1 devices that Microsoft made little effort to upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile, even though they were previously eligible.

On Friday, Microsoft released its latest Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview, build 15208 to the Fast ring. As with its other recent Mobile builds, that one is from the 'feature2' Development Branch, rather than Redstone 3.

It also rolled out Windows 10 preview build 16184 to PCs in the Fast ring - and yes, that is a Redstone 3 build, and it includes support for a major new feature: the My People communications experience that was originally due to arrive as part of the Creators Update.

The fixes and known issues for that new PC build can be found here.

Additionally, Windows 10 build 15063.250 made its way to PCs that have upgraded to the Creators Update, but which aren't on the Insider Program.

Microsoft discontinued its Band 2 wearable device last year, but it's now supporting its hardware partners in bringing their own devices to market. On Monday, it revealed a new wearable on the way from German manufacturer TrekStor, running Windows 10 IoT Core.

Microsoft is working with audio equipment specialist Harman Kardon on a new smart speaker, the 'Invoke', which will use its Cortana digital assistant. An update to the Cortana app on Android revealed that the Invoke will support Spotify, and numerous other music services.

We've known for a while that Microsoft is planning to bring its full Office 2016 desktop applications to the Windows Store. Listings for those applications have already appeared in the Store, under some rather delicious codenames.

A flaw in Microsoft Word was able to be exploited by hackers for several months, while the company continued to investigate it.

Microsoft upgraded its Azure Media Player this week, with accessibility improvements, new plug-ins, a fresh skin, and more. It also introduced a new 'Billing Reader' role to its cloud platform, as well as adding a new Invoice API.

LinkedIn passed a major milestone, reaching over 500 million members - an increase of 67 million in the last twelve months. Microsoft, which acquired LinkedIn last year for $26.2 billion, announced its plans to integrate the professional networking platform with Dynamics 365.

Microsoft's Xbox platform also celebrated a big milestone, with over 500 ID@Xbox games now available on Windows 10 and Xbox One.

The Xbox Insider Beta Ring got its first preview of the Version 1705 update on Friday, while the Alpha Ring received the very latest preview release, build 15063.3033, a day earlier.

It was an exciting week for the Xbox One Backward Compatibility program, with three more Xbox 360 titles added on Tuesday, followed by another six on Thursday, including Dead Space 2 and 3.

Perhaps the biggest gaming news of the week came from Activision, which released the first official trailer for Call of Duty: WWII. It looks absolutely incredible - like many other gamers, I can only hope it's worth the long wait...

Battlefield 1 got a substantial update, adding new platoons, more weapons, and numerous other improvements.

Here's a blast from the past: if you're old enough to remember the original Tomb Raider, you can relive those good times with a new browser-based version of the 1996 game, with unlocked FPS.

Looking ahead, Capcom revealed new details about its upcoming game, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. The legendary fighting series will shake things up a bit for its 2017 release, introducing a 2-vs-2 format, Infinity Stones, and more.

Nintendo revealed that it sold 2.74 million Switch consoles in its first month, and it expects sales to total at least 13 million by April 2018 - potentially matching, or even exceeding, lifetime sales of its older Wii U.

Nintendo also announced its latest handheld console, the 2DS XL, featuring larger displays than its predecessor. The older 2DS will remain on sale, but the new model will cost almost twice as much.

But our odyssey across the tech world ends this week in the fast lane, as Microsoft announced the upcoming launch of a new Hot Wheels expansion pack for its Xbox One exclusive motorsport game, Forza Horizon 3.

I can't wait!


Bonus content

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

Boyd Chan published his detailed review of the NOMU S30, a rugged Android smartphone that offers IP68 dust- and water-resistance, a very large 5000mAh battery, and plenty of storage, at a surprisingly decent price. It's not a perfect handset, but it's pretty good!

And Timi Cantisano got his game on, as he reviewed Mr Shifty on the Nintendo Switch. He found it to be surprisingly good fun, if a little silly in places, and the graphics left a lot to be desired. But if you're on the lookout for an enjoyable title on Nintendo's compact console, make sure you check out that review.


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.

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

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

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