7 Days: A week of Windows 10 insights, Microsoft's mighty Scorpio, and an Oath of stupidity

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 been another thrilling week across the tech world, with no end of exciting announcements, spicy rumors... and some disappointments. As ever, 7 Days is here to bring you up to speed with what's been happening with a handy walkthrough of the week's top tech news.

Our journey begins this week with Microsoft, which is preparing to host its a 'virtual career fair' building on its Autism Hiring Program. The event coincides with National Autism Awareness Month in the United States, and aims to provide new opportunities for talented individuals with autism.

The latest in WikiLeaks' Vault7 series of releases revealed details of 'Marble', a framework used by the CIA to mask the source of the malware it used to target devices, in an effort to avoid detection by forensic investigators.

Meanwhile, a security researcher examined Samsung's Tizen operating system, used in its smart TVs, smartwatches, and other devices. The researcher declared the OS a security disaster, and said it "may be the worst code I've ever seen".

The European Aviation Safety Agency raised serious concerns about passenger safety following the recent ban - on some flights to and from the US and UK - of many electronic devices from the main passenger cabin.

Verizon is preparing to install an app on its mobile devices that will monitor user data in order to target ads at its customers. Predictably, that news hasn't gone down well with many people - in fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation criticized Verizon for loading its phones with "spyware".

Verizon is pushing ahead with its Yahoo acquisition, and announced this week that it will merge that company with AOL into a new division branded - hilariously, and inexplicably - as 'Oath'. A branding expert at the highly regarded Brand New site described the name as "completely ridiculous, pretentious, annoying, and, above all, irrelevant to anything having to do with digital media."

Can't argue with that.

Mozilla is planning to introduce a new user interface with the upcoming release of Firefox 57, along with several new features for the browser.

WhatsApp is reportedly in talks to integrate its communication service with a mobile payment platform.

Apple released iOS 10.3.1 on Monday, bringing an important security update to fix a vulnerability that could allow someone to execute code on the Wi-Fi chip.

Apple dumped its hardware partner Imagination Technologies, as it now plans to develop its own graphics processor technology for future mobile devices. That move had a devastating effect on the British company, wiping over 60% off its stock price.

After three and a half years without an update, Apple apologized this week for having done nothing to improve its Mac Pro desktop PCs, and promised that a new model is on the way - but it won't be coming anytime soon. It finally made some spec changes to the existing Mac Pro line, along with some pricing adjustments on Tuesday, and said that it will launch an 'iMac Pro' later this year - but no, it won't have a touchscreen.

Apple is also said to be rethinking its approach to TV, and may be planning to sell bundles of pay-TV services such as HBO, Showtime and Starz.

Google launched its new YouTube TV service in six US markets this week, with 39 TV stations and at least ten more on the way. The service will be priced at $35 per month.

A beta version of YouTube Go - which allows users to watch and share videos offline - also appeared on the Google Play Store.

Google published its latest breakdown of Android version usage this week, showing no growth at all for Android 7.1 Nougat, the latest version of the OS. Android 6.0 Marshmallow saw a slight decline in usage, but the ageing 5.x Lollipop remains the most widely used version.

The long, slow rollout of Nougat continues, reaching more devices in recent days:

The poor state of Android updates was clearly demonstrated this week, as several devices were finally upgraded to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, eighteen months after that version was released:

A handful of Samsung's devices also received the March security update, over four weeks after those patches were made available by Google:

We knew it was coming, but Google finally killed its Map Maker tool last weekend, promising to integrate its features into the core Google Maps product.

Google also delivered an update to its Daydream virtual reality platform, adding a minor, but useful feature.

Unfortunately, it also emerged that Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and S8+ aren't compatible with Daydream, and given that Samsung is promoting its own separate Gear VR suite, it's not yet clear if that compatibility will ever come.

Samsung launched a new version of its Galaxy S8+ in its home market of South Korea, featuring 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, rather than the 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage on the standard model.

Samsung has been promising to launch devices with foldable displays for years now. Recent rumors had even suggested that it would release one such device before the end of 2017. But the company made it clear this week that the technology isn't yet 'mature', and the first foldable devices won't arrive until at least 2019.

In November 2016, OnePlus said that it would fix a touch input lag issue on its flagship 3 and 3T devices, but said that it wasn't the company's top priority. At the time, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei told customers complaining about the issue to "keep things in perspective". Over four months later, OnePlus has finally fixed the problem - although the fix isn't yet available to owners of those devices.

OnePlus said in November that its top priority was working on its Android 7.0 Nougat update, which it released for the 3 and 3T in January. But owners of the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X have been told nothing about its plans to deliver Nougat for their devices - and they're becoming increasingly frustrated with the company about that.

More details were revealed this week about HTC's new flagship (yep, another one), which is expected to be released as the 'HTC U'.

Sony's new "super mid-range" Xperia XZs went on sale on Wednesday, priced at $699. Its key feature - which it shares with the range-topping Xperia XZ Premium - is its rear camera, which can record super-slow-motion video at a whopping 960 frames per second.

HMD Global still hasn't announced exact release dates, but it's looking increasingly likely that its new Nokia 3310 will go on sale in April, with the Nokia 3, 5, and 6 launching internationally throughout May.

According to the latest data from StatCounter, Android has officially passed Windows as the most widely used operating system for internet usage - a major milestone for Google's OS.

Meanwhile, Windows 10 has been making good progress among gamers, reaching its highest ever usage share on the Steam gaming platform, now at 51.2%.

On Wednesday, Microsoft officially released the Windows 10 Creators Update, although its general rollout won't begin until April 11. For now, those wishing to install it can do so using the Media Creation Tool, or via Microsoft's Update Assistant.

Microsoft has advised those on the Windows Insider Program to check and adjust their settings, as it said that the next wave of new Fast ring builds from the Development Branch are likely to include many bugs and instabilities.

The first cumulative update for the Creators Update, build 15063.13, has already been released to the Production ring, for those who have installed the newest version of the OS.

Coinciding with availability of the Creators Update, Microsoft also launched the 'final' - i.e. non-preview - version of the Software Development Kit (SDK) for that release.

There are a couple of issues that some users will need to be aware of, though. For example, Apple's Boot Camp doesn't yet support clean installations of the Windows 10 Creators Update on its Mac devices.

And some users have reported problems with the Logitech BRIO webcam after installing the Creators Update - but there is a fix available.

Microsoft updated its hardware requirements for Windows 10 as part of its Creators Update refresh, including those for mobile devices. However, there's still no support for Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 821 and 835 chips, so any company wishing to build a Windows handset remains limited to using older processors.

You can see the full list of changes to the Windows 10 Mobile hardware requirements here.

But a far greater disappointment for Windows 10 Mobile users is that the Creators Update won't be coming to all currently-supported handsets. Devices such as the Lumia 735, 830, 930 and 1520 will apparently be unable to get an official upgrade to the new version.

As you can probably imagine, that revelation - which hasn't yet been explicitly confirmed by Microsoft - resulted in a wave of anger towards the company from owners of those soon-to-be-unsupported handsets.

One handset that is on the list of supported devices is HP's Elite x3. Last month, Microsoft slashed 25% off the cost of the Windows 10 Mobile flagship, and its Desk Dock accessory, reducing the bundle's price from $799 to $599 in the US. That offer was due to end on March 31, but Microsoft has extended it for another month.

Over in the UK, Microsoft is offering huge discounts of up to 22% off its Surface Book devices. This latest deal - and good grief, there have been a lot of them lately - is due to last for two months.

Microsoft released new firmware for its Surface Book and Pro 4 on Thursday - but it's only available for those who have upgraded their devices to the Windows 10 Creators Update.

The first details were revealed about Microsoft's new Surface Pro 5 - but if you were hoping for a major redesign of the device, you'll be disappointed. The new version is described as "nothing dramatic" in comparison with its predecessor, and is expected to include only a few minor upgrades to bring its specs up to date.

Microsoft beat Apple in the JD Power 2017 US Tablet Satisfaction Study for the first time. The study found that Microsoft's Surface tablets came top for design, accessories, the range of ports on its devices, the storage options available, and more. JD Power said that Microsoft Surface "sets the bar for customer satisfaction".

Microsoft is working on 'Project Sopris', an effort to improve security among the growing number of low-cost internet-connected devices.

The company has also confirmed that Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 support will be required for Windows 10 IoT Core devices in a future update.

Microsoft opened up about the types of data that it collects from Windows 10 devices, revealing a much greater level of detail than ever before on the telemetry that it harvest from users' systems. Its commitment to greater transparency comes alongside new user-facing privacy controls introduced in the Creators Update.

With the Creators Update - developed under the codename 'Redstone 2' - now reaching Production status, Microsoft is already pushing ahead with development of its next major update.

The company released its first Redstone 3 Insider Preview, build 16170, for PCs in the Fast ring on Friday. Given Microsoft's earlier warnings about potential instability in early RS3 builds, make sure you read the release notes before deciding whether or not to install it!

Microsoft is focusing on 'structural' improvements to OneCore in its early RS3 builds, but we're already learning more about its plans to improve the look and feel of Windows 10 in its next update, with a refreshed design language developed under the codename 'Project NEON'.

For example, one change coming to the PC Start menu will be the introduction of transparent Live Tiles.

New animations will also be part of the updated user experience in Windows 10, as these Redstone 3 concept images show.

Elements of Project NEON have already started creeping into the OS through updates to some of Microsoft's Windows 10 apps. After a similar update to its Groove Music app last month, the Movies & TV app also received a minor update for Insiders in line with the new design ideas.

Over nine months after its iOS beta was released, and nearly eight months behind the Android beta, Microsoft finally released the first preview of its Flow business app for Windows phones on Monday.

Unfortunately, popular music streaming service Spotify announced that it will no longer add any new features to its app for Windows phones, which has now been placed in "maintenance mode".

And there was more disappointment for Windows phone owners, as EA also revealed that The Sims Freeplay will get no more updates on those devices.

Netflix introduced its Download & Go feature - which lets users save videos to watch offline - to iOS and Android last year. On Monday, it finally added that feature to its Windows 10 app.

Messaging app Telegram also made its way to the Windows Store for PCs.

Microsoft made some improvements to the Windows Store for Insiders, including a new progress bar design, and a revised share button.

Another feature that it added to the Store is the ability to install an app on the Xbox One from a PC.

However, it also made a change to its store policies, explicitly banning all game emulators from the Windows Store and its Xbox One consoles.

But perhaps the most exciting news of the week was the revelation of key details about Project Scorpio, which Microsoft describes as "the most powerful console ever". The mighty machine will have eight custom x86 cores, a custom-designed GPU, 12GB of GDDR5 RAM with 326GB/s bandwidth, and more - all adding up to some serious gaming power.

Microsoft's Mike Ybarra said that Scorpio isn't just about making superlative gaming hardware; it's also a clear demonstration that the company is doing everything it can to "win the developers back".

There's still a lot we don't know about Scorpio, and it won't actually be released until much later in the year. But in the meantime, Microsoft is continuing development of updates for its existing Xbox range.

Following the release of the Creators Update (Version 1703) for the Xbox One last month, Xbox Insider Preview build 15063.2013 (Version 1704) made its way to those in the Alpha ring on Thursday, while those in Preview Ring 3 also got their first taste of Version 1704 this week.

There were just two additions to the list of Xbox 360 games playable on the Xbox One through the Backward Compatibility Program.

We Happy Few - an eerie survival game set in a drug-fuelled, alternate version of 1960s England - is being made into a movie. The game is currently available in preview form on the Xbox One and PCs.

Mass Effect: Andromeda, which was released on the Xbox One, PS4 and PC last month, is getting a big update. The new update, which rolled out on Thursday, brings animation improvements, additional romance options, and more.

Numerous owners of the new Nintendo Switch have said that their consoles are 'warping', particularly when being used in docked mode. One publication reported seeing the same issue on one of their consoles.

AMD released its latest Crimson ReLive driver, 17.4.1, adding better support for Oculus Rift's ASW and Steam VR's SVRAR virtual reality APIs. However, this is only for a particular set of graphics cards.

Nvidia delivered its latest GeForce Game Ready 381.65 WHQL drivers, adding support for the Windows 10 Creators Update.

But our journey across the tech world ends this week, with Nvidia's monstrous new GTX TITAN Xp, which the company describes as "the world's most powerful graphics card", featuring 12GB of GDDR5X memory, and boasting a beastly 12 teraflops of power.

Want!


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.

Michael Firth celebrated the 25th birthday of Windows 3.1, which, frankly, made some of us feel a bit older than we'd have liked! Nonetheless, it was a great excuse to eat some cake.

Rich Woods got his hands on HP's stylish new Spectre x360 2-in-1, which has a 4K display and Pen support. Check out the unboxing video for his first impressions of the device.

And Rich also got his paws on HP's EliteBook x360 G2, a business-class Windows 10 2-in-1 with some pretty solid specs and handy features. His unboxing video and first impressions can be found here.


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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