7 Days is a weekly round-up 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.
One story dominated the headlines this week – but of course, more happened across the tech world than just the launch of Microsoft’s next-gen OS. Don’t worry about having missed anything important though – 7 Days is here once again to guide you through the week’s top tech news.
Inevitably, though, we begin with the biggest tech story of the week, as the era of Windows 10 officially kicked off on Wednesday:
- Windows 10 review: Microsoft goes back to the future
- The worldwide upgrade process begins
- ISOs now available to download
- Windows 10 SDK now available
- Microsoft to offer a free 90-day trial of Windows 10 Enterprise
While Microsoft staged lavish launch events for the OS in major cities around the world, Neowin reporter Camden Krupala took a look at Windows 10 launch day from the perspective of one of Microsoft’s smaller US retail outlets: a ‘Specialty Store’ kiosk in a shopping mall in McAllen, Texas.
By the way, speaking of Microsoft Stores, it emerged this week that the company’s first ‘flagship store’ will open in a prestigious location on New York’s Fifth Avenue this fall. Such glamour.
But back to Windows 10, as Microsoft announced on Friday that around 14 million PCs were upgraded within the first 24 hours of availability, and an unverified report claimed that that figure had grown quickly to 67 million.
However, it will be some time before all Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs can upgrade to the new OS. Microsoft has said that it’s delivering upgrade notifications ‘in waves’ to those who reserved their copy of Windows 10, and is advising customers that it may take “weeks” before the notification reaches their PCs.
With Windows 10’s rollout beginning on Wednesday, we asked our readers if they thought that the OS was actually ready to launch – or if, perhaps, the company should have spent more time on it. Around two and a half thousand people have already voted in our poll – be sure to cast your vote and have your say!
We took a closer look at some of Windows 10’s new features this week:
- Goodbye, Internet Explorer; hello, Microsoft Edge
- What Cortana can do in the new Edge browser
- Using Action Center
- Hands-on: Windows Hello biometric authentication
Neowin senior news editor Brad Sams also shared details of his hands-on experience with Phone Continuum, one of the most significant new features in Windows 10 Mobile.
But if you’re upgrading to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8.1, be aware that one feature won’t be available any more in the new version. Microsoft said earlier this year that Windows Media Center was dead, and indeed, there’s no direct replacement for it in Windows 10.
However, those who used to have Media Center will get a free Windows DVD Player app – although if you ever perform a clean install of Windows 10, you’ll lose the free app, and will have to buy it instead. And considering the new app offers only a small subset of Media Center’s features, we wouldn’t be surprised if some users consider it to be more trouble than it’s worth.
One feature in Windows 10 which has proved to be controversial is the inclusion of mandatory updates for the OS. Given that Microsoft’s record when it comes to rolling out new patches isn’t exactly flawless, the prospect of having updates forced upon their PCs isn’t terribly appealing to everyone.
The company addressed at least some of those complaints with the release of a new tool allowing users to hide or block specific Windows and driver updates.
Details emerged this week of the first post-launch update package for Windows 10, which is expected to arrive early this month. Known as ‘Service Release 1’, the update won’t bring any new features, but it will bring stability improvements and bug fixes. But beyond that, a much larger update will arrive in October, bringing some exciting features, including extensions support in Edge, and the new integrated Skype messaging experience.
Another feature was also confirmed to be in development this week. While Xbox One owners can now stream games from the console to a Windows 10 PC, Microsoft has revealed that it’s also working on allowing users to stream games from the PC back to the Xbox One.
The first new-generation apps designed for Windows 10 have now begun to emerge, and will no doubt continue to roll out as the OS becomes more widely adopted. One example was the new Twitter app that rolled out on Tuesday.
Not all companies have greeted the arrival of Windows 10 so enthusiastically, though. Mozilla CEO Chris Beard accused Microsoft of ‘removing user choice’, alleging that the company has made it deliberately difficult for users to keep their existing default web browser option when upgrading to the new OS.
Danny Oran isn’t too impressed with the new Start menu in Windows 10 either. Oran was a key figure in the creation of the original Start menu and taskbar in Windows 95, but while he liked the fact that Microsoft tried something new with the full Start screen in Windows 8, he believes that the latest version is a less-than-innovative step back.
With the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft has added tips to Cortana, to help make it a bit easier for new users to try out some of the personal assistant’s features. The company has also added a new game to Cortana – one that will bring literally seconds of fun to your day.
On PCs and phones, you can set up Cortana to constantly listen out for you calling ‘Hey Cortana!’ to activate voice interaction – but on mobile devices, this can add to battery drain. However, one interesting alternative is the $22.99 ‘Cortana Button’, which fires up the assistant on a device via Bluetooth when pressed.
While Windows 10 rolls out to PCs, the OS won’t arrive on smartphones until later this year – indeed, one Microsoft manager said this week that Windows 10 Mobile is expected to launch in November.
But despite being months away from its rollout, don’t expect to see many big new features being added to Windows 10 Mobile, beyond what has already been revealed in recent Insider Previews. Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore has said that Windows 10 Mobile is “significantly feature complete”, adding that its “broad feature set” has been more or less finalized.
And on Thursday, Microsoft confirmed to Neowin that ten Lumia handsets listed on its site would be the first to get the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade later this year. But while many of the company’s recent handsets are on the list, there are many notable omissions too – the Lumia 520, Lumia 630/635 and flagship Lumia 1520 are among those that won’t get the upgrade until later.
Incidentally, if you’re still thinking of buying a Lumia 640 or Lumia 735 in the US to get the free Office 365 subscription that comes with it, we’ve got some bad news: the offer has now expired.
Over in the UK, Microsoft’s low-cost super-sized Windows Phone, the Lumia 640 XL, is now even more affordable. While the Microsoft Store continues to sell the device for £219 SIM-free, another retailer is now offering it for only £159.99. That’s a pretty good price for the 5.7-inch handset, which certainly impressed us in our recent in-depth review.
Details were revealed last week of three Windows 10 Mobile devices that Microsoft had cancelled, following the announcements of huge cuts to its phone hardware business last month. One of those devices – the replacement for the Lumia 830, known by its development codename, ‘Sanaa’ – has now reportedly been ‘un-cancelled’.
We also got a look at another cancelled device this week: the prototype Lumia Windows phone known as ‘McLaren’, which featured an intriguing ‘3D Touch’ user interface that allowed users to interact with the device through hover gestures. Frankly, though, after seeing it in action in the video, it looks like more of a gimmick than a truly useful addition to the user experience – perhaps Microsoft was right to cancel it after all?
The cuts to Microsoft’s phone division will see its Lumia range slimmed down to just a handful of devices in the coming months – but the company is hoping that its hardware partners will step up with a new generation of mobile handsets. Acer, which recently launched its first Windows Phone for several years, is reportedly planning to launch four Windows 10 Mobile devices.
Remember Microsoft’s plan to enable Android users to switch their devices to Windows 10? It sounds like things are going pretty well with the first phone being trialled in a limited pilot program with Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi. In the next few weeks, the first public preview of the flashable Windows 10 Mobile ROM will be available for owners of Xiaomi’s Mi4 Android flagship to install.
But while Microsoft works to bring its OS to Android devices, it’s continuing to build new software for Google’s mobile operating system. Microsoft’s ‘Arrow’ launcher software is currently in private beta, but you can sign up to request an invite.
A security researcher published details this week of a massive security flaw in Android, which has left around 950 million phones vulnerable to being hacked without the owner’s knowledge, using an MMS message or other seemingly innocent multimedia content. The researcher actually created a patch for the exploit and gave it to Google in April – but even many of the company’s own Nexus devices still remain unpatched.
After weeks of dragging out its announcement, OnePlus has finally unveiled its new flagship-class handset. The OnePlus 2 is priced from $329 USD for the 16GB model, and unsurprisingly features some kick-ass specs, including a 5.5-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 810 v2.1 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 13MP rear camera, and USB Type-C connector.
Motorola also unveiled its new Android flagship, the Moto X Style, which features a 5.7-inch Quad HD display, hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor, 3GB RAM and 21MP camera. A ‘Pure Edition’ model of this device will also be sold with stock Android onboard. A new Moto X Play mid-ranger was announced too, alongside the more affordable Moto G, which includes water- and dust-protection.
Yota started a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year to finance the North America launch of its high-end YotaPhone 2, which features an unusual dual-display design. However, despite raising more than enough money, the company has now told backers that the launch has been cancelled.
With wireless charging becoming more popular in mobile devices these days, Samsung has decided to integrate this feature into its latest 23.6- and 27-inch computer monitors. We remain undecided over whether this is brilliant, or completely mad.
When the Apple Watch launched, the company seemed determined to position it as an exclusive device, with all sorts of marketing activities aimed at establishing it first and foremost as a fashion accessory.
How the mighty have fallen. With many industry observers broadly agreeing that sales of the wearable device haven't exactly taken off, the Apple Watch will soon plunge to the opposite end of the exclusivity spectrum, when it goes on sale at Best Buy on August 7.
Amusingly, just four months ago, the CEO of the UK's leading device retailer, Carphone Warehouse, revealed that his company had "not been given the opportunity" by Apple to sell the Watch, apparently due to the retailer's mass-market positioning. But with its new Best Buy partnership, it seems Apple can't afford to be quite so picky about who sells the Watch these days...
It looks like the new Apple TV box will be unveiled in September, alongside the company’s new iPhones. The next-gen Apple TV is expected to bring some big improvements, including a faster processor, more storage, Siri voice controls, a new App Store, and a completely redesigned remote with integrated touchpad.
Microsoft updated its Xbox One SmartGlass app on iOS and Android a few days ago, bringing some small but welcome new features.
Meanwhile, the company’s new Groove music service – which is effectively just a relaunch of the previous Xbox Music offering – officially launched alongside Windows 10’s rollout this week. In addition to a new app on Android, Groove is now available on the web – and alongside its launch on the Xbox One, Groove also picked up Sonos speaker support on Wednesday.
Along with Sony, Microsoft will no doubt have celebrated the news that China finally plans to drop its nationwide ban on foreign games consoles. Existing restrictions have limited the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to being manufactured and sold only within the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.
Bad news for millions of people in the UK: BT, the nation’s largest provider of fixed line telephony and broadband connections, is increasing its prices by around 7%. The changes will come into effect in September, less than ten months after the last 6.5% price rise.
Weird news from Nokia: after selling its devices and services business to Microsoft, the company then went on to launch an Android tablet, bearing its logo but built and sold by Foxconn. It’s expected to launch an Android phone next year too – but no-one expected it to unveil the Ozo.
Any ideas what it is? If you don't know, you can find out here!
And finally, we end this week on finger-lickin’ good news from KFC, global vendor of fried poultry, which has shown off its new chicken bucket with an integrated Polaroid-style instant photo printer, to help you preserve those happy memories of chowing down on the Colonel’s meat.
Now we really have seen everything. Well, almost everything.
Before we wrap things up, don’t forget to check out the latest episode of The Redmond Report, our regular podcast roundup that makes sense of the week’s Microsoft news and developments.
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As ever, 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!