7 Days: A week of Windows 10 updates, Insta-groan and artificial horizons

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.

The weekend is upon us once again (woohoo!), and after another week packed with updates, announcements, rumors and insights, its arrival is certainly welcome. And as ever, 7 Days is here too, to walk you through what's been happening and bring you up to speed.

We begin our odyssey this week in the UK, where the European Commission has blocked Three's proposed £10.25 billion acquisition of O2 UK, which would have created the country's largest mobile network operator. The EC determined that the deal would harm innovation, limit competition, and increase prices across the market.

Cloud CRM platform Salesforce suffered an outage earlier this week affecting a relatively small proportion of its customers. But there was some unwelcome fallout for those affected, as the company admitted that it had lost five hours' worth of their data due to "file integrity issues" in a database.

Apple's iCloud Mail and Notes went offline for several hours on Friday, prompting users to rush to social media in frustration, as they so often do. The company acknowledged the issue, and has since restored service to those affected.

Image via South China Morning Post / Simon Song

Apple didn't do particularly well last quarter, but it's still got well over $200 billion in the bank. But the company is spending a billion of those bucks on a strategic investment in Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing, in an effort "to learn more about certain segments of the China market".

One of the original creators behind Apple's Siri has created a new digital assistant, which promises to be far superior to any other seen so far. 'Viv' can understand complex enquiries with deep contextual awareness and conversational flow, and will work with third-party apps when it eventually launches.

Google is believed to be working on an Amazon Echo-style device for the home, building on its own voice assistant and search technologies, new details of which emerged this week. It's said to be in development under the codename 'Chirp', and sports a similar design to the company's OnHub wireless routers.

Google's low-cost Cardboard VR viewers have previously only been available in the US, but this week, the company finally began selling them in four new markets: Canada, France, Germany, and the UK.

From Cardboard to Gboard... Google launched a new iPhone keyboard on Thursday, making it easier for uses to search for and share content without having to jump between apps, including integrated GIF search, and the ability to quickly find just the right emoji.

Once again, software pre-installed on Lenovo devices has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The company's system management and diagnostic software, Lenovo Solution Center, was found to leave devices vulnerable to attack - but a fix has already been released.

Lenovo launched its ZUK Z1 smartphone in India this week, featuring some decent specs at the affordable price of Rs.13,499. The new handset will be released on May 19 with CyanogenOS onboard.

OnePlus ditched Cyanogen a while back in favor of its own OxygenOS, which will no doubt come pre-installed on its next flagship-class handset later this year. Purported images of the new OnePlus 3 surfaced a few days ago.

Xiaomi opened pre-orders for its massive 6.44-inch Mi Max handset - and as with other devices in its range, this latest one stays true to the company's familiar mix of compelling specs at very reasonable prices.

HTC published its latest financial results on Monday, reporting its fourth consecutive quarterly loss, and a disastrous 64% year-over-year decline in revenue.

HTC began its rollout of Android 6.0 Marshmallow to the One M8 and One M9 on AT&T a few days ago.

Samsung has been expanding availability of Marshmallow to more of its devices as well. The update made its way to the Galaxy Note 4 in Germany...

...and to the Galaxy S5 Plus in Germany too, ahead of its wider rollout to other markets.

Galaxy Note 5

Samsung's next flagship-class device, the Galaxy Note 6, is expected to launch in mid-August, almost exactly one year after the arrival of its predecessor.

The Galaxy TabPro S - Samsung's ultra-thin, ultra-light Windows 10 tablet - has been making its way to new markets in recent days. The 4G LTE model is now available in Australia, but it looks like it won't be sold yet in Canada, where pre-orders have opened for the Wi-Fi model only.

Mozo opened pre-orders on Friday for its new range of rear covers for Microsoft's Lumia 650, 950 and 950 XL. Stylish wooden shells are among the options available, along with the 'Candy' series pictured above.

Microsoft reported last month that sales of its Lumia devices had collapsed, plummeting 73% year-over-year - and so far, there's no evidence that its hardware partners are making up the difference in Windows phone sales.

Lumias still account for 97% of all Windows handsets in use, and the latest independent sales figures from Kantar Worldpanel show that Windows phone sales halved across the EU's top five markets in just the last three months. That stands in stark contrast with Android sales which have been growing significantly around the world.

The huge fall in Windows phone sales is hardly surprising, since Microsoft has massively scaled back its mobile ambitions. And given its reduced interest in building Windows smartphones, its even less surprising to hear that Microsoft is reportedly planning to ditch its Nokia feature phone business too.

Microsoft is still fully committed to the Windows 10 OS on phones and PCs of course. On Tuesday, it released its latest cumulative update for both sets of devices, bumping the build number up to 10586.318.

Curiously, Microsoft rolled out that update with a known issue that causes some PCs - albeit only a small number, apparently - to become "abnormally slow". A Microsoft program manager offered a potential solution, and asked for feedback from those who might be affected by the issue.

However, it's not at all clear why Microsoft decided to simply push the OS into the wild without running it through the Windows Insider Release Preview ring first. Indeed, testing cumulative updates and getting feedback on them before they roll out is precisely what the Release Preview ring was supposedly intended for.

For those on the Fast ring, Microsoft released its latest Windows 10 Insider Preview, Anniversary Update build 14342, on Wednesday. The new build brings some very nice additions, including improved Edge extensions support and real-time web notifications. Of course, there are plenty of known and fixed issues to be aware of too.

Microsoft is making a range of changes with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which is due to arrive this summer. For example, while it's reducing the number of its own apps that will be pinned to the Start menu by default, it's doubling the number of Promoted Apps that users will see.

Microsoft is also beefing up the security credentials of its OS. All new PCs and phones that ship with the Anniversary Update pre-installed will be required to support TPM 2.0, and have it enabled by default.

Image via Shutterstock

Ever since the days of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has been playing catch-up with its mobile rivals. With the Anniversary Update, its mobile OS will finally catch up in another area, by introducing support for fingerprint readers.

Image via Shutterstock

But Windows 10 Mobile will take a step back with the loss of one feature that many users still enjoy: Microsoft confirmed that it is removing its FM Radio app from the OS.

WhatsApp is one of the most popular mobile apps in the world, with over a billion users. On Tuesday, it launched on OS X and Windows PCs - but rather than create an app for Windows 10 built on Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP), it's a 'classic' desktop app instead, with support for Windows 8.x too.

Instagram unveiled a new logo on Wednesday, and it's not exactly been a big hit among users so far. While the new branding is already visible on iOS and Android, Instagram told Neowin that it would update its recently-launched Windows 10 Mobile app with the refreshed look later this week - but the promised update still hasn't arrived.

We got a pretty clear look at Microsoft's new OneDrive UWP app on Monday, in a series of screenshots. The new app is expected to arrive this quarter.

By the way, we've known for a while that Microsoft is reducing storage limits for OneDrive users. Be sure to check out our guide to working around the new limits.

In a high-profile embarrassment earlier this year, Chinese multimedia giant Tencent said it was ditching development of a UWP version of its QQ instant messaging app for Windows 10 Mobile, citing the continued decline in Windows phone share. Microsoft had named Tencent as a key partner in its original Windows 10 launch announcement a year earlier, but the Chinese firm said that Microsoft "isn't showing any effort" to retain mobile users.

But it looks like the UWP app may still be on the way, as slides from a recent Microsoft event show screenshots from the app, including new Windows Ink features.

Microsoft opened registration this week for its international Build Tour of developer-focused events - three weeks later than it originally promised.

Microsoft released its second preview of Visual Studio '15' (not to be confused with Visual Studio 2015) on Tuesday.

But one of the company's more popular mobile apps will soon be no more. Microsoft acquired Sunrise last year - but in an effort to reduce overlap with its Outlook offering, it's now preparing to send Sunrise Calendar off into the sunset.

Microsoft also confirmed that it's shutting down its MSN China web portal next month, but emphasized that it remains "deeply committed to China".

Microsoft UK's chief envisioning officer has said that artificial intelligence is "the most important technology that anybody on the planet is working on today", adding that it may even "change how we perceive what it means to be human."

Microsoft added five more Xbox 360 titles to the list of backward compatible games that can be played on the newer Xbox One, including Frogger 2 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Director's Cut.

News arrived on Monday of a somewhat unexpected collaboration between two of the industry's giants. Nintendo announced that it is partnering with Microsoft to launch a 'Super Mario Mash-Up Pack' for Minecraft - but it will be exclusively available on Nintendo's Wii U.

Nintendo also announced an official price cut on its 2DS. The handheld gaming device originally launched at $129.99, but was more recently available for $99.99. The latest reduction will see its price fall by a further $20.

There was bad news for Mass Effect fans on Tuesday, as Bioware confirmed that the next game in the series, Andromeda - which was due to arrive later this year - has been delayed until "early 2017".

After the announcement of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, fans of that series have continued to voice their displeasure over the decision to set the game in space, prompting Activision to respond to their complaints last week.

But the fans aren't backing down. By Monday, the trailer had amassed over a million dislikes, making it the eighth most-disliked trailer on YouTube ever. But by this weekend, the number of dislikes had more than doubled to 2.1 million, with just 350,000 likes.

But there was great news for fans of another series set in the final frontier, as the developers of Star Trek Online announced that the game will boldly go to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later this year.

But we end this week's intergalactic adventure back on Earth, where Pennsylvania police admitted that they had disguised a surveillance vehicle as a Google Maps Street View car. Questions are already being asked about why the police department would be using such deceptive methods - and it seems Google may not be too happy either, after seeing its logo being used to mask surveillance operations.

The incident certainly raises some serious concerns - although one can't help but laugh at the childish naïveté of the disguise...


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 published his review of the HTC 10, its latest Android range-topper. After the company's latest round of financial losses, and following a series of high-end handsets that didn't quite hit the spot, does the 10 have what it takes to be a success, or has HTC delivered another forgettable flagship?

Be sure to check out Rich's comparison of the cameras on the HTC 10 and One A9 too.

Rich also shared his first impressions of the Amazon Kindle Oasis 3G, the retail giant's latest high-end e-reader. It certainly needs to deliver a superlative experience to justify its whopping $360 price tag.

And Robbie Khan published his review of the Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum, a premium, ambidextrous gaming mouse that looks simply spectacular. But does it have the abilities to match its striking design?


The week ahead

Despite various hints that it might do so, Microsoft didn't deliver a new Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview this week, so there's a good chance its newest build will arrive in the next few days.

But all eyes will be on Google on Wednesday, as the company's I/O developer conference kicks off. We'll be looking forward to learning plenty more about Android N, and we may even find out more its new 'Chirp' home assistant device.

Stay tuned to Neowin for all the big announcements from Google I/O, along with the usual mix of official news, juicy rumors, and intriguing insights in the week ahead – it should be another exciting one across the tech world!


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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