7 Days: A week of Windows 10 wonders, block-buster movies, and a nutty name for Android

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.

Another action-packed week has come to an end, filled with exciting announcements, juicy rumors, and a few moments that raised an eyebrow or two. As ever, 7 Days is here to walk you through what's been going on across the tech world this week - there's lots to get through, so grab a glass/mug/stein of something delicious, and get comfy.

Sadly, we begin this week with terrible news from the United States, where the driver of a Tesla Model S was killed in a horrifying accident while using the car's self-driving Autopilot mode. While some of the circumstances of the crash have been established, investigations are ongoing - but it's already raised concerns about the use of self-driving automotive technology on public roads.

Image via Bart's Blackboard

A nasty new strain of ransomware was discovered, known as 'Bart' - a variant of earlier Locky and Dridex strains. Notably, Bart does a system language check prior to encrypting a user's files - and the process is automatically cancelled if the language in use on the computer is found to be Russian, Ukrainian or Belarusian.

Many were hoping that Apple would release fresh betas this week of the next major updates to its operating systems, which it unveiled at its Worldwide Developer Conference a few weeks ago. No such luck.

Instead, it released the fourth betas of the much smaller updates for its current OS versions: iOS 9.3.3, OS X 10.11.6 and tvOS 9.2.2, as well as beta 1 of Server 5.1.6.

There have been all sorts of rumors flying around lately about Apple's future product plans, including a waterproof Apple Watch 2, a new color for the next iPhone, and more.

After discontinuing its Thunderbolt Display five years after its launch, Apple is believed to be developing a new version with an integrated GPU.

Image via Honolulu Pulse

And Apple was recently awarded a patent for a feature that would actively block people from using their phones to take photos or record videos at concerts.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise was awarded damages of $3 billion from Oracle, four years after successfully suing the company for withdrawing its support for HP's Itanium servers.

HP, now a separate business from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, unveiled its new Chromebook 11 G5 this week. The $189 device includes a touchscreen, which HP believes will prove very handy when Android app support comes to Chrome OS later this year.

But while HP strengthens its support for Google's software, Dell is pulling away from it. Dell announced that it won't be launching any more Android tablets, focusing instead on Windows 10 2-in-1s - and it won't be delivering any more updates to the Android devices it's already sold.

Another week, another massive security flaw discovered on Android devices. A security researcher discovered an exploit-chain that can be used on those devices equipped with Qualcomm chips, to compromise full disk encryption and expose all user data.

Google is hoping to make programming easy and fun for kids to learn about, with its new 'Project Bloks' tool.

For more experienced developers, Google made its Awareness APIs available via Google Play services, making it easier to create context-aware apps that intelligently react to users' locations and activities.

A major update to Google Maps and Earth arrived this week too, allowing users to enjoy the view of our beautiful planet in greater detail than ever before.

In May, Google invited the world to help choose the sweet, tasty name of its next major OS update. On Thursday, it announced the new name: 'Android N' will now be known as Android Nougat. The choice came as a surprise to some, as many had expected the company to go with another nutty option.

Nougat - which will also be known as Android 7.0 - is coming this summer, but there are still hundreds of millions of devices that haven't been upgraded yet to Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

But the Marshmallow update slowly continues to make its way to more devices, including many from Samsung. This week, it rolled out to the Galaxy Note 4 on T-Mobile US...

...and to T-Mo's Galaxy Note Edge as well.

The Galaxy Tab E 8.0 on Verizon also got a taste of that sweet Marshmallow goodness...

...and the global Android 6.0.1 rollout also began for the Galaxy S5 Neo.

HTC is believed to be developing two new Nexus handsets this year, which will be 'showcase' devices for Android 7.0 Nougat. Key specs of the new devices - which have the piscine codenames 'Marlin' and 'Sailfish' - were revealed this week.

Pre-orders opened in the US for the new Moto G4 and G4 Plus, priced at $199.99 and $249.99 respectively.

And British hardware brand Wileyfox launched three low-cost 'Spark' smartphones running Cyanogen OS 13, based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The new handsets feature some pretty solid specs, despite their remarkably low price tags.

OnePlus launched its new flagship-class handset last month - but it's been a frustrating experience for many of those who ordered the handset in the UK. The company blamed a "schedule misalignment" and "customs issues" for delays in orders of the OnePlus 3 arriving to British buyers.

OnePlus attempted to appease irate customers by offering them vouchers - but some customers were then sent the wrong vouchers, and many who actually received the right vouchers found that they weren't working, or that they were still being charged for shipping, which the company had said they wouldn't have to pay for. As one of our readers put it, "it wouldn't be a OnePlus launch without a customer service nightmare".

Adding to the woes of OnePlus fans in the UK, the company warned that it may have to increase prices, due to economic instabilities caused by the country's decision to exit the European Union.

BlackBerry is believed to be working on three new Android handsets, details of which - including the image shown above - were revealed this week.

Meanwhile, a report claimed this week that BlackBerry had ended production and sales of its BlackBerry 10 devices, ahead of its full transition to Android. However, the company later refuted that claim, and said that only its older BlackBerry Classic handsets had been discontinued.

Now, from BlackBerry 10, to Windows 10...

...as Microsoft backed down on its increasingly aggressive efforts to pressure owners of older Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs to upgrade to its newest OS. The company made changes to its upgrade prompt, making it much easier to opt out of installing Windows 10.

However, some users will now be shown an even more intrusive full-screen notification - but many users won't see this prompt at all.

By the way, if you haven't upgraded to Windows 10 yet, don't forget that Microsoft's free upgrade offer ends on July 29.

Microsoft ruined its own surprise a day early, but on Wednesday, it officially announced that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update will arrive on August 2. And in case you were worried, the update will also begin rolling out for Windows 10 Mobile devices on the same day.

Microsoft also revealed that Windows 10 is now installed on over 350 million devices, eleven months after its launch.

Microsoft released its latest cumulative update for Windows 10 PCs and phones on Wednesday, bumping the build number up to 10586.456. You can find out about the improvements in that update here.

On Tuesday, Windows 10 Insider Preview build 14376 was released to the Fast ring, bringing improvements (and known issues) for PCs and for phones.

It was followed on Thursday by the arrival of build 14379 to the Fast ring, and again, it included various fixes and issues for PCs and for phones.

There was some good news for those on the Slow ring too, as build 14372 was released for PCs and phones.

New Insider Preview builds have been coming at a relentless pace in recent weeks. But there won't be any more builds for a few days, as the development team is taking some time off to enjoy the long weekend ahead of Independence Day on July 4th.

Microsoft announced the Windows Insider MVP Program on Friday - and some Insiders will have the opportunity to become MVPs early next year.

Microsoft announced that its UK CEO will be stepping down on November 1. Its new chief executive, Cindy Rose, started work at the company on Friday.

Microsoft UK has been stretching the definition of "special offers" for a while now, with deals often lasting for months at a time. After launching a 25% discount on its Band 2 in April, reducing its price to £149.99, the company extended that deal this week for another three months.

Even more absurd is the "special offer" on its Lumia 640 XL, which has also been extended until the end of September. By that time, the deal will have been running for eight months. That's not a special offer; that's clearly a permanent price cut, and it seems a little disingenuous for Microsoft to be marketing it as some kind of extraordinary promotional deal.

Long-term price cuts are common for companies clearing out stocks to make way for newer devices, which raises some interesting questions about the Band 2.

Could this be the Band 3? Microsoft's Panos Panay was seen in a video with a wearable device that looks like the Band 2, but with some notable differences.

Double tap to wake was a popular feature on various Lumia devices over the years, but it's still not available on Microsoft's Windows 10 Mobile flagships. Over seven months after their launch, it looks like Microsoft is finally getting around to adding that feature to its Lumia 950 XL.

The uniquely stylish NuAns NEO, a high-end Japanese Windows 10 Mobile handset, is going global thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. The device, which supports Continuum, and can be customized with two separate removable backplates, is already available in Japan, and will begin shipping internationally in November.

Meanwhile, AT&T has inexplicably resumed selling the Nokia Lumia 1520 - a device that first went on sale two and a half years ago, and which the carrier discontinued in April 2015. Even more astonishing is that the company is charging almost $600 for the less-than-new Windows Phone.

Almost nine months after they were first announced - and six months after going on sale in North America - Microsoft launched its 1TB Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 in ten more markets on Thursday.

For students who like to work hard and play hard, Microsoft is offering a new Surface + Xbox One Bundle in the US. The bundle is extensively customizable, and offers savings of up to $499 - even on some of the most affordable combinations.

Microsoft released Visual Studio 2015 Update 3 on Monday, including Xamarin 4.1 and support for Apple tvOS development.

It also delivered an update to Sway for Office 365 subscribers, adding some handy new features.

Arrow Launcher 2.0 - a Microsoft Garage project for Android devices - also arrived on Thursday, adding Office 365 integration, among some other new features.

And Microsoft also released a new version of Office for Android, adding a few small but welcome new features.

There was an ugly surprise for Evernote users on Wednesday, as the company announced 33% price increases to its paid plans, and severe new limits for its free Basic plan, which will restrict users to syncing notes between just two devices.

It's worth noting (ha!) that the new annual $69.99 price of the Premium plan is now the same as buying an Office 365 Personal subscription, which seems to offer a heck of a lot more for the same money.

Microsoft updated its Groove music app on Windows 10 this week, with an extra splash of color and various other improvements. The update is currently available to those on the Windows Insider Fast ring.

The company is also hoping to encourage more users to subscribe to its Groove Music Pass, by offering them three extra months of free service when they pay $9.99 for one month.

After what seemed like an eternity in beta, Facebook officially launched its new Messenger app for Windows 10 Mobile on Thursday.

The new VLC media player app launched for Windows 10 PCs and phones, and for HoloLens, on Wednesday. It's officially a beta for now, but it includes native Windows 10 features, such as Live Tiles and Cortana integration.

Wells Fargo - one of America's biggest banks, and one of the world's largest companies - launched its new Windows 10 Mobile app, but it's ending support for Windows Phone 8.1 users. Indeed, owners of those older devices won't even be able to use its mobile banking site.

PayPal killed off its Windows Phone 8.1 app on Thursday - but on Friday, it emerged that the company is working on a Windows 10 Mobile app.

Microsoft's official Spanish Lumia Support account raised the hopes of Windows phone users this week, when it revealed that the company is "working with our friends at Snapchat" to bring the app to its devices. The information was corroborated later in the week by another Microsoft support agent.

We'll have to wait and see if that information proves to be correct.

But another big brand is turning its back on Windows phone users. The Amazon App for Windows handsets will stop working on July 25, and the company says its customers should use its mobile site instead.

There was a surprising addition to the Windows Store this week, as gaming platform Steam released its official authenticator app for Windows phones.

But there was bad news for Xbox Fitness fans, as Microsoft announced that the service will be killed off next year.

Microsoft announced that it will kick off the 'Ultimate Game Sale' next week, with huge savings available on Xbox and Windows games, and an extra 10% off for Xbox Live Gold subscribers.

Microsoft announced the Xbox Play Anywhere program at the E3 gaming expo last month, which will allow gamers to purchase a title once and play it on both their Xbox consoles and Windows 10 PCs. The first game to support Play Anywhere is believed to be ReCore, which will be released on September 13.

Microsoft shared details of some "record-breaking" stats from its Xbox showcase event at E3, where it unveiled the new Xbox One S, and teased its upcoming Project Scorpio console.

And Microsoft also revealed that its $149.99 Xbox Elite controller has been a big hit - since its launch six months ago, over a million have been sold.

Four new Xbox 360 games were added to the Xbox One backward compatibility list, which now includes well over 200 games.

Microsoft subsidiary Mojang announced on Tuesday that Minecraft: The Movie will be released on May 24, 2019, including availability in 3D and IMAX.

And from one block-buster (sorry) movie to another: two years after it was first announced, it was confirmed this week that the Tetris movie will actually be a sci-fi trilogy. Its producer says that a trilogy was necessary "because the story we conceived is so big".

And after almost three years, Nintendo emulator Dolphin finally got a long-awaited update with a wide range of improvements, bumping it up to version 5.0.

But our journey around the tech world ends this week in Florida, where a man is suing Apple, claiming that its iPhone, iPad and iPod are "substantially the same" to his 1992 device concept drawings.

The lawsuit accuses Apple of 'dumpster diving' for product ideas, and despite his patent application being declared abandoned in 1995 after he failed to pay the application fees, the man is demanding at least $10 billion in damages from the company, along with "a reasonable royalty" of 1.5% of all of Apple's future sales.

Good luck with that...


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 Huawei MateBook, a stylish Windows 10 tablet with a range of accessories, which was evidently inspired by Microsoft's Surface Pro tablets.

Shreyas Gandhe shared his review of the Star Cloud PCG02, a Windows 10 PC stick that plugs into a TV or monitor. There's clearly a lot to like about the low-cost device - but there's also plenty of room for improvement.

And after Microsoft announced this week that Windows 10 has now been installed on over 350 million devices, I took a closer look at the company's progress so far. It said last April that Windows 10 will be installed on a billion devices within three years - but how likely is it to reach that goal?


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

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...
and to all of our readers in the US,
a very happy 4th of July!

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