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7 Days: A week of Xbox excitement, Windows 10 updates and Samsung's security slip-up

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.

It’s been another action-packed week across the tech world, and a particularly exciting one for gamers. Many of the biggest news stories came from the E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles, where the top players in the industry made some pretty big announcements. Once again, 7 Days is here to guide you through some of the week’s top stories, and we begin our latest journey, inevitably, in LA.

Bethesda announced at E3 that Fallout 4 will be released just in time for the holidays, on November 10, and will be available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. It has also released a free-to-play iOS game, Fallout Shelter, and in just three days, it displaced Candy Crush Saga as the third most popular game on the iTunes App Store.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is heading to the Xbox One, but the PC version might well be worth waiting for. The PC release will support DirectX 12 and 4K resolution, which means it will probably look absolutely glorious.

Almost fourteen years after Shenmue II was released, Shenmue III is finally on the way. The story will build on the last sequel, following the story of Ryo and Shenhua, and will use Unreal Engine 4. The development of the game will be subject to meeting crowdfunding goals, but its release is expected in late 2017.

Tom Clancy’s The Division – which feels like it’s been in development since the beginning of time – is finally taking a significant step towards its release next year. Ubisoft announced at E3 that it will launch its first beta of the game this coming December, exclusively on the Xbox One.

Microsoft’s 343 Industries showed off new gameplay footage from Halo 5: Guardians at E3, including our first look at the new ‘Warzone’ multiplayer mode, which is more than four times larger than multiplayer offerings in earlier Halo games.

Microsoft also showed off a new version of Minecraft built for its in-development HoloLens augmented reality headset. Could this be a killer app for gamers when Microsoft brings HoloLens to market? Only time will tell – but it certainly seems that Microsoft is exploring lots of options for its new AR device.

It will be a while before HoloLens goes on sale, but Microsoft unveiled a new piece of hardware at E3 that will be available much sooner. The Xbox One Elite controller is designed for ‘hardcore’ gamers, and is priced at $149.99. Pre-orders are available now in the US – and in the UK for £130 – but deliveries won’t begin until October.

Make sure you check out our hands-on first impressions of the Xbox One Elite controller from E3.

On Monday, Microsoft teased ‘a new Xbox One user experience’ that would soon be unveiled. Just a few hours later, the new Xbox One dashboard was revealed, along with confirmation that Microsoft’s Cortana digital ‘personal assistant’ would finally be made available on the console.

Microsoft also switched on game streaming to Windows 10 PCs from its Xbox One for those signed up to the preview program.

But perhaps the most exciting announcement from Microsoft at E3 was that it is introducing backward compatibility to allow Xbox One owners to play their old Xbox 360 games on the newer console.

The new (and free!) feature is available right now for those on the Xbox One Preview program, with 22 games currently supported – but Microsoft is encouraging users to vote for the next Xbox 360 games they’d like to see supported.

Sony admitted that it was ‘surprised’ by Microsoft’s announcement – probably because its expensive new PlayStation Now game streaming service for older PS3 games suddenly looks a lot less appealing against Microsoft’s free emulation. But Sony said this week that it has “no plans” to offer similar emulation for PS3 games on its PlayStation 4.

Given the PS4’s huge success so far, it seems a bit odd to think of the console not having a feature as basic as a media player. But this week, Sony announced that it has finally released the PS4 Media Player, with support for music, videos and photos in a wide range of formats.

By the way, make sure you check out our gallery of photos from Sony’s PlayStation stand at E3

…as well as a visual tour of Microsoft’s Xbox stand – look out for the stunning new Ford GT!

Microsoft announced a rather impressive new deal on its Xbox One this week: anyone buying the console from June 21 will get any game they want free – as long as it’s on sale (i.e. not on pre-order), on disc, and has a maximum retail value of $59.99.

For the fifth consecutive month, Microsoft is again offering big discounts on its Surface Pro 3. As in many previous months, you can now get up to $150 off all but the entry-level model, and you’ll also get a free protective sleeve for the tablet. We’ve said it before, but we have to say it again: wouldn’t it just make more sense to cut the price of the tablet permanently, instead of offering discounts every few weeks?

On Thursday, Microsoft announced its latest update for the Band, its health- and fitness-focused wearable. The update adds support for golfers, with the ability to track your game on the device automatically – it can even tell the difference between a practice swing and an actual shot.

It looks like an updated interface is on its way to OneDrive.com, as Microsoft has been testing a revised UI with new icons and a more polished user experience.

Microsoft announced on Thursday that Skype for Web is now available worldwide. Still in beta, the new service allows users to IM and video chat in their browser via Skype.com.

The company said earlier this month that it will be integrating Skype Translator support into its mainstream Skype desktop app for Windows from later this year. This functionality is currently only available in a standalone Translator app, which this week got new support for French and German translations.

After recently announcing that its Skype Modern app – which first appeared in Windows 8 – is being killed off, Microsoft revealed this week that it won’t be replaced by a single Universal app in Windows 10. Instead, Skype functionality will be integrated into three key communications apps in Windows 10, while the Skype desktop app will also remain available.

The latest official Windows 10 release is Insider Preview build 10130, but on Thursday, the newer build 10147 leaked onto the web:

Microsoft also revealed how it handles some of the feedback that it receives from Insiders testing Windows 10 preview builds. But on Friday, it announced that it is making some changes to the Insider program – if you’re a member of that program, be sure to read up on those changes.

On Thursday, HP unveiled a range of devices, including the new Pavilion x2. The low-cost tablet is one of the first devices to feature a USB Type-C connector – but curiously, it’s paired with USB 2.0, rather than the newer (and faster) USB 3.1. The lightweight tablet comes with a dockable keyboard and free Office 365 – not bad for $299.99 – but curiously, it will launch with Windows 8.1, just eight days before Windows 10 rolls out.

HP also announced three new high-end ENVY notebooks, with Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 4TB of storage, and display options including a 15.6-inch Quad HD screen. Unfortunately, the main image that HP used to promote the new Windows 8.1 notebooks on its site showed Chrome OS on the 15.6-inch model, rather than Windows. Awkward – but hey, these things happen.

Toshiba also unveiled a wide range of new notebooks this week, which will launch with Windows 10 on board this summer. From affordable, high-value laptops to massive high-performance beasts, all of Toshiba’s new notebooks include a dedicated hardware button to access Cortana, Microsoft’s digital ‘personal assistant’, in Windows 10. That said, it’s not a ‘dedicated’ button in the strictest sense – Cortana functionality is simply mapped to the F1 button on the keyboard.

KAZAM’s chief marketing officer, James Atkins, echoed similar comments this week to those that he made to Neowin back in March, when we interviewed him at Mobile World Congress. He spoke of the company’s “important partnership” with Microsoft, and reiterated that KAZAM is bringing Windows 10 phones to market.

Microsoft rolled out a new Windows 10 Mobile preview build this week to the Fast ring – but this is one where you’ll need to read the release notes carefully before you attempt installation:

We know that Microsoft is working on new Windows 10 Mobile handsets, including new flagship-class devices with Snapdragon 810 processors. Development codenames of a bunch of new Lumia phones were revealed this weekend, including ‘Honjo’ and ‘Saimaa’, among others.

It’s been a pretty good week for Windows Phone in the United States, with the launch of three handsets there in the last few days. The 5-inch Lumia 640, which we recently reviewed, is now available on T-Mobile US, with a full retail price of $129.84.

That handset’s even larger sibling, the Lumia 640 XL, is also launching Stateside. AT&T will exclusively offer the 5.7-inch 640 XL in black and white for $249.99 off-contract.

The Nokia Lumia 735 was originally announced nine and a half months ago, but this week, the Microsoft Lumia 735 finally launched in the US, as a Verizon exclusive, priced at $192 off-contract. Verizon has certainly taken its sweet time launching the device, but to sweeten the deal further, you’ll also get a free Office 365 Personal subscription for your PC worth $69.99 with the handset. Check out our hands-on with Verizon’s Lumia 735, including a few images of the device.

Microsoft announced a management shake-up this week, which included the departure of Stephen Elop, the former CEO of Nokia who ultimately oversaw the sale of its devices and services business to Microsoft last year. In an unrelated departure, Chief Insights Officer Mark Penn is also leaving Microsoft; Penn was the creator of the company’s anti-Google ‘Scroogled’ campaign.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also announced the formation of a new ‘Windows and Devices Group’ which will be headed by Terry Myerson. But there may be even more structural changes for the company in the coming months, as Neowin exclusively revealed on Thursday.

Microsoft quietly pushed back the launch of Cortana for Android this week, after previously announcing that it would release the companion app for its Windows 10 assistant on Android “at the end of June”.

Just 12% of Android devices currently run the latest Lollipop versions of the OS, but new updates continue to roll out. The most recent release (excluding the Android M Developer Preview) is Android 5.1.1, which made its way to a few more devices this week:

Samsung has said that it will roll out an emergency security update to patch a serious vulnerability affecting an estimated 600 million of its Galaxy devices around the world. The vulnerability affects the keyboard software, developed by SwiftKey, but implemented by Samsung, and it sounds like the developer is pinning the blame on the manufacturer.

SwiftKey said that “the way this technology was integrated on Samsung devices introduced the security vulnerability.” Samsung has also been more widely criticized for not acting sooner to fix the problem, which it was first alerted to in November.

LastPass was hit by a security breach this week, which resulted in “account email addresses, password reminders, server per user salts, and authentication hashes” being compromised. However, the secure ‘vault’ and master password that protect users’ other critical data were not compromised – but the company still advises that all of its users change their master password as a precaution.

But we end this week’s journey with the OnePlus 2, the long-awaited successor to the One. The company confirmed this week that it will use the Snapdragon 810 processor in its new flagship-class handset – but it also rather labored the point that it will use a new version of the processor that won’t overheat.

What’s curious about this is the fact that just a few weeks ago, a Qualcomm executive said on record that rumors of the Snapdragon 810 overheating were “rubbish”, and part of a deliberate conspiracy to badmouth its new processor. But given how long OnePlus spent discussing how the Snapdragon 810 v2.1 will be ‘cooler than ever’ and will meet industry standards for phone temperature, perhaps there may have been a bit more to those rumors after all...


Anyway, 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 an awesome weekend!

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