We are at the close of yet another week of 2023 and it is time again to recap all the important things that happened in the Microsoft-verse in the past few days. This time, we have news items related to several third-party software - such as a leaner version of Windows 11 -, a flurry of Teams updates, and a sprinkle of ChatGPT goodness to round it all up. Without further ado, let's get started with our weekly digest for January 29 - February 3!
A leaner Windows 11
If you're struggling with Windows 11's strict system requirements or would just like to experiment with a modified version of the OS (at your own risk!), you might want to take a look at Tiny11. This modified image of Windows 11 gets rid of the Windows Component Store (WinSxS) and other modules the developer considers "bloat", resulting in a lightweight version of the OS for less powerful computers, requiring just 8GB of storage space and 2GB of RAM.
Naturally, you ideally shouldn't be running this on your primary machine and should consider using a virtual machine if you really want to give it a spin. Several of our readers also raised concern about the security of the ISO and the fact that it breaks Microsoft's EULA for Windows 11, so make sure to check the discussion here to get some doubts about what you could be getting into clarified.
In a similar vein, third-party tool ThisIsWin11 has now been repackaged as "Debloos", which stands for Debloat OS. The developer describes it as the "Universal Debloater and PC Manager for Windows 11". In addition, you could also use a tool called WindHawk to modify your Windows Paint installation and bring it to the modern age with dark mode.
But if you'd like to customize your Windows installation using the tools Microsoft offers, you'll be happy to know that Microsoft is working on another PowerToys utility called FancyMouse, which will make it easier to navigate your cursor across large or multiple displays. In the meantime, we have version 0.67.0 of PowerToys, bringing the Quick access system tray launcher, among many other things.
Since we are discussing experimentation with Windows in this section, we'd also like to bring your attention to the latest Windows 11 Dev Channel preview build 25290. It introduced Widgets for Spotify and Phone Link, along with new Start menu badges. There are some improvements to tabbed File Explorer too but if you don't like them, try out Files App instead. There was also a relatively minor Beta build with a few bug fixes.
Speaking of issues with Windows, Microsoft released a new out-of-band (OOB) update this week to fix a .NET issue in Windows 10, 11, and Server. Meanwhile, some users have been complaining about full-screen Windows 11 upgrade ads with two "yes" buttons (!!!) and unskippable ads for a Microsoft 365 during the Windows 10 out-of-box experience (OOBE). Others speculated that Microsoft was stealing their private data through a stealth update but that's actually not the case. If anything, Microsoft should be proactively transparent in this area lest it start losing its marketshare to other operating systems.
A flurry of Teams updates
Microsoft Teams dominated a lot of our headlines in this week. For starters, Microsoft revealed a list of features that it is bringing to Teams in March, including "ultrasound howling detection", explicit recording consent, and more. In the same vein, it also recapped all the capabilities it added to Teams (and Excel) in January 2023.
In terms of other additions to Teams, we got new video filters packaged as Teams apps so customers can personalize their online meetings. Teams Premium launched this week as well, it brings advanced webinars and integration with the Elgato Stream Deck - and if you're interested in Teams hardware, there's also a 27-inch ThinkSmart View Plus Teams standalone display from Lenovo that will retail for $3,100 soon. The new Premium license will cost $7 per month until June 30 before increasing to $10 in July. If you don't fancy Teams though, you might want to have a look at the recently revamped Skype app - yes, it's still alive.
Switching gears to some Microsoft Edge news, the Canary version of the browser has surprisingly gotten rid of the Mica effect. But the same channel has introduced a "minimal toolbar experience" that seemingly aims to return some screen estate to the user, along with a feature that will inform you if you are trying to save a weak password in the browser. Meanwhile, Edge Dev 111.0.1660.0 brings improved Workspaces and some bug fixes.
In related news, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Mozilla and several other companies also announced the goals for their Interop 2023 project. The initiative aims to improve cross-browser compatibility and was successful last year too. Each browser vendor will be hoping that this will help improve their marketshare in the long-term too.
The hype train with ChatGPT and OpenAI's other endeavors area is still going very strong. Microsoft Teams Premium, which became generally available this week as mentioned in the previous section, is also powered by GPT-3.5 in some areas. For those unaware, this is the same large language model that has made ChatGPT possible. In Teams Premium, it aims to make meetings "more intelligent, personalized, and protected." For instance, it can translate captions in real-time, help create meeting templates, and automatically generate meeting notes, recommended tasks, and personalized highlights.
Microsoft is not just stopping there. Screenshots of its alleged ChatGPT-powered Bing leaked online during the week. According to the person who managed to access this version of Bing, the search bar will be able to take input up to 1,000 characters and will not only answer questions but also generate text, just like the current version of ChatGPT.
An estimate from an analyst revealed that around 100 million people accessed ChatGPT in January 2023, which is almost double the figure reported in December 2022. Microsoft will be hoping that this high level of interest in the language model persists as it rushes to get its ChatGPT-powered products out the door.
ChatGPT's creator OpenAI isn't sitting idle and just enjoying public admiration either. A recent report claims that the company is now working on a ChatGPT mobile app and an AI model that can also generate videos.
We'll kick this section off with a new report which indicates that things are not going well at the Halo camp. Apparently, the development studio is starting from scratch with Unreal Engine for its next game, which will have no story content. This follows reports of 343 Industries being hit hard by recent layoffs at Microsoft. In the same space, the next game from Coalition is going to be "Gears 6", following the cancelation of two other non-Gears titles.
A bunch of classic games are also going to be removed from the Xbox 360 Marketplace soon, including several high-profile titles. Despite this, Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox 360 Marketplace is not on the way out (yet) and will continue being accessible even after May 2023 after an official note on the company's website seemed to indicate otherwise. On the other hand, Xbox-exclusive CrossfireX is definitely shutting down on May 18, just 15 months after official launch.
In addition, we learned that the European Commission has sent its list of objections to Microsoft regarding its acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The details have not been made public yet. While Microsoft and Sony lock horns over the purchase, it seems that both of the companies will also be joining Nintendo in skipping E3 altogether this year.
In terms of game updates and releases, Age of Empires II is now out on Xbox consoles featuring PC crossplay while Cyberpunk 2077 on Windows has received hardware GPU scheduling, NVIDIA DLSS 3 and Reflex update.
Lastly, talking about game promotions and deals, we have For Honor, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, and Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker gracing Xbox Free Play Days promotion while Games with Gold is offering For The King. And if none of this tickles your fancy, make sure to check out this Weekend's PC Game Deals, curated by our News Editor Pulasthi Ariyasinghe.
Chromebook owners will get easier access to Microsoft 365 and OneDrive soon
Macrium Reflect gets performance boost, bug fixes, and a price tag
Microsoft is not selling Windows 10 licenses via its website anymore
Acer's latest additions to its TravelMate B series are Windows 11 22H2-ready
Outlook's upcoming feature aims to promote better understanding of gender
Samsung has announced flagship Galaxy Book3 and Book3 Ultra laptops powered by Windows 11
Microsoft Store Ads are now generally available for all developers
Under the spotlight
News Reporter Taras Buria wrote a very handy guide this week in which he explains how you can use a script to launch tabbed File Explorer with a bunch of pre-defined tabs, with some caveats.
Taras also authored a listicle about the top 10 improvements Windows 11 users are demanding for the Settings app, along with Microsoft's responses on each of the requests.
Finally, forum member Adam Bottjen penned his Tech Tip Tuesday piece on the topic of finding out how much free space you have on your PC, check it out here.
We would like to bid you adieu with a concept of "Windows 11X", the details of which you can view here. Its designer has decided to use Windows 11 as the base for their concept and then add some changes on top. Some additions include Widgets in the Start menu, a unified notification center, and even a tablet mode of sorts. Of course, just because something looks pretty on paper doesn't indicate that it's user-friendly too, so make sure to head over to our coverage linked above and let us know your thoughts!
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