An enhanced version of ESO for next-gen (now current-gen) consoles, a smattering of optional Windows updates, and some new features for Teams all showed up in the news this week. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of March 28 – April 3.
ESO enhanced on console
We begin the column with some gaming news, as ZeniMax Online has announced that a next-gen variant of Elder Scrolls Online is headed for the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles on June 8, 2021. This is a mere week after the MMORPG is set to get its new chapter dubbed Blackwood.
The update will allow folks to run the game at 60FPS, with increased draw distance, unlocked textures, updated aliasing, as well as improved reflections, ambient occlusion and Screen Space Global Illumination, shadows, depth of field, and perhaps most importantly, loading times.
There’s still quite a bit of time to wait until then, so in the meantime you can claim Vikings: Wolves of Midgard and Dark Void right now for free, if you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription, with Truck Racing Championship and Hard Corps: Uprising landing later in the month as part of the April wave of Games with Gold.
Speaking of Gold, there are also Deals with Gold to peruse, featuring Panzer Dragoon: Remake, Watch Dogs: Legion, Call of Cthulhu, Mars: War Logs, and much more.
Lastly, if you have a set of backwards compatible games, you can rejoice knowing that a number of them have now gained cloud play support. Among supported titles there’s Fable II, Fallout: New Vegas, Perfect Dark, Gears of War 2, and a bunch of others. For those not aware, cloud play (via xCloud) allows you to play supported games in your library on your mobile device via the use of the company’s cloud infrastructure. Though currently supported on Android devices only, the capability will be coming to iOS devices and Windows PCs sometime in the future.
Continuing its tradition of releasing optional updates in the non-Patch Tuesday weeks, Microsoft has pushed out builds 19041.906 and 19042.906 for the May 2020 Update (v2004) and October 2020 Update (v20H2), found under KB5000842.
These fix a number of issues around HDR, high-DPI, and video playback, as well as some Touch Keyboard, OneDrive sync, and Family Safety bugs. Keep in mind that these are mere highlights of the changelog – which is a lot longer -, and that the updates are optional. That said, if you don’t update now, they will be rolled into this month’s Patch Tuesday updates, set to drop on April 13.
And since we mentioned 20H2, nearly 30% of Windows 10 PCs are now running this version. This variant is only eclipsed by its predecessor released the same year, namely the May 2020 Update, which commands a 42.1% market share in this context.
New Teams features
As the section header may indicate, we’ll start with a number of Teams features that have both been added in the past couple of months, as well as those that will soon hit the ‘chat-based workspace’ solution from Microsoft.
For one, there’s live transcription with speaker attribution, Intelligent Speakers – allowing folks to know who’s speaking in the same physical space -, meeting recap, with folks on mobile devices receiving visibility improvements – allowing you to see up to 20 participants on phones and 30 on tablets -, and much more. This is just a small selection of the features added in February and March.
It's worth highlighting the fact that there are more enhancements coming as well, like extended management support for Breakout Rooms – a feature introduced last year -, as well as pre-meeting Breakout Room creation, and bandwidth limiting improvements. The latter two should start rolling out in May, with the former starting its rollout in June.
On the subject of new features, there will soon be Immersive Reader support for the web-based versions of PowerPoint, SharePoint, and OneDrive. The former two will see this feature start its rollout in April, while OneDrive is set to have a longer rollout spanning April and May. If you make use of the MakeCode Arcade tutorials, you can access the feature now.
In less stellar news though, Microsoft has now killed support for Cortana on iOS and Android. Support for the assistant on these platforms actually ended on January 31, 2021 in all territories except the U.S. Now, the support page has been updated to the reflect the fact that indeed, Cortana is now dead on mobile devices.
- Project Reunion 0.5 is now out with WinUI 3 and WebView 2 support.
- Microsoft has secured yet another HoloLens contract with the U.S. military.
- PowerToys 0.35 is now out, though folks looking for the video conference mute tool need to wait a little longer.
- Microsoft may have sent you Store credit to spend during the Spring Sale.
- Edge and Chrome PWAs are set to soon look more like native apps.
- Edge Dev build 91.0.838.3 now has Microsoft Account support by default on Linux.
We end things on a bit of a sour note, at least for Microsoft’s cloud services.
On April 2, Microsoft suffered a pretty serious service outage, which impacted its Azure network infrastructure, and as a result Xbox Live, Bing, Outlook, Skype, Teams, SharePoint, and much more.
The Redmond giant specified that the outage was caused by a DNS issue, which was identified at 9:30PM UTC. By 10:36PM UTC, traffic had been rerouted to make use of the firm’s resilient DNS capabilities, which saw an improvement in service availability.
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