We are at the end of the week and it is time yet again to recap all the important happenings that took place during the past few days in the world of Microsoft. This time around, we have news about the GPT-powered version of Bing, items related to upcoming updates to Windows 11, and enhancements to some Microsoft and other third-party apps. Without further ado, let's dive into our weekly digest covering February 5 - 10.
Following the hype from last week as well as several swirling rumors, Microsoft finally confirmed a surprise AI event earlier in the week. During this showcase, it wowed audiences with a new version of Bing powered by OpenAI's technology. As expected, the engine now offers a conversational experience akin to a chatbot, but Microsoft has also revealed plans to integrate the underlying tech directly into its Edge browser so that you can access it at any time without going to Bing.com. Although Microsoft did not live-stream the event, you can watch a recording of it here.
Microsoft didn't just demo the new Bing to a select audience, it also opened a waitlist for people who want to access this experience as soon as possible. Accesses are being allowed on a rolling basis - people are already tricking Bing into revealing interesting tidbits about its development - but the Redmond tech giant noted that it had one million signups within the first 48 hours. The Bing app has been skyrocketing in terms of downloads in the App Store charts as well.
In terms of what's next, Microsoft is reportedly working on giving other firms access to ChatGPT capabilities as a service. It may also be looking to integrate new AI-powered functionalities in Office apps such as Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook from next month. The initiatives do make sense, even Microsoft's co-founder Bill Gates believes that the most important innovations going on right now involve AI in some way.
Windows 11's next "moment"
This week, we got quite a bit of insight into what could be coming next for Windows 11. For starters, we found indications that Microsoft is working on the "Moment 3" update for the OS, which makes sense given that it's expected to become available in May 2023. In fact, development on Moment 4 (Sun Valley 3 / Windows 11 23H2) is seemingly well underway too.
In terms of what's confirmed already, Microsoft has noted that the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT) is being gradually phased out. This retirement will be completed by 2025. Faster Windows updates with 30% smaller downloads are coming soon for managed client devices through the Unified Update Platform (UUP) as well.
Switching gears to Insider Preview releases, servicing pipeline build 25290.1010 (KB50234461) was rolled out to the Dev Channel earlier in the week. This was followed by the release of build 25295 for the same channel with changes to 2FA, a modernized Windows Activation troubleshooter, and bug fixes. Some sleuthing also revealed hidden settings to customize RGB devices and Suggested Actions. The Dev Channel also netted an updated Paint app with a modernized Image Properties dialog box.
Over on the Beta Channel, build 22623.1255 introduced tabbed Notepad and lots of bug fixes. Build 25295 was also made available for Windows Server vNext with a known issue.
A new video with an unscientific experimentation method also surfaced, showing how much external connections Windows 11 makes to transfer data compared to previous versions of the operating system. Regardless, the OS may seem to be growing on some users with Steam's latest hardware survey indicating that Windows 11 is being used by 30% of gamers on the platform.
In terms of improvements to Microsoft's operating systems, a mitigation has been made available for DirectX apps running on Intel hardware and the company has boasted up to 50% performance boosts with the latest Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA) update. Although WSA is officially supported only on Windows 11, a third-party patch has made it possible on Windows 10 too, if you're so inclined. In the same vein, Windows PCs with Secure Boot enabled can finally utilize MemTest86 Plus following a recent update.
Updates for Outlook and other apps
Although this section will cover updates across a wide range of software, let's start with Outlook. The service is getting a couple of updates soon that will make it easier for users to customize their working hours for different days in order to cater to the more flexible hybrid working model. Email senders will also have the option to disable reactions to their emails.
Coming over to Microsoft Edge, it seems like the Redmond tech giant finally has a solution for the browser's oversized menus. The implementation is currently being tested in Edge Canary, check out the details here. Next month, Edge will also adopt Adobe Acrobat PDF engine which should please many users. That said, some Edge users might be up in arms with the browser soon pushing recommended content more aggressively.
Meanwhile, Microsoft PowerToys version 0.67.1 reverts registry changes and fixed FancyZones bugs. PowerPoint has received a couple of accessibility features and the Microsoft MSIX Packaging Tool has netted a major update with bunch of new features. Lastly, version 2.4.30 of Files App is now out with favorites sync, tags widget, and better renaming.
On the gaming front, the UK CMA has provisionally declared that Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard will hurt UK gamers, as was expected. It has outlined some remedies if Microsoft intends to pursue with the merger, and it's clear that the Redmond tech giant intends to do so. Interestingly, Sony is claiming that it is being harassed by Microsoft as it is being asked to hand over documents that should have no bearing on the Activision transaction despite its position as the market leader.
But talking about actual games, Age of Empires IV Season Four is introducing a fantasy biome and Nomad mode, while Minecraft is getting Archeology with its next major update. Similarly, Forspoken is getting a patch on PlayStation 5 and PC soon, it is the only game on the latter platform to support Microsoft's impressive DirectStorage technology.
Finally, you should check out Microsoft's new Stellar Shift Special Edition Xbox Wireless Controller, the latest Deals with Gold, new Xbox Game Pass additions, and this Weekend's PC Game Deals curated personally by our News Editor Pulasthi Ariyasinghe.
- Microsoft-owned GitHub has laid off 10% of its workers and become a remote-only company, more layoffs have struck other Microsoft divisions too
Microsoft and American Express have teamed up to make filling out expense reports easier
Microsoft has updated its .NET language strategy
Under the spotlight
Neowin forum supervisor and member Aryeh Goretsky authored a detailed editorial emphasizing the importance of downloading software from sources that you trust. The lengthy piece is based on his experience in the cybersecurity industry and is definitely worth a read.
Meanwhile, News Reporter Taras Buria published a listicle about the top 10 improvements people want in File Explorer.
Next, we have an extensive review from Neowin co-founder Steven Parker for the noblechairs LEGEND Black Edition. If you're in the market for a new desk chair, you should definitely read this piece.
We also published a piece from News Reporter Steve Bennett who pondered if we are finally in the age of science fiction novels becoming a reality thanks to technologies like ChatGPT.
Finally, we have our Tech Tip Tuesday article from forum member Adam Bottjen. This time, he has explained the process to get a range of different devices to forget a Wi-Fi network.
Our most interesting news item of the week relates to a modified version of Windows 11 (Tiny11) running on a PC with 196MB of RAM. This is interesting because the official requirements for Windows 11 stand at 4GB of RAM. The need for this was clearly visible in the Tiny11 demo where booting the operating system took more than 30 minutes (and several BSODs), with 15 minutes more to open Task Manager. That said, it was still functional, check out the details here.
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