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Microsoft Weekly: Higher revenue, Windows queue, gaming's green hue

The seven days that just flew by were a whirlwind of gaming news, Windows highs and lows, plus some impressive performance in the finance department from the Redmond giant. All that and much more right below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of July 14-20.

Higher revenue

As was expected, we got to see the results for the fourth quarter of Microsoft’s FY18. The trend was not only positive, but in some sectors the growth was downright spectacular.

We should probably start with the bigger number and whittle it down to individual categories. In Q4 FY18, the company made $30.085 billion in revenue, a 17% increase over Q4 FY17’s $25.605B. This growth also translates into Microsoft bringing in more than $100 billion in revenue for the past year, a first in its history.

In terms of individual categories, the company has three major “buckets” inside which it groups its products. One is Productivity and Business Processes which made $9.7B (up 13%), followed by Intelligent Cloud which raked in $9.6B (up 23%), and More Personal Computing with its $10.8B (an increase of 17%).

LinkedIn lost the least amount of money yet at $182 million, and excluding amortization of intangible assets, made $196 million. This is a revenue increase of 37%.

In terms of the products that are part of Productivity and Business Processes, there was a 19% decline in non-cloud Office commercial products, balanced out by Office 365’s 29% seat growth, as well as Dynamics 365’s impressive 61% increase in revenue. Dynamics products and services themselves grew by 11%, translating into a 38% growth of Office commercial as a whole. Non-business users of Office 365 have now grown to 31.4 million, yielding an 8% revenue growth for Office products and cloud services.

Intelligent Cloud, the fastest growing “bucket” in Microsoft’s lineup saw an 8% increase in Server products, 55% increase in the Enterprise Mobility install base (now at 82 million), while server products and cloud services as a whole increased by 26%. However, perhaps the most interesting entry in the lineup was Redmond’s cloud platform. Azure itself grew by a rather impressive 89%.

Last but not least, we arrive at More Personal Computing, which is comprised of Windows, Surface, gaming, search, and a few more of the company’s mostly consumer-facing products. Starting with Windows, OEM Pro revenue grew by 14%, which balances out the 3% decline in non-Pro revenue. In terms of Windows commercial products and cloud services, that saw a revenue increase of 23%.

The revenue for the Surface line itself grew by a hefty 25%, and even search saw a 17% revenue bump (excluding acquisition costs).

However, the crowning achievement of this category would have to the gaming division, whose revenue grew by 39% Year-over-Year, with Xbox services revenue seeing an increase of 36%. The latter translates into Xbox yearly revenue passing the $10B mark for the first time in its history. This is likely also driven by the 8% increase in the number of Xbox Live active members across all platforms, now sitting at 57 million in total.

Windows queue

The fact that Windows gets updates pretty much weekly, especially in the Insider Program, is not that big of surprise. This week’s proceedings were similar, but with a twist.

Since the Insiders were mentioned, it’s worth noting that no Fast ring build has appeared this week, the absence of which has been attributed to a blocking bug. In related news, Insider Preview ISOs have also been removed from the dedicated portal. It’s interesting in terms of timing, because Fast ring builds have moved from RS_PRERELEASE to RS5_RELEASE. This change in development branch means no new features will be added, the team instead focusing on fixing bugs. Redstone 5 should be finalized in September, for an October general availability.

That’s not to say that other Insiders didn’t get anything to play with. Windows Server 2019 build 17713 was pushed out – sadly lacking any new features -, and Windows Admin Center Preview 1807 arrived too. The latter has added a number of new things like multi-select on the VM inventory page, the ability to add, edit, or remove shares from the Files tool, Azure Update Management integration in the Updates tool, and much more.

On the subject of forthcoming news, we have Windows 10 and Server 2019 which are set to deliver support for leap seconds. Also in the future, this time the short term, is the deprecation of Skype version 7, which will stop working on September 1. This is Microsoft’s effort to move users to the redesigned version 8, which is set to get native call recording sometime this summer.

As far as other apps are concerned, Insiders were able to try out an update for Screen Sketch – Snipping Tool’s replacement – which now delivers much sharper screenshots. Then, for Insiders and regular users alike, OneNote for Windows 10 got a number of new features like the ability to pin a new page to the Start menu, an option for a transparent tile, enhanced pasting options, and the new ribbon. Also new is the design of the Store app, which now has a more Fluent Design look to it, taking advantage of depth elements, shadows, and an improved element hierarchy.

All of this brings us to the regular version of Windows 10 – which is installed on around 700 million active devices – and its latest round of updates:

  • April 2018 Update (1803): KB4345421, build 17134.167 – Addresses an issue with network monitoring workloads which would receive an 0xD1 Stop error. Also fixes a DHCP Failover server issue which would result in loss of connectivity, a SQL Server service restart bug, and the bug which resulted in an administrator not being able to fully stop or restart the World Wide Web Publishing Service (W3SVC). No known issues.
  • Fall Creators Update (1709): KB4345420, build 16299.550 – contains the same fixes as above, and the same two known issues relating to localized systems displaying certain text strings in English, rather than the localized language.
  • Creators Update (1703): KB4345419, build 15063.1208 – same fixes as above except the DHCP Server failover one, and no known issues.

Gaming’s green hue

This particular week has been rather interesting in terms of gaming news on the Xbox, from updates to games, sales, and forthcoming hardware bundles.

First off is the announcement of new Xbox hardware at gamescom on August 21. After a bunch of speculation about anything from a new Kinect, to maybe an Elite Controller, Microsoft clarified that it meant new bundles. Until then though, at San Diego Comic-Con this week you’ll be able to pick up some exclusive Xbox merchandise and watch two live sessions: one for PUBG, the other for Sea of Thieves.

And if games, not merchandise, are what you’re interested in, the Ultimate Game Sale is now in full swing. Until July 30 you’ll be able to browse discounts for more than 700 titles up to 65% off, as well as a few PC and accessories deals too. Furthermore, you can get three months of either Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass for just $10.

Moving on to games you either have or can try, there’s Vigor, a survival game from the same developers as DayZ, which you can now try out if you’re an Xbox Insider. You don’t however need to go anywhere near the Insider Program to take advantage of Death Squared (Xbox One) and Splinter Cell: Conviction (Xbox One, Xbox 360), both of which are free to claim for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. And if you don’t have either of those, but own an Xbox One, you can get R.U.S.E. and Dante’s Inferno, a pair of games which made its way to the Backward Compatibility list this week.

Rounding off this section is the cartoony piracy simulator, Sea of Thieves. There’s the 1.1.7 update full of appearance and gameplay tweaks, from certain textures being fixed, to Bounty Quests, fixed animations, messages in bottles no longer appearing on top of one another, and more. Furthermore, Merry Merrick from the Hungering Deep update has left a few more lore books for players to discover, and the pennant flags on vessels no longer change when pirates pull up a flag on the ship’s main mast. This is likely related to the crew alliance mechanic in Cursed Sails, a major content update headed for the game on July 31, the trailer for which you can watch here.

The Fast ring

Hot corner

Hot corner is a section of The Fast Ring dedicated to highlighting five Microsoft-related stories that haven’t been covered over here, but might be of interest.

Logging off

We’re rounding off this column with a brand new bounty program that Microsoft announced this week.

Simply called the Identity Bounty Program, which seeks to reward those who find flaws in the software giant’s “identity services”. Ranging from login into services like Azure, Office, formerly Windows Live services (account.live.com, login.live.com, etc) as well as the Microsoft Authenticator on iOS and Android, the reward is between $500 and $100,000.

Something to note here is that the exploit must be a new and unreported flaw, disclosed privately to the company, and the payout will depend on the severity of the security issue, the quality of the report, as well as the impact of the vulnerability. Flaws which require more significant user interaction will be awarded less, and if the same issue is discovered by multiple parties, only the first submission gets the payout. Furthermore, for the mobile apps, the vulnerability needs to be reproduced on the latest version of both the OS and the app to be considered valid.

Missed any of the previous columns? Don’t worry, you can find them all here.

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