It's the end of yet another week and it's time again to recap all the important events that transpired in the Microsoft-verse during the past few days. This time, we have news items related to Windows features like Taskbar and LAPS, rumors about Samsung ditching Google as the default search engine, and lots of app updates. Without further ado, let's dive into the latest weekly digest covering April 16 - April 21!
Windows Taskbar and LAPS
You might recall that earlier this month, Microsoft announced that Local Administrator Password Solution (LAPS) is now a built-in feature in Windows through the latest Patch Tuesday update. However, users have discovered a few bugs that occur when both versions of LAPS (legacy and Patch Tuesday) are installed on the machine. The company has detailed some workarounds but it's unclear when a more permanent fix will be available. For now though, it appears that Microsoft has fixed a Local Security Authority (LSA) protection bug recently introduced in Windows 11. In related news, patches have also been rolled out for MMIO Stale Data Vulnerabilities in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016.
In terms of Insider builds and upcoming features, Microsoft is seemingly looking to restore a popular Taskbar feature to Windows 11, in the form of the "Never combine" option. This is present in the latest Dev Channel build 23440 (which also brings arguably better Start menu recommendations) but it is hidden for now without a way to enable it. Instead, if you're on Dev Channel build 23435, you can instead try and enable the hidden smart window snapping feature or the new OOBE customization options if you're on Canary build 25336.
That's not all when it comes to Insider builds though. Canary build 25346 has added Content Adaptive Brightness Control (CABC) features while Beta Build 22624.1616 (KB5025308) has brought improvements to Windows Update and File Explorer. Additionally, Windows Server vNext build 25346 brought with it a couple of known issues.
Moreover, you should also check out the recently released Microsoft utility called Update Health Tools for Windows 10 and Windows 11. It is delivered via KB4023057 and is intended to improve the Windows update experience. However, if you like to try out third-party utilities too, give the latest version of DisplayFusion a go, it now supports Windows 11 but has lost support for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1.
Rumors about Samsung ditching Google
A rather surprising rumor emerged this week that Samsung is considering dumping Google Search as the default search engine on its phones in favor of Microsoft's AI-powered Bing. While this report caused a lot of disturbance in the world of tech especially considering that the possibility of this happening has caused "panic" inside Google, another report later debunked this rumor. It claimed that ditching Google Search is not even an option for Samsung because in most major markets such as the U.S., OEMs that want Google Play Store installed on their devices must also set up Google Search as the default search engine. Either way, the real situation is still unclear and none of the parties mentioned have commented on the veracity of the rumors.
But talking about companies parting ways with one another, Microsoft has decided to stop using Twitter as an advertising platform, likely because of the expensive API costs mandated by Twitter CEO Elon Musk. In true chaotic Musk fashion and obviously irked by Microsoft's move, the executive has threatened the Redmond tech firm with a lawsuit for illegally using Twitter data to train its AI models, without evidence, of course.
Speaking of AI models, Bing Chat now has LaTeX support for better formatting of mathematical formulas while SwiftKey for both Android and iOS have gained the ability to get rid of the Bing button - though, for some reason, Microsoft has also deleted the support forum for the app itself. The company is also looking to add Copilot generative AI capabilities to Viva to boost employee productivity.
Microsoft is supposedly going all in on the hardware side of AI too. It's reportedly building its own AI chip with the codename "Athena" and the next Surface PCs will host Neural Processing Unit (NPUs) inside too. Some rumors about the upcoming Surface devices have started swirling too, and if that interests you, check them out in detail here.
There were several app updates sprinkled throughout the week for Microsoft services. Let's start with Microsoft Edge. The company's premier browser received a new version 114 Dev build that added improvements for Workspaces and some minor improvements on Android. Additionally, users have discovered that Microsoft is finally adding AVIF support to Edge soon, which means that the browser will be following in the footsteps of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. The feature can currently be enabled through a flag in Edge Canary.
Several Microsoft 365 apps and services received updates too. OneNote Beta has netted the scratch-out to erase gesture in Windows 11, Outlook users can now send longer links in emails, and better compatibility with Kindle devices in Microsoft Word.
There were a few updates for other services too. Microsoft Translator bagged support for the Lower Sorbian language. Interestingly, this language isn't even supported by Google Translate and is considered highly endangered with less than 7,000 speakers globally. Lastly, Microsoft has also launched Babylon.js 6.0, adding Havok physics for web browser-based graphics.
Microsoft had a bit of a turbulent week in the gaming space this week. It turns out that Halo Infinite's former creative director Joseph Staten, who just left Microsoft, actually departed his position to lead Netflix' AAA gaming initiative. It also seems like another Halo director Frank O' Connor has jumped ship too.
There is still good news for the Xbox community though. South Africa has approved Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard and we have also learned that the studio's highly anticipated title Diablo IV will be run at 60fps on both the Xbox Series X and S. And while Xbox gamers have lost the ability to share longer video uploads to Twitter, the Xbox App for Insiders on Windows does bring better accessibility and improvements to collections (there are other bugfixes for various rings too). Earlier, the company also celebrated Earth Day with new sustainability projects.
Moreover, PC gamers will be pleased to know that Microsoft has brought with it performance boosts across a range of hardware with DirectStorage 1.2. Another intriguing revelation also indicates that Microsoft is working on a "franchise sequel" that could take a decade of development, it's highly likely that the redacted title being referenced here is The Elder Scrolls VI, which is in very early stages of development currently.
Meanwhile, those following our deals and services updates should know that you can grab lots of Xbox titles for up to 90% off in the ongoing Deals with Gold and Spotlight Sale. Xbox Free Play Days is hosting Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed and Roguebook while Xbox Insiders can try out Crash Team Rumble closed beta this weekend. Finally, a handful of games including Redfall are headed to Xbox Game Pass but if you're a PC purist, check out this Weekend's PC Game Deals curated by our News Editor Pulasthi Ariyasinghe instead.
- Microsoft Security now uses weather terms for threat actor names
- The infamous Windows 98 "Blue Screen of Death" event happened 25 years ago today
- Microsoft is promoting Windows 11 PCs that use sustainable materials
- Microsoft updates Surface Go 2 with Windows 11 Autopilot support
- Microsoft fixes Surface Pro 8 display flickering issue, improves Windows Hello, more
Under the spotlight
News Reporter John Callaham posted a couple of pieces that took a trip down memory lane. The first is about Microsoft's first PC hardware product, the Z80 SoftCard, released in 1980. The Apple II PC add-on hardware was a commercial success and was generating half of Microsoft's total annual revenue at one point.
John's second piece was published on U.S. Tax Day and took a look back at Tax Avoiders, a 1982 title for the Atari 2600.
Moreover, John also penned a piece on his top 10 anticipated Xbox games of this year, check out his listicle here!
Finally, forum member Adam Bottjen published a guide providing tips about how to give your PC enough time to get ready after a boot-up, which is good to know, especially for those who are still rocking clunky hard disk drives (HDDs).
Our most interesting news item of the week is undoubtedly about an upcoming first-person-shooter, Unrecord, that can be played from the viewpoint of a body cam. The reason it's making headlines is that it appears to be hyper-realistic with very realistic movements and graphics. In fact, it was so realistic that many labeled its gameplay video as fake and dismissed it. That is, until a developer posted a video of the game running in Unreal Engine with "no clip" mode enabled. Needless to say, hype for the title is at an all-time high but there is also an ongoing argument raging online claiming that it's not a good idea to have younger audiences being exposed to ultra-realistic violent video games.
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