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Microsoft Weekly: Love from Google, crippled SSDs, and a new Dev Channel build

Google loves Windows logo on the left and Snail on SSD on the right

We are the close of yet another week, and it's time to recap everything that went on in the Microsoft-verse. This was an exciting week due to some surprise announcements, Halo Infinite's campaign release, and a significant Windows 11 Dev Channel build. Let's dive into all that and more in our weekly digest for December 4 - December 10.

Google loves Windows

A Google logo on the left and a Windows logo on the right with a heart in the middle

In a surprise announcement, Google took to the stage at The Game Awards to reveal that Google Play games are coming to Windows 10 and Windows 11 next year. The company was keen to emphasize that this is an independent endeavor, and that it did not partner with Microsoft or any other entity in this undertaking.

It is equally interesting to know that given the fact that this feature is coming to Windows 10 as well, we now know that Google won't be utilizing Microsoft's Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA), a technology that is exclusive to Windows 11. The company has touted that its solution will be available sometime in 2022 and will allow users to seamlessly switch between games on different devices. Although the availability of Android apps on Windows via Google Play has not been confirmed as of yet, the chances of that happening have significantly increased in light of the recent announcement too.

We also got to know of Microsoft's failed attempt to bring AAA Xbox games to iPhone as individual apps that could be streamed through Xbox Cloud Gaming. Due to Apple's App Store policies, the company had requested that Microsoft release every game individually as opposed to offering one app acting as a library of the numerous games available for streaming. Based on the email exchanges, it appears that Microsoft did consider conceding to Apple's demands before settling on releasing the capability through the web.

SSD Woes

WD Blue SN550 with snail on top

Over the week, we brought attention to an issue that is causing SSD slowdowns on Windows 11. This was observed in our own testing and reported by others as well. Although Microsoft did say that it addressed these issues in an update, we did not notice significant performance gains on our test configuration.

Performance actually appeared to be a key concern for Microsoft this week. The company released a new tool called Microsoft-Performance-Tools for Linux-Android to measure browser performance across Linux and Android. Through the toolset, you can analyze tracing, record traces, enable programmatic access to them, and even integrate it with Windows Performance Analyzer so that you have a GUI for easier analysis.

In the same vein, it rolled out a new capability called Detached Elements in DevTools with Edge 97, empowering developers to detect memory leaks in real-world applications. This can help debug and investigate performance degradation due to Document Object Model (DOM) leaks.

In fact, Microsoft also announced native support for the OneDrive sync client on Mac and Windows on ARM, which will hopefully result in some performance gains too.

Oh, and remember the Alder Lake DRM bug on Windows 10 and 11? All games have now been patched except Assassin's Creed: Valhalla and Fernbus Simulator.

Some love for Windows 11 too

Windows 11 screenshot from the leaked build and the logo

Despite the upcoming holiday season, it's almost impossible to get by without hearing about Windows 11 during the course of the week. We actually got two builds this week, although only one of them is worth talking about.

Starting with build 22518 for the Windows 11 Dev Channel, we got a whole bunch of features and UI changes. Microsoft is exploring a new entry point for Widgets on the left side of the taskbar rather than the right, there's a new Voice Accessibility capability, and also some changes to the context menu in the File Explorer. The update includes a host of other improvements and bug fixes too, so do check out the complete list here. Interestingly, the build is not available to ARM64 PCs because of a bug.

Microsoft also rolled out Windows 11 build 22518.1012 (KB5009380), but it's just a minor update to test the servicing pipeline in the Dev Channel. It does not bring any new capabilities. That said, the Dev Channel did receive a revamped Notepad that contains rounded UI elements, dark mode, and the Mica material theme.

The Surface Laptop Go received the December firmware update too. It is supposed to bring improved battery life as well, if you're on Windows 11. And if you're a Windows 11 user, you might want to know that third-party tool ThisIsWin11 has been updated to enable users to uninstall broken Windows updates.

Dev Channel

The Visual Studio logo on a purple background

Under the spotlight

Halo Infinite campaign screenshot

Neowin's News Editor Pulasthi Ariyasinghe published his review of the Halo Infinite Campaign and heaped praises on it for offering enjoyable combat, an intriguing storyline, and interesting sandbox element. Do check out his review here.

This is a screenshot of Chorus from Xbox Series X

News Reporter Asher Madan took a look at Deep Silver's Chorus on Xbox Series X, calling it "one of the biggest surprises of 2021". He also praised the dynamic gameplay, mentioning that he is addicted to it. If that sounds interesting, take a gander at his piece here.

This is a screenshot of Serious Sam 4 on Xbox Series X

Unfortunately, Asher didn't have a similarly positive experience with Serious Sam 4 on Xbox Series X, which he calls a poor port. This primarily due to performance issues when a lot of enemies appear on the screen simultaneously, an occurrence that is quite common in the game. Check out more of his thoughts here.

Windows Sandbox running inside Windows 10

Finally, I published a guide about how to enable Windows Sandbox in select configurations of Windows 10 and Windows 11. It is an extremely useful capability that enables you to check out suspicious files in a sandbox environment. If that sounds right up your alley, read Neowin's brief guide here.

Logging off

Apple AirTag attached to multiple accessories and featuring different engravings

Our most interesting story of the week isn't directly related to Microsoft, but is worth knowing about in this ever-changing world of technology. It seems that car thieves are getting more sophisticated and are using Apple AirTags in their heists. The Canadian police has reported a handful of instances where thieves have hid Apple AirTags in some obscure location on the car, and then used it to track their potential victims, allowing them to commit grand theft auto under the most conducive environment. If you're privacy and security-conscious, check out our coverage on the topic here.

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