In the last seven days, Microsoft unveiled its latest Surface Laptop (and a number of other peripherals), acquired Nuance Communications for a cool $19.7 billion, and even pushed out a number of updates for Windows and first-party games. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of April 11 - 17.
New Surface devices
Swapping out the Cobalt Blue variant for an Ice Blue color, the Laptop 4 now also includes AMD CPUs for both its 13.5 and 15-inch models (namely the Ryzen 4000 generation), as well as 11th-gen Intel Core CPUs. The device starts at $999, and has begun shipping since April 15, and in case you want to check out the full range of options available, have a look here.
The company also unveiled a number of peripherals, including the Surface Headphones 2+ for business (priced at $299 and available later this month), and the Modern USB Headset and Modern Wireless Headset, priced at $49.99 and $99.99 – arriving in June. Also arriving in June are the Modern USB-C Speaker ($99.99) and the Modern Webcam, the latter of which supports 1080p 30FPS video output, has a 78-degree FOV, and is priced at $69.99.
Last but not least, the Surface Duo was also mentioned, with Microsoft confirming that it’s headed for more European markets. Specifically, it’ll be available in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, though only for business and education customers.
April Patch Tuesday
Since this week was the second Tuesday of the month, Microsoft pushed out its by now traditional set of Patch Tuesday updates. If you’re on Windows 10, these are:
- May 2020 Update / October 2020 Update (2004, 20H2): KB5001330, builds 19041.928 / 19042.928 – contains updates that improve basic Windows operation secuirity, as well as enhance security when using input devices like mice, keyboards, or pens.
- November 2019 Update (1909): KB5001337, build 18363.1500 – changelog is identical to the version above.
- October 2018 Update (1809): KB5001342, build 17763.1879 – supported for Enterprise, Education SKUs.
- April 2018 Update (1803): KB5001339, build 17134.2145 – supported for Enterprise, Education SKUs.
- Anniversary Update (1607): KB5001347, build 14393.4350 – supported in the Long-Term Servicing Channel.
- Windows 10 RTM (1507): KB5001340, build 10240.18906 - supported in the Long-Term Servicing Channel.
Windows 8.1 and 7 aren’t forgotten either, with the former still in extended support until 2023, and the latter being kept alive in the business environment via Extended Security Updates. As such, here’s what folks running those operating systems need to be on the lookout for:
- Windows 8.1: KB5001382, KB5001393 (security-only) – this monthly rollup includes some time zone and security enhancements, while still containing the now traditional Cluster Shared Volume error „STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)” in terms of known issues.
- Windows 7: KB5001335, KB5001392 (security-only) – contains similar time zone and security enhancements to Windows 8.1, and has the identical known issue.
Naturally, beyond the regular updates, Insiders in the Dev channel also got a new build to play with, namely 21359. Beyond its laundry list of fixes, it introduces a brand new option in the Power menu, which allows the system to restart your apps after signing in. Essentially, this works in a similar way to the ability to recover the last session in browsers, only this one applies to open apps at the time of restarting the system.
For fans of Timeline - the feature in Windows 10 that allows you to view your activity history (more or less a giant “recent files” screen -, there is some bad news. While the capability will remain functional for local activity, cross-device syncing is being removed.
Finally, in case the rumored Sun Valley UI refresh has piqued your interest, check out this concept which brings File Explorer a little more in-line with the Redmond giant’s vision. Sure, Windows 10 may never look like this, but it’s a fun little bit of speculation if you will, at least until Sun Valley arrives via 21H2 later in the year (assuming there’s no delays).
This week was all about game updates on the Microsoft side.
On one hand, World Update IV dropped for Flight Simulator, featuring enhancements to the scenery in Western Europe. Included in the update are enhancements to regions in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, covering cities, airports, landmarks, and much more.
Sea of Thieves players were also greeted by the start of Season Two, adding Trade Routes, the ability to purchase resources directly from outposts, the addition of 100 more unlockable items to the free battle pass, and so much more.
For folks eagerly awaiting the Caves & Cliffs update that’s coming to Minecraft, there’s some interesting news. Mojang Studios has decided to split the update in two, with the mobs, items, and blocks arriving in the summer (the original target of the bigger update), and the world generation upgrades landing during the holiday season.
Those who enjoyed InXile’s latest release, Wasteland 3, will be happy to hear that the game is in fact getting its first expansion, The Battle of Steeltown. Adding a new location, new mechanics, more enemies, weapons, armor, combat and gear scaling and more, the expansion drops June 3 across Steam, GOG, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and (now) current-gen consoles for $13.99. Game Pass subscribers get at 10% discount when purchasing the expansion.
And while we’re on the subject of Game Pass and deals, you are now able to download Game Pass games using Amazon Alexa, while the ever-present Deals with Gold are yet again out in full force with The Division, ABZU, Apex Legends, Battlefield 1, and more receiving respectable discounts.
Last, but most certainly not least, if you’re an Xbox Live Gold subscriber, Uprising and Truck Racing Championship are now free to claim, with Vikings: Wolves of Midgard still being available to grab as well, at least until April 30.
- Edge is set to get a new Workspaces feature, now available in the Canary channel. Additionally, Edge Dev build 91.0.852.0 is now out, adding Password Monitor for everybody, while the stable channel has gotten version 90, and the Canary variant on Android has received an update too.
- Chat bubble support is planned for Teams, as is support for electronically-signed approvals.
- All major Microsoft services will exclusively use SHA-2 starting next month.
- PowerToys pre-release v0.36 is now out, with a video conference mute tool.
- The Remote Desktop app has been updated with support for Apple Silicon devices.
We end the column with some Exchange, acquisition, and podcast news.
We’ll begin with Exchange, as Microsoft has released yet another set of security updates for the ever-unfolding Exchange Server vulnerabilities. This latest round of patches comes as a result of an NSA report and, for those not aware, is meant to further protect against the state-sponsored group attacks on on-prem Exchange Server instances, which started surfacing last month.
Moving on to acquisition news, Microsoft was rumored to be in talks with Nuance Communications, the company behind the underlying technology for Apple’s Siri digital assistant for a buyout. The firm's speech recognition system, Dragon, is used in a number of fields including healthcare, legal, law enforcement, and financial services.
While the initial rumor pinned the sum of the buyout at $16 billion, the Redmond giant came out not long after to confirm that it was indeed acquiring Nuance, but for $19.7 billion. This is because it’s also taking on the firm’s debt.
Last but not least, feel free to check out the latest episode of the Neowin Podcast, in which Rich and Joao discuss the shuttering of LG’s phone business, what’s next for Windows 10, and indeed what’s next for Rich Woods, as he will be leaving Neowin. You can check out the podcast at this link.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
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