A name change for Xbox Live, a bunch of new icons in the File Explorer, and even themes on Edge for Linux were all revealed this week. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of March 21 – 27.
New Windows 10 icons
After what feels like an eternity, we’re finally seeing a welcome change in the Windows 10 icon set, by way of the newly released Insider build.
Though Dev channel build 21343 brought with it some other changes – like the ability to use Ctrl+ Left / Right arrows to move between words when renaming, or the renaming of Windows Administrative Tools to Windows Tools – by far the biggest one is the wave of new icons.
New special (and more colorful) folder icons have replaced the Pictures, Documents, Music, Videos, Downloads, and Desktop icons of old, with the drive, This PC, view options, and even Recycle Bin receiving an overdue facelift too.
As this is from the ever-nebulous vNext branch, it’s unclear when exactly the entire refresh would drop, but we could see it as soon as 21H2, which is set to bring a number of visual updates under the Sun Valley codename.
Until then, for folks in the Beta channel there’s the Windows Feature Experience Pack version 120.2212.3530.0, which improves the “reliability of displaying the candidate list for users of the Input Method Editor (IME).” Hardly a pack in the traditional sense, but then again, Microsoft likes to have complicated names for no reason at all.
While we’re on the subject of updates, it’s perhaps a good idea to mention that builds 19042.906 and 19043.906 have been pushed to insiders in the Beta and Release Preview channels. Found under KB5000842, the patches include an impressive array of fixes, from those for IE Mode on high-DPI monitors, to the split layout being unavailable for the touch keyboard in portrait mode, to App-V app opening issues, and much more.
Microsoft did also push updates to non-Insider folks, namely those on version 1909 – found under KB5000850, bumping the build number to 18363.1474 -, as well as those running 1809 in the Enterprise and Education SKUs. More info about the latter can be found under KB5000854, and this set of updates bumps the build number to 17763.1852.
Just to clarify, these contain a lot of the fixes pushed to Insiders as well and are completely optional (meaning you’ll have to actively search for them). If you don’t want to install them right now, they’ll be included in the next Patch Tuesday batch of fixes, which should land on April 13.
As the title of this section gives away, we’ll briefly talk about the themes that are now available across platforms, and more importantly, on Linux.
For one, folks running build 91.0.831.0 and above, there is now simple theme support across all platforms, as well as system theme support on Linux. Also available now for the latter OS is the ability to sign in, which enables the syncing of passwords, history, and extensions, making the browser a lot more usable for those who have multiple devices.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that Microsoft and Google have joined the Compat2021 movement, which sees to rectify some of the complaints coming from developers. Focusing on five major areas (CSS Flexbox, CSS Grid, CSS sticky positioning, the CSS aspect-ration property, and CSS Transforms), the movement seeks to, as the name implies, improve compatibility across the board, so pages display as intended.
The Xbox network
If you own an Xbox, you’ll be familiar with Xbox Live, the service that underpins pretty much every online interaction on the platform. While this has been the name of the service from its inception, the Live branding has pretty much disappeared across other Microsoft products in the years since the original Xbox’s launch. Now, it’s time for it to disappear on console too.
Hinted at by the service agreement updates back in August of last year, Microsoft has finally confirmed that the Xbox Live branding is going away, to be replaced by the more generic Xbox network. Yes, that’s a lowercase n for…reasons?
With this change, the firm is also testing out the removal of the Xbox Live Gold requirement for free-to-play multiplayer, something that’s been the case on the Sony side for a while now. This ties into the fact that Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is indeed set to be free for all, but is also a little interesting in light of the fact that the company tried to double the price of Live Gold for new customers not too long ago.
Until the above does happen though, there are Deals with Gold to browse through, including 75% off DiRT 4, 67% off Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, 75% off Resident Evil 0, and much more. For those of you playing Fallout 76, there’s now a 2021 roadmap, while those in the market for a new controller can look forward to the Electric Volt or Daystrike Camo Special Edition Xbox wireless controllers. The former is set to launch April 27 for $64.99, with the latter launching May 4 at an MSRP of $69.99.
- Teams now has live transcription support for meetings (with speaker attribution), with Teams displays soon getting replaceable backgrounds, with the main app soon gaining capabilities like replying to individual messages, the joining of meetings via code, and new approval templates.
- Word on the web is now able to convert your work into a PowerPoint presentation, with the Outlook app on Windows gaining suggested reply support.
- Microsoft Defender for Endpoint on the Mac now offers better security controls for USB devices.
- Over 370,000 Exchange Server instances have now been patched or mitigated.
- The Journal app from Microsoft now has custom ink color and printing support.
- Financing plans for the HoloLens 2 Dev Edition are now available.
We end of column with a bit of news concerning Discord.
It was revealed near the beginning of the week that chat client Discord was reportedly in final negotiations for a sale. At the time, the deal was reported to be in the $10B range.
Later that same day, a new report surfaced claiming that Microsoft was in exclusive talks to acquire Discord for somewhere north of $10 billion. If you remember, the Redmond giant also tried to acquire TikTok – but failed -, and more recently closed its $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media.
According to the same report above, Microsoft is eager to close the deal by next month. If true, this will most likely see further integration on the Xbox side.
If you remember, back in 2019, Microsoft even offered Xbox Game Pass alongside three months of Discord Nitro and a month of EA Access. The latter, now EA Play, has come to both the PC and Console version of Microsoft’s ‘Netflix for games’, so an even closer integration with Discord post-acquisition isn’t out of the question.
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