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Microsoft Weekly: Windows 11 quality, canceled Surface Duo 2, and Office macros

A Microsoft Weekly image with a Windows 11 logo with a waveform running in on the left and a crossed

It's the close of yet another week, and as usual, this means that it's time to recap everything important that happened in the Microsoft-verse within the past few days. This time, we have news related to Windows 11 (obviously), a canceled Surface Duo 2 variant, and some Microsoft 365 and Office apps. Let's dive into our digest for July 16 - July 22.

Windows 11 quality

Windows 11 promo

This week, Windows 11 Insiders in the Dev Channel received build 25163. This adds a Taskbar Overflow for those who have a lot of pinned and open apps on their Taskbar, as well as an improved nearby sharing experience. There were lots of other fixes for File Explorer, Taskbar, and the Settings app along with a significant list of known issues too so do read through them here before you decide to pull the trigger on the update.

Interestingly, it also seems that Microsoft is lowering the Windows 11 startup sound quality. Some eagle-eyed people have noticed that the bit rate in Windows 11 version 22H2 RTM build 22621 is 1536kbps, which is noticeably lower than the 2304kbps bit rate in last year's build 22463. Of course, whether this leads to a perceptible difference in real-world experiences is a different story altogether.

Microsoft rolled out builds 22621.436 and 22622.436 to the Beta Channel too. The main difference between the two builds is that the latter has new features on by default while the other has them off. The same improved nearby sharing experience present in the latest Dev Channel build as well as some fixes are now present for the Beta Channel too. Microsoft has also requested people who install the build to join its latest Bug Bash.

And while this is not exactly new, a senior Microsoft security executive highlighted this week that Windows 11 version 22H2 comes with brute-force attack protections enabled by default. Although these mechanisms were in place in previous versions of Windows too, they were disabled by default.

There are a few other Windows client updates to talk about too. The Dev Channel received build 25163.1010 (KB5016904), but this was just to test the servicing pipeline. There were some non-security updates for Windows 11 in the form of KB5015882 (build 22000.829) too. It introduced improvements to IOPS performance, fix for a File Explorer bug, a new option to update Windows 11 at the startup, and lots more. And Windows 10 Release Preview netted build 19044.1862 (KB5015878) with improvements to IOPS performance, better reliability in push-button reset after an OS upgrade, and more. Meanwhile, if you're considering upgrading to Windows 11 or have just upgraded to it and feel a bit lost, Microsoft has a bunch of new introductory videos to familiarize you with its latest OS.

On the Windows Server side of things, Microsoft pushed out a reminder that version 20H2 is reaching end of life in the next couple of weeks. Besides this, the company is also about to retire the Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) and has encouraged customers to move to Azure Stack HCI or Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC).

And if you're running a supported version of Windows Server 2022, you might want to install the July 2022 cumulative update right away. Build 20348.859 (KB5015879) is a C release with boosts for IOPS and fixes for a bug which causes Windows to freeze due to Defender.

Canceled Surface Duo 2

cancelled mid-range Surface Duo

Fans of the Surface Duo series of products are in for some heartbreak as it appears that Microsoft may have canned a mid-range version of the Surface Duo 2. This "lite" product was codenamed "Cronos" and was originally scheduled to release later this year. It has a full plastic exterior with a rounded matte finish, a smaller camera bump, and an "upper mid-range" Snapdragon chipset. It seems that Microsoft was ready to cut a lot of corners to bring the price of the device down, but it's unclear why the hardware eventually ended up getting canceled. That said, the silver lining from this news is that the budget category of consumers is still something that Microsoft may consider targeting in the future, specifically when it comes to the Duo lineup.

Talking about hardware, the Surface Headphones 2+ are soon getting Teams certification over native Bluetooth without requiring dongles. The update is scheduled to arrive on July 28 and would make the Surface Headphones 2+ the first Bluetooth device to receive such a certification.

Coming over to hardware hosted on the cloud, Microsoft has announced a range of new features for Windows 365, a service that allows businesses to securely stream the full Windows experience as the OS is hosted on the Microsoft Cloud. Upcoming features include Citrix HDX Plus add-on, a Government edition of Windows 365, better monitoring and analytics, and a more simplified sign-up experience for Windows 365 Business. Check out all the details here.

Macros in Office

Microsoft Office logo full color on yellow background

Earlier this month, Microsoft surprised its customers as well as the cybersecurity community by rolling back its decision to block internet macros by default in Office applications. This week, it once again reversed its decision and stated that it will start blocking macros again from July 27. What's different this time, you ask? This time, Microsoft has prepared some detailed documentation for customers looking for more information about blocked macros.

Talking about Office applications, PowerPoint for iPad and iOS is getting text highlighting capabilities after tons of user requests. And if you're an active Teams users, Microsoft is working on Excel Live for Teams, which will enable you to collaborate in real-time on a shared Excel file while sharing your screen with Teams meeting attendees. But if you still use Skype for some reason, you'll want to know that an Insider update packs a new call screen and fixes for some older Windows versions.

Meanwhile, Edge users received a new version 105 build in the Dev channel. It has a new tooltip, notifications, and better UX, among tons of other bug fixes. Microsoft has also announced a new "DevTools Command Palette" in Edge Canary, which should give you quick access to some common functionalities using textual commands.

Microsoft Store developers and consumers will also be pleased to know that commercial open-source apps are officially allowed on the storefront, and that the Microsoft Store now has better price tags, and improved discoverability for game editions.

Git gud

Logos of Xbox and Discord

We will kick off our gaming section by talking about new arrivals for Xbox Game Pass, including As Dusk Falls, Inside, Watch Dogs 2, and MotoGP 22, among others. That said, if you'd rather pay to own games rather than paying for a subscription service, you'll want to take a gander at the Xbox Ultimate Game Sale, headlined by Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, and other heavy-hitting franchises.

People who heavily participate in multiplayer gaming should also know that Discord Voice chat is now available for select Xbox Insiders. Microsoft will make it available to more Insiders within the next few weeks, followed by general availability. Xbox Alpha Insiders have a separate OS update too. It features new controller firmware and a couple of bug fixes, but the list of known issues is on the longer side as well.

And as always, for all you PC purists out there, our News Editor Pulasthi Ariyasinghe has compiled a list of game deals across a variety of storefronts so don't forget to check this article out if you're on the lookout for games on the cheap!

Dev Channel

A clipart of a person browsing a laptop on a desk with a person standing behind him and a Microsoft

Under the spotlight

Tech Tip Apple Pay

In his ongoing Tech Tip Tuesday series, forum member Adam Bottjen - better known as "Warwagon" - published a guide about how you can quickly open Apple Pay on your iPhone. If you regularly use Apple Pay, you should probably give the brief guide a look.

Image showing hardware monitoring setup on Windows 11

Meanwhile, News Reporter Anmol Mehrotra wrote a very comprehensive guide about how you can set up a small secondary display connected to your PC to monitor hardware vitals. It's a pretty interesting read, even if this is not a use-case relevant to you.

Logging off

The killer robot from Terminator

Our most unique news item of the week relates to Google firing the senior engineer who had claimed last month that the company's AI, LaMDA, has become sentient. This allegation was based on some interviews that the engineer conducted with LaMDA. Google has found the engineer, Blake Lemoine's claims to be "wholly unfounded" and noted that it's "regrettable that despite lengthy engagement on this topic, Blake still chose to persistently violate clear employment and data security policies that include the need to safeguard product information." According to the latest reports, Lemoine is seeking legal counsel, but it's unclear if he'll take the matter further or just cut his losses.

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Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.

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