It's the end of yet another week as well as the start of the new month, which means that it is time to discuss all the important things that happened in the Microsoft-verse in the past few days. This time around, we have news items related to Windows 12, some potential upcoming Windows 11 features, and support for Windows 7 in a browser. For further details, dive into our weekly digest for March 26 - March 31 below!
Windows 12 rumors
Rumors about Microsoft's next operating system, "Windows 12", surfaced multiple times this week. First, we learned of some purported requirements for the OS, which include the continuation of TPM 2.0, but increase the RAM requirement to 8GB. Additionally, Microsoft may decide to ditch older CPUs once again, similar to what it did with Windows 11. Of course, none of this has been confirmed yet so lay down your pitchforks for now.
Next, we got some more confirmation that Microsoft did accidentally reveal a Windows 12 prototype a few months ago. Notable changes include a floating Taskbar and a notification area on the top rather than the bottom. Microsoft's recent Insider builds have also included strings to hide certain elements of the system tray and the Taskbar, which could be intended for Windows 12.
Finally, a report claiming that Microsoft is building a more customizable and modular variant of Windows emerged. The project reportedly has the codename "CorePC" and is supposedly similar to iOS and Android in the sense that it will have read-only partitions. This should allow the CorePC OS to be more secure and update faster. CorePC may be a flavor of Windows 12.
That said, it is important to understand that all of these speculations are just rumors for now. Even if they are true, the next-generation operating system isn't expected until late 2024.
Windows 11 secrets
Returning to the present, we had some interesting news stories about Windows 11 (now on 20% of PCs) too. It seems that Windows 11 may soon let you move Widgets to the right on the Taskbar. This makes it more Windows 10-like and is obviously just a personalization preference. These changes are present in the Canary build 25324 and can be enabled using a third-party utility but note that the implementation is a bit buggy for now.
The Redmond tech firm is seemingly experimenting with redesigned and improved Windows Widgets too. This comes in the form of a larger 3-column canvas with dedicated sections for widgets and My feed. These changes are present in the aforementioned Canary build too and can be force-enabled by following the process outlined here.
There are some other capabilities being planned too. Windows 11 may soon let you disable annoying account-related notifications on the Start menu in a move that should please many consumers. The option is present in Dev Channel build 23419 and can be force-enabled by anyone too. And while it's not strictly related to Windows 11, Microsoft may finally be working on a portable version of Windows Terminal as well.
In terms of what's available to Windows 11 users right now in an unhidden state, we have several new Insider builds. Beta Channel Insiders were treated to build 22624.1537 which introduced access keys in File Explorer, the ability to create live kernel memory dumps through Task Manager, and lots more. Dev Channel build 23424 brought the improved Widgets board described earlier to more users, along with performance improvements to the Settings app. And Canary Channel users netted build 25330 with lots of relatively minor changes and improvements.
Stable channel customers received some love from Microsoft in the form of new builds too. KB5023778 features an improved Taskbar search bar, Microsoft Account notifications, and more. Furthermore, Microsoft has done away with the Acropalypse by releasing Snipping Tool fixes to everyone on Windows 10 and Windows 11.
And since we have ventured into the domain of cybersecurity, it's worth highlighting that Microsoft is rolling out the next phase of its Domain Controller hardening to patch a Kerberos security flaw via Windows Update. Additionally, Microsoft Defender started generating false positives by alerting users about safe links, this issue has now been resolved.
Finally, if you want to create Windows 10 and Windows 11 ISOs but find Microsoft's Media Creation Tool cumbersome to use, check out this alternative utility instead. And if you use Rufus for your other Windows-related tinkering, the latest version of the software includes an option to disable BitLocker.
Windows 7 support... and other app updates
Continuing from the previous section which we wrapped up with mention of a Rufus update, we would like to bring your attention to a Ventoy update. The bootable USB solution, which supports Windows 7, now supports over 1,100 ISOs with version 1.0.90. The latest version also improves the Fedora boot process and addresses a Ventoy remount bug on Linux kernel 5.18 and newer.
And speaking of Windows 7, Mozilla has decided to extend Firefox support on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 through Firefox 115 ESR, which is due to arrive on July 4, 2023. This version of the browser is supported until Q3 2024, which gives plenty of time for Firefox customers to continue using the browser before they decide to eventually upgrade their OS or consider alternatives.
As is the case near the end of each month, there was lots of Teams news this week too. Teams 2.0 is now live in public preview with a major design revamp and performance boosts. The process to launch the app and join meetings is twice as fast and the app uses 50% less memory. Another feature now available in preview for Teams is 3D avatars. Similarly, Teams mobile is getting a new Chat Dashboard while Teams enterprise customers with certain licenses are getting advanced security protections through Microsoft Defender 365. The Redmond tech giant has also shared a changelog of all the features it added to the free SKU of Teams during the month of March 2023. It also detailed a similar changelog for Excel along with introducing the ability to add local videos in PowerPoint for the web.
There are a couple of updates related to Microsoft's Edge browser too. Microsoft is working to make it easier to use vertical tabs in its browser and may be planning the return of an upgraded version of the Mica effect too.
It's almost impossible to talk about Edge without mentioning Bing Chat. The AI-powered chatbot now supports 200 daily turns and 20 in-session turns, it is slated to receive better formatting of mathematical equations too. In fact, it even supports video and image search now.
But with these peaks in super-charged search engines and chatbots, there are some valleys too. Italy's data protection agency has banned OpenAI from using the data of Italians in ChatGPT due to privacy concerns. Additionally, some security researchers also reported a Bing flaw to Microsoft through which they could game search results, which is a major problem considering it's hard enough to trust results generated in conversations by Bing AI too. Some might also be disheartened to know that Microsoft plans to continue with its plans to monetize Bing AI through ads in chat, it has shared some more details in this area too. The company is super-protective about Bing search data as well and does not seem willing to share it with other AI chatbots.
As usual, we will start this section off with some news about Microsoft's ongoing acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The purchase has now been approved by Japan's antitrust regulator, which is a major win for Microsoft, especially since it concerns Sony's "home town". Meanwhile, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick has published an email slamming Sony for its "disappointing behavior" during the ongoing deal. On the other hand, Microsoft has dismissed rumors claiming that it pulled in-development ZeniMax games for the PlayStation 5 following a similar high-profile back in 2021.
On the hardware side of things, Microsoft has unveiled red and blue variants of the Xbox Elite Series 2 – Core controller, in addition to the standard white. Moreover, if you are a Diablo fan, you can nab an Xbox Series X console with Diablo IV and its in-game items included for $559. And if you are already an Xbox owner and an Insider, grab the Omega console update which brings better subscription management and other fixes.
We had some news items related to specific games too. If you're facing problems while trying to open Red Dead Redemption 2 via the Rockstar Launcher on Windows 11 version 21H2, Microsoft has recommended upgrading to version 22H2 if you really want to play the title ASAP and can't wait for the Redmond firm's investigation to complete. But if you're a Minecraft player instead, you might want to check out this Dungeons and Dragons mashup DLC coming soon.
Wrapping up this section with news about subscriptions and deals, Microsoft has gotten rid of the popular $1 Game Pass trials on Xbox and PC, while hinting at different promotions in the future. But if you're a Games with Gold subscriber instead, you can claim Peaky Blinders: Mastermind and Out of Space during the month of April, with the latter up for grabs already.
Meanwhile, Xbox Free Play Days has four games up on offer this weekend, with the major one being Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. On the other hand, Deals with Gold is headlined by Batman: Arkham Knight and several LEGO titles. However, if you're a PC purist, check out this Weekend's PC Game Deals, curated by our News Editor Pulasthi Ariyasinghe.
Prices for Microsoft Cloud services are increasing in Europe very soon
New Windows drivers for Surface Duo have brought unofficial Windows 10 support and tons of improvements, the official late March update is available too
Microsoft is partnering with certain organizations to protect journalism and improve news distribution
Microsoft Viva Connections for Education will help kids keep track of everything, now available
More layoffs have hit Microsoft's security division in Redmond and Bellevue, Washington
Microsoft has delayed the deprecation of Remote PowerShell in Exchange Online
Microsoft Security Copilot will use generative AI to create alerts
The second-generation Surface Hub 2S is now official
Updates for Microsoft Teams Rooms and Devices include new Cisco digital whiteboards
PowerToys' upcoming registry tool will let you preview and edit registry files
A Microsoft data center in the Netherlands is generating environmental concerns
Google is making file sharing between Windows and Android much easier
Under the spotlight
We published several interesting original pieces over the past few days. The first one is from News Reporter Taras Buria who highlighted five interesting features that you should give a go in Windows 11 Insider Preview builds.
We also have a couple of nostalgic pieces for News Reporter John Callaham. The first talks about how Steam's Early Access popularized this concept of rolling out paid early-stage software to the public for testing and gathering feedback, for better or for worse.
In the wake of Intel's founder Gordon Moore recently passing away, John also took a quick look back at Moore's Law, wondering if it will continue moving forward.
We also have a couple of guides. The first one is from Taras Buria, who explained how to remove news from Widgets in Windows 11.
Finally, we have a Tech Tip Tuesday piece from Adam Bottjen, who guided our readers regarding the process for enabling voice isolation during a phone call on iOS 16.4.
Our most interesting news item of the week is about a person who got caught in China while trying to smuggle 239 Intel Core CPUs worth thousands of dollars... by taping them to his body. He was caught by customs inspectors who decided to investigate him since his because of his "abnormal" and "bloated" experience. There is no word yet on what the punishment for his crime is, but it's certainly interesting to see the lengths certain people will go to in order to pass customs checks at airports and seaports.
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