Microsoft Weekly: Windows lean, in the green, update screen

This past week has been packed with news about quarterly earnings, gaming, and a whole lot of updates to business and consumer-side software alike. You can find out about that and much more via your Microsoft digest for the week of April 22-28.

Windows lean

Perhaps in anticipation of a more modular future, or indeed just a result of cleaning up the cruft, Microsoft has started to slim down on some of its offerings.

First off is Windows 10 Lean, a pretty descriptive codename that would perhaps make you think of Windows Core OS. Alas, it may look like a duck, but quack is does not. Instead, this seems to not be the modular foundation the latter represents, but a version targeted at devices with limited storage space. And no, this isn’t like Windows 10 S, though there is some good news for those who happen to own a 10 S –powered device: you’ll soon be able to switch out of S mode via the Microsoft Store.

Lean is also the Microsoft Store now, with the Windows-powered handsets on offer pulling a Houdini. It’s not to say they might not return (as it has happened in the past), but if you’re in the market for a Windows phone, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

And while we’re on the subject of markets, the Windows Phone marketplace will soon be bereft of Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, and Yammer. Support for these apps is being terminated on the mobile platform, so businesses should look at other solutions.

A solution for mass device deployment (at least as far as Windows is concerned) is Windows AutoPilot, which despite its name has nothing to do with cars. In summary, businesses will be able to pick and choose what features come preinstalled on a tablet, PC, etc – like a pre-configured Azure AD account – which shortens the time needed for deployment. Dell is the first to start shipping such devices, with HP to follow in the fall.

In the green

Green was quite popular at Microsoft this week, be it within the Surface division, or where it’s more commonly found, at Xbox.

The software giant posted its earnings for the third quarter of FY18, with pretty noticeable growth from Surface (32%), the gaming division (18%), and its Office 365 and server offerings. The $26.5B revenue and $8.3B operating income was a result of the growth of Office 365 and decline of traditional Office licenses due to businesses’ move to the cloud, Microsoft says.

As mentioned, the gaming division grew, but not just in terms of revenue, but also when it comes to its lineup. As an example, the 1804 version for the Xbox One’s software began rolling out to everyone at the beginning of the week, and so did another 11 games for the Backward Compatibility list – including Full Spectrum Warrior.

On the off chance that none of the above really catches your eye, maybe the Xbox Game Pass could be tempting, since it’s getting six new games next month. Starting May 1 you’d be able to get Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, Overcooked, The Escapists, Homefront: The Revolution, Unmechanical: Extended, and Sonic & Knuckles. These will be followed by Laser League on May 10, and State of Decay 2 on May 22.

And while there’s money to be parted with regardless of the game you choose to get, there’s no reason why you should pay full price if there are deals around. Xbox Live Gold members can get up to 80% off something like Madden NFL 18 G.O.A.T. Squads Upgrade or Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones and other titles with varying degrees in the discount department.

As far as games already in your library, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) owners on Xbox can look forward to playing on the Miramar map via a new test server, while fans of cartoon piracy will be delighted to see update 1.0.5 for Sea of Thieves fix a number of UX issues ranging from Kraken to quest-related.

And last but not least, following in the footsteps of the Spotify integration, those using the Microsoft console as their go-to gaming machine will soon be able to link their Discord and Xbox accounts so their friends can see what games they’re playing.

Update screen

For some it’s nothing more of than a drag, for others it’s something with which to brag, but an update notification is in most cases an inevitability.

Folks rocking the latest stable feature update of Windows 10 – or version 1709 – should start looking for KB4093105, a package which will bump up the build number to 16299.402. There are a myriad of fixes ranging from those for the Skype and Xbox apps, to Group Policy, Windows Hello, modern app deprovisioning, and more. If Windows Update spits out the 0x80070643 error code saying that KB4054517 failed to install, there’s nothing to worry about. This is a known issue, and the update was installed just fine – despite what the error would have you believe.

Looking a little further into the future, the next feature release for Windows 10, the April 2018 Update, is set to be available for install tomorrow – and this is how you can be among the first to get it.

Straying slightly from the consumer side, we find that a preview of the Windows 10-bound Office 2019 is now available for commercial users on Windows, soon to be followed by the Mac version. Also bearing the 2019 denomination is the next major iteration of the long-term servicing version of Windows Server, which got its latest preview build – namely 17650 - with features centered around failover clustering. People who opted for the semi-annual release cadence can look forward to version 1803, which will start rolling out on May 7 – the first day of Build.

Jumping the fence to the Insider courtyard, we stumble upon build 17134.5, the latest iteration for those running what is essentially the RTM of the April 2018 feature drop. But a cumulative update is not much to get excited about, so how about we skip ahead?

That’s exactly what folks in the namesake Insider ring have done, and as such, build 17655 materialized inside Windows Update. The headline feature is a rework of the decades-old network stack, specifically aimed at Mobile Broadband (LTE) connectivity and driver reliability. Of course, there are a few issues to be aware of, like the mouse pointer potentially disappearing when overing over some UI elements, and some rough edges around the Office interaction with Sets. For fans of dragging favourites from one folder to another in Edge, a sigh of relief is in order, because the feature now works as intended.

The Fast Ring

Hot corner

Hot corner is section of The Fast Ring dedicated to highlighting five Microsoft-related stories that haven’t been covered over here, but might be of interest.

Logging off

Right as we’re getting ready to wrap up the month of April, Microsoft has, as promised, posted the schedule for this year’s Build conference.

Over the three day period from May 7 to May 9, you’ll be able to experience some of the over 400 sessions spread across the keynote addresses, workshops, so-called breakout sessions (of either 45 or 75 minutes), theaters, and technology sneak peeks. If you’re not going in person, you’ll be able to watch it all online, via livestream.

Neowin will of course be on-site for coverage so we can bring you the latest from Microsoft’s flagship conference of 2018.

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