Microsoft Weekly: Xbox Series launch details, new builds, and lots of Surfaces

This week was one big leak fest for Microsoft, with not only the Series S design being revealed, but also the pricing, forcing the company to come out and spill the beans on availability of both next-gen consoles. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of September 5 - 11.

Xbox Series launch details

Following a long pause since its July showcase, Microsoft was forced this week to reveal not just the pricing and release details for its Series X console, but also those of the long-rumored and until a few days ago not officially acknowledged Xbox Series S.

In the wake of a report detailing price, as well as a leak of part of Series S’ promo video, Microsoft saw no other option than to officially reveal its second next-gen offering, the significantly smaller, two-tone next-gen console that is the Series S.

This was followed by yet another leak of the full commercial, immediately following Xbox’s acknowledgement of the second console.

Targeting 1440p as opposed to the Series X’s 4K, the Series S also supports up to 120FPS and ray tracing, but contains a mere third the GPU power (4TF vs 12TF), half the storage (512GB SSD vs 1TB SSD in Series X), as well as lack an optical drive. The device itself is in addition nearly 60% smaller than the Series X, which wasn’t that big to begin with.

The world premiere trailer dropped not long after, confirming not only what Xbox had stated before, that the Series S would come in at $299, but also that both it and the Series X were set to launch on November 10. Pre-orders for both consoles will open September 22, and yes, for those who were wondering, Microsoft did indeed slot in its most powerful console at the expected $499 price point.

In addition to all of the above, pricing for India was announced, the retail packaging for Series X was leaked by a Canadian retailer, the full Series S press-briefing leaked, and Microsoft partnered with Taco Bell again to give away a Series X ahead of launch.

In terms of services, EA Play is now part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tier (at no additional cost), and the Xbox All Access program has been expanded to more retailers in the U.S. and 12 additional countries. For those not familiar, Xbox All Access allows you to buy the Series S, on a 24-month plan, as well as Game Pass Ultimate, for $24.99/month. The Series X is also available as part of this program, but for a slightly higher $34.99/month.

Lastly, Microsoft says that despite Apple making changes to the its App Store policies around game streaming solutions (like the Redmond giant’s very own Project xCloud), the new rules will offer a bad customer experience.

It’s worth talking about games as well, since there are a number of Deals with Gold still on, the Creeping Winter DLC for Minecraft Dungeons is now available, as is the Vaults of the Ancients update for Sea of Thieves, and patch #2 for Microsoft Flight Simulator.

In terms of games launching later this year, DiRT 5 has been pushed back to November 6 to be closer to the next-gen consoles, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was actually brought forward a week, launching on November 10 with the Xbox Series X and S, and Gears Tactics has been confirmed to also be launching on the same date for not just the Series X and S, but also Xbox One.

New builds

As expected, since this week was the second Tuesday of the month, Microsoft pushed out its series of Patch Tuesday updates. If you’re on Windows 10, they are:

  • May 2020 Update (2004) & 20H2: KB4571756, builds 19041.508 / 19042.508 – improves security when using input devices, Office products and basic Windows operations, as well as containing improvements for storing and managing files.
    • Known issue: Users of the Microsoft IME for Japanese or Chinese might experience issues when attempting various tasks. These may include input problems, inability to enter text, or receiving of unexpected results.
  • May 2019 Update (1903) & November 2019 Update (1909): KB4574727, builds 18362.1082 / 18363.1082 – identical changelog to the version above, with the exception of improvements to managing and storing files.
  • October 2018 Update (1809): KB4570333, build 17763.1457 – identical changelog to versions 2004 and 20H2.
    • Known issues: After installing KB4493509, devices with some Asian language packs installed may receive the error “0x800f0982 – PSFX_E_MATCHING_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND”; After installing KB4550969 or later, when using Edge Legacy, you might receive the error “0x80704006. Hmmmm…can’t reach this page” when attempting to reach websites on non-standard ports. Any websites that uses a port listed in the Fetch Standard specification under bad ports, or port blocking, might cause this issue.
  • April 2018 Update (1803) Enterprise, Education: KB4577032, build 17134.1726.
  • Fall Creators Update (1709) Enterprise, Education: KB4577041, build 16299.2107.
  • Creators Update (1703) for Surface Hub: KB4577021, build 15063.2500.
  • Anniversary Update (1607) LTSB, Server 2016: KB4577015, build 14393.3930.
  • Windows 10 RTM (1507) LTSB: KB4577049, build 10240.18696.

Keep in mind that this Patch Tuesday patch for version 2004 (May 2020 Update), may have broken WSL 2.

For folks still on Windows 7 (mainly businesses paying for ESUs) or Windows 8.1, here’s what this month’s Path Tuesday brought forth:

  • Windows 8.1, Server 2012 R2: KB4577066, KB4577071 (security-only) – contains updates for time zone info for Yukon, Canada, as well as improvements for device and update compatibility, a fix for a security vulnerability related to user proxies and HTTP-based intranet servers, as well as a fair few security updates.
    • Known issue: Operations like rename, performed on files or folders on a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) may fail with the error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)”. This occurs when you perform the operation on a CSV owner node from a process with no admin privileges.
  • Windows 7 SP1, Server 2008 R2 SP1: KB4577051, KB4577053 (security-only) – identical changelog to Windows 8.1, with the exception of the app compatibility update.
    • Known issue: Identical to that in Windows 8.1.

Microsoft also released a new build to the Dev channel, namely 20211, with WSL file system access and the addition of search in the Default Apps page in Settings. Be advised that while there are a few fixes included, the list of known issues is rather long, and some of those might affect usability.

The company also managed to push out 20211.1005 to the same Insider channel, but quickly pulled the newer build due to a bug.

Lots of Surfaces

The long-awaited (by some), and smaller variant of Microsoft’s dual-screen offering, the Surface Duo, hit shelves earlier this week at its – still high - $1,399 price point. Along with it, support pages for the device also went live, as did a launch-day firmware update, and a poor repairability score from iFixit.

Also in the firmware update camp were the Surface Earbuds, with their first such update since the launch back in May, as well as the Surface Book 3. The latter device got a big batch of driver updates too.

Last but not least for this particular section, we’d be remiss not to mention a rumor that Microsoft is working on a mid-range Surface laptop, with a target availability period of holiday 2020. Codenamed Sparti, it’s allegedly going to feature a 10th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage at the entry level, costing between $500 and $600.

Dev channel

Logging off

We end the week, and indeed this column, with a look at some security-related news.

A new security finding comes via Twitter, as per researcher Jimmy Bayne. He points out that there is a loophole in Windows 10’s themes settings which would allow bad actors to steal users’ credentials by creating a specific theme to carry out what’s called a Pass-the-Hash attack.

Basically, installing new themes from different sources other than the Microsoft Store would allow attackers to create malicious theme files which redirect users to a page requesting their credentials.

Another finding, this time by way of Microsoft itself, sheds some light on the fact that cyberattacks from foreign hacker groups (targeting U.S. elections) have increased. The company says it has managed to thwart most of these attempts, also choosing to emphasize that it provides free and low-cost tools to deal with situations like these. The specific tools are Microsoft 365 for Campaigns, and Account Guard.

Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.

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