Microsoft Weekly: Xbox Series X, 2019's last Patch Tuesday, and productivity on Edge

In a bit of a surprising week, the last Patch Tuesday of the year dropped, as did the preview of Teams on Linux and, most unexpected of all, the unveiling of Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox. You can find that – as well as the usual little bit extra – below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of December 7 –13.

Xbox Series X

On December 12 at The Game Awards, Geoff Keighley’s annual Oscar-like game celebration event, something pretty unexpected happened. Near the beginning of the show, Microsoft simply dropped a trailer for its next-generation Xbox, called the Series X.

Eschewing previous design philosophies, the console looks more like a mini-tower PC, with the top – and presumably bottom – being dedicated to venting. It looks to be roughly three controllers high by one wide, or something around 12x6x6 inches (30x15x15 centimeters).

The controller itself got some small refinements, among which the removal of a few ridges, a slight decrease in size, a new D-pad inspired by that on the Elite Series 2 controller, and a new Share button for capturing screenshots.

What we do know is that the system itself will be powered by AMD’s Ryzen 2 architecture, with Phil Spencer stating that the box itself has “four times the processing power of the Xbox One X” due to its tower design. It has twice the GPU power of the One X – so around 12 teraflops -, and uses GDDR6 memory as RAM. Furthermore, the storage solution is confirmed to be an NVMe SSD.

Yes it still has a disc drive and yes it can be used on its side. It’s backwards compatible with Xbox accessories and games - specifically those in the Backward Compatibility catalogue for Xbox 360 and the original Xbox -, and its controller will also work on existing Xbox One consoles. If you so desire, you will also be able to instantly switch between games.

Speaking of, to show the power of the system, Phil Spencer also came out on stage to reveal a trailer for Ninja Theory’s upcoming Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II. According to the exec, the trailer was captured in-engine and is obviously meant to take full advantage of the available hardware.

It’s worth mentioning that Scarlett is the general codename for the next-gen Xbox offering, with the two rumored models being codenamed Anaconda (the now-dubbed Series X) and Lockhart. There was no mention of Lockhart, the cheaper, less powerful next-gen console that Microsoft is rumored to be launching. There’s also no word yet on pricing, though that will most likely be revealed at E3 2020.

Even if not necessarily made for the next-gen system, two other Microsoft-published games were also shown off. First was Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which received another gameplay trailer and an unfortunate delay to March 11, 2020. Joining it was Gears Tactics, The Coalition’s XCOM-like title set in the Gears universe and with a release date of April 28, 2020. With a 40-hour campaign, this is a prequel set 12 years before the beginning of Marcus Fenix’s saga, right at the beginning of the Locust War. Both titles will arrive on Steam, Xbox One, the Microsoft Store on PC, as well as Game Pass on launch.

Moving on to already existing games, Sea of Thieves got its final monthly update of 2019 which bumps it up to version 2.0.10. The Festival of Giving content update adds a dedicated island for onboarding new players, a new type of voyage that has folks seeking gifts, and more. It’ll be a 5.54GB download on Xbox One, and an 8.59GB download on Xbox One X and Windows 10.

Halo: Reach, the first of the Master Chief Collection titles to be released on both PC and console saw a pretty good opening week, with almost three million players across all available platforms. Speaking of available, signing up for Flight Simulator’s Tech Alpha 2 is no more, but a new round of recruitments will start mid-January, with those who were unable to get in via previous enrollments being prioritized.

In not that much of a surprising announcement, Obsidian confirmed that its quirky RPG The Outer Worlds will be getting a story DLC in 2020, though no other details have been shared. What was surprising was Playground Games’ reveal that Forza Horizon 4 now has a 72-player battle royale mode called The Eliminator, added as part of a free update. As weird as it is, this might just be a good addition. It’s free, so why not?

Although not necessarily directly related to Microsoft, it’s worth mentioning some game releases coming soon to the Redmond giant’s platform as well. SEGA’s Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle will be coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 18, 2020. Untitled Goose Game is heading for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Game Pass on December 17, and the Resident Evil 3 remake is headed to Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on April 3, 2020. Kingdom Hearts III’s Re Mind DLC is also headed to both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with the former getting it on January 23, and the latter on February 25.

In other news, Minecraft on PlayStation 4 now supports cross-play at long last, and Jurrasic World Evolution, as well as Castlevania Mirror of Fate are now free to claim if you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription.

2019’s last Patch Tuesday

This past week was Patch Tuesday, which always lands on the second Tuesday of every month. As such, this is the final one for this year – though it doesn’t mean other optional patches won’t come through. Let’s start with what you need to look out for if you’re on any of the supported Windows 10 variants:

  • May 2019 Update and November 2019 Update (1903 and 1909): KB4530684, build 18362.535 / 18363.535 – contains updates that improve security when Windows performs basic operations.

  • October 2018 Update (1809): KB4530715, build 17763.914 – contains updates that improved security when Windows performs basic operations; adds security improvements when using external devices like webcams and controllers; adds a patch for the Microsoft Store failing to open on Windows on ARM.

    • Known issues: Operations like rename performed on a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)” if the operation is performed on an owner node from a process without admin privileges; After installing KB4493509, devices with certain Asian language packs installed may receive error “0x800f0982 – PSFX_E_MATCHING_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND”; When setting up Windows, you may be unable to create a local user account if you’re using an IME, be it for Chinese, Japanese, or Korean.

  • April 2018 Update (1803) Enterprise, Education: KB4537017, build 17134.1184 - contains updates that improved security when Windows performs basic operations; adds security improvements when using external devices like webcams and controllers; adds a patch for the Microsoft Store failing to open on Windows on ARM.

    • Known issues: Operations like rename performed on a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)” if the operation is performed on an owner node from a process without admin privileges; When setting up Windows, you may be unable to create a local user account if you’re using an IME, be it for Chinese, Japanese, or Korean.

  • Fall Creators Update (1709) Enterprise, Education, W10 Mobile: KB4530714, build 16299.1565 – identical to 1803.

    • Known issues: Identical to 1803.

  • Creators Update (1703) for the original Surface Hub: KB4530711, build 15063.2224 - contains updates that improved security when Windows performs basic operations; adds security improvements when using external devices like webcams and controllers.

  • Anniversary Update (1607) LTSC, Server 2016: KB4530689, build 14393.3384 - KB4530711, build 15063.2224 - contains updates that improved security when Windows performs basic operations; adds security improvements when using external devices like webcams and controllers; enhances security when using input devices like mice, keyboards or styluses.

    • Known issues: After installing KB4467684, the cluster service may fail to start with the error “2245 (NERR_PasswordTooShort)” if the group policy “Minimum Password Length” is configured with more than 14 characters; Operations like rename performed on a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)” if the operation is performed on an owner node from a process without admin privileges.

  • Windows 10 RTM (1507): KB4530681, build 10240.18427 - contains updates that improved security when Windows performs basic operations; adds security improvements when using external devices like webcams and controllers.

    • Known issue: Operations like rename performed on a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)” if the operation is performed on an owner node from a process without admin privileges.

Windows 7, 8.1, and their Server equivalents are still supported – though not for long in the case of Windows 7 -, so here’s what you folks need to look out for:

  • Windows 8.1, Server 2012 R2: KB4530702, KB4530730 (security-only) – adds security updates for Windows Virtualization, Kernel, Peripherals, the Scripting Engine, and Server.

    • Known issue: Operations like rename performed on a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) may fail with error “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)” if the operation is performed on an owner node from a process without admin privileges.

  • Windows 7 SP1, Server 2008 R2 SP1: KB4530734, KB4530692 (security-only) - adds security updates for Windows Virtualization, Kernel, Peripherals, the Scripting Engine, and Server.

As mentioned before, Windows 7 support will end soon, namely on January 14 next year, so business folks that haven’t signed up for extended security updates are strongly encouraged to update. If you’re a non-business user running Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate, you will be getting a full-screen warning that the OS is no longer supported, with Microsoft pointing out that you are better off upgrading your hardware entirely, as the tech is at this point 10 years old. The warning was added as part of Patch Tuesday, and does not affect domain-joined machines or those in kiosk mode.

Switching gears back to Windows 10, ISOs for Preview build 19035 are now available, in case you want to do a clean install either on your actual hardware or in a VM – depending on which of those you’re running the Insider builds. An identically-numbered Windows Server build is also up for grabs.

Lastly, Windows 10 build 19041 of the 20H1 branch was pushed out to both the Fast and Slow rings of the Insider Preview. It includes a small selection of fixes, the same known issues, as well as a small new feature. Said feature is the ability to perform quick searches in languages other than EN-US.

Productivity on Edge

Back at Build in May of this year, Microsoft announced that a feature called Collections would be coming to its new Chromium-based browser. It was made available in August, though hidden behind a flag, and it’s now enabled by default in both Edge Dev and Canary.

As the name implies, you’ll be able to add text, images, links, and more from around the web and essentially group them into categories. With the feature now being made more obvious, there’s also support for dark mode, an option to open all links in a Collection, and even easier sharing.

Since it was mentioned, Edge Dev build 80.0.355.1 is out, giving folks the ability to increase the spacing in Reading View, as well as implementing various fixes and matching coloured titlebars for PWAs.

Microsoft this past week also spotlighted a roadmap for OneDrive, highlighting the fact that there’s now a feature that allows you to save files for later – essentially bookmarking -, as is the ability to request a file from somebody, via link. This last one seems to be business-only, as per the wording of the announcement.

In addition to what was mentioned above, OneDrive emails will now be localized, which will be dependent on your AAD and Exchange settings.

We end this section with the fact that Microsoft Teams is now available for Linux, albeit in preview. Despite Skype also being available, the company calls this the first Microsoft 365 app to be made available on the platform. That’s pretty interesting wording.

The Fast ring

Hot corner

Hot corner is a 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

We end the column this week by talking about death, specifically software death as it relates to Microsoft’s efforts. Don’t worry, there’s also some good news.

After a long process and quite a bit of denial from enthusiasts and at one point Microsoft itself, Windows 10 Mobile is officially dead. The successor to Windows Phone 8.1, it was on the market for a little over three years as of its EOL date of December 10.

In a rather strange move, although the base OS is no longer supported, the UWP Office apps on it will be supported until January 12, 2021, for some reason. Furthermore, if you’re using a Windows 10 tablet with a screen size under 10.1 inches, you’ll still be able to use these same UWP Office apps on it, with no specific cutoff date given.

Finally, Microsoft also showed off a slew of redesigned icons in the same vein as its latest Office ones, taking full advantage of subtle gradients, shadows, and translucency, the building blocks of the company’s Fluent Design System. Even the Windows logo itself got a new treatment, with the adoption of slightly curved corners and multiple shades of blue for its different window panes. Unfortunately for those who don’t like it, the logo will still retain its perspective look introduced in Windows 8.

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


Editor's note: A previous version of the article stated that the Xbox Series X was compatible with all previous Xbox titles, which was incorrect. We apologize for the mistake.

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