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  1. Iconic games portfolio, publishing expertise, and world-class talent accelerates growth in Microsoft’s Gaming business REDMOND, Wash. September 21, 2020 – More than three billion people on the planet play games for fun, escape, and human connection. Unlike any other medium, games empower people to engage in creativity, strategic thinking and teamwork, immersing them into interactive stories and worlds created by some of the world’s most amazing creators. The cultural phenomenon of gaming has made it the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment in the world—an industry that is expected to be more than $200 billion in annual revenue in 2021. As the gaming industry transforms from a device-centric era to a player-centric era powered by new technology that provides the freedom to play with friends anywhere on any device, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) on Monday announced plans to acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, one of the largest, privately held game developers and publishers in the world. Creators of critically acclaimed and best-selling gaming franchises including The Elder Scrolls and Fallout among many others, Bethesda brings an impressive portfolio of games, technology, talent, as well as a track record of blockbuster commercial success, to Xbox. Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will acquire ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in cash. With unique investments in content, community, and the cloud, Microsoft’s gaming strategy differs from others by empowering people to play the games they want, with the people they want, anywhere they want. Games are the primary growth engine in gaming, and games are fueling new cloud-gaming services like Xbox Game Pass, which has reached a new milestone of over 15 million subscribers. With the addition of Bethesda, Microsoft will grow from 15 to 23 creative studio teams and will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass. This includes Microsoft’s intent to bring Bethesda’s future games into Xbox Game Pass the same day they launch on Xbox or PC, like Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios. “Gaming is the most expansive category in the entertainment industry, as people everywhere turn to gaming to connect, socialize and play with their friends,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Quality differentiated content is the engine behind the growth and value of Xbox Game Pass—from Minecraft to Flight Simulator. As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide.” “This is an awesome time to be an Xbox fan. In the last 10 days alone, we’ve released details on our two new consoles which go on pre-order tomorrow, launched cloud gaming in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and now we’re making another investment in the most critical part of our strategy: the games,” said Phil Spencer, executive vice president, Gaming at Microsoft. “Generations of gamers have been captivated by the renowned franchises in the Bethesda portfolio and will continue to be so for years to come as part of Xbox.” The planned acquisition includes publishing offices and development studios spanning the globe with over 2,300 employees, including Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. Bethesda’s critically acclaimed and best-selling franchises include The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, DOOM, Quake, Wolfenstein, and Dishonored, among others. Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media was founded in 1999 by Chairman and CEO Robert A. Altman; Bethesda’s structure and leadership will remain in place. “This is a thrilling day for this company, our employees, and our fans. We have enjoyed a close partnership with Microsoft for decades, and this deal is a natural progression of those years working together,” said Altman. “The big winners today are our fans. We are continuing to develop our slate of AAA games, but now with Microsoft’s scale and entire Game Stack, our games can only get better.” The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and completion of regulatory review. Microsoft expects the acquisition to close in the second half of fiscal year 2021 and to have minimal impact to non-GAAP operating income in fiscal years 2021 and 2022. Non-GAAP excludes the expected impact of purchase accounting adjustments, as well as integration and transaction-related expenses. For more information, please visit the blog post from Phil Spencer, EVP Gaming at Microsoft. Find related imagery here. For broadcast quality b-roll, please contact [email protected] About Microsoft Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. About ZeniMax Media Inc. ZeniMax Media is a privately-owned media organization headquartered outside Washington DC with international publishing offices around the globe. Through its subsidiaries, ZeniMax Media creates and publishes original interactive entertainment content for consoles, PCs, and handheld/wireless devices. ZeniMax Media divisions include Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, Arkane Studios, Tango Gameworks, MachineGames, ZeniMax Online Studios, Alpha Dog Games, Roundhouse Studios, ZeniMax Europe Ltd., ZeniMax Asia K.K., ZeniMax Asia Pacific Limited, and ZeniMax Australia Pty Ltd. For more information on ZeniMax Media, visit www.zenimax.com. Bethesda Fast Facts and Accolades 5 of 8 studios have shipped “Game of the Year” titles #1 Ranked Publisher of the Year (2018) “Game of the Year” winner 5 years in a row The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind RPG of the Year from IGN and others The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Consensus Game of the Year across all outlets Fallout 3 Consensus Game of the Year across all outlets The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Consensus Game of the Year Named Game of the Generation and #1 PC Game of All Time Fallout 4 Over 50 Game of the Year Awards including DICE and BAFTA Dishonored BAFTA Award for Best Game, Best Action Adventure Game at the VGAs Dishonored 2 PC Gamer Game of the Year, Best Action Adventure Game at the VGAs Winner of more than 100 Best of 2016 awards Wolfenstein: The New Colossus Best Action Game, The Game Awards DOOM (2016) Best Action Game, The Game Awards Fallout Shelter Mobile Game of the Year, DICE Awards and Golden Joystick Awards Elder Scrolls Online MMO of the Year four consecutive years Source
  2. Microsoft details the features added and enhancements made to OneDrive in August Microsoft has published the monthly Roadmap Roundup for OneDrive for the month of August. The firm details the improvements being made to the cloud storage service. For this month, though, the Redmond company has also highlighted a few capabilities in the Office suite of apps that leverage the cloud for collaboration between users. The first feature that the company details is the ability to create tasks in Word and Excel directly through comments. The firm has begun integrating Tasks throughout the productivity suite as a unified experience. Users can @ mention colleagues and assign tasks based on the requirements. There is also the option to reassign these tasks by replying to the comments. Since Tasks integrates with services like Teams, these additions make it easier to track assigned changes to documents and more. Another area of improvement brought to the service includes changes to comment notifications. Users will now receive email notifications when any Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other files uploaded by them to OneDrive or SharePoint are commented on. Additionally, users can opt to turn off email notifications for files right from the email via a toggle, or through the details pane on OneDrive. Lastly, the company recapped the launch of the updated OneDrive experience for the Surface Duo. The app is tailored to leverage the dual screens and improve functionality. It also supports drag and drop – so users can drag files directly from one screen to apps like Outlook running on the adjacent screen, easily attaching documents. It also works the other way around to help quickly save attachments to desired folders. The company adds that the OneDrive app is “is fully integrated into the Surface Duo operating system”. Microsoft details the features added and enhancements made to OneDrive in August
  3. OneFuzz enables continuous developer-driven fuzz testing to identify weaknesses in software prior to release Microsoft is looking to help developers continuously fuzz-test code prior to release, via the open source OneFuzz framework. Described as a self-hosted fuzzing-as-a-service platform, OneFuzz enables developer-driven fuzzing to identify software vulnerabilites during the development process. Source code for OneFuzz is due to arrive on GitHub on September 18. Fuzz testing is about increasing the security and reliability of native code by finding costly, exploitable security flaws. Fuzz testing involves throwing random inputs at software to find instances in which unforeseen actions could cause software to fail. However, Microsoft noted that fuzz testing has been a double-edged sword for developers—mandated by the software development lifecycle and effective in finding actionable flaws, but difficult and expensive to implement, requiring dedicated security engineering teams to build fuzz testing capabilities and harness the results. Enabling developers to run fuzz testing shifts the discovery of vulnerabilities to earlier in the development lifecycle and frees security engineering teams to pursue more proactive work. The global release of OpenFuzz is intended to help developers harden the software that powers users’ daily work and personal lives, thus making an attacker’s job harder. Executing a single command that can be baked into a CI/CD system, developers using OneFuzz can launch fuzz jobs spanning from a few virtual machines to thousands of cores. OneFuzz, which is extensible, serves as a replacement for the Microsoft Security Risk Detection software testing mechanism. OneFuzz has been used to develop the Microsoft Edge browser and Windows. OneFuzz features and benefits: Composable fuzzing workflows Built-in ensemble fuzzing, with fuzzer teams sharing strengths and swapping inputs of interest between fuzzing technologies On-demand live debugging of crashes Programmatic triage and result deduplication Crash reporting notification callbacks Works with Windows and Linux Microsoft cited compiler advances by Google as having transformed the security engineering tasks involved in fuzz testing native code. What was once implemented at considerable expense now can be baked into continuous build systems, the company said. Source
  4. Microsoft has a strategy to build a WeChat-like experience across its various Microsoft 365 business and consumer services in the form of a 'MetaOS' foundational layer. By Mary Jo Foley for All About Microsoft Earlier this year, some leaks about Microsoft's "MetaOS" had a lot of us Microsoft watchers scrambling to figure out what this foundational layer is and how it will affect Microsoft's various products and services in the future. Recently, I've unearthed some more details about the company's high-level goals and lower-level product plans around MetaOS. MetaOS has a lot to do with what's next for Microsoft Teams, Office, Edge, and more. I don't know when or if Microsoft will ever talk about MetaOS publicly, but MetaOS and the related Taos team, headed by Chief Operating Officer and Corporate Vice President of the Experiences and Devices Group Kirk Koenigsbauer, is working actively on the MetaOS inbox apps and services, I hear. Microsoft's highest level MetaOS pitch is that it is focused on people and not tied to specific devices. Microsoft seems to be modeling itself a bit after Tencent's WeChat mobile social/payment app/service here, my sources say. Microsoft wants to create a single mobile platform that provides a consistent set of work and play services, including messaging, voice and video, digital payments, gaming, and customized document and news feeds. The MetaOS consists of a number of layers, or tiers, according to information shared with me by my contacts. At the lowest level, there's a data tier, which is implemented in the Office substrate and/or Microsoft Graph. This data tier is all about network identity and groups. There's also an application model, which includes work Microsoft is doing around Fluid Framework (its fast co-authoring and object embedding technology); Power Apps for rapid development and even the Visual Studio team for dev tools. Microsoft is creating a set of services and contracts for developers around Fluid Core, Search, personalization/recommendation, security, and management. For software vendors and customers, Microsoft is working to create a set of common inbox apps and controls that will carry across products and services. These include products like Planner, Stream, Tasks, Lists, Files, Whiteboard, Notes (OneNote, Sticky Notes), analytics, learning, history, downloads, and similar products/services. It also is building a set of hubs that build on top of the MetaOS technologies. Teams is just one of these hubs. Others include Windows, Microsoft's single, simplified Office mobile app, also known as Office.com (and codenamed "Union"), Outlook, and Edge/Bing. If you're wondering how Edge/Bing fits into this hub model, there's a fairly recently formed organization in Microsoft called the Web Experiences Team (WebXT), which encompasses Bing, Edge, MSN, and content services. WebXT is working with Office and Windows to create new homepage and new tab page interfaces powered by Bing ads. WebXT also is "building a large scale payment service that powers commerce for WebXT's key businesses like Bing, Content Feed, Edge," according to a recent Microsoft job posting. Under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has refocused on its core business constituency from a strategy and product perspective. But the company has not given up on the idea that it can build on the "pockets of strength" it believes it has in the consumer space by focusing first on productivity-minded consumers and gamers. (An aside: When looking at this MetaOS strategy, it's relatively easy to see how/why Microsoft might have tried to slot TikTok in here to help it push its message that its products aren't just for businesses, but instead focused on the whole life experience.) In short, MetaOS is Microsoft's underlying architecture and strategy for the foundational layer of its Microsoft 365 subscription services for business and consumer users. Microsoft 365 is big and getting bigger. Microsoft 365 contributed $20 billion in billed revenues to Microsoft's FY'20 $143 billion total, up more than 50% over the previous year. Source
  5. Microsoft's Project Natick finds that underwater datacenters are reliable and effective Image via Microsoft Project Natick is Microsoft's research project to determine the feasibility of underwater datacenters that are powered by offshore renewable energy. These datacenters have been hailed as a promising venture in Microsoft's future in cloud computing when back in 2018, CEO Satya Nadella emphasized that the future of datacenter deployment lies in underwater server pods. Besides promising faster deployment, one of the primary advantages of this setup is the fact that by positioning datacenters closer to coastal settlements, we can reduce latency due to transmission delays. Back in spring 2018, to test whether submerging a datacenter could improve its reliability, researchers lowered Microsoft's Northern Isles datacenter 117 feet underwater to the seafloor near the Orkney Islands in Scotland. After a lengthy period of testing involving the 864 servers onboard, on July 9, the datacenter was recovered and Microsoft has now finally revealed what it has learned from its experimentation. The Project Natick researchers announced that their initial hypothesis was indeed correct. Underwater datacenters can improve the reliability of datacenters while being powered by offshore renewable energy. This is majorly due to the fact that land datacenters suffer from natural phenomena like temperature fluctuations, corrosion, and humidity, which lead to frequent equipment failure, and subsequently, the need for regular maintenance. But underwater, they are in a relatively cooler environment that is less prone to such factors. In fact, the cooler environment underwater allows for energy-efficient heat-exchange plumbing that can further lower operational costs. Image via Microsoft Microsoft states that Natick Northern Isles datacenter had a failure rate of 1/8th that of the land-based control group that it was compared with. This showcases the practicality and reliability of hosting underwater datacenters that serve our cloud computing needs. The Redmond giant had already gauged its deployment speed back in 2018. While deploying a land-based data center can take up to two years due to the expensive cooling and land requirements, among others, underwater datacenters can instead be deployed in 90 days. This is what the company did back in 2018 in Scotland. Image via Microsoft Interestingly, during its tenure in Scotland, the datacenter was also used to perform COVID-19 research for [email protected] and World Community Grid during testing. Perhaps most importantly, the datacenter ran entirely on wind, solar, and other experimental green energies that are currently under development at the deployment site. This crucially ties in with Microsoft's pledge to go carbon-negative by 2030 before removing all its carbon emissions that it's ever produced from the atmosphere by 2050. Image via Microsoft Talks between Project Natick researchers and Microsoft Azure officials for commercial deployment are already underway. Scaling considerations to power Microsoft Azure services are being discussed together with the prospect of positioning datacenters closer to customers. Since half the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the coast, underwater datacenters could enable a smoother and more stable internet experience in tasks ranging from video streaming to gaming to general web surfing. Image via Microsoft But perhaps these underwater server pods offer much more. Just a few hours back, Google announced that the firm will only tap renewable power by 2030. One of the logistical challenges associated with that move will be to relocate some of its datacenters. With Microsoft's Project Natick providing a potent alternative that promises reliability and deployment speed while operating on renewable energy, we could have a potential solution onboard. Microsoft's Project Natick finds that underwater datacenters are reliable and effective
  6. HostsFileHijack : Microsoft Defender falsely reports you are infected if you try and block Microsoft telemetry and ads Editing your host file is one way to block Microsoft telemetry and Microsoft-delivered ads on Windows, and it turns out Microsoft is not too happy with it. The latest versions of Microsoft Defender for Windows 10 will detect if you are adding entries to your host file which would block Microsoft’s servers and refuse to allow you to save the file, claiming it is a severe security risk. In fact Microsoft will claim you are infected with “SettingsModifier:Win32/HostsFileHijack”, which a Google search reveals has caused several users to panic and believe they have a virus. e.g.: I do not have Malwarebytes installed, just Windows Security Defender complaining about SettingsModifier:Win32/HostsFileHijack. I also do not know if it’s related or not, but I got the popup right after launching the game SUPERHOT MIND CONTROL DELETE. I actually know what is the HOST file (a bunch of DNS to IP forwarding), so I was curious how the infection was modifying it which could give me information on what is wrong. So I “allowed” the threat via Windows Defender and strangely the file remained the same (with just the default 127.0.0.1 and ::1 to localhost lines). I then asked it to “clean” the threat again, and the HOST file content never changed. With Microsoft weaving Microsoft Defender ever more deeply into Windows, it does bring to mind the question of who actually controls the PC you are using. via WindowsLatest HostsFileHijack : Microsoft Defender falsely reports you are infected if you try and block Microsoft telemetry and ads
  7. Surface Duo gets a launch-day firmware update to address multiple issues Microsoft's long-awaited Surface Duo is finally available today, if you're in the United States, and as is usual with Surface products, Microsoft has published a day-one firmware update for the device. The company has launched the firmware updates page for the dual-screen smartphone, and it contains details of what's included in its first update. Being an Android device, you don't have to worry as much about which version of the OS you're running to know if you're getting these updates. If you have a Surface Duo, you'll get the update, and here's what's changed in it: Firmware version Update info 2020.812.86 (Unlocked Device) 2020.812.87 (AT&T Locked Device) Device stability improvements. Camera stability, performance, and image quality improvements. Improved application gestures for dismissing and moving apps to full screen. Improvements in calling features and stability. To check for updates, you'll need to head into the Settings app and find the related section, but it's not too different from how it works on Windows-based Surface devices. The Surface Duo's launch came with middling impressions from reviewers, with many complaints targeting the software and camera experiences, so hopefully these updates do something to alleviate those problems. Of course, there will be more updates over time, so there's a chance things will continue to get better. Surface Duo gets a launch-day firmware update to address multiple issues
  8. Karlston

    Review: Microsoft Surface Duo

    Review: Microsoft Surface Duo The company's first dual-screen phone points to a future for mobile technology that is both exciting and disappointing. Photograph: Microsoft Rating: 4/10 WIRED: Two screens are the future. The hinge is very sturdy, and the whole package feels wonderfully slim. The screens get plenty bright outdoors. Includes a bumper case. Good battery life. I like Microsoft's user interface. App groups are awesome. Will get monthly software updates. TIRED: Holy bugs, Batman! Stuttery performance. Typing is hard. The camera is bad. No exterior screen means you can't even tell the time without opening it. Not a lot of apps are optimized for two screens. Why is there a single speaker on a dual-screen phone? Your $1,400 buys you a device without 5G, wireless charging, MicroSD card slot, water resistance, or contactless payments. Notification bar stuck. Some apps freeze. Camera keeps flipping back and forth. These are a few of many notes I made while testing Microsoft's new phone, the dual-screen Surface Duo. I've run into so many bugs these past two weeks that I had to start jotting them down just to keep track. Presumably after hearing feedback from fellow reviewers and myself, Microsoft pushed an update to our devices a few days earlier than planned. After the update, the software became more stable, but many bugs and quirks remain. Even with the biggest wrinkles ironed out, using the Duo is still an exercise in frustration. The two displays aren't the problem; in fact, they're exemplary. Ever use two computer monitors at the same time? It's hard to go back to a single screen afterward, and the same is true here. But what drains the Duo of its mobile multitasking charm is glitchy software that makes this $1,400 phone feel like a work in progress. And as much as Microsoft doesn't want to call it a phone, that's what the Duo is, and it falls short as one in a few key areas. Double Feature Photograph: Microsoft The Surface Duo is not the first dual-screen smartphone, but it arrives at a time when companies are experimenting wildly with phone designs. Samsung and Motorola, for example, sell devices with folding screens in distinct shapes and sizes. But rather than falling in line with this new (and delicate) folding glass technology, Microsoft is betting big on the two-screen approach, which it hopes will be a boon for productivity. It's even planning a two-screen Windows laptop for 2021. What makes the Duo even more special is that it's Microsoft's first stab at Android (and a phone) since its Nokia days. Why not use Windows instead of Google's operating system? Apps. The company's Windows Phone mobile OS was crippled because it didn't attract third-party apps, and Microsoft isn't making the same mistake twice. The Google Play Store has almost every app you could want, including those made by Microsoft. And sure, you can install Microsoft's apps on any other Android phone, but running them on the Duo is unique. Microsoft got something right here: Two screens are better than one. In its closed state, the Surface Duo looks like a small paper notebook, and a pretty one at that. Unlike a lot of modern tech, it feels warm and inviting, as if opening it will unlock the secrets of the universe. Pick it up and it feels lighter than it looks. Its surprising thinness also makes it easy to hold and tote around (unlike my experience with some other dual-screen phones), though it is wide, so it might not fit your pants pockets (it barely fit mine). On the outside, which is swathed in glass, there's nothing but a Microsoft logo. Every foldable or dual-screen phone we've seen so far has some kind of small or large exterior screen for checking notifications, and I'd have liked something similar here. I appreciate not getting interrupted by alerts, but needing to repeatedly open the Duo to check the time can quickly feel like a chore. You can leave it open, but there's no always-on display; you'll still have to press the power button or use the fingerprint sensor to wake the screen. Both of those are on the right edge alongside the volume rocker. Speaking of which, the edges of the Duo are so flat and thin that they feel sharp. I recommend using the included silicone bumper case—it's soft and makes it easy to pry the two screens apart. But what impressed me the most is that unlike phones with folding screens, which have had a shaky start due to their delicate components, the Surface Duo doesn't feel fragile. It makes sense. It's just two screens connected by a hinge, after all. The hinge is the biggest area of long-term concern on any folding device, but the Duo's screens swivel back and forth just as smoothly as they did the first time I handled it. I like that the hinge's 360-degree design lets you put the phone in various orientations. You can flip one screen all the way to the back for single-screen mode, lay both out flat like a book if you want to use two screens, or use one screen as a kickstand to keep the other propped up while you watch videos. Pair Amor Photograph: Microsoft Once you open the Duo, you're treated to two 5.6-inch AMOLED displays. It looks as though someone welded two iPad Minis together, thick bezels and all. But this is the magic of the Duo. As someone who has been sitting in front of two computer monitors for more than five years, the benefits of having double the screen real estate are immediately obvious. You get the ability to truly multitask with two apps side by side without feeling constrained by the smaller, narrower displays on single-screen phones. I usually keep a messaging app like Slack or Telegram open on one screen while browsing Twitter or Reddit on the other. It makes it super easy to monitor and respond to chats. I also really like using the inactive screen to look at and open notifications. That way it doesn't interrupt my main activity. Even more useful is when you tap on a link in any app, the Duo intuitively opens it on the other screen if it's not in use. So if someone sends me a message with a link, I don't have to leave the conversation to look at it. I also really like using app pairs. You can force two apps to launch on both screens at the same time, and launching Slack and Gmail has been the first thing I do every day. It might sound like a small detail, but it just makes me feel more productive. Other things I've been doing with two screens include watching Netflix while browsing another social media app (or playing a game), and using Google Maps on one screen while messaging on the other. I'm particularly fond of reading Dune with the Kindle app. You can drag any app to the middle of the two screens to span it across both displays, and as the Kindle app has been optimized for this layout, it feels like … reading a book. Microsoft's own apps are optimized to span across the two screens. Outlook shows your email list on the left screen and the contents of a selected email on the right. Microsoft News also does something similar: Browse your news feed on the left, and read the selected story on the right. Unfortunately, the vast majority of apps don't look great when spanned, because of the hinge in the middle. Gmail, for example, will show your email list on the left, but email contents are somewhat caught in the middle of the hinge, making it difficult to read text. A big flaw with this dual-screen design is that it makes typing hard—not so much in single-screen mode where one screen is behind the other, but when you have both displays open. Microsoft's SwiftKey keyboard has a few tricks to help. You can have it float or stick to the left or right edge of the phone for one-handed use. I like typing with the latter method the most, but I'd hardly say it's comfortable. Swipe typing improves the experience, but I wish SwiftKey was more accurate. I don't recommend switching to another keyboard, as things will look wonky. If you use the Duo like a mini laptop, you can have the keyboard on the bottom screen and your app of choice on top. It's as bad as it sounds. Typing on glass as though it's a physical keyboard doesn't feel good at all. Plus, there are enough software hiccups to leave me annoyed. Unfinished Surface Photograph: Julian Chokkattu This photo is washed out with muted colors, and it's not sharp. Photograph: Julian Chokkattu Zoom in and the image is a little blurry, the camera picks up very little detail, and there's tons of grain around the ceiling. Photograph: Julian Chokkattu Portrait mode. The highlights on the top of my dog's head are blown out, the portrait mode effect is all messed up, and the image just looks under-saturated. Photograph: Julian Chokkattu Since there's no dedicated Night mode, you can't really expect much from this phone in low light. This photo is filled with noise, it's blurry, and more or less unusable. Photograph: Julian Chokkattu Finally, a decent looking shot! It's in focus and there's good detail. (The food was delicious, too.) Photograph: Julian Chokkattu Portrait mode. The background is overexposed and if you zoom in on my partner's face, the image just looks grainy and low-res. The portrait mode effect fairs a little better here, but it doesn't blur out the man in the background as much as it should. And that brings me to the worst part about the Surface Duo. I have been getting annoyed a lot. Just yesterday, in a rush to get out the door so I could bike to my parent's home to pick up some items, the Duo delayed me by several minutes. All I wanted to do was open Google Maps and start navigating. Instead, I was greeted with severe performance stutters, some freezes, and long load times. Restarting the phone helped. The Duo is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855, the flagship chip that was in dozens of 2019 Android phones. I know it's capable of offering a relatively smooth experience, so it's clear the problems lie with software optimization. What else goes wrong? Android's swipe-up gesture to go home works half the time (it takes several swipes), and the same is true for swiping down to see the notification shade. The Duo occasionally turns taps on the screen into long presses. Also, I strongly suggest you turn off auto-rotate; it's so sensitive that the screen switches orientation every time you dip the phone a little lower. The camera is frustrating too. There's just a single 11-megapixel sensor. The photos it snaps are quite poor at night and barely adequate in broad daylight. Even more aggravating is the juggling you have to do when taking a photo of a subject in front of you. Put the Duo in single screen mode and point the camera away. It sounds easy enough, but the Duo might not follow along, leaving you staring at a blank screen. A few flips later and it will work, but by then I've lost interest in taking a photo. Microsoft says the camera isn't "the focus." But the Duo has been the only phone in my pocket for the past two weeks, with my primary SIM card in it. If I didn't own a professional camera, what else am I supposed to use to take photos? You can snap pretty good pictures on most phones these days; Microsoft just needs to do better. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out all the other missing features that are standard on most high-end phones these days. There's no NFC, so you can't use the Duo to make contactless payments, something I've been relying on a lot during the pandemic. Wireless charging would have been nice considering the USB-C port's weird placement. It's on the bottom, but not centered, and I've spent too many minutes in the dark trying to plug in. There's no water resistance, 5G connectivity, or a MicroSD card slot if you need more space. There's also just one speaker on the left screen, and it's very quiet. Updates Will Come On the plus side, the Duo has two very nice screens that get bright enough to see on sunny days outdoors. The 3,577-mAh battery inside also hasn't failed me, usually ending the day with around 40 percent left. You can connect the Duo to your Windows PC or laptop to view texts, notifications, photos, and more, just like you can on Samsung's Galaxy Note phones. Even better, Microsoft is planning to issue monthly updates that squash bugs, add new features, and keep the device secure. There's a chance many of the problems I'm encountering on the Duo will disappear in a few weeks or months. If so, great. That will make the Duo a solid dual-screen phone. But that's a big if, and I'm not convinced the experience will change that much. Whether it changes or not, this is still a first-gen phone for early adopters, specifically those with money to burn. But what Microsoft has here is promising. I firmly believe multiscreen mobile devices are the future, and the Duo has cemented this notion. Having the extra screen makes me feel like I have room to breathe. I just wish the experience was far more polished than its current state. I'm already thinking about the Duo's successor—I hope Microsoft gets it right on the second try. Review: Microsoft Surface Duo
  9. Microsoft's Surface Duo handset is available today for $1,399 Microsoft finally announced its Surface Duo smartphone on October 2 of last year, promising to deliver it during the holiday season of 2020. It's finally here, and you can purchase it starting today for $1,399 or $1,499 with 128GB or 256GB of storage, respectively. The Surface Duo is the first in Microsoft's venture into dual-screen devices. In fact, it was supposed to arrive alongside the larger Surface Neo, but Neo has been delayed indefinitely with Microsoft claiming that it's not quite the right time for a focus on dual-screen devices. Windows 10X is instead being repurposed for single-screen PCs, while the Surface Duo can carry on running Android. Billed as a productivity device, the Surface Duo has two 5.6-inch AMOLED screens that have Surface Pen support, and they combine for an 8.1-inch 3:2 display. Apps that take advantage of the dual screens can choose to show some content on one screen and different content on the other, such as a menu on the left and a page on the right, or they can choose to go completely full-screen. The Duo also packs a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM, and it's the thinnest Surface ever, at least when it's unfolded. It comes in at just 4.8mm thin, weighing in at 250g. It's also got a single 11MP f/2.0 camera and a 3,577mAh battery. Pre-orders have been available for about a month, but if you want to order one now, you've got three choices. you can get it from the Microsoft Store, Best Buy, and AT&T. Microsoft is offering up to $700 off with an eligible trade-in, while Best Buy is offering 0% financing and $100 off if you activate it in-store. AT&T is offering its usual financing deals for $47 or $50 a month for the 128GB and 256GB models, respectively. Microsoft's Surface Duo handset is available today for $1,399
  10. How Microsoft built its folding Android phone From Surface Mini to Surface Duo MicrosoftMicrosoft is returning to making phones this week, as part of an ambitious project to usher in a new era of dual-screen and folding devices. The company has spent around six years developing Surface Duo, its Android-powered device that folds out to be a phone or a miniature tablet. It’s taken Microsoft years to get the hardware and software right, but the company firmly believes now is the ideal time for something new. When it goes on sale tomorrow, we’ll see if the company got it right. This is the story of how Microsoft’s new folding Android phone came to be. Microsoft’s Panos Panay with a Surface Duo. Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge Pocketable and mini Surfaces Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, is known for his onstage energy and for constantly feeling pumped, but when it came time to build his dream Moleskine-like device, he spent months walking around in secret with a peculiar piece of hardware in his pocket. “We literally had two pieces of metal and a hinge that we put together,” explains Panay in an interview with The Verge. “We had this piece of metal that I carried around in my pocket for months.” It was the early and primitive form for what eventually became the Surface Duo, and Panay spent months analyzing things like “fidget factor” and measuring how often he opened and closed the device. “Does it fit in your pocket? Can you sit on it? How big would the screen have to be if it wasn’t a traditional slab you were holding every day?” were some of the many questions he and his team were looking to answer. Panay has been thinking about a pocketable or a small Surface device for years, even describing the idea as his “baby” at one point, but it was a painful journey to get to the Surface Duo. Work began on the Duo just after Microsoft had canceled the Surface Mini, an eight-inch tablet running Windows. Microsoft had been planning to launch this smaller Surface, but it ultimately wasn’t the right time back in 2014. “It was emotional to stop,” says Panay. “Products are a reflection of the people that make them, that’s how we talk as a team. These products become who you are at work, and we spend a lot of time at work.” If there’s anything that Microsoft has learned from trying to harmonize Surface hardware and software, it’s that timing is everything. “One of things that we’ve really developed a strong muscle for is the ability to know timing for when a product is right,” explains Steven Bathiche, who oversees all hardware innovation for Microsoft devices like Surface, Xbox, and HoloLens. “Timing is a thing I’ve learned is the most important thing, it’s more important than the idea itself in fact. All the ingredients really have to be right. This is probably why in the past you haven’t seen some of these ideas really make it through.” Microsoft’s Surface mini. Image: Windows Central That’s why the Surface Mini never launched. “Mini just wasn’t right because it didn’t have the apps for the form factor,” explains Panay. “There were a lot of challenges for Mini. I still have my Mini, it’s running Windows RT, but it didn’t have everything it needed for that form.” Surface Mini would have run Windows, which meant apps would have needed to be updated for the form factor, and the size and OS choice meant you’d still have to carry around a mobile phone. While the Surface Mini cancellation was painful, it was an important part of the history of the Surface Duo and influenced what hardware choices were made. Microsoft moved on to a device codenamed “Andromeda” before shifting to the Surface Duo. While the Surface team is reluctant to talk about Andromeda in detail, sources tell The Verge it was a similar dual-screen device that was thicker and bulkier than the Surface Duo. Microsoft had planned to run a custom variant of Windows on Andromeda, and the camera hardware was also different to what exists in the Duo. “At that time, it was different hardware, it’s not the same hardware… it’s not even remotely close,” says Panay. The key principles of Surface Duo existed in Andromeda, though: two screens side by side, with a hinge that allowed the device to fold out into place. “We’re in so many generations later of development [with Surface Duo], we understand how thin it is, we understand reliability, we understand the robustness of the screens. It has been generationally made, it’s years in the making.” Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge Folding hardware Surface Mini and Andromeda helped Microsoft experiment with the idea of a pocketable Surface device, and the learnings have helped. The idea of a foldable display, like what’s found on Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, was quickly discarded in favor of the reliability of two flat screens. “It wasn’t difficult for us to realize that taking a screen and folding it wasn’t the right option for this product,” explains Bathiche. “We wanted glass. We wanted glass that wouldn’t scratch because we also wanted to give you a pen. We also wanted a 360-degree hinge, and we wanted to be able to do that without compromising the thickness of the device.” Microsoft decided early on that there wouldn’t be a cover display, meaning you have to make an intentional choice to unfold the Duo to see the displays and even notifications. These fundamental choices allowed Microsoft to focus on important hardware aspects like keeping the device thin, creating a reliable hinge, and the idea of bringing the dual-screen computing you’re used to on your Windows desktop PC into your pocket. “One of the things that we learned on Surface Mini that was actually really valuable for us is when you’re designing these super thin structures you want to come up with a mechanical architecture,” says Pavan Davuluri, a distinguished Microsoft Surface engineer. “You’re coalescing and condensing a lot of the mechanical components — structural, thermal, and RF pieces — into a single internal frame.” This internal frame has allowed Microsoft to spread the Surface Duo components across both sides, while keeping the device just 4.8mm thin. “Most phones are buckets essentially, it’s a bucket that you fill with parts and put glass on the backside,” explains Davuluri. “That’s not how Surface Duo was built. Duo was built with an internal frame that really is the development scheme for integrating all these dual-system components.” Microsoft experimented with a few different internal architectures. One didn’t even have dual screens, and another was just a phone powering a second screen on the opposite side. “We had another variant where we were using wireless connectivity vs. wired,” says Davuluri, so the second display wasn’t physically connected. Microsoft’s early Duo experiments. Microsoft Microsoft These prototypes would have meant the Duo would end up being thicker or one side would be heavier. “It was definitely easier to make one side thick and put everything on one side, and then make the other side super thin,” admits Bathiche. “We chose the hard way from an engineering standpoint, but we’re really proud of the result of the design… the device is symmetrical, which evokes its function as well.” These hardware choices weren’t always easy, though. LCD displays would have made a lot of sense over OLED, but they would have added to the thickness of the device. There were intense debates inside Microsoft around the hardware that went into Surface Duo. “The whole LCD or OLED debate was a real one,” explains Bathiche. “I was really worried about it, because I knew some of the challenges we’d have to overcome that OLED didn’t really solve.” Microsoft created a prototype Surface Duo with OLED displays, and the first hardware sample shocked Surface engineers. “When we got our first prototypes back… we opened it up and looked at it for the first time and realized ‘Holy cow, there’s a color shift that we didn’t essentially account for that happens when you look at OLED offscreen,’” recounts Bathiche. “Displays are like snowflakes, there’s no two alike.” OLED color shifts aren’t easily noticeable on a single display, but when you put them side by side, it’s a different story. Microsoft had to work with display manufactures to widen the color viewing angles, and configure them to have the same contrast, color uniformity, and timing. There were also intense debates over the thinness of the Surface Duo. “People wanted to violate thinness every which way, across the board you can pick any of the tech that went into it,” explains Pete Kyriacou, vice president of Surface program management. These debates and internal tension ultimately led to Microsoft creating an incredibly thin device. “This is the most emotional product we’ve ever created,” says Panay. “A lot of that comes from tension. To get that diamond out, there had to be a lot of it. Microns mattered, not millimeters, microns. I remember being in meetings and being like ‘Come on, Pete, we’re talking less than a millimeter tradeoff that’s all we need to solve this product.” Kyriacou didn’t move on the thin focus, and the team had to find other ways to solve problems. “Maybe that’s why it took years to get to this product,” admits Panay. “There were moments like those because we pushed so many boundaries.” The original Surface Duo prototype that Panay carried around. Microsoft Some of these hardware choices for dual screens and the device thinness have also led to the Duo missing things like 5G connectivity or NFC support. The camera isn’t what you’d expect to find on a flagship Android device in 2020, largely because of how thin the Surface Duo is. “We had to stay maniacally focused on the weight, the symmetry, and the battery life of the system,” reveals Davuluri. “That, in turn, drove the choice of what kind of sensor we picked, and what kind of optics system had to live in that footprint, and how we had to optimize the camera software experience.” The camera module inside the Surface Duo is one of the smallest on the market to make sure it fits inside the 4.8mm thickness. Microsoft has optimized for both front and rear photography, but it’s obvious the camera will have some serious limitations. Microsoft also experimented with other enclosure materials during its early Surface Duo mockup phase. Some prototypes included fabric or metal, similar to what we’ve seen on Surface keyboards. “We liked that fabric enclosure material because it gave us some properties in Surface Mini like our speakers were built out of fabric on that product at the time,” says Davuluri. “There were things we really liked about fabric… but it didn’t meet all of our requirements for our current generation and future generation products.” Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge Google software Beyond the hardware experimentation, the software and OS powering the Surface Duo were also incredibly important. Microsoft had been experimenting with a custom variant of Windows for its Andromeda device, but the company switched directions and moved to Android. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. “Bringing Android into the fold, that wasn’t the most simple of conversations all of the time,” admits Panay. “You have to explain that and you want your team on board and people believing it.” Apps were a limiting factor for a Windows- or Windows Phone-powered device, and Panay has previously admitted it’s the key reason the Surface Duo runs Android. Apps and even the Android software running on Surface Duo won’t be perfect just yet, as Google hasn’t fully optimized the OS for this type of hardware, but Microsoft is working with Google to improve Android. “As we got into working with Android, it wasn’t about just doing things specifically for Duo,” explains Kyriacou. Microsoft has created a dual-screen architecture, drag-and-drop APIs, screen-aware APIs, and even hinge APIs that all make apps light up across both screens. “We wanted to make sure we were working with Google to get that back into the ecosystem, so it’s not a forked version of Android. This is about working with them to make sure this all accrues to app developers and Android.” Microsoft hasn’t heavily modified or skinned Android with the Surface Duo, either. “Our goal from the beginning was to stay as true to Android as possible,” says Kyriacou. “Mainly for familiarity, but also to make sure the changes we would make for windowing or hinge angle / postures would be part of the Android operating system going forward.” Software updates and OS tweaks are a lot easier to roll out than hardware changes, so expect to see the Duo improve regularly, especially when Android 11 arrives. Microsoft is also promising three years of Android updates for the Surface Duo, so it will benefit from any work Microsoft and Google are doing to improve Android for years to come. Microsoft has been working on improving gestures and the keyboard experience on Surface Duo in recent months, and more improvements are on the way. “In addition to our normal fixes, we’ll also be updating features that drive a great dual-screen experience,” adds Kyriacou. “We will be on future versions of Android when the time is right.” The future Microsoft’s folding and dual-screen ambitions don’t end with just the Surface Duo. The company is still planning to launch a Surface Neo device, powered by Windows 10X. Microsoft unveiled the Surface Neo last year alongside the Duo, complete with two separate nine-inch displays that fold out into a full 13-inch workspace. It was supposed to launch later this year. “Neo is delayed,” says Panay. “I wanted the right time to bring that product with the right experience. We believe in that concept and form factor and size. It will be a beautiful complement to Duo with Windows and I’m excited about it. It’s a product that’s near and dear to my heart.” Surface Duo and Neo won’t be the only dual-screen devices Microsoft is creating, either. “I believe that different sizes will happen, and I actually believe different companies will make different sizes too, and I think they should,” says Panay. “We want dual-screen architecture to be prevalent, we want every app to work on these screens, and we’re fundamentally committed to that. It includes a roadmap of multiple sizes.” Surface Duo and Surface Neo. Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge How Microsoft balances the choice to run Windows or Android on different sizes will be interesting in the years ahead, especially as the company has been pushing Android closer to Windows with its Your Phone app. You can now run your phone’s Android apps beside Windows apps on a desktop PC, and it’s easy to imagine Microsoft may go further with this integration in the future. “The next natural evolution is different [dual-screen] sizes,” says Panay. “Whether the larger moves into Windows where it’s appropriate to use the Windows codebase and software, and the smaller form factor uses Android, I think you can safely say that’s the right path with what we’re doing right now as a team.” Panay believes Duo and dual-screen devices are here to stay, and the hardware will clearly evolve in the future. “Two screens matters. I believe when people start using it they’re going to adapt to these products, they’re going to fall in love with them.” We might have to wait until foldable glass is a little more reliable before we see it on a Surface device, though. “I think it’s an exciting era of research, it’s one of the things we’re really on top of,” explains Bathiche. “We know all the physics problems that need to be addressed to deliver the experience that we really want to go after, but for us, not yet.” Microsoft truly believes that the Surface Duo, and devices like it, will change the way people use mobile devices. That belief is rooted in the work the company has been doing in Windows for more than 30 years, allowing PC users to window apps, drag and drop content, and support multiple monitors to multitask. Bringing that to mobile devices won’t be easy, and Microsoft is hoping the third time’s the charm after Windows Mobile and Windows Phone failed to make a dent in the mobile market. Just like Microsoft had to prove Surface tablets made sense in the first place, the company will once again have to demonstrate that there’s even a need for a device like the Surface Duo. The future of mobile devices could go in a variety of different directions. Not everyone will have a need for a device like the Surface Duo immediately — or maybe ever. But then not everyone needed to check their email on the go or browse the mobile web when the first stylus-driven smartphones appeared. Microsoft is betting that behaviors will change, or as Panay puts it: “it’s a product that I believe is transformative for the future.” How Microsoft built its folding Android phone
  11. Microsoft will retain the Pentagon's $10 billion JEDI contract, beats Amazon again Microsoft won the $10 billion United States Department of Defense’s (DoD) JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) contract back in October 2019 after affirming that it was not going to withdraw from the bidding process for the Pentagon’s contract due to protests. However, the contract did not go well with companies like Amazon, which filed a lawsuit in November 2019, challenging the decision to award the contract to Microsoft. Throughout the bidding process, Amazon was reportedly expected to win the contract. However, the Redmond giant supposedly outbid the eCommerce giant in the final rounds to win the contract. Owing to the lawsuit and questions raised through it, the DoD began re-evaluating the bids and requested both the companies to submit revised bids in March this year. Now, the DoD has released a statement (spotted by ZDNet) that reaffirms that the JEDI contract, as originally planned, will be awarded to Microsoft. Here is the complete statement: The Department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI Cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft's proposal continues to represent the best value to the Government. The JEDI Cloud contract is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that will make a full range of cloud computing services available to the DoD. While contract performance will not begin immediately due to the Preliminary Injunction Order issued by the Court of Federal Claims on February 13, 2020, DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform. Amazon’s lawsuit reportedly cited political influence and errors to be the reason for the contract being awarded to Microsoft. However, Microsoft has said that the contract was offered to them because it offered “significantly superior technology at a better price”. The firm also stated that Amazon wanted to re-do the contract because it had “gained significant information about its competitor’s pricing” through the lawsuits. The Pentagon’s JEDI contract aims to procure cloud technologies from the tech giant to modernize the DoD’s systems and infrastructure. The win for Microsoft also opens more opportunities for the company in the government sector. Microsoft will retain the Pentagon's $10 billion JEDI contract, beats Amazon again
  12. Microsoft's acquisition of TikTok could be announced in the next couple of days [Update] Earlier today, it was reported that Kevin Mayer was stepping down from his role as CEO of short-form video platform TikTok in the midst of the conflict between it and the U.S. government. Now, a report from Julia Boorstin of CNBC claims that the reason Mayer chose to step down is that he was excluded from the negotiations to complete the sale of TikTok to an American company. Further, Boorstin's sources claim that Mayer's exit indicated that the acquisition deal could happen in the next couple of days, and that the buyer would likely be Microsoft. The Redmond company has been indicated as the most likely to go ahead with an acquisition of TikTok, and the company's share prices spiked 3% following the report. However, TikTok has yet to make a final decision on a buyer, and Oracle is still in the running for the acquisition. At one point, Walmart seemingly tried to partner with SoftBank to make an offer for TikTok, but conversations fell through since the companies didn't have a "technology backbone partner", according to CNBC. Regardless of who ends up buying TikTok, the report indicates that the transaction will be valued between $20 and $30 billion, though a specific number hasn't been decided yet. We'll have to wait for a formal announcement in the coming days. Update: In a follow-up report, Walmart has told CNBC that it's now teaming up with Microsoft for the TikTok acquisition. The retailer believes TikTok could help it reach more customers but also grow its advertising business. It's still unconfirmed who TikTok is being sold to, however. Microsoft's acquisition of TikTok could be announced in the next couple of days [Update]
  13. Microsoft backs Epic against Apple in legal fight over Unreal Engine on iOS MS says maintaining Epic’s access “is the right thing for... developers & gamers.” Enlarge / Fortnite seen in the App Store on an iPhone on May 10, 2018. Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images 231 with 105 posters participating In court documents that surfaced this weekend, Microsoft offered its support for Epic Games in the Unreal Engine-maker's quickly unfolding legal battle with Apple over access to the iOS app marketplace. The legal declaration from Microsoft Gaming Developer Experiences General Manager Kevin Gammill comes in response to Apple's threat to halt Epic's access to software development tools used to update its popular Unreal Engine for use on iOS. That threat itself came after Epic tried to use its own payment system in the iOS version of Fortnite to get around Apple's 30-percent platform fee. That move quickly got the game pulled from the Apple App Store and led Epic to file a lawsuit in response. Gammill says that any move harming development of Epic's Unreal Engine on iOS would hurt Microsoft's business, because "in Microsoft’s view there are very few other options available for creators to license with as many features and as much functionality as Unreal Engine across multiple platforms, including iOS." "Ensuring that Epic has access to the latest Apple technology is the right thing for gamer developers & gamers," Microsoft's Head of Xbox Phil Spencer added while tweeting a link to the declaration Sunday. Microsoft uses Unreal Engine for iOS games such as Forza Street, and Gammill says Epic's software is "critical technology for numerous game creators, including Microsoft... if Unreal Engine cannot support games for iOS or macOS, Microsoft would be required to choose between abandoning its customers and potential customers on the iOS and macOS platforms or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new games." Enlarge / Microsoft says its work on games like Forza Street would be hurt by Apple's threatened actions against Unreal Engine development. Developers currently working on Unreal Engine projects for Apple hardware would have to incur significant costs to start over, Gammill said, while developers with current Unreal Engine apps on iOS will be stuck with an engine that can't "take advantage of new iOS or macOS features, fix software bugs, or patch security flaws. "In addition, this situation could bifurcate a game’s player base, such that gamers on iOS or macOS cannot play or communicate with friends or family who are playing on other platforms," Gammill added. Chilling retaliation? In court documents filed late last week, Apple argues that the "irreparable harm" Epic claims Apple is causing in this matter is actually the "self-inflicted... result of its choice to breach its agreements" with Apple. All of these problems can go away, Apple asserts, if Epic resubmits a version of Fortnite that complies with the App Store's standard in-app purchase rules (including Apple's 30-percent fee). "The harm raised by Epic here is completely avoidable—here and now," Apple writes. "The asserted harm to Epic customers, whether of Fortnite or Unreal Engine, can be ended by Epic. All of the users and developers that Epic asserts are at risk are disadvantaged only because Epic’s scheme included breaching its agreements and running into court for relief. Epic has put customers and developers in this position, not Apple." In its response filing, though, Epic asserts that any issues surrounding Fortnite should not affect Epic's ability to separately continue developing Unreal Engine for iOS. That's because Apple's Program License Agreement—which Apple says Epic breached with its Fortnite direct payment plan—is completely separate from its XCode and Software Development Kit agreement—which governs the testing and development of Unreal Engine on the platform. "The breadth of Apple’s retaliation [against Unreal Engine development] is itself an unlawful effort to maintain its monopoly and chill any action by others who might dare oppose Apple," Epic writes in urging the court to block Apple's threatened action. "Epic asks only that the Court preserve the status quo so that Epic continues to have the same access to software, software development kits (“SDKs”), application programming interfaces (“APIs”) and other developer tools that it has today." Strange bedfellows Separate from Epic's battle, Microsoft is also waging its own PR war against Apple over the blocking of an iOS version of its xCloud game streaming platform. "Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass," Microsoft said earlier this month. "And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content." But Microsoft and Epic make somewhat strange legal bedfellows. As recently as 2016, the two companies publicly sparred over similar platform control issues raised by Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform, which Epic called a "fiasco" and "the most aggressive move Microsoft has ever made." Epic and Microsoft publicly buried the hatchet last year, though, with Epic CEO Tim Sweeney telling VentureBeat "Epic loves Microsoft. Epic hearts Microsoft.” Microsoft also exercises strict, iOS-style control over the software market on Xbox consoles and extracts a similar 30-percent fee for in-game items sold on the platform. But Sweeney has said these console markets are different from mobile platforms because of console-makers' "enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers." Microsoft backs Epic against Apple in legal fight over Unreal Engine on iOS
  14. “Microsoft Reinvents the PC Keyboard with a Brand-New Button” Sorry. My cynicism is showing. But that’s a for-real headline. According to a great little item picked up by WalkingCat on Twitter, MS may put a new key on its keyboards, to the right of the right-Alt key, that invokes the emoji panel. You can see the same panel right now by holding down the Windows key and pressing the period. One more reason to buy Surface products, eh? Oh, how the mighty have fallen. “Microsoft Reinvents the PC Keyboard with a Brand-New Button”
  15. Microsoft Put Off Fixing Zero Day for 2 Years A security flaw in the way Microsoft Windows guards users against malicious files was actively exploited in malware attacks for two years before last week, when Microsoft finally issued a software update to correct the problem. One of the 120 security holes Microsoft fixed on Aug. 11’s Patch Tuesday was CVE-2020-1464, a problem with the way every supported version of Windows validates digital signatures for computer programs. Code signing is the method of using a certificate-based digital signature to sign executable files and scripts in order to verify the author’s identity and ensure that the code has not been changed or corrupted since it was signed by the author. Microsoft said an attacker could use this “spoofing vulnerability” to bypass security features intended to prevent improperly signed files from being loaded. Microsoft’s advisory makes no mention of security researchers having told the company about the flaw, which Microsoft acknowledged was actively being exploited. In fact, CVE-2020-1464 was first spotted in attacks used in the wild back in August 2018. And several researchers informed Microsoft about the weakness over the past 18 months. Bernardo Quintero is the manager at VirusTotal, a service owned by Google that scans any submitted files against dozens of antivirus services and displays the results. On Jan. 15, 2019, Quintero published a blog post outlining how Windows keeps the Authenticode signature valid after appending any content to the end of Windows Installer files (those ending in .MSI) signed by any software developer. Quintero said this weakness would particularly acute if an attacker were to use it to hide a malicious Java file (.jar). And, he said, this exact attack vector was indeed detected in a malware sample sent to VirusTotal. “In short, an attacker can append a malicious JAR to a MSI file signed by a trusted software developer (like Microsoft Corporation, Google Inc. or any other well-known developer), and the resulting file can be renamed with the .jar extension and will have a valid signature according Microsoft Windows,” Quintero wrote. But according to Quintero, while Microsoft’s security team validated his findings, the company chose not to address the problem at the time. “Microsoft has decided that it will not be fixing this issue in the current versions of Windows and agreed we are able to blog about this case and our findings publicly,” his blog post concluded. Tal Be’ery, founder of Zengo, and Peleg Hadar, senior security researcher at SafeBreach Labs, penned a blog post on Sunday that pointed to a file uploaded to VirusTotal in August 2018 that abused the spoofing weakness, which has been dubbed GlueBall. The last time that August 2018 file was scanned at VirusTotal (Aug 14, 2020), it was detected as a malicious Java trojan by 28 of 59 antivirus programs. More recently, others would likewise call attention to malware that abused the security weakness, including this post in June 2020 from the Security-in-bits blog. Image: Securityinbits.com Be’ery said the way Microsoft has handled the vulnerability report seems rather strange. “It was very clear to everyone involved, Microsoft included, that GlueBall is indeed a valid vulnerability exploited in the wild,” he wrote. “Therefore, it is not clear why it was only patched now and not two years ago.” Asked to comment on why it waited two years to patch a flaw that was actively being exploited to compromise the security of Windows computers, Microsoft dodged the question, saying Windows users who have applied the latest security updates are protected from this attack. “A security update was released in August,” Microsoft said in a written statement sent to KrebsOnSecurity. “Customers who apply the update, or have automatic updates enabled, will be protected. We continue to encourage customers to turn on automatic updates to help ensure they are protected.” Update, 12:45 a.m. ET: Corrected attribution on the June 2020 blog article about GlueBall exploits in the wild. Microsoft Put Off Fixing Zero Day for 2 Years
  16. Surface Duo internals show Microsoft’s fanatical commitment to thinness Get a peek at the Duo's unique construction with a single-sided motherboard. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Microsoft is certainly marching to the beat of its own drum with the Surface Duo. In a world of cookie-cutter slab smartphones and cutting edge foldable display devices, Microsoft is slapping two transitional smartphone screens next to each other and pushing dual-app usage as the way to use its first-ever self-branded Android device. Something lost in the initial news shuffle is that the Surface Duo is actually one of the thinnest smartphones ever made. The mid-2000's misguided obsession with thinness resulted in a few gimmicky devices labeled the "world's thinnest smartphone." The high point (low point?) of the thinness war was the Vivo X5Max, which had an astounding 4.75mm thickness (and would you believe it still had a headphone jack?). Last week, Microsoft published the Surface Duo specs, and the company just casually listed "4.8mm" as the thickness of the device when open. When you plug the Surface Duo in to charge it, the USB-C plug will be thicker than the body of the device. CNET recently got a look at the internals of the Surface Duo via a non-functional, transparent prototype, and the photos and video shows just how far Microsoft went in its fanatical dedication to thinness. The Surface Duo has what looks to be a single-sided motherboard. All the chips are on one side of the board, and the presumably smooth back looks to be pressed up hard against the back of the device. The one-sided board construction means the, uh, surface area of the Surface motherboard is absolutely massive. The right half of the device is nearly all motherboard, and chopping the photo up in an image editor shows there's actually more total area dedicated to components than to the battery. It really is amazing how big the motherboard is, especially when you consider the only extra components in the Duo are the extra screen and wires connecting the two halves. You could argue the Duo actually has a fewer components than most smartphones, since there's only one camera in the entire device. Double-sided circuit boards are common in most devices, and many smartphone manufacturers have started stacking circuit boards on top of each other, giving them three or four planes to place chips on. Minimizing the motherboard surface area as much as possible leaves more space for battery, and if you look at a teardown of a modern smartphone, you'll see only the tiniest scraps of area reserved for the motherboard, which is now a dense little chip sandwich. Enlarge / We can probably all agree the Galaxy Fold (right) is too thick, but Microsoft might be going a bit too far in the other direction. Ron Amadeo Thinness is going to be a key component of foldable smartphones, since folding a device in half means doubling the normal thickness. The Galaxy Fold 1 perfectly explains this problem. Unfolded, it's a pretty normal 7.6mm thick smartphone, but fold it in half and add a bit more for the hinge mechanism and you get a 17.1mm brick that you're definitely going to notice in your pocket. Microsoft says the Surface Duo is not a secondary device, and it wants people to "rethink how they want to use the device in their pocket." Thinness is a key part of pocketability, but it seems like Microsoft got a bit of tunnel vision in the process. When folded, the Surface Duo might be extremely thin, but it is also extremely wide. At 93mm, the phone is 10mm wider than one of the widest Android phones ever, the Nexus 6. The Nexus 6 was deemed too wide by most people, given how quickly Motorola retreated from devices of this size. It limited your mobility due to having to fit in your pocket—if it even could fit in there. I am not sure building a device with the profile of a salad plate is the best approach to pocketability. No one has spent any significant time with the Surface Duo yet, but the phone ships September 10. Surface Duo internals show Microsoft’s fanatical commitment to thinness (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  17. Microsoft’s ‘can’t uninstall Microsoft Edge’ support page is hilariously telling The company is clearly aware some customers are trying to revolt Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge Look, I’m sure that the new Microsoft Edge is a fantastic web browser. I’m looking forward to trying it someday. But Microsoft, I have a piece of advice for you: if so very many Windows users are googling “Can’t uninstall Microsoft Edge” that you feel the need to utterly own that search result by making it the title of your FAQ... maybe just don’t force it on Windows users to begin with? Here’s a screenshot of the new support page, for posterity: To be clear, I’m not saying Microsoft shouldn’t have updated users to the new version of Edge, particularly after today’s announcement that Internet Explorer and legacy Edge will be fully phased out exactly one year from now. Continued security updates are important! But instead of telling users what effectively boils down to “you can’t uninstall it because we decided not to let you,” perhaps Microsoft could take a hint and give users what they apparently want. Here’s how Google search volume for “uninstall Microsoft Edge” has evolved in recent months: By the way, you apparently can still get rid of the new Edge. (Strange how Microsoft’s page omits that.) You’ll just have to be comfortable with a few shell commands. Microsoft’s ‘can’t uninstall Microsoft Edge’ support page is hilariously telling
  18. Microsoft promises three years of feature updates for the Surface Duo Yesterday, Microsoft took the wraps off of its Surface Duo handset. It's the company's first Android device, also making it the first Microsoft hardware to not run Microsoft software, or at least software where the company doesn't control the whole stack. When it comes to Android devices, the question always comes up about how long they will be supported with updates. Microsoft told Android Authority that Surface Duo owners will get three years of OS and security updates, an impressive promise. Outside of Google's Pixel smartphones, very few companies will commit to that much support. There are a few reasons for this, the most obvious being that the Surface Duo starts at an incredible $1,399. But also, this is Microsoft we're talking about here. This company supports nine out of the 10 versions of Windows 10 still, and that doesn't even include the older versions of Windows that companies are paying to still support. And of course, let's not forget that Microsoft considers this to be more of a mini-PC than a phone, and if it's being supported as such, the usual two years isn't enough. Microsoft can't assume that users will replace the Duo after a couple of years like it could for a standard phone. Whatever the reason is, if you're willing to shell out $1,400 for a Surface Duo, you can rest assured that you'll get updates for a while. Microsoft promises three years of feature updates for the Surface Duo
  19. Microsoft releases Surface Duo press event video with 30 minutes of demos Demos of everything Microsoft’s Android phone is capable of Microsoft has published a full 35-minute Surface Duo press briefing video that it held with journalists earlier this week. Microsoft typically holds in-person events for its Surface products, and this year’s press briefing was essentially a virtual version of a Surface event. Panos Panay, Microsoft’s Windows and Devices chief, discusses everything from how the company built the Surface Duo to the tech inside and lots more. It’s probably the best demonstration of Microsoft’s Android phone yet. Microsoft even teases some unannounced colorful Surface Duo bumper cases at one point in the demo. New Surface Duo bumper colors. Microsoft announced the Surface Duo, a dual-screen Android phone, earlier this week. Priced from $1,399, the Surface Duo will go on sale in the US on September 10th. Microsoft is hoping that this new form factor will change mobile productivity and usher in a new era of dual-screen and foldable devices. Microsoft releases Surface Duo press event video with 30 minutes of demos
  20. Google really loves Microsoft’s Surface Duo dual-screen phone Google believes in Microsoft’s dual-screen future (Image credit: Hiroshi Lockheimer) One of the most senior Android executives has shown off his Surface Duo device, hinting that Google is mightily impressed with Microsoft’s upcoming dual-screen phone. While we’ve seen the Surface Duo being shown off by various Microsoft employees, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella back in January, the fact that it’s being shown off by people at Google suggests that the company is really getting behind Microsoft’s upcoming phone – and hints that the two companies are working together to make sure it’s a hit. An image of the Surface Duo was tweeted by Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president of Android, Chrome, Chrome OS, Photos and communication products, who’s clearly a big fan of the device. A Microsoft phone that’s worth getting? Although Microsoft has been trying to avoid calling the Surface Duo a smartphone, that’s what it is, essentially, as it’s a communication device that can make and receive calls. It has two 5.6-inch screens that can turn it into an 8.3-inch tablet-like device, and unlike previous phones by Microsoft, it runs Google's hugely popular Android operating system. This could be key to its success, as previous Microsoft phones ran its unloved Windows Mobile OS, which suffered from a lack of apps. Teaming up with Google seems to have paid off, and Microsoft has been working with the company to create a version of Google that runs on a dual screen device. Microsoft is also working on a larger Surface Neo device that runs Windows 10X, a version of Windows 10 made for dual screen devices, but that has recently been announced as being delayed until 2021. The Surface Duo, however, is still pegged for a holiday 2020 release, and if it’s now in the hands of higher ups at Google, it seems like Microsoft is confident that it’s ready to ship soon. Via MSPowerUser Google really loves Microsoft’s Surface Duo dual-screen phone
  21. Microsoft confirms that the Xbox Series X will arrive in November Microsoft confirmed today that its next-generation Xbox, the Series X, will arrive in November. Originally unveiled as the Xbox Series X in December and known as Project Scarlett before that, the console was originally slated for the more vague 'holiday 2020' season. But today, Halo Infinite was delayed, and it's going to arrive in 2021 instead of 2020. Being the headlining launch title for the Series X, some might have assumed that the hardware was delayed as well, but that's not the case. Microsoft was quick to say that the Xbox Series X is still coming this year, and it's coming in November. The firm also reiterated that there is still plenty to do between the two launch dates. There will still be over 50 launch games, and of course, you can play your entire library of Xbox One games on the Series X, and that library includes anything that's playable on the Xbox One. That includes Xbox 360 and Xbox games that are playable via the Backward Compatibility program. There are still plenty of unknowns around the Xbox Series X. For one thing, we don't know how much it will cost, and we probably won't know until Microsoft launches another unknown, the Xbox Series S, which is set to be a lesser, more inexpensive version of the console that's been hyped for the past year. Microsoft confirms that the Xbox Series X will arrive in November
  22. Microsoft opens xCloud game streaming beta early tomorrow Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers get early access Microsoft is allowing Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to try its new game streaming feature (xCloud) early tomorrow, August 11th. The software giant will launch a new version of the Xbox Game Pass beta app for Android, which includes game streaming. While the game streaming feature, known previously as xCloud, will be officially available on September 15th, anyone can grab the beta app from the Google Play Store and try it early from tomorrow onward. “As we approach the launch of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on September 15, we’re entering a limited beta period to ensure a smooth transition of the cloud gaming experience to the Xbox Game Pass app on Android,” explains a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “Existing Xbox Game Pass (Beta) app users will get the opportunity to test a subset of the available titles as we ready the experience for broader availability next month. This limited beta is critical to providing the best possible experience for members at launch and should not be considered indicative of the final experience or library.” This game streaming beta won’t have the full 100 or more games that will be available next month, but expect around 30 or so titles to play tomorrow. Microsoft is still planning to discontinue its Project xCloud Preview on September 11th, ahead of the general launch on September 15th. If you’re interested in trying out game streaming (xCloud) tomorrow, then you’ll need to be an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriber and have the Xbox Game Pass (beta) app from the Google Play Store. Microsoft opens xCloud game streaming beta early tomorrow
  23. Microsoft’s new Xbox Series S console confirmed in leaked controller packaging The second, cheaper next-gen Xbox gets a name Microsoft is rumored to be unveiling its second, cheaper next-gen Xbox console this month, and it looks like it will definitely be called Xbox Series S. The Verge has obtained photos of Microsoft’s new next-gen Xbox controller in white, complete with packaging that mentions the Xbox Series S. Twitter user Zak S was able to purchase the controller today, and we’ve confirmed it’s genuine. The new controller was sold on a resale site today, and the side of the packaging notes that the controller works with both Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. Microsoft has not officially unveiled an Xbox Series S yet, nor has the company even confirmed a white Xbox Series X controller. Xbox Series S on the packaging. A mysterious white Xbox Series X controller also appeared online last month, complete with the new D-pad, textured triggers, and new share button. This new leak matches the previous controller leak, and retail packaging suggests that these could be appearing in stores soon. The Xbox Series S will likely be Microsoft’s second cheaper next-gen Xbox, that’s been codenamed Lockhart. A Microsoft document, leaked back in June, shed some further light on the company’s plans for two next-gen consoles. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X devkit, codenamed “Dante,” allows game developers to enable a special Lockhart mode that has a profile of the performance that Microsoft wants to hit with this second console. The Lockhart console is expected to include 7.5GB of usable RAM, around 4 teraflops of GPU performance, and ship with the same CPU found on the Xbox Series X. Microsoft is rumored to be unveiling the Xbox Series S some time in August, and it will likely play a big part of the company’s Xbox All Access subscription plans that bundle an Xbox console and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass) for a monthly fee. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to comment on the next-gen Xbox controller leak, and we’ll update you accordingly. Microsoft’s new Xbox Series S console confirmed in leaked controller packaging
  24. Bill Gates calls Microsoft’s TikTok deal a poisoned chalice Microsoft’s complicated deal even has Gates wary Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has described the company’s potential TikTok deal as a poisoned chalice. In a wide-ranging interview with Wired, Gates makes it clear that Microsoft acquiring parts of TikTok won’t be easy or simple. “Who knows what’s going to happen with that deal,” says Gates. “But yes, it’s a poison[ed] chalice.” He also notes that being a big player in the social media business “is no simple game,” as Microsoft will have to contend with a whole new level of content moderation. Asked if Gates is wary of Microsoft getting into the social media game, he suggests that Facebook having some more competition is “probably a good thing” but that “having Trump kill off the only competitor, it’s pretty bizarre.” Gates seems as confused as the rest of us about how this potential TikTok deal is proceeding, especially with President Trump suggesting the US Treasury will need some type of cut from any acquisition. “I agree that the principle this is proceeding on is singly strange,” says Gates. “The cut thing, that’s doubly strange. Anyway, Microsoft will have to deal with all of that.” Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Photo by Ryan Manning / The Verge Gates’ comments come just days after Microsoft confirmed it was pursuing a deal to buy TikTok’s operations in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Reports have also suggested Microsoft might be considering buying all of TikTok’s global operations, with the Financial Times suggesting talks around this particular deal are at the “preliminary” stage. President Trump also claimed last week that he was a day away from banning TikTok in the US, before later setting a deadline of September 15th for Microsoft to conclude its potential acquisition and avoid TikTok being banned. It’s a complicated deal that would give Microsoft a big presence in the social networking space at the risk of being part of a larger trade war between the US and China. Gates is clearly wary of the acquisition, but we’re about a month away from seeing if it becomes a reality. Bill Gates calls Microsoft’s TikTok deal a poisoned chalice
  25. Microsoft splits Ignite 2020 into two virtual events, second one to be held in early 2021 Back in January 2020, Microsoft announced that it will be moving Ignite back to September after having held the conference in November for the 2019 iteration. Ignite is one of the biggest events for the Redmond giant, and was slated to take place from September 21 through September 25 this year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the company could no longer schedule it as an in-person event. Today, Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Chris Capossela announced that the company will be splitting Ignite into two virtual events that will consist of “48-hour digital gathering”, in place of the week-long event that it has historically been. The first part of the conference will be held from September 22 to September 24, while the second iteration is scheduled for some time in early 2021. Registrations for this year’s Ignite will open on September 3. The CMO adds that the conference next year will connect with its technical communities and that the firm will “share the latest product developments”. He adds: We’ve learned from the global digital events we’ve held this year that we now have the opportunity to bring the whole global community together in one place to create a truly worldwide event. For this reason, we’re not going to be holding Microsoft Ignite Tour events in different cities around the world this year; instead Microsoft Ignite will bring all global participants together and include the opportunity for local community meetups, will have language localization, and participants will also be able to get skill building with Microsoft Learn and certifications. Capossela also mentions that the second Ignite conference slated to be held next year will not be replacing its Build conference, which is typically held in May. Considering that the company announced that it will move all events until July 2021 into a digital format, it is likely that Build 2021 will be a virtual event. It is not clear if the two Ignite event will continue to be virtual-only conferences, or if the company will move it back to an in-person event in the future. Microsoft splits Ignite 2020 into two virtual events, second one to be held in early 2021
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