Microsoft Weekly: Halo Infinite, Surface devices, and half a decade of Windows 10

Following the week of the Xbox Games Showcase, we got some leaks about controllers and Halo multiplayer (the latter of which turned out to be true), as well as a handful of updates for various Microsoft operating systems and programs. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of July 25 – 31.

Halo Infinite

After the Xbox Games Showcase on the 23, 343 Industries did receive a bit of blowback due to Halo Infinite’s graphics and other aspects of the demo, which were addressed in a dedicated post. We also got an update on the meme that is now Craig the Brute, which was a nice touch.

Related to this, there was a leak about Infinite’s multiplayer portion, which caused the devs to just come out and confirm that yes, Halo Infinite multiplayer will indeed be free to play, and will support up to 120FPS on the Series X. Until that one launches though, Halo 3: ODST PC tests are planned for August, with cross-play and input-based matches coming to MCC this year.

Speaking of August, the Games with Gold for this month have been revealed. They include Portal Knights (Xbox One, August 1 -31), Override: Mech City Brawl (Xbox One, August 16 – September 15), MX Unleashed (Xbox 360, Xbox One, August 1 – 15), Red Faction II (Xbox 360, Xbox One, August 16 – 31). Be sure to claim Portal Knights and MX Unleashed for free, as they are available right now.

In yet more August news, the new Battletoads reboot from Dlala Studios and Rare is finally set to arrive on August 20, while Flight Simulator, arriving a mere two days before Battletoads, will be present on Steam too. A free VR patch will be made available once HP’s upcoming Reverb G2 headset launches, but until then, those who got into the Closed Beta can enjoy TrackIR support, an oft-requested feature.

Sticking to first-party games, the August update for Sea of Thieves, dubbed Ashen Winds is now available, bringing flamethrower skulls and new bosses, while Obsidian’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids-like survival game Grounded can be played right now either in Xbox Game Preview, Steam Early Access, or via Game Pass. It’s worth noting that the title has already crossed the one million player mark, a mere 48 hours after launch, and that the first of its monthly updates will get here on August 27.

Last but not least, a white Xbox Series X controller has surfaced online, which is interesting as Microsoft has only shown the dark grey / black variant which matches its console so far. This could either be another colour of the regular controller, a possible controller for the white Xbox Series X given to employees – remember that Microsoft did this exact thing for the original Xbox One -, or maybe even the gamepad for Lockhart (potentially called Series S). If the latter is the case, we should find out about it later this month, as Microsoft will presumably be holding an event to detail not only its other next-gen Xbox console, but also details about services and maybe even potential acquisitions.

Surface devices

Beyond the regular set of Windows updates, Microsoft’s own devices have gotten a smattering of firmware updates as well. For instance, the Surface Laptop 2’s latest firmware contains improvements for hibernation stability. The Surface Pro X got such a firmware update too, though that one lacked any accompanying changelog.

In related news, if you own a pair of Surface Headphones, Cortana will be removed from the device, along with Cortana mobile apps starting in January. All third-party skills for the Microsoft digital assistant will stop being supported come September this year. Users of either generation of Surface Headphones will still be able to use Cortana for productivity tasks in Outlook, and will receive a $25 gift card.

The last bit of Surface news concerns the pair of dual-screen devices from the Redmond giant. For its part, the Neo (the bigger one) is no longer listed as coming holiday 2020, while the Android-based Duo (the smaller of the two) could reportedly arrive the week of August 24. If you’re curious to know everything we know so far about the latter device, here’s an overview.

Half a decade of Windows 10

Microsoft’s latest OS turned five earlier this week, and as such, our own Rich Woods took a look at how the operating system has changed since its release. It would of course not be a complete retrospective without the now defunct, other component of the puzzle, Windows 10 Mobile.

With the celebrations out of the way, it’s important to note that build 19041.424 (KB4568831) of the 20H2 branch was released this week to the Beta channel. Among the listed fixes are those for ARM64 and cellular, which should fix the v2004 block for the Surface Pro X. It’s worth remembering that if you use certain apps like Excel with the Chinese or Japanese IME (Input Method Editor), said apps may crash. This is a known issue.

Sticking to issues, though this time ones that are fixed, the Bluetooth and Variable Refresh Rate bugs that caused the May 2020 Update to be blocked on certain PCs have now been fixed. So too has the block caused by the older Nvidia drivers.

Going over to the Windows Insider Program, build 20180 made its way to the Dev channel with small UI improvements, a few fixes, and quite a few known issues. The identically-numbered Server Insider Preview build and SDK are also up for grabs.

Last but not least, on the Office Insider side, the monthly build on Android has brought dictation and PDF conversion to Word, dictation to Word and new Outlook features on iOS, as well as a redesigned Outlook app on the Mac. The latter requires macOS 10.14 Mojave and above.

Dev channel

  • Microsoft and PepsiCo have announced a five-year cloud partnership.
  • Microsoft Launcher Preview will be phased out by the end of August.
  • Windows Virtual Desktop’s Azure portal integration is now GA.
  • Azure Blob storage now supports NFS 3.0 in preview.
  • Microsoft and Mastercard have announced a collaboration to advance digital commerce.
  • The Microsoft Family Safety app is now generally available.
  • Microsoft 365 reportedly brought in $20B in revenue in FY20, a 50% increase YoY.
  • A new flaw in Secure Boot, called BootHole, affects a number of Linux and Windows systems.
  • Microsoft has unveiled new Teams features aimed at the education market.
  • PowerToys 0.20 is now out with a new Color Picker feature and fixes.
  • Microsoft is allegedly in talks to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations.

Logging off

Since we’re at the end of the column, I’d say it’s rather appropriate to talk about some Edge news.

Testers in the Dev channel got to play with the first Edge 86 build – 86.0.587.0 – which landed this past Tuesday and brought a bunch of new features, among which Read Aloud support for PDFs on ARM devices, a dark theme to the Pinning Wizard, the ability to add items to Collections from InPrivate windows, and more.

Users in the Beta channel got Edge 85, with the ability to Send to OneNote from Collections, as well as highlight PDFs, IE Mode enhancements, and others. The Canary channel wasn’t left out, as a recent update brought tab previews (which you can enable via a hidden flag), and folks who have the new browser on either iOS and Android can look forward to using Collections, since the feature is now rolling out.

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

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