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Microsoft Discounts Mixed Reality HMDs by up to $200 Today Only

As part of Microsoft's "12 Days of Deals" push towards achieving more and better sales of Microsoft-branded products, the company has pushed a pretty hefty discount for its MR HMDs mere months after their release. The discounts see the Acer Windows Mixed Reality, Dell Visor, HP, and Lenovo Explorer take price-cuts of $200 over the base price, while Samsung's Odyssey HMD sees a much more level $50 price-cut.

With a move so close to holiday season and in the wake of steep discounts from Virtual Reality headset makers Oculus and HTC, Microsoft is pushing as hard as it can towards shipping enough units to build a new VR ecosystem. Consumers are the ones that stand to gain the most here, however. Though if you want to get your hand son one of these, be fast: the Acer and Dell options are already sold out, and the others' supply might also be inferior to the demand. So go there, and grab them while they're hot.

Source: Microsoft Store

The Future is Quantum: Microsoft Releases Free Preview of Q# Development Kit

So you want to learn how to program a quantum computer. Now, there's a toolkit for that. Microsoft is releasing a free preview version of its Quantum Development Kit, which includes the Q# programming language, a quantum computing simulator and other resources for people who want to start writing applications for a quantum computer. The Q# programming language was built from the ground up specifically for quantum computing.

The Quantum Development Kit, which Microsoft first announced at its Ignite conference in September, is designed for developers who are eager to learn how to program on quantum computers whether or not they are experts in the field of quantum physics. It's deeply integrated into Visual Studio, Microsoft's suite of developer tools, so aspects of it will be familiar to people who are already developing applications in other programming languages. And it's designed to work with a local quantum simulator, also released as part of the kit, that can simulate around 30 logical qubits of quantum computing power using a typical laptop computer. That will allow developers to debug quantum code and test programs on small instances right on their own computers.

HP ENVY x2 Pushes the Boundaries of Mobile Computing

HP Inc. today unveiled the HP ENVY x2, an Always Connected PC that combines the best of a smartphone experience with the best of a Windows PC. Impossibly thin and incredibly durable, the HP ENVY x2 offers lightning fast 4G LTE and Wi-Fi and features the world's longest battery life in a Windows detachable. The striking HP ENVY x2 utilizes the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC platform, giving users the freedom to be mobile with instant-on access to applications. With up to 20 hours of battery life, the detachable PC is built to enhance video streaming for binge-watching and provides flexibility and connectivity to perform daily tasks while on the go.

"A growing number of consumers are looking for more reliable connectivity throughout their days, and they are twice as likely to purchase a PC when it comes with built-in 4G LTE," said Kevin Frost, vice president and general manager, consumer personal systems, HP, Inc. "The HP ENVY x2, with the world's longest battery life in a Windows detachable PC, delivers the next generation of Always Connected PCs by providing a seamless experience anywhere life takes you."

ASUS Announces Their NovaGo Laptop with Snapdragon 835 Processor

ASUS CEO Jerry Shen today announced ASUS NovaGo (TP370) at the second annual Snapdragon Technology Summit in Maui, Hawaii. NovaGo is the world's first Gigabit LTE-capable laptop designed for truly connected mobility, providing users with an always-on, always-connected experience. This ultrathin and light convertible laptop is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC platform, and features a Gigabit Snapdragon X16 LTE modem for download speeds exceeding that of typical home Wi-Fi. It has up to a 22-hour battery life with over 30 days of modern standby, and a built-in eSIM that ensures seamless connectivity across borders.

Mr. Shen joined Executive Vice President of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and President, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies Cristiano Amon onstage during the keynote speech of the three-day event. "Today marks the beginning of a new era of personal computing and ASUS is very proud to be paving the way with Qualcomm Technologies and other partners to develop this new landscape for 'Always Connected' Windows on Snapdragon PCs. ASUS NovaGo reinvents the concept of laptop connectivity and productivity - it's the world's first laptop that is connected anywhere, at any time, with the new Gigabit LTE network; and lasts up to 22 hours on a single charge for beyond all-day battery life," said Mr. Shen.

Microsoft Launches Windows 10 for ARM, Always Connected PCs

After the debacle that was Microsoft's last attempt at integrating its Windows OS with ARM in Windows RT, the company has now announced that products based on its new ARM approach are almost ready to come to fruition. The previous Windows RT failed, for the most part, because of its closed-wall ecosystem, where the only apps available for the platform were those being distributed on Microsoft's Store - which led to an overwhelming lack of good-quality apps that users were used to seeing in their laptops or desktop replacements. With Windows 10 for ARM and Always Connected PCs, that comes to an end, due in large part to Microsoft's apparent passion: emulators.

The new Windows 10 for ARM will enable ARM-powered systems (with CPUs such as Qualcomm's own Snapdragon 835) to run most x86 applications through the usage of a just-in-time philosophy. This means that any emulation will be run seamlessly through conversion of x86 code to equivalent blocks of ARM code. This conversion is cached both in memory (so that after the initial run, the emulated code is available right away) and on disk (which will likely work much like hybrid HDDs do, using their meager SSD cache to store the most frequently accessed programs). System libraries, however, are all native ARM code, including the libraries loaded by x86 programs. These are being called "chippie", as in (you didn't guess it) "Compiled Hybrid Portable Executables": native ARM code, compiled in such a way as to let them respond to x86 function calls.

Microsoft Azure Becomes First Global Cloud Provider to Deploy AMD EPYC

AMD today announced the first public cloud instances powered by the AMD EPYC processor. Microsoft Azure has deployed AMD EPYC processors in its datacenters in advance of preview for its latest L-Series of Virtual Machines (VM) for storage optimized workloads. The Lv2 VM family will take advantage of the high-core count and connectivity support of the AMD EPYC processor.

"We are extremely excited to be partnering with Microsoft Azure to bring the power of AMD EPYC processors into their datacenter," said Scott Aylor, corporate vice president and general manager of Enterprise Solutions. "There is tremendous opportunity for users to tap into the capabilities we can deliver across storage and other workloads through the combination of AMD EPYC processors on Azure. We look forward to the continued close collaboration with Microsoft Azure on future instances throughout 2018."

Microsoft Office Makes it to Chromebooks, Still Eludes Other Linux Distros

Microsoft released one of its key software products, Microsoft Office, to all Chromebooks. Office for Android is now available on all Google Play-enabled Chromebooks. Chrome OS is derived from Android, which itself is a Linux-based operating system. Like the rest of the Android software ecosystem, Office for Android eludes other desktop Linux distributions, due to lack of the required APIs and other quasi-proprietary dependencies exclusively found on Android and Chrome OS.

Microsoft Office is one of the "killer apps" that keep Windows popular. It's been available on the Apple Mac platform for over a decade, and made its long march to the Android platform with the decline of Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform. It should finally make premium chromebooks, such as the Google Pixelbook (pictured below), worth the buy to business professionals on the move.

Source: ChromeUnboxed

Microsoft Xbox One X Falls Short of Expectations in Japan - Again

Cracking Japan's console market has always been a tough - read: almost impossible - feat for Microsoft. For generations now, Microsoft has failed to achieve any kind of market penetration in that country. To put things in perspective, Xbox One's sales in japan have been so low that retailers in Japan started marketing and selling the consoles as Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray readers, not as gaming consoles. For Microsoft, that would have been fine - a sale is a sale is a sale, and the Xbox One never was sold at a loss like previous hardware generations - but it just goes to show that the Japanese market doesn't really care much for the typical games Microsoft offers with its console. The relative abundance of JRPGs and other typical games for which the Japanese crowds usually lean towards the most are relatively absent from Microsoft's staples of exclusives, which probably justifies this cold stance towards Microsoft's console. But to be fair, japan is one of the foremost mobile gaming countries in the world, so that definitely has something to do with it as well.

According to Japanese Famitsu, the Xbox One X managed to move... 1,639 units at launch. This means that the Xbox One X was outsold by virtually all consoles - The PS4 (23,613 units), PS4 Pro (6,028 units), Nintendo Switch (84,593 units), and was even outsold by the PS Vita, 3DS, and 2DS XL. It only snagged wins against previous-generation hardware (like the PS3 and Wii U) or Microsoft's own other console - The Xbox One S. A bittersweet victory, to say the least. The fact that the Xbox One X did get sold-out in Japan is telling - but that did happen because of the low orders Japanese retailers put in for the new console. Some 4 consoles later, they know that barring a black swan, Microsoft isn't setting a foothold in Japanese gamers' living rooms.

Sources: Famitsu, via PCMag

Driven by Chinese PUBG Players, Windows 7 Now Most Popular OS on Steam

Steam's October survey has brought with it some interesting tidbits and reversals regarding the state of the world's OS shares. The latest such survey from the company shows Windows 10 lose its crown as the most popular OS for gamers, shadowed by a resurgence of Windows 7. Microsoft may be looking for increased Windows 10 market share throughout the world, but there's one country that has been the most troubling for the company's efforts: China. Remember that Microsoft had to introduce its own China Government edition of Windows 10 to the Chinese government, or otherwise risk the country not to transition to its new OS. However, it seems that that fact has led Chinese people's trust in the Microsoft OS to decrease even more; and absent of access to the China Government edition for regular customers, they're simply choosing to stay within the confines of Windows 7.

All of this seems pretty academic, so let's get some numbers here: Windows 10 shed 17.38% points in October, down to a 28.6 percent share, with the 64-bit version accounting for 28.23% of that share. At the same time, Windows 7 has gained 21.47% points in the same month, climbing to 65.46% of share (63.60 percent for the 64-bit build, and 1.86 percent for the 32-bit edition). Where's the connection to Chinese users here though? Well, take a look at the Steam OS language stats for the same month: simplified Chinese rose by 26.83% up to 56.37%, against a decrease in practically all other languages, and a very considerable 13.4% drop in English.

Microsoft: Demand for Xbox One X Defies Expectations

Microsoft has said that demand for its upcoming Xbox One X games console is meeting expectations, and then some. Panos Panay, corporate vice president of devices, told CNBC that he wouldn't be able to talk about specific numbers, but that demand was, quote, "super high". He added that "I won't compare it to other consoles. What I'll say is the demand for Xbox One X right now is exactly where we anticipated, even more so when you see that excitement for the product... this is something that resonates with gamers."

The demand is so high, in fact, that there have been numerous reports of shortages, which means supply isn't even being able to sustain demand for the new Xbox, 4K-enabled console that launches on November 7th. Whether this stems from the fact that demand really is "super high", or limited production, or a mix of those two, is always up for debate. However, one only has to consider the amount of hardware that's being crammed in such a tiny box to glimpse the massive effort in engineering that was needed for this console - it's a mass of custom hardware, 60% smaller than the Original Xbox One, while delivering almost 5x the performance. It's likely this demand is fueled by the total of 130 games (and counting) that have already been confirmed to receive Xbox One X compatibility patches. The presence of a UHD Blu-Ray solution also doesn't hurt its media pedigree either, though the $499 cost of entry is somewhat steep by console standards. Here though, it's definitely well deserved - at least when one takes into account the hardware.

Microsoft Kills Off Kinect for Xbox

Microsoft has discontinued Kinect, the gesture-tracking accessory for Xbox which was all the rage a couple of years ago. The company has stopped manufacturing Kinect, and at its last count, sold over 35 million units of it (including standalone units and bundled with Xbox consoles). Gesture and voice recognition flourished as Kinect formed Microsoft's answer to Nintendo Wii and its WiiMotion controller, that enabled sports games in the living room. Kinect added another dimension to it, by taking input from not just your hands' 3D spatial orientation, but also that of your entire body. The accessory also doubled up as a web-camera for your living room. Microsoft plans Windows Mixed Reality headsets to succeed Kinect, as they combine several of its functions with VR and AR.

Source: Co.Design

Microsoft Classic IntelliMouse, the Return of an Icon

The first Microsoft Intellimouse dates all the way back to 1996. Backed by a remarkable track record, the Intellimouse brought us many innovations that included the incorporation of a scroll wheel, optical sensor, and auxiliary buttons. A wireless model was also released to the public. Despite its popularity, Microsoft eventually discontinued the product in 2012. And now, five years later, the company announced the latest iteration to the series, the Classic Intellimouse, at their recent Surface Book 2 launch event.

Nostalgia is strong on the Classic Intellimouse. It clearly borrows a lot of the design elements from the original Intellimouse Explorer 3.0. The ergonomic design is completemented perfectly by a clean, black and grey theme. The red tail light has been changed in favor of a white color to make the mouse look sleeker than ever. There are five buttons on the Classic Intellimouse's body, and three of them are user-customizable. A new 3200 DPI sensor is also hidden in its interior. With the help of Microsoft's BlueTrack technology, precise tracking is possible even on glass surfaces. The mouse's report rate is impressive as well coming in at 1000 reports per second. The Classic connects to the computer through a standard wired USB 2.0 connection.

Microsoft Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Available Today

Microsoft released Windows 10, code named "Threshold 1," a little over two years ago. As of May of this year, there were approximately 500 million Windows 10 devices worldwide. Originally, Microsoft predicted that Windows 10 would be installed on 1 billion devices by mid-2018. When released, Windows 10 gained huge adoption from those running Windows 7 from the "free-upgrade program" which lasted one year.

Since then however, installations have slowly declined and in July of last year, Microsoft admitted that they would miss their projected goal of 1 billion devices. Since its release, Windows 10 has had three major update releases with "Threshold 2," in 2015, "Anniversary Update," in 2016, "Creators Update" in April of this year and today marks the release of Microsoft's fourth major feature update to its operating system, dubbed "Fall Creators Update," version 1709.

343 Industries Announces "Halo Recruit" Experience for Windows Mixed Reality

Update October 6th: Added new content courtesy of Road to VR, where you can see the entirety of the Halo experience in action, and updated sources.

With Microsoft's push towards a Mixed Reality ecosystem in full swing and coming to the hands of consumers as soon as October 17th, Microsoft would be remiss not to include that which still is their flagship franchise. Earlier reports already mentioned a Halo push towards the VR space, and today saw it confirmed by 343 Industries' Bonnie Ross in a Windows Mixed Reality blog post.

Facebook, Microsoft Finish Installation of 160 Tbps Subsea Data Cable

It might come as a surprise to some that the actual majority of global communications is done via subsea cables that connect continents - and people - together. This editor remember being dumbfounded at the mere idea of this whilst reading Frank Schätzing's "The Swarm", some 9 years ago. However, the installation of subsea datacables isn't new; in fact, the first ever recorded datacable installation occurred in 1850 - though it was simply used for telegraphy. The times change, though, and nowadays, there are cables that can transmit 160 terabits per second connecting continents. According to Microsoft, that's more than 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection, making it capable of streaming 71 million high-definition videos simultaneously.

One such is the new MAREA cable, laid down across the Atlantic by a Microsoft/Facebook joint operation, which connects Bilbao (northern Spain) to Virginia Beach, in Virginia. The cable is settled more than 17,000 feet (five kilometers for us metric system junkies) below the surface of the ocean and measures more than 4,000 miles (again, 6,400 kilometers) in length. It weighs nearly 10.25 million pounds (around 4,629 tons) and is situated along a route south of existing transatlantic cables, which should ensure more resilient and reliable connections for customers on both sides.

Tesla Motors Develops Semi-custom AI Chip with AMD

Tesla Motors, which arguably brought electric vehicles to the luxury-mainstream, is investing big in self-driving cars. Despite its leader Elon Musk's fears and reservations on just how much one must allow artificial intelligence (AI) to develop, the company realized that a true self-driving car cannot be made without giving the car a degree of machine learning and AI, so it can learn its surroundings in real-time, and maneuver itself with some agility. To that extent, Tesla is designing its own AI processor. This SoC (system on chip) will be a semi-custom development, in collaboration with the reigning king of semi-custom chips, AMD.

AMD has with it a clear GPGPU performance advantage over NVIDIA, despite the latter's heavy investments in deep-learning. AMD is probably also banking on good pricing, greater freedom over the IP thanks to open standards, and a vast semi-custom track-record, having developed semi-custom chips with technology giants such as Sony and Microsoft. Musk confirmed that the first car in which you can simply get in, fall asleep, and wake up at your destination, will roll out within two years, hinting at a 2019 rollout. This would mean a bulk of the chip's development is done.

Source: CNBC

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update to Bring Privacy Enhancements

Do you remember those times where your privacy wasn't such a concern? Where you could freely navigate through the world, and not have to worry if your apps, browsers, extensions, or operating systems weren't collecting way more data than you wanted them to? It seems eons behind us, now, but it's the world we've been living in - and the world we've been building up to with our choices as consumers. Now, consumers have to fight for almost every last scrap of privacy dignity we can expect to achieve.

Microsoft, through a blog post, has stated that they are continuing to assess and address privacy concerns users might have regarding how and when the operating system which is being hailed as the last major Microsoft OS release collects user information. Specifically, Microsoft states that "Continuing with our commitment to privacy and data control, today we're announcing privacy enhancements coming to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for consumers and commercial customers that further increase your access to information and provides you more control over what information is collected."

Microsoft Acknowledges Gaming Performance Issues Under Win 10 Creators Update

Microsoft made considerable noise on their vaulted Game Mode, a Windows feature which made its appearance in their latest Creators Update version of Windows 10. Game Mode was one of the foremost features in the latest Windows update, which was supposed to deliver improved performance in gaming or other full-screen 3D applications, by enabling more of the available CPU and GPU resources to be tapped into by specific applications. Specific CPU (through winding down of non-crucial processes) and GPU (through prioritization of game-related graphics memory allocation) improvements were baked into this latest version; supposedly, only performance improvements should result from this effort on Microsoft's part.

ASUS Reveals HC102 Windows Mixed Reality Headset

ASUS is another company that will be launching hardware developed according to Microsoft's Mixed Reality specifications. The company has put out some details on its HC102 Mixed Reality headset, which put it on par with other offerings from the likes of Acer, Dell and Lenovo in terms of both features and design. 2x LCD screens display a combined 2880x1200 resolution (1440x1440 per eye), at a 90 Hz refresh rate and an acceptable 90º FoV (Windows' MR solutions typically have a slightly lesser FoV compared to pure VR solutions like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift).

Hardware-wise, ASUS also has the mandatory 6 DoF tracking, with an accelerometer and magnetometer increasing input data. A proximity sensor is also there, which we still haven't seen mentioned on other MR headsets. There are 2x inside-out cameras for positional tracking, and a 3.5 mm audio jack for your own high-quality headsets. All of this will set you back the same €449, with a pair of motion controllers, as the other options that have been announced on the market. It seems that vendors are generally locking in on Microsoft's recommended configuration - and the same price-tags - rather than differentiating through hardware and features - and, potentially, higher pricing. However, ASUS has done some work in making the HC102's design stand out a little more than the other solutions we've seen so far.

AMD Ryzen PRO Desktop Processors Released Worldwide

Building on the global enthusiasm generated by the launch of Ryzen high-end desktop processors and EPYC server processors for the datacenter, AMD (NASDAQ: AMD) today announced broad adoption of enterprise solutions featuring AMD Ryzen PRO desktop processors. Designed for business, Ryzen PRO processors bring reliability, security, and performance to address the demands of today's compute-intensive enterprise-focused workloads. Commercially-focused desktop solutions based on these new processors are expected to be available from Dell, HP, and Lenovo in the coming weeks.

"Today's business PC users require more processing power than ever before to run increasingly demanding applications, to ensure they can multi-task without disruption, and to help protect against security threats," said Jim Anderson, senior vice president and general manager, Computing and Graphics Group, AMD. "Ryzen PRO is designed to address these needs, and we're proud to collaborate with such a strong set of industry leaders on a robust assortment of AMD-based desktop PCs that showcase the strength and flexibility of the Ryzen PRO platform."

Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality Push to Include Steam Support, Halo VR

In what is possibly one of the most mouth-watering Microsoft reports as of late for this particular TechPowerUp news editor, it seems that Microsoft is making all the right strides towards bringing its Mixed Reality push to mainstream, popular support. Microsoft seems to have seen the error in its ways towards their usual walled-garden approach, and has announced that their Windows Mixed Reality initiative will see its Mixed/Vitual Reality headsets supporting Steam VR games. This means third-party support for yet another VR hardware piece, and something that Microsoft sorely needed, since adoption of its still upcoming platform wasn't showing much pulse.

But most important than all that (you are allowed to disagree), is that Microsoft is seemingly tapping its first-party studios to produce VR content for its Mixed Reality platform. Case in point, 343 Industries and the Halo franchise. Whether this means VR-only experiences or actual VR-enabled full fledged, numbered Halo games remains to be seen - only Microsoft and 343 know the answer to that. Though it's also likely none of the parts knows much about that at this point in time either; as it seems, and as Microsoft said on their blog post announcing these features, "we are working with 343 Industries to bring future Halo experiences into mixed reality. We are not providing specifics right now, but it is going to be a lot of fun to work with them."

Microsoft Announces Age of Empires IV, Developed by Relic Entertainment

I remember Age of Empires II fondly; it was my first PC game, really. The intro sequence of chess really served to put my young mind racing towards ideas of military movements and countermovements, and led me towards devouring historical romances accompanying the exploits of Alexander the Great (Valerio Massimo Manfredi's novels), and Hannibal Barca (I'm partial to Ross Leckie in this one). Now, Microsoft has announced yet another installment in this PC-exclusive series, after Age of Empires III's somewhat lukewarm reception. Age of Empires IV is coming for all of your medieval RTS needs.

Intel and Microsoft Collaborate to Deliver Industry-First Enterprise Blockchain

Today, Microsoft announced a new framework that enables businesses to adopt blockchain technology for increased enterprise privacy and security, and named Intel as a key hardware and software development partner. As part of this collaboration, Microsoft, Intel and other blockchain technology leaders will build a new enterprise-targeted blockchain framework - called the Coco Framework - that integrates Intel Software Guard Extensions (Intel SGX) to deliver improved transaction speed, scale and data confidentiality to enterprises. This first-of-its-kind innovation accelerates the enterprise readiness of blockchain technology, allowing developers to create flexible and more secure enterprise blockchain applications that can be easily managed by businesses.

Microsoft Adding Eye Control Capabilities to Windows, Improve Accessibility

People with disabilities typically find themselves in an uphill battle in a world that simply isn't geared for them. In everything, the economies of scale dominate, the cost/benefit ratios are weighed... And even though the disabled segment of the population is a significant one, measures to cope with their difficulties are seldom implemented due to that same economic cost/benefit ratio - though this has been steadily improving over the years (at great credit for humanity, I might say.)

Microsoft has now announced that it has partnered with Tobii (best known for their gaming-oriented eye-tracking products), in a bid to increase accessibility in its Windows OS. The work has gone towards implementing eye-tracking technology that can be used by people with motor disabilities to control a mice and keyboard on-screen. Available in the latest Insider Preview builds, Eye Control currently requires a specific piece of Tobii hardware (like the Tobii 4C, though support will definitely extend to other Tobii products in time), which unlocks access to the Windows operating system to be able to do the tasks one could previously accomplish with a physical mouse and keyboard.

Microsoft Announces the Windows Bounty Program

While Microsoft has been offering bug bounty incentives since at least 2012, Google has arguably been much more vocal in its bug bounty programs. The company recently increased the maximum payout in its bug bounty programs (mainly focused on Android) to a staggering $200,000, and now Microsoft is not only following suit - it's upping the game.

With the Windows Bounty Program, which Microsoft announced yesterday, the company is looking towards an increased incentive to security-hardening suggestions from tech-savvy users. This program will extend to all features of the Windows Insider Preview in addition to focus areas in Hyper-V, Mitigation bypass, Windows Defender Application Guard, and Microsoft Edge. And incentives starting at $500 and going all the way up to $250,000 are very, very respectful.

Source: Blogs.Technet @ Microsoft
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