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Microsoft Announces Adaptive Mouse, Hub, & Buttons

The new Microsoft adaptive accessories provide a highly adaptable, easy-to-use system. Each piece is designed in partnership with the disability community to empower people who may have difficulty using a traditional mouse and keyboard to create their ideal setup, increase productivity, and use their favorite apps more effectively. A traditional mouse and keyboard may pose obstacles for someone with limit mobility. These adaptive accessories can perform a variety of functions, thereby alleviating a pain point for those who find it challenging to get the most out of their PC. The Microsoft adaptive accessories have three main components that empower you to configure, 3D print, and customize your own mouse, keyboard inputs, and shortcuts in ways that work best for your specific needs.

The first component is the Microsoft Adaptive Mouse that you can customize with the Microsoft Adaptive Mouse Tail and Thumb Support, or 3D printed tails, to make a mouse that truly works for you. The Microsoft Adaptive mouse core, tail extension, and thumb support come together to create a traditional mouse that's light and portable. Additionally, the thumb support accessory easily switches sides for left or right-handedness.

Apple, Google and Microsoft commit to expanded support for FIDO standard to accelerate availability of passwordless sign-ins

In a joint effort to make the web more secure and usable for all, Apple, Google and Microsoft today announced plans to expand support for a common passwordless sign-in standard created by the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium. The new capability will allow websites and apps to offer consistent, secure, and easy passwordless sign-ins to consumers across devices and platforms. Password-only authentication is one of the biggest security problems on the web, and managing so many passwords is cumbersome for consumers, which often leads consumers to reuse the same ones across services. This practice can lead to costly account takeovers, data breaches, and even stolen identities. While password managers and legacy forms of two-factor authentication offer incremental improvements, there has been industry-wide collaboration to create sign-in technology that is more convenient and more secure.

The expanded standards-based capabilities will give websites and apps the ability to offer an end-to-end passwordless option. Users will sign in through the same action that they take multiple times each day to unlock their devices, such as a simple verification of their fingerprint or face, or a device PIN. This new approach protects against phishing and sign-in will be radically more secure when compared to passwords and legacy multi-factor technologies such as one-time passcodes sent over SMS.

Microsoft Readies Security Feature-Update for Windows 11 Needing an OS Reinstall to Use

Microsoft is giving final touches to a what it refers to as a groundbreaking new security feature update for the Windows 11 operating system, which should significantly improve application-level security, and safeguard you from malicious apps based on the way they behave. Trouble is, to use the feature, you will have to reinstall your operating system (i.e. a clean reinstall), if you're on the current release of Windows 11, or any build that's older than the one that carries this update.

The Smart App Control feature by default blocks untrusted or uncertified applications from running on your PC, and unlike browser-level protections such as Smart Screen, is baked directly into the OS, and monitors application code at a process level, to detect potentially malicious application behavior. It does this using a combination of code-signing by the application publisher and an AI model for trust within the Microsoft cloud. The OS keeps in touch with the cloud 24x7 (whenever the PC is up), to receive the latest threat intelligence and AI model updates from the cloud. It's very likely that Smart App Control will be part of the next significant version milestone of Windows 11 (such as "22H2"), which means everyone on 22H1 or older will be made to reinstall to use it.

Ampere Altra Arm CPUs Now Available on Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform

Today, Microsoft launches Azure Virtual Machines (VM) based on the Ampere Altra Cloud Native Processor. This marks an important milestone as developers can now take advantage of these modern high-performance VMs for their existing and greenfield applications. The Ampere Altra processor family leads in performance across a range of broadly deployed cloud workloads and is now making available the Arm architecture on Azure.

Industry leading performance and the most sustainable solution
Cloud users who have pushed the limits of legacy x86 architectures now have a high-performance compute alternative that scales up in a linear fashion and delivers predictable performance even at full utilization. For example, Ampere Altra VMs outperform equivalently sized Intel and AMD instances from the same generation by 39% and 47%, respectively.* In addition to being the high-performance choice, Ampere Altra processors are extremely power efficient, directly reducing users' overall carbon footprint.

Microsoft Also Falls Victim to Hacking Group LAPSUS$

The hacking group LAPSUS$ responsible for the recent NVIDIA and Samsung compromises has now allegedly breached Microsoft systems gaining access to the source code for Bing and Cortana. The group temporarily published a screenshot of what looked to be an internal Microsoft developer account with access to folders labeled "Bing_UX", "Bing-Source", and "Cortana" in addition to various other sections. The group had previously posted a message seeking to recruit employees at Microsoft, Apple, and IBM to get remote access to companies systems. Microsoft has confirmed in a statement to Motherboard that they "are aware of the claims and are investigating".

Update Mar 23rd: The hackers have now published a 9 GB torrent file which includes data from over 250 Microsoft projects including 90% of the source code for Bing, and approximately 45% of the source code for Bing Maps and Cortana according to security researchers speaking with BleepingComputer.

IonQ Aria, Newest Quantum Computer, Coming to Microsoft's Azure Quantum Platform

IonQ, a leader in quantum computing, today announced that it had signed an agreement with Microsoft to bring IonQ Aria to the Azure Quantum platform. The partnership will add IonQ Aria, the company's latest quantum system, to the cloud platform which already features IonQ's prior generation of systems among the lineup of available hardware. IonQ Aria is IonQ's most advanced commercially available quantum computer. Featuring 20 Algorithmic Qubits (#AQ), it is also the industry's most powerful quantum computer based on standard application-oriented industry benchmarks. Through this partnership, anyone with an internet connection will be able to harness IonQ Aria's abilities, furthering the democratization of quantum computing.

"We're excited to bring IonQ Aria's leading capabilities to more customers through Microsoft Azure and our Expanded Beta program," said IonQ President and CEO Peter Chapman. "We believe the future of quantum computing relies on getting the power of today's systems into the hands of as many people as possible, and building on our existing partnership with Microsoft is an important step along that path."

Microsoft DirectStorage API Available, but Without GPU-accelerated Decompression

Microsoft officially launched the DirectStorage API on the Windows PC platform, on Monday. The API enables direct data interactions between the GPU, graphics memory, and a storage device, so games have a more direct path to stream game assets to the graphics hardware. The API is compatible both with Windows 10 and Windows 11, although Microsoft is recommending the latter, for "in-built storage optimizations." Also, unlike previously reported, you don't necessarily need an NVMe-based storage device, such as an M.2 SSD with PCIe/NVMe interface. Even a SATA SSD with AHCI protocol will do. Microsoft is, however, recommending the use of an NVMe SSD for the best performance.

There is, however, a wrinkle. Microsoft isn't launching a killer feature of the DirectStorage API yet, which is GPU-accelerated asset decompression. This feature allowed GPUs to use compute shaders to decompress game assets that are stored in compressed asset libraries on the disk. Most games store their local assets this way, to conserve their disk footprint. Without this feature, unless there's special game code from the developer's end to utilize GPGPU for asset decompression; compressed game assets still have to rope in the CPU, and lengthen the pipeline. Microsoft stated that enabling GPU-accelerated decompression is "next on their roadmap."

Intel, AMD, Arm, and Others, Collaborate on UCIe (Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express)

Intel, along with Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. (ASE), AMD, Arm, Google Cloud, Meta, Microsoft Corp., Qualcomm Inc., Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., have announced the establishment of an industry consortium to promote an open die-to-die interconnect standard called Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express (UCIe). Building on its work on the open Advanced Interface Bus (AIB), Intel developed the UCIe standard and donated it to the group of founding members as an open specification that defines the interconnect between chiplets within a package, enabling an open chiplet ecosystem and ubiquitous interconnect at the package level.

"Integrating multiple chiplets in a package to deliver product innovation across market segments is the future of the semiconductor industry and a pillar of Intel's IDM 2.0 strategy," said Sandra Rivera, executive vice president and general manager of the Datacenter and Artificial Intelligence Group at Intel. "Critical to this future is an open chiplet ecosystem with key industry partners working together under the UCIe Consortium toward a common goal of transforming the way the industry delivers new products and continues to deliver on the promise of Moore's Law."

Microsoft Flight Simulator Arrives on Xbox Cloud Gaming

Microsoft Flight Simulator has recently been added to Xbox Cloud Gaming meaning that the title can now be enjoyed on more devices including Xbox One, iOS/Android devices, and low-powered computers. Xbox Cloud Gaming (formerly Project xCloud) is a game streaming service from Microsoft that allows players with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to stream a selection of 100+ Xbox games on supported devices. The addition of Microsoft Flight Simulator to the program will allow previous generation Xbox One consoles to play the game provided a suitably fast internet connection is available.

Qualcomm Expands Snapdragon Compute Ecosystem for the Next-Generation of Enterprise-Grade PCs

Today, during Mobile World Congress 2022, Qualcomm Incorporated President and Chief Executive Officer, Cristiano Amon highlighted how Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. is continuing to bring best-in-case experiences to enterprise PCs and drive the convergence of the PC and mobile to increase productivity, connectivity, and security from anywhere. During last month's Consumer Electronics Show, the Company announced that over 200 enterprise customers were testing or deploying Windows 11 on Snapdragon laptops and 2-in-1 devices. Today, Amon outlined how strategic relationships with Microsoft, Lenovo, and many other ecosystem leaders are helping deliver the next generation of enterprise-ready PCs, powered by Snapdragon. Utilizing its global relationships, Qualcomm Technologies continues to lead the PC industry's inevitable transition to innovative and modern solutions from the portfolio of Snapdragon compute platforms.
Quotes from key collaborators that Qualcomm Technologies is working with to drive innovation for always on, always connected enterprise PCs through Snapdragon Compute Platforms can be found here.

With an Assist from Oculus Quest 2, 2022 AR/VR Device Shipments Revised Up to 14.19 Million Units, Says TrendForce

AR/VR device shipments revised up to 14.19 million units in 2022, with an annual growth rate of 43.9%, according to TrendForce research. Growth momentum will come from increased demand for remote interactivity stemming from the pandemic, as well as Oculus Quest 2's price reduction strategy. Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Oculus Quest 2 are first in market share for AR and VR, respectively.

According to TrendForce, the topic of the Metaverse has driven brands to actively plan for and stimulate product shipment performance. However, the AR/VR device market has yet to experienced explosive growth due to two factors: component shortages and the difficulty of developing new technologies. In addition, cosmetic and size considerations have made the more optically and technically difficult Pancake design the first choice for new high-end products. Furthermore, various embedded tracking feedback technologies key to enhancing the user's immersive experience such as eye tracking and 6DoF further affect the development progress of a new product as a whole. Since there are no new foreboding products on the horizon, TrendForce believes, no other branded products have a chance at supplanting the current mainstream status of Oculus or Microsoft until at least 2023.

AMD Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2021 Financial Results

AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) today announced revenue for the fourth quarter of 2021 of $4.8 billion, operating income of $1.2 billion, net income of $974 million and diluted earnings per share of $0.80. On a non-GAAP basis, operating income was $1.3 billion, net income was $1.1 billion and diluted earnings per share was $0.92. For full year 2021, the company reported revenue of $16.4 billion, operating income of $3.6 billion, net income of $3.2 billion and diluted earnings per share of $2.57. On a non-GAAP basis, operating income was $4.1 billion, net income was $3.4 billion and diluted earnings per share was $2.79.

"2021 was an outstanding year for AMD with record annual revenue and profitability," said AMD President and CEO Dr. Lisa Su. "Each of our businesses performed extremely well, with data center revenue doubling year-over-year driven by growing adoption of AMD EPYC processors across cloud and enterprise customers. We expect another year of significant growth in 2022 as we ramp our current portfolio and launch our next generation of PC, gaming and data center products."

Microsoft to Acquire Activision Blizzard to Bring the Joy and Community of Gaming to Everyone, Across Every Device

With three billion people actively playing games today, and fueled by a new generation steeped in the joys of interactive entertainment, gaming is now the largest and fastest-growing form of entertainment. Today, Microsoft Corp. announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard Inc., a leader in game development and interactive entertainment content publisher. This acquisition will accelerate the growth in Microsoft's gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse.

Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard for $95.00 per share, in an all-cash transaction valued at $68.7 billion, inclusive of Activision Blizzard's net cash. When the transaction closes, Microsoft will become the world's third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. The planned acquisition includes iconic franchises from the Activision, Blizzard and King studios like "Warcraft," "Diablo," "Overwatch," "Call of Duty" and "Candy Crush," in addition to global eSports activities through Major League Gaming. The company has studios around the word with nearly 10,000 employees.

Turtle Beach VelocityOne Flight System Returns to the Markets

Leading gaming accessory maker Turtle Beach Corporation today announced the brand's award-winning VelocityOne Flight simulation control system has been restocked and is now available. VelocityOne Flight is one of Turtle Beach's most pre-ordered products and has sold-out multiple times due to strong demand since its initial release in November 2021. The only modern all-in-one flight control system, VelocityOne Flight delivers a new level of realism and simplicity for gamers taking to the virtual skies on Xbox consoles and Windows PCs. Paired with its unbeatable MSRP of $379.95, VelocityOne Flight has received an abundance of critical acclaim, driving continued interest in Turtle Beach's groundbreaking flight simulation control system. With today's restock announcement, fans can now get their hands on VelocityOne Flight and effortlessly guide their favorite aircraft into the sky.

"As the first entry in a growing portfolio of simulation products, our team produced the best all-in-one flight control system for Xbox and PC and I'm pleased to see their hard work and dedication being recognized by critics and fans alike," said Juergen Stark, Chairman and CEO, Turtle Beach Corporation. "It is clear that we delivered a remarkable flight sim controller, and we're excited to now be able to have more fliers take to the skies with the VelocityOne Flight."

Intel Resolves "Alder Lake" Denuvo DRM Issues on Windows 11 and Windows 10

Intel over the weekend stated that it has resolved the game DRM compatibility issues its 12th Gen Core "Alder Lake" processors were facing with certain games running on older versions of the Denuvo DRM solution. The company said that it has worked with both game developers and Microsoft, to address the issues. Gamers should look forward to OS updates as well as game patches, in the coming days. In was revealed back in October 2021, in the run up to the Core "Alder Lake" debut, that the processors face severe compatibility issues with games that use certain older versions of DRM solutions, due mainly to the processor's new hybrid CPU core architecture.

AMD Readying 16-core "Zen 4" CCDs Exclusively for the Client Segment with an Answer to Intel E-cores?

AMD already declared the CPU core counts of its EPYC "Genoa" and "Bergamo" processors to top out at 96 and 128, respectively, a core-count believed to have been facilitated by the larger fiberglass substrate of the next-gen SP5 CPU socket, letting AMD add more 8-core "Zen 4" chiplets, dubbed CPU complex dies (CCDs). Until now, AMD has used the chiplet as a common component between its EPYC enterprise and Ryzen desktop processors, to differentiate CPU core counts.

A fascinating theory that hit the rumor-mill, indicates that the company might leverage 5 nm (TSMC N5) carve out larger CCDs with up to 16 "Zen 4" CPU cores. Half of these cores are capped at a much lower power budget, essentially making them efficient-cores. This is a concept AMD appears to be carrying over from its 15-Watt class mobile processors, which see the CPU cores operate under an aggressive power-management. These cores still turn out a reasonable amount of performance, and are functionally identical to the ones on 105 W desktop processors with a relaxed power budget.

Access to Xbox Game Pass Worth $6,300 in Games for 2021

Microsoft is well on its way towards becoming the Netflix of videogames, considering the running success of its Game Pass subscription service. The idea is simple: players pay a monthly fee (starting at $9,99 for PC or Xbox-specific subscriptions) and they receive access to a curated portfolio of game experiences. The platform is bolstered by the fact that Microsoft's first-party titles are made available day-one for Games Pass subscribers. In 2021 alone, this approach by Microsoft gave gamers access to games like Halo Infinite, Age of Empires 4, Forza Horizon 5, and the incredibly quirky Psychonauts 2. But is it worth it to have a Games Pass subscription, thus waiving ownership of those actual games?

Your mileage will certainly vary; but in pure dollar terms, it's difficult to argue against the idea. According to The Loadout, Games Pass subscribers were given access to around $6,300 worth of games throughout 2021 - that's how much a consumer would have to pay, day one, to own all of the games that Microsoft included (and sometimes rotated out) of its Game Pass library. A yearly Game Pass Ultimate subscription (for PC and Xbox games) would give you access to the same cadre of titles for a much more modest $15 a month - $180 in total. In March alone, Games Pass subscribers saw the floodgates open to around $960 worth of games (and potentially thousands of hours of gameplay) with the addition of Bethesda Softwork's titles to the service, following the $7,5 billion Microsoft acquisition of parent company Zenimax Media.

Xbox Series X Elite Concept Rendered

Microsoft is preparing to refresh its Xbox Series X/S console lineup in 2023 with a faster processor. Dubbed the Xbox Series X Elite, the console is expected to feature a refreshed semi-custom SoC built on the 6 nm silicon fabrication process, with higher clock speeds. The console itself is expected to undergo a design change to look more cuboidal, similar to the Xbox One X, departing from the tower-type design. A design concept of the console was put out by Let's Go Digital, with a sleek body and cooling that's optimized for the updated SoC. There are also some LED lighting elements. We should hear more about the console throughout 2022.

Microsoft Introduces DX12 Support for H264 and H265 Encoding via API Release

Microsoft today announced the release of H264 and H265 encoding through its DX12 API. The move brings GPU acceleration support for several video applications such as Video Decoding, Video Processing and Motion estimation. Theoretically, this should ease the burden on developers, who instead of having to implement video encoding acceleration according to the graphics vendor (be it AMD, Intel or NVIDIA), can now work through the DX12 API to achieve the same effect throughout all providers, simplifying programming and efficiency efforts - though Microsoft was coy about potential advantages and disadvantages of the new feature.

While the implementation will eventually reach all platforms, the DX12 API encoding integration is currently only available for both Intel and NVIDIA. Work still has to be done on AMD's implementation, which generally uses fixed-hardware function blocks to allow for higher performance whilst encoding and transcoding - at the loss of some flexibility. There are graphics cards driver requirements that have to be fulfilled to enable the full encoding capabilities (and these can also be only partially supported, though performance will undoubtedly suffer).

Windows 11 a Flop, Survey Claims Less Than 1% Upgraded, Microsoft Improves Start Menu

Microsoft Windows 11, now nearing its third month since release, is for all intents and purposes, a flop. Market research by Lansweeper, which surveyed over 10 million PCs across the commercial and personal market segments, reports that less than 0.21% of the users it surveyed, had upgraded from Windows 10 to the newer operating system. The upgrade is free of charge. There may be several factors contributing to this lukewarm market response, but one of them is certain to he the steep hardware requirements. Windows 11 requires a trusted platform module (TPM 2.0), which disqualifies PCs older than 2018 for upgrades, unless the user is willing to try out workarounds to the limitation. Another factor could be the clunky user interface (UI), a less functional Start menu than Windows 10, and several UI-related bugs.

According to Lansweeper's data, there could be more people running outdated Windows XP, Vista, Windows 8, etc., than Windows 11, and this poses a great security risk, as these operating systems are no longer supported by Microsoft for regular security updates. Windows 10, on the other hand, is eligible for them until mid-2025—plenty of time for people to upgrade hardware to meet Windows 11 system requirements, or to simply make up their mind on switching over to the new operating system. In related news, Microsoft could give the Windows 11 Start menu a functional update. Test build 22509 introduces the ability to add more pins to the menu, or make room for more recommendations. The UI could see many such minor updates.

Microsoft is Sending Private Xbox Series X Purchase Links to "Valued Xbox Customers"

More than a year after the release of Microsoft's Xbox Series X console and demand still hasn't abated - many customers are still trying to get their hands on a piece of Xbox Series X hardware, which is continually sold-out at most retailers and e-tailers that actually practice sane pricing. Many companies have tried to adapt to the new world of scalping by adding queue systems, locking inventory behind subscription services such as Amazon Prime, or via private buy links sent out via email. Microsoft seems to have chosen the latter as the 2021 holiday season fast approaches - the company has been sending links for Xbox Series X bundles to "valued Xbox customers", allowing them to purchase an Xbox Series X directly from Microsoft without having to compete with the scalpers or bots in the general Microsoft store.

The Xbox Series X bundles include an Xbox Series X with two controllers and one game. The Verge notes customers can choose one game out of Madden 22, GTA V, Rust, Far Cry 6, Hasbro Family Fun Pack, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, Insurgency Sandstorm, or Diablo 2 Resurrected. There's no real way to tell how Microsoft is choosing which customers to send these links to - it sounds plausible that it's targeting users that have purchased either Xbox software or hardware via the U.S. Microsoft Store. Even with this mailing campaign, consoles will be sold in a first-come, first-served basis - the link may lead users towards a page where the Series X is out of stock all the same, but it certainly does give users that slightly higher chance to finally score a latest gen Xbox console.

Microsoft Announces Flight Simulator Game of the Year Update

We are excited to announce that the Microsoft Flight Simulator: Game of the Year Edition (GOTY) is available today! This new edition celebrates all the positive feedback, reviews and awards garnered, and is also a "Thank You" to our fans - new and old - that have made Microsoft Flight Simulator such a phenomenon. The Microsoft Flight Simulator: Game of the Year Edition features five new handcrafted aircraft, eight new airports, six new Discovery Flights and updated weather systems and incorporates all six World Updates.

Qualcomm Says PC Transition to Arm-based Processors is Certain, to Launch High-Performance SoCs in 2023

Qualcomm has been in the game of creating SoCs for the PC market with the company's Snapdragon lineup. These processors mainly were beefed-up versions of their mobile designs and were based on the Arm instruction set architecture (ISA). Microsoft has backed this effort by creation Windows-on-Arm (WoA) project that enables the Windows OS to operate on Arm processors. However, up until now, Qualcomm's designs were not very powerful as they represented a relatively moderate approach to the problem and almost made no sense of purchase compared to the standard laptops equipped with x86 processors from AMD and Intel. This is about to change.

According to the news from Investor Day yesterday, Qualcomm is preparing high-performance Arm SoCs for the PC market. The company has recently acquired Nuvia Inc., a startup focused on creating novel IPs based on Arm ISA. And this is what Qualcomm will use in building its next-generation PC processors. As the company plans, in August of 2022, it should start sampling OEM partners with these new chips, and we will be seeing them in consumers' hands in early 2023. If everything goes as planned, this should represent direct competition to AMD, Intel, and now Apple in the high-end SoC market. After PCs, the company plans to tackle datacenter, mobile, and automotive market.

Microsoft Launches Halo Infinite Free Multiplayer Beta on Xbox and PC

On behalf of the entire Halo Infinite team, and in celebration of Halo's 20th anniversary, I am very happy to announce that your Spartan journey begins… today! Sincerest thanks to the entire Halo community for your support, passion, and feedback. This day belongs to all of you. Whether you've been part of the community from the beginning or are joining with us today, welcome!

Why is this release a beta? Our previous Multiplayer Technical Previews went a long way to battle-testing our services and infrastructure. But as we prepare for a significant increase in the number of players jumping into Halo Infinite on launch day, December 8th, we want to ensure all our systems are good-to-go. While you may experience some bumps and bugs during this beta period, it does mark the official start of Halo Infinite Season 1, with all day-one maps and modes enabled as well as the full Season 1 Battle Pass. This means all the Battle Pass and customization items you earn or purchase during the beta will stay with you after December 8th.

TOP500 Update Shows No Exascale Yet, Japanese Fugaku Supercomputer Still at the Top

The 58th annual edition of the TOP500 saw little change in the Top10. The Microsoft Azure system called Voyager-EUS2 was the only machine to shake up the top spots, claiming No. 10. Based on an AMD EPYC processor with 48 cores and 2.45GHz working together with an NVIDIA A100 GPU and 80 GB of memory, Voyager-EUS2 also utilizes a Mellanox HDR Infiniband for data transfer.

While there were no other changes to the positions of the systems in the Top10, Perlmutter at NERSC improved its performance to 70.9 Pflop/s. Housed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Perlmutter's increased performance couldn't move it from its previously held No. 5 spot.
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