Microsoft’s problem isn’t how often it updates Windows—it’s how it develops it

Windows 10 during a product launch event in Tokyo in July 2015.

Enlarge / Windows 10 during a product launch event in Tokyo in July 2015. (credit: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

It’s fair to say that the Windows 10 October 2018 Update has not been Microsoft’s most successful update. Reports of data loss quickly emerged, forcing Microsoft to suspend distribution of the update. It has since been fixed and is currently undergoing renewed testing pending a re-release.

This isn’t the first Windows feature update that’s had problems—we’ve seen things like significant hardware incompatibilities in previous updates—but it’s certainly the worst. While most of us know the theory of having backups, the reality is that lots of data, especially on home PCs, has no real backup, and deleting that data is thus disastrous.

Windows as a service

Microsoft’s ambition with Windows 10 was to radically shake up how it develops Windows 10. The company wanted to better respond to customer and market needs, and to put improved new features into customers’ hands sooner. Core to this was the notion that Windows 10 is the “last” version of Windows—all new development work will be an update to Windows 10, delivered through feature updates several times a year. This new development model was branded “Windows as a Service.” And after some initial fumbling, Microsoft settled on a cadence of two feature updates a year; one in April, one in October.

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Samsung launches Snapdragon 850-powered Windows 2-in-1

Samsung

Samsung today announced the Galaxy Book2 (sic; the company has not put a space between the word and the number), a 2-in-1 tablet running Windows 10, powered by a Snapdragon 850 processor.

The first generation of Windows 10-on-ARM machines were roundly criticized for the performance of their Snapdragon 835 processors. The second generation of machines, however, uses the Snapdragon 850, a variant of the Snapdragon 845 that’s designed for the bigger batteries and higher power dissipation of laptops and tablets. This is widely hoped and expected to bring performance up to respectable levels.

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Microsoft making more of the Windows 10 built-in apps removable

It will soon be possible to discard more of the in-box apps that ship with Windows 10.

Currently, a handful of pre-installed apps can be removed, including OneNote, Skype, and Weather, but most of the other built-in apps are permanent fixtures. Windows 10 has also promoted a number of third-party applications such as Candy Crush Saga to the chagrin of many. These don’t appear to be going away, but such apps have always been uninstallable if you don’t want them. However, the latest preview build of Windows 10, build 18262, enables the removal of apps such as Mail, Calendar, Movies & TV, and the Groove Music app.

The ability to remove these apps doesn’t really mean much in terms of disk space or convenience, as none of them are very big. The move may be of more interest to corporate deployments; an organization that has standardized on Outlook, for example, might want to remove the Mail and Calendar apps to reduce user confusion.

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Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla come together to end TLS 1.0

A green exterior door is sealed with a padlock.

Enlarge (credit: Indigo girl / Flickr)

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla have announced a unified plan to deprecate the use of TLS 1.0 and 1.1 early in 2020.

TLS (Transport Layer Security) is used to secure connections on the Web. TLS is essential to the Web, providing the ability to form connections that are confidential, authenticated, and tamper-proof. This has made it a big focus of security research, and over the years, a number of bugs that had significant security implications have been found in the protocol. Revisions have been published to address these flaws.

The original TLS 1.0, heavily based on Netscape’s SSL 3.0, was first published in January 1999. TLS 1.1 arrived in 2006, while TLS 1.2, in 2008, added new capabilities and fixed these security flaws. Irreparable security flaws in SSL 3.0 saw support for that protocol come to an end in 2014; the browser vendors now want to make a similar change for TLS 1.0 and 1.1.

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Paul Allen—Microsoft co-founder, Seahawks owner, and space pioneer—dies at 64

(credit: Miles Harris)

Paul Allen, who with Bill Gates founded Microsoft, has died at the age of 65. His death comes shortly after he resumed treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; the cancer had returned after being in remission for nine years.

Allen was a Seattle native and went to high school with Gates. The two kept in touch at university—Allen at Washington State, Gates at Harvard—and when Allen dropped out in 1975 to start a company to develop software for the MITS Altair 8800, he soon convinced Gates to follow. That company was Micro-Soft, which shed its hyphen the following year. In 1980, Microsoft was chosen by IBM to develop DOS for its new PC. With the success of the PC and PC compatibles, Microsoft became hugely successful.

Allen had his first run-in with cancer in 1982, when he was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and drastically cut back his work at the company while recovering. He formally left Microsoft in 1983, but he retained his share of ownership and became a billionaire when the company went public in 1986.

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What developers say Apple needs to do to make the Apple TV a gaming console

The Apple TV 4K and remote.

Enlarge / The Apple TV 4K and remote. (credit: Samuel Axon)

As we observed in our review last year, the Apple TV 4K has so much potential for gaming. Its hardware is actually pretty powerful given the type of device it is. It shares development tools and infrastructure with one of the most successful gaming marketplaces in the world—the iPhone and iPad App Store. But a recent announcement shows that, instead of thriving as a gaming platform, Apple TV is struggling.

Last month, users who logged in to the Apple TV version of Minecraft were greeted with a message telling them that the game’s support for the Apple TV would end. Minecraft is one of the most popular video games, and its particular resonance with families and its relatively undemanding hardware requirements made it seem like a natural fit for the platform.

Unfortunately, that fit was not to be. This is the message users saw:

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PC market flat, as Surface becomes a top-5 computer brand in the US

Promotional image of a variety of electronic devices.

Enlarge / Clockwise, from the top left: Surface Laptop 2, Surface Studio 2, Surface Headphones, Surface Pro 6. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft was the fifth-biggest PC maker in the US in the third quarter of this year, according to industry advisory firm Gartner.

The top spot in the US belongs to HP, with about 4.5 million machines sold, ahead of Dell at 3.8 million, Lenovo at 2.3 million, and Apple at 2 million. The gap between fourth and fifth is pretty big—Microsoft sold only 0.6 million Surface devices last quarter—but it suggests that Microsoft’s PC division is heading in the right direction, with sales 1.9 percent higher than the same quarter last year. The company pushed down to sixth place was Acer.

The current quarter should be better still; the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, and Surface Studio have all been given hardware refreshes which, when combined with the always-busy holiday season, should stimulate higher sales.

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