More details leak on “Snapdragon 1000,” Qualcomm’s chip for Windows 10 laptops

Enlarge (credit: Qualcomm)

Details of the SDM1000, tentatively named Snapdragon 1000, a new Qualcomm chip built for Windows 10 laptops, have started to trickle out.

Microsoft’s development of Windows 10 for ARM has seen the company partner with chip company Qualcomm. The first Windows 10 on ARM machines use the Snapdragon 835 processor, with designs based on the Snapdragon 850 (a higher clocked Snapdragon 845 intended for laptops) expected later this year. Snapdragon 1000 will be the follow-up to the 850.

The Snapdragon 1000 is believed to be an even more powerful laptop chip intended to go head to head with Intel’s Y- and U-series Core processors. These have a 4.5W and 15W power envelope, respectively, and are used in a wide range of tablets and Ultrabook-type laptops. The Snapdragon 1000 is reported to have a 6.5W power draw for the CPU itself, with a total power draw of 12W for the entire SoC. The Snapdragon 1000 test platform has 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM and two 128GB UFS flash drives. It also has 802.11ad gigabit Wi-Fi, gigabit LTE, and a new power management controller.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Advertisements

Microsoft staff call on company to end ICE contract

Enlarge / Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, speaks at the Microsoft Annual Shareholders Meeting in Bellevue, Washington, on November 30, 2016. (credit: Jason Redmond, Getty Images)

Microsoft staff members are calling on CEO Satya Nadella to terminate the company’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In an open letter published by The New York Times, employees say that they “refuse to be complicit” in ICE’s policy of breaking apart migrant families that come to the US without legal documentation.

Since April, the agency has been systematically separating children from their parents, and the kids have been housed in former warehouses and camps around the country. Microsoft’s involvement comes from the company’s Azure Government cloud computing platform: a segregated set of government-only data centers and cloud services operated exclusively by US citizens, with certifications and approval to fulfill certain government needs. In January, the company announced in a blog post that it was proud to support ICE’s “IT modernization” using Azure Government. This language was briefly removed “by mistake” from the blog post but has subsequently been reinstated.

In the view of the open letter’s signatories—and no small number of Microsoft employees on Twitter and the company’s internal social media—this cooperation is unacceptable, and the company should take an “ethical stand, and put children and families above profits.” They’re calling on the company to cancel its contract with ICE (claimed to be worth $19.4 million), create a public policy that neither Microsoft nor its contractors will work with clients violating international human rights law, and show greater transparency over contracts with government agencies.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft’s new diverse avatar editor represents more body types, disabilities

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

In its E3 presentation last year, Microsoft announced that it was making a major overhaul to the Xbox avatar system. The goal of the new system is to make the avatars much more representative, showcasing not just our style and tastes, but also our body types, disabilities, and genders. Today, the first public preview of the new avatar editor is finally being rolled out to members of the Xbox Insider preview program some time around 3pm Eastern/noon Pacific.

The new avatar system includes new customization options such as fingernails, limbs, and moods. There are also new gender neutral clothing options. On top of that, most elements can be further customized, with skin and hair color (among other things) being customizable so that they can look however you choose. This means there’s a much greater ability to make an avatar that looks like you—or if realism isn’t your thing, you can pick exactly the right shade of green for your alien alter ego. This customization extends to new props such as wheelchairs, which can similarly be customized to match your stylistic preferences.

In addition to being more customizable, the new avatars are also more poseable; there’s a photo booth for taking still pictures of your avatar. You’ll be able to pick the exact frame of an avatar’s animation to get the facial expression and positioning that you want.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Windows 10 April 2018 Update now open to all, thanks to machine learning

We already know that the Windows 10 April 2018 Update has been the most rapidly deployed of the major Windows 10 updates. Microsoft today said a little about how this speed was achieved—and made the update fully available to every Windows 10 system, representing the final stage of the rollout process.

The rollout of each major update is performed gradually. Microsoft uses information about successes, failures, and incompatibilities collected from the earliest systems to receive the update to determine whether it should be made more widely available. For this update, there was an extra factor in the mix: machine learning. The company built a machine learning model to identify which system characteristics meant that the update was likely to succeed. With this model, viable candidate systems could be more rapidly identified, in turn enabling the update to be more aggressively pushed to those systems. The result was fewer rolled back installations, fewer crashes, and less negative user feedback.

During the deployment of the update, incompatibilities were detected. As an example, Microsoft says that a version of Avast Behavior Shield caused a reboot issue. The immediate fix was to blacklist systems with the problematic software, meaning that within 24 hours of the problem being detected, at risk machines were no longer being updated. Avast subsequently fixed its software, and with the corrected software in place, the deployment could be resumed.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

It looks like Google is readying the Pixelbook for running Windows 10

Enlarge / The 12.3-inch QHD display has large bezels around it for better grip in tablet mode. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Google’s Pixelbook is some beautiful, well-built hardware, but its use of Chrome OS means that for many people it will be too limited to be useful. Although Chrome OS is no longer entirely dependent on Web applications—it can also be used to run Android applications, and Linux application support is also in development—the lack of Windows support means that most traditional desktop applications are unusable.

But that may be changing, with indications that Google is adding Windows support to its hardware. Earlier this year, changes made to the Pixelbook’s firmware indicated that Google is working on a mode called AltOS that would allow switching between Chrome OS and an “alternative OS,” in some kind of dual-boot configuration. A couple of candidates for that alternative OS are Google’s own Fuchsia, and, of course, Windows.

Recent changes suggest that it is indeed Windows that Google is aiming for. The Pixelbook’s firmware is being updated to address issues picked up in Microsoft’s hardware compatibility tests. The modifications make reference to the Windows Hardware Certification Kit (WHCK) and the Windows Hardware Lab Kit (HLK). The HLK is Microsoft’s test framework that validates all manner of driver and firmware behavior to ensure that hardware is compatible with Windows 10. The WHCK is the corresponding set of tests for Windows 8.1.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft tech may help Walmart get rid of cashiers and checkout lines

Enlarge / Microsoft in Dublin, Ireland. (credit: Red Agenda / Flickr)

A report from Reuters suggests that Microsoft is looking to take on Amazon in the retail store space. Microsoft is reportedly working on technology that removes the need for cashiers and checkout lines in stores, similar to Amazon’s technology already implemented in its Amazon Go brick-and-mortar store.

According to the report, Microsoft’s technology tracks which items customers put into their carts. While it’s unclear how far along Microsoft is in developing this technology, the company has reportedly shown sample tech to potential partners and has even talked to Walmart about implementing it.

The exact technology used in Microsoft’s service isn’t explained, but it may be linked to the company’s new Kinect for Azure project. Detailed at Microsoft Build last month, this project builds on Kinect’s current abilities and includes integrated computing power and a sensor package with a depth-mapping camera. It can be used to execute spatial mapping and motion tracking, which could come in handy when tracking customers’ hands as they reach for items on shelves.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Office getting a new consistent interface across Web, desktop, and mobile

Enlarge / Web Word with its new simplified ribbon. (credit: Microsoft)

Office today has a whole bunch of versions—the traditional, fully featured Win32 desktop applications and their near counterparts on the Mac, along with various simpler versions for the Web, mobile, and Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Presently, these various incarnations all have similarities in their interfaces, but they’re far from consistent.

That’s set to change. Microsoft is overhauling the interfaces of all the Office versions to bring a much more consistent look and feel across the various platforms that the applications support. This new interface will have three central elements.

First is a simplified version of the ribbon. The new simpler ribbon looks like an iteration of the simpler ribbon already used in applications such as OneNote: the tall three-row ribbon of the Office desktop apps is replaced with a single-row tabbed toolbar. Word on the Web will be the first to get the new interface—some users can opt into it today—and in July, subscription versions of Outlook for Windows will also get it.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments