Microsoft “Andromeda” this year, new HoloLens in 2019, and the next Xbox in 2020

The HoloLens headset. (credit: Microsoft)

Internal documents outlining Microsoft’s future hardware plans have leaked, giving a sneak peek at what the next couple of years of the company’s hardware are likely to look like, writes Brad Sams of

First up, there’s a trio of Surface-branded devices with the codenames Carmel, Libra, and Andromeda. Libra is the cheap Surface tablet that Bloomberg reported on in May. This isn’t Microsoft’s first foray into the cheap(er) tablet market; while the focus of the last few years has been on the more expensive Surface Pro, it seems that Redmond continues to regard it as an important segment, with the education market a particular target. Should Libra make it to market, it’s expected to become available this year.

Carmel is the next iteration of the Surface Pro. Intel is going to refresh its mobile processors later this year, with processors codenamed Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake; the former with a power consumption of about 15W, the latter of about 4.5W. These will continue to use the “8th generation” branding, and either or both could make sense in some kind of Surface product. This processor timeline means it’s unlikely we’ll see Carmel before Whiskey and Amber lakes hit the market; however, the documents apparently don’t provide any hard dates for when it’s due.

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Microsoft developing next gen Xbox console—with streaming if you don’t want one

Enlarge / A lot of tech packed into this svelte box. (credit: Kyle Orland)

Microsoft plans to deliver “console quality gaming on any device”—PC, Xbox, or phone—with a “game streaming network” that the company is developing, said executive president of gaming Phil Spencer at the company’s E3 press conference.

This isn’t the first time that Spencer has spoken of such development. At the Xbox One X launch last year, he said that Microsoft would have a game streaming service within three years, taking advantage of Azure’s substantial global footprint to ensure that datacenter distance—and hence in-game latency—was low enough to enable high quality gaming.

Spencer is far from the only one talking about streaming: Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said that streamed games will replace consoles some time after the next console generation, and EA has announced its own cloud streaming service.

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Microsoft pushes exclusives, premieres at pre-E3 press conference

LOS ANGELES—Microsoft used its pre-E3 press conference today to stress that, despite recent troubles securing high-profile exclusive content, the Xbox One can do toe-to-toe with the PlayStation 4 when it comes to games and content available on no other console.

Many of those console exclusives will come from newly purchased developers that are now part of the Microsoft Studios family. The purchases of Undead Labs (State of Decay), and Playground Games (Forza Horizon) were not all that surprising, given their previous work on Xbox exclusives. But Microsoft’s acquisition of Ninja Theory (Hellbalde), and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few, now coming August 10) we a bit more surprising, and a sign Microsoft is looking to bring new talent in house.

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Microsoft teases Halo Infinite at E3 2018

LOS ANGELES—At a pre-E3 press briefing today, Microsoft teased Halo Infinite, the next-chapter in its long-running first-person shooter series.

A roughly two-minute “game engine demonstration” featured scenes of exotic alien animals over lush rain-soaked caves, forests, and savannah. As four tired-looking marines limp along a beach featuring broken Halo gates, the brief tease concludes with a shot of Master Chief holding his iconic helmet at his waist, before driving off into the sunset on a Warthog.

No release date or gameplay footage was revealed, and no additional details were given, save that the game will be using the newly announced Slipspace Engine.

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Microsoft’s plan for GitHub: “Make GitHub better at being GitHub”

Enlarge / From left to right: current GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and former Xamarin CEO, soon-to-be GitHub CEO Nat Friedman (credit: Microsoft)

As part of Microsoft’s $7.5 billion purchase of cloud source code repository GitHub, the company is installing a new CEO. Once the deal closes (which is expected to happen later this year), out will go GitHub co-founder Chris Wanstrath and in will come Nat Friedman. Friedman is the former CEO of Xamarin, the cross-platform .NET implementation that Microsoft bought in 2016.

Friedman brings solid open-source bona fides: core parts of the Xamarin stack were open source, and Friedman’s previous company, Ximian, was created to develop the open-source GNOME project. His appointment should quell many of the fears that open-source developers have about the takeover. To engage with the community further, Friedman today did a Reddit AMA to answer questions about the acquisition.

The main thrust of his replies? Microsoft doesn’t really intend to change much at GitHub. When asked if GitHub users should expect any big alterations, Friedman answered that Microsoft is “buying GitHub because [it] likes GitHub” and intends to “make GitHub better at being GitHub.” Although there will be “full integration” between GitHub and Visual Studio Team Services, there won’t be any radical changes in trajectory or service offerings.

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Latest Windows preview suggests you’ll be able to turn S Mode on and off

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

Windows 10’s S Mode, the locked down mode that permits only applications from the Microsoft Store, started out as a separate edition of Windows 10 that was locked down as soon as it was installed and had a one time irreversible upgrade to unrestricted Windows 10 Pro.

In Windows 10 version 1803, that changed to an install-time option for both Windows 10 Home and Pro. Again, this offered an irrevocable upgrade to the corresponding unrestricted version after installation.

The latest Windows 10 Insider Preview suggests that S Mode is changing again, and this time it looks like it’s going to be a regular option that can be set any time. Build 17686 includes a “Switch to S Mode” search item in the Settings app. The actual switch to enable S Mode isn’t present in this build, so we can’t be entirely certain of how it will work, but this is a strong suggestion that it’ll now be possible to put a machine into S Mode after the initial installation.

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Everyone complaining about Microsoft buying GitHub needs to offer a better solution

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is buying GitHub for $7.5 billion dollars, and predictably, there’s a developer backlash.

GitHub, though notionally a for-profit company, has become an essential, integral part of the open-source community. GitHub offers free hosting for open-source projects and has risen to become the premiere service for collaborative, open-source development: the authoritative source repository for many of these projects, with GitHub’s own particular pull-request-based workflow becoming a de facto standard approach for taking code contributions.

The fear is that Microsoft is hostile to open source and will do something to GitHub (though exactly what isn’t clear) to undermine the open-source projects that depend on it. Comments here at Ars, as well as on Slashdot, Reddit and Hacker News, suggest not any specific concerns but a widespread lack of trust, at least among certain developers, of Microsoft’s behavior, motives, and future plans for the service.

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