Kaspersky is withdrawing its European antitrust complaint against Microsoft today. The software giant has agreed to make changes to the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update that have appeased Kaspersky and help its anti-virus software provide notifications and alerts to renew virus definitions. Kaspersky originally filed its complaint back in June, claiming that Microsoft disabled its anti-virus software during Windows upgrades and that the software maker was using its dominance to “fiercely promote” its own Windows Defender software.
Microsoft admitted in late June that Windows 10 prompts to install a new version of anti-virus from third parties like Kaspersky after an update, but it disables the old version if it’s not compatible. Microsoft now says it “will work more closely with AV vendors to help them with compatibility reviews in advance of each feature update becoming available to customers.” The software maker will also provide better visibility of release schedules for Windows 10 updates, giving anti-virus vendors more time to test changes.
One of the key upcoming changes to Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is a tweak to how alerts and notifications are handled for anti-virus software. Microsoft says it will allow anti-virus apps to “use their own alerts and notifications to renew antivirus products before and after they have expired.” Microsoft is also changing the way Windows 10 informs users when an antivirus application has expired. “Instead of providing an initial toast notification that users could ignore, the new notification will persist on the screen until the user either elects to renew the existing solution or chooses to rely on Windows Defender or another solution provider,” says Rob Lefferts, Microsoft’s director of program management for Windows enterprise and security.
All of these changes are enough to convince Kaspersky to withdraw its complaint. “The company is satisfied with the proposed approach by Microsoft to address the warnings issued by the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), and its implementation roadmap,” says a Kaspersky spokesperson. “Kaspersky Lab is also taking all steps necessary to withdraw its filings to the European Commission and to Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, stating that it has no more claims for Microsoft to address.”
It’s a reasonable end to a dispute that looked like it would be decided by the European Commission, and both companies maintain a partnership for improving anti-virus software on Windows. “We appreciate the feedback and continued dialogue with our partners, and are pleased to have found common ground with Kaspersky Lab on the complaints raised in Russia and Europe,” says Lefferts. “We look forward to our continued partnership with the industry.”
Microsoft published a list of applications and services that will be removed or deprecated in the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. One of the applications stated for deprecation is the 32 year old MS Paint, that has been part of every version of Windows ever made.
After an overwhelming response from users on the internet, Microsoft announced in a blog post that the venerable drawing utility will be removed as part of default software suite but will be available as a download through the Windows Store. Microsoft instead wants users to use Paint 3D, which was introduced earlier this year in the Windows 10 Creators Update and features a much expanded set of drawing tools, including 3D objects.
The new version of Windows will be available later this year in fall.
Google’s Backup and Sync desktop app is now available for download for Mac and Windows after a delay last month. Users now have the power to sync up anything, including photos and videos from cameras, SD cards, and USB devices, instead of their files remaining stuck in one place.
It’s a way to protect files and photos by backing them up, as long as they’re in Google Drive and Google Photos, primarily for consumer users. Business users of G Suite are recommended to keep using Google Drive until a business-focused solution called Drive File Stream comes out later this year. People can sign up for Drive File Stream’s early adopter program though.
Google wrote on its blog, “Just choose the folders you want to back up, and we’ll take care of the rest.” Backup and Sync is available through Google Drive and Google Photos for download.
Microsoft is announcing Microsoft 365 today, a new way for businesses to purchase Office and Windows together. While the software giant has sold Office 365 and Windows 10 to businesses in many different ways, Microsoft 365 Enterprise combines Office 365 Enterprise, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility and Security features into a single subscription.
Microsoft is also offering Microsoft 365 Business, which will debut in public preview on August 2nd and includes Office 365 Business Premium alongside security and management features for Office apps and Windows 10 devices. Both bundles are being announced today Microsoft’s Inspire partner conference today, which hosts 17,000 attendees together to discuss Microsoft’s many partnerships.
Microsoft 365 Enterprise will be available for purchase on August 1st, with pricing dependent on the specific plan and “other factors.” Microsoft 365 Business will be available in public preview on August 2nd, with a full release set for later this fall. Microsoft 365 Business will cost $20 per user, per month.
Microsoft is also launching its Azure Stack today, allowing businesses to host their own hybrid cloud. Dell, HP, and Lenovo are all creating integrated systems to run Azure Stack and host apps and services on hardware that’s located alongside a business’ current infrastructure. The first systems will start shipping in September.
Today’s Microsoft Inspire conference will also see CEO Satya Nadella on stage to discuss the company’s work with partners, and its plans for the future as Microsoft shakes up its internal sales force. Microsoft is travelling to Washington DC this year with 17,000 attendees, and boasts of more cloud partners than AWS, Google, and Salesforce combined. Microsoft’s impressive cloud growth has already boosted the company’s revenue in recent years. As the software maker focuses more of its efforts on the cloud we’ll see more hints of the direction that Microsoft is heading in over the next year during Inspire this week.
Microsoft revealed its new Timeline feature of Windows 10 earlier this year, noting it would arrive in the upcoming Fall Creators Update. Timeline is designed to allow Windows 10 users to switch between multiple devices, including Android and iOS phones. While Windows 10 testers had expected to be trying out the feature in time for the Fall Creators Update, Microsoft has confirmed it has delayed Timeline to its next major Windows 10 update.
“Timeline won’t be in the Fall Creators Update,” says Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore. “We’re planning for it to be in early insider builds shortly after Fall Creators Update is out.” Microsoft is expected to release its Windows 10 Fall Creators Update in September, and the company is currently testing final features with Windows Insiders. The next major Windows 10 update after that should arrive in March 2018.
Timeline will effectively let you pick up where you left off, across Windows 10 devices and iOS and Android phones. It’s really designed to be a quick way to move from one machine to another, much like Apple’s continuity feature in iOS and macOS. This isn’t the first time Microsoft has delayed a significant feature to Windows 10. Microsoft was planning to ship its people integration in the Creators Update earlier this year, but the company delayed it to the Fall Creators Update due later this year.
We already knew that the next version of Windows 10, the Fall Creators Update, will feature a large number of new tools for consumers. While it was always clear that business users would also get their fair share of updates, Microsoft remained pretty quiet about what those would look like. That’s changing this week, as the company today announced a number of new security features for Windows 10 that will launch with the Fall Creators Updates later this year.
Rob Lefferts, the director of program management for Windows Enterprise and Security, told me that the company is obviously aware of the changing security landscape, which now often includes well-funded and supported hackers. To stay ahead of these threats, the company is doubling down on its existing security efforts, but in addition, it’s now also pushing ahead with new initiatives that emphasize cloud intelligence with AI and machine learning.
So while the team is hardening the Windows 10 platform with this new release — just like it has done with all the previous releases — it’s also building up its efforts to use the cloud to analyze security threats and prevent attacks.
As Lefferts noted, 96 percent of the attacks that Microsoft is seeing are distinct attacks. That’s partly because malware is now often polymorphic but also because the company is seeing more custom attacks.
One of the main vectors for attacking any desktop operating system is the browser. Back in 2016, Microsoft announced that it was working on a sandboxing technique — the Windows Defender Application Guard — that would allow it to stop attackers from ever getting a foothold on the machine, even if they were able to penetrate the browser’s defenses. It took the company quite a while to get this to market, but the next version of Windows 10 will now ship with support for this feature. Lefferts told me that it took the team a while to figure out the right user experience to enable this feature, which is hard when you start every browser session from zero. The team also had to ensure that it could quickly spin up these micro-containers with the Edge browser fast enough.
In addition, Microsoft is also improving the Windows Defender Exploit Guard with data it gathers from across its users. The Exploit Guard features a large set of intrusion rules and policies and Microsoft says that this feature should now help protect organizations better against quite a few advanced threats, including zero day exploits.
The company has now also built the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), which was previously available as a stand-alone tool, right into Windows 10. Lefferts stressed that this was something that Microsoft’s users had asked for.
Microsoft is also extending the Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) feature that allows enterprise security teams to detect and respond to threats to include the Windows Server OS for protection across platforms. What’s more interesting, though, is that ATP is now linked to Microsoft’s cloud-based security services that use advanced analytics and machine learning to understand threats based on the huge number of signals Microsoft receives from across its users. The company is also using this cloud-based protection model to improve Windows Defender Antivirus.
Other new features include an improved version of Device Guard, the company’s service for managing which applications an enterprise user can run on a company-issued machine. Device Guard is now also integrated into Windows Defender ATP, which should make it easier to manage for IT and security teams. In addition, companies that want to opt into this can now use data from the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph, which combines billions of data points to analyze threats, to automatically allow users to install applications that are most likely safe to install (thing Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.).
Lefferts noted that Microsoft’s goal is to bring together all of its compute, big data and machine learning smarts — combined with data it gathers from its users around the globe and traditional signature-based approaches — to protect its customer’s machines. “We think the Fall Creators update takes full advantage of Windows threat protection and we are pushing forward,” he said.
Earlier this year, I read a piece at ArsTechnica about Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting, where many in attendance expressed their belief to CEO Satya Nadella that Microsoft had effectively ceded control of the smartphone market to Apple and Google, and had ceased to be a serious competitor.
One Windows Phone-using shareholder, Dana Vance, expressed his dismay that Microsoft had released certain apps on iOS and Android before Windows 10 Mobile. Vance also brought up the claims that development of the Microsoft Band had been discontinued.
Another audience member was more blunt, and asked Nadella straight up whether Microsoft was committed to Windows Mobile.
A slow and steady decline
So, here’s the thing. Eons ago, Microsoft was one of the market leaders when it came to mobile productivity. This was before Steve Jobs had even conceived the iPhone. Back then, the smartphone race was bitterly-fought between four main players: Palm, BlackBerry, Symbian, and Microsoft. Windows Mobile 6 – Microsoft’s offering – had a respectable market share of around 30 percent.
Windows Mobile did well with overworked office managers and financiers who wanted a convenient way to access their emails and tap out office documents, but its popular appeal was limited. The vast majority of handsets were just too drab and clunky for most ordinary consumers to even consider buying them.
But in 2007, everything went to shit for Microsoft. Apple released the iPhone, and in turn transformed the smartphone market into something that hadn’t been seen before.
The iPhone was a phone that allowed people to get shit done while actually looking the part. It was the first truly aspirational smartphone. Everyone from teens to executives wanted their hands on one. And then shortly after Google unveiled Android which allowed companies like Samsung and HTC to offer iPhone-like functionality but at a fraction of the cost.
At that point, the final nail in the Windows Phone 6’s coffin had been all but hammered. It started to hemorrhage users. Microsoft tried to stem the flow with Windows Mobile 6.5, which worked slightly better on touch-only handsets and had a better browser, but it just wasn’t enough.
By the time the company released its first real modern smartphone OS – Windows Phone 7 – Microsoft’s overall share had shrunk to a fraction of what it was in 2005. This was a profoundly humbling moment for a company that had dominated the world of computing since the early 1990’s.
Despite the subsequent launches of Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 8.1, and Windows Mobile 10, Microsoft has never recovered in the mobile space.
It shouldn’t have to be this way
The most tragic thing about Microsoft’s unstoppable decline in the mobile is that it feels completely unnecessary.
There’s literally no reason why Microsoft – a company with vast financial resources and some of the world’s most talented developers and researchers on its payroll – should struggle like this.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Windows Phone (and later Windows Mobile) suffocated was that there was a vacuum of consumer enthusiasm. Nobody really cared about it. What frustrates me the most is that there were things that Microsoft could have done (and indeed, can do) to turn this around.
The struggling app store
Let’s address the ten-ton elephant in the room: the app store. Right now, the biggest reason why you shouldn’t buy a Windows Phone is that there’s a veritable drought of apps. Worse, of the scattering of apps that do exist, many of them haven’t received an update in a really long time.
Straight out of the gate, Microsoft should have taken a leaf out of RIM’s book and offered some serious financial incentives to developers.
Yes, I know that in 2013 it briefly offered to pay developers a whopping $100 for each newly-published app. Yes, I know that there were some private (and hefty) financial incentives given to larger companies, like Foursquare.
Clearly, these weren’t sufficient, and they weren’t sustained to ensure that these apps had feature-parity with their Android and iOS equivalents.
Taking control of hardware
The erstwhile CEO of Microsoft, Steven Ballmer, has some pretty strong thoughts on this subject. He (rightly) thinks that Microsoft should have gotten into the hardware game way sooner. Doing so would have allowed Microsoft to release phones where it can exercise control over every aspect of the device, much like Apple is with the iPhone.
This makes a lot of sense. During the brief halcyon days of Windows Phone, there were a smattering of devices running the software from a variety of manufacturers including Nokia, Blu, HTC, Alcatel, and ZTE.
Many of these were, at face value, pretty identical. In terms of industrial design and internal specifications, there wasn’t much to choose from. Moreover, it’s hard to differentiate between a Windows Phone device and an Android device because Microsoft only allows a certain amount of software customization.
From a consumer perspective, this was pretty confusing. I imagine that many people took a look at the then dizzying Windows Phone device ecosystem and promptly gave up, instead choosing to spend their money on an Android or iPhone.
In retrospect, buying Nokia was a great idea. The Finnish mobile icon made great phones. Their industrial design was top-notch, and they were perhaps the most visible and committed manufacturer of Windows devices.
The biggest mistake Microsoft made was its inertia to retire the Nokia brand and take control of the Windows Phone ecosystem.
When it bought the company in 2014, it should have immediately stopped licensing its software and instead have committed to releasing three phones per year: a low-end, a mid-tier, and a premium flagship device.
This would have allowed Microsoft to take a holistic look at how people use its devices, and allow it to take the same detail-oriented approach to user experience that Apple takes with the iPhone.
Microsoft can make amazing hardware. This fact has been proven time-and-again with the likes of the Xbox One, Surface, Surface Book, and Surface Studio. Imagine what it would be like if the only Windows Phones on the market were a range of enticing, well-built Surface Phones?
Microsoft should have put on its dreaming cap
Over the past five years, Microsoft has evolved from a company obsessed with making incremental improvements to its software, to one that’s fundamentally adventurous and is obsessed with the new and undiscovered. Hololens anyone?
But this hasn’t really materialized on the mobile front.
I’ve got a theory about this. Since 2007, when Apple launched the iPhone, Microsoft has been playing catchup. It’s been so obsessed with ensuring that things work and that the essential features are present, it hasn’t been able to bring its vision for things like augmented reality to its mobile product.
From early on, Microsoft should have explored how it can differentiate its mobile offering from Apple and Google. It should have been bold. It wasn’t, and today Windows Phone languishes as an also-ran smartphone OS.
The last hurrah?
There were other things I wanted to mention. I wanted to bring up the confusing, inconsistent branding (note how many times I switch between Windows Phone and Windows Mobile in this article). I desperately wanted to rant about how I thought the platform was badly marketed. But time is short, and there just weren’t the column inches.
Some of you will read my article and furiously type out a comment about how I’m “an bias” and an Apple fanboy. You’d be wrong. Not that it matters, but this Monday I bought a Dell XPS 13, and over my lifetime I’ve owned four different Windows phones. As a platform, I’ve given it plenty of chances. Perhaps more than it deserves.
But time is running out for Microsoft’s mobile ambitions. Microsoft is rumored to be working on a Surface Phone. Satya Nadella says that this will be the “ultimate mobile device”. Will this be the company’s last hurrah before it eventually consigns itself to building apps and services for the other two big incumbents?
Maybe. But I hope not.
I’m a perennial optimist, and as a result haven’t written Windows 10 Mobile off quite just yet. I feel that if Microsoft somehow manages to convince developers to return to the platform, and if it can build a device that can compete with the current range of desirable flagships, then maybe – just maybe – it’ll have a chance.
Companies today find it difficult to score the right balance when it comes to customer support. Microsoft is no exception, and we want to hear about your experiences with the company related to mobile product support, good or bad. Community member 73blazer experienced an issue with Windows 10 Mobile and the official Mail app from Microsoft. After updating it to the latest version, it ceased to work in Continuum mode.
As expected, 73blazer decided to hit up Microsoft for some assistance. What wasn’t expected was the bad experience. First off, Microsoft Office support was involved, and they were unable to offer assistance and eventually redirected our poor member over to B2x, an outsourced support platform Microsoft uses for hardware and other support. After providing the IMEI number of an HP Elite X3, 73blazer was informed that only Lumia phones are covered for support through this particular channel.
Do they even have it? I tried desperately Friday to get some insight into an issue that is clearly a bug, to no avail. Basically, the issue is the new version of the mail app that came out earlier this week, won’t launch in continuum mode. Elite x3 had it. I pull out my 950xl which hadn’t updated in a while mail launches there in continuum mode, update the mail app, mail won’t launch in…
After supplying the same information for a Lumia 950, both soft and hard resets were recommended (clearly we’re looking at someone reading from a list of instructions to hand to consumers). It got worse from there, and so our forum member contacted HP support. They were more helpful and offered to take the problem up with Microsoft directly, supplying 73blazer with a case number to reference.How have your past experiences gone down when you got in touch with Microsoft for support? Do you have any tips when it comes to Windows 10 Mobile and specifically Lumia devices? Hit the link below and sound off in our community forum.
A few weeks ago, sharp-eyed users spotted something new in a Windows 10 Insider Preview build — reference to a new “Game Mode.” Discussions on what the feature might do, or how it could improve performance, have made the rounds since. But a new investigation suggests the new feature won’t make much difference for the vast majority of Windows 10 gamers.
PCGamesN has details on the latest Insider Preview build (15007) and what it exposes in the OS. While Game Mode can’t be enabled yet, you can read the description of what it’s going to do. Basically, it performs some low-level services tailoring to make the system work smarter when you’re actively using Microsoft’s GameDVR function.
This is more-or-less as expected, and fairly worthless in any case. Both Nvidia and AMD have shipped software solutions with their own, low-level DVR capture capability, with a minimum impact on their own hardware. Microsoft’s decision to bake in its own solution is probably a boon to Intel gamers or to people who aren’t aware of Radeon ReLive or Nvidia ShadowPlay, but it’s not much benefit to anyone else. If you want to get back the performance improvement of Game Mode before Microsoft ships the feature, you can disable the DVR altogether using these instructions.
As for the amount of performance you’ll get back by making these changes, it’s unlikely you’d ever notice. Heck, it’s not even likely that you’d notice if you benchmarked the game. Barring an unusual situation, DVR recording and other background Windows services are meant to run in the background, where they’re unlikely to consume resources or cause issues. Part of the reason why this simply doesn’t matter on modern hardware is because Windows’ hardware specifications have only changed slightly since the introduction of Windows Vista in 2006. (The idea of running Vista on hardware from 1995 would’ve been beyond hilarious, but you can run Windows 10 on equipment sold 11 years ago, if you have to). Microsoft hasn’t done much moving of the goalposts, and later versions of Windows are generally viewed as improvements to Vista, as far as running on low-end hardware.
Don’t get us wrong — if Microsoft is enabling this feature because it has data suggesting that its DVR software doesn’t play nice with specific titles, that’s a fine thing. But we’d prefer the company just say that, as opposed to pushing the idea of a Game Mode that’s going to make most titles run faster. If you’re trying to play modern games on a computer that was cutting-edge in 2008 and hasn’t been upgraded since, DVR support is the least of your worries. If that doesn’t describe you, then these optimizations aren’t likely to matter.
What we would like to see, if Microsoft is taking notes, is a Game Mode that prevented Windows Update from rebooting the computer while resource-intensive applications or games are running. If you’ve ever had a Windows 10 system suddenly decide it’s time for a reboot in the middle of a game or benchmark run (and I’ve seen multiple testbeds pull this trick with zero warning), you know how infuriating it can be. Fix that problem, and you’ve got a Game Mode worth deploying.