All posts in “Microsoft”

You can pre-order a limited edition Xbox One X right now

The Xbox One X is now available for pre-order. Sort of.

Microsoft is doing a special limited pre-order for Xbox One X, a so-called “Project Scorpio” edition that’s a reference to the technologically beefy console’s codename. It is the same price as the standard Xbox One X ($499) and will launch the same day (Nov. 7) but has unique design elements.

For starters, the Project Scorpio name will be accented on the console as well as the controller in a green font, and the whole box will be done up with a unique premium paint finish. Apparently, there is also an easter egg on the back of the console for the ultra Xbox fan.

The insides of the Project Scorpio edition will be the same as those of the standard One X, which has some pretty intense specs capable of running games in 4K resolution and making even Xbox One games that haven’t been patched for 4K look a little shinier.

Microsoft announced that more than 100 games — including Fallout 4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider — will receive special enhancements from developers to make them look even better on the One X.

This Project Scorpio edition will be available in limited quantities, and although exact numbers weren’t shared by Microsoft, Xbox Chief Marketing Officer Mike Nichols said if people want them, they should order quickly.

“We do expect demand to outstrip supply,” he said. This (hopefully) only applies to the Project Scropio edition, and not the standard Xbox One X.

Information about pre-orders for the standard version of the console will come at a later date.

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Watch Microsoft’s Xbox One X Gamescom conference live right here

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Microsoft is about to share the last details on the Xbox One X with a press conference ahead of the Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. You can watch it live right here at 12 PM on the West Coast, 3 PM on the East Coast, 8 PM in the U.K., 9 PM in Germany.

The company already said on Twitter that we can expect to hear more details about pre-orders for the Xbox One X:

Microsoft should also share new trailers for upcoming games, such as Forza Motorsport 7, Sea of Thieves, maybe another extension for Halo Wars 2, etc.

The Xbox One X is Microsoft’s upcoming gaming console. It’s a more powerful Xbox One that should work better with demanding games. You’ll be able to buy it on November 7 for $499. Microsoft says that you can expect 4K games with an acceptable framerate.

And yet, based on specs, the console should be more or less as powerful as a gaming PC with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070. If you have a 4K TV, games should definitely look better with an Xbox One X. But the existing Xbox One S is going to remain available after the release of the Xbox One X.

Skype’s much-debated redesign hits the desktop


In June, Microsoft introduced a completely revamped version of its Skype app, designed with a heavier focus on media-sharing, and other social expression tools, like emoji, reactions, and even a Snapchat-like stories feature. Now that new experience is rolling out to desktop users, but in a more limited fashion, Microsoft announced this morning.

The new desktop app introduces an updated user interface that’s meant to give Skype a more youthful feel. Group chats are multi-colored. Bright, squiggly lines are used to indicate when contacts are typing or to separate out unread messages, among other things. Chats are given more prominent billing. Emojis can be used to ‘react’ to what others are saying while in video calls or in text conversations.

These changes, when Skype’s update arrived on mobile, were too radical for many users. The app suffered from poor reviews on the App Store and Google Play, with many accusing the company of having Snapchat envy.

But there are some additions that will be useful in the new Skype desktop, despite all this social app envy. For example, a new media gallery can be viewed on the right side of a group chat, which makes it easier to locate shared files, like documents, spreadsheets, photos or other media, that had been posted into the group.

However, this gallery is a bit too jazzy…when it’s empty, it has a busy, squiggly line-filled background that seems entirely unnecessary.

Group calling has gotten a makeover too, with support for real-time screen and photo sharing, and of course, emoji reactions that pop up as a temporary overlay on the screen. (Which you probably should not use during work calls, okay?)

Skype is also adding support for @mentions – something that’s become a convention in social and communication apps, whether work-related or not. Most major apps today – like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Slack, etc. – support this functionality, so it makes sense to bring it to Skype, too.

When you first launch the new app, you can pick between a light or dark theme – the latter which has become a popular choice for social apps as of late, with dark themes appearing on services like YouTube and Twitter.

When you want to start a chat, group or call, you now do so from a plus button on the top left. Here, you can also find Skype’s list of available bots, like those for travel, work, entertainment and gaming.

One more prominent feature that was a key part of Skype’s mobile makeover, however, is missing: Highlights.

This was Skype’s Snapchat-like take on Stories. The idea is that users would snap a photo or video, decorate it with text and stickers, then share it by posting to Highlights, where your followers can view it at any time.

But don’t get too excited if you were hoping to avoid the Stories takeover of social media. Microsoft tells us Highlights is still in the works for the desktop app. It and other new features, will arrive in future previews, a spokesperson says.

The desktop app is rolling out today as a Skype Preview for Mac users and those with non-Windows 10 PCs. Windows 10 users already received some of the newer features in last month, Microsoft notes.

Microsoft acquires Cycle Computing


Microsoft today announced that it has acquired Cycle Computing, a twelve-year-old Connecticut-based company that focuses on helping enterprises orchestrate high-performance computing jobs, large data workloads and other “big computing” jobs in the cloud. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

While Microsoft plans to use the company’s expertise to improve its Azure service for these kind of high-end workloads, Cycle Computing’s flagship CycleCloud service always supported a wide range of cloud and on-premises platforms, including AWS and the Google Cloud Platform. Microsoft notes that the Cycle Computing tech will help it improve its support for Linux-based high-performance computing workloads.

Current Cycle Computing customers include the likes of Novartis, Pacific Life, MetLife and other major manufacturing, insurance, biotech and media companies. Cycle Computing, which was bootstrapped and never raised a “real” funding round, says that its service will manage about a billion core-hours of compute this year and that it has grown 2.7x every 12 months.

“We’ve already seen explosive growth on Azure in the areas of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and deep learning,” Jason Zander, Microsoft’s corporate VP of Azure, writes in today’s announcement. “As customers continue to look for faster, more efficient ways to run their workloads, Cycle Computing’s depth and expertise around massively scalable applications make them a great fit to join our Microsoft team.”

Cycle Computing co-founder and CEO Jason Stowe  writes that his company will continue to support its existing customers, though it’s unclear if this means that Microsoft will also continue to develop support for competing platforms. We have reached out to Microsoft for clarification and will update this post once we hear more.

Update: Here’s Microsoft’s statement, which seems to imply that Microsoft will continue to support current clients but won’t put any new development work into support for the AWS and GCP platforms: “We will continue to support Cycle Computing clients using AWS and/or Google Cloud. Future Microsoft versions released will be Azure focused. We are committed to providing customers a seamless migration experience to Azure if and when they choose to migrate.”

Featured Image: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Microsoft’s giving power users a turbocharged version of Windows 10

Image: miles goscha/mashable

Microsoft’s Windows 10 runs on everything from powerful desktop gaming PCs to laptops to the Raspberry Pi. And later this fall there’s going to be a new edition with better support for power users running server-grade PCs.

The new OS, which comes alongside the Fall Creators Update, is simply called “Windows 10 Pro for Workstations” and according to Microsoft is designed to “meet the needs of our advanced users deploying their Workstation PCs in demanding and mission-critical scenarios.”

There are four key areas where Windows 10 Pro has been made better for professionals using beefy workstation PCs.

First, it comes with ReFS (Resilient file system) to protect your data from corruption, which is especially important when you’re handling large storage volumes on a server. ReFS can detect when data’s screwed up on a mirrored hard drive and then use another non-corrupt backup to automatically fix the bad one, ensuring your data’s always undamaged.

Second, the special version has “persistent memory” using non-volatile memory modules (NVDIMM-N) so you can read and write files lightning-quick. Your files remain stored in the RAM even when you turn your workstation off so you can resume your work quicker than before.

The four pillars where Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is better than regular Windows 10 Pro.

The four pillars where Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is better than regular Windows 10 Pro.

Image: microsoft

Third, Microsoft says it’s added faster file sharing using a feature called SMB Direct. Using network adapters with Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) support, users can transfer large amounts of data quickly without using much CPU processing power. This means the CPU can be freed for other tasks.

And lastly, the new update works with Intel’s and AMD’s server-grade hardware. It supports workstations using Intel Xeon and AMD Opteron processors that can be configured with up to four CPUs and up to 6TB of memory. Previously, workstations only supported up to two CPUs and 2TB of memory.

Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is a solid update to look forward to if you’re a professional with a workstation or manage servers for a living. For us normals, though, it’s nothing we need to bother with. The Fall Creators Update will bring lots of new consumer-friendly features like Pick Up Where You Left Off, which lets you start a task on a Windows PC and then resume on your iOS or Android phone.

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