All posts in “Windows 10”

The Microsoft ‘CloudBook’ could be Chromebooks’ worst nightmare

The Microsoft Surface Book. Microsoft is rumored to be planning an inexpensive, cloud-based PC called a "CloudBook."
The Microsoft Surface Book. Microsoft is rumored to be planning an inexpensive, cloud-based PC called a “CloudBook.”

Image: Jhila Farzaneh/Mashable

Over the past couple of years, Microsoft has made a real name for itself in the high end. The Surface Pro and Surface Book are powerful-yet-portable PCs that have found real momentum in the market. And last fall the company made a convincing play for creators with its impressive—and expensive—Surface Studio all-in-one PC.

Now Microsoft appears to aiming at the other end of the market. It’s rumored that the company will be debuting a new kind of PC at its education-focused event on May 2: an inexpensive computer designed to primarily run apps from the cloud, a device that will finally directly respond the rapid rise of Chromebooks.

It’s called a CloudBook, according to reports, and it’ll run a new variant of Windows 10 called Windows Cloud. The main thing separating Windows Cloud from regular Windows? Machines running it will only be able to run apps downloaded from the Windows Store.

If this is starting to sound familiar, you’re not crazy. That restriction is very similar to what separated the old Surface tablets, the Surface RT and Surface 2, from regular Windows machines. But that was because they ran Windows RT, the now-defunct version of Windows designed for ARM-based devices (as opposed to Intel/AMD x86 machines). Today, Windows RT is long dead, and older, Win32-based apps are even available in the Windows Store.

The Surface 2 was the last Windows RT device from Microsoft

The Surface 2 was the last Windows RT device from Microsoft

Image: Christina Ascani/Mashable

All that said, two qualifiers: Although Windows RT is gone, Windows 10 can still run on ARM devices—all Windows mobile phones have ARM chips and run it. So, theoretically, Microsoft could debut a Windows PC with an ARM chip whenever it wants. And that brings us to the second qualifier: Even though the Windows Store now offers some Win32 apps, that doesn’t necessarily mean the CouldBook will run them.

At least one report says it will run Win32 apps, though, so a more likely scenario is this: The CloudBook will indeed have an Intel chip, but Windows Cloud will have a setting where you can restrict apps to Windows Store only, which will be the default. After all, if the whole idea is to take on Chromebooks, the OS will need to offer robust management tools.

A build of Windows Cloud appears to have leaked out back in February, and those who tried it out say it’s essentially Windows 10 with some modified settings and warnings to steer the user toward lighter, cloud-based apps. That should be a relief to users, though it may not bode well for cost. If these machines need a full, or close to full Windows license, they might end up being a notch more expensive than Chromebooks, which start at about $200.

Windows once tried going down the route of cheap machines barely worthy of the label “PC,” and the world rejected the result: the netbook. Times have changed, though: The cloud is now king, and Chromebooks have proven the viability of the model, which will go a long way toward convincing OEMs to get on board. In 2017, it should be possible to create a cheap Windows machine that performs well at a few cloud-based tasks (browsing, email and Office apps, mainly).

The main challenge Microsoft will have with such a machine would be managing expectations. People tend to expect a certain amount of versatility from any PC under the Windows umbrella. Even if Windows Cloud and the CloudBook give Chromebooks a run for their money, it could face an even tougher comparison: Windows 10 itself.

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Microsoft: We’ve already patched the Shadow Broker Windows exploits

Windows 10 is fine.
Windows 10 is fine.

Image: miles goscha/mashable

Shadow Brokers’ big Windows gotcha moment for millions of Windows users around the world looks more like a “not so fast.”

Hours after the hacking group, which apparently supports President Donald Trump and has been known to hack for money, dropped a terrifying package of NSA Windows Hacking tools that tapped into potentials vulnerabilities in most known versions of Windows (possibly even Windows 10), Microsoft finally stepped up with some more comforting news about the NSA hacking tools.

“We’ve investigated and confirmed that the exploits disclosed by the Shadow Brokers have already been addressed by previous updates to our supported products. Customers with up-to-date software are already protected.” a Microsoft spokesperson told Mashable overnight.

This news doesn’t entirely sync with what NSA leaker Edward Snowden tweeted yesterday, where he claimed that the exploits affected patched Windows systems.

Microsoft’s blog post on the hack, however, lists nine of the dozen exploits and the exact patches that closed the holes: 

“EternalBlue”: Addressed by MS17-010

“EmeraldThread”: Addressed by MS10-061

“EternalChampion”: Addressed by CVE-2017-0146 & CVE-2017-0147

“ErraticGopher”: Addressed prior to the release of Windows Vista

“EsikmoRoll”: Addressed by MS14-068

“EternalRomance”: Addressed by MS17-010

“EducatedScholar”: Addressed by MS09-050

“EternalSynergy”: Addressed by MS17-010

“EclipsedWing”: Addressed by MS08-067

There are three remaining exploits that, according to Microsoft, do not work on existing Windows systems. “[That] means that customers running Windows 7 and more recent versions of Windows or Exchange 2010 and newer versions of Exchange are not at risk,” notes Phillip Misner, Microsoft Security Response Center  Principal Security Group Manager in the post. 

Misner added that Microsoft supports coordinated vulnerabilities disclosures and reminded those looking for Windows exploits that the company even offers a bug bounty, which means real money if you let Microsoft know about any Windows holes you find.

Note, though, that Microsoft does not mention Windows XP in the post. This 16-year-old operating system is still used by 7.4% of the world’s desktops and could still be at risk.

It’s all just another reminder to dump old systems running legacy Windows and to start accepting Microsoft’s automated Windows updates…like now.

WATCH: Cortana is now part of your Windows 10 setup.

Back from the sea, Joe Belfiore is ready to help Microsoft win

Grow the Microsoft Edge browser, expand Windows 10 and keep building cool devices. That’s was Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore’s job before he stepped away from Microsoft in October of 2015, and that’s pretty much his job today, with a few crucial enhancements. The difference, though, is what Belfiore learned during his months-long sabbatical.

Belfiore being attached to the same goals makes sense since Windows, Edge and devices remain central to the Microsoft success story. Windows 10, now two years in market, has 400 million installs and is generally well-regarded. As of Tuesday, we were on our second major update (Windows Creators Update). Microsoft Edge gets a significant refresh in this version of Windows 10, but, according to NetMarketShare, it has just 5% of the desktop browser market, trailing behind the browser it ostensibly replaced, Internet Explorer 11, and Google Chrome, which has almost 40%. 

Belfiore has his work cut out for him. 

A 25-year Microsoft veteran, Belfiore, now Corporate VP in Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group has worked on numerous parts of Microsoft’s business, including Windows, Internet Explorer, Zune, Xbox Live, its failed Windows Phone attempt (there are still whispers that a Surface Phone is coming. We’ll see), and the replacement of Internet Explorer with the Edge Browser. He chose to step away, Belfiore said, to focus on his wife and children (a 12-year-old and twin, 8-year-old girls) and spend time with them before his kids were away at college, something he announced on his Facebook page.

‘It was a great experience…I came back with a new perspective on the broad audience Microsoft serves.’

That wasn’t corporatespeak from someone quietly slinking away into the darkness, never to be seen again. Belfiore and Microsoft always planned for his return, but first there was the sea. He enrolled his children in the Semester at Sea Program on the MV World Odyssey and was allowed, along with his wife, to join them on the long-term cruise.

“It was a great experience… I came back with a new perspective on the broad audience Microsoft serves,” Belfiore told me.

Stepping back also give him an opportunity to gauge how Microsoft has changed. Ever since Satya Nadella took over as CEO in 2014, the company had appeared more focused and agile than ever before. 

Belfiore said the company made huge progress in the nine months he was gone. “The improved collaboration and customer focus has been really refreshing,” he said.

As for the challenges facing Edge, Belfiore remains confident.

“It’s true, in the browser scheme of things, we have room to grow,” admitted Belfiore. That said, there are no regrets about introducing a new browser brand, “We’re not second-guessing that. It takes educating people, but I feel righteous about it,” he said.

Edge’s growth may be hampered a bit because, according to Belfiore, most Windows 10 users (Edge ships with it) are upgraders, meaning that they maintain their system apps, including Google Chrome, if they are using it. That means they will probably still use Chrome. 

Belfiore listed all the areas where he believes Edge outperforms Chrome, including creativity, research, Ink, touch, battery consumption, and performance. The more Windows 10 consumers upgrade to new, modern devices, the more Microsoft sees “a lot more people tilting toward Edge.”

‘It’s true, in the browser scheme of things, we have room to grow.’

Belfiore was not making any promises about a sudden spike in Edge numbers, at least not in the short term. “We’re playing a long game here and are going to be focused on great user satisfaction in those scenarios,” he said.

Belfiore’s time away on the Semester at Sea ship and seeing the impact of technology on education while in the midst of a constant educational environment also had a significant impact on his role at Microsoft. He now serves as the education sponsor and advocate in the Windows team. There’s no title, but his job is to make sure that Microsoft is focusing on and responding to the education audience.

When I reminded him about the challenging environment Microsoft and Apple are facing in grade schools where Google Chromebooks and Google Docs now make up the majority of in-use platforms, Belfiore told me he gets the allure of Chromebooks for teachers and administrators. They’re inexpensive and easy to manage.

Would Microsoft consider a thin-client Windows to compete with Chrome? “If you mean an OS that doesn’t run rich Windows apps, then no,” said Belfiore. 

However, he thinks Windows and the devices its runs on are up to the Chromebook challenge. 

“We have made giant progress in Windows 10 on Creators Update,” he said. For example, the OS now boots more quickly and “it takes less memory and hard drive space, which lets the price of devices come down,” he said.

‘We have made giant progress in Windows 10 on Creators Update.’

Belfiore also pointed to sub-$200 PCs from its OEM partners (HP, Acer and Lenovo) and its new Microsoft InTune for Education cloud and device management system the company announced in January.

Belfiore added that, with these programs, Microsoft has done the work to erase the price and management advantage enjoyed by Chromebooks. At the same time, Belfiore believes very strongly that parents and teachers want their students working with systems and applications that they will be using as adults. As Belfiore sees it, that’s Windows and its full-blown Windows applications, not just thin, cloud-based clients and apps for mobile systems, like Apple iPads, that don’t feature a mouse and keyboard.

For now, Belfiore is focused on this week’s rollout of Windows 10 Creators Update, extending Edge’s reach and assisting on the creation of new and interesting Windows devices. He left Microsoft just as the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 were being released and told me that Surface Studio and Dial were already under development. Belfiore could offer no comment on the eagerly anticipated Surface Pro 5.

I also asked him about the possibility of developing a mobile version of the Edge browser, possibly for iOS. 

“We want to put customers first and it’s not something we have plans for, no announcements,” said Belfiore, “but we do recognize that we’re going to think about what they want and need. We’ll put investment where there are high value experiences.”

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Microsoft Surface Pro 5 might not be the big upgrade you’re expecting

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06 2015: Microsoft Corporate Vice President Panos Panay introduces a new tablet titled the Microsoft Surface Pro 4
NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 06 2015: Microsoft Corporate Vice President Panos Panay introduces a new tablet titled the Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Image: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Microsoft won hearts far and wide last fall with its all-in-one Surface Studio touchscreen desktop PC. The beefier Surface Book, not so much.

What people really wanted was a new Surface Pro, but Microsoft wasn’t ready to announce anything. It’s now spring and technology blogger Paul Thurrott has revealed what could be the first details for the Surface Pro 5. 

Citing an insider source who’s reportedly seen the Surface Pro 5, Thurrott says the the new device might not be a major revamp and could be more like a “Surface Pro 4.5”. 

That could mean any number of things, from a design that looks the same (or very similar) to the Surface Pro 4, to minor upgrades in performance.

In addition to seventh-generation Intel “Kaby Lake” processors, the next-gen Surface Pro will reportedly use the same Surface Connect power connector.

Beyond those little nuggets, we don’t really know much else. It’ll be disappointing if Microsoft releases a new Surface Pro that’s little more than just a spec bump.

At the very least, the next Surface Pro needs to have USB-C, if only because everything’s moving towards USB-C being the one port to rule them all. We also wouldn’t mind seeing better battery life and a more sensitive Surface Pen stylus. 

Though Microsoft has yet to announce any upcoming product events, ZDNet says the company’s planning a spring event to possibly introduce the new Surface Pro and other new hardware. A Surface Book 2 and new HoloLens, however, won’t be announced at the event.

Foley also says she believes Microsoft could use the new hardware to highlight features (like Paint 3D!) from Windows 10 Creators Update, which drops on April 11.

Fingers crossed Microsoft can continue to wow with its Surface Pro, now that it’s raced by the iPad for U.S. tablet satisfaction, according to J.D. Power.

WATCH: Your behind-the-scenes look at the Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Netflix brings offline viewing to Windows 10 PCs and tablets


Netflix added support for offline viewing on iOS and Android late last year, and today it’s bringing the same feature to Windows 10, with the exception of Windows 10 mobile devices. Arriving now in the updated Windows 10 application, a subset of the Netflix catalog can be downloaded to your PC or tablet computer in order to be viewed when a network connection is not available — such as when traveling.

The addition was spotted earlier today by MSPoweruser, an unofficial source for Microsoft and Windows news.

A spokesperson for Netflix confirmed the feature saying, “Today, the Netflix app will support the downloading feature on Windows 10 laptops and tablets. We are constantly exploring new ways to make this feature available to more members and make it easier for more people to enjoy Netflix on the go.”

Similar to the launch on iOS and Android mobile devices, offline viewing is not available for just any title on Netflix, due to rights issues. Instead, the feature is limited to a mix of Netflix Originals and select licensed content.

However, because of Netflix’s vast selection of its own programming, that still means there are a lot of shows and specials that can be downloaded locally, including popular programs like Stranger Things, House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Narcos, The Crown, Bloodline, Sense8 and many others, as well as a number of specials, like live stand-up comedy specials, as well as documentaries and other Netflix films, for instance.

This offline catalog remains consistent regardless of device — iOS, Android or Windows 10 — but it may vary slightly by region, depending on licensing restrictions.

Downloading content is not difficult — in the updated app, you just tap the down arrow next to the show, movie or episode you want to watch to save it to your Windows 10 device. You also can browse for things that can be downloaded through the new section in the app, “Available for Download,” via the menu. Here, another tab called “My Downloads” will let you manage that content.

The feature is now available to users worldwide, Netflix also confirmed.

We should note that there are a few reports from early adopters that downloads are not working properly for them. When they try to download content on a supported device, they’re getting a “download error” message saying “there was a problem.” (Netflix says it’s looking into this problem, and we’ll update if it determines the issue or offers a solution.)

The Windows 10 app is available on the official Microsoft Store, here.

Image credits: Windows Central