Microsoft

6 VR predictions for E3 2017

For gamers, Christmas isn’t a snowy time of year. The only trees are those that decorate the surroundings of the Los Angeles Convention Center, burning away in the sweltering Californian sun. It’s not in December, but instead slap bang in the middle of the year, and Santa Claus ditches the bushy beard and red outfit for an executive suit and a couple of cheesy jokes for audiences to roll their eyes at. I am of course talking about the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, the biggest show in the gaming industry, and it’s right around the corner.

The 2017 edition of the event officially takes place from June 13th – 15th, with three days of press conferences preceding it. It’s here that titans like Sony, Microsoft and others do their best to wow us with new announcements on both the software and hardware front. Over the past few years VR has gradually been stealing more and more of those headlines and we expect this year’s show to be the biggest yet for the technology. So let’s get right down to one of the most fun parts of the E3 experience; predicting what’s going to happen.

Below, each of your faithful UploadVR writers has come up with their big prediction for the show. How will Microsoft flaunt Project Scorpio’s VR capabilities? And will we see the next big game for PSVR?

Predicting Project Scorpio

I would be very surprised to find out Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox refresh, Project Scorpio, isn’t compatible with Windows 10-powered headsets from Acer, Lenovo, Dell and others. It would be a huge missed opportunity for Microsoft. As far as content, there is a year worth of games the tech giant can bring to the platform that have already released for Rift, Vive and PS VR that could be a great fit for the Xbox VR platform.

An Acer headset and controllers will be bundled this holiday season for $400, which is in the same ballpark as Sony’s PSVR (side note: could this put pressure on Sony to lower PSVR’s price). However, Microsoft’s headsets use a different kind of position tracking that may make them much more versatile than Sony’s system. In addition to titles that have already released, Microsoft has a long history of funding exclusives that could also help bolster the roll-out.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 Steals The Show For PSVR

This is probably cheating a little seeing as a PlayStation Store icon already suggested Battlefront 2 would be getting PSVR support, so I’ll up the stakes a little. My guess is Battlefront 2’s PSVR support makes a big splash at Sony’s E3 conference, promising not just another 20 minute X-Wing mission, but a full mode dedicated to space combat in VR. Ideally I’d love that to be a single-player campaign, but I’d also welcome a mutliplayer mode. Either way, let us fly more than just the X-Wing, and let me dive down into the Death Star’s trenches.

That said, I won’t complain if you give me PlayStation Move-controlled lightsaber combat and Aim controller-fueled Stormtrooper battles too. Sony needs a scene-stealing game for PSVR this year, especially after last year’s Resident Evil 7 bombshell, and this to me looks like the safest bet.

Content is king

E3 2015 was all about building hype for VR headsets that didn’t exist yet. E3 2016 was all about solidifying promises for the first year of consumer-grade VR. Now E3 2017 is going to be all about pushing forward with exciting new games and experiences. Just like every E3 after a new…

What Is Windows 10 S, and How Is It Different?

Windows 10 S is “the soul of today’s Windows”, according to Microsoft. It’s a new version of Windows intended for school PCs, but available to everyone. It’s designed to be more simple and streamlined, so it only runs applications from the Windows Store—unless you spend another $50 to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Microsoft announced that Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Samsung, and Toshiba will ship Windows 10 S education PCs starting at $189, beginning this summer. Microsoft is also releasing a $999 Surface Laptop, which runs Windows 10 S.

This article was originally written based on the information Microsoft released at its May 2, 2017 event, but has since been updated with new information we’ve learned.

How Is Windows 10 S Different?

The biggest difference in Windows 10 S is that can only run apps downloaded from the Windows Store. These apps are checked for security and run in a secure container. This ensures that applications can’t mess with your registry, leave files behind, or cause problems with the rest of your PC. You can get the same benefits by running those new Universal apps from the Windows Store on a Windows 10 PC. But unlike normal Windows 10, you won’t have the option of downloading other apps that aren’t available in the store.

Thankfully, full versions of Microsoft Office 365 applications—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote—are coming to the Windows Store soon. They’re packaged using Microsoft’s Project Centennial, which allows traditional Windows desktop applications to be run in a secure container and placed in the Windows Store. The application’s developer just has to package the application and submit it to the Store. Hopefully, Windows 10 S will give more desktop application developers the push to do so.

Microsoft demonstrated Windows 10 S signing in much faster than Windows 10 Pro on a first login. That’s no surprise, as Windows 10 S won’t have all the usual manufacturer-installed bloatware slowing things down.

Windows 10 S also has a different default desktop background that Microsoft says is “streamlined” like Windows 10 S itself, so it provides you with a clue you’re using Windows 10 S.

What Happens if You Download a Desktop App in Windows 10 S?

If you try to download a (non-Store) desktop application on a Windows 10 S PC, you’ll see a message saying that “For security and performance, Windows 10 S only runs verified apps from the Store”. The dialog informs you of similar applications available in the Windows Store. For example, Windows will suggest you install Adobe Photoshop Express from the Windows Store if you try to download the desktop version of Photoshop.

In this way, Windows 10 S’s default behavior works just like Windows 10 with the “Allow apps from the Store only” option enabled. This will also protect those PCs from malware.

Windows 10 S Offers Some Pro Features, But No Command Lines

Windows 10 S is actually built on Windows 10 Pro, and not Windows 10 Home. This means that Windows 10 S has access to powerful Windows 10 Professional features, including BitLocker drive encryption, the ability to join domains, and the Hyper-V virtual machine software.

However, the advanced features stop there. Windows…

Seagate targets 4-terabyte storage drive at Xbox Game Pass members

Microsoft has launched a subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, with more than 100 games for $10 a month. And to help you store all of those games, Seagate is launching two new hard disk drives as extra storage for the Xbox One or the Xbox 360 game consoles.

The Seagate Game Drive for Xbox Game Pass Special Edition also has a special promotional deal. Seagate’s 2-terabyte hard drive sells for $90 and includes a one-month membership for Xbox Game Pass. The 4-terabyte hard drive…

What Is Windows 10 on ARM, and How is It Different From Windows RT?

Microsoft is working on a version of Windows 10 that will run on ARM hardware. Unlike Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 that powered the original Surface and Surface 2, this will be a full version of Windows 10 with an emulation layer that allows it to run traditional desktop apps from outside the Windows Store.

Why Is Microsoft Putting Windows 10 on ARM?

ARM PCs have some advantages over x86 ones. They have built-in LTE cellular connectivity, often offer better battery life than Intel and AMD CPUs, and the hardware is less expensive for manufacturers. Future ARM CPUs could pull even more ahead of Intel and AMD CPUs and offer much more battery life, for example.

Microsoft would like Windows 10 to run on ARM hardware so it can reap those benefits. Sure, you probably won’t use an ARM desktop any time soon, but ARM could be a great choice for tablets, 2-in-1 convertibles, and even smaller laptops.

Rather than creating a more limited version of Windows for this platform, Microsoft has decided to release a full version of Windows 10 for ARM hardware, one that can even run traditional Windows desktop applications.

Microsoft first announced a partnership with Qualcomm to create Windows on ARM at WinHEC in December, 2016.

It Can Run x86 Desktop Programs

This isn’t just Windows RT all over again. Windows RT didn’t allow you to run traditional desktop software. It even blocked developers from compiling their desktop applications for ARM processors and offering them to users. Windows RT only allowed apps from the Windows 8 Store.

Windows 10 on ARM is completely different. This is the full Windows desktop experience. Microsoft has created a special emulator layer that allows traditional 32-bit desktop applications to run on ARM processors, so everything should “just work”. Microsoft even showed off a version of Windows 10 Professional on ARM, and said it supports all the usual advanced features you’d find on Windows 10 Professional.

The emulation works completely transparently to both users and the programs they run. It uses the same WOW (Windows on…

Microsoft is helping restaurants cook up their own bots

Microsoft has launched a service for businesses to quickly and easily create a FAQ bot customers can chat with inside Bing search results.

The Bing Business Bot service begins by asking a business owner a series of basic questions about their business, like where parking is, how to make reservations, and handicap accessibility details. The service then creates a bot that draws on your answers as well as Bing Places business listing data.

If the bot doesn’t know the answer to a question, it will reach out to the restaurant owner — and remember the answer to the question for future customers.

The simple creation of a bot based on Bing Places information provides businesses with a less technical way to enhance…

Can we just call them apps?

Apps are everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere you look, you’ll find apps.

It wasn’t always that way.

On Windows, apps were “programs.” On a Mac, they were “applications.”

When Microsoft took up the term, following Apple’s App Store — THE App Store — Apple fans cried foul: They should be “progs,” they said, because Windows has programs, they said, and Mac has applications.

On gaming consoles, apps were once games, or discs, or cartridges. Music used to be CDs, or tapes, or vinyl. Cameras used to be cameras, but now they’re apps. Everything is an app. Social networks are camera companies now, which, again, are just apps. Websites were once just…

What should you expect from Microsoft at E3? GamesBeat Decides

The Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show grows ever closer, and we must face it with brave, determined resolve.

This week on the GamesBeat Decides podcast, co-hosts Jeffrey Grubb and Mike Minotti determine whether the outlook for Microsoft’s showing at E3 is bright or bleak. We know the company is going to focus heavily on its updated Xbox One Scorpio, but it’s a lot more difficult to figure out which games it will bring onto…

Long live the laptop. Long live the Apple-Microsoft rivalry

There may yet be life in the laptop market. A few weeks after Microsoft launched its long-promised, fully fledged Surface Laptop, Apple is reportedly planning to refresh its Macbook lineup. Apple’s anticipated announcement followed last fall’s update of the Macbook Pro, which left many enthusiasts underwhelmed.

Apple will upgrade the Macbook Pro and the 12-inch Macbook with faster processors, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources. In particular, the Macbook Pro will get a quad core processor using Intel’s Kaby Lake architecture, which wasn’t available when the Macbook Pro relaunched last October. In addition, Apple is said to be considering a faster chip for the 13-inch Macbook Air. The new laptops will be announced at Apple’s developer conference next month, according to Bloomberg.

The competing offerings from the longtime personal-computing rivals suggest a brighter future for laptops than was on the horizon even a few months ago. The new Macbook Pro received mixed reviews upon its announcement, with some enthusiasts — especially professionals who relied on its processing power — feeling that it fell short of their expectations. Instead of a new Touch Bar that seemed nice if not necessary, they wanted the speed and power Macbooks have always offered.

And rather than delivering the fancy upgrade that Macbook Pro users had waited 524 days for, Apple had signaled that it may be moving away from laptops in a personal-computing landscape where smaller devices were dominant, at least in terms of sales. Reports inside Apple…

Sea of Thieves is getting a tiny technical alpha test on Windows 10

Sea of Thieves E3 2016 02

I know how the song goes, but I’m not sure that a pirate’s life is really for me. It seems exciting, but I think sailing the seven seas would eventually leave me hankering for amenities like Wi-Fi and The Cheesecake Factory. So I think I’d rather go with something like Microsoft’s Sea of Thieves instead.

The Rare game studio responsible for the online multiplayer pirate simulator is planning a small test for the Windows 10 version this weekend. This is part of an effort to ensure Sea of Thieves will run well when it arrives later this year. On Saturday, Rare will invite approximately 1,000 PC players as part of this technical alpha to try the game’s mechanics, which include working together to sail vessels and to fighter other crews on other ships. The tiny test group will give the developer early feedback about aspects directly related to the PC release as opposed to the Xbox One version.

Microsoft…

How Microsoft wants us all to get creative with Artificial Intelligence

How Microsoft wants us all to get creative with Artificial Intelligence

It is hardly surprising that Artificial Intelligence was a major focus of Microsoft’s Build 2017 conference. In fact, given the rapid advancements in all areas of AI technology and the raging debates about if – or rather, when – robots will take over our jobs, it would be surprising if one of the world’s biggest technology companies weren’t thinking about these problems in a big way.

When Harry Shum – Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s AI and Research group – took to the main stage on Monday, he talked about how soon it will be almost impossible to imagine a technology that doesn’t tap into the power of AI in one way or another. What made this possible, he continued, was the convergence of three forces – increased cloud computing power, algorithms running off deep neural networks, and access to massive datasets. This means that AI does indeed have the potential to disturb every single industry and process out there.

But while the disruption does seem inevitable, companies like Microsoft are betting they can make it a positive one, talking about the possibilities it brings to amplify human ingenuity, augmenting people’s capabilities and helping them to be more productive.

“I’m really glad we’re having all these conversations about the disruptive power of AI, and it’s a good thing that we’re being so thoughtful about the ways in which we’re designing these systems, because it’s crucial that they are designed for people, to help them do their jobs better,” says Lili Cheng distinguished engineer, general manager FUSE labs.

Microsoft has been creating building blocks for the current wave of AI breakthroughs for more than two decades, and now it wants to leverage that accumulated research with the massive amounts of data available to them through the Microsoft Graph portfolio of products and Azure’s computing power, moving towards its vision of the “Intelligent Cloud”.

“One of the things we’ve done with our bot framework and the cognitive services is that we componentized things so that they can…