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Windows 10 Receives Auto HDR to Match the Xbox Series X

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Microsoft’s new consoles, the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, both use a feature called Auto HDR, which helps with backwards compatibility. Microsoft is now testing HDR support for Windows 10, allowing over 1,000 PC games to take advantage of the tool.

Auto High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode upscales older titles automatically. In other words, older games have better visual performance than before without developers needing to do anything. It’s a technology that has been used on smart TVs for some time.

Microsoft is now brining the feature to Windows 10:

“While some game studios develop for HDR gaming PCs by mastering their game natively for HDR, Auto HDR for PC will take DirectX 11 or DirectX 12 SDR-only games and intelligently expand the color / brightness range up to HDR,” says Hannah Fisher, a DirectX program manager at Microsoft.

“It’s a seamless platform feature that will give you an amazing new gaming experience that takes full advantage of your HDR monitor’s capabilities.”

Available in Preview

Auto HDR is now rolling out in new Windows 10 preview builds. Specifically, Windows 10 Insider Build 21337, which is currently going through testing. This is a Windows 10 21H2 build, so it won’t reach general release until this fall.

Auto HDR is enabled automatically, but users can manually disable it if they want. Because this is just a preview, it does not cover all DirectX 11 or 12 games. Microsoft says eventually it will expand to cover over 1,000 titles. Furthermore, the company admits “Auto HDR does take some GPU compute power to implement.”

In other news regarding Windows 10 Preview Build 21337, Microsoft has opened a full preview of Windows Spotlight for desktop. This brings changing Bing images to the desktop for the first time.

Tip of the day:

If you need to create an ad-hoc network, you can do it on Windows 10. In our tutorial we show you how to easily create a shareable wireless internet connection in Windows 10 as a free WIFI hotspot.

Source Winbuzzer

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Minecraft Gets x UNIQLO Skins Vol 2 to Dress Characters

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As Microsoft keeps the Minecraft money train rolling, there are always tie-ins and endorsements around the corner. In the latest deal, Minecraft has extended a partnership with Japanese apparel brand UNIQLO.

Mojang and the clothes company are evolving their collaboration to bring Minecraft x UNIQLO Skins Vol 2. According to a blog post, the new skins will be available from March 12 in China and March 15 globally.

The idea here is players can dress their Minecraft characters in UNIQLO clothes:

“Wear your favorite Uniqlo x Minecraft apparel as you mine, craft, explore, or virtually hang out with friends. There are 15 skins in this free pack, so you can avoid the so-called faux pas of wearing the same outfit as someone else in your group.”

It’s worth noting that the skins pack is completely free and is available from the Minecraft Marketplace.

“But it doesn’t stop at the Overworld, oh no. There’s a new UT collection coming out for kids, including new Minecraft T-shirt and Steteco short designs. We’re also dropping new adult T-shirts, hoodies, and tote bags that you can customize with your favorite Minecraft characters and scenes at Uniqlo UTme!”

Recent Minecraft News

It has been a typically busy year in the world of Minecraft. Perhaps the biggest news is Microsoft’s decision to shutter Minecraft Earth. This was an augmented reality version of Minecraft. During the height of Pokémon GO popularity, AR gaming was seen as the future.

However, Minecraft Earth never took off. Microsoft says Minecraft Earth will be discontinued. The game’s team made the announcement in February, saying the title will continue to work until June 30, 2021. While that sucks for users, it is hardly a major surprise.

Tip of the day:

Did you know you can also use OneDrive to save folders and files in the cloud which are located outside the main OneDrive-folder. Check out our step-by-step tutorial to use this practical method also for your Windows 10-PC.

Source Winbuzzer

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Chromium Microsoft Edge Lands on Xbox

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The new Chromium based Microsoft Edge is finally coming to Xbox consoles, including the new Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Microsoft has opened public testing of the browser, just over a year since it was first made available on Windows 10.

Xbox testers on the Alpha Skip Ahead branch can now test Microsoft Edge. As well as availability on the new consoles, the browser is also on Xbox One. As this is a test preview, the performance is slightly buggy but otherwise it’s the Edge experience we know on Windows.

That said, it so far lacks support for mouse and keyboard. We guess we are still a few months from the browser being fully launched on Xbox consoles. Maybe a launch to coincide with the year anniversary of default availability on Windows 10 is likely. That would mean a May launch for Xbox Edge.

Expanding Edge

Chromium Edge initially left preview on Windows 10 in January 2020, although only for manual installs. Microsoft introduced automatic default installs on Windows 10 starting with the 2004 update in May 2020. A few months later, the company brought the new experience to Enterprise and Education users.

Last week, Microsoft brought Edge stable build 89 to Windows 10.  Leading the lineup of new features is Vertical Tabs, a new tool for opening tabs in a vertical pane on the left side of Edge. Also in this latest update, Microsoft has added a startup boost tool. The idea with this feature is to notably reduce how long it takes to open Edge after closing it or even restarting the PC.

Tip of the day:

If your PC keeps connecting to the wrong WiFi network, you can set WiFi priority to avoid the need to manually select access points over and over again.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft’s Acquisition of ZeniMax Media (Bethesda) Given EU Green Light

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Microsoft has been given the green light by the European Union to acquire ZeniMax Media, the company behind Bethesda games. The authorization comes following similar regulatory back in the United States recently.

Bethesda and other ZeniMax properties will now be under the Microsoft Game Studios umbrella for Xbox and Windows 10.

The European Commission was expected to issue approval last Friday (March 5). It seems the EU has granted that approval. While this phase can be a stumbling block, it rarely is. Instead, it’s more of a formality for major acquisitions.

In its decision published Monday morning, the European Commission says the merger “does not raise serious doubts as to its compatibility with the common market.” The EU “shall decide not to oppose it and shall declare that it is compatible with the common market.”

Microsoft recently received the same approval from regulators in the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Changing the Landscape

Microsoft announced the acquisition last year, the company behind Bethesda Studios, for $7.5 billion. The ZeniMax purchase was the biggest gaming acquisition ever, highlighting Microsoft’s commitment to Xbox Game Studios.

With ZeniMax and Bethesda under its wing, Microsoft will further drive into a player-centric gaming market. Replacing the old device-centric market, it is now players who dictate content. As Microsoft pushes further into the cloud, Bethesda will play an important role. That will start with the release of the company’s Starfield online title on Xbox Game Pass.

Creating a Netflix for gaming platform is something Microsoft has openly talked about before. That’s what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says Project xCloud could become.

Tip of the day:

By default computer names in Windows 10 tend to be quite plain. By default, they tend to be ‘WIN’ or ‘Desktop’, followed by a string of random letters and numbers. We show you how to change your PC name with Settings, Command Prompt or PowerShell to make it more easily identifiable.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Testing Project xCloud with 1080p Resolution

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Microsoft’s Project xCloud (Cloud Gaming for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate) is gathering steam as the beta service evolves. In the latest improvement for the cloud gaming service, Microsoft is boosting the capable resolution of the platform.

While Microsoft is not confirming it, reports point to the company carrying out a migration of Xbox cloud severs during this year. Specifically, the company is moving the servers from Xbox One architecture to Xbox Series X architecture.

Moving from last generation to current generation has benefits. Early signs of the improvement is the ability to run games at 1080p. According to Windows Central, Microsoft is currently only testing 1080p resolution for Project xCloud, but the early signs are good.

Until now, titles on the service have been capped to 720p. This low HD resolution helps to maintain a high bandwidth performance and keep controls responsive. In other words, Microsoft is trading screen resolution for performance quality.

By moving to new server architecture, the company is able to up the resolution without harming the performance. That’s a good development because target devices for Project xCloud (laptops, smartphones, tablets, and TVs) will mostly be at least 1080p  and in many cases higher resolution. For example, playing a 720p games on a large 4K TV may not have been a fun experience.

Coming Soon

It seems reasonable to think as the current Xbox Series X hardware gathers pace, Microsoft will be able to gain more improvements for xCloud. It is expected the new architecture will already bring significant performance improvements, including bettering loading times.

Microsoft has recently confirmed Project xCloud will launch this spring. We expect the improvements currently in testing to be available as soon as the platform leaves its beta phase.

If you’re unfamiliar with Xbox Cloud Gaming, it is a cloud streaming service for Xbox games. It allows Xbox Game Pass Ultimate customers to access Xbox titles from any device that supports the platform. Because all resources are held in the cloud and handled by Microsoft, people on underpowered devices like smartphones can play games.

Because Microsoft Azure handles the resources, these titles can run on mobile phones and even smart TV. We have also seen evidence of the service being compatible with smart home devices, such as a fridge.

Tip of the day:

Windows 10s Power Throttling can net up to 11% more battery savings per charge with little negative impact. In some scenarios you might consider turning Power Throttling off for single apps that you want run with maximum performance. Our tutorial shows you various methods to manage Power Throttling.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Making it Easier for Xbox Developers to Add Accessibility Designs to Games

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Developers will find it easier to get their games evaluated for accessibility features by Microsoft when creating for Xbox and PC. Microsoft has announced and expansion to accessibility on Windows 10 and Xbox. According to the accessibility team, games will now be tested by players with disabilities during the evaluation process.

Microsoft points out the initiative will help games become more accessible to gamers with impairments. Specifically, developers can choose to have a title tested against Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAGs):

“Developers now have the option to send Microsoft their Xbox or PC title and have it analyzed and validated against the recommendations provided in the XAGs,” says an Xbox blog post.

Xbox Accessibility Guidelines is documentations that provides details on how developers can integrate inclusive access into their games. Microsoft says the XAGs have been updated with clearer language and more examples of implementation.

Testing

When a game is tested, Microsoft will issue a feedback report that includes details from gamers with disabilities. Furthermore, the Xbox team will add information about partner nonprofits, accessibility experts, and how to include more accessibility designs.

When a problem is found, Microsoft says the developer will receive “reproduction steps, screenshots, and other information to help the developer understand what aspect of a given experience may be challenging for certain gamers with disabilities.”

This program expands Microsoft’s commitment to accessibility on Xbox and PC Gaming through Windows 10. Previously, the company has added Game Chat Transcription to both platforms. The feature allows players to turn chat speech into text. This allows them to read in-game chats on their screen in real time.

Microsoft also has the Xbox Adaptive Controller. At its core, the Adaptive Controller is specifically for gamers with disabilities.

Tip of the day:

Do you sometimes face issues with Windows 10 search where it doesn’t find files or return results? Check our tutorial to see how to fix Windows 10 search via various methods.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Highlights Bumper Xbox Growth Driven by Console Sales

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While it’s true Microsoft’s amazing success in recent years has been driven by cloud technology, the company’s consumer products continue to show growth. During yesterday’s FY21 Q2 financial results, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella broke down the company’s latest successes, including a massive quarter for Xbox.

As we reported in our wider look at Microsoft’s financial results, Xbox earnings increased by a massive 51 percent. This was part of a $15.1B haul for the overall More Personal Computing category. While Windows and Surface are also in that category, Xbox was the star of the show through last quarter.

Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass saw a 40 percent revenue increase. There were also a couple of records broken through the period; third-party title revenue topped $2 billion for the first time, while gaming revenue overhaul went over $5 billion for the first time.

Of course, much of the growth came from the launch of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. In fact, Microsoft highlights hardware sales growth of 86 percent year-on-year. During the earnings call, Nadella said the console produced “the most devices ever sold in a launch month.”

We presume he meant for the Xbox brand because the PlayStation 5 has arguably sold more units than the Xbox Series consoles.

Growth

Either way, Nadella says the consoles have driven a surge in activity for connected services. For example, Xbox Live surpassed 100 million monthly active users during the last quarter. Xbox Game Pass continues to be successful and now has over 18 million subscribers.

All-in-all, it seems Microsoft’s Xbox brand is in excellent shape as it moves into the newest generation. In fact, the success of the new consoles and ongoing growth of Xbox services means it becomes unimportant what rival Sony achieves. It seems it is room in the market for all major consoles to be successful.

Tip of the day:

Worried about your privacy in Windows 10 or want to keep different PCs linked to your Microsoft account strictly separate? We show you how to adjust your Windows 10 sync settings , including the clipboard, activity history/timeline, and themes.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Reverses Decision to Double Xbox Live Gold Subscription Prices

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On Friday, Microsoft stunned Xbox Live Gold members by announcing a sharp price increase for the online gaming platform. However, after strong and immediate backlash amongst users, the company quickly did a U-turn and reversed the decision. Alongside that quick change of mind, Microsoft issued a groveling apology saying it “messed up”.

At first, Microsoft said Xbox Live Gold subscriptions will increase in price by $1 to $10.99 to customers paying monthly. For those on the three-month renewal plan, the company said the increase would be $5 to $29.99.

There were also price increases for the longer six-month plan. Specifically, a six-month subscription would cost $59.99, which is the same as Sony charges for its one-year PlayStation Plus subscription. That would mean Xbox Live Gold would cost the $120 for a full year membership.

“Periodically, we assess the value and pricing of our services to reflect changes in regional marketplaces and to continue to invest in the Xbox community; we’ll be making price adjustments for Xbox Live Gold in select markets,” the company said last week.

Perhaps the most controversial change was Microsoft says customers must have a subscription to get free multiplayer games. Currently, users must have a subscription to Xbox Live Gold to play online but can access free-to-play titles (such as Fortnite) without paying. Microsoft planned to change this allowance in an effort to push more people into the subscription.

That plan quickly backfired. Customers and commentators were aghast at Microsoft’s decision, noting the terrible timing considering the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are feeling an economic pinch and Microsoft’s Xbox division is currently thriving amid the launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S.

Backtracking

Amid the growing backlash, Microsoft relented and said it would reverse its decision:

“We messed up today and you were right to let us know,” the company confirmed in an updated blog post.

“Connecting and playing with friends is a vital part of gaming and we failed to meet the expectations of players who count on it every day. As a result, we have decided not to change Xbox Live Gold pricing.”

This is the correct decision from Microsoft and it’s definitely good that the company listens to customers. However, it’s also more evidence that Microsoft struggles as a consumer brand and gauging what it’s customers want. Furthermore, the statement dresses up this decision as Microsoft understanding how important online gaming is to people during this time.

Clearly that’s not the case. If Microsoft understood the social thread online gaming provides during the pandemic, it would not have thought about increasing prices in the first place. Luckily for the company, this episode is now only a PR disaster and not the customer-losing decision it would have been.

Tip of the day:

Did you know that you can assign keyboard shortcuts for starting applications quickly in Windows 10? This is a great way to have your most used programs always at your fingertips. In our tutorials we show you how to set those hotkeys for your favorite apps.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Brings New Parental Controls to Xbox, Including Account Blocks for Kids

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Children and teens have so many options for entertainment that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for parents to get their kids to focus on tasks, such as homework. Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles, as well as the existing contribute to that haze of digital “things to do”.

Microsoft wants to help parents wrestle back control of when their child needs to focus on school and when they can game. The company is releasing new purchasing controls and screen time options for its Xbox UI.

The idea is parents will have more options for managing when their kids can play games. Xbox consoles already allow parents to set the amount of time a kid can play. With new tools, they can now also use the Pause Screen Time feature. As the name suggests, this puts a temporary block on an Xbox account.

In other words, a child’s account will be locked, and they won’t be able to play. Parents have full control, so they can remove the pause at any time from a smartphone app. If the block is not manually reset, Xbox consoles will automatically remove the pause at the end of a day.

Parents receive a notification is someone (those pesky kids) tries to play on a currently paused account.

Ask to Buy Expansion

In terms of purchases from the Microsoft Store, the company is adding more controls. Specifically, the “Ask to Buy” feature is now turned on by default in the Xbox Family Settings app. This choice was previously limited to control via a console or PC. It means any purchase from the Xbox Marketplace needs approval before it can go ahead.

It is worth noting gift card purchases and buys from an existing balance are not part of the Ask to Buy feature.

Tip of the day

If your system drive is constantly full and you need to free some space, you might want to try Windows 10 Disk Cleanup in extended mode. Our tutorial also shows you how to create a desktop shortcut to run this advanced method right from the desktop.

Source Winbuzzer

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Microsoft Acquires eSports Company Smash.gg To Further Xbox Division Push

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While the tech acquisition landscape this week is dominated by Salesforce snapping up Slack in a move to rival Microsoft Teams, Microsoft is continuing to beef up its gaming division. The latest move to bolster Microsoft Game Studios sees the company purchase esports company Smash.gg.

Smash.gg is a platform that organizes esports events. Unfortunately, not much is known about this deal because details are short. The company simply says Microsoft’s acquisition will help “strengthen our existing relationships and explore new opportunities”.

It seems Microsoft will continue to allow Smash.gg to operate independently. On the platform, users can setup their own custom esports tournaments and other game-related events.

This is not a major purchase for Microsoft, evidenced by the single tweet to confirm the deal on the MSN Esports Twitter page. Still, it continues Microsoft’s all-out push to acquire new companies to add to the Xbox and wider gaming brand.

 

Success and Failure

For example, the recent $4.5 billion deal to acquire ZeniMax Media, the company behind Bethesda. However, it is arguable Microsoft is better at buying game studios and making them successful than it is platforms.

Game studio purchases typically turn out well for the company, with Minecraft behind the obvious example. Since buying Minecraft, Microsoft has turned the title into the most popular game of all time.

However, service purchases have been more mixed, such as Beam which eventually became Microsoft Mixer. Despite throwing money at Mixer, the game streaming service has since been folded. In terms of the Smash.gg acquisition, there seems to be less risk for Microsoft because the deal was likely much smaller.

Source Winbuzzer

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