Microsoft renews its push into education with sub-$300 2-in-1s, cheaper pens

Promotional image of a tablet with both a stylus and a standard No.2 pencil.

At the Bett educational technology conference in London, Microsoft has announced cheaper Surface Go pens, new Teams integrations with educational software, and a range of third-party Windows laptops and 2-in-1 devices with prices as low as $189.

Microsoft has felt new competitive pressure from cheap Chromebooks. The devices, which run Google’s Chrome OS, threaten to displace Windows, especially within the United States. The company’s response to this started in earnest in 2017 with the release of Windows 10 S. This locked-down, restricted version of Windows 10 blocks the use of arbitrary software, a measure that should act as something of a safeguard against ill-behaved and malicious applications. S should bring to Windows at least some of the robustness that Chrome OS sports. Paired with this version were cut-price Windows systems designed to be physically robust (and hence classroom friendly), in both a mix of laptop and 2-in-1 form factors.

The seven education systems announced today are:

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Microsoft Suggests Windows 10 Mobile Users Switch to iOS or Android as Support Winds Down

With support for the now-discontinued Windows 10 Mobile devices set to end on December 10, 2019, Microsoft is recommending that its current Windowa 10 Mobile customers move to an Android or iOS device instead.

Microsoft made the recommendation in a Windows 10 Mobile support document (via Thurrott) explaining its plans to stop offering security updates and patches for Windows 10 Mobile.

With the Windows 10 Mobile OS end of support, we recommend that customers move to a supported Android or iOS device. Microsoft’s mission statement to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, compels us to support our Mobile apps on those platforms and devices.

Microsoft ended support for Windows Phone in July 2017 and stopped active development on Windows 10 Mobile in October of that year, leading to the death of the platform. Microsoft struggled to get app developers to write apps for the device, and it was also never able to establish a strong user base.

With the abandonment of Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft has been focusing on other platforms and has a wide array of apps available for both iOS and Android devices.

All customers who have a Windows 10 Mobile device will be able to keep using it after December 10, 2019, but no further updates will be available.

This article, "Microsoft Suggests Windows 10 Mobile Users Switch to iOS or Android as Support Winds Down" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Microsoft: Switch to iOS or Android because Windows 10 Mobile is ending

Lumia 950

Windows 10 Mobile will receive its last patches and security updates on December 10 this year, as Microsoft winds down the last remaining bit of development on its smartphone platform.

The last major notable to the platform was October 2017, when it was bumped to version 1709. At that point, Microsoft ended feature development entirely, shipping only security updates and bug fixes. That’s going to come to an end on Patch Tuesday this coming December.

Certain online services will continue to operate beyond that date; device backups for settings and applications will work for three months, to March 10, 2020, and photo uploads and restoring devices from backups will work for 12 months beyond the end of support.

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Microsoft is calling an audible on smart speakers

The Harman Kardon Invoke was fine. But let’s be real — the first Cortana smart speaker was dead on arrival. Microsoft’s smart assistant has its strong suits, but thus far statement of purpose hasn’t been among them. CEO Satya Nadella appears to have acknowledged as much this week during a media event at the company’s Redmond campus.

“Defeat” might be a strong word at this stage, but the executive is publicly acknowledging that the company needs to go back to the drawing board. In its current configuration, the best Microsoft can seemingly hope for with Cortana is a slow ramp up after a greatly delayed start. For all of the company’s recent successes, the gulf between its offering and Alexa, Assistant and (to a lesser degree) Siri must seem utterly insurmountable.

The new vision for Cortana is an AI offering that works in tandem with products that have previously been considered its chief competitors. That’s in line with recent moves. Over the summer, Microsoft and Amazon unveiled integration between the two assistants. Nadella used this week’s event to both reaffirm plans to work with Alexa and Google Assistant and note that past categories probably don’t make sense, going forward.

“We are very mindful of the categories we enter where we can do something unique,” he told the crowd. “A good one is speakers. To me the challenge is, exactly what would we be able to do in that category that is going to be unique?”

It’s a fair question. And the answer, thus far, is nothing. Like Samsung’s Bixby offerings, the primary distinguisher has been the devices on which it has chosen to roll out — appliances for Bixby and PCs for Microsoft. And while moves by Apple, Amazon and Google have all been acknowledgements that desktops and laptops may play an important role in the growth of smart assistants moving forward, they were hardly a major driver early on.

I suspect this will also mean the company will invest less in pushing Cortana as a consumer-facing product for the time being, instead focusing on the ways it can help other more popular assistants play nicely with the Microsoft ecosystem.

Next Windows 10 version will let you search without Cortana’s involvement

The Cortana button is now no longer part of the search box.

Today’s Insider build of Windows 10, number 18317, changes how search and Cortana are used, as Microsoft is working to reposition Cortana as a productivity-focused digital assistant and integrate search with Office 365.

Currently, Windows 10 has a single text box on the taskbar that’s used for searches and Cortana commands. Type a word or two and it’ll search the Start menu, settings, and documents. But type a command (“tell me a joke,” say) and no search is performed; instead, the command is delivered to Cortana, and she duly responds. In the new build, the text box is used solely for searching. To give Cortana a command, you’ll have to speak to her or click a separate Cortana button on the taskbar.

The combination of the two features was an oft-criticized part of the Windows 10 interface, as there’s no particular reason to bundle them together. Both can respond to typed commands, so using the text box for two different things saved some space. Because searches are popular, it’s likely that some people were introduced to Cortana as a result of a search. Separating the two things should make the Windows interface a little more logical. The settings pages have also been disentangled.

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Microsoft removes Forza dances amid Fortnite lawsuits

Actor Alfonso Ribeiro shows off "The Carlton" during a <em>Dancing with the Stars</em> performance.

Forza Horizon 4 no longer features two dance emotes—the Carlton and the Floss—which were previously available for use by in-game avatars. The removal is listed under the “Other Improvements” section in the notes for the game’s Series 5 update, which launched yesterday with a new online adventure playlist and new Mitsubishi cars for the game, among other changes.

Microsoft has not offered a public explanation for the removal, though a spokesperson told KotakuForza Horizon 4 features a large portfolio of content and is continuously updated.” The move comes, though, after both dances became the subject of lawsuits regarding their similar inclusion in Epic’s Fortnite.

The Carlton—popularized by actor Alfonso Ribeiro on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air—and the Floss—popularized by Russell “Backpack Kid” Horning in a Saturday Night Live performance—are the apparent inspiration for two Fortnite emotes that can be purchased as part of various Battle Pass DLC packages. Lawsuits filed against Epic by those dancers accuse the Fortnite maker of illegally profiting from their copyrighted dance creations.

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Microsoft’s fonts catch out another fraudster—this time in Canada

The Calibri font. Don't use this if you're forging anything written before 2007.

You’d think that people forging documents would have learned by now. Canadian Gerald McGoey was judged to have falsified documents in an attempt to protect certain assets from bankruptcy proceedings because—and stop me if you’ve heard this before—the documents used Microsoft’s modern “C” fonts, which didn’t become widely available until 2007. This would have been fine were it not for the minor detail that the documents were dated 2004 and 1995. Whoops.

McGoey was CEO of Look Communications when it collapsed and left him bankrupt. The company was liquidated, and McGoey was ordered to replay $5.6 million to creditors. McGoey claimed that the assets in question—homes, in this case—were held in trust by his wife and three children and hence beyond the reach of the courts. To prove this, he presented two signed documents. Unfortunately for him, he’d created the documents using typefaces that didn’t exist at the time of the documents’ purported creation.

The first trust document was dated 1995 and used the Cambria font. The second, dated 2004, used Calibri. Cambria was designed in 2004, while Calibri was between 2002 and 2004. But neither became widespread until 2007, when they were bundled with Windows Vista and Office 2007. That software included seven different fonts with names beginning with “C”—the “C fonts”—that were optimized for ClearType antialiasing. With their release, Microsoft changed Word’s default font from the venerable Times New Roman to Calibri. Using the new fonts instantly betrays that a document wasn’t written any time prior to 2007.

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Windows 7 enters its final year of free support

Licensing and support lifecycles are not really the easiest topics to illustrate.

Windows 7’s five years of extended support will expire on January 14, 2020—exactly one year from today. After this date, security fixes will no longer be freely available for the operating system that’s still widely used.

As always, the end of free support does not mean the end of support entirely. Microsoft has long offered paid support options for its operating systems beyond their normal lifetime, and Windows 7 is no different. What is different is the way that paid support will be offered. For previous versions of Windows, companies had to enter into a support contract of some kind to continue to receive patches. For Windows 7, however, the extra patches will simply be an optional extra that can be added to an existing volume license subscription—no separate support contract needed—on a per-device basis.

These Extended Security Updates (ESU) will be available for three years after the 2020 cut-off, with prices escalating each year.

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