Tag Archives: windows 10

The latest Windows 10 update makes activation way easier than before

Activating your copy of Windows 10 has gotten far less tedious in Microsoft’s first major update for the operating system. You no longer have to start by upgrading from a previous install of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to get Windows 10 properly activated under Microsoft’s free-for-a-year policy. Now, the company will recognize any valid activation key from those prior versions (or Windows 8) and grant you a “digital entitlement” that makes your install of Windows 10 fully legitimate.

Technically, Microsoft says this is meant to work only when Windows has previously been activated on the same device that Windows 10 is being clean installed on. But testing of recent Insider builds has revealed that the company — at least for now — is being pretty generous with the new activation policy. So if you’ve got an unused key for an older Windows release, you might be able to make the jump right to 10 without any annoying upgrades in your way. There are many more improvements and fixes in the latest Windows 10 update, and you can read about them here.

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Windows 10 Build 10586: ‘gold disk’ release for the big Fall Update?

With less than a week to go until the speculated November 10 release day for Windows 10 (codename) Threshold 2, Microsoft has released build 10586 to participants in the Windows Insider Program. I updated my Dell Venue 8 Pro and noticed that there isn’t a build number displayed in the lower right corner of the desktop as there was for previous preview builds. It looks like build 10586 may be released as what will be officially called the Windows 10 Fall Update. This will be the first major update since Windows 10 launched on July 29.


If you haven’t been following Microsoft’sWindows Experience Blog, here’s a summary of what it has announced as notable changes or new features since build 10547 on September 18:

Build 10547

  • Maximum Start menu columns up from 3 to 4;
  • Maximum Start menu tiles increased from 512 to 2048;
  • In Task View, apps can be snapped to left and right, can replace a previously snapped app with another, and you can swipe down to close an app;
  • Many Windows Store apps updated, including Photos, Xbox, Groove Music, Mail, Calendar, and Maps;
  • Text Input Panel improvements, including not having it automatically open when in Desktop mode (versus Tablet mode).

Build 10565

  • Skype messaging, calling, and video capabilities added through the Messaging, Phone, and Skype Video universal Windows apps;
  • The Edge browser gained a tab preview mode that displays a preview of the web page when hovering over the tab;
  • The Edge browser could synchronize Favorites and Reading Lists;
  • Cortana could interpret inked notes and then set reminders based on locations, times, and numbers from digital annotations;
  • Title bars could be set to more vibrant colors;
  • Device Activation began accepting activation keys from Windows 7, 8, or 8.1.

Build 10576

  • Microsoft Edge browser can cast video, picture, and audio content to any Miracast- or DLNA-enabled device on your network;
  • Cortana gained the ability to search for information from text selected in a PDF document;
  • The Xbox beta app could find and add Facebook friends on Xbox Live to play games, chat, and share clips;
  • The Xbox beta app also gained the ability record voiceovers using the Game DVR.

Build 10586

This latest build release does not add any new features. However, it provides fixes to a number of annoying issues:

  • Surface Pro 3 owners can use the Power button to sleep the PC instead of shutting it down;
  • The random flashing of a disksnapshot.exe command prompt was fixed. I saw this for the last time during the upgrade to build 10586!
  • Small form-factor devices, like the Dell Venue 8 Pro, that boot with rotation or virtual mode screen size set larger than the physical screen size should no longer experience a blue screen on upgrade. I’m one of the Windows Insiders who uses a Dell Venue 8 Pro as my text PC, so this one is much appreciated;
  • Apps and games should download from the Store more reliably. This remains to be seen. I did not see any Windows Store App updates available immediately after upgrading.


The only oddity I’ve noticed in the short time I’ve have to test build 10586 is that after switching from Tablet mode to Desktop mode and then back again, all the Start Menu tiles that had a blue background changed to a light gray background. However, that doesn’t seem like a showstopper bug, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see this build released shortly as the Fall Update.

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Windows Phone apps are disappearing from the platform — can Windows 10 turn it around?

Microsoft has struggled to make Windows Phone a viable competitorin the mobile ecosystem for more than five years now. There have been some good devices running Windows Phone, but the lack of apps has been a constant pain point that has limited adoption. On the cusp of Windows 10 coming to smartphones, Microsoft is dealing with a new problem, and it might be entirely their own doing. Developers that have previously been maintaining Windows Phone apps are losing interest, and in some cases dropping support altogether.

The latest developer to pull out of Windows Phone is the financial manager service Mint. The users of the Windows Phone app are not pleased in the least, but Mint’s position is that development resources are not infinite, and it already has Web, Android, and iOS versions to maintain. Windows Phone apparently isn’t worth the effort. This follows the end of support for apps by Pinterest, Bank of America, Kabam, and more.

Microsoft can’t blame all of this on the dominance of Android or the negative portrayal of Windows Phone in the media. Microsoft itself has often not shown Windows Phone the kind of love it should have. Implementations of Skype and Office are better on competing platforms than they are on Windows Phone, and Microsoft has removed many Lumia photography apps from the store as well. You can’t blame third-party developers for wanting to bail when Microsoft seems more interested in supporting iPad Office users than users of Windows Phone.

windows 10

There’s a chance Microsoft could turn things around with Windows 10 on phones. This will be the first universal Microsoft OS that can share apps between desktop and mobile with very little legwork for developers. And there are a lot of Windows PCs out there, many of which are eligible for a free Windows 10 upgrade. That might keep developers on-board with Windows Phone if they can easily support computers and phones with the same code.

Windows 10 will also support a method for getting Android and iOS apps running on Windows. This is a good move for Microsoft, but it’s probably also the mobile platform’s only hope. It’s not ideal either. Developers will probably port apps to Windows 10 because it’s easy, but they won’t look or work like Windows apps — they’ll work like Android and iOS apps. By making this an option, Microsoft is encouraging developers like Mint to refocus their efforts on native apps for other platforms knowing they can also port those apps to Windows 10 on phones later. Maybe it won’t work perfectly, but it’s not like there are very many Windows Phone users to complain (sorry).

Windows 10 is giving developers every possible opportunity to be part of the ecosystem, even if that won’t always offer the best experience for users. At least they’ll have an experience, right? Windows 10 is expected to start appearing on existing phones in December. After five years of Windows Phone, this might be Microsoft’s last chance.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 4 vs. Apple iPad Pro: High-end tablets face off

Microsoft’s Surface lineup is unfairly maligned in some quarters. While it may have started weak, it got pretty damn good around the third iteration. I’d certainly buy one now. Most of the problems stem from two key places: Microsoft’s continued insistence in advertising the Surface and its Type Cover as things that belong together, yet are actually separate when you go to buy them; and originally splitting the Windows OS with an RT version. Microsoft only rectified the latter mistakerelatively recently; the non-Pro version of Surface is now x86-based as well.

Microsoft has now shown how serious it is about hardware with its new, high-end Surface Book, a laptop Microsoft is directly comparing with Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina Display. A bit lost amid the press coverage for that surprise model is the Surface Pro 4, the latest version of the company’s tablet hybrid, and an initial glance indicates it’s the best one yet. Does it have what it takes to go up against the similarly priced Apple iPad Pro, now that Cupertino is finally making a larger iPad with an optional keyboard? Let’s take a look and find out.


Form Factor and Display

The Surface Pro 4 isn’t a marked departure from the third-generation model. The new one measures 11.5 by 7.93 by 0.33 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.73 pounds. Microsoft increased the display size from 12 to 12.3 inches, with resolution at 2,736 by 1,824 (267 PPI) and a 3:2 aspect ratio, and reduced the bezel depth by a similar amount. In comparison, the iPad Pro measures 12 by 8.68 by 0.27 inches and weighs 1.57 pounds, and has a larger 12.9-inch, 2,732-by-2,048-pixel (264 PPI, 4:3 aspect ratio) display to compensate for the larger height and width. So Apple still wins a bit on getting the tablet slimmer and lighter.


The iPad Pro gets an upgraded A9X processor, although we don’t yet know about a lot of the details underneath the surface. The Surface Pro has a range of sixth-generation (Skylake) Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 processors, with configuration options from 4GB to 16GB of RAM. Both products offer the latest wireless technology, including 802.11ac Wi-Fi support at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, and Bluetooth 4.2.

Operating System

This is the largest differentiator between the Surface Pro and the iPad Pro. The Surface Pro 4 runs full-blown Windows 10, just like the Surface Pro 3 did; it’s probably the biggest case you can make about why this comparison should be against the MacBook Air instead of the iPad Pro. Windows 10 also, in our opinion, a better all-around OS than iOS is; like many people, we still can’t imagine ourselves multitasking on an iPad, even with iOS 9’s new split-window mode. Regardless of what you think of Macs, OS X is still the main desktop and laptop OS, not iOS, so it’s not exactly a fair fight to pit Windows 10 against iOS to begin with. This bleeds down to the keyboard choice (which I talk more about below); the Surface Pro 4’s Type Cover has a glass trackpad to control the Windows 10 cursor, whereas the Smart Keyboard doesn’t; with iOS, you touch the screen for everything.


By definition, the different OSes mean different app selections: Take your pick of Windows 10 programs or iOS apps. The former means full-blown versions of Adobe Photoshop, Avid Pro Tools, and any other pro software you can think of, whereas the latter means less-capable, if sometimes more intuitive, iOS versions. We’re tired of people degrading iOS based on whether it’s meant for “professional” media content creation, or just consuming content; of course it’s meant for content creation as well. It’s just different, and if you’re a working professional, you may know you need desktop-class apps and should be looking at a MacBook Pro. Or the Surface Pro 4.

iPad Pro


The iPad Pro has an 8MP camera with an f/2.4 aperture, a five-element lens, and a variety of software enhancements like face detection and exposure control. It can record 1080p video at 30fps and has a 120fps slow motion mode with stabilization. The iPad Pro’s front camera is 1.2MP and f/2.2 with 720p video recording. The Surface Pro 4 has a 8MP rear-facing camera as well, but the front-facing camera bumps up to 5MP. Both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4 play music in stereo out of built-in speakers, with two on the Surface Pro and four on the iPad Pro.

Pricing and storage

The iPad Pro starts at $799 for a 32GB version. $949 gets you 128GB, and $1,079 adds an LTE cellular radio to the 128GB model. You can get all three versions in silver, space gray, or gold. The Surface Pro 4 starts at $899, but you already get 128GB at that price. You can configure the Surface Pro 4 more like a regular PC, with Core i3, i5, and i7 options, and RAM ranging from 4GB to 16GB as mentioned above, and storage options go all the way up to 1TB. The Surface Pro also has a USB 3.0 port, which lets you connect external drives.

Surface Pro 4

The Surface Pro also comes with the Surface Pen; Apple’s pen is optional. But still to our utter puzzlement, the Type Cover is another $130 on top of the Surface Pro 4’s base price. Apple’s Smart Keyboard is also optional (and more expensive at $169), but Apple doesn’t picture the iPad Pro with the keyboard in almost every single photo and makes it clear that it costs more. Microsoft continues to make you search and search to figure out that the Type Cover is optional, which is a problem that has plagued the Surface lineup since day one.


Both Microsoft and Apple are playing up the versatility of these machines, including the ability to draw on the capacitive touch screen and type comfortably on the optional backlit keyboards. While we still have some bones to pick with Microsoft’s overall Surface strategy and marketing, the Surface Pro 4 looks like a killer Windows 10 tablet; just buy it with the keyboard and plan on spending over $1K. If you’re already an iPad fan and want to run iOS apps on a larger screen, the iPad Pro is a killer option as long as you don’t mind the lack of a true multi-window OS.

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Microsoft claims its first laptop is fastest ‘on any planet’

Microsoft is expanding its Surface family of devices with the launch of its first ever laptop, the Surface Book, featuring a detachable screen that can be used like a clipboard to sketch, take notes and browse the web.

The Surface Book boasts a 13.5-inch touchscreen display, with 267 pixels per inch – a total of 6,000 pixels – and runs Windows 10. The keyboard is designed for comfort, with a depression of 1.6mm, and it has a “dynamic fulcrum” hinge that swivels all the way round in mesmeric fashion:

It features Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors, and up to 12 hours of battery life. Users have to option to add a discrete graphic processing unit (GPU) for improved video editing, faster rendering or immersive gaming.

At an event in New York today, Panos Panay, corporate vice president at Microsoft, said that the Surface Book is aimed at people who like theSurface Pro tablet but want a bigger screen, and the typing experience of a laptop.

“Ounce for ounce, pound for pound, this is the fastest 13-inch laptop ever made, anywhere, on any planet,” he said.

“This is for the gamer who plays League of Legends; this is for the architect who’s building a building right now, or designing a bridge and needs to compile and press the system; it’s for the scientist who’s thinking about the cure for cancer and needs to push the machine as far as they can; it’s for the coder using the latest Visual Studio where they can compile using the GPU and CPU at the same time and not lose a minute.”

The Surface Book is designed to compete with Apple’s Macbook Pro. Mr Panay directly compared the two devices, claiming that, with the discreet GPU and two extra processors, Surface book is two times faster than the Macbook Pro.

The Surface Book it can also be used as a tablet. When detached from its keyboard, the device is 7.7mm thin and weighs 1.6lbs. It is modelled on an A4 piece of paper, to make it feel like a clipboard, and works with Microsoft’s new stylus, Surface Pen.

The GPU is located in the base of the device, but users can still take advantage of this in tablet mode by plugging the screen in backwards and swivelling the hinge all the way round, so the display faces outwards.

“Surface Book proves that innovation in personal computing is not just confined to Apple’s Cupertino campus. This is a highly innovative, flagship device that will act as a much needed halo product for Windows 10 and the broader PC market,” said Geoff Blaber, vice president for the Americas at CCS Insight.

“Microsoft should be applauded for its efforts with Surface. When the first device was announced in June 2012 it was derided as a vanity project that would scare off PC makers. In fact it has injected a new wave of innovation into the embattled PC sector and has acted as a halo devices for the so-called two-in-one category.”

The Surface Book starts at $1,499; UK pricing has not yet been announced. It was announced as part of a suite of new products designed to showcase of Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 10.

Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XLLumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL

At its event in New York, Microsoft also unveiled a new Surface Pro 4, two new Windows 10 phones, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, and a newfitness band, the Microsoft Band 2, as well as a developer version of its virtual reality headset, HoloLens.

The company’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, announced that Windows 10 is now running on more than 110m devices, since launching on 29 July, including over 8m business PCs.

“With Windows 10 and these new Microsoft devices, you are at the centre of magical new experiences,” said Mr Nadella. “We’re moving people from needing to choosing to loving Windows, and these devices promise to fuel even more enthusiasm and opportunity for the entire Windows ecosystem.”

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Microsoft launches Windows laptop

Microsoft has launched a laptop dubbed the Surface Book, as part of a suite of new Windows 10 products.

It also showed off two new smartphones, an updated Surface tablet and a new fitness band.

Much is riding on the launches as chief executive Satya Nadella sets out to prove Microsoft can compete with its rivals.

Analysts said the new laptop may help revive the ailing PC market.

The laptop, Microsoft’s first, was the highlight of a tranche of new products shown off at an event in New York.

It is designed to take on Apple’s Macbook, with Microsoft directly comparing the products.

It said that, just as its Surface tablet was a hybrid between a tablet and a laptop, so the Surface Book would “reinvent categories”.

Analysts seemed impressed.

“It is a highly innovative, flagship device that will act as a much-needed halo product for Windows 10 and the broader PC market and proves that innovation in personal computing is not just confined to Apple’s Cupertino campus,” said Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight.

The device, which weighs 1.6lbs (0.7 kilograms) and is 7.7mm thick, comes with a touchscreen that can be separated from the keyboard. It will be available at the end of October for $1,499 (£984).


Microsoft also showed off two new smartphones – the 5.2in Lumia 950 ($549) and the slightly larger Lumia 950 XL ($649) both of which will be available in November.

Features include a 20 megapixel camera, a dedicated camera button, the ability to capture 4K video and 32 gigabytes of storage.

A cheaper Lumia 550 will be available in December, priced $139.

Mr Wood said Microsoft still had a “mountain to climb” to regain relevance in the smartphone market.

“These new Lumia devices tick all the boxes in terms of specifications and features but they are unlikely to be enough to lure customers away from the iPhone or Android-powered rivals,” he said.

Surface Pro 4

Microsoft also showed off its much-anticipated upgraded tablet – the Surface Pro 4 which will be released at the en of October, priced at $899.

It is thinner, with new screen technology, a more ergonomic keyboard cover and various other upgrades.

Mr Wood described it as “an impressive update”.

Microsoft Band 2Also on show was an updated fitness band, dubbed Band 2.

The wearable comes with a improved curved design and 11 sensors including a barometer to track elevation. It is linked to virtual assistant Cortana and the Microsoft Health platform, which will provide users with feedback on their fitness.

It will aggregate anonymised data from Band owners so that users can compare their performance with people of a similar age, weight and fitness.

Priced at $249, it will be available at the end of October.

Mr Wood said that the band showed that Microsoft remained “committed to the wearables category” but that the device was more “functional than fashionable”.

Project Xray being shown off on stage

Microsoft also revealed that it would be making a version of its virtual reality headset, HoloLens available to developers at the beginning of next year at a price of $3,000.

It demonstrated a game that has been developed internally, codenamed Project X-ray, which it dubbed “mixed reality gaming”.

The game featured a robot invasion that can be “customised to your living room”.

Positive reception

Windows 10 logo on a wall

Windows 10 began rolling out 10 weeks ago and is, according to Microsoft’s vice president Terry Myerson, now running on 110 million devices.

“With the future of Microsoft and its new subscription-based business model depending heavily on Windows 10, Microsoft must be encouraged by how many devices have been updated so far,” said Mr Wood.

“Windows 10 also seems to be getting a far more positive reception from consumers than the ill-fated Windows 8. The challenge now is to build on this positive momentum, particularly in the area of apps where Microsoft has a huge gap versus rivals.”

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Windows 10 event on Tuesday: It’s time to show us the products (live blog)

Microsoft is expected to unveil a new Surface tablet, fitness band and smartphones as it seeks to woo consumers with its latest operating system. CNET will be there to bring you all the details.

Microsoft has spent the better part of a year talking about the software flourishes of Windows 10. Now it must get down to talking about hardware.

A number of PCs and tablets already run Windows 10, which was released to the public in late July. On Tuesday, Microsoft will get a chance to show off its own products at an event in New York. The company is expected to release the next Surface Pro tablet, at least one flagship smartphone and a follow-up to its Microsoft Band fitness wearable.

The products will play a critical role in driving the adoption of Windows 10, serving as ambassadors and standard bearers for the latest from Microsoft. Specifically, the smartphones represent Microsoft’s best shot at keeping its Windows 10 software relevant in the mobile arena, which is dominated by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. A new Surface Pro, meanwhile, could undercut Apple’s business ambitions with the iPad Pro.

Windows 10 has drawn favorable reviews since its debut, with CNET’s Nate Ralph calling it the “Goldilocks version of Microsoft’s venerable PC operating system.” It’s gotten plenty of support from Microsoft’s PC and tablet manufacturing partners, but Microsoft could pique more consumer interest by revealing the hardware it’s got up its sleeve.

To get all the details, follow CNET’s live blog of the event. CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt, Dan Ackerman, Scott Stein and I will be bringing you live updates, while Sarah Tew will provide photos. Our colleague from CNET en Español, Juan Garzon, will also be on the scene.

The event starts Tuesday at 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET. Our live blog will kick off a little before the start, so come early and settle in for all the news.

The stakes are especially high on the mobile side. Adoption of smartphones running on Windows software has been anemic, with Windows Phone representing just 2.6 percent of the market. That stands in comparison with the 83 percent share that Android commands, according to IDC.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft hasn’t unveiled a premium flagship smartphone since it acquired Nokia’s devices business in April 2014, releasing just a handful of budget-friendly devices. Microsoft is due for a mobile product that sparks excitement and gets people talking about the software again.

A follow-up to the successful Surface Pro 3, meanwhile, could maintain the momentum of its homegrown tablet franchise. Business customers have gravitated toward the product, and Surface became a billion-dollar businessin January.

Others are likewise keen to tap the business market. Apple is waiting in the wings with its larger iPad Pro, while Google last week introduced the Pixel C tablet. Both follow Microsoft’s path of offering a keyboard that doubles as a cover and helps with typing and other work-related tasks.

Microsoft has an advantage because plenty of businesses use Windows already, but Apple has increasingly made headway in the corporate world, tying up with heavy hitters such as Cisco Systems and IBM.

The Microsoft Band, meanwhile, is the company’s take on the burgeoning trends of smartwatches and fitness bands. The Band aims to be a marriage between the likes of an Apple Watch and a Fitbit activity tracker.

Microsoft could have even more in store, including updates on its Xbox game console or on its HoloLens augmented-reality system, a headset that offers computer-generated images layered on top of your view of the real world.

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Exclusive: Microsoft exec responds to Windows 10 privacy backlash

At long last, Microsoft is trying to set the record straight on the information that Windows 10 collects about you.

Ever since Windows 10 debuted in July, there have been nonstop reports about how Microsoft is using its new operating system to covertly collect data about its customers.

Microsoft has been accused of lacking transparency in how it logs your keystrokes, shares access to your Wi-Fi network, uses your Internet connection to help other Windows 10 customers download updates, and forbids you from turning off all information sharing.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has remained mostly tight lipped, generally denying it was doing anything nefarious while referring people to its convoluted privacy statement.

On Monday, Microsoft delivered its first comprehensive response.

In a blog post, Windows chief Terry Myerson acknowledged that Windows 10 is collecting personal information about its customers to enable some of its best features, including the Cortana virtual assistant. It also collects information about your computer’s performance to detect and correct potential bugs.

But he said Windows 10 users have the ability to control what information they share with Microsoft.

“We’re learning how to explain all this to customers,” Myerson told CNNMoney in an exclusive interview. “Our privacy principles are good … now we need to keep listening and learning.”

Microsoft: We need info to make Windows 10 run better

In an attempt to win back customers’ trust, Microsoft provided examples of the kind of information Windows 10 sends back to Microsoft’s servers. It also detailed why it uses that information.

Microsoft said it collects some of what you type so it can provide personalized autocorrect. And it shares access to your Wi-Fi network (only if you click a button) to help automatically log your friends into your network (or you into theirs).

Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) also explained how to shut those features off — and how to avoid turning them on in the first place when you set up your computer.

Myerson confirmed to CNNMoney, however, that consumers will not be able to turn off Windows 10’s “safety and reliability” data sharing. That sends anonymous information about how your PC responds to Windows 10. Microsoft needs that information to fix problems with Windows 10, he said.

‘We’re not reading your emails’

Much of the angst over Windows 10 privacy started because the new operating system uses many more cloud services than previous versions of Windows. By holding your data on its servers, Microsoft requires more permissions than in the past.

But privacy is also inherently confusing. Windows 10’s privacy statement says Microsoft needs to have access to your emails so it can deliver them to you — but Myerson denied that anyone at Microsoft has the ability to read your emails.

“We’re not reading your email, but we have custody of your email,” he said. “How do you distill those two things?”

The company says it hears what customers are saying. One change that’s coming soon to Windows 10 is a family privacy setting built with teenagers in mind, rather than just one setting for younger children.

Privacy concerns are not stopping people from upgrading to Windows 10, mind you. Windows 10 was downloaded 75 million times in its first month, which is the fastest upgrade rate in Windows history. Myerson said customers are overwhelmingly pleased with their Windows 10 experiences.

Acknowledging that the privacy conversation is not over, Myerson wrote that he and his team “look forward to the next round of questions and feedback on these new posts.”

“Trust is a core pillar of our ‘More Personal Computing’ vision, and we know we have to earn it,” Myerson wrote. “I assure you that no other company is more committed, more transparent and listening harder to customers on this important topic than we are.”

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Microsoft makes Baidu a big piece of Windows 10 in China

Microsoft announced today that it has partnered with Chinese web giant Baidu — the country’s answer to Google — as it continues its quest to push Windows 10 in the market. The deal will make Baidu.com the default homepage and search option for users of the Microsoft Edge browser in the country, will add an easy way for Baidu’s 600 million-plus users to upgrade to Microsoft’s new operating system, and will introduce universal Baidu search, video, cloud, and map apps to Windows 10.

Chinese customers will be able to upgrade to an official version of Windows 10 through Baidu’s “Windows 10 Express” distribution channel. Microsoft says it’s already got 10 million Windows 10 users in China, but the company has many hundreds of millions more using older or pirated versions of its operating systems. The company has tried a few methods to lure these users over to its newest OS — earlier this year, Microsoft offered Chinese pirates the chance to upgrade to (an unlicensed version of) Windows 10 for free, a move the company said was designed to “re-engage” with users in the country.

The deal means that Microsoft will be forgoing Bing as its default search and homepage options in its Edge browser in China, but it’s indicative of the company’s strategy in the eastern market, in which it has deferred to home-grown leaders. The American company had previously brokered partnerships with a number of China’s biggest companies, including Tencent, Lenovo, and Xiaomi. This latest deal with Baidu continues that trend, giving it a reach in the lucrative Chinese market that Google — which largely pulled out of the country in 2010 — can’t yet match.

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Microsoft thinks you’ll love Windows 10 so much, it downloads it for you — without asking

In the weeks since Windows 10 launched, the OS has been adopted at an unprecedented rate. Over 75 million customers reportedly installed it within 30 days of debut, and that number is sure to have risen in the last few weeks. Microsoft has never rolled out an operating system the way it has pushed 10 to the mass market, so some mistakes were inevitable. The company’s latest blunder? Downloading Windows 10 without asking.

According to the Inquirer, a user who had never “reserved” a copy of Windows 10 in the first place found a large 6GB download sitting in the $Windows.~BT hidden directory, and a series of failed “Upgrade to Windows 10″ tasks in Windows Update’s history. In several cases, the new OS has been downloaded over metered connections, forcing people over their bandwidth caps in the process. When the Inquirer reached out to Microsoft, the company said the following: “For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade.

“When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device.”

To prompt or not to prompt?

We at ET haven’t seen this behavior directly — I’m still on Windows 7 myself, and my Windows Update history shows no sign of repeated failed Windows 10 installs — but one of our staffers, David Cardinal, has had his own unusual experience with Windows 10. According to David, he left on a two-week trip with an HTPC box running Windows 8.1U and came back to find it running Windows 10. Windows Update was configured to install automatic updates, and Microsoft has flagged Windows 10 as an important update — so it’s at least theoretically possible that the box automatically installed the new operating system.

We’re still checking out whether this update was automatically triggered, but if it wasn’t, it’s another example of how Microsoft built a system that shoves you forward into new operating systems whether you like it not. As I mentioned above, I’m still using Windows 7. Every time I launch Internet Explorer, it defaults to loading MSN as a homepage. Every time it loads MSN, it slaps a giant banner ad for Windows 10 over the content.


Immediately after Windows 10 launched, the pop-up was injecting itself every single time I launched IE. Now, thankfully, it only launches after a reboot or if IE has been shut down for several days. IE11 isn’t my default browser, but I still use it for several tasks on a daily basis, and being barraged with notifications and updates that my upgrade to Windows 10 is ready has quickly become tiresome.

While I’ve written at length about the privacy and user control issues surrounding Windows 10, I still expect to upgrade to the operating system at some point in the not-too-distant future. Part of my delay is practical — I want to swap some hardware before I upgrade, and that necessitates a few extra steps in the process. I’m also waiting to see if MS amends certain policies around notifications and updates. For all that I want DX12, running a background download on a potentially metered connection and chewing into available storage space are both less-then friendly policies.

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