Microsoft’s most baffling release yet, Surface Laptop is just a laptop

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After several years of building systems that compete with, but aren’t quite, laptops, Microsoft has built a plain old laptop: the Surface Laptop.

I think there’s a good chance that the Surface Laptop will become Microsoft’s best-selling piece of PC hardware. This is such a straightforward proposition: it’s a regular PC laptop. It has no trickery; no tear-off keyboard, no special hinge, no detachable GPU, none of the other things that have made the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Studio notable or unusual. It can’t be said any plainer: Surface Laptop is just a PC laptop.

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Microsoft 4Q17: Office 365 revenue surpasses traditional licenses

(credit: Julien GONG Min)

In the fourth quarter of its 2017 financial year, Microsoft posted revenue of $23.3 billion, up 13 percent on a year ago, with an operating income of $5.3 billion (up 73 percent), a net income of $6.5 billion (up 109 percent), and earnings per share of $0.83 (up 112 percent on the same quarter last year).

For the full 2017 financial year, revenue was $90.0 billion (up 5 percent on 2016), operating income was $22.3 billion (up 11 percent), net income was $21.2 billion (up 26 percent), and earnings per share were $3.31 (up 29 percent).

Microsoft currently has three reporting segments: Productivity and Business Processes (covering Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Skype, and Dynamics), Intelligent Cloud (including Azure, Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, and Enterprise Services), and More Personal Computing (covering Windows, hardware, and Xbox, as well as search and advertising).

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Clover Trail systems won’t get Windows 10 Creators Update, ever

Enlarge / One of the affected Atom processors. (credit: Intel)

Systems using Intel’s Clover Trail Atom processors and running Windows 10 won’t ever receive the Creators Update, or any major Windows 10 updates in future. But in an exception to its normal Windows 10 support policy, Microsoft has said that it will provide security updates to those systems until January 2023.

We wrote earlier this week about the tricky situation of the Clover Trail systems. Those machines shipped with Windows 8 and 8.1 were due to receive software support until 2023. However, the systems were also eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 10. But to receive security fixes on Windows 10, you have to keep pace with the periodic regular major upgrades that Microsoft makes to that operating system. Each of these named releases is only supported for 18 months, after which you have to upgrade, or else you’re cut off from security fixes.

This is a problem for the Clover Trail machines, because those systems are prevented from installing and using the Windows 10 Creators Update, leaving them stuck on last year’s Anniversary Update. Support, including security fixes, for the Anniversary Update is due to end in early 2018. As such, it appeared that upgrading from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 has taken Clover Trail systems from being supported until 2023, to supported until 2018, a five-year regression.

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Google Cloud gets a new networking algorithm that boosts internet throughput

 Google today announced that TCP BBR, a new congestion-control algorithm is now available to its Cloud Platform users. The general idea here is to improve on the existing congestion-control algorithms for internet traffic, which have been around since the 1980s and which typically only take packet loss into account (when networking buffers fill up, routers will discard any new packets). Read More

Windows XP, Vista buried by Blizzard

Enlarge / Appropriately enough, I don’t see the Blizzard Launcher on this familiar Windows XP desktop image…

If you’re using an operating system that’s over a decade old to play Blizzard games, we have some bad news for you. Starting in October, Blizzard says it will “begin the process of ending support for Windows XP and Windows Vista in World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm.”

The fact that Blizzard was still supporting these long-in-the-tooth Microsoft OSes (XP launched in 2001, Vista launched in early 2007) says something about the long tail of low-end hardware that the company targets alongside top-of-the-line modern systems. Though Microsoft dropped mainstream support for Windows XP and Windows Vista years ago—and ceased issuing security fixes for the operating systems in 2014 (with another issued earlier this year)—Blizzard says that a “decent portion of our audience was still using” the platforms long after Microsoft left them for dead. Three major Windows releases later, though, the “vast majority of our audience has upgraded” to a more recent OS, Blizzard says.

Windows XP’s longevity was something of an outlier in the world of PC operating systems, still seeing significant adoption a decade after its launch. When Microsoft finally pulled the plug on mainstream support for the OS in 2014, it was still running on 29 percent of web users’ PCs. Even today, XP commands a surprising 6.4 percent of all desktop web users, according to NetMarketShare, far ahead of Vista’s 0.53 percent.

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All clouds don’t have to be public

 For a long time, traditional IT resisted the cloud, but that has changed in recent years as companies have come to realize that they can’t survive without the agility, scalability and economics that only a public cloud approach can provide. Yet in spite of the clear advantages the public cloud brings, there are still many companies out there that resist it for a variety of… Read More