Microsoft (MSFT) news recap: Edge beats all, better Band 2’s, Surface 3 reaches EOL

Kareem Anderson

Microsoft (MSFT) news recap is a new weekly feature highlighting the top Microsoft news stories of the past week. Sit back, grab some coffee, and enjoy the read!

The Big Edge debate

Microsoft started off its week of announcements and news by declaring war on its browser competition. Over the past year, the Edge team has been hard at work filling in the feature cracks that have left most users heedful of using Microsoft’s built-in web browsing experience in Windows 10. Now, with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update a few weeks away from a general release to the public and a slew of new features to boast about, the Windows team appears ready to redouble its efforts in getting users to notice the built-in browser.

Out of the gate on Monday, Microsoft declared that its Edge browser delivers the best battery life of all major browsers and that it will only get better with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. In a video released on its Microsoft Edge YouTube Channel, Microsoft ran a series of side-by-side comparisons of its Edge browser against the likes of Opera, Chrome, and Firefox.

The breakdown of comparisons included a look into energy efficiency by measuring background tab management, Flash plugin handling, UI efficiencies, and ultimately, how each browser networked with Windows. Admittedly, the Edge browser has an inherent advantage being co-engineered with Windows 10 development, but arguably it should, as would any other operating systems built-in browsing experiences such as Safari on iOS or Mac and Chrome in ChromeOS.

The results showed that using Edge on a Surface Book left Edge lasting “70% longer than Chrome, 43% longer than Firefox and 17% longer than Opera (with Battery Saver enabled).”.

The news perhaps came as little surprise for avid Chrome users who have staunchly stood against using the Edge browser for a myriad of reasons that included its performance compared to other browsers.

Perhaps, less surprising was the reaction from its embattled counterparts. With Chrome being the new web browsing market leader gobbling up users at a 60% clip, the response to Microsoft’s Edge comparison remains a silent one. Despite Microsoft’s claims of Edge being more user efficient in the UI and underlying API framework, Windows users continue to flock towards Chrome usage leaving the undisputed Google-developed browser unaffected by the company’s claims. Firefox, another browser listed in the comparison, also remains seemingly unaffected by the claims as it recently edges out Microsoft’s combined efforts of Edge and IE11.

However, it was Opera who had something to say about the recent comparison to Edge. Opera fired back at Microsoft’s comparison with a member of the Opera team claiming “If we get beaten in a test like this, we consider it a bug.”, “Better luck next time, Microsoft!”

Opera ran its own convoluted comparison that involved a use case with a four-step configuration process to prove its browser still outlast Microsoft’s Edge browsing experience.

Unlike Microsoft’s testing, Opera’s single test didn’t offer real-world telemetry test nor was it backed by the Wall Street Journal who ran a parallel test to the Edge comparison for validity.

Either way, Microsoft is causing some wave (albeit smaller) in the browsing market, just in time for its Windows 10 Anniversary Update release.

Microsoft quietly strengthens its Band 2

The Microsoft Band 2 has seemingly seen an overwhelming welcomed update to its version one predecessor in almost every way except one. Where the original Microsoft Band entered the fitness band market as a bulky and rigid prototype-like device, the Band 2 evolved the rough edges and software experience of its gen one counterpart.

Unfortunately, for some users, the Microsoft Band 2’s evolution and refinement comes at the cost of hardware reliability. Over the course of nine months, a small but growing group of Band 2 users have been complaining of the new thermal plastic elastomer silicone vulcanite tearing in certain areas after prolonged usage.

Band 2 clasp
Band 2 clasp

To address the multitude of returns from customers and the vocalized complaints in various forums, there are reports that Microsoft has been quietly issuing an updated lot number to retail outlets that correspond with a “fortified” or “thicker material” being shipped with the Band 2.

“The first two numbers in the Lot number appear to be the year of shipment, and the second two appear to be the week. So, this indicates that Band 2’s with the Lot number of 1608 (2016, 8th week) are the ones with the heftier skin for enhanced tear protection.”

The Silk Road to Ireland woes

Update to reflect a more accurate account

Traveling 2,683 miles from Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington State to Washington D.C, the company remains embroiled in a series of court battles with the US Government regarding emails it stores on its servers in Ireland.

In 2014, Microsoft has been fighting a battle to keep the information it stores overseas secure and out of the hands of the US government to some extent. The case began with the US Government looking into a drug-related case that included email service from Microsoft. While the court battle has been going on for almost two years, new information alleges the identity of drug-related parties involved.

Gary Davis, via the Times
Gary Davis, via the Times

According to The Times of London (a paywalled site, via IBTimes) none other than alleged Silk Road administrator Gary Davis is at the center of Microsoft’s heated legal debate with Ireland as he fights extradition to the US from Ireland cited by a recent court ruling.

While Silk Road is associated with the sales of gun, drug, and other illicit items and Gary Davis is well liked to the site, he maintains his innocence.

While Davis may or may not be directly involved in the situation, creator Ross Ulbricht was tried and convicted money laundering, computer hacking, and conspiracy to traffic illegal drug charges.

Regardless of Davis’ alleged involvement (to which we updated, it may not be any) getting details on who Microsoft is inadvertently fighting, are still a little eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

Xbox Talk

Another week another set of announcements, reveals, and updates regarding the Xbox have us traveling 2,683 miles from Washington DC back to Microsoft’s home in Redmond. On the heels of an announcement-packed E3 2016 event, the Xbox team is prepping itself to deliver the goods it showed off during its keynote. Earlier this week, Xbox Preview owners were issued an update to their consoles that included a few minor UI tweaks in the dashboard as well as:

“Language Independence – Based on overwhelming fan feedback, we’ve enabled Language Independence to give you, even more, choices over your Xbox experience and how you engage with your Xbox One. Language Independence gives you the freedom to choose any supported language on Xbox One, regardless of your location.

Please try out this capability and give us your feedback. If you encounter any issues, change your language and location settings back to their previous values to see if the issue still exists. We look forward to your feedback.

Game Pre-orders – When purchasing a game pre-order, funds may no longer be deducted from your account immediately (depending on when the game pre-order is purchased). Pre-order funds will now be deducted from your account 10 days or less prior to the game’s release date.”

In other Xbox-related news, head of Xbox Phil Spencer confirms that the Xbox isn’t the “ugly step child” of Microsoft’s for profit business portfolio. Perhaps, since the billion-dollar write-down that came with infamous red-ring-of-death (RRoD) seemingly making it the “ugly stepchild” weighing on Microsoft’s financials, analysts, and journalist have wondered whether Microsoft would have the fortitude and marketing savvy to remain in the gaming industry.

Earlier this week an analyst report from DFC Intelligence calling for the quick and immediate exiting of Microsoft’s gaming efforts with its Xbox One.

Xbox chief Phil Spencer.
Xbox chief Phil Spencer.

According to the DFC Intelligence reports, when Microsoft announced Project Scorpio’s existence, the company effectively Osborne its newer better-equipped console coming out in August of 2016. Bordering on the lines conspiracy rhetoric, DFC sees Microsoft closing up shop next year due to some marketing missteps, move to combine PC and console and its second place position in the gaming market.

There are all kinds of other problems with Microsoft’s mixed messaging. The pricing on the original Xbox One is great, and the Slim is wonderful, but all the important new games will be on PC, so why invest in a console? Just upgrade your PC. And if you do want a console why buy now when Scorpio will be here later. All of this is a net dampener on new hardware sales now and really opens the door wide open for Sony and even Nintendo for the NX.

The biggest issue is whether Microsoft will even have a game division by the time Project Scorpio launched. It is no small irony that the E3 events went on at the EXACT same time as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was announcing the $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn.”

In defense of the efforts continually put forth by the Xbox team, Spencer immediately rebuffed the notion when brought up by concerned Twitter users concerned about the longer term viability of the console and ecosystem.

Spencer took to Twitter to reassure users that the Xbox will be around for some time to come.

Lastly, Xbox’s Aaron Greenberg added to Spencer’s proclamations by discussing how powerful the new Xbox One (Project Scorpio) will be in 2017.

“We’re going to build a box; we’re going to build a beast of a box, that will be 6TFLOPs of power, that will be able to deliver true 4K games, and be able to do high-fidelity VR, in the living room, on a console.”

While Microsoft will seemingly remain a contender in the console gaming market, news leaked that the company attempted to avoid competing in the industry altogether. Before Microsoft built the Xbox, it attempted to partner with Sony and Nintendo.

A co-founder of the Xbox sat down with IGN in an interview where he revealed that:

“When we first started thinking about doing Xbox, we met with Nintendo. We sat down with Iwata and others and said ‘this is what we want to do, could we partner?’ And they said no.

Then Bill (Gates) met with Sony, same deal. Can we work together, can we partner. And they said no.

So that is true. Actually, if anyone thought about buying Nintendo, I never heard that.”

Surface 3 reaches its end

In the last bit of news for the week, Microsoft is ending its production run of Surface 3 devices. While the attention and buying patterns have favored the more recent releases of the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, some price-conscious buyers have still been purchasing Surface 3 devices.

However, as of December 2016, Microsoft expects its dwindling supply of Surface 3 devices to be completely out of stock and at that point, the company has no plans to continue manufacturing anymore.

Surface 3 LTE
Surface 3 LTE

“Since launching Surface 3 over a year ago, we have seen strong demand and satisfaction amongst our customers. Inventory is now limited and by the end of December 2016, we will no longer manufacture Surface 3 devices.”

With Microsoft skipping the production of a Surface 3 equivalent during last year’s Surface hardware reveal, the news of the company ending production of its relatively lower cost alternative has begun to raise questions as to what, when or if a replacement is on its way.

As of now, Microsoft has offered no news or information regarding a possible Surface 3 replacement, for those still looking for a low premium low-cost 2-in-1, visiting a Best Buy, local Microsoft Store or Amazon is highly encouraged.