New games, layoffs, more AI plans, merger update, and more

The past few days have been eventful for Microsoft, and here are some of the latest news you need to know, from Edge and Bing to Xbox and other Microsoft-related news.

New games coming to Xbox

Another week means a new set of games entering the Xbox platforms. Here are the titles coming to Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows, and Game Pass starting February 14.

  • Ten Dates – February 14 (Xbox Play Anywhere)
  • Wanted: Dead – February 14 (Optimized for Xbox Series X|S / Smart Delivery)
  • Cities: Skylines – Remastered – February 15 (Game Pass)
  • Geometric Sniper: Blood in Paris – February 15
  • Launcher Heroes – February 15 (Optimized for Xbox Series X|S / Smart Delivery)
  • Pocket Witch – February 15 (Optimized for Xbox Series X|S / Smart Delivery)
  • W.A.R.P. – February 15
  • Gigantosaurus: Dino Kart – February 16 (Optimized for Xbox Series X|S / Smart Delivery)
  • Pinball FX – February 16 (Optimized for Xbox Series X|S / Smart Delivery)
  • Shadow Warrior 3: Definitive Edition – February 16 (Game Pass)
  • CometStriker DX – February 17 (Xbox Play Anywhere)
  • CyberHeroes Arena DX – February 17 (Optimized for Xbox Series X|S / Smart Delivery)
  • Dark Burial: Enhanced Edition – February 17 (Optimized for Xbox Series X|S / Smart Delivery)
  • Rise of the Fox Hero – February 17 (Optimized for Xbox Series X|S / Smart Delivery)
  • Road Stones – February 17
  • Rooftop Renegade – February 17
  • Tales of Symphonia Remastered – February 17
  • Wild Hearts – February 17 (Optimized for Xbox Series X|S)

A new set of layoffs

Microsoft continues to lay off some of its employees. It can be recalled that the company confirmed its plan to do it to 10,000 of its total workforce population this 2023. The continuation of this plan occurred last week, leaving 10% of Microsoft’s GitHub workforce axed from their positions. With about 3,000 employees, this translates to at least 300 individuals. To further save, Microsoft also decided to continue the hiring freeze in GitHub and make the workforce fully remote. 

Aside from this recent layoff, Microsoft also killed its Industrial Metaverse Core team it created four months ago. This resulted in the layoff of at least 100 individuals, The Information reported.

Microsoft’s strong faith in AI

As the software titan continues its AI efforts to boost its services and products, its leaders express their confidence in the path the company is pursuing. In a recent interview, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella taunted Google.

“At the end of the day, [Google is] the 800-pound gorilla in this,” Nadella told The Verge. “I hope that, with our innovation, they will definitely want to come out and show that they can dance. And I want people to know that we made them dance.”

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also expressed his confidence in ChatGPT, saying it is a significant invention that can change the world.

“Until now, artificial intelligence could read and write, but could not understand the content. The new programs like ChatGPT will make many office jobs more efficient by helping to write invoices or letters. This will change our world,” Gates told German business daily Handelsblatt in an interview.

More AI in Microsoft services and products

After unveiling the ChatGPT-powered Bing and revamped Edge, Microsoft is now planning to inject AI tech into its Office products. In March, the company has tentative plans to have an announcement highlighting “how quickly Microsoft wants to reinvent search and its productivity apps through its OpenAI investments” and detailing its “productivity plans” related to the said matter.

This should not be surprising, though, as it has been known by many for weeks now. Also, the software giant has recently integrated AI features into some of its services, including Viva Sales and Teams Premium.

In the future, Microsoft plans to allow companies, schools, and governments to release their own chatbots using ChatGPT technology. According to CNBC, the chatbot creators will be allowed to remove the branding of Microsoft and OpenAI once they release their own versions developed with the software.

Edge and Bing are improving

Thanks to their new AI capabilities, Bing and Edge have seen great improvements recently. According to Microsoft, more than 1 million people joined the waitlist in 48 hours to try the new Bing. Also, Bing and Edge received a huge leap in app ranking, ranking the former at 10th place in the free download category and the latter at third place in the utility app section last week in the US Apple App Store.

Edge is also getting Adobe Acrobat PDF support starting in March, announced by Microsoft last week. It will replace the current Microsoft Edge PDF solution using the legacy engine, which will be removed in March 2024.

In other news, Edge has a new rival in Opera after announcing that it is now integrating ChatGPT into its browsers. The feature ‘Shorten’ can summarize articles and webpages in bullet forms and will be shown in a sidebar (almost similar to Edge’s sidebar feature). Google is also on the move now after showcasing the Bard AI tool, though the result was not that pleasing for the company. Days ago, Google shared a demo of the tool. However, the Bard demo included an error, causing the company’s shares to drop $100 billion.

Windows legacy inbox Troubleshooters Retirement

Microsoft is removing its MSDT platform in 2025. The retirement of Windows legacy inbox Troubleshooters includes the “Keyboard troubleshooter and Speech troubleshooter, and the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT) that runs them,” according to Microsoft.

The built-in tools can automatically diagnose and fix common problems in some Windows features. However, in the next Windows 11 release, the troubleshooters MSDT is running will be killed by Microsoft. Microsoft shared the timeline for this plan:

  • 2023 – Begin redirecting some of the troubleshooters to the new Get Help troubleshooting platform
  • 2024 – Complete the troubleshooter redirection and remove the rest of the troubleshooters
  • 2025 – Remove the MSDT platform

More features are being tested for Windows

As usual, Microsoft continues to test different features it wants to include in its Windows system in the future. Some features unveiled in the past weeks include the new copy button for quickly copying two-factor authentication (2FA) codes in notification toasts and RGB lighting controls in the Dev Build 25295. A new leak also indicates that Microsoft is preparing the Windows 11 Moment 4 update, though we are still waiting for Moment 2 to arrive.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is testing a new “Sent pages” feature in Edge that will allow users to view the tabs sent to their other devices. There is also a new update for Windows Subsystem for Android on Windows 11, giving it a handful of improvements for camera experience, graphics improvements, general reliability, and security updates.

The battle to win the Activision megadeal continues

Microsoft’s struggles to win the Activision merger deal are still present, especially now with Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) repeating its concerns in its recently published provisional findings. Additionally, the watchdog says it “prefers structural remedies” over behavioral remedies and even suggests the divestiture or sell-off of some of Activion’s segments, including the “business associated with Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, among other titles.”

Activision’s EVP, Lulu Cheng Meservey, responded to CMA’s findings by pointing out that the regulator has greatly focused on Sony.

“The CMA is concerned the deal could ‘impact rival console gaming platforms,’ said Meservey. “But it’s really just about one platform: Sony. Nowhere does CMA even mention Nintendo, which has already accepted Microsoft’s offer to guarantee COD access for 10 yrs— bringing games to MORE consoles.”

In related news, Sony described the subpoena served by Microsoft as “truly massive” and its demands “obvious harassment.” The statement surfaced in the recent documents filed by Sony in FTC’s in-house court for FTC’s Activision merger case. Microsoft wanted Sony to divulge some details of its business as part of its discovery procedure to build its defense in the case. The rival, however, refused to produce them, according to Microsoft.

Teams has a new free version… with a caveat

Microsoft is replacing the current “Microsoft Teams Free (classic)” with the new “Microsoft Teams (free)” version. Aside from this troubling name change, the bigger problem is that current users of the former will be forced to get the Teams Essentials subscription to “maintain access to your data.” Indeed, there will be no option to automatically do it, which will be problematic for businesses with huge amounts of data in the current free Teams version.

“Designed specifically with small- and medium-sized businesses in mind, Teams Essentials is the newest version of Teams, which you can purchase separately from Microsoft 365 offerings,” Microsoft says on its FAQ. “After April 12, 2023, Microsoft will no longer support Teams Free (classic). By upgrading to Teams Essentials by that date, you’ll maintain access to your data.”