Microsoft admits Windows 11’s default apps system needs work – and changes are coming

Windows 11 is getting some fine-tuning around how default app selections are handled and how apps are pinned on the desktop, making these systems work better and with more overall consistency.

XDA Developers spotted that Microsoft wrote a blog post on its new ‘principled approach’ to these app behaviors, with the incoming changes set to arrive in testing (Dev channel) in the “coming months,” we’re told.

The first measure to be implemented is with app defaults. Windows 11 will get a new Settings deep link URI (uniform resource identifier), allowing developers to take users directly to the correct place in Settings whenever any given app flags itself up as wanting to be the default.

The default app is the software which is opened automatically for a specific file format, so for example, your default browser is the one used when you click a link in, say, an email.

Secondly, Microsoft is changing the way that pinning apps – putting icons permanently on the Start menu or taskbar – works, by introducing a new notification. In the case that an app wants to request being pinned, this notification will pop up explaining just that, allowing the user to either click Accept or Decline.

Crucially, the software giant wants consistency with these interface tweaks, so all third-party software, and Microsoft’s own core apps for Windows 11, work the same way and abide by these rules. That’s the plan, anyway, although whether things work out this neatly, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Windows 11 Pinning Prompt

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Analysis: Defending against dodginess, and making up for past mistakes

As made clear in its blog post, part of Microsoft’s aim with this tweaking of app behavior is defending against “unrequested modifications” from dodgy developers. In other words, things happening in the background unbeknownst to the user, and the likes of adware or other rogue software managing to infiltrate into the system.

It’s also designed, no doubt, to reassure Windows 11 users that Microsoft is putting the past well and truly behind it regarding the firm’s own policies on default apps, which have been a source of criticism previously.

You might remember that when Windows 11 first launched, Microsoft made it an unnecessarily clunky process to change browser defaults away from its own Edge product (you had to go through every file type and change the preference individually, such as HTML, PDF and so on – a ridiculous state of affairs, really).

That nonsense was canned a year ago now, but it still lives on in the memories of some folks (likely because of the many other ways Microsoft has tried to push Edge within Windows 11).

Indeed, Microsoft even mentions its browser specifically in the post, noting that: “We are committing that Microsoft Edge will release an update that adopts the new Settings deep link URI for defaults and public pinning APIs as they become available.”

At any rate, this is a welcome move, although in all honesty, app defaults should never have appeared in the state they were when Windows 11 was launched in the first place. Mind you, the same could be said about a number of things in the Windows 11 interface upon its release, with the OS having very much been a work in progress as Microsoft has gone along.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Sorry Spotify, not everything needs to be TikTok

It makes total sense that Spotify would chase after TikTok. 

TikTok is what all the kids are into and so naturally every major brand is out here trying to capture a slice of that highly sought-after market, but Spotify's new redesign featuring videos and a vertical scroll that mimics the wildly-popular social media app prefered by Gen-Z is bound to fail just as certainly as Spotify is bound to try it anyway. We've seen this story play out a thousand times before, and it doesn't get any less sad with repetition.

It's the kind of thing that is so transparently lame that Gen-Z is bound to shrug it off if it doesn't downright laugh at it, and all Spotify is doing in the attempt is risking alienating the people who actually use the music service. 

I'm not saying that Spotify cannot try something new, it absolutely should, but let's put the emphasis on new.

Kids aren't going to use a boomer music app

Whether it's Instagram or Spotify, every legacy tech company is pretty much having a midlife crisis right now and buying the proverbial sports car thinking that this is what will make them young and appealing again, and TikTok is absolutely to blame.

There's something about a new app coming on the scene to steal away the hearts and minds and screen time of a highly desirable 12-to-18 demographic to make a legacy app question itself. Apps, like people, hate to feel like the times have passed them by. 

I, too, have felt the sting of no longer being the young millennial that seemed to know what all the latest trends were. But the only thing worse than hearing 1996's Doom get called a Boomer Shooter by a 14 year-old is talking to that 14 year-old like I was one of their cohort.

And that's what all these tech companies pivoting to TikTokify themselves are doing, at its core, and kids can sniff the poser stink off the effort from half a world away. Gen Z is wedded to TikTok, and no company is shaking them, no matter how much they try.

Change is good, but not like this

A girl with the dark side tiktok promoting social network with a smartphone in hand.

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ti Vla)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with shaking things up, and redesigns can be great. New UI experiences can streamline a service and give your user base more of what it wants, and there's always the allure of a new look.

Spotify even has a real reason to make needed changes. It's expanded well beyond just being a music streaming app, and UI changes are definitely warranted as a result.

But change has to be driven by need, and an entirely new redesign needs to emerge from the needs of the existing user base, not from an attempt to capture another one entirely. I can tell you that plenty of existing users are going to absolutely hate the new design, and they might head elsewhere. Apple Music isn't pulling this kind of thing.

So all Spotify is doing is risking existing users to dress itself up like the Steve Buscemi meme.

Change needs to come from within if it's going to work

Spotify app on a smartphone next to a pair of true wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Chubo – my masterpiece)

The strangest thing about the whole obsession with TikTok is that there are plenty of social media and tech companies that already have incredibly strong brands as it is. 

As much as we've tried to get away from it in recent months, there really is nothing like Twitter out there, and Spotify has an equally strong brand ID. Why risk throwing that away just to be a TikTok clone that Zoomers can point at while rolling their eyes from the back seat of the car?

Spotify should work within that structure to find the needed change it will inevitably have to introduce, since that is ultimately what has the best chance of success. No, you might not win over the Gen Z crowd, but Spotify was never going to do that. 

Build a strong enough brand and eventually many Gen Zers might end up migrating to Spotify over time when TikTok no longer serves their needs — or when some other upstart app hits the scene and wins over whatever Gen Z's younger siblings are called and TikTok upends its entire interface to chase after that apps audience.

Hopefully, by then, Spotify and other tech brands will have learned to age gracefully like the rest of us.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Windows 11 doesn’t deserve the hate – but Microsoft needs to do more

A new report by AdDuplex reveals that Windows 11 is now installed on 19.3% of computers, suggesting that Microsoft is struggling to convince people to upgrade to its new operating system.

While that number may seem initially impressive – after all, nearly 20% of all PCs is still a large number – it’s only a small increase of the 16.1% share AdDuplex reported the month earlier.

Building momentum is incredibly important this early on in an operating system’s life, so the fact that upgrades are slowing down a few months after launch is going to be concerning for Microsoft. Meanwhile, Windows 10 21H1 is the most-used version of Windows with 27.5% share, a small drop from the previous month.

Interestingly, Windows 10 21H2, which was released around the same time as Windows 11, has 21% market share. It seems that many Windows 10 users are upgrading to the newer version of Windows 10, rather than switching to Windows 11.

That makes sense – many people would rather stick with what they know. It also highlights that Microsoft may not be making as convincing an argument for switching to Windows 11 as it needs to.

The fact that older version of Windows 10, including Windows 10 20H2 on 17.9% and Windows 10 2004 on 7.9%, make up the bulk of the rest of the market, highlights the struggle Windows 11 faces.

The data AdDuplex uses is from around 5,000 apps that use the AdDuplex v2 SDK on the Microsoft Store, and covers around 60,000 PCs. This means the survey only includes versions of Windows that come with the Microsoft Store (Windows 10 and Windows 11), so while this doesn’t give us a complete view of the operating system market, it does help us understand the popularity of Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Analysis: Why the Windows 11 hate?

Cartoon of a student getting angry at their laptop

(Image credit: studiostoks / Shutterstock)

Since its launch, there seems to be quite a bit of negativity surrounding Windows 11, and this may be why Windows 10 users are hesitant to switch. When Microsoft announced Windows 11, many people were surprised. Not because of past comments by Microsoft that suggested that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows released, but because Windows 10 still feels relatively modern. With the release of Windows 10 21H2, it’s also an operating system that continues to get new updates and features.

For people using Windows 10 who are happy with the operating system, there doesn’t seem like a huge reason to switch to Windows 11. Windows 10 isn’t perfect, but that too might actually convince people to stick with the older OS.

Microsoft had a rough patch where it released numerous Windows 10 updates that appeared to cause more problems than they fixed. This affected people’s confidence in Microsoft, and some may think if the company can’t get an operating system update right, what kind of problems would an entirely new operating system bring?

Holding off from installing a new operating system as soon as it launches and sticking with your existing OS until early bugs and problems are fixed, is actually a pretty good idea. Once Microsoft corrects the Windows 11 problems (thankfully there aren’t too many) and addresses some of the complaints users have, we may see more Windows 10 users switch to Windows 11.

Another valid reason why people may not upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 10 is the fact that they simply can’t. Microsoft made having TPM a requirement for Windows 11, and this has meant that many perfectly capable PCs can’t actually officially run the new operating system. We can’t see Microsoft changing its position on this (in fact, it’s made life harder for people running Windows 11 on unsupported hardware), so many people won’t upgrade to Windows 11 until they get new devices, and that could be years from now.

Unfortunately, there is a growing negativity about Windows 11 as well. Many of its detractors are very vocal online, which could make people wary of upgrading. Some of these grumbles are definitely valid, but I increasingly feel like some of the hate is undeserved.

Sure, Windows 11 has some frustrating quirks at the moment – the reduced functionality of the taskbar is particularly baffling – but Microsoft is continuing to add features and fix issues. The new user interface may take some getting used to, but it feels fresh and modern.

I’ve also found Windows 11 to run well, with boot times particularly improved. While I don’t love the operating system (Microsoft still struggles to make anyone feel particularly fond of its software), I don’t hate it either.

Microsoft needs to counter the negative opinion people are forming of Windows 11 as quickly as possible, and show people why they gain from upgrading to the new operating system. What it certainly doesn’t want to happen is for Windows 11 to be spoken about in the same way people talk about Windows Vista or Windows 8.

Those two versions are widely derided as embarrassing failures – a fate that Windows 11 doesn’t deserve.

Via Xda Developers

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Sony needs to catch up on nostalgia, while Microsoft buys it up for billions

The announcement of Microsoft agreeing to buy Activision-Blizzard in a $ 68 billion dollar deal shook the gaming industry, with many wondering what’s going to happen once the deal closes.

This means that brands such as Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and True Crime: Streets of LA are about to be the property of Microsoft, alongside other brands such as DOOM, Elder Scrolls, Halo, and more.

But this brings up the aspect of where Sony stands in this. With a rumored service called Project Spartacus offering titles from its back catalog of almost 30 years, there’s going to be franchises, such as Crash Bandicoot, which will need more discussion for them to be allowed on the service.

However, this is also representative of how far behind Sony looks compared to Microsoft’s big news, and what it could mean for future generations of consoles and gaming as a whole.

A Sony and Microsoft agreement?

When the Nintendo Online Expansion Pack service was announced in October, Nintendo surprised many by confirming that Microsoft-owned Banjo Kazooie was about to arrive on the service, now available to play on the Switch.

In retrospect, it wasn’t a surprise, mainly due to the starring titular characters Banjo and Kazooie appearing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as paid DLC, back in 2019.

Also, to see the first game in the series, on the Nintendo Online Service with a ‘by Xbox Game Studios’, will cause anyone older than 20 years old to do a double-take. Especially with the Rare logo appearing once you start up the game. But it shows how far some brands have come since their first outing on other systems.


(Image credit: Rare)

Yet Sony is already on the backfoot. It didn’t help matters when the CEO, Jim Ryan, publicly called out its older catalog as ‘dated’ and questioned why anyone would play them, a comment Ryan has seemingly backed away from since.

To dismiss over 25 years of gaming wouldn’t put anyone in a good light, especially the CEO of Sony. But Project Spartacus looks to reverse some of that ill-will, rumored to include games from the PS1 and PS2 era.

While I’m not expecting Onimusha 2 or Rosco McQueen to appear on the service, at least to start with, seeing games such as Ridge Racer and Tomb Raider 2, ready to play on a PlayStation 5 is immensely appealing.

But we’ve been here before already. Back in 2015, Sony enabled PS2 Classics to run on the PlayStation 4, where you could play Ape Escape 2, Resident Evil 4, and almost the entire library of Rockstar Games’ PS2 releases.

Users were hopeful that this would mean the games that you could play on PS3, PSP and PS Vita would eventually work on PlayStation 4, but this wasn’t to be. The program fizzled out after 18 months, and while you can play these on your PlayStation 5, it nowhere near scratches the demand that’s out there.

But it also goes back to who holds the rights. Sony may have another battle soon, to offer the original Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon games, now that they’re about to be the property of Microsoft. These were once tentpole Sony exclusives, at least in the heyday of their original releases. We may see something similar to the agreement that Microsoft and Nintendo had for Banjo to appear on the Switch Online service.

But time will tell. Nostalgia is a powerful asset in gaming, now more than ever. It brings back memories and good feelings of a time when you enjoyed a game for what it was when it was released, not what it could be, either through DLC content or multiplayer season packs.

After so many years of Sony flat-out refusing to honor the past that so many still hold in a great light, Project Spartacus needs to impress on day one, and not repeat the same tropes that its PS2 Classics series on PS4 brought.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft shows why Windows 11 needs TPM – even if some PCs are left out in the cold

Windows 11 security is something of a hot topic, as the revamped OS comes with much tighter defenses than Windows 10, but with the side-effect of creating controversy and confusion on the system requirements front (and indeed for gamers – more on that later).

However, Microsoft recently produced a video to show how Windows 11’s new protective measures – which include TPM (Trusted Platform Module), Secure Boot and VBS (Virtualization-Based Security) – help to make systems safer against hackers. Furthermore, it reminds us these moves are an extension of what was already happening with Windows 10 (but crucially, not on a compulsory level).

The clip stars Microsoft’s security expert Dave Weston who explains more about why this higher level of security, which entails the aforementioned raised hardware requirements – including support for TPM 2.0, which rules out a fair number of not-all-that-old PCs – is required to defend against some potentially nasty security breaches.

Weston shows how this nastiness could play out in real world situations, first of all demonstrating a remote attack leveraging an open RDP (remote desktop protocol) port, brute forcing the password, and then infecting the machine with ransomware. This was on a PC without TPM 2.0 and Secure Boot, and naturally, wouldn’t be possible on a Windows 11 system.

The second attack used for demo purposes is an in-person one using a PCI Leech device to access system memory and bypass fingerprint recognition to login. VBS stops this kind of attack being leveraged against a Windows 11 system, and the former remote attack is prevented by UEFI, Secure Boot and Trusted Boot (in conjunction with TPM).

Analysis: Land of confusion

This is an interesting look at the nuts-and-bolts of how these security countermeasures work against real life attacks. Clearly, in some scenarios there are good reasons for mandating TPM and the other mentioned security technologies to help keep a PC safer against a possible attack, whether that’s a remote or local intrusion.

No one is going to argue against better protection, but the issue with making these pieces of security tech a compulsory part of the system requirements is the confusion around whether or not a PC has these capabilities.

In some cases, newer machines do indeed have TPM on-board, it just isn’t enabled – leading to a frustrating situation where the owner of a modern device could be told it isn’t compatible with Windows 11. And while it might just be a case of switching TPM on, which isn’t difficult for a reasonably tech-savvy person, it could be very intimidating for a novice user (involving a trip to the BIOS, a scary place for the untrained eye).

VBS or Virtualization-Based Security has run into further controversy, as well, given that while this isn’t an issue for upgraders from Windows 10, it will be enabled by default on new PCs that come with Windows 11 – and it causes slowdown with gaming frame rates. By all accounts, VBS can be a pretty serious headwind for frame rates, too; and again, this adds to the confusion around what’s going on with Windows 11 machines in general.

Having a more secure PC is great, without a doubt, but there are costs here which have a potentially negative impact on the experience of some users adopting (or trying to adopt) Windows 11.

Via Neowin

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More