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It might not get the same kind of attention as Google and Apple, but Microsoft is still one of the biggest and most powerful tech companies operating today. It runs Azure, one of the biggest cloud computing services, and maintains Windows 11 and the whole Office suite of software. It also makes plenty of Surface hardware and has a whole slew of gaming products, including the Xbox Series X. But the company is ever expanding — building new hardware, acquiring new game studios, and making sure that even if Microsoft doesn't run your phone, it can touch plenty of the apps on it.

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Microsoft is bringing AI characters to Xbox

Microsoft is partnering with Inworld AI to create Xbox game development tools for generative AI characters, storylines, and more.

Microsoft is now giving many Surface PCs at least six years of firmware updates

That’s up from the four years the company originally offered.

The blissful days of Windows XP return.

It’s the holiday season, so it’s time for the latest Windows-themed ugly sweater. This time Microsoft has selected the Bliss default wallpaper from Windows XP for some holiday treatment. It’s available today from the company’s Xbox Gear Shop, priced at $69.99. Microsoft is supporting The Nature Conservancy this year with its sixth Windows-themed ugly sweater. Previous sweaters have included Clippy, Minesweeper, and Windows 95.

The bliss Windows XP wallpaper as an ugly sweater.
The bliss Windows XP wallpaper as an ugly sweater.
Image: Microsoft
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Microsoft is ending support for its Microsoft 365 browser extension.

The extension, available for Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, essentially serves as a series of shortcuts for accessing Microsoft 365 apps, documents, and files. It’s also seemingly quite popular: the extension has more than 6 million users on Chrome and more than 4 million users on Edge.

Microsoft will retire the extension on January 15th, 2024, according to a support document. I’ve asked Microsoft if it can detail more about the decision.

The negotiations to bring Sam Altman back to OpenAI slowly continue.

Here’s a brief update on where things stand with OpenAI today, after an explosive weekend and a very confusing Monday which saw the news of Sam Altman going to Microsoft slowly fade into Satya Nadella not seeming so sure that would happen.

— We’re told Altman still wants to return to OpenAI and continues to negotiate with the board today.

— As Bloomberg reported late last night, new interim CEO Emmett Shear is involved in mediating these negotiations, creating the frankly unprecedented situation where (1) the interim CEO who replaced (2) the interim CEO who replaced Sam and who (3) got replaced for trying to get Sam back is now (4) deeply involved in a new effort to get Sam back. Read it through a few times, it’s fine. It doesn’t make any sense to anyone else either.

— Microsoft’s offer to hire everyone who threatened to quit is still on the table, and has now been made officially public, after being noted in the employee walkout letter yesterday. In general, Microsoft appears to have receded from the situation; Nadella remains in the mix but has now made several media appearances reiterating that he’ll will work with Altman and OpenAI “irrespective of configuration,” which frankly sounds like he’s talking about the benefits of plug and play device drivers in Windows. We all fall back to what we know.

— We are told everyone, including the board, is trying to be reasonable, and put OpenAI back together.

We’ll keep posting updates as we have them; at the very least we can say the overall temperature has dropped, but it’s not clear any of this results in an actual return.

Microsoft offers to match OpenAI compensation.

Microsoft CTO and EVP of AI Kevin Scott says the software maker will match OpenAI’s compensation to employees that want to join Sam Atlman’s new AI research lab. It comes shortly after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella went on a media tour last night and didn’t seem to know if Sam Altman will actually join Microsoft or not. Competitors like Salesforce have been trying to tempt OpenAI employees to join rival AI projects.

Starfield’s official DLSS patch is out now.

Bethesda has released the 1.8.86 update for Starfield, and for PC gamers with recent Nvidia graphics cards, it should be an important one since it adds support for their cards’ AI-powered upscaling.

It also has a ton of other fixes and tweaks (now you can easily eat all the food you find), but the folks at Digital Foundry tried the beta version of the patch and have more information on exactly the kind of performance bump players can expect.

The Verge
Sam Altman isn’t showing up in Microsoft’s corporate directory yet.

Microsoft employees are waking up to the surprise news of former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman joining them as a colleague. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says Altman is joining to lead a new advanced AI research team, but he’s not yet showing up in Microsoft’s corporate directory according to multiple sources. He’s still marked as an OpenAI guest. Once he’s fully onboarded Altman will have a CEO title inside Microsoft and could be set to hire hundreds of OpenAI employees who have threatened to resign.

📩 Do you know more about Microsoft’s plans for its new AI research team? You can reach me confidentially on the Signal messaging app: +442081230413, or through email (

The Verge
Sam Altman has a CEO title inside Microsoft.

That’s a big deal in itself. Microsoft typically uses the CEO title for the leaders of big divisions like Microsoft Gaming, or acquired companies like LinkedIn and GitHub. Altman as the CEO of a new advanced AI research team signals to me that Microsoft is treating this like a big acquisition, which makes sense when you consider that a number of OpenAI employees are joining Altman at Microsoft.

The Verge
More on the pressure for OpenAI’s board to restore Sam Altman as CEO.

Along with the news from Alex Heath and Nilay Patel that OpenAI’s board is in discussions with just-fired CEO Sam Altman about his return, now Bloomberg reports that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella “has been in touch with Altman and pledged to support him in whatever steps he takes next.”

The Wall Street Journal writes that Microsoft (the nonprofit’s primary financial backer) and Thrive Capital (its second-largest shareholder) are “ helping orchestrate the efforts” to restore Altman.

And according to this report by Forbes, the plan some investors are considering is to make the board consider the situation “untenable through a combination of mass revolt by senior researchers, withheld cloud computing credits from Microsoft, and a potential lawsuit from investors.”

Some of Bing’s search results now have AI-generated descriptions.

Microsoft says it’s using GPT-4 to garner the “most pertinent insights” from webpages and write summaries beneath Bing search results. You won’t see these summaries beneath every search result, but you can check which ones are AI-generated by clicking the little arrow next to the result’s URL. If the description is written by AI, it’ll say “AI-Generated Caption.”

A screenshot of an AI-generated search description on Bing
Screenshot by Emma Roth / The Verge
Windows Photos is getting background removal, too.

After bringing background removal to Paint, now Microsoft is rolling out the capability to Windows Photos. The feature is only available to Insiders for now, but it looks equally as handy as the one in Paint. You can remove a photo’s background with just a click and then even replace it with a solid color.

A GIF showing the background removal tool in Windows Photos
GIF: Microsoft
Today on The Vergecast: what Apple really means when it talks about RCS.

Is it the end of the green bubble? Who knows! Probably not. Did Nothing make this happen? LOL, no. We dug into all things RCS and the future of messaging, before talking about Bing, the Windows app, wearable graphs, and whatever the Playstation Portal is. At the end of the day, we’re all just bubbles, you know what I mean?

Anyone remember Windows XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems?

Microsoft’s Jared Spataro has been joking about the company’s terrible history of marketing names for products at Ignite today. “Simplicity and naming, well, they haven’t always been our strong suit,” admitted Spataro, while discussing the Bing Chat rebranding to Microsoft Copilot. “Anyone else remember Windows XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems? Just rolls off the tongue,” he joked. Anyone else remember the 2007 Microsoft Office System?

Generative AI is coming to VR headsets.

Microsoft Teams is about to go 3D thanks to a new VR meetings experience in January 2024. While that’s a new way to chat with coworkers, Microsoft is already teasing how its generative AI Copilot system will be able to handle requests for creating meeting spaces and objects in VR. We’re not sure when this will arrive, but generative AI in VR is certainly on the way.

Copilot in Microsoft Mesh.
Copilot in Microsoft Mesh.
Image: Microsoft
Nvidia says generative AI will be bigger than the internet.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang has just taken the stage at Microsoft’s Ignite event to talk about how the company is partnering with Microsoft on a variety of AI projects. “Generative AI is the single most significant platform transition in computing history,” says Huang. “In the last 40 years, nothing has been this big. It’s bigger than PC, it’s bigger than mobile, and it’s gonna be bigger than the internet, by far.” Nvidia made $6 billion in pure profit earlier this year thanks to the AI boom.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang at Microsoft Ignite 2023.
Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang at Microsoft Ignite 2023.
Image: Microsoft