Best of the Web for Windows users - 13 - 19 December 2015

Christmas is coming and there’s not much going on in terms of truly breaking news. We’ve learned just a couple of interesting thigs this week: that Microsoft is preparing for an accelerated release pace in 2016 for Windows 10, that OneDrive placeholders might come back to Windows and that Windows 10 Mobile will be rolled out to Windows Phone 8.1 users only next year. To learn more details about these events as well as other cool stuff that’s worth reading, read this week’s recap:

Microsoft: the news of the week

These articles are this week's most important news in Microsoft's ecosystem:

Microsoft releases 2015's final Windows 10 preview build, promises faster pace next year - Just ahead of the holiday lull, Microsoft released a new Windows 10 preview build. Set your expectations accordingly: there are no new features to be found in build 11082. Instead, most of the work is in preparation for an accelerated release pace in 2016.

OneDrive Placeholders To Return With Redstone - A long time ago, in Window 8.1, Microsoft had a feature for OneDrive called placeholders. This feature allowed you to keep a very small file on your local machine that showed a thumbnail of the document that was stored in the cloud. This feature was removed from Windows 10 but it seems that it might be coming back next year.

Evolving Microsoft SmartScreen to protect you from drive-by attacks - Microsoft has announced that it has updated its SmartScreen phishing and malware filtering technology for Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge in Windows 10 to protect users from drive-by attacks. More details on what this means, in this official announcement.

Windows Phone 8.1 users won't get Windows 10 Mobile update until 2016 - Microsoft is planning to make Windows 10 Mobile available to existing Windows Phone 8.1 users starting in early 2016, rather than this month, officials are now saying. Microsoft officials still have not released a comprehensive list of which existing Windows Phone handsets will and won't get Windows 10 Mobile.

Another leak of the Microsoft Lumia 850, now in 4 color schemes - The floodgates on the Microsoft Lumia 850, a.k.a. Honjo, have opened, and photos of it are coming from all corners of the world. Here’s an image of this smartphone, coming out of China.

Netflix Launches New Universal App for Windows 10 as Windows Store Reaches 2.5 Billion Visits Netflix is updating its Windows Store app to embrace Microsoft's universal app platform to run the same apps across PCs, tablets, phones, and the Xbox One console. While this initial update will be targeted at PCs and tablets running Windows 10, the same app will hit smartphones powered by Windows 10 early next year.

Path to end Windows Phone support at the end of this year - While some developers are joining on the Windows 10 Mobile bandwagon, others are ditching it. Here’s some bad news for the users of the Path app.

Microsoft brings Skype for Business to Android - Microsoft’s Lync replacement, Skype for Business, is now available for Android. Available without a fussy beta tag, Skype for Business — for Android — brings all that you like about Skype, but with a mobile twist.

Microsoft Translator adds real-time conversations to mobile apps and wearables - Traveling to another country where you don’t speak the local language just got a lot easier. Microsoft has developed synchronous translation for its apps on Android, Android Wear, iOS and Apple Watch. The technology is based on the same machine-learning engine used by Skype Translator, Word Online and the Office desktop suite of apps.

Microsoft's on-again-off-again relationship with the Chinese government is on again - Microsoft announced a joint venture designed to bring it back into the good graces of the Chinese government. The new joint venture is the next step in a partnership with China Electronics Technology Group (CETC) announced last September. More details are shared in this news article.

Microsoft has launched a dedicated philanthropic organization - Microsoft is adding a new organization under its belt: Microsoft Philanthropies. As one might infer from the name, Microsoft Philanthropies will be dedicated to humanitarian causes with a technology lean, akin to Google.org. It will be led by Brad Smith, who was appointed to the role of company-wide president in September and has been with Microsoft since 1993.

Cool tips and guides

We would like to share several tips and guides from other websites in the tech blogosphere:

Mathematical gift wrapping - Mathematician Katie Steckles shows logical solutions to wrapping variously shaped presents. It’s very cool!

Mozilla launches 64-bit Firefox for Windows [Update] - 64-bit Firefox is now available on Windows, and will give users increased security and performance, allowing the browser to take advantage of modern hardware. This will be most noticeable when using web-based games and applications, or any other resource-intensive task in the browser.

How to Add Your Music Library to Steam and Use the Steam Music Player - Steam’s Music Player allows you to add a MP3 file stored on your computer to a local music library and play it back — inside or outside a game, with a controller or keyboard and mouse. This guide shows how it is done.

This is the last "Best of the Web" roundup of the year. We will come back with a new episode, in January 2016.