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Bringing you closer to what you love with new experiences in Windows 11

As the PC continues to play a more meaningful role in our lives, we will continue to evolve Windows 11 as a connection point between people, ideas and creations. Today, we’re excited to announce new experiences for Windows 11 are starting to become available, including an Amazon Appstore preview available in the U.S., Taskbar improvements…

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As the PC continues to play a more meaningful role in our lives, we will continue to evolve Windows 11 as a connection point between people, ideas and creations. Today, we’re excited to announce new experiences for Windows 11 are starting to become available, including an Amazon Appstore preview available in the U.S., Taskbar improvements and two redesigned apps: Media Player and Notepad. We can’t wait to see what you do with them.

Enjoy the Amazon Appstore Preview featuring select Android™ apps and games in the Microsoft Store on Windows 11


Windows has always been about enabling you to work and play your way. And what makes Windows, well, Windows, is the variety of apps available to let you do just that. Since the launch of Windows 11, the Microsoft Store has attracted more creators and users around the world; today we are adding over 1,000 more apps and games in partnership with the Amazon Appstore. Windows 11 users in the U.S. can access the Amazon Appstore Preview1 in the Microsoft Store, and popular apps like Audible, Kindle, Subway Surfers, Lords Mobile, Khan Academy Kids and many more. This experience, built on the AndroidTM platform and supported by Intel® Bridge Technology, introduces a new category of mobile apps and games available for Windows.

To get started with the preview, open and update the Microsoft Store (click Get updates in Microsoft Store > Library) – search your favorite titles or explore our new curated collection of mobile apps and games; when you’ve found what you’re looking for, download them through the Amazon Appstore.1 These apps feel like a part of Windows, integrating naturally with Windows input and windowing experiences, like Snap layouts.

Today’s preview reinforces our commitment to be the most open platform for creators, and we look forward to sharing more details later this year on how we’ll broaden availability with the Amazon Appstore. We can’t wait to hear your feedback on the experience.

New enhancements to the Taskbar

The Taskbar is an ever-present launch point for everything we do on our PCs. That’s why we’re continuing to invest in experiences that make it easier to see all the information you need now and take action directly, no matter how many screens you’re working from. These new Taskbar enhancements are initially available in the February 2022 non-security preview release.

Mute/unmute & share any window from the Taskbar

In our hybrid world, the time spent connecting through video conferencing continues to rise. Phrases like “You’re on mute” or “Can you see my slides?” have become common things we say or hear throughout our day, and we want to help change that. Mute/unmute and share any window from the Taskbar are designed to make it easier for you to take quick actions and have confidence that you are at your best while on video calls. Instantly accessible from your Taskbar, window sharing and mute controls are available to Microsoft Teams users with a work or school account.


To try these out, during a call an active mic icon will appear on the right side of your Taskbar. You can easily toggle audio on and off without having to return to the call window so you can quickly reply or mute, even if your Teams app is not visible.


Additionally, window sharing for any open app is just two clicks away – simply hover over the app icon on your Taskbar to launch the share control, then confirm you’re ready to share it live. This will help you confidently share just the content you mean to share and nothing more.

Weather on the Taskbar

We’ve updated your entry point to Widgets to show live weather content in the left-hand corner of your Taskbar, so your weather is always up to date and available at a glance.


To try it out, simply hover over the weather icon; the Widgets board will open and stay open until you move your mouse away. To keep Widgets open, click the weather icon once, and it will stay open until you click somewhere outside of the Widgets board. If your Taskbar is currently left-aligned, this new entry point for Widgets will be to the right of the task view icon.

Clock on a second monitor

As more people are working, learning and connecting from home, many are working using multiple monitors and want access to the same information across their screens. We listened to feedback and are now bringing the date and time to your second monitor. When a secondary monitor is connected, your clock and date will now be shown on the Taskbar of the secondary monitor or monitors for glanceability as you work or play.

Introducing two redesigned apps: Media Player and Notepad

The PC has become the entertainment hub for many people – their go-to place to create and view content. The newly redesigned Media Player app was created to make listening to and watching your multimedia content more enjoyable.


At the heart of Media Player is a full-featured music library that allows you to quickly browse and play music, as well as create and manage playlists. All your content in the music and video folders on your PC will appear automatically in your library, and you can also tell Media Player where to look for additional content in app settings. Media Player is optimized for accessibility, with improved keyboard shortcuts and access keys for keyboard users as well as with other assistive technologies. Media Player replaces the Groove Music app; if your music collection is in Groove Music today, your library and playlists will migrate automatically.


Like physical notepads around your house, the Notepad app is designed to be a simple companion for all your basic notetaking needs. The redesigned user interface feels both fresh, with new design features from Windows 11, and familiar, with the hallmark simplicity and ease of use Notepad is known for. In addition to design updates, we added dark mode, so the app feels more cohesive with your Windows experience. If your default system theme is Dark Mode, Notepad will automatically adopt the dark theme, or you can also select the app theme manually from the new settings page. Menus have also been simplified to make it easier to find the actions you want to take in the app, and we’ve added new highly requested features like multi-level undo, colorful emojis, and a modern and efficient find-and-replace experience. To get the redesigned Media Player and Notepad apps, visit the Microsoft Store.

Windows innovation investments going forward

Windows 11 is designed to bring you closer to what you love, and these new experiences continue to make it easier for you to work, play, create and connect, no matter where you are or how many screens you have. As today’s release shows, we’re committed to delivering experiences into Windows 11 that enrich and inspire people’s lives. Over time, you’ll see us release new features into Windows 11 for end users more frequently in addition to our annual update. We will leverage the variety of update mechanisms we have in place including servicing and Microsoft Store updates. Our goal is to deliver continuous innovation, providing you with the best experiences year-round.

We will continue to listen to your feedback and bring new experiences to life on Windows 11. As we shared earlier this month, we’ll leverage the incredible community of Windows Insiders to incubate new ideas and put more emphasis on trying out different concepts with our features and services. The year ahead is an exciting one for Windows and Microsoft as we enter a new era for the PC. Looking forward, we will continue to focus on empowering people and organizations to navigate hybrid work and life, make Windows the best open platform for the world’s innovation, invest in Windows as a force in more inclusive and equitable experiences, continue to focus on security, make Windows the best place for gaming and a gateway to the metaverse, and support broader company efforts around sustainability. We can’t wait to share more with you over time.

1 Hardware dependent: See Windows 11 Specs and System Requirements | Microsoft.

Android is a trademark of Google LLC. Amazon and all related marks are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc., or its affiliates. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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Babylon.js 5.0: News Tools – Part 2

We are artists, developers, creators, and dreamers and we want to make it as simple as possible to enable everyone to bring their ideas to life. With this new version of Babylon.js, we set out to make it even easier to develop thanks to a suite of new and exciting tools. Animation Curve Editor Creating and…

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We are artists, developers, creators, and dreamers and we want to make it as simple as possible to enable everyone to bring their ideas to life. With this new version of Babylon.js, we set out to make it even easier to develop thanks to a suite of new and exciting tools.

Animation Curve Editor

Creating and modifying animation data in a rendering engine can be complicated and verbose, but not anymore! Babylon.js 5.0 adds a built-in Animation Curve Editor (ACE), making it incredibly easy to create and modify animation data directly in your Babylon scene. As with all Babylon.js Platform tools, you can also save your animation data to the Babylon.js Snippet Server and load it back into your Babylon.js scene with one single line of code!

See it in action here: Play with the Animation Curve Editor

Learn more: Animation Curve Editor Documentation

Performance Profiler

Performance is one of the most important things to keep in mind as you create advanced interactive 3D experiences. After all, you don’t want to create an awesome experience that only runs on the most high-end graphics cards, right? You want to create something that EVERYONE can enjoy, and this means keeping track of and optimizing the performance of your scene. Babylon.js 5.0 makes performance debugging and management a breeze with the introduction of the new Performance Profiler. This handy tool allows you to see a real time graph of key performance indicators of your scene, all hooked up live! Make a change, see the impact on perf. It’s really that simple!

See it in action here: Performance Profiler Demo

Learn more: Performance Profiler Documentation

GUI Editor Beta

Babylon.js has a powerful GUI system that offers countless widgets, controls, and properties to help you create rich GUIs. With Babylon.js 5.0 that powerful system becomes far simpler to use with the introduction of the GUI Editor Beta. While still in active development, the GUI Editor Beta is a rich and modern tool, allowing you to create the perfect GUI with a simple and intuitive drag-and-drop interface. Say goodbye to thousands of lines of GUI code and hello to a world of design with the GUI Editor Beta and loading your creations with a single line of code!

See it in action here: GUI Editor Beta Demo

Try it out for yourself: GUI Editor

Learn more: GUI Editor Beta Documentation

New Node Material Nodes

The Node Material Editor is one of the most advanced tools available in the Babylon Platform. One simple UI that helps you generate stunning GLSL shaders with ease. With Babylon.js 5.0 the Node Material gets even better with the introduction of several powerful new nodes!

Check out the new nodes:

Learn More: Node Material Documentation

Asset Librarian

The Babylon.js Platform offers a large library of free Creative Commons 0 assets available for you to use in your Babylon.js scenes, completely for free. With Babylon.js 5.0, accessing these assets is easier and faster than ever! The new Asset Librarian brings a new Assets namespace that you can use in your projects to easily access the 200+ free assets to make your Babylon.js scenes soar.

Try it out: Asset Librarian Demo

Learn More: Asset Librarian Documentation

Dev Stories Documentation

Babylon.js 5.0 adds a whole new category of documentation called “Dev Stories.” These new tutorials are designed to walk you, step-by-step, through some common scenarios that many Babylon.js developers ask about. From setting up a Babylon.js project quickly, adding interactive 3D elements to your e-commerce site, to deploying your Babylon.js project to a Native Application, “Dev Stories” are rich, deep, detailed tutorials aimed at helping you take your project from idea to reality!

Check It Out: Dev Stories!

“Going The Distance With Babylon.js” A New Book               

We are also incredibly excited to share that alongside Babylon.js 5.0, community member and talented author Josh Elster has written an entirely new book about Babylon.js 5.0. Published by Packt Publishing, “Going The Distance With Babylon.js” is written from the mindset of taking you through the entire development process of building a game with Babylon.js from the ground up. We are thrilled to partner with Josh and Packt on this book and think it’ll be a great addition to your library and accelerate your Babylon.js learning journey.

Pick Up Your Copy Here: Babylon.js 5.0: The Book

Beside the tooling, there are also a ton of new features in the engine itself. Check out part three to learn more about the exciting new improvements with Babylon.js 5.0.

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How Windows speech-to-text and other tools can help address educational inequity

Graham, a 12-year-old boy who lives in Kansas, has a neurological condition that renders him unable to read or write. But, thanks to Windows speech-to-text, Immersive Reader and other tools, he’s been able to look forward to the future. He now aces book reports and makes business cards for his lawn-mowing service thanks to those…

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Graham, a 12-year-old boy who lives in Kansas, has a neurological condition that renders him unable to read or write. But, thanks to Windows speech-to-text, Immersive Reader and other tools, he’s been able to look forward to the future. He now aces book reports and makes business cards for his lawn-mowing service thanks to those tools. He dreams of being a doctor.

Features like these can help address inequity in schools, empowering students like Graham to find their voices and be game changers.

See the video below. To learn more about Graham and some of the ways teachers are using technology to help address inequity in the classroom, visit Microsoft Stories.




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Using Azure and Windows 11, IRZ consulting company helps farmers save water and power

Water is one of the most precious resources on Earth. And as someone whose family has been farming for generations, Fred Ziari has made it his life’s work to help growers be more efficient with this vital element for their crops, as well as the energy it takes to distribute it. Ziari is the CEO…

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Water is one of the most precious resources on Earth. And as someone whose family has been farming for generations, Fred Ziari has made it his life’s work to help growers be more efficient with this vital element for their crops, as well as the energy it takes to distribute it.

Ziari is the CEO of IRZ Engineering & Consulting, which provides services to agriculture communities around the world. The company is based in eastern Oregon, which he says is 95% efficient in its water use, vs. about 40% globally.

Water management is directly tied to crop productivity. IRZ offers water management services for large scale farms (100 acres or more), using water sensors and Microsoft Azure cloud services. This Internet of Things (IoT) solution links the internet connected sensors to the cloud. Azure SQL Server manages the incoming data and then IRZ uses custom apps to deliver that information to farmers, leading to decisions that help them save them 15-20% in water and power usage annually, which translates to millions of dollars. Windows 11 PCs and Microsoft 365 are must-haves for IRZ to smoothly conduct its daily business.

By reducing both water and energy in irrigated farming, IRZ customers conserve over 10 billion gallons of water every year.


Born in Northern Iran on a farm along the Caspian Sea, Ziari says generations of his family grew about 30 different types of crops, so agriculture has always been a big part of his life.

“Growing up in a family farm, I always believed that the technology of agriculture was more important to me and more interesting than the farming itself,” Ziari says. “I felt that by using water more efficiently, you can increase productivity by many, many fold.”

Fifty years ago, he came to the U.S. when he was 18.

He went to Texas A&M University for his undergrad and graduate studies before joining the faculty at Washington State University as a researcher in water management, specializing in irrigated agriculture.

Fred Ziari of IRZ

Irrigation and rainfall are the two sources most farms use to water their crops. Irrigated agriculture has become more important since it’s not so dependent on the environment and changing climate conditions to assure production and yield. But that means farmers need to use water more efficiently.

“If you put too much water to the crop, you are drowning it because the roots need oxygen. If you put too much water, you’re suffocating them,” Ziari says. “If you can put just the right amount of water, your productivity increases substantially.”

Soil moisture sensor up-close, in a potato field

In 1982, he moved to Oregon. Two years after that, he started IRZ engineering consulting, when he was 30.

Ziari got some of his best business advice from his grandfather. When he was a teen, his grandfather told him to be brave, take risks and create something, and good things would happen. As an entrepreneur, Ziari says that courage is a must. He also believes in a purposeful life – helping others, serving communities.

“You can only manage what you measure, so we rely tremendously on field sensors and climate input technologies – as well as modeling – using software to achieve our water management goals,” Ziari says. “Our company has been using Azure cloud services to provide near real time information and data to the farmers in multiple states: Oregon, Washington, Idaho and around the globe. So that has been a game changer for us on how we provide information and data to farmers – and how quickly they’re able to make irrigation decisions based on that data.”

Tim Berk of IRZ

Before Azure, they had to send a soil scientist and agricultural engineer to the farms and they would measure soil moisture, write it down on paper and bring it to the office. And then another person input the data. IRZ’s technical team installs real-time moisture sensors that go up to a meter deep and report what is happening with soil moisture and how much of the crop is taking water out of the soil every 15 minutes. They’re also tapping into weather stations and using proprietary software to forecast crop water use. It’s a massive amount of data – that’s now connected to Azure. Then apps forward that information to farmers on their desktops, laptops and mobile devices so they can decide when and how much to irrigate.

At the IRZ offices, engineers rely on Windows 11 and Microsoft 365 daily, such as using the centered task bar, widgets and a simplified start menu; as well as PowerPoint or Excel for calculations needed for sophisticated modeling or presenting ideas to clients.

Telemetry unit with the rain/irrigation gauge (black object) on the left in a potato field, where the crop is at a later stage of growth

Tim Berk, who’s been with IRZ for about 20 years, is the company’s IT manager. He says it’s been a long road to where they are with technology.

Within their customer base, the acceptance of technology has increased. In earlier years, Berk says it was difficult to encourage a grower or one of their customers to go online to get information – whether that was a weather report or a report IRZ published. In more recent years, as the internet has become standard, those growers have embraced web-based technologies.

IRZ chose Affirma as its technology partner about seven years ago to help them in other areas.

“Affirma allows us to do things that we can’t do ourselves,” Berk says. “They’ve got a lot of talent to draw from, whether it’s a data architect, a web developer or UI/graphics arts designer. Our customers also benefit from our relationship with Affirma. They help us bring our ideas to life and in their best form possible. Our expertise is in irrigation, consulting and engineering. With Affirma, we have a deep bench with talent and data architecture, software engineering, user interface design.”

Berk started at IRZ doing field work, then moved over to his current role in technology, where he’s been the majority of his time there.

Soil moisture sensor installed in a field

“Water management is important for a couple of reasons,” he says. “It allows growers to better manage costs associated with irrigating their crops and fields. Secondly, it’s important for the environment to use water wisely. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the planet.”

In the past, IRZ hosted its own website and infrastructure, which was very expensive and difficult to implement. With Azure, they have all those things available to them without having to manage it themselves. Being cloud-based helps IRZ with redundancy and geo-located backups of services – something Berk says puts a small business on the same level as big business.

As a result, they’re giving farmers and growers the biggest benefit of all: time.

Traditionally, a farmer would have to visit his field multiple times a week, even every day. With IRZ’s sensors in the field, farmers can have the confidence to take time off and still be able to monitor their fields in near real-time.

Berk frames the company’s services to growers as a decision support system, starting with sensors in the field – moisture in the soil or applied irrigation – that transmit that data via satellite or by cell modems.

From there, IRZ imports that data into its system where it’s stored in Azure SQL databases, and then a number of processes run within a web application. And then it’s available to IRZ customers in near real-time in the form of reports on either a tablet, smartphone, a PC or a web browser.

During the summer growing season, fields can get dry – sometimes all at the same time. But farmers can’t add irrigation to the entire field at the same time due to the nature of the way the irrigation machines work. They have to plan ahead.

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