Archive for the ‘Microsoft’ tag
Wall Street apparently wanted something more revolutionary out of the Xbox One that launched today, as Microsoft’s stock is down 0.66 percent. In turn, investors on news of a potential spin off, pushed Sony shares up 9 percent, coincidentally just after Microsoft announced its answer to the Sony Playstation.
Microsoft’s debut of the Xbox One today touted features including live TV, Skype group video chat, split-screen multi-tasking, voice command, social recommendations, a more sensitive Kinect, and stronger hardware for next-generation graphics. A deep partnership with Electronic Arts, Steven Spielberg’s involvement in a Halo TV series for Xbox, and exclusive early access to downloadable content for the new Call Of Duty game were all announced as well. Still, there wasn’t one thing that left people saying “PlayStation is screwed.”
The complexities of integrating with live TV and the lack of an obvious killer feature contributed to $MSFT staying flat on the day, closing down 0.66 percent, or $0.23, to $34.85. AMD, maker of the bits inside the Xbox One, also ended slightly down today, closing at 4.02, down 1.95% on the day. Both Microsoft and AMD are on an upward swing, most notable since the beginning of May when the invite for today’s announcement went out.
At the same time, Sony’s stock rose 9.25 percent, or $1.94, to reach $22.91. According to Nikkei, Sony is considering spinning off its entertainment division — a part of the company oddly left out of CEO Kazuo Hirai One Sony initiative.
But Sony wasn’t quiet on the eve of the new Xbox reveal, either. The company tried to hijack gamers’ attention to updates on Twitter and Facebook this morning with ads touting the June 10th reveal of its new PlayStation console at E3. PS4 ads told viewers they could “See It First” by RSVPing to watch Sony’s event, and offered a teaser video hosted on both Sony’s site and YouTube.
Some of what Sony has in store for the PlayStation 4 was debuted at an event in February, but details were scarce. The corporation will need a hit, though, as Sony has been hemorrhaging money with a $5.74 billion loss in its 2012 fiscal year.
The real duel will go down at E3 where both Sony and Microsoft will spill more of the beans on their new consoles. Xbox One’s incremental updates could certainly be outshined if Sony can unveil some significant advancements, not just lifeless game demos and endless specs.
[Image Credit: Spill]
The Xbox One was just unveiled at Microsoft’s Redmond campus and, true to multiple reports that circulated before the official reveal, the new console will indeed come with a Kinect.
And what a Kinect it is! The rumors of a vastly improved Kinect sensor array were right on the money — this next-generation model is capable of tracking motions as minute as wrist rotations, and Microsoft’s Marc Whitten said the new Kinect would even be able to read users’ heartbeats when they’re exercising or when players shift their weight. The new Kinect’s main camera is capable of recording 1080P RGB video at 30 frames per second (for a bit of perspective, the original model could only capture VGA video). Perhaps most importantly, the Xbox One will be capable of chewing on all the data the newfangled Kinect (no one has dropped an official name for the thing yet) captures at a rate of about 2GB of per second, which is probably partially why the onstage demos looked so brisk.
We got a brief glimpse of the new Kinect in action when Microsoft SVP Yusuf Mehdi called out commands and used minute hand gestures to manipulate content on the Xbox One — commands like “Xbox on” and “go to video” allow for near-instantaneous switching between running applications, and the Kinect is apparently also able to differentiate between users based on their voices.
In short, it’s a massive, massive upgrade compared to the venerable original model, which often exhibited issues with basic limb and motion tracking. Granted, demos we saw today were carefully staged, but the Kinect reacted to Mehdi’s commands and inputs without a hint of technical hesitation — if the new Kinect works in the living room as well as it did onstage, Microsoft may really have something here. And frankly, that’s saying something considering Microsoft managed to move 10 million of the original camera/sensor arrays between November 2010 and March 2011.
The New Xbox One Live Features Add Advanced Social Gaming Features That Could Lead To True MMORPG Experiences
While we don’t have all of the details on the new Xbox Live features announced at today’s Xbox One launch, it’s clear that Microsoft is going all-in when it comes to social and multiplayer gaming. First, they are upping the number of dedicated servers for online play from 15,000 to 300,000 and nearly all of your content and game data will be store in the cloud.
The service will also allow you to take in-game video and photos and share them over social media services. This is similar to Sony’s PS4 solution and is definitely a method allow users to create valuable and viral homemade content while still maintaining control of distribution. As games become more social and more cinematic, this will be an important differentiator and is essentially free advertising for game makers.
Finally, the new service adds asynchronous matchmaking, which means you can be searching for potential teammates (or enemies) while watching TV or playing another game. This increases the stickiness of multiplayer titles by nudging you back into the game when a worth opponent appears. Microsoft has also added “bigger matches with more players” and, most important, “living and persistent worlds.” This sounds to me like a direct attack on MMORPGs like World Of Warcraft and could make the Xbox a formidable force in the popular professional gaming subculture, a niche no console maker has yet cracked.
We should see further information about the Xbox One at E3 this summer.
Microsoft is about to unveil the next Xbox home gaming console, and they’re broadcasting the entire event live for all to watch. There will be thrills! Spills! Chills! And maybe some actual hardware, unlike at Sony’s PlayStation 4 reveal. Check it out above, or if you’re in an environment where you can’t listen in, or just prefer glorious words written by Greg Kumparak over these newfangled moving pictures, check out our live blog.
Apparently the financial analysts and institutional buyers who have drive Apple stock down hundreds of billions of dollars over the last half year have not taken the value of the iconic company’s stock into account. According to the latest BrandZ ratings, Apple is once again the most-valuable brand in the world, with a calculated value of over $185 billion.
But tech companies as a whole did well.
Those multicolored letters in Google’s logo are not cheap, coming in number two at $113.7 billion. And though much older, another tech company with letters for a logo ranked number three, as IBM’s brand was valued at $112.5 billion. The only other technology company in the top ten was Microsoft, with an overall brand value of $69.8 billion. But with telecoms, technology companies made up 29 of the top 100 brands in the world.
“Despite a more competitive marketplace and other challengers nipping at its heels, Apple’s ability to maintain its no.1 position demonstrates the value that having a strong brand brings to business,” Nick Cooper, a director for the company behind the BrandZ rankings, Millward Brown Optimor, said in a statement. “People still love the brand regardless of its stock price.”
Apple should watch out, however. Its brand value grew just one percent, compared to mobile rival Samsung’s massive 51 percent growth to number 30 in the global rankings at $21 billion.
How did it grow so quickly?
“Samsung fuelled its huge increase in brand value by balancing a remarkable period of innovation with growing market share – it spent $1.6 billion more on advertising in the last year,” Cooper said.
The top 100 brands in the world are now worth $2.6 trillion, according to Millward Brown Optimor. The ranking and awards, of course, were created by a brand research company, which might give some incentive to be generous with the valuations.
The top 10 brands globally:
- China Mobile
See all the data in visual form in this infographic. Open the image in a new window to see more detail.
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Vast Oklahoma Tornado Kills at Least 91 (The New York Times)
Emergency crews and volunteers continued to work through the early morning hours Tuesday in a frantic search for survivors of a huge tornado that ripped through parts of Oklahoma City and its suburbs, killing at least 91 people, 20 of them children, and flattening whatever was in its path, including at least two schools. Much of the tornado damage appeared to be in the suburb of Moore, where rescue workers struggled to make their way through debris-clogged streets and around downed power lines to those who are feared trapped under mountains of rubble. USA Today Amy Elliott of the state’s medical examiner’s office said today that officials could see as many as 40 more deaths from Monday’s twister. On May 3, 1999, a record-setting EF-5 tornado obliterated the city of 55,000 with winds measured at 318 mph, the highest ever on the earth’s surface. The storm killed 36 people, injured hundreds and caused about $1 billion in damages. Mashable A Facebook group is helping the victims of the tornado. On its trail of destruction, the tornado has blown debris from houses — including people’s personal belongings and important documents — many miles away. The group asks members to post photos of any items or documents that were blown into their yard, so that they can be returned to the rightful owners. RYOT News One man, David Massey, captured some amazing footage of the damage via Vine after emerging from safety. Here are his videos. The Huffington Post Twitter responded with prayers for the victims and hope for survivors. Here are a few of those prayers so far. Boston.com Kevin Durant, a three-time scoring champion for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, posted on his Twitter account that he was praying for everyone involved. He added: “Everybody stay safe!”
Yahoo Confirms Plans to Acquire, But Not ‘Screw Up,’ Tumblr (SocialTimes)
Yahoo has officially announced its plans to acquire Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Much like Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram in 2012, Yahoo’s latest purchase will bring the company a younger user base with the promise of more revenue. The Wall Street Journal In an interview Monday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said buying Tumblr instantly boosts Yahoo’s user base by 50 percent to 1 billion, and Web traffic by 20 percent, “which is really heartening.” Mayer has said repeatedly that increasing Yahoo’s “impressions,” or the number of Web page views and other interactions on Yahoo’s sites, would be the only way to boost revenue. Business Insider Now that Yahoo has announced its acquisition of Tumblr, Karp could be worth north of $220 million. Even though Karp has found great success without attending college, yet alone finishing traditional high school, he doesn’t recommend kids these days drop out of school. USA Today Tumblr could be the crown jewel in Mayer’s major reclamation project of Yahoo, which is competing with Google and Facebook for billions of dollars in advertising revenue. At a press conference in New York, Yahoo unfurled a revamped version of photo-sharing site Flickr, featuring big, bolder photos and an Android app. The New York Times Yahoo is moving its New York headquarters to the former home of The New York Times, on 43rd Street, east of Eighth Avenue, where it plans to expand. Yahoo is talking to city officials about erecting a large illuminated sign with its name on the cupola at the top of the building, where The Times once had its own sign.
Report: Facebook Testing Video-Sharing Feature (AllFacebook)
In January, Facebook prevented Twitter-owned video-sharing application Vine from accessing its find friends application-programming interface. Now, according to one report, the social network may be testing a video-sharing feature of its own.
AT&T to Open Mobile Video Chat for All Customers (CNET)
AT&T customers should be able to use any mobile video chat app before too much longer. Preloaded video-chat apps will work over AT&T’s cellular network for all customers, regardless of device or data plan, by the end of 2013, according to a statement from AT&T. The Verge Video chat has been a hot-button issue for AT&T, which long blocked iOS users from making FaceTime calls over its network. Last year, that changed, with customers on non-unlimited plans allowed to access it. TechCrunch From the sounds of it, Google won’t have to first “enable” (ask for permission?) in order for Hangouts to work. Even though it’s a pre-loaded app, it will just begin working regardless of the customer’s current data plan.
Busted: Microsoft Intercepts, Decrypts and Reads Your Skype Messages (VentureBeat)
Speaking of video, according to a test by ars technica, Microsoft is intercepting, decrypting and reading at least some Skype messages — to the point where URLs embedded in Skype chat are being visited by machines at IP addresses belonging to Microsoft … most likely a bot, but potentially a human being. “And this can only happen,” ars’ security expert Dan Goodin writes, “if Microsoft can convert the messages into human-readable form at will.”
Couple Suing Twitter to Have Handle Returned to Them (AllTwitter)
A couple in Idaho had a Twitter handle for three years and lost it because a resort going by the same name wanted the handle. According to ABC News, Leonard Barshack and Erin Smith are suing Twitter and Sun Valley Resort to stop the resort from using the @SunValley handle (which it’s using right now).
Voice of San Diego Switches to WordPress — and Adds a Bunch of Other Cool Features (10,000 Words)
Monday, the Voice of San Diego relaunched its website with new software that uses technology to help amplify those goals. It realized that its old CMS was holding them back and relaunched a spiffy new design in a move from which the rest of us in the new industry could surely learn.
Facebook Debuts Share Dialog for iOS Out of Beta, Lets Developers Add Sharing to Apps with One Line of Code (The Next Web)
Facebook on Monday announced the release of its native Share Dialog, which lets iOS developers add sharing capabilities from the social network to their app with just one line of code. The feature is now available in the Facebook SDK for iOS.
Pinterest Delivers Pin Buttons to Other Mobile Apps (SocialTimes)
As part of a flurry of activity, Pinterest Monday announced that it had launched “Pin It” buttons in several popular craft, photo and commerce apps. Etsy, one of the first websites to include “Pin It” buttons on all of its photos, joins the first cohort of mobile apps to get the buttons.
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Which is precisely why Leap Motion released this video showcasing its impressive Windows 7 and Windows 8 integration:
With Leap Motion, you can now do everything available in Windows for multitouch functionality — without actually touching anything. The company promises that operating system-level functionality and web browsing capabilities will work out of the box, no software or driver installations required, and will be simple to use.
“We want our users to have a magical experience, with easy and natural movements in the air leading to amazing interactions,” co-founder David Holz said in a statement. “Leap Motion’s mission is to break down the barriers between people and technology.”
The demo shows a user navigating Windows 8′s home screen tiles via in-air gestures, selecting and rearranging tiles, opening a web browser, and surfing sites while zooming sections for a closer look, all without touching a mouse or a touch-sensitive screen. In addition, previewing one of Leap Motion’s intended uses as a controller in the media room or kitchen, the demo shows how simple it is to scroll through Netflix, select a movie, and begin watching. Or to draw a scene in one of the Leap Motion apps, then rotate it in 3D.
The Leap Motion device is tiny, about the size of a pack of gum. It senses both of your hands and all 10 of your fingers with 200 times the sensitivity of the Xbox 360 Kinect. The company recently announced OEM bundling with select computers from ASUS, and an even more interesting deal with HP that will see the hardware melt away into the computer itself, embedding Leap Motion’s functionality into laptops to make them gesture-enabled right out of the box, without any hardware components to plug in.
And there’s more to come:
“We’re looking to embed our tech into watches, and smartphones, and glasses, and everything,” Leap Motion’s COO Andy Miller told me a couple of weeks ago.
All I want to know is: Where’s the Mac OS X demo?
Image credits: Leap Motion
According to a test by Ars Technica, Microsoft is intercepting, decrypting, and reading at least some Skype messages — to the point where URLs embedded in Skype chat are being visited by machines at IP addresses belonging to Microsoft … most likely a bot, but potentially a human being.
“And this can only happen,” Ars’ security expert Dan Goodin writes, “If Microsoft can convert the messages into human-readable form at will.”
Skype currently uses 256-bit AES encryption to secure communications between users, which is considered to be very secure. Secure, perhaps. But not very private — when Ars sent messages via Skype containing four web links created specifically for this experiment, two of them were accessed by a Microsoft-controlled machine.
Skype may use automated scanning within Instant Messages and SMS to (a) identify suspected spam and/or (b) identify URLs that have been previously flagged as spam, fraud, or phishing links. In limited instances, Skype may capture and manually review instant messages or SMS in connection with Spam prevention efforts. Skype may, in its sole discretion, block or prevent delivery of suspected Spam, and remove suspicious links from messages.
That’s not good if you have an expectation of and desire for privacy. And now that it’s obvious that Microsoft itself can read your private messages, the question is who else has that ability too?
Almost a year ago, the FBI requested private backdoor access into multiple communication and social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and yes, Skype. Wiretaps are increasingly useless, the FBI realized, and modern communications were defeating the bureau’s attempts at surveillance. Whether these were ever granted or not is unclear, but Microsoft has a patent on ways to make it happen.
Skype may disclose personal information to respond to legal requirements, exercise our legal rights or defend against legal claims, to protect Skype’s interests, fight against fraud and to enforce our policies or to protect anyone’s rights, property, or safety.
However, if you want more security — and privacy — on Skype, you can have it. You simply have to pre-encrpt any messages (as a Polish professor discovered) and then decrypt them on the receiving end.
I won’t do that, and most Skype users won’t do that, probably because we’re not discussion matters of national security or engaging in nefarious behavior. But it’s disappointing, if only the cold slap of reality in a dangerous and violent world, that private isn’t really private any more.
And it would be nice to know the exact limits of Skype privacy and security.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a Finish mobile company was working on a ground-breaking game-changing world-shaking new smartphone operating system based on Linux rising from the ashes of Intel’s Moblin and its own Maemo projects.
That lasted a few months, at least.
Nokia and Intel had decided in 2010 that they needed an answer to Apple’s iPhone juggernaut which was taking high-end smartphone sales away from Helsinki and making it completely obvious that the king of chips had no chips in the mobile processor poker game. Meego was the answer, and Meego would be the operating system that would lead the then-still-powerful Nokia back to the forefront of the mobile market, and would make Intel relevant in small, low-powered, and battery-life-efficient phone CPUs.
Unfortunately, one loser plus another loser often just equals two losers. And, unfortunately for Nokia and Intel, Google and Samsung took their lunch and ate it, too, as Android began to reign uber alles. So Nokia turned to Microsoft for salvation — and a very painful process it has been — and Meego lost its way.
But not entirely.
Jolla, a new and independent smartphone vendor which almost no-one but mobile wonks has ever heard of, took the core of Meego and built Sailfish, a new mobile operating system that is built on an open-source project named Mer that is the new incarnation of Meego, and is just now teasing the coming-soon release of its very first device, the oddly named and oddly designed but also oddly attractive “The Other Half.”
Surprise, surprise, Jolla is based in Helsinki, Finland, where there just happens to be a surplus of top-notch mobile talent available lately (shocking, isn’t it). And surprise, surprise, all of the top Jolla leaders are ex-Nokia employees. Almost two years ago, Jolla announced its intentions of bringing a new smartphone to market. The biggest surprise is that they seem to be succeeding.
We are Jolla. We are Unlike
Jolla appears to be a two-part device, consisting of a 4.5-inch screen, a buttonless main phone handset, and various colorful plastic cases, or “other halves.”
Snap one on, and your phone OS changes.
Changes color, changes battery life, perhaps, changes content such as apps and media, and changes in other ways yet to be invented, based on the creativity of Jolla and partners.
Actual devices have yet to be released, and the details are fewer than might be desired, but the key point is that the Jolla is Android app compatible. Which, frankly, is probably essential for any new smartphone platform entering the market today. The smartphone market is an ecosystem battle, not a device battle primarily, and any new entrants with any real aspirations for success have to plug into what is already available and — largely — a global standard.
Interestingly, the main Sailfish operating system screen appears to draw from Windows Phone design elements, with titles on the home screen that aggregate information that you might be interested in.
According to Engadget, the phone will have a dual-core processor (type unknown), LTE, an 8MP rear camera and a front-facing camera, and have 16GB onboard storage plus micro-SD expansion.
At the very least, it’s an interesting take on mobile that enables users to participate in some — if not all — of the benefits of the world’s leading smartphone operating system, while still having some unique and differentiating factors. Jolla says it will offer the world’s best multitasking experience, and will be so intuitive that you can operate your favorite features “without even looking at the device.”
Main navigation on the phone is buttonless, with the four main icons appearing to be Phone, Messages, Browser, and Apps. The Sailfish operating system will also support gesture control, the company said.
I’m assuming that full Google integration and access to Google services such as music would not be included, and syncing contacts and other core data would not be as simple as on a straight Android phone.
However, Jolla seems to be competing on differentiation. And while the jury will be out on how successfully they’ve achieved it until we have actual devices in our hands, at first glance, they’ve succeeded.
Image credits: Jolla
One of the memories that sticks with me most about the launch of the Xbox 360 was a silly analogy about inhaling. I can’t remember who said it, but the general idea was that it had a concave body to convey breathing in, perhaps a precursor to exclaiming joy. It was as daft as it sounds, but for a while there the 360 was indeed a breath of fresh air.
Xbox 360 had a lot going for it, from online connectivity to a much simpler architecture that developers preferred over the PlayStation 3. In its first few years it maintained the position of being a very games-focused console. Xbox 360 was the home of indie games, for example, and digital distribution. It widely popularized the notion of achievements.
But three, maybe four, years ago Microsoft started to push bigger ideas. It left a lot of the gamer-ish stuff behind and redesigned the console’s dashboard toward a media focus. Over a series of updates, Xbox slowly went Metro, became about Netflix, avatars and Kinect. Most of these innovations didn’t stick so well, and the cost they incurred was significant. Xbox 360 went from being a clear proposition to a complex and all-over-the-place machine.
Many Kinects were sold, but few people actually used them for long. Many channels of TV content were brought into the fold, but finding room for them essentially killed its indie games market and lost a lot of credibility with that group. Ultimately, the successes of these divergences were generally mute. (18 billion hours of video sounds like a big deal until you break it down per unit over a year.)
This is the problem with long hardware cycles (Xbox 360 is 8 years old). Lacking annualized releases of better technology (for some reason the console industry still believes it has to carry on this way), the platform story grows old after a couple of years, leading to the urge to accessorize. Often in so doing it loses itself in the ensuing cruft, and then needs a big reset. All of which leads up to Tuesday’s news: the big event in Redmond to unveil the next Xbox. And boy does the company need it to go well.
Perception-wise, Microsoft has had a bad couple of years. Windows Phone may have won a number of plaudits for its looks, but nobody really went for it. Windows 8 sold a ton of copies, but most users sort of hate it. Surface had a glitzy launch, but people are still buying iPads. That leaves Xbox as Microsoft’s one remaining big consumer push. This one has to go right, or lots of talking heads will start to ask if there’s any market that Microsoft can get right any more.
The reason the company has had a lot of these issues, I think, is that it’s bad at listening. Microsoft consistently gets lost in grand visions, visions that only it can afford to develop, and produces super-complicated propositions that nobody loves. All those years spend trying to convince the public about Windows Live services. All that time spent trying to bring us around to using Bing. All that wasted effort trying to unify user interfaces with Metro (which at its heart is just a bit broken, as has been said over and over) and who really cares? Grand visions that lose the plot are Microsoft’s forte.
Yet, gaming folks are pretty excited about the next Xbox. Will it feature new horsepower? Guaranteed. Will it have Kinect baked into the box itself? Probably, but they don’t care. Will it require an Internet connection? Maybe, and they’re not sure what they think about that. Will it have lots of content partnerships? Undoubtedly. Will it copy Sony’s idea of a Share button on the joypad? Perhaps. Will there be a Halo game on it? You know it.
Will it actually be anything fundamentally different, though? It doesn’t sound like it, but that may not be a bad thing. There is often an assumption in tech blog circles that the audience wants permanent revolution, but often it doesn’t. Often it just wants the thing that it knows works, and if that thing gets that job right then it’s happy. The console gaming audience generally doesn’t want consoles to do anything fundamentally different. It tends to embrace features that are additive to its core desires, like online multiplayer or achievements, but all it wants are big TV games with joypads and mad graphics. Everything else is optional.
There are maybe 150 million console gamers around the world, judging by platform sales over the last few generations, and they love their expensive splashy videogames. They’ve never particularly cared for the frilly extras, like avatars, but that doesn’t stop them buying in. They like that their consoles have ESPN on them, but those are not crucial purchase decisions. They’re not convergence customers in the way that some PowerPoint deck in the depths of Redmond probably drew a few years ago to justify unified interfaces, but again they don’t mind as long as it’s not going to get in the way of playing Dishonored. For those people, the next Xbox is exciting because of the prospect of an even more-lavish Call of Duty and an even more-next-generation Skyrim. All they really want is a box that they believe can deliver that experience.
The risk for Microsoft is if it screws that message up.
When videogame platforms live too long, their platform holder often loses sight of its core competency. When the PlayStation 2 was over it had explored so many areas of the market that it was impossible to convey all of them in one coherent story. Sony tried, with the PlayStation 3, but the result was so confused that developers only really heard “it’s over-complicated” while consumers heard “it’s $599 for Ridge Racer.” This is a business built on razors-and-blades thinking.
A similar thing is happening to Nintendo with the Wii U. The Wii was a wonderfully simple device with a couple of very smart accessories (like the Wii Fit) and a raft of dumb ones. By the time the Wii U came around Nintendo seemed to have lost its sense of focus that drove Wii, instead releasing a very confusing machine. Now it’s paying the price.
The biggest risk for the next Xbox is if Microsoft departs so far from its core audience that the audience feels turned off. If the company comes out only talking about transmedia, television tie-ins, movies on demand, instant messaging, Internet Explorer, phone syncing, emailing from your couch, holographic avatars, Spotify subscriptions, Twitter integration, Facebook integration and party gaming then I fear for Xbox’s survival. The gamers will ask “Yes, but, where’s the games Steve?”
At its heart, the next Xbox needs to simply be about the games the games the games. Will Microsoft actually listen this time?