Microsoft demonstrates Xbox One user interface ahead of launch

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on November 10th, 2013

Microsoft has been pretty coy about showing off Xbox One’s user interface…until now, that is. Xbox’s Yusuf Mehdi and Marc Whitten demonstrate the One’s UI and its speedy multitasking prowess in the 12-minute video embedded above.

They mostly demonstrate features we’re already aware of, but seeing truly is believing in this case. Sit down in front of your Xbox One-equipped TV and Kinect will sense your presence, recognize you, and automatically sign you into your Xbox Live account. If your buddy’s with you too, no problem; Xbox will sign both of you in and you can switch between your personalize dashboard and your friend’s simply by saying “Xbox, show my stuff.”

The One’s home screen is pretty straightforward. The middle, main section is called Home and there is the space that shows you your most recent live session, whether that may be a game or an app. To the left of Home is Pins; this is a customizable space where you can pin and save your favorite and most frequently used apps and content for easy access. And to the right of Home is Store; this space is divided into various storefronts such as Games, Movies & TV, Music, and Apps.

Multitasking on Xbox One, or jumping in and out of games and apps, is truly a breeze. In this demo, Yusuf and Marc are playing Forza Motorsport 5. Say “Xbox, go to Netflix” and the system will automatically pause the game and jump into the Netflix app. Say “Xbox, return to Forza Motorsport 5″ and you’ll jump back into the game exactly where you had left off. It’s just as easy to switch to Internet Explorer, Hulu Plus, and any other app you might have installed on your console.

Also discussed are the advantages of having your games system tied to your cable box. With the One’s HDMI IN port you can hook your TV feed into the Xbox and browse and watch live TV through the system. So, when you’re watching TV now you receive Xbox notifications and jump directly into a game when an invite is presented. You may also receive a Skype call when you’re watching TV and you just as easily pause your programming to initiate a video chat. Skype on Xbox One boasts a 1080p HD widescreen picture and Kinect will smartly track your movements as you move around your living space during a conversation.

Lastly, two new features of Xbox Live are demonstrated here. With Game DVR, gamers can record their gameplay, edit it and share it with friends via the Upload Studio app. You can even select picture-in-picture mode which will record your gameplay as well as instruct Kinect to record you and your narration as you play. With One Guide, you can browse your TV channel lineup by saying things like “Xbox, what’s on HBO” or “Xbox, what’s on ESPN.” You can also create customized favorites lists within One Guide with your apps; for example you can make it easy to browse Hulu Plus’ latest offerings right inside One Guide without having to jump into the app itself.

Side note: Speaking of digital entertainment apps, Microsoft has announced the full list of said apps that will be available on Xbox One at launch and you’ll find the full list after the break.

But words can only say so much. Hit play and discover just how fast and intuitive the new Xbox really is. Xbox One hits the market in just 12 days on November 22.

Update: Yusuf is back to demo another Xbox One feature not covered in the extensive video above. It’s called Snap and it allows you to “snap” or pin an app to your screen while you’re doing something else. For example, while you’re playing Forza you can say “Xbox, snap Internet Explorer” to pull up the browser  and view a website while you’re playing the game. You can even say “Xbox, snap TV” and you can watch live TV while you’re racing. It’s multitasking for the hyper-active generation. Watch it in action after the break. (Click here for more…)

Sony solidifies PS4 launch titles and digital entertainment apps

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 10th, 2013

It’s just five days until Sony releases its next-gen console the PlayStation 4. Previously we had only known the PS4′s “launch window titles,” those games that would release for the system before year’s end. Now Sony’s made known all 22 launch titles that will release alongside the console on November 15; they include 5 first-party games developed by Sony Computer Entertainment, 12 third-party titles, and 5 indie titles. See them all listed after the break.

In addition to announcing PS4′s launch titles, Sony also shared the 13 digital entertainment apps that will be available on the system starting day one and the most popular ones like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus are all there. The full list of apps follows after the break.

[Via PlayStation Blog 1, 2] (Click here for more…)

Apple reports 2013 Q4 earnings: $7.5b profit on $37.5b revenue

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 10th, 2013

On October 28 Apple reported its third quarter financial results. Apple posted a $7.5 billion profit on $37.5 billion in revenue. Compare this to one year ago, that’s down from a profit of $8.2 billion and slightly up on $36 billion in revenue. Says CEO Tim Cook: “We’re pleased to report a strong finish to an amazing year with record fourth quarter revenue, including sales of almost 34 million iPhones. We’re excited to go into the holidays with our new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, iOS 7, the new iPad mini with Retina Display and the incredibly thin and light iPad Air, new MacBook Pros, the radical new Mac Pro, OS X Mavericks and the next generation iWork and iLife apps for OS X and iOS.”

Now let’s break it down by product category. Apple sold 33.8 million iPhones in the quarter (compared to 26.9 million in the year-ago quarter); 14.1 million iPads (compared to 14 million); and 3.8 million Macs (compared to 4.6 million). iPod sales have declined year after year ever since the introduction of the iPhone, and interestingly Apple is no longer reporting how many units sold in this product department.

Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2014, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer expects revenue between $55 billion and $58 billion.

[Via Apple]

Sony gets nostalgic with its PlayStation brand over the years

Posted in Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on October 26th, 2013

As we near the launch of the next generation of video games, it’s time to get nostalgic. Sony has produced a video that takes gamers all the way back to 1995–the year the original PlayStation was released–and it time travels across the various incarnations of the PS1, PS2, and PS3 all leading up to the present. Well, the near present; PS4 comes out in less than a month on November 15. Relive the magic that is the PlayStation boot screens and their unmistakable bleeps and bloops. You’ve got to admit, this 3+ minute clip hits the spot and it’s hard not to feel all fuzzy and then genuinely pumped for the next console from Sony.

To balance things out, jump after the break to watch Microsoft’s latest ad pimping its next-gen hardware the Xbox One. The focus this time around, thankfully, is on the games. The One hits the market on November 22. (Click here for more…)

Ubisoft delays anticipated next-gen title ‘Watch Dogs’ to spring 2014

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on October 19th, 2013

If you’re in the market for the next-gen consoles coming soon from Microsoft and Sony, I’ve got some unfortunate news for you. Perhaps the most highly anticipated launch title, Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs, has been delayed to spring 2014. The open world action-adventure stealth video game with the ability to hack into countless devices around you (think Person of Internet the video game) was supposed to be release alongside the Xbox One and PS4; now it won’t hit those consoles or the current gen systems until springtime. Ubisoft Communications manager Gary Steinman explained the reason behind the delay in a blog post:

Our ambition from the start with Watch Dogs has been to deliver something that embodies what we wanted to see in the next-generation of gaming. It is with this in mind that we’ve made the tough decision to delay the release until spring 2014.

We know a lot of you are probably wondering: Why now? We struggled with whether we would delay the game. But from the beginning, we have adopted the attitude that we will not compromise on quality. As we got closer to release, as all the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place in our last push before completion, it became clear to us that we needed to take the extra time to polish and fine tune each detail so we can deliver a truly memorable and exceptional experience.

Understandable, sure, but it still stings.

Speaking of launch title delays, Sony has one of their own. The PS4 exclusive racing game Driveclub is also being pushed to 2014 because the developer team “requires more time in order to deliver on their vision.” Driveclub was supposed to come free to all PlayStation Plus subscribers as part of the Instant Game Collection; it will still come free to subscribers when it eventually releases, but for now Plus members will get platformer Contrast along with one called Resogun.

Samsung invokes nostalgia in smartwatch promos

Posted in Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on October 13th, 2013

Check out these inspired adverts for Samsung’s wearable technology Galaxy Gear. Though buzz for the company’s smartwatch is at a low hum, these promos invoke a great sense of nostalgia and can’t be missed. The spot embedded above features life-like designs of classic wrist communication devices from shows like Dick TracyThe JetsonsThe Power RangersNight RiderInspector Gadget, and Star Trek. Another spot lies after the break and it features actual scenes from these shows all leading up to the introduction of Samsung’s new tech. They took a page out of Apple’s marketing playbook here and I say kudos. (Click here for more…)

Microsoft intros new Surface tablets

Posted in Images,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on September 29th, 2013

Microsoft is updating its Surface tablets that showcase their redesigned operating system Windows 8. The Surface 2 is the successor to Surface for Windows RT; its 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display now renders 1080p, it’s powered by the NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor, and its battery life promises 10 hours for video playback. Its full-size USB port has been upgraded to USB 3.0 and its front and back-facing cameras have been upped to 3.5-megapixel and 5-megapixel, respectively; both can capture 1080p video and feature improved low-light performance. Preloaded with Office Home & Student 2013 RT and Outlook 2013 RT, the Surface 2 starts at $449 and will come in 32GB and 64GB configurations when it goes on sale October 22. Customers can choose from a black or white coat this time.

The Surface Pro 2 is the successor to Surface for Windows Pro; it packs the same 10.6-inch ClearType Full 1080p HD display as the Surface 2 but it’s faster as it’s powered by Intel’s fourth-generation 1.6GHz Core i5 processor. MSFT hypes a 75 percent longer battery life than Surface Pro thanks to the new processor and other internal enhancements. The device houses three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0, a mini DisplayPort, Ethernet, and audio in/out. A two-stage kickstand, also featured on the Surface 2, gives users another angle to position their tablet. The Surface Pro 2 starts at $899 and will come in 64GB and 128GB configurations with 4GB of RAM and 256GB and 512GB configurations with 8GB of RAM when it, too, hits the market October 22.

New Surface owners will get one year of free international calling and Skype hotspot access, along with 200GB of SkyDrive storage that is free for two years.

The new tablets will sell alongside some new accessories. The Touch ($119.99) and Type ($129.99) Covers are getting updated with thinner and light-weight designs. A new Power Cover ($199.99, coming in early 2014), which features a Type Cover experience, will extend your Surface’s battery life by up to 50 percent. A Docking Station for Surface Pro ($199.99, also coming early next year) will allow owners to easily connect desktop peripherals to their tablets, “taking you from laptop to desktop in an instant.” A Music Cover gives amateur DJs a new way to dive into the art of music making and remixing; release date and price is still TBA on this one.

Check out the gallery below for a closer look at the new Surface tablets and accessories.

[Via Microsoft]

Apple sets new iPhone record, outs updated iMacs

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on September 29th, 2013

Apple released the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c on September 20 and just three days later it sold a record-breaking nine million of these new handsets. Also, more than 200 million iOS devices are now running Apple’s newly redesigned mobile operating system iOS 7, making it the fastest software upgrade in history.

“This is our best iPhone launch yet―more than nine million new iPhones sold―a new record for first weekend sales,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a statement. “The demand for the new iPhones has been incredible, and while we’ve sold out of our initial supply of iPhone 5s, stores continue to receive new iPhone shipments regularly. We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough new iPhones for everyone.”

Elsewhere, Apple has updated its iMac lineup with fourth generation Intel “Haswell” quad-core processors, new graphics, next generation WiFi, and faster PCIe flash storage options. The entry-level 21.5-inch iMac features a 2.7 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor and new Iris Pro graphics for improved integrated graphics performance. The high-end 21.5-inch model and both 27-inch models feature quad-core Intel Core i5 processors up to 3.4 GHz and NVIDIA GeForce 700 series graphics with twice the video memory and up to 40 percent faster performance than the previous generation. Customers can also upgrade to quad-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 3.5 GHz and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M series graphics with up to 4GB of video memory. Also, the iMacs now support 802.11ac WiFi that promises performance that is up to three times faster than the previous generation. The iMacs also support speedier PCIe-based flash storage that makes Fusion Drive and all-flash storage options up to 50 percent faster than before.

“iMac continues to be the example that proves how beautiful, fast and fun a desktop computer can be,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior VP of Worldwide Marketing. “Inside its ultra-thin aluminum enclosure, the new iMac has the latest Intel processors, faster graphics, next generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi and faster PCIe flash storage.”

[Via Apple 1, 2]

‘Grand Theft Auto V’ surpasses $1 billion in sales in three days

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on September 20th, 2013

The latest installment in the lucrative video game franchise Grand Theft Auto is making headlines and I’m not talking about it’s near-perfect ratings. Today developer Rockstar Games announced in a press release that GTA V has surpassed more than $1 billion in worldwide retail sales in just three days. It went on sale on Tuesday and already it’s made more money than Man of Steel did during its opening weekend (the Zack Snyder directed superhero pic collected $800 million in the early days it debuted). It’s inevitable that the vid game title will surpass the highest grossing movie of the year Iron Man 3 sooner rather than later (the Robert Downey Jr. vehicle currently sits at a worldwide box office $1.2 billion gross). These are massive movies we’re talking about here. To compare this level of success to another fast-selling video game, Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II took 15 days to reach the $1 billion milestone. In its first 24 hours on the market CoD: BOII made $500 million; GTA V made $800 million in the same time.

“We believe this marks the fastest that any entertainment property, including video games and feature films, has reached this significant milestone,” says Rockstar in a congratulatory statement posted in full after the break.

A billion dollars in three days–that’s beyond incredible. At this pace GTA V is poised to become one of the most successful pieces of entertainment property spanning all the major industries, including film, just like the PR states. Hell, whether or not it ever overtakes Avatar‘s record-setting $2.7 billion gross, it already is.

I’ve got to say it: achievement unlocked. (Click here for more…)

Apple announces colorful iPhone 5c, secure iPhone 5s & dates iOS 7

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on September 14th, 2013

On Tuesday Tim Cook hosted an Apple event in Cupertino that introduced not one but two new iPhones. Also, Apple’s next-gen mobile operating system iOS 7 now has a release date and the company’s productivity suite and creative apps are about to become even more popular. Let’s dive in, shall we? (Click here for more…)

Sony shows off updated PS Vita and new game console/media streamer for Japanese market

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on September 9th, 2013

Sony Computer Entertainment held a press conference in Japan today and although all the announcements pertain directly to the Japanese market it’s very likely that some of the announced hardware may make their way to the States and other parts of the world.

First up, Sony made it known that the PS4 will release in Japan on February 22, 2014, almost three full months after the console launches in North America. Yeah, that has got to sting, especially since Sony is based in JP. But remember, the PS3 had launched in Japan six days before it did in America…so…yeah.

Next let’s turn to hardware. Sony flashed a new PS Vita (WiFi only) that is 20 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter than the OG Vita and promises six hours of battery life. The design is mostly the same–you’ll noticed a slightly rounder look. Inside the LED screen has been swapped out for an OLED display, there’s now 1GB of onboard storage and a micro-USB has been added for syncing and charging. The new Vita will come in a bunch of colors such as black, white, lime green, light blue, pink and grey. The proprietary memory cards have fallen in price and a 64GB size has been introduced to the fold. The updated PS Vita releases in Japan October 10 for 18,980 yen (or about $190).

And now to the unexpected. Sony outed a new box to put in front of your television and it’s called the PS Vita TV. It looks like a mini console and allows gamers to play Vita titles on their TV. It comes complete with slots to insert Vita cartridges and memory cards and you control gameplay with a DualShock controller, not the Vita. The Vita TV will support 1,300 Vita games; in other words this “console” will launch with an impressive games lineup. Note, however, that it will not support all Vita titles; big ones like Gravity Rush, Wipeout, and Uncharted are not included on the compatible games list for some reason. In addition to playing games, the Vita TV will also act as a media streamer with access to Sony’s Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services, Hulu, and more. And when the PS4 comes out, a software update will turn the Vita TV into a Remote Play device akin to how the Vita will become one as well. Vita TV comes to the Japanese market on November 14 with a 9,954 yen price tag. That converts to appox. $100. Should it enter the US market at some point it’d fare as a worthy competitor against Apple TV, Roku, and the like.

Pop into the gallery below to check out the updated PS Vita and the new PS Vita TV. Video after the break.

[Via Engadget 1, 2, 3, 4; Joystiq] (Click here for more…)

Xbox One will release on…

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on September 9th, 2013

At last, Microsoft has revealed the launch date of their next-gen video game console. Xbox One will release on November 22, 2013 at $499. That is exactly one week after Sony drops PS4 on November 15 at $399, if you’re keeping score. On the 22nd, the One will launch in 13 markets: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, UK, and USA. More countries will follow in 2014.

In addition to announcing the date, Microsoft says the system is in full production and ready for showtime. Gamers will be happy to know that it will feature an improved clock speed for enhanced performance. Specifically, the CPU has jumped from the previously announced 1.6GHz speed to 1.75GHz marking roughly a 10 percent increase in CPU performance. And in case you didn’t know, the GPU’s speed was also increased  by 6 percent. Watch Xbox’s Xbox’s Yusuf Mehdi discuss the news in a video posted after the break.

Now the countdown for next-gen can truly begin.

[Via Xbox] (Click here for more…)

Microsoft casts a bigger net around Nokia, acquires its business and patents

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on September 9th, 2013

In 2011, Microsoft and Nokia entered into a “strategic alliance” that formally made Windows Phone Nokia’s “principal smartphone strategy.” Two years later, Microsoft is acquiring “substantially all of Nokia’s Devices & Services business, license Nokia’s patents, and license and use Nokia’s mapping services.” MSFT is ponying up 5.44 billion euros (or $7.2 billion) to gobble up virtually all that is Nokia: 3.79 billion euros ($4.99 billion) grants Microsoft Nokia’s business and another 1.65 billion euros ($2.18 billion) allows the Windows company access to Nokia’s patents.

Says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (pictured above, left): “It’s a bold step into the future – a win-win for employees, shareholders and consumers of both companies. Bringing these great teams together will accelerate Microsoft’s share and profits in phones, and strengthen the overall opportunities for both Microsoft and our partners across our entire family of devices and services. In addition to their innovation and strength in phones at all price points, Nokia brings proven capability and talent in critical areas such as hardware design and engineering, supply chain and manufacturing management, and hardware sales, marketing and distribution.”

It makes sense–Nokia has been hard at work pushing the Windows Phone mobile OS with their lineup of Lumia smartphones. Once this acquisition completes (it’s expected to sometime in 2014) their strategic alliance will grow into a full-blown marriage and the synergy between the two companies should result in a more streamlined product and services lineup.

Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop (pictured above, right) has stepped down from his post and is currently being vetted to take over as Microsoft’s head honcho when Ballmer exits next year.

[Via Engadget 1, 2; Nokia]

Nintendo drops Wii U price, intros Zelda bundle & affordable 2DS portable

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on August 29th, 2013

With the releases of Xbox One and PS4 fast approaching, Nintendo is making moves.

First up, a price drop. The Wii U is shedding $50 and will sell for $299.99 starting September 20. This is the black-coated 32GB “deluxe” Wii U that’s seeing the price decrease. The white 8GB “standard” version remains at $300 but I wouldn’t be surprised if Ninty decided to discontinue what used to be the cheaper model soon. With an even more competitive price tag and an onslaught of anticipated first-party titles coming soon (see below) perhaps the time is nigh to finally pull the trigger and pick up Nintendo’s next-gen entry.

Also hitting shelves on the 20th of September is a limited-edition Wii U bundle packed with the anticipated Gamecube remake The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. At the same $299.99 price point you get the deluxe console, a code to download a digital copy of the Zelda title from the Nintendo eShop (the physical disc doesn’t hit retail until October 4), one GamePad controller adorned with Zelda-inspired gold lettering, and a digital copy of Hyrule Historia, a book that details the chronology, history, and artwork of The Legend of Zelda series.

Next up: new hardware. The Nintendo 3DS is getting a new sibling and its name is 2DS. At $40 less than the 3DS, the 2DS eliminates the ability to play games in eye-popping 3D. Dual screens, cameras, and touch input remain intact, but the original hinge design is replaced with a flat look. The 2DS plays all 3DS games in 2D and it’s backwards compatible with all DS games. When it comes out October 12 for $129.99 it’ll be available in two hues: black/red and black/blue. Watch an introductory video after the break.

Lastly, the house that built Mario is pimping its upcoming games lineup as we near the holiday season. In addition to the aforementioned Zelda title, also in the Wii U pipeline are Wii Party U (10/25), Super Mario 3D World (11/22), Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (12/6), and Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Coming soon to 3DS (and 2DS) are The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (11/22) and Mario Party: Island Tour (11/22). For a list of third party games coming soon to Ninty’s home console and handhelds, jump after the break. (Click here for more…)

Gamescom 2013: Xbox One & PS4 launch titles revealed

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on August 24th, 2013

This week Cologne, Germany played host to Gamescom, one of the largest video games trade shows in the world. With next-gen systems in the pipeline, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Microsoft and Sony had a major presence at the show. Since the console makers already revealed their hardware at E3 in June, Gamescom was all about the, ahem, games.

Microsoft officially unveiled Xbox One’s launch lineup. As of August 19, there are 50 announced titles coming to Xbox One, 23 of which are hitting the marketplace day-and-date with the console’s holiday season release. Click those provided links to scan the lists, or simply jump after the break to do so. In addition to revealing the One’s games, Microsoft also spent time hyping its ID@Xbox initiative, or Independent Developers @ Xbox. Simply put, Microsoft is committed to helping indie devs achieve their goals of making games for Xbox One and it is striving to make the process as quick and streamlined as possible by making powerful tools and services available.

While Microsoft wasn’t ready to nail down the Xbox One’s release date, Sony upstaged them (again) by announcing that the PlayStation 4 will drop on November 15, 2013 in North America and on November 29 in Europe and Latin America. In terms of games, Sony isn’t saying which ones will launch alongside the console but it promises that 33 games will release before the end of the year, 18 of which are digital-download titles only. A grand total of 180 games are currently in development for the PS4. Jump after the break to see the launch window lineup. Sony also expressed its commitment to fostering indie devs by titles like FEZ (Polytron Corporation), Rogue Legacy (Cellar Door Games), and Supermagical (Tama Games). Also, Twitch is coming to PS4 to serve as another way for gamers to live stream their gameplay in addition to Ustream; and movies are in the works based on Digital Polyphony’s Gran Turismo franchise and Ubisoft’s upcoming Watch Dogs (see in-game pic above). Elsewhere, the PS Vita is getting a $50 price drop to $199 and the portable’s memory cards are falling in price as well. Over 25 new games are coming to Vita over the next 12 months.

Now since Gamescon is based on Europe, Microsoft and Sony made some exciting announcements for that far-away land. For example, MSFT says all pre-ordered consoles will ship with a free copy of FIFA 2014 because we all know how much Europeans enjoy their “football.” And on Sony’s end, “Magma Red” and “Wave Blue” color variants of the DualShock 4 controller will ship first in Europe and Latin America before eventually making their way to the States later this year.

The last piece of the next-gen puzzle is the Xbox One’s release date. As we await word from Microsoft, kick back and browse the launch lineups for the One and PS4 after the break! (Click here for more…)

Steve Ballmer to retire from Microsoft after 33 years with the company

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on August 24th, 2013

When Bill Gates stepped away from Microsoft in 2000 to pursue his humanitarian efforts, Steve Ballmer took over as CEO of the company. Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 as the tech company’s 30th employee. In a letter sent to all Microsoft employees titled Moving forward, Ballmer eloquently writes, “There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time.” Though Ballmer’s reign oversaw the widely maligned OS known as Windows Vista and the choppy launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone, he notes that he is proud of what the company has achieved during his tenure. “We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way.” There is no arguing that. Not at all.

As Microsoft is starting to transition into a devices and services company, Ballmer understands that new leadership with a fresh set of eyes is best for the Windows maker to move forward successfully. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”

Ballmer is set to retire within 12 months. Official MSFT PR and his letter to employees rest after the break. (Click here for more…)

Rockstar reveals ‘Grand Theft Auto Online’

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on August 18th, 2013

As we inch closer and closer to the launch of Grand Theft Auto V the game gets even more exciting in its scope. In July gamers were formally introduced to actual gameplay and it was revealed how they will juggle three separate protagonists. Now Rockstar Games sheds light on the title’s online component dubbed appropriately enough Grand Theft Auto Online. It “takes the fundamental Grand Theft Auto concepts of freedom, ambient activity and mission-based gameplay and makes them available to multiple players in an incredibly detailed and responsive online world,” says Rockstar. GTAO is described as “a dynamic and persistent online world for 16 players that begins by sharing gameplay features, geography and mechanics with Grand Theft Auto V, but will continue to expand and evolve after its launch with new content created by Rockstar Games and the Grand Theft Auto community.”

In a video preview embedded above, you can see just how awesome this prospect really is. Imagine jumping into the fictional city of Los Santos with your friends, building a virtual community together and teaming up as a crew to execute major heists and other crimes you couldn’t get away with in the real world. Plus, the ability to create, share, and play across the Internet–an idea pushed by Media Molecule in LittleBigPlanet–is always welcome as it promises new online experiences all the time. And if Rockstar holds up their promise of pushing out new content and missions GTAO has the potential to be loads of fun with much replayability.

Grand Theft Auto Online turns on October 1, two weeks after GTAV‘s September 17 launch on Xbox 360 and PS3. Access to it comes free with every copy of GTAV. Now even though GTAO takes advantage of GTAV‘s performance engine, Rockstar is pressing that it is its own entity that will “grow and evolve into its own thing.” The developer is even toying with the idea of introducing older GTA worlds into GTAO; might the future hold an updated version of Liberty City for online players to roam around?

[Via IGN]

Xbox One gets unboxed [Update: the new controller gets examined]

Posted in Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on August 10th, 2013

Xbox’s Major Nelson unboxes Microsoft’s next-gen console for the first time in the video pasted here. Though the unboxing isn’t revelatory, the Xbox One and its many included accessories are beautiful pieces of tech to gander at.

Inside the packaging ravenous gamers will find the liquid black console, of course, along with one wireless controller (the limited edition “Day One” controller is embossed with “Day One 2013″ in its center and features a chrome D-pad), the new and improved Kinect sensor, a Chat Headset, the power brick supply, and an HDMI cable (Category 2 rated for 1080P, 3D and 4K). The system boasts a 500GB hard drive, slot load Blu-ray drive, IR blaster port, HDMI input and output connectors, a S/PDIF interface, new Kinect sensor port, three USB 3.0 Super Speed ports, Wired and Wireless network support, and a Kensington security slot.

Fun fact: the Xbox One featured in this video is one of very few production units in existence–less than 20 have been made so far. But that’ll all change soon as we near the console’s November 2013 release.

Update (8/12): Major Nelson and Zulfi Alam, the general manager of Xbox’s accessory business, discuss the Xbox One’s controller in a video embedded after the break. The newly redesigned Xbox wireless controller packs over 40 improvements including an integrated battery pack, a screwless design, a better D-pad, and impulse triggers. For the full rundown, watch the 7+ minute examination below. (Click here for more…)

Meet Moto X, the smartphone designed by you and assembled in the USA

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on August 3rd, 2013

On top of the three new Droids detailed last week, Motorola–a Google company!–dropped another new smartphone into consumers’ laps. While the 2013 Droids are Verizon Wireless exclusives, the newly announced Moto X is coming to all major U.S. carriers. What also sets the Moto X apart from its cousins is that it’s highly customizable in the looks department. Motorola is developing a website called Moto Maker that will allow customers to personalize their handsets before ordering them. Specifically, prospective buyers will be able to select from a wide range of colors to paint the back plate and accents of the phone; Moto claims over 2,000 combinations are possible. The front plate, meanwhile, can be made black or white. Additionally you can add a signature to the back of the device. Internally, you can customize the memory (16GB or 32GB) and even set a personal wake-up message and wallpaper before it ships to your door. Before checkout, you can also choose a case, matching headphones by Sol Republic, and a wall charger featuring two USB ports to boot.

Sadly, yes, there is one catch. All of this exciting customization (as well as the option to upgrade memory to 32GB) through Moto Maker is exclusive to AT&T customers. Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular customers will have to choose from a stock black or white handset. Lame! Since Moto X’s specs and Android functionalities are so similar to that of the 2013 Droids’, the Moto Maker personalization is this device’s major selling point. The fact that it won’t be available to all carriers is downright disappointing.

The Moto X sports a 4.7 inch AMOLED 720p (316 ppi) display and is powered by Android 4.2.2 running on Motorola’s X8 mobile computing system. There’s a 10MP shooter on the rear and a 2MP front-facing one and they both support 1080p video capture. A 2200mAh battery promises “mixed usage” up to 24 hours. The most fascinating bit about the Moto X’s design is that it’s the first smartphone to be wholly manufactured in the United States. After you customize your phone through Moto Maker, it will be shipped to you within four days direct from an assembly line in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Software-wise, the latest version of Android Jelly Bean brings the following to Moto X: Touchless Control (say “Ok Google Now…” to wake up the device and perform a function), Active Display (the device will intermittently reveal important information (i.e. the time, new notifications) without you having to press to the wake up button), and Quick Capture (with two twists of your wrist you can access the camera to shoot stills or video).

Moto X is coming to the US, Canada, and Latin America in late August/early September at $199. AT&T subscribers can upgrade to a 32GB model for an extra $50. Click after the break to watch the Moto Maker experience and see the Moto X in action. (Click here for more…)

Netflix introduces personal profiles for all subscribers

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on August 3rd, 2013

It’s been a long time coming and now the Netflix feature you’ve been waiting for (whether you realized it or not) is finally here: personal profiles.

So you’re a Netflix subscriber and you share your account with family and friends. Say you’re into action films like Thor and your little brother is high on animated comedies like Phineas and Ferb. Netflix will recommend both action movies and animated series aimed at children to you. Sure, it’s not the end of the world, but wouldn’t it be better and more efficient if the streaming service was able to compartmentalize the shows you watch and are into versus the other type of programming your younger sibling might be addicted to?

Now, Netflix subscribers can create his or her own profile (no extra fees required) to enable “a uniquely personalized experience based upon their individual watching habits, their personal favorite shows, and favorite genres, all driven by Netflix recommendation technology.” Up to five profiles can be created per account. When you log into your Netflix account, you can select which profile you’d like to jump into and you’ll be presented with recommendations based solely on the content you watch. Brilliant! Netflix posits that you can also set up profiles headlining various genres like “Date night” or “Hanging with the bros.” You even have the option to personalize your profile further with a fun profile picture; and if you choose to link your Facebook account to your Netflix profile your picture will automatically show up as your Facebook profile picture.

Netflix started rolling out this new feature on August 1 and the company says profiles will be accessible globally for all subscribers by August 15. New members will be notified about creating profiles during the sign up process; existing members can add profiles on Netflix.com and on the PS3 Netflix app. According to the company, “profiles can be accessed on most devices that support Netflix, including the Netflix website, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV and other iOS devices, and most smart TVs. Additional devices will be added over the coming months.” So if you don’t see it yet on your device, patience.

After the break, a video demonstration. (Click here for more…)

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