With no new hardware releasing this year, Microsoft made sure to focus squarely on games and new experiences powered by Xbox 360. It was announced that this year the company’s seven year old console went from being the #1 selling game machine in North America to being the best selling console in the world. And with everything that Microsoft showed off at their E3 press conference this year, you’d be remiss to think that they’ll lose the crown anytime soon.
Before jumping into the exciting software titles Microsoft has in store for gamers in the not-so-distant future, let’s dive into the most talked about announcement coming out of their presser: Xbox SmartGlass. Leading up to E3, a rumor leaked that Microsoft was cooking up a new Xbox feature that would work similarly to AirPlay from Apple; one could wirelessly beam video content from a smartphone or tablet to the big screen TV in your living room. The leak became official at Microsoft’s briefing, but it would be proven that Xbox SmartGlass offers so much more than Apple’s AirPlay beaming. Real world examples follow. Start watching a movie on your tablet and with one click transfer it to your TV. As the movie is resumes on the big screen, your tablet doesn’t remain idle; instead it provides relavant content to what’s being played on your TV. Say you’re watching Sherlock Holmes; while it’s playing on the TV you can use your tablet to delve into the movie’s synopsis, cast, bonus features, and other content that pertains to the movie.
A neat feature, it still might not stimulate your appetite for SmartGlass. This will. Hop onto HBO GO and watch an episode of Game of Thrones. Through the power of SmartGlass you can follow the story that unfolds on the TV using your tablet as a guide through Westeros. In real time SmartGlass will help you keep up with the large cast of characters and goings-on with an expansive interactive map of Westeros. Microsoft is working close with content providers to bring these kind of experiences to Xbox, so this is only the tip of the iceberg.
In additional to expanding the world of movies and TV, SmartGlass will serve as a gaming controller of sorts to enhance gameplay for compatible titles. In Madden, for example, SmartGlass transforms your tablet into a playbook and allows you to create and execute routes using an innovative, touch-based interface. Will you be able to take control of Master Chief in Halo 4? Definitely not, but Microsoft showed off another way SmartGlass can enhance even the most hardcore games they offer. In Halo 4, Halo Waypoint data can be unlocked in-game and later accessed on your smartphone. Stuff like that. Again, Microsoft is spearheading the SmartGlass initiative, and soon we’ll see what game developers can think up to enhance their experiences by making them more interactive across multiple screens.
Movies, TV, games. What else will SmartGlass affect on Xbox? It will (at long last) enable Internet browsing on the console. Internet Explorer is coming to Xbox, and SmartGlass allows you to scroll and pinch-to-zoom on-screen content. Using Kinect you’ll also be able to control the web browser with your voice. SmartGlass also gives you the ability to navigate the Xbox dashboard using your fingers, in addition to your voice (Kinect) and a traditional controller.
Xbox’s Marc Whitten summed it up best when he closed the segment like this: SmartGlass is ”when devices work together to immerse you in entertainment.” He also went on to make a great point. You already own the devices that will make SmartGlass a possibility: smartphones, tablets, PCs. There is no need to purchase an additional controller, peripheral or console (looking at you, Nintendo) to make a second screen experience a reality. The SmartGlass companion app will be compatible with Windows 8 PCs, tablets and phones, as well as devices powered by iOS and Android. There is one catch, however. If you’re planning on beaming content from portable devices to the TV, said content must be purchased and rented from within Microsoft’s ecosystem, i.e. the Xbox Video storefront. With that said, Xbox SmartGlass is coming to Xbox, Windows 8, and the other aforementioned mobile platforms this fall.
Other announcements made at Microsoft’s press conference include: (Click here for more…)
The next operating system from Microsoft is almost here. After posting the Developer and Consumer previews, on May 28 the company let loose the Windows 8 Release Preview. In addition to packing bug fixes to make for a more stable and consistent user experience, the Release Preview includes improvements to existing apps like Mail, Photos, and People and introduces new Bing-powered apps Travel, News, and Sports. Also included is Zune Pass integration, Flash support in Internet Explorer 10, and of course a broader selection of apps in the Windows Store as developers start to hop aboard the Metro bandwagon.
The Windows 8 Release Preview is available for download today in 14 languages today; click here to access the free download. The final version of the touch-friendly OS is out later this year. PR after the break.
The long-awaited return of Master Chief is almost here. Halo 4 is so close you can
taste it preorder it. This week Microsoft fleshed out the $100 “Limited Edition” package that will go on sale alongside the standard $60 version of Halo 4 when it hits shelves November 6. Forty extra bucks will get you the following: War Games Map Pack (early access to “three future competitive multiplayer map packs, each including three locations”); Specializations (early access to “six Specializations to achieve higher ranks in your Spartan career and new unlockable customization options”); UNSC Infinity Briefing Packet (“includes an armor customization schematic, a blueprint of the massive ship itself, and insight into what it means to be one of humanity’s finest warriors: the Spartan-IVs”); and bonus digital content available through Xbox Live including unique armor and weapon skins, an exclusive in-game emblem, Avatar props, and an extended 90-minute version of the live-action digital series Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (it provides “an enthralling backstory leading up to the events of Halo 4). Preorder your UNSC-engraved Halo 4 Limited Edition package today. Image of the LE case and PR after the break.
Oh, and how awesome is the official Halo 4 game box art that’s pasted above? Watch it come alive after the break.
On May 20 the Samsung Focus 2 will enter the marketplace and make the jump to Windows Phone and speedy 4G LTE easier at an extremely affordable price. For $49.99 (after signing a new two-year agreement with AT&T), customers will get a smartphone that packs a 4-inch Super AMOLED display, a 5 megapixel camera that supports 720p video capture, a front-facing VGA camera for video calls, and a single-core 1.4GHz processor. The Focus 2 will be sold in a fresh coat of “pure white” and come loaded with the latest version of Windows Phone (7.5, that is). Sign up to be alerted to the phone’s release right here. PR after the break.
You know it’s true.
For more on the real Project Glass from Google click here.
At last, Microsoft has set a date for the return of Xbox’s hero Master Chief. Halo 4 drops November 6, 2012. In a press release (in full after the break) Microsoft and new game developer 343 Industries spilled some details on franchise’s long-awaited comeback. “Set four years after the events in “Halo 3,” Master Chief returns to confront his destiny and face an ancient evil that threatens the fate of the entire universe,” reads the release. “”Halo 3,” the biggest consumer product launch of all time when it released in 2007, concluded the original game trilogy, but left many unanswered questions around the fates of the series’ beloved hero, the Master Chief, and his artificial intelligence companion, Cortana. On Nov. 6, fans will experience the next chapter of the iconic franchise.”
Microsoft’s Phil Spencer is quoted: “We are beginning a new saga with ‘Halo 4′ and embarking on a journey that will encompass the next decade of ‘Halo’ games and experiences. Millions of fans worldwide have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to step back into the boots of Master Chief, and, with ‘Halo 4′ leading the charge, we’re confident 2012 will be the most successful year in Xbox history.”
It still hasn’t been determined what or who exactly John-117 will battle against in the next-gen first person shooter, but whatever it is I’m amped. Unless it’s The Flood again, cuz that would suck. Other Halo factoids… orignal game composer Marty O’Donnell is out (what a bummer!) and former Massive Attack member Neil Davidge has taken over the important role. Orchestrator Matt Dunkley explained to Edge: “We respect absolutely what [O'Donnell] did, and obviously these iconic themes are very close to gamers’ hearts. So we all listened to what he’d done, and I think you’ll always be on a hiding to nothing if you’re trying to pastiche that. Instead, we wanted to take that to another level. Hopefully the Halo fans will see that we’re being respectful, but we’ve also taken it somewhere else, and maybe onto a higher plane. If you’re always trying to reference back, you’re not creating new things.”
Jump after the break to get a behind the scenes look at the audio composition behind the game as well as soundtrack samples. In somewhat related news, 343 Industries invited late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien to their studio; watch the fun unfold after the break. Below, concept art.
November 6, are you here yet?
Microsoft shows off future tech including remote applications, transparent displays, augmented reality mirrors, and lag-free touch screens
The inventive minds at Microsoft Research and the company’s Applied Sciences Group are experimenting with advanced technologies to come up with new ways of computing and communicating for the future.
First up is “IllumiShare”, a camera-projector pair that enables remote people to share any physical or digital object on any surface. As you can see in the demonstration embedded above, with IllumiShare a simple Skype conversation can be transformed into an interactive workspace that can be manipulated by one or more persons. The applications for this are endless; this tech can allow for remote gameplay, as well as introduce new methods of remote teaching.
Jump after the break for more! (Click here for more…)
If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your Xbox 360 controllers or adding an additional one to the mix, I highly recommend you opt for one of these brand spankin’ new chrome models. Microsoft is branding them the Xbox 360 Special Edition Chrome Series Wireless Controllers and they will come in hues of red, silver, and blue when they hit the market mid-May at $54.99 each. The chrome controllers feature the “transforming D-pad” that Microsoft introduced in the matte silver version back in August 2010. Check ‘em out in the gallery below and let the oos and ahhs commence. Heck, even the packaging is drool-worthy.
On Tuesday Microsoft launched three new video apps on Xbox 360: HBO GO, Comcast Xfinity TV, and MLB.tv. All three apps require that you be a subscriber to each of their respective services, obviously. With HBO GO, Xbox owners can now access every episode of every season of HBO’s most popular programming like Game of Thrones and The Sopranos. If you’re a Comcast subscriber, you can now view on-demand content via your console. And MLB.tv gives sports fans yet another way to stream live every out-of-market regular season game in HD with features like split-screen, a mini guide, and a personalized My Teams page. These apps come baked with Kinect integration, meaning you can put the controller down and use gestures and your voice to control the menus and playback. If you’ve got an Xbox 360, turn it on and download these video apps for free today. Game of Thrones returns to HBO for a second season tomorrow night, so this just might be the best way to catch up quick.
In related news, Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi told the LA Times that Xbox owners are spending more time with the “video game” console to watch video and listen to music than play games. “What we’re seeing is that people are turning on the Xbox to play games and then keeping it on afterwards to get other types of entertainment,” he said. With Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, Verizon FIOS and now HBO GO, Xfinity TV, and MLB.tv, the term “video game console” is starting to get blurry as “entertainment hub” starts to come into view, at least in regards to Microsoft’s Xbox brand.
Jump after the break to watch the new video apps in action.
Announced in January, the Nokia Lumia 900 smartphone has been tagged with an imminent release date and an affordable price point. The Lumia 900, which will soon become the first Windows Phone to boast 4G LTE, releases into the marketplace on April 8 at $99.99 after a two year contract with AT&T. The handset features a 4.3-inch (800 x 480) AMOLED ClearBlack display, a Carl Zeiss 8 megapixel camera with large aperture (F2.2) and wide angle focal length (28mm) and LED flash that supports 720p HD video capture, and a front-facing camera for video calls. It runs the latest version of Windows Phone, that is 7.5 aka Mango. The Lumia 900 will come in cyan blue and matte black flavors on the 8th, and later on April 22 a high-gloss white version will release. Preorder today. PR after the break.
Who woulda thunk Microsoft could actually make their aging Internet browser look so good?!
Update: The revitalized IE marketing campaign continues with another (rather self-deprecating) spot called “The Browser You Loved to Hate.” It’s embedded after the break for your viewing pleasure. (Click here for more…)
Microsoft unveiled their next major operating system release in June 2010. Then at the BUILD 2011 developer’s conference the company provided further details about the totally revamped, Metro-style OS. And now, this past Wednesday at Mobile World Congress in Spain, Microsoft has made available to the general public the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. According to a press release, this free preview “offers a more robust experience for testing the world’s most popular operating system and is available to the widest range of people yet following the initial release of the Windows 8 Developer Preview late last year.” In other words, it will provide a more stable Windows 8 experience for developers and consumers alike to check out before Microsoft officially releases the final version of the OS before the end of the year.
Ready to give Windows 8 a spin? Head over to Microsoft’s official download portal and click Get It Nowto, well, get it now. Can your computer handle it? The company released these recommendations: 1 GHz or faster processor; 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit); 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit); DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver.
Here it is, the official logo for Microsoft’s upcoming operating system upgrade Windows 8. Design agency Pentagram was tasked to come up with the logo and during their brainstorming sessions they posed the question, “your name is Windows. Why are you a flag?” Take a look below…
…and you’ll see that the Windows logo originally started as an actual window and evolved into a flying or waving flag. In a blog post Microsoft describes its intent to bring the logo “back to its roots” with Windows 8.
“Windows” really is a beautiful metaphor for computing and with the new logo we wanted to celebrate the idea of a window, in perspective. Microsoft and Windows are all about putting technology in people’s hands to empower them to find their own perspectives. And that is what the new logo was meant to be. We did less of a re-design and more to return it to its original meaning and bringing Windows back to its roots – reimagining the Windows logo as just that – a window.
What should strike you most, however, is the Metro influence that makes itself instantly apparent in the logo. The Metro style design philosophy was born in Windows Phone, it was recently brought to Xbox, and soon it will take over the PC with Windows 8. The blocky and modern Metro look is one element that ties together all of Microsoft’s consumer offerings, and so it makes sense that it would be prominent in the logo for the company’s next OS.
[Via Windows Blog]
Star Wars fans and gamers alike have been waiting patiently for Microsoft to stamp an official release date for the movie themed hardware and software bundle. Well, the time has finally come. According to Xbox Live’s Major Nelson, the bundle–which includes an R2-D2-themed Xbox 360 console with custom sounds, a C-3PO-themed golden wireless controller, a white Kinect sensor, a 320GB HDD, a wired headset, and copies of Star Wars Kinect and Kinect Adventures–launches into the marketplace this spring on April 3. It is being valued at $449.99 and can be preordered today at Amazon and Gamestop. Take a gander at the sleek packaging above and mark your calendars appropriately.
[Via Major Nelson]
Microsoft is heating up the competition by introducing two new 4G LTE enhanced phones for its Windows Phone collection. The HTC Titan II and the Nokia Lumia 900 are in fact the first 4G LTE smartphones to run Microsoft’s latest Windows Phone iteration “Mango.” Let’s start with the Titan II. Besides packing the 4G chip, the new Titan features a giant 4.7-inch super LCD capacitive touchscreen and an impressive 16 megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens, autofocus, and dual LED flash. The rear camera also supports 720p HD video recording, and a 1.3 megapixel front-facing one allows for video chat. Inside you’ll also find a single-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor and a 1,730mAh battery.
Nokia’s Lumia 900 is the bigger brother to the Lumia 710, the latter of which is the first smartphone to come out of Microsoft’s strategic alliance with the Finnish handset maker. (The Lumia 710 is now available to buy on T-Mobile for $50 on contract.) The 900 sports a larger 4.3-inch (800 x 480) AMOLED ClearBlack display, a 1.4GHz single-core processor, 512MB of RAM, Carl Zeiss-branded eight megapixel camera with large aperture (F2.2) and wide angle focal length (28mm) and LED flash that supports 720p HD video capture. Around the front you’ll find a camera also boasting a large aperture (F2.4) and a wide angle lens. Inside the polycarbonate body lies a sealed 1,830mAh battery. When it becomes available, the 900 will come in two flavors: cyan and matte black.
Microsoft’s first 4G LTE Mango phones are coming exclusively to AT&T later this year. Images below, PR and video after the break.
When Kinect for Xbox 360 launched in November 2010, it changed the way gamers interacted with their Xbox consoles and games just like Nintendo did with the Wii. Since its release, Kinect owners have taken the power into their own hands by hacking the motion-sensing peripheral to make it function in all kinds of ways. Microsoft quickly took notice and announced in the fall that they would release an SDK to allow for more innovation with Kinect. Microsoft shares its plan in a blog post:
With Kinect for Windows, we are investing in creating a platform that is optimized for scenarios beyond the living room, and delivering new software features on an ongoing basis… In addition to support for Windows 7 and the Windows 8 developer preview (desktop apps only), Kinect for Windows will also support gesture and voice on Windows Embedded-based devices and will enhance how data is captured and accessed within intelligent systems across manufacturing, retail and many more industries. We are building the Kinect for Windows platform in a way that will allow other companies to integrate Kinect into their offerings and we have invested in an approach that allows them to develop in ways that are dependable and scalable.
Kinect for Windows hardware will be made available on February 1 in twelve countries (United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK )and will sell for $249.99 in “limited quantities at first.” The accompanying SDK and developer tools will be free. Preorder today at Amazon and let your imagination run wild.
In October Nokia unveiled its Lumia range of Windows Phone-powered smartphones, the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710. This week T-Mobile became the official carrier of the budget-friendly Lumia 710 and announced that’ll be available next month. The 710, which features a 3.7-inch ClearBlack WVGA scratch-resistant display, a Qualcomm 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor, a 5 megapixel camera, and HSPA+ 14.4Mbps “4G” speed, is being touted by T-Mo as “the perfect first-time smartphone” at the low price of $49.99 after a two-year contract is signed. Also shipping with software like Nokia’s Drive and ESPN apps as well as T-Mobile TV and Netflix, the 710 comes to market in the US on January 11 in black and white variants.
It’s a shame Nokia isn’t promoting the fiercer Lumia 800 before its low-budget brother, let alone alongside it. In my humble opinion, Nokia is making a mistake by allowing customers to think that Windows Phones manufactured by Nokia are “cheap” or lacking competitive features. It would have been smarter to team the 800 with T-Mobile first so that the public could understand that the Finnish company is ready to battle the likes of Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and LG in the States, rather than push out an entry level smartphone for techies to scoff at. Nokia is a deserving phone maker, so here’s to hoping that they get their act together and release the Lumia 800 in the States sooner than later.
Gamers, are you ready for dat new New Xbox Experience? Today Microsoft is lifting the veil on the latest dashboard user interface for Xbox 360. And this one’s a doozy. Besides an entirely new “Metro” look to match Windows Phone’s and Windows 8′s skins, the refreshed dashboard introduces expanded voice control with Kinect, Bing voice search, YouTube, enhanced Facebook sharing capabilities, cloud storage, beacons, updated parental controls, and customized applications for televisions, movies, internet videos, sports and music. Starting today, EPIX and TODAY (MSNBC) join Netflix, Hulu Plus, ESPN, and Zune for video offerings in the United States. Later this month, Crackle, iHeartRadio, MSNBC.com, TMZ, UFC, Verizon FiOS TV, VEVO, and Vudo join in on the fun. And in early 2012, CinemaNow, HBO GO, MLB.TV, and Xfinity On Demand will become available to use on Xbox 360s. Soon, Microsoft’s four-year-old console is going to transform into a viable destination for nearly all of your entertainment needs. With all of these options to watch TV and movies and listen to music, playing games will suddenly become a just a part of what Xbox 360 is all about. Add in some refined Kinect voice and motion support and you’ll finally get a taste of what living in the future is really like. This dashboard update is certainly something to be excited about. Get your download on today by simply booting up your Internet-connected 360.
In related news, Microsoft has also outed the Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone users. The free app allows you to search the Xbox catalog for movies, TV shows, music, games, and apps right on your phone and view detailed content information. You can even pair your phone to your console and beam purchased content from one device to the other. Content playing from your 360 can be controlled via your phone (play, pause, rewind, fast-forward), and you can navigate the new dash using your phone’s touchscreen instead of a controller if you so desire. Download the free Companion app today.
Update: Microsoft has decided to share the wealth and offer a similar companion app for iOS users. iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch owners running iOS 4.3 or higher can install My Xbox LIVE. The free app allows you to log into your Xbox LIVE account to read and send messages to friends, manage your friends list, read and edit your full profile, customize your avatar, and view and compare your achievement progress with friends. Sadly, you won’t be able to search the Xbox catelog–this biggie is only available for Windows Phones for obvious reasons. Download the iOS edition at the App Store.
Before the fall dashboard updates arrives to Internet-connected Xbox 360s, Microsoft flipped the switch on updating its Xbox website. The homepage has been revamped to feature content in the “Metro”-style layout that is coming to Xbox and with Windows 8. The “My Xbox” section of the website has been renamed “Social” and this is the new destination where gamers will go to login to their Xbox Live profiles away from the their consoles. The updated Xbox Live portal is organized in four categories. Home gives gamers a quick glimpse at their recent activity, their friends’ recent activity, online friends, messages, Xbox Live events and related news. Friends provides a list of all your Xbox Live friends, online and off. In Messages you can read and send messages to your friends. And in the Activity section you can view your recent activity, out of your friends who recently played the games you did, and you can view all of your played games, achievements, and gamerscore information. Also in this section you can set Beacons, a marker that notifies your friends that you want to play a certain game with them. You can have up to three Beacons active at a time, and you can add custom descriptions. For example, you can set a Beacon for Halo 3 and add a description like “Let’s play from 7-10 PM.” No matter where you navigate in Social, your avatar will follow you, as will links to view your account, redeem codes, add Microsoft Points, view your Download Queue, and visit your profile. In addition to updating the My Xbox section of the site, Xbox Live members can now browse, preview, and download media such as movies and TV shows in a browser and this content will be attached to your Live account; this means that all downloaded media can be viewed on any PC, Xbox 360, and Windows Phone that your Live account is connected to. Check out the new Social portal at Xbox.com right now!
[Via Xbox Forums]
The company behind Windows has manufactured a glimpse into a future “where technology extends and highlights our productive capabilities.” The concept video, embedded above for your wonderment, includes ideas for products that take advantage of current technology (speech recognition, data visualization, etc.) and magical things that have yet to be invented like glasses that translate speech in real time and transparent refrigerator doors with data overlays. Microsoft “see[s] technology moving from a passive tool to a more active assistant, helping us get things done, and strengthening our interactions with one another.” Tap play and journey into Microsoft’s vision of the future. Spoiler: so many screens. It’s good to know that physical QWERTY keyboards will still exist in the future, right? Right?