Well you can forget everything that came before. Microsoft has pulled an Xbox 180, if you will, and reversed its controversial Xbox One DRM policies. In a post titled “Your Feedback Matters,” Xbox President of Interactive Entertainment Business Don Mattrick announced that “an Internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games” and gamers can “trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today.” After initial setup, you can play any disc-based game without ever connecting online again; this means the system will not periodically check-in to see if you’re connected and you can play offline games with no disruption. Additionally there will be no limitations to picking up used games at retailers and sharing games with friends. In a nutshell, everything will work just as it does today.
“These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One,” Microsoft admits. For example, in the case of disc-based games, the disc must be in the tray in order to play. Previously in an always-connected state, games would have been playable from the HDD and the cloud without having to load the disc in the tray after an initial installation.
Right off the bat this seems like a big win for gamers. But, in the long run, is it really? With its new DRM policies for Xbox One Microsoft was attempting to push the video game industry in the future by introducing new features that take advantage of the cloud and an always connected state. Sure, the ability to game offline is nice and playing used games and sharing titles with friends without fees and restrictions feels right because we’re so used to it; but I can’t help but think: are we just delaying the inevitable here? Gizmodo plays devil’s advocate to the general public’s response in a post called “The Xbox Just Got Way Worse, and It’s Our Fault.”
At Microsoft’s pre-E3 #XboxReveal event, the veil was lifted away from the company’s next-gen hardware known as Xbox One. The event focused primarily on introducing the hardware (including the black box, the enhanced wireless controller, and Kinect 2.0) and the power behind it. Xbox One and its ability to act like a TV set-top box and serve as “the ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system” was the big highlight from that event. Though a handful of titles were teased there, MSFT would save the games for its E3 media briefing. For more, jump after the break. (Click here for more…)
On June 26, eight months after its general release, Microsoft is updating Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. The free new update brings lots of new features and functionality to the modernized version of Microsoft’s operating system.
The updated Start screen allows users to resize their apps with new larger and smaller options; users can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal an app drawer and access all apps installed and organize them by name, date installed, most used, and category; installed apps are no longer downloaded to the Start screen–they are placed inside the app drawer and you must manually pin it to the Start screen if you want it there; and you can match your desktop background with your Start screen background to “create a greater sense of unity and familiarity” between them. Also, the Start button returns to the traditional desktop but it won’t open a portal to folders and files like it did in previous Windows iterations; it simply brings you back to the Start screen and all your apps. Also, multitasking just got better: depending on your screen size and resolution, you can now snap more than two windows next to each other and you can further customize the size of each window (you are no longer shackled to the 80/20 split).
Elsewhere, the lock screen has been updated to become a picture frame that can now play a slideshow of your pictures stored locally on your device or from images stored in the cloud in SkyDrive. Users can also take pictures directly from the lock screen without having to log into their Windows 8.1 powered device.
System-wide search has been enhanced here, too. Type a query in the Search charm and you’ll be provided with actual files and documents you may be looking for. To date users are forced to tap headers like Files and Apps to dig for their searches; in Win 8.1 time will be saved since the OS will now show you relavant Word documents and Xbox games at first glance. Something new called Search Heroes are also being introduced here; search “Brad Pitt” and the OS will provide an aggregated view of many content sources to help you learn more about your query.
To read more about the new features and functions inside Windows 8.1, head over to this Windows blog post that details it all. For a quick look at 8.1 in action, watch the clip embedded above. Some screenshots hang in the gallery below.
“Can we take what you love and make it better?” That is the question Microsoft posed at the start of its #XboxReveal event earlier today. The answer lies in their new generation of Xbox hardware and software, “the ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system” that is “simple, instant, and complete.” Nope, it’s not the Xbox 720 or Xbox Infinity as the rumor mill had us guessing; the next-gen console from Microsoft is the Xbox One. (Click here for more…)
Nintendo released the Wii U, Sony laid out its plans for the PS4, and so now it’s time for Microsoft to reveal its next-gen console. The followup to the hugely successful Xbox 360 will be announced on Tuesday, May 21 at 1PM EST at the Xbox Campus in Redmond, WA. On that day “we’ll mark the beginning of a new generation of games, TV and entertainment,” says Xbox’s Major Nelson. “We’ll share our vision for Xbox, and give you a real taste of the future.” If you didn’t score an invite to the event, don’t fret; the press event will be streamed live globally via Xbox.com, Xbox Live, and on Spike TV. See you then.
Microsoft’s more powerful version of its Surface tablet finally has a release date. Surface with Windows 8 Pro comes to market February 9. It comes packed with Intel’s Core i5 processor and it supports apps available in the Windows Store as well as legacy programs that run on Windows 7 and other previous OS’. More Pro advantages: this slate sports a 1920 x 1080 full HD display, 4GB of RAM, a fast USB 3.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort, and a pen with Palm Block technology. The Pro starts at $899 for the 64GB model; alongside it is a 128GB model that will sell for $999. Unlike the RT version, the Pro doesn’t come bundled with a keyboard cover. The Touch Cover and Type Cover sell separately for $119.99 and $129.99, respectively.
In addition to fully fleshing out the Pro’s future release, Microsoft announced a new pricing option for the Surface for Windows RT. This is the 64GB model but it ditches the keyboard cover to sell for $599. It joins the standalone 32GB model ($499), the 32GB model with Black Touch Cover ($599), and 64GB model with Black Touch Cover ($699).
And there’s more. Microsoft is adding more to its Surface accessory lineup. Three new limited edition Touch Covers featuring funky designs in red, magenta, and cyan are coming soon; they’re priced at $129.99. Also on deck is a wireless Wedge mouse whose design is inspired by the modern look of the Surface; it’s priced at $69.95.
Take a look at the Surface with Windows 8 Pro, along with the new accessories, in the gallery below.
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft Research unveiled one of their latest projects called IllumiRoom. Like most of their ongoing technological marvels of the future this one is quite fascinating so perk up. Imagine you’re playing a video game–let’s say Halo 4–and all of a sudden the on-screen action extends beyond the confines of your TV set. In an instant the mysterious jungles of planet Requiem surround you and you feel as if you’re truly immersed inside the captivating game developed with precision by 343 Industries. Microsoft’s IllumiRoom attempts “to blur the lines between on-screen content and the environment we live in allowing us to combine our virtual and physical worlds.”
So how does it all work? A peek behind the curtain reveals two devices: the pairing of a Kinect for Windows camera and a projector. “Our system uses the appearance and the geometry of the room (captured by Kinect’s sensors) to adapt projected visuals in real-time without any need to custom pre-process the graphics.” Sounds simple now, doesn’t it? Unfortunately like most Microsoft Research projects IllumiRoom is only proof-of-concept, but with engineers working hard to make Kinect even more powerful and projectors keeping pace with high definition resolutions, the technology is there for this prototype to enter the marketplace. Let’s place IllumiRoom in the pile labeled “not if, but when.”
Watch Illumiroom perform its magic in the video embedded above; Microsoft ensures the action was “captured live and is not the result of any special effects added in post production.”
Even if you aren’t a Windows aficionado, you should take an hour out of your day to watch this. Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management for the Windows User Experience Team, took the stage at UX Week 2012, a user experience design conference. His presentation is called “The Story of Windows 8,” it details how Microsoft reimagined Windows for the next wave of PCs. He travels back in time to 1992, the year the Start Menu, Taskbar, and many of the other familiar facets of Windows were born. “They were designed to help people do things with computers that they did in 1992, not necessarily with what people do today with PCs, tablets, [and] phones today,” admits Harris. And this is what compelled the company to radically re-engineer the OS. Many things have been updated and refreshed over the years from Windows 95 to Windows 7, but “the basic elements of the user interface have remained the same,” he explains. Instead of waiting to be engulfed by the modern, his team decided to reimagine Windows by defining what is modern.
Over the course of the presentation, Harris gives a grand tour of Windows 8, interweaving and fully detailing the OS’ design principles (namely do more with less, authentically digital, pride in craftsmanship, fast and fluid, win as one).
He makes it a point to highlight the progression of Windows and what makes the latest release stand out from all the others. But what’s most fascinating about this intellectual and informative presentation is its overall theme which Harris calls “familiar usurped by modern.” Before diving into the OS, he spans the video game, smartphone, and automobile industries to compare and contrast “familiar” products and ideas to “modern” ones. It’s a course in shifting the status quo, being bold by leading by example, what it means to think and be modern. For design enthusiasts it’s a captivating watch, and along the way you might just learn all about the painstaking, detail-oriented effort that went into the making of Microsoft’s new OS.
Windows 8 is out, and Microsoft’s been pushing its own hardware dubbed Surface to highlight the best its tablet-friendly OS has to offer. When Surface was first announced, Microsoft detailed two different models: one running Windows RT and another with Windows 8 Pro. Surface for Windows RT was released into the marketplace the same day as Windows 8–on October 26. Surface for Windows 8 Pro would be saved for a later date.
We still don’t have a specific release date for the more powerful Surface, but this week Microsoft did announce pricing. As expected, the slate running Win8 Pro is pricier than its WinRT sibling (which starts at $499). Surface for Win8 Pro starts at $899 for the 64GB model; a second option with 128GB of storage space will go for $999. Microsoft is calling these “standalone versions” since they do not come bundled with an attachable keyboard cover. The Touch Cover and Type Cover sell separately for $119.99 and $129.99, respectively.
So you want to know the differences. Let’s start with software. As explained in a previous post, Windows RT runs off ARM processors and does not support legacy applications made for Windows 7, Vista, XP, and so on. RT will only run apps downloaded from the Windows Store. Windows 8 Pro, on the other hand, supports x86 processors and will run all legacy apps just fine. What makes this version of Windows 8 “Pro” are its enhanced security features including BitLocker encryption.
Moving onto the hardware side of things, Surface running Win8 Pro packs a more powerful processor with Intel’s third-gen Core i5 chip, double the RAM at 4GB, a higher resolution 1920×1080 full HD display, a faster USB 3.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort that can enable an external display up to 2560X1440 resolution, a larger 42 W-h battery, and it supports pen input. It ships with a pen and display tech called Palm Block that “prevent[s] your handwriting from getting interrupted if you accidentally place your palm on the screen as you write.” This enhanced Surface boasts the same 10.6-inch screen size, but its body is bigger and its weight heavier; it measures 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53in (compared to Surface for WinRT: 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37in) and it weighs half a pound more at 2lbs.
So there you have it. Surface for Windows 8 Pro is coming in January. Keep your eyes peeled at Microsoft’s portal, and when the release date becomes apparent you’ll know.
On November 15, 2002 Microsoft turned on Xbox LIVE and over the past ten years what began as a multiplayer service for video gamers has evolved into an entertainment service that provides not only live multiplayer gameplay around the world but also a hub for the latest in movies, TV, music, and sports. Microsoft took a gamble when they charged gamers to pay a yearly fee for an online subscription; after ten years of supporting blockbuster games and other entertainment outlets it turns out that the price of admission was well worth it.
Here are some fun facts about LIVE Microsoft is sharing today:
- Initially available to U.S. and Canadian Xbox players, the service is now available in 41 countries and territories around the world.
- In the 10 years of LIVE, nearly 14.5 billion Achievements have been unlocked worldwide, accumulating a total combined Gamerscore of more than 270 billion.
- This year we had an average of 9.4 million people a week using multi-player gaming on Xbox LIVE.
- During the week of Nov. 6 through Nov. 13, our members spent more time on Xbox LIVE (gaming and watching entertainment) than any other week in the history of our service: a total of 442 million hours.
- Halo 4, which broke entertainment industry numbers, resulted in the LIVE community unlocking 43 million achievements in just the first five days of gameplay.
In an open letter to Xbox LIVE members, Microsoft’s Marc Witten shared his enthusiasm about the service and how far it’s come. “Over the last 10 years you’ve helped us define LIVE as the best place to play online and the definitive online gaming experience for two generations of Xbox consoles, and you’ve helped us evolve LIVE into a full entertainment service, delivering amazing games, sports, movies, TV and music,” he said. “If the last 10 years is any indication of what’s possible in the next 10 years, imagine the innovation yet to come,” he continued. “One thing is for sure – we will continue to offer some of the best entertainment, from premium games, sports, TV, movies, web to music. To the members who’ve been with us since the beginning – I sincerely thank you, both for your support and your feedback. And for those of you that have just become members, a very warm welcome.”
To celebrate Xbox LIVE’s 10 year anniversary, Microsoft is offering special deals on Xbox LIVE Arcade games and you can win a custom-designed Xbox 360 console. Head over to the anniversary portal for more.
This Tuesday Halo 4 releases for Xbox 360 and a new trilogy forges on. In the original trilogy developer Bungie introduced us to the iconic Master Chief and we controlled the super-solider as he discovered the Halo Array and the Ark, crippled the alien alliance known as the Covenant, and battled the parasitic Flood. After going on to release a prequel to Halo 3 designated ODST and a prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved with Halo: Reach, Bungie handed the franchise’s reigns to a new developer, 343 Industries. Halo 4 brings us back into control of the Chief, and we find him just where we left him at the end of Halo 3 in 2007; he’s aboard the UNSC ship Forward Unto Dawn, floating in space drifting toward a mysterious Forerunner planet called Requiem. Chief’s last words were delivered to Cortana, his AI companion, and they were, “Wake me, when you need me.” Halo 4, in addition to providing addicting online multiplayer modes, will delve deeper into the franchise’s mythology as Master Chief inadvertently crash lands on a Forerunner planet infested with Covenant, Forerunner technology, and, according to the game’s marketing, “an ancient evil awakens.” And on top of that, there’s something wrong with Cortana; she is going “rampant” (or insane) because she is operating beyond her natural lifespan.
Excited yet? Let me give you a boost…
Leading up to the release of Halo 4, Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries developed a five-part live-action web series set in the Halo universe. Forward Unto Dawn follows a group of freshman cadets at the UNSC’s Corbulo Academy of Military Science and places particular focus on troubled cadet Thomas Lasky. The story takes fans to the beginning of the Human/Covenant war and it seamlessly weaves into where things kick off in Halo 4. The series is a bold journey into the Halo universe and it tells a compelling story worth investing your time in, especially if you’re a fan of the franchise. The acting and special effects are surprisingly effective, and in addition to amping you up for the new game it will also make you wish a Halo miniseries a la HBO’s Band of Brothers was made. Forward Unto Dawn can be viewed online at Machinima or on your console via the Halo Waypoint app.
Halo 4 is being sold in various forms; there’s the regular copy ($60), the limited edition copy ($100), it’s bundled in a Halo-themed 320GB console package ($350), and there’s a Halo-themed wireless controller ($60). Want a read more before jumping in? IGN gives a glowing review. Watch the launch trailer after the break. (Click here for more…)
Three days after the Windows 8 release, today Microsoft formally launched Windows Phone 8 into the world. This summer Microsoft fleshed out most of the new features and enhancements that come bundled with the new mobile OS. At the company’s launch event, however, they shed light on a few more tricks up the OS’ sleek sleeve.
Live Apps: At the heart of Windows Phone is Live Tiles. They fill up the Start Screen and they serve two important objectives. They make your phone personal; you can easily rearrange and resize apps and other icons to your heart’s content. In addition, they are connected to the Internet and are regularly updated with the latest information; this institutes a glance-and-go mentality that Microsoft has been pushing since the ringing in of Windows Phone 7. Live Tiles are personal and informational. In WP8, the lock screen is getting a similar treatment with Live Apps. If a Live App is enabled, simply wake your phone up from sleep and you’ll instantly be provided with personalized updated information without digging for it. For example, make CNN or ESPN your Live App and when you check your phone’s lock screen you will be provided with the latest news headline or sports scores without virtually any effort.
Kid’s Corner: This is a neat feature currently exclusive to WP8. In essence, Kid’s Corner is a guest account that you can personalize for your kids or friends or colleagues. There are times when your kids want to steal your phone to play Angry Birds but you are hesitant to let them fool around with it because they might accidentally change settings or mess around with your inbox and other critical information. With Kid’s Corner, you can create a separate Start Screen environment for them to play around in. In Settings, you can choose exactly what apps, games, music, and video gets made accessible for them. Once you password-protect your phone, your personal account will remain untouched and they’ll be forced to swipe to the left and then up to unlock and enter the guest account known as Kid’s Corner.
Rooms: WP8 provides private spaces for you to interact and communicate with your close friends and family. You can create a Room that consists of your small circle of friends and only those invited to it will be able to view and share information inside it. In addition to a private chat room, a Room also allows shared calendars, notes, and photos. Most of the features in Room are exclusive to WP8 devices, but Microsoft says “some aspects” will work across other smartphones as well.
Data Sense: Microsoft is working with mobile carriers to help you keep track of your data usage since the days of “unlimited data” have come and gone. Data Sense is an app that “helps conserve your data allowance by compressing Web images, deferring data tasks to free Wi-Fi, and automatically adjusting your usage as you get closer to your plan limits.” Verizon will be the first to enable Data Sense, and Microsoft says others will join the initiative next year.
Integrated Skype: Since Microsoft bought Skype, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the communication app will be fully integrated with WP8 when it arrives on the platform soon. You can make and receive Skype calls just like you would a regular phone call, and your Skype contacts are integrated in the People (contacts) hub for easy access.
A growing app marketplace: Since WP7 was announced many developers have hopped on board to support the mobile OS. Currently the Windows Phone Store is home to 120,000 apps. Though this number is low compared to Apple and Android’s offerings, Microsoft is hopeful even more developers will start to pick up the slack and contribute to a growing app marketplace. This holiday season a bunch of popular apps are joining the WP fold such as Angry Birds Star Wars, Cut the Rope Experiments, Disney’s Where’s My Water, LivingSocial, Temple Run, Urbanspoon, “and many more,” promises Microsoft. And early next year, Pandora is coming too with one year of ad-free streaming music to-boot.
With all the software features out of the way, the next logical talking point is hardware. Microsoft has partnered with Nokia, HTC, and Samsung as hardware launch partners for WP8. AT&T will carry the Nokia Lumia 920, the Lumia 820, and the Windows Phone 8X by HTC in November; pricing is TBA. Verizon will carry the Windows Phone 8X by HTC for $199.99 with a two-year contract and the Nokia Lumia 822 (exclusive to Verizon) for $99.99 next month. Another VZW exclusive, the Samsung ATIV Odyssey, will release in December. And lastly T-Mobile will also sell the Windows Phone 8X by HTC (16GB) at $149.99 and the Nokia Lumia 810 at $99.99; these release November 14. The fourth U.S. carrier Sprint is sitting this round out.
If you’re looking for a different kind of mobile experience, Windows Phone 8 is the way to go. With a sleek, modern user interface and an equally attractive hardware selection it isn’t hard to recommend you check out Microsoft’s latest offering. The one (albiet major) drawback is developer support and the app catalog, but if the Store continues to grow at the pace Microsoft is hinting at today then they might just have a mobile platform to finally compete against the likes of iOS and Android.
After the break, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore gives you an extensive tour of Windows Phone 8.
Three years after Microsoft’s last major OS release the next one is out of the bag. As of 12:01AM on October 26 the next version of Windows was let loose into the wild. Windows 8 is an entirely new OS, built from the ground up supporting touch input and a new Start screen that borrows its Live Tile look from Microsoft’s foray into the mobile smartphone space. Though the new OS begs to be touched, it has been proven to work just as well with the typical mice and keyboard setup. PC manufacturers like Dell, HP, Acer, and Lenovo are already selling devices running Windows 8 from desktops to laptops to tablets and convertibles.
This release marks the first time Microsoft is selling hardware of their own to promote it. Surface for Windows RT is out now, and Surface for Windows 8 Pro is coming soon. In case you don’t know the difference, Windows RT runs off ARM processors and does not support legacy applications made for Windows 7, Vista, XP, and so on. RT will only run apps downloaded from the Windows Store, open today. If your needs require such older apps, you’ll have to opt for the Pro version which does support x86 processors and apps designed with that chipset in mind. In a nutshell, Windows RT devices pack small ARM processors that allow for more compact, lighter PC designs and extended battery life; legacy apps won’t run. Windows Pro devices use x86 processors and these PC designs are typically thicker and heavier; legacy apps will run.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer shared his excitement for the latest software release in a press statement: “We have reimagined Windows and the result is a stunning lineup of new PCs. Windows 8 brings together the best of the PC and the tablet. It works perfect for work and play and it is alive with your world. Every one of our customers will find a PC that they will absolutely love.”
To get Windows 8 today you have a couple options: you can either download it from Windows.com for $39.99 or purchase a physical copy for $69.99. Click here for more. There’s also a Windows Upgrade Offer available if you purchase a Windows 7 PC. Check that out here. Order a Surface here.
In addition to the PR, you’ll also find a couple videos after the break. Bill Gates talks Windows 8 and Surface in the first, and if you’re excited about this release as I am you’ll allot about an hour to watch the Windows 8 launch event hosted by Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky with an appearence by Steve Ballmer.
Happy Windows 8 Day! (Click here for more…)
Last week Microsoft began rolling out a dashboard update for Xbox 360. In addition to Internet Explorer and Xbox Music, the update also prepped the console for Xbox SmartGlass. Unveiled at this year’s E3 press conference, SmartGlass enables users to interact with their Xboxes via smartphones and tablets. The most basic feature of SmartGlass allows you to control the Xbox dashboard, media playback, and the browser using your mobile wireless devices. The technology’s real potential lies in its second screen experiences. For example, after queuing up a movie on your tablet, you can resume its playback on your HDTV. When the movie is playing on your TV, your tablet will provide related content including the actors starring in the film and this gives you the opportunity to discover other movies they are in. In addition to providing related content for movies and TV shows, a second screen experience can also keep you up to date on the latest sports stats, player bios, and breaking news in real-time while you’re watching ESPN, NBA GameTime, or UFC through your Xbox. Beyond entertainment, developers will start to integrate SmartGlass into their games. For example, in Harmonix’s Dance Central 3 you can queue up the next track on your phone or tablet while a current song is being played. Expect the selection of second screen experiences to grow as time goes on.
Currently the Xbox SmartGlass mobile app is only available for Windows 8 and its coming to Windows Phone 8 after that launches next week. Microsoft promises to release the app (it will update the existing “My Xbox Live” app) for iOS and Android users in the coming weeks. Jump after the break to watch a walkthrough.
Update: Xbox SmartGlass for Android is now available in the Google Play store. Have at it!
Let Microsoft’s first Surface commercial dance right into your heart [Update: Pricing & specs revealed, preorder today, ships 10/26]
With the release of Microsoft’s radically new operating system coming out so soon, the company has let loose a fun commercial touting its in-house tablet dubbed Surface. Directed by Jon Chu (Step Up 3D) and choreographed by Christopher Scott and Jamal Sims, the spot incorporates an infectious track and aggressive dance moves to market its snazzy slate to a young crowd. Though it doesn’t offer specs and pricing, it does highlight the Surface’s ability to snap to a cover/keyboard hybrid the company calls Touch Cover and Type Cover, and it also puts the device’s built-in kick stand in the spotlight. It also screams that Windows 8 begs to be touched.
Surface for Windows RT releases day and date with Windows 8 on October 26.
Update: Now there’s even more to celebrate. Today Microsoft put up a product page for Surface with Windows RT and it includes a final spec list and pricing. Three separate SKUs are offered. The tablet starts at $499 and that gets you a 32GB slate. For $599 you get the same storage capacity and the slate is bundled with a black Touch Cover. And for $699 storage jumps to 64GB and you’ll get a black Touch Cover. The company is selling Touch Covers separately at $119.99 in a variety of colors including black, white, red, cyan, and magenta. Also sold separately is the Type Cover at $129.99 in black only. According to the site, the cheapest SKU ships “within three weeks” while the other two will arrive on your doorstep on Windows 8 launch day October 26. Preorder today.
When Microsoft announced Surface in June, they didn’t fully divulge all of the tablet’s specs. Now we’ve got ’em all. Been wondering what the 10.6 inch display’s resolution is? It’s 1366 x768. For a full list of juicy specs, jump after the break for the official PR. Glance at new images that just surfaced below.
Flip on your Xbox 360 today and you might find an update waiting for you to download and install. Microsoft releases updates to its video game console every fall and spring, and we’re well into October so this refresh shouldn’t come as a giant surprise. Nor should most of its features since the most prominent ones were highlighted at this year’s E3. But let’s recap. With nearly every update comes a refreshed dashboard with user interface tweaks; overall the design and layout largely remain the same, but you’ll notice that each hub now houses more tiles. Some of them are tailored to your gaming habits, recent activity, and content ratings, while others are merely advertisements. You can create a personalized folder of “pinned” items; you can pin your favorite games, movies, TV shows, and music to an easy-to-access destination on the dashboard. Bing search has been enhanced to allow for search by genre; for example, you can speak to your Kinect and say “Xbox, Bing sci-fi” and related content will show up. And last but not least there’s the introduction of Internet Explorer; Xbox nabs a web browser. Where’s Xbox SmartGlass? Microsoft is holding off on the second-screen experience until Windows 8 launches; when it does users will be able to control their consoles via tablets and smartphones and interact with content in new ways. (Learn more about SmartGlass here.)
Here’s how the rollout will work, according to Xbox’s Major Nelson. “To ensure a stable release, this will be a gradual deployment across subscribers and regions over the course of the next week. Our initial deployment will reach approximately three million consoles worldwide, with additional users being updated over the course of a couple weeks.” So there you go.
Announced separately from this fall’s dashboard update is the rollout of Xbox Music. With Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 on the horizon, Microsoft wants to forget the Zune era and start anew with a cloud-based music service that extends across the desktop/tablet OS, the phone OS, and the home console. Currently Xbox Music is available on Xbox 360. Users will notice a newly branded destination to browse, stream, and download music. In the Music hub there’s an Xbox Music tile that takes you to Microsoft’s collection of 30 million songs. To access the content, users must sign up for an Xbox Music Pass that goes for $9.99/month or $99.90/year. With the Pass, you can stream individual songs and full-length albums, ad-free. A free 30-day trial is offered if you feel so inclined to dip your toe.
When Windows 8 ships later this month on October 26, Xbox Music will be the destination for music consumption from Microsoft there, too. Unlike 360 owners, desktop/tablet users will have free unlimited, ad-supported access to the music database. Purchase an Xbox Music Pass and the ads go bye-bye; and also with the Pass, you’ll be able to save songs for offline listening. A feature called Smart DJ allows you to personalize a radio station based on your favorite artists. Since Xbox Music is a cloud-based service, your entire music collection (including playlists and Smart DJ data) is synced across devices including your desktop/tablet, phone, and console. Start streaming a song on your Xbox, pause it, and continue exactly where you left off on your tablet. You get the idea. Feel the urge to download a song for keeps? Purchase it in the Xbox Music Store, available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.
Speaking of Microsoft’s phone OS, Xbox Music will begin to rollout to WP8 devices as they ship after the OS’ release later this month. Xbox 360’s rules apply to WP8 devices–an Xbox Music Pass is required to access streaming content. To reiterate, free ad-supported streaming is only available to Win8 users. Microsoft notes that they plan to expand the service to other platforms (think Android, iOS) sometime in the future.
In review: your Xbox is about to be injected with new life, and Microsoft is ready to take on the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Spotify with the launch of their very own cloud-based music streaming service and storefront. If you’ve got an Xbox, you can explore Microsoft’s new offerings today; for the rest of you it will come baked in Windows 8 when it releases in just over a week.
The next version of Windows is almost here. October 26 is under two weeks away, so what better time to reveal what the physical packaging looks like and flip the switch for preordering. Microsoft describes the packaging as “tak[ing] a fresh approach, in the reimagining of Windows.” It is made up of paper based materials which makes the box greener than in the past. Interestingly the company will ship Windows 8 in a variety of packages, each featuring a different “vibrant illustration” on the front. Check out the five options in the gallery below.
In addition to showing off the product’s package, Microsoft also announced that the Metro-fied OS is up for preorder. Consumers can reserve a packaged DVD of the upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $69.99. However, if you can live without the snazzy new physical package, on launch day you’ll be able to upgrade online via the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant (at Windows.com) for $39.99. The upgrade promotion runs until January 31, 2013. To be eligible for an upgrade at these prices you must already by running Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. Note that you can upgrade for even cheaper–$14.99–if you purchase a Windows 7 PC anytime between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013. If you’re interested in viewing all the Windows 8 SKUs up for preorder, head over to NewEgg to see the lineup.
On Wednesday Nokia and Microsoft held a joint event announcing two new Lumia smartphones that will run the next-gen mobile operating system Windows Phone 8. The new flagship WP8 device is dubbed the Nokia Lumia 920 and its specs are as follows: 4.5-inch (1280 x 768) display, 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB RAM, 32GB memory, back-facing 8.7 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, Carl Zeiss optics, LED flash, and 1080p video recording capability, front-facing camera, integrated 2000mAh battery with wireless charging support. All of this is housed inside a polycarbonate shell that comes in a variety of colors including black, grey, red, yellow, and white. Nokia is touting the phone’s “PureMotion HD+” display as the company’s “brightest, fastest and most sensitive touchscreen (the screen will accept input even if the user is wearing protective gloves);” the “PureView” back-facing camera that uses “advanced floating lens technology” that promises to capture clearer and brighter pictures even in low light situations; and the phone’s wireless charging functionality based on the Qi wireless standard. Place your phone down on a charging surface and it will automagically begin to regain battery life. Nokia will release its own wireless charing platforms and the company is also working with third parties such as Fatboy to sell portable wireless charging pillows. To kickstart the initiative, Nokia has partnered with The Coffee Bean and Virgin Atlantic to install wireless charing stations in countertops and airport lounges.
Also announced at the event is the mid-range alternative Nokia Lumia 820. It sports a smaller 4.3-inch (800 x 480) ClearBlack OLED display, only 8GB of storage (but there’s microSD expandability up to 32GB), a non-PureView 8 megapixel back-facing camera with Carl Zeiss optics and LED flash, and a smaller 1650mAh battery. It packs the same 1.5GHz dual-core processor as it’s bigger sibling, a VGA front-facing camera, and there is support for wireless charging. Users will have the ability to swap out their polycarbonate back cover for a wireless charging-capable one. The Lumia 820 comes in an even great variety of bright colors like red, yellow, grey, cyan, purple, white, and black.
Nokia has not specified pricing and release date information for either device. LTE and HSPA+ variants of the 920 and 820 “are expected to start shipping in select markets later in the year,” says the company’s press release. What you’re left with now are photos of the sleek phones in the galleries below (the 920 above, the 820 below), plus two intro videos and official PR after the break.
Take a gander at Microsoft’s brand new logo. Shortly after revealing the Windows 8 logo, Microsoft is revamping its corporate image with this modern look that incorporates a grey logotype (the name Microsoft) and a multicolored symbol (the red-green-blue-yellow flattened window). The branding “signal[s] the heritage but also signal[s] the future–a newness and freshness,” says Microsoft’s general manager of brand strategy Jeff Hansen. This marks the fourth time the Windows makers redesigned their logo, and the first time in 25 years. With Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Office 2013 on the horizon (and Xbox matching its Dashboard to the desktop/laptop/tablet and mobile OS’), there really hasn’t been a better time for Microsoft to pull this off. Me likey; what do you think of the fresh new look? Hop after the break to see all of MS’ brands animate.
Mark your calendars. Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky has announced that the company’s next operating system–Windows 8–will release October 26, 2012. On this day consumers will be able to get their hands on the final version of the OS whether they are upgrading their current PC or wanting to purchase a new one. When it ships three distinct versions of Windows 8 will be floating around: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT. For a chart that helps visualize the differences, click here. Note that RT will not sell in stores and will only come preinstalled on devices such as the Microsoft Surface.
Recently Microsoft also took the covers off the next version of their productivity suite. Office 2013 focuses on the cloud for saving and accessing content across multiple devices, social and new visual scenarios, and touch input for tablet accessibility. You can read all about the new Office right here, and you can even download a free customer preview of the software that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and Outlook and give it a test drive. Microsoft has not specified price and release date info, but it was made known that Office 2013 Home and Student edition will come preloaded on all Windows RT devices. Stay tuned.