Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft demonstrates Xbox One user interface ahead of launch

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. READ MORE Microsoft demonstrates Xbox One user interface ahead of launch

Sony gets nostalgic with its PlayStation brand over the years

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. READ MORE Sony gets nostalgic with its PlayStation brand over the years

Microsoft intros new Surface tablets

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]

Xbox One will release on…

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] READ MORE Xbox One will release on…

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

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]

Gamescom 2013: Xbox One & PS4 launch titles revealed

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! READ MORE Gamescom 2013: Xbox One & PS4 launch titles revealed

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

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

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

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

Microsoft rescinds its Xbox One DRM policy, gamers rejoice (for now)

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.”

[Via Xbox]

E3 2013: Microsoft and the Xbox One

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. READ MORE E3 2013: Microsoft and the Xbox One

Microsoft packs Windows 8.1 with welcome upgrades in features and functionality

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.

Microsoft introduces Xbox One

“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. READ MORE Microsoft introduces Xbox One

The next Xbox is coming

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 announces Surface for Windows 8 Pro release date, new Surface accessories

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.

[Via Microsoft]

Microsoft Research imagines an immersive future for gameplay with IllumiRoom

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.”

[Via MicrosoftResearch]