Archive for the ‘Microsoft’ Category

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SkyPlayer in Windows Media Center – Now Active!

November 23, 2009

skyplayer1 In Windows Media Center, on Windows 7, there has been a Sky Player icon which lead to a page saying that the service would be coming soon. Since then, SkyPlayer has been released on the Xbox 360 and can be accessed at no extra cost for those who have a Sky Multiroom subscription and for non-Sky customers who are willing to pay a large subscription cost to access a limited range of channels when compared to a dedicated Sky subscription (which requires a satellite dish and box).

Having checked this magical icon in Windows Media Player, the functionality of SkyPlayer has been enabled and provides the same experience as on the Xbox 360 but without the party features.

Sky limit the number of computers that can access SkyPlayer to four systems and one Xbox 360. At present, my main device is my Xbox 360 and this lets me watch the movie channels and Sky1 from the console, but not from Sky Player on Windows Media Center. Customers are allowed one change of their devices a month so this has to be thought out. A hindrance to this is that trying to watch Sky1 or a Sky Screen/movie channel on a device that isn’t currently the main device, in a month when you haven’t used up your changes, may cause that device to become the main one, leaving you wondering why you can access the premium channels on the previous device. I have yet to fully test this and may be saved by being restricted to changing the main device via the Sky.com account pages.

If you don’t have a main device specified, ie a PC, Xbox 360 or Windows Media Center, the device you first use to access the channels, will be registered as your main system and that will be it for that month. You will have to wait until the next calendar month to be able to change this.

Check out the screenshots below which show the same features as available to the Xbox 360 version:

 

Sky Player Installation Sky Player Installation

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

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Microsoft Office 2010 Beta Now Open!

November 19, 2009

Microsoft Office 2010beta logo If you have been waiting for the public beta of Microsoft Office 2010 to open up, or waiting for the email inviting you, the wait is over.

Head on over to the Office 2010 Beta Page to sign up, get your key and download it. There are 32bit and 64bit versions on offer. I myself went for the 64bit version after having built a new computer with Windows 7 64bit on it!

Microsoft office send a smile With the beta, as in the previous Technical Previews, a small app will be installed which shows up in Add/Remove Programs or Programs and Features (depending on your version of Windows) called Microsoft Office Send-a-Smile. This will start up with Windows and display 2 emoticons in the system tray, near the clock, which you can click if you like or hate something. The app will then send a screenshot and allow you to add a comment regarding the feature that made you smile or frown. Please make use of this as it only serves to make Office better (depending on your comments) if the Office team get your feedback!

From the FAQ, the Beta will be active until October 31, 2010, so you have a good length of time to try it out and settle in.

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Office 2010 In a Browser Near You

July 16, 2009

Microsoft Office 2010 logo Last week, Google revealed that they are working on an operating system to be named the same as their browser, Chrome. It was suspected that the announcement by Google was to whip up some headlines ahead of a Microsoft event on Monday expected to reveal Office 2010.

Articles and blog posts were written asking if this was the ‘end of Microsoft’ but that has died down now. I believe Google’s operating system success will be like those for current netbook OSs at present, such as Moblin and Presto, it will get along, perhaps have a little more success owing to the Google brand but won’t take over the desktop space anytime soon.

Over time however, if Google can provide the touted simplicity, reliability and security from the ground up as well as running the applications and drivers that users require, it will put a dent in Windows sales. If the OS takes into heavy consideration the usability and appearance of the OS, Apple’s OS could come into the firing line also for those requiring an easy to use system but without the high cost of hardware.

However Google do, Office has been reworked for another revision by Microsoft. Office 2010 sees the ribbon bar extended to Outlook, which didn’t receive the facelift in Office 2007, perhaps to ease users into the new UI via the other applications.

There are a vast number of new features; a notable one, although basic, was the live screenshots being taken in the background by Word. As Robert Scoble rightly mentions in his video (from 1min 12), this could come in handy for bloggers. From the Insert menu in Word, the screenshots can be selected from a drop down list and inserted immediately into the current document. See the video of it in action, titled New copy and paste features in Office 2010.

Also, the biggest news of all and of more relevance to remote workers and home users, there will be a free version of Office 2010 available to use via the Internet and will not rely on Internet Explorer to use. This is not the first office suite to go online, there have been pure online offerings from Zoho and Google Docs for a few years now.

Check out the videos highlighting some of the new features in Office 2010 at the official site (via Long Zheng) check out Robert Scoble’s videos of an Office briefing from Chris Bryant, product manager at Microsoft.

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New Xbox 360 in 2010

June 18, 2009

Natal Xbox 360 2010 mockup - of course this isn't real, I bodged it together! According to Steve Ballmer, there will be a new Xbox 360 coming in 2010.  Rumours have been going around of a new model of Xbox 360 and not a complete replacement for the current Xbox 360. 1up have speculated that the new model of Xbox 360 will be a bit more powerful than the current models of Xbox 360 and will include the hardware for Natal, which will be available for existing 360 owners to purchase separately.

Now the rumours and speculation have been confirmed by none other than Steve Ballmer himself. According to TGDaily [via PCPer], he didn’t go into specifics:

”The new device will be equipped with technology that is “really, really, close” to an actuality. The console, which was described as having a “natural interface,” will have a built in camera with the ability to recognize movement and voice.”

So, keep those eyes peeled for a release date, ready to eBay your console before the price drops, or just buy the Natal camera as an accessory! 🙂

[UPDATE] Major Nelson has written a short post titled “To clarify what Steve said earlier today…” (bold text is my emphasis):

A few people have emailed me regarding something Steve Ballmer said earlier today about a new Xbox coming in 2010. As the Xbox team stated at E3 two weeks ago, we are not even halfway through the current console generation lifecycle and believe Xbox 360 will be the entertainment center in the home for long into the next decadeProject Natal will be an important part of this platform, but we have not confirmed a launch date at this time.

While the post leans towards saying there will be no new Xbox 2010, which to me reads that there won’t be a next generation for the Xbox 360 ie a n Xbox 720(?), in 2010, but there is nothing in the posts denying another iteration of the current Xbox 360 in 2010. Word has been out for a while that the Xbox 360 has a 10 year lifecycle, taking it well into 2015 before a replacement would be due. The final sentence is key, “…we have not confirmed a launch date at this time.” OK, no confirmed launch date,  but no denial about a new version of the 360 either.


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Microsoft’s E3 Conference Announcements

June 4, 2009

You may have read my E3 rumours roundup for Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony…I wasn’t until yesterday that the three companies revealed their cards.

Microsoft was the first of the companies to present their works to the press, beginning with a montage of gameplay footage of Beatles tracks, indicating that there would be a Beatles version of the Rock Band game. Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney came on stage to have a bit of a natter to promote the game and approving of their in-game characters. Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono were also on-stage.

Corporate VP for Xbox John Shappert didn’t start with sales and marketing figures, instead announcing 10 World game premieres along with innovations and experiences.

The Games
Tony Hawk Ride, a skateboarding game if you aren’t familiar with the seires or Tony Hawk, will also be playable with a static skateboard peripheral. The peripheral has sensors on the sides to detect grabs with accelerometers to detect motion/orientation. Due out later this year.

There was some gameplay on a snowy mountainous level on a section called Cliffhanger in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Shappert said that there will be two map packs for the game, released on the Xbox 360 first.

Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIII will be coming to the Microsoft console. The game is due for a Spring 2010 release.

Xbox 360 Exclusives
Exclusive to the Xbox 360 will be Epic’s first Xbox Live Arcade title, Gears of War: Shadow Complex, a 3D side scroller with over 10 hours of gameplay, due this summer. Joyride a product of Microsoft Game Studios is like Madtracks but with customisable cars and avatars.

Another exclusive is the follow-up to the popular Crackdown game, Crackdown 2.wasn’t given a date but the signs from Ruffian Games suggests it is still in the works, possibly an Autumn 2010 game if I had to stick my neck out.

Left 4 Dead, the survival horror, also has a sequel, Left 4 Dead 2. It was given a release date of November 17, 2009 and also available on PC.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction had a gameplay demo showing Sam Fisher walking and skulking around in the shadows with a new ‘mark and execute’ ability, allowing the player to select a target to kill before entering an area where an enemy may be alerted. As well as playing the stealth game, the player will get the opportunity to go in all guns blazing according to the demonstration. Splinter Cell: Conviction will be out Autumn 2009.

Forza Motorsport 3 was shown confirming that the racing game with realistic handling and physics is coming back for a third instalment. A video created using the in-game video editor demonstrated how creative the users can be with it. Also, a dashboard view will be available, missing from the previous instalment due to weight reduction customisations which would result in dashboard changes. Expect Forza 3 on the shelves in October, 2009.

One for the Halo fans, Halo 3 ODST. You play the role of an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (hence the ODST), you have become separated from your team and have to find your way around and find out what happened.. From the video, it looks like you as the ODST are being dropped in a capsule towards a space craft/carrier of some sort which warps out of the area just before an EMP blast is unleashed. The setting is New Mombasa, three weeks before Halo 3. You also get to play as other ODSTs so you can experience the story from other points of view to build up a complete picture of events. Halo ODST is due to be released Worldwide on the 22nd of September, 2009. Bungie Team are also working on yet another Halo game, Halo Reach, due for release Autumn 2010.

Alan Wake has seen delays and now it looks like the game is coming together, so much so that there was a gameplay demo for the crowd at E3. Alan Wake from Remedy Entertainment, due for release in Spring 2010.

Metal Gear Solid is coming to the Xbox 360. Although this seems to be a spin-off rather than a true MGS game. Don Mattrick mentioned Snake and Hideo Kojima rebuffed the reference by stating he didn’t say anything about Solid Snake. The title Metal Gear Solid: Rising was revealed in a vague teaser video which had a voice over saying “Raiden is back,” possibly suggesting the game could be centred around this character.

Media and Social
ArtistDetails Xbox Live partners with last.fm to bring music from the internet to the Xbox 360 dashboard and will be free to Gold members (finally, something extra for the subscription) later this year. In addition to music is the ability for those in the US with Netflix accounts to browse and add titles to the queue directly from their Xbox 360, no longer needing access to a PC.

UK and Ireland customers will have the ability to get live Sky TV via their consoles, over the internet, with no additional hardware needed. No mention of it being free so will probably have a cost associated with it.

Sky_Sports The Xbox video service will be re-launched as the Zune video service, videos will be upgraded to 1080p with movies and shows being instantly watchable while the rest of the content downloads in the background. This will be available from Autumn 2009.

What’s missing? Social interaction! Watch films, tv shows and sporting events with friends on Live  with your avatars at the bottom of the screen. You will have the ability to animate your avatar using preset events such as cheering.

Friends Also, coming to your TV via your Xbox 360 is Facebook. Felicia Day presented a quick demo of how friends on Facebook would be displayed, with their Xbox Live profiles linked, along with the ability to see their status updates. That’s not all, you can also view Facebook photos from your dashboard. For a while now, Facebook has provided access to its API, Facebook Connect. the Xbox 360 will use this to let you upload and share pictures and event from games that support it, to your Facebook account, such as Tiger Woods PGA Tour.

Facebook isn’t alone, Twitter will also be available with a full screen Twitter experience from the dashboard with the ability to post to Twitter also. Both Facebook and Twitter will be coming to the Xbox in Autumn.

INNOVATION
prjctntl-F_2 Don Mattrick said, “People ask me, ‘can you add a motion controller?’ I tell ‘em, of course we can.” Which pretty much gives away what came up next!

The rumours of the camera based motion controller are true, a video trailer showing a family playing in front of a TV, steering a car with two hands holding virtual steering wheel, the Dad getting up to carry out a wheel change as part of the pit stop, the son playing his part as a Godzilla-esque dinosaur beating off planes with his arms. and stomping his feet. Mother and daughter, side by side taking a penalty..and trying to save it. Another son scanning in a skateboard, getting it into the game and then pulling off moves by jumping and changing stances. The daughter comes in to the room, stands in front of the TV to which the Xbox 360 responds by signing her in and using voice commands to initiate a video chat as well as trying on clothes on her avatar. No longer will you need buzzers for games like Scene It, you can hit your open palm with the other hand shaped into a fist, as if miming the application of a rubber stamp to paper. All this possible using the camera technology dubbed Project Natal, part of which is a sensor discretely placed below/in front of you television.

Steven Spielberg came on to give a brief spiel about how the controller can be a barrier to gaming and removing this will make gaming more approachable.

xxxxx Project Natal’s creative director Kudo Tsunoda came on to explain Project Natal live in front of the audience. Demonstrations included painting on a canvas using the hand as a brush, navigating the Xbox dashboard using hand gestures and animating the avatar by moving his body. There was a game demo using Ricochet, no controller required just your body in front of the camera and moving arms and legs, which is mimicked by the onscreen avatar, into the path of oncoming balls to send them back down the hall to destroy a wall, according to Tsunoda, real physics are involved.

Developers over the past few months have had access to Natal and one of these have been Lionhead. Peter Molyneux came on stage to talk about Project Natal and to present what Lionhead have done with it. A boy called Milo, a character that will recognise faces, voices, emotions and will react with the user. In the video, the in-game character Milo is interacting with the user of Natal, Claire. Milo throws a pair of goggles at the screen/user and Claire reaches forward to catch the virtual item. Molyneux explains that this wasn’t acted and that everyone who uses it feels the need to reach down to catch the item, presumably since there is no contact with a controller and the compulsion to press a button to interact.

As well as gesture based interaction, there was a data input interaction, much like using a scanner or loading a photo into your computer but in a more natural way. Claire drew a fish on a piece of paper then put it near the camera at the top of the screen and put the paper down. On screen, Milo received a piece of paper from off the screen near the camera making it look like he was passed the item. The drawing was scanned and recognised by the game and Milo reacted accordingly. This demo with Milo was available for selected audiences at E3 behind closed doors, so it isn’t just a video of a concept but a working model.

This is more than just inspiration from the Wii, but an evolution of motion gaming that removes the controller and advanced interactivity. It could be around a year before games are available and the announcement of a public release for Project Natal…along with a rename.

For Microsoft, the games announcements have been mainly of sequels and followups. The coup of a Metal Gear Solid title, Final Fantasy XIII and the innovation demonstrated by Project Natal means that they had a strong E3 showing, with many wondering if Sony or Nintendo could better them…

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Windows 7 Launch Date Official

June 2, 2009

Windows 7 October 22, 2009. This is the date that Windows 7 will be available, according to a Microsoft Senior VP, Bill Veghte in an interview with CNET (via Ars Technica). Currently Windows 7 is at Release Candidate 1 and available for anyone to try via the Community Technology Preview.

A short and to the point post. Check out the links for more info.

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What’s Expected from the Big 3 at E3?

May 28, 2009

Rumours - Fleetwood Mac Taking place next week is E3, a yearly even where games, consoles, services and related paraphernalia are revealed. In the run up to every E3 is a huge amount of speculation as to what may be announced, this year is no different.

So what announcements are expected from the big three: Microsoft and Nintendo and Sony? Here’s a rumour roundup.

 

Microsoft – Motion Camera
There has been a lot by way of rumour flying around regarding Microsoft’s recent purchase of 3DV Systems, an Israeli company, who had their motion sensing technology on show at CES last year. The rumour being that full body motion sensing technology purchased by Microsoft could come to the Xbox 360.

The Xbox 360 already has a USB camera available for it. The 3DV System camera would be a duplication of the standard Microsoft camera and could be a potential replacement, with the phasing out of the original camera altogether.

Sources: CNET, ARS Technica

 

Microsoft – ZuneHD/Zune Video
A few days ago, information about the existence of a new model of the Zune portable audio and video player had surfaced, the ZuneHD. Not long after the web lit up with the story, a Microsoft blog confirmed the device. Being so close to E3 and also Microsoft’s saying that Zune isn’t just a single device but an eco-system, leads to a potential connection between the ZuneHD and the Xbox 360. The Microsoft console already has a Netflix movie arrangement  in the US, and a marketplace where films and TV shows can be rented, and purchased for the latter. It is only natural for this to extend onto a device such as the Zune and that is what has also been speculated. No word on the Zune coming to the UK, or anywhere else for that matter, although the Guardian reports that Zune Video will be coming to the Xbox 360 in Europe, confirming the Zune eco-system within the home.

Sources: CNET, Engadget, Joystiq

 

Microsoft – Sky Player on Xbox 360
For those in the UK and possibly anywhere else BSkyB operate their online TV access service, Sky Player, this will be a long awaited feature that adds to the Xbox 360’s abilities where Netflix and similar services are unavailable. According to the Telegraph, an announcement may be made tomorrow so there might not be any mention of this at E3.

The UK has had BTVision which can be accessed via the Xbox 360 but my understanding of that is that the stream comes from the BTVision box, much like connecting your PC to the console. Another limitation is that the BT implementation was available those who have a BTVision box and are subscribers to BT’s broadband service. Granted, users will now have to be subscribers to Sky to receive the service but hopefully the implementation will be through the web to the Xbox dashboard, instead of using the Xbox as a media extender for the Sky box.

Sources: Telegraph

 

Nintendo – Not Much Leaked

Shop and distributor inventories are often a good source of releases due in the near future and in this case, it has come up trumps again. This time Nintendo’s Wii Fit Plus, a sequel to the already popular Wii Fit will be coming to the Wii. Another confirmation is that Wii Fit Plus has been trademarked by Nintendo, along with a trademark for Art Academy.

David Gibson, analyst at Macquarie Research has the above plus the expectation of a new Mario or Zelda title for the Wii.

Sources: Kotaku, Kotaku, Joystiq

 

Sony – PSP Go

If the pictures are anything to go by, the PSP as we know it will be similar but will have taken on a slide out keyboard form factor. If the speculation is anything to go by, the poorly performing UMD format will be given the boot with the slot removed from the PSP Go. Also a preference for a new or smaller flash memory has been heard of. The previous PSP-3000 will still be available to buy and isn’t being replaced by the Go.

Sources: Ars Technica, Joystiq

 

Sony – PS3 Slim

Believe it or not, a hardware change is rumoured for the PS3. Labelled the PS3 Slim, it is expected to be thinner (duh) and the pictures that are on Engaget of the supposed console show that the panels are reduced in height and if put together will significantly reduce the height of the device. No word on feature changes as of yet.

Sources: Engadget, Ars Technica

 

Sony –  PSP Download-Rental Service

Having received a survey from TNS, it was quite obvious from the first sentence what might be coming to the PSP, “You are now going to see a series of different possible rental download services which could be developed by PlayStation.”

Further down on the survey briefing a glossary is given for the questions in the survey which explicitly mention the PSP e.g. “Games per month – the number of PSP games you would have access to (ie be able to download and play) each month.”

For a rough idea for the sort of plans they are seeking views on please see one of the questions below:

PSP Game Rental Survey Question

 

Sources: Joystiq, Joystiq

Of course there are many more things expected but these are some of the biggies. Also, Joystiq has a Microsoft and Sony bingo cards for their E3 conferences…I’ll be playing along!