With Amazon Instant Video and More, Is Xbox 360 the Center of Your Entertainment?

Amazon has announced the launch of the Instant Video app for Xbox 360 that gives customers access to movies and TV episodes on their console. Xbox Live Gold members who also are subscribed to the Amazon Prime service can now access over 17,000 movies and TV episodes from Amazon. If you don’t have the Amazon Prime subscription, you can purchase any streaming video content and watch it on your Xbox 360 console.

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Download the Amazon Instant Video application from the Apps section of the Xbox dashboard. Once in the Amazon Instant Video application, sign in using your Amazon credentials and instantly watch the videos you want. While you can shop the Amazon Instant Video store from the web on a PC, Mac or tablet, you can’t do that from the console! Bummer, yes. Buying and renting movies directly on your Xbox 360 is not currently supported, although, anything you buy or rent will appear in Your Video Library on your Xbox 360.

The app includes a new Watchlist feature, similar to Netflix Queue, that lets you manage your queue and purchased content in a playlist from your computer. The app is Kinect-enabled, and you can use gesture or voice commands for the navigation through the app. Amazon’s WhisperSync feature that makes reading on Kindle devices and mobile/desktop apps seamless finds a neat, similar use in the app. You can start a video on one device and continue it from the same point on a second device like a Kindle Fire.

Xbox has become the center of entertainment offerings from Microsoft (Farewell Zune?). Microsoft has been building content partnerships progressively bringing the HBO Go app and Xfinity On Demand app to Xbox 360. The brand also enjoys a favorable buzz in the industry, unlike the often-messed up Windows Live or Zune, and the unification of entertainment options under the Xbox umbrella might just give Microsoft the right impetus for the next generation of Windows and Windows Phone.

Gangs of Wasseypur – First Film in India to Premiere Music on Mobile First

A fancy stage, celebrity guests, and guests from media. Well, that is a typical setting for the music premiere of a movie’s original soundtrack in India. Not any more for some of them.

Presented by Viacom 18 Motion Pictures and produced by Anurag Kashyap, the forthcoming film – Gangs of Wasseypur, has earned the interesting distinction of being the first film in India to premier the film’s soundtrack on mobile platform before the album’s physical release. Gangs of Wasseypur has garnered unprecedented buzz from international media and has been selected for the prestigious “Directors’ Fortnight” at the 65th Festival De Cannes.

Airtel and Hungama Mobile collaborated in this interesting change to marketing and distributing entertainment with an intention to tap into the growing tribe of mobile music listeners and generate ancillary revenues from mobile downloads, ringtones, and caller-tones.

Airtel mobile subscribers got 10 days of exclusive access to music from the forthcoming movie via Hello Tunes and Airtel Radio. Hungama Mobile, a part of Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., is the largest aggregator, developer, publisher and distributor of Bollywood and South-Asian entertainment content in the world. It powers close to 75% of all mobile entertainment content in India.

Microsoft Launches a Startup Incubator in India – Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure

Microsoft India has announced the launch of Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure in India. In a first for any technology company in India, the incubator will host 10 early-stage startups and help them build businesses in Cloud, Internet, and Mobile that can take the advantage of the Cloud such as e-commerce, mobile, media, social applications, gaming, education & healthcare, or even enterprise products.

The four-month incubation program will provide the selected startups with all the support and mentorship as part of a deep immersion program with the elite technical and business leaders in the industry, as well as at Microsoft, and investors with diverse experiences. The selected startups will also have access to all the resources of Microsoft’s BizSpark program and $60,000 in Azure credit through the Microsoft BizSpark Plus program. The program is part of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN), and hence the inducted startups will have access to the global resources of GAN.

Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure is hosted in Microsoft’s state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Bangalore, and you would have to be full-time on the site for the four months. The facility offers everything from work areas, meeting rooms, communications, video conferencing to even a usability lab for filming product demos. The incubator is not open for only Indian citizens/residents, but anyone from anywhere can apply. Of course, you would have to be in India during the program.

At the end of the four month program, Microsoft will organize an Investor Demo Day where Microsoft executives as well as angel investors and venture capitalists will check out your technology and listen to your pitch. Microsoft will also organize informal dinners each week and invite key industry leaders, influencers, and thought leaders to speak on relevant topics.

In a conversation over Skype, Amit Chatterjee(Managing Director, Microsoft India (R&D) Pvt Ltd) mentioned that success of this program will be measured by the success of these startups. Microsoft would not retain any equity or IP from the companies and is not a stakeholder in any way. Although, there are no definite plans, he was optimistic that if successful the program can scale up to include more startups in next phases or extend to other cities with a similar thriving startup ecosystem. A similar program has been announced in Seattle few weeks ago and one has been kicked off in Israel.

Starting today till July 1, 2012, you can apply for the program. Ten applicants, selected through a rigorous process of screening, will be invited to join the program in starting September 3, 2012. Details: http://www.microsoft.com/india/accelerator.

Sennheiser Launches Xbox Gaming Headsets in India

Sennheiser has finally launched the internationally acclaimed and popular Xbox gaming headsets in India. These first ever headsets from Sennheiser specifically designed for Xbox have been honored with the 2012 Red Dot Design award. The Sennheiser gaming headsets – X320 and X2 – assist gamers in not just great audio experience but also communicating effectively with teammates or opponents. The headsets include features specifically developed for Xbox gaming and are backed by a worldwide warranty of two years.

Sennheiser X320

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Priced at INR 7,990, the Sennheiser X320 has an outstanding open-acoustic design with their patented CircleFlex ear cups and is very comfortable when worn for hours of gaming as you indulge in a mission in Call of Duty. The amplified stereo sound boosts the Xbox 360’s audio experience while the pro-noise cancelling microphone ensures that only the gamer’s voice is heard. The headset comes with an interesting feature that allows gamers to mute the microphone by raising just the boom eliminating the need for buttons.

Sennheiser X2

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If you are looking for an economical option, the Sennheiser X2 is priced at INR 1,790. The headset offers a great gaming experience and is very lightweight, although durable. The audio experience is uncompromised with precise speakers and noise cancelling microphones for an easy and effective communication with teammates or opponents.

How to Use the sdrv.ms Shortener for SkyDrive

Microsoft’s cloud storage service, SkyDrive, has received several updates in past few weeks, and the progressive updates continue to integrate it well across Windows Phone and Windows. While you can share files on SkyDrive via email, and use your friends’ addresses across Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn using the connected address book, you can also get a link to any file or folder on SkyDrive and send that link to friends. You can choose to let friends edit or add files, or choose to make the link read-only.

Although these SkyDrive links have been shortened by about 40%, recently, SkyDrive enabled shortened URLs for these links using the new http://sdrv.ms domain. The sdrv.ms links are furnished via Microsoft’s partnership with bit.ly. Since, it is bit.ly at the backend, the shortened URLs include additional features like adding a ‘+’ to the end of any short URL to see statistics or generating a QR code for that URL by appending ’.qrcode’.

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  1. Select any file or folder on SkyDrive Web, and click on the Share link in the sidebar.
  2. In the Share dialog, click Get a link, and then click the Create button according to the required permissions.
  3. Click the Shorten button next to the generated link to obtain the shortened URL.

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SkyDrive URLs also include OpenGraph support so that you get a neat thumbnail preview when you share the links on sites like Facebook. image

Microsoft Announces Visual Studio Achievements for Windows Azure

In January this year, Microsoft announced Visual Studio Achievements for Developers – a fun way bringing Xbox LIVE-like points to everyday programming tasks. The fascinating program makes sure your hard day’s work doesn’t go unnoticed and after over 80,000 downloads since the initial release, Microsoft has now extended the game to enroll developers working on Windows Azure.

The Visual Studio Achievements Extension has now been updated to include fifteen new achievements, all focused on exercising features of Windows Azure. Using the extension, various achievements are unlocked based on your activity. When you unlock an achievement, Visual Studio lets you know visually with a pop-up. In addition, your Channel 9 profile is updated with any achievements you earn. So, head over to Channel9, sign up for an account and download the plugin.

VisualStudio_badges,There are 15 new Azure achievements, such as publishing to Windows Azure from Visual Studio (Heading into the Cloud), using page blobs (Attack of the Blob), using SQL Azure (Database Darling) and configuring start up tasks (It’s My Party). Two of the achievements – Phone in the Cloud and Game in the Cloud – require use of Windows Azure toolkits.

You might also want to check Visual Studio Achievements for Windows Phone – a Windows Phone app that allows you to view Visual Studio Achievements on the go.

SkyDrive Insists That Email Attachments Suck; Urges You To Switch to SkyDrive

After the recent refresh of SkyDrive and the introduction of SkyDrive for Windows app, the online storage service from Microsoft is focusing on educating users how sharing files via SkyDrive is a better approach than sending attachments in email.

Head to www.attachmentssuck.com and learn easy steps to get started. Don’t miss – The life of an attachment: complex, annoying, and time wasting! – a comprehensive infographic showing the life cycle of an attachment, stressing on the wastefulness and inefficiency of the exercise.

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SkyDrive allows you to share documents, photos, and files with anyone you choose and it’s automatically available from any device. You can even work together on Office documents in real time. Here’s how to get started:

  1. If you don’t already have one, get a Windows Live ID and you’ll see SkyDrive in the top navigation. Click, and just add files.
  2. Select the file you want to send.
  3. Click Share, and then select the kind of permission you want to give to people you’re sharing files with by checking or unchecking the Recipients can edit box.
  4. Click Send.

The special micro-site allows you to send Ecards to your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or email hinting them that it is annoying when they send attachments in email and asking them to get setup with a SkyDrive account to save themselves and you some time. Forget the marketing pitch, I think I should do this for lot of my old-school friends who send huge files, back and forth, as attachments. SkyDrive, or any online storage service for that matter, is a better way to share files and to collaborate on them.

Microsoft and Barnes & Noble: From ‘Complicated’ to ‘In a Relationship’

Microsoft and Barnes & Noble Inc. have joined hands to announce a strategic partnership – A B&N subsidiary, provisionally referred to as Newco. After the patent dispute between the two companies last year, this surprising new venture aims to focus on e-reading and the education market while burying the patent litigation apparently.

B&N will own 82.4 percent of the new subsidiary and Microsoft will make a $300 million investment to hold a 17.6 percent stake in the company. Newco, will bring together the digital and College businesses of Barnes & Noble. B&N’s NOOK Study software is a leading platform for distribution and management of digital education materials to students and educators, and Newco would aim to extend this reach. The alliance would also bring about a NOOK application for Windows 8 bringing Barnes & Noble’s digital bookstore to hundreds of millions of Windows customers worldwide.

As the two companies move forward as allies, there are few things which aren’t answered in the press release and the commentary around it:

  • While the two companies closed on the alliance, how was the patent dispute tabled and settled? Would Barnes & Noble and/or Newco pay royalties to Microsoft on every Nook sold?
  • While Windows 8 tablets are expected to have a NOOK application now, and this might extend to the next version of Windows Phone, would there be a Nook tablet or e-reader running, maybe, Windows RT to participate in the market against Kindle and Kindle Fire?
  • While Microsoft has less than a fifth stake in the venture, would the reach of Windows platform make Nook Microsoft’s card in competition with Amazon and Apple in the e-reading market?

Airtel Launches Online Store for Mobiles and Telecom Services

Bharti Airtel, India’s leading integrated telecommunications company, has launched airtel shop – a one stop destination for mobile handsets, digital TV, and broadband connections at http://shop.airtel.com.

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While selling mobile handsets might be a way to push integrated data packs and subscription plans from Airtel, the online store enters a crowded ecommerce market in India with cutthroat competition over pricing and experience. The store also offers broadband and digitalTV connections – a trivial addition to complete the catalog since there would rarely be returning customers for the same.

The store offers handsets from seven brands as of now-Nokia, HTC, Apple, Sony, LG, Samsung, and BlackBerry. I randomly checked prices of few latest phones on airtel shop and flipkart.com and found them to be very competitive, and in several cases lesser at the time of writing. At this moment, airtel shop also offers additional benefits to online customers over walk-in customers on retail counters:

  • Upto 33% off on mobile devices with exclusive Airtel plans
  • Rs 500 cashback on new broadband connections
  • Rs 250 cashback on new digitalTV connections

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While the idea of an integrated store for telecom products and services sounds interesting, this clearly looks like a quick and dirty job. It is also a bummer that a store from Airtel doesn’t sell the obvious mobile phone connections and other value-added services apart from 3G connections.

The interface has been borrowed by the Airtel homepage at http://airtel.in and the store is managed by Infibeam, a leading ecommerce store in India. The site clearly states that since Airtel doesn’t sell or deliver mobile phones, the ones ordered on the site are made available and delivered by NSI Infinium Global Pvt. Ltd., an Airtel partner.

Microsoft launches Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 5000 for Tablets and PCs in India

Microsoft has introduced the Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 5000 for the Indian market making it one of the first multi-platform Bluetooth keyboards to be launched in India.

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At less than three-quarters of an inch thick and 400 grams in weight, the Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 5000 is a slim and sleek alternative helping you get rid of pesky wires, docks, or trans-receivers. I’ve been using the Microsoft Arc keyboard for several months and have been looking for an alternative that takes away the need for a trans-receiver. The small unit can easily be lost and also occupies a USB port all the time. The Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 5000 is very easy on the hands and has an ergonomic Microsoft Comfort Curve design. The design promotes a more natural wrist position whether you are working on a desk or in a casual posture.

“Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile keyboard 5000 is especially designed for people on the move and as the market for mobile products such as the Tablets and Laptops increases; this is poised to become an accessory consumers would definitely want”.

Mr Satish Parreddi, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Retail Sales & Marketing, Microsoft India

The compact keyboard offers full functionality of a keyboard and is compatible with both tablets and PCs, although it is small enough to slip into a bag. Priced at an attractive price of INR 3350 in India, the Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 5000 works equally well with Microsoft Windows (Windows Vista and Windows 7), iPad, iPad2, and many Android devices. Available only in black color, the keyboard requires the standard AAA batteries.