Microsoft’s Mystery Monday Announcement Rundown

On Thursday there was confusion and intrigue in the Microsoft blogger camp (yes, there’s such a thing). Several new outlets were invited to an event which nobody knew anything about. The invitation by itself added to the mystery. Here’s how things happened:

Barnes and Noble already has a Kindle Fire competing NOOK Tablet that runs on Android. This new rumored device  cannot be running Windows 8 since Windows 8 devices aren’t coming out till October. Windows 8 will go RTM in July/August. So what will this Microsoft NOOK run? It can’t be Android. It can be Windows Embedded.

For what it’s worth, Microsoft has been able to keep everyone in the dark for the second time. The Windows Phone reset with WIndows Phone 7 Series was a tightly kept secret that was revealed only a few minutes before announcement. Tomorrow’s announcement should be equally exciting.

WSJ: Microsoft To Acquire Yammer For $1 Billion

The Wall Street Journal has just confirmed through its own sources that Microsoft will acquire Yammer for $1 billion. Rumors surfaced not too long ago as someone eavesdropped in on people discussing the deal at a San Francisco cafe that’s right across the street from Yammer’s offices.

This is one Microsoft acquisition that I think makes a lot of sense: Yammer is a service that allows businesses and enterprises to set up private, internal networks that employees can use to communicate. These are fairly old numbers, but, as of 2010, 80,000 companies — including 80% of Fortune 500 companies — use Yammer. In fact, we even use Yammer here at Techie-Buzz for editorial operations and internal company communication.

It remains unknown when Microsoft will complete and announce the deal, but it’s unlikely that this is the big announcement that the company has in store for Monday. Bloomberg suggests that the deal could be completed as soon as tomorrow (Friday, June 15).

New Microsoft Office Logo Surfaces

Apple’s WWDC announcements weren’t the only fun things in consumer tech today. Before Tim Cook took stage, Damaster writing for LiveSide leaked the new logo for Microsoft Office. Since everything in Microsoft’s world is going Metro, the Office logo is getting the same treatment. Like the Windows 8 logo, the new Office logo will face the left and is quite different from the previous logo—a straightened single square, instead of intertwined four, with a tapering edge.

Damaster also confirmed the Metro UI for Office Web Apps to complement the new Hotmail UI. If Hotmail and Office Web Apps are being Metro-fied, we should expect SkyDrive getting a new interface. A few screenshots to compare the Metro UI as it has progressed:

Word Office 15 Technical Preview (courtesy Paul Thurrott)

Word in Office 15 Beta (courtesy Paul Thurrott)

Word in Office Web Apps

We will keep you updated about the Office 15 Beta release and what’s in it.

Microsoft: We’ve Sold Over 600 Million Windows 7 Licenses

Speaking at the Computex hardware event in Taiwan, Microsoft’s Steven Guggenheimer revealed that the company has sold over 600 million Windows 7 licenses to date. Now of course, Windows 7 is no stranger to well-deserved — and breathtaking — sales milestones. Here’s a list of their total milestones, bearing in mind that Windows 7 hit the shelves in October of 2009:

March 4, 2010 – Over 90 million copies sold.

April 23, 2010 — Over 100 million copies sold, six months after general availability.

June 23, 2010 — Over 150 million copies sold, making it the fastest selling operating system in history with approximately (and ironically) 7 copies being sold every second.

July 22, 2010 — Over 175 million copies sold.

October 21, 2010 — Over 240 million copies sold.

January 27, 2011 — Over 300 million copies sold.

July 12, 2011 — Over 400 million copies sold.

January 19 2012 — Over 525 million copies sold.

Microsoft is rightfully proud of this accomplishment. However, they do have their sights set on the future, with Guggenheimer pointing out that this is a crucial time for Microsoft with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 in the pipeline, among other things.

“This is the biggest launch time in Microsoft’s history,” said Guggenheimer. “In addition to updating Windows client, Windows Server, phone and embedded platforms, there’s a massive wave of software and services coming to market that we think will delight customers, from Windows Azure, to Office 15, Xbox games, Skype and Bing.”

Here’s hoping that Microsoft can pull off similarly astounding sales figures with Windows 8; judging by their infamous OS release patterns — of unleashing a major, yet fairly unrefined OS (Vista) and then a successor that fixes issues and adds finesse (7) — people may be a bit wary of just jumping on the 8 bandwagon, especially considering the rather radical changes. We shall see, of course, but I do wish Windows 8 luck in gaining a piece of the tablet market.

Image Source: Zeusandhera (Flickr)

Microsoft Confirms Store Openings In Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, New York, and Kansas

Microsoft, moving forward with its plans of nationwide retail domination, is building a store in the Florida Mall at Orlando, FL, according to an image of the “coming soon” placeholder wall sent to WPCentral by a local resident, and the Microsoft Store locations website. This comes on the heels of the company announcing its plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Boston at the Shops at Prudential Center.

In typical Microsoft Store fashion, the Orlando store is being opened right next to an Apple store. Not across from it, or a few doors down from it, nope. They’re pretty much next-door neighbors, according to an image of the mall map.

The Orlando store isn’t the only one on the way, though. Recently, Microsoft has officially acknowledged most of the stores that were found on an “unofficial” list of planned Microsoft Store openings compiled by WPCentral based on job openings found on the Microsoft Store Careers website. This list is looking pretty credible now though, as quite a few stores on the list have been officially acknowledged by Microsoft over the past week or two. Here’s the full lineup of cities, with the ones that are officially confirmed highlighted:

  • White Plains, NY
  • Huntington Station, NY
  • Newark, DE
  • Overland Park, KS
  • Salem, NH
  • Orlando, FL
  • Arlington, VA
  • Bridgewater, NJ (Bridgewater Commons)
  • Freehold, NJ (Raceway Mall)
  • Danbury, CT (Danbury Fair Mall)
Last year, the company did announce plans to open 75 brick-and-mortar stores within the next two to three years, so we’ll likely see more and more stores opening up throughout that timeframe. With their officially announced upcoming stores factored in, they have a total of 24 stores open or almost open, making them about one-third of the way to their goal.

Microsoft Promises Peek At Future Of Windows Phone During San Francisco Summit

Last month, Microsoft announced plans to host a Windows Phone Developer Summit in San Francisco on June 20th through the 21st, and on Monday, the company opened up registration to the event so that those who were invited could RSVP.

An updated invitation was also released, revealing a few interesting things about the event. For one, those who had this added to their calendars from the first invite can free up June 21st; the event has been slashed down to a day-long event on the 20th. They also added a pretty suggestive tagline, which seems to suggest that this is going to be the event where Microsoft truly pull the curtain on Windows Phone 8: “A sneak peek of the future of Windows Phone.”

That, along with the fact that they’re referring to it as just a Windows Phone Summit (and not a developer summit) seems to indicate that they decided at some point during the last four weeks or so that this should be a full-blown Apollo announcement instead of just a mere event to spur additional developer interest in San Francisco. Jokes aside, this is actually a pretty intriguing event. And don’t worry, it will be livestreamed; just remember to head on over to Channel 9 on the 20th to watch the webcast.

Microsoft Announces Xbox Music (RIP Zune)

It looks like it’s time to finally hold a funeral for the Zune brand (it’s too late to do an open casket viewing, though; the body is already far too decomposed.) Microsoft has finally unveiled Xbox Music, the successor to the Zune Pass streaming service (and entire Zune brand, for that matter), rumored to have been codenamed “Woodstock”. During a very brief teaser that showed dramatic flashes of a Metro-style music app, Microsoft only shared two tidbits about the service today: It will pack a library of over 30 million songs, and it will be available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone devices as well as on your TV screen via Xbox.

The service — and subsequent phasing out of the Zune brand — has already been mentioned on the Zune.net website. On a Q&A format page that explains Xbox Music and what’s going to happen to Zune, we finally have word from the horse’s mouth indicating that the brand will be killed off:

The Zune music and video service has been a key component of Microsoft’s entertainment offering. We’re using our expertise from Zune to launch a brand-new music service under the Xbox Music brand.  When we launch, Xbox Music will bring you a world-class music library, and great new ways to enjoy, share and discover new music. We will release Xbox music on Xbox 360, Windows Phones and Windows 8 PCs and Tablets. Click HERE to watch the video from our E3 announcement.

Again, Microsoft is yet to really share any details about this service, so its differences and improvements from its predecessor remain unknown. There is chatter, however, claiming that it’s more than just a Zune rebranding.

I do hope that Microsoft makes this a cross-platform service. Music streaming has been really gaining ground with mainstream users lately through services like Spotify and Rdio, and if they’re making an awesome service, it could be a great way to get more people to use Metro and sort of familiarize themselves with the Microsoft ecosystem.

We can expect Microsoft to share more on Xbox Music throughout the coming months.

Microsoft Demonstrates SmartGlass “Airplay-Esque” Technology At E3, Brings Three Screens Closer Together

As of late, Microsoft has been working hard to better unify its ecosystem. The company is in a unique position as it owns a living room entertainment device, a desktop operating system, and a mobile phone OS. With E3 taking place today, the spotlight was placed on the entertainment device, and Microsoft took that opportunity to unveil a product that would better integrate the company’s other two screens with their entertainment device. Dubbed SmartGlass, the app transcends screens to allow users to utilize their tablets and phones to indulge in and interact with content on their TVs.

The first thing that the company demonstrated was the ability to watch a movie or show on a TV using your Xbox, stop the movie, and continue watching it — from where you left off — on your tablet, and vice versa. As Microsoft intends to compete with Apple in the living room, it was only a matter of time until they’d implement this AirPlay-esque feature.

This isn’t all there is to SmartGlass. You can also utilize it to view relevant bonus content on your “secondary screens” while watching something on your Xbox; this was demonstrated on stage with Game of Thrones. The same applies to bonus content with games; they showed a user playing Halo 4 being able to view information and schematics on a ship on their tablet. Users will also be able to actually interact with some games using their tablets as well: They showed off the ability to make a play in a football game on your tablet then execute/play it on the Xbox, scoring a touchdown.

And finally, they showed off how SmartGlass can help with using the Internet on your TV. As using a keyboard and mouse in the living room is something that nobody does, they demonstrated that you can easily browse the web using your smartphone and a few robotic Kinect commands. With SmartGlass, you could use your phone as a touch trackpad to control a cursor on screen, panning, scrolling, tapping to click, and even using gestures such as pinch to zoom. While I’m sure people will continue to avoid browsing the web on their consoles as much as possible, this at least helps to smoothen the experience.

SmartGlass will also be available on Android and iOS on top of Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Here’s a video that showcases SmartGlass, Xbox Music, and Kinect voice commands:

Microsoft Touts Xbox 360 Worldwide Sales Dominance, Announces New Content Partnerships

During the E3 keynote in which Microsoft Ushered in their vision for the future of entertainment, the company also proudly pointed out that the Xbox 360 has gone beyond being the top-selling console in North America to having its foot on the throats of Sony and Nintendo worldwide. Now, their global reign didn’t just begin this month; not only was the Xbox 360 the best-selling console of 2011, but Xbox yearly sales surpassed that of the PS3 and Wii back in February, so it seems that the king of the living room is only maintaining its worldwide sales reign.

Today’s announcements of SmartGlass, Xbox Music, Internet Explorer on Xbox, and numerous hit titles should only act to bolster sales. Microsoft is rightfully pretty enthused about it:

“Xbox is on a mission to make the entertainment that you love even more amazing,” said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “With Xbox SmartGlass, we are lighting up entertainment across your phone, tablet, PC and TV in a completely new way. If you love to play games, watch TV and movies, surf the Web, or listen to music, there has never been a better time to be on Xbox.”

Microsoft has also announced a multitude of new media partnerships and content that will be coming to the Xbox within the next 12 months. Here are 35 such partnerships that the company announced today:

Absolute Radio (U.K.), Ameba TV (Canada, U.S.), BreakMedia (Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, U.K., U.S.), Comedy Central Stand Up (U.S.), Comoyo (Denmark, Norway, Sweden), Corus Entertainment’s Franklin the Turtle (Canada), GameSpot TV (Australia, Canada, U.K., U.S.), Headweb (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden), Indie Flix (U.S.), Machinima (All Xbox LIVE markets), Napster (Germany, U.K.), Nickelodeon (U.S.), Paramount Movies (U.S.), Picturebox (U.K), Quickflix (Australia, New Zealand), Rakuten ShowTime (Japan), Revision3 (Canada, U.K., U.S.), Rhapsody (U.S.), RTL XL (Netherlands), Slacker Radio (Canada, U.S.), SnagFilms (U.S.) Terra Sunday TV (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico), The AOL On Network (Australia, Canada, Netherlands, U.K., U.S.), The Weather Channel (U.S.), The Whistle (U.S.), TOU.TV (Canada), TV3 (Spain), Twitch TV (U.S.), Univision (U.S.), Wuaki (Spain), and Youzee (Spain).

And for you sport fans, Microsoft has the following content providers in store for you:

  • NBA Game Time with NBA.com League Pass Broadband (U.S.) and NBA League Pass (outside of the U.S.). Fans who subscribe to NBA.com League Pass Broadband will have access to hundreds of out of market live games (blackout restrictions apply in the U.S. and some international markets), plus highlights from around the league and up to the minute stats of your favorite players.
  • NHL GameCenter LIVE™ (Worldwide except Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden). Hockey fans will be able to enjoy every moment of the live action as it happens on the ice, with live games (out-of-market and blackout restrictions apply), more in-game interactivity, and replays and highlights on demand any time.
  • ESPN (U.S.). Later this year fans will enjoy 24/7 live programming through WatchESPN from ESPN Networks – ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3 and ESPN U. All the favorites, including “SportsCenter,” “SportsNation,” “The Mike and Mike Show,” as well as ESPN’s coverage of the NFL, MLB and the NBA, will be live on Xbox.

In conclusion, Kinect voice search will be expanding to 12 additional countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland. It’s definitely been a big day for the Xbox. Stay tuned as we delve further into today’s various announcements from the Xbox E3 keynote.

Image Source: Josh Ferris (Flickr)

Asus Unveils ARM, Intel Windows 8 Tablets

With Windows 8 nearing its final stages of development and Computex right around the corner, it’s no surprise that companies are beginning to out their plans for Windows 8 tablets. Asus is the first company to do so, revealing two such devices: The Tablet 600 — a Windows RT ARM device — and the Tablet 810, which is an Intel-based x86 tablet.

Let’s talk specs: The Tablet 600 packs an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, a 12-core GPU, 2GB of RAM, and a 32GB eMMC storage solution for local storage. Disappointingly, the 10.1″ display offered by the tablet has a mere resolution of 1366 x 768, though it does have a vivid Super IPS+ display. The Tablet 810 on the other hand offers a next-gen Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, twice the storage (64GB of eMMC storage), and an 11.6″ display with the equally pathetic resolution of 1366 x 768. It has 10-point multitouch support though, along with Wacom digitizer stylus support.

The laptops do have one prominent thing in common, though. Both come with a mobile dock with a QWERTY keyboard, trackpad, additional USB ports, and a secondary battery for extended juice on the go that allows you to “transform” the tablet into a clamshell ultraportable device. The two tablets also come with NFC sensors and Asus SonicMaster technology for quality audio on the go.