As Steve Ballmer has succinctly expressed on stage, Microsoft is a company that’s big on its developers. While Windows Phone is certainly doing reasonably well at getting people to create apps for the platform — at least on a quantity level — Microsoft still has to work towards bringing over even more quality, popular developers and apps to the platform in order to better sway people from purchasing iOS and Android devices. With key applications such as Instagram still not on the platform, people may be less eager to give it a shot.
That being said, they are actively working to solve this problem, and, to help spread the word about why developers should jump on the Windows Phone bandwagon, they will be hosting a special developer summit in San Francisco, on June 20th-21st. It’s a pretty interesting location choice; it appears that Microsoft is trying to reach out to the Silicon Valley crowd, which is a pretty awesome thing.
If Microsoft could get more and more quality app developers on board to the platform — in terms of both existing apps that can be ported and new apps that are being developed with great potential — then I think that this huge app issue that many consumers surely face will be solved. June is definitely cropping up to be a busy month for developers; on top of the Windows Phone Developer Summit, Apple’s WWDC and the Google I/O events are also going to be happening.
The Xbox 360 is the leading gaming console in the market. It has been consistently selling more units than Sony’s PlayStation 3. There is no reason for anyone to buy an Apple TV. The device from Apple has failed miserably for the company despite being in the business for a while. Xbox 360 on the other hand has lined up several services including a deal with Comcast. Here’s what Microsoft’s plans are:
$99 Xbox 360 & Kinect
2 year contract for $15 a month
Xbox LIVE Gold subscription & some other services included in the $15
It is the last part that will turn out to be the factor why this deal will be worth it and why this model will succeed. However here’s some Math:
The subsidized Xbox 360 bundle: 99+(15*24)=$450
Standalone: 199+149+(59*2)=$466 (Xbox 360, Kinect, Xbox LIVE Gold for 2 years)
4GB Xbox 360 & Kinect bundle: 300+(59*2)=$418
On Amazon: 280+(49*2)=$378 (bundle for $280 & Xbox LIVE Gold 1 year subscription for $48)
So the Math says buying the bundle with Xbox LIVE subscription on Amazon you get a better value. However, as @karelj and @theromit point out, the subsidized model with a small monthly payment will attract a lot of people, the $99 upfront cost will be very enticing to many. A while back I suggested that Microsoft’s motto of a desktop on every desk has now evolved into an Xbox in every living room. At $99, it’ll happen.
According to The Verge, Microsoft will be offering a subsidized Xbox bundle that includes a $99 4GB Xbox, an Xbox LIVE Gold subscription, and a Kinect sensor, on top of additional streaming content from cable providers. Users will be able to purchase this entire bundle at the low cost of $15 a month, for two years. This is actually a pretty smart move; it’s clear that Microsoft wants to give itself an edge against the PS3 and Apple TV as an entertainment device in the living room, and a payment plan like this makes it a more affordable option for many.
As you can see, it’s definitely an interesting deal, and the difference in cost between buying at a subsidized price vs. buying outright at a local store is only slightly less or more (a total of around $420 for the duration of the two years.) So, you do not need to get ointment for your rear; Microsoft is not screwing you with this offer.
Now of course, this also doesn’t take into account price drops that may occur as we inch closer towards the release date of the next Xbox, but it’s still a pretty good deal. Those who take advantage of it will also be covered under a two-year warranty as well.
As of today, Windows Live is a suite of software that complement Windows Vista and Windows 7. The suite includes a mailing client, a messenger, a cloud file sync tool, a photo gallery tool and a video editing too. All the products have so far been known as Windows Live <product name>; with Windows 8 this will change. In an update on the Windows Team Blog, Chris Jones from Microsoft talks at length about the future of the Windows Live brand and products.
Long story short, the Windows Live brand will be on its way out once Windows 8 comes out. To replace the existing Windows Live utilities on the desktop, Windows 8 have Metro based replacements. Here’s a chart from the team blog explaining the transition:
(I’m not sure why have a Photos app and a Photo Gallery app in Windows 8.)
I believe, the suite will continue to exist for some time since there are a handful of Windows 7 users out there, somewhere. The other interesting part of Chris Jones’s blog post was numbers. According to Jones:
There are 500 Million active Windows Live users
Active user means they either send an email using Hotmail, or an IM via Windows Live Messenger, or upload a file to SkyDrive, at least once in a month
Hotmail has 350 Million active users, with 105 Petabytes of storage
Messenger has 300 Million active users
SkyDrive has 130 Million users (17 Million upload files every month. Part of these will definitely be Windows Phone users who use the service to share photos.)
Microsoft recently updated their SkyDrive service to include a bunch of new features. They introduced apps for Windows and OS X, updated their iOS apps, made the service more like Dropbox and introduced support for more Office file formats. Microsoft engineer Dharmesh Mehta says with all these features it is time the company went “loud” about the service, I agree.
Microsoft doesn’t plan an official SkyDrive app for Android
SkyDrive TV commercials in 6-9 months
Mehta explains that Android users can use the web version of SkyDrive on their phones and that the company has APIs for developers to build SkyDrive functionality in their apps or develop third party clients. I am not sure if I agree with the approach; if the company has the pieces to build an app, they might as well do it. Google Drive and Dropbox are options for Android users as of now, going forward, Google Drive will be deeply integrated. Having presence on both the two largest mobile platforms can only benefit Microsoft; they have a Hotmail app for Android, as such, it would be great if the company had a SkyDrive app to complement it.
Close watchers of Microsoft and SkyDrive will know that Microsoft has been placing SkyDrive in TV shows, adding TV commercials to the mix will definitely be going “loud” regarding SkyDrive.
Dharmesh Mehta assures Hall that the team isn’t done and they have a lot more to talk about in coming months.
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:
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.
Select the file you want to send.
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.
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.
Earlier this week, we covered LG’s announcement that they will no longer be making Windows Phones. This should come as no surprise; not only is Windows Phone still an underdog platform, but on top of this, LG makes terrible phones. The people who do explore the platform — and also the salespeople that enlighten the more non-technical bunch about it — deviate more towards Nokia, HTC, and Samsung devices. That being said, before reaching this decision, it appears that LG was toying with the idea of producing a newer Windows Phone device.
WPCentral has gotten its hands on the aptly named LG Fantasy, a prototype Windows Phone device. The prototype, concocted by the company back in 2011 seems to have been a mid-range (or upper low-end) offering from the company; although it does have 512MB of RAM, it lacked in other areas.
It was made of plastic and felt cheap, and also extremely light due to the materials used to produce the device. However, harshness aside, it is a prototype, so it can’t necessarily be judged on the hardware front. One noteworthy tidbit about the device is that it does have fully-functional NFC hardware.
But, all in all, it’s a pretty lackluster and boring device. I can’t say that I’m going to lose any sleep over LG’s decision.
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?
Every time Robert Scoble and TechCrunch talk about a new revolutionary iPhone app coming out of Silicon Valley, many wonder why is iPhone the first choice. In Microsoft’s second attempt at mobile phones, I’ve been questioning the lack of support from the startup world. Microsoft has had to use its own money to several apps onto the marketplace but the new developers still stick with iOS.
In an interview with Wired, startup entrepreneur Jeremy Howard explains the primary reason. Coming from someone within the Valley, Howard’s comments cannot be disputed. Howard is very categorical in his interview about what fellow entrepreneurs feel about Microsoft and the company’s development tools. In short—they’re not cool. In the age of gazillion development languages, it’s a tough to choose one, usually one opts for what they feel is slightly better than the other and as a developer know a little about. If I know C#, I’d feel comfortable using the language over Ruby on Rails and vice versa. Howard’s comments come with a back story, his startup Kaggle runs on Microsoft’s Windows Azure—a cloud computing platform. And according to his fellow Valley entrepreneurs, Howard doesn’t know what he’s doing since he’s using Microsoft’s products. Some select quotes from Cade Metz’s article on Wired:
In this echo chamber which is the [San Francisco] Bay Area, unless you follow what everyone else does, then there’s an assumption that you don’t know what you’re doing.
Silicon Valley types think that Jeremy Howard doesn’t know what he’s doing because he runs Kaggle on Windows Azure, […]. Kaggle once ran on Amazon EC2 — the most popular cloud in the Valley […]
they [developers in the Valley] look at him funny when he says that Kaggle uses Azure. “People say, ‘Oh, I’ll have to teach you about Java sometime, so then you’ll know the bright side.
Judging from interviews with myriad coders over the past several months, Azure isn’t just off the Silicon Valley radar. It’s misunderstood […] by the younger generation of coders who grew up on open source software and such languages as Ruby and Python.
The Wired article explain a bigger problem for Microsoft. Not only is the company’s mobile platform getting traction, their next-generation cloud platform is having a similar perception problem. Howard explains that he knows 18 different languages and feels C# is as good as it can get. For Kaggle and Howard, Azure works well with .Net languages—a reason why he moved from Amazon’s infrastructure cloud to Microsoft’s cloud platform.
Microsoft has released a new version of Microsoft Security Essentials, the free anti-virus/anti-malware program for Windows PCs. The MSE 4.0 release is available via the Microsoft Download Center and the MSE Web site and also made available to existing customers automatically through the Microsoft Update service.
Interestingly, this version has been in beta since late 2011, and the last released version was 2.1. There is no indication of the need to skip v3 and the jump to v4; the latest build being 4.0.1526.0. The participants in the beta program who are subscribed to automatic updates will be upgraded to the final release of the latest version of Microsoft Security Essentials after they agree to a new license agreement. You can also do a manual upgrade from v2.1 or the beta release without uninstalling the previously installed version.
Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home or small business PCs (up to 10) that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. MSE is designed to be simple to install and easy to use. It runs quietly in the background without annoying notifications or interruptions. It is available as a free download from Microsoft for genuine Windows users, in both x86 and x64 editions.