Xbox Price Cut By $50, Holiday Bundles Announced

Today, Microsoft has begun gearing up for the holidays as they’ve announced a $50 price cut for all their current system bundles. All major retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Toys ‘R Us and others will be taking part in this price cut. As of now, the only Xbox that isn’t getting the price drop is the baseline 4GB Xbox without Kinect. These price cuts are said to be for a limited time only, so make sure to purchase your Xbox soon.

Microsoft has also announced that they will be selling multiple holiday bundles this year. One of these buncles will run you $399.99 and will include a 250GB Xbox with Kinect, Kinect Sports 2, Kinect Adventures, Dance Central 2 and a month of Xbox Live Gold. Microsoft has also announced two $299.99 Xbox bundles. One includes a 4GB Xbox, Kinect, Kinect Adventures, Kinect Disneyland Adventures and one month of Xbox Live Gold. The other $299.99 bundle includes a 250GB Xbox along with  Skyrim, Forza 4 Essentials Edition and, of course, a month of Xbox Live Gold. As of now, we’re not totally sure as to when these bundles will go on sale, though it should be soon.

Finally, Microsoft has also put their Halo 4 edition Xbox up for preorder with a shipment date of November 6th.

Source: Major Nelson via BGR

Facebook Launches Mobile App Install Ads

Facebook has announced that it will be making its new mobile app install ad units available to all developers. It had been testing them in beta since August. These new ad units are being positioned as a great way for developers to drive installs and aid social app discovery for their mobile apps. Facebook noted that its testing partners saw more than 50% higher CTRs compared to their existing channels as well as much greater reach.

The official announcement by Facebook said:

Today we’re making our new mobile app install ads available to all developers. We announced these ads in beta in August as a new and effective way for mobile app developers to drive installs and increase app discovery.

For years, many apps and games on have used ads as an important part of their growth strategy. Now we are bringing these opportunities to mobile apps. With these new ads, mobile apps and games of all sizes across any category can reach the right audience, at scale.

In coming months, we’ll continue to make updates that improve the user experience and the performance of mobile app install ads. For example, you may be able to customize your ad unit based on your audience, ensure that your ads are only shown to people who have not installed your app on iOS or Android devices, and allow people to start installing your app without leaving Facebook.

These new ad units work in conjunction with Facebook App Center, and could help Facebook shore up its mobile ad revenues by monetizing its rapidly increasing mobile user base.

The Pirate Bay Looks to the Cloud to Stay Ahead of Law Enforcement Agencies

The Pirate Bay is known to have a penchant for theatrics. Staying true to their form, they have announced that they are getting rid of their “earthly form and ascending into the next stage”. In ordinary speak, what the infamous Swedish torrent website is trying to convey is that they are ditching the traditional web hosting model in favor of cloud hosting.


TorrentFreak explains that The Pirate Bay is currently hosted at cloud hosting companies in two countries where they run several Virtual Machine (VM) instances. Running on virtual machines reduces both cost and complexity, since no physical maintenance is required. The added benefit of this arrangement is that it makes bringing down The Pirate Bay even more difficult. If they are kicked off by a cloud hosting service, they can just hop onto the next cloud host and deploy their virtual machines over there in matter of hours if not minutes. Thus, the threat of a server seizure bringing down TPB is reduced drastically.

However, The Pirate Bay isn’t ditching all its servers. There are still two components it’s not placing in the cloud. The load balancer and transit-routers are still owned and operated by The Pirate Bay. This apparently helps in hiding the location of the cloud provider and protects the privacy of users.

“All communication with users goes through TPB’s load balancer, which is a disk-less server with all the configuration in RAM. The load balancer is not in the same country as the transit-router or the cloud servers,” The Pirate Bay informed TorrentFreak. “The communication between the load balancer and the virtual servers is encrypted. So even if a cloud provider found out they’re running TPB, they can’t look at the content of user traffic or user’s IP-addresses.”

The pirates seem to have put a quite a bit of effort into making it tough for the law enforcement agencies. “If the police decide to raid us again there are no servers to take, just a transit router. If they follow the trail to the next country and find the load balancer, there is just a disk-less server there. In case they find out where the cloud provider is, all they can get are encrypted disk-images,” The Pirate Bay explained. “They have to be quick about it too, if the servers have been out of communication with the load balancer for 8 hours they automatically shut down. When the servers are booted up, access is only granted to those who have the encryption password,” they add.

Microsoft Acquires MarketingPilot to Bolster Dynamics CRM

Microsoft seems to be back on a mini acquisition spree. It acquired a cloud storage vendor, StorSimple, earlier this week. Today, it made yet another small acquisition, a marketing software company called MarketingPilot. MarketingPilot makes automated marketing solutions which could be integrated with Microsoft’s own offerings like Dynamics CRM.

MarketingPilot offers an integrated marketing management solution for lead and advertisement buying management. It was apparently a quick acquisition and a rather small one.

While Microsoft continues to focus on the Windows 8 launch, it also works to improve its enterprise offerings, which form a major chunk of its overall revenue.

With Dynamics CRM, Microsoft competes with Oracle, SAP and among others.

Here’s the entire press release by Microsoft:

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Steps Forward in the Marketing Automation Space

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM team continues to execute against a vision to help organizations better attract, retain, and grow their customers. Our goal is to deliver more compelling finished applications, modern user experiences with simplified user interfaces, and an open and extensible platform for Cloud and On-premise deployments.

With the explosion of new channels, emerging markets, and shifts to online and digital customer engagement, there’s tremendous opportunity ahead in the marketing automation space. In fact, according to IDC, “Marketing Automation is expected to grow faster than any other segment of CRM over the next 4 years,” and according to Gartner, “by 2017, CMOs may have a bigger IT budget than CIOs do.” More and more, marketers are being asked to drive the overall strategy and execution of customer interactions across multiple channels and touch points, and to measure ROI on those interactions.

As part of these industry trends and emerging business opportunities, I am excited to announce that Dynamics CRM has closed on the acquisition of MarketingPilot. MarketingPilot provides Integrated Marketing Management solutions that allow organizations to better understand their customers, manage and streamline marketing operations and create automated and measurable multi-channel marketing campaigns. This acquisition is a very exciting step forward for us, and will accelerate our ability to better meet the needs of CMO’s through rich business intelligence, and better enable marketers to successfully plan, execute, monitor, and optimize customer interactions across digital, social and traditional channels, and measure ROI.

Microsoft, along with our partners, has been helping marketing organizations for several years now. Customers like Volvo Construction Equipment and the Portland Trailblazers are using Microsoft Dynamics CRM today to better attract and retain their customers. We are committed to helping marketers plan, execute, monitor and optimize customer interactions across digital, social and traditional channels and measure the impact on revenue. With this acquisition, we believe we will be well positioned to deliver highly valuable marketing automation solutions to new and existing customers.

Please join me in welcoming MarketingPilot employees and customers to the Microsoft Business Solutions Division and the broader Microsoft family. At Convergence, this coming March, we will further describe our product vision in this area, including our plans with MarketingPilot.

Today’s news is a welcome step forward for Microsoft Dynamics CRM and our customers. We look forward to MarketingPilot contributions in this exciting emerging space, and delivering highly valuable marketing automation solutions to our customers and partners.

Bob Stutz
Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Braintree Raises $35 Million to Dominate Online Payments

Braintree, one of the most popular online payment gateways for the web and mobile, has raised $35 million in another round of funding led by New Enterprise Associates, according to a report by Techcrunch. This deal brings its total funding up to almost $70 million.

Braintree competes primarily with the likes of PayPal, providing a merchant account and payment gateway for web and mobile support. It has a massive customer base which includes biggies like Rovio, Uber, OpenTable, Airbnb, Heroku, Engine Yard, Shopify etc. It has seen its transaction volumes increase to $5 billion in total payments in the last year and has around 3,000 merchants signed up for its payment offerings. It supports more than 30 countries and 130 different currencies.

While PayPal is ideal for consumers, Braintree is targeted more towards small businesses, startups and enterprises. After acquiring Venmo, they are now also going after the consumer market, specifically after small developers.

Mobile Payments are expected to be huge in the next couple of years, and Braintree will compete with PayPal and Square in that space. While PayPal is backed by eBay, Square recently raised $200 million. It’s going to be an interesting war.

via Techcrunch

Smartphones Hit the One Billion User Mark

“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”

Apparently even that quote applies to not only dollars, but even users now. On the heels of Facebook announcing that it had hit the one billion users milestone, Strategy Analytics announced today that we will have hit a major milestone in Q3 2012. There are now more than a billion smartphones in active use, and the smartphone penetration continues to grow at an increasing rate.

The report didn’t delve into much detail, but most of the growth in the last couple of years would have to come from Samsung, Apple and then Nokia. The growing popularity of iOS and Android has led to the rapid acceleration in the use of smartphones. While it took 16 years to hit the first billion, we are expected to reach the next billion in just 3 more years.

One out of every seven people on the planet now have a smartphone. However, many more still have feature phones, but that is expected to change in the near future. China, India and other emerging markets are expected to be on the forefront of this smartphone revolution as markets like the US and UK already have pretty high penetration.

via Techcrunch

Blizzard Rolling Out Patch 1.0.5 For Diablo III, Brings in Two New Events

Nearly two months after rolling out the previous patch which brought in a new leveling mechanism, Blizzard is rolling out Patch 1.0.5 across all regions. Along with lots of bug fixes, the patch brings in two new types of Gameplay events – the Infernal Machine and Monster Power. The gameplay mechanics of these events should bring few people back to playing Diablo III, if they had stopped. So what’re these events? Let’s take a look.

Monster Power

Back in the days of Diablo II, joining an open multiplayer game would result in the monsters getting tougher and consequently, the loot would be greater. Soon it was discovered that even in single player mode, entering “/players n” in the chat console, they were able to simulate more players joining the game.

Similar to this, Monster Power enables Diablo III players to increase the Monster Power level independently, across all the four difficulty levels. What does this mean? For me, who finds Hell relatively easy and Inferno nigh impossible, it offers me a chance to play without getting bored from the lack of challenge that Hell provides and at the same time, doesn’t make me flip tables in frustration.

Monster Power in Diablo III

Monster Power starts at zero (which means no power applied) and goes all the way up to Monster Power 10. So how does Monster Power reward you? Apart from the increased challenge, increased Monster Power will result in bonuses to experience, Magic Find and Gold Find – and the Magic/Gold Find bonus will let the character go stack beyond the 300% cap.

Monster Power Scaling

For those playing in Inferno, not only does bumping up the Monster Power increase Monster Health and Damage tremendously, there’s also a chance that the monster will drop a bonus item, with each bump in the monster level.

Monster Power Health And Damage Scaling in Inferno



Infernal Machine

While Monster Power ramps up the monster health and damage, Infernal Machine gives a unique twist to the game. Essentially, you kill preselected monsters(called Keywardens) to pick up keys and Infernal Machine blacksmith plan. Once the components have been collected, the player will be able to assemble the Infernal Machine.

Activating the Infernal Machine will summon a portal which will transport you to one of three realms consisting of not one, but two Boss creatures. The Boss pair is predetermined and can be one of

  • The Skeleton King Leoric and Maghda in the Realm of Discord
  • Ghom and Rakanoth in the Realm of Chaos
  • Siege Breaker and Zoltun Kulle in the Realm of Turmoil

Blizzard mentions that each of these Uber bosses will be as challenging as Diablo on Inferno difficulty, It should also be noted that Monster Power can be applied to the Infernal Machine event as well. The rewards? Killing each Boss pair gives the player a chance to harvest demonic organs  to create the Hellfire Ring with the following stats:

  • Primary stat with a set value range of 170–200.
  • +35% Experience
  • +4 Random Magical Properties
  • No Level Requirement
  • Bind on Account
  • Chance to launch an explosive Hellfire ball when you attack

With these 2 events, Blizzard is hoping that the players who took a break from the game will return to try out these.

In addition to the these, the patch is also expected to bring in fixes such as

  • Two new shrines
    • Empowered shrine to increase resource regen and reduce cooldowns
    • Fleeting Shrine to increase movement speed and pickup radius
  • Experience shrines will now appear in Inferno
  • Resplendent Chests will now grant a stack of Nephalem Valor
  • Legendary items are now marked as a column of light as well as a ping on the mini map.
  • Lots of bug fixes and changes to each of the characters

I’ve been playing Diablo III for nearly every day since it’s launch in May and with these changes, it seems unlikely that I’m going to give up my Diablo addiction any time soon.

Twitter Acquires Cabana, A Mobile App Platform

Twitter has acquired Cabana, a mobile app development platform, which specializes in making social apps for Facebook and Twitter. Cabana has a popular product called Fan Page Mobilizer which lets small businesses convert their Facebook pages into a new mobile website in just a few easy steps.

Twitter could use Cabana’s team to develop offerings targeted at enterprises and small businesses to attract them to its platform, and eventually monetize them using its new ad offerings.

Cabana has announced this in an official blog post, and like all such acquisitions, this will mean the end of all development on its existing products. Cabana has stated that they will be building tools that will help developers create apps for Twitter and contribute to its ecosystem.

“We are writing today with some exciting news: Cabana has been acquired by Twitter and our team is #JoiningTheFlock!

We built Cabana because we are passionate about empowering people to develop interactive content in new and innovative ways. That same passion for innovation and the democratization of content creation is also shared by the amazing team at Twitter.

Over the past few months, we’ve gotten to know the Twitter team and discovered the tremendous amount of technological synergy and alignment of our visions. The more we explored this synergy, the more excited we became about joining forces and working together.

Starting today we will be joining Twitter’s platform team, and will build tools to help third-party developers create new experiences on Twitter and empower the larger Twitter ecosystem.

This means that we will no longer be offering Cabana as a standalone mobile app development environment.

Cabana will be shutting down on December 1st 2012. If you have any questions about our rolldown, please email us at [email protected]

Rest assured that the ideas and passion behind Cabana will live on, albeit in a slightly different form – at Twitter!

We want to thank all of you, from our users and investors to our family and friends, who made this journey possible.

We’re excited for what the future with Twitter holds!”

via Techcrunch

Google TV Seals Its First Deal, Will Be Available on Korea’s UPlus IPTV

We have been hearing about Google TV for quite a long time now. However, it has failed to capture a huge section of the world market because of Google’s lack of focus on this division. However, Google TV is gaining traction recently, as it struck its first launch deal with Korea’s UPlus IPTV. Google TV already has hardware deals with its manufacturing partner Sony.

Sony builds a set-top-box like device that can be plugged into any HDTV and it also doubles up as a gaming device. If you have not seen this device out in the wild, it is only because Google has poor focus on Google TV right now. However, the device used in Korea is yet another device developed by LG UPlus itself.

Google’s first deal with Korea’s UPlus IPTV is announced on the official Google TV blog as,

With Google TV in the u+tv G, you get more content to watch than ever before, and an easier way to find whatever you’re looking for. New and existing LG UPlus subscribers can get the u+tv  starting today, bringing live TV and 50,000 on demand titles, now integrated with Google TV apps like Search, YouTube, Google Play and Chrome.

The UPlus service providing Google TV already runs regular TV subscription. Thus, this is not a Google TV exclusive launch, but Google TV will run parallel to the existing TV subscription service on the UPlus devices, that are manufactured by LG UPlus. With this launch, Google TV will be launched in ten countries worldwide.

Amazon May Buy Texas Instruments’ Chip Business

According to a report by Calcalist, Amazon may be in the process of buying the smartphone and tablet chip business of Texas Instruments. TI recently announced that it will be shutting down its operations in the smartphone and tablet space, and focus on its core strengths – embedded device platforms.

Amazon is one of the perfect buyers for that business. By having its own chip manufacturing operation, it can have greater control over the chips running its Kindle devices. Given the rumors that it may enter the smartphone space and the fact that its Kindle device sales are growing significantly, this seems like a logical move.

Amazon’s competitors like Barnes & Noble use TI’s chips, so such an acquisition could also help Amazon gain a competitive advantage and make things tough for its rivals.

TI’s chip business could be worth billions of dollars, and Amazon could also be willing to pay a huge premium, given the high strategic value to it. Google, Apple and Samsung are all moving towards an operational model wherein they are trying to increase their control over the components that make their devices.

via TNW