On May 21, Microsoft unveiled its next-generation game console, the Xbox One. This hour-long sneak preview into what’s coming soon for the entertainment platform gives us a pretty good picture into how serious Microsoft takes the living room. While the devices-and-service company struggles in mobile and other computing devices, it has pretty good head start in the living room, and the message to competitors: We’re ready for a fight.
Microsoft positions the new console as a serious player in the living room. Xbox One shucks tradition to the wind as evidenced by the fact that the very first demo showed off its multimedia prowess: Fast app switching, made capable by three operating systems; deep Skype integration and a drastically improved natural interface layer powered by Kinect.
This is how you sell a tablet. Tuesday evening of May 14, Microsoft debuted a new commercial for the Surface RT that finally explained the benefits of the tablet. No dancers. No super cool music. Just Microsoft talking about why the Surface RT is the next device you should own. The company emphasized the included USB port, kickstand, keyboard, and the single biggest sell of Surface RT, the included Office 2013 install. It sold the Surface as the power of a computer in the package of a tablet.
Is this not precisely what I called on Microsoft to do in my previous article about those odd (but awesome) Windows 8 ads? In that article I told the story about a guy who was working in a coffee shop on his Surface when someone walked up to him and said, “Is that the tablet that clicks?” He recognized the product from the commercials, but seemed to be unaware of anything other than its clicking. I wrote,
Creating original content is the big trend with major tech companies like Netflix and Hulu. But recently, others such as Amazon and Microsoft have thrown their hats into the original content creation ring. Nancy Tellem, a former CBS executive, will oversee the creation of original entertainment content for Xbox Live. Tellem will be in charge of a new studio in Los Angeles. Microsoft is already rumored to be reviving the canceled Heroes series. This is not a bad idea as we already know that Netflix has revived the popular Arrested Development TV show that was canceled by Fox.
This week a few shows that were popular in the LGBT community were canceled: Smash (NBC), New Normal (NBC) and Happy Endings (ABC). The last one, Happy Endings, is rumored to be picked up by the USA network. This would be a perfect show for Microsoft because while Heroes is one of those shows that certainly fits the traditional Xbox demographic, Happy Endings is one of those shows that can appeal to the existing demographic as well as a new one.
There’s more than one way to advertise a product and while I am a big fan of the approach that specifically focuses on features, I understand there is a need for other approaches. Sometimes you just need to go for the pure emotional response. In the case of the ads released by Microsoft today which focus on the Asian market that seems to be what they were going for. Take a look.
Many people want Microsoft to die, and the sooner the better. I’m not in that group, although I understand that years upon years of letdowns through viruses, DLL hell, BSODs (Blue Screens of Death) and a myriad of other problems lead many in the tech world (and consumer world, too) to walk away from everything Microsoft. Add to that the growth of the Internet and mobile devices as well as slumping PC sales, and you can see why so many wait with baited breath to see the company go away for good.
Nevertheless, quarter after quarter Microsoft continues to prove that it still has life and isn't going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, in 2011, CEO Steve Ballmer explained how the company intends to reinvent around devices and services. Seeing that the growth of mobile devices and the services that support them represent the future of computing, Microsoft responds yet again to the changing world of computing.
The web is now the next great application development platform. Webkit is by far the most popular development “platform” among the web development community. Many are calling for Microsoft to ditch Trident (the rendering engine in Internet Explorer) and replace it with Webkit. I personally think that would be a huge mistake and apparently Google feels the same way or it wouldn’t be forking Webkit as the basis of its own rendering engine.
Nevertheless, the web development community is uber focused on non-Microsoft technologies for development. This presents a big problem for Microsoft and ability to hold on to its development community. I believe Microsoft can overcome this threat if by making a few key moves.
Xbox is due for a refresh this year and it's a good time to write my wishlist. I’ve been accused of being a Windows fanboy, which I’m not. I’ve also been accused of being a Windows Phone fanboy. No again. But I’ve never been accused of being an Xbox fanboy, which I absolutely am.
With the Xbox, Microsoft has a stellar platform on its hands. The console has gone from a third place alsoran to a major player in the console wars: a strategy Microsoft desperately needs to adapt to Windows Phone, but that’s a different article. As the world of computing shifts to mobile, so is gaming, allowing companies like Apple to get into the business. What do vendors that build consoles need to do to adjust their strategy? I can’t say much for Sony or Nintendo because I don’t use those platforms anymore. For Microsoft, here’s my wish list for the next Xbox platform update that I think will allow it to remain a major gaming industry player despite the shift to mobile computing.
Late last month, I wrote about how NUI (natural user interface) technology is Microsoft’s Trojan horse to draw consumers to the company's latest and upcoming devices. I definitely see a key technology strategy, but is it enough?
Kinect got the attention of many consumers, who were not considering the Xbox, and it sold a ton more consoles. But did Kinect keep consumers interested? How many people actually continue to regularly use the controller? In the same way, if Microsoft integrates deep natural language voice-controlled interfaces and camera-based gesture inputs into its next round of products and services, the company could easily get consumer attention and sell more phones and Surface tablets. That's not enough. What must Microsoft do to ensure these consumers remain interested in their new devices and services?
I don’t know about you but as a lover of technology and the world around it, I find these times to be quite compelling. Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft (the big four) are setting the stage for an epic battle for tech dominance. The many articles and blog posts calling Microsoft dead in the water are way too premature. We are way too early in this new world of mobile computing to call Microsoft out of this game.
However, I will say this: If any of the four previously mentioned companies are in the most danger of failing at the consumer market, it’s Microsoft. The company better figure out how to get things together and quickly as time is not on the leadership's side and their competition is hitting on all cylinders.
With the advent of advances in technology and the increasing power of process, we are witnessing a tremendous transition in the design of user experiences and interface design in software development. Of particular interest in this article is the culmination of natural user interface design as it relates to the current crop of touchscreen laptops made possible by Windows 8.
One of the things I have noticed as more and more tech sites review touchscreen laptops is the increasing amount of comments such as, "I would never touch a screen on a laptop" or "why would anyone ever need to touch a screen on a laptop?" The problem with the comments, the thinking is limited by mouse and keyboard. Windows 8 is the first operating system to force us to move beyond this thinking when it comes to using traditional computing devices like desktops and laptops.
Dell earnings announcement set off some concerns that the PC industry may not recover and as a result some are predicting Windows 8 sales may not be quite satisfying to Microsoft. Could the software giant have seen this coming a mile away?
A mobile future means that traditional PC hardware like laptops and ultrabooks will yield sales to a new generation of PC form factors like hybrids and tablets that are highly mobile, yet just as capable as laptops and ultrabooks, tablets like the Surface. Microsoft knew mobile was the future and prepped for it, here’s why.
I had great hopes for Xbox Music when announced in October. It’s essentially the best of Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and Google music services all wrapped up into one. But the sheer number of problems with this initial offering leaves myself and others in complete disappointment.
Xbox Music replaces Zune on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and the Xbox 360. The service includes the ability to purchase music a la carte, stream or download songs (via Xbox Music Pass subscription for $9.99 per month), sync playlists across devices, access a music locker, and more. Any tunes you purchase from the Xbox Music store, or playlists you create, sync across devices. Well, that's the idea, except, it’s not working for some people.
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks reading review after review of Microsoft Surface. I feel like 90-percent of them were not written for me. You see, I’m your average user. I’m the average Joe user with a strong interest in the field of technology. I don’t care about pixel densities, or all the other niggles on performance tech geeks fight about all the time.
What matters to me: Does a particular device allow me to not only consume content but create it as well. And Surface accomplishes those two goals tremendously well. I write this review on a Surface RT using Microsoft Word in Office 2013.
Friday, October 26, Microsoft released its highly anticipated Surface RT tablets to the masses. I was able to snag one of these devices and spent most of my weekend in the web browser reading reviews that questioned Microsoft’s so-called "curious inclusion" of the desktop. Perhaps I’m missing something but I don’t understand why there is so much angst about the desktop in RT. Some people don’t understand why the desktop is there but I think it makes complete sense.
To be fair, I really do understand that to other reviewers of RT the desktop is only limited to MS Office applications and few other MS included apps like Notepad. Additionally, RT does not allow x86 apps to run or even be installed. That being said, I get the feeling this limitation due to the platform running on the ARM architecture is temporary.
This weekend I got a curious text message from my mother: "I’m watching a presentation of Windows 8 on HSN".
I quickly tuned into the Home Shopping Network channel and to my surprise they were actually doing a pretty decent job of explaining Windows 8 (and offering PCs for preorder). They demoed various benefits of the new OS from the apps to the fact that if users are confused by the new interface, the old legacy desktop is a button press away (the windows key).