The Halo series has been a massive success for Microsoft on Xbox, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection was an eagerly anticipated launch. But when the remastered game collection hit Xbox One, it didn't take long for gamers to discover a raft of problems with multiplayer games, and a range of glitches that impacted on performance.
Now Microsoft and games studio 343 Industries have apologized for the issues in a way that the companies are hoping will be well-received -- by giving away a batch of free stuff. That's not to say that an accompanying, contemporaneous apology has been issued; instead the freebies are a thank you for gamers' "support and understanding as we worked through issues impacting" the game.
We've already heard that 2015 is supposed to be the year of cryptocurrency, and Microsoft recently announced that Bitcoin is an acceptable form of payment. Now Reddit is getting in on the virtual currency action. Kind of. Well, perhaps. The details are vague at the moment, but the intriguingly-named Reddit Notes have been announced.
It comes just a few months after Reddit managed to secure $50 million in funding, and at the time "the investors in this round have proposed to give 10% of their shares back to the community". The birth of Reddit Notes is the start of this payback, but it's not yet clear who will receive them or what they will be used for.
Microsoft is keeping its promise of delivering Lumia Denim in the last quarter of 2014, as the firmware update is rolling out now. However, most devices which are slated to get it will only receive it starting early next year.
"The Lumia Denim update has started rolling out to a limited number of devices in selected markets, and will continue arriving in waves by device", says Microsoft's Adam Frasier. "A wider rollout of Lumia Denim to all Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to begin in early January, following partner testing and approvals". I wouldn't be surprised if the roll-out ends very late in Q1 2015.
Nokia’s HERE suite of driving and navigation apps first made its appearance on Windows Phone, and although it’s now being developed for other platforms, for many it remains best associated with Microsoft’s mobile operating system.
However, now that Nokia is no longer tied to Windows Phone, the Finnish company’s interest in developing for that platform is waning, and it will in future be focusing on Android and iOS -- which have a much larger user base.
With Windows Phone still struggling to gain considerable traction, Microsoft is trying to boost its operating system's market share by focusing on the low-end of the market, which has real potential of attracting consumers, especially those in emerging markets. And, so far this year, Microsoft has introduced quite a few affordable Windows Phones, with the latest of the bunch being the still-Nokia-branded Lumia 638.
Lumia 638 is a new Windows Phone 8.1 handset that is designed for India. It is touted to be one of the most affordable smartphones with 4G connectivity available in this Asian market, which is sure to attract the attention of price-conscious local buyers. What else does it have to offer?
Microsoft's Gabe Aul has given an insight into how the Windows 10 Technical Preview has been received by testers. In a blog post, Aul reveals that there are more than 1.5 million registered Windows Insiders testing out preview builds, and that nearly a third of this number -- around 450,000 -- are using it on a daily basis.
So far there have only been three official preview builds: build 9841, build 9860, and build 9879. There have also been a few unofficial leaks including, 9888 complete with a limited preview of Cortana and more recently build 9901. Microsoft does not shy away from acknowledging the existence of these leaks, but it's not clear if they have been included in the usage figures.
Companies are always forward-looking, but it's at this time of year that this is really focused on. Consumers are excited to see what products they'll be able to get their hands on in the year ahead, businesses want to know what services the coming year has to offer, and technology enthusiasts are keen to learn about what projects are in the works.
Today, Microsoft shares its view of which areas of technology are going to be of the greatest importance for businesses in 2015. Corporate Vice President, Enterprise and Partner Group, Susan Hauser believes that security will continue to be strengthened, the Internet of Things will grow, and predictive tools will be more heavily utilized.
Do I believe in psychics? No. I do not believe that people have magical powers that can predict the future. With that said, I like watching the Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo, on TV. If you aren't familiar, she claims to talk to the dead, and transmits messages from the deceased to their families. I watch it from an entertainment perspective only.
I prefer my predictions to come from good ol' fashioned computers. Microsoft's Bing has seen some success in its predictions, but today, it is taking it to another level. You see, the search-engine is now predicting the events of 2015! As a Jets fan, and overall hater of New England sports, I hope Bing is wrong, as it predicts Tom Brady and the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.
Windows 10 is very much a work in progress, but one feature that’s definitely going to be around in the final release is the Start menu. Microsoft has done a clever job of blending the traditional Start menu with the divisive Start screen found in Windows 8.x. I’m a big fan of this approach, and the menu is customizable too, so if you really, really hate the tiles, you can turn them off.
However, for some people nothing less than a classic Windows 7 style Start menu is going to be acceptable. If you count yourself in that number, the good news is you can now get a traditional Start menu in Windows 10 thanks to Classic Shell.
Not long ago I wrote asking if we still needed Windows. It's an interesting question without a real answer. On the one hand, many folks don't need it, as a Chromebook will suffice for what they do -- checking email and browsing websites. On the other hand, some people do need Windows for the apps that can't be had on Google's platform.
In other words, there is no easy answer to the question I posed. One thing became clear though. Windows won't be going anywhere soon. It may only be needed by a certain percentage of people, many of whom are in a business of some sort, either for themselves or in the enterprise community.
Windows Phone is a great operating system. If you disagree, you are wrong. Sure, it has frustratingly low app availability, including a lack of Google apps, but the underlying OS is wonderful. Live tiles are useful, and the UI is smart and attractive. Hell, the hardware is wonderful too, and it is often sold at very affordable prices.
Today, Microsoft and Sprint are joining forces to bring the Lumia 635 to Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile USA and Sprint's own network. Believe it or not, this is the first-ever Lumia handset for Boost and Virgin USA -- two of Sprint's sub-carriers.
Microsoft is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the US government, and the fight has led to an unlikely alliance between several rival companies. Microsoft was handed a government order requesting access to emails stored at a datacenter in Ireland. The company has been battling the order for several months, and now Apple, Amazon, Verizon, and HP are among the big names lending their support to the fight.
It's not just technology firms who are putting their names forward in support of the challenge of the search warrant. Several global media outlets, including the Guardian, the Washington Post, and CNN as well as numerous trade associations and advocacy organizations have signaled their support for Microsoft.
Windows Phone started off as an easy to use smartphone operating system without many bells and whistles. Over the years, it has picked up more and more advanced features, reaching the point where it can now hold its own in a comparison against main rivals, Android and iOS. And Microsoft keeps adding to the list.
One area where Windows Phones have struggled -- against Android rivals -- is gesture-based features, like the ability to answer a call by holding the phone to the ear. (You can find that on some old Android devices, like Samsung Galaxy S3.) It is not a major feature by any means, but it is nice to have. Well, Microsoft is trying to catch up by introducing a new app, called Gestures, which enables (more) gesture-based features.
It has been a few weeks since Microsoft introduced us to the latest addition to the Office family -- Sway. In fact, as Microsoft points out, the preview was unveiled 10 weeks ago. While the initial preview required anyone interested to join a waiting list, now it's possible to get in on the action straight away; and it seems there has already been great interest in the product.
Microsoft says that there have been 175,000 requests to access the Sway Preview, and the Sway.com website has received over one million visitors. Now anyone with a Microsoft account is able to try out the data collection and presentation tool and check out a batch of new features.
Microsoft has an end-of-year present for Skype users in India. Starting now and running until the beginning of March, calls from India to the US and Canada are completely free of charge. Interestingly, this includes calls placed to mobiles as well as to landlines.
Unusually for such an offer, there's no commitment, no free trial and, seemingly, no catch -- just free calls for the next three months. The news comes just after Microsoft unveiled details of its Skype Translator preview, and is just in time for the holiday season when the number of phone calls placed tends to skyrocket.