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Halo Reach pulls in 200 million dollars in first day

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/16/10 02:04 PM

That’s the dollar estimate in the first 24 hours in the US and Europe. That’s compared to 170 million for Halo 3 when it was released in 2007

As is the tradition with these things, Microsoft made the obligatory comparisons to Hollywood movies, sizing up the initial “Halo: Reach” sales against the three-day opening weekends of “Iron Man 2,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Toy Story 3,” and declaring the video game “the biggest entertainment launch of 2010 in the U.S.”

Of course a movie ticket is ten bucks and Halo Reach costs 60. Still, that’s a lot of people willing to shell out 60 bucks for a game.

By the way, this is my new favorite video ever:

Comments | Filed Under: games halo microsoft

Internet Explorer 9 beta launches

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/15/10 05:49 PM

I think we need a new story category on this blog: Geek Chow. Stories that probably don’t matter a whole lot in the short term to the average person but might matter a lot in the long run. Often these stories are of tremendous immediate interest to the highly plugged in folks, the hard core tech audience, the geeks (I’m assured “geek” is no longer a pejorative).

Google Instant is Geek Chow. Movements toward a Chrome operating system are Geek Chow. Facebook’s search model is a big bowl of Geek Chow.

Internet Explorer 9 is Geek Chow. Microsoft’s new browser is available for you to download if you are running Vista or Windows 7. It’s supposedly faster, has a cleaner user interface with more screen space dedicated to the web site, less to navigation, and can do a lot more things. Take it away, Ina Fried at CNET.

Comments | Filed Under: internet explorer browsers microsoft search google facebook geek chow

Microsoft and political repression in Russia

Posted: 09/15/10 06:00 AM

The New York Times recently reported that Russian authorities were raiding the offices of protest groups under the premise of checking for unlicensed Windows software. They’d seize computers, haul them away, attempting to silence those groups.

Microsoft has been fighting software piracy for some time. They say 41 percent of software worldwide is pirated, resulting in 750 Billion dollars of lost revenue for the software industry.

But Microsoft was quick to issue a response to these Russian raids, announcing Monday that non-governmental organizations or NGOs in Russia would be issued a blanket license, making all the software they run legal. It’s a variation of their software donation program.

Microsoft’s move raises some new questions. If a dissident group in Russia can stake a claim to free software, can a group in France or Libya or Mexico or the United States do the same? And more broadly, what kind of political position taking might Microsoft be forced to take going forward?

We talk to Sharon Pian Chan, who covers the northwest-based Microsoft for the Seattle Times. And we check in with James Lewis, Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

We contacted Microsoft for this story. They declined to be interviewed but they pointed us to a blog post from their chief counsel outlining their position and their plans.

Plus, comedian Paul F. Tompkins joins us to talk about a new way to cheat in Angry Birds. He’s angry about it. He is not a bird.

Comments | Filed Under: law government policy business microsoft

Microsoft engages in Fort Gay bashing

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/09/10 12:30 PM

Josh Moore lives in the very small town of Fort Gay, WV. He signed up to play on the Xbox Live network and entered his hometown as part of his profile.

“But was subsequently accused of violating Microsoft’s LIVE Code of Conduct. Among other things, the code stipulates that you shouldn’t “create a gamertag, profile content, or in-game content that other users may be offended by, this includes comments that look, sound like, stand for, hint at, abbreviate, or insinuate any of the following: profane words/phrases, topics or content of a sexual nature, hate speech (including but not limited to racial, ethnic, or religious slurs), illegal drugs/controlled substances, or illegal activities.”
Apparently someone spied Moore’s city name, was offended (or assumed Moore was trying to offend), and reported it to Microsoft.”

So his account has suspended. Now Microsoft has apologized to Moore and the town.

But this stinks in a couple of ways. First, the idea that “gay” is an offensive word. And second that Microsoft wouldn’t take 5 seconds (fewer if they use Google Instant!) to check if the town was real.

Comments | Filed Under: games microsoft

Amazon poaches key game exec from Microsoft

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/07/10 11:59 AM

This is kind of weird considering that Amazon is not exactly known for making original games. Nonetheless, Andre Vrignaud who served as MSFT’s Director of Game Platform Strategy and helped develop the hugely popular Xbox Live program is going over to Amazon. Maybe he wanted to work in downtown Seattle instead of way out in Redmond. Or maybe Amazon is getting ready to do something big with games, the cloud, and the Kindle. The Kindle? I know. Weird.

Comments | Filed Under: games microsoft Amazon kindle

Microsoft hoping for mobile mojo

Posted: 09/02/10 11:40 AM

By Steve Henn

Microsoft is released its latest mobile phone software to cell phone manufactures today.

Windows 7 is Microsofts’ latest crack at getting back into the mobile game. And the Redmond Washington company is desperate. Its market-share in smart phones is almost non-existent – while its rivals Google and Apple both claim to be adding more than 200,000 new mobile users every day.

Comments | Filed Under: Microsoft Mobile Smartphones Windows 7

Google to debut Chrome store for web apps

 by John Moe // Posted: 08/18/10 11:17 AM

This is interesting and potentially very significant. At a gaming conference in Cologne, Germany, Google detailed plans to launch a store for Chrome web apps, meaning games and tools that you can plug into your Chrome browser. Chrome is made by Google and is rapidly gaining market share. It would be like any mobile app store but just for the web. The wrinkle is that Google is apparently only taking a 5% cut of the sales, which is way less than the 30% cut taken by Apple, Facebook, and other big companies for app revenue. This could provide huge incentive to developers to want to build on the platform. Companies are realizing that they need to make developers love them in order to get ahead, that’s why Microsoft is paying developers to offer their wares on the upcoming Windows 7 Phone.

Comments | Filed Under: google chrome facebook apple microsoft

No need for colleges in five years says Bill Gates

 by John Moe // Posted: 08/06/10 05:29 PM

I guess a dude who dropped out of Harvard and became the richest person on the planet couldn’t be expected to strenuously fight for the campus experience. Bill Gates, speaking at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, said that soon all the best lectures will be available free online. So instead of plunking down $50k a year on tuition, you can hang out and watch YouTube all day and be fine.

Comments | Filed Under: bill gates microsoft youtube

Eyeball video game controls. For when any kind of motion is simply too taxing.

 by John Moe // Posted: 08/04/10 11:25 AM

Microsoft’s Kinect system is coming soon. It’ll be great for when you simply can’t be bothered to use a controller. But what if physical movement is out of the question?

Some engineers in Austin, Texas have figured out a way to play Super Mario Bros. with their eyes.  They put electrodes around their eyes - these electrodes track the movement of their eyeballs. Apparently, it’s pretty tough to look places other than straight ahead at the screen, so no one has gotten past the first level.

Comments | Filed Under: video games games microsoft kinect

You are a map maker. Yes you are.

Posted: 08/04/10 06:00 AM

Hey guess what! You’re a map maker. Or cartographer. Whatever you want to call it. Yes, I’m serious. The job is yours. Doesn’t pay but it might be fun to do anyway. Microsoft is making you the offer. Now don’t go getting all full of yourself, they’re making the same offer to every person on Earth.

It’s part of the map service on their Bing search engine. I guess they’re looking for a leg up on other map sites. So they’re doing this thing called Bing Open Street Map where you, or anyone, can provide pictures and information and that gets added to the map, to the record of what that place looks like and is.

It was inevitable, really. The Wikipedia model works, lots of people contribute for free, building something bigger. But is bigger better?

We talk about the future of mapping when we’re all map makers. Our guests are Michael Goodchild, professor of geography at the University of California Santa Barbara and Mark Harrower, a map designer at Axis Maps and former professor of cartography at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Comments | Filed Under: microsoft google maps

Microsoft issues emergency patch

 by John Moe // Posted: 08/03/10 05:28 PM

This was in order to address an issue so severe that it couldn’t wait for Patch Tuesday, the monthly release of various security patches. I’ll spare you a lot of the tech but it has to do with a recently discovered vulnerability in the LNK component of a Windows PC, the LNK is what creates shortcut icons on your desktop. The flaw was discovered last month and malicious hackers quickly began to reconfigure their malware to take advantage of what was essentially an unlocked door. The patch is for Windows 7 and Vista users. If you’re running XP or Windows 2000, you are out of luck. 

Update: I used a bit too much of a blanket statement there. The patch works on Windows XP SP3, but not on Windows XP SP2 or Windows Server 2000.

Comments | Filed Under: microsoft

Microsoft wants employees to build Windows 7 Phone apps in their spare time

 by John Moe // Posted: 07/23/10 11:10 AM

Yesterday, we brought news of all Microsoft employees being given free Windows 7 Phones when the late entry to the smart phone war debuts later this year (I’ve seen October for a launch or as late as December). Now Seattle-based tech blog Tech Flash is publishing an internal memo detailing some of the strings attached.

They want employees to evangelize the product to friends, sure, but they’d also like those employees to build apps for the phone.  This news comes not long after the company began paying developers to build apps for the store. It’s a little gaudy, sure, perhaps even a touch desperate but MSFT is in a massive game of catch up here trying to be a legit player in an already crowded smart phone marketplace where the number of app offerings matter a lot. But they did it before with Xbox so we’ll just have to see.

Comments | Filed Under: microsoft windows 7 phone smartphones

Suspect in Russian spy case worked at Microsoft

 by John Moe // Posted: 07/14/10 06:00 PM

So did he somehow infiltrate and doom the Kin project? Apparently not. Alexey Karetnikov was apparently a low level software tester at Microsoft for the past nine months but not any more. He was detained in Seattle and deported to Russia. His Facebook page is still up although it hasn’t been updated in a while. Apparently he likes movie director Peter Greenaway. So there’s that.

Comments | Filed Under: facebook russia microsoft

Microsoft paying developers to build apps for Windows Phone 7

 by John Moe // Posted: 07/14/10 11:41 AM

Microsoft is getting ready to make a big push in mobile but it obviously isn’t going to have very many apps at the time of launch. Nowhere near Apple’s 225,000, nowhere near Android’s 65,000. So they’re paying people to play with them.

The company is providing financial incentives ranging from free tools and test handsets to funds for software development and marketing, said Todd Brix, a senior director at Microsoft who works with app developers. In some cases, Microsoft is providing revenue guarantees, and will make up the difference if apps don’t sell as well as expected, he said.

(via @jrothmanshore on Twitter)

Comments | Filed Under: microsoft apple android

Microsoft Office 2010 sales results “a bit disappointing”

 by John Moe // Posted: 07/14/10 11:36 AM

This according to a report by research group NPD. It’s kind of a mixed bag report, really, nothing apocalyptic for MSFT. But it does get at a really fundamental question about personal computing heading forward: do we need to pay money for productivity software? The strength of the Office suite of products has always been their power, their muscle, their ability to do more than anyone else. They’ve always been the Hummer of software. But Hummers are big and expensive. Maybe people are going to start wanting a Prius. Google has long offered Google Documents, a free cloud based productivity suite. Even Microsoft introduced a set of web based versions of Office for free a while back. If you don’t have Word and Excel weighing down your computer’s real estate and you don’t have to pay for it, isn’t it a matter of time before that just becomes standard?

Comments | Filed Under: microsoft google

Go to Mars from your computer

Posted: 07/14/10 06:00 AM

Do you want to go to Mars? Of course you do. And of course you can’t. Sorry.

But you can find an awfully good simulation online. NASA and Microsoft are presenting tens of thousands of high resolution images from Mars that you can get to through your computer.  They’re NASA images presented at Worldwide Telescope dot org, a site run by Microsoft Research. The two organizations worked together to take a vast storehouse of pictures and present them in a way that was readily accessible for people online, either through a downloadable browser patch or through a regular web view (that is somewhat less dramatic). The result is pretty darn cool. You can see the treads left by the Mars rover, you can see rock formations, you can really patrol around the planet.

Ross Beyer is a Planetary Scientist at NASA Ames Research. He fills us in on what you might be able to find on your mission to Mars. And Dan Fay from Microsoft explains the process of getting all these images into a form that was navigable from your computer.

Incidentally, I asked Dan if this program could work with a Mac. He said it would but only if the Mac was running Windows 7.

Also in this show, we play p0nd and try not to worry about what it all means.

Comments | Filed Under: space mars microsoft

3D is taking over the world. Which is fine if you really love inconvenience.

Posted: 06/18/10 04:00 AM

Honestly, if you follow technology news to any extent you quickly realize that new 3D electronics are being offered all the time. In the last week alone we’ve seen the Nintendo 3DS, a portable video game player that lets you play 3D games without requiring any special eye wear although you do need to hold it at a very particular angle if you want to see anything. Most other 3D products require some thing strapped to your head. Lenovo is set to debut a new 3D laptop at the end of the month. Glasses required. Some high end 3D TVs are starting to come on the market. Glasses required. We even heard about a 3D newspaper. You heard me. And yes, glasses required. That’s not even including all the movies that are in 3D even when it makes very little sense for them to be.

What’s going on here? Why the push for that extra dimension. That’s what we wanted to know. We speak with Ross Miller of Engadget as the E3 video game expo wrapped up. He had a chance to play with the 3DS and found it weird. We also talk to market research Paul Semenza who explains the technology and marketing forces driving this trend. And we check in with University of Denver Digital Media Studies professor Chris Coleman about how the 3D works. He explains why holding your head perfectly still or wearing head gear is the way it’s going to be for a long, long time.

Comments | Filed Under: 3d nintendo microsoft kinect sony

Kinect: video game gamechanger or just a misspelled word?

Posted: 06/15/10 04:00 AM

We’ve been hearing about Microsoft’s Project Natal for about a year now. The idea is to have a video game controller without the controller itself. Cameras are set up that monitor your body so you’re free to participate in the game without pushing any buttons. If you’re running track, really run. If the game wants you to pick something up, reach out into near space and pretend to do so. It’s a neat concept but many of us have been wondering how it would actually work in the real world. Monday, Microsoft brought the reality incrementally closer as they presented the project, now renamed Kinect for Xbox 360, and demonstrated several games that will be available when it launches on November 4th.

Beyond the Kinect demo, they also announced that ESPN will carry live sports over the Xbox 360 and that the Zune music and movie service will be available on that unit to work with Kinect as well. To cap things off, they also presented a new Xbox 360 that’s smaller and has more memory.

We talk to Dean Takahashi from the floor of the conference to get his reaction. Dean writes about gaming for Venture Beat and has written two books about the Xbox. We also check in with Chris Klug from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center about what Kinect might mean for gamers and non-gamers alike.

And we hear about the most annoying iPhone app ever: Vuvuzela.

Comments | Filed Under: games microsoft

Search engine popularity metrics range from opaque to meaningless

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/11/10 11:01 AM

I’ve been trying to make sense of a couple recent articles about the latest information on the popularity of the major search engines. It seems like Bing and Yahoo had a pretty good gain in market share but were also doing various tricks to display multiple pages, acquire more hit counts, and manipulate the results. So depending on how you look at it, Bing and Yahoo gained ground on Google OR they were both flat while Google dominated even more than before. The write ups on this that I’ve caught seem to agree that it’s increasingly hard to get a read on who’s doing well where. And while that’s just math noise to a degree, remember that search is at the very heart of Google and the place they make the lion’s share of their money. Meanwhile, Bing is the vanguard of Microsoft’s push to be in the cloud, outgrow their desktop model, and SURVIVE. So if there’s no way to really measure who’s doing well, that kind of leaves us in a pickle, doesn’t it?

Comments | Filed Under: google bing microsoft yahoo

Eyebrow raisers from the iPhone announcement

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/08/10 11:20 AM

You may have heard a bit about the new iPhone yesterday, considering the news replaced oxygen as the most common thing in the air. Ars Technica has a good run down.

A few surprises I had yesterday:

Where were the computers? - As near as I can figure, Apple still does make home computers. I bought one recently myself. But they weren’t mentioned at all yesterday. No new laptops, no updates to MacBook Air as rumored. Even the iPod got a mention in passing.

Google remains the default browser, Bing also brought on – Apple is going to play this as giving the user the most options, and that’s a fair point. But Apple is very much at war with Google and its increasingly popular Android mobile device platform right now. Jobs praised Bing and Microsoft but did not kick Google off the iPhone or even move it out of number one position. As a result, a handful of MSFT loyalists may switch settings but it’s mostly a Google experience.

Nothing on home entertainment – I get that it was iPhone’s day but I was wondering if we’d hear about a cloud-based iTunes option or a rebrand/relaunch of Apple TV. Nope.

Netflix and the data plans – Jobs announced a free Netflix app (Android’s getting one soon too) which means tons of streaming movies and TV on your iPhone. This is interesting in light of AT&T’s new restricted data plans. You do a lot of Netflixing, that low use plan doesn’t seem to cover you quite as well. Follow the money, my friends. Follow the money.

Comments | Filed Under: apple google iphone microsoft netflix video wwdc

Tech News In Brief - 6/4/10

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/04/10 11:44 AM

Google data collection mess gets messier
China blocking Foursquare

U.S. Cyber Command wants to ‘operate freely’ to protect and defend computer resources

Is YouTube about to offer live streaming?
Because shouldn’t everything be more like Chatroulette?

Microsoft Patch Tuesday is coming. Stores have had decorations up for months, of course

Could Microsoft be buying AOL?
“Welcome! You’ve got Ballmer!”

Get energy from the stars

Car charging stations coming to town

Gadget tells you when you need a break. Thanks, gadget

Comments | Filed Under: google foursquare security youtube microsoft twitter aol energy

Could Microsoft be buying AOL?

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/04/10 11:11 AM

At the D8 conference, AOL chairman Tim Armstrong said that the company, which is currently using Google for search on its sites, is looking for a new search deal. Armstrong said he was negotiating with more than two potential partners (which is kind of weird because besides Google and Bing, who else would it be? Alta Vista?). But Nicholas Carlson of Silicon Valley Insider suspects that this is all just show before AOL sells out to Microsoft and pairs up with MSN. It’s rumor but it’s something to watch. AOL is far removed from the days where it dominated the internet but it still has millions of faithful subscribers. Migrate those people over to something with Microsoft’s software capabilities and you could have a pretty powerful entity.

Comments | Filed Under: aol microsoft

Microsoft Patch Tuesday is coming. Have you done your shopping?

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/04/10 11:10 AM

Me, I like to get back together with all my old friends from the Windows 7 launch parties I went to. Good times. Good. Times.

On Tuesday, Microsoft will issue ten Security Bulletins addressing 34 vulnerabilities. Some of these are rated “Critical,” which means that a hacker could take control of an infected computer.  After our talk with Mark Bowden about Conficker, it seems possible that these patches are both important and ultimately futile, since many people don’t pay attention to these kinds of things and many are using an illegal form of Windows. So they’ve got all the vulnerability and no access to patches.


Comments | Filed Under: microsoft security

Tech News In Brief - 6/1/10

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/01/10 11:23 AM

2 Million iPads sold in less than 2 months. If I read this correctly, there can only be one conclusion: PEOPLE LOVE IPADS.

Google HQ won’t run Windows anymore . This after Google was hacked via PC and pulled out of China. Of course, don’t forget Google has their own OS coming.  

Groups ask FCC to monitor “hate speech”

New Facebook privacy settings perhaps not good enough for the House

Meanwhile, yesterday was supposed to Quit Facebook Day. What’s the opposite of a groundswell?

Remember Lala? Apple replaced it with…nothing

A new number 2 in supercomputing

Zipcar: the revolutionary environmentally responsible idea that not very many people use.

Peer Pong – ask it a question!
Like “why does Peer Pong exist?”

Comments | Filed Under: ipad apple google microsoft windows fcc facebook

Changes at Facebook, Apple passes Microsoft

Posted: 05/27/10 06:00 AM

After vowing just a couple of days ago to make privacy changes in “coming weeks”, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters on Wednesday to introduce simplified controls on the popular social networking site. We hear about what those changes are, what didn’t end up changing at all, and what the overall mood at Facebook is from’s Ryan Singel.

We also take a look at Microsoft. They used to be at the center of everyone’s computer life. If you had a home computer, you probably had a PC. But on Wednesday, Apple surpassed Microsoft in terms of market capitalization to become, by that measure at least, the largest technology company in the world. We talk to Matt Rosoff of the research group Directions on Microsoft and ask what happened.

Comments | Filed Under: facebook microsoft apple

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