Steve Ballmer will launch Office 365 this week: “a combination of communication, collaboration and productivity software delivered via the Internet” that Microsoft refers to as the “next generation cloud service.”
The company is hosting a launch event in New York to celebrate the suite’s debut.
Office 365 joins a crowded field including Google Docs and VMware’s Zimbra email, but WSJ suggests its biggest competitor might be itself: “The company now needs to convince those computer users, estimated at about one billion, to switch to Office in the cloud without disrupting the legacy version that is financing the transition.”
Businesses will be able to buy only the cloud services they need such as email for $2/month or Office for $27/month.
Large corporate clients will be allowed to use the service for free until license agreements are renewed.
Nintendo introduced autostereoscopic 3D gaming with its 3DS system earlier this year, but it failed to gain significant traction.
In his Forbes Tech column, John Gaudiosi suggests the availability of new top-tier 3D games and a drop in price may help turn that around.
The drop in price may come sooner than expected, now that Sprint’s $200 Evo 3D (from HTC) – the first glasses-free 3D phone for the U.S. – is available. Plus, later this summer AT&T will enter the 3D market with its LG Thrill 4G.
“While some have called 3D phones gimmicky, these devices are already commonplace in Asia. And with an influx of new 3D phones entering the market this year, coupled with the Nintendo 3DS, Jim Cameron recently told me that he sees these glasses free devices as being key for the adoption of 3D TVs in the homes.”
Gaudiosi’s column features several interesting video reports and interviews about the direction of 3D.
For the Galaxy Tab: higher display resolution (1280×800 vs. iPad’s 1024×768); more RAM; 9 ounces lighter and 0.01 inch thinner than the iPad; Adobe Flash playback capability; features new Plane to Line Switching (PLS) panel technology that enhances brightness, clarity and viewing angles; higher megapixel cameras and 1080p video capability.
However, Galaxy Tab’s thinness was achieved by excluding USB, HDMI and SD card slot.
For the iPad 2: better battery life than the Galaxy Tab (10 hours vs. 6 hours under similar conditions); better speaker sound, particularly at a higher volume; and perhaps most importantly, more than double the number of available apps (425,000 and growing).
The Galaxy Tab is powered by Honeycomb 3.1 OS: “And, no matter whichever way you look at it – slice it or dice it – Honeycomb lacks the finesse and elegance of iOS.”
Conclusion: “Galaxy Tab is the best Android tablet to be ever released. No doubt about that. But if you’ve made up your mind about getting iPad 2, don’t give it a second thought. The UI of iOS will not make you want to regret your decision.”
Add another new tablet to the growing list of available devices… Toshiba began taking pre-orders last week for its 10.1-inch Thrive Tablet, expected to hit retail shelves in early July.
The $430 Wi-Fi-only 8GB tablet runs on Android 3.1 Honeycomb and is powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chip.
PC Magazine reports there will also be 16GB ($480) and 32GB ($580) models available.
Inputs include: USB 2.0, Mini USB, HDMI and SD Card.
Features include: Multitouch 1280×800 LED display, front and rear cameras and a replaceable battery.
According to a PC World review this week, interoperability may be what makes the Thrive stand out from the pack: “The Thrive is the first Honeycomb tablet to include a full-size SD Card slot. None of this microSD card nonsense for Toshiba; ditto for only having a micro- or mini-USB port. By including the SD Card slot and USB port, the company recognizes the need for interoperability among devices. And only with interoperability can a tablet begin to replace a laptop in your arsenal.”
In related news, Hewlett-Packard also recently announced its first media tablet, the 9.7-inch webOS-powered TouchPad. The Wi-Fi-only TouchPad is priced at $500 (16GB) and $600 (32GB).
At the Elevate Video Advertising Summit in New York earlier this month, executives from Comcast Interactive Media, Turner, Disney and ESPN agreed that in two years 75 percent of television content will be available online and on mobile devices.
For an increasing number of consumers, the line between traditional TV content and Web video is blurring.
The immediate hurdles involve negotiating broadcast rights across platforms and addressing the threat of broadband usage caps and fees.
Regardless, it seems the concept of “TV Everywhere” is inevitable.
“It’s interesting to think of what the definition of a TV is,” said Comcast’s Matt Strauss. “My kids think an iPad is a TV. People don’t think of TV anymore, they just think of video. For us, in the broader context of what we’re doing, we’re beginning to migrate everything to Internet video.”
According to research and consulting firm Parks Associates, global pay TV providers are expected to have nearly 50 TV Everywhere initiatives underway by July, marking a major increase since the initiatives began in 2009.
Home Media Magazine reports that the ability of new tablets and smartphones to handle streaming video – in addition to the emerging growth of connected devices in the home – is helping to drive the trend.
“What’s remarkable is the pace of the growth,” said Brett Sappington, a senior analyst with Parks Associates. “Traditionally, operators are not quick to invest in this type of thing.”
It is projected that by next month, 81 percent of U.S. pay TV subscribers will have access to content on multiple devices.
In terms of how consumers are using TV Everywhere initiatives so far, Sappington reports that VOD is clearly outpacing live TV streaming (most likely due to the clear-cut rights operators have with VOD).
Edge Magazine speaks with Phil Harrison, former president of Sony Computer Entertainment’s Worldwide Studios, and recently appointed advisory board member of cloud-based streaming game service Gaikai.
Harrison answers questions on the future of gaming and suggests the following projections: Games will rely increasingly upon social networks; free-to-play will become the predominant business model in 20 years; local storage will disappear; music, film and television will be consumed like a utility and browsers will replace consoles (in the wake of a next-generation browser war).
On the future of non-physical media: “If you live in Korea, it’s already happened, if you live in China, it’s already happened. That’s an easy prediction to make: there is undoubtedly a generation of kids alive on the planet today who will never purchase a physical media package for any of their digital entertainment.”
On Apple’s impact on the market: “At this trajectory, if you extrapolate the market-share gains that they are making, forward for ten years – if they carry on unrestrained in their growth, then there’s a pretty good chance that Apple will be the games industry.”
Facebook is reportedly preparing to release a free social networking iPad app, after nearly a year in development.
Developers have overhauled the Facebook Chat and Facebook Groups features, which are now in the final stages of testing.
The app will also allow users to shoot and upload photos and video content from the iPad’s built-in cameras.
“People who have seen the application said it has a slick design that has been tailored for the iPad and its touchscreen interface.” (Facebook users have previously complained (read the related TechCrunch post) that its interface is not optimized for touchscreen functionality.)
Facebook claims it is approaching 700 million users worldwide, with 250 million of them actively accessing the site on mobile devices.
“The era of .google, .microsoft and .apple is coming as ICANN decides to let organizations apply for custom domain suffixes.”
The proposed plan is expected to dramatically increase the number of Internet domain name endings from the current 22 generic offerings, by allowing domain names to end with almost any word in any language.
The Board vote was 13 approving, 1 opposed, and 2 abstaining.
The $185K fee and $25K annual cost is intended to deter cybersquatting and ensure applicants are not violating trademark rights.
“Many of the biggest brands are planning to apply for their .brand TLD, but many marketing leaders I’ve talked with look at this as a nuisance and are skeptical about whether Internet users will embrace them,” wrote Forrester analyst Jeff Ernst, in a blog post.
Discovery has launched a compelling new website designed to complement the network’s upcoming Curiosity TV series (August 2011).
Curiosity.com is a Q&A platform that presents interesting thoughts from some of the most talented people across a wide range of professions and areas of study.
Current contributors include Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf and Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel.
Cerf shares his ideas on what “friendship” means in the age of social media in addition to answering an array of tech-related questions. (Recent questions answered: Does misinformation on the Internet force us to think more critically? Is this the best time to be interested in science? What pieces of the Internet need to be fixed? What are some persistent threats to innovation?)
Wiesel addresses human rights, forgiveness and the power of the media. (Recent questions answered: Will future generations ever end discrimination? How can young people make change? What is your advice for future generations? What does the election of President Obama represent?)
Video interviews featuring new luminaries and innovators will be introduced each week.
Discovery plans to add social sharing functionality that will allow users to create their own profile pages and spark their own discussions.
Depth Analysis is getting high praise for the 3D motion-capture technology it used in rendering facial expressions for the new L.A. Noire video game. The Australia-based company is working to perfect a full-body system that will let film directors “drop” actors into their movies.
L.A. Noire is the latest game from the Rockstar Games label (Take-Two Interactive Software). Team Bondi and Depth Analysis have been earning positive reviews for the game’s highly stylized, immersive and cinematic production design (check out the trailer here).
Development on the MotionScan 3D motion-capture system, which uses 32 HD cameras positioned at different levels to capture and create a 3D model, began in 2004. The infrastructure, pipeline and capture rig were all developed from scratch.
Depth Analysis has found success in realistically recreating the detail of actors’ facial performances for its video game and plans to use it more for capturing full-body performances.
The company has also been demonstrating the work-in-progress system to filmmakers. L.A. Noire writer-director Brendan McNamara explains that the appeal of the Depth Analysis system is its ability to drop actors into virtually any setting.
For those interested in a visual demonstration, CNET has posted a 6-minute GameSpot interview with Oliver Bao, head of R&D for Depth Analysis.
According to Bao (in an AWN interview last week): “We’ve managed to reproduce lifelike performances of actors. Getting the data compressed to fit game discs and render back at decent speed and quality have been reasons why this was not possible before. We’ve demonstrated that what you see is what you get; actors have their performances reproduced faithfully to the point that you can lip read what they’re saying in L.A. Noire. This is the first time we’ve allowed gamers to be able to enjoy believable acting on a console.”
Microsoft is helping developers looking to utilize the full potential of Kinect technology by releasing a software developer kit. While Microsoft wants to keep the focus on gaming, the company recognizes the potential for Kinect-based applications beyond video games.
Soon after Microsoft released the Kinect add-on for its Xbox (which has reportedly sold 10 million units), developers and hackers have been creating new and interesting ways of using Kinect and its motion-sensing camera system – from compelling interactive window displays to steering remote-controlled toy helicopters. There is even a Kinect Hacks site dedicated to such efforts.
Recognizing the strong interest in the technology, Microsoft officially announced the introduction of a free software developer kit for the Kinect.
According to the Microsoft blog: “This is only the beginning in our commitment to deliver an SDK to the community. Microsoft’s vision of the natural user interface is that interactions between people and computers will ultimately become invisible – computers will understand peoples’ gestures, listen for their voice commands, even interpret and respond to their expressions and inflections in voice.”