Windows 8: Viable Solution for the New Post-PC Era?

  • For the first time in many years, Microsoft is facing a serious challenge to its Windows desktop monopoly — not in the form of any operating system, but in the new computing concept of “post-PC.”
  • “The worry is that upstart tablets threaten to drive the computer out of the home, taking the Windows operating system with it,” reports Ars Technica.
  • Microsoft has been in the tablet business longer than anyone, but it has always been an add-on to Windows. Windows 8 will give the company another opportunity to create something new — a full featured PC that not only works on the desktop but on a post-PC device as well.
  • Windows 8 will work with touch devices and not require a stylus. It will support real multitasking. It will run on power-efficient ARM processors. It will still have a huge legacy of software, including Office. It will support a myriad of hardware and accessories.
  • In short, it will be able to do everything the tablet can and much more. Ars Technica concludes: “Still, this tablet-as-a-PC model hasn’t worked well despite 20 years of trying. Microsoft’s decision to stick with it might look like a mistake — why would this approach start working now when it hasn’t before? — but signs suggest it might be more successful this time around.”

Review: Gizmodo Selects the Best Cloud Storage Services

  • Gizmodo takes an in-depth look at 11 popular cloud storage services and provides analysis of each based on pricing, features and functionality.
  • This is a great bird’s-eye view for those who may be wondering what makes each service distinct.
  • The site picks SugarSync as the clear winner, which offers 5GB of free storage and has plans ranging from 30-500GB starting at $50 a year.
  • “It combines the best bits of all of the other services and weaves it together into a fast and intuitive package,” reports Gizmodo about SugarSync. “It worked exactly like we wanted to. Super powerful, super easy, and tons of features.”
  • Additional top services include Google (Budget Winner), Microsoft SkyDrive (Free Winner) and Dropbox (Your Mom’s Winner).

Microsoft Develops Accurate Technique for 3D Facial Modeling

  • Researchers from Microsoft’s Beijing lab have developed a technique to automatically model human faces in 3D with a new level of accuracy.
  • According to the research, the new approach can acquire “high-fidelity 3D facial performances with realistic dynamic wrinkles and finescale facial details.”
  • The technique combines 3D scanning technology with a motion-capture system, in addition to what Geekwire describes as “a technique they developed to determine the minimal number of face scans needed to create an accurate model, which makes the system faster and more efficient.”
  • The research paper will be presented this week at the SIGGRAPH Conference in Vancouver.
  • ETCentric staffer Phil Lelyveld comments: “This more-accurate facial modeling, tied to game engine character behavior generation, will make for some very interesting experiences. There was a recent story on an emotional (versus Q&A response) Turing test. Would you hurt a visually realistic avatar?”

Rovi Claims Hulu Infringes on Electronic Program Guide Patent

  • Rovi Corporation filed suit against Hulu last week, claiming that the video site infringes on its patents for electronic program guides.
  • Santa Clara, California-based Rovi provides technology that powers streaming services from Blockbuster On Demand and Best Buy’s CinemaNow. The company also licenses its technology to others such as Apple, Microsoft and Comcast.
  • The digital entertainment solutions provider claims that Hulu’s infringement “presents significant and ongoing damages to Rovi’s business.” The company is seeking compensation for lost license revenue and treble damages.
  • As previously reported by ETCentric, Hulu has been offered for sale by its owners (Disney, News Corp., NBC Universal and Providence Equity).

Review: Gizmodo Excited about ESPN 2.0 for XBox 360

  • Gizmodo calls the new ESPN 2.0 service, available on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 beginning August 25th, “super polished and super useful.”
  • The new interface includes the ability to watch two content streams in 720p simultaneously, a series of scrolling live thumbnails to select other games and access scores and stats, and the ability to control the system using voice commands over the Kinect.
  • Viewers can pause one game to focus on another, for example, or watch replays on one side of the screen while the other game keeps playing, or even access the same game twice (using one screen for replays and keeping the other screen for live coverage). Additionally, a live scoreboard runs vertically down the right side of the screen.

Update: Microsoft Drops Out of Auction for Hulu Service

  • Microsoft has reportedly dropped out of the bidding for Hulu and would not continue into a second round, according to “a person with knowledge of the matter.” (Although the individual did not rule out the possibility of Microsoft re-entering in a later round.)
  • Google, Yahoo, AT&T and as many as eight other companies remain interested in the online video service.
  • According to Business Insider, Yahoo is willing to spend up to $2 billion if it can get content rights for the next four or five years.
  • It has been reported that Hulu plans to offer five years of access to content from its media company owners (Disney, News Corp. and Comcast’s NBC Universal), including two years of exclusivity.

Microsoft to Expand Retail Presence with 75 New Stores

  • Microsoft plans to add at least 75 new stores in the next two-three years, part of an aggressive strategy to beef up its competition with Apple.
  • At the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles on July 13, COO Kevin Turner said the plans also include international locations.
  • Microsoft currently operates 11 brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S., while Apple has more than 320 worldwide.
  • Executives at Microsoft have reportedly been debating the bold and potentially risky move, since most of the company’s stores are not making money and most of their products are also available at traditional retailers such as Best Buy.
  • The post includes a U.S. map of planned store locations.

Android OS Could Prove Big Business for Microsoft

  • Android is the global leader in smartphone platforms with over 500,000 daily activations, serving as an obvious advantage for Google.
  • However, Android’s success is also becoming a boon for Microsoft, which has negotiated agreements with several Android licensees to settle patent infringement claims, providing $5-10 for each device shipped.
  • With the potential of 500,000 activations per day, this could amount to $1 billion in value to Microsoft.
  • This amount would exceed the value of their Windows 7 and Bing businesses currently.

Zune Subscription Video May be Coming to Xbox, WP7

  • Electronista reports that Microsoft is considering a subscription video service to be branded under the Zune name.
  • The rumored service is expected to be separate from the live Xbox TV service recently announced at June’s E3 Expo.
  • The Zune service may be modeled much like the current pay-per-title store and compete with the likes of Netflix.
  • It would “most likely” offer videos to stream on Windows Phone 7 smartphones and Windows PCs.
  • “Whether or not it would follow the traditional month-to-month plan, integrate with the Zune Pass, or bolt on to an Xbox Live Gold subscription wasn’t as evident.”

Insiders Say Netflix Not Interested in Acquiring Hulu

  • Netflix is reportedly not among the handful of companies currently considering a purchase of Hulu.
  • Sources “familiar with the matter” indicate Netflix was absent from the first round of bidding presentations that concluded last week.
  • The same sources also suggest that Hulu has no interest in seeing its biggest rival take it over.
  • Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo are reportedly still among the companies interested in the TV streaming service.

Most Popular Smartphone Platforms: Android, iOS, BlackBerry

  • Google’s Android continues its lead over all other smartphone platforms, according to the latest quarterly report from comScore.
  • However, Apple has overtaken Research In Motion’s BlackBerry for second place among U.S. smartphone software providers.
  • Android grew from 33 percent to 38.1 percent, while Apple grew to 26.6 percent and RIM declined to 24.7 percent.
  • Microsoft and Palm both showed declines as well.
  • In terms of handsets, Samsung currently leads with 24.8 percent of the smartphones in circulation while Motorola remains in second place.

Google Misses Out on Nortel Patent Portfolio

  • Google missed out on the $4.5 billion auction for Nortel’s patents, losing to a consortium made up of Apple, Microsoft, EMC, Ericsson, RIM, and Sony.
  • Google’s loss of the patent portfolio puts its Android platform at a disadvantage, and the company will not have access to over 6,000 patents covering a range of technologies.
  • It has been reported that Google may respond with a Restraint of Trade suit in an attempt to force the consortium to license some or all of the patents.
  • The consortium’s participants will likely take key patents for their own use. For example, Apple’s $2 billion may give it ownership of Nortel’s LTE (4G) patents.

Microsoft and Nielsen Measure Cross-Platform Engagement

  • Microsoft’s ad division has created a research partnership with Nielsen dubbed the Television Online Effect program.
  • The project’s primary goal is to better learn how consumers are influenced by TV and the Web in terms of engagement with marketing messages.
  • The research, which begins in August, will use Nielsen’s TV/Internet Fusion panel and customized research Microsoft will develop.
  • The pilot will initially launch with entertainment advertisers, but will most likely expand in the future.
  • “If advertisers are looking to capture food enthusiasts for the launch of a new cooking show or networks are looking to drive Moms to primetime programming, they can leverage our exciting new service,” commented Microsoft’s Joslyn Moore in a blog post.

UK Consortium Plans to Conduct White Space Radio Trial

  • A consortium in the United Kingdom that includes Microsoft, BT and the BBC will test a white space radio service in Cambridge to determine effectiveness and any possible interference with TV transmission.
  • White space radio has been proposed to complete the UK’s broadband coverage.
  • Data rates range from 10kbps to 16Mbps depending on distance from the base station.
  • UK could be covered with 6,000 base stations on existing cell towers and provide low bandwidth services.

Microsoft Launches New Cloud Version of Office

  • 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.

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