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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Microsoft Announces The Surface Pro 3 With A 12″ Screen

This morning at an event in New York City, Microsoft announced that it is releasing a new Surface device, the Surface Pro 3. The new tablet hybrid sports a 12″ screen, as expected.
Interestingly, the new PC has a Core i7 processor, so the thing should scream along. Microsoft claims that it is the “thinnest Core PC ever made.” Here it is:

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Previously, it has been expected that Microsoft would release a smaller Surface device — the publicly named Surface Mini — but those rumors faded as time passed.

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According to Microsoft’s Panos Panay, “This is the tablet that can replace your tablet.” The device sports a 3:2 aspect ratio instead of the 16:9 ratio that other Surfaces sport.

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Microsoft showed off the device in a video, revealing that it will be 9.1 millimeters thick, 45 percent louder than previous Surface devices (the speakers are now front-facing), and weigh 800 grams. As with other Surface Pros, it will accept pen input. It’s worth noting that the Surface Pro 3 is thinner than other Surface Pro devices, down from 10.3 millimeters.
The Surface Pro 3 has 10 percent “more performance” than the Surface Pro 2, despite being thinner and so forth.
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The Macbook Air Microsoft’s apparent product of comparison — is heavier than a Surface Pro 3 without a keyboard attached. It isn’t clear if that comparison would work with a Touch or Type cover.
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Microsoft also announced a new docking station for the Surface Pro 3, with support for 4K display support.
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Microsoft has changed the kickstand, so that it has a nearly lie-flat mode that will allow for people to write more comfortably. The new angle, 150 degrees, appears designed for pen work:
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Also new today are Covers, sporting better trackpads (at last!). According to the company, the new Covers’ trackpads are 68 percent larger, and have 70 percent reduced friction. We’re going to need hands-on time to see how much better that is in reality, but the numbers are nice.
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A new magnetic strip will allow the Surface Pro 3 to better sit on your lap. More on that later.
Microsoft has essentially rebuilt the Surface Pro experience. A new pen is also up:
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The new pen will also talk to the Surface Pro 3, and can be used, via a button, to fire up OneNote so that there is less lag to start writing.
Gut check: I want one of these suckers, at least to play with.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Nokia supports Apple in Samsung product sales ban effort

apple, nokia, samsung, support, sales ban, injunction, intellectual property, infringement,
Nokia filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington earlier this week to back Apple’s intentions of permanently banning select Samsung phones from being sold in America. The documents were sealed upon delivery but a summary from the Finnish handset maker said the court was wrong to deny Apple’s ban request.
Nokia’s move won’t get them directly involved in the legal battle but rather, they are simply offering up their opinion on the matter for the court to mull over. The company lays claim to more than 10,000 patents and is no stranger to the court room as they have battled with others (even Apple) in recent memory. In this instance, they aren’t specifically supporting either side but they are backing Apple’s right to seek a ban on products that they believe infringe on patents they own.
Keith Broyles, one of Nokia’s attorneys, believes U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh from San Jose, California, made an error when she ruled that Apple must show cause and effect with regards to alleged patent violations and demand for the iPhone.
He believes that such a ruling could cause widespread damage to the patent protection landscape. If left unchanged, Broyles believes the ruling could severely restrict or in some cases outright eliminate the ability of a patent holder to obtain injunction relief.
A California court ruled late last year that Apple hadn’t shown enough evidence to highlight a direct tie between demand for Samsung smartphones and IP that they allegedly infringed upon, therefore Apple’s request for a sales ban was denied.

Apple's iRadio service expected to be delayed until summer

apple, spotify, pandora, streaming music, beats, irad
Apple’s plans to introduce a streaming music service have reportedly been put on the backburner until later this year. Dubbed iRadio, the service was expected to launch last month but troubles over licensing rights with Sony have delayed the feature until this summer at the earliest according to The New York Times.
The publication points out that Apple wanted to integrate the service on iOS devices and support it using iAds instead of having it arrive as an optional, standalone app in the App Store.
A separate report from The New York Post suggests that Apple is having a tough time convincing record labels to buy into the service. Apple reportedly is only offering up $0.06 per 100 songs streamed which is about half of what Pandora pays. Alternately, Spotify shells out around $0.35 to labels for the same number of songs.
Insiders told the publication that Apple should pay at least the rate set by the Copyright Royalty Board which stands at roughly $0.21 per 100 songs streamed – a rate that applies to companies that do not own broadcast operations.
Sources say record labels want an upfront fee from Apple in addition to a percentage of ad revenue and streaming fees.
Just yesterday, reports surfaced that Apple CEO Tim Cook recently met with Beats Audio executives to discuss their upcoming music streaming service. Sources said the meeting was informational although neither side discussed any specifics relating to a deal.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New iPads rumored for next month, iPhone 5S to debut in August

apple, iphone, ipads, iphone 5s, ipad mini 2, ipad
Apple is planning to release next generation iPads, probably the iPad 5 and the iPad mini 2, as early as next month. Furthermore, Cupertino could release the iPhone 5S in August according to sources familiar with Apple’s plans as reported by iMore.
The publication claims the iPhone 5S will feature the same basic design as the iPhone 5 but will carry a more advanced processor and a better camera. The idea of an S-class phone is very plausible given Apple’s track record (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4S) but one has to wonder how much longer they will be able to maintain this strategy.
The next wave of iPads could be unveiled as soon as April. Late last month a number of iPad 5 cases hit the market in China which, if legit, show a redesign of the full-size iPad to accommodate corners that are more square than the current version. Furthermore, there appears to be an additional hole on the backside for what is presumed to be a microphone as well as two openings on the bottom of the case for stereo speakers.
Previous early case releases have been hit or miss really as some nailed a new design before it was announced while others missed the mark completely.
We’ll have to wait and see what Apple has in store for the coming months but as iMore believes, hardware alone may not be enough as they believe iOS and iCloud will be the most important factors moving forward.

The business of gaming: nickels, dimes, and quarters

The video game industry is just that. An industry.
Which means that it exists in a capitalistic world. You know, a free market. A place where you’re welcome to spend your money on whatever you please… or to refrain from spending that money.
Those companies that put these products out? They’re for profit businesses. They exist to produce, market, and ship great games ultimately for one purpose. First, for money, then, for acclaim.
And when those companies are publicly traded on the stock market they’re forced to answer to their shareholders. This means that they need to make a lot of money in order to increase the value of the shareholder’s stock. Every quarter.
Adjusted for inflation, your average video game is actually cheaper than it ever has been. Never mind the ratio of the hours of joy you get from a game per dollar compared to film.
To produce a high quality game it takes tens of millions of dollars, and when you add in marketing that can get up to 100+ million. In the AAA console market you need to spend a ton of cash on television ads alone, never mind other marketing stunts, launch events, swag, and the hip marketing agency that costs a boatload in your attempts to “go viral” with something. Not only is the market more crowded than ever but your average consumer has many more entertainment options than ever before in the history of humanity. (Hell, when levels are loading in our games my wife and I read Twitter and Reddit.)
Another factor to consider is the fact that many game development studios are in places like the San Francisco bay area, where the cost of living is extraordinarily high. (Even Seattle is pretty pricey these days.) Those talented artists, programmers, designers, and producers that spent their time building the game you love? They need to eat and feed their families. (Something that the hipster/boomerang kid generation seems to forget all too often.)
I’ve seen a lot of comments online about microtransactions. They’re a dirty word lately, it seems. Gamers are upset that publishers/developers are “nickel and diming them.” They’re raging at “big and evil corporations who are clueless and trying to steal their money.”
I’m going to come right out and say it. I’m tired of EA being seen as “the bad guy.” I think it’s bullshit that EA has the “scumbag EA” memes on Reddit and that Good Guy Valve can Do No Wrong.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of Gabe and co. and most everything they do. (Remember, I bought that custom portal turret that took over the internet a while back and I have friends over there.) However, it blows my mind that somehow gamers don’t seem to get that Valve is a business, just like any other, and when Valve charges $100 for an engagement ring in Team Fortress 2 it’s somehow “cool” yet when EA wants to sell something similar it’s seen as “evil.” Yes, guys, I hate to break it to you, as awesome as Valve is they’re also a company that seeks to make as much money as possible.
They’re just way better at their image control.
Making money and running a business is not inherently evil. It creates jobs and growth and puts food on the table. This country was built on entrepreneurship. Yes, there are obvious issues around basic business ethics (Google “Pinto Fires”) and the need for a company to give back to its community, but that’s not what this blog is about right now.
People love to beat up on Origin, but they forget that, for a good amount of time, Steam sucked. No one took it seriously for the first while. When Gabe pitched it at GDC to my former co-workers years ago they came back with eye rolls. (Who’s laughing now? All of Valve.)  It took Valve years to bang their service into the stellar shape that it is in these days. Yet somehow everyone online forgets this, and they give EA crap about trying to create their own online services. Heaven forbid they see our digital roadmap for the future and try to get on board the “games as services” movement.
I remember when the rage was pointed at Epic when we allowed users to purchase weapon skins in Gears 3. I replied to an enraged fan on Twitter that “You’re more than welcome to not buy the optional cosmetic weapon skins that will make you more visible to the enemy.” And you know what? In spite of the uproar, people still bought plenty of them. (I’ve seen the numbers.)
If you don’t like EA, don’t buy their games. If you don’t like their micro-transactions, don’t spend money on them. It’s that simple. EA has many smart people working for them (Hi, Frank, JR, and Patrick!) and they wouldn’t attempt these things if they didn’t work. Turns out, they do. I assure you there are teams of analysts studying the numbers behind consumer behavior over there that are studying how you, the gamer, spends his hard earned cash.
If you’re currently raging about this on GAF, or on the IGN forums, or on Gamespot, guess what? You’re the vocal minority. Your average guy that buys just Madden and GTA every year doesn’t know, nor does he care. He has no problem throwing a few bucks more at a game because, hey, why not?
The market as I have previously stated is in such a sense of turmoil that the old business model is either evolving, growing, or dying. No one really knows. “Free to play” aka “Free to spend 4 grand on it” is here to stay, like it or not. Everyone gets a Smurfberry! Every single developer out there is trying to solve the mystery of this new model. Every console game MUST have a steady stream of DLC because, otherwise, guess what? It becomes traded in, or it’s just rented. In the console space you need to do anything to make sure that that disc stays in the tray. I used to be offended by Gamestop’s business practices but let’s be honest… they’re the next Tower Records or Sam Goody. It’s only a matter of time.
Remember, if everyone bought their games used there would be no more games. I don’t mean to knock you if you’re cash strapped – hell, when I was a kid and I had my paper route I would have bought the hell out of used games. But understand that when faced with this issue those that fund and produce those games you love have to come up with all sorts of creative ways for the business to remain viable and yes, profitable.
Saying a game has micro-transactions is a giant generalization, really, it is an open ended comment. What can you buy? Can you buy a cosmetic hat? Or can I spend a buck to go to the top of the leaderboard? Can I buy a bigger gun? What about gambling? (It’s like saying a game is open world; that could mean GTA, Assassin’s Creed, or heck, even Borderlands.) Which one do you actually mean? Do Zynga’s practices often feel sleazy? Sure. Don’t like it? Don’t play it. Don’t like pay to win? You have the freedom to opt out and not even touch the product.
If you truly love a product, you’ll throw money at it.
No one seemed too upset at Blizzard when you could buy a pet in World of Warcraft – a game that you had to buy that was charging a monthly fee. (How dare console games have steady cycles of buyable DLC!) When I was a child and the Ultimate Nintendo Fanboy I spent every time I earned from my paper route on anything Nintendo. Nintendo Cereal. Action figures. Posters. Nintendo Power. Why? Because I loved what Nintendo meant to me and I wanted them to keep bringing me more of this magic.
People like to act like we should go back to “the good ol’ days” before micro-transactions but they forget that arcades were the original change munchers. Those games were designed to make you lose so that you had to keep spending money on them. Ask any of the old Midway vets about their design techniques. The second to last boss in Mortal Kombat 2 was harder than the last boss, because when you see the last boss that’s sometimes enough for a gamer. The Pleasure Dome didn’t really exist in the original Total Carnage. Donkey Kong was hard as hell on purpose. (“Kill screen coming up!”)
I’ve been transparent with most folks I’ve worked with in my career as to why I got into this business. First, to make amazing products – because I love the medium more than any. Second, to be visible. I enjoy the notoriety that I’ve managed to stir up. And finally, yes, to make money. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure is a nice lubricant when you can take that trip you’ve always wanted or feed your family or pay your bills on time.
And that brings me full circle to my main point. If you don’t like the games, or the sales techniques, don’t spend your money on them.
You vote with your dollars.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Yahoo to shutter seven services starting April 1

yahoo, blackberry, shut down, marissa mayer, servic
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer caused quite a stir recently when she made the decision to end the company’s work from home policy. The changes continue to come as Mayer is shutting down seven products according to a recent post on the company’s official blog.
Effective April 1, 2013, Yahoo will shut down the following services: Yahoo Avatars, Yahoo app for BlackBerry, Yahoo Clues, Yahoo App Search, Yahoo Sports IQ and Yahoo Message Boards website. As of April 16, 2013, the company will no longer support the Yahoo Updates API.
Yahoo said they were making the changes in an effort to sharpen their focus moving forward by continuing to hone in on core products and experiences. They believe this is the best way to go about making existing products the very best they can be.
Executive vice president of platforms Jay Rossiter said the most critical question they ask is whether the experience is truly a daily habit that still resonates with everyone. In some cases it means updating products like they have recently done with Flickr for iPhone and iPod touch, Yahoo Mail and the company’s homepage. In other cases, they had to make the decision to shut down some products.
Mayer hinted that some cuts would be coming during an investor conference last month. At the time, she said Yahoo would reduce the 60 to 75 disparate mobile apps they currently own down to a more manageable 12 to 15.

Forbes: Bill Gates is the world's most generous person

microsoft, bill gates, carlos slim helu, forbes, wealth, forbes wealthies pers
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates may not be the wealthiest person in the world but he’s earned a title that may be even more valuable: world’s most generous person. Forbes’ released their ranking of the world’s richest people earlier today where Gates finished second overall, trailing Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu by roughly $6 billion.
Gates has consistently ranked among the wealthiest people in the world. With the exception of 2008 where he placed third, he was considered the richest person on the planet from 1995 through 2009. In 2013, the 57-year-old has a net worth of $67 billion – an increase of about $6 billion from a year ago.
The newfound cash didn’t come from Microsoft but other financial holdings and private investments like hygiene tech firm Ecolab, Mexican TV broadcaster Televisa and Latin America’s largest beverage company.
Gates earned the title of most generous person for his work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where he has already given more than $28 billion. His ultimately goal with the project is to do away with deadly diseases like malaria and polio.
Aside from his work with the foundation, Gates has been trying to convince other billionaires to sign the Giving Pledge. Those who sign agree to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes when they die. Along with friend Warren Buffett, the two have recently added 12 non-Americans to the list including the UK’s Richard Branson and Azim Premji from India.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Easter egg: YouTube does the Harlem Shake

Move over Gangnam Style, there’s a new viral video dance sensation currently sweeping the globe. It’s known as the Harlem Shake and if you aren’t already familiar with the 30-second clips littering YouTube, the site will happily give you a free demonstration thanks to a new Easter egg.
The Internet meme typically involves a single person performing a solo dance in a public place, often times wearing a strange helmet or mask, while everyone else around is completely oblivious. Baauer’s Billboard hit song Harlem Shake plays in the background and about 15 seconds into the clip when the bass drops, the insanity ensues.
At this point, there’s a jump cut in the clip and we see everyone in the scene doing a crazy convulsive dance or other unusual movements over the remaining 15 seconds of the video. Often times the costumes – or lack of – are just as hilarious as the dancing itself.
Much like the video meme, YouTube’s Easter egg starts off innocently enough when you search for “do the Harlem Shake.” Baauer’s song begins to play in the background as the YouTube logo at the top left of the screen starts to move side to side. When the breakout moment hits, all of the search results and sidebar text join in on the action.
YouTube is well known for producing some excellent Easter eggs as they have graced us with classics like the Starfox-inspireddo a barrel roll” and the holiday hit “let it snow” in recent memory.

Evernote resets all user account passwords following security breach

A recent security breach at online note-taking service Evernote forced the company to reset all of their 50 million users’ passwords as a precautionary measure. The company noted (no pun intended) that there is no evidence that any content stored in Evernote was accessed, changed or lost nor is there any indication that payment information for premium users was compromised.
Evernote announced the security breach via blog post over the weekend. The Redwood City-based company said their operations and security team became aware of malicious activity that warranted a deeper look. Upon further inspection, it was discovered that the individual(s) responsible were able to gain access to Evernote user information which includes usernames, e-mail addresses and encrypted passwords.
The company said their one-way encryption methods (hashed and salted) are robust but they are taking the additional step of resetting every user account password in an abundance of caution. To reset your password, simply sign into your account and enter a new password.
Note that you’ll need to enter this new password in other Evernote apps that you use on other platforms, etc. Evernote said they are updating several of their apps to make the password change process more convenient.
In closing, Evernote offers some valuable tips that can be taken to ensure your data is safe on any site such as avoiding using simple passwords based on dictionary words, not using the same password on multiple sites or services and not clicking on password reset links via e-mails.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Samsung expected to unveil Galaxy S IV on March 14

galaxy, samsung, smartphone, galaxy s iv, mobile world congreLast month we heard rumors that the Galaxy S IV would be launching on April 15 and that we could expect to see an announcement sometime in March during one of the company’s Mobile Unpacked events. That intelligence still looks solid as we are now hearing that Samsung is planning to unveil their next flagship smartphone on March 14.
Eldar Murtazin from Mobile-review published a tweet earlier today saying there would be a big announcement on March 14. The message also suggested that HTC will again miss out on sales of their HTC One series device like they did in 2012. Shortly after, SamMobile and The Verge both confirmed that March 14 is most certainly the day we will see the Galaxy S IV debut.
HTC is hosting a media event in New York City tomorrow where most expect the company to introduce the HTC One. A debut next month from Samsung would come just a few weeks after this month’s Mobile World Congress – a move that could give them more media attention at a time when many might have already forgotten what was unveiled weeks earlier.
We have nothing solid to go on in terms of specifications as Samsung is keeping the new handset under close watch but at least one publication suggests we will see a 5-inch device with a 1,920 x 1,080 display powered by an unnamed quad-core processor with 2GB of system memory on tap. Others, however, believe we could see an ARM-based processor with no fewer than eight cores clocked at up to 2GHz.