Greg Sandoval reports that last month Microsoft met with executives from video sharing site Revver, looking to see if an aquisition of Revver would make sense. Microsoft is strongly producing its own MSN Soapbox service, which has been very well received, but Revver has a system for inserting and tracking advertisements within videos.
Microsoft decided not to pick up Revver, but it does show they are looking into bringing in some advertising technology from the outside to help out Soapbox, possibly because they haven’t developed, or are having trouble with their own system. Soapbox has some excellent technology, but providing a way for uploaders to make some cash could be a nice hook, especially if they tap the advertiser base of MSN AdCenter. Also, Revver’s userbase, while nowhere near YouTube’, would provide a running start to Soapbox as it tries to compete.
I got my hand on a recent internal build of Windows Live Writer, and I’m happy to bring you guys screenshots and info. First off, the new features/changes:
Updated to the Windows Live look and feel, including the Live flair, hidden File menu, and overall more polished look
Windows Live “Me” blog switching control
Inline Spell Checking
Post Synchronization / Roundtrip Post Editing
Extended Entry Support (on blogs that have this feature)
Preferences for Window Behavior
Insert Image Improvements: UI consolidation, easier linking to web images.
Insert Hyperlink Improvements: Link to Previous Posts, Link Glossary
WYSIWYG Template Robustness: No temporary post on many blogs, including WordPress
Now for the screenshots, which will run through most of the new features:
First off, the new interface:
Note the blue flair design seen on everything Windows Live, the lack of the File/Edit/… menu, and the new Insert Table and Insert Tags links in the Sidebar and new toolbar buttons. The View button replaces the old button that listed the current view status, and Tools takes you to preferences or spell checking. The paintbrush icon is to customize the window color, and that folder icon reveals the File Menu (hitting ALT does it, too).
Here are the other interface elements (File menu and publishing options) expanded:
Here you have the insert image dialog, which has a tab for inserting an image from the web, including previewing it, seeing the dimensions, and setting link options:
The tag editing UI:
Inserting a Windows Live Map into posts (you can even set and customize pushpins!):
Here’s what the map looks like in Writer:
And here’s the map I created:
The Split Post button, which uses a blog’s “More” or “extended entry” feature:
The category picker:
It’s been moved to the bottom with the other publishing tools (including a way to set the publish date without opening the entire publish pane). It doesn’t do categories the way WordPress does (where a category can be nested underneath another one), it is improved.
The interface in black, thanks to the color picker:
I wish Windows Live software would speak to each other, and all use the same colors I choose, but at least they let me choose it in the first place, which is nice.
I like the new blog picker button, which includes the logo for your blogging service:
Also, I like switching between post drafts easily:
It’s not quite tabs, but it works well.
Inline spell checking:
And tons of options for tables:
And finally, the image editing options:
Verdict: They’ve gone and taken what might be the best blog editing tool out there and made it better. It looks better, has a few good new features, works better connecting to your blog (no more Temporary Post For Style Detection), has an even easier and better organized interface. Great work!
I don’t know when this will be available, or if the next version you see is a somewhat different later build, but it should be great either way.
This entire post was written in the new version of Windows Live Writer.
Joystiq is offering 25,000 free subscriptions to the newly renamed official Games For Windows magazine. If you’re into PC gaming, or just into following it, you should totally sign up. I’ve signed up for many free magazine offers over the years, and they’re almost all legit (just don’t use your regular email), and Joystiq’s involvement makes it pretty safe. Hurry up before they run out!
Back at Search Champs, 13 months ago, we saw some prototype software called Windows Live “Casino”. Now, CRN has an article on Casino, explaining a lot about the project, which seems to keep changing focus and code names, and god only knows if it’ll ever ship. Originally, Casino was supposed to be an advanced interface for Windows Live Search, bringing the power of a desktop application to online search. Now?
Code-named Casino and referred to as OneView, the new application provides one user interface for searching across the desktop, intranets and the Web, according to Microsoft’s Web site.
… is in beta testing but isn’t ready to ship yet. The application is expected to be integrated with Windows Vista and Windows Live Search.
… “OneView gives you access to Windows Live Search. Windows Live Search indexes the whole environment, including local documents and networked documents, and OneView gives you total access to that information.”
The technology has been referred to as OneView, Windows Search 4, and Windows Search Preview…
So Casino could wind up shipping as the next version of Windows Desktop Search. Considering that Desktop Search is a recommended install on Windows XP along with the Windows Live Toolbar, or for Outlook 2007, it will get quite a good userbase, and if the interface lives up to the hype, it could be a great driver for helping Windows Live Search gain market share. Could be years before we ever see it, though, lending more credence to the belief that, “Microsoft has forgotten how to ship software”.
UPDATE: Turns out the CRN article ignores some newer info from the Shell Revealed blog, where Brandon Paddock explained that the dissapearance of Casino was because it was moved from Windows Live to the Windows group, and refocused as, indeed, the next version of Windows Desktop Search.
What this means is that WDS will get the improvements previously promised by Casino, able to search everything from a single place. No idea when it’ll ship (not soon, that’s for sure), and if it’ll have a swanky UI or something more traditional, or even how it fits into plans for Windows Vista, but at least that hard work should make it into something useful.
In other news, Alexa is showing some gains for Windows Live and losses for Google, almost in proportion with each other, since Vista was released. If the Alexa data is to be trusted, maybe Vista really is the Windows Live delivery system Microsoft had hoped it would be. I know I’ve left Windows Live Search as the default on Internet Explorer, mostly because I only use IE a few times a day, but also because I want to like Live Search, and I know my feelings for Google search stem more from familiarity than better relevancy.
Also, Microsoft is acquiring Medstory, which operates a search engine on medical topics. It is geared both for medical consumers and health professionals, with results narrowed by clusters like studies, procedures, personal health info and substances. Could be a great tool in the Windows Live arsenal, I just hope they integrate it sooner rather than later.
The first round of Platinum Hits for the Xbox 360 have been announced. These titles, all of which were relatively well received, will retail in Platinum Hits packaging for $30 in the U.S. starting next month:
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat
Call of Duty 2
Dead or Alive 4
Fight Night Round 3
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
Top Spin 2
Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis
Japan will get Battlefield 2, Burnout, Chrome Hounds and Perfect Dark Zero; Asia with get Dead or Alive 4, Ninety-Nine Nights, PGR3 and G.R.A.W.; while Europe will get Call of Duty 2, Dead or Alive 4, PGR3, Table Tennis, G.R.A.W. and Tomb Raider: Legend. The first wave in the U.S. featured Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo, PGR3 and Need For Speed: Most Wanted, released last October.
Here’s my second review of new Windows Vista DreamScenes, 15 new ones, one revised one, and one that needs to be reevaluated. Watch the YouTube video, or the Soapbox video to see parts one through three together, then keep reading on for the reviews:
First off, it’s important to change the rating on Wasser. Wasser was previously my number one dream, looking beautiful with just a great moving waterfall, but after running it, I’m seeing a major bug. On many systems, after rebooting, Wasser devolves into a mess of giant pixels and broken colors, like a painting that’s had water spilled on it. There are many users complaining about it, enough that I know its not just my system, and it renders the .dream completely unusable. Almost every .dream by user peter22 suffers from this bug. The old rating was a 9.5.
Flow features a pool of water slowly rocking. The water is not very realistic, and the looking method is sort of dizzying, but it just looks great, so who cares?
Clifftop features a colorful, high-quality field of flowers, grass, mountains and a purple sunset. Looks great, but the total lack of movement almost makes it better as a static wallpaper. The 20.1 megabyte size of the .dream means its probably using a lot more resources than is worth it. Recommended only if you don’t care about resources, and are looking for minimal movement in a nature .dream.
Hidden Fountain features a fountain in a garden, framed by trees and a stone entranceway. The video is low-quality, so not recommended for those looking for HD video .dreams. Movement is minimal, and at 25.3 megabytes, there are better similar .dreams out there.
Berge is another peter22 creation, with a winter mountain landscape and shimmering water, marred by the awful bug. Fix this, peter22! I love these .dreams, but they just don’t run right.
Wasserfall is the only peter22 creation that doesn’t suffer from the bug. It’s not the best, but features a decent fake waterfall in a staic image of a giant mountain, with trees in the foreground.
Aurora is a .dream by Noivaj that for some reason has the same name as Microsoft’s default .dream. Still, it’s pretty good, similar to regular Aurora, but with lighter purple/blue colors, smooth movement, and comes in at 5% the size of Microsoft’s. Not bad! It doesn’t match the Vista branding/color scheme, and the loop doesn’t quite work, but I like it.
Closeup features some weird flowers up real close, just kind of shaking in the breeze. They migh be cauliflower, I don’t know. They aren’t particularly attractive flowers, and a good part of the screen is out of focus. Eh.
My Tree 6pk features a two-tone image of a tree on a horizon, with the coloring changing. Some of the transitions are well done, others awkward, and the picture quality is low. Still, it has some benefits, and works as a demo of what is possible with future .dreams.
Berries features some berries hanging among some branches, with a river in the distant background. The focus keeps changing inconsistently, rather than just keeping the whole scene in focus, and the river actually changes direction! Weird.
FLAG USA has the United States flag flapping. Not a video, just a full-screen 3D flag moving, I believe, and pretty good quality, with occasional problems that look like bad interlacing. No blended loop, just a decent fade, with works better than no fade at all. A great .dream, especially if you like waving the flag.
Cityscape - Bridge is a low quality video of a river, with a bridge in the distance. Cars are moving along the bridge, making for a cool bit of detail, and ducks move around in the water. I don’t want to like it, for the quality, but there are so many details that it has a wonderful natural quality. Worth it, absolutely.
Lava-vs-Ocean is an update of Hot Lava. It is 1/4 the file size, performance is significantly better, image quality is the same, and the bad loop has been replaced by a perfect fade. Great update! Old rating was 7.3.
Polar is peter22’s best work yet, but suffers from the same bug. It is an Aurora Borealis over a snowy landscape, and matches most of the Vista colors. If not for the bug, could top the entire list.
Welcome to Vista features the Vista name and orb, along with some shimmering lines of blue and green on a black background. Not as good as “Vista”, but damn close. Don’t stretch, or it looks awful.
Stadt is a peter22-with-the-bug .dream, featuring Chicago at night. The river moves and lights traverse the sky. Coulda been great. Fix it, man!
Rough Sand features a brown sideways scroll with green and yellow ribbons. The ribbons appear to have no movement, just the scrolling (possibly at different speeds. It’s simple, high quality, nothing great, but nice for sure.
Here are some Windows Vista Sidebar Gadgets that have caught my eye:
Donavon West created these cool Gadgets, which work in Vista, Live.com, Live Spaces Google Homepage, or any web page. They feature three major candidates for President of the United States in 2008, Hillary, Obama, and McCain:
I particularly like this clipboard history Gadget, which keeps track of the last seven items you’ve copied on your computer, and comes with a ton of nature backgrounds.
Then there’s this package tracker, which lets you drop in some package tracking numbers from all the major carriers and keep status updates on your desktop.
You can also enjoy this Windows Live Messenger Gadget, which basically just shows your contact list and lets you change your status. Not much, but I like the idea of using a Gadget instead of keeping the IM client open. Shame AOL’s instant messenger Gadget hasn’t worked out so well for me.
Crackdown is easilly turning out to be the latest in a string of top-selling Xbox 360 games, beefing up the notion that the hit games all seem to be on Microsoft’s console these days. No word yet on sales figures, but Joystiq had a roundup of the mostly positive reviews the game has been getting, including “like Grand Theft Auto… the bullshit has been stripped out” and “so god-damned addictive”. I’ve been enjoying several good hours of just the demo, so as soon as I can pick up the full game, I know I will.
NPD Group released preliminary sales data for video game consoles in January, and the Xbox 360 came in second place of all next-generation video game consoles. The winner was Nintendo, with the Wii posting sales of 436,000 units, followed by the Xbox 360 at 294,000. Sony’s PlayStation 3 recorded 244,000 units sold, and the venerable PS2 actually beat most of the new consoles with 299,000 units moved.
Here’s what all that looked like (click to enlarge):
MSN has announced it has gotten the online distribution rights to this summer’s Live Earth concert. The concert, in the style of Live Aid and Live 8, will take place on 7/7/07 and shine a light on the growing global climate crisis. There are four confirmed cities, Shanghai, Sydney, Johannesburg and London, and three countries that have yet to choose a city (Brazil, Japan and the United States).
Detailing a historic effort to engage billions of people across the globe, Kevin Wall, Al Gore, Pharrell Williams, Cameron Diaz, and the MSN Network today launched Save Our Selves (SOS) - The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis. The announcement was made at the California Science Center.
SOS is designed to trigger a global movement to combat our climate crisis. It will reach people in every corner of the planet through television, film, radio, the Internet and Live Earth, a 24-hour concert on 7/7/07 across all 7 continents that will bring together more than 100 of the world’s top musical acts. Live Earth alone will engage an audience of more than 2 billion people through concert attendance and broadcasts.
Xbox Scene has a photo of the three different DVD drives that have shipped inside Xbox 360 consoles, from the uber-loud Hitach-LG, to the slightly-less-like-a-747 Toshiba-Samsung drive, to the new, considerably quieter BenQ drive. Check it out closely and figure out which one you have. I’m kind of pissed off that when I exchanged my bricked 360 for a new one at Best Buy last month, it came with the two generations old Hitachi.
Here’s my second review of new Windows Vista DreamScenes, 11 new ones and two revised ones. Watch the YouTube video, or the Soapbox video to see parts one and two together, then keep reading on for the reviews:
3D Vista Ultimate is a series of Vista Ultimate wallpapers, completely static images, changing with a cool flyby transition effect. There’s not much of any animation to satisfy those looking for cool DreamScene effects, but you do wind up with a new, sweet-looking wallpaper every 20 seconds, and the transition effect isn’t too distracting.
Butterfly Effect makes for one of the better ideas for DreamScenes: A static image with a single moving area. In this one, there are a number of flowers, and two butterflies flapping their wings. While the effect and concept are great, the flowers are too out-of-focus for most people who like sharp wallpapers; I actually found the blurriness distracting.
CrystalLake features a clean, almost transparent lake shimmering on a dark day, below a motionless sky. Good darker wallpaper, with not that much distraction, but bad performance and bad looping. I can’t run this on a relatively powerful Vista system, and that’s enough of a problem.
SunnyForestDay_03 is a video of a forest on a not-sunny-enough day, with the trees moving slowly in the breeze. If you want a .dream with little motion, this could be it, but it is a bit too blurry and not bright enough to be great.
Hot Lava is a poorly looping scene of steam gas rising above water, next to rocks. Very orangy/brown. The bad looping hurts it bad, otherwise it looks great.
TrueBlue has been updated. The look is the same, but movement seems smoother, and the looping is now near-perfect. Gains 1.5 points.
Lost Island is another nature scene, this one featuring an island in the near-distance, waves crashing against the shore, and branches moving in the breeze in the foreground. A little too dark, subtle enough movement, but poor looping.
Soothing Blues features vertical bars of blue getting darker and lighter. A little too fast, but a great effect, marred by a glitch at the end of the loop on the bottom of the screen.
Vista is Vista V3 under a different name. There is no discernable performance or appearance difference. Rating remains the same.
Blue Plasma is identical to Exotic Plasma (and both are from Stardock), just bright electric blue instead of multiple muted colors.
Laser features a tunnel of shimmering green light. Has to be seen to be believed. Beautiful. Best of the new bunch.
Wasser is everything we expected out of static/single point dreams, with an amazing photo of an old house, grass, trees and a waterfall. The waterfall is the only thing moving, making for a subtle, beautiful effect. The picture is sharp, high quality. Amazingly, the .dream is only three megabytes, so it should run great on older systems. This is the DreamScene many people have been waiting for. Just amazing.
IceCold features a waterfall in a tight close up on an icy rock face. The quality is too low, and the effect on system performance is atrocious. Could be better if it didn’t slow my system to a crawl, or if it was sharper.
Microsoft has been running in beta in some foreign markets a website called MSN Reporter that copies many features from the popular Digg website. On MSN Reporter, users share and rate news, rating them up or down with giant “Kicken!” and “Dumpen!” buttons (translated as “Kick it” and “Dump it”). Currently the site is only available in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Norway, replacing the link to News on MSN.com that in the U.S. points to MSNBC.
Perhaps Microsoft, seeing that the whole MSNBC thing didn’t work out, and that they are barely anymore involved with that network, are developing a new social news site to replace their link to MSNBC.msn.com? Either way, they are only one of many companies using the Digg concept, including Yahoo, who is using a Digg clone to power a user suggestion website. In Yahoo’s case a Digg clone wouldn’t have even been necessary if Digg had provided an API, something sorely missing from that site.
The grand prize package includes a Windows Vista-based, AMD-powered Dell desktop PC; a 24-inch widescreen monitor; a Zune™ digital media player; an Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system; three Games for Windows® game titles; a Microsoft® LifeCam VX-6000 webcam; Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007; and $50,000 cash.
Plus, the real big prize: a trip into space via Rocketplane XP. Solving all those puzzles and watching those weird videos will sent this guy 330,000 miles up above the Earth.
Some reversals at Windows Live: Windows Live Shopping is renamed back to MSN Shopping, and Windows Live Wifi is now MSN Wifi Center and the MSN Wifi Hotspot Locator. It’s not so much a lack of confidence in Windows Live, as it is Microsoft correcting some overbranding of Windows Live. Some things should have stayed MSN, and they’re fixing that. It seems like they’re making some big decisions regarding Windows Live, and I’m just hoping this means there’s more of a level head on branding.
There was only one decent reason to buy a PC in the months leading up to the launch of Windows Vista: the Express Upgrade program, which gave buyers of new PCs with Windows XP a free or cheap upgrade to Vista. The “Express” part of the upgrade is turning out to be a bit misleading for Dell customers, with the upgrades arriving on a first-come first-served basis in as many as 6-8 weeks, plus a website that’s experiencing nasty downtime, bugs, driver issues and other kinks.
The Express Upgrade program was a good idea, but it seems like every time Microsoft leaves anything to hardware manufacturers, they royally screw it up. Maybe the weak link in the Mac vs. PC wars is more of a hardware problem than a software one, with Dell, HP, Sony, Creative, ATI, Nvidia, and hundreds of mom-and-pops pushing out incompatible hardware, bad drivers, awful tech support, and sometimes uninspired design, all of which Apple has a lot more control over.
Windows isn’t perfect, but with Vista things are plenty good now. If the cult of Mac is still kicking ass in a year or two, and Microsoft hasn’t done anything to screw their momentum up, maybe it’ll finally be time for a Microsoft-branded PC, just like they did with the Zune. Microsoft can do the same thing here, taking some of that great Asus hardware, putting some design wizards on the case, and getting some shiny new Windows boxes into stores.
Speaking of the Zune, Microsoft is running a promotion where if you switch your browser homepage to MSN.com, you’ll be entered to win a Zune. Or rather, if you claim to have switched your homepage, you can win, it’s that easy. Just check out homepage.msn.com/zune to get in on the randomly chose fun, and you can go here to see how the five biggest browsers set their home pages.
Even more, here’s a story of a Zune user who actually found another Zunester and managed to share some music. The ironic thing is the other Zune user was a guy who was trying to promote his own band, and would have preferred to send the song without DRM, in order to make the band a little more popular. Maybe Microsoft could consider a way for artists to give away music via Zune, giving bands a reason to promote the Zune while spreading their own music. Music is being treated like a license, when it should be treated like a virus.
Microsoft’s Xbox Rewards program, which gives gamers who increase their Gamerscore 1,500 points over the next two months some cool stuff, has gotten off to a pretty disappointing start. Turns out Microsoft isn’t rewarding those who meet the requirements, just the first 70,000 who reach it (and even less at the higher levels). And, because the sign-in website was deadlocked by heavy traffic when the program started, it’s virtually guaranteed that the only people winning anything here are the same kids who can afford to sit on a webpage hitting refresh until they get through.
Microsoft needs to learn that programs like this and the Halo 3 beta only reward the most fanatic of users, meaning the program winds up bringing benefits to the same group, not bringing new people and diversity to the community. Also, websites that can’t handle the load only serve to make you look bad. Next time, either reward everyone equally, regardless of wether they can sit on the F5 key, or reward random entrants of those who complete the contest requirements. “First come, first served” serves no one.
I was excited about it, but you think I, or any casual gamer, is going to even bother to apply? Why bother trying to beat a gaggle of 12-year-olds to the front of the line? The prizes are probably gone already.