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HD-DVD and HDCP Coming To Xbox 360 At E3?

With E3 coming up real fast, and Microsoft not having as big announcements as Sony and Nintendo (which are about to drop new consoles), Microsoft just has to do something interesting at the big game show. While unveiling Halo 3 would be huge, its more likely that Engadget is on the ball when they pass on the rumor that Microsoft will drop the Xbox 360’s HD-DVD add-on drive.

Microsoft has said the drive will arrive this year, so E3 would be the right time for us to get it. Also, we could see HDCP compliance for the 360, a DVI cable, or the camera. I’m hoping Microsoft releases a bunch of 360 peripherals, since that would give the 360 the appearance of being a mature platform when the PS3 hits and has some of the same launch problems Microsoft had to deal with.

Yeah, word is that you can guarantee the PlayStation 3 will have bugs at launch. Kotaku says Sony is still bidding on components, and will likely be developing and debugging right up to, and possibly past launch day. They also say that, currently, it looks like the PS3’s components won’t fit in the case they’ve been showing off.

Maybe Sony can be smart and redesign the console to be more of a boxy shape, so it’ll actually fit in a home theatre setup.

April 20th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Xbox 360, Xbox, General | no comments



Live Dot Com Road Show

I just came back from the Microsoft Belux headquarters in Diegem where we had a talk and discuss session with evangelist Phil Holden - Director Windows Live, and Kevin Briody - Product Manager Community (MSN Marketing). The session was very interesting and of course it was all about Windows Live and its features. Phil did a demo of almost every feature I knew of. He talked about the integration of the Microsoft Gadgets in the Live.com personal homepage, about the progress in the Live Search and where it’s heading to and about Live Mail and its features. He also talked about Live Messenger and about how the contacts would be integrated into Live Mail and about Microsoft’s first steps into social networking with the Australian test run of the Spaces Friends network. Yeah, the session was quite stuffed.

Live Search is definitely not cruising at top speed yet, that was the first thing Phil admitted. It’s only logical, because they’re still rolling out new features and tuning the existing tool to the needs of the users. However, it’s going to be big and the way it looks now it has a lot of good things about it. I like the concept of infinite search, where you no longer need to browse the search results per page, but all the results are projected in one page and you can just scroll down. The extension of the search with a ‘local site search’ included in the results is also a big progress I think. It sounds really obvious that sometimes the excerpt of a result shows there’s something interesting, but you’d like to find out more from that specific domain only. I’m also pretty keen on the feeds search, where you can click on a feed and see previews of the posts in it. I haven’t seen image integration there, but I think that’s only a matter of time. One remark is that apparently Live Search dropped the RSS feed per search query, but Phil said he’d look into it and agreed that functionality should be integrated as it is now on the ‘regular’ MSN Search. In the Live Search, there hasn’t been any experimenting with decent video or audio search and for now it’s not on the todo list. It would be a great expansion though. The image search is quite advanced and very smooth. It shows a lot of details of the image, but one way or the other it’d be great if you could define your query and limit it to small, medium or large images. The fact the size in mb is shown netx to the dimensions is pretty cool and it’s also pretty handy you can zoom the images if you select them.

The Microsoft Gadgets part is pretty nifty, although a lot of the content actually leads to a new page opening as it does for example with the Google Search gadget and the GMail gadget. Kris is right when he says that it looks like an upgraded link. People should expect such a gadget to add true functionality, which means: previews of GMail and loading Google SERPs into the page you’re looking at right now. Not in a new page. Other gadgets come in pretty handy if you really need them, like stock quotes. It’s truly necessary that there is some sort of general policy about the gadgets. Some sort of certification or seal of approval so to speak. Otherwise you might end up with gadgets in the general archive that have adult or inappropriate content, which would definitely not be a good thing. One must also be aware that a lot of custom gadgets are depending on the services of a third party, so if you don’t stick to the official and ‘tested and approved’ gadgets, it might be that at one time or the other, some gadgets might become corrupted. Normally that shouldn’t happen though.

Windows Live Messenger is going to be extended to SkypeOut-alike feature. Phil had a Philips Phone with him (see picture below) that had a base receiver on USB, which is plugged into your PC, and a portable unit that can be used anywhere around the house (wireless, of course). The phone would connect to your Messenger client and displays all your contacts and their online/offline status. You can access the Windows Live Contacts and make VoIP calls if the user you want to call to is overseas for example, or you can make an ‘analog’ call if you prefer to do so. The phone should be available on the market at the end of May. The Windows Live Call service should have competitive charges compared to SkypeOut. One thing to note is that home users who share accounts on their PC should create a family account with shared contacts, otherwise users might have to log on and off to be able to connect to their personal Messenger profile. Another cool feature is the P2P shared folders, where you can drag and drop files into folders that are synchronized with the user you share them with. Sharing with groups is not yet supported.

Windows Live Call Phone

Windows Live Mail has the looks of Outlook, which makes it a lot better and user friendly than the hotmail interface, although the feedback on the beta revealed that a lot of people want to hold on to the ‘old’ Hotmail interface, which I totally don’t understand. In this new Mail client, your contacts would be shared, which makes it easier to maintain a contact list. Phil showed a Live.com interface where he grouped his mail accounts, including GMail and the accounts from his provider (Quest) and said you could add any POP3 account to the list. He’s not aware of a maximum number of accounts that can be added. Nobody ever got to the saturation point of that. Presumably nobody has more than 10 or 15 accounts to monitor at once, but it’s possible and that’s cool.

In Australia, Microsoft is experimenting with a social network feature, based on the popular MSN Spaces. Here you can add friends and browse them, add notes to those friends and manage their contact data, wich is linked to the Windows Live Contacts which are also connected to the Windows Live Messenger. A funny side is you can browse the friends of your friends’ friends unlimited. Since it’s only being deployed in a rather limited form, there hasn’t been set any restrictions to the browsable generations. You can keep clicking for ever :) This will probably not be available if the service is scaled, but it’s fun for now.

The Windows Live Local services will be extended too, and the streetside view of Virutal Earth which had its testcase in Seattle will also be extended to other cities soon. There hasn’t been a decent advertising strategy developed yet, but one might suspect the integration of Windows Live Local data to be added in the future.

Phil also talked about Windows Live Expo, which recently aired. I asked if they were thinking about adding a payment module to it, the way they have now with Messenger (you can buy SMS tokens, winks and other things) but it hasn’t been developed yet. Expo looks cool, but without payment possibilities, there’s not much added value. They’re working on a feature which would allow users to rate sellers and their items, the way Amazon en eBay do. Adding credibility to the members of a platform is definitely a good thing. It’s one of the main reasons Amazon survived the dotcom bubble and eBay grew so fast: added consumer value. It’s the glue that keeps things together. Participating users will return, trusted users will sell more and people will step into the formula with more belief in its functionality.

I think this sort of conlcudes my review of the keynote. After the session, David Boschmans stole the show with his special Vista edition for the Toshiba Tablet PC. Awesome tool and it looks incredibly handy and robust. Added to the wishlist. More pictures in the Bubbleshare gallery.

Vista for Tablet PC

Thanks to Kris Hoet, Tom Mertens and David Boschmans for fixing this. I had a great time, really.

If you want to stay up to date with the developments of Windows Live, here are some blogs to tune in to:

Windows Live product teams:

Interesting blogs about Windows Live:

MS Team blogs:

Phil Holden & Kevin Briody

Today’s pictures (I haven’t had the time to remove the red eyes every here and there and I’m not a professional photographer so sorry if it doesn’t look that smooth)

Download all pictures as a .zip file to edit them yourself or just to keep’m.

Cross-posted on Marketing Thoughts.

April 20th, 2006 Posted by Coolz0r | Local, OneCare, Expo, Windows Mobile, Live, Virtual Earth, Windows, Messenger, Vista, Tablet PC, General | no comments

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Xbox 360 Quick Charge Kit

Kotaku writes about the Xbox 360’s new Quick Charge Kit, a dock for spare wireless controller batteries. You can put in one or two battery packs, and they will charge in as little as two hours apiece. Much, much, much better than the Play and Charge Kit, you ask me. Lets hope it retails real soon, and at a decent price.

April 20th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Xbox 360, Xbox, General | no comments

Windows SideShow Remote

I’m big on Windows SideShow, the great technology for auxiliary displays that Microsoft is developing. I’ve basically vowed that, unless the technology is a flop, I will not buy a new laptop until it has Vista and SideShow. That’s why I was so excited to see the SideShow remote control.

Basically, since SideShow lets you run various Gadgets (mini-programs) without using your computer, but still controling your computer, putting it on a remote is a brilliant idea, especially when the Gadget in question controls all of Media Center, as seen here and further elaborated here. SideShow can’t come too fast for me.

April 20th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Media Center, Windows, General | one comment