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Halo 3 Beta, Ad, Coming Next Week

Microsoft announced today that this Monday, December 4, will see the release of a major commercial for next year’s Halo 3. The 60-second trailer will air on ESPN during Monday Night Football, at some point between 5:50 and 6:20 pm Pacific (8:50 and 9:20 Eastern), and will be available on at 8 pm Pacific / 11 Eastern.

The ad, created by McCann Worldgroup San Francisco, includes a mixture of live action and computer generated animation, will air one time only and will then be made available online worldwide through Xbox Live Marketplace and Xbox.

Interesting how the ad will contain live action, as well as pre-generated imagery, not gameplay video. I wonder where there going with this, although my theory is Microsoft is trying to create its own “1984″.

In addition, Monday represents the start of the Halo 3 multiplayer beta. Head to starting Monday to sign up for the beta, which is set to kick off in the Spring. The beta is free, of course, so there’s almost no good reason not to sign up, if you’ve got an Xbox 360.

November 30th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Xbox, Xbox 360, Halo, Halo 3 | one comment

Windows Live Expo Gets New Features


LiveSide reports some new features for Windows Live Expo, as well as the addition of the shiny blue Vapor flair design atop the page. The new features include, besides the usual bug fixes and performance improvements:

  • Public availability for the UK and China
  • Upgrades to the Communities features (formerly “email groups”, which let you deal with people at your school or workplace)

  • Streamlined account sign-up
  • The maps now use the latest Virtual Earth control, including the great 3D maps
  • Enhanced image preview, letting you see more detailed photos faster

  • Facebook integration, letting you share listings with Facebook friends. There is even a “Share this on Facebook” button on listing pages

November 30th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Live, Expo | no comments

Zune A Success, Amazingly!

Wow, here’s some great news for Microsoft: In its first week of sales, the Zune player represented somewhere between 9 and 13% of all portable media players, beating out regular #2 Sandisk. While that is way behind the iPod, if Zune becomes the #2 player brand, it can be considered a success, creating a viable future competitor to the iPod. If Microsoft can claim solid #2 status, then Zune isn’t going away, and consumers will be willing to give it a look. Nice!

November 30th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows Media, Zune | 5 comments

Clippy Attacks!

Clippy, the much-maligned paperclip that tried to offer help in previous versions of Microsoft Office, is shown in this video out in the real world, trying to help people with their daily problems. As you will see, he’s about as effective as ever! Check it out at YouTube.

There’s also the more well-known revenge against Clippy video:

(via Digg, which linked to a non-embeddable version)

November 29th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Applications, Humor, Office | 3 comments

Microsoft Hires “Apprentice” Exec To Judge Startup Competition

Microsoft has gotten fired “The Apprentice” executive and former Donald Trump right-hand woman Carolyn Kepcher, to take a role as a judge in a Microsoft competition designed to help a startup get its feet off the ground. Kepcher, along with maternity wear entrepreneur Liz Lange and Microsoft VP Chris Caposella, will judge Microsoft’s Ultimate Challenge, where the winner gets $100,000 in seed money, a year of free rent of a storefront/office space in Manhattan, and software to get the business started.

Even the New York Post’s gossip columnists are paying attention, noting where Carolyn was hanging out yesterday:

Former “Apprentice” side kick Carolyn Kepcher at Hello Deli in Times Square today (noon) help ing Microsoft pick the Best Small Business in America.

The contest is to promote the new, free, Office Accounting Express (you can read more about that here).

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Microsoft and The Apprentice; back in February 2005, Verna, a Microsoftie, was a contestant on the show, and wound up becoming one of the most dramatic contestants on any reality show, when she had a breakdown and quit in the second week of the show. Turns out Verna’s written a book about quitting your way out of a dead-end job, but she still works at Microsoft.

November 29th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General | no comments

Free Windows Vista Business and Office 2007 Professional is giving away free licenses of Windows Vista and Office 2007 Professional to anyone who participates in three webcasts, and gives away a single page of personal information (name, email, address, phone number, job title). Yes, it is really that simple. In fact, I’m wasting time writing this! Back to my “Look at Mobility Features in Windows Vista” webcast.

I’m just hoping Windows Anytime Upgrade allows downgrades to Vista Premium. Otherwise, I’ll have to upgrade to Ultimate.
(via Amit)

Before you get skeptical, Microsoft has confirmed this as genuine. This is actually more business-as-usual than you think. Getting free copies of Windows is more of an investment of time, than something actually difficult.

UPDATE: Things I already learned: OEMs can extend Windows Mobility Center, with hardware specific control panels, in order to discourage them from ruining the Windows UI with strange and resource-heavy controls. Also, they can smack their logo in the middle of the Mobility Center.

UPDATE 2: Shortcut key for Mobility Center: Windowskey + X

UPDATE 3: Click on the icon in any Mobility Center tile to get to the full control panel for that item.

November 29th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Applications, Windows, Office, Vista | 3 comments

$125 Zune - Sign Me Up!


Say what you will about the Zune, but who among us would not buy Microsoft’s new player if it cost a mere $125? That’s what American Express is betting on, offering up 500 Zunes for six minutes at 12, 3, and 7 pm Eastern on Thursday (there are other great deals as well). What an amazing deal, 50% off on the price of a 30-gig portable media player, let alone one that you can brag about being one of the first to get.


Of course, you need an American Express card to get it, even if you are fast enough with the mouse. You can apply for a card right now, but there are no guarantees you’ll have it by the time of the sale. Still, I say its worth it. I took my wife to a restaurant in Manhattan for her birthday last night, and at the end of the meal, I found out they didn’t accept anything by AmEx and cash. It was ridiculous, and I was forced to walk to an ATM while my birthday girl wife sat there and waited. I may or may not have taken the ATM fee out of the tip…
(via Digg)

UPDATE: Got my American Express card! Looks like I’ll be there trying to get a Zune on Thursday.

November 28th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows Media, Zune | 2 comments

Microsoft’s 3D RSS Reader For Vista


Microsoft’s “The Panel” features UniveRSS, a 3D RSS reader for Windows Vista. UniveRSS uses the Windows Presentation Foundation and the common feed list, displaying RSS feeds as cubes in a galaxy environment. The size of each cube indicates the number of items, and users can navigate in all dimensions to view the latest updates. It’s an early version, and there’s a lot more planned. Read up.


I can’t get it to run in Vista RC1, so if anyone wants to offer any suggestions, go right ahead.
(via Digg)

November 28th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Applications, Windows, Vista | one comment

Windows Mobile Marketing: Suits of Bacon and Orange Gelatin

Windows Mobile’s got a funny marketing campaign, centering around Frank, their “most dedicated user”, who will use Windows Mobile to keep working no matter what awful situation he’s gotten himself into. One problem: They don’t seem to get this whole YouTube thing, providing no way to share the videos. Luckilly, thanks to Jeroen Wijering’s Flash Video Player and Joshua Eldridge’s WordPress plugin, I can embed it:

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Just hit the back and forward buttons to go through the playlist. The first five videos are the spots, and the last three are “outtakes”, which might be even more funny than the ads themselves.

If you’d like to share the ads yourself, just use this code:

< embed src="/flvplayer.swf" width="400" height="300" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="" flashvars="file=" / >

The code is a bit buggy, so if anyone has any suggestions for improving it, let me know. I’ll be using it quite a bit in the future.
(via Jason Langridge)

November 28th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Humor, Windows Mobile | 5 comments

Making Software Use Virtual Folders In Vista

The Windows Sidebar team blog has a tip for getting the Vista Sidebar Slideshow Gadget to use images based on a search, rather than all the images in a specified location. The trick is to take advantage of Vista’s powerful search functionality (which regrettably, is hidden and handicapped in the Vista Explorer UI) to get the Gadget to use a virtual folder (known as a saved search) as its picture source.

All you have to do is run the search. Do whatever it takes, use all the search operators you need, and get the search exactly the way you want. Then, save the search as the only file in a folder. Point the Gadget at the folder, specify “Include subfolders” and, voila! The Gadget gets its pictures from the folder, which contains a search, thus having the functionality of finding images, wherever they are, that meet a certain criteria, and only showing those. You can even include multiple searches in the same folder to expand your results.

I’d imagine there are a lot of legacy programs that could be fooled into doing this. Rather than keeping all your music in a single folder, you could point your jukebox software at a virtual folder, and let Windows Vista find your music for you. Advanced search operators mean that you could include all music, except stuff that is too short, too long, too country, or includes the word “diddy”. Not that every program could use this, but its worth checking out, as a solution to a lot of otherwise hard work.

Vista contains a massive search backbone, one the operating system doesn’t use to its full potential. The reason: Older users got too confused. Just because it doesn’t do everything by default, doesn’t mean you can’t make it do what you need. Take advantage of the options available, and you’ll fall in love with it.

November 28th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Vista | no comments

Gears Of War Makes “Mad World” Popular

It looks like the haunting and very successful Gears of War ad that featured Gary Jules’ cover of “Mad World” propelled the 2001 song into the number one spot in the iTunes music store, at least temporarily. Joystiq reports, via Gearheads of War, that yesterday, “Mad World” was #1 at iTMS, despite no significant recent promotion of the song, save for the ad.

Two things to take from this: The Gears of War ad has to be on some lists for the top ads of the year, at least in some category. Also, the power of video games as an entertainment medium is just amazing. One of these days, a game is going to release a Billboard #1 soundtrack (although it won’t be a hardcore game). Someone needs to find a way to design a breakaway non-hardcore game hit, an “American Pie” for the games industry, that can be popular with all sorts of teenagers, and sell a lot of soundtracks, besides moving a few million units.

Previous posts on the ad:

Gears of War Song Contest - November 11
Gears of War Ad Spoofs - November 6

November 27th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Xbox, Xbox 360, Gears of War | one comment

Xbox 360 Promotion Crashes Amazon

Unsurprisingly, Amazon’s promotion to sell 1,000 Xbox 360s at $100 apiece was so popular, the site was completely inaccessible for about 15 minutes (from just before 2 pm, to at least 2:12). Well, not entirely unaccessible, since someone must have bought the 360s. Someone? Anyone?

So, was it a good idea? Well, Amazon banked $100,000 on $300,000 of inventory (not counting profit margins). It got coverage all over the internet that was certainly worth more than $200,000 in marketing expenses. However, It lose fifteen minutes of sales, and probably took a decent hit to the bandwidth bills. Amazon has yearly revenue of eight and a half billion dollars, or 23 1/4 million a day, or $970,000 an hour, or $242,000 every fifteen minutes. So, in those fifteen minutes, they lost close to half a million dollars in revenue. Still, that could be made up in all the publicity.

Greg Linden, who designed a lot of the tech that powers Amazon, says this:

Sounds familiar. When I was at Amazon, every year we in engineering would try to avoid spikes in traffic, especially around peak holiday loads, and every year marketing folks would want to run some promotion specifically designed to create a mad frenzy on the site. Usually, we convinced them to change the promotion, but apparently engineering lost (or was asleep at the switch) this year.

If you aren’t sick of it, this week’s deal looks to be a $25 portable DVD player.

November 27th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Xbox, Xbox 360 | one comment

Microsoft Search Losing Market Share

No matter whose numbers you believe, the facts are unmistakeable: Microsoft’s search engine is losing market share, and has been for a long time. Greg Linden posted a chart from Danny Sullivan to illustrate that fact, and I’ve Office 2007′d it:


So, what the hell is going on? Microsoft is doing a great job in the search pace, creating a search UI that I’m a vocal fan of. What are they doing wrong? This is a long-term battle, but one would expect them to be holding their ground, or showing the same small gains is making.


  • Change is bad: Users don’t like two redesigns in two years, and the unfamiliarity is sending them away.
  • Windows Live Search looks cheap: The old MSN search looked cheap. It was too white, too sparse. The layout and colors didn’t have the right “feel”, seeming like a low rent search engine, rather than a serious competitor to Google. While Google shares many of the same properties, users know it is the search leader, and are willing to overlook its design. MSN doesn’t get the same pass. While the newer MSN Search and now improved the look and feel, they retain some sort of cheapness. Personally, I think its the white and blue. Something dramatic and dynamic to make the page more exciting. has it (the red bar) Yahoo has some of it (the red Yahoo logo, plus they rip off Google well). Perhaps Widncows Live needs a new color on the page, or an animated element. Anything to break it up. A suggestion: Animate the flair on page load.
  • Lack of marketing: Most people don’t know Windows Live Search exists. Microsoft is counting on (a) community evangelism (and besides myself and some other bloggers, I’m not sure there is much of that), as well as (b) MSN and Internet Explorer users discovering the search engine in random use. For god sakes, buy some good commercials, ones people can’t ignore, something undeniably cool and memorable. Also: Say in your ads, leave out Microsoft, and I guarantee they become more effective.
  • Beta feel: Regardless of how popular Gmail invites used to be, the average user hates betas, and will not use products that appear under construction. Windows Live has so many products that don’t work, don’t work all the time, are behind invite-only walls, or have a beta tag, that users instinctively say “I’ll wait for when its done”. Focus on core products (, search, image search, news search, Live Mail) and demand a full release by the day Windows Vista hits retail. If you have to, stop designing new features and stabilize the damn code. I don’t care how good the product will be, because your users are leaving now.

God, that’s some harsh language. I feel bad, because I have a geek crush on Windows Live, and firmly believe they are tops in this industry in many categories. I want them to win, and your best critics will always be your biggest fans. For god sakes, guys, don’t blow this! You can gain market share, if you just get the basics right: Looks, personality, gossip and maturity. Take those four words and put them on the door of every Windows Live team member’s office, and don’t them down until Windows Live can claim it meets the basic goals.

November 27th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, MSN, Search, Windows, Google, AskJeeves, Yahoo, Live | 13 comments

Microsoft XML Notepad 2007


Microsoft has released the latest version of XML Notepad, a pretty cool app for working with XML files in a manner far more capable than your usual Windows Notepad. My first impressions tell me that is a great tool for anybody who has to work with XML in Windows, although I’d still like to see Microsoft release a web-optimized version of Notepad that handled HTML/CSS and the like, color-coding the source as it went.

One cool thing: It comes with some sample files, to give you an idea of how the program handles, and one of them is the full play of Hamlet written entirely in XML.

XML Notepad 2007 features:

Handy features include:

  • Tree View synchronized with Node Text View for quick editing of node names and values.
  • Incremental search (Ctrl+I) in both tree and text views, so as you type it navigates to matching nodes.
  • Cut/copy/paste with full namespace support.
  • Drag/drop support for easy manipulation of the tree, even across different instances of XML Notepad and from the file system.
  • Infinite undo/redo for all edit operations.
  • In place popup multi-line editing of large text node values.
  • Configurable fonts and colors via the options dialog.
  • Full find/replace dialog with support for regex and XPath.
  • Good performance on large XML documents, loading a 3mb document in about one second.
  • Instant XML schema validation while you edit with errors and warnings shown in the task list window.
  • Intellisense based on expected elements and attributes and enumerated simple type values.
  • Support for custom editors for date, dateTime and time datatypes and other types like color.
  • Handy nudge tool bar buttons for quick movement of nodes up and down the tree.
  • Inplace HTML viewer for processing xml-stylesheet processing instructions.
  • Built-in XML Diff tool.

New features included in this version:

  • Added keyboard accelerators for find again (F3) and reverse find (SHIFT+F3).
  • Added support for loading IXmlBuilder and IXmlEditor implementations from different assemblies using new vs:assembly attribute.
  • Made source code localizable by moving all error messages and dialog strings to .resx files.
  • Added a default XSL transform.
  • New icons, a play on the Vista “Notepad” icons.

Bug Fixes included in this version:

  • Fixed install on Windows Vista machines using Windows Installer XML 3.0.
  • Performance of expand node when validating.
  • Fixed bug where changed schemas and transforms were not being re-loaded.
  • Fixed spurious warnings about file being changed on disk.
  • Fixed handling of very long text nodes.
  • Fixed round trip of DTD content in < !DOCTYPE> tags.
  • Fixed validation of elements with xsi:type attributes.
  • Scroll bar not updating when node expanded/collapsed in some cases.
  • Tree view needs horizontal scrollbar.
  • When XML Notepad is minimized and file changes on disk, the file reload prompt is confusing. Notepad should be restored first.
  • XSL output window should pick up new xsl-transform based on input document.
  • Fixed unhandled exception when closing a group of XML notepad windows.
  • Added registration of “Edit” action for .xml file extension.
  • Move source code to CodePlex.

(via Bink)

November 26th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Developers | one comment

Xbox 360 Games Sales Keep Increasing, Now Up 18.7%

Three months ago, Todd Bishop used publicly available sales figures to determine how the combined sales of XBox and Xbox 360 games compared with a year earlier. I figured out that based on his data, sales of Xbox console games for the last quarter of 2005 and the first two quarters of 2006 were up 13.34% from the same period a year earlier. Now, Todd’s got the numbers for an additional quarter, and they’re looking even better.

For the period from the fourth quarter of 2005 through the third quarter of 2006, Xbox and Xbox 360 games pulled in revenue of $1,336,411,000 (divided between $757,464,000 in Xbox 360 sales and $578,947,000 in Xbox sales). The same four quarters a year earlier (4Q 2004-3Q 2005) saw Xbox games sales of $1,126,022,000. This represented a gain of 18.684% over the previous year, showing momentum continue to grow.

Compared to sales of PlayStation 2 and GameCube games, you can see how Microsoft is gaining market share:

All sales figures are in thousands.

In terms of percentages, Sony’s market share dropped from 61% to 56.3% and GameCube’s dropped from 10.1% to 7.5%, while Xbox and Xbox 360 market share combined for 36.1% (divided between 20.47 for 360 and 15.64 for Xbox), up from 28.8% a year earlier.

In fact, the third quarter of 2006 was the first one in which Xbox 360 sales, alone, were higher than Xbox sales of the previous year, meaning the Xbox 360 is already selling games better than its predecessor. Sony should worry about this: A year into its lifecycle, the 360 is already doing better than the original, which means Microsoft, which did okay the last generation, is virtually guaranteed to gain, not lose, market share in this generation. Xbox sales of 3Q 2005 were $275,775,000, while Xbox 360 sales of 3Q 2006 were $287,252,000.

If the trend continues, the Xbox 360 will be a winner in this console generation. Even if it isn’t number one, Microsoft is gaining market share, with the console solidifying its place in the market, and in the living rooms of consumers.

November 24th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Xbox, Xbox 360 | no comments

Xbox Live Video Marketplace Launches

Check out your Xbox 360, because the Video Marketplace went live yesterday. They are now selling a bunch of movies and TV shows for download. I did a video of it, but am having some trouble with the editing. Hopefully, I’ll have it up sometime today.

So, first off, pricing: TV shows, regardless of length, are 160 Microsoft Points ($2). High definition costs more, 240 MS Points ($3). Movies are divided into new releases and “classics” (a dubious description at best). Classics are 240 MS Points ($3) in standard def, 360 MS Points ($4.50) in HD. New releases are 320 MS Points ($4) in standard, 480 MS Points ($6) in HD.

There are 48 movies and 50 TV series available at launch.

Movies include:

  • V for Vendetta
  • Poseidon
  • ATL
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • The Matrix
  • 9 1/2 Weeks
  • Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
  • Analyze This
  • Art of War
  • Ask The Dust
  • Unforgiven
  • The Lake House
  • Failure to Launch
  • Ask the Dust
  • Chinatown
  • Congo
  • The Core
  • Galipoli
  • Patriot Games
  • Pootie Tang
  • Rat Race
  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • Star Trek VII: Generations
  • The Sum of All Fears
  • Timeline
  • We Were Soldiers
  • Zoolander

TV shows include:

  • Star Trek: The Original Series
  • CSI
  • CSI:NY
  • CSI:Miami
  • Jericho
  • South Park
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force
  • Frisky Dingo
  • Harvey Birdman
  • Moral Orel
  • Robot Chicken
  • Sealab 2021
  • Chappelle’s Show
  • Drawn Together
  • Mind of Mencia
  • Supernatural
  • Veronica Mars
  • NCIS
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Beavis and Butthead
  • Breaking Bonaduce
  • Carpocalypse
  • Late Night With Conan O’Brien
  • Viva Pinata
  • Family Guy
  • Day Break

Here’s a video by Joystiq of the interface:

Coverage at Joystiq, Major Nelson, Engadget, Xbox 360 Fanboy.

Download speeds seem slower than normal at the moment, as they try to figure out how to get the network to handle all this extra traffic, but expect speeds to get up to normal within a few days. One dissapointing thing: The lack of HD content. Gizmodo has a list of everything in HD on the Video Marketplace, and its a damn short list. Besides 95 episodes of CSI and 51 episodes of NCI, there are only 12 other episodes, 8 of them Jericho, 4 Fights.

The list of HD Movies isn’t any better:

  • ATL
  • Clash of the Titans
  • The Perfect Storm
  • Poseidon
  • Unforgiven
  • V for Vendetta

November 23rd, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Xbox, Xbox Live | one comment