MSN TV is Closing in September

MSNTVThose of you who have parents or grandparents who are currently using MSN TV 2 may have some family requested free tech support in your future. Microsoft has announced that MSN TV 2 will close, forever, as of September, 30, 2013. People who are using the MSN TV set-top box will not have to return it to Microsoft. In fact, they prefer you recycle it instead of attempting to return it to them (if you find you no longer have a use for it).

What is now called MSN TV 2 started out as WebTV back in 1996. It was intended to be a way for people who were not very internet savvy to have an easy way to get online. Why has Microsoft decided to end the MSN TV service? They put it this way:

…Since then, the web has continued to evolve at a breathtaking pace, and there are many new ways to access the internet. Accordingly, we have made the difficult decision to end the MSN TV service on September 30, 2013. We are working with our customers to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible.

The set-top box can still be used to access videos and music from a PC, for those who have a home network that uses broadband. It also will still have photo albums stored in it, which will remain viewable. Microsoft recommends that people save the photos that they care about before the service ends.

Feedback Results in Changes to Xbox One

Xbox LogoIt’s always nice when a company listens to the feedback it is getting from consumers, and makes positive changes as a result. After E3, gamers took to the internet to express their extreme displeasure over some of the things that the Xbox One required.

Many stated, very clearly, that they would buy a Sony Playstation 4 instead of the Xbox One. My best guess is that is the part that caught Microsoft’s attention. In general, companies become more willing to make the changes that consumers are asking for if they have reason to believe that they could lose out on sales if they don’t make those changes.

Gamers didn’t like that the Xbox One had to be constantly connected to the internet. The inability to play a used copy of a game on the Xbox One, and the realization that this meant you cannot share your game with a friend, also made a lot of gamers angry.

Today, Microsoft has announced that they are making the following changes to Xbox One:

An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games.
After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want to play your games, just like on the Xbox 360.

Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today -There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does on Xbox 360.

Microsoft also clarifies that if you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Will these changes influence gamers to choose the Xbox One instead of the PlayStation 4? It’s possible. However, since the PlayStation 4 is less expensive than the Xbox One, these changes might not generate as many sales as Microsoft may have been hoping for.

Microsoft to Buy Nook?

Nook

Nook

Microsoft is looking at the Barnes & Noble Nook – and they are willing to pay $1 billion for them.

Barnes and Noble stock rose 16% as news flew about Microsoft wanting to purchase the Nook e-reader, tablet and e-book business. This, just days after an announcement that Nook was allowing users to download via Google Play. Barnes and Noble also considered spinning off the Nook to its own company.

According to a document obtained by TechCrunch, if Microsoft was to obtain Nook, the Android-based tablet would be discontinued and the e-reader would be phased out at a later time. The expectation would be to merge Nook e-reader into the Microsoft Windows 8 tablet.

Right now, 10 million Nook devices have been sold, with 7 million active subscribers.

Microsoft attempts to woo Android users with ‘Switch to Windows Phone’ app

For a week now rumors have been rampant that Microsoft would release a “Switch to Windows Phone” app to Android users. The day has arrived and the app has landed in the Google Play store.

The free app is available today and attempts to make a switch from the Google mobile platform to that of Microsoft an easier transition. “Use Switch to Windows Phone to see how many of your Android apps are available on Windows Phone. Just run Switch to Windows Phone on your Android, and this app will check to see if your installed apps are available in the Windows Phone Store” the app tells us.

switch to windows phone

Switch to Windows Phone will then proceed to save to the cloud the app list it puts together and keep it ready for you when you pick up that Nokia Lumia or HTC 8X handset.

Needless to say, Microsoft  is being attacked by Android phone fans — the app already has a two star rating, with only 22 users giving it five stars, while 213 customers handed it a one star review. Still, you have to hand it to Microsoft for trying. Perhaps the company may even land a few new customers who may have already been on the fence about switching.

Order Pizza Through Your Xbox 360

Pizza Who doesn’t love pizza? It is served at meetings, is the main course at parties, and a staple of food courts everywhere. You can order a pizza by walking up the counter at a food court, or visiting a fast food restaurant that serves it. You can call your local pizza place on the phone to order a pizza. Many of the big chain pizza places give you the option of placing your order online, through their website.

One might assume that we have plenty of ways to order a pizza. Perhaps Pizza Hut and Microsoft would disagree with that assessment. The two companies have teamed and will be launching an app for Xbox Live that will allow users to order a pizza directly through their Xbox 360.

According to Polygon, the app will be available for Xbox Live users on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Users who download the app before May 6, 2013, will get 15% off their first purchase from Pizza Hut.

Pizza Hut’s entire menu will be available through the Xbox app, and users will be able to build their own customized pizza. An order can be placed via Kinect motion controls, voice commands, or the Xbox 360 controller. The app will also feature Facebook integration, which will allow users to order a pizza and then share what they ordered on their Facebook page for all their friends to see.

I can see where the app would be convenient for gamers who want to order a pizza but do not want to stop playing their games for the amount of time it would take to drive to the local Pizza Hut, or even to phone in an order. Just pause the game, use the app, and get back to playing. On the other hand, I have some concerns. Xbox 360 is used by both adults and children. I’m not sure all parents are going to be comfortable with how easy this app would make it for their teenager, or child, to order themselves a pizza.

Image: Stock Photo Pizza by BigStock

Microsoft introduces new Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 Artist Editions

microsoft 3500 mouseMicrosoft has always been labeled as a software company, and there is some reason for that — mainly Windows and Office. But when the company introduced the Surface tablet, it was not the first foray into hardware. Many people tend to forget that Microsoft produces some of the most popular hardware on the planet in the Xbox and Kinect. It has also long built excellent mice and keyboards, used by many businesses around the world.

Today Microsoft announced six new versions of its popular 3500 model wireless mouse. All of the new editions are a part of the Artist Series. Dana McClure, Deanne Cheuk, Kustaa Saksi, Matt Lyon, Joy Deangdeelert Cho and Si Scott all contributed to this latest line of peripheral devices.

Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc tells us “each mouse features a snap-in nano USB transceiver, BlueTrack Technology and a two-color battery light indicator”.

The line will be available soon and retail for a reported $29.95 U.S. You will be able to grab one from both Microsoft online and brick and mortar stores, as well as other retail locations, which the company did not specify.

Xbox gets new entertainment options

xbox live logoMicrosoft may be planning to unveil its next Xbox console in the near future, but that has not stopped the company from continuing to update its current 360 version of the device.

The Xbox 360 may sometimes be thought of as a gaming box, but it has long since exited that pigeon hole. Microsoft wants to use the console to take over your living room and it has been moving steadily in that direction for some time. The company has been adding more and more entertainment content and now it has announced the next wave.

Larry Hryb, better known as Major Nelson, announced the next set of updates, which are rolling out right now and include a load of new entertainment options for customers.

Updates:

  • Xbox SmartGlass for Game of Thrones Season 3
  • MLB.TV Refresh
  • IndieFlix
  • Revision 3
  • PopcornFlix
  • Toys “R” Us Movies

If you have an Xbox 360 then you should be receiving these updates at any moment. If you do not yet have one of the consoles then you may just want to wait and find out what gets announced at the upcoming E3 show.

Microsoft gives Blue info and attacks Google

Microsoft’s next version of Windows 8, code named “Blue” leaked out this past Sunday and ever since then I have been feverishly testing the new operating system in a virtual machine. There is a lot new here, making this “update” much more than a service pack, but also not quite “Windows 9″ either.

windows blue start screen in red

In a rare move, Microsoft has actually acknowledged the leak and added information about it. In the process, the company also took a swipe at Google’s recent decision to kill Reader.

Microsoft vice president Frank Shaw began his announcement by telling us “While some folks were out doing “spring cleaning,” we used the opportunity to look back a bit at what has happened in the past season, and to look ahead at what we have coming”.

More important than the shot at Google, which Microsoft seems to take on a regular basis, was the acknowledgement of Blue, which would have been hard to deny, given that many of us are testing it out. Shaw stated “Now, the look ahead. With a remarkable foundation of products in market and a clear view of how we will evolve the company, product leaders across Microsoft are working together on plans to advance our devices and services, a set of plans referred to internally as ‘Blue’.”

He went on to inform that “today, Steve Guggenheimer announced the next Build developer conference. At Build, developers will see what’s next for Windows, Windows Server, Windows Azure, Visual Studio and more. This is just one place we’ll discuss the advances coming – another is TechEd”.

Of course, he could not resist one final parting shot at the end — “See, spring isn’t just for cleaning/whacking away at things. It’s also a time to plant and get ready for summer”.

Skype wants to bring you Lady Gaga

skype

While the web swoons over the new Facebook “graph search”, Microsoft web communications service Skype is aiming towards a more musical crowd. Honestly, it may be a similar audience, but the announcements today still seem far apart. While Mark Zuckerburg occupied the stage earlier, Microsoft was letting everyone know that the pop star would be available for a group video call very soon.

“Now’s your chance to see Lady Gaga live, uncut and offstage. Watch as our lucky sweepstakes winners talk upcoming music, costumes and backstage moments — all live, and face-to-face, with Lady Gaga”, stated Skype’s Leanne Johnson in a blog post earlier today.

The event will take place on Thursday, January 17th at 2pm PST. You can submit a question in hopes that she may actually answer it. Microsoft has set up a special web site at Skypeball.com/skypewithgaga for the occasion.

Steve Ballmer makes symbolic handoff of CES to Qualcomm

ces logo

We knew Microsoft was out of the Consumer Electronics Show in 2013 and going forward. The company decided that, like Apple, it could do better on its own. However, Steve Ballmer decided to make a cameo appearance tonight on the CES stage during Paul Jacobs’ keynote address.

It was a handoff from old technology to new, but with a bridge in between as the Microsoft CEO and Qualcomm chief showed off their respective Windows Phone handsets (both Nokia Lumia 920’s) in an effort to demonstrate how the two technologies meet.

The new Snapdragon chips are powering many of today’s mobile devices, including Windows Phone 8 handsets. Steve Ballmer spent about five minutes with Jacobs talking up the technology, but left as quickly as he appeared, marking what is likely the end of an era — Microsoft is now gone from the world’s biggest showcase and the torch has been passed to a new generation.