The sun will set on 2014 in just a few hours, and we are just in time with our annual top 10 list of the most-watched Gear Live video episodes. Over the past year, as expected, there was a bunch of Apple gear that made the list, with the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The launch of the WWE Network was also groundbreaking, and our walkthrough proved to be the second most popular video of the year. Other items, like a tutorial on upgrading Xbox One controllers, a look at the Fitbit Force, and a how-to on installing the Nest Protect also proved popular as well.
The Interview, the movie release that’s been at the center of media hysteria for the past week, is now available to stream from the comfort of your home after having its theatrical release pulled. You can still catch the movie in theaters starting tomorrow, Christmas Day, but you’ll only find it in 300 select independent theaters. In order to reach the masses, Sony decided to partner with Xbox Video, YouTube, and Google Play in conjunction with its own SeeTheInterview.com site on streaming the feature into the homes of potential viewers.
As far as pricing goes, you can rent The Interview for $5.99, or buy it for $14.99. Will you be watching?
Microsoft that slashed the price of the Xbox One by $50 leading into the holiday season, bringing the price down to just $349. The new pricing applies to all Xbox One bundles, which means that you can even get the upcoming Sunset Overdrive bundle for $349, as well as the Assassin’s Creed bundle that includes Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.
If you are looking for one of the bundles that includes Kinect, even those are $50 less, including the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare bundle that features the custom-designed Xbox One console with 1TB hard drive, a digital copy of the game, and matching controller.
The promotional period for the price drop starts on November 2, and continues through January 3, 2015.
Today, Microsoft officially announced the next version of Windows: Windows 10. If you’re confused, you’re not alone. The currently-available version of Windows is 8.1, which means that Microsoft has inexplicably decided to forego version 9 altogether. Rumors that the next version would be called Windows TH, Windows One, or Windows 9 have now been dashed—Windows 10 is the future of Microsoft’s desktop operating system. It’s also still technically the 9th release of Windows.
At an unveiling event earlier today, the company called Windows 10 the “most comprehensive platform ever,” as it will run on all displays, from 4-inches and up. That means Windows 10 will run on phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, servers, and high definition television screens. “Windows 10 will deliver the right experience on the right device at the right time," said Microsoft's Terry Myerson. "Windows 10 will run on the broadest types of devices ever."
Optimists will say that Microsoft is listening to all of the negative backlash that was met with the release of Windows 8, taking in that feedback, and reverting a bunch of changes to give customers what they want. Others will point out that Windows 10 looks like a mashup of the beloved Windows 7 and the polarizing Windows 8, with a bunch of Mac OS X features (like Expose and Mission Control) thrown in, and is an obvious step backwards. We see both sides of the argument, but it’s also very early to tell, as Windows 10 won’t ship until late 2015.
Microsoft has started sending out invitation to select press to its Windows 9 reveal event that will take place in San Francisco, California on September 30th. Microsoft execs Joe Belfiore and Terry Myerson will both be on hand to talk about “what’s next for Windows and the enterprise.” At the end of the event, we expect the company to release a Windows 9 Technical Preview that will allow developers and enterprise users to take the new software for a test drive to get apps updated and deployment scenarios tested. New features for Windows 9 include Cortana integration, virtual desktops, a new Start menu, Notification Center, and a refreshed UI that will see flatter icons (similar to Apple’s OS X Yosemite.)
If you haven’t picked up an Xbox One yet (or, if you need an extra one for the bedroom,) next week will be a great time to buy. Microsoft is running a promotion from September 7 through 13th where buying an Xbox One at participating retailers will include any free game of your choosing that costs $59.99 or less. Yes, that includes Destiny, Bungie’s new title, which drops on September 9. That’s a nice savings, since you’ll probably want at least one game to play on your new console anyway. Speaking of which, the offer applies to Xbox One bundles as well, so if you buy the Xbox One Madden NFL 15 Bundle or the Forza Motorsport 5 Bundle, each of which already comes with a free game, you get another free game of your choosing on top of that.
I made another appearance on this weeks episode of GeekWire Radio here in Seattle, Washington, keeping my streak alive as the person with the most guest appearances in GeekWire Radio history! In this episode, which also features Eyewitness News reporter Essex Porter (pictured with me above, and a huge Windows Phone advocate), we talk about a couple of recent Gear Live stories, including:
- iPhone 6 4.7-inch design preview
- iPhone 6 5.5-inch design preview
- Exclusive: I used the Microsoft Surface watch
I brought in the two iPhone 6 mockups in both 4.7- and 5.5-inch varieties, which made for some good conversation. We also chat about the news of the week, which included the release of the Amazon Fire Phone, and we also had a discussion about what Microsoft needs to do to make Windows Phone more accepted by the general consumer. You can listen to the show now by grabbing the MP3 below, or hitting play in the widget.
Read More | GeekWire Radio (MP3)
Curious about how Cortana made her way from assisting Master Chief in Halo over to helping you out on Windows Phone? During a sit-down with Microsoft's Marcus Ash, he spoke to us about what it took to get Cortana just right on Windows Phone and to be seen as a legitimate competitor to Apple's Siri.
First, the Cortana logo was the first thing Microsoft has to get right. Originally, they didn't want a physical representation. The thought was that people could think it was creepy if it is "too human." They also didn't want it to be like Clippy, the infamous character from Microsoft Office that was hated by many. It was also decided that Cortana couldn't be just a voice, since it wouldn't feel the same.
Initially, Microsoft tried to use the Xbox Live avatar idea, but that was odd due to everyone having the female Cortana voice. Then they started playing around with the circle. A circle can stretch, bounce, and transform. They also tried triangles, diamonds, hearts, and the ability of letter the user choose any of these. At the end of the day, the circle next to Metro on the start screen looked good, so that was what Microsoft decided on. The next issue was that a simple circle isn't iconic, and is hard to brand. That's when the Windows Phone team met with the Halo team at 343 Industries.
One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 is the lack of the Start button, but the feature is about to make a return with an overhauled look and feel. In the leaked screenshot above, you see the new Start menu, which incorporates Microsoft's tile design that you'll find it using across its product line in areas like Xbox, Windows Phone, Office, and of course, Windows itself.
As you see in the screenshot, there are tiles embedded into the Start menu for items like People, Mail, PC Settings, Calendar, Xbox, Camera, and more. We'd imagine that you'd be able to rearrange items, pin your favorites, and remove things you'd never use. Bringing back the Start menu could be seen as a big step back, with Microsoft succumbing to users who refuse to embrace change; others may see it as the company finally listening to user feedback and addressing those needs. The Start button is much more usable on a computer that doesn't have a touchscreen than the home screen version of the Start menu. No word on when the change will go public.
What do you think? Have you been waiting for the return of the Start button on the Windows 8 desktop?
Read More | MyDigitalLife
One of the more exciting aspects of Windows Phone 8.1 is the appearance of Cortana, a Siri-like voice-based personal assistant. We spent time talking to Microsoft's Marcus Ash about Cortana, and we asked him about the possibility of Cortana making its way over to other smartphone platforms like iOS and Android. After all, the demo we were given was impressive. According to Marcus, at first it'll be a focus that is part of Windows Phone, and that's the number one priority with Cortana.
To extend Cortana across the entire smartphone ecosystem, that's the part that Microsoft is still mulling over and figuring out. The question is "How do we get Android or iOS users that also use Windows to have a great Cortana experience?" As a company, Microsoft is putting work into solving the question, and it isn't afraid to put its apps on competing platforms. After all, there's Office on Android and iOS, Bing, and others. For our money, it makes a lot more sense for Microsoft to release Cortana across multiple ecosystems rather than tying the service down as a Windows Phone exclusive. It's not the kind of feature that sells phones (similarly, we don't think that Siri on its own sells iPhones, either.) As a cloud-powered service, is Cortana a Windows play or a service play? Time will tell.