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?
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.
Forza Motorsport 5 is going free this weekend for all Xbox Live Gold subscribers. You’ll also need an Xbox One to get in on the action, which starts at 12:01am on Friday and ends on Sunday night. During that timeframe, you’ll be able to download Forza Motorsport 5 and play it to your hearts content for the weekend, including all single-player and multiplayer content. DLC add-ons don’t come as part of the deal, but still, this is basically like a free rental.
All US residents who spend time playing Forza Motorsport 5 during the free weekend are entered to win a three-day trip to the Forza Motorsport Grand Prix Road Racing Class to be held at the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.
So, who jumping in to Forza to help pass the time until Destiny arrives next week?
For a peek behind-the-scenes of Forza Motorsport 5, check out our video after the break.
When Microsoft removed Kinect from the lower-end Xbox One bundle (making the promise of what Kinect would be go up in smoke,) it also announced that it would make the Kinect sensor for Xbox One available as a standalone purchase for anyone who might want to add it to their console after purchasing one without it, but never announced a date. Now we know that the Kinect for Xbox One will be available in stores in October, and will cost $150.
It makes sense that Microsoft would offer Kinect separately, but the extra $50 that it's taking on to the price may made it a dud out of the gate, but hey, at least now the fact that you can get an Xbox One with Kinect for $100 more appears to be a $50 savings. For what it's worth, the Kinect will be packed in with a copy of Dance Central Spotlight, which is probably the main Kinect game that people really care about in the first place.
That said--who's planning on buying one?
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)
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
Chris Weber is the CVP of Mobile Devices Sales at Microsoft, re-joining the company through it's purchase of Nokia, where he was in charge of global sales. He knows his way around every Lumia device, and is now aiming to make sure that Windows Phone first-party hardware is an even player at the devices table. We were able to sit down with Chris to talk about Nokia, Lumia, Windows Phone, and what changes need to be made in order to realize the success he is seeking. Check out the full interview below:
When is Windows Phone 8.1 coming out?
The answer varies by device and operator. The Lumia 630 and 635 are the first 8.1 products, launched internationally. We’re also working with our current products, and any Windows 8 phone is upgradeable to 8.1. There is currently a developer preview, but the operator version requires further testing. 8.1 is a completely different experience. Things like the background wallpaper, increased customization, and especially Cortana, which is one of the best features.
There are key differences between Cortana and similar services on other devices. It proactively learns. The other day I was flying to Moscow. The week before, it asked if it wanted me to track my flight to Moscow. There is a link that says "Do you want to know how I knew that?" Cortana looked at my calendar and started looking up flight numbers. It also has geo-fencing. You can say "Remind me that Ignacio owes me $100." I can say remind me when I send an email, when I arrive home, etc. Or "Remind me to pick up my dry cleaning" and when you get in the area, the message pops up. "Remind me to pick up milk at the grocery store” and you get the choice of having it remind you when you are near any grocery store, not just one specific one.
Back to being on the plane, I said "Remind me to download the music for guitar when I get home." It's really, really good. Flow writing, which is similar to Swype, means I can do emails faster on my phone than on the keyboard now. I got a new phone and it wasn't running 8.1 and the hunt and peck was tough!
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