So you don’t have an iPhone or other web-enabled phone, you’re away from your computer and you’re tired of shelling out your precious greenbacks for 411 services; is there any other option? Well, you could just keep on calling 411, the phone companies love it when you do that – a quick check reveals that Verizon charges $1.49 per call and both AT&T and Sprint charge a piggy bank busting $1.79 per call – or you could give Google or Microsoft a call, they’ll take care of you for free. Google’s service, “GOOG-411” can be accessed by calling 1-800-GOOG-411, while Microsoft’s “Live Search 411” can be accessed by calling 1-800-CALL-411.
Both systems use voice recognition technology (you won’t be able to speak with a real human) to provide directions to and phone numbers of millions of destinations across the United States and Canada, connecting you to your destination and sending you a text message containing the requested information if you so desire.
Which service is right for you? You’ll have to try them both out and decide for yourself. I surprised myself by choosing the Microsoft service as my favorite. Stranger things have happened…
Check out the video (up top) for an introduction to the Google service.
Microsoft has announced that they will be offering free antivirus software late next year for Windows XP/Vista/7 and the upcoming IE 8. Referred to as Morro, the software will provide “comprehensive protection from malware including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans.” Because it is smaller, it is a welcome relief for those of us with aging PCs. Although they are discontinuing their OneCare subscription service in June, users should be happy they are saving a few bucks.
Read More | Daily Tech
We told you yesterday about the Zune Pass being such a sweet deal and you probably countered with, “But I don’t have a Zune.” Microsoft is pleased to announce that they have lowered their prices on their flash-based products just for your. Effective now in the U.S. and Friday in Canada, the 4GB model is now $99.00, the 8GB is $139.00, and the 16GB Zune drops $20.00 to $179.00. There are also accessories that have been marked down, so you have no excuse.
Wow. The best deal in music just got a whole lot better, as Microsoft has announced that the $14.99 per month Zune Pass will now allow subscribers to download and keep 10 tracks per month, which is a $10 value. Those tracks are yours, permanently, even if your Zune Pass subscription comes to an end. Participating labels include EMI Music, Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music, and independents like INgrooves, Independent Online Distribution Alliance, and The Orchard. Tracks downloaded from Sony BMG and UMG will be DRM-free MP3s, which tracks from EMI and Warner also include MP3 files, there are also some WMAs still hanging around. The Zune guys say that soon, 90 percent of the music in the Zune Marketplace will be in the MP3 format.
So when you break this down, if you subscribe to the Zune Pass, and download 10 tracks a month, you are really just paying $5 for unlimited access to the huge catalog of music available in the Zune Marketplace. We can’t think of a better, legal deal in music than what Microsoft is offering with Zune right now. Can you? At this point, we see no reason to fire up iTunes to do our music purchasing.
Just two months after the Zune 3.0 release, Microsoft is now deploying the next incremental update to their Zune platform with Zune 3.1. Available for download today, the Zune 3.1 update brings quite a few welcome feature changes and updates:
- New Games: Checkers, Sudoku, and Space Battle
- New multiplayer mode, and single-player difficulty levels, for Texas Hold’em
- Visual changes to the Zune Social, making it prettier and easier to navigate
- Like-Minder Listeners feature added to social, allowing you to compare your music tastes to others
- Improved play count reporting, content synchronization, and other bug fixes in both the hardware and software
You can grab the update now by launching your Zune software, going into Settings, and hitting Check for Updates.
Read More | Zune Insider
There are those who love to hate the software giant, but the Seattle-area economy has nothing to offer but gratitude – in King County, which includes Seattle and Microsoft hometown, Redmond, there are some 70,000 households with a net-worth of at least $1 million. My dentist once told me that his two brothers, who went to Microsoft while he went to dental school, both retired at the age of 36; he is well past 36 and definitely not retired. Some people have all the luck…
In honor of Windows’ anniversary, we’ve posted a video (up top) of current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer doing his best cheesy car salesman impersonation in this ridiculous Windows commercial from the 80’s; proving that dignity is not always a prerequisite for success.
It seems that every time we turn around, Zune has a new design. This time it is their Zodiac Series. Custom laser engraved, there are all 12 from the Western Zodiac from MS graphic designers and all of the animals from the Chinese years, which were designed by Iosefatu Sua. Choose your Zune, pick your etching for a little extra coinage, and you will also get access to matching wallpaper and playlists chosen by the artists.
Read More | electronistic
With Gears of War 2 getting ready to drop tomorrow, bringing Submergence Day to all fans of the franchise, Microsoft is also releasing a Gears of War 2 Limited Edition Zune. You might remember that they did something similar with the original Zune to coincide with the release of Halo 3. With the GOW2 Zune, Microsoft has pre-loaded a bunch of Gears content on the device itself. A bunch of images of art, the entire Gears of War soundtrack, along with quite a few pieces of video content related to both Gears of War and Gears of War 2.
We were able to get our hands on the Gears of War 2 Zune before its release, and have snapped a bunch of photos showing off the fantastic box art, the Zune device itself, and all the bonus content included on the device. Be sure and check it all out in our Gears of War 2 Zune unboxing gallery.
Read More | Gears of War 2 Zune gallery
Microsoft, in a clever move, located an “I’m a PC” recording kiosk outside an Apple Store in Birmingham, England. By the way, if you really are a PC, you can upload a photo or video online and you might find yourself in one of their commercials. The company has already selected several of them in ads that are airing on network TV and are part of a $300 million advertising campaign. We’re all for any idea that doesn’t feature Gates and Seinfeld.
Read More | Apple Insider
Netflix has been busy, busy, busy. We already knew that Netflix will be available for Macs by the end of the year and on Xbox Live for Gold members next month, and now they have announced that they are adding TiVo as a partner that already includes LG, Microsoft and Samsung. You will be able to receive movies on your TiVo Series3, TiVo HD or TiVo HD XL. Testing has already begun and the service should be available to all by December.
Read More | New TeeVee