During the CES 2009 keynote, Microsoft announced that the release date for Halo Wars has been moved up, from March 3rd up to February 28th. In case you’re clueless about what that is, it’s the RTS Halo prequel. Should be fun, despite not being a shooter. Of course, you may want to try it out before committing to purchase, and you’ll be able to do just that when the demo hits the Xbox Live Marketplace on February 5th. That’ll hold you over until Halo 3: ODST launches, right?
UPDATE: We were just contacted by Xbox PR, and were notified that there was some “confusion” during the keynote, and that Halo Wars is actually still slated for release on March 3 in North America. Oh well.
Our pal Robert Scoble was able to get an early look at the new Microsoft Songsmith software, and we were impressed enough that we wanted to give you guys a look at the video. Songsmith allows you to make music, that you sing to, by generating musical accompaniment to match a singer’s voice. You sing into your mic, and the software creates the backing music for you to make you sound good. It’s not just for novices either, as you can play instruments into Somgsmith for capturing, and it includes an intelligent scratchpad to allow it to work with new melodies. Kind of hard to explain, so really, check out the video. You can download a free trial at the Songsmith page as well.
Read More | Songsmith
During the kickoff Microsoft keynote that marks the start CES, Steve Ballmer announced that Windows 7 beta is available starting today for TechNet and MSDN subscribers. Nothing too exciting there for the average Joe, we know, which is why we were excited when he also mentioned that the beta would also be publicly available beginning this Friday, January 9th. You’ll be able to grab either the 32-bit version, or the 64-bit version of the Windows 7 beta software if you are one of the first 2.5 million people to hit the download button. You just need to head to the Windows 7 product page to do so. Just be aware that the beta software will expire on August 1, 2009.
As part of the release, Microsoft was also happy to note that Windows Live Essentials, “a free suite of communications and sharing applications that make it easy for people to communicate, share and keep their online lives in sync and in one place with one login,” is now also available on a worldwide scale.
We’ve said it for months, but we will say it again, as far as digital music goes, the Zune Pass is the best deal in music. Of course, if you want to take advantage of the tracks you download using the Zune Pass, you’ll need an actual Zune device. Sure, you could hit the store and pick up one of the generic Zunes you’ll find on the store shelves of any Target or Best Buy, but why not get something a little more customized? That is where the Zune Originals line comes in. We were able to get our hands on a custom-designed Zune Originals device, and we thought we’d give you a hands-on look at what exactly it is you get when you spend an extra $15 or so on a customized Zune. As you’ll see, you get premium packaging, a neat design etched into your Zune device, a piece of artwork, etc.
For all the details, go ahead and watch the video.
By now, you have probably heard of the temporary sepuku occurring in 30 GB Zunes. If not, then you either don’t have one or undoubtedly haven’t plugged yours in the last few days. Many have suggested that the “Z2K” problem was caused by 2008 being a leap year. Microsoft offers tips if your Zune has ceased to exist. They suggest disconnection, allowing the battery to drain, then reconnect the Zune to its USB port on your computer or AC adapter. Check with Microsoft if you have questions or your own theory.
Read More | Zune FAQ
We’ve made it clear a few times that we feel that the Zune platform has progressed nicely since it’s inception, especially with the introduction of the Zune Pass, which we feel is the best deal in music today. Definitely something we recommend this holiday season. So much so, in fact, that we have put together a video showing off every Zune device that is currently available, as well as some of the cooler accessories available for the device set. We show off the Zune 80, Zune 120, Gears of War 2 Special Edition Zune, the flash Zunes, and even a Zune Originals piece.
On the accessories side, we give you a look at the Kicker stereo for Zune, a few cases, armbands, car accessories, and the Home A/V Kit. See? Told you we brought the goods to this one. Check out the video for the scoop on everything, and let us know if you end up picking any of it up.
Read More | Information Week
Last June, Dell began to charge customers $20.00 to $50.00 to downgrade to Windows XP. It was up to $100.00 by October. Now it seems that they are charging $150.00. At the same time, we recently read that Microsoft claims that 9 out of 10 Vista customers are satisfied. While we don’t believe everything we read, we keep wondering why Dell is punishing XP users and MS’s inhouse research, with figures that include licenses sold as part of a downgrade package, seems cheerfully optimistic. What do you guys think? Remember when Coke came up with a new version and nobody liked it? It just went away.
Read More | Silicon Alley Insider
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
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