We knew Microsoft was planing to do away with the Zune brand, and today the company revealed its new music service during its E3 Media Breifing. Xbox Music will soon be released for the Xbox 360, Windows Phone, and Windows 8. During the presentation, we were able to see that the service takes on the Metro UI, staying consistent with the Xbox 360, Windows Phone, and Windows branding. Expect over 30 million tracks to be available at launch, with the Smart DJ feature that was popular with Zune users to stick around. Microsoft also mentioned that Xbox Music will give you access to your music collection from "any screen," but we don't know if that means we should expect iOS and Android apps like they'll be released for Xbox SmartGlass, or if it just means that you'll be able to access your music from a web browser, similar to Zune. Xbox Music is set to launch later this year.
That Xbox SmartGlass rumor that we posted at the eleventh-hour has turned out to be true. During the Microsoft E3 Media Briefing this morning, the company gave all the details of the ambitious Xbox SmartGlass feature. SmartGlass is an app that will be available on Windows 8, smartphones, and tablets that will allow the user to view and use content that is tied to the game or video you're currently enjoying. SmartGlass is meant to be used as a second screen, and a great example was given using Game of Thrones. While watching the show on HBO Go on the Xbox 360, you can use the SmartGlass app to view an interactive map that shows where the action in each scene is taking place, offering content and more informational metadata about the show.
Microsoft has just revealed some major changes as it pertains to the user interface of Windows 8. Gone is the popular Aero Glass theme that shipped with Windows Vista and Windows 7. It's being replaced with a flatter design that seems to match the boxy shapes that we've been seeing on the Xbox 360, Windows Phone, and the Windows RT Metro UI. It does seem to make sense, although we always thought that Aero Glass was certainly visually appealing. Microsoft says it's confident that users will find the new UI less distracting.
Within the same announcement, the company takes you back in time with a tour through various Windows interfaces, starting with the original Windows 1. Good stuff.
Read More | Building Windows 8
Once again, Microsoft is going to be offering a free Xbox 360 for students who buy a qualifying PC. The computers start at $699, and when purchased at certain retailers, a 4 GB Xbox 360 will be thrown in gratis beginning on May 18. Up in Canada, students are welcome to the same deal, and the PCs start at $599. Participating retailers include Dell, Best Buy, Newegg (see our Newegg promo code thread,) Fry's Electronics, Staples, Future Shop, the Microsoft Store, and more.
Wanna save even more cash? Wait to make the purchase until June 2, when the Windows 8 upgrade program is set to launch, allowing PC buyers to upgrade to Windows 8 for just $15.
Read More | Windows Team Blog
Dropbox has updated its Mac and Windows apps with the ability to upload photos and videos directly from cameras, smartphones, tablets, SD cards (pretty much anything that can capture photos or media,) directly to your Dropbox account. The feature has been in beta for a couple of months, and has now been rolled out to the masses.
Worried about all those extra pics taking up your storage space? Dropbox has you covered there as well. With the first image you upload, Dropbox will increase your storage by 500 MB. Then, for every additional 500 MB of photos and videos you upload, they'll grant you another 500 MB of space, up to a total 3 GB of extra storage. Even better, if you decide you no longer want your images in your Dropbox, simply delete them--you'll keep the extra 3 GB of space!
Download the latest version of Dropbox to get in on the action.
Read More | Dropbox
Today Microsoft released the Windows 8 Consumer Preview to the world, and it's been the talk of the day. Why? Well, Windows 8 is a huge departure from everything that Windows has ever been, and at the same time, it's very different than what you'd expect from OS X as well. Sure, both Mountain Lion and Windows 8 are super touch-centric, but Microsoft truly decided to come up with some new, innovative, and different techniques for the next major version of Windows, and now anyone can give it a try. A word of warning though--this is a preview in every sense of the word. If you prefer, we can call it a beta. This isn't final software, so don't expect it to be all buttery smooth. Still wanna try it though? Yeah, we thought so. Head on over to Microsoft to download it!
It looks like two Microsoft products are about to get killed off (or really, renamed) with the release of Windows 8. When the next major Windows OS launches, that'll be the end of the Zune and Windows Live brands. Yep, Microsoft is finally getting rid of the brand that was supposed to rival the Apple's iPod/iTunes ecosystem, but failed miserably. It’s not just the physical player they’re killing off - they did that last year while holding onto Zune as the name of the desktop software and music service. Now, Zune will be no more.
In addition, in an effort to further simplify things, the Windows Live brand is also going away. Here's a look at what to expect, and what will replace the two brands:
- Microsoft Account (Windows Live ID)
- Mail (Windows Live Mail)
- Calendar (Windows Live Calendar)
- People (Windows Live Contacts)
- Photos (Windows Live Photo Gallery)
- Music (Zune Music Player)
- Video (Zune Video Player)
We also wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft replaced Zune with a streaming music service similar to Spotify. The sad part is that Zune could have been what Spotify Premium currently offers had Microsoft been more forward thinking with the concept. We've actually said many times in the past that the Zune Pass was the best deal in music. Currently there are other well-established music services with dedicated users like Spotify, Rdio, MOG, and Rhapsody. If this is Microsoft’s attempt to dominate a new market, we sure hope they've got a better plan than they did with the original Zune launch.
Read More | The Verge
If you haven’t already realized, Firefox 10 is now available, and we definitely recommend that you upgrade. As far as the UI is concerned, the most notable change is to the “forward” button. That is that there isn’t one, at least unless you hit the “back” button first. New APIs allow for Anti-aliased WebGL graphics, full screen viewing of apps, and a few other nifty features. CSS 3D transitions are now supported as well.
Of course with all new things there are bound to be a few problems, and with Firefox 10 on OS X, Silverlight videos don't load and there are some jerky Gmail scrolling problems (as well as general trackpad scrolling issues) that Mozilla needs to get sorted out.
Microsoft on Tuesday brought its Windows 8 road show to San Francisco, where the company previewed its upcoming Windows Store for app developers and media. The key ingredients of the Windows Store are easy app discovery from within and without the online marketplace, built-in app trials with quick upgrade paths, support for both x86 and ARM-based hardware, and a flexible business model, Microsoft's Antoine Leblond said.
The Windows Store will open in beta in late February of next year in conjunction with the Windows 8 rollout schedule. That trial period will feature free apps only and app submissions will be by invitation only, Leblond said.
The software giant has a long way to go to catch up with the likes of Apple and Google in developing an online marketplace for what Microsoft calls "metro-style" apps, but IDC analyst Al Hilwa said the Windows Store was a step in the right direction.
"There is a lot to like in the new app store," Hilwa said. "I like that Microsoft is launching the app store early and that enterprises will be able to side load apps as needed and that Microsoft is promising hopefully early support for this process in its management tools. For developers I like some of the second-generation features baked in and ready to roll, such as in-app payment system, the advertising network, and the developer analytics features."
Microsoft released its Windows 8 Developer Preview and free developer tools to the public for download last night. It's intended to help developers start building apps for the forthcoming newest version of Microsoft's operating system. But that won't stop hordes of regular users from installing it anyway, just to get a sneak peek.
We got our hands on a copy of the software and figured that the most compelling system to install it on was a Apple MacBook Air 13-inch running Boot Camp. For the most part, the Windows 8 Developer Preview installed and ran smoothly on the Air despite being the first public build. It's stable enough that I didn't encounter heat issues, the infamous blue-screen of death (yet), or even a single application crash.
There are some key MacBook Air components that Windows 8 didn't recognize, however. These included the speakers, SD card reader, webcam, and Bluetooth, although a sophisticated user could probably tinker with current Windows drivers and get some of them to work. The good news is that the essential ones, such as Wi-Fi, the keyboard, trackpad, and USB ports, worked perfectly.
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