Microsoft is learned to have developed a new application called Avatar Kinect that could be made available with the next XBox update. Avatar Kinect, from what we hear, is a way for XBox Live avatars to interact among themselves in a “chat room“. To put it in another way, Avatar Kinect is a video chat application where users can interact as avatars – like on Second Life – instead of being themselves. Though this does not look like a compelling new addition, the service is expected to enhance the interactive features for XBox Live users.
Microsoft will be demoing this application on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas this week. A few pictures of the CES backstage that is doing the rounds on the blogosphere shows Avatar Kinect which makes its demonstration a certainty.
Microsoft is expected to make a significant announcement during CES 2011 that will see the company unveil its new Windows-based set top box that will take on Apple and Google in the web-based set top box space. The product could be named Windows TV and will basically be a stripped-down version of the Windows OS that is customized for a television.
Microsoft should have a significant advantage over the rest considering that they are already the largest desktop OS and should be able to offer users a platform with a very familiar look and feel. Writing about this new foray, Brier Dudley from the Seattle Times writes,
“They’ll pose a serious challenge to the new Apple and Google TV devices, largely because the Windows boxes have a polished and familiar TV-program guide that makes it easy to blend and navigate both online and broadcast content”
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft integrates its computer based media platforms like Windows Media Center with a TV set top box. We will wait for an official unveiling from Microsoft at CES.
Looking for some free giveaway this new year? Bing is now offering a free music download to every user who will enter their email address on their new Holiday Season Giveaway page. The offer is restricted to the first 500,000 users who will enter the program and every signed in user will be eligible to download one music from Amazon (at a maximum price of $1.29). Of course, you will need an Amazon account to redeem your gift coupon.
The offer is expected to expire by December 31 and winners are expected to redeem their gifts by the 24th of next month. Do note that the offer is only available to American users.
In case you are wondering if there is a catch in this entire offer, well there is. The giveaway page notes,
“By providing your email address you agree to receive future communications about Bing, including the Bing newsletter. The newsletter gives you tips & tricks plus news about all the great features and programs Bing has to offer. You can unsubscribe at any time.”
So there you go. In case you are someone who doesn’t like receiving newsletters, this offer may not be for you.
Kinect, the massively popular gesture based motion controller that recently reported the sale of its 4 millionth unit could be coming to the PC soon. This speculation is courtesy a Korean game developer – GamePrix – who have announced that their newly launched PC-based MMORPG; Divine Souls will support gaming pads that will make it “resemble console games even more, and is scheduled to support Kinect“.
While it is possible that the Kinect controller for Divine Souls could be an unofficial offering, a statement by Microsoft representative Jason Lim has given the speculation a lot of credibility. In a recent interview, Lim is reported to have said,
“Kinect will soon be available as a new controller so it might be supported like joy pad mode in the future. Currently in MS, there are many game companies that are trying to apply for this system.”
If true, this is definitely an interesting proposition that could create an extended market for Kinect outside the XBox gaming audience. We will see how these ideas pan out towards the future.
Microsoft, it appears, has forayed into the MMORPG development business. The company has launched Neosaurs – a browser based multiplayer role playing game (MMORPG) that has been developed in partnership with Camelot Media Investments who are already a significant player in the MMORPG arena.
Neosaurs is currently in beta mode and requires users to sign up using Windows Live or Facebook accounts – clearly viral marketing should be a prime marketing agenda here. At the moment though, there does not seem to be significant population on the game yet. A quick visit to the game’s forums section throws a dozen threads with very few posts. But given Microsoft’s marketing reach, that should change soon.
It is an interesting case to discuss why Microsoft is working on Neosaurs in the first place and how it will integrate the game to its console gaming business. Is Neosaurs coming to the XBox soon? Or is Microsoft planning on bringing XBox gaming to the browser? It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out.
You can now register and play Neosaurs here.
Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer will be unveiling his company’s plans to take on the Apple iPad during the Consumer Electronics Show to be held in the first week of January. This is after Redmond failed to produce any goods of worth in the past one year since the company demoed HP Slate at CES 2010.
So what is Ballmer demoing this time? Word is that it is going to be primarily two devices – one made by Dell and another from Samsung. The Samsung Gloria, as it is speculated to be called, will be a 10.1″ Slate PC running Windows 7. There is however another speculation that Microsoft could also reveal finer details about the next generation Windows 8 during the demo.
There is not much information on the specs of these Windows 7 tablets though the Samsung Gloria could be equipped with a ‘slide-out’ keyboard.
Microsoft has announced a new loyalty program for their Xbox Live users. The new XBox Live Rewards loyalty program is aimed at rewarding users for their continued usage of the service and thereby win points that could be redeemed. The basic service works very much like Club Nintendo – except that instead of gears, Microsoft XBox Live users will be awarded points for every activity that they do on the service. This includes things like renewing a subscription, purchasing a family pack, buying select content from marketplace, etc. The points earned for every activity depends on whether the user is a free member or a paying member.
Points earned by members can be redeemed by purchasing content on XBox Live. For instance, a user may accumulate 1600 points to redeem a product worth $19.99 from Xbox Live marketplace. Here is a graphic that elaborates on the points that the user stands to earn on each activity. Check out the Xbox Live website to learn more and to join the Rewards program.
Windows Phone 7 may not be the best smartphone OS in the market right now. But there is no doubt that the platform has impressed a fair majority of its users. After word got around that inane updates like copy-paste could soon be making its way to the platform comes a rumor that Microsoft could be bringing a massive update to the platform.
According to popular developer Chris Walsh, the next update to Windows Phone 7 that could be coming in just a month or two from now could be very significant in that it may rather be billed Windows Phone 8. Apparently, Microsoft has been working on this update much earlier than version 1 was shipped. In a series of tweets, Walsh has noted,
“they’ve been working on this update long before they actually shipped v1…
As @tomhounsell said, MS took 3 months to do what Apple did in 3 years.
@adamUCF Let’s just say, they could have called it Windows Phone 8
While Walsh has not disclosed his sources, he has noted that more features and details shall be made available soon. We will take these with guarded skepticism for now though we look forward to hearing more about these upcoming updates.
Microsoft is reported to be in talks with a number of media companies over bringing a subscription based web TV service to Xbox consoles that could give the company an effective tool to fight Google and Apple in the new web television space. Sources have indicated that under the new plan, subscribers will pay a monthly fee to access television networks such as ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, ESPN and CNN over Xbox.
Another alternative proposal seems to be using the Xbox as an interactive layer above the service offered by cable TV. Using this, subscribers may continue to pay cable TV operators for content access but may be able to, for instance, message friends while watching a television show.
While there is not much information about the new plans on offer, Microsoft could also integrate its new expertise in motion control technology using Kinect that would let users change channels or fast-forward videos by waving their arms or using voice commands.
In addition to this, there is also a possibility of Microsoft incorporating a TV show recommendation service. You may remember our article from back in April this year where we had noted about a new Microsoft patent that talked about such a service.
These are some impressive numbers, ain’t they? Just 25 days after its launch on November 4, Microsoft has announced that their newly launched motion controller is now selling twice as fast as the iPad. The company has reported sales of 2.5 million units in this period which means an average sale of 100,000 units every day.
The numbers are not hard to fathom. Microsoft has partnered with nearly 60,000 retailers across 38 countries and thanks to the discounts and heavy shopping during the Black Friday season, the company has been able to achieve these impressive numbers. Redmond has predicted a total sale of 5 million Kinect units by the end of this year.
Quite clearly, the sale numbers do not project a worldwide success story. Last week, there were reports that suggested that Microsoft had only sold around 26,000 Kinect units in Japan through the opening weekend giving an indication that the high sale price of the motion controller in the country may have created a massive barrier to its sale. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft builds upon the popularity of the opening month to expand into the future.