The iPhone Cometh to T-Mobile

I saw an article today that indicated that T-Mobile USA would finally start selling Apple products in 2013. This makes a great deal of sense considering that T-Mobile has been doing a great deal of spectrum refarming, moving support for their HSPA+ network to include the iPhone compatible, 1900mHz band.

A short while ago, I wrote an article for BYTE indicating that despite the spectrum refarming, T-Mo USA would never, ever, EVER carry the iPhone. The big reason wasn’t frequency compatibility like everyone thought, especially with the spectrum refarming. The problem for tiny T-Mo was the huge device subsidy fees, as well as the device quotas that Apple would require of them. Sprint paid well over $1.0B USD to carry the iDevice.

In order to eliminate the need for a subsidy, T-Mo will carry the device, but charge the customer full price for it. Meaning that the T-Mo branded iPhone will likely cost between $650 to $850, depending on the amount of onboard storage. The voice and data plans will cost the customer a lot less as a result; and will be classified under T-Mo’s Value program.

The iPhone isn’t the only device that will go full price on T-Mo. All of their devices will go that way in 2013. Many T-Mo customers may choke on that, but in order to soften the blow, T-Mo will setup installment payments over 20 months if users can’t handle the full down stroke at contract start. While this may look like a device subsidy, it isn’t, and will still save users money over the 20 month installment period, according to T-Mobile USA.

The only thing really up in the air is when T-Mo will actually offer the device. T-Mo’s spectrum refarming should be completed by May 2013; and they may roll the device out nationally then. Apple tests the iPhone on every carrier LTE network before they allow the carrier to enable LTE support. T-Mobile won’t launch their LTE network until the second half of 2013; and as such, I’m guessing that Apple and T-Mobile USA will likely support the iPhone 5S (or 7th generation iPhone), making their inaugural announcement on stage, with Apple in September or October of 2013.

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Can You See The Big Picture?

If you’re familiar with Steam then you’ll know it’s a gaming platform that allows users to share and play games from small developers to giants as well as a community area and the option to play multi-player with users around the globe. It’s all about giving you access to the games you love and the people you want to play against. Well now it’s even easier to access with the introduction of Steam’s Big Picture.

Big Picture has been available in beta for some time, but Valve has only just released the full version, and thus far it’s looking good!

If you’re a fan of Steam then this can only be good news, a new way to play your favourite games, from the comfort of your living room. What’s more it’s a method of PC/TV gaming that feels intuitive and natural, unlike trying to view most PC platforms on a big screen. It includes all the functionality you have on your PC or MAC, just designed to look, feel and work in a more TV screen friendly way.

All you have to do is link your computer up to your TV or other large screen and select the ‘Big Picture’ button in the top right corner. Doing so will not only expand your window, but also offer a whole range of new functionality for better playing, browsing and more comfortable viewing on a large screen. Great news if you like to chill on the sofa while gaming!

Even better the new Daisywheel text input is optimised for use with a game pad – making it easier than ever before to type without a keyboard. Valve is describing Big Picture’s browser as the world’s first, first person browser. It is inspired by first person shooter games and rather than moving the cursor, the screen pans and the cursor remains stationary. The ideal browser a) for use with a game pad and b) for people who are used to using Steam on a regular basis who are likely to be prolific gamers.

So now it’s possible for you to get the same feel when using Steam on even the biggest of screens, without having to use the clunky mouse and keyboard set up on your knee.

That being said if you love the Big Picture usability but prefer to use your PC or laptop then you can, and equally it’ll work with your keyboard and mouse just as well as it will with a game pad. Big Picture is all about giving gamers options, Steam users will now find it so easy to access their favourite games in an easy to use manner. Whether they’re behind their computer or using the TV. It essentially makes your TV feel like a console, whilst still offering your favourite games that you may have originally played on your PC. An amazing feat, and something that hasn’t really been done before.
It’s exciting stuff, and we’re looking forward to find out what Valve will do with Steam next. Can you see the Big Picture?

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Microsoft Should Focus on Innovation

Recent MS Survey Wants to Ask Users How it can Improve Customer Support…

Sorry… I’m not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, but I really just can’t let this go.

I recently agreed to take a Microsoft survey on TechNET satisfaction. I’m a TechNET Pro subscriber and have been for about three years. It’s a great value, especially if you use MS software and have more than a couple PC’s to install it on.

One of the questions near the end of the survey asked – “To provide a better Customer Support experience, who could Microsoft best learn from, and why?”

My answer is below; but the point is not the first part of the first sentence – “Apple; but MS’ problems aren’t customer support, its relevance in the industry. Surface is a good start, but its WAY overpriced. MS should have taken the financial hit and priced Surface RT & Pro tablets for volume, not margin.”

The question came near the end of the survey; but it really didn’t sit well with me. I give MS high marks for being concerned about customer support; but they have bigger fish to fry than that. They need to figure out how to get back in the game.

Their Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets are significantly over priced. Similar partner products are not going to undercut the base level prices MS has set for both tablets at $499 and $899 respectively; and regardless of how awesome they may or may not be, this is a problem. MS Surface tablets should be priced to compete with 3rd party Android tablets – the Kindle Fires, the Galaxy Tabs/Notes which are low to high end respectively. Surface tablets should top out at $499-$599. Not start there.

Microsoft’s approach is to compete directly with Apple in both feature and price sets. They can’t afford to do that. Not at this late date, not with their late to market products in a market place that’s saturated with better established, competitors with more mature products. They need to come in low priced and fight the volume/low margin battle before stepping it up a notch. By pricing things where they are, I’m afraid that Microsoft has priced themselves right out of the market, and possibly, right out of business.

Windows 8 is likely the company’s last big (relevant) hurrah if it doesn’t take. While many enterprise customers will likely stick with Windows XP and Widnows 7 for a number of years to come, once support for both finally sunsets, moving business users to Windows 8 may be problematic.

In my opinion, the best thing that MS can do is push Windows 8 with all of the tools they have. This includes both Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets, and having them available at a much more attractive price point could have been huge for them. They chose to hit their margin targets on individual units rather than via volume.

It was a choice to make. I think it’s the wrong choice, but honestly, only time will really tell there. We’ll have to wait and see.

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Far Cry 3 has been released

Following the European release from November 30, Ubisoft is ready to deliver on the North American market the third installment in the Far Cry franchise. Far Cry 3 is the sequel to the 2008 Far Cry 2 and is a comeback to the tropical island environment. Based on the same open world concept found in the other titles of the franchise, Far Cry 3 brings powerful characters and a thriller story, important elements that have been mistreated in the former two titles of the series.

Far Cry 3 is not a common open world first-person shooter. The player will face some role-playing elements including experience points, skill trees, and a crafting system. Beside these complex elements of gameplay, the player will have the ability to take cover behind objects and also shoot from the cover position. In case you want to choose the stealth way, your character can now perform takedowns from above, below or behind. You can also track down the enemies by tagging them with your camera.

Far Cry 3 has been received by the critics with positive reviews, praising the detailed environment which is now ten times bigger than the one present in Far Cry 2, and powerful characters that bring an in-depth story to the gameplay.

An interesting fact is that Michael Lambert, well-known for his Minecraft mods, along with artist Axel Janssen and Yohann Delcourt has been named by Ubisoft to create a custom map featuring textures that should recreate the  Far Cry 3 setting and characters in the popular indie game Minecraft. The mod can be downloaded from the official Far Cry 3 website.

The best lines to describe this game cited from the publisher description: “Play drinking games and poker, compete in car races and shooting challenges. Take on these challenges to earn money and immerse yourself in the island’s lifestyle… when you’re not fighting for your life.”

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