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productivity

A few days ago new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed his full time employees via email, and made some REALLY bold statements.   I love the way Mary Jo Foley organized all of this.   This is what I took away from her article.

1.    We’re no longer a “devices and services company,” as defined by former CEO Steve Ballmer.
2.    It’s all about productivity and platforms. In fact, Microsoft is going to reinvent productivity.

According to Nadella, “Microsoft [at its core] is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

Nadella plans on pushing the productivity software and services that power “digital work and life experiences.”   While he’s thinking it would be nice of that OS would be Windows/Windows Phone on the client side, he’s really thinking Microsoft Azure and Windows Server. Nadella is making it clear that it doesn’t matter WHAT client OS is driving the end user, he wants to build software and services that empower users to do more REGARDLESS of client OS (so, yes, that means Android, iOS and Blackberry on the mobile side as well as OS X and Linux on the desktop). It clearly doesn’t matter to him.

Nadella also extended this vision to game consoles as well. According to Nadella, Xbox is one of Microsoft’s core businesses. It can influence and tie in other Microsoft products.

“Xbox is one of the most-revered consumer brands, with a growing online community and service, and a raving fan base. We also benefit from many technologies flowing from our gaming efforts into our productivity efforts – core graphics and NUI in Windows, speech recognition in Skype, camera technology in Kinect for Windows, Azure cloud enhancements for GPU simulation and many more. Bottom line, we will continue to innovate and grow our fan base with Xbox while also creating additive business value for Microsoft.”

That should stop all the Xbox naysayers and give Xbox fans a bit of reassurance.   The company intends to not only support but grow the business unit for its popular game console. Talk selling it off can be put to rest.

July seems destined to be a month of change for Microsoft.   “Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy,” according to Nadella. Many will say this implies a reorg and reduction in force. It probably does.   It’s not uncommon after a merger. Microsoft said it expected to save $600M by combining it and Nokia.   Wall Street sees a RIF coming, as it’s always an easy way to realize cost savings after redundancies are found in combined companies. Microsoft is also further streamlining its engineering processes. Microsoft is undoing the functional management structure Ballmer put in place before he left. The times, they are a changin’.

What do you think of Microsoft’s proposed changes?   Will this make a difference that you can see?   Will the way they reinvent themselves provide you with the tools you need?   For example, will having Office on Android (as well as iOS) make a difference for you? Will revised versions of MS Office for Mac or even a version for Linux (not announced… I’m just supposing, here) make a difference?   It’s been over four years since Microsoft released a version of Office for Mac; and as I just noted, there isn’t a version for Linux.   Users of those two desktop operating systems don’t always reach for Microsoft tools first.   If Microsoft makes them available, will you use them, or stick with the alternatives you’ve been forced to find because they historically haven’t been there?   With Microsoft looking to provide productivity tools to everyone, regardless of computer or device type or OS, would you be more apt/ likely/ willing to use their products or services?   Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think?

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OUYA hits the gaming market for real

Since Nintendo released WiiU, Microsoft announced its new gaming console XBOX ONE and Sony is ready to deliver the new PS4, new developers are ready to hit the market with new gaming consoles. And what better way to become a well known competitor but to release a console using Android. This means low hardware requirements, a very active community that is eager to develop new games for any Android gadget and free to try products that offers the user a complete view of their quality. Boxer8 is the company responsible for the first gaming console based on Android operating system called Ouya.

Everything started as a Kickstarter project back in 2012 when Julie Uhrman decided it’s time for a change in the gaming industry. Along with designer Yves Béhar and Muffi Ghadiali as product manager, the project became an immediately hit in the Kickstarter community becoming the second highest-earning project. As a result, Ouya became reality and is already being shipped to the first costumers for the price of $99.

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The great value of this gadget comes from its simplicity. A single gamepad and a small block almost the size of a Raspberry Pi brings your TV back to life in 1080p. The ‘free to try’ philosophy promoted for each game released on Ouya’s own marketplace means that you can try the game for free for a limited period of time and if you like it only then you can buy it. All you’ll need is a valid credit card, debit card or redeemable code. Flexibility is another strong point of this console. They are offering a free developing kit in order to give the chance for any game aficionado to develop and publish their own creations.

From the technical point of view, Ouya features a NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage (expandable via USB), WiFi and Ethernet. You can download games, stream videos or music from Twitch.tv, Crunchyroll, iheartradio, TuneIn, XBMC, Plex and Flixster in Full HD quality. An interesting fact is that the company encourages the user to unscrew the device and do some modding without losing the warranty.

The Ouya controller is similar in design with the Xbox controller featuring dual analogue sticks, a directional pad positioned under the left stick, 4 buttons (labeled O, U, Y and A) and the usual back bumpers and triggers. The single-touch touchpad in the center of the controller is the thing that differentiate both gamepads. It may be possible to use alternate controllers but only for compatible games.

On a market ruled by titanic black boxes Ouya is a small ray of light. It is the most user-friendly console on the market with an open minded character giving the user the chance to modify and even root it without voiding the warranty.

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Xbox One and Only

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Microsoft revealed their new multimedia console on May 21, 2013. Also known as the Durango project, the new console is the third iteration in the Xbox family. Officially named as Xbox One, this console brings the series to the next level of gaming experience, at least from the hardware point of view.

Unlike Xbox 360 which featured a PowerPC architecture, Xbox One comes with a x86 based one, making the backward compatibility with Xbox 360 games just a dream which will never come true. The processing speed will be determined by 8 GB of DDR3 RAM from which 3 GB will be reserved for apps and OS, the rest of memory being left for the actual games. The graphics unit is based on an AMD GCM architecture. Also the the new Xbox will not have a composite or component video output. The video and audio input and output will be combined into a HDMI 1.4 support which is ready for a 4K video resolution (3840×2160) and 7.1 surround sound output.

Microsoft went to a more simplified design for their new console, similar to PS3 featuring a two-tone “liquid black” finish and a boxy look. By all means, Xbox One is like a black box, with no replaceable components. Even the 500 GB hard drive cannot be changed or removed. The good thing about this design is that the console looks much more compact, with no moving parts. Even the Blu-Ray drive features a fixed retractable system for a more secure way of reading the discs.

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In case you want to borrow some games from your friend, you should know that the game discs can be played on more than one console, but only after you pay a fee in order to unlock it on your console. That’s because the games are tied to both Xbox One console and Xbox Live account. Even if the game features only singleplayer you need to have 24 h internet access in order to play it.

The Kinect sensor is now part of the whole system. This means that Xbox One will not function without the sensor plugged in. The new Kinect uses a 1080p wide-angle view in comparison to the VGA resolution of the previous version, and has the ability to process a huge amount of data to read its environment. Therefore the sensor can now track up to 6 players at once, including their heart rate, and their gestures performed with the Xbox One controller.

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The Xbox One controller maintains the overall look from the Xbox 360 design. If it works, why would you change it? The design of the directional pad has been changed to a four-way button while the battery compartment is slimmer. The big addition here are the triggers which will feature independent rumble motors which simulate directional vibrations. Imagine firing a gun with a trigger. On the xbox 360 gamepad you would get a vibration effect in the whole surface of the controller. But now, with the new technology, the vibration will focused only on the trigger.

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A digital video recorder is the new component available in Xbox One, which empowers the user to record his gameplay. The user can also edit and share their video creations using built-in video editing tools. Unfortunately no one known at the moment if the DVR component will be able to record video from cable or satellite TV services.

The console is schedules to be released at the end of this year. Overall it seems that Microsoft will mark a new financial success with Xbox OneMore, and will be able to attract new users in their ecosystem, because their gimmick  is not just a gaming console, but more of a media center which  can easily compete against with other similar products like Apple TV and Google TV platform. More details and info will be presented exclusively at E3 2013.

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