The Zune, just like every other Microsoft product is a very functional and feature rich device. Unfortunately, it simply lacks the cool factor that seems to come bundled with every iPod ever shipped. Despite the intense struggles it has faced however, it seems pretty clear at this point that Microsoft is ready to stay the course and is content to scrap it out for the number two position. At least, this is the impression Joe Belfiore gave CNET News in a tell all interview on the future of the Zune. In the interview Belfiore recants his dream of a future where media flows seamlessly from Zune to Xbox or even a Mediaroom IPTV. On the subject of a Zune phone, Belifore didn’t have much to say other “stay tuned”. It’s hard to read much into that, but clearly it’s a lucrative market that could really help push the brand forward if executed properly. For those who haven’t been following the lineup, Microsoft just recently released new Zune hardware. They include a 120 GB hard drive based player to compete with the iPod classic, and an 8 GB flash drive based device to take on the iPod Nano. Both have been priced aggressively to compete with Apple going into the holiday season and in many ways are still a better value. From the interview it also seems apparent that Microsoft will continue to push hard on the value of the Zune as a social experience. Zune owners have the option of sharing playlists with friends and can even create profiles so everyone on the web will always know your favorite songs. The interview doesn’t reveal any new information, but presumably Microsoft must be carefully looking at devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch. Both represent products they can’t currently compete with under their current lineup.
If you enjoyed the first commercial starring Bill Gates and new OS pitchman Jerry Seinfeld (and judging by the comments in the accompanying news post, many of you did), then you're likely to be tickled by the latest installment, all agonizing 4 minutes of it (that's right, my PC brethren, I'm still not amused). Gates doesn't shake his tush in the latest Vista ad, but he does do the robot, or at least a 52-year-old semi-retired billionaire's version of the robot (admittedly not bad, all things considered).
The newest ad still stays mainly focused on trying to connect with current culture rather than outright attempting to whip Apple at its own game, which is to fight a battle of the OSes. But here's my beef - it's just not amusing, to me anyway. There are subtle (and some not so subtle) messages to be picked up on in both commercials, but just as I didn't find myself chuckling at the whole Shoe Circus setting, I'm equally unimpressed watching a couple of rich guys trying to coexist with the common folk (props to the spunky grandma, the sole shining star so far in this ad campaign). Taken to the extreme, as Gizmodo alludes to, the commercials' failure to live up to expectations ironically mimic the same characteristic that described Vista when it first debuted.
There's a particular line that stands out in this new commercial. After Gates and Seinfeld are caught stealing a leather giraffe, the man of the home tells the unlikely duo "I'm disappointed in the both of you." Me too.
Am I just being a hater, or are you guys and gals still digging these introductory commercials? Maybe I'm just bitter that Will Ferrell didn't end up with the role.
While Crockford says we need a new war, I'd argue that we've already got a dandy one going on right now: IE is being challenged by Mozilla Firefox, while Google Chrome has just entered the ring to go head-to-head with Opera and Apple Safari to fight for third place.
To find out why I think Browser War II is already on, and why it might turn out a lot better than the first war of the browsers, join us after the jump.
When developing Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft’s top priority wasn’t building the browser for speed, but making sure that the user interface was unlike any other.
During a press demonstration for Beta 2, Microsoft’s product marketing director, Stephani Kimmberlan, explained that the browser wasn’t built for performance benchmarking, and that it would be premature to run speed tests on the browser before its final release.
Kimmerlan also noted that the browser’s important features were “user-interface enhancements”; things like the Accelerators (a basic, right-click shortcut menu) are just part of the many ways IE8 automates near simple tasks for easier accessibility.
Microsoft also demonstrated the browser’s enhanced search box feature, adding that unlike Google’s Chrome, the search feature didn’t send any data back to home base.
Face it, activation is a failure. For power users who frequently upgrade their PCs, dialing in to reactivate the OS is beyond irritating. Instead, Microsoft must come up with a novel way to punish pirates without annoying its paying customers. (May we suggest displaying massive popup ads in pirate copies of Windows?) For legitimate customers, a realistic home-licensing program—buy one copy at full price, get four more upgrades for $50 to $100 each—would go a long way toward creating goodwill.
Thankfully, that very strange Bill Gates + Jerry Seinfeld TV ad isn't the only way that Microsoft is reaching out to a customer base that's still suspicious of Windows Vista. The San Jose Mercury News' SiliconValley.com website reports that Microsoft is planning to put 155 "Microsoft Gurus" into big-box electronics stores like Best Buy and Circuit City to help improve how Windows Vista and other parts of the Windows ecosystem are received by retail customers. It's part of a $300 million marketing campaign that also includes closer cooperation between Microsoft and major computer OEMs to make Windows faster and more reliable.
According to the official Microsoft news release, you can expect to see the gurus located in specially-branded 'store within a store' locations by year's end, using techniques being developed at Microsoft's Redmond-based Retail Experience Center (see photo at the start of this article).
Microsoft compares its new retail methodology to the personal shoppers employed by high-end stores such as as Nordstrom, while others suggest comparisons with the Apple "Genius Bars" located in Apple retailers. One difference: Microsoft Gurus are tasked with handling pre-sales questions only , while the Apple Genius Bar personnel can also provide technical support.
For anyone who's ever had to drive off a commission-based computer salesperson's desperate struggle to load you up with a lifetime's supply of ink or toner, a USB cable for each finger, or other high-margin goods, one question is, 'how will Microsoft Gurus be paid?' SiliconValley.com quotes Microsoft GM of Corporate Communications, Tom Pilla, as saying a major determining factor will be customer satisfaction and their "ability to translate the technology to a language consumers feel comfortable with."
So, how do you think the Microsoft Guru program will work out? For your chance to sound off, see us after the jump.
We sat down with Microsoft to hear the company’s side of the Vista story. What lessons have been learned following the worst Windows launch in the company’s history? Is Microsoft doing enough to regain PC users’ faith?
Way back in January 2007, after years of hype and anticipation, Microsoft unveiled Windows Vista to a decidedly lukewarm reception by the PC community, IT pros, and tech journalists alike. Instead of a revolutionary next-generation OS that was chock-full of new features, the Windows community got an underwhelming rehash with very little going for it. Oh, and Vista was plagued with performance and incompatibility problems to boot.
Since then, the PC community has taken the idea that Vista is underwhelming and turned it into a mantra. We’ve all heard about Vista’s poor network transfer speeds, low frame rates in games, and driver issues—shoot, we’ve experienced the problems ourselves. But over the last 18 months, Vista has undergone myriad changes, including the release of Service Pack 1, making the OS worth a second look. It’s time we determine once and for all whether we should stick with XP for the next 18 months while we wait for Windows 7. But before we answer that question, let’s review exactly what’s wrong with Windows Vista.
We knew Microsoft wouldn’t forget about us gamers. Yesterday, they debuted a new mouse-tracking technology in the Explorer mouse, which is targeted toward “productivity” users. We were a little skeptical of Bluetrack’s application for gaming, since the Explorer only has a 1000Dpi sensor. Well, Microsoft has assuaged all fears with the announcement of the Sidewinder X8, a BlueTrack mouse which has a sweet 4000 dpi sensor. This high-end gaming mouse is a step up from the original Sidewinder (which will remain in production), and retains features we like from the series: a Dpi adjustor with LCD indicator, vertical thumb buttons, and customizable weights (features which were omitted from the lower-end X5 model). We got some hands-on time with the X8, and was able to put it side-by-side with its non-BlueTrack siblings.
Hit the jump to check out the entire Sidewinder family.
If you play vidoegames, there's something wrong with you.
No, no, not in the "And your face is dumb and those pants do, indeed, have people mistaking you for a land-walrus" sense; I mean that you're genuinely dissatisfied with some aspect of your life. At the very basest level, you're bored. Life, at the clock tick during which you choose to plop down with a controller, just isn't giving you the pulse-pounding rush you desire. That's a problem, and gaming is your escape.
Thus, we walk right into the term "escapism." The moment you hit the power button and leave a game world's towering doors swinging wide in your wake, your mid-level job, your annoying roommate, and your walrus-pants are all left pounding their fists on the other side.
But that's where our paths diverge.
For instance, my mind wanders when its juices aren't crashing toward one coherent goal. To properly leave my world behind, I need another established world to focus on. I need a game that'll pour so many thoughts into my mind that all of my real world baggage gets crowded out.
However, you might be different. You might enjoy sitting back, relaxing, and turning off all but your basest inhibitory functions. You might be a Nintendo fan. After all, who really wants to think after a tough day in the office?
So, when you're bitter, sore and nursing a severe case of the Mondays, which games help you escape? Do you kick back with something simple and fluffy, or do you absorb yourself in more complex fare?
Well, either way, today's Roundup is nearly guaranteed to slump your tensely hunched shoulders. Unless you're emotionally invested in the well-being of Ensemble Studios, Fallout 3's global censorship, or your inability to ever play Portal 2 as a result of the world's untimely end, this Roundup is like slipping into a steamy bath.
You gotta give some credit to the Zune, who despite weaker-than-expected sales and the inevitable release of new, updated players from Apple’s popular iPod lineup (as well as an iTunes upgrade), attempts its hand at persuadable marketing with new emphasis on the media player’s wireless capabilities.
According to Microsoft, the Zune promises to take music discovery “to the next level” by offering users the ability to wirelessly download and stream millions of song from wireless hot spots around the country. Zune’s software and firmware updates will allow users to purchase music directly from the built-in FM radio as well as wirelessly access the Zune store on the go. And if wireless isn’t available, the media player will queue the download until the user is back in a connected area.
Microsoft is attempting to take advantage of the fact that its player has wireless capabilities and the user can purchase the song as soon as he or she discovers it from the radio, in a store, from a commercial, etc. Zune customers will also have the option to pay for music per song or by purchasing a Zune Pass.