Microsoft’s performance during the fourth quarter not only exceeded the Street’s expectations but also saved some blushes. The Redmond-based company earned $16.04 billion in revenue, a 22% rise compared to the same period last year, and enough to get it past Apple’s quarterly revenue of $15.7 billion. The Street had foreseen Apple bettering Microsoft’s quarterly revenue for the first time ever, but MS had other plans.
Windows 7 continued its stellar performance during the quarter and, along with Office 2010, accounted for a large part of the company’s growth. “We saw strong sales execution across all of our businesses, particularly in the enterprise with Windows 7 and Office 2010,” said Kevin Turner, chief operating officer.
According to a press release issued by the company, “Operating income, net income and diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $5.93 billion, $4.52 billion and $0.51 per share, which represented increases of 49%, 48% and 50%, respectively, when compared with the prior year period.”
If Microsoft’s been your main Kool Aid supplier for the past few months, then the Kinect-centric future of gaming is looking bright indeed. Your piggy bank’s future, however, might not be all sunny skies and rainbows, seeing as Microsoft’s oddly named motion control camera’s sporting a price tag that may just send it squealing for the hills in terror.
For $150, you’ll nab Kinect and a copy of Kinect Adventures, a minigame collection ostensibly created to give you a quick taste of what Kinect can really do. Obviously, that price alone -- while a tad steep – isn’t anything that can’t be surmounted by a few skipped meals and some serious sofa-spelunking. However, you can pick up a Wii bundled with two games and Wii Motion Plus for only $200 – which even puts the now-confirmed 4GB Xbox Arcade/Kinect bundle’s $300 price tag to shame.
Sony’s Move motion controller, meanwhile, tipped the scales at $100, making Microsoft’s motion offering the most expensive of the three. Granted, accuracy, sensitivity, games, and time will tell who really reigns supreme, but we’re not entirely sure if we’re willing to spend $150 on a controller – even if it will let us fiddle around in menus like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. For now, consider us skeptics – although a certain upcoming lightsaber game might be able to Jedi mind trick us into playing an incredibly one-sided match of a game we like to call “Hammers” with our piggy bank.
All then attention right now is on Microsoft's revamped Xbox 360 console, which sports a sleek new design and runs both cooler and quieter. So can we also expect a redesigned Xbox 360 Arcade?
Word on the Web is that Microsoft is readying a new Xbox 360 Slim Arcade bundle that will up the storage ante to 4GB. It's not clear how that additional storage will be added, only that it won't be in the form of a hard drive. That leaves two options - increasing the embedded 512MB to 4GB, or supplementing it with a USB key.
The rumor mill also reports a small price drop could be forthcoming. New models might ship for $189 instead of $199, which isn't a whole lot of ducats, but still enticing considering the additional storage.
After months of speculation, Hulu has finally revealed their premium paid service, called Hulu Plus. Users will pay $9.99 per month for the privilege to access additional content not available on the free version. Subscribers to the new service will also be able to enjoy content on a number of new devices like iPads, iPhones, and Blu-Ray players. Support for the PS3 is expected sometime in July, and the Xbox will get a Live Gold tie in early in 2011.
It's unclear if users will respond positively to this new pay model. Hulu was created to discourage illegal distribution of content. Adding a pay wall could just drive users back to old habits. That being said, the regular Hulu isn't going away. The big difference will be the full seasons of programs on the Plus service. The free Hulu only offers a few episodes of popular shows. Items from the back catalog will also be made available on Hulu Plus. Depending on the platform, some content will be available in 720p.
We're a little concerned that it is being escribed as an "ad-supported subscription product". It looks like the fee won't get rid of the ads. For the time being, the service is invitation only. You can sign up here to request access. Is this something you'd pay for? If not, what is still missing for you?
Popular video streaming service Hulu is rumored to be talking to both Time Warner and CBS about adding additional content to a possible paid version of the site. The details aren't yet available, but sources say the new content would roll out behind a pay wall of some sort starting in September.
If Hulu could tempt CBS, it would be a major coup for the company. They already have support from Fox, NBC, and ABC. Adding the fourth major TV studio could be a selling point for many consumers. If the September date does hold up, the timing seems perfect for a new season of TV to be available online. We could also see the rollout of the Xbox 360 and iPad Hulu apps at that time. It would make sense for Hulu to make the biggest splash possible when the pay service finally opens up.
It's not clear what benefits a paid Hulu account would provide. What sort of features would you need to see before paying up?
The American Dream, which calls for a wife, 2.5 kids, and a white picket fence, never took into consideration the mounting cost of Xbox Live Gold memberships for the entire family, which adds up rather quickly. To help address this, come November Microsoft will begin selling Xbox Live Gold Family Packs for $100, which will offer up to four individual Gold memberships for the price of two.
More than just four Live Gold accounts, the Family Pack also opens up a few additional perks, including a new Family Center accessible through the Xbox dashboard. As Microsoft explains it, you can expect easier family management, access to activity monitoring reports, and the ability to purchase and give away Microsoft Points to little Johnny rather than pay him an allowance.
There will also be exclusive family content and discounts, though Microsoft didn't outline exactly what these would entail. For more info, check out the full press release here.
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you want anything done, you have to do it yourself.”
Well, it’s a lie. Doing stuff is hard. Don’t believe us? Then here’s an object lesson: E3 happened last week. Now, you have two choices. You could turn the Internet upside-down, scouring hundreds of blogs, RSS feeds, and tweets for every last crumb of the information you so crave, or you could just let us do it for you.
Huh? Oh, hey. Would you look at that? We already did it. And you didn’t even have to lift a finger. Well, okay, you’ll have to lift one, actually, in order to click past the break. That’s still a pretty good deal, though, we think. And hopefully, we’ll have Maximum PC’s brand new telepathy-based “read more” link tech up and running in time for next year’s E3. Fingers crossed. Unless you don’t want to lift them.
We had a feeling this was coming, and now it's official. With the launch of the new, slimmer Xbox 360 console, Microsoft went the sensible route and trimmed $50 off the price of the current-gen Arcade and Elite models, which now run $149 and $249, respectively.
The price cuts apply to Limited Edition consoles too, such as Modern Warfare 2, Splinter Cell, and Final Fantasy XIII bundles. These packages now cost $349 instead of $399, assuming you can find a vendor who still has these in stock (and it's not too difficult just yet).
According to Fudzilla, the price cuts are just the beginning. Citing un-named sources, the news and rumor site claims Microsoft will soon discontinue the older Xbox 360 consoles and push just the new slim version, which will likely come in bundles of their own.
Speaking of waving things around in your hand (see previous news post), Microsoft has made official the rebadging of Project Natal to Kinect.
Details are still pouring in as E3 gets set to kick off, but a little more was revealed during a Kinect-themed 45-minute theatrical performance by Cirque du Soleil. Most of the new info involved upcoming game titles which, according to USA Today, will include:
Kinectimals: train and play with 20 different types of virtual cats, includng a lion, cheetah, and tiger
Joyride: a racing game where users will position their hands around an imaginary steering wheel
Kinect Sports: six sports games to choose from, including boxing, bowling, volleyball, track and field, soccer, and table tennis
Kinect Adventures: river rafting game
Dance Central: an MTV Games project involving full-body dancing without the need for a controller
Star Wars: probably will involve light saber duels
"For lots of people, that controller is a barrier," says creative director Kudo Tsunoda. "We set out to make a new control paradigm where anybody can get in and play, without having to read the instructions or learn a complicated set of controls."
Kinect's built-in camera will employ facial and voice recognition. You'll be able to control Netflix menus with hand gestures, as well as fast forward though a recorded TV program just by waving your arm about.
Pricing, release date, and other details have yet to be disclosed, though we suspect to know a lot more as the day goes on.
Nintendo’s line of dual-screened consoles is a lot of things – ultra, “it prints money!” successful being chief among those – but a graphical powerhouse isn’t one of them. Or at least, it wasn’t. According to a rumor from IGN, however, the 3DS will even render circles around Nintendo’s current, also stupidly popular home console, the Wii.
"Several developers that have experienced 3DS in its current form have reported, off the record, that it has processing capabilities that far exceed the Nintendo Wii and bring the device with abilities that are close to HD consoles such as PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360," reads IGN's report.
Little is known about what’s actually under the hood of Nintendo’s latest little engine that could, but apparently it won’t be Nvidia’s Tegra mobile chipset, which many speculated might be the source of its incredible, 3D-without-glasses powers.
Fortunately, next week’s E3 gaming convention might as well be known as E3DS, since Nintendo will likely spend the majority of its two hour press conference telling us everything we’ve ever wanted to know about its latest handheld.
You’re starved for knowledge right now, but you’ll be absolutely stuffed after next week. And if you’re not, well, you probably shouldn’t mumble “I’d like some more, sir” in a quaint British accent. See, for as much graphical muscle as the 3DS might have, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime has more actual muscle, and if he hears you, well, you may actually end up eating a 3DS. With your mouth.