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.
I don't get super-excited over new Web apps very often--not unless said application has the words, "World," "Warcraft," or "Apple" in the title (I kid; I kid). But a new find on my Web App radar has had me rocking out all weekend long. Literally, rocking out, as said app is an awesome tool for finding new music to jam to.
I'll steer this one off at the pass: No, the Web app is not Pandora. However, it does borrow from Pandora's general setup in that it attempts to create an online playlist of songs for you to rock out to based on a common theme or classification. In this case, you don't start out with a favorite band as the first breadcrumb in your trail of match-ups. Instead, the Web app Stereomood does as its name suggests--you pick from a whopping list of emotions and, upon doing so, the service matches you up with a ton of music to listen to based on your selection.
Let’s face it: Photoshop ain’t cheap. And, worse, Photoshop is a kind of software—much like most kinds of software—that only works offline. If you’ve purchased it (or any other graphics-editing program, for that matter), yet you don’t have it installed on the system you’re currently working with, you’re out of luck. No photo editing for you.
Besides, we live in the world of the Web nowadays. With storage turning to the cloud and applications turning to the Internet, we question the need for an offline photo editing program to begin with. For as long as you have an internet connection, you don’t need to spend umpteen amounts of money in order to crop, tweak, and save your images—you can do it all right from the comfort of your Web browser of choice. It’s free. It’s easy. And, best of all, there are plenty of different Web-based photo editors out there, which gives you the opportunity to pick-and-choose a particular service that best meets your needs.
Of course, we wouldn’t want to strand you in a sea of potential Web apps, which is exactly why this life preserver of a guide is going to walk you through the highs and lows of five of the Web’s most well-recognized photo editing tools. We’ll assess each app based on the features it offers, how easy it is for an average PC user to grapple with said app’s interface, and the general user experience that each app delivers. Here’s one good note to get you started, however: All of these Web apps are one-hundred-percent free. Gratis. Costs nothing. On that point, everyone wins the day.
With every browser now sporting integrated search capabilities, we find ourselves on Google's main landing page less and less. Should you wander over to Google.com, however, you'll notice that the search titan has begun adding background photos, representing a dramatic departure from the minimalistic look that has become a staple of Google's homepage.
For those of you not digging the change and voicing your displeasure via Twitter, Google has heard your complaints and had this to say:
"The Google home page should be back to normal tomorrow where you can keep it in its simple and classic look, choose to upload an image or photo, or switch back and forth," a Google spokeswoman said.
For everyone else, the images are a welcome change, and there are a whole bunch to choose from, including some gorgeous landscape photos from National Geographic. You'll also find artwork from sculptors and a whole host of other images broken down into a Public gallery and Editor's pics, or you can use an image from your PC or My Picasa Web photos.
As far as kid cartoons go, SpongeBob SquarePants easily ranks as one of the better ones, and at times is even a bit hilarious. But would we want to control the bright yellow fry cook in a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG)? Irrelevant, because whether we want to or not, SpongeBob is heading online.
That's the word from MTV Networks Asia and online games company GigaMedia, two entities working together to jointly publish the first SpongeBob MMOG.
"Partnering with GigaMedia on the development of a SpongeBob SquarePants MMOG allows us to bring the residents of Bikini Bottom into a whole new world -- one that is tremendously popular in Asia and presents unlimited creative and business opportunities for the franchise," said Jihee Nam, Vice President of Digital for MTV Networks Asia. "SpongeBob SquarePants is Nickelodeon's best known property within Asia and we're extremely proud to oversee the development of the MMOG with local business partners. We look forward to working hand in hand with GigaMedia on bringing SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, Gary and Sandy Cheeks to life in an entirely new and incredibly popular online world."
If aimed at adults, something like this could end up being full of win, but for obvious reasons, kids are going to be the target audience. MTV says the game will follow a free-to-play model with an online store where gamers can spend their allowance on a range of items. The MMOG will also feature a bunch of video and simple Flash-based games, but other than that, MTV doesn't plan to reveal much else until we inch closer to the 2011 launch.
Google might still dominate the search market share, but it's no longer a solo act. And if you needed any more proof that Bing, for all intents and purposes, has been a success thus far, search marketers are starting to take notice.
"Now we're in a situation where we're going to have Bing powering up to 30 percent of the market," said Danny Sullivan, a search engine expert.
Bing isn't quite at the 30 percent market share mark just yet, but that's expected to change once the Bing-Yahoo integration kicks offs.
"That's nothing to sneeze at," said Janet Driscoll Miller, president and CEO of SearchMojo. "It's going to be a two-engine world int he future, where you'll have Bing and Google to worry about as SEOs [search engine optimizers]."
Working to Microsoft's advantage, Bing has a couple of features of interest to marketers that aren't yet on Google. When a user rolls over results, for example, a preview box pops up with more information about the website, and that's something site marketers will have some control over.
Citing un-named sources "with knowledge on the matter," Reuters is reporting that Hulu is busy developing a subscription service that it plans to roll out on several devices in the next month or two.
At least one of those devices will be Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console, which already features Netflix streaming, while one of the other sources said you can expect Hulu to release a version for Apple's iPad. Naturally, none of the companies supposedly involved had any comment.
While nothing has been confirmed, a move like this would hardly be surprising. It has been speculated for some time that Hulu would look to a subscription based model of some sort, though it remains to be seen how well something like this will be received.
"Many consumers already pay $100 or more monthly for TV, telephony, and high-speed Internet access and are unlikely to welcome an incremental fee merely to watch from the Internet some of the programs they already get," said Phil Leigh, an analyst with Inside Digital Media.
Not everyone share's Leigh's opinion, however.
"Many viewers are not going home to watch TV anymore. They've already been trained to believe TV is coming to them and demand is growing for this content in different forms and different business models," said Mike Vorhaus of media consultancy Frank N. Magid.
Would you pay for Hulu if it was integrated seamlessly into your Xbox 360, iPad, or other Internet-connected device?
For the past few months, Twitter has been routing links within Direct Messages through its own link service and wrapping them with a twt.tl URL. By doing so, Twitter has been able to blacklist malicious links, and now the microblogging service wants to extend this functionality to all tweets.
Not just for security reasons, Twitter also recognizes that there isn't yet a way to automatically shorten URLs, leaving it up to users to manage long links on their own with third party services like TinyURL and Bit.ly.
"To meet both of these goals, we're taking small steps to expand the link service currently available in Direct Messages to links shared through all tweets," Twitter stated in a blog post. "We're testing this link service now with a few Twitter employee accounts."
Twitter said it will roll out the service to non-employees later this summer. When it does, long links will be shortened and wrapped with http://t.co/____.
How would you feel about a 3 percent tax on monthly cell phone bills to help newspapers and traditional journalism? If that doesn't sound appealing, you're not alone - some 84 percent of Americans oppose such a tax, according to a new Rasmussen Report.
In fact, Americans don't like any of the tax ideas the FTC has proposed. The above cell phone levy is just one of many proposed taxes designed to help keep privately owned newspapers from shutting up shop. The FTC has also suggested a tax on the purchase of electronic goods, like computers, ebook readers, and tablets. Not surprisingly, some 76 percent of those polled in a national telephone survey are against the idea.
Yet another idea being tossed about is to tax certain websites, like the Drudge Report, in order to help the newspapers that they draw their headlines from. This too is being met with public opposition, this time to the tune of 74 percent.
The concern on the part of the FTC is that offline newspapers are having a tough time staying afloat, yet most Americans view local newspapers as more reliable than online news sources. Nevertheless, about 58 percent of Americans said they were confident that other news sources would fill in the gap should traditional papers go out of business.
Give Facebook credit, the site has built somewhat of an empire in the social networking space, and it continues to conquer new territories. The latest to welcome Facebook into its kingdom is Yahoo, which today announced plans to integrate the social networking service globally across more than 15 of its sites.
"More and more, people rely on social sites to share and discover information that matters to them, making Yahoo! uniquely positioned to provide people with all of the mainstream methods of content discovery - social, search, communications, and editorial," said Cody Simms, senior director of Social Platforms and Yahoo! Developer Network (YDN) at Yahoo!. "Starting with Facebook, we are bringing all of these elements together to give people one simple, trusted place to share information and connect. We think this offers great benefit to people across the web, and it's key to helping Yahoo! extend our reach and increase engagement."
Users of both Yahoo and Facebook are now able to link their accounts and view/share updates with friends across both networks. And if you choose to connect your accounts, you can view your Facebook News Feed on the Yahoo homepage, Yahoo Mail, and several other Yahoo portals.