Microsoft Announces Kinect Pricing for November 4 Release

Microsoft announced today that the Kinect for Xbox 360 will include Kinect Sensor and the video game “Kinect Adventures,” and that it will retail for $149.99 when it launches November 4 in North America. The Kinect Sensor will work with all Xbox 360 consoles (of which 40 million have been sold, according to the company).

The company also announced an all-in-one Xbox 360 Kinect Console Bundle for $299. This will include the new Xbox 360 4GB console, Kinect Sensor, and “Kinect Adventures.” Additional games will be sold at $49 each.

Microsoft's Kinect Bundle

“Kinect truly is a revolutionary product,” says Josh Hutto, director of product marketing for Xbox. “We’re bringing controller-free entertainment into the living room. With one purchase, families get Kinect and the most complete and affordable way to have fun.”

Kinect, announced last month at E3, features video and audio sensors that eliminate the need for a traditional controller, while the user uses body motions and voice commands to play games, watch movies, and interact with other Xbox LIVE subscribers.

Microsoft began taking pre-orders for the Kinect (and the bundle) today.

Microsoft Renames and Revamps its Phone OS

Don’t call them Windows Mobile phones anymore. In announcing the latest revision of Microsoft’s OS for handsets at Mobile World Congress today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that henceforth, the devices will be known as Windows phones.

"It’s a mouthful to say, ‘You want a Windows Mobile phone?’" Ballmer said when asked about the decision to once again re-brand the OS, which has over the years been known as Windows CE and Pocket PC.

Ballmer’s three main announcements to a crowd of journalists in Barcelona, Spain, had been widely leaked beforehand: Windows Mobile 6.5, a new version of the handset OS with a revamped, touch-optimized user interface; My Phone, an online backup and sync service for Windows phones, and the Windows Marketplace for Mobile app store.

My Phone and the Windows Marketplace will be accessible to Windows phones running Windows Mobile 6.5; Ballmer said support will be available via download, at the discretion of the vendor, to Windows Mobile 6.1 devices, but not to handsets running earlier versions of the OS.

Windows Mobile 6.5, which in addition to the new user interface sports an improved, more desktop-like browser, will make its debut later this year on handsets also announced on Monday, including the HTC Touch Diamond2 and the LG-GM730.

Interestingly, however, neither handset presents the new user interface unadulterated: Both HTC and LG have made changes they believe make the UI more user friendly. In fact, fiddling with the Windows Mobile UI is not uncommon, and Ballmer squirmed when asked how bothersome this was to Microsoft.

"It’s not the area where I would have aspired to see the first add-ons," he admitted. But he said that with the new UI, Microsoft hopes to get more vendors on board without significant changes.

Windows Live gets its social makeover

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Microsoft has started to roll out a series of changes, outlined in November, that give Windows Live a more social networking-like feel.

Windows Live staples such as Spaces, Events, and the home page get a new look, while Microsoft is also putting special emphasis on group, profile, and photo pages.

"Essentially we’re launching ‘the new face of Windows Live’ on the web today," Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc said in a blog posting.

The changes, which are being rolled out over the next 24 hours, also include a bump in the limit for Microsoft’s SkyDrive online storage, which now offers 25GB of storage and improved photo slide shows on the Web.

Also new is the ability to import contacts directly from Facebook to Windows Live.

Take a look and let me know what you think of the makeover. Does it make Windows Live look young and hip, or like an actress that’s had one too many face-lifts?

Microsoft Prepares for End of Windows With Midori

With the Internet increasingly taking on the role of the PC operating system and the growing prevalence of virtualization technologies, there will be a day when the Microsoft Windows client OS as it’s been developed for the past 20-odd years becomes obsolete.

Microsoft seems to be preparing for that day with an incubation project code-named Midori, which seeks to create a componentized, non-Windows OS that will take advantage of technologies not available when Windows first was conceived, according to published reports.

Although Microsoft won’t comment publicly on what Midori is, the company has confirmed that it exists. Several reports — the most comprehensive to date published on Tuesday by Software Development Times — have gone much further than that.

That report paints Midori as an Internet-centric OS, based on the idea of connected systems, that largely eliminates the dependencies between local applications and the hardware they run on that exist with a typical OS today.

The report claims Midori is an offshoot of Microsoft Research’s Singularity OS, which creates “software-isolated processes” to reduce the dependencies between individual applications, and between the applications and the OS itself.

With the ability today to run an OS, applications — and even an entire PC desktop of applications — in a virtual container using a hypervisor, the need to have the OS and applications installed natively on a PC is becoming less and less, said Brian Madden, an independent technology analyst.

“Why do you need it?” he said. “Now we have hypervisors everywhere.”

Madden suggested that a future OS could actually be a hypervisor itself, with virtual containers of applications running on top of it that can be transferred easily to other devices because they don’t have client-side dependencies to each other.

And while he has no information about Midori beyond the published reports, he said descriptions of it as an Internet-centric system that provides an overall “connectedness” between applications and devices makes sense for the future of cloud computing and on-demand services. Microsoft likely recognizes the need for this even if the actual technology is still five or more years out, Madden said.

“They’re preparing for the day when people realize we don’t need Windows anymore” and thinking about what they will do to remain relevant, he said.

Indeed, Microsoft has been emphasizing its virtualization strategy, based on its new Hyper-V hypervisor, beyond merely virtualizing the server OS. The company also is moving full steam ahead with plans to virtualize applications and the desktop OS as well.

Using virtualization in these scenarios would eliminate the problems with application compatibility that are still giving headaches to Vista users, and that have made the OS a liability rather than a boon for some Windows power users and enterprise customers.

If Midori is close to what people think it is, it will represent a “major paradigm shift” for Windows users and be no easy task for Microsoft to pull off, said Andrew Brust, chief of new technology for the consulting firm Twentysix New York.

He said challenges to an OS like Midori would be both technological complexities and the “sobering compromises” that must be made when a product moves from being a research project into commercialization. “I would expect those in abundance with something of this scope and import,” Brust said.

Though he has not been briefed by Microsoft on Midori, Brust said the idea makes sense because Microsoft needs to drastically update Windows to stay current with new business models and computing paradigms that exist today — particularly to help the company compete against Google on the Web.

“Breaking with the legacy of a product that first shipped 23 years ago seems wholly necessary in terms of keeping the product manageable and in sync with computing’s state of the art,” Brust said. “If Midori isn’t real, then I imagine something of this nature still must be in the works. It’s absolutely as necessary, if not more so, to Microsoft’s survival as their initiatives around Internet advertising, search and cloud computing offerings.”

Original article by PCWorld.com

Microsoft releases new Ultimate Extras for Vista

Windows Ultimate users finally (euhhhhhhhh!!!) have some new Ultimate Extras to download.  Released today was two new sound schemes and additional DreamScene content.  Windows Ultimate users can download the new extras now by going to Windows Update in Control Panel.

New Sounds

Two new sound schemes have been released:

  • Ultimate Extras Glass – Similar to the default sound scheme but with a “glassy edge.”
  • Ultimate Extras Pearl – Cleaner, clearer and brighter than the glass scheme.

Read more

New Dreamscene content

Dreamscene Content Pack #3 is now available with three nature scenes.

Read more

The Windows Vista Feature Pack for Wireless

Microsoft launch a new kind of updates called Feature Pack  that improve wireless support in Windows Vista:

•Bluetooth version 2.1 support

•Unified Pairing user interface

•Windows Connect Now updates

Some of these features may work with existing hardware. However, you must have new hardware to take advantage of the new functionality.
This update is compatible with all versions of Windows Vista. It can be installed only on a computer that is running Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1).

Description of the Windows Vista Feature Pack for Wireless

Microsoft Launches Beta of New All-in-One Service codenamed “Albany”

Microsoft today launched a private beta program for a new service, code-named “Albany.”

PressPass spoke with “Albany” Group Product Manager Bryson Gordon to learn more about what consumers can expect from the service and what it will enable them to do.

PressPass: What is “Albany”?

Gordon: “Albany” is the codename for a new all-in-one subscription service of essential software and services consumers told us were most important to them. We’ve pulled together the productivity tools people need to organize their lives, security to help keep their personal information safe and online services that make it easy for them to keep in touch with friends and family, and folded them all into a single service that also ensures the user’s PC is running the latest security and productivity software.

With just a few clicks, “Albany” subscribers will be able install the whole package, which includes Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, giving them the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for their personal and school projects; Windows Live OneCare to help keep viruses at bay and their computer fast and healthy; and Windows Live Mail, Messenger and Photo Gallery so they can connect and share with others. Albany also installs the Microsoft Office Live Workspace connector on the Microsoft Office toolbar, so users can save documents to their own dedicated online workspace and invite friends and classmates to collaborate and share.

Additionally, with “Albany” consumers get the latest versions of Microsoft Office Home and Student and Windows Live OneCare as they’re released. Combined with ongoing security updates, consumers can have the peace of mind that they have protection from the most recent security threats and that their PC is running at its peak.