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Posts tagged Taking 5

Taking 5: Microsoft “will focus on software instead”

Microsoft reportedly kills off Zune hardware, will focus on software instead

I just read that headline on Engadget.  My brain instinctively said “finally”.  But not for the reasons you’d think.  Not because I think the Zune is a bad product.  Yes, it has become kind of a joke in the industry, but really, ANY media player that isn’t an iPod has kind of become a joke. The way smart phones have been selling and as more people carry only one device, the iPod is destined to become the same.

The reason why I thought “finally” is because Microsoft is a software company, they should me making software.

It kills me that they are trying to keeping things like Office, Zune Market, Xbox Live gaming to themselves in the mobile market. If they put Office on the iPad it would sell like crazy and they would make tons of money.  Instead, people are buying Pages and Numbers, not because they want them, because Word and Excel are absent.  Microsoft should be leading the tablet market in software sales, and not because they’ve been trying to make tablets for over a decade.

Microsoft needs to bring its software to every device.  I bet the Microsoft could sell Office (or at least Word) to 50% of people who buy iPads. They wouldn’t even have to undersell Pages, just make it the same price. There is so much brand recognition there I bet it’s the first application most people buy (or second, to Angry Birds).

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Taking 5: Bulletstorm and The Club

I have been thinking about writing abut a game called The Club for a few months but haven’t found an inroad.  Then I got this email from Weston.

I played the Bulletstorm demo, not the full game.  But as I was playing it, and as the timer was counting up and I scored a ton of points for kicking a guy into a void, I realized that Bulletstorm was just a worse version of The Club.

The Club, developed by the unfortunately/recently dissolved Bizarre Creations, is a really great game. It was completely misunderstood when it was published by Sega in 2008 because everyone thought it was a shooter. It’s true you are a guy running around with a gun, and while the game has the face of a shooter it has the soul of a racing game.

If you haven’t played it, and based on the poor sales the chances are you haven’t, in The Club you move around a predetermined path (a track if you will), be it a cargo ship, jail or an abandoned factory. Sometimes the path (track) loops around and you have to complete 3 laps and sometimes you just have to run from point A to point B.

While you are moving as fast as possible around the level there are enemies shooting at you with weapons ranging from hand guns to rocket launchers. As you kill enemies you build up a multiplier. The faster you get kills and move through the levels the more points you score. And you unlock more levels as you reach certain score thresholds.

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Taking 5: iTunes Is Still The Killer App

Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of iTunes. 10 years. I’ve been using it for about 8.5.  The only program I have been using longer is Word.  But unlike Word, iTunes is a program that is constantly being maintained, managed and updated by me.  There really isn’t any other program like it.  It’s been around so long I think people are forgetting how important it has become, and that it is the program on which Apple has built it’s current empire.

iTunes was released in January of 2001, 10 months before the iPod was even announced. By the time the iPod was a phenomenon (2004) iTunes was more than a place to store and organize your music; it was a place where you could purchase music.  iTunes is what made it easier to buy music than to steal it, and, one could argue, it saved the music industry. 

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Taking 5: Back to the Mac

At yesterdays event Apple showed off some new stuff in OS 10.7, Lion as well as the new MacBook Air.  I’m not going to give you a recap of the events.  Chances are you’ve already read about them.  I do want to talk about what I think Apple is doing with Lion on the Mac.

Throughout the presentation Steve and company kept saying “what we’ve learned from iPad” or “what we’ve learned from the iPhone”.  OS 10.7 does actually draw heavily from iOS.  They’ve made launching applications easier, given you the option of full screen mode in applications, added more touch gestures, created an app store and changed applications to auto save and have save states.  Though it’s not clear if it is across all applications or just first party software.

This all sounds great.  I certainly want most of these things in my OS of choice.  But this is it. This is a launching off point for everything Apple plans to do with OS 11. 

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Taking 5: Cellphone Service Anywhere

And so it begins.  I’m talking, of course, of cellphone service coming to the London Underground, the New York City Subway and eventually airplanes.  Boris Johnson, mayor of London, has gotten the ball rolling this week by forcing Vodaphone, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and 3 to all split the cost of installing an maintaining a cellular network in the Underground.  The cost is estimated to be somewhere over £100 million.  He’s making this push to cover all of the Underground before the Olympics begin in 2012.

I can see great benefit in having coverage throughout an entire city, including underground (and the Underground in the case of London).  You can pull up directions to ensure you are got on the correct train, or respond to emails/get some work done during your commute and of course call for help if something terrible happens.  And I can get behind that, I can.  But what about the obnoxious people?

I want to get behind having service everywhere.  I want to be able to use my phone or tablet or laptop anywhere I go.  I think it would be awesome to always be connected but if I’m always connected, it means other people can reach me.  I take the Subway to work every day and while the train is loud, everyone is standing (or sitting) in silence trying not to make eye contact with each other.  If I have cellular service, it means I can make a call. And If I can make a call, so can everyone else.

I don’t want to sound like crotchety old man (too late) but I feel these concerns are valid.

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Taking 5: Ping

You’ve seen it.  You have access to it. And you’ve used it (maybe).  Well, I’ve used it, or tried anyway.

Ariel Waldman said on her tiwtter:

I kept an open mind for a couple days, but now I feel confident in saying that Ping is really not well thought out on multiple fronts.

And on this week’s Engadget podcasat Josh Topolsky said:

Imagine if Facebook started right now and you were aware of it.  Like, 500 million people knew what Facebook was and they launched it, like, today.

I think that is the best way to describe it.  It’s this huge system and framework with no content.  It’s almost the way I would describe Places as compared to Foursquare. And I tried, really. I did. Before I wrote this… review(?)… of the service I wanted to do everything that you could do.

I found friends, I followed artists, I liked a bunch of albums and even wrote a review.  The problem is, I couldn’t really find enough people to follow.  Because it’s so new some of my favorite artists aren’t on there or my friends who have good taste in music aren’t on there because (a) they don’t use the iTunes Store to buy music because of services like Emusic (b) they have a large libraries of music and therefore already have ways of discovering new artists.

Now if you are on an album page in iTunes, it will tell you which of your friends have also purchased that album.  Which is cool, but it’s mining that data from your iTunes purchase history and doesn’t let you mark which albums you’ve have purchased from other services, or uploaded from CD’s… the way you had to do it before 2004.

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Taking 5: Used Games

The used videogames debate is interesting and complicated.  The flames were fanned in the ongoing discussion this week when THQ creative director Cory Ledesma spoke to CVG and then Penny Arcade did what they do best. I have been reading the #PAGamesDialog discussion on twitter for the past two days and I have more thoughts than 140 characters can handle.

There are two schools of thought on how to handle used games sales. Reward the people buying new games, or punish those purchasing the games used.  It’s the latter that rubs me (and lots of other people) the wrong way.  EA has decided to to both, and calls the whole initiative Project Ten Dollar (which is a great name). It serves to counter the GameStop method of charging 5-10 dollars less for used games.

I really like the rewarding half of this concept.  EA and Microsoft Games Studio have come up with a clever way of getting people to buy their games new; include DLC inside the package. This goes back all the way to Gears of War 2, when Microsoft included a code for the Flashback Map Pack into every new copy of the game.  If you didn’t buy it new those maps cost you 10 dollars. EA did something similar with Mass Effect 2 providing a few bits of DLC to people buying the game new.  People didn’t seem to have a problem with this method because a) it feels like a bonus to the new buyer and b) the used player can still play the game that they bought without that DLC. 

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Taking 5: Xbox Live Anywhere

This week at Gamescom in Germany, Microsoft unveiled how Xbox Live is going to work with Windows Phone 7. It seems they are finally going to make good on the promise to deliver Xbox Live Anywhere… one they made during E3 2006.

Back in the dark days before the iPhone, Microsoft promised to deliver the ability to take your Xbox Live profile with you on your mobile device, see what your friends are doing, send messages, check gamerscore, and even “Start a game on Xbox, continue it on your phone.”  There was a walkthrough of Live Anywhere on Eurogamer… but the video has since been deleted.

Engadget has an article from May 2006 that says:

Halo isn’t going to run so well on your RAZR, so for actual cross platform titles, Microsoft is sticking with XBLA-esque games that can translate easily to different platform, such as Bejeweled. There will, however, be major games that can be played on your Vista PC and Xbox 360. Microsoft is banking heavily on third party support for Live Anywhere, in the form of mobile friendly value-adds for 360 games, and just straight up phone-friendly casual titles.

Where did that go?  And why doesn’t anyone bring it up anymore?  It was announced at E3 and was legitimate enough that Penny Arcade accurately mocked the service a few months later in 2006 with a comic, and a complimentary news post.

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