The Xbox 360 topped the charts again in April, marking the 28th consecutive month Microsoft’s gaming console has outsold Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii consoles. According to research from NPD Group, the Xbox 360 accounted for 42% of current-generation sales with 130,000 units sold last month. It wasn’t all good news, however, as sales plummeted 50% from 261,000 units in March. As a whole, the industry continued to struggle in April with total gaming sales down 25% year-over-year from $657.5 million to $495.2 million. Microsoft and Sony’s next-generation consoles are expected to help sales pick up when they launch ahead of the holidays this year.
In the past year, Microsoft has increased its efforts to dethrone Google as the world’s top search engine. To accomplish this, the company has launched a “Scroogled” advertising campaign that looks to shine a light on Google and its sometimes questionable privacy practices. The company has previously attacked Google’s search engine and Gmail service, and is now taking aim at its Chrome Web browser. iCosmoGeek obtained an internal video that is believed to be created by Microsoft that mocks Google’s latest Chrome commercial. Google recently created an advertisement touting Chrome’s ability to sync addresses and passwords across smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. Microsoft’s video attacks the company, meanwhile, for tracking customers and monetizing their personal information with targeted advertisements across smartphones, tablets and desktops. Google’s original video and Microsoft’s parody follow below. More →
The latest numbers from IDC show that Windows Phone is still having a tough time gaining traction, as the operating system was found on just 3.2% of all smartphones shipped in the first quarter of 2013. And things could look even worse for Microsoft in the second quarter since Windows Phone devices will have to go toe-to-toe with heavyweight flagships being rolled out by both Samsung and HTC, as well as the low-cost BlackBerry Q5 that BlackBerry is aggressively pushing into emerging markets. In fact, the only company that’s really devoting a lot of resources toward manufacturing and publicizing Windows Phone devices is Nokia, which really has no choice since it has chosen Windows Phone as its exclusive operating system. More →
Microsoft is building a smaller Surface tablet according to multiple reports, and a new rumor on Thursday suggests it will feature a 7.9-inch display when it launches in late-June. Digitimes reports that Microsoft’s smaller Surface slate will make use of 7.9-inch display panels supplied by none other than Samsung Display, the one-time Apple supplier now in search of new clientele. The report also notes that despite the rising popularity of 8-inch tablets following the launch of Apple’s iPad mini, suppliers aren’t expecting much from the new Surface considering its predecessors’ sales performance.
Microsoft doesn’t want to hear Google CEO Larry Page get on his high horse about the need for less negativity and more cooperation in the tech world, especially since his company just sent a cease and desist letter telling Microsoft to pull its YouTube app from the Windows Phone store after Microsoft violated Google’s terms of service by removing ads from videos. Per The Verge, a Microsoft spokesperson has now thrown Page’s words back in his face by saying that it would be happy to bring ads back to the Windows Phone YouTube app if only Google would be more open and cooperative. In particular, the spokesperson said “we’d be more than happy to include advertising but need Google to provide us access to the necessary APIs” while adding that “in light of Larry Page’s comments today calling for more interoperability and less negativity, we look forward to solving this matter together for our mutual customers.”
College graduates would love to land a job at Google, Apple or one of the many startups in Silicon Valley. But according to a survey from Universum Global, there are quite a few students who would prefer the rainy days in Washington over working in the golden state. The American Student Survey asked students from five different fields of study — business, engineering, IT, natural sciences and liberal arts — about their ideal company to work for. Companies such as Google and Apple unsurprisingly topped the charts in almost all categories, however there were some surprising results: Microsoft consistently outranked both Facebook and Amazon. The company ranked higher than Amazon in all fields of study and even higher than Apple in IT. Students found Microsoft more appealing than Facebook in almost all categories as well, with the exception of liberal arts.
Google is not happy with Microsoft’s attempt to remove YouTube ads for Windows Phone users. The Verge reports that Google has asked Microsoft to remove YouTube from the Windows Phone app store because Microsoft has allegedly created its own version of the app “without Google’s consent” and “with features that specifically prevent ads from playing.” Since Google makes its money primarily through online advertisements, it’s not surprising that it would be upset at another company removing the ads, even if it does deliver a better user experience. In a cease and desist letter sent to Microsoft, Google says that “by blocking advertising and allowing downloads of videos, your application cuts off a valuable ongoing revenue source for creators, and causes harm to the thriving content ecosystem on YouTube.”
Google CEO isn’t very happy that Microsoft decided to integrate its Google Talk messaging service into its Outlook webmail platform without extending a similar offer to Google for the Gmail platform. Page, speaking during the Google I/O developers conference Wednesday, said that Google always pushes to have open-source platforms that other companies can use but lamented the fact that much of the tech industry doesn’t extend the same courtesies for many of its own innovations. Page went onto say that he was “sad” that companies such as Microsoft were “milking off” Google’s innovations by not being as open with their own software.
With Microsoft planning to release an overhauled version of Windows 8 over the summer, some may be wondering when the company will give a similar treatment to its Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system. The answer, says ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, is likely not until 2014. Instead, Foley’s sources say that Windows Phone users can expect three smaller updates to roll out throughout the rest of 2013 in preparation for a more substantial update sometime next year. These updates will include “support for CalDAV and CardDAV, so that it will continue to work with Google contact and calendar syncing services” and will “reintroduce support for FM radio… a feature which was part of the Windows Phone 7 operating system platform, but which was cut for Windows Phone 8.”
It may be time for Steve Ballmer to crank up his famous “Developers, developers, developers!” chant again if it will get software developers more excited about Windows Phone 8. Sameer Singh at Tech-Thoughts has charted the growth history of the three major mobile app stores and has found that Windows Phone’s app store is lagging behind where iOS and Android were 30 months after their initial launches. What’s more, he’s found that the additions of new apps to the Windows Phone 8 app market have markedly slowed over the past six months, whereas iOS and Android both saw significant rises in app additions over the same periods after their initial launches. Singh speculates that the slowdown in interest from developers is due to “limited install base, low user engagement, monetization challenges and regional developer restrictions,” among other factors.
The Windows Phone platform is in serious need of high-quality applications. Microsoft recently announced that its Windows Phone app store is home to nearly 150,000 applications, however the operating system is still lacking fan favorites such as Instagram, Dropbox and HBO GO. Windows Phone devices released by Nokia and HTC have been well received by critics, but most reviews share one common complaint — not enough good apps. Vesa Jutila, Nokia’s global head of smartphone marketing, admitted in an interview with Engadget that “the biggest complaint is that customers are missing the apps they want.” The executive noted that there were some significant gaps in the marketplace, although he claims Nokia is “addressing this very strongly” with help from Microsoft.
As someone who admires the innovations that Microsoft made with Windows 8 while at the same time recognizing the platform’s glaring flaws, I’ve found it encouraging that the company has decided to own up to some of its mistakes and dial back some of the big changes it made to its operating system with the release of Windows 8.1. The new update, which Microsoft announced Tuesday would be available as a public preview starting on June 26th, will reportedly bring back the Start button as an option and give users the choice of booting up their computers in desktop mode. But the feature that really has me excited about Windows 8.1 and that makes me think Microsoft is serious about listening to its customers is that it’s providing the update free of charge for all Windows 8 users. More →
Microsoft’s admission last week that it would need to make changes to its Windows 8 operating system to address a steeper-than-expected user learning curve has sparked two very different reactions from media and analysts. On the one side, Microsoft’s backtracking on Windows 8 is seen as a sign of humiliating defeat that could even point the way toward CEO Steve Ballmer’s exit from the company. The Telegraph takes this particular angle with a report that focusses on the “hostile reception” to Windows 8 and that quotes an analyst who says that “investors think Ballmer’s the wrong guy” to run Microsoft because “he missed tablets and he missed smartphones, and that these are the two areas of technology that really count.” More →