Microsoft acquires Italian IoT platform Solair

microsoft logo Microsoft today announced that it has acquired Solair, an Italy-based IoT service that was founded in 2011 (and not the U.S.-based company that makes retractable awnings). Solair already used Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform to offer its services, so it’s no surprise that Microsoft plans to integrate its technology into the Azure IoT Suite. For now, though,… Read More

Microsoft restricts Cortana on Windows 10 to Bing and Edge

Microsoft-Cortana-Build-2014-000 Cortana is Microsoft’s version of Google Now and Apple’s Siri digital assistant. It’s built right into Windows 10 and, while I’ve generally not found it all that useful, it’s a core component of Microsoft’s attempt at making its operating system smarter. Starting today, whenever you use Cortana to do a search on Windows 10 that would typically take you to… Read More

Xamarin launches major update to its cross-platform development tools

platform-screenshot@2x Xamarin, the cross-platform development platform Microsoft recently acquired, is holding its annual developer conference today. No developer conference would be complete without a large number of announcements and Xamarin — almost as if to show that the Microsoft acquisition hasn’t stalled its momentum — is launching updates to almost all of the core features of its… Read More

Adobe’s Document Cloud adds support for Box and Microsoft

01_Adobe_Sign_Splash_Screen_iPad (1) Adobe is launching an update to its Document Cloud service today that will bring support for both Box and Microsoft OneDrive to the company’s PDF-centric digital document solution. Adobe previously announced a similar partnership with Dropbox. Thanks to this partnership, Document Cloud users will now be able to use tools like Adobe Sign, the company’s e-sign solution, with… Read More

Microsoft rolls out preview of plugin-free Skype for Web support in Edge

skype_logo

Microsoft today launched a preview of plugin-free Skype calls in Microsoft Edge. The new functionality works anywhere you can use Skype in the browser: Skype for Web, Outlook.com, Office Online, and OneDrive. Both voice and video calls are supported, including one-to-one and group sessions.

This is possible because Edge last year gained support for the Object Real-Time Communications (ORTC) API. Since at least October 2014, Microsoft was planning to bring voice and video calling to its browser without the need for plugins. Originally, that meant in Internet Explorer, but after Edge launched, it made sense to go with the new browser.

skype-video-calling-on-microsoft-edge1

More to follow


Get more stories like this on TwitterFacebook









March 2016 NPD: Ubisoft, Nintendo shake up sales chart with The Division, Zelda

One of the biggest launches so far this year is living up to its early expectations.

Gamers aren’t spending more than they did last year, but that’s only because many of them already have the latest hardware.

New video game products generated $964.1 million in sales at United States retailers in March, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. That is relatively flat from $968.4 million in spending during the same period in 2015. Hardware sales continue to decline in terms of currency because the average system is selling for less than it was in 2015. Gamers are instead shifting that budget into bumping up their spending on software and accessories.

Here are the numbers:

  • Hardware: $253.2 million in March 2016 (down 19 percent from $311.1 million)
  • Software: $425.8 million in March 2016 (up 8 percent from $395.4 million)
  • Accessories: $285.1 million in March 2016 (up 9 percent from $261.8 million)

Software did especially well considering it didn’t have the easy comparison to March 2015 when Sony released Bloodborne for PlayStation 4 and Electronic Arts launched the somewhat disappointing Battlefield: Hardline. And, of course, accessories — which includes interactive toys like Amiibo — continue to generate more money every month.

“Sales of new launches, driven by Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division, helped propel March 2016 video game physical software sales 8 percent higher than last March,” NPD analyst Liam Callahan said. “Overall sales of new launch titles grew by 26 percent, with those launched in Q1 2016 collectively selling 28 percent higher in March than Q1 2015 launches performed during the same time period last year. This speaks to the strength of this year’s launch slate so far.”

It’s about time to get to the software chart, but before we do that it’s always important to remember that NPD’s numbers are a small segment of a much larger industry. It only tracks new games sold at brick-and-mortar retailers in the United States. No Europe. No digital. Nothing used. With that in mind, you can take this data and use it to better understand why the companies that solicit this information from the NPD still pay for it.

OK. Let’s get to the games.

Software

  1. Tom Clancy’s The Division (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
  2. Far Cry: Primal (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U)
  4. Grand Theft Auto V (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3, PC)
  5. UFC 2 (PS4, Xbox One)
  6. MLB 16: The Show (PS4, PS3)
  7. Pokken Tournament (Wii U)
  8. NBA 2K16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PSe)
  9. Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Xbox One, PS4, 360, PS3, PC)
  10. Minecraft (360, PS4, Xbox One, PS3)

Publisher’s Ubisoft and Nintendo both had a good month.

In particular, the French company responsible for The Division and Far Cry had the top two best-selling games in March. The Division’s strong debut isn’t that surprising as it had a huge marketing blitz and some fairly positive word-of-mouth throughout the entirety of the reporting period. But it is a bit surprising that Far Cry: Primal, which launched in February and topped the sales chart for that month, was still No. 2.

“Tom Clancy’s The Division had the best launch month for any Tom Clancy title to-date, having sold 40 percent more than the next best-selling Tom Clancy title, March 2008’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 when adjusted for number of days sold within the month,” said Callahan. “Stemming from strong launches of Tom Clancy’s The Division and Far Cry: Primal, Ubisoft is the number one software publisher for Q1 2016, with a unit sales increase of close to 130 percent, and a dollar sales increase of over 200 percent.”

Nintendo, however, got back into the chart with an HD remake and a third-party partnership. Zelda rose to No. 3, which is excellent for a platform exclusive on a console with the smallest install base. That suggests that Twilight Princess HD has a seriously high attach rate in the States. Pokkén Tournament is a coproduction between Nintendo and Bandai Namco that paid off. The two companies were able to crack match Street Fighter V’s February debut at No. 7 on the sales chart, which maybe says something about the weakness of the Street Fighter scene on Sony’s console.

As for the other new games on this chart, UFC 2 is EA’s sole entry on this list, but it outperformed MLB 16: The Show from Sony Interactive Entertainment. Sony holds the exclusive rights to make triple-A MLB games, which has historically made this a tough time of year for EA Sports as this is traditionally when Madden slips off the charts. But UFC 2 is helping it fill that gap in its schedule.

The rest of the list are familiar favorites.

Minecraft will just never leave this chart. It continues to sell like mad, and it will probably keep doing that until the universe expands into a fine mist that can no longer support life.

Grand Theft Auto V at No. 4 is also astonishing. The game originally came out in 2013, and it has finished each year since then as a top 10 seller. It could potentially do the same again in 2016.

Finally, this list is heavy on PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U, and that’s because games aren’t selling well on other platforms.

“Software unit sales for [current-generation] consoles increased 36 percent, offsetting the [last-generation] decline of 55 percent,” said Callahan. “This resulted in overall console software unit sales increasing 4 percent, with revenue up 10 percent compared to last March.  For Portable software, unit sales and revenue were down 19 percent and 16 percent, respectively, in March 2016 compared to last year.”

Hardware

We’ve reached out to Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to ask for their sales data. As usual, the companies are hesitant to share that information, but we’ll include any statements we get from the companies on the matter here.

But as we mentioned, hardware sales are starting to decline overall. This is no longer just because Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii are no longer selling. We’ve moved past that phase of the generation. At this point, we’re looking at the same consoles selling $250 to $350 instead of $350 – $450. That’s driving revenues down, and it’s probably why Sony and Microsoft are considering upgrades to their current systems.

“Video game hardware dollar sales declined by 19 percent in March 2016, with unit sales dropping 17 percent,” said Callahan. “The difference in trends was due to some softening of average retail prices of 2 percent versus last March.”

The 3DS and Vita handhelds are the biggest trouble spot for the industry right now.

“Portable hardware sales had the highest dollar sales volume decline versus last March, followed closely by [current-generation] consoles,” said Callahan.
“Seventh generation consoles had a steep percentage decline of 78 percent, though those sales now represent only 2 percent of the month’s sales.”

For now, however, PlayStation 4 continues to outsell the competition, according to a statement from Sony Interactive Entertainment:

“Thank you to our fans and partners for making PlayStation 4 the top-selling console and software sales leader for the month of March, as well as the number-one console for fans of The Division, according to NPD. We are truly humbled by the success and look forward to delivering more amazing gaming experiences throughout 2016, including the launch of PlayStation VR this October.”

Microsoft marketing boss Mike Nichols provided a statement regarding the popularity of Xbox Live:

“In March, global hours spent gaming on Xbox One increased 89 percent compared to last year. Xbox Live engagement was driven by the greatest games lineup, including new titles released in March like ‘Killer Instinct: Season 3’ and ‘Tom Clancy’s The Division.’ ‘Killer Instinct: Season 3’ has seen record engagement across Xbox One and Windows 10 since it launched on March 29, making March the best month ever for the franchise with more than 6 million unique players.Last week, on April 5, we launched ‘Quantum Break’ to critical acclaim and it became the best-selling Xbox game around the world, and is now the biggest-selling new Microsoft Studios published IP this generation. We can’t thank our fans enough for their continued support and we’re looking forward to bringing more unprecedented experiences on Xbox One, Windows 10 and Xbox Live later this year.”

Nintendo did not provide an update on its hardware or service use.

More information:

Get more stories like this on TwitterFacebook









PlayStation 4 outsells Xbox One in March

One of the fastest-selling consoles ever.

Sony’s console continues its sales streak.

PlayStation 4 was the top-selling new gaming console at United States retailers last month, according to data from industry-tracking firm The NPD Group that Sony Interactive Entertainment provided to GamesBeat. PS4 has outsold the competition for 13 of the last 15 months. The Xbox One came out on top in April and October in 2015, and it continues to sell well — but Sony has all of the momentum. Nintendo’s Wii U, meanwhile, is likely on the way out as the company shifts to mobile gaming and its new codenamed NX dedicated hardware to try to find new revenues in the $99.3 billion gaming business.

The console gaming industry represents about a third of that $99.3 billion total, and Sony is well positioned to take advantage of that in terms of both hardware and software sales.

Here’s the full statement from Sony Interactive Entertainment:

“Thank you to our fans and partners for making PlayStation 4 the top-selling console and software sales leader for the month of March, as well as the number-one console for fans of The Division, according to NPD. We are truly humbled by the success and look forward to delivering more amazing gaming experiences throughout 2016, including the launch of PlayStation VR this October.”

These console sales come with a cloud of uncertainty. March is when people first started hearing rumors of an alleged “PlayStation 4K” with improved processing and video-output capabilities. Microsoft has also mentioned the possibility for something along those lines. Refreshed consoles that sell for $400 from each company make a lot of sense, but these rumors could also scare consumers away from making any big purchasing decisions now.

More information:

Get more stories like this on TwitterFacebook









PlayStation 4 outsells Xbox One in March

One of the fastest-selling consoles ever.

Sony’s console continues its streak.

PlayStation 4 was the top-selling new gaming console at United States retailers last month, according to data from industry-tracking firm The NPD Group provided to GamesBeat by Sony Interactive Entertainment. PS4 has outsold the competition for the last 13 of the last 15 months. The Xbox One came out on top in April and October of 2015, and it continues to sell well — but Sony has all of the momentum. Nintendo’s Wii U, meanwhile, is likely on the way out as the company shifts to mobile gaming and its new NX dedicated hardware to try to find new revenues in the $99.3 billion gaming business.

Here’s the full statement from Sony Interactive Entertainment:

“Thank you to our fans and partners for making PlayStation 4 the top-selling console and software sales leader for the month of March, as well as the number-one console for fans of The Division, according to NPD. We are truly humbled by the success and look forward to delivering more amazing gaming experiences throughout 2016, including the launch of PlayStation VR this October.”

These console sales come with a cloud of uncertainty. March is when gamers first started hearing rumors of an alleged “PlayStation 4K” with improved processing and video-output capabilities. Microsoft has also mentioned the possibility for something along those lines. We think refreshed consoles that sell for $400 from each company make a lot of sense, but these rumors could also scare consumers away from making any big purchasing decisions now.

More information:

Get more stories like this on TwitterFacebook









PlayStation 4 outsells Xbox One in March

One of the fastest-selling consoles ever.

Sony’s console continues its sales streak.

PlayStation 4 was the top-selling new gaming console at United States retailers last month, according to data from industry-tracking firm The NPD Group that Sony Interactive Entertainment provided to GamesBeat. PS4 has outsold the competition for 13 of the last 15 months. The Xbox One came out on top in April and October in 2015, and it continues to sell well — but Sony has all of the momentum. Nintendo’s Wii U, meanwhile, is likely on the way out as the company shifts to mobile gaming and its new codenamed NX dedicated hardware to try to find new revenues in the $99.3 billion gaming business.

The console gaming industry represents about a third of that $99.3 billion total, and Sony is well positioned to take advantage of that in terms of both hardware and software sales.

Here’s the full statement from Sony Interactive Entertainment:

“Thank you to our fans and partners for making PlayStation 4 the top-selling console and software sales leader for the month of March, as well as the number-one console for fans of The Division, according to NPD. We are truly humbled by the success and look forward to delivering more amazing gaming experiences throughout 2016, including the launch of PlayStation VR this October.”

These console sales come with a cloud of uncertainty. March is when people first started hearing rumors of an alleged “PlayStation 4K” with improved processing and video-output capabilities. Microsoft has also mentioned the possibility for something along those lines. Refreshed consoles that sell for $400 from each company make a lot of sense, but these rumors could also scare consumers away from making any big purchasing decisions now.

More information:

Get more stories like this on TwitterFacebook









Microsoft releases new Windows 10 Mobile preview with Cortana, Edge, and lock screen improvements

Windows 10

Microsoft released a new Windows 10 Mobile preview today. The latest build includes improvements to the Action Center, notifications, Cortana, Settings, emoji, Edge, and the Lock screen.

Like the last mobile build, this one is only available for devices that shipped with Windows 10 Mobile (the Lumia 950, 950 XL, 650, 550, Xiaomi Mi4, and Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL) and select Windows Phone 8.1 devices that have been upgraded. The only exception is the Lumia 635, which Microsoft plans to add at a later date. Microsoft naturally has no plans to offer new preview builds to other devices.

First up, individual app notifications in the Action Center no longer show the app icon repeated for each notification, while more Cortana notifications have been added. You can also now add, remove, and re-arrange the Quick Actions that show up in Action Center. Notifications in the Action Center now also have more flexible layouts, including larger images.

windows_10_mobile_action_center

You can now manage the notification settings for individual apps (Settings => System => Notifications & actions) to one of three levels: Normal, High, or Top. You can also adjust how many notifications are visible per app (default is three).

It’s now easier to set a reminder in Cortana. You can create a Photo Reminder by taking a picture of something you want to be reminded about, and you can also set reminders on content from some UWP apps.

wp_ss_20160413_0010-576x1024

The Settings app has gotten individual icons for pages, a dropdown flyout with page suggestions, a page for the navigation bar, a simplified Glance screen, and other small changes. The two big revamps are the new Battery section, which includes an updated Detailed Battery Use page for managing per-app background settings inline, and a Windows Update option that avoids automatically installing updates when you’re using your device.

windows_10_mobile_settings

Next, this build adds new emoji to your phone, just like the recent PC build. The emoji section of the keyboard has been slightly reorganized to accommodate the new emoji, arranged as follows: Favorites, Smileys and Animals, People, Celebrations and Objects, Food and Plants, Transportation and Places, Symbols, and ASCII emoticons.

wp_ss_20160413_0019-992x1024

Edge has gained copy and paste improvements: if you select text on a web page, the copy button will appear immediately near the selection, and there’s also a new paste button above the keyboard when you are typing into an edit box. If you tap on a link in an app that opens a new tab in Microsoft Edge, pressing the back button will close that tab and take you back to the app.

Continuum-capable phones now include support for most (but not all) USB Ethernet adapters, so when you connect a USB Ethernet adapter, your Lumia 950 or Lumia 950 XL will have network connectivity through an attached Ethernet cable. You may still see error messages and there’s no visual indicator that you are connected, so there’s still work to be done. Proxy support for LAN connections is coming.

On the lock screen, the back button has been replaced with a camera button (press and hold to launch the Camera app. Media controls are now available on the lock screen so you can pause your music, as well as go to previous and next tracks.

media-controls-lock-screen-576x1024

Features aside, this build also contains a long list of fixes:

  • User dictionaries contained incorrect words or were corrupted, so they have been reset.
  • The screen flickers while watching a full screen video or when you first launched the Camera app.
  • The alarm volume will get louder faster.
  • If you answer a call while at least one notification is visible, you no longer need to dismiss that notification before being able to end the call. You will now see the call in-progress banner above the notification while in this state, and tapping it will bypass any existing notifications without having to first dismiss them.
  • An issue where pressing the hardware volume controls would quit Netflix playback.
  • An issue where Chinese Input Method Editor users would lose their typing history after reboot, as well as an issue resulting in the Chinese 12-key keyboard crashing if you typed “erbo” (㜦).
  • An issue where swiping from Start to the All apps list would get stuck after exiting Continuum.
  • An issue where music would sometimes stop playing a few minutes after the device had been locked or the screen had been turned off.
  • An issue resulting in the keyboard dismissing when you tapped the first key after having interacted with the app bar.
  • An issue where trying to delete and re-type an auto-correction would result in it getting auto-corrected again.
  • An issue where locking and unlocking the phone quickly with Action Center open could result in Start being stuck on resuming.
  • An issue where the keyboard would sometimes show all black when responding to a text in the Action Center above the Lock screen.
  • An issue where users with their Lock screen set to Bing would just see the default Windows 10 background.
  • An issue resulting a missing Windows logo above the Start screen in the Task Switcher.
  • An issue where phone call could stop ringing if interrupted by an SMS notification.
  • An issue where the app name on the Start tile could be truncated even though there’s space available to display it.
  • An issue where volume control would continue to show headphones volume after headphones had been disconnected.
  • Notification text in banners and Action center will now grow larger when the Ease of Access “Text Scaling” option is enabled.

That said, this build also contains five known issues:

  • Language and speech packs are unable to be downloaded and will show errors due to a backend issue.
  • The Camera app can crash when going into your camera roll.
  • You may see duplicate apps under All apps showing as pending despite being installed and usable on your phone. You may also see some apps stuck in the Store.
  • You may see square boxes in certain apps when using some of the new emoji.
  • In some cases, users might get in a state where neither space or enter are working on the keyboard. If that happens, pressing and holding one of the apps in the All apps list until a context menu appears may resolve the issue. If this doesn’t work, you will need to reboot.

Today’s update bumps the Windows 10 build number from 14295, made available to testers on March 25, to build 14322. This is clearly a massive release, so die-hard Windows Phone fans should be pleased.


Get more stories like this on TwitterFacebook