Everyone’s been talking about this story today, but I think it’s an incredible one. In what’s clearly the biggest purchase or acquisition the company has ever made, Microsoft has weighed in and purchased Skype outright for $8.5 billion. That’s a lot of dough.
Microsoft is buying Skype from Silver Lake, the investment firm which has had a majority interest in Skype for a while now, since eBay spun it off after acquiring it and not knowing what to do with it. Now, what the future has in store for Skype is anyone’s guess, but we’ll see how it all turns out for the company: it’s going to be interesting to see what Microsoft decided to do with Skype.
A lot of people have already predicted that Microsoft will simply shut Skype down and absorb its technology into its own communication and VoIP products, leaving nothing behind. According to Microsoft, they have no such plans. From PC Mag:
Microsoft said the deal will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications across its products, while expanding Skype’s reach. Skype will be available on Microsoft products like Xbox, Kinect, and Windows Phone, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live, and more.
Microsoft said it will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.
“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a statement. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”
When the deal is complete, Skype will be a new business division within Microsoft. Skype CEO Tony Bates will become president of the Microsoft Skype division, reporting to Ballmer.
If that’s the case, we’ll still see Skype in the future, and people will still be able to use the service. However, as one clever Twitter user put it, I wonder if they’ll make us all sign in with our old Hotmail/Live IDs that none of us remember the passwords to anymore.
One of the things I adore about fun and quirky little “see what the future will be like” technology expos and specials are the ones that take you into what the future home will look like. In this case, up in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft maintains their own vision of what a futuristic home with Microsoft’s embedded technology would look like.
Now granted, a home like this would be impossibly expensive and heaven forbid most of this technology is commercially available yet, but slowly but surely it’s becoming a reality. Don’t mistake the “slowly” part there though – most people don’t have the money or the desire to invest in this much tech in their homes. That said, that’s okay! This is an expo home anyway, a display of what’s possible should the market demand it.
The home of the future will talk to you, help you decide what to wear, and tell you whether you have the ingredients to make your favorite dish tonight. In a way, it thinks for itself, but it’s no real AI – so no worries it’ll go ahead and take Skynet live.
Check out a video tour of the home at the BBC:
PC Mag took your votes in multiple categories to come up with a definitive list of the most influential products of all time. From mobile devices to gaming to desktops to operating systems, they laid out the candidates and the public voted on which products have made the most impact in the technology world.
I wouldn’t have included the image of the Atari 2600 if it hadn’t won in the gaming category, but the original Nintendo Entertainment System was pretty close behind, nipping at its heels. The battle in the operating system category between Windows 3.1 and MacOS was pretty fierce, as was the battle between the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore 64 in the desktops category, but you’ll have to click through to see the results of that battle: I’m not about to spoil it for you.
Well, the social has officially ended. Microsoft has tipped to Bloomberg that the Zune line of hardware products is all but finished, but the name, the media player, and the software line will live on. I reported on this here at Gears and Widgets a while ago when word started to leak out that the death of the Zune may be coming. Now, it seems, it’s finally here:
According to Bloomberg, Microsoft will continue to put its Zune features into Windows Phone 7 and in the Zune desktop software for Windows. Microsoft’s Zune Pass remains an economical way to stream and have access to a large array of music, but the fact that it only runs on Windows devices ruins its potential as a true iTunes competitor.
First thing to note: Microsoft officially refused to comment on the rumor, and claimed that they’re committed to supporting their devices, but they also didn’t do anything to diffuse worry, and didn’t even approach a statement claiming that they would continue to work on the Zune. (Full disclosure: this makes me really sad, because I met an engineer from Microsoft at CES 2010 who worked on the electrical systems that make the OLED display in the Zune so gorgeous. I hope she’s still got a job.)
While a lot of blogs are writing pretty nasty epitaphs for the Zune player, I think that it was a great device in the end that had a lot of unrealized potential. The Zune desktop software and Zune Marketplace for music were both great, the Zune hardware was sleek and attractive – especially as the Zune HD came out, and while I think the Zune started as something of a bad idea and a copycat product to the iPod, it eventually came into its own and was a strong, affordable, and great-sounding music player that any music lover would have been happy to own.
Lance Ulanoff of PC Mag, however, thinks this is emblematic of bigger problems at Microsoft regarding brand control and their desire to let unfavorable products simply die on the vine (a la the Microsoft Kin.) He says:
Dear Microsoft: Manage your message or someone will do it for you. Case in point: the recent, none-too-surprising news that the lovely Zune HD will meet a timely death. Within minutes of the news breaking, stories and tweets flooded the Internet declaring, “The Zune is Dead.” This was followed by people asking if everything “Zune” was gone or just the hardware. I assured people that the obvious answer was the hardware only, but is it that obvious? And why wasn’t Microsoft out in front of this information?
Sadly, Microsoft could also use some of that positive buzz for Windows Phone, too, right now. The nascent mobile platform has, just like the Zune before it, gotten off to a slow start. Yes, I heard that there are now 10,000 apps in the Windows Phone marketplace, but I hesitate to call that momentum. I’m still not seeing enough Windows phones in the wild—more than I ever saw Zunes and Zune HD’s mind you, but not enough to create the kind of excitement you see around every Apple iPhone release, rumor, upgrade or random notion.
The company did not do a great job during the recent Windows Phone update fiasco (it’s ready, it’s not the one we talked about, it’s not ready, we don’t know, here it comes). That kind of nonsense just makes it seem like Microsoft cannot get its act together.
He has an excellent point, and if Microsoft is going to treat Windows Phone 7 the way it’s been treating the Zune and the Kin, they’re in trouble, and we’re in trouble because we’ll lose some decent products in-market and solid competition for other products that are already market leaders.
The Zune was great competition to the iPod, and in some ways the driving force behind larger storage and lower prices that we saw in the iPod, and eventually the abandonment of physical drives in music players entirely: it brought great video to the screen of a simple music player and forced Apple to do the same.
The Zune HD’s only real weakness was a lack of apps and software support by developers to make it a solid competitor to the iPod Touch.
Still, do I own a Zune? Not at all – although I know a few people who do and love them. Most people I know with Zunes loved them when they got them, the problem was getting the Zune into the hands of people to try and enjoy. It was definitely the kind of product that you had to use to love, and once you used it, you loved it. I’m sad to see it go – partially because it’s a great product, but partially because it was the iPod’s only real, solid competition.
At the same time, many people would make the argument that the stand-alone digital media player market is dead or dying anyway: more people want to take their music with them on their phones, and phone storage is getting to be as large as some of these large-screened DAPs with NAND flash storage anyway. If I have a 32GB iPhone, what do I need a 32GB iPod Touch or Zune for?
So here’s to you, Zune – I’ll pour one out for you. Or maybe pick one up on sale, now that I’m betting I can get a good deal on a Zune HD.
(image via CrunchGear)
Microsoft should be proud of this one, it’s a huge accomplishment! The Kinect peripheral for XBox 360 has claimed the title of fastest selling consumer electronics device of all time, snatching it from the jaws of the original Apple iPad. That’s right – more Kinects were sold faster than the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Nintendo Wii, PS3, and pretty much everything else in recent memory you can recall people lining up for outside of stores before they opened.
For those who follow my writing, yes I already mentioned this at Gearlog, but I thought the news was pretty important and worth sharing again.
Now whether or not the iPad 2 will claim the title back from the Kinect remains to be seen. We’ll see how it goes starting tomorrow, but I doubt it – it’s not usual that a sequel device outsells the original. But still – all this and I still don’t have a Kinect? I’m really behind the curve here.
Starting with Windows 1.0, one man rides the long long journey all the way to Windows 7, upgrading a VM and playing with the Windows upgrade process along the way. It’s really the kind of thing you want to see rather than read explained, so press play and enjoy. To embiggen, head over to YouTube to see the video here.
I covered this story for Gearlog today, but I think it’s interesting enough to discuss here as well. Paul Thurott, for all his often-crack-smoking-goodness, often gets the inside scoop at Microsoft earlier than a lot of people, and he has a pretty good track record for being right. So when he implies that part of the fallout of the Nokia and Microsoft partnership is that the Zune brand may be dropped so Microsoft can combine and focus all of its efforts into one unified mobile platform for both media players and mobile phones.
It likely doesn’t mean the end of the name, but it might mean the end of the Zune “brand,” but what exactly that really means? No one’s sure yet. Here’s what Thurott had to say over at his blog:
And what about Zune? Although both companies talked up virtually all Windows Phone-based services, Zune was conspicuously missing–both in discussions from both Elop and Ballmer and on a global reach marketing slide that was created by both companies. My sources tell me that the Zune brand is on the way out and that all Zune products and services will be moved into other businesses, including Windows Live. Zune will essentially cease to exist under this plan.
And here’s what I had to say:
Whether this means that new Zune and Zune HD digital media players will suddenly be renamed to something else, or that the Zune Marketplace will fold into the Windows Phone Marketplace, or that some new branding will appear to unify all of Microsoft’s mobile devices remains to be seen.
Even so, and assuming Thurott’s sources are correct, wiping away the Zune as a brand would be a pretty big feat for Microsoft considering how entrenched it is in XBox Live, in WIndows Phone 7, and as a name in the digital music space. It’s unlikely to be as dramatic as it seems, but it will be interesting to see what happens.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
This week saw the release of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s new mobile operating system, which they hope will remove the horrible taint of Windows Mobile from the collective conciousness and put Microsoft in a position where they can compete with the likes of Apple’s iOS and the iPhone and Google’s Android mobile OS and the plethora of devices it’s available on.
So far, early reviews from hands-on testing of the yet-to-be-released handsets (coming to AT&T and T-Mobile by the end of the year) are largely positive, praising Microsoft for a well polished mobile operating system that — while missing lots of critical features like multitasking and copy/paste — integrates lots of Microsoft services like XBox Live, Zune, and social services like Twitter and Facebook out of the box. The hardware platform Microsoft requires from device manufacturers is strong and on the high-end, and manufacturers like HTC and Samsung are heeding the call.
To that point, PC Mag has put together a handy little guide that wraps up everything you need to know about the new Windows Phone 7 devices announced this week, and to help you decide whether you should rush to pick one up when they’re available on your carrier. The general gist? There are some pretty crucial features that are missing at launch, but depending on how you use your smartphone, you may not miss them. There’s even a phone-by-phone breakdown of each device and first impressions.
Internet Explorer 9 just came out today, and the fine folks at PC Mag have taken it for a test drive and churned out a hands-on review of Microsoft’s latest volley into the browser wars. I would do the same, but unfortunately at the office I’m chained to Windows XP, so I’ll have to wait for later when I get back to my Vista PC, since only folks running Windows Vista or Windows 7 will be able to run Internet Explorer 9.
So far, early impressions of the IE9 beta are favorable, noting its support for pinning Web sites like apps to the taskbar in Windows 7, the clean and minimized interface, and its highly improved speed, catching up with other browsers like Chrome and the Firefox 4 beta. IE 9 also lays in HTML5 functionality, and while it’s still one of the least standards-compliant browsers and still mis-renders a number of sites, it represents a good step forward for Microsoft, who’s looking to improve Internet Explorer’s image.
Head over to PC Mag to see tons of screenshots from the new browser, and read more about what’s hot and what’s not in the beta!
If you haven’t heard the news, (and a lot of people heard the news and thought “what’s that?”) Microsoft killed the Kin, the smartphone designed to be a semi-smartphone for young people and teenagers looking for a device that had a focus on social networking and staying in touch with friends but didn’t need enterprise-level features.
Most people in the tech sector saw the announcement (and still see the commercials on TV) and shake our head sadly at what could have been a good product if it had been given the right attention, resources, appropriate marketing, and aggressive prices.
I’m completely agreed with the notion that the Microsoft Kin could have been an amazing product, and could have been the pioneer for a new generation of feature phones that could have stood alongside devices like the LG Envy and dominated them. Instead, Verizon took them and put them on the same stage as smartphones that were way more powerful, at the same price-point, and forced owners to have expensive smartphone-level data plans to support them.
The price was something I would have been able to get over if it weren’t for the fact that Verizon charged data fees on top of them when they don’t for phones that are more like the Kin. The Kin, at least in my perspective, was less of a mini-smartphone or smartphone-lite as it was a super feature phone that would help teens send messages to their friends, send them photos, take video, and then manage all of that content from a Web app powered by Microsoft.
The Kin could have been rolled in with Zune and Zune Marketplace and as a precursor to Windows Phone 7, and positioned as the first in an aggressive new generation of feature phones that would have forced LG and Samsung to up their ante and bring feature phones to the market that would really be fun and useful for young people who don’t necessarily want (or whose parents don’t want them to have) BlackBerry devices or Android phones or iPhones.
Instead, the Kin died a slow and painful death because it was horribly marketed to no specific target group, generically labeled as a “social phone” without any real look at what made it stand out or what the companion Web app was good for, it was priced too high on shelves at Verizon stores, and the requirement of a full data plan for it was the final nail in the coffin. They didn’t sell, and Microsoft pulled the plug.
Over at Engadget there’s a beautiful retelling of the true and inside story of the life and death of the Kin, which includes how things went wrong from the very beginning and the entire project turned into a “just get it finished and out the door” kind of project, even if it was flawed and even if people at Microsoft and Verizon both knew that the way it was positioned meant it wouldn’t go anywhere. It’s worth a read, if not for lines like this:
While it’s hard to argue that Kin is an awful product, the saddest part of the story is that many of the people responsible for it knew it was — they were largely victims of political circumstance, forced to release a phone that was practically raw in the middle.