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Valve Announces SteamOS and Steam Machines, to Launch Early 2014

posted Saturday Sep 28, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Valve Announces SteamOS and Steam Machines, to Launch Early 2014

Ever since the introduction of Big Picture Mode and the Steam Box rumors, Valve has found a way to stay in the news, despite Gabe's ever-increasing insanity. This week, Valve announced more details on the Steam Box, and we now know that it isn't just one machine - even though we've known that unofficially for a while - and the company also announced the release of SteamOS.

Mr. Newell still believes that Linux is the future, even for gaming, and has now put a lot more eggs into that penguin-shaped basket. Valve has gone full-bore with that notion, with the announcement of SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system that will be meant for bringing PC gaming to living rooms everywhere, with the help of Big Picture Mode. SteamOS will be made available to any person who wants it on their current machine, or to any manufacturer who wants to distribute a computer with the system already pre-loaded onto the hardware. This is, of course, after Gabe said that Windows 8 was a "giant sadness" and that Steam games "could not run on Windows 8."

At any rate, we should expect to see SteamOS in a couple months, as Valve has said that, "beginning in 2014, there will be multiple SteamOS machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers."

Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world. We want you to be able to choose the hardware that makes sense for you, so we are working with multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014, all of them running SteamOS.

As of right now, we still don't know what the Steam Box-certified device will look like, or even the exact manufacturers the company has enlisted to help them on the project. However, we do know that Valve is working on their own machine, and have, for once, officially confirmed so. This box, made especially for the SteamOS, will be shipped first to 300 Steam users who have gone over to the Badge section of their Steam profile page and have done the required tasks by October 25th. Some 70,000 users are currently eligible to participate, but not all have entered to win the box.

Prototypes are shipping this year, but still, even after another drawn out announcement of everything, no word on price, specs or performance. At this point we don't even have a picture of anything, so it kind of feels like the PS4 launch.

Also, while everyone is happy about finally having an upgradeable and "open" platform in which to game on, let's not forget about some key facts that are in play here. Most TVs have drastically higher lag times than that of PC monitors and most users leave on settings that cause lag times to rise even higher than 100ms in some cases. I'd be quite surprised if the hardcore gamer that's being targeted takes an early or heavy adoption to this machine, considering that response time is the most hated thing in the gaming world. No amount of "openness" or "ease of changing parts" is going to fix you missing a sniper shot even though you were locked on.

However, the casual gamer with a bit of computer knowledge could see this machine being useful, especially for a family of gamers. Steam has introduced Family Sharing and Family Options, which give a household a broad variety of setups and choices to show games, share games and more, with everyone under the roof. To that same end though, as I reflect back on an excerpt from a previous piece of mine:

Lately, the push has been to get away from having to have a full-fledged computer in the living room. At the very most, consumers were getting by with their laptop, using WiDi (wireless display technology), to connect it to a TV to play their movies or show off some pictures. More and more often, however, we're seeing products being introduced at the International CES that allow that same user to use their smartphone or Xbox 360/PS3 to accomplish the same goal, cable and adapter free. Having to put another piece of hardware in an already crowded entertainment center, in this day in age, just seems like a waste of time and space unless you're a business person. And that's not who this box is for.

This box is for the gamer. Perhaps the hardcore ones would put it in their living room, so long as they own the house or apartment, because we know moms and dads won't let the 12 hour League of Legends session occur in place of primetime TV.

We will have to wait and see until these prototypes ship out to learn about the look and feel. Come the new year, we'll have a better idea on just who will be picking up an open computer with a limited number of games to play on it, and we'll also know just how all of that will be working for them. To me, it just seems like another OUYA.

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Jabil Circuit to 'Wind Down Relationship' With BlackBerry

posted Saturday Sep 28, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Jabil Circuit to 'Wind Down Relationship' With BlackBerry

BlackBerry's world is not exactly what they thought it would be. Sales are down, profits are down massively, layoffs are imminent and they just sold themselves to Fairfax Financial Holdings. In a letter of intent from BlackBerry, Fairfax Financial Holdings will purchase the struggling smartphone brand for $4.7 billion.

While no plans have been announced yet, Fairfax is known for holding companies. The company has an impressive portfolio of companies it is involved with. Obviously BlackBerry is hoping that it will be maintained and not sold off for parts, something Thorsten Heins has been actively avoiding.

With everything crumbling out from under them, one thing has been consistent: Jabil Circuit manufactures their handsets. That is until Jabil Circuit CEO Mark Mondello said,

We are in discussions right now, on how we are going to wind down the relationship.

So, will BlackBerry be able to continue operating? Will they find another handset manufacturer? Will this be the final nail in the coffin of BlackBerry? In the light of the changing atmosphere, Heins plans to refocus the company.

Going forward, we plan to refocus our offering on our end-to-end solution of hardware, software and services for enterprises and the productive, professional end user. This puts us squarely on target with the customers that helped build BlackBerry into the leading brand today for enterprise security, manageability and reliability.

Away from trying to be a consumer-focused company and back to their roots as an enterprise-focused company. This could explain some of why BlackBerry pulled back the release of its BlackBerry Messenger app for iPhone and Android. It also undoes a lot of the last year, including hiring Alicia Keys as its creative director and marketing hardcore to the casual smartphone user.

Will a return to the past fix BlackBerry's woes? Sound off in the comments.

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Full Xbox Titles Streaming to PCs and Phones Soon [Rumor]

posted Saturday Sep 28, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Full Xbox Titles Streaming to PCs and Phones Soon [Rumor]

Microsoft demonstrated a prototype of a videogame streaming service this week at an employee meeting. Streaming Halo 4 to both a Windows Phone and a PC, they showed off what can be done with an Xbox title and the cloud. According to people familiar with the technology, the stream works incredibly well on both platforms, with a Lumia 520 coming in at only 45ms latency.

The demonstration, which is again still prototype, was demonstrated on both a low-end Windows hybrid and a Windows Phone using a standard Xbox controller and an accessory adapter. There is no branding for the service, again because of the development status, but it is clearly a response to Sony's acquisition of Gaiakai.

While Microsoft is billing this internally as a way to stream games to Windows devices, my money is on backwards compatibility for the Xbox One. Albert Penello, senior director of Xbox, previously said,

It could be more complicated things like rendering full games like a Gaikai and delivering it to the box. We just have to figure out how, over time, how much does that cost to deliver, how good is the experience.

Personally, I would love the ability to play full titles on my Windows Phone. I would also like to use an Xbox controller to play that title on my phone. Is this a technology that you would use? Let us know in the comments.

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Netflix Makes Super HD Available to All

posted Saturday Sep 28, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Netflix Makes Super HD Available to All

Despite a fairly constant battle with ISPs, Netflix has unleashed its Super HD video quality to all streaming customers, regardless of the service provider. Previously, Super HD was only available to customers whose ISP had implemented Open Connect delivery system, but member requests have encouraged them to roll it out to all members.

What is Open Connect? It is a platform in which an ISP can have a direct, open connection directly to Netflix. Instead of having to connect through the vast pipelines of the Internet, the direct connection allows for a much better picture quality.

So, without Open Connect, how likely is it that a person will receive Super HD? According to Netflix,

The ability to receive Super HD depends on broadband quality and performance. Netflix members who subscribe to an ISP with a direct Netflix connection will get the best experience.

Of course Netflix is still trying to sell ISPs on Open Connect, which is completely free to ISPs, but they do believe that standard connections will be capable of Super HD. Super HD, which is a higher quality, less compressed video quality, is only available on certain titles and can only be streamed to certain devices.

If you are interested in whether or not your device is Super HD capable, you can find out here.

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YouTube's Comments Section to Be Revamped, Featuring Google+

posted Wednesday Sep 25, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

YouTube's Comments Section to Be Revamped, Featuring Google+

YouTube has finally decided that the homophobic, racist and hate speech-laden bottom-of-the-barrel comments section of each video are no longer appropriate nor relevant. The Google-owned video sharing site has also found another way to shove Google+ into our faces, whether we like it or not. Straight from YouTube's blog, the company summed it up,

When it comes to the conversations happening on YouTube, recent does not necessarily mean relevant. So, comments will soon become conversations that matter to you. In the coming months, comments from people you care about will rise up where you can see them, while new tools will help video creators moderate conversations for welcome and unwelcome voices.

YouTube says that beginning this week, if you're a Google+ user, you'll start to notice YouTube comments popping up on your channel discussion tab. Later on in the year, YouTube says it will transition all video comments to a Google+-powered experience, as part of its way of connecting you with familiar faces. What this all boils down to is instead of seeing 100 attempts of a "first" comment, followed by an argument of which race is better (I prefer the 5k myself), you'll see more "via Google+" comments and threads show up at the top of the comment section.

At the least, it's a somewhat better way to eliminate the spam, hopefully, however savvy Internet users will recognize this as something similar to when Facebook started deciding which of your friends are worthy enough to appear in your Timeline. The good news is we do have more detail on some of the features we'll see in this transition to a new comment system.

  • Comments you care about move to the top: You'll see posts at the top of the list from the video's creator, popular personalities, engaged discussions about the video, and people in your Google+ Circles.
  • Join the conversation publicly or privately: You can choose to start a conversation so that it is seen by everyone on YouTube and Google+, only people in your Circles or just your bestie. Like Gmail, replies are threaded so you can easily follow conversations.
  • Better ways to moderate comments: You have new tools to review comments before they're posted, block certain words or save time by auto-approving comments from certain fans. These can help you spend less time moderating, and more time sharing videos and connecting with your fans.

This also sort of feels like Microsoft's so.cl meets an instant messaging service, where you can pull your friends into a conversation about a song, video clip or picture that you liked on the web. Perhaps it will make the comments section of YouTube videos exciting to read again. Adversely, it might just be another reason to avoid it altogether, as you'll be reading more comments from the same couple of people who are active on YouTube, who are also in your Circles on G+.

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House of Cards Headed to... Redbox?

posted Saturday Sep 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

<i>House of Cards</i> Headed to... Redbox?

Sometimes I wonder if companies make announcements just to see if we will believe them or not. That is what we have here. Netflix has announced that their original series House of Cards will soon be available at Redbox, one of their biggest competitors.

This is all part of their attempt to transition from broadcaster to producer, the same thing that Hulu and Amazon have been trying. This is just an interesting approach to the concept, and a upping of the ante for the competitors. If you are going to challenge the industry through the competition, there is probably not a better Trojan horse than House of Cards.

With NINE Emmy nominations, this series can appeal to anyone through any service. Adding the "Netflix Original Series" bumper to the beginning and end of an episode turns the show from a great series to watch to an advertisement for one service on another. It's a little like seeing FOX commercials while watching a show on Adult Swim.

Will this undercover marketing work? Well, if the concept was bad, the broadcast networks wouldn't do it all the time. If it is successful, it can help CEO Reed Hastings accomplish his goal of having around 20 original programs running at any given time. Currently, in addition to House of Cards, they also have Orange is the New Black; only 10% of the way to his goal.

If you don't currently have Netflix and are interested in checking out this program, you will be able to through Redbox on October 8th. Once you fall in love, it might be time to get a Netflix subscription and check out the rest of the great content that is available.

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