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Microsoft Stays Committed to the 360, Removes Title Update Fee

posted Sunday Jun 30, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Stays Committed to the 360, Removes Title Update Fee

Even after diving into details of the Xbox One at E3, Microsoft has remained committed to the Xbox 360 with new games and a new console. It's obvious that Microsoft still sees value in the eight year old console and will continue to support it even after the launch of the One this holiday season. To continue their committment, the Xbox team also announced that they have stopped putting the $10,000 price tag on developers to update their 360 titles. The only problem is they forgot to tell, well, anyone.

In a story that further makes everyone scratch their head at the lack of explanation coming out of Microsoft lately, apparently they stopped charging fees to update games back in April, however nobody seemed to know about it except for those pushing updates since then. Many third-party developers had no idea that the five-figure charge was done away with, leaving many gamers and developers going through the same motions as they have in the past. A prime example is the developing studio of Fez, Polytron, who did not fix an issue last year that corrupted a small number of gamers' save files because the percentage didn't justify the cost. Had we fast-forwarded a year, the game would've been fixed immediately and everyone would've been happy.

The official statement from Microsoft explains it a step further.

Microsoft eliminated fees for Title Updates on Xbox 360 Arcade games in April 2013. We're constantly evaluating our policies and implementing feedback.

While our development policies are confidential, and will remain so, we're pleased to say that this is just one of many ongoing changes and improvements we've made to ensure Xbox is the best place possible for developers and gamers.

Of course, this is just for the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One may or may not follow suit. If Microsoft really is trying to align themselves to compete against Steam (well, you know, before the whole policy reversal thing), then eliminating or cutting the cost on patch fees would be a great start. As it stands, however, that would seem less likely now that gamers complained about not being able to buy and play used games on a console for next-gen. I definitely do understand the need to include a patch fee for studios, as companies like EA have been known to rush products to market without fixing all of the issues first, so at least they have to pay each time they wish to push an update. Oh, and for those curious, Sony also had an update fee, but has since eliminated it when Microsoft did back in April.

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Yahoo Shuts Down Another Round of Programs

posted Sunday Jun 30, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Yahoo Shuts Down Another Round of Programs

While Yahoo has been spending a considerable amount of time and effort in acquiring Tumblr and fixing up Flickr, other apps and projects have seen less than favorable outcomes. A few months ago, CEO Marissa Mayer said she was going to turn the company around by axing non-profitable endeavors, and she did that with authority. The month of March saw seven projects close up shop, saving Mayer's company a bunch of money. Now, it looks like it's time for round two.

As her efforts are to kill off 80 percent of mobile apps and sites owned by Yahoo, Mayer announced a bunch more closures of things you may not have realized existed, but cost Yahoo a whole lot of resources. Some of them have already shut down this week, but are worth mentioning.

From Yahoo, these projects, in no particular order of notoriety, are:

Yahoo Axis (June 28)

If you installed the browser plug-in, it will no longer work. If you downloaded the app, it will continue to work, but won't be actively maintained. We encourage you to use the Yahoo Search app for iOS and Android.

Yahoo Browser Plus (June 28)

Citizen Sports (June 28)

You can still get all the latest sports news on Yahoo Sports, play fantasy sports like Fantasy Football and stay up-to-date when you're on the go with our new Yahoo Sports app for iOS and Android.

Yahoo WebPlayer (June 30)

If you're a publisher and currently using Yahoo WebPlayer on your site, after June 30 the Yahoo WebPlayer won't load. Your users will continue to be able to play media files using native browser support. You may wish to locate and remove the following line in your code:

FoxyTunes (July 1)

To see the latest in the music world, please visit Yahoo Music.

Yahoo RSS Alerts (July 1)

To continue to get the latest content that you care about, you can subscribe to Keyword News alerts at our Yahoo Alerts and receive them via email.

Yahoo Neighbors Beta (July 8)

You can visit Yahoo Local Search to find out what's going on in your neighborhood.

AltaVista (July 8)

Please visit Yahoo Search for all of your searching needs.

Yahoo Stars India (July 25)

To stay up on all your favorite celebrity news, check out Yahoo India OMG!

Yahoo Downloads Beta (July 31)

Yahoo Downloads will no longer support third-party downloads. It will continue to offer downloads of Yahoo products like Yahoo Toolbar or Yahoo Messenger.

Yahoo Local API (Sept. 28)

As part of this shutdown, all Yahoo Local API documentation will also be removed from the Yahoo Developer Network portal.

Yahoo Term Extraction API (Sept. 28)

We are eliminating direct access to the Yahoo Term Extraction API and as of Sept. 28 will require developers to go through YQL. We encourage all existing users of the Term Extraction Legacy API to migrate to YQL requests by September 28. You can use the YQL forums for any questions you might have about migrating to YQL. If you are already using the Term Extraction API via YQL, you don't need to take any action.

So, are you saddened by any of these? Let us know in the comments section below. It is a little upsetting to the retro side of me that we are seeing the closure of AltaVista. I know I was using that before I knew MetaCrawler was a thing. I'll never forget you, AltaVista, in all of your messy, hyperlink-heavy, white background radio buttons glory. If you forgot about AltaVista, it's okay, just hit the break.

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NVIDIA SHIELD Delayed Until Next Month

posted Sunday Jun 30, 2013 by Scott Ertz

NVIDIA SHIELD Delayed Until Next Month

NVIDIA announced this week that their gaming handheld, SHIELD, has been delayed. Now, this is significant for a few reasons. First, this will be NVIDIA's debut into the handheld market, with a device that showcases a unique usage of Android and, of course, showcasing the company's own Tegra 4 processor. Because of this, the company has said that the delay is to ensure the launch is perfect. With such an important debut, it makes sense to want it to be perfect.

A NVIDIA spokesperson said,

During our final QA process, we discovered a mechanical issue that relates to a 3rd party component. We want every SHIELD to be perfect, so we have elected to shift the launch date to July. We'll update you as soon as we have an exact date.

It is definitely difficult to have a perfect launch under those conditions.

It is also significant in that the delay came within hours of the original launch date. Moving the date so last minute suggests to me that they either thought they could fix the problem quicker than reality, or that they considered ignoring the problem and launching anyway. I will continue to hope that the company tried to resolve the problem and didn't hit their mark and not that there was a discussion about releasing with a known defect.

Hopefully for NVIDIA the late July timeframe will not damage the sales of the device. The recent price drop from $349 to the sweet spot of $299 might help, but any product release delay can hurt. If you need evidence, ask Ouya how it is working for them.

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Xbox 360 Gets Time Warner Cable Line-Up

posted Saturday Jun 29, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Xbox 360 Gets Time Warner Cable Line-Up

If there was one thing that Microsoft emphasized at their Xbox Reveal media event was that Xbox One is focused on media. At the E3 press event, the company emphasized their commitment to Xbox 360, even announcing a redesigned console to match the Xbox One design. The question that was left behind was if these two facts would have any overlap.

That question was answered this week when Microsoft announced that Time Warner Cable's lineup of over 200 cable stations would be coming to the Xbox 360. Time Warner's channels are currently available through a couple of Internet-connected platforms, including iOS and Roku, but this will be its first experience on a gaming console. It also marks the first time that Time Warner's experience will be enhanced with voice controls, through Kinect.

Blair Westlake, VP of Microsoft's Media & Entertainment Group, said,

TWC TV is a significant addition to Xbox 360, bringing our customers their favorite entertainment in one place-enhanced TV experience, games, movies, music, sports and entertainment apps. Our partnership with TWC enhances all that is available on Xbox 360 today, which will we continue expand. We're thrilled to offer TWC TV to U.S. Xbox Live members and Time Warner Cable subscribers.

Obviously this isn't the first cable provider to be available on the Xbox 360, with AT&T U-Verse, Comcast Xfinity and Verizon FiOS already available. It does, however, suggest that Microsoft is trying to beef up their overall media offerings in preparation for the Xbox One launch. There has been a lot of conjecture that the $499 price point might be something most people won't see, as agreements with cable providers to offer the Xbox One cheaper if you subscribe to their service.

If your cable company were to offer you an Xbox One for, say, $199 with your cable subscription, would you take advantage of the deal? Let us know in the comments section.

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Conspicuously Missing Apps Finally Coming to Windows 8

posted Saturday Jun 29, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Conspicuously Missing Apps Finally Coming to Windows 8

There is no doubt that I have been a major proponent of Windows 8 since its initial inception. As a developer, the new Windows Store APIs for .NET make things very easy, truly shortening the development cycle, far below the other mobile platforms. As a designer, the style guidelines, based on Staatliches Bauhaus principles, make for elegant, easy to navigate user experiences. As a user, centralizing common tasks makes it easy to know how to do those activities, such as changing application settings or searching for content.

With all of that said, there has been one thing that has truly been holding back Windows 8, and more importantly Windows RT - its application catalog. While there are tons of new apps being added to the store every day, there is a list of conspicuously missing applications. This week's //Build conference in San Francisco brought to light a collection of those applications that are coming in the near to undetermined future.

Facebook

This one is probably the most important, as it the most visited website on the Internet. While there are dozens of unofficial, half-hearted Facebook apps available in the store, the launch of an official application will certainly help the overall experience of Windows 8. Until now, the official answer from Microsoft was to pin Facebook's website to the Start screen, but having a native app is always better.

The only way they could screw this up is to implement the modern UI style as poorly as Twitter has. While the application is usable, it certainly doesn't follow any of the official design guidelines, which is disappointing. My hope is that Facebook's implementation will be similar to the Windows Phone 8 application and less like Twitter. There is no announced availability date.

Foursquare

While I have no doubt few people will be checking in on their Windows 8 tablets, the ability to research new places through your tablet and revisit places you and your friends have been is an ability that seems wonderfully useful. From what has been shown off of the application thus far, it is clearly a genuinely native application, using the live tile concept beautifully throughout the application, including user photos and recommendations interlaced with photos on the venue details page.

The actual written content conforms to the design guideline document perfectly, and would be a great application to use as the shining example of what modern applications should look like. There is no announced availability date.

While these two are the glaringly obvious titles, there are many more. Hit the break to read about some of the other big-name apps coming to Windows 8 now and in the future.

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FCC to Approve Sprint-Clearwire Merger, Spectrum Intact

posted Saturday Jun 29, 2013 by Scott Ertz

FCC to Approve Sprint-Clearwire Merger, Spectrum Intact

Things are starting to look a little less positive for DISH Network's bid for Clearwire, as the FCC is set to approve the Sprint-Clearwire deal. Not only will Sprint be allowed to purchase the remaining portion of the ailing wireless network that it currently owns about half of, but most surprisingly, the FCC is rumored to announce that Sprint will be able to retain all of Clearwire's spectrum.

Often when one large carrier purchases another entirely, spectrum must be left behind in certain markets because of overall market penetration. For example, when Verizon Wireless purchased Alltel a few years ago, spectrum in certain key markets was forced to be sold off to prevent Verizon from owning too much of the market. Often times, with the transfer of spectrum is the transfer of customers as well.

In this case, while the transfer of customers would be annoying, the transfer of spectrum would be the deciding factor on whether or not the deal is worth it for Sprint to complete. Sprint's business reasons for purchasing Clearwire is certainly not for the customer base, of which there is very little. Instead, it is the ability for Sprint to continue operating its WiMax network for the remaining time they have promised, plus use Clearwire's existing spectrum to enhance its own growing LTE network. The requirement to transfer spectrum to another carrier could make the deal less than worthless to the third largest national carrier.

All-in-all, this is good news for Sprint, and less than good news for DISH Network, who has put in a competing bid for Clearwire. Both bids are way above the company's theoretic value, but way below the cost and effort for either company to build out their own wireless networks, of which DISH Network has none. This is not a total loss for DISH Network, however, as they have also put in a bid for Sprint itself.

While the decision is far from official, the draft is reportedly distributed to FCC Commissioners right now. We expect to see the decision finalized in the coming weeks.

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