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Ballmer Shakes Up Microsoft Leadership

posted Friday Nov 16, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Ballmer Shakes Up Microsoft Leadership

Just weeks after Microsoft released Windows 8 and the new Microsoft Surface, along with Windows Server 2012, and a matter of days after Windows Phone 8 officially hit the market, Microsoft has announced that Steven Sinofsky, President of Windows and Windows Live, will be leaving the company effective immediately. In replacement, Tami Reller, Chief Financial and Marketing Officer, will assume business responsibility for the Windows brands.

Veteran Microsoft executive Julie Larson-Green will be assuming responsibility of the brands. She has worked on seemingly every major Microsoft property, including Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office. Most recently, the user experience development and research, as well as program management for Windows 7 and Windows 8 also fell to Larson-Green, so transferring the brands to her is fitting as she has run the product anyway. All of the best parts of Windows 8, such as the new user interface and live tiles, are the result of her research and development, while all of the bad decisions, such as Windows RT vs Windows 8, were that of Sinofsky.

This seems like a good transition for the company, and certainly goes to show that Ballmer is not afraid to cut where he sees problems. Hit the break to see what Ballmer and Sinofsky had to say about the transition.

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Skype Preview Available for Windows Phone 8 (and WinPho 7.5)

posted Friday Nov 16, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Skype Preview Available for Windows Phone 8 (and WinPho 7.5)

We knew when Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion that they'd move pretty quickly on implementing their new purchase into the Windows 8 platform. Last week we learned that Microsoft was going to can the Windows Live Messenger brand and bring in Skype in an organized fashion. This week, just over a year after the initial announcement of the acquisition, the Skype Preview is now available on Windows Phone 8.

Microsot says that the free download of only 8MB is strictly a preview release and that "experiences are not final." We have discovered that some features, like getting calls and messages while the app is closed or "minimized" are still being worked on. This rungs true with our own research of the Windows 8 platform and finding out it's not easy for the average developer to accomplish the simple task of running things in the background, so I'm glad to see it is also possibly perplexing the Skype dev team. Microsoft adds that until the app goes from a preview to official launch, that, as with all previews, you may have minor problems, like poor call quality and other random bugs pop up from time to time. From the Skype details page,

NOTE: Some capabilities listed above are work-in-progress and may not function consistently. This includes, but is not limited to: call reliability and the ability to receive incoming calls and chat notifications when outside of the app.

So now that Skype's available, have all my WinPho 8 and WinPho 7.5 (yes, you guys get love from Skype, too) people already downloaded it or did you not have the extra 512MB of memory required for the app because you downloaded too many episodes of F5 Live?

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Adam Sessler Finds New Home with Rev3Games

posted Monday Nov 12, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Adam Sessler Finds New Home with Rev3Games

When Adam Sessler left X-play and subsequently G4TV, we knew the station was going to hit a hard downturn. We found out last month that the station was actually going to cancel Attack of the Show and X-Play at the end of the year, and would change the station's focus. Since the departure of Sessler and Kevin Pereira, we wondered what was going to happen to them and the rest of the displaced cast. Today, Adam Sessler answered that question for us in an announcement, press release, blog post and YouTube video.

Sessler has said he is now officially signed onto Revision3 games and will be undertaking the roles of editor-in-chief, executive producer and "man-in-front-of-cameras," as he put it. In the announcement on Rev3's blog, Senior VP of Programming and Production, Ryan Vance, stated his pleasure of bringing Sessler onboard.

I get to greet a brand new era of working with Adam Sessler and officially welcome him to Revision3. I'm beyond excited to have him join the stellar Rev3Games team. Max Scoville, Tara Long, Anthony Carboni and producer Zac Minor have the brand of humor and journalistic integrity that made X-Play great. Now we have the former host of X-play joining us to help guide Rev3Games into the future. I know Adam can't wait to throw himself fully into the online video space and become a leader in this world as he did in the world of traditional television.

For more on this new opportunity for the former X-Play star, continue on after the break.

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Spotify Nearing Next Round Funding

posted Sunday Nov 11, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Spotify Nearing Next Round Funding

Ever since Spotify initially launched in the US, they have had a little trouble gaining ground. While I do receive emails every few days that another Facebook friend has joined the service, they have not had a lot of success getting people to pay fir the service, though they do see to inspire users to buy music elsewhere. The goal of monetizing the service has been met with even stiffer competition with the likes of Xbox Music and whatever Apple launches in the aftermath of Ping.

To continue operations, the company has sought another round of funding, this time in the range of $100 million from groups, including Goldman Sachs. This will put the company's valuation somewhere in the $1 billion range, far below their hopes for $4 billion. That is not unexpected, however, in the wake of disasters such as Zynga, Groupon and Facebook. With recent failures like those in your industry, it is always harder to get high valuation.

Despite these issues, Spotify has maintained growth. They currently have 15 million active subscribers in 15 countries, with about a 20% conversion rate to paid membership. Between paid subscriptions and advertising revenue, the company expects to make somewhere in the $900 million range this year. With revenue that high, it would seem the company would be better than ever on its valuation, especially with companies like Square, the mobile payment provider, valued at over $3 billion.

It is an interesting time to be an Internet start-up, with some companies with little to no innovation receiving large capital investments, and others that are wholly innovative receiving significantly less. Spotify will need to find a way to truly differentiate itself from Xbox Music, Apple's coming service, Rdio, Pandora and Last.fm if they want to compete in the over-crowded marketplace.

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Apple Loses Suit, Gets Sued Again

posted Sunday Nov 11, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Apple Loses Suit, Gets Sued Again

This week, Apple lost a lawsuit filed by VirnetX regarding its FaceTime software and service, resulting in an order to pay $368 million. The suit alleged patent infringement regarding domain name security and VPN (virtual private network) implementation on its older handsets and devices. The suit, and subsequent win, however, was not enough for the company, as it has filed a new version of the lawsuit, shortly after winning the first award.

In fact, on the same day as the win, VirnetX filed an amended suit, including devices manufactured since the initial suit was filed, including the iPhone 5, 5th gen iPod Touch and iPad Mini, as well as all Mountain Lion-powered Macs. That is a lot of new devices all using unlicensed technology and, if the initial suit is any indication, this one will not cost them any less.

VirnetX is actually fairly well known in the tech space for the technology, having existing licensing deals with Aastra, Mitel Networks, NEC and Microsoft, following their own lost $200 million suit in 2010, as well as active and past suits against Avaya, Cisco and Siemens, with a trial set for the latter next year. Hopefully Siemens will be smart enough to work out a proper licensing deal before being subject to the same fate as Apple and Microsoft.

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Navy SEALs Reprimanded Over EA Participation

posted Friday Nov 9, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Navy SEALs Reprimanded Over EA Participation

Ever since seeing Medal of Honor: Warfighter at this year's Electronics Entertainment Expo, EA has been making a big deal about the participation of real elite soldiers. The game culminates in 12 elite squadrons from ten nations being completely playable in the game, all inspired by the real elites behind the scenes.

As it turns out, the game's research and realism might have gone a little too far. Currently seven Navy SEALs have been reprimanded by the US Navy for revealing classified secrets to Electronic Arts. In addition to the unwanted attention, the SEALs have received official letters of reprimand, killing any chance of promotion. They have also been docked two months pay for the breach.

As of today, it is not known how many of the secrets shared with EA made it into the game, but whether or not the contents of the discussion made it to the game, clearly some high-level secure information was passed on without permission. According to reports, among the information shared was details about weaponry that is exclusive to their unit. Based on the Navy's reaction and the timing of the issue, my guess is those weapons, or at least a portion of them, appear in the game either as playable or intractable in some way.

It would appear that EA's dedication accuracy might just have gone a little too far. The questioning of the SEALs by EA should never have gone so far as to even get close to breaching national security, and the SEALs should have thought more about what they were saying and showing and, therefore, not given any classified information to a videogame company.

Considering this is a national security breach, do you think the punishment of the SEALs is just, or was it just a slap on the wrist? Also, should EA be held accountable at all for getting into this territory? Let us know in the comments.

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