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Microsoft to Retire Windows Live Messenger, Favors Skype

posted Friday Nov 9, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft to Retire Windows Live Messenger, Favors Skype

Microsoft announced this week, via its Sky Blog, that 2013 will see the end of Windows Live Messenger. The service, which went into operation in the middle of 1999, will be merged into Microsoft's acquired Sky brand, including contact migration and, into the first quarter of 2013, cross-platform chat. The move is the next logical evolution in the Messenger brand, which has seen a wide variety of brandings, including MSN Messenger, Windows Messenger and currently Windows Live Messenger.

It is not a major surprise to see Microsoft make this transition. They spent a lot of money to bring Skype into the family but, until now, have not really set about to using it to its potential. While Messenger has seen rapid usage decline, Skype has seen steady growth over the past few years. Availability on all major platforms, including iOS, Android and even webOS, has made the platform the natural one for most users on mobile. Its integration into Facebook also adds appeal to many users.

With the recent release of Windows 8, and its full-featured Skype application, plus Skype's heavy integration into Windows Phone 8, Microsoft has put a lot of faith in the brand to maintain its momentum and make mobile communications easier, cross-platform.

In addition to momentum, Skype also has a revenue model, which makes it a more attractive service to the company. Messenger has been ad-supported for the entire life of the service, whereas Skype offers paid phone services, such as incoming phone numbers and outgoing minutes. Being able to turn the messaging service into a business is an attractive prospect on a front Microsoft has yet to succeed with.

One major player in expending the revenue channel is its integration into the living room. Over the past few years we have seen Skype show off interactive living room setups, with televisions made for Skype communicating with people wandering around the convention floor on phones - all with high-quality video. If Microsoft can take this concept and integrate it into their Xbox console in a proper fashion, it will be more likely to gain traction over the limited success Messenger had in the same space.

While it is a sad day when a product that has been around since before most people knew the Internet existed goes away, it is an exciting day when a company makes a successful pivot on a long-time business. I look forward to seeing where the ideas from both teams can take Skype in the future.

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New PlayStation Store Finally Goes Live After Short Delay

posted Sunday Nov 4, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

New PlayStation Store Finally Goes Live After Short Delay

On October 23rd, many of you may have wondered why you didn't see the launch of the new PlayStation Store. Well, Sony's revamping of its store to look more like live tiles was put on hold for a bit, as the company cited "unexpected setbacks" as the reason it wasn't active on the 23rd. Luckily, the delay hasn't been very long and we now have the new PlayStation Store, as it makes its way to PS3 users everywhere.

From the PlayStation Blog,

As you may have noticed, the new PlayStation Store for PlayStation 3 is now available in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Mexico. Great new features like streaming trailers, improved search, new filter and sort options, as well as improved graphics, more game and video information, and easier access to add-ons are just some of the highlights.

With so much content available, it's a great time to jump in and check it out. We value your feedback and will continue to make enhancements, so please let us know what you think in the comment section below.

So, with the new Store being live for just over a day, have you gotten a chance to try it out? Do you like it? Give us your feedback in the comments section. And yes, before you say it, we know the Download List now takes twice as long to load and navigate as it did before the update, which we didn't think was possible.

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SplashData's Worst Passwords of 2012 Released This Week

posted Sunday Nov 4, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

SplashData's Worst Passwords of 2012 Released This Week

Every year, SplashData releases their list of the worst passwords of the year. These usually are the most commonly used and most ignorant words, phrases or numbers that one could think of. This year was no different, as we saw the list hit right before Halloween and it's definitely interesting to see some of the passwords - if you can call them that - move up and down the list from last year.

For 2012, may we all please give a warm welcome to the terms "welcome," "jesus," "ninja," "mustang," and "password1," as those are new passwords that have been coined as the worst this year.

Morgan Slain, SplashData's CEO says,

At this time of year, people enjoy focusing on scary costumes, movies and decorations, but those who have been through it can tell you how terrifying it is to have your identity stolen because of a hacked password. We're hoping that with more publicity about how risky it is to use weak passwords, more people will start taking simple steps to protect themselves by using stronger passwords and using different passwords for different websites.

With major breaches in big companies like Yahoo, LinkedIn and Blizzard, it is certainly a year to reflect and see if you're using any of these passwords. I would hope, as an informed reader of this publication, that none of you are using any of these, but perhaps your friends and family are. If that is the case, take away their computer until they change their passwords under your supervision.

Below is the list of the top 10 and you can check out the source link below to see the full list of twenty-five. Are you surprised by any of them? Do you think your grandparents could be guilty of using these? Share your stories in the comments below.

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Optimus Prime Coming to Universal Studios Orlando

posted Sunday Nov 4, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Optimus Prime Coming to Universal Studios Orlando

Until this week, Universal Studios Orlando was the oddball of the family, being the only park to not have a Transformers ride with the ride already installed in Hollywood and Singapore. There was a lot of speculation when the park closed Jaws that it was in preparation to install the ride in its place. As it turns out, that was close, but not exactly correct. In fact, Orlando will soon be getting a Transformers: The Ride 3D installed, opening for Summer 2013, but it will not live in the former home of Jaws. Instead, it will live at the other end of the lagoon, very close to where Terminator 2 currently resides. President of Universal Creative, Mark Woodbury, said about the positioning,

You put a lot of thought into those things. This is a big, iconographic attraction, so we wanted to give it a big, iconographic position, so that's why you see it right, smack in the middle of the park, facing out onto the lagoon - so it really has a prominent spot. And then we have Optimus guarding the entrance of the attraction, so that'll be a really stunning image when you see it.

That sounds like a pretty formidable entrance to a ride - certainly more than that of a Christopher Walken cutout standing at the entrance of Disaster!. One of the things that has shocked a lot of people is the sheer speed at which they plan to implement the new ride. In fact, it will be Universal's quickest installation of a new ride in the company's history. When asked, Woodbury, said,

It has already become a global phenomenon. People are just wild about the ride - the reaction has been over the top. So it was rush, rush and let's get it to Orlando in a hurry and that's what you're seeing happen out there today...

It is really fast. This is the fastest we've ever built a project as complex as this. This is a really, really complicated piece of work. From building the building, to the ride technology, to the film technology, it's very, very complicated to put together. And our motivation is it's wildly popular! So we wanted to bring it to market as fast as we possibly could. It's great for our business, great for our guests. And that's what motivates us...

I would say days after opening in Hollywood, we saw the response and we said, 'Let's go to Orlando!

That could either be read as, "People love it so we don't want to disappoint," or, "We want to cash-in in Florida before the ride's hype dispels." Either way, it is nice to see the ride, which has gotten a lot of positive reviews worldwide, will finally be coming to the Orlando campus as well.

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$499 Model of the Surface Out of Stock Online

posted Saturday Nov 3, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

$499 Model of the Surface Out of Stock Online

There may have been no five hour lines for the release of Microsoft's Surface tablet but the device has been pretty popular. Even with some claiming the company staged lines and compensated people to stand and wait, the Surface was still able to sell out of its pre-order supply in a pretty quick timeframe. Now, with a week gone by for Windows 8 tablet sales, the $499 Surface unit is still sold out, at least at the online Microsoft Store.

Leading into this weekend, the basic Surface model, without the Touch Cover is marked "out of stock" online, with the white Surface Touch Cover also being out of stock. However, the 32GB and 64GB units with the black Touch Cover are still available for purchase. Just a few days ago, all of these models were marked as "backordered" but now it appears the higher-end versions are back and ready for purchase. Several brick-and-mortar Microsoft stores did say that they have stock of all three models as of Friday afternoon, but a handful also told me that they were either out of or were "running low" on the $499 edition of the Surface.

Why the shortage? Well, there's probably a couple of factors here. First, Microsoft handed out thousands of these at their Build conference this week to developers in attendance, although nobody has officially said that this could have affected inventory levels. Next, the $499 version comes without a Touch Cover, allowing you to purchase a colored cover of your choosing, or even shell out a bit more for the Type Cover. This could definitely lead to that particular model being more popular than its sisters. Also, the device is only being sold at Microsoft's own retail and online stores. This can surely affect the supply of products, as there could be less floating around in distribution centers at Amazon, Newegg, Staples, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etc. Lastly, some might consider the Apple theory of supply-and-demand in this case. Did Microsoft go about its usual method (at least with its hardware partners up until now) of making sure everyone who wants a Windows product will get one? Alternatively, did the company, with this being its first hardware release - sans Xbox - take up the Apple mentality and only release a little bit at a time, creating shortages, and thereby potentially increasing the demand and hype around their flagship product? While the latter may seem plausible, we do know that everyone who pre-ordered their Surface received one, as well as everyone who waited in lines on launch day. This is true for at least the Florida Mall store in Orlando and the pop-up center in NYC, as these were the two I was able to definitively get that answer from.

So maybe the Surface really is that popular, despite all of the negative or apprehensive reviews from several seemingly Apple-funded publications. We'll keep you up to date on what happens and when the 32GB version comes back in stock. If you want one right now though, you're going to either have to trek to a store or pick up a 64GB model. With a 64GB Surface, you can load up a bunch more of your favorite movies, MP3s (or FLACs, if that's more your taste) and of course, our show! Bigger is better, after all.

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Microsoft Reportedly Testing Own Smartphone Design with Asian Suppliers?

posted Saturday Nov 3, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Reportedly Testing Own Smartphone Design with Asian Suppliers?

Anticipation has been gradually increasing since Microsoft's announcement of Windows Phone 8 back in June, which obviously means that rumors were soon going to follow. In particular, many wanted to know if Microsoft would release their own "Surface phone" of sorts. As we moved closer to the WinPho 8 event, we learned about third-party devices like the Lumia 920 and 820, the HTC 8X/S and even Samsung was getting into the game. Through all of that, Microsoft was adament that they had no interest in building their own smartphone. However we are now learning that perhaps that was all a smokescreen for a bigger picture.

Reports are flying in that Microsoft is already in the process of quality testing its own branded smartphone with suppliers in Asia. Sources close to the situation are saying that the screen will be between four and five inches and will be completely competitive with the phones that are out in the market today. The interesting thing to note here is that Microsoft is reportedly into the test phase of its design process, which means this smartphone has been on the drawing board, I'd imagine, since the inception of the Surface itself.

There is no word yet on if the device will go into mass production, but one could assume that would all be gauged on the success of WinPho 8 from Microsoft's hardware partners. If Nokia, Samsung and HTC do extremely well, it is possible Microsoft would hold on releasing their own version, as they could put their faith into the manufacturers. If sales start to slip, however, I could see Microsoft stepping in and pushing this alleged phone to market at a rapid pace. I've discussed at length on our show that Microsoft may have to set the standard with Windows Phone 8 in the same way that they are shaping the tablet world with Surface.

The big question here is if the phone is actually real. If it is, then it would seem that Microsoft has taken a page out of Apple's book as far as developing both hardware and software for its platform. If this all turns out to be true, is a Windows-branded television and desktop computer on the way as well? Nokia has its phones hitting shelves very soon, with others following suit before Thanksgiving and the sales could definitely push Microsoft one way or the other on this. What do you think will happen? Post your comments (from a Windows 8 device if you have one) below.

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