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Microsoft-Nokia Deal Finally Closes

posted Sunday Apr 27, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft-Nokia Deal Finally Closes

It has been a hard-fought battle since Microsoft first announced intentions to purchase Nokia Devices and Services last September. There have been factory worker strikes in China, tax liens in India and regulatory approvals in 17 countries. All of those issues have been resolved and this week Microsoft has welcomed Nokia Devices and Services to its family.

In the acquisition, the most obvious new division will be the Lumia handsets - most certainly the reason for the acquisition. In addition to the obvious, however, are Nokia Asha and Nokia X handset lines, the latter being announced only recently. Luckily, Microsoft has also licensed Nokia's name for the next decade, meaning Microsoft has plenty of time to figure out what to do with Nokia X.

Microsoft's new CEO, Satya Nadella, said,

Today we welcome the Nokia Devices and Services business to our family. The mobile capabilities and assets they bring will advance our transformation. Together with our partners, we remain focused on delivering innovation more rapidly in our mobile-first, cloud-first world.

Along with Nokia's hardware division comes Nokia House, Nokia's now former headquarters, which will continue to operate as the Microsoft Mobile offices. Reporting directly to Nadella will be now former Nokia President and CEO Stephen Elop, who will become executive vice president of Microsoft Devices Group, which will oversee Nokia/Microsoft devices, Perceptive Pixel (PPI) products, Surface and Xbox hardware, as well as all accessories pertaining to these brands. Elop rejoins the company, having worked for Microsoft before moving to Nokia.

Part of the transition is an even stronger commitment to developers. Nokia (or Microsoft under the Nokia name) posted both on their DVLUP Rewards blog and their Nokia Developer blog about the new, enhanced focus on development for the Microsoft ecosystem, including Asha and X platforms.

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Facebook Gives $600,000 to Re-open Police Substation in Silicon Valley Suburb

posted Sunday Apr 27, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Facebook Gives $600,000 to Re-open Police Substation in Silicon Valley Suburb

Just down the road from Facebook's corporate headquarters, in the neighborhood of Belle Haven, now stands a police station, that has been reopened thanks to a large amount of funding from the social network giant. $600,000 will be given to the police station over the next two years and will include payment for rent, renovation and one officer's salary.

While the city of Menlo Park is actually a very high-class area, with houses selling at an average of $1.5 million, it is said that Belle Haven has a high crime rate, some homes are run down and all of Menlo Park's eight shootings took place in this neighborhood. Test scores also aren't too great in the school district, with scores falling in the bottom 12 percent of all California schools in the past 4 years. So I guess having a police station there isn't a bad idea, in that first world problem, "I asked for two limes and you gave me one" kind of way.

At any rate, Facebook has created what Belle Haven is calling the "Neighborhood Service Center" sits on the end of a strip mall and has been converted from a former store front. Facebook was also in charge of all of the interior design of the project, per the police force's request. The Center will also have three officers on duty Monday through Friday from 8am through 6pm.

It really takes seeing this place to realize that it is nothing like your average police department. Free Wi-Fi, an ATM, iPads, couches and even a credit union fill in the space, along with live surveillance cameras from around the entire city, displayed on a large wall of monitors.

It's also interesting to note that the space costs $3,600 per month for rent, which was more than what they were paying for before, and that substation closes in January. The mayor of Menlo Park, Ray Mueller, said that his taxpayers were already paying enough and that Facebook's generous offer would help fix the crime rate in the area.

I think there is precedent for taking money from private companies putting it to public good... We had violent crime in this area. We had drive-bys. The number one priority is that when kids go to school that they have the same opportunity as kids on the other side of the freeway. Facebook came forward to us, we didn't ask them. We're going to save money in the long-term.

Mueller did take time to mention that Facebook employees wouldn't get any special treatment after this, saying that, "If a Facebook employee gets caught doing something, there will be extra attention to make sure they don't get an extra benefit."

What do you make of all of this? I mean the place definitely looks cool and bridging a gap between police and their community is certainly needed as of late, but is this type of establishment appropriate for the area? Sound off in the comments section because I'm dying to know what everyone else out there thinks. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this myself.

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Huge Zynga Executive Changes Include Former CEO Stepping Down from Operations

posted Sunday Apr 27, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Huge Zynga Executive Changes Include Former CEO Stepping Down from Operations

Last summer, former Xbox exec Don Mattrick took over as new CEO of Zynga and immediately went to work. Through this time, former CEO Mark Pincus has remained on as chief product officer and was still involved in day-to-day management of the company. However, that is about to change as Pincus gave up those roles this week.

While he will no longer be in charge of running the operations of the company, the founder of the once-popular game studio will still remain on as chairman. Pincus is also the largest shareholder of the company and even has a controlling interest, and these two things will not change with him stepping down from his former job.

On top of this, CEO Don Mattrick has added some powerful people to his team to hopefully help lead Zynga back into profitable quarters.

First, founder of Relic Entertainment and previous Xbox Live executive Alex Garden has been signed by Mattrick to become president of Zynga Studios. When with Microsoft, Garden was responsible for Xbox Live, Xbox Music and Xbox Video. He was also played a key part in bringing on the myriad of media partners to the Xbox platform, like ESPN and Netflix.

On the hire, Mattrick said,

Alex Garden is an exciting hire for us as we focus on growing and sustaining our franchises, creating groundbreaking new entertainment experiences, and developing a more creative culture across Zynga. As president of Zynga Studios, Alex will have an integral role on the management team overseeing all of our studios as well as our CTO division. On a personal note, I have known Alex for 25 years and I am confident that he will strengthen our creative and technical capabilities as well as nurture and mentor our existing teams.

Also making his way to the team is Henry LaBounta, who is an Academy Award-nominated visual effects director who will, naturally, be heading up Zynga as chief visual officer. Jennifer Nuckles will take the chief marketing officer role and earlier this month new CFO and chief accounting officer David Lee accepted his position. On departures, Steve Chiang, who was the lead in all things "Ville" for Zynga, has left the company.

What do you think of all these changes? It seems like Mattrick really is trying to turn things around. We'll have to see what happens over the summer to know if Zynga will have fighting power moving into the holiday season.

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Amazon Increases Media Holdings, Buys ComiXology

posted Sunday Apr 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Increases Media Holdings, Buys ComiXology

Just weeks after Marvel spiced up their digital comics offerings, another major change has come to the digital comics world. Amazon has purchased popular digital comic distributor, ComiXology, for an undisclosed figure. ComiXology can be best described as Kindle for comics, allowing people to purchase digital versions of their favorite comic series through the store and app.

David Steinberger, co-founder and chief executive of ComiXology, said,

ComiXology's mission is to spread the love of comics and graphic novels in all forms. There is no better home for ComiXology than Amazon to see this vision through.

The addition of ComiXology to the Amazon family will certainly bolster the growing reach of Amazon's digital distribution. Already including music, audiobooks, video and eBooks, the one major content type missing from their lineup was comics.

It is unclear which ownership model Amazon will take with ComiXology: the fully-integrated Audible style, or the completely unbranded AbeBooks style. Either probably offers Amazon a lot in return, but my guess is that, for now, the team will be left alone to do what they do best, while having the resources of Amazon to help them along their way.

Do you currently use ComiXology? Will this purchase affect that decision, either way? Let us know in the comments.

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Prenda Law Dealt Another Blow in Appeals Court

posted Sunday Apr 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

The Prenda Law story has been so ridiculous that I am proud to get to cover it. Prenda is, for lack of a better term, a copyright troll, who files lawsuits against individuals for pirating pornography for which they own the rights. Last year The Pirate Bay, the world's largest torrent list, revealed that they had traced the torrents in question in Prenda's largest lawsuit directly to Prenda, suggesting that they planted these torrents to allow them to file this suit.

Shortly after this revelation, Comcast joined the research, confirming the suspicions that the IP addresses used to list the torrents in question were those of Prenda Law's own John Steele. The IP was also linked to forum members on various sites who had shared pro-Prenda sentiments.

During oral arguments in the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Prenda was dealt a series of blows to their case. The three judges overseeing the case continually interrupted Daniel Voelker, the lawyer for Steele, Hansmeier, and Duffy, challenging his statements. Judge Diane Sykes even asked a fairly simple question that would be essential to the case,

Can you describe to me, in 25 words or less, what the relationship is among these various firms: Steele Hansmeier PLLC, Prenda Law, Alpha Law?

This organization was the one identified by Comcast as the owner of the IP address used to upload the torrents, as well as to access John Steele's personal GoDaddy account. Voelker's response did not help his case,

I can't, Your Honor. I don't know. I don't know what it is today, I don't know what it was a year ago.

Sykes responded saying, "That is shocking."

This relationship has been a large issue in previous appeals courts as well as initial trials. It has, in fact, ended Prenda with sanctions from more than one court, including the lower court, which is the case being appealed in this instance. While Voelker tries to accuse the lower judge of making decisions based on facts not in evidence,

{Murphy} found that the attorneys had a 'relentless willingness to lie,' and there's no support for that in the record. He also found that they're 'starving attorneys with shattered law practices.' Those are basically facts that the district court in California found based upon Internet research.

Judge Diane Wood does not seem to agree, however, saying,

Some of these misrepresentations were in front of him, though. There's an overall concern that this was a proceeding in bad faith. It's kind of an attempt to hold up these 6,600 people (and) see who will settle. It's a troublesome record.

So, while the case is far from over, this is not looking good for Prenda, even after just the first day.

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GameSpy Shutting Down, Matchmaking for 70 Titles to End Officially

posted Sunday Apr 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

GameSpy Shutting Down, Matchmaking for 70 Titles to End Officially

At one point, GameSpy was a large provider of online gaming middle-tier software for matchmaking and other services popular among PC games. With a decline in PC gaming during the height of the last generation of consoles and an increase in home-grown services, the market for this type of service dropped significantly. With that, GameSpy has had trouble remaining alive, and will be shutting down their services entirely at the end of May.

Not since Microsoft finally shut down support for original Xbox games have we seen a blackout of high profile games this large. Reddit has been keeping a list of affected games, and the highlights of the list are intense:

  • Battlefield 2142
  • Battlefield 1942
  • Borderlands
  • Civilization IV
  • Crysis
With so many well-known, high-profile titles, there was little chance the Internet was going to let this happen. As we say often, most recently during our Gulf Coast MakerCon coverage, where something sucks, a product is born. The product born, or in this case spotlighted, of this shutdown is a service called GameRanger.

GameRanger has been around since 1999, but has not had nearly the overall need until now. The service matches the capabilities of GameSpy, though some features, such as voice chat, only exist with a premium account. But, for those who continue to play these games, the capability to continue playing, even if it costs you a little per month, is probably worth it, though you could continue playing without the premium account and get creative to fill-in the missing pieces.

Currently, the GameRanger creator seems confident in his service's capabilities - almost. There are a number of games he has concerns about, including Arma 2 and Crysis, but reminds people that the service supports over 500 titles.

GameRanger isn't the only solution to this newfound problem, as Bohemia is working on an Arma 2 support system to replace GameSpy, and they are not the only developer working to patch games to remove the issue. Do you play any of the games affected by the GameSpy shutdown? Let us know in the comments.

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