Sony’s latest Android tablet is now on sale in the U.S. Available for pre-order on Sony.com and available in Sony Stores on May 4th, the Z2 is Sony’s latest effort to shore up its crumbling brand. And an impressive one at that.
The Z2 is the thinner, faster, and waterproof successor to the Z1 that hit in 2013. Darrell was impressed with the device when he spent some time with it last week, saying it’s so thin that he felt he could snap it in half.
As Darrell observed, the Z2 packs an impressive 10.1-inch display that really stands out. It also sports a 8MP camera, front-facing speakers and 3GB of RAM paired with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC running at 2.3 GHz. It’s an impressive kit but at $499 for the 16GB flavor, the Z2 is not a bargain. Still, Sony will not rebuild its brand by racing downmarket and selling Kindle Fire HD competitors. Nope, it needs the Z2 which can stand tall against the best of Samsung and Apple.
Read the rest here: Sony’s Waterproof Tablet Goes On Sale In The U.S.
Microsoft today announced that it has sold over 5 million Xbox One consoles to retailers around the globe, but sales of the system have still lagged behind rival Sony’s PlayStation 4. By comparison, Sony revealed on Wednesday that PS4 sales had topped 7 million in sales to consumers.
March US sales estimates from NPD put the PS4 in first place for hardware sales for the third month in a row. Both Microsoft and Sony (inFamous Second Son, Titanfall) saw major exclusives released on their platforms last month. Titanfall’s combined Xbox One and PC release took the top spot in game sales, according to NPD, with inFamous Second Son in second.
While we expected to see a bump in sales of Xbox One units due to the Titanfall bundle, Microsoft is continuing to fall behind. It’s still early for this generation’s console war, but the Xbox One will need a few more hit titles to catch up.
Microsoft’s new Xbox head recently admitted that the company had made mistakes with the launch and renewed his commitment to putting “gaming first” on the console.
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Titanfall was supposed to change it all, but it didn’t work. So far, Microsoft announced that it has shipped 5 million Xbox One units to retailers. In comparison, Sony has sold 7 million PS4 units to customers. It doesn’t look good for Microsoft as the company doesn’t even say how many people actually bought an Xbox One.
Microsoft’s announcement fits well with NPD’s estimates. In March, according to NPD, Microsoft sold 311,000 Xbox Ones in the U.S. while 370,000 people bought a PS4 in the U.S. In other words, the gap between the two console manufacturers is widening.
In March, the two companies bet on two important exclusive titles — Titanfall for Microsoft and inFamous Second Son for Sony. These games both topped the charts, with Titanfall leading the way. Yet, while Titanfall is a huge success, it doesn’t seem to be a system seller as they were a lot more Titanfall sales than Xbox One sale — mostly existing Xbox One users are buying the game. Moreover, it seems thatXbox One and PS4 owners are still mostly early adopters as the average Xbox One player only has 2.9 games for its console.
Titanfall is supposed to resonate well with an American audience as well, but sales numbers don’t reflect that as the PS4 is more popular than the Xbox One in the U.S. It could be worse of course. For example, Nintendo only sold 70,000 WiiU units in the U.S. in March.
In many countries, the PS4 is still hard to find in retail stores. Sony is selling its console as fast as it can produce it. It’s a worrying sign for Microsoft, as the PS4 production line should become more efficient in the coming months.
Read the original here: The Xbox One Still Lags Behind The PS4
Editor’s note: Peter Yared is the CTO/CIO at CBS Interactive.
Microsoft had become an oft-ignored, behemoth to the North, despite $77 billion in revenue, $57 billion in gross profits and $21 billion in net income. It seemed that the mobile revolution had passed it by. Although Steve Ballmer was already making many of the right moves, it took new CEO Satya Nadella to fully accept that Microsoft had to move beyond Windows into a new future of apps and cloud services.
The future of Microsoft is in selling its software, such as Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP, and Microsoft servers in the Azure cloud to business customers on whatever platform they like. Each of these products is arguably best-of-breed and cloud-based, and has a large customer base. Microsoft indeed has the ability to pivot, and pivot hard, as it did when it switched from pushing MSN to competing with Netscape in the Internet space. And Microsoft is once again not encumbered by antitrust restrictions from aggressively pursuing these markets.
There was a time when, if Redmond aimed its guns at a market segment, startups fled. Since the launch of the iPhone almost seven years ago, Silicon Valley startups have operated without any fear of Microsoft competing aggressively in apps and device-agnostic cloud services.
As the first step towards its new OS-agnostic future, Microsoft recently released its OneNote note-management software for the Mac OS, rounding out a full multi-platform strategy for the software, including Windows, Windows Phone, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android and web.
Microsoft quickly followed up with Office 365 for iPad, in addition to its existing Android, iPhone and Mac support. Microsoft Office 365 is remarkably good, and offers a web only option that is priced the same as Google Drive with far better features and the familiarity of Office. Power users can pay more per month for small business premium that includes the desktop versions of the apps, so an IT department can offer different versions to different types of users. Office 365 now only has three different versions, versus the headache-inducing menu from years past. Most business buy Microsoft software through enterprise license agreements which will bypass the Apple 30 percent cut.
Although it is a huge step for Microsoft Office to now be available on all of these platforms, just touch-enabling software does not necessarily make it mobile first. Microsoft has to keep a sharp eye on startups like Quip that have completely rethought the office experience for mobile.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP are a billion dollar plus business and growing rapidly. Dynamics CRM is available as SaaS on all platforms including iOS and Android. Dynamics ERP is available as a cloud hosted solution but is not yet available on other client platforms.
Windows Azure cloud, which is rumored to be rebranded to “Microsoft Azure,” is also growing rapidly and provides a growth platform for .Net development platform, Microsoft’s Windows Server, Active Directory, and SQL Server database products.
Microsoft has an army of loyal developers who love its easy-to-use tools, and it is rumored that it’s going to acquire Xamarin, which lets Microsoft .Net developers build apps for iOS and Android. The companies recently signed a partnership, but an acquisition of this technology would be a huge step forward for Microsoft’s new mission of platform agnosticism.
Microsoft is not giving up on Windows, but it is going to stop tying its growth products to only one operating system. Windows 8.1, for all of its faults, is the same as Windows 7 once you ignore the Modern UI. And on a tablet, the Modern UI actually works quite well. I have been using a Lenovo Yoga exclusively for almost a year and have actually quite enjoyed it despite its quirks. In addition, Windows Server is seeing a renaissance as part of Azure cloud.
There is a report that Microsoft is seriously considering giving away a version of Windows 8.1, much like Google gives away Android and Chrome OS in order to drive more Google Search revenue, and Apple now gives away Mac OS upgrades.
Microsoft’s OEMs have been struggling to increase margin and have been extracting lower Windows licensing fees and even no licensing fees in some cases. However, these discounts could be used as a lever to finally get hardware OEMs into line with more stringent hardware standards.
With a free Windows on decent hardware and a $99 Office 365 home subscription, Microsoft can retain legions of value-oriented consumers (think Costco shoppers) that want to use the same computer at home that they use at work. While some urban Apple devotees may look with disdain on this strategy, there are many high growth, high profit companies that sell exclusively to middle America.
The saving grace for Windows Phone is that at some point, the apps market is going to calm down, and there will be 1,000 apps that matter to 99 percent of the population. Microsoft can pay each of those app developers up to $500,000 to port to Windows Phone, so it would cost $500 million for Microsoft to offer a phone that has the top 1,000 apps. Quite achievable for a company that has a $2.5 billion annual marketing budget and more than $100 billion of cash. The much-maligned Surface tablet is now a break-even business with almost $1 billion in sales. Even if consumers don’t buy them, Microsoft is selling large volumes to businesses such as Delta.
The operating system story for Microsoft is now one of slow growth and middling progress, which keeps it somewhat in the game without bogging down its application growth engines.
As many an analyst has stated, the Xbox and Bing businesses should be spun out. One option is to sell Xbox to troubled Sony so it can combine the declining consoles market into a single larger entity and gain efficiencies in production and retain AAA game developers. Yahoo could pick up Bing in order to accelerate its renewed focus on search.
Perhaps I have a tendency to favor the underdog, but Nadella has a great shot to make Microsoft relevant again with its new focus on selling its high-growth software to businesses on whatever platform they want. There was a time in the early 1990s when Microsoft made more money on every Mac sold than Apple did. With its new platform-agnostic strategy, this is a metric that Microsoft could attain again for every device sold to a business.
Go here to read the rest: The Resurgent, Post-Windows Microsoft
Oculus didn’t invent virtual reality — but they sure as hell made people care about it again.
As of this week, however, they no longer stand alone in their arena. Sony has decided they want to play the VR game too — and they’ve got at least one huge, not-so-obvious advantage.
Before we dive in, I must admit: I’m naturally inclined to root for Oculus here. If we’re considering this some sort of “battle”, Oculus is now something of an underdog. They took the initiative to move into a market that had become something of a joke/sci-fi pipedream in the decades prior, and managed to convince titans of industry to have their back. They’re doing something incredible. But even as a self-admitted fanboy, I’m real enough to see the faults.
Now, Oculus has a lot of things going for themselves. As the team largely responsible for the gaming world’s renewed interest in VR, they’ve managed to dominate the discussion for over a year. They got in early, blew up fast, and have some big, big names on their side. They’ve got tens of thousands of developers tinkering with their prototype headset — something that’ll be very hard for Sony to match, especially if they try to keep development/usage of their headset locked to just the PS4. For now, at least, most who think “virtual reality” immediately think “Oculus” — and as long as that’s the case, Oculus is the bar.
But they’ve got one big weakness: their headset is only half of the hardware equation.
You see, when it comes to virtual reality, the things we generally use for controlling a video game character or navigating an interface just don’t cut it. We’ve said it; others have said it; even Oculus founder Palmer Luckey has said it: input is VR’s biggest hurdle.
The ol’ keyboard and mouse? Even as someone who hasn’t needed to look at the keyboard to type since he was rockin’ velcro shoes and who pounds on keys all day, every day, I can admit: once you’ve got that headset on and all sense of relative space is gone, finding the right keys is awful, jarring, and wrecks the very sense of immersion that makes a VR headset worthwhile.
Gesture sensors? Perhaps in the future — but for now, things like the Kinect are just no where near good enough to be anything but frustrating.
Those crazy run-in-place treadmills? Heh. Okay. Good luck with that.
That leaves us with controllers.
With the Oculus Rift, this can mean a lot of different things. Maybe that’s Valve’s Steam controller. Maybe it’s the Sixense STEM. Maybe it’s Razer’s Hydra. Maybe it’s your good ol’ Gravis gamepad. Who knows.
That’s a lot of different things to have to consider, each widely different in their usage and implementation.
Which ones, as a developer, do you spend your time coding in support for?
Which ones, as a gamer (or the parent of a gamer, or someone just looking to dabble with this whole VR thing), do you spend your money on? The early adopter crowd may be happy to buy any-and-all of it — but when most people buy a $350 accessory, they don’t want to have to figure out which other expensive accessories they need to buy.
With Sony’s VR headset, there’s only one real option: Sony’s own Move controllers. Yep. Those goofy-ass, glowy wizard wands Sony started playing with a generation ago? Surprise! They’re actually really, really good for virtual reality input. Developers are free to use the console’s included Dualshock controller if it better fits their gameplay — but if they’re going for a deeper sense of immersion, bam: the Move is there.
It can be a gun. It can be a sword. Pair two of’em together, and it can be a bow and arrow. You can squeeze the triggers to simulate closing/opening your on-screen hand to grab at things. It makes a lot of sense that Sony says they started working on VR around the same time they started working on the Move (and you can be damn sure they’ll bundle the headset with at least one Move controller)
We can compare specs and babble on about fields-of-view all day — but in the end, the kit that sells best will be the one that offers a complete, plug-and-play solution. Without a base controller of its own, Sony has suddenly made the Oculus Rift seem incomplete.
Maybe Oculus is working on a solution of their own. If they are, they’ve kept it hush — and they certainly haven’t prepped developers for it. More likely, they’ll let the market, the developers, and the players spend this first generation working out what the best solution might be, then perhaps embrace that in an official capacity further down the road.
Whatever the case, the next few years are going to be a blast. Bumpy as hell for everyone involved, perhaps, but still a blast.
Visit link: Sony’s Advantage