Here’s the scoop: Apparently Microsoft has started shipping game discs that use a new format, known as “XGD3”, which gives developers an extra 1GB to work with when authoring games. Trouble is, it seems that some older Xbox360 consoles have trouble reading these discs.
The bad news for Microsoft is that this can’t be fixed with a firmware upgrade.
The good news for owners of these format-handicapped consoles is that they are likely going to get a brand new machine courtesy of Microsoft.
At least that’s how it appears judging from an email that was posted to Twitter, published by Kotaku and picked up by winrumours.com:
And just in case you’re suspicious of this note and its veracity, here we present exhibit B, a tweet from the @Xboxsupport account that confirms it’s all legit.
No word yet if this replacement program is in effect here in Canada, and so far there’s no information on how you can tell if your particular console is elligible for the trade-in. Judging by that email, the Xbox team themselves are carrying out the identification process via the Xbox Live service. That seems a little odd, but it may be their way of containing the initial run of replacements to a small batch before having to deal with a wider recall (if any).
So readers, have you had any trouble with new game discs running on your Xbox360? Or will you just have to stick with your existing hardware? :-)
Update: The new disc format may not be the problem after all. Xbox Live’s “Major Nelson” claims the replacement program has to do with a “previous update” and not the XGD3 discs. Confused? So are we. Our attempt to get a full explanation of the replacement program simply elicited a “We have no information on that” response from the @xboxSupport team. We’ll update this post if we hear any more from Redmond.
Today, Microsoft announced that it had purchased 3-D chip maker Canesta for an undisclosed amount. Given Microsoft’s existing investment in movement-recognition for their gaming platform – the Xbox 360 Kinect, it makes sense that they would want to grow their arsenal. But what intrigued me about this particular acquisition is one of the patents that Canesta holds, according to NetworkWorld.com: the projection keyboard.
I had read about projection keyboards a few years ago and like many others was impressed by the opportunities inherent in the concept. How long would it be before we saw mobile phones with this technology embedded?
Turns out it hasn’t happened… yet. Although Canesta has licensed their technology to device maker Celluon who has already brought a stand-alone keyboard projection system to market, there has been no all-in-one device.
Now, I realize that Microsoft doesn’t manufacture any mobile phones (their recent foray with the KIN was over almost before it started) so it’s unlikely that we’ll start seeing Microsoft branded phones anytime soon, but perhaps there’s a different strategy.
One of the big challenges Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 has ahead of it in its battle with Apple, Android and Blackberry is differentiating itself from the other platforms. They’ve already taken a stab at this by making their home-screen more useful than merely being a collection of icons, so what else can they do to convince you to buy?
Given that they don’t control the hardware for Windows Phone 7, they may try to influence it. What if Microsoft agreed to give a free license for Canesta’s projection keyboard system to any hardware maker who produces a Windows Phone 7 model? What if they further covered the cost of the chip-and-sensor modules that make the keyboard possible?
Having the only projection keyboard-enabled phones on the market might just be the push Redmond needs to see wider adoption of their new mobile OS. Or it might just be another desperate move. Readers, what say you? Would a projection keyboard sway your decision on which smartphone to buy?
|Launch in external player
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It looks like someone mashed up a Palm Pre and a Samsung Cleo. At least that’s the first impression you get when looking at one of Microsoft’s first branded entries into the mobile phone space, the KIN One. Together with its sibling the KIN Two, it represents a clear expression of what Microsoft thinks the future of mobile is all about, namely social networking.
A multi-touch screen with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, the KIN One has a distinctly feminine feel, mimicking a make-up compact in size and shape in its closed position, while the KIN Two sports a more conventional rectangular shape. Microsoft’s KIN website claims that the KIN One will appeal to those who like to one-hand-text while and the KIN Two is better for people who prefer to double-hand it when they type. Size and shape aren’t the only differences. The KIN One has 4GB of storage, a mono speaker and can shoot SD video, while the Two has 8GB of memory, stereo speakers and can capture HD video. Both phones contain Microsoft’s Zune software for media playback.
But size and shape aside, the real story here is what happens when you turn the KIN on.
Microsoft has created an experience they refer to as “KIN Loop”. It’s what you see on the phone’s home screen and it’s meant to be a collage of everything that is going on in your social network, right now. You can bring in feeds from top social apps such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Microsoft’s own services and then identify the people in your network who matter most to you. These updates are always front and centre. Microsoft feels that the KIN’s target market of twenty-somethings will prefer this experience over one that emphasizes menus and icons. This strikes me as a love-it or hate-it gamble.
If KIN Loop is your way of staying on top of your rapidly evolving social scene, KIN Spot is the way you let your network know what’s going on with you. Using the touchscreen, you can drag and drop any item of interest to a small green circle near the bottom of the screen and then craft your message/tweet/status update before blasting it out to everyone, or just a select audience.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the KIN though, is one that doesn’t live inside the phone at all, but rather in the cloud. Dubbed “KIN Studio”, Microsoft has created an online backup system for the KIN that not only preserves nearly every item on the KIN be it photo, video, contact, or call history but lets you “re-live” all of these in a kind of timeline-type display. Microsoft claims the online storage will be ample – more than enough to keep your memories alive for extended periods. There is no mention of what kind of data plan will be required if you are a heavy user of the KIN Two’s 8 megapixel camera or it’s built-in HD camcorder.
Rounding out the KIN feature list is a mobile browser that appears to use the same pan/zoom model as both the Pre and the iPhone, an FM Radio and Search powered by Bing.
Opinion is pouring in already, with the editors at Gizmodo – who have already released videos of the KIN in action – declaring it to be sluggish, but not to the point of being unusable.
The KINs will debut in May in the U.S. on the Verizon network and later in Europe with Vodafone. No word yet on a Canadian launch date or which mobility provider will offer it.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a brilliant move on Apple’s part to take on the wildly popular Flip video line of super-small camcorders today, by instantly turning every new iPod Nano into a portable video studio.
But I was much more impressed by the addition of an FM tuner. Why? Well for one thing, this feature has been missing from every single iPod since they launched the product back in 2000. That’s nearly 10 years of everyone (give or take a few Apple fanboys) telling them that they should add radio capability.
So either Steve Jobs has proven that he can listen to his customers, or he’s realized that the quarter of the media-player market that Apple doesn’t control is dominated by devices that can play FM radio – including the Microsoft Zune.
Speaking of the Zune, the new Nano borrows a trick from Redmond’s baby: While listening to your favourite FM radio station, you can “tag” the songs you like for future lookup and purchase in iTunes. It’s a killer feature, but it requires that the station you’re listening to supports iTunes tagging, which not all of them do.
I’ve tried to find a definitive list of Canadian stations that have this, but have so far come up empty. Drop a comment below if you know of a good resource for this.
But Apple has not only met the Zune in the radio department, they’ve also upped the ante. The Nano’s FM radio behaves more like a satellite radio receiver than a typical FM receiver: as soon as you tune-in to a station, the iPod starts buffering the audio to memory, allowing you to pause or even scroll back and forth along the recorded timeline. PVR users will identify with this right away as it’s the same thing you get when watching live TV with a PVR.
Nice work Apple, now tell us again why we had to wait a decade?
Update: Apple’s Canadian spokesperson, Simon Atkins, tells me that there are no radio stations in Canada that currently support iTunes tagging. Bummer.