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Showtime for the Xbox 360

Posted by Ravi on November 7, 2006

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Microsoft hopes a new video downloading service will elevate the already popular game console into an entertainment center

To gamers, the Xbox 360 is a smoking hot game machine. But to Microsoft (MSFT), it’s always been seen as that—and a whole lot more. Microsoft wants the machine to be the digital entertainment hub in your home; a way for customers to consume all sorts of video entertainment.

Now it’s making a big move in that direction. On Nov. 22, Microsoft will begin offering movies and television on demand through its Xbox Live service (see BusinessWeek.com, 9/27/06, “Microsoft Plays It Cool on Games”). The four million Xbox Live subscribers, including those who use a free barebones service, will have access to movies from the Paramount (VIA) and Warner Bros. (TWX) studios, including Mission: Impossible 3 and Superman Returns.

They’ll also be able to download TV shows from CBS (CBS) and MTV such as various flavors of the CSI franchise and South Park. What’s more, since the Xbox 360 can handle high-definition content, many of the available programs will be in high-def as well.

Console Competition

The move comes just as rivals, Sony (SNE) and Nintendo prepare to launch their next-generation consoles to compete with the Xbox 360, which has been on the market since November, 2005 (see BusinessWeek.com, 5/10/06, “Game Time for Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft”).

With all the marketing hype behind those devices, Microsoft is hoping to grab some attention with an innovative service, as it is the first game console to include these capabilities. And it’s betting that the pay-per-view feature will help it expand the audience to moms and sisters who aren’t the core Xbox 360 users. “This additional capability is something that will get them over the hump to getting a game console,” says Ross Honey, senior director of Microsoft’s media, content, and partner strategy group.

Sony notes that both PlayStation 3 models being released Nov. 17 will have hard drive capabilities for downloading content—though no video downloading service has been announced. The Nintendo’s Wii console, to be released Nov. 19, offers Internet connectivity, but does not come with a hard drive.

A Few Obstacles

Microsoft hasn’t announced pricing. But the software giant says movies will be competitive with pay-per-view programming offered by cable companies, typically $4 to $6 apiece. And TV shows will cost roughly the same amount to download as they are on Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes service, which is $2 (see BusinessWeek.com, 6/21/06, “Apple’s iTunes Movie Muddle”).

There are clearly some caveats that will slow the uptake of the service. First, downloading videos, particularly high-definition ones, is a time-consuming proposition. The speeds depend on the data transfer rate of the user’s broadband connection. But for many folks, downloading a high-def movie will run about three times as long as the movie itself. That means customers will need to pick a movie when they walk out the door in the morning so that it’s ready for viewing that night. Viewers can start watching programming in standard definition roughly two minutes after they begin downloading.

A second challenge comes from the ownership rights of the viewer—or the lack of it. After customers download a movie, they’ll have two weeks to watch it. And once they start watching it, they’ll have 24 hours to finish it before they are locked out. Customers can keep TV programs and watch them as long as they like. But there’s no way to transfer the program to a laptop or CD for viewing later, say on a plane trip. It’s locked to that Xbox Live account.

A Roadmap

Microsoft also moves into the pay-per-view business with no exclusivity advantage and no price advantage. That means that the Xbox Live service gets movies at the same time as other pay-per-view providers, primarily cable providers, and charges the same amount. So as long as a consumer has a high-def set-top box, the choice is between instantaneous viewing of a high-def movie or waiting several hours to catch the same flick on an Xbox.

That’s not to say the new service won’t break new ground. It will be the first to offer on-demand high-def TV shows. And it will offer customers a library of old shows, such as remastered versions of the original Star Trek series in high-def as well as shows targeted at the Xbox’s young male demographic, such as Turner’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Ultimate Fighting Championship programming.

But more important, it shows where Microsoft wants to go in the entertainment business (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/7/05, “Microsoft May Be a TV Star Yet”). The company isn’t simply satisfied making a video game console and games. It’s pushing into content delivery, putting it squarely in competition with partners, such as Comcast (CMCSA) and AT&T (T), that use its software to sell the same shows. “There’s a new horse race” for Microsoft, says Richard Doherty, research director for The Envisioneering Group, an industry analyst firm. Microsoft is betting it has the stamina to win.

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Posted in Microsoft, News, Xbox | 5 Comments »

Wikipedia: hacked and infected!

Posted by Ravi on November 7, 2006

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The German version of Wikipedia has been hacked to spread malware to unsuspecting users.

While the offending pages on the German edition of Wikipedia were quickly removed once discovered, with all versions of the page permanently deleted, according to German news site Heise Online, the ease of which Wikipedia was hacked to be the source of malware has caused shockwaves around the world.

Cleverly using an article about the Blaster worm as cover, they modified the article and placed a link to a so-called ‘fix’, and urged people to download it. Of course, anyone doing so that didn’t have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware protection would have found malware installed onto their machines, instead of malware being taken away.

To make matters worse, the German hackers then spammed the online German community, urging them to visit the Wikipedia site for information on getting rid of the W32.Blaster worm.

With Wikipedia still seen as an authoritative site, despite recent scandals, many could have easily been fooled into believing the link really did offer a download of value, instead of some nasty malware!

The ‘safe’ nature of the Wikipedia site would also have fooled many browser-based anti-phishing tools specifically designed to protect users from malicious websites.

It just goes to show, it’s getting harder to trust the sites we visit online, while emails we receive should always be suspect, even if they appear to come from a friend.

An interesting new program has emerged on the Internet to help protect users from the menace of phishing attacks is called Trustdefender. Available to download from www.trustdefender.com, I have to give you fair disclosure: the software is actually made by a couple of friends here in Australia. It’s nice to see Australians able to develop world-beating software!

TrustDefender is the only program I know that can help you determine, with certainty, whether the site you are visiting really is the one you intended to visit. It’s not a browser based plug-in, so can’t be hacked like browser plug-ins can. This is increasingly vital in this day and age, as phishing attacks grow increasingly sophisticated and end up tricking many into divulging their details to hackers, when they thought they were ‘updating their account’, be it with their bank, auction site or other online service.

TrustDefender is incredibly advanced, is super easy to use, and yet is available free of charge! There is the option of a paid ‘Gold Edition’, but this reverts to the free version after 21 days, and you don’t need to pay for it before you download it.

It has been through much beta testing over the past year, with the version available today extremely solid and robust.

I haven’t mentioned it before because it has been going through extensive beta testing, but is now an excellent security product that blows away the competition from Symantec, McAfee and others, who purport to have similar types of products, but ones which have been demonstrated to simply not be anywhere near as effective as TrustDefender, nor do they have TrustDefender’s tiny footprint – it uses very minimal resources on your PC.

For now, TrustDefender works on Windows XP machines, with a Windows Vista version in the works. It’s quick to install, effortless to use and it’s free. Give it a go!

And in short – the hackers will never stop. Their tricky attacks will only get trickier and more clever. Users need to be more cautious than ever before. Software like TrustDefender is software whose time has definitely come!

Posted in News | Leave a Comment »

Sony Playstation 3 coming up this week

Posted by Ravi on November 6, 2006

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The time is finally here. Sony would have launched their Playstation 3 gaming console after years of development later this week.

The console is coming after 6 years of launch of the Playstation 2 gaming console and this time it would have formidable competition in the form of Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.

Interestingly, the PS3 is the most expensive of the three and claims its superiority on the basis of supplied equipment and hardware.

The company is facing serious production problems and is only expected to ship around 100,000 PS3 consoles for the launch in Japan this Saturday.

And market analysts have no doubt that these units will sell out in little time. Sony would be launching the PS3 in the US market on November 17 with around 400,000 units.

The company has also maintained its forecast to ship six million PS3s worldwide by March 2007.

Posted in Playstation | 3 Comments »

World Wide Web developer concerned Internet could be misused

Posted by aboutech on November 5, 2006

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist who is credited with creating the World Wide Web, speaks during a news conference on Thursday, November 2.

“People with all kinds of skills and knowledge are going to need to work together in order to understand the Web and in order to build a Web which is going to be even better, ” Sir Tim Berners-Lee said.

The British scientist who developed the World Wide Web said Thursday that he is concerned the Internet could be misused as it grows and he is advocating a research project to study its future.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist who is credited with creating the World Wide Web, said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. that the way the Web is used should be examined by a broad spectrum of experts.

“We really must have a science of understanding this. We must be able to look at whether it’s going to continue to serve us well, or whether we’ll end up with some things which suddenly appear overnight and which in fact are very bad,” Berners-Lee said.

“Maybe we’ll find that some very undemocratic things start happening, and that misinformation starts taking over the Web.”

Berners-Lee wants to convene scientists from various disciplines, including biology, political science and sociology, to study the Web and the way it affects society. “All kinds of disciplines are going to have to converge,” he said.

“People with all kinds of skills and knowledge are going to need to work together in order to understand the Web and in order to build a Web which is going to be even better.”

He first proposed the web while developing ways to control computers remotely at CERN, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, in 1989.

Posted in News | 7 Comments »

GMail Mobile Rushes E-mail to Your Phone

Posted by aboutech on November 4, 2006

Gmail for mobile

Google’s recent updates to GMail Mobile are making it easier and faster to check your GMail from your cell phone. The app (which can be downloaded from Google for free) pre-fetches your e-mail automatically and lets you view attachments like PDFs, images, and Word files from your cell phone. The folks at MobileCrunch gave it a whirl and were mostly impressed by the app’s speed. Sprint already has plans for pre-installing the app on some of its new phones, otherwise you’ll need a Java-enabled phone to run the app.

Posted in Google, Mobile | 4 Comments »

First Look At Microsoft Office Live

Posted by aboutech on November 4, 2006

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CNET’s Elsa Wenzel shows off Microsoft’s new Office Live service. In addition to giving you a free Web site, Microsoft Office Live will soon enable online keyword marketing campaigns for your company while integrating its various Web-based tools with the desktop Office Accounting and, ofcourse, the impending Microsoft Office suite.
Check the video here.

Posted in Microsoft | 2 Comments »