The UpStream (Page 217)

Microsoft Partners Up to Launch Exclusive Windows Store Deal with Best Buy

posted Friday Jun 21, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Partners Up to Launch Exclusive Windows Store Deal with Best Buy

If you haven't been noticing, Microsoft has been opening up a bunch of Microsoft Stores around the country and even internationally. With over 50 locations in 3 countries, the software giant has solidified itself as the new, cool, hip company where you can walk in and play with their latest gadgets. Now, Microsoft is looking to expand even more directly into Apple territory by opening up what they are calling the Windows Store, which will be featured exclusively at Best Buy, at least here in the states.

Going with the store-within-a-store approach, 500 Best Buy locations throughout the US will host the Windows Store, and 100 Best Buy and Future Shop stores will play host to the Windows Store in Canada. Microsoft says the footprint will range anywhere from 1,500 to 2,200 square feet and will serve as a prime location for customers to put their hands on products and accessories, from Windows tablets, PCs and versions of Microsoft Office to Windows Phones and new Xbox products. If you're thinking, "why Best Buy?" you probably haven't been keeping up with the fact that the yellow tag store has decided to shrink its aisle-space for DVDs, leaving much room for Microsoft to step in.

Chris Capossela, Chief Marketing Officer of Microsoft, spoke in confidence of the company's plans with this mini-store mentality outside of their routine big shopping malls up to now.

Well, unlike a lot of store-within-a-store concepts, this will actually be a department-level takeover within Best Buy stores. And they will be massive in size, up to 2,200 square feet in some locations. The other unique thing about the Windows Store is the people. There will be an additional 1,200 staff on hand to provide a great customer experience, whether it's choosing the right PC or showing consumers how to stream Xbox music through their Surface. Finally, the online experience should be fantastic. We'll have a full online Windows Store experience that will mirror the in-store look-and-feel and offer a full range of Microsoft products, even those from other places in the Best Buy store.

And on the differences of the Windows Store at Best Buy versus the Microsoft Stores in the malls, Capossela said that this is just another outreach with the same expectations as a Microsoft Store.

Well, first of all, we're committed to our Microsoft Stores. With 68 stores open in North America, we're seeing great success in our growing network. The Windows Store at Best Buy is really just another great opportunity to reach customers in more places and give them choice in their technology-buying experience. We've taken learnings from the Microsoft Store into the Windows Store at Best Buy, and we ultimately feel this is another great channel to offer a superior experience for the millions of customers who rely on Best Buy to purchase their PCs.

Regardless of my feelings of Best Buy at times, it is nice to see Microsoft finally having more places to show off all of the highlights from each and every product line the company has to offer. Sometimes, as Microsoft has seen, the third-party manufacturers don't do the best of jobs at getting their message across about Windows products. Now, Microsoft can continue to control the exact message they're trying to relay. Stores will be launching this summer and locations have not been disclosed yet.

July 11th Event Suggests Lumia PureView Smartphone

posted Thursday Jun 20, 2013 by Scott Ertz

July 11th Event Suggests Lumia PureView Smartphone

It has been quite some time since we saw Nokia unveil the 808 PureView, seemingly the final Nokia smartphone handset to not feature Windows Phone. The highlight of the handset was the 41 megapixel camera attached; something never seen before. The previous record holder was the Nokia N8 with an 8 megapixel camera, something available on most modern phones.

The question at the time was when we would see this feature come to the Lumia family. The question seems like it will be answered on July 11th, as Nokia is marketing a press event and live stream boasting "41 million reasons." If that isn't a Nokia Lumia PureView, I don't know what it could be.

Three has been talk of a Nokia Lumia EOS, including interchangeable lenses, like any other EOS camera, though I do not exactly expect to see that. Seeing Nokia bring their 41MP camera sensor to the flagship Lumia line, however, is something both expected and anticipated.

Are you excited for the possibility of a 41MP Lumia handset? Let us know in the comments. Also, make sure to be here on July 11th for our live blog of the event starting at 11AM.

Verizon Blamed for Slow Netflix Speeds by Bandwidth Provider

posted Thursday Jun 20, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Verizon Blamed for Slow Netflix Speeds by Bandwidth Provider

Many Verizon customers are starting to recognize a lack of performance on their Netflix streams. The blame seems to lie in a battle between Verizon and Cogent Communications, who is a major bandwidth provider. The battle exists over a concept known as peering, which you might not know anything about. Let me explain.

The concept is this: two companies that provide Internet access can transfer traffic between each other for free, allowing both companies to provide decent service to their customers. Verizon is a huge provider of consumer Internet access and Cogent is a major provider of bandwidth, making them a pretty good pairing. When ports get jammed, the sharing begins.

The problem lies in Verizon's tendency to allow the ports to jam up and not transfer bandwidth. Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer said,

They are allowing the peer connections to degrade. Today some of the ports are at 100 percent capacity. Think of it as the on-ramp to the freeway being log-jammed.

Verizon let Cogent know that the reason for this policy change was because Cogent was providing bandwidth for a major media company. The company, according to Schaeffer, is Netflix. So, with the popularity of Netflix, why would Verizon get up-in-arms about who Cogent decides to do business with? Verizon is part owner of RedBox Instant. So, this is a Google-style anti-trust business decision.

As we know, FTC investigations over self-service promotion have cost Google plenty; it seems like a crazy decision for Verizon to be going down the same road, just a few years behind.

Hopefully Verizon, along with Comcast and Time Warner Cable who have also had Netflix degradation issues, will realize that limiting Netflix quality doesn't send people looking for other video services, but instead other Internet services.

Microsoft Changes Policy on Used Games and Online Check

posted Wednesday Jun 19, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Changes Policy on Used Games and Online Check

A visit to the Xbox Wire today revealed quite an interesting turn of events. If you've been following the news since the Microsoft E3 press briefing, you'll know that the new Xbox One caught a lot of slack for needing to be "always online" to check that you have a legitimate copy of the game you bought. Our editor-in-chief Scott Ertz went into detail after the press day of E3 as to why this was and why Sony was kind of doing the same thing. Well, it appears that enough people have complained to Microsoft, on the Internet, that they don't have Internet, and Microsoft has changed its mind on some of its policies that the Internet disagreed with.

Here are the highlights of the policy changes, from the update Xbox Wire today,

Update on June 19, 2013: As a result of feedback from the Xbox community, we have changed certain policies for Xbox One reflected in this blog.

You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:

•An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games - After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

•Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today - There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console - there will be no regional restrictions.

These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.

So, a lot of people are extremely happy with all of this, saying that "gamers won" and that the Internet was able to reject a limitation. But isn't this simply stifling the future and innovation? Microsoft said this announcement will change some previous scenarios for the Xbox One. Could this include some of the very innovative cloud-connected features we saw announced at E3 and at the media presentation? Are we yet again going down the path of preventing the inevitable future, albeit a bit longer, for the never-ending desire for immediate satisfaction and to save a few bucks (or not) at GameStop? It all boils down to making sure the developer who spends 18 hours a day working on your game, gets paid for the work he puts out. And until that happens, should we, as a gaming community, accept the fact that gaming studios lose revenue due to third party game retailers?

Obviously, a lot of questions are still unanswered, even after the policy announcement, and it would appear that I am one of the few that does not see that this news is all roses and daisies? There's a bunch of time left until the consoles get launched, and things can surely change in that time. That, and there's still a bunch to be announced from both Microsoft and Sony. Do you agree with my sentiment? Let me know in the comments below.

Nintendo to Serve Up a Free-to-Play Game by March, Platform Unknown

posted Monday Jun 17, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Nintendo to Serve Up a Free-to-Play Game by March, Platform Unknown

Since Nintendo didn't hold a big press conference this year like Microsoft and Sony, largely to them not having a console to release, what was Nintendo doing during E3 this year? Aside from holding several private events to talk about games (Bayonetta!) and future roadmaps for the Wii U and 3DS, the company also chose to announce that they are taking on a new path in their gaming world.

During an analyst briefing, Nintendo said they are pushing forward with their first free-to-play game some time before March of 2014, their fiscal year. As of right now, we are unsure as to what platform, or even what game it will be. What we do know is Nintendo said that there will be a big focus on DLC, expansions and free-to-play titles moving forward, which they hope will improve digital sales on both the Wii U and 3DS.

What we also know is what franchises the F2P game won't be for: Mario and Pokemon. Nintendo's CEO Satoru Iwata commented specifically on those two franchises, saying that they "already have good relationship in those brands" so they see no need in trying something uncertain in them that could potentially cause disaster.

David Gibson, an analyst who was in on the briefing, said,

Nintendo plans to boost digital sales with launches like new super luigi u but also the first free to play game. Nintendo free to play game will be released this fy but will not be Mario or Pokemon game as already have good relationship in those brands. FY is fiscal year ending march 2014. Nintendo analyst briefing comments earlier were from President Iwata and FTP game platform not clear but was said when talking about WiiU

This could either mean we'll see a brand new IP that is free to get started with, a resurrection of another, older franchise or even a successful brand that will take on the F2P beast. Either way, it's definitely new territory for Nintendo and could lead to future success if done the right way. At any rate, it's time to speculate. What game would you like to see free-to-play? Let us know in the comments below.

Steam Introduces Item Gifting and Trade Offers to the Entire Steam Platform

posted Sunday Jun 16, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Steam Introduces Item Gifting and Trade Offers to the Entire Steam Platform

Even though Valve's absence from E3 this year spoke volumes on the lack of relevancy the show is becoming with each passing year (regardless of how crazy Gabe Newell gets over the same time span), the company was still able to announce some news that gained some attention. This would be much like last year, when they announced Counter-Strike: Global Offensive during Microsoft's press briefing.

This year, however, Valve announced a pretty big Steam update that will include some features gamers have been wanting for a while. And, if you've been running the beta client, you would have seen these features come and go over the past couple of months.

First up is the new Trade Offers feature. Bringing some in-game economy features from Team Fortress 2, among other, into the full Steam platform, Trade Offers will allow you to send a trade request to other Steam users, outside of a game. You will be able to trade any items from any inventory in any of your Steam games and users can then choose to accept or reject any offers made. As of right now, this will be limited to your friends list, but Valve has said they will incorporate the entire Steam community in the near future.

The second big update is Item Gifting. As it stands, you can gift games that you purchase to pretty much anyone with an email address. However, it is still not possible to gift away inventory items, like TF2's Premium Upgrade item. Instead, you currently have to trade for the item, and only can do so in games that feature a trading system. Now, Item Gifting will let you choose in-game items and cosmetics to send to your friends, or even strangers if you wanted to.

The update should be rolling out soon, so keep looking back for the infamous Steam pop-up box about an update.

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