Archive for July 21st, 2012

Microsoft responds to Polytron’s Fez patch claims

Developer Polytron issued a statement two days ago, saying that a save issue affecting a small number of Fez players would no longer be resolved with an additional patch. Microsoft, who Polytron laid the brunt of fault on for demanding an expensive fee to certify and issue the new patch, has now shared its side with Giant Bomb.

“Polytron and their investor, Trapdoor, made the decision not to work on an additional title update for Fez,” the statement starts. “Microsoft Studios chose to support this decision based on the belief that Polytron/Trapdoor were in the best position to determine what the acceptable quality level is for their game. While we do not disclose the cost of Title Updates, we did offer to work with Trapdoor to make sure that wasn’t a blocking issue. We remain huge fans of Fez.”

That last part is perhaps the most interesting, since Polytron claimed Microsoft’s price for a new title update was $10,000 ? this statement makes it sound like Microsoft may have been willing to negotiate on the price.

In the meantime, you can keep playing an improved post-patch Fez, in the hopes that your save makes it through the whole adventure. Polytron says less than one percent of players have succumbed to the bug.

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Google grabs startup devoted to Apple gadget email

SAN FRANCISCO: A French startup behind email applications for Apple gadgets has been bought by Google as the Internet titan increasingly tailors hit software to run on its rival’s hardware.

Sparrow co-founder and chief executive Dominique Leca announced on Friday that the Paris-based startup’s team will go to work on Gmail, Google’s free Web-based email service.

“We’re joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger vision,” Leca said. “While we’ll be working on new things at Google, we will continue to make Sparrow available and provide support for our users.”

A Sparrow email application for iPhones became available for purchase in Apple’s online App Store in March, and a version of the software for Macintosh computers has been available since early last year.

“The Sparrow team has always put their users first by focusing on building a seamlessly simple and intuitive interface for their email client,” a Google spokesperson said.

“We look forward to bringing them aboard the Gmail team, where they’ll be working on new projects.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition came as Google ramped up software offerings that compete with custom programs that Apple builds into its iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices.

Google last month took the Web browser battle to iPads and iPhones with the release of Chrome software for popular Apple devices built with Safari online surfing programs at heart.

Safari remains the default browser used in Apple gadgets and the “engine” that Chrome or other Web-surfing applications rely on to function.

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Dell aims to create $5 billion software business

SAN FRANCISCO: Dell Inc’s new software chief plans to increase the size of the business five-fold, a target that could eventually account for at least 25 percent of the No. 3 personal computer maker’s profits.

John Swainson, the former chief executive of CA Technologies who joined Dell in February, said software is a higher margin business than most of the company’s other units, but is not big enough to make a difference right now.

Dell has been actively diversifying its products and business away from personal computers, a market whose growth is slowing as Apple Inc’s iPad and other mobile devices pull customers away. The company has said it sees software and services as key growth areas.

Swainson wants Dell’s software business to make a “meaningful contribution” to its bottom line. “As you get to a number like $5 billion, it starts to become a meaningful number on the bottom line,” he told Reuters in an interview. “If you were at $5 billion software business with 30 percent margins, that would be roughly $1.5 billion in net income.”

Dell’s software business currently generates about $1.2 billion of its $ 60.2 billion annual revenue. Swainson did not give a time frame for when he hopes to achieve the target revenues, but said the $2.4 billion acquisition of Quest software was one of the building blocks to getting there.

Software is one part of the Round Rock, Texas-based company’s strategy to transform the corporation from just a PC company to a one-stop shop for all the IT needs of corporations. But the company has been lagging larger rivals such as Hewlett-Packard Co and International Business Machines Corp in the race to become the preferred vendor for corporate information technology needs.

Acquisitions that broaden its offerings, such as IT services company Perot Systems and security company SonicWall, have underpinned Dell’s diversification plan. Dell, however, is not planning to buy any more software companies of Quest’s size in the near-term, but will continue to “actively” look for good buys, Swainson said.

The company is also focusing on emerging markets for growth. Chief Executive Officer Michael Dell said earlier this week he remains upbeat about areas such as China, its largest market outside the United States, despite “challenges” and a business slowdown.

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Chromebook & Chromebox are designed for cloud

ATLANTA: Two new computers running Google’s Chrome operating system are looking to lure people to a browser-based environment. Both target light-duty computer users who don’t need the full range of capabilities that traditional Windows and Mac computers provide.

The first thing to know about these machines is they lack regular hard drives for storage. There’s a small amount of flash memory available, the kind you’d find on a camera memory card, but Chrome OS machines are designed for the cloud. That means documents are stored over the Internet, and programs are run over the Internet through a Web browser.

However securely and discretely the Internet services you use claim to keep your data, your content is one step removed from your tight-fisted control. Cloud computing also limits what you can do during those times you may not have an Internet connection.

In addition, because the machines emphasize not just cloud storage but cloud services as well, you won’t be able to install full-blown programs such as Microsoft’s Office. You’re limited to the selection of apps written for Chrome.

What you get instead is speed. The Chrome OS machines boot up quickly because they don’t have to load a lot of software, all that is run over the Internet. The machines also don’t need the most expensive and fastest parts because they aren’t doing a whole lot.

If you’re OK with that approach to personal computing, the Chromebook laptop and the Chromebox desktop computer hit the mark. Both are made by Samsung Electronics and represent the second-generation of Chrome OS machines, following the models out last summer. Here’s a closer look at the two:

Chromebook

Officially called the Samsung Series 5 550, the $449 Chromebook laptop is an updated version of last year’s debut Chromebook model.

As notebooks go, the Chromebook is sleek and simple by appearance. It sports a 12.1-inch display, weighs a tidy 3.3 lbs and has built-in Wi-Fi. The model I tested also came with a 3G cellular modem and two years of free online connection to Verizon’s network. That model costs $549.

Under the hood is an Intel Celeron processor and four gigabytes of RAM, which is plenty for most Web-based activities. There’s a paltry 16 gigabytes of flash storage, which can quickly get eaten up if you store a lot of songs or photos, forget about lengthy video. Again, the idea is for you to keep all that on the Internet instead.

Google’s Chrome Web store has plenty of useful, free applications to run on the machine. These are the same apps that you can add to Chrome Web browsers running on Windows or Mac computers. The selection includes accounting software, Amazon.com wish list management and “Angry Birds” (Yes, they’re still angry).

But if all of that can also be installed for Chrome on a Mac or Windows machine, why have a whole computer with the entire functionality dedicated to one browser? Isn’t that severely limiting?

Some will find it is, but others will soon determine that the vast majority of their activities in front of a computer screen are Web-based anyway. There are Chrome apps for Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other services that represent the bulk of the casual user’s computer time.

The frustrations I had with Chromebook were related to its hardware. First, there is no caps lock key. I had to simultaneously press the shift key and a key with a magnifying glass right above it. That may seem like a small inconvenience, but Chrome just made it more cumbersome for me to yell at someone in ALL CAPS on Facebook.

Also, the touchpad’s right-click sensitivity was poorly calibrated and dominated a good two-thirds of the surface. Hence, a right-click dropdown window of options kept popping up when I merely meant to left click on text fields and other objects. These are small things, of course, but they were annoying.

Chromebox

The $329 Chromebox Series 3 desktop computer, by comparison, a real gem.

The diminutive unit sports lots of crucial connections, including six USB 2.0 ports, a DVI output and two DisplayPort outputs for the transmission of high-resolution video to an external display. Like the Chromebook, it comes with 16 gigabytes of storage.

The first thing I noticed when powering up the Chromebox was, well, nothing. It was the quietest electrical device in my home office, thanks to a flash drive that doesn’t need to spin, unlike magnetic hard drives found in most traditional computers. The unit generates very little heat and therefore doesn’t need a roar of fans to move that heat away from the 1.9 GHz Intel processor.

The desktop experience is identical to the Chromebook, of course. They run the same OS and operate in the same fashion. I was able to use the quietness to my advantage. The Chromebook is quiet, too, but the Chromebox is more inviting because you’re more likely to leave it in one place. That makes it easier to use the device for entertainment, as I wouldn’t need to reconnect wires to the TV each time.

It’s much nicer to stream high-definition Netflix movies to the TV from the mouse-quiet Chrome device than from my PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or a regular desktop PC, all of which get warm and loud.

And I’d get a proper browser and online apps on the television, instead of apps repurposed for the game console experience. For instance, the Twitter app for Xbox is cartoonish, whereas reading a few tweets from TweetDeck via Chrome (with a Bluetooth keyboard attached) is pretty nice.

That said, I see neither Chromebook nor the Chromebox as replacements for traditional computers, as cloud computing isn’t fully robust yet. Instead, Chrome OS machines are likely to be additions, the way you might buy an iPad to supplement your main desktop or laptop. If you’re comfortable with cloud computing, the Chromebook and the Chromebox deliver a clean networked experience and give you a full keyboard than touch-screen tablets lack.

But the new Chrome OS machines, while improved over previous models, don’t offer many advantages over traditional computers that can do much more. So if you’re not comfortable yet with cloud storage, there’s no reason to force yourself to embrace Chrome OS. You can get by with the Chrome browser on a regular machine.

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Twitter lets advertisers better target tweets

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter on Thursday began letting businesses more easily turn tweets into advertising that targets users of the globally popular one-to-many text messaging service.

Advertisers can aim terse missives of 140 characters or less to Twitter users based on their geographic location or whether they access the service using mobile devices or personal computers, according to product manager Kevin Weil.

Previously, such “promoted tweets” could be targeted in those ways only after the messages were sent to all Twitter followers.

“We’re introducing targeted tweets, an enhancement that enables brands to reach specific audiences on Twitter without first sending a tweet to all followers,” Weil said in a blog post.

“Now global brands that have different launch dates for several countries can send tailored messages at different times, customized for the users in each country.”

Twitter has been testing the new advertising model for several weeks with companies including British Airways, Coca Cola and The Washington Post, according to Weil.

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