Week in Microsoft: IllumiRoom, Xbox Original Shows, Messenger Dies, CES

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This week in tech was dominated with the Consumer Electronics Show coverage around the blogosphere. So much so that my RSS feeder became overwhelmed with thousands of items left unread. In the thick of it all, Microsoft demonstrated some cool, futuristic Holodeck demos and even gave a preview of the Surface Pro to some journalists. This Week in Microsoft, I’ll filter out all the CES bloat and breakdown Microsoft news to size.

Positive Sales Reports

Windows-8Earlier in the week, Microsoft and Nokia released some positive early sales figures ahead of announcing their respective Q4 earnings results later this month.

Microsoft revealed they’ve sold more than 60 million Windows 8 licenses since launch. That figure does not include enterprise volume licenses, nor special deals like the agreement with the Department of Defense reached last week. Tami Reller, Chief Financial and Chief Marketing Officer for Windows, said that sales of Windows 8 so far are roughly in line with its Windows 7 predecessor.

The Xbox 360 continues to dominate the console market for the twenty-fourth straight month, with 1.4 millions units sold during December. Although, the IDC reports that the Sony PlayStation 3 has finally edged out the Xbox 360 in total units sold to date. Nintendo’s next-gen console, the Wii U, only managed to sell just over 400,000 units.

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Nokia’s Rising Stock (Source: Yahoo Finance)

On the other side of the Pacific, Nokia announced sales of 4.3 million Lumia smartphones, a number higher than expected. The positive news boosted Nokia’s stock price up 16 percent, with one Bloomberg analyst predicting Nokia will be profitable throughout the rest of this year. Frankly, Nokia stock was a gem in 2012 and is still fairly cheap now. (Editor’s Note: iFans does not provide any official financial or stock market advice.)

Greg Sullivan, a senior product manager for Windows Phone, told ComputerWorld that Windows Phone are “selling like hot cakes in China.”

Xbox Live Getting Original Content

xbox-live-tvNancy Tellem, ex-President of CBS Television Studios and current Microsoft Entertainment and Digital Media President, told Hollywood Reporter in an interview that Microsoft will soon launch its own studio in Hollywood to create original content for Xbox Live.

Tellem reveals that Microsoft will create content for all family members, such as live shows, game shows, documentaries and scripted comedies and dramas. She also said that the production values for these shows will be equivalent to traditional TV.

This could be one of the biggest strategic moves that Microsoft is making to assure its dominant position in the living room. Since Hollywood won’t play ball with IPTV players like Microsoft and Apple, the only way to go forward is to create their own first-party content, in hoping other content providers will then latch on. A strategy much like what Halo did for the Xbox console’s popularity in its early days.

More Windows Phones, More Carriers

Sprint largely ignored the Windows Phone 7 platform, but that will change this summer. Sprint has announced that they will be offering two high-end Windows Phone 8 smartphones from Samsung and HTC this summer. There are still several long months to wait, but Windows Phone 8 will eventually be available on all four major carriers this summer, an accomplishment for Microsoft and its Windows Phone manufacturing partners.

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Huawei Ascend W1

Huawei finally announced their first Windows Phone 8 device, the Ascend W1, at International CES. The low-end device has a dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon processor, 4GB of internal storage, MicroSD slot, and a 5-megapixel camera. Huawei said it will be available on the international carrier O2 sometime during the first quarter.

Samsung was the first OEM to announce a Windows Phone 8 flagship model last September, but they were largely absent and have not delivered any Windows Phone device since. This week, they finally announced the ATIV Odyssey mid-range model for Verizon. It’ll be available sometime this quarter.

Windows Phone Sync for Mac Updated

Continuing with software updates, the Windows Phone Sync app for OS X is updated to version 3.0.1. The app allows Windows Phone devices to sync music, photos, and videos to Mac OS X 10.7 and above. Those 2 users can now download the update in the Mac App Store.

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Skype Kills the Messenger

skypeAfter 13 faithful years in service, Microsoft is shutting down its Messenger service on March 15th. I was more of an AIM user, but MSN Messenger has its crowd in various circles around the globe. Microsoft is encouraging current Messenger users to switch to Skype. Microsoft bought Skype for 8.5 billion dollars in 2011 and is putting it to good use. Skype currently has more than 200 million users worldwide.

Microsoft also rolled out an update to Skype software on Windows this week, allowing users to call and chat with contacts from their Outlook mail client.

Microsoft Research Shows Off IllumiRoom Awesomeness at CES

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Microsoft officially left CES last year in favor of their own scheduled events. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t have any presence at CES this year. In fact, CEO Steve Ballmer made a surprise appearance during the Qualcomm opening keynote during the first day of the show.

One of the few but awesome Microsoft demos was their IllumiRoom from its research division. The demo involves a projector extending the pictures on your TV to the wall or flat surface behind it. Check the video below to get an idea of the possibilities this technology will allow for gaming. The demo is done with no special effects, according to Microsoft.

Well, that’s not too bad of a week for Microsoft I think; the company showed plenty of interesting products and a cool demo. Oh, and the Surface Pro was given a sneak peek at CES to a few journalists. They all said the fan in the Surface Pro is completely silent.

That’s all for now. See you next week.

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