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  1. The company has filed a lawsuit at a federal court accusing unknown AT&T subscriber(s) of activating pirated copies of its operating system and other software products. The AT&T account was tracked by the tech giant’s own cyberforensics team due to “suspicious activation patternsâ€. Although Microsoft is known worldwide as one of the most pirated software vendors, the company doesn’t have a long track record of dealing with individual infringers. Actually, a couple months ago, the company even noted that piracy could sometimes even act as a conversion tool. Apparently, this didn’t mean that all pirates could have their way. The tech giant’s cybercrime center seems to be keeping a close eye on the unauthorized use of Microsoft’s software products. A few days ago, the company has filed a copyright infringement complaint against an individual (or a group) who activated pirated copies of Windows 7 and Office 10 from an IP address assigned to the AT&T subscription account. You may think that pirated copies are hard for the company to detect, but Microsoft explained that it uses modern technology to track software piracy. The software developer described its investigative approach as cyberforensics: its team looks for activation patterns and characteristics that make it likely that certain IP-addresses are engaged in illegal copying. For example, the company analyzes product key activation data received from users when they activate the software. This data includes the IP address from which the key has been activated. By the way, such reports are sent by users voluntarily. The lawsuit claims that the defendants have activated numerous copies of Microsoft software products, including Windows 7 and Office 2010, with suspicious registration keys. The company believes that those were stolen from its supply chain, then used without permission from the refurbisher channel, and more often than the Microsoft license permitted. Now the company wants the court to allow it to identify the individual or a group of them responsible for the copyright violations in order to compensate the damage it has suffered. According to Microsoft’s complaint, it looks like the defendant is not an average user, but perhaps a person selling PCs with pirated software. Well, let’s see what the court has to tell the company.
  2. A broad coalition including Google, Mastercard, Microsoft, ISPs and anti-piracy organization Rights Alliance have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the issue of online infringement. The agreement, which is the result of efforts by Denmark's Ministry of Culture, will see the companies working together to defeat piracy, promote legitimate content, and make the Internet a safer place. While action against online infringement takes place on many levels, parallel large-scale initiatives with broader aims are increasingly being employed by entertainment industry companies. Outside of “three strikes†style programs, “follow the money†is perhaps the next best well-known. This type of initiative, carried out with the assistance of big brands, advertising companies and payment processors, aims to strangle the finances of ‘pirate’ sites. As seen last week, there are also tandem efforts to portray unauthorized sites as “unsafe†places for netizens to frequent. The overall message is that pirate sites are run by criminals, consumers should not support them, and money is best spent with legitimate content providers. Denmark has become the latest country to embrace these ideals via a Memorandum of Understanding titled ‘Code to Promote Lawful Behavior on the Internet’ signed by some of the world’s biggest online players. Google and Microsoft are the most recognizable international technology signatories and all the big Hollywood studios make a proxy appearance via anti-piracy group Rights Alliance. Broadcasters and cinema companies are also represented. The interests of more than 40,000 composers, songwriters and music publishers are served by rights group Koda and payment companies including MasterCard and Diners Club are also on board. Local ISPs have signed through the Tele Industrien group. According to the Ministry of Culture the MoU represents the beginning of a collaborative mechanism designed to tackle digital challenges on five key issues. 1. To help make the Internet a safe and legal platform for consumers and businesses. 2. To stress that copyright is an important cornerstone for growth and innovation. 3. To work together to reduce financial crime, based on copyright violations. 4. To work together to promote the dissemination of legal products. 5. To contribute to efficient processes that can help to reduce copyright violations and associated crimes. In keeping with voluntary anti-piracy initiatives currently underway in other countries, signatories will also participate in discussion aimed at identifying new areas of cooperation. The shape of this Danish initiative looks familiar, with rightsholders applying the pressure and search engines, ISPs, payment processors and advertisers falling into step. While the emphasis is on consumer safety, it is clear that companies are being advised to do everything they can to disassociate themselves from “criminal enterprises†on the Internet. As part of the MoU, signatories agree not to “finance criminal activities†by offering support of any kind including giving them “exposureâ€, providing advertising revenue or payment processing services. “The companies and organizations that are part of this Code want to counter that their companies are associated with economic crime, based on copyright violations,†the code reads. In a statement announcing the signing of the MoU, the Ministry of Culture stressed the aims and importance of the broad agreement. “The code reflects a common desire to make a determined effort to ensure that the Internet is a safe and economically sustainable marketplace. It will help to create better conditions for growth and innovation for legitimate businesses and security and transparency for the users,†the Ministry said. Time will tell how far each signatory will be prepared to go and on what basis, but the companies involved are the biggest players around and having them all at the same table will be a powerful tool.
  3. A presumed pirate with an unusually large appetite for activating Windows 7 has incurred the wrath of Microsoft. In a lawsuit filed at a Washington court, the Seattle-based company said that it logged hundreds of suspicious product activations from a Verizon IP address and is now seeking damages. Due to the fact that one needs to be present on most computers in order for them to work at all, operating systems are among the most pirated types of software around. There can be little doubt that across its range in its 29 year history, Microsoft’s Windows operating systems have been pirated countless millions of times. It’s a practice that on some levels Microsoft has come to accept, with regular consumers largely avoiding the company’s aggression. However, as one or perhaps more pirates are about to find out, the same cannot be said of those pirating the company’s products on a commercial scale. In a lawsuit filed this week at a district court in Seattle, Microsoft targets individuals behind a single Verizon IP address – Who he, she or they are is unknown at this point, but according to Microsoft they’re responsible for some serious Windows pirating. “As part of its cyberforensic methods, Microsoft analyzes product key activation data voluntarily provided by users when they activate Microsoft software, including the IP address from which a given product key is activated,†the lawsuit reads. Microsoft says that its forensic tools allow the company to analyze billions of activations of Microsoft software and identify patterns “that make it more likely than not†that an IP address associated with activations is one through which pirated software is being activated. “Microsoft’s cyberforensics have identified hundreds of product key activations originating from IP address…which is presently assigned to Verizon Online LLC. These activations have characteristics that on information and belief, establish that Defendants are using the IP address to activate pirated software.†Microsoft says that the defendant(s) have activated hundreds of copies of Windows 7 using product keys that have been “stolen†from the company’s supply chain or have never been issued with a valid license, or keys used more times than their license allows. In addition to immediate injunctive relief and the impounding of all infringing materials, the company demands profits attributable to the infringements, treble damages and attorney fees or, alternatively, statutory damages. This week’s lawsuit (pdf) follows similar action in December 2014 in which Microsoft targeted the user behind an AT&T account.
  4. Microsoft bills the 'compatibility update' as way to ease the upgrade process to Windows 10, but it's collecting data daily If you think that KB 2952664 just tweaks your system a bit to improve the upgrade process, you may be in for a surprise. It could also be triggering a daily telemetry run and maybe even snooping on you. KB 2952664 is billed as a "compatibility update for upgrading Windows 7… [that] helps Microsoft make improvements to the current operating system in order to ease the upgrade experience to the latest version of Windows." So I was surprised when reader Carl Anderson sent me an email, pointing out a Microsoft Answers forum thread that accuses the February 2015 Black Tuesday patches of installing a process that red-lines one core of the CPU every time Windows 7 is started. Anderson pointed to three possible sources of the spiking process: KB 2952664, KB 2990214, or KB 3035583. Taking them in reverse order, we already know that KB 3035583 lays the plumbing for Windows 10 nagware. We haven't seen the nagware yet, but with that KB installed, Microsoft will have the ability to run ads and promotions in Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs, urging customers to upgrade to Windows 10. The KB 2990214 patch for Windows 7 (and KB 3044374 for Windows 8.1) is billed as an "update that enables you to upgrade to a later version of Windows." It was very poorly documented when it was released, but we have since been assured by Windows product manager Joseph Conway that it contains "improvements in the overall Windows Update client, which is why it was released as Important." His explanation left several "important" questions in its wake which have not been answered as yet. Which leaves the "Important" KB 2952664 patch, which was rolled out the Automatic Update chute early this month, a week before this month's Black Tuesday. Billed as a "compatibility update for upgrading Windows 7," there is no further information about the patch, other than a list of files that it installs. Following Anderson's hunch, I installed KB 2952664 on a fresh Windows 7 SP1 x64 PC. I was disturbed to find that it adds a program to the Windows Task Scheduler called DoScheduledTelemetryRun. That entry didn't exist before I installed KB 2952664. You can see it on your PC by bringing up Task Scheduler (type task scheduler in the find box), then on the left move down to Task Scheduler Library/ Microsoft/ Windows/ Application Experience. There you'll find the Microsoft Compatibility Appraiser task, set to run at 3:00 a.m. every day. The Microsoft Compatibility Appraiser task runs %windir%\system32\rundll32.exe appraiser.dll,DoScheduledTelemetryRun with the description "Collects program telemetry information if opted-in to the Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program." I found that the program runs whether or not you've opted into the Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP). And even if you opt out, the program still runs. Can somebody tell me why Microsoft is performing a telemetry run on PCs that have opted out of the CEIP? This results from an "important" update in the Automatic Update chute, for heaven's sake. There's an additional question, about the Scheduled task AitAgent, which seems to be related. AitAgent was already installed and working on my PCs before KB 2952664 was installed, so I couldn't run it down. If you can, please enlighten all of us in the comments. The original thread on the Answers forum was primarily -- and rightfully -- concerned about the CPU overhead of running the Microsoft Compatibility Appraiser. But I can't help but wonder if there's some unauthorized snooping going on as well.
  5. Halo Online is an upcoming free-to-play version of Halo that will launch exclusively for players in Russia. However, following the leak of the game files a modding team developed its own ideas about who can access the game and when. Fighting back, Microsoft has just hit their Github project with a copyright complaint. Last week Microsoft announced the existence of Halo Online. The all-new game will provide a free-to-play online multiplayer experience on PC. “Halo Online is powered by a highly modified version of the Halo 3 engine and optimized for smooth performance on lower-end PCs,†the company said. While the announcement was welcomed by PC gamers everywhere, not all had reason to celebrate. Due to launch later in the spring, Halo Online is destined to be restricted to players in Russia only, at least for the foreseeable future. “Right now our focus is on learning as much as we can from the closed beta period in Russia. Theoretically, any expansion outside of Russia would have to go through region-specific changes to address player expectations,†the company said. Of course, ‘player expectations’ can take many forms but predictably not having to wait patiently in line while geo-restrictions are lifted is one of them. The first signs of cracks appearing came when a YouTuber called ‘Noble‘ uploaded footage after modders Gamecheat13 and Lord Zedd reportedly obtained a build of the title. Since then other modders have been dissecting Halo Online to unlock features, with one team creating a game launcher titled ‘ElDorito’ (a play on the ‘Eldorado’ main executable for Halo:Online) to ease the process. “We’re really working on building a framework for the game to be playable, as well as a custom console with a plethora of features we believe are necessary to the game,†team member Pyong told Se7ensins. With the launcher undergoing development via Github, things were progressing smoothly. Until yesterday that is, when Microsoft rolled out the big guns and stopped the project in its tracks. “We have received information that the domain listed above, which appears to be on servers under your control, is offering unlicensed copies of, or is engaged in other unauthorized activities relating to, copyrighted works published by Microsoft,†the company wrote in a DMCA notice to Github. While that statement is almost certainly accurate, the notice from Microsoft is somewhat confusing in that it refers to ElDorito being the company’s property. “The above copyright work(s) [ElDorito] is being made available for copying, through downloading, at the above location without authorization from the copyright owner or exclusive licensee,†the company adds. But whatever the ins-and-outs, Microsoft still feels it has a valid complaint and has ordered Github to disable access to ElDorito to “prevent the illegal reproduction and distribution of this copyrighted work(s) via your company’s services.†As can be seen from the image below, Github has already complied. While Microsoft were quick to hit the ElDorito project on Github, strangely there appears to have been less effort to take down the actual game files. The project’s wiki doesn’t host the leaked content, but it does offer a valuable pointer. “Since we can’t actually post the link to the Halo Online download, you’ll have to look for it elsewhere,†the wiki explains. The word ‘elsewhere’ helpfully links to a Pastebin page which in turn displays a link to where someone has uploaded the 2.1GB zip file. It probably won’t be there for long. But for those hoping that the ElDorito project will continue, that seems unlikely, at least in the short-term. The team is reportedly a bit spooked by Microsoft’s intervention and are waiting for things to cool down before making any decisions.
  6. Windows NT 4.0 may be nearly two decades old but that doesn't mean that Microsoft wants its sensitive source code out in public. After ignoring a copy of the partially leaked code for several years, the company recently asked GitHub to take an unauthorized copy offline, with success. In February 2004 large portions of Microsoft’s Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0 source code leaked onto the Internet. In a statement issued at the time, Microsoft said the breach didn’t come from inside. The company worked closely with the FBI to track down the source but these efforts were fruitless. Hoping to keep the leak under control, Microsoft also started issuing takedown notices to sites and P2P file-sharers, urging them to stop offering the code. However, like anything that leaks onto the Internet it’s pretty much impossible to remove something for good. Even today, several NT 4.0 copies are still floating around in the dark corners of the web. Up until a few days ago there was even a copy hosted on the popular developer platform GitHub. Posted by “njdragonfly†the leaked source code has been available there since 2011. Microsoft initially didn’t spot the infringing copy but it recently took action by sending GitHub a DMCA takedown notice. Microsoft’s takedown notice “We have received information that the domain listed above, which appears to be on servers under your control, is offering unlicensed copies of, or is engaged in other unauthorized activities relating to, copyrighted works published by Microsoft Corporation,†the company writes The notice proved to be successful. A few hours after its arrival the repository was made inaccessible. Those who try to access it now are redirected to GitHub’s standard takedown page. While it’s understandable that Microsoft doesn’t want its source code out in the open, it’s not as much as a security threat as it was a decade ago. Today, more than 10 years after it was first published, pretty much all exploits have been patched. That said, it’s worth nothing that after all these years Microsoft is trying to contain the leak. But perhaps that’s just for sentimental value. Windows NT 4.0
  7. With a DMCA notice sent to Github this week, Microsoft aimed to stop widespread access to its Russia-only version of Halo Online. But speaking with TF, the team leading the modding charge says that it will continue in its quest to provide a free version of the game without geo-restrictions. Last week Microsoft announced Halo Online, an all-new, free-to-play online multiplayer experience on PC. While the upcoming late spring release generated excitement, that was tempered somewhat by the revelation that the game will be restricted to players in Russia only, at least for the foreseeable future. The news was met with predictable resistance from the ‘modding community’, the hardcore few who prefer to play Halo on their own terms. After a leaked copy of Halo Online was obtained, a tool enabling exploration of the game was uploaded to Github. It didn’t stay there long. Microsoft hit Github with a DMCA takedown notice and the code platform responded by disabling access to the tool, titled ‘ElDorito’. Just before the weekend TorrentFreak caught up with the loose-knit ElDorito team who gave us the background to the leak and subsequent interest from Microsoft. “Microsoft is probably quite bothered by what we’ve done already as these files were leaked. We obtained the files from a user on 4chan’s /v/ board,†team member ‘Woovie’ told TF. Sure enough, even now a post by the 4chan user in question contains a still-live link to a file hosted by Microsoft partner Innova, helpfully titled ‘halo_setup-ru.exe’. No takedowns in this instance. “From there, user Emoose proceeded to create a hack that would allow the client to load files and thus get in game,†Woovie adds. “He has in the past done the same for Halo 2 and Halo 3 betas so he had experience with this. The files we have are definitely an early internal alpha. A lot of left over code from other Halo games.†The big question is whether the copyright move from Microsoft has put the team off continuing. Initially TF was told that might be the case, but subsequent discussion painted a very different picture. “In terms of DMCA/C&D mitigation, we have made redundant git backups on private and public git servers. This is to ensure we will always have one working copy. These are being synchronized so that data is always the same,†Woovie explains. “Further DMCAs may happen potentially, it’s not really known at the moment. Our backups will always exist though and we will continue until we’re happy.†So what is motivating the ElDorito team to carry on? Aside from a passion for Halo itself, the team seems perplexed by the Russian geo-restrictions and also what they believe could turn into a free-to-play game requiring in-game purchases for players to succeed. “We of course still don’t know 100% what items are purchasable with real money, but it would appear at first glance to have pay-to-win potential. We also of course want to play this game, which as far as we see, is a Russian market only game,†Woovie adds. Of course, all this could mean more action from Microsoft, but team member Neoshadow42 sees the modding of leaked files as more of a service. “As someone involved in game development, I’m sympathetic with some developers when it comes to copyright issues. This is different though, in my opinion,†the dev explains. “The game was going to be free in the first place. The PC audience has been screaming for Halo 3 for years and years, and we saw the chance with this leak. The fact that we could, in theory, bring the game that everyone wants, without the added on stuff that would ruin the game, that’s something we’d be proud of.†Refuting claims by some that the team’s actions might be damaging, Neoshadow42 says this case is different. “I don’t particularly see this as damaging, as some people have said. I don’t believe it for a moment, honestly. We’re working to improve people’s experience, bring it to those who wouldn’t have been able to play it anyway. I’d see that as a noble cause.†But isn’t this just the same as pirating any other game and making it free to play? “This whole project would be completely different in an ethical way if we had taken a paid game and reversed it for everyone to access for free,†Neoshadow42 insists. “At the end of the day, El Dorito aims to deliver exactly what everyone wants. The closest thing to a Halo 3 experience as possible, but on PC. If we can manage that, I’ll be more than happy.†
  8. Summary: More documents leaked by Edward Snowden serve to validate claims that Skype is about as bad as one can get when it comes to private communication. GIVEN Microsoft’s very special relationship with the the NSA we were never shocked to learn about spying on Skype users (both audio and video, in real time even). Days ago more information was made available. One journalist said that the new documents show spy agencies could grab all Skype traffic. To quote: “A National Security Agency document published this week by the German news magazine Der Spiegel from the trove provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shows that the agency had full access to voice, video, text messaging, and file sharing from targeted individuals over Microsoft’s Skype service. The access, mandated by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant, was part of the NSA’s PRISM program and allowed “sustained Skype collection†in real time from specific users identified by their Skype user names.†Here is another take which quotes: “The nature of the Skype data collection was spelled out in an NSA document dated August 2012 entitled “User’s Guide for PRISM Skype Collection.†The document details how to “task†the capture of voice communications from Skype by NSA’s NUCLEON system, which allows for text searches against captured voice communications. It also discusses how to find text chat and other data sent between clients in NSA’s PINWALE “digital network intelligence†database. “The full capture of voice traffic began in February of 2011 for “Skype in†and “Skype out†calls—calls between a Skype user and a land line or cellphone through a gateway to the public switched telephone network (PSTN), captured through warranted taps into Microsoft’s gateways. But in July of 2011, the NSA added the capability of capturing peer-to-peer Skype communications—meaning that the NSA gained the ability to capture peer-to-peer traffic and decrypt it using keys provided by Microsoft through the PRISM warrant request.†The authors of the original article previously linked to our Wiki page about Skype and also some articles we wrote about Skype. We wrote about this well before Microsoft bought Skype (proprietary software) and years before the NSA leaks. Thanks to Snowden they now have it confirmed as truth with original documents to prove/validate it.
  9. Summary Popular culture success for the Xbox has not translated into real bottom line growth for Microsoft. The Microsoft Xbox One has lost important ground to Sony's PlayStation 4. An Xbox spin-off would grant the standalone video game company more freedom and could ignite growth. Meanwhile, Microsoft could focus its efforts upon defending its core software businesses. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) launched its first Xbox video game console in 2001. From there, the Xbox may have emerged as the lone popular culture hit in a Microsoft lineup that grew to include the relatively ill-fated Windows 8 and Windows Phone releases. The gaming console industry has evolved into a winner-take-all duopoly pitting the Xbox against Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation platform. Nominal sales and popular culture success, of course, do not necessarily translate into profitability. Microsoft, at its core, sells software to enterprise customers. Most likely, Microsoft would deliver higher margins and returns, if it were to spin off its Xbox division to current shareholders or sell the unit altogether to third-party investors. Going forward, this move would help MSFT significantly outperform the S&P 500 benchmark index over the long term. For his part, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has claimed he would "absolutely" support a decision by Satya Nadella to spin off the Xbox. The Microsoft Business Model (click to enlarge)Going forward, Microsoft may dramatically outpace the S&P 500, if it were to spin off the Xbox. On June 30, 2014, Microsoft closed out the books on its 2014 fiscal year. During this period, Microsoft racked up $59.9 billion in gross margins off $86.8 billion in revenue. A closer look at the financials, again, may confirm the ongoing thesis that Microsoft has remained in the core business of supplying software and productivity tools to the enterprise market. For 2014, the Microsoft Commercial Licensing operating segment generated $38.6 billion in gross margins off $42 billion in segment revenue. Microsoft includes its server products, Office for business and the volume licensing of its Windows operating system in the dominant Commercial Licensing grouping. Microsoft breaks its Devices and Consumer operating segment into Licensing, Computing and Gaming Hardware, and Phone Hardware. Devices and Consumer Licensing accounts for original equipment manufacturer, academic and non-volume licensing of Windows and Office software. In all, Devices and Consumer Licensing generated $17.2 billion in gross margins on $18.8 billion in revenue through 2014. For the sake of comparison, Computing and Gaming Hardware generated a mere $893 million in gross margins off $9.6 billion in sales. Interestingly, Microsoft has combined both Xbox and Surface sales together beneath its Computing and Gaming Hardware subunit. Despite its iconic popular culture success, the Xbox gaming console has racked up losses for several quarters. For 2014, Microsoft specified that its Xbox platform revenue increased by $1.7 billion, or 34%, in comparison to 2013. Microsoft also reported that year-over-year Xbox cost of sales increased by $2.1 billion, or 72%, largely due to marketing expenses related to the November 2013 Xbox One launch. Gaming consoles, of course, are more likely to turn profits as they mature and component costs decline. In any event, Microsoft Xbox margins have been shockingly thin relative to software profits. The drumbeat and catcalls to spin off the Xbox appeared to reach a fever pitch between 2013 and 2014, with Steve Ballmer resigning as both CEO and as a board member. Last May, current CEO Satya Nadella, however, dismissed speculation that the Microsoft Xbox division was on the shopping block, in remarks made at the Code Conference in Southern California. Microsoft Xbox One Versus Sony PlayStation 4 Microsoft Xbox versus Sony PlayStation has emerged as one of the most polarizing wars within the consumer electronics space. To date, PlayStation 4 sales have far outpaced Xbox One receipts. Going forward, the pressure will likely mount for Microsoft to spin-off Xbox, if its current-generation gaming consoles continue to struggle against the Sony PlayStation 4 competition. Heading into November, Sony confirmed it sold a total of 13.5 million PlayStation 4 units directly to customers. Microsoft has yet to break out specific Xbox sales performance figures. Last November, Microsoft did issue a somewhat vague statement indicating that it had shipped 10 million Xbox One units to retailers. Microsoft did offer an aggressive $50 Xbox One price cut heading into the holiday season. The Xbox One now begins at $349.00 from an original price of $499.00. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) now offers the base 500GB PlayStation 4 console for $329.00. For $429.00, consumers may purchase an Xbox One console with one extra controller and their game of choice. Xbox peripherals include Kinect, a motion sensory tool and Xbox Live for building out online gaming communities and digital media streaming. For years, Microsoft has refereed a tug-of-war between overly ambitious executives pitching the Xbox as a multipurpose living room entertainment fixture and a subset of diehard fans only interested in gaming and crisp graphics. Last summer, online magazine Hardcore Gamer thoroughly slammed the Xbox for having "lost its identity." Apparently, the PlayStation 4 has earned a reputation for delivering raw horsepower and specifications to hardcore gaming enthusiasts, while Microsoft busied itself packaging its Xbox One with expensive, yet unwanted accessories. An Xbox spinoff, of course, would grant the video game company freedom to focus its energies strictly on gaming, rather than being dismissed as an unwitting apparatchik for Microsoft productivity and cloud software. Over time, it is inevitable for video game consoles to become increasingly commoditized to the point where pricing may emerge as the most important factor driving consumer behavior. Popular third-party video game franchises, such as NBA 2K, Madden, Grand Theft Auto, and Call of Duty, are all available for play on both the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation gaming platforms. Halo, with its more than 60 million in units sold, has emerged as the most important title exclusive to Xbox. One title, however, will not swing the balance of power away from Sony and towards Microsoft in these console wars. The Bottom Line On March 31, 2014, Nintendo (OTCPK:NTDOY) closed its 2014 books having racked up $225 million in net losses on $5.6 billion in revenue. At that time, traders valued Nintendo at roughly $15 billion in market capitalization, or for slightly less than three times revenue. The Xbox, with its branding, implicit early-stage Microsoft backing and growth potential should be able to command a price tag of 10 times revenue out on the open market, as a spinoff. For fiscal 2015, the Xbox platform may generate $2 billion in total net sales, which would calculate out to a $20 billion spin-off, at 10 times revenue. Microsoft, which trades for just under $49, as of this writing, now operates with approximately $400 billion in market capitalization. At these levels, Microsoft could spin off one share of the new standalone Xbox Corporation, for every 20 shares of common stock outstanding. Microsoft may also consider maintaining a 35% stake within the new Xbox Corporation, through a combination of cash and debt financing, as a poison pill, to ward off a hostile move from Sony. Certainly, Sony may look to aggressively purchase shares in the Xbox spinoff, simply to shut down the competition and ultimately monopolize the gaming console market. At the same time, long-term investors within the new Xbox spinoff would certainly prefer that Microsoft transitioned into a passive video game investor. This hands-off approach would enable the new entity to still leverage a slice of Microsoft's immense financial resources, while also granting Xbox executives the authority to navigate the gaming industry as they see fit. The proposed Xbox spinoff would be literally taking a page out of the Big Oil playbook. Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) each recently divested themselves out of low-margin downstream operations and gasoline retailing. In 2012, ConocoPhillips completely spun off its Phillips 66 (NYSE:PSX) refining, marketing, transportation and gas station operations to shareholders. Certainly, Microsoft would be very much well positioned to mint even greater amounts of cash, as the literal go-to business for productivity software. As a leaner company, Microsoft would far outpace the S&P 500, after plowing its fat profit margins back into defending core software operations, paying out higher dividends and aggressively buying back stock. In doing so, Microsoft may finally reenter the conversation alongside rival Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) as a story stock. Editor's Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.
  10. Microsoft's rumored Fortazela concept[uPDATE 2] A Microsoft spokesperson told GameSpot, "We have nothing to share concerning these reports." [uPDATE] VRFocus and Techradar report that several game studios have received Xbox One VR development kits. None of the studios were named, unfortunately. The original story is below. Microsoft will reveal its long-rumored Xbox virtual reality headset device during the company's E3 2015 briefing next summer, according to a new Digitimes report that cites "upstream supply chain" sources. The summer tradeshow is scheduled for June 16-18, 2015. The site's sources went on to say that development on the Xbox VR headset, which will presumably work with the Xbox One, will be handled by the same team that runs Microsoft's Surface tablet line. A name for the device was not mentioned. Microsoft's Xbox VR headset is separate from its Google Glass-like "Fortazela" project, which first leaked in June 2012. Digitimes adds that development on this project (pictured, top) is ongoing, though no further details about features or functionality are available. Microsoft has been open in saying that virtual reality is something the company has been experimenting with for a long time now. Competitor Sony announced its own virtual reality device, Project Morpheus, during GDC in March 2014, though the company hasn't said when it plans to launch the PlayStation 4 device or what it will cost. Meanwhile, the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift headset is also deep into development for PC. Microsoft's mysterious VR project has been in development for years, and the company even gave a demonstration of the tech to Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Grand Theft Auto parent publisher Take-Two Interactive. We have reached out to Microsoft for comment on this report, and will update this post with anything we hear back.
  11. Microsoft has filed a complaint at a federal court in Washington accusing person(s) behind an AT&T subscription of activating various pirated copies of Windows 7 and Office 10. The account was identified by Microsoft's in-house cyberforensics team based on suspicious "activation patterns." microsoft-pirateDespite being one of the most pirated software vendors in the world, Microsoft doesn’t have a long track record of cracking down on individual pirates. In fact, two months ago Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted that in some cases piracy can act as a conversion tool. “We’ve always had freemium. Sometimes our freemium was called piracy,†Nadella said, adding that the usage first approach has its advantages. This doesn’t mean that all pirates can have their way though. Microsoft does keep a close eye on the unauthorized use of its products with help from its in house cybercrime center. Late last week Microsoft filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against a person (or persons) who activated pirated copies of Windows 7 and Office 10 from an AT&T Internet connection. “Microsoft’s cyberforensics have identified a number of product key activations originating from IP address, which is presently assigned to ISP AT&T Internet Services..,†the complaints (pdf) reads. “These activations have characteristics that on information and belief, establish that Defendants are using the IP address to activate pirated software.†While many people believe that unauthorized copies are hard for Microsoft to detect, the company explains that its cybercrime team leverages state-of-the-art technology to detect software piracy. The company describes its investigative approach as cyberforensics. Among other things, they look for activation patterns and characteristics which make it likely that certain IP-addresses are engaged in unauthorized copying. “As part of its cyberforensic methods, Microsoft analyzes product key activation data voluntarily provided by users when they activate Microsoft software, including the IP address from which a given product key is activated,†the company writes. According to the complaint, the defendant(s) in this case have activated numerous copies of Windows 7 and Office 2010 with suspicious keys. These keys were likely stolen from Microsoft’s supply chain, used without permission from the refurbisher channel, and used more often than the license permits. Microsoft is now looking to identify the person or persons responsible for the copyright and trademark infringements, to recoup the damage they’ve suffered. From the descriptions used in the complaint it seems likely that the target is not an average user, but someone who sells computers containing pirated software. Time will tell whether that’s indeed the case. torrentfreak
  12. Sunset Overdrive wasn't announced for PC, but Insomniac hasn't ruled it out. The ad you see above might state that Xbox One-exclusive Sunset Overdrive is coming to PC, but it's just a simple mistake, Microsoft has said. NeoGAF user Lucifon spotted the ad earlier today online, but as some other users guessed, Microsoft didn't actually mean to say the game is coming to PC. "On the Sunset Xbox/PC ad: Not true, this was a simple mistake and the team is aware/addressing," said Mike Ybarra, who works on the Xbox Platform and Windows Gaming Development Team. "Sorry for any confusion!" In September, Sunset Overdrive developer Insomniac Games said it has no plans to bring its over-the-topXbox One action game to PC, but has not ruled out a release for computers sometime down the road. "I don't know what the future holds," Insomniac Games marketing lead James Stevenson said at the time. "Right now there's no plans for a PC version of the game. We're just working hard to finish up [the Xbox One version]. We're going to support it post-launch and then we'll see what happens in the future. But there's no plans. We aren't planning a PC version or anything like that." Sunset Overdrive launches October 28. You can buy the game that day by itself or through a $399 Xbox One hardware bundle that includes a white system, matching white controller, and a copy of the game. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  13. Phil Spencer says Microsoft must "meet the needs" of the Minecraft community first before it thinks about how to grow the franchise. Following the announcement of Microsoft's $2.5 billion acquisition of Swedish developer Mojang and the chart-topping Minecraft franchise in September, some wondered how the Xbox maker would grow the brand going forward. A sequel was suggested by some, but in a new interview, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer says the company must "meet the needs" of the existing Minecraft community before potentially expanding the franchise. He also reminds gamers that the deal has not yet closed (it is expected to by the end of the year) and that Mojang is still in control of the series. "It's a big deal," Spencer told IGN about the acquisition. "For me, I look at it as a great game to add to our portfolio. I love [the gamer] who plays Minecraft. I love that male, female, young, and old--it's something that lives on so many different screens. I'd love to bring it to more screens out there." "The community around Minecraft is as strong as any community out there" -- Phil Spencer One of the first things Microsoft could do with the Minecraft franchise to help improve the overall experience is to "unify" the various versions of the game, using Xbox Live. "I think what we've learned through Xbox Live is something that we can help in unifying a little bit of what happens with Minecraft today," he said. "If I'm on PC I get access to the mod servers; if I'm on console or the mobile editions, I don't. We're looking at how do we bring that whole system together a little more. Because there are other games out there that let me move from screen to screen fairly seamlessly." Microsoft has pledged to not remove the existing versions of Minecraft for competing platforms such asPlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita. However, it remains to be seen if Spencer's ambition to unify game experiences through Xbox Live would apply to those versions of the game. Looking ahead, Spencer said he thinks the Minecraft series has "such headroom as an IP," suggesting it has lots of room to grow. He also said Minecraft is a hugely important game not just for Microsoft but for the industry at large--and he wants to carry this spirit forward. "And frankly, I love what [Minecraft] means for us as a gaming industry--maybe that's overstating it a little bit," he said. "Kids creating things, playing together, having a good time--it has a role in classrooms. I just think it's good for us. I see us as shepherds of the IP." Asked directly about the possibility of Minecraft 2, Spencer said discussions about future extensions of the series--which he admitted not everyone may agree with--will come later. "I don't know if Minecraft 2, if that's the thing that makes the most sense. The community around Minecraft is as strong as any community out there. We need to meet the needs and the desires of what the community has before we get permission to go off and do something else," he said. "It doesn't mean that everything we're going to do is going to map to 100 percent of their acceptance, because I don't know if there is any topic where 100 percent of people agree. But we look at Job 1 is to go out and meet the needs of the Minecraft community first, and then we can think about ways that we can actually help grow it. That's our sole focus." Spencer also responded to the rumors that Microsoft's decision to buy Mojang/Microsoft was "hoisted upon" the Xbox team. He said this is not true, and in fact, the deal came from within Microsoft's Xbox team. Outside of Minecraft the game, Warner Bros. is currently working on a Minecraft movie. Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy is reportedly a frontrunner to direct the "large-budget" movie, which is in thevery early stages of development and might not be released until 2017 or 2018. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  14. Phil Spencer says improving install times is high on his personal priority list. Improving Xbox One install times ranks highly on Xbox boss Phil Spencer's platform priority list, though it remains to be seen when gamers might start to see zippier install periods. "It's high on my priority list," Spencer told IGN. Part of the reason that Xbox One install times are slower than PlayStation 4 times in some cases, Spencer said, is a result of Microsoft dropping the always-online requirement for Xbox One. He said Xbox One launch titles like Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome were developed with the assumption that all Xbox Ones would always be connected to the Internet, but this changed. "The change to having to deal with an offline-only state meant that all the install code-flows weren't as perfect as they could be," Spencer admitted. "It's really our developer pipeline and our ingestion system where we have to do the most work" -- Spencer said about improving Xbox One install times In response to this, Spencer asked him team to install third-party games on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to measure the differences in install times. He said in some cases, Xbox One install times are in fact faster, but in others, Microsoft's console does "significantly worse." "Are there systemtic reasons for that? Our drive's obviously the same speed, moving stuff into memory takes the same amount of time; hard drive speed's basically the same, so what's going on?" he said. "I'm capturing the data. I want to be state-of-the-art in install times so people can start playing games as soon as possible. It's high on my priority list." So what, then, is the issue? Spencer wouldn't say outright, acknowledging only that, "There isn't one thing to say why are we two seconds slower on this game or frankly why are we two seconds faster on a different game. The issues are a little bit in the weeds. It's really our developer pipeline and our ingestion system where we have to do the most work." "I'm not defending it at all, because I do think install times should be faster," he added. Asked to specify where on the roadmap improving Xbox One install times is, Spencer reiterated that it's high on his priority list, though he didn't have a specific timeline to share. "It's kind of a constant," he said. "It's one of the things that's on top of my list in terms of the parity experience between us and Sony, and making sure that the install times aren't deficient on Xbox in any way." In January, Spencer first admitted that Xbox One install times need to improve. What are your thoughts on Xbox One install times? Let us know in the comments below. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  15. Microsoft remains committed to introducing functionality to Xbox One that lets you take screenshots, but the company now says getting this up and running is proving tricky. As a result, Microsoft isn't going to roll this feature out until sometime in 2015, Xbox boss Phil Spencer says. "As we come back into the new year, we'll see new stuff, and screenshots is on the list," Spencer told IGN. Shadow of Mordor has a photo mode, but it's limited on Xbox OneBack in May, Spencer revealed that the ability to take screenshots on Xbox One was one of the features Microsoft engineers were working to deliver through a future update. One of the reasons why we haven't seen this feature yet is because it's "a little more technically challenging" than Spencer first imagined. "Two weeks ago, [Microsoft engineers] think they've found a good solution for screenshots. They're working on it. They know people want it," he said. "The team has a path to getting it done, and now it's just prioritizing." By comparison, the PlayStation 4 has allowed users to take and share screenshots since launch in November 2013. The Xbox One's lack of screenshot functionality has put a damper on some game functionality, as Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor's Photo Mode is significantly limited on Xbox One. Also in the interview, Spencer said Xbox One owners should expect December's system update to be smaller than previous ones. "In December, it's probably a time for us to pause for a little bit and settle just as all the new consoles are coming online," he said. Finally, Spencer stressed that Microsoft is still looking to improve install times for Xbox One games, noting that this is a personal priority of his. October's Xbox One update launched last week, bringing with it new features such as a Gamerscore leaderboard for friends and smoother Snap Mode navigation. Meanwhile, November's update will introduce custom background support and will let you post video clips directly to Twitter. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  16. New comments from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggest that luring people in with zero-cost products is of great interest to the company. However, while services such as OneDrive are free with premium options by design, Nadella says Microsoft has long had a freemium business model, but one that was forced upon it by pirates. In recent years the ‘freemium’ business model has gained much traction in many areas from gaming to software services. But while the portmanteau describing the phenomenon is a relatively new addition to our language, the idea behind the business model is not. In the 1980s, those with access to Bulletin Board Systems would download programs and share them with their friends, all with the full encouragement of the software’s creators. Shareware, as it was known, often encouraged users to send off a snail-mailed registration fee in return for a code to unlock premium features. Although basic, freemium had been born. Today the concept has gone way beyond those humble roots. The App Store and Google Play are awash with free-to-play games with premium addons, and services such as Spotify and Dropbox offer decent free levels of service to get users onboard and primed to start parting with real cash. If Joe Public was pressed into a snap judgment, Microsoft would probably be more associated with premium than free, with the company historically charging sizable amounts for its Windows and Office products, for example. However, speaking with CNBC, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that the company has always had an eye on the freemium experience. The idea, the CEO notes, is to get people on board with a product they find useful. Then, when it becomes clear how users are utilizing the service, options to monetize become available alongside their demands for improved service. He uses the company’s cloud-storage service as an example. “We want everybody to use OneDrive. And then when you are starting to use it for business, that’s when we want to monetize. So we do not want to have you only start using us when you have a business license or subscription. We want to have you use us when you just want to save any file or any document, any artifact of yours. And then have a natural way for us to monetize as you use more of it in the commercial context,†Nadella explains. By now millions of people online are familiar with ‘freemium’ in one shape or another but comments from Nadella suggest that while this business model has been leveraged by Microsoft for quite some time, the company had it forced upon them. “Well, we’ve always had freemium. Sometimes our freemium was called piracy,†Nadella reveals. “[The] thing that I don’t want us as a company to shy away from is usage first. Because I think if anything, the new competition has taught is that, you know, what matters is do not try to equate revenue and usage day one.†The ‘piracy is promotion’ angle is something rarely spoken about by company execs, probably in fear of endorsing an illegal activity and validating it in the eyes of piracy proponents. However, by speaking of it alongside ‘freemium’, Microsoft’s CEO appears to have confirmed what many have been saying all along, that getting people on board for free – via piracy if necessary – is one the first steps on the monetization trail. Indeed, this belief his held so strongly in some quarters that there are some who insist that it’s preferable for people to pirate the software of company ‘A’ than switch to the opposition, whether paid or not. That said, what Microsoft does not want is people selling pirated copies of its premium products – that kind of ‘promotion’ is never welcome. If people use a free sample of Microsoft products at home, the company isn’t likely to kick down the door. Do the same in a business environment, however, and things aren’t anywhere near as open-minded. There are no signs that Microsoft is going soft on piracy but as business models change, as they have with Adobe’s Creative Cloud, free tiers attractive to would-be pirates will become more commonplace. And that can only mean one thing for piracy rates. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  17. Xbox maker's latest wearable will reportedly track your heart rate and hold a charge for two days. Microsoft will launch its own smartwatch in the next couple of weeks, according to a new report fromForbes, which cites unspecified sources who are reportedly "close to the project." The gadget will reportedly have health-monitoring capabilities such as a heart rate tracker. In addition, it is said to work across different mobile platforms, and you apparently won't have to charge it very often. Forbesreports that a single charge will last for more than two days of "regular use." It remains unclear what Microsoft's rumored smartwatch will be called or what it will cost. In addition, there was no mention in Forbes' report today about Microsoft's smartwatch featuring any compatibility with Xbox 360 orXbox One--or gaming at all, for that matter. This is not the first time we've heard about a new smartwatch from Microsoft. Back in April 2013, The Verge reported that Microsoft's Xbox team was testing such a device, and had been for about a year at the time. The device is said to feature a 1.5" touch-enabled screen. If Microsoft is in fact working on a smartwatch, it won't be the first time the company has done so. Microsoft launched a range of SPOT smartwatches in 2004 that used radio signals to pull in news, weather forecasts, and stock quotes. These devices were discontinued in 2008. In September, iPhone and iPad company Apple announced the $350 Apple Watch, a sleek-looking device that won't be released until 2015. If Forbes' report is accurate, Microsoft's smartwatch will launch in the lead-up to the busy holiday shopping season. Microsoft was not immediately available to comment when approached by GameSpot sister site CNET. For more on Microsoft's wearable endeavors, be sure to read CNET's full coverage. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  18. Xbox One's preview program now assigns users a level based on their participation. When it's not causing issues with its unfinished features (hey, it's QA testing), Xbox One's preview program can be rewarding in and of itself--you get to try out cool new features not yet available to the general public. Apparently not satisfied with that, Microsoft is trying to turn testing system updates into a sort of game by tracking your stats and offering points. Preview program members will now find a new My Stats section in the Preview Dashboard app. From there, you can check out how many points you've earned, which in turn contribute to your level. A leaderboard tracks your progress against that of your friends (or other users, if none of your friends get preview updates), similar to the new gamerscore leaderboard released in this week's Xbox One update. Points are earned by completing quests, rating updates, and participating in surveys and polls. Fortunately for those who have been in the preview program for some time, you'll retroactively earn points for all of your past contributions. More things are coming to the My Stats page "soon," according to Microsoft, which also says you can earn rewards by participating. The preview program launched back in February, offering "select" Xbox Live users the chance to help test in-development features. We've seen these users get a variety of updates ahead of time since then; aspects of the update that went live for everyone this week have been available to testers since August. Should you want to join in, you'll unfortunately need an invite from Microsoft. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  19. A month after being acquired by Microsoft, Minecraft is coming to Windows Phone. Minecraft: Pocket Edition is headed to Microsoft's Windows Phone device, the game's lead developer at Mojang Jens Bergensten has announced. "Yes, Minecraft: Pocket Edition *is* coming to the Windows Phone!" he said. "The port runs already, but there's still much to do before any release." The day before Microsoft confirmed it was acquiring Minecraft for $2.5 billion, we reported that Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund said that the deal was meant to support Microsoft's mobile business. "We don’t view this acquisition as a signal of Microsoft's intent to double down on Xbox but consider it an attempt to better address mobile on a cross-platform basis," He said. "This also appears to be consistent with (Microsoft) CEO Satya Nadella’s mobile and cloud strategy." Minecraft: Pocket Edition, the mobile version of the game available through the iTunes App Store and Google Play, is indeed tremendously popular. In April, Bergensten revealed that Pocket Edition sold over 21 million copies. Minecraft's PlayStation Vita Edition was also just released despite the Microsoft acquisition. The game should be available at US retailers as of yesterday for $20, and will release in Europe on October 14. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  20. Satya Nadella now says he was wrong to say that women shouldn't ask for a raise. New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has apologized for his controversial comments this week about women in the workforce where he said women don't need to ask for a raise, but should instead place their faith in the system to pay them well. Nadella faced a wave of criticism through social media in the wake of these comments, and now says he was wrong to make them in the first place. Per CBS News, Nadella was asked during a presentation this week at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event what advice he would give to women who felt uncomfortable seeking a raise. He said: "It's not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along." Nadella went on to say that not asking for a raise is "good karma" that would eventually lead a manager to see that the employee is trustworthy and capable of taking on more responsibility. But in a memo shared on Microsoft's website, Nadella said he was "completely wrong" to make these comments. He added that he "wholeheartedly" supports programs inside Microsoft and across the industry that help bring more women into the technology field and in turn close the pay gap that exists in the tech space between men and women. "I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work," he added in his statement. "And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it's deserved, [presenter Maria Klawe]'s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask." In closing, Nadella said he was happy to attend the event, and that he "certainly learned a valuable lesson." Microsoft released an internal diversity report earlier this week that showed that 29 percent of the company's global workforce are women, which represents a 5 percent year-over-year increase. Nadella was named Microsoft CEO in February, becoming the company's third chief executive. He follows in the footsteps of Microsoft icons Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  21. "I definitely hear you and I'll continue to try to work to building something that can help people out," Phil Spencer says. In a wide-ranging podcast interview with The Inner Circle, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer pledged to gamers that he's listening to feedback regarding the Xbox One's lack of backwards compatibility. He said he understands the value gamers see in playing older games on a new console like the Xbox One, and even teased that Microsoft may deliver a solution some day. "Back compat is always a hot topic at the turn of a generation, and I get why, especially on [Xbox 360] so many people bought so much digital content and it means that a lot of us, we're holding on to our 360s," he said. "I get the question. I totally respect the question. There’s nothing I can say about it right now, but I’ll just say 'I hear you.' I definitely hear you and I'll continue to try to work to build something that can help people out." Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 do not support disc-based backwards compatibility like the Wii Udoes. However, the PS4 does let gamers play PlayStation 3 (and even older) titles through streaming service PlayStation Now. For its part, Microsoft said back in September 2013 that the Xbox One istechnically capable of delivering a game-streaming service thanks to the console's cloud servers. Also in the interview, Spencer touched on how future games will use the Xbox One's cloud servers and the impact graphics API Direct X12 could have on the system. He said Titanfall's use of Microsoft's cloud servers to offload computational efforts is just the first step in showing what they are capable of. Looking ahead, Spencer teased that the upcoming Crackdown game will use the cloud in ways that haven't been done before, while Halo 5: Guardians will "take use of the technology" in an unspecified manner. Overall, Spencer stressed that development teams, as they get comfortable and accustomed to working with the Xbox One's cloud network, will eventually find new and exciting ways to leverage the technology for fresh gameplay experiences. On the subject of Direct X12, Spencer said he doesn't want to "rain on anybody's parade," but said the new API is not going to impact the Xbox One in any significant way. "DX12 makes it easier to do some of the things that Xbox One's good at, which will be nice and you'll see an improvement in games through the use of DX12," he said. "But people ask me, 'Is it gonna be dramatic?' And I think I answered no at the time and I'd say the same thing [now], but it will ease development." Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  22. Studio assures there's "no reason for" Minecraft to be deleted from rival devices; Markus Persson makes $1.75bn; Creator set to leave studio with co-founders. Mojang, the Sweden-based developer of Minecraft, has been acquired by Microsoft for a fee of around $2.5 billion. In a blog post to fans, Mojang suggested the deal would not result in the deletion of Minecraft games and apps available on non-Microsoft devices. "There’s no reason for the development, sales, and support of the PC/Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Vita, iOS, and Android versions of Minecraft to stop," the studio wrote. "Of course, Microsoft can’t make decisions for other companies or predict the choices that they might make in the future." Microsoft said one key reason for the acquisition is "we believe in the power of content to unite people". It added that it expects the acquisition "to be break-even in FY15 on a GAAP basis." That means it expects to make the money back by April 2016. Notably, Microsoft says that it expects the acquisition "to be break-even in FY15 on a GAAP basis." In other words, Microsoft believes it will make back what it has spent on Mojang and Minecraft by the end of this fiscal year (next June). The software giant wrote: "Minecraft adds diversity to our game portfolio and helps us reach new gamers across multiple platforms. Gaming is the top activity across devices and we see great potential to continue to grow the Minecraft community and nurture the franchise. That is why we plan to continue to make Minecraft available across platforms--including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC." Moving on Minecraft creator Markus Persson, who owns 70 percent of the company, stands to make $1.75 billion from the deal (although how much of this is in cash, and how much is in shares, is unknown for now). Markus Persson stands to make $1.75 billion from the dealPersson, along with chief executive Carl Manneh and co-founder Jakob Porser, will be leaving the company. Mojang's letter to fans explained that Persson never intended to have "the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance". It added: "Over the past few years he’s made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang. He'll continue to do cool stuff though. Don't worry about that." Mojang claimed that there "are only a handful of potential buyers with the resources to grow Minecraft on a scale that it deserves." Minecraft has sold more than 50 million units across console, PC, smartphones and tablets. But it was Mojang's partnership with Microsoft for the Xbox 360 edition that forged ties between the two companies. "We’ve worked closely with Microsoft since 2012, and have been impressed by their continued dedication to our game and its development," the studio wrote. "We’re confident that Minecraft will continue to grow in an awesome way." Xbox head Phil Spencer added: "We respect the brand and independent spirit that has made Minecraft great, and we’ll carry on the tradition of innovation to move the franchise forward. Our investments in cloud, Xbox Live and mobile technology will enable players to benefit from richer and faster worlds, more powerful development tools, and more opportunities to connect with the Minecraft community." In other related developments; Mojang says it is not sure on the future of its Scrolls games project. The studio adds that it does not have insight into Microsoft's future for Minecraft The Minecon event has not been cancelled and will be organised by Microsoft Microsoft says Minecraft Xbox 360 edition has clocked up two billion hours played in the past two years Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  23. Cloud technology could bring Xbox One and 360 games to web browsers. Microsoft could be close to releasing a consumer version of its internally tested cloud games service, according to one report, which would allow Xbox games to be played in web browsers. According to at least two purported inside sources speaking to Neowin, the unannounced service allows people to play both Xbox One and Xbox 360 games in certain web browsers, including Google's Chrome. One person supposedly familiar with Microsoft's plans claims that the streaming service can remotely display games at 60FPS. The Xbox 360 dashboard can also be streamed, offering access to an additional range of console features. Microsoft said "we do not comment on rumors or speculation" when approached by GameSpot. In July, the software giant's new chief executive, Satya Nadella, emphisised Microsoft's new direction by stating "we live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world". Game streaming technology works by running hardware and software at sophisticated server farms and streaming the data to customers remotely. Companies such as OnLive have bet their business on the viability of the technology, while Sony has invested in the area too by purchasing rival firm Gaikai and using its tech to establish the PlayStation Now service. Microsoft, which insists it still has a PC games strategy despite the general winding down of Games For Windows Live, could use the cloud service to reinvigorate its business in that area. Whether the internally tested Xbox streaming service is given clearance for commercial release is unclear. Neowin's report claimed "the product, as it stands right now, has Xbox branding and works outside the walls of Microsoft". However, it added that licensing issues with games publishers could become a challenge. Last year, Microsoft demonstrated Halo 4 running in the cloud on various devices at the company’s all-employee meeting. "This project is the on-going work from that demo to bring it to more users," Neowin's repot claimed. "Our understanding is that significant progress has been made from that demo and it is now being rolled out to more users." Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  24. Global tech firms including Google, Facebook & Microsoft have rejected calls for a graduated response to online piracy in Australia. Slamming bogus piracy stats and describing copyright as a "moral hazard" that can stifle innovation, the group says that offering easy access to content at a fair price is the only solution. As more of the submissions to the Australian Federal Government’s call for input on online copyright infringement are published, it’s becoming clear that the move and movie industries have a battle on their hands. Hollywood in particular is seeking a tightening of the law which would hold ISPs more responsible for the actions of their users, while introducing a graduated response to deal with persistent domestic file-sharers. Still can’t agree In 2012, movie and recording companies fought a bloody battle with tech companies over SOPA in the United States but more than two years on its evident that the divide over what should be done about piracy is as wide as ever. In a submission to the Government, a group of tech companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, eBay, Samsung, Motorola and BT largely oppose the wish-list of the entertainment industries. Mirroring the tendency of Hollywood to state how important its members are to the economy, the Computer & Communications Industry Association begin by stating that its members employ more than 600,000 workers who generate more than $200 billion in revenue. Launching its key observations, CCIA say that rather than pushing for the introduction of a so-called graduated response scheme, policy makers could achieve better results by focusing on the issues that encourage people to pirate in the first place. No graduated response: provide content in a timely manner at a fair price The group describes “high prices†and a “lack of availability of lawful content†as key domestic and international market barriers for consuming online content. But the problems don’t end there. “Naturally, from this follows that access to on-demand/online content across territories becomes even more cumbersome and restrictive due to territorial copyright restrictions, licensing conduct, geo-blocking, price discrimination holdback and windowing,†CCIA explains. Noting that there is “an inverted relationship†between lawful and unlawful access to content, the tech group underlines their point with a quote from Kevin Spacey. “Audience wants the freedom.. they want control…give consumers what they want, when they want it and in the format they want it and at reasonable price,†they write. Don’t believe their lies A couple of points raised by the CCIA will sting their entertainment industry adversaries more than most. Noting that there “is little or no evidence†that graduated response schemes are successful (but plenty to the contrary), enforcement policies should be based only on facts, not on the claims of those determined to introduce them. “It is also absolutely essential that enforcement debate and policy is not based on manufactured claims, exaggerations and deceptions that will in the long run risk resulting in a negative public sentiment concerning intellectual property,†CCIA writes. “Empirical data on the impact of copyright infringement over the last two decades is deeply contested and in some cases to such a level that it is being ridiculed. This is a highly undesirable development for the perception of copyright and by extension intellectual property in general by the broader public.†Copyright is a “moral hazard†In another interesting statement the CCIA suggest that when supported by legislation, companies will fall back on that to maintain business models that are no longer viable. “Economists have expressed concerns that copyright has a moral hazard effect on incumbent creative firms, by encouraging them to rely on enforcement of the law rather than adopt new technologies and business models to deal with new technologies,†the tech firms continue. “Hence, enforcement should not become a tool to protect businesses from competition, changing business realities and changes in consumer exactions, hereby allowing them to continue to hold on to outdated business models.†Conclusion Summing up, CCIA director Jakob Kucharczyk says that any new scheme should employ a “holistic end-to-end approach†and be coupled with efforts by content providers to give customers the content they need at a fair price. On the issue of ISPs, the CCIA is clear. There must be a level playing field, legal protection from liability must be enshrined in law, and rightsholders must be held responsible for their actions when making allegations of infringement. “If all parties are willing to look at equitable, cooperative programs that include a focus on the key issues outlined above, we believe that a better, more balanced and more effective outcome is achievable than that which is likely to result from the Government’s present proposals,†Kucharczyk concludes. How the conflicting approaches of the technology companies, ISPs and the entertainment industries can ever be reconciled will be a topic for heated debate in the coming months, not only in Australia, but across the world.
  25. UK Culture Secretary Sajid Javid says that the government has warned Google, Microsoft and Yahoo over the issue of online piracy. In an address to the BPI’s AGM in London yesterday, Javid said that if the search engines don't stop referring people to pirate sites, the government will take a legislative approach. Developments over the past 12 months have sent the clearest message yet that the UK government is not only prepared to morally support the creative industries, but also spend public money on anti-piracy enforcement. The government-funded City of London Intellectual Property Crime Unit is definitely showing no signs of losing interest, carrying outyet another arrest yesterday morning on behalf of video rightsholders. In the afternoon during the BPI’s Annual General Meeting in London, the unit was being praised by both government officials and a music sector also keen to bring piracy under control. “We’ve given £2.5 million to support the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, PIPCU,†Culture Secretary Sajid Javid told those in attendance. “The first unit of its kind in the world, PIPCU is working with industry groups – including the BPI – on the Infringing Websites List. The list identifies sites that deliberately and consistently breach copyright, so brand owners can avoid advertising on them.†Referencing rampant online piracy, Javid said that no industry or government could stand by and let “massive, industrial scale†levels of infringement continue. “I know some people say the IP genie is out of the bottle and that no amount of wishing will force it back in. But I don’t agree with them,†he said. “We don’t look at any other crimes and say ‘It’s such a big problem that it’s not worth bothering with.’ We wouldn’t stand idly by if paintings worth hundreds of millions of pounds were being stolen from the National Gallery.Copyright infringement is theft, pure and simple. And it’s vital we try to reduce it.†Going on to detail the Creative Content initiative which the government is supporting to the tune of £3.5m, Javid said the system would deliver a “robust, fair and effective enforcement regimeâ€. But that, however, is only one part of the puzzle. Infringing sites need to be dealt with, directly and by other means, he added. “Copyright crooks don’t love music. They love money, and they’ve been attracted to the industry solely by its potential to make them rich. Take away their profits and you take away their reason for being. Of course, it’s not just up to the government and music industry to deal with this issue,†he noted. Putting search engines on notice, the MP said that they have an important role to play. “They must step up and show willing. That’s why [business Secretary] Vince Cable and I have written to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, asking them to work with [the music industry] to stop search results sending people to illegal sites,†Javid said. “And let me be perfectly clear: if we don’t see real progress, we will be looking at a legislative approach. In the words of [beggars Group chairman] Martin Mills, ‘technology companies should be the partners of rights companies, not their masters’.†The Culture Secretary said that when it comes to tackling piracy, the government, music industry and tech companies are “three sides of the same triangle.†But despite that expectation of togetherness, only time will tell if the search engines agree to the point of taking voluntary action to support it.