TIME Video Games

Microsoft’s Black Friday Xbox One Deals Will Blow You Away

Visitors At The Eurogamer Expo 2013 For Gamers
A logo sits on an Xbox One games controller during the Eurogamer Expo 2013 in London, U.K., on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. Matthew Lloyd—Bloomberg / Getty Images

The Xbox One is about to get $50 cheaper

Microsoft is slashing the price of its Xbox One gaming console by $50 price and offering further discounts for select game titles for the Black Friday holiday weekend.

The Xbox One will retail for $349 at participating retail stores — or, for gamers who don’t care to be trampled under a Black Friday stampede, the console can be had at Microsoft’s online store.

A package deal that includes a Kinect and one free game from the popular Assassin’s Creed series will start at $449.

Further Xbox-related markdwons will be unveiled on Microsoft’s website as soon as this giant doomsday clock counts down to zero.

 

TIME technology

It Took Microsoft 3 Tries Before Windows Was Successful

Microsoft Windows 1.0
Microsoft Windows 1.0 AP

Windows 1.0 wasn't exactly a huge win — even with Microsoft Paint helping out

The first version of Microsoft Windows will be knocking on the door of its third decade Thursday when it turns the ripe old age of 29 — well past retirement in software years, given that Microsoft officially put it out to pasture in December of 2001. Still, looking back at Windows 1.0 offers exactly what its name implies: A window into how things used to be, and, in a way, how little has changed.

First announced in 1983, Microsoft Windows 1.0 wouldn’t make it to the consumer market for another two years — making it one of the first pieces of software to be dismissed as “vaporware,” a term actually coined by a Microsoft engineer a year before the Windows announcement, as a disparaging title bestowed upon a product that’s announced but never sees the light of day.

Windows 1.0’s big selling point was its Graphical User Interface (GUI), intended to replace MS-DOS-style command prompts (C:/DOS/RUN) with a computing style that looked much more like the multitasking, mouse-click-based computing most of us use today. It also came with software intended to show off its new graphical computing environment with what we’d now call “apps” like “Calendar,” “Clock,” and yes, of course, “Paint.”

Windows wasn’t the first operating system with a GUI as its primary feature. Microsoft rival Apple, for example, beat Windows to that punch by about a year when its Macintosh hit the market in 1984, and other “desktop”-style graphical interfaces were floating around before that. (Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs is said to have gotten a nudge towards the Apple desktop interface after visiting a Xerox facility in 1979.) But Windows 1.0 was marketed as an upgrade for people already running MS-DOS — and, in fact, it ran on top of MS-DOS, so anybody who wanted Windows had to have MS-DOS installed first.

So did Windows 1.0 fly off the shelves? Not exactly. Early reviews panned the product for running far too slowly — not the last time the tech press has made that particular critique. The New York Times wrote that “running Windows on a PC with 512K of memory is akin to pouring molasses in the Arctic.” Many reviews said the speed slowdown only got worse when users ran more than one application at a time — an ability that had been intended as a primary draw. And that weird mouse thing Microsoft insisted Windows users embrace? Lots of people hated it.

Despite those early hiccups, Microsoft didn’t just give up and close Windows — a smart move, given that computers running Windows operating systems now make up about 90% of the market. But not even Windows 2.0, released in 1987, set Windows on its path to world dominance. That spark didn’t come until Windows 3.0, released in 1990 to critical acclaim and widespread adoption, thanks to a redesigned interface and speed improvements. As TIME put it in the June 4 issue of that year, “Microsoft seems to have got it right this time.”

MONEY Tech

Why “Facebook at Work” Might Not Work

Facebook at work on tablet
Alamy

Enterprise software is indeed a very lucrative space, but the time, energy, and development resources that it would require for Facebook to meaningfully challenge are simply too high.

This isn’t the first time, and it might not be the last. Dominant social network Facebook FACEBOOK INC. FB 2.1889% is reportedly looking to challenge LinkedIn LINKEDIN CORP. LNKD 1.1679% in the enterprise segment, among others. The Financial Times reported that the social kingpin is developing a new “Facebook at Work” site geared toward corporate settings.

The service is said to feature ways to communicate with colleagues, connect with other professionals, and collaborate on documents. Personal profiles and professional profiles would be segregated for the sake of privacy, and would be free initially. Beyond LinkedIn, this service means Facebook would compete with other large enterprise software makers like Google GOOGLE INC. GOOG 0.3356% and Microsoft , as well as start-ups such as Slack.

Does Facebook have a chance? Let’s look at all of these areas where Facebook wants to make a dent.

Connecting people

Helping people make professional connections is LinkedIn’s claim to fame, and the company has established an incredibly strong business in connecting recruiters with job candidates. Before even considering monetization methods, Facebook is a much larger overall network, which means it has a shot at growing its position here.

At last count, Facebook boasted 1.35 billion monthly active users, or MAUs, worldwide. That’s over four times LinkedIn’s count of 331 million registered members. Of that total, 89.7 million members log in on a monthly basis. LinkedIn reports these as unique visiting members, but in practice they are the same as MAUs for the sake of comparison.

“Facebook at Work” is unlikely to tap into Facebook’s entire network, since its rollout is still speculative and would likely be on a small scale. Still, there’s definitely some long-term potential here if Facebook builds out the rumored service, and eventually integrates it with its broader network.

Communicating with colleagues

Microsoft Exchange is the dominant player in enterprise email, but a slew of popular chat applications are also used in the workplace. Slack has been skyrocketing in popularity recently, and is now one of the fastest-growing enterprise software applications ever.

The key to Slack’s success is the ability to integrate with a plethora of third-party services that are already popular within the enterprise segment, creating a platform out of the enterprise messaging service. Slack also has powerful search features to help workers find what they’re looking for. The start-up’s blistering growth has already attracted the attention of high-profile venture capitalists. Slack recently raised $120 million at a $1.1 billion valuation.

In general, messaging is becoming an increasingly competitive arena. Facebook has both Messenger and WhatsApp under its blue belt, so the company undoubtedly has plenty of experience with developing messaging products and services. Facebook might have some strength in consumer-oriented messaging, but it seemingly lacks the deep integrations that rival services like Slack can offer.

Playing well with others

On the collaboration front, Microsoft acquired Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion. Yammer is a private social network that integrates with collaboration software and business applications, and is now part of Office 365. Yammer is a big part of Microsoft’s strategy with collaboration software as it transitions away from SharePoint.

Microsoft also recently partnered with Dropbox. By integrating the other’s services, Microsoft and Dropbox will bolster the collaborative features that are critical to each company’s enterprise customers. Google Apps for Business has also been winning customers from Microsoft for years, becoming a notable player in the collaboration space in the process.

This is easily the most important area of enterprise software, since employee collaboration is so critical to productivity. This is also where Facebook likely brings the least to the table. Current providers of collaborative tools offer comprehensive feature sets and have become very entrenched in the enterprise. Facebook will face a steep uphill battle in this area.

We don’t know what we don’t know

To be fair, not much is known about “Facebook at Work.” The company reportedly uses the product internally, and only began testing it at other companies within the past year or so.

Facebook’s current portfolio of consumer offerings might not be representative of what it hopes to offer the enterprise space. However, it’s hard to imagine the company could develop a full-featured offering that spans all of these areas in under a year when incumbents have spent many more years specializing and catering to these precise needs.

On top of that, Facebook is predominantly associated with personal social networking. The ability to separate personal and professional activity might be an attempt to blur the line, but consumer connotations aren’t easily shifted. Besides, aren’t Facebook’s privacy settings cumbersome enough already?

Shares of LinkedIn fell 5% of the news that Facebook could be developing a competing service, so it seems there is indeed some investor concern. However, history doesn’t inspire much confidence in Facebook’s professional abilities, which should downplay these fears.

Facebook acqui-hired job-search site Pursuit in 2011, but hasn’t done much in the job listing space that LinkedIn is disrupting. Third-party professional networking service BranchOut attempted to carve out a niche within Facebook as a free application (casually known as the “LinkedIn within Facebook”), but failed spectacularly and is now trying to sell itself.

The risk is that Facebook could become distracted by its pursuit of the enterprise segment, rather than focus on key business developments, notably building out the infrastructure for video ads or determining some type of monetization strategy for WhatsApp.

As an investor, I do like when Facebook takes calculated risks, such as Paper or Home, even if they fail. But those were inherently low risks with high potential rewards. Enterprise software is indeed a very lucrative space, but the time, energy, and development resources that it would require for Facebook to meaningfully challenge are simply too high.

TIME Tablets

Nokia’s New Tablet Looks Exactly Like an iPad Mini

The surprise new tablet pits Nokia against Microsoft

Nokia is returning to consumer electronics with an Android-powered tablet that looks an awful lot like Apple’s iPad mini.

The Finnish company’s N1 has the same 7.9-inch screen size and the same 2048 x 1536 resolution as the iPad mini, as well as nearly identical placement of the camera, buttons and headphone jack, the Verge reports. It has made some improvements, too: at 318 grams and 6.9mm thin, the N1 is thinner and lighter than the Apple equivalent.

The tablet will go on sale at the beginning of 2015 in China, ahead of other countries, the BBC reports.

Other N1 specs include a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It has a 5-megapixel version at the front, and an 8-megapixel camera at the rear.

Microsoft completed its takeover of Nokia’s former mobile-devices business in April. Nokia’s entry into the tablet space pits the two companies against each other. Microsoft sells its own Nokia-labelled kit, including the Lumia 2520 Windows RT-powered tablet.

Nokia licensed its design and brand to Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn in order to make the product, effectively outsourcing production and supply chain management.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 14

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Superfast quantum computers could drastically change the future, and Microsoft might build the first one.

By Tom Simonite in MIT Technology Review

2. Water-smart urban design can reimagine life in Western cities suffering the worst drought in decades.

By Reed Karaim in JSTOR Daily

3. The new censorship: How intimidation, mass surveillance, and shrinking resources are making the press less free.

By George Packer in the New Yorker

4. A new approach to housing for families at risk that includes intensive, wrap-around services is showing early success.

By Mary Cunningham, Maeve Gearing, Michael Pergamit, Simone Zhang, Marla McDaniel, Brent Howell at the Urban Institute

5. Our best bet in the fight against Boko Haram might be sharing lessons on intelligence gathering.

By Jesse Sloman at Africa in Transition

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME apps

Skype Now Lets You Make Calls Right From Your Browser

Mobile World Congress 2011
The Skype Technologies SA logo is seen above the trade stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday, Feb.16, 2011. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

You won't need to download the Skype app to make calls

You no longer need to download an app to make voice or video calls over Skype, the Microsoft-owned chat company announced Friday, as it unveiled a browser-based solution called “Skype for Web.”

Skype for Web lets users make voice and video calls directly in the browser of their choice by visiting Skype.com. It requires users to install a plugin, but not the full Skype software. Skype for Web is currently in beta and will roll out to more users over the next few months.

“Skype for Web makes it quicker and easier than ever before to connect with friends, family and colleagues around the world, for free – directly from Skype.com,” the company said in a blog post. “It’s perfect if you prefer using the web rather than an app: perhaps you’re sitting at a computer that doesn’t already have Skype downloaded. Or maybe you’re on the go and using an internet café or hotel computer whilst on vacation where you can’t download Skype at all.”

Microsoft rival Google has offered free in-browser voice and video chats for several years through Google Talk and Google Hangouts. Skype’s move towards a browser-based solution reflects larger recent efforts by Microsoft to develop cross-platform software that works on multiple devices.

MONEY Tech

Yes, AOL Still Exists—and It’s Got a Nifty Trick Up Its Sleeve

Man walking past AOL logo in NYC
Andrew Kelly—Reuters

Merger talks between AOL and Yahoo are heating up again, which raises the question: What does AOL actually do these days?

For the second time in two months, a Yahoo-Aol merger is in the headlines. According to a new report from Reuters, top shareholders are pressuring Yahoo to join with the company formerly known as America Online. If this were 1998, the news would shake the industry. In 2014, it’s got a lot of people scratching their heads. Aol? Forget the merger—how does that company still exist?

And yet, not only is Aol (the company lowercased its initials in 2009, when it was spun off from TimeWarner) still kicking around, it’s actually thriving. In 2013, CEO Tim Armstrong reported the first quarterly revenue growth in almost a decade, and the company recently posted an 18% year-over-year increase in revenue. The stock has soared, prompting the Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson to snark that the big A’s success is “a perfect lesson in why we shouldn’t confuse great stocks for great companies.”

It’s hard to blame someone for doubting a business that still makes most of its money from a dwindling pool of subscribers, but Thompson, like most tech observers, likely saw Aol for what it was, not what it is gradually becoming: namely, one of the most powerful players in the digital advertising world.

The Old Aol

Way back in the early days of the internet, Aol raked in boatloads of money from subscribers to its dial-up internet service. It was also a web “portal”—an internet directory of sorts—that pointed customers to its other online sites and services. The company’s model seemed flawless: Get paying subscribers in the digital door, then send them to your own media properties. For a time, the strategy worked. In 2000, Aol purchased TimeWarner (MONEY’s former parent company) in a $164 billion deal, becoming one of the largest corporations in the world.

But soon after the acquisition, Aol fell behind the times. Dial-up gave way to broadband, the company’s “walled garden” model was replaced by an open and vibrant web, and the merger is now widely seen as one of the worst business moves of all time. Nine years after their disastrous marriage, Aol was spun off from TimeWarner, and the newly independent company was essentially left for dead. How could such a tech dinosaur—an internet bubble cliché in so many ways—ever recover?

The New Aol

Two decades later, Aol technically still makes most of its money from subscribers to its various services, which these days include broadband. Total subscription revenue accounted for $650 million last year, and more than 100% of its operating income (that’s because the other sectors of the business are currently losing money).

But Aol’s true value isn’t in its shrinking subscriber base. The company has wisely taken the cash from its old business and poured it into a new one: digital video advertising. And in this sector, Aol has been dominating.

The company’s third-quarter earnings report shows Aol Platforms, its advertising arm, brought in a whopping $271 million in revenue. Even more impressive: the Platforms segment grew 44% year over year. That kind of growth is unheard of in most old-school tech companies, particularly one that predates the modern internet by more than a decade.

Why has Aol’s foray into digital advertising been such a hit? As Brian Pitz, an analyst at Jefferies covering Aol, explains, the company’s advantage comes from giving ad buyers and sellers a one-stop shop for all of their advertising needs. By combining analytics, tools for sellers, tools for buyers, and a number of other services, Aol promises to save marketers and publishers money by cutting out what it calls the “technology tax”—the extra money both sides pay for using various middlemen to accomplish the same tasks.

As the graphic below shows, advertisers and publishers need lots of different services to reach their desired audience. In the past, they would have gotten those services from multiple providers, each of whom took a cut. Aol is attractive, Pitz says, because it offers everything all in one place—”a fully integrated [advertising] platform. The only other company that has that is Google.”

Source: Aol

 

While Aol’s Platforms business seems to be doing just fine on its own, Pitz notes that the one thing the company lacks is bigger scale for its ad business to operate across. Merging with Yahoo, and gaining access to Yahoo’s millions of visitors, could help that problem; that’s one reason shareholders are pushing for a merger. (Another is a desire to unlock the value of Yahoo’s stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.)

But Yahoo may decide it would rather beat Aol than join it. On Wednesday, the company purchased BrightRoll, which specializes in programmatic video ad sales, for $640 million.

TIME Education

Ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Gave a Bunch of Cash to Harvard’s Computer Science Program

Key Speakers As Microsoft Unveils Windows 8
Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., pauses while speaking at an event in New York, Oct. 25, 2012. Scott Eells—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Ballmer wants to make Harvard's computer science department the best in the world

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has given Harvard University an unknown amount of money to significantly expand the school’s computer science department, it was announced Thursday.

Ballmer, now owner of the NBA’s L.A. Clippers, graduated from Harvard College in 1977. He said in a statement that Harvard’s computer science department is “small, but excellent,” and believes a faculty expansion will allow the university to build a preeminent program. Harvard President Drew Faust said in a statement that “we’re so grateful for Steve’s game-changing support and welcome this opportunity for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to take full advantage of the entire University’s distributed strengths.”

While Harvard nor Ballmer disclosed the exact amount of the gift, Ballmer told The New York Times that it would allow Harvard’s computer science faculty to expand from its current number of 24 to about 35.

Though Harvard is top-ranked as a national university, its computer science program is ranked at number 18, behind programs at Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Stanford and UC Berkeley, which are tied for the top spot, according to U.S. News & World Report. Still, Harvard undergraduates have demonstrated a rising interest in computer science, with the number of students concentrating in the field more than doubling between 2009 and 2013, according to the university’s handbook for students. A record-breaking 818 students enrolled in Harvard’s popular introductory computer science class, CS50, this semester.

TIME Video Games

Check Out This New Halo Ad Set to Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’

Halo: The Master Chief Collection is out next week

Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a jam-packed collection of specially remastered Halo titles, rolls out on Xbox One consoles next week, just in time for the holiday shopping season. To celebrate the launch, Microsoft is running this TV ad starting today, featuring footage from the game set to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

Microsoft is hoping that The Master Chief Collection, which includes Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4 in addition to access to the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta, will boost sales of its Xbox One console, which many people think is losing the sales battle against rival Sony’s PlayStation 4 console. In another attempt to boost holiday sales, Microsoft recently lowered the price of new Xbox One consoles by $49 down to $350 through the end of the year.

TIME apps

Microsoft Office Is Now Free for iPhones, iPads and Android

Office for iPhone Microsoft

You can now use Word, Excel and Powerpoint for free

Correction appended Nov. 7

Microsoft Office, long the standard-bearer of premium software, is now free on mobile devices, the company announced Thursday. Office users will now be able to create and edit documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on iPhone, iPad and Android devices at no cost. Making full use of the apps previously required a subscription to Office 365, which starts at $70 per year.

The move is a big shift for the software giant, which has continually charged for Office even as free productivity apps have proliferated in recent years. Office accounts for about a third of Microsoft’s annual revenue, according to the New York Times, so letting people access it for free is a big risk. However, the company will continue to charge for access to Office on laptops and desktops and will make some features on the mobile apps only accessible to premium users. Enterprise customers will still have to pay as well.

The free versions of Office for iPhone and iPad are available today. The Android version is available as a preview and will get a full release in 2015.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the cost of Office 365. It starts at $70 per year.

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