TIME Social Networking

Share Too Much? Facebook Is Giving ‘Privacy Checkups’ to Certain Users

Facebook, in an effort to educate about the different privacy options available on the social network, has begun rolling out a ‘Privacy Checkup’ initiative to select users of the site.

According to those familiar with the new feature, you’ll only get a Privacy Checkup if your account is set to post publicly – that is, if your settings have you sharing beyond your immediate group of Facebook friends. Upon sharing with the public, your account may get the following advisory pop-up:

It reads: “Sorry to interrupt. You haven’t changed who can see your posts lately, so we just wanted to make sure you’re sharing this post with the right audience. (Your current setting is Public, though you can change this whenever you post.)” The pop-up then gives you the option to quickly change your privacy settings to limit the post to just your Facebook friends.

Facebook has no doubt learned that its customer base no longer wishes to share everything with the world. By making it easier to control who sees what you post, Facebook ensures you keep posting. Remember, what matters most to Facebook is not how much you share with your friends, but how much you share with the social network itself. The more Facebook knows about you, the more money it makes selling ads.

Regardless of whether your account is chosen for a Privacy Checkup, Techlicious recommends taking your family’s privacy in your own hands. Make a habit of reviewing your Facebook privacy settings once or twice a year. If you have kids, make a clear privacy policy for your family. Teach your kids what’s acceptable to be shared and with whom. Social media can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to remember: One wrong status update could seriously damage you or your child’s future.

To learn more about managing your privacy on Facebook, check out Techlicious’ just-updated comprehensive guide to Facebook privacy settings.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Video Games

Welcome Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s New Xbox-Everything Honcho

Xbox E3 2013 Media Briefing
Phil Spencer on stage at the Xbox E3 2013 media briefing. Casey Rodgers / Invision

Spencer will assume control of both Microsoft Studios and the Xbox platform along with Xbox Live.

A few weeks ago, Xbox Chief Product Officer Marc Whitten said he was leaving Microsoft (after helming the division for some 14 years) for a similar position with Sonos. Now we know who’ll replace him: Phil Spencer, formerly head of Microsoft Studios, will take up Whitten’s old post effective immediately.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, who himself recently transitioned to a new leadership role, replacing Steve Ballmer as the company’s CEO in February, outlined Spencer’s new position in an email to employees this morning.

It sounds like Spencer will have control of both Microsoft Studios and Xbox as well as Xbox Live development teams, so basically everything to do with gaming, plus the Xbox brand’s growing non-gaming presence, consolidated under one leader:

In this new job, Phil will lead the Xbox, Xbox Live, Xbox Music and Xbox Video teams, and Microsoft Studios. Combining all our software, gaming and content assets across the Xbox team under a single leader and aligning with the OSG team will help ensure we continue to do great work across the Xbox business, and bring more of the magic of Xbox to all form factors, including tablets, PCs and phones.

According to Spencer’s Xbox bio (I’m not sure how up-to-date it is), he’s been with Microsoft for over 25 years and worked on a variety of products, including the old CD-based Encarta encyclopedia, Microsoft Money, Microsoft Works and Microsoft Picture It!. He worked as general manager of Microsoft Studios in 2008 before stepping up to corporate VP in 2009. Microsoft Studios is the company’s game development division, founded in 2002, and responsible for developing or publishing (or buying outright to continue developing and publishing) everything from Fable and Halo to Gears of War and Forza Motorsport.

Here’s Spencer writing about his promotion on Xbox Wire:

As Satya noted earlier today, I will now be leading the Xbox, Xbox Live, and creative teams including Xbox Music, Xbox Video and Microsoft Studios as we deliver the next generation of games and entertainment. Combining these teams will strengthen the connection between some of the world’s most innovative creators and those building the Xbox itself. I am incredibly proud of the talented Xbox employees around the world and believe, like they do, in the power of technology to bring games and entertainment to life across console, PC, tablet and mobile devices. It’s been a remarkable year for Xbox and I am honored to lead the team at this incredible time for Microsoft and the games industry.

You could argue there’s no better choice to helm Xbox than a guy who’s been plugged into the software side (and worked in it himself) for so many years. Getting software right is Platform-Driving 101, and having someone with the experience and internal relationships necessary to streamline those aspects of the process sounds like a no-brainer, in theory. While it’s not the same role, if you look at a game designer like Mark Cerny on Sony’s side of the fence — he’s the lead architect for PlayStation 4 — you’re arguably seeing the results of that emphasis on developer needs and relationships manifesting in all the PS4’s developer plaudits and ballooning software catalog.

You could also argue Nadella’s decision to give Spencer control of more of the pie indicates his allegiance to the Xbox brand, not his proclivity to spin it off, as many earlier this year suggested he might. Unless Microsoft’s looking to get out of the software biz somehow, which seems very unlikely, I’m not sure it makes sense to consolidate like this with an eye to furthering the Xbox brand on “all form factors, including tablets, PCs and phones.”

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Technology & Media

Microsoft Is About to Blow Up ATMs All Over the Country

The Microsoft Windows XP log-in screen is displayed on a lap
Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg/Getty Images

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. The article below was originally published at Fortune.com.

After April 8th, 2014, Microsoft will end support, including automatic security patches, for its 13-year-old Windows XP operating system. This may sound like an inconvenience primarily for government agencies and aging uncles, but another major set of Windows XP users are the automated teller machines and credit card sales systems that handle billions of dollars of transactions daily.

While major retailers and banks are likely to be well prepared for the end of XP, financial systems based on the software are also in the hands of a far-reaching hodgepodge of independent ATM operators and small businesses. Despite ample warning, industry analysts and insiders agree that high cost and inconvenience will keep plenty of these smaller players running outdated software for many months to come — with serious implications for the security of their systems.

Jerry Nevins, co-owner of the Kansas City cocktail bar Snow & Co., is close to the dilemma. Snow & Co. bought a point of sale system less than a year ago from the payments servicer Micros — only to be told within a few months of the need for an upgrade to Windows 7, at a cost of $1,700 for the single-store system. Luckily, Snow & Co. was still under a service agreement, so its upgrade was free. But as Nevins puts it, “If you’re a small business, an unexpected $1,700 might be like, eh, I’ll go ahead and take my chances.” Moreover, Nevins describes a “huge line” of Micros customers waiting for an upgrade. He’s crossing his fingers that Snow & Co. will be upgraded before the April 8 deadline.

MORE: Video demos: Microsoft’s Office running on Apple’s iPad

Costs to retail credit card processors will vary widely, says John Berkeley of Mercury Payment Systems. “If you have the right hardware you can just upgrade the OS, but for some merchants upgrading from XP to Windows 7 can mean all new hardware,” likely costing much more than that $1,700.

The challenges of upgrading becomes even bigger in the case of ATMs. ATM manufacturers are offering software upgrades for machines still based on XP — though some of those have been available for less than a month. But the cost to upgrade can be staggering.

According to Jay Weber, vice president in charge of North American Debit and ATM systems for FIS Global, “an ATM machine purchased in the last five years . . . would only need a software upgrade of $4,000 to 5,000 per machine.” That software cost is so high in part because much specialized software written for Windows XP can’t be easily ported to a new operating system. But ATMs 10 years old or more would need to be completely replaced, and Weber says that new high-end ATMs can cost at least $50,000 to $60,000 per device.

ATM operators and business owners are largely being left to decide on their own whether to upgrade or not, says Weber. “Organizations are trying to look at the investment of the upgrade and weight it against their perceived risk” — and many seem to be ready to take their chances. “[April 9th] is going to come and go, and there are going to be some merchants who haven’t done it yet,” says Berkeley. Weber speculates that “it’s going to be a trickle approach, a slower ramp up,” with many systems going without an upgrade — and remaining officially insecure — through the end of 2014.

MORE: Can Microsoft make enterprise search better?

This hesitancy may be worsened because operators are getting mixed messages about their risk. The Payments Card Industry Security Standards Council has issued public warnings about the need for retailers to upgrade their point of sale systems, but their current set of standards, which are used to determine eligibility to operate on credit card networks, do not require it. And Weber himself seems sanguine: “The risk is hard to quantify. There’s a lot of technology in place in the marketplace to help mitigate the risk,” such as the “fairly closed telecom environment” that most payment systems operate on.

But Bogdan Botezatu, Senior E-Threat Analyst for the antimalware software company Bitdefender, couldn’t disagree more. He talks about the issue with the barely-suppressed terror of a father watching his teenage son drive solo for the first time. “They’re not panicky,” he says, “and actually that makes me panicky.”

Botezatu, who haunts underground hacking forums to keep an eye on looming security threats, claims that hackers are gearing up to raid suddenly insecure XP machines the minute Microsoft support ends. “When an operating system is announced as reaching its end of life, [hackers] are frantically looking for exploits, because then they can use it indefinitely,” he says. “It’s the holy grail of malware.”

To take fullest advantage of the situation, black-market vendors selling new XP exploits have been stockpiling them, waiting to release them until after Microsoft is no longer monitoring and repairing security flaws. Though third-party security firms will continue to update antimalware programs for XP, users not running or updating such software could be permanently vulnerable to an ever-growing set of exploits. Mercury Payment Systems’ John Berkeley confirms that “If a hacker discovers [a vulnerability] a month or two after the end of [XP support], they have more time to exploit that.”

MORE: Microsoft culture must change, chairman says

These exploits could range from stealing credit card information from small vendors to even more dramatic forms of theft, many of them easily circumventing external security measures such as the semi-closed payments network. Botezatu says there have been reports of an ATM exploit through a mobile phone connected through an ATM’s card reader. He also cites a legendary stunt by the security expert Barnaby Jack, at the Black Hat security conference in 2010, demonstrated a “Jackpotting” hack that easily emptied an XP-based ATM machine. According to Botezatu, Jack, who died in 2013, never revealed the nature of this exploit, meaning that it could remain an unpatched vulnerability in XP-based machines.

Most troubling of all, Botezatu predicts that unsecured XP machines of all kinds will be compromised by hackers to form new botnets. This kind of system, in which hacked systems’ processors are put to new tasks unbeknownst to their owners, can be used for everything from massive Denial of Service attacks to mining cryptocurrency, and would add substantially to the insecurity of the internet as a whole. “I see a lot of trouble,” Botezatu warns.

Whether April 9th brings a plague of cash-spewing ATMs, zombie PCs and thieving credit-card readers remains to be seen. But Botezatu sounds exasperated that he even has to consider these scenarios. “It’s an operating system that was released 13 years ago. Everyone should have started migrating two or three years ago” to avoid the mad rush and risks that come with the end of support. He hopes, at least, that this episode will motivate today’s users to think about the future.

“This is going to happen soon with other operating systems,” Botezatu says. “You should start upgrading from Windows 7 now.”

TIME Gadgets

Danger! Computer Simulates 1,500 People Walking and Texting at a Busy Intersection

So here’s what would apparently happen if 1,500 people all started crossing the street at Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing while they were looking down at their phones.

You’ll notice a handful of things:

  • A total disregard for crosswalks! These mouth-breathers are just walking right out into the middle of everything.
  • Two of them just walk in place when they run into each other. The last time I did that, mall security Segwayed me out by my shirt collar.
  • One of the guys gets run into and then bows as though it’s his fault! Sack up, man!
  • Only one guy drops his phone, which seems really low for 15,000 hoopleheads all running into each other.
  • Two fall down and get right back up, all while still looking at their phones (probably accurate).
  • It takes an eternity for the street to clear when it’s the cars’ turn to go again (probably accurate), yet only a couple horns honk (maybe accurate in Japan; absolutely not accurate just about anywhere else).
  • The guy at the very end appears to fall down at the top of a subway entrance and, instead of getting back up, he’s does the Worm for a bit. I’d grab a simulated beer with that guy any day.

According to Kotaku, the video is a joint effort between one of Japan’s major wireless companies – NTT Docomo – and Aichi University of Technology, which cobbled the simulation together. The message? I can’t read Japanese, but I’ll bet it’s three-fold: Don’t text and walk, watch where you’re going, and remember that the Worm will never, ever, ever go out of style.

Computer Simulation of 1,500 People Looking at Smartphones and Walking [Kotaku]

TIME Patent Wars

Apple Wants $2 Billion from Samsung, but the Real Target Is Google

The Apple logo at its flagship retail store in San Francisco, on Jan. 27, 2014.
The Apple logo at its flagship retail store in San Francisco on Jan. 27, 2014 Robert Galbraith—Reuters

Apple and Samsung are jumpstarting their multibillion-dollar legal war over patents on Monday, with each accusing the other of blatantly copying design features, but Apple is really going after Google's Android mobile operating system

Apple and Samsung are set to resume their patent battle when the two tech titans square off in California federal court on Monday. The conflict between two of the most powerful technology companies in the world — with billions of dollars at stake — has been escalating for years, and underscores the ferocious struggle for advantage in the highly competitive smartphone and tablet markets.

Apple and Samsung have accused each other of blatantly copying design features used in each company’s smartphones and tablets. For Apple, the campaign against Samsung amounts to a proxy war against Google’s Android operating system, which powers the most popular Samsung devices. Apple has already won one major patent infringement case against Samsung, resulting in damages that were ultimately pegged at $930 million. Samsung is appealing that verdict.

The new case covers recent mobile devices, including the iPhone 5 and the latest models in Samsung’s Galaxy line. Apple is demanding about $2 billion in damages, and asking that Samsung be ordered to pay a $40 licensing fee for each phone. Patent expert Florian Mueller thinks Apple’s claim is outlandish. “Give me a break,” he wrote last week. “Reality distortion would be a total understatement for this.”

For Apple, this case isn’t about money so much as principle. Apple is nearing $200 billion in annual revenue and sitting on tens of billions in cash. Apple doesn’t need $2 billion. What it wants more than money is validation that its engineers were responsible for inventing the modern smartphone.

Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs was convinced that Google and its partners copied most of the Android operating system and form-factor from the iPhone. The rift caused Google chairman Eric Schmidt to be politely dismissed from Apple’s board of directors five years ago. Jobs famously vowed to wage “thermonuclear war” against those whom he felt had ripped off the iPhone, and the multibillion-dollar lawsuits against Samsung and other Android hardware makers are the legacy of Jobs’ conviction.

(MORE: Apple’s $1 Billion Patent Win Over Samsung Rattles Google’s Cage)

Apple charges that Samsung “systematically copied Apple’s innovative technology and products, features, and designs, and has deluged markets with infringing devices in an effort to usurp market share from Apple. Instead of pursuing independent product development, Samsung slavishly copied Apple’s innovative technology, with its elegant and distinctive user interfaces product design, in violation of Apple’s valuable intellectual property rights.”

Samsung has filed a countersuit denying that charge and claiming that Apple “has infringed and continues to infringe,” on Samsung patents. “Without the ability to enforce its intellectual property rights, such as those relating to mobile device technology at issue in this action, Samsung would not be able to sustain the extensive commitment to research and development that has enabled it to lead the way into numerous improvements across a broad range of technologies, including the mobile device technologies at issue in this action,” Samsung said.

The patents involved in the case relate to the iPhone’s universal search feature, as well as technology that enables links inside text messages, and syncs calendar, email and address book data. Another patent involves the iPhone’s predictive text feature, which suggests text after the user has entered a few characters. Perhaps the most controversial patent in the case applies to the slide-to-unlock feature, which has become a familiar ritual for millions of smartphone users around the world.

(MORE: Aereo Boss Says He’s ‘Confident’ Ahead of Supreme Court Battle)

Over the last decade, an escalating patent arms race has gripped the tech world. Most of the major tech giants, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung have engaged in patent litigation and counter-litigation in multiple jurisdictions around the globe. So far, the biggest winners have been patent lawyers, who reap millions of dollars in fees during these multiyear legal disputes.

Many patent experts believe that rampant intellectual-property litigation hinders competition, increases prices for consumers, and impedes innovation by slowing new products to market. “There’s a widespread suspicion that lots of the kinds of software patents at issue are written in ways that cover more ground than what Apple or any other tech firm actually invented,” Notre Dame law professor Mark McKenna told the Associated Press. “Overly broad patents allow companies to block competition.”

Last week, Apple allowed Greg Christie, one of its top software engineers, to speak publicly about the early development of the iPhone. Christie is one of several Apple employees who are listed as inventors on the slide-to-unlock patent, which was filed in 2009. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Christie described how his team worked for years to meet Steve Jobs’ exacting standards. Fortune writer Philip Elmer-DeWitt suggested it was no coincidence that Apple trotted Christie out just days before the trial. Apple wanted to make a point: We invented this technology.

Although Apple and Samsung will be the two tech titans squaring off in Judge Lucy Koh’s San Jose courtroom on Monday, Google will loom large in the proceedings. That’s because Apple’s multiyear patent battle against Samsung and other handset makers is really a proxy war against Google’s Android operating system, which powers their most popular devices. Several Google executives could be called to testify. The trial is expected to last through early March.

TIME legal

Seacrest Out: If BlackBerry’s Going Down, It’s Taking the Typo iPhone Keyboard With It

Typo

A court has halted sales of Typo's iPhone keyboard.

BlackBerry is winning its battle to keep the BlackBerry-style Typo keyboard out of iPhone users’ hands.

Typo is a $99 Bluetooth keyboard that snaps onto Apple’s iPhone. Much like BlackBerry’s iconic smartphones, Typo’s keys sit on the bottom when the phone is held in portrait mode, and have rounded edges on the inner-top corners to help guide the user’s fingers. Typo, which was co-founded and backed by Ryan Seacrest, showed off its keyboard at CES in January, though it was already being sued at that point.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick granted Blackberry’s request for a preliminary injunction against Typo, barring the keyboard from sale while the case plays out. Orrick didn’t buy Typo’s arguments that BlackBerry was losing market share anyway, and therefore had “limited goodwill to lose,” the New York Times reports.

Typo could resume sales if it prevailed in the case, but that seems unlikely. Orrick said BlackBerry “established a likelihood of proving that Typo infringes the patents at issue and Typo has not presented a substantial question of the validity of those patents,” according to Recode. Typo plans to appeal, though the company has said that it may go out of business if it can’t fulfill orders. As it stands, Typo has sold about 4,000, suggesting that the vast majority of iPhone users are happy enough typing on a touchscreen.

If it’s any consolation, Typo didn’t win us over when we tried it at CES. Because the iPhone is narrower than BlackBerry’s smartphones, the keys are much more cramped, and they feel spongier as well. Bluetooth also isn’t the most elegant approach, as it requires a pairing process and a separate USB charger for the case itself.

Still, BlackBerry’s court victory could prevent Typo from coming out with improved products over time, and may scare away other startups. Given that BlackBerry’s new turnaround plan involves a bigger focus on keyboard-equipped phones, the message is clear: If you want a smartphone with a good physical keyboard, you shouldn’t bother with an iPhone.

TIME Video Games

20 Video Games to Watch for Spring 2014

Check out our springtime list of PC, console and handheld video games to keep an eye on.

  • Age of Wonders III

    A turn-based fantasy strategy game for PCs in 2014? A sequel to one of the best fantasy strategy series ever devised? By the original series developer, founded in 1997 and still intact some 17 years later? Gorgeous-looking 3D maps? A multiple-sides playable campaign? A random map-generator? Up to 8-player online multiplayer? Can I get a hallelujah?

    PC / March 31

  • MLB 14: The Show

    Sony’s peerless baseball franchise takes its annual lap, initially for PS3 and Vita (the visually souped-up PS4 version is due on May 6) and packing improvements like an overhauled advancement system, year-to-year saves (you can carry your stats over to future versions), a quick-play option to complete a full nine-inning game in under 30 minutes, tweakable community challenges, online franchise mode sharing, a new dynamic difficulty option (it’ll adjust to your performance) and scads of additional features I don’t have room to list here.

    PS3, PS Vita / April 1

  • Ragnarok Odyssey ACE

    If you’ve always thought Monster Hunter could do with a bit more Odin, Thor and Loki, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE may be the action-roleplaying game you’ve been looking for. It’s a revamped version of PS3-exclusive Ragnarok Odyssey, released in October 2012, but for both PS3 and PS Vita and packing all the original’s DLC, plus a slew of tweaks and new music by Final Fantasy legend Nobuo Uematsu.

    PS3, PS Vita / April 1

  • The Elder Scrolls Online

    The Elder Scrolls finally takes a run at what it’s probably been marching toward all along: an epic, deeply Dungeons & Dragons-indebted high fantasy MMO wrapped around its sprawling narrative history and IP. Look for PS4 and Xbox One versions to follow sometime this summer.

    Mac, PC / April 4

  • Daylight

    Like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Daylight is a first-person survival-horror game you play without access to weapons, exploring an apparently haunted hospital while relying solely on the protagonist’s in-game phone. The twist: the levels are procedurally generated, possibly adding a replay angle.

    PC, PS4 / April 8

     

  • LEGO The Hobbit

    Traveller’s Tales returns to Middle-earth in this obligatory LEGO Lord of the Rings followup. Your desire to partake, since the gameplay particulars are unchanged — puzzle your way through film locations and events through a cutesy comedy filter — probably depends on how many you’ve played already, or how invested you are in Peter Jackson’s voluminous trilogy. (Note: the Wii U version ships later in the month on April 22.)

    3DS, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One / April 8

  • Titanfall

    Developer Respawn’s multiplayer-only first-person shooter is coming to Xbox 360 roughly one month after arriving on Xbox One and PC (you can read my impressions here, and my colleague Jared Newman’s play tips here), but gets to tap an install base tens of millions stronger, even if this last-gen version takes a notable graphics hit (note the video above uses footage from either the PC or Xbox One version).

    Xbox 360 / April 8

     

  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

    What I’ve played of Final Fantasy XIV on the PlayStation 3 is fantasy retread, but we’re talking about exquisitely executed retread — leaps and bounds beyond where this game was in 2010.

    Since it’s been available for Windows and PS3 for months, we already have a gameplay verdict (thumbs up, all around), so with the PlayStation 4 version, you’re looking at a visual and performance upgrade and the option to play remotely with the PS Vita. As with the PS3 version, the game will not require a PlayStation Plus.

    PS4 / April 14

  • Dark Souls II

    Dark Souls II, we now know, is very Dark Souls, and that’s probably as high a compliment as you’ll pay a game that’s basically about pushing the limits of designer sadism (and player masochism). The game’s already out on PS3 and Xbox 360, of course, but this is the PC version, which in theory should be the best-looking, smoothest running of the bunch.

    PC / April 25

  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2

    Before the Batman Arkham games, the best superhero game we’d seen (Freedom Force aside) was arguably Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2. Somewhere thereafter, however, the series lost its way, and Beenox’s rethink — released in tandem with the film reboot in 2012 — still felt like a B-list entry, as opposed to the Rocksteady-caliber Spider-Man game we’ve been waiting for.

    The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — also releasing in tandem with the eponymous film — retains the latter’s sandbox feel, but lays claim to more metropolitan granularity, more reactive city elements (like police behavior, based on your choices), a narrative thread that sees you playing as Peter Parker and less linear missions that support multiple approaches.

    3DS, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One / April 29

  • Child of Light

    Just look at that trailer — who doesn’t want to play Child of Light, a roleplaying platformer “inspired by fairy tales” that’s as adorable as adorable gets? You play as an abducted child trying to return home while challenging the Queen of the Night, who’s snuffed out the sun, moon and stars.

    Yes, I used “roleplaying” and “platformer” in a sentence. The platforming elements appear to lean more Castlevania than Super Mario Bros., but combat — when you’re not off solving environment puzzles — resembles something you’d see in a turn-based RPG. Imagine something like Rayman if enemy encounters summoned a Final Fantasy-style battle interface and you’re probably in the ballpark. Ubisoft adds that you can unlock over 200 skills and fiddle with over 600 crafting combinations, so beaucoup de RPG-ish customization.

    PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One / April 30

  • Mario Golf: World Tour

    The Wii U may be struggling, but the 3DS has been outselling everything else, including (on occasion) both of the next-gen systems. Mario Golf: World Tour should help keep the momentum going, designed by the same studio that’s been making these acclaimed club-swingers from the beginning.

    3DS / May 2

  • Kirby: Triple Deluxe

    It’s another Kirby platformer, this time in 2.5D and for the 3DS. And there are mini-games, too: one reminiscent of Super Smash Bros. where you’re fighting other Kirbies, another in the rhythm-game tradition where you have to leap on drums in sync with retro-Kirby songs.

    3DS / May 2

  • Drakengard 3

    A roleplaying hack-and-slash that includes the option to saddle up and zip around on the backs of dragons, Drakengard 3 performed well with Japanese critics when it arrived overseas last December, so fans of this series have cause to be optimistic.

    PS3 / May 20

  • Wolfenstein: The New Order

    The latest Wolfenstein game has you squaring off against occult Nazis in a steampunk-gothic setting, still first-person style. It’s developed by Sweden-based newcomer MachineGames, though newcomer in name only — the team comprises designers who worked on both The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (a surprise critical hit) and The Darkness (another surprise critical hit).

    PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One / May 20

  • Watch Dogs

    Sandbox, stealth, action, adventure, hacking, parkour — what else could you want? I’m pretty sure that eclecticism’s why Watch Dogs garnered so much attention last year (well that, and do-no-wrong design studio Ubisoft Montreal). If you want to see what something like Person of Interest meets Assassin’s Creed meets Syndicate meets Deus Ex might look like, Watch Dogs could be that game.

    PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One / May 27

  • Mario Kart 8

    Nintendo’s been having to make its Wii U bones off first-party titles lately, but Mario Kart 8‘s one of the extra-heavies, with a massive fan base, which — assuming internal studio Nintendo EAD Group No. 1 hasn’t dropped any balls — means bumper sales of this game through the summer could provide some respite for the company’s troubled console.

    Wii U / May 30

  • Borderlands 2

    Gearbox Software’s cel-shaded “looter-shooter” sequel adds better vehicle physics, new characters and classes (including the dual-wield “Gunzerker”), smarter bad guys, dynamic co-op play (drop in or out without restarting), a new gun system with “millions upon millions” of possible combinations and a storyline that actually changes based on your mission performance. And the company’s now putting all of that, improbable as it sounds, on Sony’s PS Vita (the preview clip in the Vita sizzle reel above starts at 0:51).

    PS Vita / June 3

  • Murdered: Soul Suspect

    A game about a deceased detective trying to solve his own murder while fending off supernatural adversaries? Give the marketing department its due. It’s by Airtight Studios, the developer of Dark Void, a so-so 2010 flight-based combat game, and Quantum Conundrum, a more warmly received puzzle-platformer, neither of which tell us much about the studio’s hand at story-driven action/adventures. Fingers crossed then.

    PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One / June 3

  • Wildstar

    We need more humor-informed MMOs to keep us chuckling as we fritter away hundreds of hours of our lives. If you agree, you’ll probably want to keep tabs on Wildstar, a goofy-looking sci-fi romp by a bunch of ex-Blizzard developers who’ve been working on the game (in one form or another) for nearly a decade.

    PC / June 3

TIME Technologizer

Microsoft Office for the iPad: It’s the Suite You Want If You Want Office on Your iPad

PowerPoint for iPad
PowerPoint for the iPad Microsoft

The more versions of Office you use, the better this one looks. But where's printing?

First, a disclaimer: You can’t rush your way through reviewing an office suite. Exploring a new word processor, spreadsheet or presentation app is plenty of work on its own; judging all three is something you can’t do in a few hours.

With that out of the way, I’m here to talk about Office for the iPad, which Microsoft unveiled on Thursday after what may have been the longest period of anticipation in iPad-app history. I’ve spent the last couple of days with the new versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and it’s mostly been a good experience, with some quirks.

The biggest problem I’ve had with Office on the iPad so far came before I actually did anything with the apps. After I’d downloaded them and fired up Word for the first time, I got an explanation that in order to do anything beyond viewing documents, I’d need to buy a year’s Office 365 subscription for $100. (I had a subscription, which had lapsed.) I paid up though iTunes on the tablet, and found that I still couldn’t sign in. I tried again, and iTunes told me I’d subscribed a second time, for an additional $100.

Eventually, I got in by subscribing yet again, this time in a browser on the iPad. Whether the glitch is Microsoft’s fault or Apple’s, I’m not sure, and I hope it’s not too hard getting $200 in charges on my Amex card reversed. (I haven’t seen any reports of anybody else running into the same problem.)

Once I was up and running, I found a lot in all three new apps that’s impressive. They look very much like Office as it exists elsewhere, but Microsoft didn’t just cram the existing interface onto the iPad’s screen. The Ribbon toolbar, for instance, is skinny and streamlined, freeing up more of the iPad’s limited on-screen real estate for content. The level of polish and performance is high: Actions such as dragging, dropping and resizing objects feel as if they were designed to work well with the touchscreen, which isn’t always true of the more conventional version of Office that comes with Microsoft’s Surface 2 tablet.

Just as you’d assume, the three apps save everything to your Microsoft OneDrive online storage by default. Other current versions of Office do that, too, so you don’t need to go through any fancy logistics to get to your documents to and from any device that runs Office. (Alternatively, you can choose to save them only on your iPad, although I’m not sure why you’d want to do that.)

Given how bare-bones Microsoft’s existing versions of Office for the iPhone and Android are, I was prepared for the iPad one to be similarly minimalist. Instead, it has plenty of features beyond the basics. Word is especially rich, with support for multiple columns and the ability for several people to collaborate on a document, complete with redlined revisions and threaded comments.

At the same time, there are some omissions — most notably the ability to print your documents, a weird no-show given how much advanced stuff all three apps sport. Nor do the apps support iOS’s “Open in” feature, which would be a simple way to get documents into a third-party utility such as Printer Pro for printing. (The OneDrive app does let you open up your Office docs in a printing program.)

Other significant missing features I’ve stumbled across so far include the ability to create charts in Word and animate objects in PowerPoint. While the apps don’t support these sorts of options, they do bring in documents created in other versions of Office that include them; you just can’t add them from scratch or modify instances that are already there.

Overall, the philosophy behind these apps seems to be that when they support a feature, they support it either well, or not at all. Julia White, the Microsoft product manager who did the demos at Thursday’s press event, told me afterwards that there will be updates with more features; if Microsoft is serious about supporting the iPad, it’ll fill in the more obvious holes quickly.

Judging from the various documents I’ve tried out so far, the iPad apps already do an excellent job of handling documents created in other versions of Office – fancy formatting, oddball fonts and all. With Apple’s iWorks apps, I usually get an error message about missing fonts when I open even the most rudimentary of Word and Excel files. In Microsoft’s apps, they look like they did when I created them, and even features such as frozen panes in Excel spreadsheets work.

Just about everything that’s good about Office for the iPad — the familiarity of its interface, the support for collaborative editing, the speed with which you can get files in and out of Office on various devices, with their formatting intact – has one overarching thing in common: It’s all about Office for the iPad being part of the greater Office ecosystem, not an island unto itself. The more editions of Office you use, and the more people you work with who also use Office, the more you’ll like the iPad version.

Which means that Microsoft’s decision to roll full-fledged access to Office for the iPad into the price of an Office 365 subscription is logical enough. If you subscribe through your iTunes account on the iPad, you’ll pay $100 a year for the right to run the suite on up to five Windows PCs or Macs and five tablets. On its own website, Microsoft also offers a $70 plan that gives you the right to use Office on one computer and one tablet. Paying that kind of money solely to get access to Office on the iPad would be excessive; spending it for Office on all the devices in your household is not.

Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO at the company’s press event in San Francisco on March 27, 2014 Harry McCracken / TIME

If you’re just not that into Office, there’s an excellent alternative: Apple’s iWork apps, Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Apple provides them as free downloads for all iPad owners, and they’re solid apps in their own right. Just be prepared for formatting quirks — usually minor ones involving fonts — if you shuffle documents between them and Office.

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has had his new gig for less than two months, so he probably can’t claim credit for Office finally showing up on the iPad. But with any luck, its arrival is an omen of things to come. In the Steve Ballmer era, the company was achingly slow to support new platforms that competed with its own, and its hesitance wasn’t good for anybody, including Microsoft. Here’s hoping that the Nadella era is one in which Office is available — and good — everywhere that people want to be productive.

TIME Virtual Reality

Like It or Not, Virtual Reality Is Big Business Now

Oculus DK2
Oculus's Development Kit 2 virtual-reality headset Oculus VR

Because of Facebook and Oculus, top talent and huge investments are now table stakes.

Allow me to juxtapose a couple new developments following Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR. For much of Friday, the top post in Reddit’s technology section — and one of the top posts on the front page — has been a link to a new Oculus Rift competitor called the Totem.

Never mind that Totem’s creators, True Player Gear, have not yet shown a working prototype, let alone given a price or a release date, either for developers or consumers. The post linking to True Player Gear’s website had, at my last count, more than 3,000 upvotes and 1,600 comments.

Clearly, there’s a desire for some sort of Oculus reboot — a fresh start at building virtual reality through grassroots efforts. I can only imagine what would’ve happened if Totem’s creators had a Kickstarter campaign in place today.

But elsewhere on the web, something different was happening with virtual reality: Michael Abrash, an industry legend who, according to TechCrunch, was leading Valve’s own virtual reality efforts, is moving to Oculus. In a blog post, Abrash specifically cited the Facebook acquisition — and the vast resources Facebook can provide — as a key factor in his decision. “I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can,” Abrash wrote.

No disrespect to True Player Gear, but at this point, anyone who thinks a small startup — let alone a crowdfunded one — can take on Oculus is deluding themselves. Thanks to Facebook, the minimum buy-in for virtual reality has grown immensely, just over the last few days.

As a reminder:

  • Oculus can now afford to create custom hardware, and doesn’t have to settle for off-the-rack phone and tablet components.
  • Facebook can afford to hire top talent and invest in tackling major engineering challenges.
  • Oculus can sell its eventual product for cheaper, attracting a larger base of users, in turn attracting more developers.

At the moment, there are lots of smaller projects trying to stake a claim in the virtual reality business. I predict that many will wither away, and those that don’t will either be snatched up by larger companies or live on as tiny niche projects. Without considerable resources, it’s going to be nearly impossible to compete on a large scale.

I see this as mostly welcome news. Oculus Rift in its current state is so far removed from what it could become. (Imagine, for instance, a fully wireless device light enough to slip on like a pair of glasses.) The sooner virtual reality gets taken seriously by consumer-facing companies with gobs of research and development money, the faster it can improve into a viable a consumer product.

Do I have concerns about Facebook leading the charge? Absolutely. And on some level, I’m sad that virtual reality is dashing past its geeky, grassroots phase at a faster clip now. But Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus increases the odds that virtual reality won’t stay in that phase forever, and that’s a good thing.

TIME

Study: Most Millennials Don’t Watch TV on the TV

For younger millennials aged 14 to 24, the bulk of entertainment time is spent on laptops, smartphones, tablets and Internet-connected video gaming systems -- with only 44 percent of them watching TV on a television, according to a new study

The YouTube generation simply isn’t watching TV the way their parents are, or so says the latest Digital Democracy Survey of American media habits.

The study, conducted by consulting firm Deloitte and published by Recode (PDF), asked over 2,000 Americans about their media consumption and technology use. Specifically, participants were asked to explain how they divide their time watching movies and TV shows over the different devices they own.

According to the survey, the average American consumes 71% of his or her media on television, with just 16% of us trying to catch episodes on our PCs. Even fewer are using smartphones (4%), gaming systems (4%) and tablets (5%).

But as you might expect, that’s hardly the story here – how we consume media varies dramatically between generations. When it comes to younger Millennials aged 14 to 24, the bulk of entertainment time is spent on laptops, smartphones, tablets and Internet-connected video gaming systems. Only 44% of their TV watching time happens on a television. Millennials aged 25 to 30 spend 53% of their media consuming time watching TV, while Generation Xers (31-47) are in front of a television 70% of the time.

Technology has made little dent in the habits of older Americans, many of whom prefer the familiar TV over newer tech items. Approximately 92% of senior citizens’ time (age 67+) and 88% of Baby Boomers’ time (age 48-66) watching TV is still done on an actual TV.

This news, while likely not a shock to the U.S. cable industry, paints a picture of a tough road ahead for paid TV. Americans in 2014 may be willing to pay for both cable TV and cable Internet, but that’s because most of us still use our TV out of habit. But as Millennials get older – and more importantly, are no longer having their media use paid for by mom and dad – cord cutting will become even more prevalent. After all, why pay for a TV and service that you don’t watch?

deloitte-tv-time-chart-600px
Deloitte

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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