Microsoft Xbox To Work Directly On Internet-Linked TVs

 

Microsoft on Thursday said it is working on software to let people play Xbox video games on internet-linked televisions without the need of consoles.

The news came as Microsoft and other video game industry heavyweights prepare to show off coming titles at an annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) being held virtually beginning Saturday due to the pandemic.

“As a company, Microsoft is all-in on gaming,” chief executive Satya Nadella said in introducing the plan.

“Three billion consumers look to gaming for entertainment, community, creation, as well as a real sense of achievement, and our ambition is to empower each of them, wherever they play.”

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Microsoft has been playing on the strength of its Xbox unit as it vies with Luna and Stadia cloud gaming services run, respectively, by Amazon and Google.

The Xbox team is working with TV makers to embed software that will let video games typically enjoyed on its consoles be played directly from the cloud, requiring only hand-held controllers, according to Microsoft.

The US-based technology giant also announced it is building devices that will plug into any television screen or computer monitor to stream Xbox gameplay without any consoles.

In coming weeks, cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions will be possible through internet browsers Chrome, Edge, and Safari, according to Microsoft.

“There’s still a place for consoles and PCs and frankly, there always will be, but through the cloud, we will be able to deliver a robust gaming experience to anyone connected to the internet,” said Xbox unit head Phil Spencer.

“And with the cloud, gaming players can participate fully in the same Xbox experience as people on local hardware.

Xbox Game Pass had some 18 million subscribers worldwide at the end of last year, according to figures released by Nadella.

Video gameplay has surged during the pandemic, as people turned more than ever to the internet for entertainment.

Overall consumer spending on video gaming in the United States totaled just shy of $15 billion in the first quarter of this year, up 30 percent from the same period in 2020, according to industry tracker NPD Group.

Microsoft will stream an Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase on Sunday, featuring games from its studios around the world.

AFP

Microsoft Sees Growth Amid Pandemic Computing Demands

 

 

Microsoft on Wednesday reported rising revenues in the past quarter amid strong demand for cloud computing services from pandemic-hit businesses and consumers and big gains in its Xbox gaming operations.

Profits in the quarter ending June 30 fell 15 percent to $11.2 billion, the result of increased tax charges compared with a year ago.

Revenue meanwhile rose 13 percent to $38 billion, led by strong gains in its cloud computing and its Xbox gaming services.

Chief executive Satya Nadella said Microsoft was equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic with its “integrated, modern technology stack.”

“We are seeing businesses accelerate the digitization of every part of their operations from manufacturing to sales to customer service,” Nadella told a conference call.

Microsoft shares dipped some 2.5 percent in after-hours trade on the results, which were largely ahead of forecasts.

Its shares have been trading at near record levels amid a surge of some 50 percent since March, giving it a market value of more than $1.6 trillion.

Revenue from Microsoft’s “intelligent cloud” division which includes its Azure enterprise business rose 17 percent to $13.4 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter.

In the personal computing segment including the Windows operating system, revenues were up 14 percent to $12.9 billion.

Within that segment, Xbox gaming service revenues rose 65 percent and sales for its Surface devices were up 28 percent.

Xbox hardware revenue increased 49 percent, as Microsoft boosted the number of consoles sold even with a newer version expected later this year.

“This was a breakthrough quarter for gaming,” Nadella said.

“We saw record engagement and monetization… as people everywhere turned to gaming to connect, socialize and play.”

Microsoft saw a more modest six percent revenue rise in its productivity and business operations which include the Office software suite and LinkedIn.

Daniel Ives at Wedbush Securities called the Microsoft results “robust,” led by its cloud computing that benefits from the work-from-home trend.

“This current remote work from home environment is further catalyzing more enterprises to make the strategic cloud shift with Microsoft the main beneficiary as evidenced by the solid results this evening,” Ives said.

Earlier Wednesday, the workplace messaging platform Slack filed an EU antitrust complaint against Microsoft, alleging that the integration of the “Teams” service into the Office software suit represented unfair competition.

Microsoft said Teams was growing because it offers video, which Slack does not.

 

 

-AFP

Free Xbox Gold Upsets Chinese Gamers

 XboxMicrosoft has announced that it will offer Gold Xbox Live service for free in China.

The news, however, disappointed some console owners who believe a subscription would enable them to access more content.

The BBC reports that China’s Xbox Gold service is very limited compared with other markets in order to comply with the country’s strict censorship laws.

The free trial was supposed to have ended this week.

China is the only country which has access to a regionally locked-down version of the free online Gold service.

Regular membership in most countries includes: Online multiplayer functions, free online games and discounts on others.

Online games still require government’s approval before they can be launched in China, which means that many are unavailable.

 

Microsoft Xbox One To Launch In China On September 23

xboxMicrosoft Corp will launch its Xbox One gaming console in China on September 23, making it the first foreign company to start selling consoles in the world’s third-biggest gaming market after a ban on the devices was lifted this year.

The Head of Marketing and Strategy for Microsoft’s Xbox group, Yusuf Mehdi, announced the launch date at an event in Shanghai. The console will cost 3,699 yuan ($600) without the Kinect motion detection system and 4,299 yuan ($700) with Kinect.

In the United States, the Xbox One with Kinect costs $499 and without it is $399, a difference of more than $200 compared with the respective prices in China.

In September 2013, Microsoft reached a deal with Chinese internet TV set-top box maker BesTV New Media Co Ltd to form a joint venture to manufacture the consoles in Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone.

A Senior Vice-President at Shanghai Media Group, the parent of BesTV New Media, Zhang Dazhong, said at the event that the Xbox launch had been approved by the government.

Microsoft is forging ahead with the launch despite Tuesday’s government announcement that the U.S. software giant is the subject of an anti-monopoly investigation.

China is the world’s third-biggest gaming market, where revenues grew by more than a third from 2012 to nearly $14 billion last year, but piracy and the dominance of PC and mobile gaming may leave little room for legitimate console and game sales.

This year, the government lifted a 2000 ban on gaming consoles.

Microsoft Did Not Violate Google Patent: ITC Judge

Microsoft Corp did not violate a patent owned by Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility when it made its popular Xbox, an administrative law judge at the International Trade Commission said in a preliminary decision issued on Friday.

A final ITC decision in the case is due in July.

The fight over the Xbox video game console is related to the larger smartphone patent war between Apple, Microsoft and the mobile phone makers who use Google’s Android software, including its subsidiary Motorola Mobility.

Motorola Mobility accused Microsoft of infringing five patents when it filed its complaint in 2010. Four have been dropped.

One patent remains, according to the ITC docket for the case. That patent allows devices to communicate wirelessly over short distances.

If the ITC finds that a company infringes upon a patent, the infringing product can be barred from importation into the United States.

“We are pleased with the administrative law judge’s finding that Microsoft did not violate Motorola’s patent and are confident that this determination will be affirmed by the commission,” said David Howard, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, Microsoft, in an emailed statement.

Google said it was disappointed.

“We are disappointed with today’s determination and look forward to the full commission’s review,” said spokesman Matt Kallman in an emailed statement.

Tech companies have spent billions of dollars to buy patent portfolios that they can use defensively or offensively, and still more money litigating the cases around the world.

The long-running Xbox case has seen many twists and turns since it was filed in late 2010.

In April 2012, ITC Judge David Shaw said in a preliminary decision that Microsoft infringed four patents and did not infringe on a fifth.

But instead of deciding the case, as is usual, in June 2012, the trade panel sent the case back to the judge for reconsideration.

In January, following an antitrust settlement with federal regulators, Google asked a trade panel to drop two patents from the complaint because they were essential to a standard. These types of patents ensure interoperability and get special treatment.

Google had promised the Federal Trade Commission that it would no longer request sales bans based on the infringement of standard essential patents because they are supposed to be broadly licensed on fair and reasonable terms.

The FTC, U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office argue that companies should not request sales bans when filing infringement lawsuits based on patents that are essential to a standard in most cases. Standard essential patents ensure that devices are interoperable.

The ITC is a popular venue for patent lawsuits because it can bar the importation of infringing products and because it issues decisions relatively quickly.

Motorola Mobility filed related lawsuits against Microsoft in federal courts in Wisconsin and Washington. They are both stayed pending an ITC decision.

The case is at the International Trade Commission, No. 337-752.