The so-called store-within-a-store at Best Buy will offer Windows-based tablets and PCs, phones, Microsoft Office software, and Xbox consoles, the companies said today. Between this month and September the retail chain plans to allocate as much as 2,200 square …
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
Sony’s big annual pre-E3 media briefing Monday night set up a potentially brutal price competition with Microsoft’s next-gen game console this holiday season, with the PlayStation 4 costing $100 less than the Xbox One. As predicted, Sony also touted more of the PS4’s entertainment capabilities than it did in an initial unveiling event in February, even inviting Sony Entertainment Chairman Michael Lynton onstage for the first time. Lynton promised enhanced video and music programming on the PlayStation Network online service, with content tailored for gamer interests.
“Sony Pictures will do everything in our power to drive the success of the PlayStation 4 by developing programming with gamers in mind and providing access to incredible content,” Lynton said. The Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited services will launch the same day as the PS4. Sony also will add the Flixster online movie service to the PlayStation Network later this year, joining apps there for such streaming services as Netflix and Hulu.
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
It’s a huge question for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, which opens Tuesday after the Big Three makers of game consoles – Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo – each do their annual pre-show media extravaganzas by turns beginning Monday morning. Disney will unveil games tonight based on its movies The Lone Ranger and Monsters University, though it’s possible they may also talk about games based on their Marvel and Star Wars movie franchises, especially after recently laying off many of LucasArts game designers. Other big game publishers will also unveil titles in pre-show events Monday afternoon.
All the hoopla comprises something of a return to the game industry’s heyday, say 10 years ago, when the expo was a noisy, massive, overwhelming beast that consumed the Los Angeles Convention Center for a week. It attracted tens of thousands of media and industry insiders, who faced something of a death march through game company “booths” costing millions of dollars, with dozens of often outlandishly attired staffers, followed by evening parties for 10,000 people featuring performers such as Beck and India.Arie.
EXCLUSIVE 10 AM… UPDATEd 12:30 PM : Deadline has learned the meetings were an intimate preview of the new Xbox One capabilities before next week’s E3 confab where secretive Microsoft will unveil details of the device’s technology. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was escorted by his entertainment studios president Nancy Tellem for the visit late last week to lobby her closest Hollywood pals: her former boss CBS chief Les Moonves, Sony TV boss Steve Mosko, and WME co-CEOS Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. It’s all part of Ballmer’s effort to drum up exclusive content after Microsoft intends to launch 40+ new voice-controlled customized TV and entertainment apps on Xbox One. But it was also more, one insider tells Deadline, “to reiterate Microsoft’s commitment to transitioning its business to devices and services and to explaining that Hollywood entertainment is a big part of that. Microsoft in the past has just dipped a toe but now has a real commitment.” Tellem wanted to give Ballmer 3 different perspective: the broadcaster, the independent producer, and the agent. Deadline has learned that Ballmer touted “what we could do with” the Xbox One in sports, music, reality and scripted programming, promising execs that they’d see more sophisticated technology and that his company “doesn’t want to be a cable channel”. He also met Tellem’s Santa Monica team for the first time and outlined his vision for a new Xbox One world. Ballmer’s trip to Hollywood will only anger more hard-core gamers who already were miffed by Microsoft’s focus on entertainment when it unveiled the product on May 21. (Xbox One will be on store shelves later this year). The hard-core gamers fear Microsoft sees its new Xbox One more as a souped-up Internet-connected, voice- and motion-controlled cable box than a next-gen gaming console.
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor
Microsoft finally unveiled the Xbox One, its next-generation successor to the Xbox 360 game console, with an impressive demonstration of a voice- and gesture-controlled device focused more on integrating and controlling all kinds of entertainment and social capabilities far beyond just playing videogames. The #XboxReveal event at Microsoft’s Seattle-area campus included the announcement by Xbox Entertainment Studios President Nancy Tellem that Steven Spielberg will create a new live-action TV show based on the “Halo” game franchise. In a video, Spielberg, a longtime game fan who also oversaw the launch of the DreamWorks Interactive game studio in the 1990s, briefly said “the Halo universe is an amazing opportunity to be at an intersection where technology and myth-making converge.”
In a first of its kind move, Europe’s antitrust regulators on Wednesday levied a fine against Microsoft for breaking a settlement agreement. The $732M sanction against the tech giant came after the competition authority was tipped off that Microsoft had failed to comply with an earlier promise to provide buyers of new computers in Europe the option to opt out of its built-in Internet Explorer browser. Among the companies that first complained to the EU about Microsoft’s non-complicance was arch-rival Google, The Financial Times reported. The EU’s hard line against Microsoft is seen as a warning shot that it is serious about enforcing other antitrust settlements. And, since Google is involved in its own negotiations with European regulators over their concerns about how it runs its search and advertising business, the precedent-setting Microsoft settlement could come back to haunt it.
“It’s important for the Commission to show it’s serious in this case because this will set a precedent, and because the commission increasingly uses settlements to help reach solutions more quickly, especially in the fast-moving technology sector,” Nicolas Petit, a professor of competition law and economics at the University of Liège, told The New York Times. According to the FT, Joaquín Almunia, the European Union competition commissioner, made an indirect reference to the talks with Google when he said he’d asked his staff “to be extremely careful about how we design the monitoring and compliance” provisions of antitrust pacts.
Nancy Tellem has always been a pioneer, first as a woman in the traditional TV entertainment biz and then as #2 to Les Moonves at CBS Inc. When she transitioned to a consulting role in January 2010, Tellem indulged her passion for the digital world full-time. Meetings with Microsoft to discuss CBS/CW evolved until June 2012 when, after three months of negotiations, Microsoft announced her appointment as Entertainment & Digital Media president. Now she’s expanding her turf while Microsoft expands its entertainment footprint. At the ’D: Dive Into Media’ industry event late Monday, she spilled about her vision for entertainment on Xbox and about her new Los Angeles-based Xbox Entertainment Studios. But Microsoft and innovation do not go hand in hand: it’s been a digital slowpoke from the beginning and now can’t even make a decent computer operating system. Not only is Windows 8 a bomb, but its brand new Surface tablet is a bust. Which leads us to successful Xbox.
Tellem said that, during 2013, Microsoft is planning to launch more than 40 new voice-controlled customized TV and entertainment apps on Xbox. “We want to partner with the Industry to bring entertainment into a new era,” she told the panel. “It’s an era when interactive entertainment becomes the greatest form of all entertainment – and we couldn’t be more excited to play a part in it.”
Microsoft is one of the most secretive companies in the world. So it’s news that Yusuf Mehdi, corporate VP of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, on Monday night released new data about entertainment usage on Xbox and how it’s “exploded”. He claims there are now more than 76 million Xbox 360 consoles around the world — or 3 times the number of original Xbox consoles sold. In 2012, the amount of TV and other entertainment offerings on Xbox almost tripled, Mehdi claims, now surpassing 100 custom voice-controlled TV and entertainment apps on Xbox LIVE. “Yes, we started with video games, but we have been on a journey to make Xbox the center of every household’s entertainment.” Here’s more, according to a Microsoft news release about Mehdi’s talk at the ‘D: Dive Into Media’ conference:
Living room entertainment is in its largest evolutionary period since the transitions of black-and-white to color, and from standard definition to high definition. The Xbox 360, alongside Microsoft’s entertainment industry partners, is at the forefront of that evolution as one of the only devices that brings all forms of entertainment together in one device, while making access to content easy and providing new ways to interact with existing programming.
Social has been an important part of Xbox from the beginning, and that’s true today more than ever. The Xbox LIVE community has grown to 46 million members, a 15% growth since last year.
2012 also marked the Xbox’s biggest year for entertainment and games usage. Users enjoyed more than 18 billion hours of entertainment in 2012, with entertainment app usage growing 57% year over year globally. Last year in the United States, Xbox LIVE Gold members averaged 87 hours per month on Xbox, an increase of 10% year over year.
Shares are down about 1.4% in post-market trading following the release, which shows a decline in revenues for the Entertainment and Devices Division which includes the Xbox. Microsoft ended its fiscal Q2 with net income of $6.38B, -3.7% vs …
Talk about scratching the Surface. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer inadvertently dinged his company’s launch campaign for its Surface tablet by telling France’s Le Parisian in an interview that sales are “starting modestly.” To be fair, he added that critics’ response to the device was “phenomenal” — and that initial sales were limited because the tablet is still just available online and at a few stores. Still, his tempered comment, along with his refusal to project potential sales, contributed to a 2% drop in Microsoft’s stock price this afternoon. The company has a lot riding on the tablet, which includes Microsoft Office programs and can be paired with a keyboard cover to function like a conventional laptop computer. Strong sales “would come as a positive surprise to investors and demonstrate [Microsoft's] relevance in this important market,” Cowen & Co analyst Gregg Moskowitz says today.
Tellem will oversee the launch of a newly created production studio in Los Angeles that will develop interactive and linear content for Xbox and other devices. In addition to running the production studio, she will help spearhead the company’s efforts to turn Xbox into a leading entertainment platform. She will report to Phil Spencer, corporate VP, Microsoft Studios. “The Xbox is already a consumer favorite, and we now have a tremendous opportunity to transform it into the center of all things entertainment — from games, music and fitness to news, sports, live events, television series and movies — so consumers have one destination for all their entertainment needs,” Tellem said. “I look forward to building a studio team that embraces the challenges of creating true interactive content that the Xbox platform supports and to work with talent to create content that will change the way entertainment content is experienced and delivered.”
BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) can use some encouraging news as it loses market share to Apple, Android, and Windows-powered smartphones, and today’s patent licensing deal with Microsoft seems to provide some. The software giant gave RIM the right to use its Extended File Allocation Table that the companies say will make it easier for some BlackBerry devices to transfer “large files for audiovisual media” and facilitate data exchanges between PCs and other devices. The system, called “exFAT,” enables flash memory devices to handle five times more data than they could under Microsoft’s previous “FAT” protocol. “Today’s smartphones and tablets require the capacity to display richer images and data than traditional cellular phones,” Microsoft’s GM of Intellectual Property Licensing David Kaefer says. “This agreement with RIM highlights how a modern file system, such as exFAT can help directly address the specific needs of customers in the mobile industry.” RIM shares popped more than 3% after the mid-day announcement, but retreated shortly afterward to about +2%.
The latest report should carry an asterisk. The formal results show this to be the first quarter in which Microsoft recorded a net loss — due to the previously announced $6.2B writedown of ad sales operation aQuantive, as well …
Programs including PowerPoint, Outlook, Word, Excel, and OneNote aren’t sexy. But since Office is, for better or worse, the de facto standard for business, the update unveiled today is sure to attract a lot of attention. It’s “the most ambitious release of Microsoft Office that we’ve ever done,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says. While he didn’t mention Google Apps — the free, rival collection of writing, presentation, spreadsheet, social networking, and communications services already based in the cloud — they were clearly in Microsoft’s sights. There’s something else he didn’t mention: price and availability for the three versions (Office 365 Home Premium, Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 ProPlus). They’ll be disclosed in the fall. “We have a lot of work to do to get the cost down,” Ballmer says, but he says the applications work together in a way that is “magical.”