Microsoft confirms Xbox Live integration on Windows 8

Microsoft has re-confirmed that the company’s Xbox Live service will be built into the next version of its desktop operating system. There are few details about the integration at this point, but according to a blog post by Microsoft’s Director of Programming for Xbox, Live Larry Hryb (also known as Major Nelson), this week at the BUILD 2011 conference they will be showing how easy it is for developers to integrate the service into Windows 8 applications.

“We are very excited about Xbox LIVE coming to Windows 8.  Xbox LIVE brings your games, music, movies, and TV shows to your favorite Microsoft and Windows devices.  Bringing Xbox LIVE to Windows 8 is part of our vision to bring you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, made easy,” wrote Hryb.

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Half of Netflix users connect via game consoles

It’s no secret that Web video is increasingly popular, but what are people watching, and how? Nielsen recently examined two of the more popular video-watching sites, Hulu and Netflix, and discovered a big difference in how and what its users were consuming.

When it comes to Netflix, many subscribers are taking advantage of the various Web-enabled devices that connect to the sevice. While 42 percent watch on their computer, others are connecting through the TV, especially via game consoles. Of the 12,000 people polled by Nielsen, 25 percent connected via the Nintendo Wii, 13 percent opted for the PlayStation 3, and 12 percent streamed through the Xbox. About 14 percent connect their computer to the TV.

About 11 percent had an Internet-connected Blu-ray player, while 6 percent had a Web-enabled TV. Fewer people opted for other connections, like the Roku Box (5 percent), a mobile phone (3 percent), the iPad (2 percent), Google TV (1 percent), and Apple TV (1 percent).

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Apple rolls out free case program for iPhone 4 owners

As promised last week, Apple Inc. today launched a free case program for iPhone 4 owners who are having reception problems with the popular new smartphone.

Apple set up a Web page and a specialized iPhone app that tells iPhone 4 owners how to get a free protective case known as a bumper, which encircles the metal antenna band that surrounds the iPhone 4’s outer edge.

The iPhone 4 Case Program applies to iPhone 4s bought before Sept. 30, and it requires iPhone 4 users to download a special application from Apple’s App Store to get a free case. In addition to enabling users to select rubber bumpers, the app also offers users a choice of several plastic cases from third-party vendors.

iPhone 4 owners must sign in with an Apple ID to get access to the case selection, and once a case or bumper has been chosen, the app no longer allows you to look at the cases. In other words, buyers must choose wisely, since it doesn’t looke like they’ll have a chance to change the order after they make a decision.

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Microsoft to sell Kinect at $150, also sell bundles

Microsoft Corp will sell its new Kinect motion-sensing gaming system for about $150 and also offer it in a package with the Xbox 360 videogame console when sales of the hands-free device start in November, the company said on Tuesday.

The price, omitted by Microsoft when it introduced Kinect at the E3 videogame conference in June, matches the pre-order price that retailers such as Best Buy, GameStop and Amazon.com posted online weeks ago.

Kinect sales start on November 4, and Microsoft is sure to aim its marketing message at the owners of the more than 40 million Xbox 360 models that have already been sold. The sensor will come with a family game called “Kinect Adventures.”

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Apple: 400 iTunes Accounts Hacked

Apple now admits 400 iTunes accounts were hacked and used by a Vietnamese developer, Thuat Nguyen, to push his iPhone apps to best seller status over the weekend. But here is the zinger; Apple is saying it was no big deal. Four hundred accounts equals 0.0003 percent of the over 150 million iTunes account holders, Apple points out.

The downplaying of the hack comes as little consolation to many who believed Apple’s walled garden would offer protection from rogue developers and hackers. After all, Apple runs a very tight ship when it comes to the App Store.

Reports emerged on Sunday that Nguyen gamed the App Store ratings in the Books category, by purchasing his own apps using hacked iTunes accounts. At one point, the developer’s apps occupied 42 of the top 50 apps sold in the Books section, and users reported purchases of up to $500 with their accounts.

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PlayStation Plus not a requirement for Hulu Plus – Report

In the past few weeks, Hulu’s incorporation with the PlayStation 3 has traveled from a unconfirmed report to a done deal. Particulars have slowly scampered out from the recesses of the deal, but today, the streaming media giant confirmed that Hulu Plus will not require a subscription to PlayStation Plus to enjoy the smorgasbord of content.

Last week, Hulu’s Web site indicated that a subscription to the PlayStation Network’s new premium service would be required to access Hulu’s $10-a-month on-demand TV show streaming service through the PS3. However, gaming blog Joystiq is reporting that Hulu is sending e-mails to its Hulu Plus constituents saying “the PlayStation Plus service is only a requirement during the service’s preview period.”

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Sony To Upgrade PS3 Slim With New Hard Disk

Japanese electronics giant Sony will release new versions of its flagship gaming console, the PS3, in Japan later this month with a white version and new hard disk capacities making the headlines.

120GB and 250GB models will be discontinued and replaced by 160GB and 320GB models respectively. The smaller model will cost around 30,000 yen while the bigger one adds 5,000 yen.

The console will also come with an optional terrestrial digital recorder pack, which brings PVR capabilities to the gaming console.

Sony has yet to say when the gaming console will be released in other territories. Some observers have expressed concerns over the rise in the suggested retail price of the consoles, which goes up to $341 and $398 respectively.

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Hulu Plus Subscription Service Streams TV for $9.99 a Month

Hulu launched a preview of a new $9.99-a-month subscription service called Hulu Plus that streams TV content to Web-connected TVs and devices including the iPhone and iPad. The service supports 720p high-definition streaming, and will work across computers, TVs, mobile phones, and tablets.

Users can sign-up for a invitation to the Hulu Plus subscription preview at www.hulu.com/plus; the company has not said when to expect the service to go live in wide release, beyond a vague reference to it happening “in the coming months”. If you don’t get an invite, you can still try the service out using a limited number of free episodes and clips.

The appeal of Hulu, of course, is its wide selection of television content from major television production studios, broadcasters, and independent content creators. After more than two years on the Web, Hulu has grown its library and its usability dramatically since we first reviewed the site in a quest to find The Best TV on the Web. Now, Hulu aggregates content from 100 providers, including networks ABC, FOX, and NBC. The service is jointly owned by NBC Universal and The Walt Disney Company, among others.

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Apple Tells Users to Hold iPhone Differently to Fix Reception

Apple Inc. responded to complaints about reception on its new iPhone by telling customers they should hold the device differently.

“Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas,” Apple said today in an e-mailed statement. “If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.”

Yesterday’s introduction of the iPhone 4 was marred by criticism that signal strength diminishes when users cover the bottom left corner of the phone with their palm. The iPhone, introduced in 2007, has become Apple’s top-selling product even after users reported glitches and dropped calls with previous versions of the device.

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Microsoft Announces Family Subscription Plan for Xbox Live

At this year’s E3, Microsoft set forth its plans to transform the Xbox 360 from a hardcore game-oriented platform into something family based with the Nov. 2 release of Kinect, and now, have created a new Xbox Live plan that better exemplifies the new approach to family gaming. For $99.99, 360 owners can purchase a Family Subscription, which gives four gamertags on the same 360 a year’s worth of Xbox Live Gold for the price of two.

The plan, which launches in November alongside Kinect, gives Mom, Dad, and the kids a year of Live each, which erases the need for guest accounts or gamertag sharing. Also added are new features such as the ability for the primary account to purchase and give Microsoft Points to other accounts, family-exclusive content, and the Family Center, Plus, you’ll be able to take a team of four into your favorite multiplayer game, as after all, the family that frags together, stays together.

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