Microsoft announces improvements to Xbox Live


Microsoft today announced plans to extend the services offered on Xbox live, pushing the console even further from being a pure games machine to include movies too. There’s also plenty of content for existing games, and a gameshow.

Starting with the movies, Microsoft has done a deal with NBC Universal, which means that a limited selection of films will be offered for people to buy using Microsoft points, in both standard and high definition. Average price is £3 – £5, depending on which format you want, and how new the film is.

Then there’s a selection of bonus content for a variety of games. More content for Gears of War 2, Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3, Tomb Raider, Fable 2, Lips, Rock Band, Guitar Hero World Tour and Scene It will be available, all of which will be exclusive to the Xbox 360 platform.

Lastly, there’s going to be some sort of weird quiz show thing called 1 vs 100. Over to Microsoft to explain it: “a completely exclusive, completely interactive television quiz show game giving gamers the chance to compete against each other and win real prizes”. Is anyone even remotely excited about that?

Overall, it’s a decent upgrade to the system and a ‘thankyou’ to owners, but I don’t think it’s going to be selling any new consoles over this. Especially when the company is banning people who identify themselves as a lesbian.

Amazon makes a terabyte of public data available on its servers


Amazon’s got quite a bit of spare server capacity. In its goal to become the world’s top online retailer, it bought so many servers that it’s now also running a cloud computing business on the side that’s actually rather cheap.

Last night, Amazon announced on its Amazon Web Services blog that it would be making a terabyte of public data available to its cloud computing users, for them to do whatever they like with.

The data includes stats from the US bureau of transportation , an *entire* dump of Wikipedia, the DBPedia knowledgebase (which includes info on 2.6 million people, places, films, albums and companies) and all publicly available DNA sequences, including the entire human genome.

There’s also a bunch of other stuff, and it’s all being made available at lightning-fast speed in machine-readable databases to Amazon’s cloud computing customers. It’ll take a while for the internet to really get to grips with this stuff and use it, but anything that’s about freeing up data and information is wholly supported around here. Three cheers for Amazon.

What would you do with the data? Work out why your trains are always late? Work out how many degrees of link separation a random Wikipedia article has to another? Use the human genome to create a clone army and take over the world? Share your ideas in the comments, and make me your second-in-command as world leader.

Amazon Blog (via ReadWriteWeb)

Twit4Hire – a company who'll Twitter on your behalf, for cash


I can understand people not having the time to update a blog. To grow a blog properly it needs time, effort and careful feeding of the community. A Twitter account, on the other hand, requires considerably less effort – 140 characters, perhaps twice a day? Well, if even that’s too much for you or your business, then Twit4Hire is the company for you.

It’s targeting business who want to “get on the Twitter” but haven’t got a clue how to go about it. Or they might have a clue, but can’t spare the resources. Either way, Twit4Hire will sit there and chat to legions of followers about nothing your business on your behalf.

I’m not sure I could recommend employing Twit4Hire. Do it yourself. For top tips on how best to use Twitter for marketing and PR, visit this handy site, instead.

Twit4Hire (via TechRadar)

Related posts: Tweetminster lets you follow your MP on Twitter | Twadio – silent radio station launches on Twitter

Microsoft to announce MobileMe competitor


Next month at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft will be announcing three new web services, which will rival Apple’s MobileMe ‘cloud’ services. First in the list is “SkyMarket”, which we’ve posted about before.

Then there’s “SkyBox”, which will allow syncing of data into the cloud. There’ll be automatic backup and restore services, remote access and management of phone data and easy communication and sharing with others. There’ll be syncing of contacts, email/SMS, calendar items and pictures into the cloud. Most interestingly, Microsoft could be planning to offer this to non-Windows-Mobile phones.

Lastly, there’s “SkyLine”, which will be the enterprise version of SkyBox, targeted at small businesses. They’ll be able to setup their phones with Microsoft’s Exchange hosting with their own domain names. I should note that all these are codenames, so it’s highly likely that they’ll be called Windows Live Somethingorother when they finally get announced.

(via Neowin)

Related posts: Microsoft to launch “Skymarket” for Windows Mobile 7 | Ballmer: Zune to show up on Windows Mobile, Android/Apple bashing

NOISE GATE: Why music subscription services will eventually work


This is the second installment of Noisegate, my weekly column on digital music. If you’re interested, then you can find last week’s, as well as future weeks’ columns right here.

This week I’m going to talk about subscription services and mobile phones. With the launch of Nokia’s “Comes with Music” expected this Thursday, and Sony Ericsson’s “PlayNow” service expected soon, too, I thought now would be a good time to muse on whether subscription services will ever really work in the long term.

UK broadband prices at all-time low, levelling off

broadbandmodem.jpgAccording to the latest survey by price comparison website has found that average broadband prices have dropped by over one-third in four years. However, that’s your lot, apparently.

The bods at uSwitch reckon that no-one should now be paying more than £20 per month for standalone broadband. However, it can still be quite confusing to work out exactly what you’re getting when signing up for a service, particularly as some require a BT line, some come with other bundled services, others give you money off if you subscribe to other services, and they all seem to claim different “top speeds” and “fair usage” policies.