The cat is finally out of what was looking like a pretty transparent bag. Microsoft’s other next-gen console, the Xbox Series S is now public knowledge. The computing giant has revealed both the design and price of the Series S after some early leaks on social media today.
👀 Let’s make it official!
Xbox Series S | Next-gen performance in the ˢᵐᵃˡˡᵉˢᵗ Xbox ever. $299 (ERP).
Looking forward to sharing more! Soon. Promise. pic.twitter.com/8wIEpLPVEq
— Xbox (@Xbox) September 8, 2020
As expected, the Xbox Series S is smaller than its full-fat sibling. Not only that, according to Microsoft itself, it’s the smallest ever Xbox console. Indeed the design looks pretty much like someone’s taken a water jet cutter to the Series X, and cut it in half vertically.
From this single very early image, the XSS looks — as expected — like a fully digital machine, with no disc drive. That aside, the Series S looks pretty similar to the Series X, just half the size. There is a curious break from the otherwise uncluttered design of the XSX, with the XSS sporting a large, circular panel to make the console almost look like a Bluetooth speaker; it appears to be a vent, perhaps replacing the bottom vent of the Series X.
The color choice is interesting too. While the basic versions of both Xbox One and One X, and the Series X too, were all black, the Series S is, like the original Xbox One S, largely white with contrasting black areas. That’s also the color scheme Sony has chosen for the first models of the PlayStation 5. The One S was also the previous smallest ever Xbox console.
That aside, we don’t have much concrete information on the Series S. If we go on the “Lockhart” rumors from back in 2019, the Series S will be technologically almost identical to the Series X, but with the power dialed back. Various sources suggest a 4TFLOPS GPU, and less RAM than the X, but with the same CPU, SSD, and Xbox Velocity Architecture.
Microsoft has also taken the first step to next-gen console pricing too. As well as revealing what the console will look like, it’s also confirmed the pricing: $299 in the USA, and £250 in the UK. European market prices aren’t yet confirmed at time of writing, but figure on something in the region of €299.
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Why a dedicated Zoom device makes sense – USA TODAY
| USA TODAY
In the beginning of the week, Microsoft announced something that, at first blush, sounds so cool, until you start to break it down.
A dedicated video device for Teams meetings, a whopping 85 inches for display in a conference room or hospital corridor, so large everyone could see it, and be seen.
No longer would we have to fiddle around with the laptop or phone. Just gather in front of the TV and click the touchscreen.
But at a price tag of $21,999, gosh, that’s just a little bit north of our budgets, wouldn’t you say?
So you’ve got to love Amazon’s answer, which came later in the week. A dedicated 10-inch unit, for $250, the Echo Show 10, which lets you go through Alexa to connect to Zoom, Skype or Alexa-to-Alexa direct calls.
Again, no fiddling. This time, just use Alexa, your Zoom calendar and voice computing to connect.
Or better yet, plug a webcam to the TV via the $119 Fire TV Cube device and do it on the big screen TV of your choice. Maybe not 85 inches, but many of us have good 50 to 60 inches or larger in the living room. If not, Best Buy would be happy to sell you a 50-inch TCL, Samsung or Amazon-branded Toshiba TV in the $300 range.
The Amazon solutions are both listed as coming soon, but if you have a Facebook Portal video chat device, you can use the dedicated unit to connect now to Zoom. The update started rolling out Friday.
The Portals start at $129, and are available in three sizes: with 8-inch, 10-inch or 15.6-inch screens. An edition that connects to the TV, Portal TV, is not supported for the Zoom calls.
The smart displays were originally marketed as places for video chat first, then using the video screen to look up recipes on YouTube, operate your smart home and best of all, as economical and easy to mount digital photo frames.
Those features are still sound, but add in the dedicated Zoom device, and the kids who are stuck at home taking school on their laptops can have one unit just displaying the teacher and lessons. This would leave the students hands freer for schoolwork and notetaking on the laptop.
For those who are taking meetings all day, the same issue applies. Isn’t it hard to take notes when your laptop screen is filled with speaker video windows? Plus, this way, you wouldn’t have to worry about webcam placement. After all, it’s best to be at eye level, which most people ignore, and not have the webcam looking up at their chins and noses. That requires stacking the laptop atop a bunch of books, which gives you a better look, but makes it really hard to type.
So the savvy speaker or student would have to constantly move the books around. That dedicated device on the desk would solve the issue, living atop the books that could just stay there and not have to be moved around.
Meanwhile, that’s not all folks. On Wednesday, Google holds its annual fall hardware product event, where it’s expected to unveil a new top of the line smartphone, the Pixel 5, an updated streaming device, Chromecast and a new take on the Nest Home Hub video display unit.
Last year’s Nest didn’t work with Zoom or initially with Google’s Meet, the video chat service Google heavily touts as a Zoom alternative. (It does now, but setup is highly convoluted. You ask Google to set up a meeting, then need to click the touchscreen to confirm. Google generates a code to send to your guests, which it sends to your phone, via the Assistant app. You open your phone, copy the invite, and text or e-mail the invite. Got that?)
Meanwhile, Google has already said it will begin accepting calls from Zoom on Nest Hubs before the end of the year, so expect more action and hopefully improved usability.
Finally, we began this edition by talking about that crazy Microsoft TV/PC.
What if you want to put Zoom calls on your TV now, without having to wait for Amazon’s Fire TV Cube update?
TVs with built-in webcams are rare, and besides, how would you connect to Zoom without a computer?
To get Zoom on the TV, all you need is a laptop, an HDMI cable, adapter to plug it into your laptop and webcam, and you’re in business.
Connect the HDMI cable from the TV to laptop, plug in the webcam and position it well (so it doesn’t look up your nose) change your HDMI settings on the TV to bring in the laptop, and you’ve got a Zoom call on the big screen. You’ll just need to operate it from your laptop. Without spending $21,199!
Questions about any of this? Just look for me on Twitter, where I’m @jeffersongraham.
In other tech news this week
ICYMI, Amazon announced 13 new products, including a redesigned Echo and Echo Dot speakers, which no longer resemble coffee cans but instead are now spherical, more powerful Fire TV Sticks (to help your programs load faster) and some wild stuff. There’s the indoor security drone from Ring that flies around your home automatically checking on things when you’re not at home (so Amazon claims), and security cameras for the car. The Fire TV products will be the first to come market, Wednesday, while Amazon says we’ll see the new Echo devices in October and November. The Ring products won’t be out until 2021. Amazon also announced a new gaming service, Luna, which is invite only. Amazon will start selecting players in October.
APPLE: Spotify and the makers of Fortnite and Tinder are taking on Apple and Google as part of a newly formed coalition calling for “fair treatment” in the way the tech giant runs its app store. The Coalition for App Fairness, a Washington-based nonprofit, will advocate for legal and regulatory changes, such as measures that could block Apple and Google from favoring their own apps in the iPhone and Android operating systems they control.
FACEBOOK: Warning of an urgent threat to democracy, civil rights activists say they’ve formed an independent Facebook oversight board to scrutinize the role the social media giant is playing in the 2020 election. The “Real Facebook Oversight Board” is an initiative from Citizens, a new nonprofit created to hold big tech accountable. It has start-up funding from Luminate, which is backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s foundation The Omidyar Group.
This week’s Talking Tech podcasts
Crazy things people connect to corporate Wi-Fi networks. Ryan Olson, VP of Threat Intelligence at Palo Alto Networks joins to tell us.
The one new Amazon device we really want to own. Bret Kinsella from Voicebot.ai joins to compare notes.
The New War Against Developers: Google Is Also Enforcing Its In-App Purchasing Rules – Forbes
Bloomberg reports that Google will reemphasize its in-app purchase policy with developers who list their apps on the Play Store. Google currently mandates that all services with in-app purchases use the Google Play Store’s billing services, a process which allows Google to keep about 30% of the revenue.
Google’s policy has been the same for years, but the company will reinforce it, as many developers are not following Google’s requirements. The reinforcement is not a welcome sign to developers, who are also fighting against Apple’s recent reinforcement of in-app purchasing rules.
A group of popular smartphone app publishers, including Spotify, Epic Games and Basecamp, have announced the creation of the “Coalition for App Fairness,” which hopes to more fair arrangements between app stores and publishers.
Bloomberg reported that Netflix, Spotify and Epic Games have been bypassing Google’s rules and have avoided paying Google fees. Currently, high-profile apps avoid fees by mandating that users sign up for services (and pay) through the app’s website, which avoids the need for in-app purchases.
The risk for Google is that Android’s open nature allows users to download third-party apps with relative ease, when compared to Apple’s closed app ecosystem. In fact, on some Android devices, there may be a third-party app store, operating completely without the guidance of Google. Some app developers may find a way to popularize a third-party app marketplace that can be loaded onto Android that may provide more fair terms for developers.
Apple’s Battle Royale With Epic Games About to Start for Real – Bloomberg
The legal fight between Apple Inc. and Epic Games Inc. kicks into full gear on Monday with decisions that will influence the future of app stores in the U.S. and how the world’s largest technology platforms make money from developers.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers will decide whether to force Apple to let battle royale video game Fortnite back into the App Store with Epic’s in-house payment option. She will also rule if Apple can block third-party apps using Epic’s Unreal Engine development software.
Most legal experts expect the judge to extend her temporary injunction for Unreal Engine, but not reinstate Fortnite in the Apple App Store.
“Epic faces an uphill battle,” said Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School. “Apple’s pricing policies are problematic, and antitrust law should probably do something about it. But courts are very reluctant to dictate who a company, even a monopolist, has to do business with.”
The decisions will have far-reaching consequences especially as authorities across the globe examine whether tech giants including Apple and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have broken antitrust rules. On Monday, the judge will consider if Epic is likely to succeed on the merits of its antitrust claims and whether the company will suffer irreparable harm if she doesn’t issue an injunction.
At stake is Apple and Google’s ability to charge fees of up to 30% to developers using their app stores. Consumers spent $50 billion worldwide on the App Store and Google Play in the first half of 2020, according to Sensor Tower estimates. That generates billions of dollars in highly profitable revenue for the companies. Some developers deride this an unfair and unwarranted tax. Epic and its Founder Tim Sweeney have led the backlash this year.
Google may change its policies if the Fortnite case ends up favoring Apple, said Lewis Ward, an analyst at researcher IDC. No matter the outcome, Epic has gained a lot of goodwill among gamers and other developers.
“In the larger court of public opinion, in the U.S., my sense is that Epic is generally viewed as the good guy here, and Apple is viewed as the bad guy,” Ward said.
“It has raised the profile of Epic from an already well-respected game company to one that has a philosophy or a vision of where the games industry should go over time,” Ward added. “That vision is one that is more aligned with how the internet began, which was open and free and cheap.”
The impact on Epic’s business so far has been “fairly negligible,” said Doug Clinton, co-founder at Loup ventures — tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. While players can no longer download Fortnite on their Apple devices, many of them have simply shifted their playing to consoles and PCs. Fortnite climbed SuperData’s rankings of top-grossing titles among console games in August, reaching third place. It ranked sixth in July, before the legal spat between Epic and Apple began.
Financially, Apple doesn’t have much to lose by kicking Fortnite out. The company has taken in about $350 million in revenue from Fortnite since the game launched on the iPhone in 2018, according to Sensor Tower data. Apple pulled in sales of more than $250 billion in its latest fiscal year.
If the court forces Apple to keep distributing Unreal Engine, that could be positive for the iPhone maker. The decision would let other games that use the tools continue distributing their software via Apple’s platform, resulting in a 30% cut for each sale or in-app purchase. However, Apple argues that the continued distribution of Unreal Engine by what it considers to be a rogue developer could harm consumer security.
There are broader risks for Apple from the case, though. If Epic continues to paint Apple as the bad guy to younger iPhone and iPad owners who play Fortnite, that could twist the perception of these users toward Apple as a whole. If Epic wins key decisions, that would make it more difficult for Apple to impose its App Store payment system on other developers, curbing a high-margin source of revenue.
The lawsuit might also spur Apple to continue tweaking its store. While the company isn’t budging on its 30% cut, it has loosened some restrictions recently, letting a small handful of apps avoid the fee.
Why a dedicated Zoom device makes sense – USA TODAY
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