Phil Spencer Promises Windows Store Launches Will Improve

Microsoft’s attitude towards PC gaming has dramatically shifted in the past few months and they’ve become more open to releasing console exclusives on the platform. The company’s Universal Windows Platform is designed to reduce barriers and allow consumers to play against each other without restrictions. Arguably, Microsoft is doing this to help with Windows 10’s adoption rate and cater to an additional player base after experiencing poor sales on the Xbox One compared to its nearest competitor. In the past, Microsoft has taken the PC market for granted which explains their abysmal reputation among this particular demographic.

Games for Windows Live is the perfect example of Microsoft’s tomfoolery which angered a great number of people. This was one of the worst forms of DRM ever created and it’s the main reason why PC gamers have such a cynical attitude. On another note, promises have been made on a number of occasions about taking the platform seriously but these never came to fruition. Thankfully, Phil Spencer’s appointment has helped the company’s regain its gaming focus and communicate with fans in a much better manner.

Despite this, the UWP’s launch has been far from ideal and featured a number of bizarre omissions including mod support, VSync off, ability to use frame-rate monitoring software and much more! Also, major titles including Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and Quantum Break run quite poorly. Even though the hitching issues in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition were resolved, it’s still not the kind of optimization I’d expect. Additionally, the PC release of Quantum Break is marred by terrible optimization which means users with a high-resolution monitor cannot acquire an acceptable frame-rate. Remedy might not even be able to fix some of these problems because they are to do with the game’s engine.

Clearly, UWP has had a rocky start and Phil Spencer admitted this when addressing a question on Twitter:

Phil Spencer also promised that future releases would improve:

Quantum Break Dev Investigating PC Version’s “Potential Issues”

Quantum Break was the catalyst which sparked Microsoft’s new plans to launch major Xbox One exclusives on their new Windows 10 store. The Universal Windows Platform is designed to bring PC gamers and console players together while offering an alternative to the Steam store. Unfortunately, the UWP’s launch has been pretty disastrous due to the lack of basic features including mod support, an uncapped frame-rate, ability to use frame-rate monitoring software and lots more! Thankfully, Microsoft acknowledged that it’s unacceptable and work needs to be done. However, why release it in such a state? Surely, that’s going to create a negative reputation and it would have been a better idea to delay the UWP’s release.

Not only that, the UWP games thus far have suffered from huge performance problems. For example, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on launch was full of hitching and became unplayable on AMD graphics cards. The latest title, Quantum Break is an absolutely breathtaking game but the PC version features an abysmal level of optimization. As a result, it’s ridiculous challenging to even obtain 30 frames-per-second using a 1920×1080 monitor with extreme hardware. Increasing the resolution to 2560×1440 and 4K exacerbates these issues even further.

In a post on the NeoGAF forums, Remedy Entertainment head of PR, Thomas Puha reassured fans opting for the Windows version and said:

“We are monitoring the discussion and what is going on. I had written a longer response, but it’s just gonna be misunderstood etc, so what I will say is that, rest assured, lot of work went into the Win10 version and we are looking at the reactions now as well as potential issues.”

Remedy are also working on a bug which covers the screen with intermittent blinking lights. Apparently, this will be fixed in the latest patch. I’m honestly really surprised by the technical ineptitude of Quantum Break considering Remedy’s reputation and love for the PC platform. To me it suggests one clear notion, that the PC version was rushed and approved at the last possible moment.

Not Logged into Windows Store? Quantum Break Thinks You’re a Pirate!

Quantum Break was recently launched on the PC, and even though some people are reporting horrible FPS issues even on high-end hardware, we’re not going to focus on the game’s performance right now but rather on its anti-piracy system. Apparently, the Quantum Break anti-piracy DRM automatically assumes that you are a pirate as long as you try to play the game without being logged into the Windows Store. The problem with this system is that users might sometimes lose connection to the Windows Store without any fault of their own, in which case the DRM could trigger even though they have legally purchased the game.

So what does this DRM do anyway? Well, it forces the game’s main character, Jack Joyce, to wear a pirate eye-patch, but we don’t know exactly if gameplay is actually affected in any way. Alan Wake featured a similar DRM, which was basically harmless, but other games such as Serious Sam 3 had systems installed that made the game unplayable for pirates. So there you have it: if you want to play Quantum Break on the PC without looking like an actual pirate, just make sure that you are logged into the Windows Store at all times.

Microsoft Promises to Fix Windows Store VSync Lock

Microsoft’s relationship with the PC gaming audience has been fairly turbulent due to the advent of Games for Windows Live and focus on console development. Many users are still haunted by Microsoft’s atrocious form of DRM, which resulted in lost saves, regional restrictions and a very basic accounts system. Furthermore, they never really showed any interest in the PC platform, and didn’t support it when there were concerns about its future. Thankfully, Valve stepped in and catapulted the popularity of PC games. There’s a certain irony though because Microsoft could be in Valve’s position if they catered to the PC community properly.

Thankfully, times have changed and Microsoft is adopting a more unified approach to mobile, PC and console. This means, the company is open to cross-platform releases and giving the PC key franchises which remained a console exclusive for some time. Admittedly, there’s still no Halo or Forza on the PC platform, but I cannot see an announcement being too far off. Instead of releasing their own games on Steam, Microsoft is pushing the Windows Store and trying to encourage people to upgrade to Windows 10. This makes sense because Valve takes a significant portion of a game’s revenue, simply for allowing a game to be sold on their service.

Sadly, the Windows Store has some major issues and Microsoft has to address them to even consider making PC gamers part with their hard-earned money. For example, a post on Reddit suggests there’s no SLI/Crossfire support, no modding support, no refund policy, and VSync is always on! Not only that, the game files are protected, monitoring software doesn’t work properly, and borderless full screen is your only option. Clearly, these are some very severe restrictions and concerning given Microsoft’s history with DRM.

Mike Ybarra, Partner Director of Program Management, Xbox and Windows Platform at Microsoft addressed some of these concerns and said:

Apparently, SLI/Crossfire is already functional, and depends on the developer. However, I encountered some problems with dual card setups on Rise of the Tomb Raider but only with the Windows Store version. I’m pleased to see the news that VSync will become optional because many people dislike the stutter it creates or use a G-Sync panel instead. Only time will tell if Microsoft creates an open PC platform, but it’s clear that the current store needs a lot of work.

Fable Legends is Not Coming to Steam

Lionhead Studios’ Social Media Coordinator, Lauran, has confirmed Fable Legends will be a Windows 10 store exclusive. Frankly, this is an absolutely atrocious idea, as Steam has a massive stranglehold on the PC market and any other digital delivery platform cannot realistically compete. To make matters worse, Lauran even hinted that this policy could apply to other Microsoft titles. Perhaps, this means Killer Instinct, Gears of War and future announcements will never release on Steam.

Phil Spencer’s leadership has been praised for discussing gaming on Windows and acknowledging past mistakes. Microsoft’s reputation in the PC Gaming sector is at rock bottom, due to Games For Windows Live and leaving the platform stagnant for years. Luckily, Valve helped to pick up the pieces and other services like GOG have helped PC Gaming flourish. Over the years, Microsoft promised to improve and focus on PC Gaming, but were rarely taken seriously as they consistently disappointed in the past. Now, they choose to limit their own games to a frankly niche platform and one which will likely result in terrible sales. Fable Legends is free-to-play but its success will rely on micropayments. Furthermore, how can Microsoft realistically expect people to pay $60 for a few digital games stuck on their service?

Consumers use Steam because of its convenience and want to keep all their games on 1 client. Additionally, it’s unknown what kind of DRM the Windows Store utilizes and if you can easily install games on a new PC. Microsoft needs to seriously re-assess their strategy and see PC Gaming as a viable source of revenue and not something which detracts from Xbox sales. The majority of Xbox users have no interest in PCs due to the technical knowledge required or price for enthusiast hardware.

I shouldn’t be surprised given Microsoft’s history, but it’s staggering to see them restricting a game’s core user-base just to push a very underused storefront. This situation is made even worse with free-to-play MMOs. As a result, Fable Legends community on PC could be fairly non-existent within a few months.

Microsoft To Change Activation System For Windows 9, No More Product Keys

Infamous Windows leaker WZOR has been at it again revealing more interesting details about the upcoming Windows 9 OS. Microsoft is set to overhaul the way Windows 9 is activated and will ditch the current product key system. In its place Microsoft will make having a store account with them compulsory, you will have to buy your license from the store and it will give you a generic ISO file to install your OS with. Once you install that ISO file your system will then be profiled (most likely motherboard related details) and then linked to your account and activated. To move to another machine you simply deactivate the install on the last system, redownload the generic ISO file and go through the online syncing process again. The concept will be applied to 3-user and 5-user family licenses as well as individual licenses.

Straight away there are obvious issues with the new method of activation. Firstly, you have to get a Microsoft store account, whether you want one or not because your activation is linked to your account. Secondly, you will need an internet connection to use your PC and install your OS, this may not sound like an issue for home users but for business users this could be a deal breaker: especially those on closed networks. Thirdly, motherboard upgrades will essentially break your system so you will have to reinstall your OS, annoying if you’re just making a same chipset family upgrade: such as Intel H81 to Z87 where a reinstall is not needed. Fourthly, if all licenses are sold via the Microsoft store then Microsoft are cutting retailers and resellers out of the operating system market: they can no longer sell licenses if they have to be acquired via the Microsoft store because there are no product keys to sell. In summary Microsoft are trying to force an “always-online” style of DRM onto the Windows OS, if this is the case, I don’t think it will go down very well at all. We saw a huge community retaliation against Microsoft’s attempt to make the Xbox One “always online”, I am sure we will see a similar thing within the desktop environment.

What are your thoughts on Microsoft’s new Windows activation system?

Source: BetaNews

Image courtesy of Caltech.edu

Beta Camera App Available To All Lumia Smartphones

Nokia has launched a beta trial for the new Nokia Camera app which is now available for all Windows Phone 8 smartphones. The difference between this new app and the default camera app is that the beta allegedly “brings together easy automatic settings, the sophisticated power of the Pro Camera app, and the versatility of the Smart Camera app”. It’s designed to work on all Windows Phone 8 Lumia smartphones, regardless of whether they are outfitted with a PureView camera or not.

If you want to try the beta on your Lumia 520, 521, 620, 625, 720, 810, 820, 822 or PureView phone, sign in with your Nokia account and download it from the Nokia Beta Labs website. The app requires you to have either the Lumia Amber or Lumia Black update and also you can install and use it in parallel with the default Nokia Camera app, and set it as your go-to camera when your press the shutter button.

Initially, the new Camera app will hardly be distinguishable from the existing Nokia Camera app, but this is a beta nonetheless. The first phase of the beta trial is intended to ensure the app works smoothly on Windows Phone 8 devices. Feedback is also requested for users that want to try the app, therefore if you are planning to use it, don’t forget to contribute to its reliability and submit any issues you encounter.

Nokia promised experimental features will be added to the beta over time. The plan is once a new piece of functionality is finished, it gets ported over to the stable version of the Camera app. You will simply have to update it through the usual Windows Store update process.

Thank you Phonearena for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Nokia

Nook App Available In 32 Countries For Windows 8.1

According to an article posted by NextPowerUp, the Barnes & Noble rolled out its official app for Windows 8.1 in 32 countries, and in 21 languages as well. It grants users access to their purchased content over their Nook accounts on their Windows 8.1 based desktops, notebooks, and tablets and can be downloaded via the Windows Store. It enables reading magazines purchased over Nook with their original color content, something not possible on e-ink variants of Nook. Among the 32 countries are Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.

“NOOK is committed to bringing its best-in-class digital reading experience to millions of new customers around the world, providing readers with a strong and proven alternative to what’s currently available in their areas,” said Jim Hilt, Managing Director, Barnes & Noble S.à.r.l. “NOOK is one of the leading digital reading platforms in the US and UK and we are confident that new customers across the globe will love our immersive discovery, shopping and reading experience through our highly rated NOOK App for Windows 8.1.”

Thank you NextPowerUp for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Microsoft News

Windows 8.2 To Come With Big Changes In January 2014

Although Windows 8.1 has just been released, Microsoft has apparently listened to its customers feedback of the newly updated operating system and will implement the required features and fixes in the next update, which is scheduled for January 2014.

Microsoft is said to bring back the Start Menu, one of the main features and the biggest disappointment in Windows 8. Although the 8.1 update brought back the apparent Start menu button, it only takes the user to the Metro UI instead of opening up the familiar drawer found in previous Windows version. Windows 8.2 however is said to fix this feature and bring back the Start Menu which we are all familiar with.

Internet Explorer will get a boost as well, having to release with the latest developments in the speed of loading pages increase. Windows 8.1 introduced the new Internet Explorer 11, but it did not look or feel (in terms of performance) anything better than previous versions.

Lastly, Microsoft will restore the File Explorer library by default in the new version of Windows 8.2. It could be incorporated in the current version of the operating system, but Microsoft tech support has been written so many questions about where it can be configured in, so Redmond decided to show the File Explorer by default.

Microsoft is expected to release the Windows 8.2 update in January 2014 and, as Windows 8.2, it will come as a free update through the Windows Store application.

Thank you Business2Community for providing us with this information

Nokia Music To Be Released For iOS, Android And Mac OS X

Nokia Music app appears to begin expanding its reach into other platforms than Windows Phone and Windows PC. According to CTechcn.com, Nokia is about to release a web app version of Nokia Music for iOS and Android devices. There is however mention of Mac OS X support available as well.

Nokia Music provides subscription-based music to Lumia and Asha users across the globe. For a nominal fee every month, users will be able to download and save music on their device, which can then be accessed later even when there is no Internet connection. We had earlier reported Nokia would bring Nokia Music store to its all-touch Asha devices for a nominal fee of Rs 50 for one week, Rs 100 for one month or Rs 250 for three months.

There is currently no official news and no word on when the service will arrive on iOS or Android. The timing of the report is quite interesting, considering that it was widely believed that the service would shut down once Microsoft took over Nokia. Many believe that the app’s features would be merged with the existing Xbox Music platform.

Third-party music streaming apps along with Apple’s iTunes and Google’s Music Store will be competing against Nokia when the app reaches the AppStore and Play Store. But lots of competition also comes with a lot of offers nonetheless.

Thank you BGR and CTechcn.com for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of and Nokia Innovation and CTechcn.com

Windows 8.1 Users Will Spend $100 Million On Apps This Holiday Season Says MS

Microsoft has released some preliminary new figures about how well it expects its Windows Store(s) to do over the holiday season. Over this year’s holiday season Microsoft says that its Windows Store will notch up around $100 million in revenue from the sale of apps, games and other Microsoft products. Part of this plan will involve Microsoft’s newly announced gift cards, pictured above, which have been made available especially in time for the holiday season of 2013.

“As a result of consumer gift card purchases and promotional programs for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.1 devices, we expect consumers to have over $100 million dollars (USD) available in their Microsoft accounts to spend on app and in-app purchases this holiday season.” said Microsoft on its blog.

Microsoft is parading the flexibility of its Windows Store which allows consumers to purchase apps and games for tablets, notebooks, desktops, mobile phones and of course its Xbox consoles. Microsoft has also been streamlining the payment system for Windows Store accounts to encourage consumers to buy more apps by making the process easier.

Image courtesy of Microsoft (TechNet Blog)

Microsoft Unifies Windows Phone Store And Windows Store Developer Accounts

Microsoft has confirmed that it has finished the unification of developer accounts for the Windows Phone Store and the Windows Store. The unification means that developers can use a single account for all Microsoft Apps which costs $19 a year for an individual or $99 a year for a company, and they can choose to publish apps to both Windows and Windows Phone users for no extra cost.

  • Registered Windows Store developers can now submit apps to the Windows Phone Store at no additional cost, using the same Microsoft account.
  • Registered Windows Phone developers can now submit apps to the Windows Store at no additional cost, using the same Microsoft account.
  • New developers can register and existing developers can renew their account using the same Microsoft account. Developers will enter registration information just once and pay a single lower price of $19 for an Individual and $99 for a Company account, providing access to publish apps for both Windows and Windows Phone users.
  • Developers already registered with both Windows Store and Windows Phone using the same Microsoft account will receive a code via email this month, valid for a free one-year renewal when their existing registration is up for renewal.
  • Students continue to be supported through the DreamSpark program.

The unification of the two developer account systems is part of a longer term Microsoft plan to unify its Windows ecosystem into one single andconvenient place. Rumours so far have suggested that Microsoft are intending to unify both the Windows Phone App Store and the Windows App Store into one App Store.

Image courtesy of Microsoft

Windows RT 8.1 Upgrade Is Returned To The Windows Store

After pulling the Windows RT 8.1 upgrade from the Windows Store 3 days ago Microsoft has now reinstated the upgrade to the Windows Store for Windows (8) RT OS users to access for free. Microsoft’s Support branch made the announcement on Twitter so we can only assume this means they have fixed the issues that caused them to take down the upgrade in the first place.

“Windows RT 8.1 update available again for free in Windows Store. Go update your Windows RT and Surface RT devices now!” Stated @MicrosoftHelps.

Reports suggested the upgrade was pulled over the weekend after consumers were plagued with errors and issues installing the update, some reports even suggested that the update was bricking Windows RT devices. Microsoft implemented a policy of “damage-limitation”, quickly pulling the update and making the following statement:

“Windows RT 8.1. Microsoft is investigating a situation affecting a limited number of users updating their Windows RT devices to Windows RT 8.1. As a result, we have temporarily removed the Windows RT 8.1 update from the Windows Store. We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and apologize for any inconvenience. We will provide updates as they become available.” Said Microsoft in an official statement.

The Windows RT 8.1 upgrade can be accessed and downloaded from the Windows Store here.

Image courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft Removes Windows RT 8.1 From The Windows Store

Having no official announcement, Microsoft pulled the Windows RT 8.1 download from Windows Store today. Reports say that users have been plagued with issues from the moment they had updated to the revamped OS, which is basically an ARM-compatible version of Windows 8.1 with many features missing due to hardware limitations.

Here’s what a Microsoft spokesperson has to say about this move:

“”Windows RT 8.1. Microsoft is investigating a situation affecting a limited number of users updating their Windows RT devices to Windows RT 8.1. As a result, we have temporarily removed the Windows RT 8.1 update from the Windows Store. We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and apologize for any inconvenience. We will provide updates as they become available.”

Although the issue is said to affect only a limited number of users, Microsoft considered it significant enough to stop the entire update process. Here’s hoping that we don’t have another BBM for Android case here, which was pulled within 24 hours of its release and has been absconding ever since. We will just have to wait and see what what Microsoft will have to say about it.

Thank you NextPowerUp for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of NextPowerUp.

Official Facebook App Available For Windows 8.1 Users

This morning, after Windows 8 users upgraded to the new-look Windows 8.1 update, an official Facebook app was waiting in the revamped Windows Store.

The Windows 8.1 Facebook app is extremely functional, having a three-pane design with your settings, groups, and viewing options on the left, your main news feed front-and-center, and a list of your Friends and their chat availability on the right. The exact look varies slightly depending on the menu you’re on, but the options pane remains consistent on the left side.

Writing something new or uploading a picture coaxes a Charm-style pane to slide in from the right side of the screen, where you’re free to spill your heart’s innermost secrets.

While the look of the app definitely screams “Facebook,” it also oozes Microsoft’s unique modern UI style, with sharp edges and tiles galore. Pinning the app to the side of the screen ditches the side panes to focus on your news feed, with the “three horizontal lines” options button familiar to users of other Facebook mobile apps appearing in the topmost tray. Again, however, the exact look can vary depending on the Snap ratio you use.

Facebook for Windows 8.1 lacks one crucial Microsoft feature however, the Share Charm integration. If you see an interesting tidbit in the modern version of Internet Explorer 11, or any other modern app, you can’t open the Charms bar and seamlessly share it to Facebook. That’s a major disappointment, seeing as how sharing links is such a major part of the Facebook experience.

All in all, however, the Facebook app for Windows 8.1 is a great first showing for the must-have social network, and it fills one of the most gaping holes in the Windows Store’s app selection. Microsoft still has a long way to go before the Windows Store can go toe-to-toe with Android or iOS, but it’s definitely headed in the right direction.

Than you PC World for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of PC World.

Windows Phone 8.1 To Support 10″ Tablets

While Microsoft is working hard to integrate the two platforms of theirs, those being the ARM dependent Windows RT and their Windows Phone platform, here’s something that confirms the impending demise of the former in favor of the latter.

The rumor is that Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 8 GDR3 software update will bring more than just support for 1080p displays and quad-core processors. Amongst all the new features, the real game changer would be the addition of support for 10″ displays to the Windows Phone platform. This can only mean one thing, that the days of Windows RT is numbered, and the merging of the two platforms will happen sooner than we had initially anticipated.

We already heard that the GDR3 Windows Phone updatemight add support for 5- to 6-inch devices, but it seems the update after that – the Windows Phone 8.1 release, code named “Blue” – might push that even farther, although this obviously infringes on Windows RT/8.x tablets, so it’s not clear what the thinking is there.

Compatibility with more devices is generally a good thing, but there are few key questions that signal extending Windows Phone 8.1 to tablet-sized devices may not be a great idea. One question that Microsoft should take into consideration is the possibility to maintain and explain three different operating systems that are all on devices of the same size. Another question that is unclear is what will be left standing between the Windows 8 and RT that are currently battling over 10-inch displays if Windows Phone 8 tablets of the same size join the trio.

Finally, probably the most encountered question that everyone heard of, will the Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 eventually merge. It’s time for Microsoft to clarify their actions for current and future Windows users.

Thank you TechPowerUp and TechRadar for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of TechPowerUp.

Microsoft Is Apparently Close To Unifying Its App Stores

The Windows Store

Microsoft is rumoured to be close to completing the unification of its two separate app stores. Currently Microsoft’s Windows Store and Windows Phone Store are both separate but if ZDNet’s reports are accurate then we could see the two stores unified in time for the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 operating system next month. Microsoft apparently already demo’d a single app portal for Windows and the Windows Phone behind closed doors at its annual company meeting in Seattle.

The Windows Phone Store

The speculation aligns with recent comments made by Microsoft’s Terry Myerson who explained that a unification of Microsoft’s platforms and APIs was high up the agenda. Of course he didn’t specifically state that the two app stores would be combined but a unification of the two would be a logical extension of his comments.

Images courtesy of Microsoft

Windows Phone Store To Get Targeted Ads, Passes 9 Million Daily Transactions

The Next Web reports that the Windows Phone Store has passed 9 million daily transactions putting the monthly total at around 270 milion. That is up a staggering 70 million since June when CEO Steve Ballmer reported it was around 200 million per month. Microsoft is continuing to streamline payments from carrirers so that developers are eligible for payouts every 30 days.

It isn’t all good news though as Microsoft will be implementing targeted ads into the Windows Phone store in an effort to make more revenue with advertising partners. Microsoft will issue all Windows Phone devices with unique device IDs to help target ads, though users will be opt out on the Microsoft website and Microsoft claims these unique device IDs won’t expose any personal information.

Image courtesy of Engadget

Microsoft Promises To Combat Fake Metro Apps In The Windows Store

Microsoft’s Windows Store is slowly getting filled with fake apps as money grabbing internet criminals are trying to capitalise on the hive of activity that has occurred due to the free Windows 8.1 preview. This is drawing a lot of people into the Windows Store and it has resulted in many fake apps being listed.

In a statement to the Next Web Microsoft discussed the problem and said that it is already aware of the issue. They have stated that they will try to remove all fake apps as quickly as possible.

“We strive to make the Windows Store an excellent experience for Windows 8 users. We routinely review apps based on performance, ratings and user reviews and take steps to remove apps if they do not meet our certification guidelines…We are aware of the issue and are actively removing apps that offer little value or confuse customers, and will continue evaluating our submission process to make sure Windows offers the highest quality app catalog available.”

This is hardly a Windows Store specific problem as the Google Play Store and Apple app stores are often blighted with malware and fake apps, though the Apple app store has much more rigorous security. There are currently hundreds of apps posted by certain developers on the Windows Store, like BA MEDIA, and they are all what you might classify as fake. Microsoft will have a tough job tracking down all these fake and harmful apps but it is something it really needs to do.

Image courtesy of the Windows Store