Interviewed for Xbox 360

Post ImageI was interviewed last week about the Xbox 360 launch, mainly because I had posted about it here on my blog a few times (here’s a search for xbox). At the time of the interview, “Santa” hadn’t yet told me that my wish would be granted (I only talked to my parents this weekend about it). Here’s what I had to say:

Some gamers say the steep price tag will force them to wait for Santa Claus.

“I’ve been telling friends and my parents all I want for Christmas is the Xbox 360. Just pool together,” said Mack Male, a 21-year-old from Edmonton.

“It doesn’t matter to me if I have one at midnight but I want it as soon as possible . . . Part of the fun is being part of the first group, being able to say ‘I was the innovator. . .I got there first.’ ”

Well now I can be there at midnight! Cool thing about that article is that it’s a Canadian Press article, so it’s actually in at least six different newspapers right now. I guess the next couple of days will be very focused on the 360 here, but your regularly scheduled blog will return.

Read: National Post

The new look of Microsoft Office

Post ImageI wish I was at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC) this week, but fortunately there are tons of announcements and resources and information being posted online. One such announcement was the first public demo of Office 12, with a completely redesigned user interface:

Thousands of software developers at the sold-out Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2005 today got a preview of a new, redesigned user interface (UI) that will debut in several core applications of the next version of Microsoft Office, code-named Office “12.”

While the Office applications have increased tremendously in power and added functionality in response to customer needs, the core UI has remained substantially unchanged for nearly 20 years. The command bar in Microsoft Office Word 2003, for example, looks much the same as the command bar in Word 2.0 did in 1998. In fact, the new UI is the biggest, most visible change to the way the core Office applications work since the introduction of the toolbar in 1997.

The first thing I saw related to the new UI was this PressPass article and screenshots. And to be honest, my very first reaction was “what?!” I didn’t like the new look of the applications based on the screenshots, but I think that’s mostly because I didn’t understand how it worked. After I checked out the Channel9 video, my opinion completely changed. Screenshots just don’t do the new interface justice. It is, quite simply, amazing! Check out the video and see what I mean – demos start around 10 minutes in. Office 12 has no drop down menus or toolbars. Instead, there is a new “ribbon” control along the top that makes the commands in each application readily available in an organized manner. There’s also live previewing – hover over an option, and it will appear in the document before you make the change so you can see what it looks like.

So far Outlook only makes use of the new interface for writing emails, not in the main application. I can see why, but I don’t think it’s a great idea for Outlook to be different from the other applications. I also wonder if OneNote and other Office-family members will make use of the new interface too. I hope so.

It’s still a bit shocking, but I think Office needed a new interface. Far too many commands made the interface cluttered and difficult to use. Menus and toolbars are familiar, but they aren’t the most powerful interface in the world. The new “ribbon” controls are just sweet, and definitely a useful improvement. And who knows, maybe the new interface will finally convince corporations to upgrade.

I can’t wait to play with the new Office now!

Read: Microsoft PressPass

Microsoft sets Xbox 360 pricing

Post ImageMicrosoft has finally revealed the pricing for the forthcoming Xbox 360 console, and it looks bad for Sony, especially if they really are going to price the PS3 quite high as expected:

Pricing on the much anticipated Xbox 360 will start at $299.99, Microsoft announced Wednesday.

Scheduled to launch in North America in time for the holiday season, that core version of the tech giant’s next-generation game system will include the console, one controller, a white faceplate and an audiovisual cable.

But wait, there’s more!

For $100 more, gamers can upgrade to the premium edition. That package will feature, in addition to the standard equipment, a headset, remote, membership to the Xbox Live entertainment and chat network, and a 20GB hard drive for storing games, music, and other content downloaded from Xbox Live. It will also swap out the wired controller for a wireless one.

The premium edition will be known as the Xbox 360 and will have a cream-colored shell, while the lower-priced version will be called the Xbox 360 core system and will come in a light green box, said David Reed, director of platform marketing for Xbox.

Yeah, so why you’d purchase a core system is beyond me. Seems like a waste when you get the premium for only a hundred bucks more. Even Microsoft’s director of platform marketing for Xbox David Reed knows it, “There’s no question we’re going to sell a lot more Xbox 360 this holiday than we are of the Xbox 360 core system.”

Read: CNET