Upgrades: A Journey Through Time

Be glad I’m not in charge of naming a feature film. This post will deviate a little from my usual style, in that it will be more pictures than words. Regardless, it should be an interesting trip through history.

Anyway, I’ve attempted (and succeeded) in taking a Windows 1.0 VM, and upgrading it through to Windows 8.1, in the sequence of: 1.0, 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, 3.1, 95, 98, 98SE, Me, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1. I figured the ride was interesting enough that maybe I should do it again, and document it here. I’ll try to give enough detail as to what I did so any given reader can reproduce this. For starters, I’m using VMWare Workstation 10 with this configuration:

The next step is to install MS-DOS 5.

The journey begins.

MS-DOS 5, installed. Wow, that went quickly.

Now it’s time to actually install Windows 1.0. After swapping through six floppy images, I have this:

Sadly, this garbled mess is all I can get.

I can enter an app, and sort of see it, but it’s too blurry for me to figure out how to exit it. Alt + F4 doesn’t work. At least I’m not old enough to remember this. It seems painful.

Now it’s time to install Windows 2.0. At least this one’s usable. Mouse and all. I mean, I’m glad I never had to use this on a daily basis or anything, but wow, I’m shocked I could get it working perfectly. Sort of, at least. I tried opening abc.txt, and it crashed.

MS-DOS Executive. Erm… thought I was looking for Windows.

We’ll revisit Windows 2.x again later. Much later.

Now to install Windows 2.1. You’ll have to install it from DOS; otherwise you’ll get an error about not having enough memory. I don’t know why. I gave it 16MB at this point, which was more than any computer had at that time, as far as I know.

Back on the theme of apparently not having enough memory despite having plenty, when I try to run it, I get this.

I followed this MS guide (which I’m impressed is even still up) to fix another error, just leading to this one. Onward, I suppose. Windows 3.0!

Heh, I get it. Windows.

Trippy. Also, nice game selection…

Now for the Windows 3.1 upgrade. Ah, 3.1, the first OS I ever used. I don’t really remember it that well though.

It manages to remember this throughout all future upgrades. Impressive!

Seems more… colorful?

It seems things are getting modern enough to go fairly seamlessly now. Or not. Windows 95 comes on a CD, complicating things, as 3.1 doesn’t recognize my CD drive. Guess things aren’t getting modern enough after all. At least I’m done flipping floppies. You can always just boot from floppy, then install from there. It’ll do an upgrade install anyway. Do remember to change the VM type to Windows 95 at this point.

It preserved that crappy background I selected, and the Ms-dos_5 disk label I’ve had for quite some time now.

It also has working sound now, and it sounds awful.

You’d probably do well to put in some more RAM now as well.

Next up: Windows 98. I put in the installer. It makes some obnoxious and loud noise. At least from here on out my CD drive works and I can do all my upgrades from within Windows.

Doesn’t my blog look wonderful in IE4?

Also, I finally installed VMWare Tools at this point (although uninstalling them to install the correct ones for XP becomes quite a point of contention – you have to use the MS uninstall troubleshooter, or alternatively as I figured out the second time around, just uninstall VMWare Tools before the XP upgrade), so things will look a bit better and be a lot less laggy for me.

Now for 98SE.

I can convert this to FAT32 now. I probably should.

Done. Also notice the user info and crappy background from 3.0 are still there (as well as the volume name).

Now to upgrade to the infamous Windows Me, after which I can finally bid good riddance to the Windows 9x line. I don’t know why it was so maligned. It installed without a hitch.

User info, check. Awful background, check.

At this point, there are important things to consider. Namely, do recall that this is sitting on a 1.5GB partition. That won’t be big enough for the XP upgrade. So I used the GParted Live CD to resize it. I’ve got no idea how big of a partition Me can handle, so I’ll resize it to 64GB. Should last me awhile. Also, it would probably be a good idea to bump up the RAM again. Seems as though it can handle 512MB well enough (also the GParted Live CD won’t seem to boot on only 64MB anyway). Finally, I uninstalled VMWare Tools. In my practice run, I didn’t, and had to jump through hoops to get it upgraded once I got to XP.

XP, the OS that won’t die, and IE6, the browser that won’t die.

Despite being a lot more “modern” than its predecessor, XP is still ancient by modern standards, and people would do well to realize that sooner or later. Unfortunately, my workplace actually still uses this. Fortunately, I don’t touch those computers unless something’s wrong with them. My blog looks just about as horrible in IE6 as it does in IE4. Also, I bumped the VM up to 4GB of RAM (it only sees 3 though). I also have to convert the disk again, to NTFS, in order to install Vista.

Hmm… it lost the crappy cubes background. Kept the computer and workgroup names I assigned it back in 3.x though.

For some reason, my VM also kept the “View Channels” Quick Launch icon.

Windows 7.

At this point, not much remains unchanged. The wallpaper’s changed itself yet again, and even the taskbar icons that were there since the 98 install are gone. Kind of disappointing. Well, this will be rather boring from this point forward, but you’ve made it this far. Onward, I suppose.

Windows 8. Nothing to see here.

At this point, it looks fairly obviously “stock,” with the exception of the compatibility report on the desktop. A few things stay until the bitter end, but they’re not very obvious. I’ll cover them in a bit.

 

Yep. Still looks fairly stock. This stopped being interesting awhile ago.

This step marks the last of this journey. Beginning with Windows 1.0 and ending with 8.1, this is the result. I expected something a little more interesting in the end, especially since quite a bit of stuff from early on kept itself throughout the XP and Vista upgrades.

To recap, things that didn’t make it:

Desktop wallpaper

Quick launch icons

Most applications

Things that did:

 

Yep. That’s MS-DOS 5 alright!

The volume name.

What is this, I don’t even…

A bunch of old Windows and DOS files. Strangely enough, I can even get some Windows 2.1 apps to run all the way through 8.1. I don’t actually know what this one does though.

The Windows 2.11 Control Panel. Now that’s a bit more interesting.

I wonder if it actually does anything. Now that I’m done with my experiment, it shouldn’t matter if I trash this VM…

Strangely enough, yes.

The only setting that works is the one to switch mouse buttons. But it works nonetheless. Finding that out kind of made this whole thing worth it. Although I suppose it doesn’t go with my topic of things preserved through OS upgrades, since you could probably just copy in that CONTROL.EXE and try it. I doubt any of this information is useful, as no computer that ran Windows 1.0 in the real world could ever be upgraded to anything even approaching a modern OS, but it is possible in a simulated environment, with the results described. You’ll probably never actually need to do this, but… it’s fun to do when you’re bored.

A Week with Windows Phone

 

I think from now on, my blog posts will start with the tweets that inspired them. To be honest, Twitter has become such an integral part of my life that I don’t think I’d have a blog if not for it. All my blog posts evolve from tweets. Seriously, if you want me to blog about something, engage me in debate about it on Twitter. It’ll probably happen.

Needless to say, this time the subject is my experiment with Windows Phone. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would, and a lot of my criticism of the platform was unfair (note that not all of my criticism was unfair). I’ll start out by addressing some myths I previously believed about the platform, then try to formulate a list of good and bad things about it. Finally, I’ll talk about what I’d like to see from the platform in the future.

Myth:

Windows Phone can’t access Youtube, except via their website.

Truth:

There exist unofficial Youtube apps, namely MetroTube (which is possibly the best Youtube app I’ve ever used, especially from an aesthetic perspective).

Myth:

Windows Phone has no apps.

Truth:

Windows Phone has no games. Well, almost none. It obviously has your staples of Angry Birds (which sadly isn’t free as it is on Android), Fruit Ninja, etc…, but its game selection is still quite lacking. I’ll come back to this later. As far as other apps go, it covers the basics well enough. The built in media player seems to play the file types I had on my Nexus 4 (although if I wanted to play an MKV, I’d probably have a problem on my Lumia 521), there exist official Twitter and Facebook apps, Skype (obviously), IRC clients (which I’ve only used briefly… I don’t actually IRC from my phone much), Foursquare, and even, impressively, the Speedtest.net app.

So now I come to my list of things I liked and didn’t like about Windows Phone. I’ll start with the good, and finish with the bad, so I can lead into a discussion the direction I hope MS takes it.

Good

The design.

Awhile back, I wasn’t a fan of the Windows Phone design. I made mockups that were basically text slapped onto some colored boxes. But then I realized that it’s neither “so simple a 3-year-old could do it,” nor bad by any means. It’s actually beautiful. Extensively so.

 

A screenshot I took of a tweet of mine in the WP8 Twitter app. I referenced it later in another tweet where I mentioned how much I liked this font.

Windows Phone would be nothing if not for gorgeous typography. I even got responses from people on Twitter saying they intended to install that font on their Android devices. But as far as I can tell, Metro (yes, I know it’s not called that anymore, but I could care less about what some small-time German retailer thinks) basically exists to show off this font, and for good reason. Oh, and in case you’re curious about the context of that tweet: I was browsing through the Chili’s menu, and the lunch-sized half portion of a flatbread was only fifty cents cheaper than the full-sized portion, which was nine dollars. If you buy the half-sized flatbread, you’re an idiot (I usually get the California Grilled Chicken, and the Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie for dessert; they’re pretty awesome). Hopefully you’re not reading this hungry; I’m bringing up Chili’s again in the cons part of the list.

Unobtrusive carrier integration

 

I don’t know what T-Mobile TV is, but I don’t want it. Luckily, I can get rid of it.

Phones often come with carrier bloatware. As I normally use a Nexus, I’ve been immune to this experience on Android. But considering I have friends with more mainstream phones, I’ve seen the terror of carrier bloatware. It exists on Windows Phone too. But fortunately, carrier apps can simply be uninstalled. But some of them are actually useful. It’s nice to have T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling for instance, something I don’t get on my N4.

Nokia hardware

For a budget device (no, really, it just cost me $115, completely off-contract), you’d never be able to tell the Lumia 521 was one. Aside from taking awhile to start apps, which seems to be a common complaint on Windows Phone, it makes effective use of the hardware, which is capable of doing pretty much everything I might need to ask of it. Furthermore, it has things that I don’t even have in my Nexus 4, like an SD card slot and an FM radio. Also, I’m not really a fan of plastic, but it feels nice in my hand. It might be a little thicker than it needs to be though, probably due to the removable battery, a feature whose usefulness I question (although considering Nokia’s been in this business longer than everyone else, back when this was standard, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised).

Software updates

Something that bothered me to no end was that at the announcement of Windows Phone 8, Microsoft announced that they were dropping all WP7 devices. Just like that. Bought one? Well, now it’s a paperweight. Apparently MS has committed to doing better. It sounds like my 521’s good for updates for the next three years. That’s about what one could expect from an iPhone or Nexus device.

Bad

Incomplete/confusing software

 

I have no clue if I’ve unlocked these specials or not.

There’s no question. The design of the WP8 Foursquare app is attractively minimalistic. But is it functional?

I had two complaints about this app. The first is that I had to select “post to Twitter” every time I checked in somewhere. This would just default to on in the Android version of the app. The second is that I couldn’t tell whether I’d unlocked the specials at the location.They showed up, but the Android app gave clear visual cues that yes, I’ve unlocked the special. It displays a coupon code, but it does that even if I haven’t checked in. I think it gives me the same code every time anyway, so it probably validates against a Foursquare server or something when used. If I later find out that I paid $6 for a dessert I could’ve gotten for free, I will not be happy.

Filesystem

Yes, this is a problem on iOS too. It’s one of the reasons I stopped using that platform on a regular basis. I know I can access some parts of it by connecting to my desktop at home, but I’d really like a file manager with direct access, at least to my user directory. And to extend this concept, I’d like apps to be able to access files created/managed by each other to a greater extent. One of those things that just completely alienates me about iOS is that the apps all feel disconnected from each other. You can’t establish any sort of workflow. It pretty much applies to Windows Phone as well. On Android, I can download any file of my choice in Chrome, then open it in any of my apps I might need it in. Furthermore, I can sort it into a location of my choice in my user directory. The inability for me to do this is probably my biggest complaint about Windows Phone. Actually, if they fixed this one thing, I’d likely consider switching to it full-time.

Sideloading

Another thing I really like about Android: It truly has no limits. I can install whatever I want on it. I’m free! Sadly, Windows Phone has the same walled garden mentality as iOS. I won’t hold my breath on this one, but Microsoft might want to consider the popularity of its competition: iOS market share is declining, in favor of Android, which eschews the walled garden model. Ultimately, it’s something I can live without on a mobile platform, but if not for anything but ideological reasons, it’s something I’d really prefer to have.

Notifications

In Android, all my notifications are in one place. In Windows Phone, I’m briefly alerted that something happened, but if it’s not on a tile on my home screen and I missed that alert, I’m out of luck. I’m aware that MS plans to implement a notification center in WP8.1. I look forward to it.

Games

This is a tradeoff I learned to live with to a small extent on Android. While Android eventually gets most games (World of Goo, and more recently Dots, being notable examples I care about), it takes awhile. Supposedly it’s getting Tilt to Live 2 (it never got the first one) at some point after the iOS version comes out. Who knows when that’ll be. These three games are among my favorites of all mobile games I’ve played. I’d really like to see them on Windows Phone. I doubt I ever will. That said, there are a lot of knockoffs of the Dots game on the Windows Phone Store. MS, could you please remove them? They look tacky and awful, and remind me of something I really want (in its pure form) but can’t have. Oh, and an appeal to the developers of the actual Dots game: Please port it to Windows Phone. Your game would fit right in with the aesthetic of the OS.

Where from here?

As mentioned before, I’d really like to see the ability to access some shared portion of the filesystem in all apps. MS doesn’t have to make a file browser. Someone else could do that. It would go far to make everything feel more connected, as opposed to feeling like a set of sparse, distant islands.

More games would also be nice. I realize the onus is on third-party developers to do that, but this is probably the biggest thing on everyone’s mind but mine, and the second-biggest on mine.

 

Who knows? Maybe this is the key to both problems. With only one platform to develop for, developers may be more likely to target Windows Phone. And depending on what set(s) of API’s MS will put into this unified platform, perhaps it’ll include the filesystem access I was hoping to see (I’ve never actually used Windows RT, but there are ARM-compatible file browsing apps on the Windows Store that allow me to access, at the bare minimum, anything within my user folder, on desktop Windows 8).

In summary, Windows Phone has the potential for a great future. And it’s almost there (as in, enough to where I’ll be rotating my 521 and my N4 a fair bit). The only question that remains is will it go in the right direction?

Why Chrome Apps Are a Bad Idea

The stable version of Google Chrome now supports something Google refers to as “desktop apps,” and people are already claiming it’s the next big thing. Except…

It isn’t.

Here’s the tweet that inspired this post.

I know I love to rail on web apps at every chance I get, but one of the major problems with web apps (besides the whole not available offline thing, which Google has actually solved, apparently) is really a problem with cross-platform apps in general. They feel native nowhere. So the biggest remaining problem with Chrome apps is the same one that plagues Java apps. They look horrible on any OS. The dream of effortless cross-platform apps needs to stay just that, a dream. Something has to be sacrificed, and often that sacrifice is the app’s native feel. I’m actually quite surprised chosafine would support cross-platform anything, since on the same day as the Chrome announcement, he also tweeted a complaint about an Android app that looked like a quick and dirty iOS port. This is the experience Chrome apps would leave us with.

 

Google Keep, running on Windows 8

Google Keep, running on OS X 10.9

Notice it doesn’t have the look and feel of a Windows app, but that of Gmail. Maybe it’d look in-place on ChromeOS, but on Windows and OS X, it obviously doesn’t. People want apps that look native on their platform of choice. Chrome apps just don’t offer this (that said, I was admittedly a little impressed that it at least did feel like a “desktop app,” just not like a Windows or OS X app). If you’ve ever used JDownloader, you’ll have some idea of what I’m talking about. It does the job, but it looks awful.

Back to chosafine’s tweet, in reference to the idea that Windows and OS X are somehow lagging behind as operating systems, and that this will somehow hand a victory to Chrome apps. It won’t. Neither party has abandoned the desktop. OS X 10.9 adds tabbed Finder windows, and Windows 8 had an assortment of enhancements on the desktop end, including detailed file operation windows and Ribbon-adorned Explorer windows. And, most importantly, native apps for either platform, when done well, still look native on that platform. There’s nothing a Chrome app can do that a native app can’t. And while Google claims to be bridging this gap, there’s quite a few things native apps can do that Chrome apps can’t.

And a little off-topic I suppose, since Windows 8.1 kind of does this too (but at least there’s a way around it – disconnect from the network while setting up), but I don’t like being tied into a cloud account. With ChromeOS and/or Chrome apps, there’s no way around that (nor is there with Metro apps, but at least there’s still desktop apps).

I haven’t even mentioned the biggest flaw in the Chrome ecosystem yet (note, I’m just criticizing Chrome as an app platform and as an OS; it’s a wonderful browser and currently my browser of choice when on Windows). What might that be?

It won’t ever have any apps.

This is the same reason desktop Linux never took off. Nobody wants another platform to develop for. Let’s take Adobe for example. Their Creative Suite… uh, Creative Cloud (once again, an idea that bugs me, but at least it was cracked on day one… ) runs on both Windows and Mac OS X. That reaches pretty much 99% of the desktop market. Except Linux users, who either use a FOSS alternative like Gimp, or run the Windows version in something like Wine. And I highly doubt Adobe cares enough about offering a solution to those users that they’d bother to rewrite Photoshop and the like as a Chrome app. Especially considering it’d be no more native than the Wine solution. Oh, and it’d be able to run on Chromebooks. But what Chromebook is powerful enough to run stuff like Adobe’s professional apps anyway? Even the Pixel struggles with simple tasks like playing video. And may I remind you that the Pixel costs a lot more than my aging MacBook Air, which can play video and run Photoshop just fine? So yeah… not really Adobe’s target market there.

Then there’s also Microsoft Office. Once again, has versions for both Windows and OS X. What would Microsoft have to gain by offering their product as a Chrome app? Pretty much nothing. Their product is already available to everyone, aside from a few thousand users. And please don’t tell me “But… Google Docs!” If you’ve ever had to do anything beyond typing a letter (and it’s 2013… who still does that?), you’ll know Google Docs is a joke.

If Google’s endgame here is to get people to buy Chromebooks, it won’t happen. There’s a chicken and egg problem at play (the same reason Windows Phone’s app ecosystem will never reach critical mass). Nobody develops for it because it has no users, and it has no users because nobody develops for it.

And finally (this isn’t so much a problem as a thought), hasn’t Chrome kind of fallen far from its original mission? Wasn’t the idea to make a simple browser to compete with the everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink Firefox? Granted I appreciate the fact that Chrome has extensions now (I remember the days when it didn’t), and I personally use an ad blocker and Grooveshark downloader, both of which make my experience much better, but aren’t apps a bit too far? If you notice, both of the extensions I use are somehow relevant to browsing. These apps aren’t. I dunno… am I old-fashioned for thinking a web browser should still be a web browser? It seems that nowadays, it’s Chrome that’s the king of bloat, not Firefox.

XBoned, Part Two

Two years ago, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d rabidly defend Sony as the good guys. Well, that day has come, and it’s been here ever since the PS4 and Xbox One announcements. As much as MS is willing to change the status quo when there’s money in it for them, they’ve revealed that they’re keeping it with the Xbox One in one particularly ridiculous case: Xbox Live Gold is required for pretty much everything.

Basically, MS keeps the status quo when it’s anti-consumer to do so, and will change it when the changes are anti-consumer. You know, I used to feel sympathetic for MS when considering the anti-trust lawsuit against them in the 90’s. Bundling a browser with an OS? Nothing wrong with that. But now? Not so much. Throw the book at ’em. Bundling a browser with an OS then charging a monthly fee to use it? There’s a special circle of hell for whoever came up with that idea.

TL;DR Microsoft hates you.

Okay. Now that I’ve gotten that rant out of my system, maybe I can take a breath and actually explain what’s going on, and how MS is being evil. Skype, Netflix, Youtube. Household names. Skype and Youtube can be accessed for free from almost any internet-connected device. And on almost any internet-connected device, Netflix can be accessed by only paying Netflix. This means your computer, your phone, your PS4. But not your Xbox One. For whatever reason, MS blocks these services unless you pay them $60/year for a service that’s primarily for online gaming. And services that cost MS nothing to offer you, because (except in the case of Skype) they aren’t MS services. Youtube is streamed from Google, and Netflix from Netflix. MS is basically censoring these services, and trying to charge you to uncensor them. And yes, Skype is a MS service, but why only charge for it on the Xbox? It’s free on computers and mobile devices. And I think it’s even supported on some TV’s. Actually, so are Netflix and Youtube. It’s a pretty greedy move from MS to try to charge for services you might already be able to access on your TV anyway. Let’s form an analogy here, because everyone loves analogies, right?

Let’s say Google or Apple, or [insert choice of deity here]-forbid, Microsoft or RIM (…wait, does Blackberry even have any of these apps?), decided to charge for the Netflix, Youtube, or Skype app (let’s not consider the Youtube app for Google, or the Skype app for MS). As in, the publisher of the app offers it for free, but the developer of the platform chooses to require a monthly fee for you to use the app, despite the fact that the use of the app costs them nothing. You bought the device. It’s yours to install whatever you want on it (well, all of the aforementioned companies, Google aside, disagree with this to some extent, but…). You don’t owe the platform developer a disproportionally large monthly fee for the “privilege” of installing certain “special” third-party apps. We as a society have fallen a long way if we’re going to accept this as a privilege and not a right. Just like playing used games. At least MS fell back on that one, but I hope you’re noticing a trend here. MS sees basic rights of ownership as privileges they can license to us. If there’s significant backlash, they’ll go back on it, because they’re pretty much the very definition of whores – they’ll do anything for money, and if they’ll actually lose sales by trampling on your rights? That’s bad.

Allow me to take a moment to remind you that the PlayStation 4 only requires you to purchase a PS+ subscription for online gaming. And apparently in some cases not even for that. And you know what? That’s fair. It’s all fine and dandy that Sony is charging for a service that actually requires them to spend money to own and operate. But they’ve got the decency to not charge you for services that don’t require any infrastructure on their part and don’t cost them anything (if somehow the Xbox One Netflix and Youtube apps actually do require special backend infrastructure on MS’s part, they need to fire every last one of their programmers… such a design is beyond stupid). And if they are using special servers for these third-party services, it’s all the more reason to not purchase an Xbox One. You’re apparently supporting some of the most idiotic developers in the world.

I was going to make an actual table to help you keep track of the score between the Xbox One and the PS4, but then got lazy and decided to just write everything out. Which one’s got the better specs? PS4. Which one, from the start, wasn’t going to block used games? PS4. Which one costs $399, as opposed to its competitor at $499? PS4. And now, which one lets you use third-party online services without paying some inane monthly subscription to do so? PS4. If you’re not counting, that’s PS4: 4, XB1, 0. Hey, maybe they should rename it the Xbox Zero! Zero reasons to choose it over the PS4!

But… but… that $500 price includes a camera!

Typical MS marketing spin. Consumer choice is bad amirite? Let’s force users to buy and have connected a camera accessory. Despite the fact that it increases up-front cost and adds an additional point of failure. You know, instead of just making it optional and allowing the consumer to decide whether they actually want it or not.

I know I’m beating a dead horse by now. It’s obvious that you should buy the PS4 (oh, and my friend has been showing me some pretty awesome PlayStation exclusives), and it’s been obvious since the beginning. But hey. Now I can issue this challenge. To even the boldest MS fanboy. I dare you to defend the Xbox One after all the evidence I’ve presented in favor of the PS4 over the last few months. Make it good enough, and I’ll allow you to post your own thoughts in a new post, on my blog, along with an apology from me for criticizing your console of choice. No takers? Didn’t think so.

And Sony? If you’re reading this, may I please have a PS4 unit to review? 

Rebuttal to a Greedy MS Employee

In the next episode of the ongoing Xbox One DRM saga, a crazed Microsoft employee posts a letter to Pastebin upset about consumers regaining their freedom. And I challenge it point by point. The battle may be won, but the war against intrusive DRM schemes isn’t over. I don’t really feel as though this guy is a threat, but I’m bored and want to pick his thinly-veiled love letter to the publishers (disguised as being “beneficial to gamers”) apart piece by piece. It’ll be mostly in the style of the TPB legal letters and their responses. Seems like a good way to address any arm of a corporate entity.

I’ve felt like this for the last few days now

It’s 4am and I’m still up, some hours ago, we at Microsoft had to basically redact on our Always Online infrastructure and dream.  Being part of the team that created the entire infrastructure to include the POS (point of sale) mechanisms I must say that I am extremely sad to see it removed.  But the consumer knows what is best, I can place the blame on no one but us here at Microsoft.  We didn’t do a good enough job explaining all the benefits that came with this new model.  We spent too much of our time fighting against the negative impressions that many people in the media formed.  I feel that if we spent less time on them and more time explaining the great features we had lined up and the ones in the pipes gamers and media alike would have aligned to our vision.  That stated, we felt the people we would have loss would have been made up by the people we would have gained.  We have 48 million Xbox 360 users connected online nearly 24 hours a day.  That is much more than any of our closet competitors and vastly more than Steam.  The people that we would have left behind I feel would have eventually come around as they saw what advantages the platform had to offer.  But as I previously stated we at Microsoft have no one to blame other than ourselves for failing to convince those hesitant to believe in our new system.  Microsoft might be a big company, but we at the Xbox division have always been for the gamer.  Everything we’ve done has always been for them, we have butt heads with the executives many times on what we’ve wanted to, some times we lost (removing the onboard processor from Kinect 1.0) and other times we’ve won (keeping Gears of War as an exclusive).

4AM? That’s early!

Anyway, thank you for acknowledging that the consumer knows best I guess, although I sense a patronizing tone there. I don’t know why. Yes, the consumer knows that they don’t like bending over for publishers. Also, nice try with the “always been for the gamer” line. You’re about to go on to explain how the whole thing is intended to throw the gamer under the bus in favor of the publishers.

While publishers have never come right out to us at MS and say “We want you to do something about used gaming” we could hear it in their voices and read it in their numerous public statements.  The used gaming industry is slowly killing them and every attempt to slow down the bleeding was met with much resistance from the gaming community.  I will admit that online passes were not well received nor were they well implemented, but I felt given time to mature it could have turned into something worth having as a gamer much like DLC (we went from pointless horse armor to amazing season passes like Borderlands 2!).  Videogame development is a loss leader by definition and unlike other forms of media videogames only have one revenue stream and that is selling to you the gamer.  So when you buy a game used you’re hurting developers much more than say a movie studio.  Many gamers fail to realize this when they purchase these preowned games.  It is impossible to continue to deliver movie like experiences at the current costs without giving up something in return.  It’s what gamers want and expect, the best selling games are blockbusters, the highest rated are blockbusters, the most loved are blockbusters.  How can developers continue to create these experiences if consumers refuse to support them?  Many will argue the development system is broken, and I disagree.  The development system is near broken, it’s used gaming that is broken, but regardless I think more emphasis on this from both us at Microsoft and publishers would have gone a long way in helping educate the gamer, but again it is us who dropped the ball in this regard for that we’re sorry.

The used gaming industry is killing the publishers. Okay. Why should I care? The automobile industry killed blacksmithing, and you don’t hear anyone mourning that profession. It means the consumer has spoken, and we like buying used games (maybe the resistance you speak of is your clue that you’re meddling in things you have no business in…). In the words of your own Adam Orth, deal with it. And wait… didn’t you just say the Xbox division has always been for the gamer? Here you’re clearly saying this whole thing is a money grab for the publishers. You’re either with the gamers, or with the publishers. They are, in fact, opposite sides, engaged in eternal war. They try to squeeze ever more money out of us, and we resist, trying to hold on to our hard-earned dollars. So yeah… don’t try to frame it as whatever is good for the publishers is good for us. The publishers are trying to rob us, and you’re acting as a pawn in their scheme. Also, with regards to used gaming, I am perfectly content with the status quo. You’ve made it clear that the publishers aren’t. That isn’t my problem. You’ve got people with fancy MBA’s that are paid a ton of money to figure this stuff out. Tell them to do so in a way that doesn’t piss off your customers. 

Either that, or fire ’em. That’s what’s funny about those business types. They only exist to financially justify their own placement in a company, hiding the fact that you’d be best off cutting them off. If you’re bleeding for money, that would be a good place to start.

Going back to Xbox One’s feature set, one of the features I was most proud of was Family Sharing.  I’ve browsed many gaming forums and saw that many people were excited about it as well!  That made my day the first time I saw gamers start to think of amazing experiences that could come from game sharing.  It showed that my work resonated with the group for which I helped create it for.  I will admit that I was not happy with how some of my fellow colleagues handled explaining the systems and many times pulled my hair out as I felt I could have done a better job explaining and selling the ideas to the press and public at large.  I’m writing this for that reason, to explain to gamers how many of the features would have worked and how many of them will still work.

Amazing experiences that can come from one person at a time being able to play a game? Just like with disc sharing? Fire your marketing people too if that’s the best they can come up with.

If I haven’t made it clear in my last post and this one, family sharing is the dumbest piece of  marketing spiel ever. It enables nothing that couldn’t be done with disc sharing, with the exact same limitations. Plus MS is using it to justify a noxious DRM scheme. For the “privilege” of being able to do what you were always able to before, you’d have to ask MS for permission to play your own games every 24 hours! Because that’s somehow a better deal for us or something.

First is family sharing, this feature is near and dear to me and I truly felt it would have helped the industry grow and make both gamers and developers happy.  The premise is simple and elegant, when you buy your games for Xbox One, you can set any of them to be part of your shared library.  Anyone who you deem to be family had access to these games regardless of where they are in the world.  There was never any catch to that, they didn’t have to share the same billing address or physical address it could be anyone.  When your family member accesses any of your games, they’re placed into a special demo mode. This demo mode in most cases would be the full game with a 15-45 minute timer and in some cases an hour.  This allowed the person to play the game, get familiar with it then make a purchase if they wanted to.  When the time limit was up they would automatically be prompted to the Marketplace so that they may order it if liked the game.  We were toying around with a limit on the number of times members could access the shared game (as to discourage gamers from simply beating the game by doing multiple playthroughs). but we had not settled on an appropriate way of handling it.  One thing we knew is that we wanted the experience to be seamless for both the person sharing and the family member benefiting.  There weren’t many models of this system already in the wild other than Sony’s horrendous game sharing implementation, but it was clear their approach (if one could call it that) was not the way to go.  Developers complained about the lost sales and gamers complained about overbearing DRM that punished those who didn’t share that implemented by publishers to quell gamers from taking advantage of a poorly thought out system.  We wanted our family sharing plan to be something that was talked about and genuinely enjoyed by the masses as a way of inciting gamers to try new games.

Oh wow. This is truly awful. So at first, I thought family sharing would actually allow one person at a time to play the full game. So it’d be kind of like disc sharing except with MS shackles added. But, in fact, it’s time limited to as few as 15 minutes! MS wanted us to give up the ability to share our games and buy/sell/trade them like the actual owners of property we’re supposed to be… in exchange for some awful shareware demo mode. No, thanks.

The motto around the offices for the family plan was “It’s the console gaming equivalent to spotify and pandora” it was a social network within itself!  The difference between the family sharing and the typical store demo is that your progress is saved as if it was the full game, and the data that was installed for that shared game doesn’t need to be erased when they purchase the full game!  It gave incentive to share your games among your peers, it gave games exposure, it allowed old games to still generate revenue for publishers.  At the present time we’re no longer going forward with it, but it is not completely off the table.  It is still possible to implement this with the digital downloaded versions of games, and in fact that’s the plan still as far as I’m aware.

 

Another feature that we didn’t speak out about was the fact we were building a natural social network with Xbox One in itself that didn’t require gamers to open their laptops/tablets to post to their other friends nor did they need to wrestle with keyboard add-ons.  Each Xbox Live account would have a full “home space” in which they could post their highest scores, show off their best Game DVR moments, what they’ve watched via Xbox TV and leave messages for others to read and respond to.  Kinect 2.0 and Xbox One work together and has robust voice to text capabilities.  The entire notion of communicating with friends you met online would have been natural and seamless.  No reliance on Facebook, or Twitter (though those are optional for those who want them).  Everything is perfectly crafted for the Xbox One controller and Kinect 2.0 and given that shine that only Microsoft can provide.

It’s the console gaming equivalent of iTunes Ping. Fixed that for you. I’ve (briefly) used both Spotify and Pandora, but I wouldn’t view either one as a social network. When I think of a social network that uses content instead of people as its basis, I think iTunes Ping. You know, possibly Apple’s biggest flop of the past half-decade? I maybe know one person that used it, and every time they did, I was left with this “WTF” feeling. People are sheep. They really are. But when you try to build a social network on a basis of commercialism, even sheep will sense something’s amiss. Don’t delude yourself into thinking your “Xbox Social” thing would go any better than Ping. It’s the exact same concept, but with games instead of music.

We at Microsoft have amazing plans for Xbox One that will make it an amazing experience for both gamers and entertainment consumers alike.  I stand by the belief that Playstation 4 is Xbox 360 part 2, while Xbox One is trying to revolutionize entertainment consumption.  For people who don’t want these amazing additions, like Don said we have a console for that and it’s called Xbox 360.

The stupid. It burns. Every time I hear this, I just… ugh. I cannot really put my frustration into words here. And the fact that it isn’t just a MS employee spouting this off (which I could believe), but actual internet commenters have said it as well. If draconian limitations on what people can do with your console are what you believe really “sets it apart” and makes it “next generation,” it sucks. It isn’t what people want. And it doesn’t deliver a new experience. It delivers a locked-down version of the old experience. Please, just please. Stop. Don’t try to shove this DRM down our throat as the “killer feature” of your new console. This paragraph, right here. It’s why I wrote this post. Do we really live in a world where the inability to share or resell our games is a featureBeyond that, what kind of drugs are we as a society on when we let a company tell us that this is the feature of their new console? That we should be positively craving this?

Also, this Don person? Is he PR? Because he’s doing a terrible job. You never try to market your old product as superior to your new one. Let’s focus on what matters here: The games. Here’s what really defines a console as next-generation. Are the games bigger? Are they better? Not some dumbassed marketing gimmick like “family sharing” that makes the Wii U’s tablet screen sound like a decent feature by comparison. There’s been a trend in consoles. Each new generation is more powerful than the last, and the games (as far as technical capability – I love the classics just as much as anyone) get better. That’s always been what’s defined “next-generation.” And from what I’ve seen, these new games look impressive. The Xbox 360 just doesn’t do that. It doesn’t have the power.

So here’s what we want from this generation: We want a better, more powerful gaming experience. And we’re perfectly content with being given that and having it labeled as “next-generation.” As it always has.

What we don’t want is a gimmick. And as you business types like numbers, look at the abysmal Wii U sales to see where those kinds of things get you. Have I finally made my point? Because I’d really like some other topic to blog about now.