Thurrott Daily: March 29

Posted on March 29, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Groove Music, Mobile, Music + Videos, Windows 10, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One with 0

Thurrott Daily: March 29

Tech tidbits from around the web.

3/29/2016 10:09:50 AM

Flying to San Francisco

I’m in the air as I write this, flying to San Francisco for the Microsoft Build 2016 conference. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Meet Us at Build 2016 for a complete rundown of our activities this week and for information about how you can come and week with Brad and me if you’re in the area. It’s going to be a busy week, and I’m hoping we’ll get some solid Windows news on Tuesday. –Paul

Xbox One’s backwards compatibility just keeps expanding

While it doesn’t make sense to write a post every time that Microsoft adds another Xbox 360 game to the Xbox One backwards compatibility list, it is worth noting that this list is slowly but steadily becoming something credible. This week, Microsoft added three more Xbox 360 blockbusters to the list—Halo Wars, SoulCalibur II, and The King of Fighters ’98—following the recent release of Call of Duty: Black Ops and the entire Bioshock series.

The neat bit is that the full list has really grown: There are now almost 150 titles on the list, up from 16 when it first debuted in late 2015. That’s excellent.

What was retained and lost in Gears of War 4 when Microsoft bought the franchise

Game Informer has an interesting article detailing the history of Gears of War 4, which was in progress at Epic before Microsoft bought the game franchise. Most fascinating, perhaps, are the ideas that Microsoft tossed aside when it took over development of the new game.

After Microsoft bought the Gears of War franchise in 2013, it was sent all the files and technology Epic had created for Gears of War 4. The Coalition essentially raided Epic’s “basement” to find the studio’s story treatments and old pieces of concept art. Some of the things that are now in Gears of War 4, such as the idea of setting the game in the future, the idea that Marcus would have a son, and even the name JD were all ideas originally developed at Epic prior to the Microsoft sale.

“The Swarm in Epic’s original take was different from ours. We started talking about what the Swarm would be at Epic, but [The Coalition] completely changed it as we developed the game on our own. The name stuck, but none of the monsters stuck.”

Epic worked on Gear of War 4’s preproduction for over six months before finally abandoning the project, and ultimately choosing to sell the franchise to Microsoft.

Check out Game Informer’s Gears of War 4 hub for even more info.

Groove Music to get gapless playback and more in Windows 10

MSPowerUser reports that a coming version of Groove for Windows 10 will add gapless playback and performance/sync improvements. The update itself notes:

This is a big update. Among other things, we’ve made the app faster, introduced gapless playback (no pause between songs), and now show playlists in their own gallery.

As part of this update, we’re rebuilding your music collection so the app can more quickly add music and sync changes from other devices.

Also, MSPoweruser notes that “when you hover a song, you Microsoft will now let you select multiple songs pretty easily and add them to a playlist or delete them which is also a nice UX improvement.”

Sounds great. And speaking of Groove…

Pandora ousts CEO, brings back a co-founder

Hey, it worked for Gateway. Music streaming giant Pandora has decided to shake things up a bit, The New York Times reports.

With its stock price suffering, and as competitors like Spotify and Apple Music transform the streaming music market around it, Pandora has come under increasing pressure to adapt. In recent months Pandora has unveiled ambitious changes to its service, and also weighed whether to sell itself.

On Monday Pandora threw Wall Street another curveball by replacing its chief executive, who had held the job for less than three years, with one of the company’s founders.

To revitalize itself, Pandora plans to move toward an on demand streaming model that would put it in direct competition with Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon and others in an increasingly crowded online music market. Pandora views the scale it has already built as a big advantage in this field, calling itself “the world’s most powerful music discovery platform.”

Pandora’s problem is the same as that facing Microsoft Groove: It’s only a partial solution when compared to full-feature music services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music. But here’s an interesting thing to consider, not that Microsoft will ever do a thing about it: Pandora and Groove are each missing what the other has, and a combined Pandora/Groove would be a full-featured competitor to those other services. No. It will never happen.

Acer’s Chromebook 14 will ship in April

I was just researching Chromebooks for home and work the other day and noticed that there hadn’t been anything interesting announced since last year’s 13-inch Dell Chromebook. But that’s about to change with the release of the Acer Chromebook 14, which appears to offer high-end features and design at the low price we associate with Chromebook. You can preorder it now at Amazon for just $300, but here’s a quick overview from Laptop Magazine:

Available in April at starting at $299, the new Acer Chromebook 14 not only features a 14-inch IPS display but also promises 14 hours of battery life. It’s all wrapped up in a solid aluminum chassis.

Acer is promising 14 hours of battery life with this model. If the Acer Chromebook 14 hits that mark, it would be the longest-lasting Chromebook we’ve seen. Currently, that honor goes to Dell’s Chromebook 13, which lasted 13 hours, 25 minutes in our battery testing.

It will be the laptop maker’s first Chromebook to sport an all-metal chassis, with an aluminum case. Acer says that allows the Chromebook 14 to remain light and thin: It weighs in at 3.42 pounds and is only 0.67 inches thick.

Looks OK, in that any Chromebook is at best OK.


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