The Xbox One Eighty, Facebook snaps and iPhone gets an Office
21st Jun 2013 | 10:00
Microsoft had a change of heart while Prism revelations rumbled on
What's worth $290 billion and goes SCREEECH WHEEEEE VROOM? You got it: Microsoft doing a U-turn over its Xbox One plans.
Wags immediately dubbed the decision an Xbox 180, and as Matt Swider and Michelle Fitzsimmons explain, the decision "does away with the much-maligned 24-hour check-in requirement that would have made even offline, disc-based games null and void with a day-long dropped internet connection" and kills the used games policy "that would have banned certain types of trade-ins of disc-based games."
That's great, says Patrick Goss: the decision "is hugely sensible, and should begin to draw a line under a launch that even the staunchest fans would describe as difficult." Gary Marshall agrees, but wonders how things got this far in the first place. "The problem is that tech firms live in SuperSexyFutureLand and, sadly, the rest of us don't," he says. "in SuperSexyFutureLand people are so excited about what a product can do, they ignore the negatives because the negatives don't affect them."
- How did the launch go? Check our up-to-date review of the Xbox One
It's not just Microsoft, either: the same attitude underpins disasters such as Apple's iOS 6 maps launch and Facebook's ill-fated Home. It's hubris and "they might want to look at that," Marshall suggests. "The biggest threat to successful tech firms isn't competition. It's complacency."
Who's looking at you?
Or maybe it's the feds. The PRISM scandal rumbled on this week in a stack of more denials, this time from Google: the firm's legal boss David Drummond stated categorically: "We're not in cahoots with the NSA and there is no government programme that Google participates in that allows the kind of access that the media originally reported."
Apple, Microsoft and Facebook have said much the same, and it seems that some of the most dramatic claims about PRISM - that firms were colluding with the authorities for mass surveillance - weren't true.
That doesn't mean the authorities aren't watching, of course - but many people believe that it's the tech firms we should worry about, not the security services. This week officials in several countries joined forces to seek assurances from Google over Glass's privacy issues, writing an open letter to CEO Larry Page about their concerns.
They're particularly worried about the combination of Glass and facial recognition technology; Google has banned such apps for the time being, but that ban probably won't be permanent.
Not everyone worries about being photographed, of course, and Facebook's just made oversharers' and meme posters' lives easier by enabling photo uploads to comment threads. At first we were like *sadface* but then we were like *picture of amused cat* and our friends were like *photo of bored dog in a canoe wearing a hat at a jaunty angle*.
Office opens on iPhone
Is it us, or is it cold in here? No, it's not us: it's because HELL FROZE OVER: after just six short years Microsoft Office is now available on iPads, and this week it turned up in the UK app store, moving Chris Smith to write that it gives us "the Power(Point) to Excel at Word".
"The Office Mobile app enables subscribers to and view and edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents, with any changes synced back to the cloud," he says, but "Microsoft's offering is of no use to users without an Office 365 membership." If you want one of those it's £7.99 per month or £79.99 per year, and you need to sign up separately because Microsoft doesn't want to give Apple a cut.
So why did Office on iOS take so long? "Microsoft has continually held off on launching the suite as it attempted to push Office as a Windows Phone-exclusive feature, while also looking to establish Windows-based tablets as iPad alternatives," Smith explains. Still, 2013's better than many had expected: earlier this year, Microsoft's roadmap suggested Office wouldn't hit iOS until late 2014.
Office isn't the only thing that's slow to appear on iPads, though: the iPad version of iOS 7 was conspicuous by its absence at WWDC, and it's still not available - but emulator screens are beginning to appear. You'll be amazed to discover that it's very like iOS 7 on an iPhone, but bigger. As Apple's Phil Schiller might put it: "doesn't innovate any more, my ass."