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Neither Halo series will be affected by cuts

It's a bit early to tell whether new Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella will be better or worse for Microsoft than previous CEO Steve Ballmer, who today is spending his days as the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.  But we've already seen fireworks from Mr. Nadella and some of it hasn't been pretty.
 
I. Nokia X -- Casualty; Nokia Lumia McLaren -- Coincidental Cancellation
 
On Wednesday it announced perhaps the biggest tech layoff plan of 2014, committing to culling 18,000 employees from the herd.  The move -- which Mr. Nadella says will allow Microsoft to be "more agile and move faster" -- will lay off roughly 12,500 Nokia Devices employees (roughly 2 out of every 5 Nokia Devices employees) and 6,500 Microsoft employees (roughly 1 in 20 Microsoft employees, globally).
 
The big question everyone wants to know is how will this affect Microsoft?
 
In the case of Nokia Devices, part of the cuts were organic, as Microsoft was primarily interested in Nokia's resurgent smartphone business and not necessarily its fading Asha feature phone business.  Sales dropped 30 percent between September (when Microsoft announced the $7.2B USD purchase) and April (when the acquisition completed).
 
Many complained from the start that the Android reskinning project, Nokia X, diluted Microsoft's Windows Phone brand. And while its first generation interface bordered on clumsy to bizarre at times, the decision to phase out Nokia X must have been a bit harder.
 
Nokia X
Nokia X was a predictable cut.

The second generation Nokia X2 had only just launched and did show signs of improvement.  And perhaps driven by the potential for easier pirating of software, the first generation model had cleared an impressive 10 million units in its Feb.-Mar. pre-sale, effectively selling out its first production run.
 
But Microsoft probably made the right choice.  With the Lumia 520/521 already competing with the Nokia X/X2 at similar price points (<$150 USD), and with the Lumia 530 "Rock" waiting in the wings, the Nokia X project seemed a distraction in spite of its promising sales.  Also making the choice easier, was the Lumia 520/521's own sales success.  With the Lumia 530 "Rock" inbound, Microsoft would suffer too much, volume wise.
 
Somewhat more surprising and disappointing are reports that McLaren -- Microsoft's tentative multi-carrier fall flagship -- is reportedly cancelled altogether.  And even more surprising is that this is reportedly not even due to the layoffs, but rather due to Microsoft being unsatisfied with developer response to a very early test build of the UI.  It appears Microsoft feared McLaren would be taken as precisely what it had complained Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935) hands-free tech was -- a gimmick.
 
For those unaware, McLaren was rumored to be the coolest/most compelling Windows Phone.  It was supposed to be the first Nokia Lumia to feature Microsoft's "3D Multitouch", a technology that not only senses your fingers' positions on and near the screen, but also how far they are when off the screen.
 
For those who haven't seen it, here's a quick demo:



As we've seen with the Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) Fire Phone, unique hardware can draw plenty of attention/hype, even in a device with less-than-Earth-shattering hardware specs.  In McLaren's case, the pitch would likely be even more compelling, as it was reportedly packing a bleeding edge spec including a quad-HD (QHD) (2560x1440 pixel) screen, a 20 megapixel PureView camera, and a model with 64 GB of built-in NAND storage.
 
II. Hope of Seeing 3D Touch Product This Year Isn't Gone Altogether, But Wanes
 
There's still some hope, though, that the 3D touch/gesture tech could find its way still into a 2014 device.  The decision to cancel McLaren was reported by Windows Phone Central, which wrote:

Starting this fall, Microsoft was poised to release a new high-end Windows Phone featuring their new gesture technology dubbed 3D Touch. The project originally went by the name 'Goldfinger' but later moved to the prototype device stage under the moniker 'McLaren'.

Windows Phone Central has confirmed with multiple sources familiar with the matter that Microsoft is completely canceling McLaren. In effect, this leaves Microsoft in a potentially vulnerable position this fall as the hardware and services company does not have any flagship Windows Phones, to our knowledge, in the pipeline.

A couple of questions remain, however.  First, it appears likely that Goldfinger is cancelled as well, but is it truly a separate device.  The Verge on June 9 offered a subtly different account, stating:

While Microsoft had originally planned to debut its 3D Touch features with Windows Phone 8.1 and a Nokia "Goldfinger" handset, we understand that the work has been pushed to an additional update planned for later this year. Goldfinger still exists, but it’s simply being used as an engineering device to prepare developers for the upcoming changes and the McLaren launch.

Second, Neowin is reporting:

What is not known is that we had heard that Microsoft was working on at least two 3D touch devices, so are both devices dead? We do not know if this means the other device is dead too but we suspect that its future might be a bit bleak given this news.

The other device was rumored to be the Lumia 1530 phablet.  Thus there's hope that either Goldfinger -- or the Lumia 1530 phablet -- could beat the odds and emerge sometime this holiday season bearing the technology, despite McLaren's cancellation.  The odds of that, though, have certainly faded considerably.
 
III. Are You Not Entertained?
 
Another announcement made this week was the death of Xbox Entertainment Studios.  The closure will result in the layoff of most of the roughly 200 employees in the unit.
 
Launched in 2012, Xbox Entertainment Studios was an experimental effort.  While it produced some content for Xbox Live subscribers, the overall campaign seemed relatively random and scattered, with staff putting together a seemingly disparate, ever-growing collection of documentaries, mini-series, sports broadcasts, and other content.


Xbox Entertainment

In his final days as CEO, Mr. Ballmer tried to double down and refocus the vision of the team.  At the launch event for the Xbox One, Steve Ballmer set forth a bold vision for 100s of TV shows, spanning not just its most popular franchise, but all sorts of more obscure titles plus a bunch of reality TV show concepts.
 
Satya Nadella entertained the idea of this new look for Xbox Entertainment Studios.  But just weeks after the first series -- a reality soccer television series "Every Street United" -- launched, it's clearing house of most of the employees and scrapping most of these plans.

Every Street United

The cutbacks will not kill the Ridley Scott-directed Halo: Nightfall series or the Steven Spielberg-produced Halo: The Television Series as they're already in production.  The same goes for Every Street United, but don't count on more seasons.  The move was first reported by Re/code and later confirmed Microsoft Studios head Phil Spencer.
 
Re/code wrote:
 
[Our] sources paint a picture of a disorganized studio that struggled to close deals and lacked a fully fleshed-out business model.

Carefully scrutinizing its business model to identify places to cut, Mr. Nadella in the end reportedly decided the studio was becoming too much of a chaotic circus show and distraction from Microsoft key objectives -- making software, making hardware, and making cloud services.

Sources: WPCentral, Neowin, RE/Code



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Um
By Cheesew1z69 on 7/18/2014 8:14:18 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
who today is spending his days as the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
I do believe this has not been finalized.




3d touch as bad as 3d tv
By laststop311 on 7/19/2014 6:58:16 AM , Rating: 3
that 3d touch looked terrible. They made the right choice killing that phone off.




Mixed feelings
By atechfan on 7/19/2014 7:59:59 AM , Rating: 1
3d touch did seem like a gimmick, so not terribly sad to see it go. But MS really needs a new flagship that is not carrier exclusive. The biggest obstruction to greater Windows Phone success isn't apps, I think, but lack of hardware. Nokia couldn't do it alone, but at least there are a bunch of new OEMs making phones now. In other parts of the world where carriers are not the primary source of phones for most people, the OS is doing OK. But here in North America, the lack of flagship devices coupled with the lack of carrier support is killing it.

I really hope that MS releases an upgrade to the 1020 soon, which a Sanpdragon 805, a camera and mic at least as good as the 1020, and a micro-SD slot. And get it on all the carriers right away.

As far as the closure of the TV division, good. I don't want MS distracted trying to make TV shows, except maybe a couple for their big IP. Please, no plethora of stupid reality shows. The soccer show to correspond with the World Cup I didn't mind. It was a reasonable attempt to get the non-NA market into Xbox.

Everybody should have seen the killing of Nokia X coming a mile away. It truly was an idea even worse than Kin. I hope there is some weird Indian martial art that Nadella used to bitch slap Elop over that.




RE: Mixed feelings
By Belegost on 7/19/2014 11:29:46 PM , Rating: 2
"I really hope that MS releases an upgrade to the 1020 soon, which a Sanpdragon 805, a camera and mic at least as good as the 1020, and a micro-SD slot. And get it on all the carriers right away."

This, so very much this. Seriously, I will not replace my 920 until there is a good 1020 successor, and it NEEDS an uSD slot, shooting RAWs on limited internal memory is ridiculous.


Seems sort of weird to me...
By Wolfpup on 7/22/2014 9:24:30 AM , Rating: 3
...to shut down that TV unit just after it was started up. I mean it was a bit weird to make it to begin with, but I was kind of interested in what it might produce down the line.

Though certainly Halo series of some sort with Ridley Scott or Spielberg (as little as his name means anymore) isn't the worst thing ever!




Hmmm
By sprockkets on 7/18/2014 11:14:55 PM , Rating: 2
What is weird is that in this weeks emails, MS said that they are cancelling *some* of the Nokia X stuff.

And get this. A poster on the corresponding Ars showed a screenshot of getting people to start developing for the X series of Nokia phones.




Halo: Nightfall
By someguy123 on 7/18/2014 11:19:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The Ridley Scott-directed Halo: Nightfall series


I don't understand why you claim Ridley Scott is directing that series. In the article linked through that text you somehow make the same mistake AFTER accurately reporting that he is just producing AND naming the actual director (Sergio Mimica-Gezzan). Producer credits in general are very misleading since it says little about their actual involvement in the film. Spielberg for example seemed to just allow Bay to make drastic changes to the transformer movie no matter how retarded.




Are you not entertained?
By LRonaldHubbs on 7/20/2014 11:08:25 AM , Rating: 2
Killed 3 gimmicks with one stone
By CSMR on 7/19/14, Rating: -1
RE: Killed 3 gimmicks with one stone
By atechfan on 7/19/2014 8:12:37 PM , Rating: 3
If you have never seen the quality of the pictures on Nokia phones, I guess you can be forgiven for calling them a gimmick. Once you see features like lossless zoom on a picture already taken, you'll see that it is far from a gimmick. More pixels is generally good as long as the sensor is large enough to actually make use of them.

Drop the 3d touch, add the 41 MP Pureview sensor, and release it already.


RE: Killed 3 gimmicks with one stone
By inighthawki on 7/19/2014 10:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
Well as always, the choice is best. I, for example, barely use the camera on my phone. I don't think I've used it in over a year, and the 41MP camera on a 1020 is an enormous waste of space on a phone. My mother, on the other hand, has a Lumia 1020 and loves the 41MP camera, and uses it all the time. IT is a great replacement for her larger camera when she goes places.

In short, I think the 41MP camera is great, but I'd also love to see a model with a tiny, or no camera and use the extra space for other things.


RE: Killed 3 gimmicks with one stone
By CSMR on 7/20/14, Rating: -1
RE: Killed 3 gimmicks with one stone
By EricMartello on 7/20/2014 9:48:21 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Once you see features like lossless zoom on a picture already taken, you'll see that it is far from a gimmick. More pixels is generally good as long as the sensor is large enough to actually make use of them.


You are right about the more MP is better part, but it's not actually "lossless zoom" on already-taken pics - it's cropping, which would not be "lossless" as you lose resolution the more you crop.

The difference between cropping and zooming is that "zooming" refers to a change in focal length, whereas cropping refers to adjusting the field of view regardless of focal length. That's one of the things that has really gotten lost in the mix with digital cameras and their "35mm equivalent", because a longer focal length looks different; it's not merely a difference in field of view.

So people who say a 25mm MFT lens is "equal to" a 50mm lens on a 35mm sensor are incorrect. The field of view would be the same but the focal lengths are obviously different. This is why the 12-35mm MFT lens is not the same as the very popular Nikon and Canon 24-70mm zoom lenses. Both have the same field of view, but pics taken with the 24-70mm will almost always be more aesthetically pleasing.


RE: Killed 3 gimmicks with one stone
By atechfan on 7/22/2014 1:01:39 PM , Rating: 2
I really explain it well. I assumed most of the readers knew how the 1020 worked and would know what I meant. The 41MP image is saved both raw and in a more Web-friendly 5MP through down sampling. You can zoom into part of the larger image after it is saved, then crop it and save that part in the 5MP format, effectively giving you zoom after the fact. Of course it loses detail vs. The full sized original, but it has the same detail as the downsampled wider angle shot. This is what I meant by lossless zoom.


By atechfan on 7/23/2014 11:39:11 AM , Rating: 2
I meant to say I really did not explain it well. Oops.


RE: Killed 3 gimmicks with one stone
By BZDTemp on 7/19/2014 8:53:02 PM , Rating: 3
Nothing killed except that exact phone.

And as for being gimmicks I don't know about the 3D thing, but 1440p and 20MPixels are certainly not gimmicks. I guess if it was up to you then all phones would still have cords :-)


RE: Killed 3 gimmicks with one stone
By CSMR on 7/20/14, Rating: -1
By nikon133 on 7/20/2014 7:50:05 PM , Rating: 2
Personally I'd agree with 1440p and 3D stuff, but 20MP camera? I think that is actually great and very useful thing.

In my usage scenario, I don't need more than 5MP out of phone camera, and super-sampling 20MP to 5MP does really nice for reducing visible noise, artefacts, and making photo look smooth but not soft.

My current Lumia is 8MP and I'm sampling down to 2MP for really nice results. In fact I have stopped carrying P&S camera wherever I go, decent 2MP for FB and such uploads are OK size... but 20MP > 5MP would give much more space for cropping, or extra noise "ironing" in night photos when you down-sample 20MP to 2MP. I definitely want 20MP from my next phone.


ok
By p05esto on 7/18/14, Rating: -1
RE: ok
By FITCamaro on 7/19/2014 1:30:38 PM , Rating: 1
Most PCs can't run games in 4K. What makes you think a $400-500 console would be able to?

4K is a gimmick right now. Sure its useful for pretty games, but beyond that, it doesn't have a point. Nothing else really is in 4K right now. I certainly don't want to watch 1080p content on a 4K display.


RE: ok
By inighthawki on 7/19/2014 5:42:59 PM , Rating: 2
Are you nuts? You think video games and video are the only reasons for 4K? How about improvements in screen realestate? sharper text and images?


RE: ok
By ritualm on 7/20/2014 4:44:16 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
What makes you think a $400-500 console would be able to [run games in 4K]?

The current generation of consoles are designed under the assumption that most of us already have a 1080p-capable display, not 4K.
quote:
4K is a gimmick right now.

So is a rMBP, because none of them can game 30fps+ at max res without dialing down quality settings. /s

I have that laptop and it's easily worth more than the $3000 I paid for it. While you have to use your entire screen to watch a 1080p movie, I can write a post on DT while watching that on the side. A 4K display means I can watch that movie while doing network admin for hundreds of servers.


RE: ok
By Cheesew1z69 on 7/20/2014 5:17:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I have that laptop and it's easily worth more than the $3000 I paid for it.
It's sad that you think 3K isn't absurdly overpriced.


RE: ok
By amanojaku on 7/20/2014 10:51:22 PM , Rating: 3
$3,000 isn't overpriced if the unit provides the value of a $3,000 machine. However:
quote:
I have that laptop and it's easily worth more than the $3000 I paid for it. While you have to use your entire screen to watch a 1080p movie, I can write a post on DT while watching that on the side. A 4K display means I can watch that movie while doing network admin for hundreds of servers.
None of those tasks require a $3,000 computer. A $1,000 laptop is already generous.

Secondly, it's no great accomplishment to watch a movie on such a little screen (bias - I only watch movies at 46" or larger) while social networking. I mean, it's useful and all, but not $3,000 laptop useful.

Last, I get that he's exaggerating about the number of systems he can administer, but he'd be lucky to get dozens. Not even a 4K display has that many pixels, nor does he have a display large enough.

Let's assume he only launches console connections, and each window is an unrealistically tiny 320x240. A 4K display gives him 2160 pixels in height, or 6.75 console heights. Let's say 7. It also gives him 3840 pixels in width, or 12 console widths. So... 12 * 7 = 84. And we haven't even put up a 1080p movie yet. I'm not sure where he's getting hundreds from.

If I tried to do like he says, my posts would be signed "Sent from my iStrain".


RE: ok
By ritualm on 7/21/2014 4:31:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It's sad that you think 3K isn't absurdly overpriced.

Yep, I should have bought a bunch of underpowered 1080p Win7 Ultrabooks instead of something that earned a 1/10 on iFixit!

Cheesew1z69, you have no concept of value until it knocks you unconscious. $3000 is merely a drop in the bucket, $1000 is impulse purchase territory, $60K for an entry-level Model S is a great deal. Of course they all look overpriced when you willingly sign away your life in recurring 2-year contract terms (plus onerous ETF fees or whatever they're called these days) to have the latest and greatest Android smartphones du jour...

BTW, the only thing keeping me from using 4K right now is implementation; it only works with certain specialized builds, and even then it's a mess - not at all a plug-n-play affair. The tech itself is no gimmick, but widespread consumer use is 6-12 months away. By the time 4K displays are on sale for $100-200, though, the early adopters are already heading towards 8K.

And we'll have the same exact discussion over the new tech being "useful/gimmick" again.


RE: ok
By Cheesew1z69 on 7/21/2014 8:31:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Cheesew1z69, you have no concept of value until it knocks you unconscious.
And you assume this why? I think 3k for a LAPTOP is absurd. I don't care what you do on it.


RE: ok
By ritualm on 7/22/2014 9:25:49 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think 3k for a LAPTOP is absurd.

3k for a laptop isn't absurd. Rugged laptops cost a lot more than that and you get even less computer in exchange for durability.

Again, you have no concept of value until it knocks you unconscious.


RE: ok
By atechfan on 7/23/2014 11:42:35 AM , Rating: 2
3k is a value if it does something you need it to do. Some people make money using devices like this. You can easily spend 3k on a Windows mobile workstation too.

Now if you were to argue that 3k gets you more in the Windows ecosystem than that Apple one, I wouldn't disagree.


RE: ok
By Pessimism on 7/21/2014 9:11:12 AM , Rating: 2
No, no it is not worth $3000. Not even close.

If you require hundreds of console or remote sessions to do your job, you are doing it wrong. That is what scripting and automation is for.

In addition, there is no way you could effectively use your hundreds of sessions. Your brain would be doing so many context switches that your actual productive work output would be near zero. Take away half of that for also watching a movie in the background.


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