Editorials

As our game-playing readers have probably noticed by now, Xbox for Windows Phone isn’t truly out of drought territory just yet. There is no new Xbox release this week. We asked Microsoft whether the two free Gameloft games on Tuesday were intended to make up for the lack of release. Unfortunately, those games being offered for free resulted from a Store glitch that has since been corrected.

Microsoft couldn’t tell us whether there will be a new Xbox Windows Phone game next week, either. It’s clear that the problems facing the platform won’t go away any time soon. Let’s just hope our editorial series can inspire the powers that be to move things in a better direction… In the meantime, we've got another rumor explaining the lack of games and a hefty list of titles that Microsoft could and should be producing for Windows Phone!

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Confession: I personally started “February Fitness Month” back in mid-January and have been regularly exercising for the last few years, including a more aggressive cardio routine starting last summer. Because of this, I’ve been using the Nike FuelBand ($150) and Fitbit One ($99) for quite some time and I can definitely tell you which one I think is the best.

While I won’t do a complete teardown I will give you the pros and cons of each and as you will see, the decision between the two is very easy.

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Remember that huge five week long game drought we just went through? We didn’t get official word from Microsoft until the fourth straight week without a release, after the drought had almost passed (and not for lack of trying on our part). As every week went by, your humble author and most avid Windows Phone gamers became increasingly distressed. The whole situation brought to light the ever-worsening handling of Xbox games for Windows Phone by the platform holder.

It also led to the creation of this very series of editorials about how Xbox games for Windows Phone can be turned around. Microsoft has a wonderful gaming synergy on its hands with Xbox Live and Windows Phone, if only they will make proper use of it. We’ve already explored several ways to do so: overhaul the certification system that’s completely inappropriate for mobile games, get internal forces within Microsoft on the same page about the value of Xbox Live, and then promote Windows Phone directly alongside Xbox consoles.

Today we follow up on that last point by looking at the lack of public relations management that affects mobile Xbox games and makes it difficult for both Windows Phone and Windows 8 developers and publishers to promote their own games.

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You can do a lot with your Windows Phone. From making a phone call to checking your email to watching videos or playing games, our Windows Phones have a ton of potential. February is fitness month here at Mobile Nations and we focus on the health and fitness capabilities of our smartphones.

The strength of our Windows Phone with regards to fitness rest with apps. Our weakness likely lies with the lack of direct compatibility with fitness accessories.

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The implementation of Xbox games on Windows Phone is riddled with problems. While these range from “Darn it” minor to “Holy crap!” major, as a whole they threaten the viability of Xbox games on the platform. We believe Microsoft can still turn things around and make Xbox Windows Phone a mobile gaming force to be reckoned with, hence this series of editorials.

Part One of this series focused on the problematic Xbox Live certification process, and Part Two looked at both the importance of Xbox games to Windows Phone and the platform’s need for popular game engine support. In this installment we’ll tackle the simple need for proper volume control, the ability to redownload purchased games, and the weak advertising presence of Xbox Windows Phone games so far.

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Yesterday the rumors about Michael Dell taking his company private were put to rest. It’s happening, and the deal is worth $24.4 billion. 

I’ve seen a few comments written about how Michael Dell is robbing shareholders. I don’t think that’s true at all. The stock was trading around $11 prior to rumors of a management buyout. The deal gives shareholders $13.65 per share, which is a decent premium. Obviously some shareholders may think they’re getting ripped off because the stock was already close to the buyout price before the deal was officially announced. But if the deal evaporated, the stock would surely nosedive. This logic escapes some people. Nothing you can do about that.

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With the release of BlackBerry 10 this week, Microsoft has even more fresh blood for competition in the smartphone business. While one could argue that it is still Android or iOS that Microsoft is up against, the picture painted for spring 2013 is one of stiff competition and a fight for the third spot.

Windows Phone 8 has made great strides in making Redmond’s mobile OS much better than its predecessor, most importantly with the new NT kernel which will allow Microsoft to grow the OS. Having said that, there is a lot of room for improvement and we’re not just talking about touch-up features either but core aspects that need to be addressed.

Below is a list of 8 things we think Microsoft needs to fix in order for Windows Phone to really take off. We’re confident Microsoft already knows about these and in fact may have solutions in the pipeline. At least that's the hope.

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BlackBerry today unveiled its new family of smartphones, running BlackBerry 10. The Z10 (review) is arguably the flagship device, touted as new innovation and pushing the boundaries of mobile computing. We checked out the presentation today and kept a watchful eye on how everything was progressing. It's impressive to see how RIM (now BlackBerry) has turned things around, but how does the Z10 rank against the Lumia 920?

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Today, as expected the company formerly known as RIM has announced the availability of BlackBerry 10.

With two new devices, the Q10 (traditional qwerty phone) and the Z10 (traditional slab touchscreen) and an early global launch including all 4 US carriers by March, the Waterloo company has done an impressive mini-comeback.

The question is, is it enough?

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The recent extended release drought of Xbox games for Windows Phone has prompted both game developers and players alike to question Microsoft’s commitment to Xbox Live support for its own mobile OS. For their part, Microsoft kinda-sorta reaffirmed their dedication to mobile Xbox games, and the long in-development Skulls of the Shogun finally debuts this week. Perhaps the drought has ended and Xbox Windows Phone games will blossom anew once more.

Still, all those weeks without new games didn’t happen by random chance. There are myriad underlying problems at fault, from outdated policies to poor portfolio management to a combination of apathy and ambivalence from some divisions within the platform holder itself. To anyone with an ounce of understanding of the mobile games industry, it looks bad - and it is bad. But Microsoft can still save Xbox games for Windows Phone.

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This morning we posted Nokia’s brief demonstration of Music+ for Windows Phone, HTML5 and Windows 8. We expect to hear a lot more on this and other Nokia news in the coming weeks at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (we’ll be there in force to cover it), so we forgive their brevity on the new music service. Consider it a tease.

What’s not said though is how significant it is that Nokia is making their first Windows 8 and RT app.

Granted, writing an RT app once you have a Windows Phone compile is supposed to be easier. But writing a native Windows desktop client? That's a little trickier. That raises some interesting questions including just how large is Nokia’s Windows desktop team? Is it a 3 man crew or a whole group including engineers?

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This week the two biggest components of the Windows Phone ecosystem reported financial results.  Microsoft and Nokia both printed decent numbers.

I won’t spend much time on Microsoft.  It was a fairly boring quarter. The Redmond giant came in with results that were in line with analyst results.  They’ve now sold a grand total of 60 million Windows 8 licenses, but this includes licenses sold to Dell and other manufacturers. So it’s hard to pin down exactly how many boxes consumers are actually buying with the latest and greatest Windows OS.

In the land of mobile, Microsoft won’t say how many Surface tablets they’ve sold.  I can’t say I blame them.  If they revealed numbers they’d just be compared to iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab sales. Why would Microsoft want to give people more reason to print negative headlines?

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Over the last couple of months, Windows Phone Central has been highly skeptical and/or critical of Microsoft’s dedication towards Xbox games for Windows Phone. As the weeks without a new Xbox release (excluding Nokia exclusives) have grown, so has our certainty in an underlying problem. This culminated with a game developer stepping forward to explain Microsoft’s reticence towards approving new Xbox projects, not to mention the conspicuous snubbing of Windows Phone in the announcement of the multiplatform WSOP: Full House Pro.

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Things haven’t been looking too good for Xbox games on Windows Phone lately. As our readers probably know, there hasn’t been a new Xbox game released since KenKen on December 19th. Just before that there were two more weeks with no release: one before and one after AlphaJax arrived. Nokia users have a bit more to play thanks to iBomber Defense, but that does not help everyone else. Well, this week the disturbing trend continues: Microsoft has confirmed that there will be no new Xbox Windows Phone game or Deal of the Week this week. Yikes!

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Just recently the BBC released yet more new apps for Apple’s iPhone and announced plans for more support of Google Android devices. The corporation has stated publically the need to make its content available to all in as many ways as possible but has persistently refused to develop a single app for Windows Phone. They now state they have no plans to support a Windows 8 app too.

The BBC have often cited incompatibilities in their chosen media formats with Windows Phone and the relatively small market share for the platform as being reasons not to make an app. In the latest statement from the ‘beeb’ it’s also apparent that market share and file types aren’t the only thing stopping them developing for Microsoft operating systems. Reason and logic don’t seem to come into play.

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Windows Phone Central at CES 2013

We are less than 48 hours away from CES 2013 officially kicking off. In the past anticipation was high for new gadgets when CES was on the horizon. However, this year is a little different for the Windows Phone camp. Last year at CES we got our first look at the Lumia 900, but this year Microsoft will have a significantly smaller presence than it has had in the past, same goes for Nokia. We also aren't really expecting new hardware Windows Phone hardware from HTC or Samsung. So what then can you look forward to?

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This one has been brewing for a while and it seems that the rhetoric is now stepping up as Microsoft and Google prepare to do battle. The stage has been set and much of the coming drama will focus on Windows Phone.

Microsoft has today written publically about Google’s direct refusal to open up YouTube access so that Windows Phone users can easily use the service when mobile, something we first reported back in March 2011. The plot thickens when we learn that Microsoft has a high quality YouTube app ready to release. Don’t be evil, read on past the break to find out more.

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As we’re starting to return to full steam here at Windows Phone Central from the holiday season, we need to evidently begin reporting on the stupid again (thankfully it's not more Android-Nokia rumors). This time Forbes online contributor Tristan Louis is “predicting” that Nokia will exit the hardware business this year and sell off their assets to Microsoft and/or Huawei.

No evidence is provided, mind you. Not a single “unnamed source” or even the tried and tired “people familiar with the matter” go-to device for reporting on irresolute rumors.  And if you’re scratching your head at who Tristan Louis is or why you should care about what he writes, you’re not alone as we’ve never heard of him either (he’s evidently an “entrepreneur”, which we think means something along the lines as “guy with money”).

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Yesterday we went over Windows Phone Central’s picks for the best Xbox Windows Phone games of 2012. It may not have been a stellar year, but we can certainly count 2012 as the best year for Windows Phone gaming so far. Narrowing down the finest games from nearly 50 weekly releases was no mean feat for someone who enjoys nearly every genre and approaches all games with love.

Still, no amount of optimism can overlook the turkeys that sometimes squeeze their way into the Xbox lineup. How do we spot these wretches? Well, broken Achievements, poor controls, and dysfunctional online components are all telltale signs of a game better left unreleased. That makes selecting the bottom of the barrel titles so much easier than choosing the top shelf games.

Head past the break for to learn how a bad game happens and Windows Phone Central’s Worst Xbox Windows Phone games of 2012!

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For many gamers, Xbox Live functionality is one of Windows Phone’s most compelling selling points. Windows Phones allow people who already own an Xbox 360 to log in with their existing Xbox Live/Microsoft ID and receive instant access to their Xbox Live profiles, friends lists, messages. Existing users can customize their Xbox avatars directly from their phones, while new users can create them. The SmartGlass app can even sync with a handful of Xbox 360 games and apps right now, with more titles to support SmartGlass in the future.

Sure, you can many of those features on iOS as well, but they aren’t nearly as integrated as on Windows Phone. Most of the functionality is built right into WP8; WP7 users need the Xbox Live Extras app. The SmartGlass app requires a quick download on both WP7 and WP8. After that, you’ll find it all conveniently located in the Games hub.

Head past the break for more of Windows Phone Central’s Xbox Live primer plus our picks for the best Xbox Windows Phone games of 2012!

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