Tech Retrospect: Xbox One launches and Samsung loses again

Miss a few stories this week? We'll get you up to speed with this rundown of all the biggest and most interesting bits of tech news.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
4 min read

Last week it was PS4, and this week Microsoft joins in the fun. The Xbox One has officially launched, and you can read our full review here. As I write this I imagine there are eager gamers all over North America running to the window every time they hear a delivery truck. But, an evening Azure outage saw Microsoft engineers running to the server closet the night before. The issues threatened to derail launch proceedings somewhat by knocking Xbox.com offline. The prospect of a non-functioning Xbox Live on release day was extra daunting given the necessity of updating the console as soon as it comes out of the box, but thankfully services were quickly restored.

There was another blow ahead of the launch, with Twitch gameplay streaming pushed at the last minute to a 2014 release. In the lead up to the release, we on the media side were being told of impending updates to enable the service. But, it seems things sadly couldn't be pulled together in time. You'll have to upload and share your clips manually for now.

Sony sells a million

Mind you, Sony's launch last week was far from flawless. Though the system went on to sell more than a million units in its first 24 hours, some users went online to complain of systems that would fail to play games, or fail to boot at all. Their systems would just pulse a taunting blue light and go no further. Sony was quick to respond, saying that less than 0.4 percent of launch units were affected, which means something like 4,000 unhappy customers who will be getting replacement systems -- and hopefully a free game or something for their troubles.

Apple v. Samsung settlement redux


The latest round of Apple versus Samsung legal drama came to a close this week, after a relatively short and drama-free trial -- though one that was not entirely without fireworks. After one of Apple's lawyers made a point of Apple being an American company during closing arguments, Samsung's legal team asked for a mistrial due to what it termed racist speech. Samsung's eagles made a similar request a day later, after one of Apple's key patents, covering pinch-zooming, was called into question by the US Patent Office.

As Judge Lucy Koh shot down both attempts, the jury did its job, coming up with a new round of damages for Samsung to pay. $290,456,793 worth, to be exact. That's a fair bit less than the $380 million Apple wanted, and a lot more than then $52 million Samsung thought it owed. This figure is piled on top of the roughly $600 million Apple was awarded in the earlier trial, though still a couple hundred million dollars short of the original damages, which clocked in at over $1 billion.

Enjoying these legal antics? I hope so, as we're quite sure there's more to come.

Apple's new campus fully approved


In more good news for Apple, the company got final approval to begin construction on its "spaceship" campus in Cupertino. The city council unanimously approved the plan, with Apple agreeing to pay a greater sum of city taxes in the future as a sort of thank you. Rather than receiving a 50 percent refund, Apple will now take only 35 percent back. This would have meant roughly an additional $2 million in taxes last year, a number only slightly overshadowed by the figures tossed about above.

Google Glass devs power up

On Google's side of the fence, the company finally introduced developers to the full Glass Developers Kit. This software interface will let skilled developers properly tap into the full functionality of its Google Glass headset for the first time, writing apps that use the camera and the microphone to do things like real-time sign translation and more. This should, in theory, mean some far more compelling uses for Glass -- though with Google still saying no to facial recognition, those of us who struggle to remember names are still on our own.

Google Wallet in your other wallet


Google also started shipping an actual Google Wallet card, thus making one of the more popular virtual wallets somewhat more tangible. The card can be loaded up with cash online, coming from a verified bank account you've already tied to Google's services, and then used when out and about in meatspace. Think of it as a Google-branded debit card for those who want to add an additional layer of complexity and surveillance to their shopping habits.

Blade Runner Aquarelle

Finally, for your Friday video distraction, I'll leave you with this 35-minute version of Blade Runner composed entirely of watercolor paintings. It is obscure at times, hauntingly beautiful at others, and quite an accomplishment regardless of whether you like the movie or not. (Though shame on you if you don't.) Anders Ramsell created 12,597 tiny paintings for this project, and if he's a smart man he'll start selling them individually on eBay soon. I know I'd like one for my office, preferably one showing an origami unicorn.