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Tech Retrospect: Facebook gets Oculus, HTC unveils the next One

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


Are you ready for a world of cheap, amazing virtual reality? I certainly am, as are the thousands of backers and fans of Oculus VR, the company that created the Oculus Rift. Many of those fans are feeling a little let down this week, with the major news that Oculus VR has been acquired by Facebook. The $2 billion transaction, consisting mostly of stock, opens the door for a bright, open, unworried future for the little startup that so many were very optimistic about.

However, at the same time it casts a somewhat disheartening shadow over that future. Everyone was excited about great gaming experiences and other fun stuff you could do in VR, but the fear now is that the experience will be instead used to create silly virtual worlds and breezy social games -- the sorts of things many of the Rift's Kickstarter backers don't really enjoy. (Or, at least, don't like to admit they enjoy.)

Josh Miller/CNET

The fact of the matter is this: it's too early to tell exactly what this deal means for the future of the company and its product. For now, Oculus VR says it's business as usual. So, put down those pitchforks for the time being and hope for the best, but if you want to read an awful, awful lot more about this, I encourage you to check out my more- detailed analysis. No pressure.

HTC releases the One (M8) upon the world

Josh Miller/CNET

Just about everybody who sees and feels the HTC One loves it, but that wasn't enough for the device to climb the sales charts and conquer the Galaxies and iPhones of the world. HTC is having another go at it just the same, releasing a new phone -- that's still called One. (Mostly. It's full official name is " HTC One (M8) ", a fact that's giving our SEO hounds fits.) Moving beyond unnecessary parentheticals, the new One doesn't break the mold so much as polish off the edges, with a very familiar yet more rounded shape, one that looks great and feels even better but that some may find a little tricky to hold on to. Performance is up as is battery life, and basically everything is better across the board. However, the last One didn't light the sale charts on fire. Can a refreshed, refined version really hope to find drastically better results at retail? That's especially true with a price that's north of $600 at most carriers. (As high as $650 off-contract at Sprint.)

Office hits iPad


Satya Nadella has been CEO of Microsoft for over a month, but he made March 27 his real coming out party by announcing the long-anticipated release of Office for iPad. The separate apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote are all free to use, but if you want to actually edit files you'll need to subscribe to Microsoft's Office 365 plan -- which you can do in-app, should you choose. Overall, the apps look great and (other than a few glitches here and there) perform quite well, too. My only question: is it too late? This will certainly make a lot of professional users happy, but will it really bring new subscribers to Office? Or, will it simply encourage the current ones to hang around for a little while longer? And if that's the case, it may well be enough.

Amazon invites us to an event, might be pushing even harder into video streaming


Amazon sent us a cheeky invite this week, promising an "update" on the company's "video business." Much of the world is expecting some sort of a streaming hardware device, ala the Chromecast, but that may not be all. Word on the proverbial street is that Amazon is ready to launch a free version of its streaming services, something that's ad-driven rather than baked into the cost of the (recently inflated) Prime service. This would be a bit of a rarity in the world of premium video streaming, but when it comes to streaming music this sort of model is very common. In fact, most companies that launch music-streaming services expecting to make their money through subscriptions instead wind up making what they can through ads. If Amazon can make this work, it will be yet another bad sign for the cable industry and traditional broadcasting. We have enough of those as it is.

Sprint gets more serious about the boondocks


With AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile engaged in price wars and vicious battles to deliver more and faster coverage in metropolitan areas, Sprint has decided better fortunes are to be found in the hills. Rather than spending to build out its network to bathe these areas in connectivity, the company is partnering with both the Competitive Carrier Association's Data Roaming Hub and NetAmerica Alliance, groups that offer LTE connectivity in less-developed areas of the US. Since back before the days of the Nextel merger, Sprint has been known as a carrier with better awareness of rural users than the rest. This move shows that's still in effect, though the net result remains to be seen.

Woman gets 3D-printed skill; you get to watch

An unnamed Dutch woman has undergone an incredibly rare and equally impressive procedure that has seen her doctors replace much of her skull. Why are we reporting on it? Because that skull came off of a 3D printer. A rare (and also unnamed) condition caused the woman's skull to thicken to three times its normal size, pressing on her brain and causing vision issues. So, in an amazing 23 hour procedure, her doctors replaced her skull with the surrogate you see above. The procedure actually took place some three months ago, and the patient has apparently made a full recovery and is back to work. Amazing.