Why baseball benched Microsoft Silverlight

image The thwacking sounds of bats striking balls will once again fill stadiums, as Monday is opening day for Major League Baseball. This year, Microsoft will watch from the sidelines.

MLB.com no longer uses Microsoft’s Silverlight to stream games to its 500,000 subscribers. This season fans will watch live and on-demand video via Adobe‘s Flash player.

In November, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the league’s tech unit, announced it would discontinue using Silverlight, the browser plug-in that MLBAM had signed up for barely a year earlier. The decision was not insignificant. MLBAM not only runs the profitable MLB.com streaming-video service, the Web’s most successful subscription service, but the group is also influential with other leagues and sporting events. MLBAM handles much of the back-end operations for CBS‘ Webcasts of the NCAA Basketball Tournament and this year will do the encoding for the 2009 Masters golf tournament.

Baseball never detailed the reasons for dropping Silverlight but sources close to the negotiations between the league and Microsoft said it was a series of glitches and conflicts between the companies that led to the split.

Read the full article at CNET News.

My painfully poky week with IE 8 (Webware)

image In the interest of broadening my horizons, I promised Microsoft I’d give Internet Explorer 8 a fair shake by trying the browser as my default for a week.

And, boy, am I glad that week is over.

Microsoft’s browser rules the roost with about two-thirds of the market, according to Net Applications, which collects a broad set of data on which browsers people use. There’s nothing like being built into the dominant operating system for winning a popularity contest. Microsoft takes advantage of that position by building instrumentation into IE that illuminates what a typical Web user is doing.

There’s typical, and then there’s me. As somebody who spends dozens of hours a week in a Web browser, I’m sorry to say IE 8 is not for me. Although my Web-heavy lifestyle isn’t average, I believe the challenges I face on the Web foreshadow what the rest of the world will experience as the Internet inexorably encompasses ever more of our work and personal lives. I prefer browsers that aim toward where the puck is heading, as the tired but useful cliche goes.

IE 8 (download link) catches up to where the puck is today. It’s definitely a big improvement over its predecessors, with some commendable features including default support for Web standards. And I do hope people upgrade.

It’s just that in my personal experience, IE 8 not in the same league as my default browsers, Google’s Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox.

There are competitive points from these rivals that one might have thought would weigh in to my antipathy for IE 8. Google makes a big fuss about Chrome’s high-performance JavaScript engine, which lets it run Web-based applications with greater sophistication and alacrity. Firefox fans adore the wealth of extensions that can tailor the browser to innumerable specific needs without cluttering the interface for those who don’t want those features. Microsoft counters with a study that shows its page-loading speed generally beating out rivals.

In reality, it was something more mundane that gave me a Pavlovian feeling of dread when it was time to use the browser: its interface is slow.

When it was time for basic interactions such as launching new tabs, switching tabs, closing tabs, commanding IE to open pages, and scrolling through pages, I found myself all too often waiting for the browser to respond to my mouse and keyboard. I did miss some Firefox extensions, though I’m not a big user of them personally, and I did find Web applications like Gmail and Google Docs a bit slower. But those two gripes paled in comparison to performance…

See the full article at Webware.

Video game industry posts big February gains

image The video games industry continued to defy general economic realities in February, posting a 10 percent year-over-year sales increase and a 10.5 percent boost over January.

For the month of February, the industry recorded sales of $1.47 billion, up from $1.34 billion a year earlier, according to numbers released Thursday by industry analyst NPD Group. And the February numbers also outpaced January’s $1.33 billion. In February, software accounted for $733.5 million in sales, while hardware and accessories came in at $532.7 million and $207.1 million, respectively.

According to NPD, Microsoft‘s Xbox 360 had its second best non-holiday-season sales month since its launch, with 391,000 units sold. But once again, it was Nintendo that had the best overall performance. It sold 753,000 Wii consoles, as well as 588,000 DS handheld systems. Those numbers were up 10.8 percent and 15.1 percent, respectively, over January.

Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 didn’t have quite as successful a February. The PS3 moved 276,000 units, while just 131,000 PS2s were sold. However, those figures did represent a 35.8 percent and a 29.4 percent jump over January. In February, Sony’s PSP sold 199,000 units.

Nintendo also dominated the software sales side of things. Six of the top 10 best-selling titles in February were for either the Wii or the DS, including the repeat No. 1 performer, Nintendo’s "Wii Fit.

NPD analyst Anita Frazier said March looks good for the industry as well, despite the recession, because of titles such as Halo Wars, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Resident Evil 5, and more.

"The sheer quantity of great content coming to market early in the year should keep industry sales humming throughout 2009," Frazier said in a statement.

Source: CNET News.