THE BROWSER: Truth and rumors from the tech world
Microsoft rejiggers the XBox 360
The software giant is pumping up Xbox's online features to include videos and more multiplayer games. Plus: French say "Non!" to iTunes.
By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 Magazine online editor and Oliver Ryan, Fortune Magazine reporter

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) - Microsoft has long set its sights on the living room. But the Xbox 360 could be the Trojan Horse that carries out its invasion plans into the world of entertainment. Take last week's announcement that pop star Natasha Bedingfield would release her next music video exclusively on the Xbox 360, the first in a year-long deal with music label Epic Records. Then, at this week's Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, the software giant announced that it would open up its Xbox Live online service to independent game developers so that they can program multiplayer online games for the new Xbox 360 console. With Xbox Live now offering online chat, video downloads and multiplayer games, Microsoft (Research) just needs one more thing to complete its hold on the Xbox's young, mostly male audience: the long-rumored Xbox Portable.

French say "Non!" to iTunes

NBC's 'The Office' to air online-only episodes
Over the summer, the hit comedy will broadcast 10 original episodes on the Web. Plus: 'Godfather' whacks EA again. (more)

As Apple's iPod sales flourish, so does its iTunes Music Store, which sells songs that only play on iPods, of course. Now, however, the French parliament is set to upend Steve Jobs' de facto monopoly. Lawmakers in Paris are expected today to pass a law that would allow consumers to break iTunes' software restrictions to convert iTunes song to other formats such as Windows Media so they can play on other players. What will Apple (Research) do? Besides challenging the law in court, the likely options are to comply or to shut down iTunes in France. Gadget blog Gizmodo says that Jobs will close shop rather than knuckle under. French lawmakers say the move is needed to boost the online music business, but the market hardly seems to need their help: Digital music sales grew fivefold in France last year, while conventional record sales dropped 8 percent.

Google Finance flops?

Years ago, Google's statement of corporate philosophy told users that the search engine didn't "do horoscopes, financial advice, or chat." Well, one out of three ain't bad. Google Finance's launch, right on the heels of the Google (Research) Talk chat service, leaves only horoscopes for Google to conquer. And much of the blogosphere is panning the new financial service. Venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky calls it "all whiz, no bang." Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li says users of sites like Yahoo Finance and MSN Money are unlikely to switch. And Business 2.0 senior writer Om Malik, in perhaps the most cutting critique, compares using Google Finance to "watching Al Pacino in a stinker like Two for the Money." Maybe Google will have better luck with Google Horoscopes.

Sprint to launch local Wi-Fi

In the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada, Sprint Nextel's (Research) local phone business is testing a citywide Wi-Fi network. At Wi-Fi Networking News, Glenn Fleishman notes that this is just one of the latest moves by telecom and cable firms to embrace Wi-Fi networks, after fighting them for years. Fleishman also notes that BellSouth (Research) is considering using WiMax, a longer-range wireless technology, to provide high-speed Internet access in areas with slow or damaged phone networks. Top of page

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