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Listen here

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If you are a fan of Crytek and their creations, then you should be excited for the launch of their Warface Open Beta. Crytek is the brilliance behind games such as Crysis and RYSE: Son of Rome; they take advantage of their high-tech CryEngine to bring life-like and realistic graphics to the screen. Warface is another take on the common shooter, but powered by the company's insane graphics engine, and of course we cannot forget to mention that it is free to play.

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The next version of Windows Phone is just around the corner, with it comes some fantastic hardware and the promise of new features. But what about the next gen apps?

While we have spent a great deal of time looking at the coming phones and peeking at the new underlying operating system did we forget that it’s the apps that matter? While we know that existing apps will work fine on the new OS, what lays in store for those dedicated Windows Phone 8 apps?

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In his latest letter to shareholders, Steve Ballmer has reiterated the desires of the company to become a devices and services company, contradicting what Charlie Kindel, former Windows Phone General Manager, had to say about the hardware dream with the Surface.

With the coming release of Windows 8 and the subsequent decision for Microsoft to dive in and develop its own tablet, it’s becoming clearer where this is taking them. A company that makes and delivers the entire stack. From cloud services to the device in your hand, this appears to be their vision.

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In preparation for Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is rolling out a beta-preview update for some Xbox users that features some new things including access to the Zune Marketplace, a re-designed UI and streaming video content (reported here earlier). The full preview contains: "ESPN on Xbox LIVE, Zune music, Netflix search, the new Xbox LIVE dashboard, and new updates to Zune video and Family Settings "

The new UI is very minimalist, having removed the next and previous "rows" from view and instead makes them just text when not highlighted. The effect is much cleaner looking now and truth be told, it's also much faster.

The Zune Marketplace allows you to buy or rent TV/movies in Standard or High Definition for various prices points ~200-300 points to rent ($3-4 roughly); ~800 points to buy (~$10).  Rentals are for 24 hours, whereas buying it allows you to stream or download (and later can sync to our devices with Windows Phone 7). The movie, TV and video selection id decent with content mostly geared to males aged 15-35).

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to stream music or podcasts directly from your Zune account and it's not clear if that is something they are planning. But overall the update is looking quite nice and we're pleased..

We'll have more coverage and an HD video up, probably in the AM tomorrow (as soon as our video camera shows up). Ask any questions in comments and we'll try to answer. For now, you can check out some more snapshots of the new UI and Zune Marketplace after the break!

Update: Received some clarification via email "...with Zune Pass, our monthly music subscription service, you stream or download as many songs as you like from the Zune Marketplace and listen to them for as long as you hold your subscription – on your PC, Windows Phone, Xbox, or in any browser via zune.net".  Sweet!

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