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Nintendos’s New Healthcare Division To Develop Sleep Tracking Device

October 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Video game maker Nintendo Co Ltd will develop a device to monitor a user’s fatigue and map their sleep, Chief Executive Satoru Iwata said on Thursday, the first offering from the company’s newly created healthcare division.

The device will be co-created with U.S. firm ResMed Inc, which currently makes products to treat sleep disorders, and will be available in the financial year ending March 2016.

“By using our know-how in gaming… to analyse sleep and fatigue, we can create something fun,” Iwata said.

Nintendo, better known for its Mario video game franchise and Wii and Wii U consoles, has said it expects its healthcare division to turn a profit in 2015/2016. The company already offers fitness games on its Wii console, played with a motion sensor controller.

According to an image Iwata shared at a media conference, the device will be about the size of a hand and can be placed on a user’s bedside table. It will use microwave transmission sensors to track sleep, with the data collected used to help users cultivate healthy sleeping habits.

Iwata refused to discuss the company’s sales expectations for the new device beyond saying that it may be offered via a subscription service rather than a one-off purchase.

“We only start something new if we think we will be able to create a big market, but as I’m not able to discuss pricing plans and other details today I don’t think there’s much point in giving a figure for our projected scale,” he said.

The device was launched a day after Nintendo reported an unexpected quarterly profit, after hit games gave a boost to sales of its Wii U console.

 

 

Xiaomi Becomes World’s Third-Largest Smartphone Vendor

October 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi Inc has nudged it’s way into being the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor just three years after first hitting the market, trailing only Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc, according to a new industry study.

Strategy Analytics said Xiaomi accounted for 6 percent of all 320 million smartphones shipped during July-September. Samsung made up 25 percent, down from 35 percent a year earlier due to rising competition from several directions.

Apple’s share also fell slightly to 12 percent.

“Xiaomi was the star performer,” Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston said in a statement.

“Samsung continues to face tough competition from Apple at the higher-end of the smartphone market, from Xiaomi and Huawei in the middle-tiers, and from Lenovo and others at the entry-level.”

Xiaomi has been the top seller in its home market of China and recently entered India, where it sells phones exclusively through e-commerce site Flipkart.

Vice President Hugo Barra told Reuters in Bangalore last month that the company aimed to sell 100,000 phones a week in India in October when the country celebrates Diwali.

 

 

Microsoft’s MDM Finally Coming To Office 365

October 31, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft will rollout mobile device management (MDM) capabilities to Office 365 in 2015, making it easier for firms to manage corporate data across a range of mobile devices, including those running iOS and Android as well as Windows.

Microsoft unveiled the updates coming to its Office 365 cloud-delivered productivity suite in 2015 at its TechEd Europe conference.

These will enable customers to apply security policies against devices that connect to Office 365 to ensure that email and documents can be accessed only by approved devices, plus the ability to remotely wipe Office 365 data if necessary.

Julia White, Microsoft general manager for Office 365, said that the updates will enable customers to offer “conditional access” to Office documents and email, such as ensuring that any device used by employees has not been jailbroken or rooted, which could potentially pose a security risk.

Administrators will be able to set policies directly from the Office 365 administration portal, and enforce the use of a Pin to secure access to the device. Any wipe of Office 365 content will not affect the user’s personal data, White added.

These MDM features coming to Office 365 are actually powered by Microsoft’s Intune cloud-based management service and are a subset of Intune’s capabilities, the firm disclosed.

Intune itself is also getting some upgrades that will enable customers to benefit from additional security features if they also subscribe to Intune.

These will include data leak prevention measures that enable policies to be applied against managed applications, preventing users from copying and pasting data from an Office 365 app to another, for example, or copying files from Office 365 to elsewhere on the device.

While these capabilities are built in to Office 365, Microsoft will also enable this to be extended to other applications using Intune app wrapper functionality, White said.

White also confirmed that Microsoft is working on an Android version of the Office for iPad suite of mobile productivity tools that the firm announced for Apple’s tablet platform earlier this year.

Microsoft’s Office announcement comes amid speculation that the firm will release Office for Android next month.

Courtesy-TheInq

Microsoft Debuts $199 Fitness Device

October 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft Corp introduced a device called “MicrosoftBand” that will allow users to monitor their fitness and exercise regime, marking the world’s largest software company’s foray into the wearable technology market.

The wrist-worn device has sensors that monitor pulse rate, measure calorie burn and track sleep quality, Microsoft said in a blog post. Microsoft said the device will be available in the United States in limited quantities from Thursday for $199.

Apple Inc unveiled a smart watch on Sept. 9 that will combine health and fitness tracking with communications and will go on sale in early 2015, while Samsung Electronics Co unveiled its Galaxy Gear smart watch in September 2013. The Apple Watch will be priced at $349.

Microsoft also launched a health app called “Microsoft Health” that includes a cloud service for users to store and combine health and fitness data.

The Microsoft Health app will collect data from the fitness band and will work on iPhones and Android smartphones, as well as its own Windows Phone.

 

 

Microsoft Confirms Next Generation Of Office To Launch In 2015

October 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has confirmed that it plans to roll out its next version of Office for Windows in the second half of 2015.

ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley first reported on comments made by Julia White, general manager of marketing for Office and Office 365, at Microsoft’s Tech Ed Europe conference in Barcelona.

According to Foley, White said that the next version of Office on Windows would launch in the last half of next year, a broad timetable that was different from previous speculation, which had focused on the first half of 2015, perhaps as early as April.

During the end of a guest spot Tuesday on Channel 9, Microsoft’s online television channel, White did not specify the second half of the year, saying only “later in 2015.” But she did mention that the next version of Office would go through Microsoft’s typical testing process, including TAP (Technology Adoption Program) and a beta, with the latter presumably available to the general public.

TAP builds are pre-beta, and restricted to an invite-only group that’s usually composed of Microsoft’s larger corporate customers.

Microsoft confirmed that White’s comments were accurate as reported.

If Microsoft makes its target of the second half of next year, the upgrade would be on the same schedule as the last several editions, which have been released about two-and-a-half-years apart. Office 2013, for example, reached what Microsoft calls “general availability” in January 2013, while Office 2010 and Office 2007 made that milestone in June 2010 and January 2007, respectively.

The next office, code named Office 16, would carry the official label of Office 2016 if Microsoft follows convention.

 

 

Will Big Huge Game Be Able To Make A Comeback?

October 30, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Brian Reynolds buys the rights to Big Huge Games from the State of Rhode Island at auction and then reopens the studio and teams with Nexon to deliver the new mobile title called DomiNations.

The game might be inspired by a lot of games, but the basic idea is that you are the leader of a Stone Age tribe and you have guide your tribe through civilization and human history. The ability exists for you to form alliances, trade with friends, and raid your enemies.

Reynolds has not said what is next for the new Big Huge Games, but if DomiNations is successful, it could fund more complex projects for console or PC according to our sources.

Courtesy-Fud

BlackEnergy Malware Wreaking Havoc On Industrial Control Systems

October 30, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) has warned that industrial control systems (ICS) in the US have been compromised by the BlackEnergy malware for at least two years.

The BlackEnergy family of malware is believed to be the same used in the cyber attack against Georgia in 2008.

It uses a malicious decoy document to hide its activities, making it easier for the hackers to mount follow-up attacks.

US-CERT said the malware campaign is sophisticated and “ongoing”, and attackers taking advantage of it have compromised unnamed ICS operators, planting it on internet-facing human machine interfaces (HMI) including those from GE Cimplicity, Advantech/Broadwin WebAccess, and Siemens WinCC.

It is currently unknown whether other vendors’ products have also been targeted, according to US-CERT.

“At this time, Industrial Control Systems-CERT has not identified any attempts to damage, modify or otherwise disrupt the victim systems’ control processes,” said the team in an alert.

“ICS-CERT has not been able to verify if the intruders expanded access beyond the compromised HMI into the remainder of the underlying control system.

“However, typical malware deployments have included modules that search out any network-connected file shares and removable media for additional lateral movement within the affected environment.”


US-CERT describes the malware as “highly modular”, and said that not all functionality is deployed to all victims.

An analysis run by the team identified the probable initial infection vector for systems running GE’s Cimplicity HMI with a direct connection to the internet.

“Analysis of victim system artefacts has determined that the actors have been exploiting a vulnerability (CVE-2014-0751) in GE’s Cimplicity HMI product since at least January 2012,” the alert read.

On Monday, US-CERT also warned of attacks spreading the Dyre banking malware, which steals victims’ credentials.

The department said that, since mid-October, a phishing campaign had targeted “a wide variety of recipients”, but elements, such as the exploits, email themes, and claimed senders of the campaign, “vary from target to target”.

“A system infected with Dyre banking malware will attempt to harvest credentials for online services, including banking services,” the alert warned.

Courtesy-TheInq

IBM, Twitter Teaming Up On Data Analytics

October 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

International Business Machines Corp (IBM) on Wednesday announced a collaboration with Twitter to aid in business decisions using data collected from tweets worldwide.

IBM will help businesses predict trends in the marketplace and consumer sentiment about products and brands and will train 10,000 employees to consult businesses on the best use of Twitter data.

IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty has been trying to shift the 100-year-old company’s focus away from commoditized hardware to higher-value cloud and data analytics products.

In July, IBM announced a partnership with Apple Inc to offer iPads and iPhones loaded with applications geared toward enterprise clients.

“Here we are seeing an alignment of old tech and new tech companies. It is the second such deal that IBM has announced in the last couple months. They realize they don’t have all the answers and a lot of other companies have asset offerings that can be matched well,” said Scott Kessler, analyst at S&P Capital IQ in New York.

In April, Twitter acquired social data provider Gnip to burrow into the 500 million tweets sent daily on its network.

Enterprise clients will now be able to filter the data based on geography, public biographical information and the emotion expressed in the tweet.

The company previously allowed third-party companies such as Gnip, Datasift and Dataminr to buy access to tweets and re-sell that data to corporate clients.

 

Charles Schwab To Offer Free Investment Planning Offered By ‘Rob o-adviser’

October 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Charles Schwab Corp has confirmed that it will begin offering free automated investment plans picked by computer algorithms in the first quarter of 2015.

The program, which will be marketed as Schwab Intelligent Portfolios to retail investors and independent investment advisers, will create portfolios of exchange-traded funds managed by Schwab and other providers.

In offering the service without management, transaction or account service fees, Schwab intends to be “disruptive” to competitors that have rapidly been introducing “rob o-adviser” platforms that charge fees of about 0.25 percent of money invested, Schwab officials said in a conference call with analysts and investors.

Reuters reported Schwab’s plan to introduce a free rob o-program on Oct. 3.

Schwab said it can make money through fees from managing and servicing underlying ETFs and from investing client cash in the portfolios. While the portfolios could draw investors who use conventional Schwab accounts or hire advisers who trade through Schwab, the company is not afraid of “cannibalizing” its own revenue, executives said.

The service will appeal primarily to Schwab’s traditional self-directed investors who do not want to use its fee-based advice programs, Chief Executive Walt Bettinger said.

He would not name specific competitors Schwab expects to undermine, but said they range from independent firms that offer only automated programs, to “wire houses,” a reference to large full-service firms such as Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS AG’s U.S. brokerage unit.

“This has the potential to create impact across the entire market,” Bettinger said.

 

 

Western Digital Goes Purple

October 29, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

WD announced that it will begin shipping larger capacity drives in its surveillance series.

The WD Purple range, launched in February, will now include a 6TB version designed for use in video surveillance environments.

WD Purple drives are capable of recording in groups of eight hard drives, monitoring a total of 32 high-definition camera feeds.

“Video surveillance has long been a pioneering Internet of Things application,” said Matt Rutledge, senior vice president and general manager of WD’s Storage Technology group.

“Driven by machine-to-machine interaction between high-resolution, high bit-rate video cameras and high-capacity surveillance video recorders, IoT brings access and big data analytics to improve users’ security. WD Purple 6TB drives enable innovation in this fast growing market.”

As well as the storage credentials, the firmware of the drives contains a few surprises. Allframe reduces video frame loss, improves playback and increases the number of drives supported. This is coupled with regular firmware updates that improve the quality and reliability of the playback.

Intelliseek analyses its environment to optimise searching speeds for the temperature, system resource workload and power consumption in a given situation, while reducing noise and vibration.

The 6TB version is shipping now at $300. It joins the existing range with capacities from 1TB to 5TB.

WD has had a busy year across its consumer and enterprise ranges, releasing the WD Red and WD Red Pro, the WD Ae range for cold storage, featuring incremental disc sizes, and most recently its first wireless addition to the decade-old My Passport range for consumers.

Courtesy-TheInq

Is nVidia’s Tegra K1 Being Shunned?

October 29, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Nvidia Tegra TK1 is being shunned by major phone designers as if it were suffering from ebola, our industry sources have confirmed.

It looks like that 2013 is the year of Qualcomm and that every significant design win has Qualcomm processor inside.

Mediatek is trying the Tegra TK1with the entry level phones but they still have to prove themselves in the mainstream and high end phones that the European or USA phone market craves. They could get there in time, but didn’t manage it in 2013.

Tegra TK1 32-bit quad core managed a few design wins but none of them were in phones. Nvidia is using the chip for its own Jetson TK1 development board that gathered some nice revenues. There was also the Shield tablet, which was not eaten by Hydra, the Acer Chromebook 13, HP Chromebook 14, Lenovo ThinkVision 28 and the XiaoMi MiPad.

The XiaoMi tablet seems to be selling like hotcakes, although, since most of the sales are in China, the word hot cakes should probably be steamed pork buns. The XiaoMi tablet almost resembles Nexus 9 specification, if you look at it in the right light, but sells for half of its price. The Tegra TK1 64 bit, aka Denver, won a design award with the HTC Nexus 9 and this looks like it will sell in buckets. Nvidia also has Google Project Tango tablet, but this won’t sell in any serious numbers as this is more of a developer’s toy rather than a retail product.

However by the end of October 2014 there was no a single phone design win with Tegra K1 32-bit or 64-bit. Nvidia Tegra 4i Gray chip was greeted with a loud sounding yawn when it showed in a Wiko Wax , Blackphone and LG G2 mini LTE for the South American market. None of them was really a huge seller for Nvidia.

The 64 bit Tegra K1 might get some attention but it looks like that phones based on 64 bit Tegra K1 Denver might not show up until early 2015 at the earliest. Meanwhile the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm’s 64-bit high chip will appear at the Mobile World Congress phone by that time. People are already claiming that the Snapdragon 810 is inside of Samsung Galaxy S6 and we would be surprised if it was not in the LG G3 successor (LG G4) or HTC M8 successor which will probably be dubbed the HTC One M9.

This doesn’t leave Nvidia much space for success in phones but then again Tegra is selling in cars, developers’ boards (such as Jetson Dev Kit), Chromebook and the occasional tablet.

No-one can win in all markets and it seems that Tegra powered Chromebooks perform quite well and that Nvidia is top choice for most car manufactures. However the phone market that might be too hot for Nvidia Tegra TK1 32-bit to handle. We will see if Denver, the 64-bit Tegra K1 or its successor can change things in 2015.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Amazon Acquires Rooftop Media, Expands Digital Content

October 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc is set to acquire online comedy service Rooftop Media, a small deal that underscores the Internet retailer’s broader ambition of becoming a media and entertainment powerhouse.

Amazon is persisting in buying content to round out its service, with designs to take on Netflix Inc and other online digital media services. But that increasing spending has helped keep the company in the red, inviting criticism from investors.

Audible, the audiobooks service it bought in 2008 for $300 million, is picking up the 10-person company for an undisclosed sum. Audible founder and Chief Executive Donald Katz said in a statement on Monday the company had been attracted by Rooftop’s content as well as its pool of comic talent.

Rooftop records comedians at clubs across the country and licenses the digital rights to thousands of hours of comedy, which is broadcast either live or later on demand. The company’s media partners include Apple Inc and Yahoo, and it also works with streaming services such as Sirius XM,  Spotify and Pandora.

Its content now becomes part of Audible, itself a fast-growing seller of online audiobooks, and vastly increases Rooftop’s audience, said Rooftop Chief Executive Officer Will Rogers.

Amazon is expected to continue acquiring digital content at a rapid clip. In past years, it began investing heavily to branch out from its online retail roots, delving into Hollywood-style content production as well as developing a line of tablets, smartphones and set-top boxes to accelerate the sale of digital content.

 

 

FCC Delays Low-frequency Airwaves Auction Until 2016

October 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission expects a major auction of low-frequency airwaves to be delayed until early 2016 from mid-2015 because of its complexity and a pending court challenge, an FCC official said in a recent blog post.

The FCC is working on rules for the so-called incentive auction, in which wireless carriers would get the first opportunity since 2008 to purchase airwaves that are considered the “beach-front property” of radio spectrum for their reach and strength.

The auction is regarded as the FCC’s most complex undertaking to date, balancing numerous economic, engineering and political considerations, including the need to woo broadcasters to give up the airwaves in the first place.

The delay gives the FCC more time to sway TV station owners to participate and T-Mobile US Inc to argue for bidding restrictions on larger rivals AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.

The National Association of Broadcasters, concerned about the potential impact on TV stations, has petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review elements of the FCC’s planned auction process.

The court has pushed back the deadline on final briefs in the case until late January 2015.

“We are confident we will prevail in court, but given the reality of that schedule, the complexity of designing and implementing the auction, and the need for all auction participants to have certainty well in advance of the auction, we now anticipate accepting applications for the auction in the fall of 2015 and starting the auction in early 2016,” Gary Epstein, who chairs the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, wrote in the blog post.

The NAB rejected the notion that its lawsuit was the cause of the delay.

“We look forward to a speedy resolution of our legal challenge and a successful auction that preserves access to free and local TV for every American,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said in a statement.

 

Will Mobile Games Dominate?

October 27, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

As the market for games has grown and diversified, it’s become increasingly important to take any headline figures you might read with a grain of salt. Every time an analyst or a research firm announces that the games business has reached such and such a size, or that monthly revenues compare thusly with previous figures, or that a certain product or company has over- or under-performed projections, their august pronouncement isn’t so much an answer as a source of more questions. What exactly are you defining as the “games business”? Which sectors have you included? How did you measure digital revenues? What about IAP? Are your figures global, regional, merely covering the increasingly unrepresentative US market or “global” for a narrow definition of “global” which means “markets we could find data for with a quick Google search, and to hell with the rest of them”? And as for projections, whose projections, arrived at through which logic and with which agenda?

In short: with a very, very few notable exceptions, most of the sector analysis and research conducted on this industry is awful. It’s under-informed, narrow and rarely exposes its methodology well enough to understand and account for its flaws. It’s also the best thing we’ve got, unfortunately, which is why sites (including this one) continue to publish this research as it becomes available, although all of it should probably carry a large flashing warning to remind readers that an infant let loose with coloured crayons and some graph paper would probably have a similar margin of error to their data.

Yet this is only when we’re talking about data about what’s going on right now. Start to project forward, into crystal-ball-gazing questions like “where will the market be in five years”, and you’re into the realms where the real nonsense starts. Models and figures are pulled out of analyst’s backsides with wild abandon. Rationales and factual grounds are nowhere to be found, but incredibly slick charts and graphs abound; it’s a little like astrology, except that rather than blathering about Saturn being in Capricorn and whatnot, analysts seek to bamboozle everyone with charts and then deeply, fervently hope that when the time period they’re predicting actually arrives nobody will remember how wrong they were.

Even so, when all of the world’s analysts start to point in the same direction – the good, the bad and the bluffing – it’s worth taking note. That’s the context in which the headline figures from research firm Newzoo’s latest report are interesting; headline figures which, in a nutshell, suggest that 2015 will be the tipping point at which revenues from mobile game software surpass revenues from console game software.

“What’s happened to consoles as mobiles have taken over? Not much, as it happens”

Newzoo, like most research firms focusing on this industry, doesn’t provide sufficient detail to back up or verify its sweeping and grandiose claims, because apparently a really pretty graph with a swish background ought to suffice. They would argue, no doubt, that all the juicy detail which would explain their peculiarly high figures is what they charge clients lots of money for, an argument which is entirely true and still leaves them in the position of peddling figures while failing to show their workings. Nevertheless, Newzoo is not alone in its prediction. It’s not even a particularly novel prediction, actually; research firms have been pointing at this tipping point for several years, although when exactly the graph lines would intersect has been a subject of some debate. With mobile growth still strong and the next-gen consoles performing excellently but remaining largely constrained within the core market (rather than seeing another Wii-style breakout success story), the lines are converging a little more evenly and the soothsayers are in accord; next year is the year.

So what happens then? Do burning stones rain from an angry sky to smash all our PlayStation 4s? Will a horde of rampant mobile gamers, driven to murderous insanity by Candy Crush Saga, rip the 3DS’ from our hands and beat us to death with them? Shall E3 be swallowed by a lake of fire, and every presentation at GDC be replaced by an ominous looping video of Zynga founder Mark Pincus laughing savagely at the audience?

Perhaps rather than stockpiling tinned foods, filling the bath with potable water and tearfully locking away your beloved RPGs and FPS games in a lead-lined safe, it might be instructive to take a look at a market where this transition has already happened. There is, you see, a place where revenues from mobile games overtook revenues from console games several years ago – as early as 2011, according to some figures, although the safe money is on 2012/13 being the tipping point. Now, in this market, mobile games are the unquestioned market leader in revenue.

The market in question is Japan, where a well-developed market for mobile gaming on existing “feature phone” devices was supercharged by the arrival of the smartphone. Now mobile game revenues have soared well clear of console games. Unlike in the 1990s, Japan’s mobile phones aren’t vastly advanced compared to those overseas – they queue up here for iPhones just like everywhere else, with Apple’s devices being by far the dominant player in the smartphone market, so it’s not that games they’re playing are technologically advanced compared to those in the west. Rather, it’s that the market itself was further down the path than the west, with a wider swathe of consumers familiar and comfortable with mobile gaming, F2P models and in-game transactions.

What’s happened to consoles as mobiles have taken over? Not much, as it happens. The softness of PS4′s sales in Japan since the stellar launch last spring has been well noted, but it’s not a meaningful indicator of an overall problem with the console market; anecdotally, I get the impression that PS4 is extremely desired but still lacks the killer apps which will actually drive Japanese gamers to go out and buy one. Indeed, the line-up of software that appeals to the local market is still weak; a few big titles will shift the needle significantly, just as Mario Kart 8 did for the Wii U (which is now back in a slump awaiting the arrival of Smash Bros; software sells hardware, as ever).

Handhelds, meanwhile, are what you’d expect to suffer most from the triumph of mobile, yet the 3DS is going gangbusters in Japan and the PS Vita is stronger in this market than anywhere else in the world. The rise of mobile to take the crown of most lucrative and expansive market hasn’t even impacted the ability of Japanese publishers to launch genuinely massive new franchises on handheld consoles; Yokai Watch may not have made it to the west yet, but if it’s half as pervasive over there once it launches, it’ll be the biggest new gaming franchise in years.

So the consoles are still pretty healthy, especially the handheld devices. They play to their strengths, for the most part; it’s notable that the biggest handheld games around at the moment, games like Smash Bros and Monster Hunter, really wouldn’t work on a mobile phone as they rely on accurate, pinpoint controls that couldn’t be replicated on a touchscreen to any degree of satisfaction. Other games that work well are those designed for long sessions of play; mobile devices still suffer badly from rapidly draining batteries when playing games, and while a dead battery in your 3DS is a little annoying, a dead battery in your mobile phone is a disaster, meaning few people are willing to put in significant play sessions in GPU-intensive mobile titles.

“If 2015 does see mobile overtaking console worldwide, it may be the best thing to happen to games in years; it won’t hurt console, at least not for a long while yet, and it’ll allow us to finally turn a corner towards mobile being seen as a platform for everyone”

What’s actually more interesting than what’s happened to console, though, is what’s happened to mobile itself. The mobile game market in Japan is nothing short of fascinating. Ever since its meteoric growth, it’s become a hugely expansive market that caters to an enormous range of tastes and demographics, as you’d expect – but the core demographic, the heart of the market for which every company seems to be competing… Well, that’s oddly familiar, as it happens.

Every time you see a commuter train festooned with ads for a new mobile title, or a lengthy TV commercial promoting the latest smartphone release, or even the huge screens at Shibuya’s scramble crossing taken over with a video of a mobile game, they always have something in common. Their visual language, their core mechanisms and their basic appeal is absolutely in tune with core gamers. Mobile’s new position on top of the heap has opened the door to games with higher production values and more depth, aimed at the market that has always played the most and paid the most; the core.

The results aren’t always appealing; mobile games launch fast and fail fast, and that’s fine. When things do work out, though, they create some pretty amazing hits. Puzzle & Dragons, as you probably know by now, was the biggest-grossing game on any platform in 2013 (probably; analyst figures, you know?), and it’s also incredibly deep, compelling and fun. Publisher GungHo advertises the game on trains and TV over here with videos showing advanced techniques for building chain combos in the game; just consider that for a moment, a game so successful that your advertising isn’t even “here’s why this game is great”, it’s “we know you already play, here’s a tip so you can play better”, displayed on evening TV across the nation. Puzzle & Dragons is far from being Japan’s only “mobile core” hit, though. RPGs have been rapidly rising in prominence on mobile platforms, and now appear to be even more popular than the collect ‘em up titles (mostly card battlers) which dominated up until this point; the latest big title is Mistwalker-developed RPG Terra Battle, a game which I’m resigned to installing on my phone this week because literally everyone around me doesn’t talk about anything else any more.

In short, the Japanese market may be peculiar by comparison with the rest of the world, but sometimes that’s simply because it’s still a couple of years ahead of the western market in a few regards. Not in every regard; Japan is a very retrograde nation in terms of certain tech advances (it’s worth noting that streaming video services like Netflix are an absolute disaster here, and let’s not even talk about online banking), but in gaming, the market if not the technology is a little in advance of most western countries. Japan crossed the line between console-as-number-one and mobile-as-number-one a couple of years ago, and the world did not end. Console and handheld are doing fine; mobile is doing better than fine, and most excitingly of all, the new titles coming to mobile are better than ever, driven by a strong desire to get the most lucrative market in gaming, the core gamers themselves, playing. If 2015 does see mobile overtaking console worldwide, it may be the best thing to happen to games in years; it won’t hurt console, at least not for a long while yet, and it’ll allow us to finally turn a corner towards mobile being seen as a platform for everyone – core, casual, and everyone in between.

Courtesy-GI.biz

 

McDonalds Plans To Install Self-ordering Kiosks

October 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

McDonald’s has unveiled its plans to install self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering at its restaurants. It isn’t the only food chain doing this.

The company that owns Chili’s Grill & Bar also said it will complete a tablet ordering system rollout next month at its U.S. restaurants. Applebee’s announced last December that it would deliver tablets to 1,800 restaurants this year.

The pace of self-ordering system deployments appears to be gaining speed. But there’s a political element to this and it’s best to address it quickly.

The move toward more automation comes at the same time pressure to raise minimum wages is growing. A Wall Street Journal editorial this week, “Minimum Wage Backfire,” said that while it may be true for McDonald’s to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also “a convenient way…to justify a reduction in the chain’s global workforce.”

The Journal faulted those who believe that raising fast food wages will boost stagnant incomes. “The result of their agitation will be more jobs for machines and fewer for the least skilled workers,” it wrote.

The elimination of jobs because of automation will happen anyway. Gartner says software and robots will replace one third of all workers by 2025, and that includes many high-skilled jobs, too.

Automation is hardly new to retail. Banks rely on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. But McDonald’s hasn’t changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry.

The move to kiosk and mobile ordering, said Tristano, is happening because it will improve order accuracy, speed up service and has the potential of reducing labor cost, which can account for about 30% of costs. But automated self-service is a convenience that’s now expected, particularly among younger customers, he said.

“It’s keeping up with the times, and the (McDonald’s) franchises are going to clamor for it,” said Tristano, who said any labor savings is actually at the bottom of the list of reasons restaurants are putting in these self-service systems.