Dublin-based StatCounter pegged November’s mobile browser usage share — a tally of website pages viewed, and thus a measurement of online activity — at 20%, with personal computers accounting for the remaining 80%.
In the last 12 months, mobile’s global usage share grew by 7 percentage points, representing a 53% annual increase.
Mobile’s browsing growth is in part a side effect of a global slump in personal computer sales as customers instead purchase smartphones and tablets, and as a result, shift their time spent online from PCs to mobile. For the year,personal computer shipments will be more than 10% lower than the year before, when shipments contracted by a then-historic 4% compared to 2011.
Usage share gains for mobile have come at the expense of what StatCounter defines as “desktop,” a category that includes both desktop and notebook PCs, primary powered by Microsoft’s Windows, and Macs running Apple’s OS X. Desktop browser usage dropped 2 percentage points to 80% in the last three months, and fell 7 points in the last 12.
In September 2009, when Computerworld began tracking mobile browser usage — seven months before Apple started selling its first iPad — desktop controlled 98.9% of the usage total, according to StatCounter.
Net Applications, an Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based rival to StatCounter, also tracks desktop and mobile browsing, but uses a different methodology that essentially counts individual users, not online activity.
By Net Applications’ measurement, 13.2% of all unique visitors to its clients’ websites did so using a smartphone or tablet. Computerworld labels Net Applications’ numbers user share to differentiate them from StatCounter’s.
Personal computers accounted for 86.2% of the global browser user share for November by Net Applications’ tally.
Not surprisingly, browser makers have jumped on the mobile bandwagon. Nearly 60% of Apple’s November user share, as defined by Net Applications, was generated by the iOS version of Safari, for example, while 20% of Google’s user share came from its stock Android browser and the newer Chrome on that mobile operating system.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s mobile version of Internet Explorer (IE) accounted for less than half of one percent of IE’s total user share.
IDC expects that anywhere from 25% to 30% of all the servers shipped next year will be delivered to cloud services providers.
In three years, 2017, nearly 45% of all the servers leaving manufacturers will be bought by cloud providers.
“What that means is a lot of people are buying SaaS,” said Frank Gens, referring to software-as-a-service. “A lot of capacity if shifting out of the enterprise into cloud service providers.”
The increased use of SaaS is a major reason for the market shift, but so is virtualization to increase server capacity. Data center consolidations are eliminating servers as well, along with the purchase of denser servers capable of handling larger loads.
For sure, IT managers are going to be managing physical servers for years to come. But, the number will be declining, based on market direction and the experience of IT managers.
Two years ago, when Mark Endry became the CIO and SVP of U.S. operations for Arcadis, a global consulting, design and engineering company, the firm was running its IT in-house.
“We really put a stop to that,” said Endry. Arcadis is moving to SaaS, either to add new services or substitute existing ones. An in-house system is no longer the default, he added.
“Our standard RFP for services says it must be SaaS,’ said Endry.
Arcadis has added Workday, a SaaS-based HR management system, replaced an in-house training management system with a SaaS system, and an in-house ADP HR system was replaced with a service. The company is also planning a move to Office 365, and will stop running its in-house Exchange and SharePoint servers.
As a result, in the last two years, Endry has kept the server count steady at 1,006 spread through three data centers. He estimates that without the efforts at virtualization, SaaS and other consolidations, they would have more 200 more physical servers.
Endry would like to consolidate the three data centers into one, and continue shifting to SaaS to avoid future maintenance costs, and also the need to customize and maintain software. SaaS can’t yet be used for everything, particularly ERP, but “my goal would be to really minimize the footprint of servers,” he said.
Similarly, Gerry McCartney, CIO of Purdue University is working to cut server use and switch more to SaaS.
The university’s West Lafayette, Ind., campus had some 65 data centers two years ago, many small. Data centers at Purdue are defined as any room with additional power and specialized heavy duty cooling equipment. They have closed at least 28 of them in the last 18 months.
The Purdue consolidation is the result of several broad directions: increased virtualization, use of higher density systems, and increase use of SaaS.
McCartney wants to limit the university’s server management role. “The only things that we are going to retain on campus is research and strategic support,” he said. That means that most, if not all, of the administrative functions may be moved off campus.
This shift to cloud-based providers is roiling the server market, and is expected to help send server revenue down 3.5% this year, according to IDC.
Gens says that one trend among users who buy servers is increasing interest in converged or integrated systems that combine server, storage, networking and software. They account now about for about 10% of the market, and are expected to make up 20% by 2020.
Meanwhile, the big cloud providers are heading in the opposite direction, and are increasingly looking for componentized systems they can assemble, Velcro-like, in their data centers. This has given rise to contract, or original design manufacturers (ODM), mostly overseas, who make these systems for cloud systems.
The court’s decision may prove key to deciding under what circumstances companies can be sued for using certain software in their products.
The court said in a one-line order that it would hear a case brought by Alice Corporation Pty Ltd, which holds a patent for a computer system that facilitates financial transactions. The patent is challenged by CLS Bank International.
The court took no action on another case raising the same issue involving a patent dispute between WildTangent Inc and Ultramercial Inc.
The deep interest that the software industry and patent experts have in what is a threshold issue in patent litigation was underscored by the number of companies and industry groups that asked the court to decide the issue.
Companies including Google Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co, Facebook Inc and Netflix Inc had already signaled their interest in the issue by asking the court to hear the WildTangent case. Many also filed briefs in lower courts.
With the rise of computer-based products in recent years, courts have struggled to apply patent law. Some legal experts, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group, say that courts are too keen to uphold patents on ideas that are too vague to deserve protection.
Such vague patents can be used against big tech companies, which say they are forced to spend money defending lawsuits instead of investing in research and development. Technology companies are particularly concerned about litigation brought by so-called “patent trolls,” defined as companies that hold patents only for the purpose of suing other companies seeking to develop new products.
The company’s policies for shutting off sales to retailers and shipping licenses to OEMS (original equipment manufacturers) are posted on its site, which was recently updated to show that Windows 7′s “retail end of sales” date was Oct. 30.
The next deadline, marked as “End of sales for PCs with Windows preinstalled,” will be Oct. 30, 2014, less than a year away.
Microsoft’s practice, first defined in 2010, is to stop selling an older operating system in retail one year after the launch of its successor, and halt delivery of the previous Windows edition to OEMs two years after a new version launches. The company shipped Windows 8, Windows 7′s replacement, in October 2012.
As recently as late September, the last timeComputerworld cited the online resource, Microsoft had not filled in the deadlines for Windows 7. At the time, Computerworld said that the end-of-October dates were the most likely.
A check of Microsoft’s own online store showed that the company has pulled Windows 7 from those virtual shelves.
In practical terms, the end-of-retail-sales date has been an artificial and largely meaningless deadline, as online retailers have continued to sell packaged copies, sometimes for years, by restocking through distributors which squirreled away older editions.
Today, for example, Amazon.com had a plentiful supply of various versions of Windows 7 available to ship, as did technology specialist Newegg.com. The former also listed copies of Windows Vista and even Windows XP for sale through partners.
Microsoft also makes a special exception for retail sales, telling customers that between the first and second end-of-sale deadlines they can purchase Windows 7 from computer makers. “When the retail software product reaches its end of sales date, it can still be purchased through OEMs (the company that made your PC) until it reaches the end of sales date for PCs with Windows preinstalled,” the company’s website stated.
The firmer deadline is the second, the one for offering licenses to OEMs. According to Microsoft, it “will continue to allow OEMs to sell PCs preinstalled with the previous version for up to two years after the launch date of the new version” (emphasis added).
After that date, Microsoft shuts off the spigot, more or less, although OEMs, especially smaller “white box” builders, can and often do stockpile licenses prior to the cut-off.
But officially, the major PC vendors — like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo — will discontinue most Windows 7 PC sales in October 2014, making Windows 8 and its follow-ups, including Windows 8.1, the default.
Even then, however, there are ways to circumvent the shut-down. Windows 8 Pro, the more expensive of the two public editions, includes “downgrade” rights that allow PC owners to legally install an older OS. OEMs and system builders can also use downgrade rights to sell a Windows 8- or Windows 8.1-licensed system, but factory-downgrade it to Windows 7 Professional before it ships.
Enterprises with volume license agreements are not at risk of losing access to Windows 7, as they are granted downgrade rights as part of those agreements. In other words, while Microsoft may try to stymie Windows 7 sales, the 2009 operating system will long remain a standard.
As of the end of November, approximately 46.6% of all personal computers ran Windows 7, according to Web measurement vendor Net Applications, a number that represented 51.3% of all the systems running Windows.
Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter spoke at the Game Monetization USA Summit in San Francisco, and once again made some bold predictions about the future of the game industry. He pulled no punches as he evaluated the current state of affairs in the business, and he had some hard advice for a number of companies.
Pachter noted that more people are playing games on more devices than ever before, but he doesn’t think the console market will be growing. “I don’t think you’re ever going to see 500 million consoles out there,” Pachter said. For lifetime sales, Pachter expects the Wii U will ultimately sell 30 million “or fewer” units, the PS4 will sell 100 to 120 million units, and the Xbox One will sell 90 to 110 million units.
“The reason Sony beats Microsoft is solely the price,” Pachter noted. “Microsoft loses the next generation unless they cut price. If Microsoft drops its price to $399, I expect the sales to be equal to the PS4.”
The lifetime sales Pachter predicts compare to current sales of the PS3 and the Xbox 360 at about 80 million units apiece, but it’s far below some estimates of hundreds of millions of next-gen consoles. “I don’t know where they get those numbers,” Pachter said. He feels that at several hundred dollars, with games costing $60 or more, consoles are just too pricey to ever sell hundreds of millions of units.
The Wii U’s performance so far Pachter characterized as “underwhelming,” but noted it’s possible “but unlikely” that exciting new titles will reinvigorate growth. He believes that Nintendo is missing a huge opportunity to bring new gamers into their brands: Nintendo should put old GameBoy Advance content on phones and tablets for free, and charge $3 to $5 for more recent titles from the DS. Pachter feels this would generate enormous revenue for Nintendo and bring millions of new fans into their brands, and give them a strong way to sell newer titles on the 3DS and Wii U that use those brands.
“I don’t know why Iwata is still employed,” Pachter said, given that he refuses to take advantage of this opportunity while the handheld market continues to shrink and the Wii U has failed so far to catch on in a big way.
Pachter is more positive on the PlayStation 4 – “Sony thrives, Nintendo doesn’t” – saying it’s impressive as a game playing device. “The graphics are phenomenal, and the huge RAM makes future innovation likely,” Pachter pointed out. He noted that the multimedia features remain unclear, but the CPU power of the PS4 allows the potential for huge improvement in the future. As for the Xbox One, Pachter noted it’s impressive as a multimedia device, and the added features of Kinect and Skype give it additional value. “We’re sticking with our prediction of a built-in TV tuner” for the Xbox One, Pachter said, which would simplify the ability of the Xbox One to control your television viewing.
“The next generation of consoles is probably the last,” Pachter said. “We expect frequent model updates instead of new consoles.” Moreover, there’s going to be renewed interest in the PC, he predicted. “I think the PC is going to make a comeback, the PC will be the hub of all this stuff,” he stated. He feels Smart TVs are a dumb idea, noting that you don’t have a smart monitor connected to your computer. He envisions there will be a number of screens around the home, perhaps controlled by a tablet, being driven by a supercomputer in your pocket that we call a smartphone.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced Bluetooth 4.1, the first version of Bluetooth to lay the foundations for IPV6 capability.
The first hints of what the Bluetooth SIG had planned for this new version were revealed to The INQUIRER in October during our exclusive interview with Steve Hegenderfer at Appsworld. There, he revealed his aspirations for the Bluetooth protocol to become integral to the Internet of Things.
At the front end of Bluetooth 4.1, the biggest change for users is that the retry duration for lost devices has been increased to a full three minutes, so if you wander off with your wireless headphones still on, there’s more of a chance of being able to seamlessly carry on listening upon your return.
Behind the scenes, devices fitted with Bluetooth 4.1 will be able to act as both hub and end point. The advantage of this is that multiple devices can share information between them without going via the host device, so your smartwatch can talk to your heart monitor and send the combined data in a single transmission to your smartphone.
This sort of “pooling” of devices represents an “extranet of things”, and the technology can therefore be applied to a wider area in forming the “Internet of Things” too.
The other major additions are better isolation techniques to ensure that Bluetooth, which broadcasts on an unregulated band, doesn’t interfere either with itself or with signals from other protocols broadcasting at similar frequencies, including WiFi.
The Bluetooth protocol has retained complete backwards compatibility, so a new Bluetooth 4.1 enabled device will work seamlessly with a Bluetooth 1.0 dongle bought in a pound shop.
In addition, Bluetooth 4.0 devices can be Bluetooth 4.1 enabled through patches, so we should see some Bluetooth 4.1 enabled hardware arrive early in 2014.
Hewlett-Packard reclaimed its server crown from IBM last quarter as the overall market contracted and Taiwanese vendors made big gains selling directly to Internet giants like Google and Facebook, according to an IDC report.
HP expanded its share of the market only modestly from a year earlier but IBM’s portion declined 4.5 points despite solid mainframe sales, to leave HP in the top spot. HP finished the third quarter with 28.1% of worldwide server revenue to IBM’s 23.4%, IDC said.
But the strongest growth was for the “ODM direct” segment which IDC broke out for the first time this quarter. It stands for original design manufacturers, which are Taiwanese firms like Quanta Computer, Wistron Group, Inventec and Compal, which sell partial and fully-built servers to the big cloud providers.
It’s a growing segment and one that threatens the incumbents. ODM’s accounted for 6.5% of server revenue last quarter, up 45.2% from a year earlier, IDC said. If the ODM category were a single vendor, it would be the third largest ahead of Dell.
Almost 80% of the ODM’s server revenue came from the U.S., primarily from sales to Google, Amazon, Facebook and Rackspace.
Overall, the server market declined 3.7% from a year earlier to $12.1 billion. It was the third consecutive quarter of declining revenue but IDC predicts improvement with a refresh cycle early next year. In terms of units shipped, volumes were about flat year over year, meaning average selling prices dropped.
Volume systems — mostly x86 servers — picked up slightly from last year, with 3.5% revenue growth. But sales of midrange and high-end systems dropped 17.8% and 22.5%, respectively, IDC said.
IBM fared worst of the top 5 vendors, with revenue down 19.4% due to “soft demand for System x and Power Systems,” IDC said. Dell retained third place with 16.2% of revenue, about flat from last year, while Cisco Systems and Oracle tied for fourth.
Cisco saw the most growth of the top vendors, with a nearly 43% revenue jump, IDC said.
Spotify has had its knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for an email that contained an uncensored “f” word.
The promotional email had the subject line, “Have you heard this song by Lily Allen? Give it a try. F-ck You”.
Contextually, the phrase refers to the song “Fuck You” on Lily Allen’s album “It’s Not Me, It’s You”, and the suggestion was genuine, generated automatically based on the listener’s previous selections.
Unfortunately, this particular Spotify customer chose to take it the wrong way and made a complaint to the ASA, which announced it would uphold the complaint on Wednesday.
Defending against the claim, Spotify said it “believed there was a clear difference between deliberate language use such as that and the context in which it was used in the ad” and that “…around 36 million recommendations were sent to users by e-mail every month and therefore over the years a significant proportion of its users would have had the same song recommended to them”.
However, the ASA had not received any other complaints, Spotify said. Upholding the complaint, the ASA ruled that it “considered the use of ‘Fuck’ was likely to cause serious offence to some recipients of such e-mails and therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code”.
Although no action is taken in isolated instances like this, the ASA chose to uphold the complaint “to ensure [Spotify's] future advertising contained nothing that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence”.
But what songs had this customer been listening to that would trigger this recommendation? Perhaps he or she is a fan of Cee Lo Green or the Dead Kennedys?
The two companies didn’t offer many details, only saying that users will be able to see Twitter messages on the homescreens of selected Android-based smartphones sometime next year. The collaboration will initially cover Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, Greece and Croatia, the operator said in a statement.
For Twitter the partnership is about increasing its user base, while Deutsche Telekom wants to add value to its devices and remain relevant as subscribers choose to communicate using means other than text messages and phone calls, according to Paolo Pescatore, director at market research company CCS Insight.
As of mid-November there were 230 million Twitter users globally, and 76 percent accessed the service on a mobile device, according to Twitter.
Twitter isn’t the first social networking vendor to work directly with operators and handset makers. Facebook has been the most aggressive, but has struggled to make an impact with smartphones featuring physical Facebook buttons; the most prominent phone integration with Facebook, the HTC First, was not a success.
Pescatore doubts that Twitter will succeed where Facebook struggled. Most users will likely just continue to use existing apps, he said.
Last month, Twitter updated its mobile apps for both Android and Apple’s iOS devices to give users better search tools.
The company also expanded options for marketers, allowing them to choose what smartphone models and OS versions they want to target with advertising.
Deutsche Telekom didn’t comment on plans for working with Twitter on operating systems other than Android.
The phablet cannibalization trend is so significant that IDC lowered its long-term tablet forecast. The research firm slightly lowered its previous 2013 forecast from 227.4 million tablet shipments worldwide to 221.3 million.
IDC lowered its 2017 tablet forecast even further, pegging shipments at 386.3 million, down from the previous 407 million units.
In some markets, especially the Asia Pacific region, consumers have already decided to buy a large smartphone rather than a small tablet, IDC analysts said. Tablet purchases in South Korea have declined while larger smartphone purchases have increased. IDC researchers there are forecasting that 2013 tablet shipments will drop below 2012′s figures.
“Korea is a unique case, but it could very well be the precursor to that happening in more countries and regions,” said Tom Mainelli, an IDC analyst.
“People in some countries have limited money to spend, so they tend to go for a large phone because they can call and browse on it and read email, as opposed to getting a small phone and a tablet,” added IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani. The phablet becomes the “jack of all trades.”
The cannibalization of tablets is less of a concern in the U.S. and Canada where expendable income is more available. In North America, analysts are more worried about market saturation, with tablets bought up in huge numbers going back to 2010. The market is set to turn from high growth to “mostly a replacement market,” Mainelli said.
IDC also found that tablets in emerging countries aren’t as popular as phablets because there is less Wi-Fi at home and less traditional home PC usage. “We think many of those cheap whitebox tablets being used in emerging markets are essentially replacing DVD players, with the content side-loaded onto them from various sources,” Mainelli said. “Also, larger smartphones took off there first.”
In addition to large smartphones’ cutting into tablet sales, Mainelli said IDC believes that wearable devices and other new computing categories will temper tablet growth in coming years. He didn’t estimate by how much, however.
As large phone use rises, Mainelli said it’s possible that the tablet market will shift back to larger tablets in a reversal of the recent trend toward sub-8-in. tablets. “I tend to think that is what will happen in the U.S.,” he said. One example is the new iPad Air, with a 9.7-in. display.
IDC predicts about 220 million tablets with screens that are under 8 inches will ship globally in 2017, with another 145 million tablets shipping that are between 8 inches and 11 inches, and about 20 million with screen sizes of more than 11 inches.
Analyst firm Canalys said in November that phablets larger than 5 inches accounted for 22% of all smartphones shipped in the third quarter.
The phablets, made mainly by Samsung and running the Android operating system, include the 6.3-in. Galaxy Mega and the 5.7-in Galaxy Note 3. Apple’s new iPhone 4S and 4C are still 4-in. devices, but the company launched a smaller tablet, the iPad mini, with a 7.9-in. screen in November 2012.
Canalys recently predicted that tablet shipments will reach 285 million units in 2014, about 15 million higher than IDC’s forecast for 2014 of 270.5 million.
Also in 2014, Canalys said tablets will almost outship all PCs combined, a category including desktops and laptops.
Spotify has responded to criticism of the royalty amounts it pays to music artists.
Music industry figures including Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke have long called for fellow artists to boycott the Swedish music streaming service, which Yorke described as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”.
In launching the new Spotify For Artists website, Spotify has been proud to boast that it has paid out more than $1bn, over half of which it has paid in the past year. However, digging deeper the truth emerges that this equates to between $0.006 and $0.008 per play.
That’s fine if you’re Lady Gaga or Beyonce, but for musicians at the grassroots level this represents a massive hole in their finances. Or to put it in perspective, it would require a five piece band to be played 5,477 times just to be able to buy themselves a round of drinks. For a new, untested and undiscovered artist, that simply isn’t enough to get by.
A play on Great Britain’s BBC alternative radio station 6 Music nets an artist approximately five cents. Not a king’s ransom, but a huge amount compared to Spotify’s rates. In contrast, Bandcamp, the service designed to allow artists to self release their music, lets artists set their own prices for music, or even leaves it up to consumers to pay what they believe the work is worth.
This is the way that the internet is supposed to empower artists. The internet has made it possible for anyone to be a star, or at least make a living from their music, if they are good enough.
But accepting the payment of these tiny amounts of money is actually far worse for the industry than so-called ‘piracy’, because copyright infringement will always be considered wrong, while streaming for fractions of pennies normalises the practice of underpaying for creative talent and creates the kinds of gatekeepers that have made the giant music industry companies such a cartel. A cartel that is starting to implode.
The program, dubbed “Student Advantage,” was unveiled in mid-October, when Microsoft promised that it would debut Dec. 1.
Educational institutions, whether K-12 school districts or those in higher education, that license Office Professional Plus 2013 or Office 365 ProPlus — the former is traditionally-licensed software while the latter is a subscription — can now also hand Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions to students, free of charge.
Schools and universities must have licensed Office for staff and faculty institution-wide, according to Microsoft, to be eligible for the student give-away. When students graduate, their Office 365 subscription expires.
Office 365 ProPlus includes rights to download and install copies of the newest Office desktop applications on up to five Windows PCs or Macs owned by the student, as well as rights to run the iPhone or Android editions of Office Mobile.
Students, faculty and staff at universities that do not equip employees with Office can instead pay a flat $80 for a four-year subscription to Office 365 University. That subscription program allows Office 2013 to be installed on up to two PCs or Macs, and Office Mobile on as many as two mobile devices.
HP plans to axe more than 1,100 jobs at three of its UK sites in 2014, the Unite union announced on Wednesday.
The 1,124 job cuts will take place across three of HP’s UK workplaces, in Bracknell, Sheffield and Warrington. A total of 618 jobs could be lost at the Bracknell hub, 483 will go at Warrington, and 23 at Sheffield.
However, Unite said that many of these job cuts will affect HP employees who work from home, although we’re not sure that makes the situtation better.
Unite national officer Ian Tonks said, “For the last five years HP has been addicted to a culture of job cuts in the UK to such an extent that its highly skilled workforce has little faith in the way the company is being managed and will be going forward.
“Unite will be doing everything possible to mitigate these job losses which are a hammer blow to the UK’s IT sector and very distressing for employees in the run-up to Christmas.”
The reason for the job cuts is still not entirely clear. HP cited “reorganisation” and “falling demand”, despite being one of the only PC makers in the third quarter to show sales growth, while rivals Acer and Asus posted massive declines in PC shipments.
Tonks continued to condemn the job cuts, adding, “At the recent re-negotiation of the European works council (EWC), senior European managers were unable to answer any questions about the future EWC, as they could not get hold of their American bosses because of last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. It’s no wonder there is so little faith in the European management.”
HP has yet to announce when the job cuts will commence, but reports claim they will begin in early 2014.
A HP spokesperson said in a statement, “HP commenced consultation for Q1 FY14 on November 28th, 2013 in the UK regarding potential workforce changes for 2014.
“The proposed UK workforce management plan is part of HP’s global multi-year productivity initiative that was announced on May 23, 2012, and updated at its Securities Analysts Meeting on October 9, 2013, to address current market and business pressures in support of HP’s turnaround in EMEA.
“HP remains committed to supporting the employability of its employees through a number of internal initiatives, including re-skilling, redeployment and support to obtain alternative employment as appropriate.”
The tablets run Android 4.2, code-named Jellybean, and are listed at the company’stablet page. The list includes the $199.99 Slate 7 Extreme with a 7-inch screen, the $329.99 Slate 8 Pro with an 8-inch screen, and the $299.99 Slate 10 HD with a 10.1-inch screen.
The Slate 8 Pro offers 11.5 hours of battery and has the hardware to provide 4K video and gaming. The tablet has a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, which has a graphics processor capable of handling 4K video. The screen can display images at a 1600 x 1200 pixel resolution. An HDMI port allows the tablet to be connected to TVs for 4K video. Other features include an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 720p front camera, 16GB of internal storage and a 1GB of RAM.
The Slate 10 HD offers 10 hours of battery and is meant for Web surfing and basic multimedia use. The screen displays images at a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. It has a dual-core Marvell PXA986 ARM-based chip, 16GB of storage, a high-definition front camera and a five-megapixel back camera. Other specifications include 1GB of DRAM and a micro-SD slot.
The Slate 7 Extreme is listed at the site, but is out of stock. The tablet offers 10.5 hours of battery life, and as the product name suggests, it is meant for entertainment and high-definition video. It has a Tegra 4 chip, making it capable of processing 4K video. Other features include a 1280 x 800-pixel screen, 16GB of storage, an HDMI slot, a five-megapixel rear camera and 0.3-megapixel front camera.
The entry-level $149.99 Slate 7 Plus tablet, which is an upgrade from an earlier Slate 7 that was discontinued earlier this year, is also available. The Slate 7 Plus has 8GB of storage and an older Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. Other features include a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 0.3-megapixel front camera. The tablet offers six to seven hours of battery life.
All of the tablets have Wi-Fi and micro SD slots.
With the release of Grand Theft Auto Online, Rockstar has taken its blockbuster franchise in an ambitious new direction. The multiplayer world, complete with in-game economy, certainly has many of the hallmarks of a Free-2-Play title, but could GTA Online actually make it as a standalone F2P game?
Given the seismic shift the games industry has already made towards F2P, no one would be surprised if Rockstar made this next step. However, there is a lot a stake and creating a successful F2P isn’t simply a case of throwing in some in-app purchases and giving a £40 game away for free.
F2P is already established as the dominant business model for mobile and PC games. Reasons for this include the prevalence of micro-transactions and because these platforms make it relatively easy for publishers and developers to integrate analytics and use that data to make informed real-time game design changes to keep players engaged and increase retention. The transition onto console has been a slower burn – designing successful F2P games requires an understanding and skill set which isn’t necessarily native to publishers with a long heritage in designing games to ship in a box.
“Many F2P console games have come up short, offering a poor tutorial and on boarding process, plus a monetisation structure that is much closer to a used car sales man than an enjoyable experience that puts the control in the users’ hands”
As a result, many F2P console games have come up short, offering a poor tutorial and on boarding process, plus a monetisation structure that is much closer to a used car sales man than an enjoyable experience that puts the control in the users’ hands. However, the data capabilities of the Xbox One and PS4 means that F2P on console finally looks set to take off, with an impressive list of F2P titles already set for release including Little Big Planet, Planetside 2 and War Thunder.
To better understand the potential of console transition we thought we’d take a theoretical look at GTA Online as a standalone F2P title.
Our in-house design team applied GamesAnalytics’ proprietary evidenced based research methodology to benchmark key aspects of its game design against best practice F2P game design from over 80 titles.
Focusing on six main categories including Monetisation, Retention, Engagement and Virality and analysing 50 key criteria the team found unsurprisingly that GTA Online surpassed the best in genre score for Retention, Game Mechanics, Engagement and Game Overview, clearly reflecting the high quality of the game. However, if GTA Online was going F2P it would need to look at mechanics around Monetisation and Virality.
Based on these data findings, here are five recommendations to improve the F2P potential of GTA Online:
1. Improve the currency structure
Currently GTA Online has a single currency, this is fine when the game is not relying on this currency as a part of the monetisation, but for a true F2P game you would want to extend this to provide greater flexibility. Adding in a premium currency is generally the way of giving games more flexibility in delivering the F2P mechanic. Making the currency a part of the world so it feels natural is vital in making sure the monetisation doesn’t jar with the game surrounding.
There are a number of ways that people are encouraged to spend money both in the real and the virtual world. Especially for a game like GTA, it is vital that it feels natural and intuitive. Discounts and bundles are obvious incentives for getting people to invest in in-game economies, but rental and test drives are also a good way of letting players get a taste for the high life and incentivising them to keep grinding or splash the cash.
These ‘try before you buy’ mechanics are good ways of easing players onto the paying path while keeping the barrier low and the incentive high.
Giving players the ability to buy luxury vanity items using a premium currency is exactly the way you would expect Rockstar to monetise its players. The game has always been about getting rich quick and showing off the proceeds of your crimes. This is not about honest hard slog, so it’s fitting that players should be given a quick route to the high life through whatever means at their disposal. A successfully free-to-play GTA Online should also include consumables: things that the player will spend money on that give them a short term advantage or simply let them show off.
2. Introduce a VIP structure to fast track progress and reward members
“This is not about honest hard slog, so it’s fitting that players should be given a quick route to the high life through whatever means at their disposal”
There is no game that is more about being king of the hill than GTA, so a full VIP structure is essential. Imagine the retention value of being the only player that can drive around the hills of Los Santos in a purple Ferrari with gold trim.
VIP membership could offer:
Rank Point/Job Point boosts
Monthly $/Gold allowance
Access to premium clothes, vehicle paint jobs and vanity items
Special members store accessible through the iFruit with daily/weekly member offers
3. Utilise no lose gambling
We’ve already touched on the repetition which exists within GTA Online – completing mission after mission to build up your cash and accessory stockpiles. One alternative to a life of hard graft and long hours is gambling, an easy to implement F2P mechanic which fits with Rockstar’s vision and GTA’s ‘feel’. Mechanics such as magic boxes offer players a no lose gamble: spending some money guarantees something cool. There can be no better way of taking the easy route than making sure the odds are stacked.
4. Introduce a trading mechanism to help increase community aspects
If gambling isn’t your thing then a bit of business on the side can help you make it to the top. Trading in F2P games inevitably encourages a black market, but unlike other F2P games where there is a clear split between grind currency and premium currency, GTA Online F2P should allow this secondary market to exist.
Letting players trade whatever they want will encourage a free-form economy that will favour the adventurous, the ruthless and the downright corrupt. The mechanic will drive the economy and build player loyalty.
Players will buy and sell from each other, and using rare items it is also possible to use data analytics to monitor the price elasticity of items as players bid for certain items. Items can trade for 100x their original value in F2P games and can be useful to define pricing as well as delivering value and incentivising players.
5. Build in reward mechanics for better social sharing
GTA is such a well-known franchise, it pretty much sells itself. However, giving players rewards for inviting other players to join is a well-structured mechanism and can help to double your player base for little or no cost.
Giving players an incentive to invite is key, there would be nothing better than being able to pimp your friends by taking a cut of the money they spend as their due deserves for getting them in to the game in the first place.