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Smartwatch Shipments Forecasted To Surge In 2015

April 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Smartwatch shipments will swell by an impressive 500% this year, fueled by the interest in the coming Apple Watch and its impact on other smartwatches already in the market, according to market research firm IDC.

IDC also lowered its Apple Watch forecast to 15.9 million shipments in 2015, down from 22 million, a 28% reduction. That’s partly because more details have surfaced and the sales date of April 24 was later than IDC had previously expected, according to IDC analyst Ryan Reith in an email.

Even with that reduction, the Apple Watch will account for 62% of the smartwatch market in 2015, Reith said. IDC had expected the 22 million in Apple Watch shipments for this year in a forecast conducted last August, well before the shipment date and other details were announced at Apple’s Spring Forward event on March 9, Reith said.

A February forecast by CCS Insight put potential Apple Watch sales at 20 million in 2015. Apple Watch goes on sale April 24, starting at $349, but some gold-encased models will start at $10,000. Apple will begin taking pre-orders April 10.

IDC grouped the Apple Watch with Motorola’s Moto 360, several Samsung Gear watches and others under a category it calls smart wearables, or devices capable of running third-party apps. For all of 2015, IDC said 25.7 million smart wearables will ship, up 511% from the 4.2 million shipped in 2014.

The IDC smartwatch forecast is much lower than a recent prediction by Gartner, which says 40 million smartwatches will ship in 2015, up from about 5 million in 2014.

 

 

Apple Holding Discussions With Broadcasters To Launch TV Service

March 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc’s frequently mentioned TV service may soon become a reality as the iPhone maker is having discussions with programmers to offer a slimmed-down bundle of TV networks this fall, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The service would have about 25 channels, anchored by broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and Fox, and be available across all devices powered by Apple’s iOS operating system, including iPhones, iPads and Apple TV set-top boxes, the newspaper said.

Apple has been talking to Walt Disney Co, CBS Corp, and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc and other media companies to offer a “skinny” bundle with well-known channels like CBS, ESPN and FX, leaving out the many smaller networks in the standard cable TV package, the Journal said.

Apple, which is aiming to price the new service at about $30 to $40 a month, plans to announce the service in June and launch it in September, the newspaper said.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said the company does not comment on rumor and speculation. Fox and CBS declined to comment.

Several media companies are considering joining streaming-only services, or launching their own like HBO and CBS, to attract young people who do not subscribe to traditional pay TV packages. But programmers also fear the packages could become so popular that they undercut current, more profitable deals with cable companies.

In January, Dish Network Corp unveiled its long-anticipated video streaming service, named Sling TV, targeted at younger consumers who shun pricey cable and satellite subscriptions.

 

Apple Watch Seen Challenging For App Developers

March 12, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Many software developers agree that it’s a challenge to come up with a “killer app” for Apple Inc’s Watch – few have seen the product and the software is still in test mode.

While app makers are passionate about developing for the Apple Watch, some are skeptical about the prospects of coming up with a big idea for the little computer on a wrist that hits stores on April 24, said Markiyan Matsekh, product manager at software engineering firm Eleks.

A killer app that grabs consumers’ attention will be key to the success of the Apple Watch and could spawn new companies, as the iPhone did. The photo-sharing app Instagram grew into a $1 billion business bought by Facebook Inc, and Snapchat has gone from a mobile messaging app to a company valued at $19 billion.

Apple has blocked some features, such as the gyroscope and accelerometer, on the development kit, and the watch simulator cannot test all functions, developers said. Apple declined to comment on why developers cannot access certain features.

“The limitations are discouraging,” said Matsekh, who helped develop a Watch app to control a Tesla Model S without involvement from the electric carmaker.

App designer Mark Rabo believes Apple is spurring creativity though restraint.

The challenge he believes is “not trying to take a phone app and cram it into a Watch.”

Rabo is developing an app called “Revere,” that ties notes to calendars. The Watch will recognize the wearer is walking into a meeting and pull up previously dictated notes about the attendees, for instance.

Apple listed about 40 apps on its website as it unveiled its smartwatch on Monday with “thousands” more in the works, it said.

 

 

Apple Tops Samsung In Global Phone Sales

March 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc sold the most number of smartphones globally in the fourth quarter, beating out Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  for the first time since 2011, according to research firm Gartner.

Apple sold 74.83 million smartphones to end users worldwide, ahead of the 73.03 million phones sold by Samsung, according to Gartner’s report.

The success of big-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus drove Apple’s sales in its first quarter ended Dec. 27. The company reported a profit of $18 billion for the period, the biggest ever reported by a public company, according to S&P analyst Howard Silverblatt.

Apple’s smartphones sales jumped about 49 percent in the fourth quarter, according to Gartner. In contrast, Samsung, the market dominator since 2011, recorded a nearly 12 percent fall.

In January, the company posted its fifth consecutive quarter of earnings decline in the mobile division.

“Samsung continues to struggle to control its falling smartphone share, which was at its highest in the third quarter of 2013,” said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Besides losing market share to the costlier iPhones, the Korean company has been battling low-cost Chinese vendors such as Xiaomi and Huawei .

Samsung unveiled its new range of slim-bodied Galaxy S smartphones just recently, made from aircraft-grade metal.

 

BlackBerry Announces Plans For Cloud Based Device Management

March 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd announced on Monday it has to plans to roll out a cloud-based version of its device management platform BES12, a move that will make the service more accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses that need to secure devices on their own networks.

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry has built a reputation around its device management and security capabilities, catering mainly to the needs of large government agencies and corporations. With data security needs becoming more critical, and a number of new entrants in the field nipping at its heels, BlackBerry said it is now broadening its offerings.

BlackBerry’s new BES12 platform manages and secures not only BlackBerry devices, but also those powered by operating systems such as Google Inc’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsoft Corp’s Windows platform. It can also manage and secure medical diagnostic equipment, industrial machinery and even cars.

By offering a less costly cloud-based version of the system, BlackBerry hopes to attract a wider range of small- and medium-sized businesses that need these capabilities, but do not have the capacity to install and manage expensive servers of their own.

“We are trying to broaden the enterprise mobility management space,” said BlackBerry Chief Operation Officer Marty Beard on a conference call with media. “And a cloud version really enables us to broaden our footprint.”

The new cloud-based offering, unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, will be offered to customers later this month.

India’s Essar Group, a conglomerate with more than 60,000 employees spread across over two dozen countries, has signed up for a trial of the cloud-based version.

Beard said BlackBerry is seeing growing demand from smaller companies for cloud-based device management offerings, but is also getting demand from larger companies that have certain divisions or groups that need cloud-based capabilities.

 

After Introduction Of Kill Switch, Smartphone Thefts Have Dropped

February 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The number of thefts and robberies of smartphones, particularly iPhones, is declining in New York, London and San Francisco, according to a recently released study.

Law enforcement officials, who have been at the forefront of demands to include a “kill switch” in all smartphones, hailed the news as proof that the technology is working as a deterrent.

In San Francisco, overall robberies and thefts dropped 22 percent from 2013 to 2014, but those involving smartphones were down 27 percent. Thefts and robberies of iPhones fell 40 percent. In New York, smartphone theft dropped 16 percent overall with iPhone figures down 25 percent. And London saw smartphone thefts from persons drop 40 percent in a year.

“The huge drops in smartphone theft that have occurred since the kill switch has been on the market are evidence that our strategy is making people safer in our cities, and across the world,” said New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement.

The kill switch is a software lock that can be remotely activated when a phone is lost or stolen. It can wipe personal data from a phone and “brick it” so it can’t be reused or reprogrammed.

Law enforcement officials campaigned to make the technology standard in reaction to a growing numbers of thefts of robberies of smartphones on city streets across the U.S. and beyond. The assumption was that phones would be much less desirable targets if they could quickly be made useless.

Apple added a kill switch, called Activation Lock, to its iPhone in September 2013. Samsung followed in April 2014 with its Galaxy S5 and Google made it a standard feature of Android with the release of Lollipop.

Soon most smartphones sold will include a kill switch thanks to a new California law that mandates them in smartphones manufactured after July 1 this year and sold in the state. While the law only covers California, it’s leading to their introduction in phones sold worldwide.

 

 

Do Game Developers Have Unrealistic Expectations?

January 22, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Over the last few years, the industry has seen budget polarization on an enormous scale. The cost of AAA development has ballooned, and continues to do so, pricing out all but the biggest warchests, while the indie and mobile explosions are rapidly approaching the point of inevitable over-saturation and consequential contraction. Stories about the plight of mid-tier studios are ten-a-penny, with the gravestones of some notable players lining the way.

For a company like Ninja Theory, in many ways the archetypal mid-tier developer, survival has been a paramount concern. Pumping out great games (Ninja Theory has a collective Metacritic average of 75) isn’t always enough. Revitalizing a popular IP like DMC isn’t always enough. Working on lucrative and successful external IP like Disney Infinity isn’t always enough. When the fence between indie and blockbuster gets thinner and thinner, it becomes ever harder to balance upon.

Last year, Ninja Theory took one more shot at the upper echelons. For months the studio had worked on a big budget concept which would sit comfortably alongside the top-level, cross-platform releases of the age: a massive, multiplayer sci-fi title that would take thousands of combined, collaborative hours to exhaust. Procedurally generated missions and an extensive DLC structure would ensure longevity and engagement. Concept art and pre-vis trailers in place, the team went looking for funding. Razor was on its way.

Except the game never quite made it. Funding failed to materialize, and no publisher would take the project on. It didn’t help that the search for a publishing deal arrived almost simultaneously with the public announcement of Destiny. Facing an impossible task, the team abandoned the project and moved on with other ideas. Razor joined a surprisingly large pile of games that never make it past the concept stage.

Sadly, it’s not a new story. In fact, at the time, it wasn’t even a news story. But this time Ninja Theory’s reaction was different. This was a learning experience, and learning experiences should be shared. Team lead and co-founder Tameem Antoniades turned the disappointment not just into a lesson, but a new company ethos: involve your audience at an early stage, retain control, fund yourself, aim high, and don’t compromise. The concept of the Independent AAA Proposition, enshrined in a GDC presentation give by Antoniades, was born.

Now the team has a new flagship prospect, cemented in this fresh foundation. In keeping with the theme of open development and transparency, Hellblade is being created with the doors to its development held wide open, with community and industry alike invited to bear witness to the minutiae of the process. Hellblade will be a cross-platform game with all of the ambition for which Ninja Theory is known, and yet it is coming from an entirely independent standpoint. Self-published and self-governed, Hellblade is the blueprint for Ninja Theory’s future.

“We found ourselves as being one of those studios that’s in the ‘squeezed middle’,” project lead Dominic Matthews says. “We’re about 100 people, so we kind of fall into that space where we could try to really diversify and work on loads of smaller projects, but indie studios really have an advantage over us, because they can do things with far lower overheads. We have been faced with this choice of, do we go really, really big with our games and become the studio that is 300 people or even higher than that, and try to tick all of these boxes that the blockbuster AAA games need now.

“We don’t really want to do that. We tried to do that. When we pitched Razor, which we pitched to big studios, that ultimately didn’t go anywhere. That was going to be a huge game; a huge game with a service that would go on for years and would be a huge, multiplayer experience. Although I’m sure it would have been really cool to make that, it kind of showed to us that we’re not right to try to make those kinds of games. Games like Enslaved – trying to get a game like that signed now would be impossible. The way that it was signed, there would be too much pressure for it to be…to have the whole feature set that justifies a $60 price-tag.

“That $60 price-tag means games have to add multiplayer, and 40 hours of gameplay minimum, and a set of characters that appeal to as many people as they possibly can. There’s nothing wrong with games that do that. There’s some fantastic games that do, AAA games. Though we do think that there’s another space that sits in-between. I think a lot of indie games are super, super creative, but they can be heavily stylised. They work within the context of the resources that people have.

“We want to create a game that’s like Enslaved, or like DMC, or like Heavenly Sword. That kind of third-person, really high quality action game, but make it work in an independent model.”

Cutting out the middle-man is a key part of the strategy. But if dealing with the multinational machinery of ‘big pubs’ is what drove Ninja Theory to make such widespread changes, there must surly have been some particularly heinous deals that pushed it over the edge?

“I think it’s just a reality of the way that those publisher/developer deals work,” Matthews says. “In order for a publisher to take a gamble on your game and on your idea, you have to give up a lot. That includes the IP rights. It’s just the realities of how things work in that space. For us, I think any developer would say the same thing, being able to retain your IP is a really important thing. So far, we haven’t been out to do that.

“With Hellblade, it’s really nice that we can be comfortable in the fact that we’re not trying to appeal to everyone. We’re not trying to hit unrealistic forecasts. Ultimately, I think a lot of games have unrealistic forecasts. Everyone knows that they’re unrealistic, but they have to have these unrealistic forecasts to justify the investment that’s going into development.

“Ultimately, a lot of games, on paper, fail because they don’t hit those forecasts. Then the studios and the people that made those games, they don’t get the chance to make any more. It’s an incredibly tough market. Yes, we’ve enjoyed working with our publishers, but that’s not to say that the agreements that developed are all ideal, because they’re not. The catalyst to us now being able to do this is really difficult distribution. We can break away from that retail $60 model, where every single game has to be priced that way, regardless of what it is.

Driven into funding only games that will comfortably shift five or six million units, Matthews believes that publishers have no choice but to stick to the safe bets, a path that eventually winnows down diversity to the point of stagnation, where only a few successful genres ever end up getting made: FPS, sports, RPG, maybe racing. Those genres become less and less distinct, while simultaneously shoe-horning in mechanics that prove popular elsewhere and shunning true innovation.

While perhaps briefly sustainable, Matthews sees that as a creative cul-de-sac. Customers, he feels, are too smart to put up with it.

“Consumers are going to get a bit wary of games that have hundreds of millions of dollars spent on them”

“I think consumers are going to get a bit wary. Get a bit wary of games that have hundreds of millions of dollars spent on them. I think gamers are going to start saying, ‘For what?’

“The pressures are for games to appeal to more and more people. It used to be if you sold a million units, then that was OK. Then it was three million units. Now it’s five million units. Five million units is crazy. We’ve never sold five million units.”

It’s not just consumers who are getting wise, though. Matthews acknowledges that the publishers also see the dead-end approaching.

“I think something has to be said for the platform holders now. Along with digital distribution, the fact that the platform holders are really opening their doors and encouraging self-publishing and helping independent developers to take on some of those publishing responsibilities, has changed things for us. I think it will change things for a lot of other developers. “Hellblade was announced at the GamesCom Playstation 4 press conference. My perception of that press conference was that the real big hitters in that were all independent titles. It’s great that the platform holders have recognised that. There’s a real appetite from their players for innovative, creative games.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to try to do things differently. Like on Hellblade, we’re questioning everything that we do. Not just on development, but also how we do things from a business perspective as well. Normally you would say, ‘Well, you involve these types of agencies, get these people involved in this, and a website will take this long to create.’ The next thing that we’re doing is, we’re saying, ‘Well, is that true? Can we try and do these things a different way,’ because you can.

“There’s definitely pressure for us to fill all those gaps left by a publisher, but it’s a great challenge for us to step up to. Ultimately, we have to transition into a publisher. That’s going to happen at some point, if we want to publish our own games.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Apple Granted Patent For Wearable Cameras

January 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc has been issued a patent for a wearable camera that could possibly challenge action cameras made by GoPro Inc.

The patent, which cites specific weaknesses in GoPro’s cameras, includes details about a camera system that can be mounted on bike helmets or scuba masks, Apple said in an application filed with the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office.

Shares of GoPro, whose cameras can be mounted on helmets, surf boards, bikes and dog harnesses, fell as much as 15 percent.

Apple’s newly patented camera system can also be used under water to take pictures and record sounds, according to the application.

A potential entry by the iPhone maker into the action camera market could also put pressure on privately held Polaroid Corp, which makes the small and colorful Cube cameras.

JMP Securities analyst Alex Gauna, however, said it was premature to assume that Apple would soon launch a wearable camera.

“It does not seem to me that launching an action camera accessory is the most logical product extension for Apple to pursue right now,” Gauna said.

Apple declined to comment, while GoPro was not immediately available for comment.

“I think that it will have about the same impact on GoPro as the iPhone has had on camera makers and that impact is that there are fewer cameras sold but the number isn’t zero,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.

Videos shot with GoPro’s cameras have created a buzz on the Internet, attracting millions of views on YouTube.

Olympic gold medal winning snow boarder Shaun White and 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater are among well-known athletes who have endorsed the cameras.

Intellectual property blog Patently Apple reported earlier in the day that Apple’s patent, which was filed by the company in 2012, incorporates some intellectual property from Eastman Kodak Co that the company acquired in November 2013.

 

 

Was The PS4 Sales Flat Over The Holiday?

January 7, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

While the Sony PlayStation 4 has been selling very well, it seems that Christmas was not really its season.

Sony said that the PlayStation 4 has sold more than 18.5 million units since the new generation of consoles launched. While that is good and makes the PS4 the fastest selling PlayStation to date, there was no peaking at Christmas.

You would think that the PS4 would sell well at Christmas as parents were forced to do grevious bodily harm to their credit cards to shut their spoilt spawn up during the school holidays. But apparently not.

Apparently, the weapon of choice against precious snowflakes being bored was an Xbox One which saw a Christmas spike in sales.

Sony said that its new numbers are pretty much on target, it sold the expected 2 million sales per month rate.

Redmond will be happy with that result even if it still has a long way to go before it matches the PlayStation 4 on sales.

Courtesy-Fud

Huawei Smartphone Sales Growth Eclipse Bigger Rivals

January 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Huawei Technology Co Ltd’s smartphone sales increased by almost a third to $11.8 billion in 2014, according to an internal memo, detailing the Chinese telecoms firm’s continued ascent in the global handset wars.

The division shipped about 75 million smartphones in 2014, according to the year-end memo to employees sent by Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer business. Although that represented a more than 40 percent year-on-year increase, the figure lagged behind Huawei’s previously stated sales target of 80 million units.

Huawei spokeswoman Maggie Qi said the company does not comment on internal memos.

The results, which are due to be publicly announced in the coming weeks, reaffirm Huawei’s place among a small coterie of rising smartphone makers, including Xiaomi Inc and LG Electronics, whose growth rates are eclipsing those of industry leaders.

Pressured by low-cost vendors, top ranked Samsung Electronics Co is likely to see its shipments nearly unchanged this year, while second-ranked Apple Inc may have posted around 20 percent growth after launching the iPhone 6, analysts estimate.

Those growth rates, however, pale in comparison to the expansion of Xiaomi, which sold 26 million handsets during the first half of 2014.

If it reaches its sales target of 60 million for the year, Xiaomi will have more than tripled its 2013 sales of 18.7 million. Private investors believe it will continue to soar: the Beijing-based company announced this week a new round of equity financing at $45 billion valuation, making Xiaomi the most highly valued private technology company in the world.

Meanwhile, close rival LG Electronics Inc may have seen its smartphone shipments rise around 26 percent this year, according to analysts.

Trendforce analyst Alan Chen said in a research note this month that Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo Group Ltd, which recently purchased Motorola from Google in a $2.91 billion deal, will battle to be the top Chinese smartphone vendor in 2015.

 

 

 

 

Will The Apple iWatch Be A Dud?

December 24, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

It appears that Apple waited too long and relied too much on the press to keep interest in its iWatch vaporware product going. New research has showing that interest in the device has been falling faster than a free fall team of parachuting elephants who have forgotten to pack the key ingredient of their act.

The Tame Apple press is beside itself with worry as Apple does not like failure and it might not invite them to one of its press launches again unless people get enthusiastic about the watch again.

One tech press reporter seriously wrote “One would assume that ever since Apple announced the introduction of the Apple Watch, anticipation for the product would be steadily growing.”

Why would that be Sherlock? The longer Apple leaves it the more it will be out of date?

Investment firm Piper Jaffray asked 968 iPhone owners whether they were interested in purchasing an Apple Watch, and only seven percent said they planned to buy it. That figure is down from eight percent in September, when Apple first unveiled the product at its annual iPhone event. By the time the product is actually launched next year (maybe) that figure could drop even further.

Some analysts who have been drinking Apple’s Kool Aid, like Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research, have claimed that every iPhone user will also be an Apple Watch user. If Piper Jaffray’s figures prove right, GER should sack Chowdhry as a warning to other analysts who promote Apple at the expense of their company’s credibility.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Apple Re-opens Russian Online Store With Big Price Boost

December 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple signficantly increased the price of its entry-level iPhone 6 by 35% when it reopened its Russian online story on Monday.

Last week, the Cupertino, California company shut down its Russian e-market after the ruble took a dive when currency markets devalued the oil-dependent country’s ruble.

Although the ruble has recovered somewhat — on Monday it was trading at 54.49 to the dollar, an improvement from near 80 at one point last week — Apple boosted the price of the 16GB iPhone 6 to 53,990 rubles today, equivalent to $991.

Before Apple shut the virtual doors to its online store, that same iPhone 6 had been selling for 39,900 rubles, equal to $574 on Monday, Dec. 15, at that day’s exchange rate.

Apple had increased the price of the iPhone 6 by 25% in November in an earlier move to deal with the falling ruble.

Although Apple does not have brick-and-mortar stores of its own in Russia — the nearest are in Germany, Sweden and Turkey — local resellers and mobile carriers sell its hardware. One of those resellers, the Svyaznoy electronics chain, priced the 16GB iPhone 6 on Monday at 48,990 rubles — equivalent to $899 — or 9% lower than Apple’s price.

A 16GB iPhone 6 without a carrier contract sells for $649 in the U.S.

According to IDC, Apple sold approximately 1.6 million iPhones in Russia in 2013, or about 1% of its total worldwide that year.

Other Apple hardware sold on the company’s Russian online store was also priced much higher than in the U.S. A 16GB iPhone Plus, which sells for $749 in the U.S., cost 61,990 rubles, equal to $1,138; the lowest-priced 13-in. MacBook Air was priced at 77,990 rubles (or $1,431), while the U.S. price Monday was $999.

 

 

Are Indie Developers Dying Out?

December 22, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

For independent developers, the last decade has been an endless procession of migratory possibilities. The physical world was defined by compromise, dependence and strategically closed doors, but the rise of digital afforded freedom and flexibility in every direction. New platforms, new business models, new methods of distribution and communication; so many fresh options appeared in such a brief window of time that knowing where and when to place your bet was almost as important as having the best product. For a few years, right around 2008, there was promise almost everywhere you looked.

That has changed. No matter how pregnant with potential they once seemed, virtually every marketplace has proved unable to support the spiralling number of new releases. If the digital world is one with infinite shelf-space for games, it has offered no easy solutions on how to make them visible. Facebook, Android, iOS, Xbox Live Arcade, the PlayStation Network; all have proved to be less democratic than they first appeared, their inevitable flaws exposed as the weight of choice became heavier and heavier. As Spil Games’ Eric Goossens explained to me at the very start of 2014: “It just doesn’t pay the bills any more.”

Of course, Goossens was talking specifically about indie development of casual games. And at that point, with 2013 only just receding from view, I would probably have named one exception to the trend, one place where the balance between volume and visibility gave indies the chance to do unique and personal work and still make a decent living. That place would have been Steam, and if I was correct in my assessment for even one second, it wasn’t too long before the harsher reality became clear.

After less than five months of 2014 had passed, Valve’s platform had already added more new games than in the whole of the previous year. Initiatives like Greenlight and Early Access were designed to make Steam a more open and accessible platform, but they were so effective that some of what made it such a positive force for indies was lost in the process. Steam’s culture of deep-discounting has become more pervasive and intense in the face of this chronic overcrowding, stirring up impassioned debate over what some believe will be profound long-term effects for the perceived value of PC games. Every discussion needs balance, but in this case the back-and-forth seemed purely academic: for a lot of developers steep discounts are simply a matter of survival, and precious few could even entertain the notion of focusing on the greater good instead.

And the indie pinch was felt beyond Steam’s deliberately weakened walls. Kickstarter may be a relatively new phenomenon – even for the hyper-evolving landscape of the games industry – but it faced similar problems in 2014, blighted by the twin spectres of too much content and not enough money to go around. Anecdotally, the notion that something had changed was lurking in the back ground at the very start of the year, with several notable figures struggling to find enough backers within the crowd. The latter months of 2014 threw up a few more examples, but they also brought something close to hard evidence that ‘peak Kickstarter’ may already be behind us – fewer successful projects, lower funding targets, and less money flowing through the system in general. None of which was helped by a handful of disappointing failures, each one a blow for the public’s already flagging interest in crowdfunding. Yet another promising road for indies had become more treacherous and uncertain.

So are indies heading towards a “mass extinction event”? Overcrowding is certainly a key aspect of the overall picture, but the act of making and releasing a game is only getting easier, and the allure of development as a career choice seems to grow with each passing month. It stands to reason that there will continue to be a huge number of games jostling for position on every single platform – more than even a growing market can sustain – but there’s only so much to be gained from griping about the few remaining gatekeepers. If the days when simply being on Steam or Kickstarter made a commercial difference are gone, and if existing discovery tools still lack the nuance to deal with all of that choice, then it just shifts the focus back to where it really belongs: talent, originality, and a product worth an investment of time and money.

At GDC Europe this summer, I was involved in a private meeting with a group of Dutch independent game developers, all sharing knowledge and perspective on how to find success. We finished that hour agreeing on much the same thing. There are few guarantees in this or any other business, but the conditions have also never been more appropriate for personality and individuality to be the smartest commercial strategy. The world has a preponderance of puzzle-platformers, but there’s only one Monument Valley. We’re drowning in games about combat, but This War of Mine took a small step to the left and was greeted with every kind of success. Hell, Lucas Pope made an entire game about working as a border control officer and walked away with not just a hit, but a mantelpiece teeming with the highest honours.

No matter how crowded the market has become, strong ideas executed with care are still able to rise above the clamour, no huge marketing spend required. As long as that’s still possible, indies have all of the control they need.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Study Finds Android Apps Frequently Using Permissions Granted

December 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Android apps really take advantage of those permissions they ask for to access users’ personal information: one online store records a phone’s location up to 10 times a minute, French researchers have found. The tools to manage such access are limited, and inadequate given how much information phones can gather.

In a recent study, ten volunteers used Android phones that tracked app behavior using a monitoring app, Mobilitics, developed by the French National Institute for Informatics Research (INRIA) in conjunction with the National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL). Mobilitics recorded every time another app accessed an item of personal data — the phone’s location, an identifier, photos, messages and so on — and whether it was subsequently transmitted to an external server. The log of the apps’ personal information use was stored on the phone and downloaded at the end of the three months for analysis.

The volunteers were encouraged to use the phones as if they were their own, and together used 121 apps over the period from July to September. A similar study last year used a special iOS app to examine the way iPhone apps access users’ personal data.

Many apps access phones’ identifying characteristics to track their users, the researchers said. One of the few options users have to avoid this tracking is a switch in the “Google Settings” app to reset their phone’s advertising ID. That’s not much help, though, as apps have other ways to identify users. Almost two-thirds of apps studied in the three-month real-world test accessed at least one mobile phone identifier, a quarter of them at least two identifiers, and a sixth three or more. That allows the apps to build up profiles of their users for advertising purposes.

Location was one of the most frequently-accessed items of data. It accounted for 30 percent of all accesses to personal information during the test, and 30 percent of the apps studied accessed it at some point. The Facebook app recorded one volunteer’s location 150,000 times during the three-month period — more than once per minute, on average, while the Google Play Store tracked another user ten times per minute at times. Often, the only use apps make of such information is to serve personalized advertising, as was the case with one game that recorded a user’s location 3,000 times during the study.

 

 

Samsung Sheds Fiber Optics Unit

December 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd agreed to sell its fiber optics operations to U.S. specialty glass maker Corning Inc, shutting the door on another non-core business to focus on shoring up underperforming key areas like smartphones.

Terms of the sale, including plants in China and South Korea, weren’t disclosed. Announced by both parties on Tuesday, the South Korean firm’s second exit from a business line this quarter comes as it braces for its lowest annual profit in three years, squeezed by stiff competition.

The world’s top maker of smartphones has been caught between Chinese rivals like Xiaomi Technology Co Ltd  at the low end and Apple Inc’s iPhones at the top. Samsung Electronics’ share of the global smartphone industry has shrunk year-on-year for the last three quarters.

“We have decided to sell our fibre optics business, in order to focus on our core business areas,” a Samsung Electronics spokeswoman said. The company declined to comment on how much revenue the division generates.

The firm also said in October it will halt its light emitting diode lighting business outside of its home country, which was also considered a non-core business.