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Phone-unlocking Bill Moves One Step Closer To Law

July 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A bill that allows consumers to unlock their mobile phones for use on other carriers passed its last hurdle in Congress last week, opening the way for it to become law once it is signed by President Barack Obama.

Senate Bill 517 overturns a January 2013 decision by the Library of Congress that ruled the unlocking of phones by consumers fell afoul of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It had previously been permitted under an exception to the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, which are generally aimed at cracking of digital rights management technology.

Cellphones and smartphones are typically supplied to consumers with a software lock that restricts their use to a single wireless carrier. Removing that lock — the process of “unlocking” the phone — means it can be used on the networks of competing carriers. In the U.S., this is most often done with handsets that work on the AT&T or T-Mobile networks, which share a common technology, but is also popular with consumers who want to take their phones overseas and use foreign networks rather than roaming services.

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act has made fast progress through Congress. It was passed by the Senate on July 16, just a week after it was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and on Friday by unanimous vote in the House of Representatives. It now waits to be signed into law.

In addition to making the unlocking process legal under copyright law, the bill also directs the librarian of Congress to determine whether other portable devices with wireless capability, such as tablets, should be eligible for unlocking.

“It took 19 months of activism and advocacy, but we’re finally very close to consumers regaining the right to unlock the phones they’ve legally bought,” said Sina Khanifar, who organized an online petition that kicked off the push to have the Library of Congress decision overturned. The petition attracted more than 114,000 signatures on the White House’s “We The People” site.

“I’m looking forward to seeing this bill finally become law — it’s been a long road against powerful, entrenched interests — but it’s great to see citizen advocacy work,” he said in a statement.

 

Is GTA 5 Coming To The Xbox One And PS4 In November?

July 28, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA 5) might arrive for Playstation 4 (PS4), Xbox One and PC gamers on 7 November, if a UK retailer is to be believed.

Rockstar is still yet to cough on a release date for GTA 5 for PCs and next-gen consoles, but said at this year’s E3 conference that the titles will tip up “this fall.”

However, UK retailer Gameseek is claiming that the PC version, along with PS4 and Xbox One versions, will start shipping on 7 November. It is so confident that it has even started taking pre-orders for the games, with the PC version priced at $49.99, and the PS4 and Xbox One version at $59.99.

We have little reason not to believe the leaked release date, as the 7 November release date falls on a Friday – typical for a UK game release, and also would see the title arrive on shelves in time for Christmas, with Rockstar no doubt looking to cash in on holiday sales.

Rockstar has yet to comment on Gameseek’s release date.

The firm has released some vague information about the new versions of GTA 5, though. Speaking at E3 in June Rockstar said, “Grand Theft Auto V will take full advantage of the power of the Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC with across-the-board graphical and technical improvements to deliver a stunning new level of detail.

“Increased draw distances, finer texture details, denser traffic, and enhanced resolutions all work together to bring new life to the cities, towns, deserts and oceans of Rockstar North’s epic reimagining of Southern California.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Is Internet Explorer Being Exploited By Hackers?

July 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) has seen a 100 percent explosion of reported security vulnerabilities in just six months, according to security firm Bromium labs.

Bromium has studied the security vulnerability market intensely and found that in the last six months Microsoft released more security patches than it had during the entire last decade. Internet Explorer also leads in publicly reported exploits.

“Internet Explorer took the cap for historic high number of security patches in over a decade, and that feat was accomplished in the first six months of 2014,” it said. “As timelines to the next version of the latest Internet Explorer shrink, times to the next security patches have also shrunk.”

It is not all bad news for Microsoft, though, and the report said that Adobe Flash is the most targeted in-browser software product, adding that this often gives attackers new vectors into IE.

“End users remain a primary concern for information security professionals because they are the most targeted and most susceptible to attacks,” said Bromium chief security architect Rahul Kashyap.

“Web browsers have always been a favorite avenue of attack, but we are now seeing that hackers are not only getting better at attacking Internet Explorer, they are doing it more frequently.”

There’s good news for Oracle, however. While its Java platform was “the notorious king” of malware and zero-day attacks in 2013, there have been no reported zero-day exploits targeting Java so far in 2014.

Bromium Labs’ report (PDF) is called “Endpoint Exploitation Trends H1 2014″ and is available now.

Courtesy-TheInq

Will The Console Gaming Market Shrink?

July 24, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

The new generation of consoles and booming category of free-to-play PC games won’t be enough to keep the market growing indefinitely. According to a Juniper Research report, the market will soon turn south, falling from $46.5 billion worldwide this year to $41 billion in 2019.

Despite that 12 percent drop, the PC and console segment will still account for more than half of all gaming revenues through 2019. Additionally, Juniper said software sales on PC and console “will remain relatively healthy,” with PC revenues topping those of its console counterparts.

The PC & Console Games: Trends, Opportunities, and Vendor Strategies 2014-2019 report also predicts the console cycle to continue as in generations past. That means the new systems will spark sales in the short-term, with growth slowing and then turning negative as the new platforms age. Juniper also expects another generation of consoles likely arriving around 2019, with the new platforms having a similar lifespan to the their predecessors.

Dedicated gaming handhelds will continue to play a part in the industry, with Juniper penciling them in for about $2.2 billion in revenues in 2019. (Handhelds were not included in the console/PC figures above.) And while cloud gaming is going to receive a boost this year with the launch of PlayStation Now, it won’t upend the status quo just yet. Juniper expects the cloud gaming market to rise from $281 million this year to $1 billion by 2019.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Intel Develops Self-encrypting SSD

July 24, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has announced the Drive Pro 2500 series of solid state disk (SSD) drives that are “self encrypting”, which the firm says makes them more secure against data breaches.

Aimed at businesses, the Intel SSD Pro 2500 series will come in a 2.4in 7mm form factor with 120GB, 180GB, 240GB, 360GB and 480GB capacities, M.2 80mm size with 180GB, 240GB and 360GB capacities, and M.2 60mm size with 180GB or 240GB capacities.

Intel promises that each form factor type will provide random input/output operations per second (IOPS) of up to 48K/80K and sequential read/write data transfer speeds of up to 540/490MBps.

“[The] Solid State Drive Pro 2500 series [has] over [six times] higher performance with new advanced low power modes yielding an optimized user experience and longer battery life,” Intel said in a press briefing.

In terms of power, the drives will have an active wattage of 195mW, idle 55mW and devsleep of 5mW. The drives will also ship with Intel vPro-capable remote manageability features.

Intel said that the reason behind the launch of the self encrypting SSDs is due to rise of data breaches affecting businesses having “significant financial consequences”.

Intel said the average cost of data breach incident is in the region of $3.4m (£2m), with malicious attacks being the main cause. The firm also said that lost laptops are a concern and the average cost of a lost unencrypted device is $50,000 (£30,000) including intellectual property loss, data breaches, lost productivity, replacement and legal costs, so the need for businesses to encrypt data is more pressing than ever.

Data breaches are also becoming a bigger concern on a personal level, too, as it has emerged that cyber crooks are increasingly turning to “sextortion” attacks in which they blackmail victims with the threat of exposing explicit photographs or messages.

Security experts warned that cyber criminals might try to befriend victims and trick them into sharing pictures, or may use malware to target victims’ webcams and take pictures themselves in order to acquire blackmail material.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Lenovo Says It’s Still In The 8-in. Windows Tablet Game

July 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Lenovo on Friday said it would continue selling sub-10-in. Windows tablets in the U.S., backing away from statements it made the day before, when it said it was pulling the ThinkPad 8 from the North American market and had discontinued offering a model of the Miix 2.

“We will continue to bring new Windows devices to market across different screen sizes, including a new 8-inch tablet and 10-inch tablet coming this holiday,” Lenovo said in a press release published on its website Friday.

“Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media (emphasis in original),” the statement continued.

On Thursday, the IDG News Service — like Computerworld, owned and operated by IDG – reported the withdrawal of the ThinkPad 8 and the 8-in. Miix from the U.S. market. The ThinkPad 8 had debuted in January at prices starting at $449, and the similarly-sized Miix had launched in October 2013.

Lenovo told IDG News that it was diverting remaining stocks of the ThinkPad 8 to other countries, including Brazil, China, and Japan, where demand was stronger for smaller Windows 8.1-powered tablets.

The China-based company, which has made impressive gains in the global market — it was the world’s largest personal computer seller during the second quarter, ahead of Hewlett-Packard and Dell, according to IDC — did not say exactly when it would return with an 8-in. device. If it begins selling the unnamed device in October, typical of OEMs that seed the channel then for the holiday sales season, it will have been absent from the market for two or more months.

 

 

Will Microsoft’s Cuts Impact Quantum Break?

July 22, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Neither Microsoft of developer Remedy is talking about the effect that the upcoming staff reductions at Microsoft might impact the already deep in development title know as Quantum Break.

Quantum Break is said to feature television segments that will be part of the main game with players unlocking new segments at the end of some gameplay segments. The live action television segments can we watched right away or they can be viewed later on mobile devices such as a smart phone or tablet.

The run here is that originally we assumed that these live action segments to be integrated with the game were being produced by Remedy, but word is now that this may not actually be the case and that the Microsoft Xbox Entertainment Studios division might actually be responsible for delivering this content.

So far, no one at Microsoft or Remedy will confirm what if any the impact of closing Xbox Entertainment Studios may have on the Quantum Break project if any. Sources we have spoken with seem to think that the recording of all of this live action segments is already done and finished. So there is nothing to worry about, but other think that it will be difficult to scrap Quantum Break this far into the development, but a redesign that does not use the television segments might be likely.

Courtesy-Fud

Will Qualcomm And Apple Give TSMC The Boot

July 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

TSMC saw its share price drop dramatically on Thursday as analysts predicted a loss of orders for next generation chips from Apple and Qualcomm.

Falling by almost six percent, the share price fell after industry expert and KGI Securities analyst Michael Li predicted that big device and chip designers such as Apple and Qualcomm will likely buy a larger proportion of 14nm smartphone chips from Samsung rather than TSMC beginning in the second half of 2015, according to Reuters.

Liu did not reveal the source of his information, which he issued late on Wednesday following an investor conference held after TSMC reported its second quarter earnings.

Despite the news, TSMC, which is the world’s largest contract chip maker, reported its highest quarterly profit since the end of 2006, and said it expects revenue to grow at least a record 20 percent this year.

However, reports sent TSMC’s share price down by around 5.75 percent in Thursday trade compared with a one percent decline in the benchmark index.

On Wednesday, chip maker Intel posted a quarterly record for microprocessor unit sales with better than expected earnings for the second quarter.

The record-breaking figures showed second quarter earnings of $2.8bn  on $13.8bn  in revenue, and were owing to the firm’s surprisingly strong sales in the PC client group, which pulled in $8.7bn in revenue, as well as its data center and internet of things divisions.

Intel’s earnings of $0.55 per share were slightly above the expectations of Wall Street analysts, which had forecast lower earnings per share of $0.52 on revenue of $13.69bn.

The boost in the earnings of Intel’s PC client group could be attributable to a growing number of businesses upgrading their old PC systems due to the end of life of Windows XP.

Courtesy-TheInq

Is Free-To-Play Always The Best Bet?

July 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

To hear the likes of Electronic Arts and Gameloft tell it, premium apps are all but a relic of the past, the obsolete progenitor to mobile’s free-to-play future. But some smaller developers have found that future isn’t all it’s made out to be, and have been finding more success back on the premium side of the fence.

Kitfox Games and Double Stallion, two Montreal studios from Jason Della Rocca’s Execution Labs incubator, launched Shattered Planet and Big Action Mega Fight, respectively, on mobile in the last year. However, both titles struggled to rake in revenue, and the studios have since released more successful premium versions of the two. Kitfox’s Tanya X. Short and Double Stallion’s Nicolas Barrière-Kucharski spoke with GamesIndustry International this week to discuss their forays into free-to-play, and why more traditional business models worked better for them.

In Double Stallion’s case, part of the problem was that Big Action Mega Fight proved an awkward fit for the free-to-play format.

“We picked a genre, fighting, that was very content-driven,” Barrière-Kucharski said. “It was really very arduous to keep up and engage the audience with new levels, new enemies, and new types of content. We couldn’t compete at our size and budget with other, more established free-to-play studios and games.”

Beyond that, the genre may have been a poor fit for the audience. Barrière-Kucharski said that the people who would appreciate Big Action Mega Fight’s skill-based gameplay and faithful take on the beat-’em-up genre simply weren’t the same people interested in free-to-play games.

“I think the overlap between audiences was just too small to sustain a thriving community around the game,” Barrière-Kucharski said.

With Shattered Planet, Short said genre wasn’t a problem. She thinks the games-as-a-service model is actually a perfect fit for roguelikes like Shattered Planet, where a few new items and systems can exponentially increase the potential content for players to experience. However, Shattered Planet still didn’t fit the free-to-play mold for a few reasons.

“Free-to-play is not always suitable to single-player games,” Short said. “I think it’s best suited to multiplayer games in which it being free is actually of value to players because they can have more people to play with. That’s one philosophy we’ve developed, that if we ever do free-to-play again, we would only do it for multiplayer.”

On top of that, Shattered Planet was designed to be a tough game for players. But Short said in the free-to-play business model, difficulty can be “a dangerous thing.”

“We made a difficult game, and the fact that it was free made people suspicious, and rightfully so,” Short said. “I think they had every right to be a little bit paranoid about why the game was difficult. And in a business model where difficulty generally does often make people spend more, I think a designer’s hands are tied as to how and when a game can be difficult and when it’s ethical. So we felt a lot more comfortable about making a premium game, and me as the designer, I was happier because we could say sincerely that it’s exactly as difficult as we wanted it to be and you can’t say it was greedy or whatever.

Both games have found more success since they were released as premium versions. Big Action Mega Fight was re-launched last month as a $3 app ($2 during a first-week sale); those who downloaded the free-to-play version received the upgrade to the premium version as a free title update. Even though the free version of the game was downloaded about 400,000 times, Barrière-Kucharski said the revenues from Big Action Mega Fight’s first week as a paid app topped the total lifetime income from the free-to-play version since its November debut. To date the company has sold about 3,600 copies of Big Action Mega Fight on iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, and Ouya.

Kitfox took a different approach to premium the switch, continuing to run the free-to-play Shattered Planet mobile app alone, but also releasing a premium PC version on Steam with a $15 price tag and no monetization beyond that. The results were similarly positive, as Short said the studio made as much on Steam in one day as it had on mobile in two months. In its first week, Shattered Planet sold 2,500 copies on Steam. Short is happy to see the game bringing in more money, but she confessed to being a little bit torn on the trade-off it required.

“It really was great seeing that we had 300,000 downloads on mobile,” Short said. “We had 300,000 people play Shattered Planet on iOS and Android, and that’s amazing. Sure, it looks like we’re going to make two to five to 10 times more money on Steam, but it’s only going to be 1 percent of the amount of people that could see it if we tried to release it free, in theory… It’s a little bit sad that you monetize better with fewer people. When you’re trying to get your brand and your name out there, it is sad we couldn’t have another few hundred thousand people.”

Beyond the trade-off of settling for a smaller but more supportive audience, Kitfox has encountered some negative effects of releasing Shattered Planet as a free-to-play mobile title and then as a PC premium game.

“For us, a lot of people remained skeptical of the quality of the game if they knew the mobile version existed,” Short said. “I don’t think that really has that much to do with free-to-play and more to do with platform snobbery. It’s just kind of a general feeling of console and PC gamers that if a game was ever on mobile, it couldn’t possibly be as feature-rich or as deep, as strategic or anything like that.”

Nicolas Barrière-Kucharski

On top of that, there was some customer confusion over the game and its business model. Short said the game’s forums on Steam had some angry users saying they wouldn’t buy the game because it had in-app purchases (which it didn’t). Although the developers were able to post in the threads and clear things up, that sort of inconsistency has convinced them that if they ever do return to mobile platforms, they will stick to a free demo or companion app rather than something monetized.

“It’s just so dominated by giant players,” Short said of the mobile scene. “It’s such a completely different market that I think you really have to focus on it, and that’s not my team’s expertise. For us, we’re definitely going to be focus on PC and console; I think that’s where our talents are.”

Barrière-Kucharski agreed, saying that even if a niche audience is willing to pay for a certain experience, there just aren’t good ways for developers to connect to that audience.

“It’s really hard to be found or be discovered by players,” Barrière-Kucharski said. “I’m really looking forward to all the curation issues that are going to be tackled in the next year or so on iOS 8 and the Steam Greenlight update.”

But even if those initiatives follow through on their promises of improving discoverability, Barrière-Kucharski worries that the problem could still get worse as the gains made won’t be enough to offset the flood of new developers entering the field. Short also saw discoverability as a key problem facing developers right now, but stressed that finding a solution is in the best interests of the platform holders.

“Whatever platform figures out discoverability first will have a huge advantage because there are these thousands of developers that as soon as they hear there is any discoverability, that’s where they’re going to flood for sure,” Short said. “So it is almost a race at the moment between Steam and Apple and Google.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

 

IBM To Partner With Apple To Sell iPads, iPhones For Business Users

July 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

International Business Machines Corp will join forces exclusively with Apple Inc to offer iPhones and iPads loaded with applications geared at enterprise clients this fall, the company announced.

The announcement, just days before IBM releases its second quarter earnings, comes as the company attempts to shift its focus to software and services as its hardware unit continues to slump, and follows a string of mobile software acquisitions. The company hopes software sales will contribute half of its total profit by 2015.

The company will release more than 100 apps targeting industry specific issues in retail, healthcare, banking, travel, transportation and telecommunications IBM said on Tuesday.

“We wanted to focus on creating an absolutely irresistible workflow and processes and a design of apps that can be used by every user in the organization,” Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president of global business services told Reuters from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.

“We wanted to remove some of the existing barriers of mobile in enterprise,” she said adding that chief information officers worry about security, utilizing cloud and installing apps in mobile devices.

The partnership, which was six months in the making, will offer services geared at security, mobile device management and big data and analytics. The company also plans to develop cloud services optimized for Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. The devices will operate through wireless carriers chosen by the client, she said.

BlackBerry Ltd shares were down 3 percent following the announcement. The Canadian smartphone maker has increasingly targeted its secure software at businesses as part of an effort to turn the company around after losing ground to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co.

Apple and Samsung have steadily expanded their share of the mobile enterprise market in recent years, mostly at Blackberry’s expense, while Microsoft Windows phones have made little headway.

Increasingly, Apple’s expansion has been driven by employees bringing in their own devices and requesting corporate support, the so-called bring-your-own-IT trend.

Hooking up with IBM may help address lingering concerns about smartphone software security and data privacy, in the form of a veteran partner that’s led in enterprise IT for decades.

“This deal is a very targeted attempt by Apple with the help from IBM to focus on the enterprise, corporate market which has really been the main business of Blackberry,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

 

 

Microsoft Rumored To Be Cutting Jobs Soon

July 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft Corp is said to be planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years as the software giant moves to integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the company’s plans.

The reductions, expected to be announced as soon as this week, could be in the Nokia unit and the parts of Microsoft that overlap with that business, as well as in marketing and engineering, Bloomberg reported.

Since absorbing the handset business of Nokia this spring, Microsoft has 127,000 employees, far more than rivals Apple Inc and Google Inc. Wall Street is expecting Chief Executive Satya Nadella to make some cuts, which would represent Microsoft’s first major layoffs since 2009.

The restructuring may end up being the biggest in Microsoft history, topping the 5,800 jobs cut in 2009, the report said.

Some of the job cuts will be in marketing departments for businesses such as the global Xbox team, and among software testers, while other job cuts may result from changes Nadella is making to the engineering organization, Bloomberg reported.

Last week, Nadella circulated a memo to employees promising to “flatten the organization and develop leaner business processes” but deferred any comment on widely expected job cuts at the software company.

Nadella said he would address detailed organizational and financial issues for the company’s new financial year, which started at the beginning of this month, when Microsoft reports quarterly results on July 22.

 

Chinese Using Scanners To Spy

July 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Security experts claim that a Chinese manufacturer has been installing malware in its hand-held scanners that steals supply chain data.

TrapX says infected scanners made by an unnamed Chinese manufacturer located in Shandong province have been sold to eight unnamed firms including a large robotics company. The manufacturer denied knowledge that its scanners and website-hosted software were infected.

Sixteen of the 48 scanners deployed at one firm were infected, TrapX found. They all successfully sought out and compromised host names containing the word finance and siphoning off the logistical and financial data. The report Anatomy of the Attack: Zombie Zero said:

“Exfiltration of all financial data and ERP data was achieved, providing the attacker complete situational awareness and visibility into the logistic/shipping company’s worldwide operations,”.

TrapX suspected the attacks dubbed Zombie Zero were backed by the Chinese government and were a bid to gain intelligence on either logistics firms or their customers.

Courtesy-Fud

Are Japanese Gamer’s Disappearing?

July 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

There’s a popular narrative about Japan’s game development industry: it’s an industry in trouble, lagging behind the West and running out of ideas. If any Japanese developer wants to get themselves splashed into the headlines, all they need do is trot out a soundbite disparaging their own industry; in a world of click bait headlines, the fall of Japanese development is a sure-fire winner. The apparent decline of Japan’s game developers is linked to a secondary narrative as well, namely the decline of Japan’s internal market for videogames. Once the undisputed gaming capital of the world, Japan seems to be falling out of love with the pastime – at least on consoles, and at least according to some rather unusual readings of the data.

There’s a nugget of truth to both of these stories; just enough to make them worth considering, yet certainly not enough to prevent the majority of reporting and discussion on them from being a torrent of absolute nonsense. Japanese game development is somewhat troubled, but it’s troubled by exactly the same factors that are giving sleepless nights to Western game developers – skyrocketing AAA budgets, new business models, a diversification of platforms and the globalisation of the audience. Japanese development studios remain perfectly capable of making superb games that delight their fans; their problem, just as everywhere else, is figuring out how to make money from those games in a new world where profitability escapes everything but the million-selling megahit.

That links back to the second narrative; Japan is falling out of love with games. On the surface, it’s hard to see this alleged decline. The country’s arcades may not be what they once were, but they’re still far more numerous and spacious, not to mention well-attended, than any such establishments in the west. Dedicated videogame stores remain a fixture of shopping districts, while every large electronics store (and there are plenty of those, dominating most city centre areas) has a large videogames section – a stark contrast with, for example, central London, where actually going out and buying a videogame in a shop is an increasingly difficult task. Food courts and fast-food joints still play host to groups of children and teenagers engaged in the likes of Pokemon and Monster Hunter, and a trip outside in an urban area with a 3DS in your pocket will bag a full complement of Street Pass hits in no time flat.

Where’s the decline, then? Well, as figures released earlier this week by Japanese magazine publisher and industry data agency Enterbrain confirm, it’s not actually a decline so much as a stagnation. Enterbrain’s report, widely reported online after being translated in part by Kantan Games’ boss Serkan Toto on the company’s blog, showed that combined hardware and software sales in the first half of 2014 were almost exactly the same as the first half of 2013 – showing growth of just 0.1%. Toto’s entirely reasonable point was that this is much, much lower growth than Japan’s booming smartphone game market, yet this seems to have been picked up by many outlets as further confirmation of a Japanese gaming decline and specifically of a failure to ignite interest in the PS4.

Let’s be clear – the Japanese smartphone game market is in extraordinarily rude health. Revenues from mobile games, by some measures, surpassed packaged game revenue about three years ago and haven’t looked back since. For every person you see playing a 3DS or a Vita (the latter, I note, becoming vastly more commonplace on trains in recent months), you see dozens engrossed in mobile games. Puzzle & Dragons remains the clear favourite, but a trip on a busy Tokyo commuter line will turn up any number of different games gracing the ubiquitous smartphones. The industry’s revenues are clear to see, too; the vast majority of expensive marketing campaigns for games here are for mobile games, not console titles. Only last week I walked onto a train carriage on the phenomenally busy Yamanote loop line in central Tokyo to find that every advertising space in the carriage was full of Clash of Clans marketing; the huge billboard near my apartment, meanwhile, alternates fortnightly between ads for hopeful Puzzle & Dragons clones and ads for new singles by terrible boybands. There’s a huge amount of cash flowing through mobile games in Japan right now, and from a business perspective, that makes it a more interesting (if vastly more challenging) space than the console market.

Yet that doesn’t change the slowdown of Japan’s console market into a “decline” or a “crisis”. We all know that Japan has been ahead of the curve in terms of the adoption of videogames since the 1980s. 30 years down the line, is it surprising that it has hit a plateau? Gaming as a whole – including mobile, browser and online gaming – continues to grow at a massive rate, but in Japan at least, the console space has reached a point where there simply isn’t much new market to conquer. That may change in future as new devices open up new audiences, but console games as they stand don’t seem to have much further to go in Japan. That doesn’t make them a bad business. It means that if you want to make huge bucks and impress shareholders with your growth figures, you probably want to place your investments elsewhere – but if you want to make great games and make money selling them, a mature, stable market is no worse a place to do that than a growing one.

Moreover, when you consider the underlying factors in Japan’s economy, maintaining a steady market size is actually quite impressive. Japan’s population peaked in 2008 and has slowly declined since then; the most rapid decline being the proportion of young people (the most avid consumers of videogames). So this is a market with less “core” consumers of videogames than before; moreover, a series of ill-targeted reforms and a few decades of economic slump have meant that a very large proportion of those young people are trapped in low-paying work with no job security. Furthermore, Japan’s prices have been in slow but steady decline since the early 1990s. Yes, unlike most western economies, Japanese prices aren’t slowly rising due to inflation – rather, they’re falling due to deflation. This has supposedly been reversed in the past 12 months or so, with tiny inflation figures finally showing up, but most of the change so far has been down to a sharp rise in energy costs (a consequence of expensive imported fuels replacing Japan’s still-offline nuclear power plants) and it generally hasn’t been reflected in consumer goods.

One other economic factor has been mentioned by a handful of writers this week. They pointed out that Japan’s consumption tax went up from 5 per cent to 8 per cent in April, in the middle of this reporting period; if that 3 per cent hike were included in Enterbrain’s figures, it would mean industry revenues actually fell. However, to my knowledge Enterbrain’s numbers are based on pre-tax figures, much as US market data is, and thus the consumption tax rise isn’t a factor – except in that it would have been expected to push videogame sales down, thus making the rise slightly more impressive.

In short – Japan has less consumers for games and it’s charging less for things than it used to. Under those circumstances, a market which was performing precisely as well this year as it did last year would be expected to show a modest decline. Just staying still would mean you’d actually grown by a few percent in relative to offset the underlying audience decline and price deflation. Growing by 0.1% in Japan is comparable to growing by a couple of percent in the USA or much of Europe, where population is still generally growing and prices are being inflated, not deflated.

These factors don’t combine to mean that Japan is magically showing strong growth in defiance of the figures, but they are important to understanding what the figures mean. Japan’s “decline” is more like stagnation, and in the past year, even that stagnation has showed a positive trend. The market for consoles and games remains big and pretty healthy even as the market for smartphone games shoots through the roof; both of them clearly have an important place in the future of the country’s games industry.

As for the supposedly “disappointing” impact of the PlayStation 4? There’s no doubt that the performance of the console has slowed down significantly since a very strong launch, but it’s worth noting that sales of hardware were actually up nearly 7% year-on-year, with the PS4 and the resurgent Vita picking up slack from slower sales of the 3DS. PS4′s software line-up in Japan is still largely composed of western titles with limited appeal to the local audience, and the console probably won’t pick up significantly until more local software is available later this year – it’s notable that the PS Vita’s success in the first half of 2014 is largely attributable to the sudden arrival of software titles that match local tastes, and not (as some commentators would have it) to an upsurge of interest in PS4 Remote Play functionality. Overall, PS4 in Japan continues to perform as you’d expect for a new console with limited software – a great launch, followed by slow but steady sales while it awaits new software to spark purchases from new audiences. It’s done well, but it hasn’t “rescued” the Japanese market; but then again, if you take the time to understand the figures, it should be pretty clear that the Japanese market doesn’t actually need rescuing.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Lenovo Ships First 4K Laptop

July 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Toshiba is not the only company offering a 4K laptop anymore; Lenovo has finally shipped its first 4K laptop, sporting a 5.6-inch screen, after months of delays.

The IdeaPad Y50 UHD laptop starts at $1,299.99 and is targeted at gamers. The 4K screen can display images at 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is the highest resolution available in laptops today.

The Y50 is cheaper than Toshiba’s Satellite P50T, which starts at $1,499.99. The P50T started shipping in April, but was temporarily pulled from Toshiba’s website, and is now available again.

Laptop screens have so far topped out at 3200 x 1800 pixels in Samsung’s Ativ Book 9 Plus, Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro and Razer’s Blade gaming laptop. TVs, monitors and cameras with support for 4K are already available.

Lenovo in January announced two 4K laptops — the Y50 and the 14-inch Y40 — but the initial units that shipped in May were missing 4K screens and instead came with HD screens. The Y40 model is not yet available with a 4K screen. Lenovo was having issues acquiring 4K displays, which delayed some laptops and monitors.

The Y50 has some of the latest PC technologies, pushing it into the class of a true gaming laptop. The $1,299.99 model has a Core i7 i7-4710HQ processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M graphics chip with 2GB of video memory, 8GB of DRAM and 1TB of hard-drive storage. The $1,599.99 model has the same Core i7 CPU, the GeForce GTX 860M with 4GB of video memory, 16GB of DRAM and 512GB solid-state drive storage.

The laptops have Windows 8, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, an HDMI connector and two USB 3.0 ports.

 

Can Mobile Devices Push Gaming To New Heights

July 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

By 2017, mobile and online games could push worldwide gaming software revenues to $100 billion. That’s according to Digi-Capital’s latest Global Games Investment Review report, which said the mobile/online game market could make up a whopping 60 percent ($60 billion) of that total thanks to a compound annual growth rate of nearly 24 percent since 2011.

The firm found mobile was the main driver of record mergers and acquisitions activity in the last year, accounting for $4.6 billion of a record $12.5 billion in games M&A. The free-to-play MMO market was the next biggest driver with $4 billion in M&A business, followed by tech interests with $2.8 billion.

That total covers the last year, but most of it has come in 2014, with gaming M&A accounting for a record $6.6 billion in the first six months of the year alone. Even if 2014 didn’t see another penny added to that total, it would be a new full-year record as well, having already eclipsed the $5.6 billion in mergers and acquisitions recorded for the entirety of 2013.

Digi-Capital offered a number of reasons for the increase of M&A activity beyond the simple attraction of massive growth in the field. The firm also said some acquirers were interested in “stopping mobile insurgents from eating their lunch,” indicating the Zynga pick-up of Natural Motion would fall under that category. It also said companies established in one region are looking to buy strength in a different part of the world (as with Softbank’s majority stake acquisition of Supercell), and lukewarm or delayed IPOs for a handful of companies in the market have made recent valuations seem like good bargains.

Courtesy-GI.biz