We watch citizens overthrow governments and assume the same thing couldn’t happen here. But we have had one big civil war in the U.S., and several states — including California, where I live — have been talking about getting out of the U.S. for decades. What appears to keep us together isn’t the political structure; I think you could argue the USSR’s was actually stronger, and it fell. It is the appearance that the government is representative. What if a majority, or even a massive minority, believed it wasn’t — much like what happened in the Civil War?
If you think about it, the same kind of event that caused the U.S. to exit the British Empire triggered the Civil War, and just because something hasn’t happened in a long while doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. Both the Tea Party and Occupy movements are border-line revolutionary, and had the people supporting the perception that Al Gore won the election against George Bush been able to get more popular support faster, we would have had what is likely a far more dramatic outcome.
Twitter provides the vehicle to do just that.
Twitter is increasingly making people aware of things much sooner. In other countries, it has been used to coordinate revolutions, and it could be used in much the same way here. I’ll lay out how I think it could happen.
I’ll end with my product of the week: the 2012 Jaguar XK-R that I drove and fell in love with a few days ago.
Cities and states are at or near bankruptcy, and they are cutting salaries and benefits while pushing through initiatives to raise taxes on their citizens. Many of these citizens have had their incomes cut, have had both their benefits and available retirement funds cut, and have lost massive amounts of money on the Facebook IPO (likely further delaying their retirement).
Law enforcement has been cut back sharply. Crime, including burglaries and violent crime, appears to be increasing, while infrastructure appears to be failing at an alarming rate. People appear to be buying guns and ammunition to protect themselves at impressive levels. For instance, in Oakland, a city near me, it seems that every night one or more people are shot either as victims of a crime or while committing one.
Folks appear to be increasingly looking to illicit ways to make ends meet — like selling drugs and, more likely, cheating on taxes. To address these problems, governments are cracking down on medical marijuana establishments, talking about more restrictions on gun ownership, and more aggressively auditing taxpayers.
Both the left and the right are fueling a sense of outrage and the perception of an out-of-control government. Both sides appear to have consensus on the message that government isn’t working, even though the arguments they’re using are different and each blames the other.
In short, there is a growing number of increasingly heavily armed people becoming convinced that their government is catastrophically flawed, and that the system itself — not just the people in it — is the cause. That would appear to be a formula for revolution, and key indicators appear to be drifting in that direction at the moment.
There is an extensive paper on the cause of the LA riots a few years back that argues the disenfranchisement of an ethnic group as the cause. I’m arguing that we now have a situation where it appears a much larger group is disenfranchised.
What Twitter does that is unique is that it puts no time between the concept of a news item and what is published. News organizations are monitoring the service and increasingly appear to take the activity and person posting it as authoritative, even though accounts are often compromised or may not actually be owned by the person named in the service.
This suggests that a revolutionary group, hostile country, or terrorist group could relatively easily manufacture an event that could cause several large-scale riots — and if they controlled enough of the tweets, propagate them into revolution.
Law enforcement isn’t staffed to counter something like this. In fact, many police, who themselves have seen their salaries, benefits, and retirement plans cut, would likely identify with the effort and support it, given an adequate trigger.
The people rioting wouldn’t be watching their TVs and likely would be fueling each other as the police and military organizations moved from non-lethal to lethal force to protect themselves and bystanders.
The agitators — or patriots, depending on whether or not they are successful — would blow each act out of proportion and use the news as the equivalent of pouring gasoline on the fire. At some point — likely early — the effort would become self-sustaining.
Now the government could shut down Twitter or even the entire Internet, and that did effectively work in Iran, but I’ll bet it moves very late to do that. Also, it might actually end up cutting off the voice of more reasonable people at the same time, removing a critical social tool to stop the violence after it was no longer really fueling it.
Wrapping Up: Welcome to the New World Order
While I think the scenario I’m calling out is unlikely — otherwise, I’d have already moved to Belize — I don’t like the trend. And I really don’t like how easy it would be to manipulate a tool like Twitter to cause a trigger event to become either the cause for a riot or, less likely, the catalyst for a revolt.
A very likely trigger event could be Twitter showcasing that one candidate won while the election process crowned the other president.
In short, the U.S. could end on another Bush/Gore event — or really anything that might piss off enough people in one place to the degree they would organize and go after local or federal government. Twitter, or a product like it, could be both the spark and the mechanism driving such a catastrophic event.
Suddenly November looks like a good time to go on vacation.
Product of the Week: 2012 Jaguar XK-R
My second car was a 1968 Jaguar XK-E convertible in gray. It was a loss leader — cheapest car on the lot — and it was one of my all-time favorite cars. I wrecked it doing something stupid and later bought a 1964 coupe with 45 CFM side draft Webbers and a hot cam. It damn near broke me, and I could only afford it by working in a Jag shop.
Recently I picked up a used 2004 XK-R Coronado Blue convertible to revisit my youth, and I’m having a ball with it.
Jaguar was kind enough to send me to the Jaguar ALIVE experience, where I got to drive the current line of cars. After being reminded that Jaguar now follows only Lexus in customer satisfaction, I was allowed to drive XJ on the street and the XK-R on several tracks. You can see a video of my driving the 0-60 course here.
We also got to drive a moderate speed agility course and, fortunately, I got through it faster than my wife did — otherwise, I’d have been impossible to live with.
Of course the hottest Jaguar is the XK-RS, but don’t plan on buying one because it is sold out in the United States through the end of the year. The cars aren’t cheap; they come in at the bottom of the supercar range, and the base XK convertible is US$90K. The XK-R (supercharged) is $103K, and the sold out XK-RS (550 engine hp) is just short of $140K. This is why I’ll likely wait for the coming F-Type which is expected to price much closer to $50K. It is due in 2013.
There really is nothing like a Jaguar to put a smile on your face, though, particularly with the top down, and they are rare enough that the cars will get people to look. These aren’t 911s or Boxters, Mustangs, or Camaros, which are all over the roads. You don’t see them often, and drivers often wave when they pass you.
I belong to the Jaguar Forum, and there is a group that is talking about why people bought their Jag. The common response goes like “was looking for a Porsche (or other similar car), saw the Jaguar in the lot and went for a test drive, fell in love, and never looked back.”
Long gone are the days of Lucas Electrics and problems, and if they were fun back then, imagine how much fun they are now with the problems gone. Even if you never buy one, you should put driving one on your bucket list just for the smile it gives you. Because it put a huge grin on my face, the 2012 XK-R is my product of the week.Read More
For employees at Motorola Mobility, there were probably better ways to start the business week. On Monday, Google announced that it was cutting about 4,000 jobs at its mobile phone business division, and that it will close or consolidate about one-third of its 90 locations around the world.
This represents about 20 percent of Motorola Mobility’s 20,000 employees and 7 percent of Google’s total workforce. About two-thirds of the job cuts will occur outside of the United States, according to reports. These cuts come three months after Google purchased Motorola for US$12.5 billion.
“This likely includes a redundancy with Google’s programming staff,” said Chris Silva, industry analyst for mobile at Altimeter Group.
This likely won’t be the final round of cuts either, especially as Motorola is far from the top mobile phone maker these days. Google’s acquisition of Motorola was likely because of Motorola’s past achievements, rather than its current condition.
The acquisition amounted to a “vote of confidence” in Motorola’s patent portfolio, Silva told the E-Commerce Times. “This was an intellectual property buy more than anything else.”
Google did not respond to our request for further details.
Given the redundancy, as well as the fact that Motorola had lost much of its luster with consumers by the time it was acquired, these cuts are far from surprising. In fact, it was really a matter of when, not if, in this particular case, even if the employees may not have expected it.
“This cut was expected. It always happens after an acquisition,” said telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan. “On one hand, this will shake Motorola workers to the core. They were not really expecting this. That is not their world.”
This is unlikely to have an impact on Google at present, but this cut is not the last, added Kagan. While painful for those getting cut — this move may be required.
“We have to remember Motorola Mobility has been struggling for years,” emphasized Kagan. “It’s all about restructuring to stay profitable.”
Not First, Not Last
The mobile phone market is in a very different place today from just a few years ago. The old guard has been overtaken by the “Young Turks,” including Apple with its iPhone, and Samsung with its Google Android-based devices. This has left for much uncertainty in the handset market, as companies such as Palm and Motorola have been acquired, while Nokia and RIM struggle to stay afloat.
“The bigger picture here is that Motorola isn’t alone as a handset maker in facing difficult times in the market,” said Ian Fogg, analyst at IHS Screen Digest. “Sony, HTC and others are facing troubles. Outside of Samsung and Apple, everyone is seeming to have a hard time.”
Given that those two companies are now embattled in what is shaping up to the first of many potential rounds over patent disputes, Google’s purchase of Motorola for its IP is becoming ever more clear. While Google has largely avoided these recent patent disputes regarding Android — and successfully fended off patent accusations from Oracle over Java — it isn’t hard to imagine that the company could find itself at odds over Android in the future.
“This is really a double-edged sword,” added Fogg. “Google has those patents that make them stronger, but at the same time that doesn’t exactly take Motorola out of the line of fire.”
Hard or Soft Play?
The final question in this round of layoffs is where Google will take Motorola Mobility. Is this going to be about developing the Android operating system and having Samsung and other manufacturers handle the hardware? Or will it try to take back the hardware market with the Motorola brand?
“There is the hardware expertise that Motorola brings for a future flagship Nexus device,” said Silva. “There will be continued Nexus design work done by the team.”
But this is another double-edged sword. Could it be successful enough to make Samsung question its support for Android? And if isn’t successful, does it just end up as a costly venture?
“Some thought Motorola was doing better with their Droid devices,” noted Kagan. “While they are doing better, they are not doing good enough to carry the existing company. It also raises questions about the future of Motorola. Did Google acquire Motorola for the technology and patents — or for the company, workers and all? That is the question we will have to try and answer going forward.”Read More
Ever since the advent of the first radios and TVs, home entertainment has been a relatively high-tech enterprise, but in the past few years, there has been a revolution in the quality of sights and sounds available.
These days, going to the theater can sometimes mean staying home, where advanced home theater systems come complete with large-screen TVs, professional-quality sound systems, and seating that can rival or top that of “real” theaters.
Part of what makes these home theater systems particularly competitive is their focus on high-tech sound systems, according to Jeff Cowan, vice president of training and customer insight for D&M Holdings.
“As TV sets have gotten thinner and thinner, there is less space for speakers, so sound quality in the sets themselves has inevitably been compromised,” Cowan told TechNewsWorld.
“This, along with the proliferation of audio and video content with great audio potential, has created consumer demand for surround-sound systems capable of delivering all the power and impact of Blu-ray movies and other sources, as well as the new generation of video games,” he said. “People are looking for an impactful, surround-sound experience from a system that is both simple to set up and easy to use.”
D&M Holdings includes various brands, including Denon and Boston Acoustics, giving it a range of technologies and products from which to draw.
“While most HTiB systems simply use a normal A/V receiver and pair it with the kinds of loudspeakers that allow them to offer the system at a low price point, we’re able to combine a true Denon-quality receiver with powerful, high-quality BA loudspeakers — and ensure that all five channels are electrically and acoustically tuned and matched for optimum performance,” said Cowan.
Another technology changing the nature of home entertainment is digital radio signals and the equipment that capture them.
“Much like the transition to HDTV, the broadcast system for radio is moving into the digital era,” Jeff Jury, chief operating officer with iBiquity Digital, told TechNewsWorld. “This allows for a wider range of new consumer services and channels.”
Digital technology has revamped what it means to listen to the radio, Jury said.
“HD Radio technology offers new services in digital sound quality that you cannot get in analog. The consumer gets new channels where none existed before, song title and artist, images, the ability to store information through a bookmark function, traffic and other similar services and iTunes Tagging — the ability to tag a song in select radios with iPhone/iPod connections and purchase the song when the device is connected to the iTunes store,” he noted.
“Consumers now have a much wider range of content to choose from than in an analog world,” Jury said.
To take advantage of these signals, consumers need HD radio-enabled receivers, which are becoming the norm in both homes and cars. The technology is making its way into mobile devices, as well.
“As the technology moves into smartphones, you will see more opportunities with interactivity and new features tying together the over-the-air broadcast content with IP-delivered content,” said Jury. “This will create a richer radio experience for consumers. And you will see a continual expansion of radio stations in North and South America and Asia broadcasting with HD radio technology.”
Home entertainment technologies have also been evolving for the hearing-impaired. When her father suffered hearing loss, Michele Ahlman, president of ClearSounds Communications, began to see the need for such technologies.
“My dad was a tank commander in the Army and lost his hearing through noise exposure,” Ahlman told TechNewsWorld. “His experience with hearing loss, coupled with my mom’s desire to make a difference and have a positive impact, inspired the launch of our company.”
One of the company’s bestsellers is the ClearTV Infrared System, which uses infrared technology to enhance TV and audio listening experiences for the hearing-impaired.
“The sound quality is amazing, really bringing the listening experience to life,” said Ahlman.
Another popular product, the Quattro Connect360 System, uses Bluetooth technology to connect consumers to TVs, audio systems, phones, mobile devices and laptops by turning hearing aids or cochlear implants into headsets and thus delivering customized sound to the listener.
For those who don’t wear a hearing aid, the system comes with a patented headset that delivers enhanced sound while protecting the listener’s hearing.
“These products are popular because they keep people connected to their family, friends, community — to their lives,” said Ahlman.
“It’s not just about the connection; it’s about the quality of the listening experience,” she emphasized. “Our products reduce the stress and frustration those with hearing loss have when they strain to hear clearly. They bring sounds to life for those without hearing loss. They motivate and inspire people to connect and enjoy life.”Read More
Japanese electronics manufacturer Panasonic has launched an app for cloud-based services that will let consumers control home appliances using their Android smartphones.
Named “Panasonic Smart App,” it will be available from September — but only in Japan.
It can be used by owners of smartphones running Android 2.3.3 or higher supporting Near Field Communications (NFC) or Sony’s FeliCa contactless RFID smart card system, which is used in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States.
“This looks a little bit like a gimmicky move to differentiate their products,” Andrew Eisner, director of community and content at Retrevo, told TechNewsWorld. “The battle for the living room is expanding into the whole house.”
If the Panasonic smart appliances came to the United States, they might be only for the well-heeled, however, as “you’d need to get new appliances, even those few that came with network connectivity likely wouldn’t interface with Panasonic’s service,” remarked Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
Hello? Is That the Saucepan?
The Panasonic Smart App is an expansion of the cloud services the company provides for the latest models of its 3-Star Bistro steam microwave oven and steam rice cooker, which were launched in June.
The app will work with compatible home appliances from Panasonic. These will include Panasonic’s X Series room air conditioners, its NR-F557XV top-mount refrigerator, the NA-VX8200 and NA-VT8200 drum-type washer-dryers. Others are Panasonic’s EW-FA43 body composition monitor, EW-NK63 calorie meter, and EW-BW53 blood pressure monitor.
Capabilities will include controlling compatible air conditioners from outside the home, setting the preferred washing cycle, creating graphs tracking users’ weight and calories consumed by activities, and checking device malfunctions, Panasonic said.
The Panasonic Smart App will also let users download the latest information, such as device settings or recipes, from Panasonic’s cloud at any time.
Cupertino Will Get Some Love, Too
The Panasonic Smart App will be extended to let iPhone users control compatible air conditioners as well, Panasonic said.
It’s not quite clear how that will come about, as iOS does not yet include NFC; rumors have it that Apple will include NFC in the upcoming iPhone 5, which it’s expected to launch in September.
Still, “with the inclusion of NFC in the iPhone 5, we may see more interest in NFC,” Retrevo’s Eisner said. “Perhaps that will be more along the lines of using NFC for shopping, but nevertheless, smartphones offer a very good opportunity to get into the smart home.”
OK, House, What’s 2 x 2?
Smart home systems and services will bring in revenues of US$7.6 billion in the United States this year, Strategy Analytics estimates. The figure for 2011 was $4.9 billion.
Several utility companies have replaced their existing electricity meters with smart meters, and in May AT&T announced plans to offer remote home monitoring and automation services under its Digital Life service.
The Light That Failed
Though it launched on the Android platform, Panasonic’s new system doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Android@Home, a project Google announced at its I/O developer conference in May 2011 that focused on home automation. This would include Android-connected light bulbs, which consumers would be able to control from their smartphone or tablet.
A company called LightingScience signed on to create Android-connected lighting, but it has since removed any mention of Android from its website.
“Like a lot of things Google has done, [Android@home] was an interesting concept that was poorly supported,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld. “It appears to have evaporated or flowed under Project Tungsten as a result.”
Project Tungsten is an Android device for Google’s streaming music service that will give consumers control over music playback within their Android@home networks.
Neither Android@home nor Project Tungsten were mentioned during this year’s Google I/O developer’s conference.Read More
Vizio on Tuesday announced the release of its Co-Star Stream Player set-top box, which includes Google TV and the OnLive gaming service. The company known for affordable televisions first revealed the device at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in January.
While this is the company’s first foray into set-top box territory, it could also prove to be a “reboot” of sorts for the Google TV service, which was clearly not ready for prime time when it arrived for the 2010 holiday season.
The Logitech Revue Google TV set-top box was so badly received that Logitech CEO Guerrino De Lunca reportedly described the product as a “mistake of implementation of gigantic nature.”
Vizio is thus giving Google TV a do-over, and ignoring the past problems with the service.
“Logitech admitted it was a disaster,” said Tom Morrod, senior analyst and head of TV technology at iHS Screen Digest. “Everything we can tell is that this is really a revamp on its first attempt. That doesn’t mean it is going to work, but it could be a good second try. This is when the market will get interesting. It is an important step.”
Vizio could also be seen as hedging its bets with the Co-Star box, which includes Google TV and features support for the Chome Web browser, as well as apps; supports Flash and HTML 5 in the browser; and provides users a way to make full use of the Internet. The box can be connected to existing satellite or cable boxes via HDMI, and it can stream content from services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and YouTube. It will also provide access to OnLive’s cloud-based gaming service.
The Co-Star will offer control from a Bluetooth remote or QWERTY keyboard, and features support for an external hard drive via a USB port. The box, which will be available in July for US$99.99, thus offers an affordable way to transform a regular TV into a smart or connected set.
“To a certain extent, this is a way for people to get access to services very inexpensively,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
Subscriptions will be required, however.
“OnLive is a subscription service,” added Enderle. “There are some options, including a flat rate or monthly subscription. Google TV is connected to Hulu Plus, as well as those other subscription services.”
Google TV’s Reboot
With the 2010 launch of Google TV on Logitech and Sony devices, the search giant clearly was looking at a way to venture into the living room and capture eyeballs on what remains the primary screen in most homes. However, Google will undoubtedly face some serious competition, with virtually every set-top box on the market — including game consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 — essentially also being able to transform every TV into a smart TV that provides endless content options.
Moreover, the company needs to show that it is really ready this time, and the Vizio box maybe a cost-effective proof of concept for Google.
“Google TV has a very bad reputation and it needs to recover,” Morrod told the E-Commerce Times. “These types of products do help. Google would have had a difficult time convincing people of the benefits with a full smart TV set, but some people will spend $100 on a media extender with the OnLive player and other features. That could remedy the bad reputation and allow users to see that Google ‘mark II’ works quite well. That could prove there is a value-add and that Google is worthwhile.”
It also positions Google and Vizio against Sony and Microsoft.
“OnLive also offers high value for the consumer,” added Morrod. “With this type of device for $100, you don’t really need to have a game console in the living room.”
Vizio’s Time to Shine
While Google may hope the Co-Star will give Google TV another chance with consumers, Vizio, which relies on contract manufacturers to provide affordable flat panel TVs, could use this to leverage its other products.
Users of other sets might not notice or consider the maker of their sets as much when they see the Vizio and Google TV interface every day.
“This could very well be a way to turn another brand’s TV into essentially a Vizio TV,” said Morrod. “This could help Vizio sell TVs to users who become accustomed to those features.”
Thus far, Vizio has succeeded at attracting budget-minded consumers.
“Vizio already has been really aggressive in carving out a niche of affordable price points,” said Enderle. “They can be very aggressive in value technology angle. They provide a significant amount of value at a reasonable price.”
The question is whether products such as the Co-Star will turn Vizio into a consumer electronics superstar, but past history says it might not be that much of a stretch.
“LG and Samsung were not the premium brands 10 years ago,” emphasized Morrod. “And before that, the Japanese companies weren’t the premium brands. It is certainly a possibility that Vizio could move up into that space.”Read More
Love knows no bounds, as the old saying goes, and there may be no better example than the Linux community’s feelings for Valve.
That, of course, dates back to the magical day in April when the gaming company announced it was bringing its Steam gaming platform to Linux at last, causing no end of jubilation in the Linux blogosphere.
Today, however, the flame of Linux geeks’ love for Valve burns brighter than ever before. The reason? None other than a series of comments made by Valve cofounder Gabe Newell at the recent Casual Connect videogame conference in Seattle.
Newell’s words may have focused on operating systems and technology platforms, but they fell like so many tender sweet nothings upon the Linux community’s collective ears.
‘The Openness of the Platform’
“In order for innovation to happen, a bunch of things that aren’t happening on closed platforms need to occur,” Newell reportedly said. “Valve wouldn’t exist today without the PC, or Epic, or Zynga, or Google. They all wouldn’t have existed without the openness of the platform.
“We are looking at the platform and saying, ‘We’ve been a free rider, and we’ve been able to benefit from everything that went into PCs and the Internet, and we have to continue to figure out how there will be open platforms,’” Newell added.
Swooning yet? Just wait for what comes next.
‘Windows 8 Is a Catastrophe’
“I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space,” he added. “I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.”
In no time at all, Linux bloggers everywhere began tripping over themselves in their haste to proclaim their love.
‘A Train Wreck’
“I’ve tried Windows 8, and I couldn’t agree with Gabe Newell any more than I do,” enthused Google+ blogger Linux Rants, for example.
“Windows 8 is a disaster, plain and simple,” he added. “I’d recommend staying as far away from it as possible. If this travesty of an operating system is what it takes to push more users to Linux, we have Microsoft to thank for coming through on delivering that travesty.”
That said, however, “Windows 8 doesn’t exactly have Gabe Newell’s best interests at heart,” Linux Rants pointed out. “Valve’s Steam is basically a software store, and as such, will compete directly with the Windows Store integrated into Windows 8. If done well, the Windows Store could spell the end for Steam.”
Of course, “that’s a huge ‘if,’ as everything else about Windows 8 is a train wreck,” he concluded. “I think Steam is safe, and will give many Linux users out there a great opportunity to play their games without WINE.”
‘That Is Very Insightful’
Indeed, Newell “is not the first to say that about Windows 8, and hedging makes sense,” opined Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien.
Even more significant, however, “is that he says that innovation *requires* openness,” O’Brien added.
“That is very insightful, and an attack on the basic idea of Windows,” O’Brien pointed out. “I think that as time goes by, more and more companies are going to see that innovation really *does* require openness.”
‘They Become Less Appealing’
Similarly, “catastrophe might be a little strong, but it is only logical to hedge your bets,” agreed Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza. “As Microsoft predictably tries to tighten their grip further, they become less appealing to developers and publishers.”
Linux continues to be a viable alternative, “but at the same time, the numbers of users continue to be less than impressive,” he noted.
“Still, with many people only buying games through Steam these days, if they can get a significant number of developers (and development houses) to port their games to Linux, it is likely that they will have numerous customers,” Espinoza predicted.
“I suspect the majority of these customers will not be new customers, but current Windows Steam customers who shift platforms,” he added.
‘Steam Is Huge’
And again: “Gaming is one of the niches where GNU/Linux has been excluded by developers,” observed blogger Robert Pogson.
“Steam is huge,” Pogson added. “If they port to GNU/Linux, many games will be available to GNU/Linux users.”
Then, “when ’8′ flops, users of Steam needing a new PC may well choose GNU/Linux,” he said.
‘The Boost Linux Needs’
“Basically, Valve is looking at a future where getting their apps to consumers means going through Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft or Sony,” suggested Roberto Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor.
“It seems like they are a bit worried about that kind of future,” Lim added. “The only platform which guarantees to remain open to apps direct from the publishers is Linux. Valve is supporting Linux to make sure it does not find itself locked in behind apps stores owned by other companies.”
That, in turn, “could be the boost Linux needs to make a big splash in the desktop space,” he concluded.
‘I’ll Probably Buy a Few Games’
Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack said he doesn’t actually care about Valve’s motivations.
“I’ll just take it and probably buy a few games if they port some good ones,” Mack said. “I’m tired of feeling like Linux is an afterthought when it comes to games.”
In any case, Newell’s comments couldn’t have come as music to Microsoft’s ears, noted Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.
‘The Beginning of the Tipping Point’
“This is on top of Microsoft’s shrinking Windows revenue and Dell announcing plans to offer Ubuntu on laptops,” Travers pointed out. “It seems to be one thing after another for Microsoft these days.
“This may well be the beginning of the tipping point for the tech giant,” he opined.
Meanwhile, the pace of change in desktop operating systems in general and user interfaces in particular “has become breathtaking,” Travers observed. “Quite frankly, average users are left out in the cold. I am sure it will settle down again, but it will take some time.”Read More
Nintendo reported a loss that was less than expected Wednesday, as video game hardware sales continue to decline.
It posted a net loss of 17.23 billion yen, or about US$220 million, compared to losses of 25.5 billion yen a year ago.
Sales of the Wii gaming consoles were one of the Super Mario creator’s weakest spots. The company sold 710,000 machines, compared with 1.56 million during the same period a year earlier. It sold 540,000 DS handheld consoles, down from the 1.44 million it sold a year ago.
Nintendo sold what it termed “only” 1.86 million 3DS consoles, the handset that gives users 3D views without having to wear glasses. That’s more than double the 710,000 the company sold a year before, but Nintendo has slashed the price of the product to spur weak demand.
Because of those cuts, hardware sales for the product were not profitable, but the company promised that was improving.
Nintendo was hopeful new software titles such as “New Super Mario Bros. 2″ would help sales.
The strong appreciation of the yen during the past year inflated some of its losses, Nintendo said.
Competition on All Fronts
Many factors contributed to the sluggish sales for the Wii console. In addition to the Wii nearing the end of its product cycle, the device continues to face competition from more powerful gaming machines such as Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation.
Another threat is rising from mobile devices. As smartphones and tablets become more powerful and come equipped with stellar graphics, mainstream gamers are turning to their iPads or phones to play games.
“Tablets and smartphones are clearly cannibalizing the casual gamer market, which is the core target of the Wii,” Jia Wu, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, told the E-Commerce Times.
Still, there is room for both traditional consoles and newer devices such as iPads and smartphones, said Michael Inouye, senior analyst at ABI Research — the key is finding out how the two can co-exist.
“Mobile devices will compete with dedicated handheld gaming devices, but select consumer segments like core gamers and those individuals who do not want or have a smartphone or tablet will still provide some demand,” he said. “The addition of mobile gaming is not necessarily a zero sum situation. In fact, many feel there is plenty of room in the gaming market for both portable and mobile gaming.”
Banking on Wii U
Nintendo is hoping that its new Wii U is the ticket to regaining its footing in the console market. The device, which is supposed to hit shelves in time for the holiday shopping rush, will be its first new home console since 2006. It will feature a touchscreen controller and high-definition graphics. But counting on the Wii U to deliver for the company might not be a safe bet, said Wu, given the shifting gaming market.
“The competitive environment has changed tremendously,” he said. “Tablets, smartphones and even possibly some Android-based gaming devices will lure away casual gamers, while Microsoft and Sony both have made significant progress in broadening their target audience and concentrating on the core gamer market. Both Xbox and PlayStation have already deployed their responses to the multiscreen advantage of the Wii U.”
Nintendo has advantages over those competitors that it should focus on in addition to making sure Wii U is a hit, said Wu. The company remains strong in its home country, Japan. In addition, if the 3DS can start turning a profit with the help of software content from Nintendo, sales and demand for the product should bring better results going forward, he said.
“The most important thing for Nintendo is to release compelling gaming content for the Wii U and 3DS, which consumers can’t find on other platforms,” suggested Wu, “given software has always been the most lucrative part of the gaming business.”Read More