Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nintendo "resolute" on Wii U price despite waning sales

Nintendo "resolute" on Wii U price despite waning sales

Despite the Wii U's lower than expected sales, Nintendo has declared it is not considering a price cut anytime soon.

The firm recently updated its sales expectations for the new game console, scaling back from a goal of 5.5 million Wii U sales to 4 million sales by March 2013.

The poor system sales led many analysts to predict that Nintendo would soon cut the Wii U's price to give its console install base a jump start.

"With Wii U, we have taken a rather resolute stance in pricing it below its manufacturing cost, so we are not planning to perform a markdown," Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said in a briefing with investors. "I would like to make this point absolutely clear."

Iwata adde d, "However, given that it has now become clear that we have not yet fully communicated the value of our product, we will try to do so before the software lineup is enhanced and at the same time work to enrich the software lineup which could make consumers understand the appeal of Wii U."

Short-term loss and long-term gain

By comparison, when the Nintendo 3DS was met with lower than expected sales a price drop followed only six months after launch.

Iwata says the company has learned its lessons from the 3DS price cut, the primary lesson being to have a consistent supply of game releases.

While Nintendo is successfully applying that lesson to the 3DS, and has seen an 11 percent increase in system sales as a result, the company's Wii U release calendar is not as solidly laid out.

In the immediate future, there are no Nintendo published games scheduled for Wii U before the end of this fiscal quarter in March.

The next quarter could start t o see a turn around with Nintendo publishing Lego City: Undercover and Pikmin 3, though the latter of which is still without a final release date.

Looking further down the road, new entries in major franchises like Mario, Mario Kart, and Zelda, along with a remake of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Wakerwere recently announced, though only the last of those is confirmed to release before the end of 2013.

Nintendo currently is not ready to commit to a price drop for the Wii U. However, unless its release schedule fills out more in the coming months, that position could easily be reconsidered in time for the holidays. Especially if the rumors of new game consoles from Microsoft and Sony this year pan out to be true.

Samsung didn't willfully infringe Apple patents, but it still needs to pay

Samsung didn't willfully infringe Apple patents, but it still needs to pay

Samsung didn't willfully infringe Apple patents, but it still needs to pay

The Apple vs Samsung trial took another interesting turn on Wednesday, when U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh decided to overturn some of the jury's findings.

Back in August, the verdict was handed down that Samsung willfully infringed on five of seven different Apple patents, resulting in $ 1.049 billion (UK£661 million, AU$ 1.002 billion) in damages to be paid to Apple.

However, Samsung challenged the jury's decision that it will fully used the patents without consent, claiming it had reason to believe Apple's patents were invalid.

After further inspection, Koh agreed and claimed Apple had failed to prove the "objectively high likelihood that [Samsung's] actions constituted infringement of a valid patent."

Sammy's still gotta pay

Of course, just because Samsung wasn't found to be willfully infringing on Apple's patents doesn't meant the company won't have to pay the handsome $ 1.049 billion fee.

Judge Koh's determination only saves Samsung the further trouble (and expenses) that would have been incurred had she agreed with the jury's original decision.

Several other rulings were handed down by Koh, though for the most part, she followed suit with the rest of the jury's findings, including denying Apple the additional $ 3 billion (UK£1.9 , AUD$ 2.88) in damages it requested.

"Given that Apple has not clearly shown how it has in fact been undercompensated for the losses it has suffered due to Samsung's dilution of its trade dress, this Court, in its discretion, does not find a damages enhancement to be appropriate," Koh explained.

There's still a chance Koh could reduce Samsung's payout, but she has not given any indication such a ruling could come down as of yet.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Google Sync gets a few more months on Windows Phones

Google Sync gets a few more months on Windows Phones

Google Sync gets a few more months on Windows Phones

Google Sync just received a stay of execution, at least for Windows Phones.

Today was supposed the be the deadline for Google to stop allowing new users to put their devices on the Sync service. For most users that will be true, but according to an announcement from Microsoft, Windows Phone users will still be able to sign up for the service for at least a few more months.

Though Google Sync won't be around forever, the search engine will now start the phase out July 31, 2013. And this time, G oogle means it.

Sync happy

The service allowed users to sync their Windows devices to Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts through the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (MEA) protocol.

Last December, Google announced it was going to stop Sync as a part of a winter cleaning, when it eliminated some of its less popular services. Back then, the company said it wouldn't allow any new devices to sign up for the service after the Jan. 30 deadline, though it would continue to support it for those who have already signed up.

According to Google, the service will be discontinued partly because MEA has become obsolete as the search giant developed more open protocols:

"With the launch of CardDAV, it's now possible to build a seamless sync experience using open protocols (IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV) for Gmail, Google Calendar and Contacts," a Google spokesperson said in statement sent to TechRadar.

"We'll start rolling out this change as planned across all platforms but will continue to support Google Sync for Windows Phone until July 31, 2013."

But after July, Windows Phone users will still be able to sync their devices to those Google services. That's because Microsoft is building new support into Google's software to operate with the more open CardDAV and CALDAV protocols.

After that, MEA and Google Sync will skip off into the sunset.

Hands-on review: BlackBerry Q10 review

Hands-on review: BlackBerry Q10 review

Hands-on review: BlackBerry Q10 review

The BlackBerry Q10 is the second handset to come running the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, but it's the first to offer a physical QWERTY keyboard alongside.

Although it was announced alongside the flagship, fully touchscreen BlackBerry Z10 the Q10 won't go on sale at the same time.

BlackBerry told TechRadar that the BlackBerry Q10 will arrive six to eight weeks after the Z10 hits stores as the Canadian firm wants to concentrate its efforts initially on the handset which will have the widest appeal.

BlackBerry Q10 review

Indeed the Q10 won't have the same appeal as the Z10, but there are still people out there who swear by a physical keyboard on their smartphone.

It's certainly a much smaller market to aim at, but one which the BlackBerry Q10 has an excellent chance of succeeding in as the BlackBerry brand is synonymous for providing top quality QWERTY keyboards on its phones.

BlackBerry Q10 review

Currently there's no firm BlackBerry Q10 release date or price, and even the specs are being kept under wraps for now as the handset isn't completely finalised.

What's immediately noticeable upon picking up the Q10 is the size of the display â€" it's defiantly the biggest screen BlackBerry has put on a keyb oard handset.

BlackBerry Q10 review

BlackBerry refused to give us the exact screen size and resolution, but sitting it side by side a BlackBerry Bold 9900 with a 2.8â€"inch display and you can plainly see the Q10 is bigger, and it's expected to clock in at around 3.1-inches.

The display is much squarer on the BlackBerry Q10 than on previous BlackBery handsets which sported landscape screens above the keys.

BlackBerry Q10 review

BlackBerry 10 looks crisp and clear on the screen of the Q10 and we reckon it has a similar pixel density to the 355ppi on the Z10.

A noticeab le absence on the front of the BlackBerry Q10 is the menu keys and trackpad just below the screen, as BB10 is fully controlled via the touchscreen with the keyboard only coming into play when you need to tap out a message.

BlackBerry Q10 review

This puts an end to the tedious scrolling which plagued the BB OS7 handsets, with the tiny trackpad making moving down long lists a real chore.

Despite its larger dimensions the BlackBerry Q10 is well weighted, balancing nicely in the palm and not feeling top heavy when your hands are gripping the base of the handset as you use the keyboard â€" this reduces the fear of dropping the handset and that's all good in our book.

BlackBerry Q10 review

Round the back the Q10 is made of a sturdy and attractive material which BlackBerry is calling a "glass weave" and the edges are rounded making the handset fit snugly in the hand.

There's a camera and single LED flash round on the back, while on the front of the BlackBerry Q10 there's a front facing snapper - perfect for video calls especially since the launch of BBM Video.

BlackBerry Q10 review

While the official specs of the cameras have not been revealed we wouldn't be surprised if it was packing the same 8MP and 2MP combo found on the Z10.

On the right side of the Q10 the triple button setup is present with volume switches separated by a central key which can be used to play and pause tracks and launch the voice control app when held down.

BlackBerry Q10 review

Up top you get a centralised power/lock key very similar in position and style to the Bold 9900, which is neighboured by a 3.5mm headphone jack.

BlackBerry is really pushing connectivity on its new BlackBerry 10 handsets and the Q10 is equipped with microUSB and miniHDMI ports on the left side, while under the hood there's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC â€" plus we hope a microSD slot has made the cut as well.

BlackBerry Q10 review

The BlackBerry 10 OS runs smoothly on the Q10 and we were able to breeze through applications without any issues.

"Peaking" at notifications was pretty simp le thanks to the responsive touchscreen, but the slide-up motion from the bottom of the display didn't always register as there's not a lot of space for your finger to play between screen and keyboard.

BlackBerry Q10 review

The BlackBerry Q10 we got hands on with was running a development build of BB 10 and from time to time you could tell as certain applications didn't display properly on the square display, as the OS has been developed primarily for the longer screen of the Z10.

You can expect those display issues to be sorted before the BlackBerry Q10 goes on sale - we just hope app developers also adapt their offerings to utilise the squarer display.

We were able to test out the web browser on the BlackBerry Q10 which appeared to be in full working order and as impressively fast as the Z10 when loading both desk top and mobile sites.

BlackBerry Q10 review

The camera app was also a snappy affair with rapid shutter speed and the clever Time Shift feature making it an intriguing proposition.

However the main reason, if not the only reason someone would purchase the BlackBerry Q10 is for its physical QWERTY keyboard, a feature which is very much love or hate for a lot of users.

BlackBerry Q10 review

Each row of keys are separated by a silver fret which spaces out the buttons making it easier to type and letters themselves are all angled to different degrees to improve travel and speed.

The keyboard itself has grown in size which in our opinion is a good thing as we always found th e tiny keys on the old BlackBerry handsets a bit too fiddly.

With the physical keyboard though you lose out on the typing smarts you get on the Z10, with next word prediction not available here meaning you're left to your own character by character input method.

Early Verdict

The BlackBerry Q10 will appeal to a few but likely be overlooked by many as the touchscreen era is now in full swing.

For those who simply can't live without a full keyboard on their smartphone the Q10 is an enticing proposition with a decent size keyboard and larger touchscreen coupled with the new BlackBerry 10 OS making it a far more powerful and diverse handset.

BlackBerry is targeting a very exact market with the Q10 and we're sure that market will be more than happy to receive this latest offering, but we don't expect the BlackBerry Q10 to be making huge waves in the mainstream arena.

Nintendo's back in the black but the original Wii is still outselling Wii U

Nintendo's back in the black but the original Wii is still outselling Wii U

Nintendo's in the money as it announces that it has turned a profit over the last year - but its future is far from certain as it cuts its expectations for the Wii U and 3DS.

In fact, the original Wii console is still selling more units than its successor, with the older machine selling 3.53 million units since November and the Wii U shifting 3.06 million.

Still, for Nintendo to be making money is reassuring as this time last year it was a different story: the Wii was ageing, the Wii U was months away and the 3DS was not selling as well as the company had expected.

Nintendo sheepishly announced its first ever loss and the doomsayers had a field day predicting apocalyptic things for the Mario-maker.

Turn around

But today the company announced that it made a net profit of Y14.5bn (around £101m, $ 159m, AU$ 152m) in the first nine months of the current financial year, compared to a loss of Y48bn (£333m, $ 526m, AU$ 504m) this time last year.

So the coffers are looking fat(ish) but Nintendo's not splashing out on Veuve Cliquot and Rolexes just yet - it has decided to cut its forecasts for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS in the coming months.

"While Nintendo saw year-on-year increases in the sales of Nintendo 3DS hardware (up 11 per cent year-on-year) and software (up 41 per cent year-on-year), those gains were not enough to offset decreased sales of Wii and Nintendo DS hardware and software," it explained in a statement.

As such, Nintendo has said that it only expects to have sold 4 million Wii U consoles by the end of March 2013, as opposed to its original estimation of 5.5 million - it has sold around 3.06 million to date.

From Guardian

Porn-problem photo app 500px is back on the App Store

Porn-problem photo app 500px is back on the App Store

Porn-problem photo app 500px is back on the App Store

Where the capability to share porn exists, porn will be shared.

That's an unwritten law of the internet, and Apple may finally be starting to accept it; a photo-sharing app pulled from the App Store last week due to concerns over pornographic images was, on Tuesday, restored.

The app was originally pulled from the iTunes store "for featuring pornographic images and material," according to Apple. There were even reports of child pornography, according to The Verge, though the app's co-founder, Evgeny Tchebotarev, told the site he had found no evidence of it.

And though the restored version of 500px came with some changes, it appears no major compromises were made, and the questionable material was still present when the app was returned to the store.


The main change to 500px is the new 17+ rating, the highest rating available on the App Store.

The app's description has been altered to reflect the new rating, and it now indicates that 500px includes "frequent/intense sexual content or nudity."

Users who download the app will be greeted with a pop-up message notifying them of the new rating, while those subject to parental controls may be unable to download it at all.

This change in particular was reportedly insisted upon by Apple, in addition to a new "report" button that will allow users to notify the app's creators of any material they find objectionable.

Finally, there's one m ore change under the hood: much like with Google's recent image search changes, it's more difficult to get adult images to appear in 500px, according to Tchebotarev speaking to The Verge.

The 500px app's "safesearch" is still off by default, but to access images deemed adult, users have to make an account and opt in to adult content in their settings menus on the app's website.

Climbing the Vine

The 500px porn controversy echoes another one going on at the same time: the hubbub surrounding Twitter's video-sharing Vine app.

Videos ranging from full-on pornography to relatively innocent - but still undeniably adult - clips were uploaded to Vine starting immediately upon its launch last week.

Vine responded by blocking certain search terms, like #porn and #sex, but as of Tuesday Apple had yet to take an official stance.

Meanwhile, 500px's Tchebotarev complained to The Verge that Vine still has a 12+ rating while 500px was forced into a more strict 17+.

Obviously Twitter has more clout, but either way, it will be interesting to see where Apple ultimately lands on the porn issue.

Sony's Music Unlimited sounds even better with high fidelity streaming

Sony's Music Unlimited sounds even better with high fidelity streaming

Sony's Music Unlimited sounds even better with high fidelity streaming

Sony has a treat in store for Music Unlimited subscribing audiophiles: you can now stream music in high quality 320kpbs AAC audio.

Using the service's web, Android, Walkman and PS3 apps, Sony says you can now enable "pristine" high fidelity playback. The entire catalogue offers the 320kpbs AAC option provided by Omnifone, the company that powers Sony's music library.

If you don't want to be stuck with tedious average audio, you'll have to turn the 320kbps streaming option on in Music Unlimited's settings menu.

Sonic Death Monkey

Before today's boost, Music Unlimited used only the HE-AAC v2 codec at 48kbps. So if you aren't running the Android, web or PS3 apps, you'll still be stuck with 48kbps which is crappy at best, but Sony promises a boost to this 'normal' level is coming later this year; it will be going up to 64kpbs HE-AAC v2.

It doesn't look as though the high quality option is available on Sony's smart Bravia TVs nor through its iOS app yet, although Sony promises it will be adding it to other devices "later".

Music Unlimited is Sony's in-house answer to Spotify - the illustrious multi-platform service already offers 320kpbs AAC playback but its quality consistency is questionable at best.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In Depth: Valve Steam Box: what you need to know

In Depth: Valve Steam Box: what you need to know

Think of Valve's Steam Box as a PC. Its early prototypes might be squished into a small cuboid at the moment, they might be more at home under your television than your monitor, and - most shockingly - it might not be running Windows: but it is a PC.

The Steam Box is designed to play PC games. Specifically, it's designed to play Steam games: Steam being the developer behind Valve's proprietary game download service, blessed with a good chunk of the platform's best ever titles.

It's Valve spearheading the Steam Box concept, and Valve that showed the first mock-ups of what an eventual Steam Box would look like at CES 2013.

Steam Box
The steam box is an Xi3 mini PC

Steam Box: who's it for?

Valve's Steam Box will be a gaming machine first, optimised for Steam - and the service's recently introduced Big Picture mode that pretties up its UI for TVs - but unlike other consoles, it won't be a closed system.

Valve head Gabe Newell has confirmed that the company is indeed working on its own Steam Box - the Team Fortress 2 developer's first bit of hardware - but also that other companies will be free and welcome to produce their own offerings.

Valve Steam Box: what you need to know

Newell saw these machines coming in tiers, referred to as "good, better, and best". The first of these from outside Valve has already been spotted: high-end PC maker Xi3 has a Steam Box codenamed Piston ready to go in a brushed chrome case.

Piston price points range from $ 499 for the base unit to $ 999 for the top end, presumably comparable with a similarly priced PC in terms of graphical grunt.

Steam Box release date

Other PC manufacturers will surely follow suit, after taking the time to scrunch their components up small to fit them in an aesthetically pleasing, lounge-suiting chassis.

How the Steam Box will affect the manufacturers of those components themselves is yet to be seen, but we can extrapolate. The success of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 have resulted in six years of effective gaming hardware standstill.

A modest PC bought in recent years can play most modern games on extra-high settings, and top-end, foot-long graphics cards are largely superfluous. We could see graphics card manufacturers such as AMD and Nvidia focusing on efficient, small form-factor cards to fit in a new generation of snazzier, quieter cases.

We could even lose discrete graphics altogether, if Intel's processor plans come to fruition, making the Steam Box smaller again.

Valve Steam Box: what you need to know

The Steam Box's openness means that, as with a PC, hardware can be switched out for newer bits. It also means that users won't have to contend with a locked-down front-end or network such as Xbox Live.

Newell and Valve have spen t the last year decrying the oncoming Windows 8, while singing the virtues of free, open-source Linux operating systems.

Such is their approval that they've hired Linux developers to convert Steam games over to the OS, and have confirmed that their own take on the Steam Box will use the system in place of Windows. Not that you'll be forced to use it, though: again, Newell's watchword is openness, and he stated specifically that users can "install Windows if they want."

It's hard to see a world where Linux entirely displaces Windows as the western OS of choice, but Valve's tacit support - and vocal dislike for the places Microsoft is taking its stalwart system - will make a dent in market share.

Fundamentally, it could change PC g aming from a Windows-centric model to something even more open and disparate.

Steam Box media

Just as disparate will be the Steam Box's function in your house. Recent experiments in cloud gaming haven't gone according to plan, but Valve thinks the concept has legs.

But rather than sit its servers in one central hub, it sees a more personalised future, where the Steam Box acts as a local host for games, steaming movies, music, and so on, like a developer-sanctioned media centre PC.

That future's probably a few years off - however powerful modern PCs are, they still struggle running two AAA games at once without multiple graphics cards - but it's a coherent concept that is less at the mercy of intangibles such as internet stability than a service like OnLive.

Valve Steam Box: what you need to know

It's also this future that should scare console manufacturers. PCs are able to remain further along the technological curve than consoles by virtue of a more prolific hardware release schedule.

If your Steam Box can run games at better resolutions, without restrictive proprietary networks, and for a cheaper price than a next-generation Xbox or Playstation, then the choice seems simple.

By divorcing it from the top of your desk and simplifying the game delivery mechanism through Steam, the Steam Box should also go some way to removing the remaining stigmas from PC gaming.

Don't expect the first Steam Boxes to arrive with the fanfare of a new console launch. They're a new trend, rather than a brand new machine, but they might turn out to have more of an influence on gaming than anything else over the next few years.

//PART 2