March 09, 2005

Allard to blow lid on Xbox 2 tonight

"Microsoft executive J Allard will use his keynote address at the Game Developers Conference later today to unveil a number of key features of Xbox 2," says Tom Bramwell at Eurogamer.

The piece is based on "highly detailed information released by Xbox's Dutch PR firm Citigate today" -- and you can read that at Eurogamer.

Posted by Jack Schofield at 06:31 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink

Samsung unveils 7-megapixel camera phone

"Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. unveiled the world's first mobile phone with a powerful 7-megapixel camera on Wednesday, providing a potential competitive threat to manufacturers of digital cameras," reports Reuters in Seoul.

"The new phone, which also has an MP3 player and business card reader, would go on sale as early as the first half, though a price had yet to be set, Samsung said in a statement."

Posted by Jack Schofield at 06:00 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink

Wanadoo goes VoIP

Looks like the Voice over Internet revolution is going to step up a gear: Wanadoo, one of the UK's most prominent ISPs, is offering a VoIP service to customers.

Here's the hype:

For just £4 a month, householders can enjoy free evening and weekend calls to any UK landline - plus free calls at any time, day or night, to other Wanadoo Wireless and Talk users. Users will not even have to switch on their computers to make calls. Instead, Wanadoo's revolutionary Livebox - a discreet and stylish Broadband hub included in the monthly charge, makes the technology child's play. Simply plug a phone into the Livebox and make calls in the normal way on the dedicated Wanadoo line - perfect for families who may want to make or receive more than one call at once. And as the name implies, Wanadoo Wireless and Talk also offers fast Wireless Internet access anywhere around the home. That's more great news for the family, as the Livebox supports multiple computers. No more waiting to get on the Internet - with Wanadoo Wireless and Talk you can jump straight on.

What's going to be the next move in this telephony chess game?

Posted by Bobbie Johnson at 03:35 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink

Singapore tops tech economy table

"Singapore has toppled the US from top spot in a ranking of world economies that make the best use of information and communication[s] technology (ICT)," reports BBC News.

"The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) index placed Singapore, Iceland, Finland and Denmark above the US, with the UK up three places in 12th spot."

The WEF's press release has more details.

The WEF rankings are:

1. Singapore (2)
2. Iceland (10)
3. Finland (3)
4. Denmark (5)
5. United States (1)
6. Sweden (4)
7. Hong Kong (18)
8. Japan (12)
9. Switzerland (7)
10. Canada (6)
11. Australia (9)
12. UK (15)
13. Norway (8)
14. Germany (11)
15. Taiwan (17)

2003-2004 rankings in brackets

Question: What happened to South Korea?

Trivial answer: It's in 24th place on the list, which you can download here (warning: PDF). But why?

Posted by Jack Schofield at 02:05 PM | Comments (1) | Permalink

Kutaragi off the board at Sony

One of the by-products of the Sony reshuffle (below) is that Ken Kutaragi, the "father of the PlayStation", lost his seat on the Sony board. This is a bit of a shocker because Sony has been kept afloat mainly by the PlayStation's huge success, and because Kutaragi's strong opinions have given him a high profile in the press. Indeed, as this Reuters story notes, he was "once regarded as certain to succeed current CEO Nobuyuki Idei", not be upstaged by Sir Howard Stringer.

Kutaragi will continue as chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment: I can't imagine him quitting with the PS3 on the way.

I've criticised Kutaragi (eg below) for over-promising and under-delivering, and pointed out that he's probably as responsible as other Sony executives for the company's failure to get its numerous divisions working together. For example, the people in Sony's VAIO business must wince every time he tries to put the boot into the PC industry.

It was therefore somewhat amusing to read Idei's comment on why Ryoji Chubachi got the No 2 job at Sony, ahead of Kuturagi.

"I cannot compare them, but Mr Chubachi is a good listener... He is a man who listens to various people's opinions carefully and makes the right decision at the right time," said Idei.

Posted by Jack Schofield at 12:51 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink

March 08, 2005

Saving Sony

Sir Howard Stringer, a Welsh-born former journalist, has been appointed top dog at Sony. As today's Guardian notes, it's a break with tradition:

Few had expected Sony to break with tradition and appoint a New York-based Brit to the top job. He will become the first non-Japanese speaker and the first without a background in engineering to head the company. Sir Howard, 62, is a self-confessed non-gadget guy.

It's certainly caused a lot of speculation in the technology industry, and in the business pages.

Sony has been a company plagued the ghosts of its own success - the Walkman in the 1980s, the PlayStation in the 1990s - which lent it a misplaced bravado in entering other markets and bred a complacency over the innovation which made it so successful.

Many commentators believe it must return to those trend-setting roots to rebuild itself. Indeed, today's Financial Times runs a leader on the Japanese firm under the sub-heading "The company needs to become an innovator again".

Reviving Sony is not an impossible mission. Sony achieved world-class success by developing brilliantly engineered "must-buy" products that created completely new markets. Its decline set in when it lost that single-minded focus. If the company is to rise again, it must avoid being sidetracked by ill-conceived diversification and rediscover its roots.

It's a big time coming up for Sony: the PlayStation Portable and the PlayStation 3 are on the horizon, and its ready to enter a battle for High Definition TV and the new Blu-Ray DVD format.

What's your advice to Howard Stringer?

Posted by Bobbie Johnson at 12:12 PM | Comments (8) | Permalink

March 07, 2005

Durst and Denton in dust-up

Today the Guardian has taken a look at the legal status of bloggers in the wake of the Apple court battle.

But there's some other legal wranglings going on that could affect bloggers... Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst is taking action against sites - including Nick Denton's famed Gawker gossip blog - for posting a stolen sex video of him. Here's the New York Daily News, for what it's worth:

Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst struck back at the Web sites that posted X-rated video clips of him romping with an ex-girlfriend with an $80 million lawsuit yesterday.

"The Video was never intended by either participant to be shown," the lawsuit states.

Durst, who explained in court papers how he "held the camera," said computer hackers stole the video from his hard drive and posted it without his permission.

Gawker seems to have recognised that it was a poor show to post the video itself - they took it down pretty damn quickly, and before they received any legal notice from Durst's lawyers. Now they're taking the defensive line:

Honestly, though, we don’t know why you’re so mad at us. The situation is really rather simple. Someone sent us a link to a video of your penis, we went into shock, and we shared it with the world for about 2 hours. Then we wept, found God, took a hot bath, and removed the video from our site.

Journalist and blogger Felix Salmon published a long diatribe saying that Gawker jumped the shark when it hosted the video rather than just linking to it. He blames Nick Denton for the posting, which he says reflects the site's increasing tabloidisation - going from being a media gossip site to being a celebrity gossip site:

Wwhen a video appeared today featuring Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst having very explicit sex with an unidentified girl, Gawker was more than happy to link to that... so long as you're a celebrity, there's nothing that Gawker won't link to.

The real shark-jumping, however, came later in the day, when Gawker decided to host the video themselves. Anybody going to Gawker's Fred Durst Sex Tape page was immediately confronted with the full two-minute video, and quite possibly put off their dinner for the rest of the day. The irony is that the title of the page was "The Fred Durst Sex Tape You Never Wanted" – well, if you went to that page, you got it whether you wanted it or not.

Privacy is, of course, an eternal celebrity news question. But this time it could be a big deal for bloggers as a wider group of publishers - especially since internet law is so flaky most of the time, and when it does make a decision it is often incorrect or badly applied.

Posted by Bobbie Johnson at 02:15 PM | Comments (2) | Permalink

Camera phones recognise their owner [updated]

"The digital cameras fitted to many modern cellphones already provide a nifty way to capture and share low resolution images with others. But Omron, based in Kyoto, Japan, has developed software that it hopes could turn these built-in cameras into a useful security tool," reports New Scientist.

"The OKAO Vision Face Recognition Sensor software was created for existing phones with a digital camera fitted. After taking a picture of their face for reference, a user can configure their handset to lock itself or limit its functionality until another picture is taken.

"The software works by measuring key parameters, such as the distance between the eyes, nose and mouth. Omron says the software takes up just 370 Kb of a cellphone's memory, and takes about one second to perform the check. In testing, it correctly recognised its owner's face in 99 out of 100 attempts, the company claims."

Comment: Read about OKAO Vision here.

Update: And Bobbie's report is here.

Posted by Jack Schofield at 01:50 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink

Google launches Desktop Search

"Google is set to launch on Monday an updated version of its desktop search tool whose enhancements include the ability to search the full text of Adobe Systems PDF files and the metadata of multimedia files, a Google executive said.

"Until now, the product could only index the names of PDF and multimedia files, such as image, music and video files. But the new version improves on this by indexing the entire content of PDF files and the metadata of multimedia files, such as song and artist names in music files, said Nikhil Bhatla, a Google product manager."

IDG News Service has more here. There's also Reuters etc.

Posted by Jack Schofield at 01:24 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink

March 05, 2005

Ten unmissable examples of New Games Journalism

"Last week’s blog on the state of videogame writing, and the possible solution offered by New Games Journalism, attracted plenty of debate, but many of you wanted to see a few more examples of the NGJ style," writes Keith Stuart on the Guardian's Gamesblog.

"So I got together with Kieron Gillen (veteran games journalist and comic book writer, responsible for the NGL manifesto), Ian ‘Always Black’ Shanahan (writer of seminal NGJ article ‘Bow, Nigger’), Jim Rossignol (another veteran games journo and NGJ stalwart), and Mark Donald (editor of PC Gamer) and drew up a list of ten articles available online and indicative of the New Games Journalism approach...."

Posted by Jack Schofield at 07:50 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink