Saturday, November 7, 2009

New Nintendo Console

THE latest phase in the battle of the video game giants will begin in earnest this week with the official UK launch of the new Nintendo console.

Nintendo's Wii (pronounced "Wee") console involves a new design of motion-sensitive controller which executives believe will revolutionise gaming and revive the fortunes of the company which once dominated the market.

Suppliers have admitted that they have already run out of stocks of the new £180 gadget and those who did not pre-order their consoles some weeks ago can expect to be disappointed.

The rush for the new gizmo comes despite buyers being willing to spend up to £1,500 for the latest Sony console on the online auction site eBay. In the past fortnight, no fewer than 20 British consumers have shelled out more than £1,200 for Japanese versions of the new PlayStation 3 console, despite warnings from Sony that their warranties will not be valid on imported machines.

The top bid came out at £1,500 for a buyer who was unwilling to wait until March, when the machine is released in the UK.

This week, all eyes are likely to be on the Nintendo Wii, which features a controller that can be moved around to simulate the likes of a tennis racket, a golf club, a sword or boxing gloves. The computer can track the movements of the controller through the air and represent the actions onscreen.

Analysts believe the alternative to the traditional pressing buttons to represent actions and movement will prove a hit with consumers.

Brian Baglow, chief executive officer of technology and entertainment marketing company Indoctrimat, said: "I think it is going to be very big and very, very popular. The new controller feels great and they really are doing something totally new.

"They are taking computer gaming right out of the world of button-bashing and it'll appeal to people who have never been into gaming. I don't think it will displace the other consoles, though. I reckon the PlayStation 3 is still going to be very big with hardcore gamers."

Online supplier Amazon has already run out of all but pre-ordered stocks, and added that sales would be limited to one per customer to ensure as many as possible could have a Wii console in time for Christmas.

Once the number-one name in video gaming, Nintendo has found itself squeezed in recent years as Sony and Microsoft have sought to dominate the console market.

While the company's GameCube carved out a loyal following because of its innovative games, it only sold 21 million units worldwide, compared with 111 million PlayStation 2s and more than 24 million Xboxes.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

TiVo For Amazon on Wednesday made its video download service available on all broadband-ready TiVo boxes, opening a channel for taking movies and TV shows from the Web to the big screen in people's living rooms.

The move places Amazon's Unbox in front of more than 1.5 million subscribers of TiVo's Series2 or Series3 digital video recorders. Before the launch, content could only be viewed through a PC. Amazon had been testing the download service since February with a small group of TiVo subscribers.

To entice potential customers, Amazon is offering $15 worth of free movie or TV show downloads to TiVo subscribers who register for the new service by April 30. TV shows cost $1.99 an episode, and movies sell for $9.99 to $14.99. Movie rentals are available starting at $1.99, with most costing $2.99 or $3.99.

To activate the service, TiVo subscribers have to register on's Web site to establish a link between their TiVo account and Unbox. In launching the service, and TiVo announced that Sony Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios have agreed to offer movies to subscribers. Other content providers include CBS, Fox Entertainment Group, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Making the connection between the Web and the home TV is seen as a potential advertising bonanza. Other companies heading in that direction include Apple and Microsoft. The former is expected to ship in mid-March the Apple TV, a device that would bridge the company's iTunes music and movie download service with the TV. Microsoft, meanwhile, hopes to become a leading distributor of digital content through its broadband-ready Xbox 360 videogame console.

???64 ? ???????

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kazaa’s Creators Do Latest Venture by the Book


Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis made names for themselves as renegade Internet entrepreneurs by taking conventional tasks like talking on the phone or listening to music and giving consumers an unconventional — and free — way to do it.

Sometimes that meant pushing legal boundaries.

But with their latest creation, a Web video venture called Joost, Mr. Friis and Mr. Zennstrom, who were behind the file-sharing service Kazaa and the Internet telephone service Skype, are doing everything by the book. Revenue-sharing agreements have been signed. Licenses have been granted.

"The reason we're doing this is because of our history," Mr. Friis said in a telephone interview last week. "We know how these things work. And above all, we know that we don't want to be in a long, multiyear litigation battle."

The two men met in the late 1990s at Tele2, a European telecommunications company then emerging as a serious competitor to Sweden's telephone monopoly. They left in 1999 to start their own Internet company.

Soon after, they developed the technology behind Kazaa. The music industry fought Kazaa with the same fury that it fought Napster, another file-sharing service that was forced to become a legitimate pay service after lengthy court battles.

Mr. Friis, a Dane, and Mr. Zennstrom, a Swede, sold Kazaa in 2002, but their legal worries did not end there. Movie studios and recording companies pressed ahead with their lawsuits, and for years neither man set foot in the United States.

In November, Kazaa's new owners settled the last of the lawsuits. In all, they have agreed to pay at least $125 million to the record industry and movie studios.

Today Mr. Friis and Mr. Zennstrom work out of Skype's offices in the Soho neighborhood of London. Though they sold Skype to eBay for $2.6 billion in 2005, they remain active in the company. Mr. Zennstrom is Skype's chief executive. Mr. Friis is the executive vice president for innovation, a job that has allowed him more time to spend developing Joost.

With the Kazaa lawsuits behind him, Mr. Friis's feet are back on American soil. He was in Los Angeles on Friday promoting his latest endeavor.

Joost (pronounced "juiced") said last week it had reached what amounts to the mother lode of television programming: agreements to broadcast programs from Viacom networks like MTV, Comedy Central and VH1. While the deal's terms were not disclosed, Viacom and Joost will share advertising revenue.

"We are very happy with the Viacom deal because it spans all their big properties," Mr. Friis said. "It has content from their biggest properties — MTV, Comedy Central — that are very good for our demographic." (Mr. Zennstrom was on vacation and unavailable to comment, a Joost spokeswoman said.)

The Joost-Viacom partnership gives Viacom a degree of control over its programming that it has been unable to obtain so far from the video-sharing Web site YouTube. Joost must have Viacom's approval to put a program online. In addition, Joost addressed Viacom's concerns about piracy and copyright infringement by designing a platform that Joost says is piracy-proof.

This month, Viacom demanded that YouTube, now owned by Google, remove more than 100,000 clips of its programming because the two companies could not reach an agreement on licensing and revenue sharing. That deprived YouTube of popular Viacom content like clips of "The Daily Show." YouTube responded by replacing some Viacom content with the message "removed at the request of Viacom International."

Just because YouTube does not have Viacom programming, however, does not mean it is at a disadvantage, analysts said. Joost "is not a competitor to YouTube in most ways," said Allen Weiner, an analyst at Gartner, a market research company in Stamford, Conn. "It's a competitor to cable television."

Joost is meant to replicate the way viewers watch television at home. It streams full-length programs in full-screen format. Users can flip through channels that offer everything from documentary news programs to videos on surfing. Programs can last a few minutes or more than an hour. (Viacom programming is not available now for the test phase, but Joost said it would be online by the time its software is introduced publicly, sometime before this summer.)

The Joost format differs greatly from YouTube's, which allows users to upload to the site snippets of television programs or self-produced content. "It's not Web video; it's TV," Mr. Friis said.

But some analysts said Joost had the potential to change how consumers watch television on the Web. It will have content that is, for now, unavailable elsewhere on the Web.

"Should YouTube worry?" said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a consulting firm. "I think YouTube is a legitimate channel in its own right. At the same time, I think any company that comes out there and lands big distribution deals with large content partners like Viacom is a serious competitor."