Archive for June 29th, 2012

Mobile Gaming – Android vs iOS

As the popularity of smartphones has gone through the roof, the apps battle between the top platforms has been fierce. And for the majority of people, when we say apps, what we mainly mean is games.

Also, where a few years ago we seemed to be gearing up for a five-way battle in terms of smartphone OSs, we very quickly ended up with two in terms of bulk sales: Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. So which of them currently holds the gaming crown?

Looking at sales of popular apps turns up some interesting, if slightly predictable results. The top 10s for both platforms (in terms of paid apps) are incredibly similar: there are three versions of Angry Birds and a version of Scrabble on each list, while both lists also share touchscreen speed favourite Fruit Ninja, silly tilter Doodle Jump and BAFTA winning strategy game Cut the Rope.

Clearly, all of these games fall into the ‘quick fix’ category, rather than depth and deep strategy or amazing graphics and high level of AI. It’s also worth noting only one of the one or two of the big sellers is priced over $0.99, with none over $2.99 – which together tells you all you need to know about what we mostly want to use our smartphones for.

Android and iOS gaming has become, for all intents and purposes, one in the same. Developers are creating extremely playable, fun yet simple games that easily transfer between mobile platforms. While Apple clearly has the edge in terms of total number of apps, when the numbers are in the millions and the top 10s are almost identical, the numbers are simply arbitrary.

While Android gives you the device choice though, it’s worth noting Apple currently offers the better tablet experience, as well as a significant lead in terms of tablet specific apps. Buying an iOS app could see you playing it on an iPod, iPhone and an iPad. But then, if you’re the kind of Apple junkie who owns those products, this isn’t going to be an argument you’re interested in any way!

While this may seem inconclusive, it’s anything but – it’s actually the greatest of all things, a win-win situation. If you want to pick up a smartphone, there are likely to be several things on your mind: the camera, the price, the provider, screen size, how much data you’ll get. There are so many choices to make – especially with Android, where you’ll find handsets from Samsung, HTC, Motorola and Sony vying for your hard earned cash.

When it comes to gaming though, you can be happy in the knowledge that both offer a fantastic experience that won’t break the bank and that give you plenty of choice. Unless there is a particular game you’re after that is only on one platform, you’ll find both OSs tick the boxes.

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Highlights from RIM’s earnings report

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. had a lot of bad news for investors on Thursday.

Here are the highlights:

– NO HOLIDAYS: Phones based on the new operating system, BlackBerry 10, won’t be available until early next year, missing the holiday shopping season. That could make it even harder for RIM to regain market share lost to Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android system.

– WORKFORCE REDUCTIONS: The company is cutting 5,000 jobs, or about 30 percent of its workforce, as part of a previously announced initiative to trim $1 billion in annual costs.

– DISAPPOINTING EARNINGS: Results for the latest quarter were worse than analysts had expected. Adjusted loss was 37 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting a loss of 3 cents. Revenue fell 43 percent to $2.8 billion, well below analyst expectations at $3.1 billion.

– FEWER PHONES: RIM shipped just 7.8 million BlackBerry smartphones in the quarter, down 41 percent from 13.2 million a year earlier.

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Skulls of the Shogun gives asynchronous, cross-platform play a turn

Skulls of the Shogun will feature Skulls Anywhere mode, which offers cross-platform play and asynchronous multiplayer across all of its launch platforms: XBLA, Windows Phone, Windows 8 PC and Windows 8 tablet, a la Microsoft Surface . Players with the required devices will be able to take turns independently of one another, for up to four players, and the single-player campaign will be accessible across all Windows platforms through cloud saves. “The turn-based nature of the game makes for perfect asynchronous play across every platform we’re shipping on,” 17-BIT’s Jake Kazdal says . “You can start playing a game at home on your Xbox, then head out and play a few turns from the same game on your phone. You might be playing against someone on a PC or a tablet – everyone’s connected via Xbox Live. And regardless of platform, everyone’s having the same great experience, because it’s the exact same game across all those devices.” Skulls of the Shogun will still feature online, real-time multiplayer, called Skulls Online, and the standard local multiplayer matches.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops makes a run at Mac this fall

While Treyarch is hard at work on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 for this year, its previous game is getting ready to hit the Mac. A Mac port of the hugely popular FPS is currently underway at Texas-based Aspyr Media. You may recall Aspyr’s previous efforts porting Windows games to Apple’s platform, including 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare . System specs for Black Ops aren’t known right now, but we can’t imagine they’ll be much different from Modern Warfare’s requirements .

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Software identifies censored China microblog posts

HONG KONG: Hong Kong researchers have developed software able to identify censored posts on China’s main microblog, they said Thursday.

Called “WeiboScope”, the programme developed as a project at the University of Hong Kong is able to detect politically sensitive posts deleted by Chinese censors on Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

Beijing regularly blocks Internet searches under a vast online censorship system known as the Great Firewall of China, but the growing popularity of microblogs such as Sina Weibo has posed the authorities a new challenge.

The Hong Kong programme helps researchers “look at the (microblogging) impact on Chinese society”, lead researcher and journalism professor Fu King-wa told AFP.

The study showed posts including names such as disgraced Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai and dissident Chen Guangcheng, who left China for the US in May after fleeing house arrest, had been frequently deleted in the past few months.

Fu said the programme can currently only show a “small snapshot of the whole universe of Sina Weibo”, since it is only tracking 300,000 users who have more than 1,000 followers out of 300 million Weibo users.

The programme downloads the posts of these users throughout the day and identifies the censored posts by comparing their profile from time to time. Posts censored by the authorities will show up with a “permission denied” message.

Fu expressed hope that the programme would soon cover more of Weibo’s user base.

Chinese authorities announced plans earlier this month to tighten control of microblogs, including making its users register with their real names.


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Google’s ‘Project Glass’: From your point of view

voice commands, an integrated touchpad and a 1-inch display.

Once connected to Wi-Fi, Project Glass can show map directions and even let you do Google Hangout video chats. An integrated camera lets you record videos and take still photos that can be instantly shared.

What it does:

All notifications from your phone will be visible on the head-mounted display.

There are no visual distractions while driving or walking – you can dictate messages/mails and even schedule meetings using voice commands.

The augmentedreality-enhanced display can help you fi nd nearby objects, people, offer location-based recommendations and deals.

Possible downsides:

It’s constantly connected to the internet, which is likely to drain its small battery within hours.

Much like apple’s siri, project glass will take time to support various languages as well as accents.

There’s no clarity on how it will work for people who wear prescription glasses – google is still working on it.

Availability:

At the moment, only attendees of the ongoing Google I/O 2012 event can place a pre-order for Project Glass.

It will cost them US$1,500 a piece and they will get the product sometime in 2013. Project Glass will likely be priced much lower, probably, between $250 and $350, when it hits the market in 2014.


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Facebook might face user fatigue in long run: Report

NEW YORK: Now there might be lots of ‘likes’ for Facebook but going forward user fatigue could pose the biggest risk for the world’s largest social networking site, says a report.

Facebook, which currently has little over 900 million users, is projected to soon have one billion monthly average users.

“One of the biggest potential risks for Facebook would be user fatigue or reduced engagement,” global financial services major Citigroup has said in a report on the social networking entity that recently debuted on the US market.

Facebook, which also has good following in India, has found itself among leading Internet utilities such as Google and Amazon.

“Anecdotally, it’s hard not to find an example of someone who has dropped their Facebook usage or reduced their usage of the service, citing time constraints, reduced interest, etc… As a user/usage driven platform, fatigue trends could be a very significant investment negative,” the report noted.

Apart from the possibility of user fatigue in the long run, other main investment risks cited include “zero presence” in China, the world’s largest Internet market.

Pointing out that Facebook has been largely shut out of China, the report said that partly this was due to local competition but “mostly on account of official and unofficial policies by the Chinese government to leave control of key media assets in local hands”.

According to Citi, given that China has become the largest country in terms of Internet users, such a scenario poses a significant challenge to Facebook’s global user and revenue potential.

On the positive side, Facebook has a lot of beneficial factors such as substantial market opportunities, unassailable position as social networking leader and major avenues in the untapped monetisation segment.


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Ultrabook: Now a new and improved ultra-you

Today, we prefer computing devices that are sleeker, faster and allow us to connect to the Internet instantly, without compromising on the performance. And, mobile computing especially is being reinvented with the introduction of ultrabook devices.

All the early signs point in the right direction and the buzz in the category has been unprecedented. In India, all major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have already launched a wide range of ultrabooks and there are a series of newer, sleeker ultrabooks which are in the pipeline, ready to be launched this year.

Ultrabook is an exciting new category that gives consumers the features and form factor that they love in laptops, but also delivers the features they enjoy with their tablets.

There will be a consistent set of expectations that a buyer can have of any ultrabook including the thickness of the device, battery life, the processor that powers the device and certain technologies for instant boot-up and better security.

Sandeep Aurora, director of marketing , Intel South Asia, says, “Ultrabooks take advantage of a technology called the Intel Rapid Start Technology that helps get the system up and running from deepest sleep, saving both time and battery life. A current PC may take a minute or more to wake up from deep sleep. On an average, an ultrabook takes less than seven seconds. So it could save you five minutes in a week, 20 minutes in a month or four hours in a year, that’s half a work day. If we were to capture the essence of these devices in one line it would be that ultrabooks are ultra-sleek, ultra-responsive, ultra-you.”

ALTERNATIVE TO TABLETS

The quick boot-up and start up time will change the way people interact with their PC without leaving the Windows experience.

Vishal Tripathi, principal research analyst, Gartner, feels, “This new form factor can be very appealing to the people who are not big tablet fans, but need some device which is sleek, lightweight, smart to carry and meet their computing needs. Most consumers will see ultrabook as an alternative to tablets unless their screen is so big that hinders portability.”

No doubt, ultrabooks are the result of a marriage between the best of PCs and tablets. Shishir Singh, director, product marketing, CSMB, Dell India, says, “Mobility will dictate the form factor of computing devices in the years to come. Today, devices are changing according to the needs of the consumers and there is a huge convergence of user devices which enable them to easily connect anytime, anywhere. We see ultrabooks as an important niche category for those looking for a companion PC device that moves beyond the basic computing needs.”

PERFECT TRAVEL MATE

Ultrabooks are ideal for content creation and consumption-writing , browsing, presentations, research, entertainment, multimedia and almost all the regular everyday tasks that prosumers (professional consumers) want.

They are your perfect travel mate owing to their ultraportability and longer battery life, adds Singh.
Vinay Awasthi, senior director, product category, PSG, HP India, concurs.

“Ultrabooks are meant for people who look for full day uninterrupted computing experience. They will be embraced by both professionals working in an enterprise and by prosumers who want the power of mobility.”

One of the important growth drivers we see affecting ultrabooks is the trend of BYOD (bring your own device) in the workplace. Rajesh Thadani, director, consumer business segment, Lenovo India, is of the opinion that “Ultrabooks are adding to the choices available for a notebook user. In short, they marry the best features of notebooks and netbooks.”

STYLE QUOTIENT

Ultrabooks cater to a consumer segment that loves fashion and looks for the finest of everything they can afford.

Ranjit Yadav, country head, Samsung Mobile and IT, says, “As far as penetration of ultrabooks is concerned, the IDC figures clearly state that notebook PCs and ultrabooks are growing at a faster rate than desktop PCs with the earlier accounting for 24 per cent as compared to desktops which is around five per cent.”

Ultrabooks come in the price range of 48,000 to one lakh plus. The end user adoption is low due to the high price points, which are not appropriate for the cost-conscious mass market.

“Windows 8 launch, with touch experience and Metro UI apps, might act as a catalyst for ultrabooks and could propel the penetration of these devices in India. Intel’s 3rd generation Ivy Bridge processors will let vendors come with more skews, making the market more competitive and this could enable some price drop in the future,” foresees Tripathi.

WHAT MAKES AN ULTRABOOK?

PROCESSOR:

The first phase of ultrabooks is based on ultra-low voltage (ULV) 2nd generation Intel core processors that have enabled the thin, light, beautiful designs. The next phase will be based on next generation chip codenamed “Ivy Bridge” , which will bring improved power efficiency and enhanced security. “Haswell” is the third step toward accelerating it.

THIN/LIGHT DESIGNS:

These are less than 0.8 inches in width; some are much thinner.

ULTRA-FAST START-UP :

Intel Rapid Start Technology gets a system up and running faster from the deepest sleep, saving time and battery life.

EXTENDED BATTERY LIFE:

Ultrabooks offer at least five hours of battery life, some even provide eight hours or more.

SECURITY ENABLED:

Identity protection technology provides a secure online experience for shopping, banking or gaming online. Anti-theft technology deters theft. If stolen, it can be disabled automatically or one can notify the service provider.

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