Merry Christmas everyone, something a little more relaxing and classic than the usual. Enjoy.
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Yesterday Microsoft remixed it’s long standing web email service Hotmail. Hotmail became popular in the late 90′s into the early 2000′s and was one of the first modern web based email service. Microsoft bought Hotmail in 1997, with it’s 8.5 million subscribers, for $400. Since then the service has faced stiff competition, mainly from Google’s gMail, to keep it’s users. Due to slow technical progression, such as the lack of IMAP support for many years and lesser integration on iOS devices, Hotmail has faded from the spotlight as the best web based email client. The poor rebranding of the name also has not helped the cause, does anyone refer to the service as Windows Live Mail?
Hotmail isn’t dead, it’s simply another rebranding from Microsoft. However the loss of the brand will require a greatly increased offering of service, security and integration to beat Googlemail to new users. Email is, akin to bank accounts, retentive. Existing users will not simply up sticks and move without good reason, and for this reason I believe Microsoft has already lost the fight. I think many users will share the same sentiment – I’m sad to see it go, but I haven’t used it in years.
WWDC 2012 has just began and Apple has completed the opening keynote. Included in the multitude of announcements, one of the busier keynotes in Apple’s history, was an update to the MacBook Pro line. The line has been split, with the older models now sans 17″, the 13” and 15” now holding the fort, and an all new 15″ retina display model. This retina display model will also include all flash storage, no optical drive and interestingly, no ’Macbook Pro’ labelling on the lid. Ground breaking as the new model is, the exclusion of a 17” model is worthy of attention.
Firstly I will state no prior knowledge or research into the sales figures of any of the Macbook models but I will assume this is one of the reasons for the demise of the model. I bought a 17″ MacBook in 2010, choosing the 2.66 Ghz, 4GB RAM model and paying extra for the matte, anti glare, screen and use it every day (currently to play Diablo 3). I chose the screen size due to the requirement to use Photoshop and coding software extensively, and find the real estate a lifesaver, without having to employ a external monitor. I firmly believe that 1920 x 1200 is a ideal resolution to work at, not too small to strain the eyes but large enough to allow multiple windows on the same workspace – Spaces just doesn’t cut it. The downside of having such a large screen laptop only dawns when you remove that charger, shut down and pack your bag. The weight of a 17″ Macbook Pro weighs in at 6.6lbs, compared to a 13″ MacBook Air at 2.96lbs. Nearly two thirds lighter. I find this just uncomfortably encumbering and I wouldn’t like to have needed to carry it every day. To add to this, although I’m sure Apple has the capability, I speculate that the future cost of using a 17” retina display to complete the new line would simply be too steep so the model has been removed early. I also don’t believe the 17” made fiscal sense anymore. New Mac customers, fresh from iOS devices do not require a large Mac, they want the Air or a 13″ MacBook and they buy that way.
I can see the reasons why a 17” MacBook Pro doesn’t fit into the future Apple, but it still worries me that in this future, the largest laptop screen size I’m going to be able to get is 15” – but hey, I may not need it. Apple have moved closer to a ’mobile’ tech company with every device they release, smaller and more portable. The big boy of the Pro line simply had to go, it’s a truck.
Tomorrow Diablo III is released to the world, 12 years after the second iteration hit the shelves. It’s time to pause and take a minute to remember the past.
Diablo II was nearly perfect. Firstly the graphical styling used a isometric view eliminating the need for tricky camera angles or complicated graphics and made it possible to run the game on nearly any PC and gave it a unique feel. The music was great, a dark and moody medley which was topped by a theme tune which I challenge any fan not to hum, complemented by sound effects which sounded real. Doors snapped open with a crash, books flipped to the floor and pots smashed like you where kicking them yourself. The quests were great, initiated by well voiced NPC’s and often multi-layered and complicated (Looking at you Act 2) creating a feeling that the hero had a purpose.
What made Diablo II really special thought was it’s addictiveness. I know people, including myself, who will not reinstall Diablo for fear of loosing their social lives, girlfriends and jobs. It was a 3 or 4 years cycle – Install, play, get the elite kit, own, let account expire. It was the items which drove the machine forward. Every monster dropped swag which made the player’s character better. The elite monsters dropped better items, kill them and get even more powerful. Its not a unheard of idea, but this gave the game a near rehab-worthy addiction. No other game has ever, in my opinion, quite reproduced this magic, and I’m not sure that Diablo III will either.
Any player will know what I mean when i say this game is a work of art which I hold as one of the best, if not the best, game I have ever played. This tribute only touches on some of the great points of the game. Things have to move on and I hope that Diablo III can fill the boots of it’s elder. Bring it on.
Great article over at fiftyfootshadows discussing how the current shortcomings of the device make the iPad inadequate as a desktop replacement.
I think the iPad is somewhat of a unknown at present. It has achieved greatness in an emerging catagory due greatly to the App Store and the quality and variety of software available to the platform. The fact that the device holds 54.7% of the market, but I would argue little hardware superiority over it’s competitors, shows the lure of great software. Never before has a platform with and ecosystem such as this faced such limitations on how it software can interact with the OS and this may currently limit it’s growth, but this simplicity and security is also what makes the OS great. At current the iPad cannot replace the laptop and nor should it, but I agree that, given another couple of years to develop and the possibility that Apple may loosen it’s grip on the core OS, we may see a shift in our PC use.
Cult of Mac has a report today on a source who claims to have seen the fabled Apple TV -
Fairly tenuous claim supported by a incredibly simple list of predictions. Once we see some content integration this will be more believable, else the described is simply a monitor. This device is coming, but when it does it won’t be so simple, Apple wont release it if it isn’t game changing.
The Verge has an interesting piece today which suggests that Microsoft could roll out a subsidised Xbox 360 bundled with a monthly plan for Xbox live, much like a mobile phone contract -
I would suggest that this will not interest the casual players, as tying their gaming to a monthly contract is a larger commitment than most twice-a-week players would want, and neither to the ‘hardcore’ market as they are unlikely to want a 4GB console. I personally can’t see the market. The addition that the total cost is $39 more that the cost of buying the Xbox outright and then paying for Xbox Live separately, will only lower the appeal.
Microsoft could play this as their trojan horse into the ‘cable’ market, boosted by their multimedia usage figures last week, but with the current offerings this simply isn’t meaty enough to warrant it. The company have always lost money on hardware to make profit in software however tightening the ecosystem, creating a monthly subscription and offering digital downloads at controlled cost – in the long term – could be a winner. Just not for the consumer.
This plan may make more sense as we see the next generation of hardware and a changing market, but not at present.
UPDATE – Turns out its only a “pilot program” in Microsoft Stores, which I’m not sure actually exist anyway.
Torrentfreak reporting on the censorship of TPB in the UK. More silly and uneducated moves to try and stop ‘piracy on a massive scale’ whilst using loss of sales revenue as a reason for infringing on civil liberty.
BPI, the recorded music business’s trade organisation, which revealed that digital music revenue in the UK grew 24.7% in 2011 to £281.6m, offsetting two-thirds of the decline in income from physical sales. Overall, recorded music revenues were down just 3.4% year-on-year at £795.4m”
A Pirate Bay spokesperson told TorrentFreak that this measure is going to do very little to stop people from accessing their site, as there are many ways to circumvent it. “This will just give us more traffic, as always. Thanks for the free advertising.”
The UK Pirate Party is also prepared for the block and is offering a reverse proxy which allows blocked Internet users to access The Pirate Bay.”
It’s 2006. Nintendo, one of the largest and most successful computer games manufacturers in the world, launched their new console. The name was bizarrely catchy, Wii, and it sported a revolution in motion technology which allowed gamers to interact with their games on a level never seen before. Sales since have been nearly a third greater that either of it’s rivals the PS3 or Xbox 360 and ‘Wii’ has become a household name, the charm of motion control spanning all age groups. The handheld DS system launched in July of the same year and found similar success, bringing touch screen gaming to the masses – Nintendo were on to a winner. However 2006 was 6 years ago. This week Nintendo reported a operating loss of ¥37.3 billion, or $460 million, for the last financial year. Sales have slipped sharply with Net sales dropping by 36.2 percent compared to 2010-2011, and price cuts have simply not been enough to plug the gap.
The company seem to have ridden the wave for too long. The Wii remains identical to the original design. This includes no HD, limited entertainment capability, storage on SD card only and relatively crude motion controls. Compare this to it’s rivals and it simply doesn’t stand up. Yes, the Wii may be aimed at a younger, less feature demanding market, but the huge lack of capability is now starting to show. The audience also appears to be spread too thin. Games such as Splinter Cell and Call of Duty try to please the older ‘hardcore’ gamers, but often fail to charm for poor graphics or frustrating controls. The alternatives on Xbox and PS3 are simply more equipped and better connected, thus cutting out the majority of people who will sit and play games on a serious level. The only exemption to this are games such as the Metroid series which hark back to the older days, Nintendo’s A Games. The army of kids form the rest of the Wii owners. The ‘bottom end’, full of mini games, poorly implemented gestures and little replayability. The DS is now the elephant in the room. Numerous reiterations of the handheld have come and gone, delving into the flash in the pan concept of 3D and half hearted attempts to push into the camera/app/social market. However the shift towards the cheaper, more accessible ‘app’ market is momentous. Apple now have multiple devices capable of touch screen gaming, with digitally distributed games beginning at the unbeatable price of Free. A separate device for gaming alone now feels clunky. The times have changed.
The worrying thing is that Nintendo don’t seem to have planned for this. The Wii U is still lacking a release date and will cost more than its competitors. I also don’t see the scalability of a touch screen controller – what if I have friends around? Do I need another £50 controller? The 3DS is a fad and the number of games is poor, still clinging to their old school price points. Nintendo now run the risk of falling down the gap between major consoles and the App Store. I love Nintendo and have spend many hours on their consoles, but the recent news and their lack of urgency worry me. To their credit they haven’t yet showed any signs of flailing, but this ship needs turning around, the company needs to innovate and innovate quick to regain their customer base – including me.