Friday, 27 April 2007

Sayonara "Father of PlayStation"

The "Father of the PlayStation" is stepping down from his position of CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment.

"Kutaragi has said that he has been considering this decision for some time. He stated that, in the six months since the appointment of Kazuo Hirai as President in December, the new generation of management, led by Mr. Hirai, has continued to develop. With the March introduction of PS3 in Europe completing the successful launch of PS3 worldwide, Mr. Kutaragi has identified SCE's Annual Shareholders' meeting in June as the ideal timing to pass on the torch to the new generation of management. Mr. Kutaragi will now apply his extensive technological knowledge and leadership skills to take on new challenges beyond the world of PlayStation. Sony and SCE will continue to seek Mr. Kutaragi's input and ideas from a broad perspective, while continuing to support him as much as possible in the realization of his dreams."

Can Spider-Man 3 save Sony and its ailing brand equity?

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Band of Colours

Last week I received a speculative e-mail (via the contact form) from SoundSpectrum's Rick Eberle. He wondered if I'd be interested in reviewing their G-Force and SoftSkies plug-ins and sharing my thoughts with you?

I was terribly intrigued by this company, one that I'd never heard or read about before, and gamely visited SoundSpectrum's site! The feted plug-ins will be the subject of a future post. In the meantime, here's a basic FAQ prepared on behalf of the company.

SoundSpectrum - the #1 music and audio visualization software company on the market.
http://www.soundspectrum.com/

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SoundSpectrum for Consumer "Personal" Use:
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G-Force is currently installed on over 100 million computers worldwide and our fan base continues to grow by millions every year. We supply the core visuals for Apple's iTunes and visuals for Windows Media Center and the upcoming Windows Vista OS, and our products are recommended by WindowsMedia, Yahoo Musicmatch, RealPlayer, Winamp, and most other popular media players for your computer. We have also been recommended by various media outlets, including CNet, Wired, USNews, and many online blogs and publications.

SoftSkies is a music visualizer and screen saver that produces photo-realistic cloudscapes, rich with color and motion. SoftSkies features mood-enhancing color designs, patent-pending cloud animation, dynamic imagery, and detailed visual controls. SoftSkies is ideal for relaxation, music appreciation, and creating ambiance for any environment. SoftSkies runs as a software plug-in to your favorite media player, as a screen saver display, or as a standalone application. Users can customize SoftSkies to design their own skyscapes with varying weather conditions and colors palettes. SoftSkies includes an assortment of color combinations designed in collaboration with Colorcalm, Inc. to add atmosphere and complement d├ęcor. SoftSkies also displays scenic photos as “living images” with animated cloudscapes that create a mesmerizing on-screen experience.

Consumers can download free trial demo versions and they can purchase the full versions (i.e. Gold or Platinum) from our web site (www.soundspectrum.com) as well. Consumer "personal use" versions downloaded from our web site are licensed strictly for personal use at home. *Public display and commercial use are strictly prohibited without special license from SoundSpectrum.

Here are a few reviews on us you might find interesting

On G-Force:
http://reviews.cnet.com/4531-10921_7-6398181.html

On SoftSkies:
http://theappleblog.com/2006/12/16/pub-softskies-platinum-review/

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SoundSpectrum for Commercial Use and Public Display:
============================================

G-Force and SoftSkies are also used in performances, nightclubs, theme parks, music festivals and retail environments throughout the world. Artists such as David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Journey, Aerosmith, Seal, Herbie Hancock, Raq, Fischerspooner and Michael W. Smith have used G-Force in their concerts and as part of their album releases. G-Force has also appeared in places as diverse as The Arizona Symphony, Germany’s Hamburg Planetarium, New York, New York Hotel in Las Vegas, at the G-Force Rollercoaster at Drayton Manor Park in Staffordshire and on video walls at TopShop stores in downtown London, England.

How does G-Force/SoftSkies work as an enhancement to a band/DJ's live performance?
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As the band/DJ plays, mesmerizing visuals that dance and react with the music are projected / displayed behind and around them. You can add your own pictures, logos, text or even video of the band/DJ to play along in the background meshed with the visuals too. The venue would need a video screen (LCD, LED, plasma, CRT, etc.) or a video projector with silk/ projector screen (or white wall) that is positioned behind the performer. This would be connected to a mini mac, or pc laptop to run the software. We are happy to furnish commercial licensing terms for performers or venues, upon request.

How does G-Force/SoftSkies work as an enhancement to a band/DJ's album releases?
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We are currently creating videos, videotones, wallpapers, online video singles and other DVD, dual disc & enhanced CD content meshing our G-Force and SoftSkies visuals with pictures, existing live and stock video and music from DJ’s, musicians and artists in many genres and on many labels.

These videos can be made as full screen HD, video iPod and/or cell phone compatible and can be sold and distributed separately online. Or they can be bundled and packaged to offer extra incentive for consumers to buy the actual CD package from retail instead of downloading specific songs from the web.

We have demo videos available at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsSMkM1Qrv0
and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRVUD8dBhuA

*G-Force and SoftSkies must be specifically licensed for commercial use or any public display.

Read an article about our work using G-Force with Journey in concert:
Journey tours with SoundSpectrum

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Important Commercial License and Reseller information:
============================================

The most important reason to get the Commercial license is that it's illegal to use G-Force or SoftSkies for any public display or commercial purposes without a commercial license. The Gold and Platinum versions (found at http://www.soundspectrum.com) are licensed strictly for personal use, which is clearly stated in our start up screen, licenses, EULA, and on our web site.

With respect to features, the Pro (commercial) version of the software includes:

1. The ability to upload graphic images and photos directly into the visuals as "overlays" (i.e. in true-color in either “opaque” or “transparent” modes) which can be sequenced to display at regular intervals. This is in addition to our “Sprite” feature which enables users to add images and video, and our “text overlay” feature which allows them to scroll text on the screen with the sponsor and event information of your choice, easily manipulated and customized for each event they hold. They can also "turn off" the G-Force logo, as well.

2. A networking feature that enables clients to network two computers together so they can use the toolbar on the first computer to control the G-Force visual output on the other computer. This is useful if someone wants to control the visual output in real-time while the music is playing, to change graphics, colors, reactivity, etc., etc.

3. Pro users can also create "scripts" to invoke specific visual combinations, as well as text, photos, images, etc. (i.e. this is especially effective using the "overlay" capabilities) or we regularly create some scripts to specs for clients at an additional charge.

4. We can set up custom “hot keys” which can be used to seamlessly change from specifically built “theme sets” based on color, shape, background using just a qwerty computer keyboard. Save an unlimited number of “pages” containing “scripts” which can easily interact with your existing lighting/VJ configurations for a truly amazing enhancement to the room ambiance. Additionally, customers can create multiple instances of G-Force and SoftSkies; for instance this would give them the ability to run G-Force or SoftSkies in a “Blue” theme on one screen, in a “Green” theme on another etc. Due to the development time involved, this is only available for an additional charge.

5. Separately, we provide Pro clients with CD copies of the G-Force and SoftSkies personal use software which they can sell on-site to patrons who like the graphics, and we can offer them a commission on each piece sold.

*We also ask for some kind of acknowledgment which can be in the form of our logo appearing for a few seconds every 20 min or so within the display, or some kind of oral announcement or written acknowledgement (i.e. G-Force visuals provided by SoundSpectrum - www.soundspectrum.com ). It's important to us that people can identify what they are seeing, although we're very flexible as to the form of the attribution.

*There are also some projects in the works we may be able to use with an installation including interactive floorplates controlled by a kiosk, color kinetics integration, DMX lighting control and creating custom DVD’s for VJ and DJ use.

We're glad to provide customers with a one-time use commercial license for any event at nominal cost or we can set them up with a multi use license for a specific number of shows. (We also offer commercial licenses on a monthly or a yearly subscription basis) The per-performance cost varies with venue size and frequency of use.

Friday, 20 April 2007

"Do a Barrel Roll!"

Haven't had much sleep due, in part, to the debut of Lylat Wars (AKA Star Fox 64) on Virtual Console!

This blockbuster N64 title hasn't lost any of its 3D allure and it's perplexing that Nintendo never transfered the franchise to arcade as it has done with Mario Kart!

Despite the omission of Rumble Pak emulation. The Triforce is with this one!

Thursday, 19 April 2007

BBC iPlayer on iMac soon

BBC new media boss confirms Mac support for BBC online plans "a priority".

A sustained voting campaign by Mac users, demanding that the BBC support the platform by ensuring its online iPlayer broadcasts support the Mac may, has achieved modest success, the BBC reports.

The BBC has been developing its yet-to-launch iPlayer service, an online service offering UK license-payers catch-up TV via the web and cable TV. It's expected to launch later this year and competes with Sky Anytime (currently only available to PC users).

While the BBC has always claimed a "platform-agnostic" agenda, the service, as is, has only offered support for Windows systems – but this seems set to change.

"The BBC's proposed iPlayer service, offering catch-up TV via the web and cable TV, would be re-engineered to work with Apple Macs and would eventually roll out to digital terrestrial TV (DTT) and set-top boxes," said BBC Head of Futures Ashley Highfield at an industry event in Cannes.

He slammed Apple's "proprietary and closed framework for DRM", but stressed: "It's one of our top priorities to re-engineer our proposed BBC iPlayer service to work on Macs."

The BBC also plans to open up its vast archive of video and audio in an on-demand trial involving over 20,000 people in the UK, Highfield said.

The aim and objective is that any viewer will be able to access any BBC show ever broadcast using their TV or online service. This can only be achieved within an open and transparent content delivery paradigm.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Who Wants to Be a Superhero?

“Surprisingly sparkly, like a summertime comic book… it’s hard not to get caught up in all the inner-child fun.”
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

“There’s no shortage of fun… you have to tune in to believe it in this entertaining series.”
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“This funny show is a nice surprise. 4 Stars ****”
PEOPLE MAGAZINE

“A summer pleasure.... this is summer camp!”
USA TODAY

“The SCI FI Channel outdoes itself...”
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“Amid all the laughs there’s a feel-good element to ‘Superhero.’ The show proves that the Stan Lee generation has finally taken over the universe....Genuine cast makes ‘Superhero’ superior.”
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

UK PREMIERE - SERIES
WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO? BANK HOLIDAY SPECIAL
SATURDAY 5, SUNDAY 6 AND MONDAY 7 MAY FROM 7PM

If you think you’ve seen every possible reality TV show known to man, think again… you haven’t seen anything quite like this before. From the production stable of legendary comic-book writer, editor and creator STAN LEE (SPIDER-MAN, HULK, THE FANTASTIC FOUR, X-MEN) comes this smash hit, six-episode competition reality series that allows ordinary folk to become superheroes! And the prize for such an incredible deed? Something equally remarkable… immortality!

Fed up of creating fictional superheroes, STAN LEE embarks on a quest to find a real-life character who can save the day. But this is no easy task. Featuring a hilarious, X-FACTOR-style audition process, each contestant begins with an original idea for a superhero, a self-made costume, and their best superhero mojo. From thousands of hopefuls, STAN LEE chooses 11 lucky finalists who move together into a secret lair. There they begin their transformations — and the competition to become a real-life superhero.

In each episode, the aspiring hopefuls are faced with a series of challenges that are designed to reveal their true natures. With their mettle tested to the max, the contestants try to overcome their limitations, and do what it takes to prove that they are truly super. How? Well, forget feats of impossible strength… the modern-day saviour needs to display courage, integrity, self-sacrifice, compassion, and resourcefulness — traits that every true superhero must possess.

With contestants ranging from the scantily-clad Monkey Girl (“ooh ohh, ah ah”), to the unashamedly bold Fat Momma (who wears a belt of Krispy Kreme doughnuts for whenever she needs a sugar rush of super-human ability), these superheroes are surprising to say the least. But don’t count them out just yet. In the end, one lucky finalist will have the inner strength and nobility to open the gates to immortality, in a new comic book developed with Stan Lee. And that's not all — the winning character will also appear in an original SCI FI Channel movie!

Now onto its second series in the USA, something tells us that the world is going to be a far safer place if STAN LEE continues to churn out real-life superheroes. But don’t just take our word for it: tune in every day over the bank holiday weekend at 7pm and see for yourself WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO?

DID YOU KNOW?

* STAN LEE makes a cameo appearance in a forthcoming episode of HEROES (Mondays at 10pm on SCI FI) – as a bus driver. The episode, titled UNEXPECTED, will receive its UK premiere on May 28.

* Movie sequels SPIDER-MAN 3 and FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER are both scheduled for UK release later this year.

* Rumours currently circulating around Hollywood are tipping BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN star JAKE GYLLENHAAL to play Captain Marvel in New Line’s potential movie, SHAZAM! The studio is reportedly looking to bid on a big franchise along the lines of BATMAN and SUPERMAN and think the DC comics character is the perfect project.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

The Macra: Masters of Terror

Last Saturday's episode of Doctor Who, Gridlock, refreshingly brought back the dreaded Macra, the celebrated crab-like enemy that Patrick Troughton's Doctor faced, four decades before, in 1967.

This riveting adventure, framed against an homage to Ridley Scott's Bladerunner (Scott was commissioned to design the Daleks (Terry Nation only provided the scantest of descriptions), but passed duties to Raymond Cusick)), reintroduced the Face of Boe and the 'revelation' that the Doctor is not the only Time Lord to have survived the last great Time War with the Daleks!

This lends further, possible, credence to online speculation that The Master is set to return. As noted previously, I remain hopeful that John Simm will indeed play the role!

Friday, 13 April 2007

No Spring Leopard, blame iPhone

Unsurprisingly Apple Inc has announced that Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard will not ship until October!

Apple Statement
iPhone has already passed several of its required certification tests and is on schedule to ship in late June as planned. We can’t wait until customers get their hands (and fingers) on it and experience what a revolutionary and magical product it is. However, iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price — we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned. While Leopard's features will be complete by then, we cannot deliver the quality release that we and our customers expect from us. We now plan to show our developers a near final version of Leopard at the conference, give them a beta copy to take home so they can do their final testing, and ship Leopard in October. We think it will be well worth the wait. Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case we're sure we've made the right ones.

Personally, I'd rather Apple launched a robust retail release out of the gate and avoided many of the issues which plagued Mac OS X 10.3 Panther (my least favourite update). And Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger more than meets my needs despite my recent hardware transition from PowerPC to Intel.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Life After Mars?

The excellent time-traveling cop drama Life on Mars concluded, controversially, last night on BBC 1! In the tradition of the very best genre series, the ending is deliciously problematic and evocative of seminal semiological tour de force The Prisoner!

Given that I have experienced a coma, following a near-fatal head injury at St Michael’s Nursery & Primary School Kingsteignton in October 1977, which left me paraplegic, I can empathise with Sam Tyler's (dryly played by John Simm) 'Alice in Wonderland' adventure! Incidentally, unlike today's alleged "compensation culture", I received no compensation for my head injury!

Can't wait to see John Simm on Doctor Who. Who's betting he'll be playing the Doctor's brother, and arch nemesis, The Master? Russel T Davies make it so!

Monday, 9 April 2007

Wii Appeal

Hot on the heels of Reuters, arch-rival Bloomberg emotes on third-party developers scrambling to play catchup on the Wii, now that it has proven itself as a viable revenue generator!

Bloomberg outlines the wake-up call that major publishers and developers received when they belatedly discovered that the Wii would probably sell like hotcakes - their tardiness is deplorable in the wake of Nintendo's DS success! The report doesn't cover particularly new ground, as we’ve seen analysts warn publishers about not jumping on the Wii early on, reported on particular companies cashing in on their early Wii investments and witnessed major publishers shift resources to Wii.

But it’s nevertheless interesting to see how the wait-and-see strategy can come back to bite you.

“Those companies [who waited on Wii development] are backtracking,'' Piper Jaffray & Co. analyst Anthony Gikas told Bloomberg. “They're going to need to get their best-branded product on that platform. That will take a good nine to 12 months.''

Ubisoft is one company in particular that saw the potential of the Wii very early on. The Paris-based company released big Wii sellers such as Rayman Raving Rabbids and Red Steel at the console’s launch.

“It's not really a bet anymore,'' Ubisoft marketing VP Tony Key told Bloomberg. “It's a viable system that's going to make us money.''

Wii titles helped drive Ubisoft's December quarter sales up 24 percent to $405 million. Wii games accounted for 21 percent of sales during that quarter.

Other companies that invested in the Wii early on include THQ and Midway. Activision plans to release six Wii games this year.

Meanwhile, companies such as Electronic Arts have acknowledged the Wii’s viability, even recently purchasing a studio that would develop Wii games exclusively. Take-Two plans to bring three games to the Wii this year, including the expectedly ultra-violent Manhunt 2.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime is undoubtedly pleased that third party publishers are giving the Wii some attention, even though some of that attention is coming slightly late.

He recently told Newsweek that getting more third parties on board with Wii development is still a major focus for Nintendo, whose previous Nintendo 64 and Gamecube saw flagging third party support.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

White PSP Console Value Pack + 4 Games Bundle

Thanks to a fraudulent winning bid, I've had to relist my PSP Bundle on eBay! No harm done this time and no fees. eBay would've heard from my lawyers in the event of the latter!

If you fancy a White PlayStation Portable, happy bidding.

Friday, 6 April 2007

Can the Easter Bunny save Sony?

The PS3 continues to be left on UK shelves to collect dust whilst the all-conquering Wii is nowhere to be seen!

Substantial discounting, by retailers such as WH Smith (no double points for Clubcard members!), Play.com and DVD.CO.UK, has given little or no incentive for consumers to part with their hard-earned cash during the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

Reuters has invested its considerable journalistic might in an article that posits whether or not Sony's in a race against time? Their salient points are:
  • To succeed, the PS3 needs to hold onto third-party titles. (We may add... timed exclusives would be best)
  • The demand for HDTV's is skyrocketing -- that will hold a major advantage over, say, the Wii in the living room of the future.
  • The PS3 launch almost mirrors the PS2 launch -- initial supply troubles, lack of impressive titles, complaints about the difficulty to program for... but look at how the PS2 turned out.
  • Cut the PS3's price! (Discounting has already started in the UK)
  • Have a strong, stable series of games!
You can read the full article at Reuters. What say you dear reader? How much would you pay for a PS3? Or is Sony's third act tantamount to a rerun of Sega's 32X debacle? The best 5 posts will receive a Joost invite.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Wii Rule?

I've just returned from a most welcome weekend break in London! Hopefully I'll be able to add some spectacular photos and video footage of our chartered boat trip (including evening meal) on the Thames and passing under Tower Bridge, which opened. Sightseers were as awestruck as we were during the return to an illuminated Tower Bridge in the late evening! The metropolis skyline evoked the Star Wars prequels Coruscant capital!

Reuters has 'declared' an early winner in the next generation console war! Wii!

"We've seen Nintendo expand the marketplace and grow it beyond the traditional gamer," says Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research. "They really redefined the videogame experience by creating something new and different."

That innovation is the Wii controller, a motion-sensitive wand that allows gamers to control the action onscreen by waving the device about rather than jostling a joystick and pushing buttons...