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Posts tagged Taking 5

Taking 5: Back to the Mac

At yesterdays event Apple showed off some new stuff in OS 10.7, Lion as well as the new MacBook Air.  I’m not going to give you a recap of the events.  Chances are you’ve already read about them.  I do want to talk about what I think Apple is doing with Lion on the Mac.

Throughout the presentation Steve and company kept saying “what we’ve learned from iPad” or “what we’ve learned from the iPhone”.  OS 10.7 does actually draw heavily from iOS.  They’ve made launching applications easier, given you the option of full screen mode in applications, added more touch gestures, created an app store and changed applications to auto save and have save states.  Though it’s not clear if it is across all applications or just first party software.

This all sounds great.  I certainly want most of these things in my OS of choice.  But this is it. This is a launching off point for everything Apple plans to do with OS 11. 

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Taking 5: Cellphone Service Anywhere

And so it begins.  I’m talking, of course, of cellphone service coming to the London Underground, the New York City Subway and eventually airplanes.  Boris Johnson, mayor of London, has gotten the ball rolling this week by forcing Vodaphone, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and 3 to all split the cost of installing an maintaining a cellular network in the Underground.  The cost is estimated to be somewhere over £100 million.  He’s making this push to cover all of the Underground before the Olympics begin in 2012.

I can see great benefit in having coverage throughout an entire city, including underground (and the Underground in the case of London).  You can pull up directions to ensure you are got on the correct train, or respond to emails/get some work done during your commute and of course call for help if something terrible happens.  And I can get behind that, I can.  But what about the obnoxious people?

I want to get behind having service everywhere.  I want to be able to use my phone or tablet or laptop anywhere I go.  I think it would be awesome to always be connected but if I’m always connected, it means other people can reach me.  I take the Subway to work every day and while the train is loud, everyone is standing (or sitting) in silence trying not to make eye contact with each other.  If I have cellular service, it means I can make a call. And If I can make a call, so can everyone else.

I don’t want to sound like crotchety old man (too late) but I feel these concerns are valid.

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Taking 5: Ping

You’ve seen it.  You have access to it. And you’ve used it (maybe).  Well, I’ve used it, or tried anyway.

Ariel Waldman said on her tiwtter:

I kept an open mind for a couple days, but now I feel confident in saying that Ping is really not well thought out on multiple fronts.

And on this week’s Engadget podcasat Josh Topolsky said:

Imagine if Facebook started right now and you were aware of it.  Like, 500 million people knew what Facebook was and they launched it, like, today.

I think that is the best way to describe it.  It’s this huge system and framework with no content.  It’s almost the way I would describe Places as compared to Foursquare. And I tried, really. I did. Before I wrote this… review(?)… of the service I wanted to do everything that you could do.

I found friends, I followed artists, I liked a bunch of albums and even wrote a review.  The problem is, I couldn’t really find enough people to follow.  Because it’s so new some of my favorite artists aren’t on there or my friends who have good taste in music aren’t on there because (a) they don’t use the iTunes Store to buy music because of services like Emusic (b) they have a large libraries of music and therefore already have ways of discovering new artists.

Now if you are on an album page in iTunes, it will tell you which of your friends have also purchased that album.  Which is cool, but it’s mining that data from your iTunes purchase history and doesn’t let you mark which albums you’ve have purchased from other services, or uploaded from CD’s… the way you had to do it before 2004.

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Taking 5: Used Games

The used videogames debate is interesting and complicated.  The flames were fanned in the ongoing discussion this week when THQ creative director Cory Ledesma spoke to CVG and then Penny Arcade did what they do best. I have been reading the #PAGamesDialog discussion on twitter for the past two days and I have more thoughts than 140 characters can handle.

There are two schools of thought on how to handle used games sales. Reward the people buying new games, or punish those purchasing the games used.  It’s the latter that rubs me (and lots of other people) the wrong way.  EA has decided to to both, and calls the whole initiative Project Ten Dollar (which is a great name). It serves to counter the GameStop method of charging 5-10 dollars less for used games.

I really like the rewarding half of this concept.  EA and Microsoft Games Studio have come up with a clever way of getting people to buy their games new; include DLC inside the package. This goes back all the way to Gears of War 2, when Microsoft included a code for the Flashback Map Pack into every new copy of the game.  If you didn’t buy it new those maps cost you 10 dollars. EA did something similar with Mass Effect 2 providing a few bits of DLC to people buying the game new.  People didn’t seem to have a problem with this method because a) it feels like a bonus to the new buyer and b) the used player can still play the game that they bought without that DLC. 

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Taking 5: Xbox Live Anywhere

This week at Gamescom in Germany, Microsoft unveiled how Xbox Live is going to work with Windows Phone 7. It seems they are finally going to make good on the promise to deliver Xbox Live Anywhere… one they made during E3 2006.

Back in the dark days before the iPhone, Microsoft promised to deliver the ability to take your Xbox Live profile with you on your mobile device, see what your friends are doing, send messages, check gamerscore, and even “Start a game on Xbox, continue it on your phone.”  There was a walkthrough of Live Anywhere on Eurogamer… but the video has since been deleted.

Engadget has an article from May 2006 that says:

Halo isn’t going to run so well on your RAZR, so for actual cross platform titles, Microsoft is sticking with XBLA-esque games that can translate easily to different platform, such as Bejeweled. There will, however, be major games that can be played on your Vista PC and Xbox 360. Microsoft is banking heavily on third party support for Live Anywhere, in the form of mobile friendly value-adds for 360 games, and just straight up phone-friendly casual titles.

Where did that go?  And why doesn’t anyone bring it up anymore?  It was announced at E3 and was legitimate enough that Penny Arcade accurately mocked the service a few months later in 2006 with a comic, and a complimentary news post.

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Taking 5: BlackBerry Print Ads

I have never owned a BlackBerry. I can, however, tell you the benefits of RIM’s devices as compared to, say, the iPhone if you were to ask me. But that’s because I consume technology news in super-human amounts.

Now that, that is established lets talk about the new BlackBerry ads that are all over New York City (9 of them posted above). RIM has decided that they need a big marketing push and for some reason they’ve decided that BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) is their greatest asset. Fair enough. Unfortunately they don’t actually tell you what BBM is or how, if at all, it’s better than regular old text messaging.

“Some things you’d like to keep among friends”? Ok… that’s true about lots of people and lots of services do that, like email when I select one address to send something to.  “Know for sure, not ‘like for sure,’ ” huh?  And “you’ll know they know you know they read it,” is a sentence I had to read 3 times before I figured out what the hell it meant.

Unless you have a BlackBerry you probably don’t know what BBM is or how it works or if it is, in fact, better than regular old text messaging.  And that’s the biggest problem; the ads don’t say anything meaningful. They’re just a word bubble and some really vague text, text that could just as easily be used to sell an unlimited text message plan on T-mobile.

BBM is a BlackBerry-exclusive text messaging service that uses a pin number, separate from your phone number.  The only thing that makes their service different from standard text messaging is there is a “read notification” that goes back to the sender.  So you know if a person has read your message and is just ignoring you.  It sounds like it will do nothing more than add more drama in your personal life.

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Taking 5: Why We Shouldn’t Be Upset By Motion Gaming From Microsoft And Sony

As markets grow they mature. As they mature they break off in to more specific segments.  Take the automotive market.  There aren’t just cars.  There are luxury cars, performance cars, econoboxes, pickup trucks, minivans… you get the point. There are a lot of different kinds of cars because the market has matured past the basic need for a car.   The videogame market is going through a similar kind of maturation right now.

Gaming has become more than owning a console or PC.  The console market has gotten segmented and the traditional controller isn’t the only game in town. You could say this started with the reveal of the Wii in 2005.  The nonthreatening controller promised gaming for everyone from grandma to grandkids.

Then came the music games.  People who wouldn’t call themselves gamers do understand how to use something shaped like a guitar and they don’t ever have to worry about touching the 14-button controller with two analog sticks.  From Guitar Hero’s plastic guitar beginnings spawned entire bands worth of instruments, microphones, turn tables, and used enough plastic to make armies wroth of little green men.  It would only be ridiculous if the sales of these games weren’t so high.

Sony and Microsoft saw the casual market growing and recognized they had to do something or be left out of the party. They needed to grow their platform in the direction the music games and Nintendo have.  With the release of Move and Kinect this year Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all are starkly dividing their hardcore market from their casual market with some form of motion controls. Gamers have felt threatened.  But they need to stop worrying. 

The causal market isn’t taking over the hardcore market, it’s just forming next to the casual market.  The gaming industry is maturing the way the cell phone industry has by giving more options to consumers. The current ‘hardcore’ market isn’t getting ignored; developers are going to continue to make games for you they are also going to make games for other people too.  Gaming isn’t changing gears it’s just maturing.  Allowing more people to be comfortable playing videogames on their televisions.  You’re still going to play Gears of War 3 with the aforementioned 14-button dual analog stick controller.

There will also be some games that give you the option of using motion or not.  Sony and Nintendo have certainly shown that to be true. The Killzone 3 demo played during Sony’s E3 presser was with a Move controller.  And the more hardcore games on the Wii (like Smash Bros or Mario Kart) give you the option to either use the motion controllers or the more traditional Classic Controller.

No one is forcing this new technology on gamers.  The same way you can still exist with a Motorola RAZR or a 1978 Caprice Classic you can exist with just your Xbox and controller. You also  have the opportunity to play new games in a new way.  If you don’t want that, fine. It’s not really for you anyway.

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