By Chris Sorensen - Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 0 Comments
Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are struggling to reinvent video games as touchscreens and tablets take over the living room
Nintendo’s 2006 launch of the Wii console marked a new era for video games. With its innovative motion-sensing controllers, used to mimic the swing of a tennis racquet or golf club, the $250 Wii immediately struck a chord with gamers and non-gamers alike. Amazon sold out of its initial stock of sleek, white Wii consoles in just seven minutes.
The Wii’s unexpected success catapulted third-ranked Nintendo to the top of the video game industry, ahead of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3—both of which are more powerful (and more expensive) machines. More importantly, it suggested a much wider potential market for game consoles beyond basement-dwelling teenagers.
But the renaissance has proved short-lived. Console sales have declined dramatically in recent years as existing systems grow long in the tooth. Nintendo posted a loss of $530 million this year, its first since 1981. And competition from tablets and smartphones, with their cheap, downloadable games, threatens to steal away millions of casual gamers. “Tablets and smartphones are the black hole of the consumer electronics industry right now, sucking the growth out of everything else,” says Kaan Yigit, the president of Toronto’s Solutions Research Group, a consumer research firm. “The growth rates we saw after Wii first came out are but a distant memory.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:47 AM - 0 Comments
With an growing demand of iPads for adults, it makes sense that children are next
Along with learning to walk and talk, American babies today are acquiring another skill: using a tablet computer. New research from MDG Advertising revealed that by the time they are four, 49 per cent of children in the U.S. have already used a smart device like a tablet. Companies are jumping on the trend and the competition for small hands is growing fierce.
The current industry leader is the LeapPad 2, a “kiddie tablet” with a 3.5-inch touchscreen on which junior can download apps, take pictures and watch videos. Last week the Toy Insider, a closely watched industry guide, ranked the LeapPad 2, priced at $110, one of the most wanted gifts this holiday season. Toys “R” Us said it will start selling its own Android-powered kiddie tablet this month, the Tabeo. Last week, Fuhu, which makes a rival tablet called the Nabi, said it is suing Toys “R” Us, accusing it of stealing trade secrets.
Bigger electronics firms also sense an opportunity. This year some Apple stores switched from marketing iMac computers at their kids’ tables to iPads. Following Amazon and Google, Apple is also rumoured to be releasing a mini-tablet in October, which at a smaller size and lower cost is expected to grab an even larger slice of the toddler market.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 9:58 AM - 0 Comments
That means developing more business apps, and taking on RIM
After only two years in the market, Apple’s iPad has been a remarkable success, cornering 68 per cent of the global tablet market, with 11.8 million units sold in the first quarter of 2012 alone. But to really secure its place as the king of tablets—and to prove its device is more than just a consumer toy for Web browsing and playing games—Apple is planning to conquer one final frontier: the business world.
The company has launched an aggressive global campaign to lure developers into building more business applications for the iPad. One of the centres of this push is Vancouver, home to a thriving community of software companies that have created successful consumer apps for Apple’s iOS platform, used on the iPhone and iPad. Apple is organizing regular developer meet-ups in the city with thousands of participants and inviting software companies to showcase their business apps to sales staff at Apple stores.
Angela Robert is CEO of Vancouver-based Conquer Mobile, one of the companies that is now focusing solely on developing business apps for the iPad, like Colligo Briefcase, which helps view, share, and edit content in a secure environment. Robert says she’s never seen Apple come after developers so aggressively. (With consumer apps, it was usually developers courting Apple.) She says the current offering of business apps is, so far, insufficient to convince company decision-makers that they need iPads. “It’s just like [Apple] did with the iPhones,” says Robert. “People bought iPhones only after they saw all they could do with apps.”
By Peter Nowak - Friday, April 27, 2012 at 10:17 AM - 0 Comments
The Kindle Touch starts shipping to Canada today. Having been given a run-through of the new e-reader at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle earlier this week, and having had the chance to put it through its paces since, this is good news for book lovers.
As its name implies, the Kindle Touch finally adds the long-missing functionality of a touch screen to Amazon’s e-reader. I’d often chuckle while watching people try to flip pages on previous Kindles by swiping the screen, only to see nothing happen. Mind you, I now sometimes have the same experience watching children swiping TV screens. How quickly the world has changed.
Anyway, other e-readers, such as the Kobo, have had touch screens for a while, so this isn’t really anything new. What I like about the Kindle Touch, though, is its “Easy Reach” feature, which makes 90 per cent of the screen an active next-page area. So, if you’re left-handed and holding the device with one hand, you don’t have to stretch your thumb all the way to the right to turn the page. You can touch the middle instead.
The remaining 10 per cent, around the edges of the screen, is for going back. Kindle director Jay Marine told me this was done because readers only rarely want to go backward in their books.
By Peter Nowak - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 2:27 PM - 0 Comments
The PlayStation Vita, which launches on Feb. 22, has been getting a lot of press over the past few weeks, for a number of reasons. On the one hand, with gaming hardware continually getting more powerful, manufacturers are slowing down the rate at which they release next-generation machines. Home consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are now into their seventh and sixth years, respectively, which is considerably longer than the previous generation (the original Xbox, for example, had a four-year run before the Xbox 360 arrived).
Sony’s next-generation handheld is also getting a lot of attention because it is being released into a vastly different world than its predecessors. Over the past few years, smartphones and tablets have arisen to become mobile gaming powerhouses, leading observers to speculate on whether the death of portable systems such as the Vita is nigh. I spoke with Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, on the topic last week and he, of course, doesn’t see it that way. Continue…
By Peter Nowak - Friday, February 17, 2012 at 12:38 PM - 0 Comments
Sony’s next-generation handheld video game system, the whimsically named Vita, officially launches on Feb. 22 after shipping out this week to those who pre-ordered it. It’s a very impressive and attractively priced device–you can read my full review here.
At the Vita’s launch party in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, I chatted with Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, about the Vita, PlayStation and game trends in general. The Vita, as it turns out, comes along at a time of major change in the gaming industry.
Smartphones and tablets have opened up an entirely new frontier for the industry, with people who wouldn’t previously be caught playing video games now idling away for hours on Angry Birds and the like. Nintendo, Sony’s traditional rival in the handheld market, has already felt the pain, as people turned away from the more expensive and involved software produced for such devices and toward cheaper and simpler mobile games.
By Davide Berretta - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 2:52 PM - 0 Comments
Away from the hype that surrounds some of the hottest Internet companies in Silicon Valley, scores of developers are tackling the lucrative, accelerating sector of technology for children. “Backpacks will slowly shrink… Textbooks will pretty soon be delivered on tablets,” says Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review, a publication that since 1993 has been tracking new releases and trends in this increasingly busy domain. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
The boom in technology designed around children’s needs was catalyzed by the launch of Apple’s iPad in 2010, says Buckleitner, a former teacher with a Ph.D. in educational psychology. The tablet, he says, was the first reasonably priced device to bring together the must-have features of a blockbuster piece of hardware for kids: wireless Internet connection, powerful batteries, an App Store that has galvanized independent developers as well as those working within companies, and a large multi-touch screen.
“We knew that magic happens when you put touchscreens in the hands of children,” says Emil Ovemar, producer and co-founder of Toca Boca (which means ‘touch mouth’ in Spanish), a maker of games for Apple devices within Bonnier, a large Swedish media conglomerate with yearly revenues of almost US$4 billion. The work-and-play philosophy behind Apple devices seems to fit particularly well with the way children operate. “The most natural way to learn something is through play,” notes Ovemar.
By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 6:00 PM - 19 Comments
The Aakash is a pretty crappy tablet computer. Made in India, the Android gadget’s touchscreen is small, with no multitouch functionality. Its battery only lasts for a few hours, its processor is fairly slow, it has no camera, and though it has WiFi, you’ll need a USB dongle to connect to the mobile Internet when away from wireless broadband. Compared to the iPad, the Aakash is a piece of junk—except for the one stat where it blows Apple completely out of the water: price.
The Aakash costs $37.98 to manufacture. Ten thousand units are currently in the hands of Indian students. Thanks to a government subsidy, they cost $30 each. A retail version of the Aakash is expected soon, with 90,000 units shipping to Indian stores bearing a sticker price of $50 to $60. There’s no word on a North American release just yet.
Here’s a short video report on the Aakash from NDTV: Continue…
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 1:34 PM - 2 Comments
Dell’s global head of marketing, Andy Lark, has become the subject of Internet ridicule after he trash talked the iPad— the very same device people are lining up around the block to buy. In a recent interview, Lark suggested Apple’s approach would ultimately fail when it comes to business customers because the iPad runs on a closed OS and is too expensive. “Apple is great if you’ve got a lot of money and live on an island. It’s not so great if you have to exist in a diverse, open, connected enterprise; simple things become quite complex,” Lark said. He went on to suggest the iPad’s price tag puts it out of reach for most people, particularly once you throw on a bunch of accessories like a peripheral keyboard, mouse and a fancy case. “An iPad with a keyboard, a mouse and a case [means] you’ll be at $1500 or $1600; that’s double of what you’re paying,” he said. “That’s not feasible.” (Not to be outdone, an HP executive also recently criticized Apple’s heavy-handed relationship with partner companies, calling it potential weakness).
Blogs were quick to provide Lark with a reality check. “Okay, timeout,” said BGR. “[US]$1,600 for an iPad, case, keyboard, and mouse? Let’s do some quick math: 64GB 3G iPad 2 $829, ridiculously expensive leather Smart Cover $69, Apple Bluetooth Keyboard $69, Apple iPad Dock $69 (not mentioned, but why not), Apple Mighty Mouse (which won’t work with an iPad, but we’re going with it) $69. That’s a grand total of $1,105, just $400 to $500 off Lark’s estimates.” Apple Insider drew a similar conclusion: “It is unlikely that a keyboard, mouse and case would cost the same as an iPad.”
Lark may have a point about potential demand for cheaper tablets, but Dell would be wise to focus on improving its own products (anybody have a Dell Streak?) instead of criticizing Apple’s. Apple has sold nearly 16 million iPads worldwide and currently commands three-quarters of the market. And some analysts are dramatically upping their forecasts following the success of the recent iPad 2 launch. A quick look at stock price performances over the past year tells the story: Apple’s shares are up nearly 50 per cent. Dell and HP? Down 3 per cent and 22 per cent respectively. Clearly Apple is doing something right.
By Jesse Brown - Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 1:35 PM - 164 Comments
Apple sold 15 million iPads in nine months. But so what? The gadget is a dud.
Too harsh? I don’t think so. A year ago, there were some pretty high expectations for the iPad. It was “transformative“. It was “magical“. It was going to change computing. It was going to save publishing. It was going to kill netbooks—probably laptops too.
It has done none of these things. After the cool factor wore off, iPad owners were left with a nice way to surf the web on a couch. Compare it to the iPhone, a truly transformational device that owners interact with hundreds of times a day. My dad (not exactly a luddite, but close) got one as a gift, and within a week he couldn’t remember how he had lived without it. He now has a dorky little holster for it on his belt. It’s adorable. My mom followed up by buying him an iPad. He played with it for a day or two and hasn’t used it since. The iPhone is a crucial tool, the iPad a toy. Boys get bored with their toys.
Now we’re supposed to get excited all over again because the toy comes in white. Yes, it’s also a bit thinner and a bit faster. Guess what? Computers will always get smaller and faster. The problem with the original iPad wasn’t that it was too slow or too big. It’s that it was a solution in search of a problem. It didn’t let me do anything I couldn’t do before.
Perhaps this will change. As more and more people acquire iPads and other tablets (especially those that run on open platforms), new uses for them will emerge. New apps will be developed, and eventually someone will come up with something awesome that we will want to do all the time and that can only be done with a tablet. But when that happens, it will be despite Steve Jobs, not because of him.
Apple has steadily devolved from a maker of beautiful machines for creators to a censorious manufacturer of shiny doodads you can’t easily type on or share files with. Whereas once they led by innovating, they now aim to stay on top by using their market clout to bully others from doing so—see yesterday’s post by Chris Sorensen on Apple’s attempt to monopolize the touchscreen market.
Hoarding components—how magical!