Jan 01 , 2019 / By :

Universal Music Group, a division of Paris-based Vivendi Universal, has just announced plans to revamp the way they sell music CDs in European markets. Rather than serving up every product in the same 20-year-old CD case design, Universal will divide their offerings into three tiers with different packaging and different prices.HangZhou Night Net

At the bottom end, a “basic” package will be introduced, consisting of a simple sleeve made of heavy cardstock. It should sell for €9.99, the same price Apple charges for a full album download from the European iTunes Music Store. The package sounds reminiscent of Neil Young’s Mirror Ball, among other cardbord packages offered up over the years, but it’s not a one-off specialty item. Universal hopes to ship some 100 million of these albums by year’s end, starting from the planned September introduction. The basic package is earmarked for older releases and other slow sellers in the traditional jewel case package, and will come with no liner notes or other extras. According to the Guardian, the no frills concept is a “acknowledgement” of the power of iTunes.

If extra features are what you want, you’ll be more interested in the premium “DeLuxe” packaging at MSRPs around €19.99. That version, aimed at collectors and gift-givers, will feature a beefed-up case and tons of bonus features, ranging from expanded notes and bonus tracks to DVDs filled with behind-the-scenes clips and live performances.

In-between these extremes comes the “Super Jewel Box,” a sturdier version of today’s brittle jewel cases, but otherwise much the same as anything you’d find at your local Wal-Mart today. It’s supposed to sell for €14.99, comparable to today’s average CD price, and will feature new releases and popular back-catalog items.

Universal claims to understand that digital downloads are the future, but then go on to defend the need to boost physical CD sales again. The company’s executive vice-president of international marketing and A&R, a fellow by the notable name Max Hole, says that downloading has renewed interest in older titles, and that all you need to do in order to sell those albums is lower the prices. “We can grow the CD market,” says Mr. Hole. “That might be a little optimistic, but we can certainly slow its decline.”

I can see some value in the new packaging options: premium bundles will always have a following, and my CD rack is littered with broken cases, so the Super Jewel thing sounds like a welcome upgrade. But while I enjoy Mirror Ball immensely and can appreciate the Earth-friendliness of paper packaging, I’m not convinced that pricing is the only problem to solve regarding slow back-catalog sales. Those albums just aren’t promoted, and there’s also a major convenience difference between downloads and plastic discs. Besides, if all you’re getting is a plain cardboard sleeve with cover art, and you just want to rip it to your iPod anyway, what’s your motivation for getting physical? There’s more research to do regarding the true drivers of the digital revolution, and whether it’s more about price, about convenience, or something else entirely.

Jan 01 , 2019 / By :

I was surprised to find that an article on the dry topic of crop yields was surprisingly compelling. It seems to have it all: new information pulled together from a collection of studies that suggests the current consensus was based on an outdated technique. The topic is politically charged, and the editors even let the authors get away with a pun in the title ("Food for Thought"). How does this all fit together? HangZhou Night Net

As atmospheric carbon levels go up and the planet warms up, crops are expected to be impacted in a variety of ways. Increased temperature and CO2 are expected to accelerate growth, but soil moisture will decrease, potentially counteracting these effects. Based on a number of studies, it was expected that these factors would largely balance out, with a slight decrease in crop yield possible. The new study addresses one of these factors: how CO2 affects growth and yield of crops. The authors note that the estimates of these effects being used in assessing the impact of rising carbon levels are based on experiments in enclosed buildings, where it's easy to control the atmosphere. But technology has since improved, and free-air concentration enrichment (FACE) technology allows crops to be grown in the open under controlled atmospheric conditions, more closely approximating real-world conditions.

What happens when you compare the results of FACE experiments with enclosed results? The enclosed experiments produce crop yields that are more than two-fold higher than those produced using FACE technology. This, in turn, suggests that the expectations for the future crop yields may be over-estimates. As the authors note, "This casts serious doubt on projections that rising CO2 will fully offset losses due to climate change." They do, however, wrap up on an optimistic note: crop plants have been selectively bred for a number of properties, and increased growth at higher CO2 levels may be as accessible to breeding as anything else. The same technology that allowed us to recognize the problem may be useful in breeding a correction for it.

Jan 01 , 2019 / By :

Some Apple rumors, like the iTablet, never die, no matter how much time passes or how little sense they make. At the other end of the rumor spectrum are ideas so obvious, like the flash-based iPod Nano, that it is only a matter of time before they become product. There are also rumors that no one believes right up until they happen, like the switch to Intel, and there are the rumors that make sense but never seem to happen. HangZhou Night Net

An Apple spreadsheet would fall into the last category.

Was it only a year ago that AppleInsider was touting "Numbers" as the next big software release from Apple Computer? Yes, it was.

Rumors that Apple Computer has been quietly developing its
own spreadsheet solution gained a dab of credibility this week as
sources pointed to a revealing company filing with the United States
Patent and Trademark Office. Just two days after requesting a trademark on the word 'Mactel,'
which seemingly describes the convergence of Macintosh design with
Intel hardware, Apple on June 8th filed for a standard character mark
on the word 'Numbers.'

It's a little over a year later and a new spreadsheet rumor is out,
except this time ThinkSecret is the messenger, the name is "Charts,"
and it's *confirmed* to be true.

Long rumored—or at least, assumed—to be in development,
sources say Apple is not planning on positioning Charts as a competitor
to Microsoft's Excel, but rather as a more consumer-friendly
spreadsheet application that can handle the needs of home users and
small businesses but not pretend to execute any of the more advanced
functions of Excel.

Presumably, Charts will allow the import of Excel spreadsheets—unless they have advanced functions it cannot pretend to execute. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess. Along with the obvious, ThinkSecret claims development includes nonsensical stuff like Address Book integration. Pricing, which currently is US$79 for iWork, is unknown.

So, what does Charts—if true—mean for Mac users? Not much.

To date, iWork has made no impression as an office suite. Of course, Apple stresses that it is not competing with Office for the Mac, but anyone who has used Pages could have told you that. The only way this could matter is if Apple did what should have been done three years ago when iWork first came out. Apple needs to make iWork free on new Macs, a true replacement for AppleWorks. That would be a rumor worth seeing come true.

Mar 08 , 2019 / By :

The SCO Group’s lawsuit against Linux distributors IBM, Red Hat, and Novell hit a major snag yesterday as Magistrate Brooke C. Wells of the US District Court in Salt Lake City dismissed 182 of SCO’s 294 claims. The dismissal is part of a 39-page ruling that comes down hard on SCO for continually refusing to provide specific details about which lines of code in SCO’s products were stolen by Linux programmers.HangZhou Night Net

“SCO’s arguments are akin to SCO telling IBM, ‘Sorry we are not going to tell you what you did wrong because you already know,'” Wells wrote in the ruling. “Given the amount of code that SCO has received in discovery, the court finds it inexcusable that SCO is, in essence, still not placing all the details on the table.”

SCO’s reaction to the news was predictably unrevealing. “Our legal team is reviewing the judge’s ruling and will determine our next steps in the near future,” said SCO spokesperson Blake Stowell.

The painfully long and drawn-out saga of the SCO lawsuit started in March 2003, when SCO sued IBM for allegedly “devaluing” their version of the Unix operating system. The lawsuit was extended to include Novell later that year. SCO claimed that both companies had taken code from Unix and put it into Linux. The company was ordered in 2004 to hand over examples of the infringing code in no less than 45 days, but SCO has managed to dither and delay without producing any hard evidence. Clearly, the judges are losing patience.

So will SCO decide to reveal their trump card after all? It seems highly unlikely. In a memo that was leaked last year, SCO’s internal code audit from 2002 found no infringing code in Linux. SCO’s response at the time was to reveal an 1999 e-mail from an outside consultant that allegedly found “troubling similarities” between Linux and Unix code. However, similarities do not equal stolen code. SCO has even backtracked from their initial assessment, stating that the problem may lie in “methods and concepts” rather than stolen lines of code.

SCO may have known for a while that their case was hopeless, and are simply deciding to see the case through in hopes that they may at least recover a small amount of money through technicalities. The company stated in 2004 that they wanted to concentrate more on new products than on lawsuits. This latest news may force them to do just that.

SCO’s stock fell from US$4 to below US$3 on the news, and currently sits at US$3.25.

Mar 08 , 2019 / By :

Antitrust regulators from the European Union’s 25 member nations have voted unanimously against Microsoft, finding the software giant guilty of non-compliance with the EU’s 2004 ruling. The decision opens the door for the EU to levy daily fines of up to €2 million (US$2.5 million) on Microsoft. The exact amount of the fine will be decided at another meeting to be held next week.HangZhou Night Net

The debate centers on the EU’s interpretation of Microsoft’s compliance with an earlier judgement handed down in 2004. In that hearing, Microsoft was charged with unfair bundling and anticompetitive behavior, and was told to do three things: pay a fine, release a version of Windows without Media Player bundled, and disclose information about their server products to enable competitors to more easily write software that can interact with them. Microsoft paid the fine, delivered Windows XP N—with the N apparently standing for the version of Windows Nobody wanted to buy—and delivered large stacks of technical documents covering Windows Server protocols.

It was this last deliverable that the EU had problems with. A monitoring trustee, British professor Neil Barrett, was appointed to judge the information released by Microsoft, and his initial response was that the documentation was inadequate. Microsoft replied by offering to license parts of the source code itself, but that effort was dismissed by the EU regulators.

For its part, Microsoft claims to be working hard to deliver the information the EU desires. “Microsoft is dedicating massive resources to meet the aggressive schedule and high-quality standards set by the trustee and the commission in this process,” a Microsoft employee said in a statement. “Our engineers are working around the clock to meet the seventh and final delivery date for this project scheduled for July 18.”

Clearly the prospect of more fines and continued antitrust action is a concern for Microsoft, as much for their public image as for their bank balance. Given this, one wonders what the exact reasons are for the EU’s dissatisfaction with Microsoft’s documentation. A cynical answer might be that the EU simply wants to keep the Microsoft money train flowing. Looking at things from a different angle, perhaps Microsoft wants to make sure that while it may become possible for third parties to build replacements for Microsoft’s server software, the documentation should not make it easy. The issue is made more difficult by the EU’s failure to make it clear exactly what type of information they are looking for.

The EU is not the only governing body to issue fines and judgements against Microsoft. South Korea fined the software giant US$35 million for similar antitrust issues, although without the request to provide additional documentation. Microsoft has agreed to pay this fine. Back in the US, Microsoft recently agreed to extend federal oversight over their 2002 antitrust ruling until at least 2009, and the company has decided to “rewrite significant portions of the documentation in an effort to substantially improve the overall quality of the documentation.”

Mar 08 , 2019 / By :

Whenever you interview Tomonubo Itagaki, the glasses wearing head of Team Ninja, you're sure to get him to say something outrageous. From bashing Tekken to calling the girls in Dead or Alive his daughters, he's always entertaining. It seems now he has two projects he's working on,the next Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball and Ninja Gaiden 2. When trying to design jet ski levels and new bikinis for his volleyball title, where do the ideas come from? Drinking! HangZhou Night Net

Kikizo: So, how many drinks does it take for ideas to stop being feasible, good ideas, and start being just complete nonsense?

Itagaki: Haha! It's hard to say, because I am drinking pretty much full-time. Of course, there are ups and downs, waves, of how I drink in terms of the amount, but it's a long period of time. In the last ten years – not that you asked this question – I think I had better ideas when I was drinking whisky. When I am drinking shochu, that's a conservative drink, so the ideas are not that great. Beer is just like water to me, so it just helps me and everyone else loosen up a little bit, it doesn't really contribute to coming up with ideas.

So there you have it. If you want good ideas, drink whisky. Not that we at Opposable Thumbs would ever advocate drinking, but Itagaki seems to think it's a big part of his creative process. You have to admit, the idea of him stumbling around Team Ninja's headquarters, yelling at everyone to make the bikinis smaller, is pretty funny. When the interviewer says he's not at Itagaki's level yet, the famed developer had a few choice words of wisdom:

It just means that you haven't been drinking enough. Haha! Not often enough. This afternoon, keep drinking more.

Who are we to argue with genius?

Mar 08 , 2019 / By :

A new study from marketing research company Ipsos Insight indicates that while file sharing may be down, it still constitutes a significant percentage of the music found on today’s portable digital music players. Yet music downloads from legal services have eclipsed those stemming from P2P and other unauthorized sources. In fact, the study indicated that more than 70 percent of such music stems from legal sources, and that music download services are on the rise. The numbers show how far the industry has come from the days when CEOs would argue that "the most common format of music on an iPod is ‘stolen’." If that view was dubious before, it’s now outright ridiculous.HangZhou Night Net

According to the study of more than 1,100 people, existing CD collections still provide the lion’s share of music on portable players, accounting for 44 percent of such content. Download-to-own sales accounted for 25 percent of music on portable devices, while unauthorized file sharing accounted for 19 percent. While the music industry may be pleased, the study also indicated that 6 percent of music stemmed from users "ripping" CDs owned by others—something the industry considers akin to raw piracy. With an average of 700 songs per player according to the study, approximately 175 songs per player have not been properly licensed or purchased in the eyes of the recording industry. (Of course, that number would be significantly higher if the RIAA’s views on ripping legally acquired CDs were ever enforced.)

Portable music players are quite popular, too. The study indicates that one in five people over the age of 12 have a portable music player, and one in twenty actually have more than one. The study suggests that the percentage of portable player ownership is increasing at a rate of roughly five percent a year, as 2003 and 2004 saw 11 and 15 percent penetration, respectively.

The strong sales are good news for the music industry, which has seen aggressive growth in digital sales in recent years. Sales tripled in 2005 according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), climbing up to represent 6 percent of global music receipts that year. And while younger people generally dominate the uptake of new electronics, persons aged 35 to 54 are getting in on the action as well, with one in ten sporting a portable music player last year.

Radio star need not fear video?

There are signs that the music video revolution won’t be portable, however. Approximately one in three people aged 12 to 24 said that they are interested in portable video, including music videos, TV shows, and movies. By way of comparison, almost 1 in 2 were interested in FM radio capabilities being integrated into players, while nearly 2 in 5 expressed interested in satellite music support. For persons ages 24 to 54, interest in video content was only 1 in 6.

Nevertheless, Matt Kleinschmit, a Vice President with Ipsos Insight and author of the study, interpreted the findings as being bullish for video sales.

"These recent findings showing the desire for broader multimedia content on a portable device could suggest we are reaching a turning point in which consumers are truly recognizing the value of anytime, anywhere multimedia content on-the-go," Kleinschmit said in a statement. "While this phenomenon may have initially centered on music, younger MP3 player owners are clearly interested in a wide variety of broader content options for their devices."

The study (PR) was based off of responses from 1,112 Americans aged 12 and over. It carries a 95 percent certainty that the results are accurate to within +/- 2.94 percent.

Mar 08 , 2019 / By :

The debacle surrounding Windows Genuine Advantage just won’t go away. Late last month Microsoft found itself the target of a complaint seeking class action status over WGA’s behavior, and now we have learned that a second related suit has been filed. HangZhou Night Net

Brought by Engineered Process Controls, LLC, Univex, Inc., Edward Mifsud, David DiDomizio, and Martin Sifuentes, the suit charges that WGA is essentially spyware, inasmuch as users are deceived to install it by being led to believe that it is a security update. The suit was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington.

"WGA is ‘spyware’ that transmits data to Microsoft’s central computer ("phones home") every time a PC is booted up and every 24 hour thereafter," the suit alleges. The accusations are in response to the revelation that beta versions of Windows Genuine Advantage did "phone home" once every day, but the company recently confirmed that more recent versions communicate with the company approximately once every 90 days. Microsoft maintains that the daily checks were there because the software was in beta, not because the company intended to test daily checkups.

Daily or not, privacy advocates are outraged. The suit complains that "Microsoft does not advise users of these phone home capabilities. WGA gathers data that can easily identify individual PCs and WGA can be modified remotely to collect additional information at Microsoft initiation." The complaint continues, "software hackers can exploit WGA to not only collect data but also to modify users’ computers." The suit contends that Microsoft and WGA violate Federal and Washington State law and "public policy on privacy, security, consumer deception, notice and consent."

The suit seeks compensatory damages, injunctive relief and a requirement for Microsoft to fully disclose WGA’s "potential security and other risks" to the public. The suit also asks that Microsoft be made to produce a tool that can easily remove WGA from any Windows system. Should the plaintiffs prevail, Microsoft would have to scrap WGA and would be subject to treble damages. Among the damage claims is a request seeking "either actual damages or one hundred thousand dollars per violation, whichever is greater."

For both cases, the debate is expected to center around the definition of spyware. The suit itself uses the recently-formed Anti-Spyware Coalition’s definition of spyware, which focuses on lack of consent and the "collection, use, and distribution of a user’s person or other sensitive information" in constructing a definition of spyware. Microsoft has insisted that WGA is not spyware, and that it does not track user behavior or anything other than the licensed state of a Windows installation.

Feb 03 , 2019 / By :

The noose is tightening around Russian website The record industry, which now has the site on its radar screen, won a small victory in the UK this week that will allow it to file suit against the site. The British Phonographic Industry (the UK’s version of the RIAA) received permission from London’s High Court to “serve proceedings” against the website. When that happens, the Russian judicial system will be obligated by international agreement to look into the matter, which means another legal headache is developing for Allofmp3.HangZhou Night Net

The site already has to contend with two legal cases against its director and former director, and additional pressure from the UK won’t make things any easier for a service that finds itself in the crosshairs of the international community’s Piracy Sniper Rifle. The Americans have been leaning hard on Russia to do something about the site, but Allofmp3 just keeps chugging along, offering up new Dashboard Confessional, Keane, and Red Hot Chili Peppers for under US$2.

The site has weathered Russian legal scrutiny before, but the newly politicized claims from abroad could make it harder to stay in business. Allofmp3 claims to operate with a valid license, of course, but none of the money they make trickles back to artists or labels abroad. The BPI plans to argue that even if the license is legal under Russian law, it is certainly not legal in the UK, where Allofmp3 now accounts for 14 percent of all legal downloads.

Despite the emphasis that the music industry often places on sites like, it’s worth remembering that most music found on portable players is legitimate.

Are the site’s days numbered? It’s too soon to tell, but prudence would suggest that if you have any credit at the site, now’s the time to use it.

Feb 03 , 2019 / By :

I've said it before, I'll say it again: brains are strange things. The fact that we, as humans, have comparatively large and complex brains accounts for our dominance on the planet, our language, technology and all the other things that make it possible for me to sit in front of my powerbook and write this column, and for you to read it. But there's much that happens within our skulls that we don't fully understand yet, and by and large brains are fragile things. It doesn't take much to stop one working–a few minutes without oxygen is enough to destroy a brain. HangZhou Night Net

There is a common assumption that brains are also not very good at repairing themselves. By and large this is true. Unlike the liver, which has an enormous capacity for self-repair, neurons that die are often never replaced, making spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries permanent conditions. But not always. Such is the remarkable case of Terry Wallis, who suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him in a minimally conscious state (MCS) for 19 years.

Over this time, Terry's brain slowly rewired itself in a way that has not been observed before, and Terry emerged from his MCS able to speak and with a limited ability for movement that has since improved. It must be stressed that the Hollywood image of a man waking from a coma and taking up where he left off could not be further from reality in Terry's case. Despite regaining the power of speech, Terry is still disabled following his brain injury.

More after the jump

Over the course of his recovery, doctors used a new imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to follow the way his brain rewired itself, and compared it to an MCS patient showing no signs of recovery. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, along with a commentary. Terry's accident severed a lot of neuronal connections between different brain areas. The growth of new axons reconnected these areas, but in doing so created pathways and structures never normally seen in brains.

I imagine that these findings are going to be seized upon by bioconservatives to support their position over the sad affair of Terri Schaivo, but the only similarities between these cases are the patients' first names. Terri Schiavo suffered from a persistent vegetative state (PVS), a different condition to MCS, where patients experience infrequent but real periods of conciousness. Terri's case was reviewed time and time again, and each diagnosis confirmed the PVS, as did her autopsy. Recovery from MCS remains rare, especially after more than 12 months. Terri Schiavo had lost most of her cerebral cortex, a much more severe injury than that of Terry Walker.

Another neuro-related news item caught my eye the other day, and it serves to reinforce my original point. Natives of the British Isles will be familiar with the Geordie accent – I'm not sure if I can think of any Geordies that might be well known to US readers, but suffice to say those who hail from Newcastle have a rather distinctive way of speaking. This was true for one Linda Walker, up until she she suffered a stroke at the age of 60. Following the stroke, Linda's Geordie lilt was gone, to be replaced by a Jamaican accent. Strange as it sounds, there have been around 50 cases recorded of foreign accent syndrome, which results from damage to the speech centers of the brain.

Feb 03 , 2019 / By :

Well we can't say we saw this coming. Apple, who was expected to come out with a new Mac to target the education market, has done just that, but it's not what you think. HangZhou Night Net

Apple has begun offering, through educational channels, a new low-priced Intel iMac. At US$899 the new iMac is priced US$400 cheaper than anything available to the general public and just US$100 more then the high-end Intel Mac mini. One might expect a horribly crippled machine at this price but the US$899 model actually compares fairly well to the US$1299 model. Both machines use the Intel 1.83 GHz Core Duo and sport a 17-inch widescreen LCD. The only major differences are that the EDU iMac comes standard with a 80GB drive (vs. 160GB), a 24x Combo Drive (vs. 8x Super Drive), and Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics with 64MB of shared memory (vs. ATI Radeon X1600 with 128 MB). The consumer model also sports built in Bluetooth and an Apple Remote which the new low-end EDU model lacks.

The new machine also comes standard with keyboard and mouse making this truly an affordable all-in-one solution for education, something the 'budget priced' Mac mini cannot offer. It should also be noted that this new iMac spells the long-awaited end for the crufty old eMac:

The 17-inch iMac for education is available immediately and will replace the eMac®, Apple’s last CRT based computer, providing students and teachers everything they need to learn and create in today's digital classroom, all in the ultra-efficient iMac design.

This new low-priced iMac is enough to encourage awkward glances in the general direction of my credit card; I have always admired the price point/value of iMacs and the slightly lower specs of this machine doesn't hinder that. This would be an ideal way for a lot of people to jump on board the Intel bandwagon. The question is: what does this mean for the consumer line? Speed bumps ahoy?

Feb 03 , 2019 / By :

Paris has just announced an ambitious new push in its révolution numérique, the city’s plan to make itself into one of the world’s most wired capitals. At the moment, nothing says “wired” quite like “wireless,” so Paris plans on blanketing the city with a free WiFi network operated by private companies.HangZhou Night Net

The socialist mayor of Paris (that’s not a perjorative statement; he’s actually a card-carrying member of the Socialist Party), Bertrand Delanoe, wants the system up and running by the end of next year. “We will act fast and firmly… to create the most favorable conditions for Paris,” he told reporters. “It is a decisive tool for international competition and thus important for the city.”

But free WiFi is hardly a “decisive tool for international competition.” After all, more than 60 percent of Parisian households already have high-speed ‘Net access and businesses aren’t likely to be excited by the prospect of trusting the company’s access to a sometimes-flaky wireless signal with all of its security woes. Some cities are also learning the hard way that reliable WiFi is easier dreamed up than implemented. Still, the system promises Internet access in public places like parks and libraries, and it’s hard to imagine anything better than reading Ars from a bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg on a fine spring day.

What’s more intriguing than the WiFi announcement is the second part of the plan, which is designed to ensure that 80 percent of Parisian addresses are wired with fiber by 2010. The ambitious goal will be aided by a government tax cut on companies that lay fiber over and through city-owned rights-of-way (think sewers). The resulting system should deliver super-fast ‘Net connections to citizens and businesses across the City of Lights.

The city also plans to open Espaces publics Numériques in many arrondissements that will allow people to use computers and take classes on computing and Internet technology. The goal is to make Paris one of the top digital cities on earth in the next decade, a move that could help the city stay competitive in the global labor market.

Paris isn’t alone in its ambitions. It faces competition from most major cities, including London, San Francisco, Chicago, and others, though most cities have so far only announced plans for WiFi. Paris’ aggressive fiber rollout plans could give it an edge, potentially making the “Socialist City” one of the best places in Europe to do high-tech business.

Feb 03 , 2019 / By :

Sony’s E3 announcement of motion-sensitive capability for their PlayStation 3 controller took everyone by surprise. The biggest surprise, however, was that the developers of Warhawk had only two weeks to implement motion control into their demo. The idea that Sony would keep their own developers in the dark about such a crucial new feature caused many to wonder if the electronics giant was flailing around looking for a winning strategy.HangZhou Night Net

Now, in an interview at IGN, Sony Santa Monica Studios Game Director Brian Upton has revealed a little more information. According to Upton, his development team, Incognito, has “secretly been working with Sony on the tilt technology for a while, but it wasn’t until the last few weeks before E3 that they received a working controller.”

The question that comes to this reporter’s mind is: how long is “a little while”? Is it before or after Nintendo announced their motion-sensitive controller in September of last year? And if a “little while” was that long, why did it take until a few weeks before E3 to get a working controller to developers?

As we have argued before, the answer to the second question may be found by taking a closer look at Sony’s legal battles with Immersion over their patent for “rumble” technology in game controllers. Other companies, such as Microsoft, settled with Immersion and continue to provide rumble functionality in their game consoles. Sony decided to play tough with the little company, but the company failed to defend itself against infringement charges and has already lost one of two pending appeals, making it seem likely that Sony will eventually have to open its pocketbook and write a substantial check to Immersion.

Sony’s official policy is that rumble was removed from the PS3 controller because it interferes with the motion sensors. This statement doesn’t stand up for a number of reasons. For one, Nintendo has demonstrated their motion-sensitive controllers that include rumble technology. Even if Sony couldn’t manage to make both work simultaneously, it would be easy enough (from an engineering standpoint, that is) to automatically turn the motion sensors off while the controller is rumbling. A more likely answer is that Sony was hoping to include rumble right up until the last minute, pending a successful appeal. However, having suffered a tremendous legal defeat instead, it appears as though the company has decided that Immersion’s involvement with the PlayStation brand is finished.

One important thing to remember is that although both the PS3 and the Nintendo Wii can claim “motion sensor ability” as a bullet point on their spec sheets, the two systems are really not very similar. The Wii features absolute position sensing via a control strip of three LEDs arranged below the television, whereas the PS3’s controller merely senses relative motion, primarily involving tilting over the three axes of motion. Games written specifically for the Wii’s controller will not be able to be ported to the PS3 without significant modification.