Sony hasn’t had the best of luck so far with their plans for the successor to the PlayStation 2. First the launch was delayed from “Spring 2006” to some time in November, and then the company had a disappointing showing at E3, with most of the attention on the PS3 focused on the US$499 to US$599 price, rather than its features.
Now an additional patch of gloom has appeared on the horizon, coming in the form of a report from analyst P.J. McNealy of American Technology Research. McNealy told a group of marketing people at a luncheon that the PlayStation 3 was the “most complex box that’s ever been built in this industry” and that the number of pieces that go into its manufacture are “even more astounding” than the over 1,700 parts that comprise the Xbox 360.
So what does this mean for Sony’s latest game console effort? According to McNealy, despite Sony’s built-in manufacturing advantages, they are going to be limited in the initial yields of the new machine. Sony, for their part, remains committed to their target of 1 million PS3s manufactured each month, with a goal of 6 million shipped by March 2007. However, as with Microsoft, Sony has decided for a simultaneous launch in North America, Europe, and Japan, and this puts additional pressure on the manufacturing process to deliver adequate supplies of the new device.
Microsoft has been down this road before, with initial shipments of the Xbox 360 selling out quickly and shortages following thereafter. It wasn’t until many months had passed that Microsoft was able to resolve their manufacturing difficulties, by which point the early adopter rush had already worn off. However, according to Microsoft, the company has met its manufacturing goals and has now shipped 5 million units of their next-generation console worldwide.
There are some indications that Sony may be aware of possible shortages in the initial shipment. Some retail stores like EBGames and GameStop are reporting that they will be receiving only 20 PS3s per store to start off with, as opposed to the Xbox 360 launch where many stores received up to 50 systems. What could be causing the shortages? With so many advanced components going into the box, it could be many things: the Cell processor, the Blu-ray drive, or even the NVIDIA RSX graphics chip, which was late going into taping and is currently underclocked in the latest PS3 development kits.
Whatever the cause, if the shortage is real it could mean big problems for Sony in the battle to retain its console supremacy. In the all-important Christmas season, if people go to buy a new PS3 and find it sold out, they may just pick up an Xbox 360 instead. Clearly Microsoft is crossing their fingers hoping just such a thing happens.
Art imitates life, and life imitates art. Fans of ABC’s Boston Legal may recall a recent episode where a man sued a company over a dating website that was purportedly ruining his reputation. Now a similar complaint has been filed in the "real world." This time James Spader is nowhere to be found, however.
Todd J. Hollis, a Pennsylvania lawyer and "victim" of what he sees as malicious gossip, has sued both several users and the proprietor of dontdatehimgirl.com, which calls itself "a powerful online resource that lets women out the men who have cheated on or lied to them!" Founded by former Miami Herald columnist Tasha Joseph, the site provides women with the opportunity to create profiles of men and then populate those profiles with (usually) unflattering assessments of their once-suitors. A quick perusal of the site shows common themes ranging from attacks on men’s, um, fortitude to questions about their sexuality, intelligence, fidelity, and even their wives and families (in some cases fictitious, in other cases not).
Hollis was similarly "outed" on the site, where three women made various claims against him, including implying that he carries sexually transmitted diseases, is a failed professional wrestler, and a womanizer. While Hollis is named and identified, his accusers are free to remain anonymous and Hollis contends that not enough is done to verify their identify or the truth of their statements. The site’s only attempt to solicit truthful information is a "checkbox" that users check before submitting information. For Hollis, this is an unacceptable situation, and his suit charges that the proprietor "conspired with disingenuous people whose only agenda is to attack the character of those individuals who have been identified on her site."
Things don’t look so good for Hollis’ case, however. The 1996 Communications Decency Act has again and again been interpreted by the courts as absolving both ISP and website operators for complete responsibility of the materials posted by third parties to the site, although this does not mean that the third parties themselves are necessarily protected. According to Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, one of the lawyers representing Ms. Joseph, holding the site proprietor responsible for the comments of its users is akin to holding a coffee shop owner responsible for what their patrons say. Hollis and his representation see the matter differently, arguing on their website that the service could be considered "an aid to the promotion of hate literature or slanderous material."
Our cursory investigation of the site did turn up some questionable policies, including a prohibition against posting the names and pictures of women who are known to be cheating. "www.DontDateHimGirl.com is for women to post the pictures and profiles of men who have allegedly cheated on them, NOT vice versa," according to the site’s rules. The website also forbids accused men from fully participating in the discussion, instead only allow them to e-mail rebuttals to the site’s administrators, which they say they will post for the men in question.
Whether or not this or any other facet of the site could land the website in hot water remains to be seen. Those who post defamatory materials could be in trouble, however. Website or not, knowingly posting false information with the intent to harm the reputation of another person can be illegal. In this case of "He said/She said," it may take a real judge to settle matters.
Video game retailers are heading into a tough spot right now. Digital distribution is taking off there are more and more ways of selling and buying used games online. I have no doubt they're still making money, and will continue to do so for the next few years before digital distribution really hits its stride with the consoles, but are they looking to the future? Can the chain gaming stores change to meet the online demands of their customers, or will newer companies take over when Gamestop can't keep up?
They have a few years to get their strategy together, because right now there's no official console hard drive add-on that could support the storage of several full-length games. The options brought up in this Next-gen.biz article don't get me excited about their ideas though. Go to the store to buy point cards to spend online to buy games? Will anyone go for that? The only market I see for a service like that would be people without bank or credit cards, otherwise why add a middle-man to that sort of transaction? A Gamestop download service was also mentioned, but with more companies looking into selling their games direct to the consumer, why again would they go through a middle and lose some of the profit?
Used games will always be a good way to make money, but if the license for games you bought online is able to be transferred, that market could dry us as well. Do the brick and mortar stores have a chance, or is digital distribution so far out that worrying about it now is kind of silly? I think it's closer than we think, and the higher-ups are starting to get the sweats. They know it's coming; will they have a good business model when the time comes?
How big is your hard drive, exactly? This question has caused no small amount of consternation, not only to geeks, but to hard drive companies as well. Western Digital, one of the largest manufacturers of computer hard drives, has just announced a settlement in the class-action lawsuit filed against it in California.
The lawsuit charged that Western Digital sold hard drives, specifically their 80GB WD800VE drive and their 120GB WD1200B011 model, that had only 79,971,254,272 bytes (74.4GB) and 120,002,150,400 bytes (111GB) of usable storage. All this confusion comes from the binary definition of kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes, which are 210 (1024), 220 (1,048,576), and 230 (1,073,741,824) bytes respectively.
Apart from math geeks and fans of the binary counting system, does anyone really care about the differences between kilo- and mega- in their binary forms versus their metric forms? The lawsuit charges that consumers do care, because they have become familiar with binary amounts in two ways: from the typical amounts of memory received with every new computer (128, 256, 512 MB and so forth), and because the computer’s operating system itself reports free space in terms of binary megabytes and gigabytes. The suit even went on to reference the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and that organization’s proposed renaming of the binary standards to “kibibyte” and “mebibyte,” arguing that the world’s failure to adopt these new terms means that the old binary definitions for kilobytes and megabytes should still stand.
In the end, all this fibble and kibibble winds up with Western Digital offering to compensate customers with a US$30 refund, which the company will provide in the form of free backup and recovery software valued at the same amount. Customers wishing to take advantage of this offer need to visit WD’s site and sign up for the Claim Form, which must be completed by July 17.
Last night I finally made it out to my local IMAX theater to check out Superman in 3D. I'm not going to review the movie for you, there are a lot of places online for that, but the 3D effects bear mentioning in terms of movie-geekery. It was quite the experience. There are some very slight spoilers ahead, so be careful.
The first thing a lot of people don't know is that the entire movie isn't in 3D, only about 20 minutes or so give you the effect. A blinking glasses icon on the bottom of the screen warns you when something is going to happen, and then if the theater is packed you get to listen to hundred of people put their glasses on at the same time. It's quite the noise. The glasses themselves were large and comfortable, and fit easily over my prescription frames. The first 3D scene is kind of a fun look back at Supe's childhood, and the second one… well, it's worth the price of admission alone.
The plane crash scene, on the IMAX screen, in 3D, was more exciting than many rollercoasters I've been on. In my theater the sound was cranked, and many people had their hands over their ears. The 3D effect is intense, and does a good job of putting you in the movie. I felt battered by the time the scene was over. I actually heard people screaming in the audience in places. It didn't feel like a comic book movie during this scene, when people got hurt, it looked brutal. Some of the imagery was beautiful, some of it ugly, but everything together made your jaw drop. When the scene is over and you get the nice reveal shot of Superman, a lot of people stood up and cheered. You really did feel like you saw something, well, super.
The 3D effect was impressive in most cases, but there was some slight doubling in the image even with the glasses on in places. You can also catch some odd details when the effect glitched up. In one scene a hand seemed to be about a foot in front of the arm it was supposed to be attached to. Other than these slight nitpicks, it was a great way to watch the movie, and the flying scenes were all incredible.
The movie itself I found pretty blah, but the 3D experience more than made up for it. If you have an IMAX in your area, it's worth the drive and the extra money. I left impressed, and ready to sit down and see the whole thing again.