Category Archives: microsoft

Trying to kill used games is really dumb

If you’re a gamer, last week saw the emergence of a particularly nasty rumour - that Sony’s next-generation PlayStation will not play used games.

According to Kotaku, which cited inside sources, the next console is code-named Orbis and will be released for the holiday season of 2013. More importantly, the device will lock new games to a PlayStation Network account, thereby rendering them useless to anyone other than the initial buyer.

Sony has a history of trying to lock down its stuff, from copy-protected CDs to proprietary memory cards, which is why many are taking the rumour seriously.

It’s no secret the video game industry hates used games. When chains such as Gamestop/EB Games sell a customer a used game, publishers don’t see a nickel. What makes the studios especially angry is that they spend millions marketing their products, yet the retailers devote more floor space to used games. It’s the free-ride argument, video-game style.

In the United States alone, this costs publishers an estimated $2 billion a year, or more than piracy. It’s no wonder they’re looking to fight back, which they’ve been doing with efforts such as “Project $10,” an early form of what Sony is rumoured to be contemplating. Under this scheme, players get a one-time pass to access the online features of their new game. If they trade that game in, the next owner has to pay $10 for a new pass. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on April 2, 2012 in internet, microsoft, nintendo, sony, video games


The Lumia 800: a phone for hipsters?

Everybody likes to root for the underdog, which is why Microsoft and Nokia are weirdly attracting a lot of positive vibes these days. As the New York Times pointed out just before the Consumer Electronics Show started in January, Microsoft in particular was getting rave reviews for its new Windows Phones, a trend not usually associated with the storied software maker.

It’s funny that both companies are now underdogs, given that only a few years ago they were the undisputed kings of their respective realms - Microsoft in software and Nokia in phones. But in a span of only a few short years, Google and Apple largely displaced both and relegated them to also-ran status in the mobile world, which prompted their team-up - with Canadian Stephen Elop at its head - last year.

The fruits of that tag team, the flagship Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone, has finally come to North America via Telus. I’ve been playing with it for the past week with an eye to answering one question: is it a big deal?

First, there are the positives. If you’ve seen the new-ish Windows Phone operating system in action, you know it’s dramatically different than just about everything else out there. Rather than having several screens with grids of apps, Windows Phones have a vertical stack of square tiles. Many of the tiles, such as the “pictures” one, are live so they’re constantly updating with new information.

It’s a very cool interface that makes the phone feel like it’s living and breathing, with new stuff always going on - just like its user’s life. And because it’s so different, it’s a near certainty that Microsoft will manage to avoid the ridiculous patent wars going on between Apple and Android manufacturers over who ripped who off. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 13, 2012 in microsoft, mobile, nokia


RIM’s future isn’t with BlackBerry

Research In Motion finally pulled the trigger Sunday night, with the BlackBerry maker announcing that co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie were stepping down. Chief operating officer Thorsten Heins is the new CEO while board member Barbara Stymiest takes over as chair.

As the saying goes, it’s too little too late.

While investors and analysts alike have been hankering for a change in leadership at RIM for some time now, Heins isn’t exactly the new blood they were hoping for. The German native, who has 20 years of experience at electronics conglomerate Siemens, has been with RIM for the past four years.

While the BlackBerry maker rose to great heights under Lazaridis and Balsillie - at one point it was Canada’s most valuable company - they also oversaw its tremendous fall from grace over the past few years, a spiral that went into overdrive in 2011. Having someone who The Globe and Mail says is their hand-picked successor at the helm isn’t exactly much of a change.

Stymiest, the well-respected director who has been pegged for the chairperson’s role for a while now, has also been with the company since 2007. Investors looking for fresh opinions and directions aren’t likely to get it from the new leaders. Heins even said as much - “There’s no need for me to shake this company up or turn it upside down,” he told the Globe. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 23, 2012 in apple, Google, microsoft, mobile, RIM


2012: The year of pressure

It’s the end of the year, which means it’s time for lists, lists and more lists. Some people hate such year-enders because they are quite possibly the product of lazy writers. That’s partially correct - the truth is, many news outlets compile year-end lists weeks in advance as fillers for the holiday season, when their staff is off on vacation. So it’s not that we’re lazy; we’re just not working. Sometimes the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but this time around they probably are. (In my case, I’m actually writing this on Dec. 28, so I’m exempt.)

I kind of like year-end lists. I dig retrospectives because they remind me of things I might have forgotten - a year is a long time, after all. I also like lists that look ahead because they help get me started on thinking about what’s to come. And again, they remind me of things that may not be top of mind heading into the new year.

That said, here’s my very own list of things that are looking likely for 2012 as they pertain to technology in North America, with special relevance for those of us here in Canada. This isn’t so much a list of predictions as it is a “pressure roundup,” since each item seems inevitable because of the associated momentum building around it.

5. The turfing of RIM’s CEOs.

It would be an understatement to say it’s been a miserable year for Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion, also known as the heart of Canada’s tech industry. From the costly flop of the Playbook tablet to delay-after-delay on much-needed next-generation BlackBerry devices to drunken executives on a plane, there simply wasn’t a shred of good news for RIM in 2011. That means things can only get better in 2012, right? Not exactly. As 2011 closed out, reports emerged that a number of high-profile tech companies, including Amazon, had considered buying RIM. With the company’s stock down close to 80 per cent of where it began the year, that’s not a surprise - it’s a veritable steal now. But with founders and co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie still controlling around 10% of the company, a purchase might be difficult to negotiate. The pressure is therefore on the company’s board to oust the pair and either find someone who can turn the company around, split it up or negotiate a sale. Removing the duo from their jobs would make any of these options easier.

Coincidentally, this past year we also learned a great deal about the history and inner workings of one of RIM’s biggest rivals, Apple, through the Steve Jobs biography. The parallels are there - Jobs built a company that got mired in its own success before he himself got turfed for hubris and an inability to work with others. With Lazaridis and Balsillie attracting “worst CEO of the year” honours for their own alleged arrogance (from the New York Times, no less), perhaps the two could also benefit from stepping away to do something else for a while. It clearly did wonders for Jobs, who learned some humility and co-operation skills before returning to lead Apple to new heights. With RIM’s current trajectory, it just doesn’t seem plausible that Lazaridis and Balsillie will be around when BlackBerry 10 devices finally arrive, supposedly in late 2012. That sure would be good news. Read the rest of this entry »


Microsoft’s Zune Music service comes to Canada

If digital music is your thing, you’ll have one more option come Monday. Microsoft is today announcing that its Zune Music service is finally coming to Canada, starting Oct. 3.

The service will offer 14 million download-to-own tracks at variable pricing, with no copy protection on them. More intriguing is the Zune Music Pass, which is basically an all-you-can-eat option for $9.99 per month (the U.S. store is also dropping its pricing today to that level from $14.99). If you buy a 10-month pass, you get the last two months free.

The pass is pretty cool because it extends across devices, so it can be enabled on a PC, Xbox 360 or Windows Phone.

Microsoft is usually pretty good at getting new products into Canada quickly, but it has been a bit of a laggard with Zune-related things. The original Zune music player was launched in the U.S. in 2006 and didn’t make its way north till 2008, by which point Apple’s iPod had all but cemented a monopoly. The device itself bizarrely launched without the music store to go with it.

The move finally puts Microsoft on par with Apple’s iTunes in Canada. Both now sell video and music across their respective range of devices, although Microsoft scores points by offering the unlimited music option. We’ll see if Apple addresses this at the iPhone 5 unveiling scheduled for next week.

That said, the digital music space is getting pretty crowded with a host of different services available. I wrote up a short piece a few months back about the various options and business models being attempted, check that out here. The good news is, if you’re a music fan there is no shortage of choices for getting tunes, both legally and less so.


Posted by on September 29, 2011 in microsoft


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