The Music Industry Wants The Digital Copyright Law Reformed

First, we had live music, then we got vinyl records, then cassettes and CD’s and now we can enjoy our music anywhere we like in the palm of our hand thanks to Digital music. The problem is that being able to share and copy music so easily isn’t for everyone and the American music industry wants the Digital Copyright Law Reformed.

Why does someone want the Digital Copyright Law reformed? The American music industry argues that the approach of issuing takedown notices to people who upload content illegally just doesn’t work when combating the number of web addresses and options people have for uploading music. They claim that the safe harbor passages of the Digital Copyright Law actually protect those who benefit from piracy, such as google with its search engine and YouTube videos.

As part of the reform, the music industry is looking at technology like audio fingerprinting to spot piracy before something is even uploaded. They are also asking that a takedown notice for say a song on YouTube, would affect all illegal copies of the song on that site. While the music industry may argue that issuing takedown requests at the moment doesn’t help enough, Google would argue that after a recent study as many as 30 percent of the takedown requests they received were dodgy.

People currently argue that the Digital copyright law is a guilty-until-proven-innocent piece of legislation, that often ends up with videos and content that use music for legal reasons are flagged up on systems. Asking for copyright law to be reformed, especially around its safe harbor passages, could result in the law being relaxed, or entirely new measures being put in place to combat the onslaught of takedown requests sites and search engines receive for both genuine and ‘dodgy’ reasons.

Storywriter Cameron Harris is Leaving BioWare

BioWare is known for their stories, from the magical world of Dragon Age: Inquisition to the space-faring scenes the of Star Wars and Mass Effect. One of the people responsible for these tales of adventure is senior editor, Cameron Harris. That is until April when she will leave BioWare.

In a series of tweets, Harris announced that she would be leaving the video game industry for “new opportunities”. Entering the video game in 2007, Harris has worked for everyone from Microsoft to Nintendo and ArenaNet but is clearly looking for something a little different.

In her tweets, Harris thanked everyone at BioWare for everything they’ve taught her, followed by everyone in the games industry as a whole and then thanking everyone who was a fan while she did her “games thang”.

https://twitter.com/camharr/status/705875693951791104

https://twitter.com/camharr/status/705875814106050560

This isn’t the first time someone’s left BioWare, and the third time this year alone. Previously Dragon Age’s lead writer, David Gaider, left in January followed by the lead writer for Mass Effect’s latest game, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Chris Schlerf in February.

Yet another great writer leaves the industry. I personally love the games where every minute you play drags you into their world more and more, with you eventually hating the bad guy and wishing you could have saved everyone from their fates. We wish Harris all the best in her future pursuits and hope she understands how much her tales have helped shape our smiles and lives.

Activision Will Not be Hosting an E3 Press Event

Activision is one of the leading attractions during press events due to the Call of Duty series which continues to sell an impressive number of units every year. You might expect given the yearly release cycle and similar gameplay mechanics, consumers to become less enthusiastic. Although, the series certainly receives some criticism for its iterative updates, and ability to make so much money! As always, each year’s unveiling of the latest entry gains a lot of media attention and publicity on social media. Whether it’s mocking the franchise, or discussing its merits, there’s a great deal of social media engagement.

However, Activision has decided to forgo their usual plans, and will not be hosting a press conference during E3 this year. The reasoning behind this is to save money, and raises questions about the importance of E3 in the gaming industry. This move follows EA’s plans to also have a small presence during E3. It’s important to remember that both companies will be in attendance, but they won’t be showcasing their games in a dedicated press conference. EA is launching their own event, which probably has much smaller fees compared to a booth on the E3 show floor. However, Activision doesn’t seem to be adopting a similar strategy and just scaling back their efforts.

So what does this mean? Perhaps, big publishers no longer see a return of investment from events like E3 and feel it’s not financially prudent. In an era where there’s a huge array of media events including Gamescom, Pax and others, they might not perceive E3 as that important. This decision clearly revolves around money and I’m sure their research suggests that any presence at E3 isn’t making a substantial difference with sales.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts regarding E3 and if you feel it’s still relevant in the modern gaming industry?

If Elected President Donald Trump Vows to Cause Amazon Problems

Donald Trump seems to thrive on controversy and has rapidly become the favourite candidate for the Republican nomination. Initially, political commentators dismissed Trump and believed it was only a matter of time before he exited the presidential race. However, whenever Trump makes shocking remarks no other politician would dream of, his popularity skyrockets. Please note as a technology website, we endeavour to leave any political inklings aside and report in a fair manner. During a recent speech, Trump discussed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his acquisition of The Washington Post.

Trump proclaimed:

“I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he bought The Washington Post to have political influence, and I gotta tell you, we have a different country than we used to have,”

“He owns Amazon. He wants political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it. That’s not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”

This is a fairly worrying statement and suggests Trump wants to impose penalties on Amazon for his bitter dispute with founder Jeff Bezos. Perhaps this is just posturing and Trump’s attempt to publicly embarrass Jeff Bezos. Some of you might remember, Jeff Bezos posted a tweet offering Trump a reserved seat on the Blue Origin rocket. This is quite a rare occurrence and Bezos only has 15 total tweets to his account. Clearly, Trump believes Jeff Bezos purchased The Washington Post sorely for political gain to enhance Amazon’s influential position as a retail giant. Of course, this will only matter if Trump wins the Republican nomination and then ends up victorious during the presidential campaign. It’s not beyond the realms of fantasy though and Trump has already made warnings against Apple’s use of non-American workers.

Amazon isn’t the most reputable of companies because of tax avoidance behaviour and evidence of poor working conditions. Employees work under extreme stress and every packaged item is monitored. This can be devastating for morale, and applies so much pressure. It’s even been argued that Amazon’s working conditions can exacerbate underlying mental health problems.

Image courtesy of Forbes.

Warren Spector: ‘I Really Haven’t Seen a Whole Lot of Progress’ in Mainstream Games

Warren Spector is a video game level designer who helped pioneer the concept of non-linear gameplay and the ability to cater to different styles. The most famous example is Deus Ex which gave the player the freedom to choose between stealth tactics or a more aggressive approach. Warren Spector also produced a huge range of iconic games including Ultima VI, Wing Commander, System Shock and more! In recent years, he worked on the Epic Mickey series which received fairly poor reviews. While the first game was pretty decent, its sequel was terrible, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. In a recent interview with Gamasutra, Spector criticized the current mainstream gaming market and explained why he was returning to develop System Shock 3:

“I can’t believe I’m about to say this — I’ll never work in this industry again — but in the mainstream space I really haven’t seen a whole lot of progress. It seems like we’re getting more finely-tuned, prettier versions of games we’ve been playing for years.”

“What I want to do, is I see a variety of places where we could make some strides that would help take games to the next level. The biggest one, for me, is more robust characters and character AI. We’ve gotten very good at combat AI, we’ve made great strides there, but I don’t think we’ve done much in the world of non-combat AI and interacting with people — human or otherwise. We haven’t done a lot with conversation, and establishing emotional relationships with characters in games. So I’d very much like to play with that,”

“So I’ve done the big-budget, huge team thing, and at this point what I’d like to do is smaller, lower-budget, almost like “games as a service” model games that require somewhere between 10-20 people to make. I don’t want to get much bigger than that,”

“I don’t want to get so far away from the game that I have to spend all my time running an enormous studio and dealing with publishers. I want to be in the thick of it, so smaller teams is part of the deal.”

Some might argue modern games opt for sequels based on previous success due the cost of development. Although, there does seem to be a lack of innovation right now. Do you think Warren Spector has a point?

GameTrailers Shuts Down After 13 Years

GameTrailers was a very popular video game website which specialized in unique previews, reviews, recorded footage and HD trailers. The website had a very passionate community and became involved in uploading community content. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to keep the site running due to advent of Twitch, YouTube and other video services. Despite operating for 13 years, GameTrailers is now officially over, and all the staff members have lost their jobs. GameTrailers’ Editor-in-Chief, Brandon Jones made the announcement on Twitter and thanked fans for their long-term support:

Clearly, the site found it extremely difficult to retain a large audience as trailers were posted on YouTube by leading publishers. Additionally, the advent of NeoGAF, Reddit and other popular forums probably contributed to their demise. It’s extraordinarily difficult to run a video games website and keep paying the bills. Perhaps, AdBlock had a major effect to the site’s revenue. Whatever the case, GameTrailers is the latest website to be removed, and follows the likes of CVG. According to Associate Editor Ben Moore, the team only heard about the site’s closure hours before it went public:

“Hi everyone, Ben here. I just wanted to confirm that GameTrailers is shutting down officially today. Everyone is being let go. We all found out mere hours ago, so we’re still reeling a bit. Sincerely, thank you all for the tremendous support.”

This a shocking way to treat employees who worked for over 13 years at a company. It’s uncertain if the ex-employees will move to other websites, or even stay in the industry. The rise of streaming and YouTube celebrities has really made traditional gaming sites seem from a different, bygone era. Who knows which site will be next, but in many cases, it looks inevitable.

Are you sad to see the end of GameTrailers?

Image courtesy of Polygon

Donald Trump Claims he Will Make Apple Start Building Computers in The US

Donald Trump is a divisive figure who seems to thrive on controversy. Whenever he voices any sort of xenophobic or racist remarks, his popularity increases. While there’s an ongoing discussion in the UK about banning Trump, you cannot overlook his ability to resonate with certain voters in the USA. The majority of Trump’s rhetoric revolves around making America great through nationalistic, patriotic speeches and decrying the current state of the USA. During a talk at Liberty University today, Trump made outlandish claims about Apple’s workforce and promised to bring employment back to US citizens:

“We have such amazing people in this country: smart, sharp, energetic, they’re amazing,”

“I was saying make America great again, and I actually think we can say now, and I really believe this, we’re gonna get things coming… we’re gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries.”

Clearly, this is pure fantasy as bringing a huge amount of manufacturing jobs back to the US isn’t financially feasible. Apple is well aware they can acquire labour in the Asian market at a reduced rate, and maximize profits. While it’s possible for some jobs at the company to be created in the USA, Apple isn’t obliged to offer jobs to a specific nation. In all honesty, this is another political tool being used by Trump to try and emphasize his pro-American ideology. Whatever the case, Trump has become a laughing stock in many countries and his views are mocked all over social media platforms. This is exemplified by various internet memes and brief Vine clips.

Apple has rightfully received criticism for its tax avoidance and could face a hefty charge by the European Commission. On the other hand, the idea that someone running for president can suddenly bring the US workforce back to a company driven by profit is absurd.

Image courtesy of The Atlantic.

Ultimaker 2+ 3D Printer Demoed @ CES 2016

CES 2016: 3D Printing is possibly the most exciting technological development in recent years and has the potential to change the world. This is a bold statement, but the option to scan any custom design and create a working 3D model is astonishing. Since 2013, Ultimaker have been a popular choice in the medical profession and small production lines due to the precision and reliability of their 3D printing hardware. Furthermore, the company has priced their 3D printers quite competitively which makes them a great value proposition. During CES 2016, the company showcased two new products; the Ultimaker2+ and the Ultimaker2 Extended+.

As the name suggests, the Extended+ is designed to print off larger items. Both units now feature interchangeable nozzles which can be easily changed in seconds. This makes maintenance extremely easy. Additionally, the products now have a more powerful gear feeder and enhanced print head cooling. In terms of pricing, the Ultimaker2+ retails for $2,499 while the Ultimaker2 Extended+ costs $3,030.

GAME Digital’s Revenue Falls Sharply And Warns of ‘Challenging’ Trading Conditions

GAME Digital is a UK retailer offering a huge array of consoles, accessories, games and digital content. Back in 2012, the GAME Group went into administration following ill-advised management decisions and inability to adapt to the modern market. Since then, GAME has embraced digital credit, and even partnered with Razer to stock various high-end PC gaming peripherals. However, according to the BBC, shares in GAME Digital fell 70.75p, or 34%, to 135p due to ‘challenging’ trading conditions. GAME Digital‘s financial report doesn’t make for good reading and illustrates how difficult it is to remain competitive in an industry moving towards digital distribution. Not only that, there’s huge competition from online giants like Amazon which don’t have to pay extortionate rent figures across various town centres.

The company’s chief executive, Martyn Gibbs provided a reason for the terrible operating numbers and said:

“The trading conditions in the UK video games market have been challenging,” 

“The switch over from the older gaming formats to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One software has impacted profitability across the UK market.

“The extent of the impact of this switch over has only become apparent in December which has been compounded by lower year on year high street and shopping centre footfall. The pre-Christmas period and the winter sale are very important to our customers and with market leading offers we remain well prepared in our stores and online for the remaining peak trading period.”

Clearly, GAME was relying on the second-hand sales from the previous generation consoles while expecting more people to acquire the latest consoles. On the other hand, the uptake of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has been quite surprising, and it’s just that consumers are opting to purchase from cheaper options such as ShopTo, and SimplyGames. This doesn’t necessarily mean GAME’s future is in doubt, but it seems they’re going to miss their sales targets during the holiday period by a considerable margin. This is important because a huge proportion of the company’s profits come during the Christmas rush.

Apple’s Stock Drops by Over $160 Billion

The smartphone market is expected to stagnate as sales grow at a slower pace in major western territories. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule such as India where the introduction of affordable handsets increases the ownership rate by a significant margin. However, it can be argued that smartphone users are less likely to upgrade considering the capabilities of their current handsets. According to data acquired by USA Today, Apple’s stock value dropped by over $160 billion and showcases the challenges in the smartphone market. Here we can see the effects of this downturn and some critics have argued this trend will continue in the near future:

Apple could become a victim of its own success, as it’s extraordinarily difficult to keep increasing sales figures while being at the top. It’s plausible for a downturn to occur as consumers become content with the current offerings or simply look for alternatives. In an era where there’s powerful yet affordable smartphones out there, it’s possible that the iPhone’s price might alienate a section of the market. On the other hand, Apple’s recent iPhone launch set new sales records and did remarkably well. Currently, the smartphone decline appears to be a result of the Chinese market not posting the kind of sales figures many companies hoped for.

Apple CEO Tim Cook Refutes Tax Avoidance Claims

Apple has been accused of tax avoidance and exploiting loopholes in US legislation to move profits to tax havens. For example, Apple’s tax base is in Ireland with a 12.5% corporate rate while the US taxation figure is around 35%. As a result, some critics have argued this is a sophisticated way to either delay paying tax or reduce Apple’s bill. Recently, Tim Cook described the current US tax system in an interview with Charlie Rose on the programme 60 Minutes:

“This is a tax code, Charlie, that was made for the industrial age, not the digital age. It’s backwards. It’s awful for America. It should have been fixed many years ago. It’s past time to get it done.”

Cook became quite aggravated and described the claims of tax avoidance as:

“total political crap.”

He also went onto say that moving the assets into the US would have severe financial implications:

“Because it would cost me 40% [in taxes] to bring it home. And I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing to do,”

Clearly, Tim Cook believes that the current US tax system is completely broken and in need for huge reforms. Not only that, he made bold statements about Apple’s behaviour and the amount of tax they put into the US economy:

“There is no truth behind it. Apple pays every tax dollar we owe,”

“We pay more taxes in this country than anyone.”

This is an interesting statement to make, and the idea that Apple pays a large amount of tax seems fairly credible. However, the amount paid is due to how successful Apple is compared to other companies. What really matters is the percentage of tax paid in regards to Apple’s total earnings. Are they actually paying the full amount, or employing complex schemes to maximize profits? Sadly, I don’t think we will ever know unless there is an independent investigation.

Image courtesy of newspaperplus.com

Micron to Acquire Taiwanese Chip Company Inotera For $3.2 Billion

Micron Technology Inc. is an American manufacturer of memory chips, including dynamic random-access memory, flash memory, and solid-state drives. The company announced today it will purchase the remaining 67% of shares in Taiwan’s Inotera Memories Inc. This is a deal valued at $3.2 billion and gives Micron full ownership of this particular outfit. During November, Inotera’s monthly sales fell by 23% and reported the lowest monthly revenue this year. Micron’s Chief Executive, Mark Durcan said in a statement:

“The acquisition is the culmination of a highly successful seven year partnership with Inotera,”

The semiconductor business is very competitive and perhaps Micron wants a greater say in the production line. This is clearly a huge sum of money, but the falling sales figures might have made the takeover bid make more business sense. With the growth of ultra fast PCI-E drives, there’s the possibility of SATA devices being replaced in the future. Although, this could take some time. Whatever the case, it will be fascinating to see how Micron’s development continues and the effect of this acquisition.

Are you using a SATA, M.2 or PCI-E boot drive?

DirectX 12 3DMark Shown For The First Time!

3DMark is an essential tool in the technology industry and predominately used to differentiate between various graphics cards. More specifically, FireStrike, FireStrike Extreme and FireStrike Ultra determines the GPU’s performance at different resolutions and provides an accurate score which many leading hardware websites depend on. That’s not to say it’s just for professional use though, as some enthusiasts like to bench hardware and see the enhancements in driver revisions as well as small core clock adjustments. DirectX 11 is a functional API but doesn’t offer anywhere near the optimizations and low overheads in DirectX 12. As a result, DirectX 12 is often perceived as a revolutionary step which encourages multi-GPU configurations and utilizes each person’s setup in a more effective manner.

The latest big update to 3DMark revolves around these major changes and has been kept under wraps for some time. However, 3DMark’s product manager, Pasi Virtanen showcased the current working build of 3DMark using DirectX 12 during a presentation. According to Pasi Virtanen, the upcoming edition will feature two GPU tests, including the “Time Spy” benchmark and a CPU test. Apparently, this will provide some of the most complex benchmarking tools ever devised and incorporate leading DirectX 12 attributes in the testing procedure.

Currently, there’s no firm release date as the software suite is being worked on. Although, early reports suggest it will probably launch sometime in 2016. I cannot wait to see if DirectX 12 lives up to its potential and how developers manage to cope with the new API.

Gaming Industry Analyst Michael Pachter Doesn’t Expect The Nintendo NX to Arrive Next Year

Michael Pachter is possibly the only video game and electronics research analyst known to the public and renowned for making bold claims. As a result, he’s often ridiculed by the gaming community and every prediction he makes isn’t taken seriously. Despite this, Pachter has been talking more business sense of late and making accurate, if fairly generic predictions. During his own show, entitled, Pachter Factor“, Pachter was asked by a Siftd.net user:

“When do you predict the Nintendo NX will be released in the United States?”

He replied:

“I would say 20% chance it comes out in 2016 in the U.S., 80% chance it comes out in 2017. If you don’t see it before E3, there’s a 0% chance it’s coming out in 2016.”

While he’s not counting out the Wii U’s successor coming in 2016, it seems unlikely and would give the Wii U a respectable 5 year lifecycle. 2016 just seems far too early and Nintendo needs to focus on releasing a superb Zelda game for the Wii U. Although, I’m pretty sure it will also end up on the NX. On another note, we know absolutely nothing about the NX’s specification, form factor, and if Nintendo decides to drop physical media altogether. I hope not given the prices on the digital eShop store. Currently, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are struggling with modern games, so it’s an interesting time for the console market. Nintendo really wants to attract third-party support and this can only be done via serious hardware capable of matching or surpassing the current consoles.

Xbox Two And PlayStation 5 Rumored For 2018 Release With 4K Support

The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are already struggling to keep pace with the demands of modern, graphically intense titles. As a result, the Xbox One’s resolution can drop to an absurd 720P and the PlayStation 4 often dips below the magical 1080P figure. Additionally, it’s ridiculous that the current consoles cannot maintain 60 frames-per-second at 1080P. In many cases, games can drop to the 25 frames-per-second mark and make for a terrible experience. So why are the consoles so weak? It’s mainly due to financial reasons as both companies opted for weaker hardware to reduce losses when selling the hardware. Unlike many other console generations, the Xbox One and PlayStation were already dated on launch compared to mid-range PCs.

In 2015, the consoles and especially the Xbox One can be beaten by a budget system, which doesn’t make them an attractive proposition. Clearly, the last console generation was extremely long and an anomaly in the gaming industry. However, consumers see consoles as an investment and expect a good lifespan throughout each generation. According to Valuewalk, AMD is preparing for the next line-up of consoles and producing chips which offer a huge performance boost. Also, both manufacturers are targeting the 4K market and expect 4K gaming to become the next major standard. I’m a little skeptical about this as the graphical horsepower required to run games at 4K is staggering, and even a GTX 980 Ti cannot run games at 4K while opting for maximum settings. On the other hand, consoles usually utilize more modest presets and 2018 is still some time off.

Reports have suggested that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4’s replacement models could arrive as early as 2018. If true, this is astonishing given the lack of major exclusives on the current consoles. While there’s a few notable exceptions like Bloodborne and Halo 5, it’s nothing compared to the previous generation. On another note, the next console line-up will certainly be based on the X86 platform which makes backwards compatibility quite easy. Perhaps, this will give the incentive to push the consoles out so early, and almost justify the short lifespan.

Whatever the case, this is a intriguing situation, and I do think the reports have some validity. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are simply not powerful enough nor are there a large selection of exclusives to showcase gameplay over visuals. Even though the console sales figures are impressive, both manufacturers have to compete with mobile, and devices like the NVIDIA Android TV. In all likelihood, a 2019 release would make more sense, but I strongly believe launching the consoles too soon will create a massive backlash.

Image source

Razer Launching Corporate Investment Fund in 2016

Razer is one of the leading peripheral manufacturers in the world and continues to grow at an impressive pace. More specifically, in 2014, the company was valued at over $1 billion due to an undisclosed investment from Intel. Over the last few years, Razer has expanded beyond the peripheral market and sold products in other sectors such as the Razer Blade 2015 ultrabook. Their financial success has given them the room to open a corporate venture capital fund which allow clients to use Razer’s industry expertise. CEO and co-founder Min-Liang Tan told Techcrunch:

“The plan is really to find strategic companies that we can help and [that can] leverage off of our profile,”

“We’re really globally covered… and can pretty much [assist them] before they even more into a new geographies or jurisdictions.”

“We can [tell portfolio companies that] this is what we learned in this jurisdiction. For example, here’s our European sales manager and they can talk to him. He’s not going to help you do your work, but he’s sure as hell going to take you 70 percent of the way there by telling you what the pitfalls are. We’ve got people on the ground who have been doing the exact same work [for years],” 

Razer is already a massive brand name and believes they can employ their marketing skills to help clients become a success story. The current market situation is fragile, and it’s incredibly difficult to be a commercial success. As a result, I can see this venture becoming quite popular as companies or individuals seek an investment. Currently, there isn’t a specific date set for Razer’s capital fund, but it looks likely to begin sometime in 2016.

Lenovo Reports First Loss in Six Years

Despite being one of the leading PC vendors, Lenovo is experiencing a tough financial period and recorded a $714 million net loss. This is the first loss the company has reported in 6 years and makes for some alarming reading. One root cause is a major restructuring programme resulting in 3,200 job losses. Additionally, the acquisition of Motorola was a costly endeavor, and Lenovo had to accept $300 million worth of unsold handsets.

PC sales also reduced by 17 percent compared to last year, but this is expected given the current market. Furthermore, the 17 percent drop is actually one of the better results when compared to other manufacturers. However, I’m pretty convinced the Superfish malware scandal didn’t do the company any favours and caused a great deal of negative publicity. As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if consumers were more hesitant to buy Lenovo products in the future. On the other hand, the amount of people who actually know about this controversy is quite small and the average consumer doesn’t really follow the latest technology news.

Whatever the case, the financial results aren’t as worrying as they first seem due to Lenovo’s current costs. Realistically, there’s no reason why they can’t turn a profit again, but it will be especially difficult in the competitive smartphone sector.

Asda Avoiding Black Friday Sales Chaos Due to ‘Shopper Fatigue’

Black Friday is a US tradition which involves heavily discounted items and has slowly become an integral shopping event around the world. Two years ago, UK supermarket Asda decided to launch their own Black Friday event which ended in absolute anarchy. When the doors opened, shoppers began scuffling, and desperately trying to pick up items at a discounted price. The nation’s behavior was appalling and went against the civilized British stereotype.

With Black Friday once again approaching, Asda’s chief executive, Andy Clarke told the BBC that the company will not offer any discount events:

“The decision to step away from Black Friday is not about the event itself,”

“Over the last two years we’ve developed an organised, well-executed plan, but this year customers have told us loud and clear that they don’t want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales.”

This seems like a PR way of saying they don’t want to deal with customers fighting between themselves, and tearing the store apart. It’s important to remember, staff had to call the police during Asda’s original Black Friday promotion. I applaud Asda for doing this and setting an example, but I highly doubt other stores will follow suit. Clearly, Black Friday is a massive earner for supermarkets, and retail chains.

Apple CEO Believes PCs Are Pointless

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is a divisive figure and has now predicted the fatal demise of the PC platform. In an interview with The Telegraph, he made a number of outrageous comments and said:

“I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?”

“The iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones.”

According to Apple’s CEO, the PC is an outdated piece of hardware and he believes it’s ridiculous to consider even buying one. I’ve heard some laughable statements from Apple employees in the past, but this really does set an unassailable standard of idiocy. Tablets and smartphones are usually supplementary devices and cannot replace the traditional desktop in terms of power, or usability. They are wonderful for quickly checking e-mails, or viewing YouTube videos, but you really need a keyboard and mouse to efficiency complete business tasks.

On another note, PC gaming is continuing to flourish and attracting more people to the platform. It seems bizarre for Tim Cook to directly attack the PC, considering their market share is very small. It’s a completely different sector and the statistics illustrate how many people use PCs in comparison to Apple devices. Rest assured, the PC isn’t going anywhere, and low sales are down to two major factors.

Firstly, most people don’t feel the need to upgrade on a regular basis due to the power of budget CPUs. Furthermore, building a PC is incredibly easy, and consumers are less reliant on vendors. Even if you’re not comfortable with the process, most people should know at least one person capable of making a custom machine.

This is certainly Tim Cook’s largest blunder and it’s bound to reaffirm Apple’s out-of-touch attitude with the hardware market.

LG Records $68 Million Loss in Mobile Division

LG’s G3 and G4 handsets have received widespread positive reviews and characterized by a remarkable image sensor. Additionally, the G4’s superb price, beautiful display and optional leather back make it a fantastic choice around the £350 mark. Sadly, LG’s superb handset range hasn’t resulted in a profitable venture and reported a huge loss of $68 million.

This is dreadful when you consider sales have increased by 12% in North America, although worldwide figures dropped 21% year-over-year. LG‘s report demonstrates the difficulties many manufacturers face in the smartphone market. While the hardware is excellent, LG’s software can be slightly buggy but things have impressed in the last few months. Additionally, the LG Flex 2 hasn’t made a major impact and ended up being a very niche device.

Perhaps, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC deterred some people from purchasing as the chip’s overheating issues are well documented. Also, the European version only contains 2GB of RAM, which lingers behind many other handsets in 2015. The most likely reason is the emergence of ultra-cheap but feature-rich smartphones from Chinese companies like Hauwei.

As a result, it’s such a competitive sector and difficult to attain large sales. LG’s financial position is becoming similar to HTC which is a shame.

Do you currently own an LG handset?

Intel Posts Impressive Financial Q3 Results

Intel has reported a total revenue of $14.5 billion in Q3 of this year and gross margin reaching 63%. The revenue is up 10% compared the last quarter, and the gross margin increased by 0.5 point. Furthermore,  the company procured $5.7 billion in cash from operations, paid $1.1 billion dividends and offset $1 billion to repurchase 36 million shares of stock. This is impressive given the current economic situation and demonstrates Intel’s strong position in the technology sector.

In the last decade, Intel has dominated the enthusiast CPU market and continues to be the choice for workstations and high-end machines. However, AMD’s upcoming Zen architecture could shake things up and cause a pricing war on powerful chips. Sadly, AMD’s financial position isn’t very strong and key staff members are leaving on a regular basis. Intel’s position is similar to an oligopoly as AMD tries to entice more mainstream consumers to opt for APUs.

Intel has also been working hard to improve their mobile CPUs, and embedded graphics solutions. The company’s current focus is still on engineering more efficient CPUs instead of resorting to large power demands. Whatever the case, Intel is doing quite well from a business standpoint, and looks set to weather any financial storm.

Thank you Legit Reviews for providing us with this information.

Apple Reigns Supreme at US Tax Avoidance

The legality and moral outrage surrounding tax avoidance has been a hotly-discussed topic throughout the world. Many leading corporations from Apple to IBM exploit loopholes in the tax system to reduce their bill and hold assets offshore from their US base. As a result, this net revenue isn’t taxable and allows for increased profits. Sadly, many companies refuse to publicly disclose the nature of moving assets offshore, but new data provides evidence regarding the top 30 US companies who didn’t object to this information going public.

In the US, this data was collated by the Center for Tax Justice’s analysis of SEC filings. As you can see from the graph, Apple came in 1st place moving $181 billion of taxable assets offshore to avoid paying taxation. This is a significant margin ahead of other companies but might simply refer to Apple’s financially strong situation. The chart contains a wealth of technological companies and signifies how tax avoidance is commonplace in the industry. In recent years, governments have promised to clamp down on tax avoidance due to public pressure.

However, very rarely does this result in any meaningful change. Only recently did Amazon start paying corporation tax in the UK after a long period of employing complicated tax schemes. I highly doubt the data will deter people from buying Apple products but it emphaizes how their company and similar technology behemoths are run. From a business standpoint, if a company can maximize their profits, they will within the confines of the law.

How do you feel about technology companies avoiding taxation?

Thank you Quartz for providing us with this information.

The Pope Argues Social Media Has Caused Loneliness

Social media is an integral component of modern society and theoretically helps people to stay in contact with friends, family members and business acquaintances. However, our over-reliance on impersonal communication is arguably causing humans to experience loneliness according to a speech by Pope Francis:

“Today’s culture seems to encourage people to not bond with anything or anyone,”  

“The most important thing today seems to be to follow the latest trend of activity, even at a religious level. Today consumerism determines what is important.”

“I would dare say that at the root of so many contemporary situations is a kind of radical loneliness that so many people live in today. Running after the latest fad, a like, accumulating followers on any of the social networks.”

This isn’t a new phenomenon as social media has been blamed for negatively impacting on people’s ability to converse with others. Furthermore, the ‘selfie’ culture and need to let others know of daily activities could indicate a rise in narcissistic behavior. On the other hand, this might just be a part of evolution as humans become more liberal and forthright with their routine.

It’s certainly an interesting discussion topic and I personally believe those addicted to social media who check-in online before brushing their teeth are extremely lonely and in denial. Social media is a wonderful invention providing we use it responsibility and not at the expense of human interaction.

Do you think social media is a cause of society’s problems?

Thank you Wired for providing us with this information.

Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida Thinks Consoles Are Far From Doomed

Everyone’s favourite video gaming analyst, Michael Pachter, has claimed the current console generation will be the last, which ruffled quite a few feathers among console players and industry figures. Today, Shuhei Yoshida, the President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, directly addressed Pachter’s predictions during a livestreamed panel at EGX:

“Michael is fun to listen to, right? (laughs)

[…]

We look at all of these analyst reports, and every year, from the same company, the forecast changes hugely, because of the things that happen in the year before. They change their prediction dramatically.

I don’t, you know, mind hearing something like that, because it’s so interesting… Consoles were announced dead for the longest time. Even at the time when PlayStation One was being worked on, some analyst said that PC games would dominate in the future and there would be no place for home consoles.

Every time these things are proven wrong, and as long as we have passionate people wanting to continue to play on game consoles, we wll try hard to continue, and even make it bigger for the future.”

This is certainly a polarizing topic and there are legitimate arguments on both sides. Console sales are quite impressive, but there is a distinct lack of first-party-exclusives and over-reliance on HD remasters. Furthermore, the future is clearly digital and offsetting the processing power to the cloud. While I don’t think consoles will completely disappear, they might alter into a streaming device without any physical media.

Do you think the days of traditional consoles are numbered?

Thank you DualShockers for providing us with this information. 

Sony Pictures Considered Purchasing BitTorrent Inc

Sony Pictures seriously considered the acquisition of BitTorrent Inc. according to leaked presentation slides procured from TorrentFreak. The documentation shows Sony Pictures added BitTorrent Inc. to a shortlist alongside Netflix, TiVo, Vongo and Starz to help diversify their business. This strategy was outlined in 2006 and set aside $2-4 billion to acquire the business and offer video content through streaming technology. The idea was to integrate streaming capabilities into set-top boxes and Televisions. Sony also received information about BitTorrent’s plans to create a video store, but this never came to fruition.

Eventually, Sony dismissed the investment opportunity and purchased Grouper and a 25% stake in Starz Media. While BitTorrent can be used for legal activities such as downloading Linux distributions, it’s widely adopted as a means to acquire copyrighted material. On another note, Sony must be kicking themselves for missing out on the potential of Netflix which is arguably the future of video content. However, Netflix was still in its infancy at the time and didn’t provide any major streaming services.

The course of events is quite intriguing and emphasizes how different modern media could be if decisions were changed a few years ago. Whatever the case, it seems BitTorrent usage is still rife, and Sony could only dream of matching the popularity of Netflix.

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

Toshiba Reports $318m Net Loss

Toshiba’s fiscal performance from the year start to March has finally been revealed and recorded a net loss of $318 million. The delayed result was caused by the sale of its investment in Finnish firm, Kone to try to recoup financial confidence after senior management figures overstated profits by an estimated $1.22 billion. Despite the rather worrying financials, Toshiba is bullish about the future and released a statement which said:

“While the US economy had lost some momentum in the second half of FY2014, the UK had witnessed a strong performance and the Eurozone had sustained a gradual recovery”.

Despite a slowdown in China, the emerging economies as a whole saw a continued gradual recovery, reflecting solid growth in South-east Asia and India”.

Consumer confidence in Toshiba is quite low after the profits scandal and the company looks to the long-term to restore faith in their management and product line. It’s too early to say what the future holds, but there’s no reason to begin writing Toshiba off just yet. It’s extremely possible that this downturn could be reversed but then again, investors are always concerned about losses or mismanagement. Hopefully, the company can work towards a prosperous future through innovation and products which offer customers real value-for-money.

Do you own a Toshiba product?

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Metal Gear Solid V Retail Copy Only Contains Steam Installer

Metal Gear Solid V’s PC release is tantalizingly close and a number of physical copies have been dispatched early in anticipation of the game’s launch. Interestingly, the disc only contains the Steam installer and basic key information for activation purposes. As a result, the disc itself is pretty much worthless and accounts for a mere 8.78 MB of data. The majority of AAA PC retail games barring GTA V, EA and Ubisoft titles utilize the Steamworks DRM system. However, the game’s files are usually stored on a disc to make the installation process fairly quick. This is vital for some customers who live in areas with a poor internet connection. Additionally, AAA releases have started to exceed the 50GB barrier which becomes a frustratingly long download process.

Therefore, I cannot see the reason why a disc copy of Metal Gear Solid V exists. There are no benefits whatsoever unless you enjoy looking at the box-art for an unhealthy amount of time. Digital distribution is a revolutionary move which help contribute to lower PC game prices, added an enhanced level of convenience and ensured developers get paid for their work. In the console market, second-hand sales are rampant which can persuade developers on tight budgets to stick to digital distribution delivery.

While PC retail games are extremely niche, I would like to see collector’s editions and DRM-Free titles still being produced. However, I highly doubt PC games will keep using optical media for much longer, and illustrates how wasteful the retail copies are from a financial and environmental viewpoint.

https://twitter.com/graphure/status/637981198229368836?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

When was the last time you purchased a retail PC game?