If you choose to buy the album within 180 days of buying a single, they will deduct the $1.79 cost of the single from the balance due for the rest of the album. Apple's also making the deal retrospective for 90 days.Apple says 45 percent of the 2.5 billion songs sold on iTunes were purchased as albums. A progressive move by Apple, one that's good for consumers and will encourage people to listen to music in full album form, as it should be!
The reporter is, as you'd expect, beaming. Not only is it a great story, the memo also shows him up as a thorough reporter that Microsoft are scared of. That's because Vogelstein is a very good tech reporter, he did a great piece on how Yahoo blew it, in the January issue of Wired.
The memo shows a couple of interesting things - the fastidiousness with which Microsoft and its PR team planned for the interviews with Vogelstein - they really wanted to cover every base as a good PR team should, but their level of analysis of Vogelstein's reporting methods is a little creepy.
It also shows the thoroughness required in putting together a Wired article, a level of research we simply aren't able to complete writing here in New Zealand on 40 cents a word. I'm not sure what Vogelstein's word rate is, but he's probably on a special deal, earning more than a US$1 a word. For a $5000 word article, that lets him work on it solely, for a month or more.
Vogelstein blogs on the incident himself here.
Also, a couple of interesting stories in the Herald. According to AC Nielsen, we're bigger online shoppers than the Australians. That will be down to Trademe and the airlines which I suspect would account for 90 per cent of ecommerce traffic in New Zealand. Still, good to see we're getting comfortable with the medium.
Another story about the music industry complaining about music piracy. Aparently Bic Runga's last album only sold 50,000 copies because people are downloading it for free. I'm sure piracy has had some impact, but it doesn't change the fact that our outdated copyright law has to change.
The currently proposed two year sunset clause on the much-needed format shifting provision has to go and attempts to criminalise methods of circumventing anti-piracy measures is a potential minefield the Government should not be enshrining in legislation. The new legislation won't change the rate of piracy which may not be at the high level the industry claims (1 legal song to 42 illegal), but is neverthless very high. The music industry's busniess model has to change to keep up with this runaway train.
Also, some photos from the 1969 production of the documentary courtesy of Archives New Zealand.
The striking effect created by Macdoanld using three cameras positioned at slightly varied angles.
One of the spectacular aerial scenes in This Is New Zealand. The documentary is most memorable for its aerial photography of the Southern Alps.
NEW RULES OF THE GAME...
If video gamers have stereotypically been seen as geeky, solitary figures, more engaged in virtual fantasies than the real world, the time for an image overhaul has arrived.
New forms of gaming, incorporating social networking, user-generated content and with the internet at their core are arriving on the scene as the video game titans push their next generation gaming machines.
The new PS3, the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii are all custom built for internet gaming but do much more than that – video conferencing, instant messaging, e-commerce and networking that could bring casual gamers online in numbers for the first time.
In the case of Sony, which launched its $1200 PS3 console here last week, adapting hit tittles like Buzz, Guitar Hero and SingStar for online gaming will be a priority.
You might compete in online quizzes using the Buzz consoles that come with the popular general knowledge quiz game. Or compete online in SingStar Idol against wannabe pop stars all over the world.
“It could be better than American Idol,” suggests Sony’s local Playstation boss, Warwick Light.
“Our online community is going to evolve pretty rapidly.”
If beaming liver versions of karaoke favourites around the world isn’t your idea of good gaming, don’t worry. User generated content, by necessity, is infiltrating all styles and genres of games, encompassing casual gamers through to the hardcore.
That’s because building high definition games with cutting edge graphics, complicated animation and game physics, is an expensive business – the big titles can cost $20 million or more to produce and selling at $100 a pop, the risk of losing your studio going under if your big game isn’t a hit, is very real. That’s why venture capitalists salivate when developers pitch game concepts described as the “Youtube of gaming” – it means they’re cheap to make.
THE USER GENERATION
Video games have increasingly given users opportunities to create their own content in games, whether that be personalizing a players face and body in the best-selling soccer franchise FIFA, or editing a video of your performance in the classic Playstation game Gran Turismo.
But game developers, inspired by the explosion in “web 2.0” services like Myspace, Flickr and Youtube, and driven by the ambitions of owners that straddle media and technology, are upping their game when it comes to user generated content.
The new Sony “Home” PS3 online network will act as a sort of 3D Myspace, consisting of public and private rooms where users can share content, download games, navigating the environment as characters that can interact with others.
You need only visit the world of Second Life to see where social networking has collided with gaming. All you require to join in is an internet connection, a small piece of software and your own Second Life avatar, or online personality. Four million people have already registered as Second Lifers and some of them are making a living trading virtual property for Linden dollars, which can be exchanged for real cash.
The Second Life community has exploded in size in just a few months, with real businesses setting up premises online and bands holding virtual concerts. There was even a virtual riot when the right-wing National Front set up an office in a Second Life neighbourhood. A teen version of Second Life designed to have more parental oversight has also been developed.
Just as ambitious in scale is Spore, the upcoming Electronic Arts title from Will Wright, the gaming guru who brought up Sim City and The Sims. Wright’s new creation simulates evolution from the existence of a single cell through to numerous interacting communities of creatures. A long time in development, Spore will ultimately be based on computer servers around the world, where members of this massive virtual world will meet to trade, colonise the universe and wage war on each other.
While these open form social networking games are gathering momentum, large online communities of gamers are nothing new. World of Warcraft is the most successful multiplayer game in the world with 8.5 million members participating in a massive fantasy landscape. It’s the best example of what’s known in gaming circles as a MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game). Others include Everquest and Ultima Online.
The quirky sci-fi role-player Half Life, took on a second life itself when developers adapted it for the online community, releasing it as Counterstrike. It still has a huge following among PC gamers, who have traditionally been kept separate from the communities of gamers using video game consoles to enter multiplayer tournaments.
That changes this month with Microsoft’s move to open Xbox Live to PC gamers running Microsoft’s new Windows Vista operating system. PC gamers can take up Xbox Live subscriptions and join in on games previously reserved for Xbox owners. It promises to be a clash of gaming cultures – the hardcore PC gamers meeting the more mainstream but equally passionate video gamers.
Both of those communities, which are typically made up of males aged 18 – 34, are still the prime target of the games industry which makes the bulk of its revenue from mass market blockbusters like current best sellers, Gears of War (Xbox 360) and Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3). The real-time graphics rendering power of the processors built into the Xbox 360 and PS3 allows for ever more lifelike game play. The fancy video cutaways that used to prop up less than impressive titles now resembles the standard game play everyone is used to on next generation titles.
While the developers crunch mathematical algorithms to make games more lifelike, there’s also been a revival in arcade gaming, driven by the move to online game communities. The major games makers such as EA and Microsoft sell arcade games over the internet and through the Xbox Live Marketplace, while the Playstation Network features arcade games that can be downloaded for as little as $3. Tetris and Pac Man, which kicked off gaming culture over twenty years ago, are inspiring a new wave of simple, fun games that can be delivered directly to gamers via the internet.
A WII BIT LESS
You didn’t see teenagers test driving Nintendo’s Wii game console in electronics stores in the run up to Christmas. That’s because the Wii controller, which is so integral to how new Nintendo games are played, can be a dangerous weapon in the hands of overzealous novices. There have been many reports out of the US of Wii players accidentally throwing the controller at their TV screens or other players as they simulate a tennis stroke in Wii Sports or a sword swipe in Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Still, the Wii-mote, as it has been dubbed, has proven to be a hit for Nintendo which chose not to compete head to head with Sony and Microsoft with its next-gen console, but play a different game with a cheaper device. The Wii $(499) doesn’t aspire to be a multimedia hub for the lounge, focused squarely on gaming. It too is internet ready and Nintendo plans to tap into the same type of online communities its two rivals are developing. Nintendo flourished through the nineties with titles like Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog and has produced some surprise hits on its handheld Nintendo DS console, which can communicate wirelessly with the Wii.The approach has so far been successful for Nintendo. The Wii sold well in the Christmas sales season. If anything, the tiny console symbolise the changing face of gaming, where development no longer has to follow Moore’s Law of bigger, better, faster, just to be successful.
Still, when I was in the US, I met one of the vice presidents of Ojo at the CES show in Las Vegas and he showed me some of the new Ojo models, which haven't been released here because they don't comply with our wireless telephony standards, or something. They look quite neat and are a lot more practical than the Ojo model on the market here. Hopefully they'll make it to NZ, though I'm told Telecom has a warehouse full of the existing Ojos, because it simply can't sell them...
I think the PS3 deserves to have a great future, but at the price point it has entered the market ($1199), it's out of the league of the average kiwi. People point out that the PS2 also debuted over the $1000 mark, but dropped quickly in price. That is true, but the PS3 includes a number of things that make it expensive to produce - the Cell processor and the Blu-ray drive to name just two components. It's unlikely that the price drop will be as rapid, but I can still see Sony matching the price of the combined Xbox 360 and HD-DVD drive purchase price of $969.
The debut of the Xbox Elite, a sort of premium version of the Xbox 360 featuring a HDMI connection brings the Xbox up to he standard it should have been launched at, but again excludes an HD-DVD drive. This is the surest sign that Microsoft is less than confident of success with this high definition technology.
My review here of the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive (which I gave four stars, despite it looking fairly unattractive.)
THE XBOX MOVIE FIX
by Peter Griffin
There’s Sony’s black box which plays Blu-ray discs, Nintendo’s pint-sized Wii which doesn’t play DVDs at all, and then there’s Microsoft’s high definition plug-in.
When the software giant was preparing its Xbox 360 console for launch back in 2005, it made a serious call – not to include a high definition disc drive as a standard feature. The drives weren’t available in reliable supply back then and would have boosted the cost of the Xbox 360 by several hundred dollars.
Instead, Microsoft decided to build a separate drive which Xbox owners could buy as an accessory and it’s that drive which has just gone on sale here.
But the drive is actually quite good at what it does – play high definition DVDs. It connects to the Xbox 360 via a USB cable, employs the Xbox menu which you’re already used to and comes with a decent multimedia remote control. Set-up is easy. The included DVD configures the Xbox for the new drive. The opening credits for King Kong were appearing barely five minutes after I plugged the drive in. And what a sight Peter Jackson’s epic gorilla flick is in high definition. I compared it directly with the standard DVD version and the picture appears crisper,
The one major technical downside of the Xbox add-on is its lack of a HDMI connection slot. These are built into the latest flat-screen TVs and allow you to send a digital, high-definition signal from media players directly to the TV set. The absence of HDMI, means many people won’t have TVs that can support the true high definition quality the Xbox 360 drive supports – the so-called “1080p” video mode. That’s a big disappointment, but the next quality level down, 1080i, which my TV accepts, is still miles better than regular DVD quality.
Sony’s PS3 makes for a tidier living room and, for many, a smoother transition to true high definition, but there’s an advantage for consumers in Microsoft keeping the drive out of the Xbox. It’s still unclear how the high definition format war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray will pan out and as an optional add-on, the drive doesn’t force you down any particular fork in the road just yet. For those who want to jump in now, it makes for an affordable way into the HD realm.
Herald rating: ****
Also, in the Dominion Post, news that Econet has officially signed its $100 million plus deal with Huawei for construction of a mobile network, within "18 months according to the Hautaki Trust. I knew the deal was in place when I went to China, but they seem to have chosen the visit of the Chinese deputy premiere to officially announce it.
That's good news for Econet, which strangely, has renamed itself New Zealand Comunnications, but where's the business case for its entry, in reality? We've got two major players already in the market, 96 per cent mobile phone penetration and Econet with a stated strategy of competing for low end customers on price. I don't see it working out, unless it can find some way of using its 3G spectrum to deliver services that diffierentiate it from Vodafone and Telecom. I'll be very interested to see what its angle is on launch...
This feature about the Motion Picture Association's battle against movie piracy in the Asia Pacific region appeared in The Business magazine sold with the New Zealand Herald but never appeared online, so here it is....
In the bustling industrial city of Shenzhen in south east China it doesn’t take long to track down pirated movies on sale at bargain prices.
Over lunch, Chinese business people scribble down the web addresses of popular Chinese illegal download websites and tell me the best places to find good quality copies of movies that are still playing in theatres.
It’s advice given surprisingly openly.
The DVD sellers do good business standing outside Shenzhen’s factories, catching the workers as they head home, I’m told. In China, buying bootlegs is the norm.
“There’s a massive oversupply of discs. You can’t walk down a street in China without finding a pirated DVD,” admits Mike Ellis the Motion Picture Association’s senior vice president and director for Asia Pacific.
An Englishman and former Hong Kong policeman, Ellis has the unenviable task of fighting movie piracy in Asia, a region where the practice is rife.
The Hollywood studios Ellis represents – Buena Vista, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner Bros., lost US$6.1 billion to worldwide piracy in 2005, with Asia contributing US$1.2 billion.
The trade shows no discernable let up. But Ellis says Operation Trident, a recent series of raids spread over two months in countries from Pakistan to New Zealand, netted 4.8 million pirated DVDs, 749 DVD burners and resulted in 870 arrests.
“It was one of our most successful operations yet,” he says.
Half of the raids took place in China, where 2.9 million discs were seized. Police in India, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand also rounded up hundreds of suspected pirates.
Ellis says many of those arrested during the raids are now facing criminal charges.
“In Singapore the instances of piracy have been significantly reduced. Hong Kong has done it as well,” says Ellis.
“Malaysia has got itself off our worst offenders list.”
Legal penalties for piracy have slowly but surely been lifted.
“Six to nine months in prison for selling a couple of dozen CDs is quite a message to send,” he says.
Sniffer dogs trained to detect the chemicals used in making CDs and DVDs are now used by Malaysian customs officers.
In Hong Kong, 175 customs officials are now committed to fighting piracy. Dodgy DVDs are harder to find on the streets of Mongkok, Hong Kong’s shopping district, than they once were.
In Pakistan, Ellis has worked closely with the Federal Investigation Agency, to shut down factories that were pirating DVDs for export.
That’s a far cry from just a few years ago when Government cooperation was less forthcoming.
“The door was slammed in your face,” says Ellis.
“Developing countries just didn’t have the resources to deal with it.”
Political pressure from the US has played a part in encouraging governments in Asia to crack down on piracy.
The US is threatening to drag China through the World Trade Organisation’s disputes process if it doesn’t do more to stop it.
Other Asian countries have been advised they must clamp down on the trade if they are to secure free trade deals with the US.
But for every DVD burner put out of action in the Trident raids, several more churn out thousands of discs that make their way through the supply chain to the pirates’ equivalent of the cut-price factory outlet store.
The anti-piracy effort has been most successful at clearing out what Ellis calls the “mom and pop” shop owners who form the front line of piracy – selling DVDs in the bustling markets and side streets of Asia.
Last week, one such Shanghai retailer was fined after being sued by several MPA members for selling bootlegged copies of Lord of the Rings and other movies. The owner had run a previous pirate DVD operation on the same premises and had simply changed the shop name after being busted. On this occasion, the owner was shut down and ordered to pay fines to the movie companies ranging from US$800 to US$1600. Recidivist offending is common both among convicted retailers and website operators, the fines not enough of a deterrent.
If the sales of dodgy DVDS weren’t bad enough, Ellis has another dark border to deal with – the internet.
China rigidly controls its 140 million web users’ access to the internet with the “great firewall of China”. Access to certain foreign websites is blocked and internet cafes are tightly regulated. But those measures have political motives and aren’t designed to protect the intellectual property rights of movie makers.
“The internet piracy is without doubt a growth industry in China,” says Ellis.
“Peer to Peer networking is part of the problem.”
The speed with which movies can reach a mass audience online has led Hollywood movie studios to release some of their blockbusters in China ahead of their US releases.
Spiderman 3 will debut in China a few days before its release in North America, a move designed to counter the disappointing Chinese box office takings for Spiderman 2 – a mere US$5.5 million.
Columbia Pictures hopes to more than double that figure by getting the movie onto theatre screens before pirates can get their DVD burners up and running.
While it’s Hollywood’s more glamorous productions that are the stock trade of the pirates, Ellis says independent production companies and film makers are hit equally hard.
“What’s frustrating is that it’s not just hurting Hollywood, it’s the local industry as well,” he says, pointing to pirated DVD versions of the hit comedy Sione’s Wedding sold in South Auckland last year before the movie had been released in theatres.
A pre-release copy of the movie was stolen from a film production house by an employee, and although Sione’s Wedding went on to make over $4 million at the New Zealand box office, its producer John Barnett has suggested it would have made a lot more had the piracy not taken place.
The MPA’s local face is the New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft, which this month ratchets up its anti-piracy campaign with the launch of a new website Stopmoviepiracy.co.nz and an advertising campaign featuring Once Were Warriors star Temuera Morrison.
“He volunteered to do the voice over for a trailer,” said Ellis, who will check out the anti-piracy effort personally on a visit here next month.
According to NZFACT, piracy wiped out a quarter of the film industry’s potential market in 2005, some $70 million in lost earnings, of which over a third would have gone to MPAA member companies.
Even the poor state of broadband here hasn’t held back a flourishing trade in illegal movies via the internet, which accounted for $33 million in lost earnings for 2005. In comparison, illicit copies of VHS tapes and DVDs contributed just $13.6 million, while bootleg DVD sales cost the industry $24 million.
You’d think that last category, where knock-off DVDs are sold under the table in markets and pubs, would be a fairly underground activity in New Zealand. Ellis disagrees.
“A lot of people are still selling [pirated] DVDs. I think there is a culture there,” he says.
It’s changing that culture, that expectation that movies should be cheap or free, that’s the key to curbing piracy. New technology is doing little to stop the pirates. If the ambivalent attitude towards piracy among Chinese consumers is anything to go by, the MPA faces a losing battle.
Ellis hasn’t yet seen pirated versions of high definition Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs appear in Asia yet, but the copy encryption has already been cracked and he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see them turn up.
What progress he has made in his eight years fighting piracy at the MPA, suggests the chances of him making a serious dent in the illicit trade are slim. Around 90 per cent of DVDs sold in China are pirated, a figure that remains steady year to year.
Does he ever feel like he’s wasting his time?
“I’ve a job where I’m optimistic there are areas I can make progress in,” he says.“It is a long haul, but we’re making progress.”
Feng Shui is as important to town planning in China as plumbing, as I found on a recent visit to Hong Kong. I was at Repulse Bay, one of the glitziest seaside suberbs of Hong Kong and a strip of coast where the British once fought Chinese pirates. The buildings lining Repulse Bay are lavish. Space is at a premium, which is why I was surprised to see this gaping hole in one of the major apartment blocks there (see picture below).
I asked my Chinese guide about this, he told me that the local residents believe a dragon lives on the mountain behind the apartment block. In China, dragons are a good thing, a protective force, good karma, whatever you like. They need to be protected and aided. The residents were worried that the proximity of the fire-breathing dragon would pose a fire risk. They didn't want the dragon going through their building on its way down the mountain and inadvertantly setting the place on fire. So they had the developer allow for a big hole to be left in the building, one which the dragon could pass through. That's why a prime piece of real estate property in one of Hong Kong's most expensive suberbs has a gaping hole in it. I bet that hole is worth millions, but I like it and we could all use a little Feng Shui...
Some more photos from my trip to China:
The sweeping boulevard at the centre of technology firm Huawei's Shenzhen campus.
The famous Jumbo floating restaurant in Hong Kong harbour, fantastic Chinese cuisine...
Some Hong Kong school girls...the one to the front is like the girl out of The Grudge.
Paul Clearwater (left) and I dealing with some jetlag at the Shangri-La, Sydney
Similar plans have been floated before, one by Telstra, which was abandoned, and another called G9, which was proposed by a group of telcos. G9 didn't get off the ground either, but the appetite among players like Optus, which has promised to pledge $1 billion to the construction of a national fibre network, is likely to make the proposed public-private investment partnership work.
The plan has proven to be quite devisive and that's because of the proposal by Labor to sell down the Government's 17 per cent stake in Telstra to fund the network. What makes the whole thing interesting, is that many believe a similar, Government-funded network needs to be built here to create the level playing field in the telco industry we so desperately need.
Rod Drury floated his Securing Our Digital Trade Routes paper, which proposes something similar to the Labor broadband plan. It hasn't appeared to have got the political support it needs to be kicked along as an issue in the public domain. Communications minister David Cunliffe effectively rejected the idea on last week's Sunday programme, suggesting that private investment was a better method of funding broadband infrastructure and that there was plenty of appetite for that type of investment anyway. That shows the Government just is simply scared off by the big dollars such an investment would cost and is unwilling to consider the productivity gains the development of such a network would bring. I hope the Labor plan gets some traction across the Tasman, if only to change our own Government's thinking.
Also a preview piece on the various online efforts offered up by the Playstaion Network, which launches today and the existing Xbox Live platform. Today is PS3 lanch day throughout Australia and New Zealand, so all those pre-ordered consoles will be flying out of retailers around the countrry. Make sure, if you're an early buyer, to sign up for free to the Playstation Network so you can pick up the free Blu-ray copy of Casino Royale they are giving away. Apparently there are 4000 copies to go to the first wave of PS3 owners.
*Also check out my report tomorrow in The Business magazine (comes with the Herald) about the movie industry's anti-piracy campaign in Asia.*
A lot was going on in China the week I was there, namely a series of high level Beijing meetings that assembled every facit of the Communist Party. I'm always fascinated at the TV pictures of the Chinese Government's assembly hall, which seems to be bigger than the UN's though similarly decorated in retro wood panelling. A Chinese friend said the annual talkfests produce nothing but propoganda and are just an excuse for old party cronies to catch up.
Still, a couple of interesting things were bubbling away during the gatherings. The Chinese are going to move ahead and formally legalise the ownership of private land in China, giving better protection for home and business owners who have in the past had their land taken off them for projects in the national interest. Many see this as a very progressive step forward for China, while others are outraged that the long-held socialist policy of property being held in common state ownership has been pushed aside.
The proposed law passed, just as Premier Wen Jiabao gave a very interesting sppech about introducing democracy to China. He basically said that the democratisation of China will take place at a necessary slow rate, so as to give the "underdeveloped socalism" the country runs on, a chance to adapt.
Finally, an interesting report about the growing social unrest in China as the gap between the rich and poor in the country increases. I didn't read much about these types of incidents in the copy of China Daily delivered to my hotel room when I was in Shenzhen last week...
The story broke in CommsDay in Australia just as Telecom was holding a management briefing, so the timing was perfect. As it has been pointed out to me by Telecom's PR people, the company is considering all sorts of options for its future mobile network strategy. But the reality is that it will move to GSM/UMTS. The question now is whether it ditches CDMA altogether or take this hybrid path which will be more expensive but mean it gets to maintain its existing user base and all the CDMA telemtry equipment out in the market - parking meters, coke machines, that sort of thing.
As I wrote in an earlier Herald column posted below, the Worldmode phone concept isn't the answer to the CDMA roaming problem. With Telecom giving people the choice of a GSM network at home, it means those who do travel regularly can choose from a more extensive range of handsets and have seamless roaming overseas.
The question really is whether Telecom will consider a shared build of any such network. Would it team up with, say, an Econet or TelstraClear to build a GSM/UMTS network, cutting its costs dramatically in the process?
The Blu-ray drive built into the $1199 PS3 machine and the $249 HD-DVD drive from the Xbox will allow you to play new DVDs that hold many times the amount of data regular DVDs store.
That means movies can be delivered in higher resolution boasting better image and sound quality and interactive features beyond the standard menus of DVDs.
(graphic by Phil Welch, Herald on Sunday)
I recently watched the latest Bond flick Casino Royale and a preview of the rather bloody historical action movie 300 in high-definition on the PS3 and the improvement when viewed on a high-definition flat screen TV is remarkable when compared to a standard definition picture.
Blu-ray and HD-DVD drives are also being built into computers and DVD recorders allowing you to duplicate the entire contents of your computer hard drive or record hundreds of hours of TV on a single disc.
The consumer electronics industry is divided in its support of the rival Blu-ray and HD-DVD systems and Hollywood has also taken sides in the latest technological battle. Expect to see movie titles in both formats begin to pop up in stores in the next few months.
But even as the new generation of DVD players roll off the production lines in increasing numbers, scientists in the US are working on their successors, and once again, rival technologies will likely lead to yet another next generation battle for supremacy.
New discs will be released in the next few years that offer 300 times as much storage as today's DVDs. That's 1.5 terabytes of data on a disc, or twenty times the capacity of an average computer hard drive. The massive boost in storage comes down to a new way of packing information onto a disc - holographic storage.
While current DVDs use a reflective, pitted surface on the disc to store information, holographic discs create a 3D image within the disc, storing multiple images containing the data on the same light-sensitive polymers making up the disc.
When the disc drive's laser is shone on the disc at different angles, different layers of information stored on the same sliver of disc are revealed. It's sort of like looking at a painting from different angles and detecting new attributes each time.
Two American companies - InPhase and DCE Aprilis are developing differing versions of holographic storage, which is being closely examined by consumer electronics makers planning their product roadmaps beyond Blu-ray and HD-DVD.
The new discs will require a completely new drive to play them and will likely be slightly larger than today's DVDs. Initially, the drives will be very expensive - tens of thousands of dollars, and used only in the bsuiness sector for large-scale data back-up.
But eventually, they will form the basis of a new format for consumers, allowing even higher resolution video to be squeezed onto a disc. For us consumers, that will mean a better home theatre experience if we invest in the new drives and even higher resolution TV screens. That's something to think about when you produce your credit card to buy that long sought after Blu-ray player. It's the next big thing, but it's already on the road to obsolescence.
THE PS3 AND BLU-RAY
High definition Blu-ray drives get their mass market debut on March 23 when the Playstation 3 goes on sale in New Zealand. A gaming console featuring Sony's impressive Cell processing technology, a 60GB hard drive, numerous connectors for digital cameras, game controllers and music players as well as wireless and Ethernet networking, the Blu-ray drive makes it ideal for playing high quality movies. Retailers are yet to confirm details of what Blu-ray movie titles will be available at the PS3's launch. One title, Casino Royale, will be given away when new PS3 owners sign up the the Playstation Online netwwork. Son'y has some 4000 copies to give away locally.
THE XBOX ADD-ON
Available from later this month, the HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox 360 connects to the games console and displays movies in native high-definition (1080i resolution). That means movies recorded in high-definition will look much better when played on the Xbox add-on drive and a suitable high definition TV set. A dual-sided HD-DVD disc can store 30GB of data, six times more than a regular DVD. The drive also supports hybrid discs which come with HD-DVD and standard DVD recorded on the disc, so it can be played back at standard definition on regular DVD players. Interactive features such as the ability to flick through chapters while a movie is playing and watching behind the scene footage play in a pop-up screen during the movie, give greater flexiblity when it comes to navigating the contents of a disc.
by Peter Griffin
The author of the piece raises eyebrows with the level of his downloading (at least 800 gigabytes)! How the hell does he find time to watch all that TV (and write for Vanity Fair)!
Mentioned in the article is technologist Jaron Lanier, who copped a fair amount of flack when he suggested that the new internet content collectivism, what he terms "Digital Maoism" was potentially disasterous for the cultural forms we know and love ie: popular music and movies.
He's written an article revisiting the issue here.
On January 30, the day Microsoft launched its new computer operating system Windows Vista, Amit Govind walked into Dick Smith Electronics and paid $650 for the most expensive version available.
“I put money aside, I did my homework. And I’ve no loyalty to any brand. I’m not a fan boy of Apple or Windows, Nokia or Sony Ericsson.”
“It turned out that people who bought shares in those companies were notably different in personality tests to the people who bought shares in ordinary companies,” he says.
“They generally liked to take risks.”
“They are adopting technologies faster than ever. New technologies we haven't even seen yet are sure to be adopted faster than their previous generations.”
“Some people get pleasure in showing off their possessions to others,” says Professor Kemp.
“That is conspicuous consumption. If you can afford something like this, it’s a demonstration that you’re doing reasonably well.”
“Some of them are still at university,” says co-founder Paul Pattison.
“I wouldn’t put them in the high-end earning bracket.”
“We’re getting a lot more mainstream people. With the popularity of large screens, people want to put all their media on the computer.”
People have gathered you can spend $900 on a computer, but you’ll throw it away after a year,” says Pattison.
James Wigg, a 37 year-old gardener and freelance Apple Mac operator is a self-confessed Apple fan, despite owning a PC himself. He does have a 30GB iPod and his big purchase this year will be an iMac with 20 inch screen.
But he loves Apple products for their “industrial design, consistency of appearance, attention to detail and the fact that [an Apple Mac] just looks good sitting on your desk.”
However, as Tyler Durden claims in Fight Club, that wonderful satire on modern consumerism, do the things you own, end up owning you?
“Now I’m as free as a bird. I could put it on the side of my wheelchair if I wanted to.”
“If I had the money I’d be out buying the latest gear because I’m interested in it. That’s why I spend so much time on the internet,” he admits.
“I’ve had my phone for two and a half years. It’s got a camera and email but no other bells or whistles. If mobiles were cheaper I’d buy a new one.”
“They’re innovative in this way and have enough money to buy these things.”
It happens regularly says PC World’s Keall.
You have friends in high places or work in the tech industry, so are constantly using gadgets that won’t hit the market for six months. Your house is a mini version of Bill Gates’ – down to the flat panel touch screen on the fridge door and the robotic house maid. You think a lot about things like ergonomics, packaging and the “user-interface” of new products. Then you go into your shed and build a better one yourself.
You’ve already pre-ordered your Playstation 3 and actually know that “HSDPA” means being able to access the internet, on your laptop, at high speed, using the mobile phone network. The wife complains about the money you splurge on new gadgets but she’s thrilled that she can keep an eye on the house from work using the internet camera you bought her. Consumer electronics executives actually care about what you write about their products on your blog.
The reviews in the geek magazines tell you these dual-core processors make for much better computing so you don’t feel so bad about trading in the 18 month old PC in the study. You thought you were pretty cool with your new music phone, till you saw three other people with them at the office. You’re constantly having to buy more power adapters to keep your growing collection of gadgets charged up.
You weren’t at the front of the queue for flat screen TVs but are now thanking your lucky stars as they’ve dropped $2000 in price since your home theatre-obsessed neighbour picked one up. You recently bought a laptop and a wi-fi router after the boss told you he’d let you telework from home if you set yourself up with the right gear. You’ve heard of iTunes.com but would still rather rip music from CDs.
You’re still using dial-up internet access and had to be lured off Telecom’s aging 025 network with the promise of a free phone because they wanted to shut it down. You keep wondering what this damn “iPod” thing is and why everyone keeps talking about what they saw on the Youtube.
LG sold 78 million mobile phones last year, but it wants a larger slice of the European and US handset markets and is attempting to overhaul its image to better appeal to Western consumers and in the process, take on rivals Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola.
First came the Chocolate, an angular, black mobile with touch sensitive keys. It was a hit last year in the US and went on sale here a couple of months ago. LG plans to have sold 10 million Chocolates by mid year.
Prada’s tie-up with LG came only after the fashion house was given extensive input to the phone’s design. Other companies wanted the Prada name, but weren’t willing to collaborate on building it.
Those who see value in flaunting their gadgets will be unimpressed with Microsoft’s Spartan vision of our high-tech future.
“Home automation used to be a rich person's game, but cheap and open technology standards are going to rapidly move it into middle class homes.”
Microsoft claims everything in the house of the future will be affordable within six years, which suggests our homes could soon be transformed from the inside out.
The not-guilty verdicts were widely expected, there were too many inconsistencies in the alleged victim's version of events, just as in the Lousie Nicholas case where the three men were cleared of 20 charges, including rape.
But finally, the media is allowed to reveal the most sensational detail of the trial - that Shipton and Schollum were on trial while serving long stretches in prison for rape.
As the Herald reported:
"Suppression orders related to a previous conviction for Schollum and Shipton were lifted.
They were convicted in 2005 of the rape of a woman in Mt Maunganui 16 years earlier and are currently serving jail sentences of eight years and eight-and-a half years respectively."
During the Nicholls trial I spoke to several reporters covering the proceedings who felt very uncomfortable writing long and detailed stories about the case while having to exclude the fact that two of the three accused were already in prison for a very similar crime. It lent a bizarre tone to much of the coverage, with hints at the underlying truth.
Some members of the public flouted the law and distrubuted flyers or posted online, the suppressed information. They were threatened with prosecution for contempt of court.
Now the truth can be raked over in the Sunday papers. Shipton and Schollum may have shed tears of relief as they left court but it's surely a hollow victory for the convicted rapists. They've been judged innocent, but they'll forever be judged differently in the court of public opinion.
What ther jury never knew (NZ Herald report)
Neither look terribly inspiring, but YahooXtra looks much better than MSN which has the look of a fairly anaemic news site. I still use Netvibes as my start page and it gives me everything I need. I think I probably visited XtraMSN half a dozen times last year. There are so many better overseas services allowing you to build your own portal that these mega-merger portals have an uphill battle unless they provide some really compelling content.
My Herald story on the launch of the two new portals.
Also, a news story and my Webwalk column in the Herald today about Rod Drury's interesting idea that the Government invest in a fibre optic cable network throughout the country. The discussion paper he's written here is very high level and designed simply to spark debate. It contains some good ideas that deserve to be considered. You can download the paper from here.