Tag Archives: sony

Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft XBox One and the New Age of Hacking

The first half of 2013 has seen some significant announcements from some of the biggest tech players out there; Sony revealed (sort of) their plans for the PS4, Adobe announced that their Creative Suite products are going in the cloud (aka Creative Cloud) and finally Microsoft revealed their competitor to the PS4, the XBox One.

The interesting thing about the last two is that there’s the need to connect to an internet based authentication system on a frequent basis to validate the software/configuration (to be completely validated by Microsoft, but this appears to be likely).

Adobe’s Move to Cloud – Competitors Start to Gain Share?

In the case of Adobe, their Create Suite product is still installed on the local machine but they now have the ability to push smaller updates to their products, whereas before it tended to be “big bang” approach. Adobe are charging consumers $50 per month to access this service which gives them all the Adobe Creative Cloud products (Photoshop, Muse, etc.) – thus removing their multi-tier, one-time upfront payment product matrix approach (Design, Design Premium, Production Premium, Master Collection versions). Once subscribed, the user has some great features available to them – some of which were available to them previously but in a more fragmented, less integrated fashion.

However, $50 for the casual user may be a price barrier for Adobe; Over 2 years, one user would pay $2400 for the service (a little more than owning Creative Suite Master Collection); however, unlike the old pricing model, the costs continue (but so arguably do the updates, product features, etc.). More casual users of the toolset would then argue that they could have paid $600 for access to (say) Photoshop and now their costs are exponentially higher for a service they only want 15-25% use of. This would then create a market opportunity for others (e.g. Corel Painter) to step in and provide a migration path including an ability to take existing PS Plugins and continue to use them. In this scenario, Adobe would significantly lose share of the consumer market and possibly gain additional business users who are enticed by (a) not having to pay for something they possibly use personally as well as professionally (b) costs are spread over a continuing cycle which could be easier to justify/expense.

XBox One’s Kill the Hacker Approach

For Microsoft, it is claimed the XBox One will expect to connect every 24 hours – possibly for the same update push reason as Adobe, but also because Microsoft are probably trying to combat the hacked systems out there that allow people to play pirated games (Both XBox and XBox 360 can be hacked relatively easily and there’s no shortage of pirated games). It also means they can control the use of used and borrowed games – effectively removing the used games market for all but the big players and stopping friends sharing their legally bought games, as each game is tied to a user ID. It will also be interesting to see how this affects services such as GameFly and Redbox – both whom allow the renting of games.

All it needs is one Service

There’s an old saying that goes to the effect of “the more you try to grip a grain of sand, the more it slips away” – and this is true for technology. Think of all the product launched with security and protection built into them and think how many have been hacked, cracked and/or broken. The answer is most, if not all of them to some degree – and this is exactly what will happen here.

Simply put, if a product needs to connect to the internet to validate, it’s going to send communications out. These communications can be intercepted and re-routed to another service pretending to be the authentication service which sends back a “All is OK” signal. Now this may cripple some of the features of the product (e.g. updates, access to other services by the vendor), but people are already accepting that (XBox 360 hacked consoles can’t connect to Microsoft services otherwise they get banned [but there are ways to fix them]). Additionally, if the costs of owning a legal copy are such that owning a crippled copy that is workable for free or a significantly reduced charge is acceptable then folks will use that service. All it takes is one provider to offer an authentication service priced for volume subscriptions….

What’s the Solution?

Companies looking to create more adoption and disuade piracy should look at Valve’s Steam platform. This service has continually shown how consumers will happily adopt a system that is priced fairly and yet still offers an extensive service. Yes, there are still cracked versions of software that bypass it, but it also has a pricing model that increasingly negates the hassle of using cracked software – I’ve even seen others posting on forums as such.

Adobe should consider a tiered approach to their Cloud offering (I suspect they are, but are waiting to catch the early adopters and business users with the premier pricing) and Microsoft need to consider that they are not the only player in the market, so should take a pragmatic approach – e.g. You can install games for a period of 24 hours (for example), after which it either has to be licensed to your ID or deleted.

Or they can try to grip the market and let consumers slip away.

Playstation 4 (PS4) Announced; What Does It Mean For You?

Sony has marketed the hell out of the fact they were going to announce the PS4 details today (20 Feb). In reality what they released was vapourware – mainly because they never showed any unit, other than the controller and a bunch of carefully created videos and in-game sequences – nor did they announce the price. However here’s what seems to be clear and what it means for you.

Hardware

Basically it’s a powerful PC system on a single board; unless regular PCs where graphics cards and such are interchangeable, putting all the silicon on one board means that everything can communicate more optimally and therefore the “supercharged PC” claim. Just like any other console but unlike any other PC, that means no upgrades.

What this means for you: With a PC like specifications it means game ports between the two systems are easier and game developers can more easily push the system (the PS3 was notorious for being hard to program for). This is nothing new to the XBox, so this is more of a catch-up, albeit on steroids (AMRITE Lance Amstrong?)

System Features

There’s not been much shown so far to wow on the dashboard, but there was the ability to integrate social capability (facebook was mentioned). Not only that, but also the ability to stream your games with your friends through UStream, or let them take over your game to help you out of a tough level, or upload a short video of your gaming heroics.

The system apparently will also learn what games you prefer and be a TIVO-like device that downloads games based on your preferences. That could be annoying and pleasing a the same time!

Support for the Move (the magic wand Sony released for the PS3) continues.

What this means for you: Showboating game play is a bit of a gimmick for many gamers; It’s more of a feature than a benefit for many but there’s sure to be a niche use for it. For the casual gamer, it’s probably not something to be bothered with. Sony has decided to stick with physical objects to help with user detection – not sure this is the best option and Microsoft’s Kinect will probably continue to have the edge.

Integration

Stream games to the PSP Vita, Sony’s replacement for the PSP so you can keep on playing if the TV is being used – this is similar to the Wii U.

Additionally, Sony claims that the system will also integrate with tablets and phones. GIven they have their own range of said technology out there, you can expect this to be pushed (crossed promotion).

What this means for you: Integrating other devices has potential, but I think those devices will be a limited list. This could either be a unique selling point, or just another piece of show-off.

Games

The games shown looked great (except Krank, which had great intro graphics but the actual gameplay looked like today’s consoles). The hardware looks to have potential to push things, but the PC won’t be far behind.

There are some exclusive titles coming along – many of which impress; check them out here.

There’s also the ability to download games – playing them before they finish downloading. Interesting to see how this pans out, given some games are many gigabytes.

What this means for you: Games are the core reason for consoles being around; having some A-Class titles and game studios onboard means that it will be one of the leading consoles – so long as games continue to be pushed out with quality.

Retro Gaming

Though not yet fully developed, Sony associates talked about being able to stream (not play natively), PS1, PS2 and PS3 games on multiple devices including the PS4.

What this means for you: If you loved an older game, this could be an amazingly handy feature – One game I want to replay is the PS2 “Getaway”

Media Centre

A casual mention of the usual integrations – Netflix, Hulu, etc. plus a Bluray drive, but no significant details.

What this means for you: Unsure – any modern console needs to be a media console too; While XBox can’t play Bluray and it’s UI is clunky for Media play, it’s still capable. PS3 systems are a little more boxed in, but the way to access media is good. To go beyond a games console and to penetrate the home, any modern day console has to be strong in this space.

Price and Release Date

Prices were undisclosed, but rumours put it between US$429 and US$529, which is very competitive. Release date is Christmas 2013.

Should I buy this console?

If you’re the person that has to have the latest iPhone regardless to say you have the latest iPhone then nothing I say here will change your mind.

However for the rest of us I think it’s worth holding out for Microsoft’s offering before deciding. Rumour of new XBox features include a tighter home media console effort, streaming games, inability to play second hand games (stupid move) and built-in and enhanced Kinect. It’s likely to match the PS4 tech specs.

My opinion is that the winner will be that console that has the better user experience, integration with other devices, is accessible for all ages, media savvy, supports the new types of displays (3D and 4K TVs) and of course has quality of games.

Next Generation Consoles

Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3 Controllers
Image by Matt Brett via Flickr

The three major players, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony have all had very successful product launches with the XBox 360, Wii and PS3 respectively. With continual developments across the semi-conductor world giving us faster processors and better graphics capability, a more tech-savvy consumer and tech world that isn’t so “black art”, it seems that we’re fast approaching a need to level up (pun intended) for all three console manufacturers.

Microsoft’s Games

The XBox 360 has had reasonable market share, with many exclusives and “first to appear”  games such as Halo and Burnout Paradise. Despite having a well reputed games catalogue, the XBox 360 has struggled to make gains on its’ competitors until recently.

The game changer has been the launch of the Kinect product – a controller-less controller. This has been a real differentiator with Microsoft shifting over 10 million Kinects units worldwide up to Q1 2011 (source: Microsoft). But in launching a product add-on, it also means they would want to avoid alienating those consumers who may have recently purchased either/both the 360 and/or Kinect shoudl they launch a new console.

Sony’s Technical Capability

From a technical capability, Sony should have had the advantage on its’ competitors; their product meant not only should the PS3 appeal to the consumer looking for a Bluray player (as the unit price was reasonably comparable), but also the games should be able to perform at blistering parallel processing speeds vs say, Microsoft’s traditional multi-core CPU architecture.

Despite that potential, Sony failed to capitalize on their edge and have been jostling with Microsoft for second place for unit sales (Wii being, until recently in first place). The recent introduction of their Move controller, which is more similar to the Wii’s nun chuck, has had admirable sales results, shifting 4.1m units in the first 2 months after launch (source: Joystiq)

Nintendo’s Marketing

Nintendo decided to approach their console market slightly differently; although the Wii is not HD capable and doesn’t play DVDs it did introduce the nun chuck controller which neither Microsoft or Sony had (until their own updates Q4 2010). They also created a simple user experience, both in the user interface of their onscreen dashboard, but also with the controller.

Combine this with a suite of games designed to appeal to all ages, the addition of “Wii Fit” and a price point lower than either of its’ two competitors meant that it took an early market lead and until only recently continued to dominate unit sales.

The Landscape Today

Research from video game tracking firm Strategy Analytics’ Connected Home Devices service, has been trending the spread of market share: Senior analyst, Jia Wu said “Microsoft’s Kinect was clearly one of the winners in 2010…In the second half of 2010, the Xbox 360’s market share for the first time exceeded the 30% mark among the current generation fixed consoles, which was clearly driven by the Kinect launch.” (source: Hollywood reporter).

Console Next Gen

Where does this put all three manufacturers on a timeline? I’ve put my gypsy cloth and crystal ball out to make a stab at where things are.

This is just a guess right now, but I do know that both Sony and Microsoft have made assertions that their products have plenty of life left – notwithstanding the significant development costs ploughed into them (source: Kotaku , GamerBlorge et al). Conversely, with the lower development and production costs for the Wii, there are rumours surfacing that their next-gen Wii (we’ll call it WiiHD) will be announced at E3 2011 (source: Slashgear).

Copyright Paul Morgan

What will we expect to see with these new platforms?

  • Nintendo WiiHD – DVD playback, HD capability, CPU and graphics engine upgrade, memory upgrade, SDD drive, refined controllers
  • Sony PS4 – Upgraded CPU & graphics engine, SDD drive, refined controllers, USB3.0 support, support for NTFS
  • Microsoft Kinect360 – Upgraded CPU & graphics engine, SDD drive, Bluray drive, SDD Drive, USB3.0 support

In all three cases, backward support for current-gen console games will be expected by consumers.

I believe Microsoft will also have some “home integration” into the mix; they seem to want to be as integral as a television, making their product just a natural extension of said television. Perhaps this means integration with major content providers to provide services like DVR, linking up lighting, alarm systems, connection to other smart devices (e.g. smart fridges). Having a controllerless controller means no searching around for the remote, or finding that the battery is out of power. This could be the differentiator which brings Microsoft to the forefront… however I wouldn’t discount Sony from not getting in on the action either.

Update, April 21st

Looks like the new Wii will have a display in the controller if rumours are to be believed:

http://www.engadget.com/2011/04/22/next-generation-wii-controller-to-feature-6-2-inch-display-turn/

Update April 25th

Nintendo confirm that the next-gen Wii console will be announced in detail and launched very much in line with my post above:

http://www.gamersmint.com/nintendos-new-console-officially-confirmed

HD-DVD is dead; Blu-Ray wins but already has issues

blu-ray vs hd dvdIf you haven’t already read, Toshiba, the lead company to introduce HD-DVD has announced it will cease producing HD-DVD recorders and players and all supplies will be halted from March 2008. For those of you that have bought any HD-DVD devices they will be stockpiling media so you can continue to burn to disk, however, it’s all over now bar the shouting.

Partners in grime

Toshiba was not alone in it’s battle against Blu-Ray; Microsoft, Intel, and HP had also backed the format, with Microsoft using HD-DVD as an option for its’ XBox 360. However as that unit was an add-on, Microsoft could easily swap to a Blu-Ray option if they so chose … currently not many people I know have the HD-DVD drive and it’s certainly not used for games so I think the loss is tactically not too bad….

Fly in the ointment

That being said, there is a hiccup with Blu-Ray; Unless you buy a PS3, any Blu-Ray player you buy now may not be 100% compatible with Blu-Ray movies produced after October 2008 – that’s right! Because they’re altering the format slightly, current Blu-Ray players with the exception of the PS3 will not play all the content of the Blu-Ray disks! Sony will be sending out a firmware update for PS3 owners so they can maintain compatibility, but for other devices there’s no clear upgrade path.