To celebrate the release, Valve kicked off a week-long sale on 50 available Linux games. The sale offers gamers the chance to save up to 50 percent off of the original price.
Rumors of Steam for Linux have long been discussed. Last July, Valve confirmed that they were working on such a product. By November, Valve began a closed beta and in December, the company opened the beta to the public.
Valve has reportedly been planning a Linux version since Valve chief Gabe Newell became increasingly vocal against Windows 8. According to PCMag.com, Mr. Newell says that Microsoft 8 will be “a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space.”
Linux has long been criticized for its lack of games. Forbes reports that the cause for this is the long time that it takes graphics card manufacturers to create drivers for Linux systems. This, coupled with the time it takes developers to make Linux ports for Linux’s small gaming community, has created a hole that Valve hopes to fill.
"We're huge fans of Linux. It's like the indie OS -- a perfect home for our indie game," Alen Ladavac, CTO of Croatian video game developer Croteam, told PCmag. "And who better to lead the charge into Linux gaming than Valve?”
Steam's Linux-compatible games can run on multiple platforms. This means that you can begin a game on Linux, move to a Windows PC, and finish it on a Mac.
The Linux Steam client also supports Valve’s Big Picture mode, which allows gamers to play computer games in a format that suits living room PCs. Instead of dealing with a mouse and keyboard on the couch, Big Picture allows the user to play with a regular controller.
Although the games currently available for Linux are slim pickings, Valve is working on converting its own games to the OS. Some current favorites include: Amnesia, Half-Life, and Defcon. The sale is scheduled to continue through to Feb. 21.
Apple now faces a major obstacle in the emerging Brazilian smart-phone market. Brazilian patent regulators announced today that Apple does not have the rights to the iPhone trademark. This means that Apple will have to fight to keep the name, a battle that they’ve fought before.
The National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), Brazil’s patent agency, has denied Apple’s claims to the trademark because, it says, IGB Eletrônica SA already owns the rights. IGB is better known by its brand name, Gradiente.
Gradiente filed for a Brazilian trademark on the iPhone name back in 2000, six years before Apple filed its application. Since Brazil's trademark law states that registrations work on a first-come, first-serve basis, Gradiente was definitely in line before Apple. However, Apple is challenging the decision, according to the Wall Street Journal, on the basis that Gradiente has not sufficiently used its trademark.
Gradiente won the trademark in 2008, which according to Brazilian laws gives it rights to the name until 2018 as long as the company produces a device under that name within five years. Gradiente did not release such a device until December, only a few weeks before the deadline. Gradiente’s “IPHONE Neo One” runs on the Android OS, retailing for $304. That is a fraction of the price of Apple’s iPhone 5, which retails for $1,220 in Brazil. (In the US, the cheapest iPhone costs $199 with a two-year contract. That contract helps phone companies recoup the money lost on the initial sale of the device. Most countries do not have these subsidies, hence higher prices)
Apple has run into naming problems before. Last year, Proview Electronics sued Apple for fraud and unfair competition. Proview had sold the rights to the iPad name in Taiwan back in 2009. Apple thought that the deal included the naming rights in mainland China as well, but Proview's Chinese subsidiary disagreed. As a result, Proview attempted to stop the sale of iPads in China. If Proview had won the case, the iPad trademarks for the European Union, South Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam would have all been returned to them. Apple opted to settle the dispute, avoiding a trial.
Apple also faces a similar situation in Mexico. A telecommunications-equipment firm filed its name as “iFone.” The name was registered in 2003, well before Apple filed for the iPhone trademark there. Apple originally filed an injunction against iFone, claiming that the phonetically similar words would confuse customers. Mexican courts ruled against Apple, allowing iFone to continue its business. Apple is still allowed to use the iPhone name since the companies work in different businesses.
The Brazilian fight for the iPhone trademark could turn out to be costly for Apple in more ways than one. Brazil is one of the biggest upcoming markets for smart phones. The WSJ reports that the country is expected to become the world’s fourth largest smart-phone market by 2016.
“It's a feeling like no other,” Mr. Cook announced at the Goldman-Sachs Technology and Internet Conference on Feb. 12. “I’m not even sure ‘store’ is the right word anymore. They’ve taken on a role much broader than that.”
And there might be some truth to what Cook says. Asymco analyst Horace Dediu published charts today that illustrate Cook’s point. Apple retail stores pull in a little over $6,000 in sales per square foot. That ratio is huge. The runner-up, Tiffany & Co., came in second with less than half that number -- just $3,000 in sales per square foot of retail space.
“They are the face of Apple for almost all of our customers,” says Cook. “I’ve never been more bullish about innovation at Apple."
On the topic of innovations, the Apple rumor mills quickly picked up the often-repeated whispers of a cheaper iPhone. Cook neither dismissed nor confirmed the rumor, instead insisting that Apple’s “north star” has always been great products. This mantra, according to Cook, means that Apple is looking at ways to make cheaper products without sacrificing quality. Cook’s example of this unwillingness to lose quality was to bring up the iPad. Critics had long asked Apple for a MacBook with a price tag below $1,000. After concluding that the company would be unable to make that happen, Apple created the iPad, he says.
The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Apple has, indeed, been working on a cheaper iPhone since 2009. However, the company could still discard the idea. One reason for dropping the plans could be the possible effect of a cheaper iPhone on the company’s profit margins.
“A less-expensive iPhone risks crimping the company's profit margins, which executives have been loath to sacrifice. Even small changes in margins often sway investors,” says WSJ’s Jessica E. Lessin.
Apple’s current “cheapest” iPhone is the iPhone 4, which is free with a two-year contract. The iPhone 4S is a close second starting at $99 with a two-year contract. This, according to Informationweek.com, makes it “unclear just what a budget iPhone would be, at least in the United States where phones are usually sold by carriers with a subsidy.” Of course, outside of the US, where carrier contracts are less common, iPhones cost closer to $700.
Subsidies are what allow Apple to sell the iPhone for such a low price through retailers. The contracts enable the company to recover their costs. The IW says that Apple will have to consider alternative subsidy models if they want to make a cheaper iPhone still profitable.
When Cook spoke at the same event a year ago, the public was still reeling from Steve Job’s death. Cook was reserved and quiet. This year, Cook passionately spoke about Apple, declaring his pride and vision for the company.
After almost a year of litigation, Macmillan has reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice. The DOJ was suing Macmillan for allegedly conspiring with Apple and other publishers to raise the price of e-books.
The settlement, which still needs to be approved by a Judge in Manhattan, requires Macmillian to lift any restrictions they have on retailers discounting e-books. They will also have to report their communications with other publishers to the DOJ and are prohibited from entering new contracts that impose such restrictions until 2014. Once approved, Apple will be the only defendant left to battle against the suit.
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Macmillan chief executive John Sargent posted a letter online, explaining that the settlement comes after he had received an estimate of the maximum damage.
“I cannot share the breathtaking amount with you, but it was much more than the entire equity of our company,” writes Mr. Sargent. “We settled because the potential penalties became too high to risk even the possibility of an unfavorable outcome.”
Apple continues the case, insisting that they and the other publishers were not conspiring. Apple claims that it was instead fighting a “monopoly” by Amazon. According to CNET, Apple says that the government has sided with Amazon. In a legal memo released in August, Apple called Amazon the “driving force” behind the suit. Apple argued that Amazon spoke with government officials frequently throughout the investigation.
“In all, the Government met with at least fourteen Amazon employees—yet not once under oath. The Government required that Amazon turn over a mere 4,500 documents, a fraction of what was required of others,” says Apple.
The DOJ released a statement today about the Macmillian settlement:
“As a result of today’s settlement, Macmillan has agreed to immediately allow retailers to lower the prices consumers pay for Macmillan’s e-books,” says Jamillia Ferris, chief of staff and counsel at the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, according to the official DOJ statement. “Just as consumers are already paying lower prices for the e-book versions of many of Hachette’s, HarperCollins’, and Simon & Schuster’s new releases and best sellers, we expect the prices of many of Macmillan’s e-books will also decline.”
A New York Times article states that the reason for the settlement might be an impending merger. NYT blogger Leslie Kaufman writes, “The publishing industry has begun to consolidate in order to respond to the threat from Amazon, and when Penguin and Random House announced last October that they would merge, it fueled speculation that more alliances would follow.”
Macmillan has not stated or given any indication that they are looking to merge with any fellow publishers.
The continued suit against Apple will culminate in a trial this coming June.
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Vanity searches, we all do them. You open up Google Search, type in your name, and see what pops up. The typical results include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter links. Advertisements, however, change from person to person and a new Harvard study provides a disturbing look at why that might be.
Latanya Sweeney, a professor of government at Harvard University, conducted a study on Google and discovered that searches for “black sounding” names were 25 percent more likely to yield advertisements for criminal records searches, even if the person has no such record.
According to the Boston Globe, Sweeney stumbled onto the topic after a colleague showed her what appeared when Ms. Sweeney’s name was searched. The resulting advertisements for an arrest record shocked the professor, who has never been arrested.
The ads also inspired the computer scientist and specialist in data privacy to dig deeper into the matter. By comparing names like, “Trevon, Lakisha, and Darnell” to “Laurie, Brandon, and Katie,” Sweeney began to compile her data. More than 2,100 names later, she uncovered troubling news.
“Most names generated ads for public records. However, black-identifying names turned out to be much more likely than white-identifying names to generate ads that including [sic] the word 'arrest' (60 per cent versus 48 per cent). All came from www.instantcheckmate.com," says the study, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.
Sweeney concluded that there was a less than 1 percent chance that this was all by accident.
"There is discrimination in the delivery of these ads," Sweeney told BBC News. “Alongside news stories about high school athletes and children can be ads bearing the child's name and suggesting arrest. This seems concerning on many levels.”
The ads show up on Google’s pages and other websites, such as Reuters, which allow ads from Google to appear next to search results.
“You could be in competition for an award, a scholarship, a new job,” Sweeney tells the Boston Globe. “You could be in a position of trust, like a professor, a judge. Having ads that show up suggestive of arrest, may actually discount your ability to function.”
Google has denied the racism claims. The company issued a statement about AdWords, the service that allows businesses to pay in order to have their ads appear with results when certain keywords are searched.
“We also have an 'anti' and violence policy which states that we will not allow ads that advocate against an organization, person or group of people," says Google, according to BBC News. “It is up to individual advertisers to decide which keywords they want to choose to trigger their ads."
This controversy comes just after Australian courts ruled that Google is not responsible for the messages placed by advertisers.
Sweeney has yet to specifically point out exactly what makes these ads appear. The BBC reported that she needs further information about Google’s AdSense before going forward.
One possible reason, that was suggested, might be user behavior.
Google’s algorithms may be picking up on society’s own prejudices since the ads that appear most often are the ones that are frequently clicked on.
The Globe said that both Sweeny and Mr. Sullivan agree that no matter what the cause, displaying suggestive negative information is a real, online problem.
The Wikipad: it’s the Android gaming tablet that was, then wasn’t, and now is again (probably). Last October, Wikipad Inc. was all set to sell the 10-inch tablet in stores when it discovered a flaw in the first batch of products. As the months went by, observers started to worry -- but this Thursday the company announced that the tablet is still alive and will be available this spring.
The tablet's makers took advantage of the hiatus to scale it down to 7 inches and drop the price from $499 to $249, while keeping the specs the same. The Wikipad looks like a garden-variety Android tablet, but drops into a special dock that has console-style controls on the edges. It’s designed to be a serious gaming device, but one that’s also useful for browsing the web, playing videos, and connecting with friends.
The redesigned, 7-inch Wikipad runs Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” and keeps all the specs of its 10-inch predecessor: a high-resolution (1280 x 800) display, 16GB of storage and a slot for up to 32GB more, a Tegra 3 processor, and a front-facing camera for video chatting. The gaming controls on the dock look like what you’d expect to see on a console -- one analog stick on either side, a directional pad on the left, and four buttons on the right.
By the way, if you were hoping to buy the 10-inch version of the Wikipad, take heart. The company says that model is still in the pipeline. Though the original display for that model was apparently discontinued, the company is rumored to have new production parts lined up and a plan to release a 10-inch Wikipad later this year.
Will the Wikipad make a splash? We can only speculate, but it certainly bridges the gap between portable gaming -- inexpensive, relatively simple apps like Angry Birds running on phones and tablets -- and full-fledged console gaming, with blockbuster titles and dedicated hardware. As Matt Burns over at TechCrunch points out, “Android gaming could be the next big thing. With dedicated gaming devices like the ... Wikipad, there will suddenly, almost overnight, be a whole batch of devices craving new games.”
It’s tempting to draw comparisons between the Wikipad and the OUYA, an Android-based gaming console that’s also getting lots of attention. But they fulfill slightly different functions. The Wikipad is meant to be a more versatile, flexible product that can transform between a multipurpose tablet and a capable gaming device thanks to its dock.
Does the Wikipad interest you, or are your gaming needs already satisfied by the devices you have? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The Google v. Microsoft rivalry continues as Microsoft launches another attack aimed at Google’s Gmail privacy policies. Microsoft, which released the “Gmail Man” spoof video a year ago, has re-vamped their Scroogled website in the style of it’s latest attack.
“Think Google respects your privacy? Think again,” says Scroogled.
The site uses the same tactics as the “Gmail Man” video. Google’s Gmail service scans recipient and sender emails, looking for keywords that are then used to generate ads.
“And there’s no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy,” says the site, just above a clickable ad that allows users to try Outlook -- Microsoft’s own e-mail software.
Inside Scroogled are charts and graphs, each of which are said to represent surveys that reveal a number of unsatisfied customers. According a GfK report, which was commissioned by Microsoft, 88 percent of users disapprove of e-mail providers (in this case Google) scanning e-mails for advertising purposes.
This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has gone after the search-engine giant. September brought “Bing It On,” a blind test where users would pick the better search engine. And in November, Microsoft launched Scroogled for the first time as a way to criticize Google’s shopping results.
However, techies are beginning to criticize Microsoft for launching the campaign alongside their own marketing pretext.
“The problem with the kind of negative strategy Microsoft has decided to adopt in its Scroogled campaign is that the merits of its messages gets lost in its self-serving motives to promote its products,” writes PC World’s John P. Mello Jr. “Microsoft is acting no better than the boogeyman it seeks to bash.”
In a press release on Feb. 6, Microsoft tries to cut past this claim by asserting that users the first priority and marketing second.
“With the Don't Get Scroogled by Gmail consumer education campaign, Outlook.com is doing two things: First, it is highlighting Google's practice of going through the personal contents of emails to benefit Google's bottom line ahead of the user. Outlook.com has launched this education campaign and petition to help consumers get the message to Google that going through personal email messages to sell ads is unacceptable. Second, Outlook.com wants to highlight that it is an email service that puts consumers' privacy first,” says Microsoft in the press release.
Google responded to Microsoft’s campaign in a post on their Public Policy Blog on Feb. 1. When responding to whether or not Microsoft has a better privacy approach than Google, the site replied with a snarky, “We don’t make judgments about other people’s policies or controls.”
The Google’s post also ends with a sharp jab at Microsoft.
“We’ve always believed the facts should inform our marketing—and that it’s best to focus on our users rather than negative attacks on other companies. Onwards!”
It’s the size of a Rubik’s cube, easily modified, includes free-to-play games, and only costs $99. It’s OUYA (sounds like oo-ya), the much-anticipated gaming console that raised more than $8 million on Kickstarter last year. And beginning in June, consumers will be able to purchase their own OUYA at retailers such as GameStop, Best Buy, and Target.
In case you missed its debut, OUYA is an open-source gaming console that runs on Google’s Android platform. Gamers can connect OUYA to their televisions, allowing them to play Android and indie games or apps on their living-room screens. OUYA is marketed as easily modified. This means that it allows hardware hackers to create their own peripherals. Not to be left out of the loop, game developers can also create and sell their own games on the device; the only requirement is that they add a free-to-play component.
OUYA CEO Julie Urhman's announcement says that the tiny gaming box will be launched with 200 titles, including MineCraft, Canabalt, and Final Fantasy III.
Urhman also announced the release of a new OUYA each and every year. The goal of the constant refresh is to create a cycle for the OUYA that parallels that of smart phones.
Urhman assures that all games will have backwards compatibility, allowing OUYA 1 games to play on future OUYA consoles. According to an article on TechCrunch.com, this is because all games will be tied to user accounts, much like the PC marketplace Steam is now. TechCrunch writer Darrell Etherington explains that the digital delivery makes backwards compatibility an easy reality, “since there’s no messy business like disc formats to worry about.”
This is a tough year for a brand new gaming start-up. Nintendo recent released its new Wii U; Sony, and Microsoft are expected to debut new consoles this year. OUYA, however, is not concerned about the competition.
“We don’t need to beat Xbox or Sony or any console that enters the marketplace, we need to carve out our own niche,” Urhman told the WSJ. “OUYA offers a very different value proposition to the gaming you can currently experience.”
According to Urhman, OUYA supports HD and 3-D gaming. The controller will come with eight buttons, a directional pad, and a touch pad. OUYA’s controller can also be hacked for use with other electronics.
“We are okay with that. One of the promises of being open is you can use what we build for other things. But you can create accessories and peripherals for our device as well. At the end of the day, it makes our ecosystem richer,” says Urhman in her WSJ interview.
OUYA will be available for Kickstarter backers in March, followed by pre-orders, all leading up to the the retail debut.
In the last 15 days, Facebook has made three major announcements. The first was the Facebook Graph Search, a way to search profiles en masse. The second was the results of the fourth quarter of 2012; Facebook did well, much to the shock of many Wall Street watchers. And the third, just announced today, Facebook has come out with its own reusable gift card.
Facebook will soon allow users to send “friends” a gift card to places such as Sephora, Jamba Juice, Olive Garden, and Target. According to Facebook, these gift cards are not just reusable but they can carry multiple gift amounts.
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“Your card can hold multiple gift balances, and each balance is dedicated to the retailer associated with the gift. For example, you might have gift balances of $100 at Sephora, $75 at Target, $50 at Olive Garden, and $8.25 at Jamba Juice.”
The gift card will automatically reload when another friend buys the cardholder a gift amount.
The release comes the day after Facebook reported its earnings for the 2012 fourth quarter. The social network reported a higher profit than expected. In the fourth quarter, Facebook revenue grew by 40 percent, raking in $1.59 billion. Wall Street had expected $1.53 billion in revenue.
However, despite the good outcomes, the company’s high expenses appear to have pushed away some investors. Marketwatch.com reported that Facebook shares lost 6 percent today, resulting in $29.27 per share.
At yesterday’s report, Facebook also announced ways to increase revenue. Among suggestions such as cutting costs and higher mobile ads, Facebook publicized its plans to polish the Gifts products. According to the report, the Gifts product makes almost no revenue. CNET reports that Gifts was placed into the “other revenue” category. That category made an unimpressive $5 million in the fourth quarter.
"This past quarter, payments and other revenue also included around $5 million from sources outside of games primarily user promoter posts and to a lesser extent from our new Gifts product," CFO David Ebersman said, according the CNET.
The Facebook Gift Card has only been announced for a few hours and already the critics have begun to review it.
“It takes the saddest and lamest gift possible and makes it worse,” wrote Gizmodo blogger Mario Aguilar. “There is a potential upside, though. Assuming everybody in the world starts using Facebook for their lazy, last-minute gifting, all of your balances will be tied to your Facebook account and a single reusable card.”
CNBC’s Julia Boorstin wrote, “We'll see if Facebook can establish itself as a go-to-player in online retail—the more people who hand over their credit card numbers, the more likely they'll spend money on Facebook down the line.”
Only time will tell if the Facebook Card will work its way into people’s hearts (and wallets). For now, the Facebook Card is only available in the US and on a rolling-out basis.
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After a few grim years and many delays, Research in Motion has finally revealed the BlackBerry 10 operating system. RIM CEO Thorsten Heins kicked off the BB10 coming-out party Wednesday with a few surprises.
First, RIM ditched its old name and has re-branded the company as simply BlackBerry. Mr. Heins stated at the opening that the name change is a way to have “one consistent brand.”
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The past few years have been rough on the Canadian company. According to Forbes, BlackBerry has not turned a profit in the last four quarters. The New York Times reports that BlackBerry has only 2.9 percent of the smart-phone market, down from 20 percent four years ago. The RIMM stock (now BBRY) has crashed almost 90 percent since its peak in 2008. The company's PlayBook tablet never took off quite the way BlackBerry hoped, thousands of jobs were cut, and the company changed CEOs. Skepticism has surrounded BlackBerry for years.
But, with its new name, the company introduced its new look. BlackBerry debuted two new phones at Wednesday's event: the Z10 and Q10.
BlackBerry hopes these two smart phones can bring in users with their many new features, such as the clever time-shifting camera. Time Shift allows consumers to take a photo of a person and then, with their finger, zoom into the subject’s face and shift the dial one seconds backward or forward, until the user finds the perfect look. Other features include screen sharing and free BBM phone calls and video messaging.
One of the biggest challenges that smart-phone companies face is fostering a vibrant app store. The Apple and Android marketplaces each boast 750,000 apps. Heins announced that 70,000 apps would be available on day one for BlackBerry 10 users. That's a great number for a new OS, but the company needs to make up for lost time.
"The new starting line that today represents begins with one consistent brand, a brand that's recognized around the world," said Heins at the announcement. "BlackBerry has changed. And we have re-designed the BlackBerry experience. We have re-engineered our products. We have re-invented this company and we want to reflect this in our brand."
Times writer David Pogue praises BlackBerry’s new features but points out a few flaws. Mr. Pogue writes about the lack of a silent button, the non-rotating calendar, the inability to drag appointments to reschedule them, and a battery that barely makes it through the day. These imperfections are not to discourage the re-named company, he writes.
“So then: Is the delightful BlackBerry Z10 enough to save its company?" he asks. "Honestly? It could go either way. But this much is clear: BlackBerry is no longer an incompetent mess — and its doom is no longer assured.”
“The Z10 and BB10 represent a radical reinvention of the BlackBerry," writes Mossberg. "The hardware is decent and the user interface is logical and generally easy to use. I believe it has a chance of getting RIM back into the game, if the company can attract a lot more apps."
The Z10 will be available in the UK on Thursday, on Feb. 5 for Canada, and an estimated March release for the United States. All four major carriers will carry the newest BlackBerry. It will retail for $199 with a two-year contract.
The Q10 is slated for an April US release.
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