There are a few things you can count on happening every Thanksgiving holiday. Eating too much turkey and pumpkin pie? That's a given. Arguing with the in-laws? Only if they're invited. Watching the Detroit Lions lose to ____ (fill in the blank, as the opposing team is irrelevant to the outcome)? You can count on it. And finally, should you decide to venture out on Black Friday, encountering a horde of shoppers more frightening than anything you're likely to encounter in Left 4 Dead? That's an understatement.
But while the pushing and shoving and the sheer number of shoppers isn't likely to let up, the spending just might. According to a new survey by international management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, the outlook for technology and media sales looks pretty grim as six out of ten U.S. consumers plan to cut back spending (PDF).
Desktop PCs, notebooks, media players ,and digital cameras look to the take the biggest hit, with over half of the survey's respondents saying they plan to spend less on such devices in the next year, resulting in a 10 percent drop in sales. Oliver Wyman notes that promotional pricing would increase unit sales, but it wouldn't be enough to justify broad discounts.
"Price discounts should be used cautiously and targeted at on-the-fence purchaser segments when used," Wyman analyst Mark Teitell said. "There's a risk of cannibalizing revenue from consumers already intending to make the purchase, without drawing sufficient new buyers to increase revenues overall."
The survey warns that consumers are being selective in where they pull back, such as delaying the purchase of an electronic device rather than downgrading a subscription service, such as broadband internet or a mobile phone data plan. With that in mind, those tantalizing sale prices might not come as often next year. That almost makes you want to brave the crowds on Black Friday. Almost.
Are you smarter than a 5th grader? No, we're not talking about the TV game show, and instead we're referring to little Arjun Mehta, who while in 5th grade came up with the idea for PlaySpan and founded the in-game commerce network the next year. The service now serves as a micro-transaction payment system for virtual goods in over 200 different games.
Little Mehta and his father Karl Mehta, the company's CEO, received a big cash infusion for PlaySpan, announcing this week the company has raised $16.8 million in Series B funding from Easton Capital Group, Menlo Ventures, Novel TMT Ventures, and STIC Investments, in addition to other undisclosed investors. That brings PlaySpan's total funding up to $24 million, which the company says will used to expand into Europe and Asia, and grow its global publisher and userbase.
"Online games publishers and social media application developers are looking for new sources of revenue byond traditional advertising and subscriptions," said Karl Mehta (PDF). "We are enabling a new business model in the form of micro-transactions for users that prefer the pay-as-you-go model."
While the free-to-play genre has turned into a bit of a misnomer given the prevalence of cost-driven upgrades and character capabilities, PlaySpan represents an improved business model over earlier attempts that were often setup without the publisher's permission and plagued with fraud.
Earlier in the week, reports of a supposed newly discovered Gmail vulnerability started making the rounds on the web. The proof of concept was first posted on GeekCondition.com and showed how a hacker, with a bit of effort and persistence, could potentially infiltrate a user's Gmail account, create a malicious filter to forward emails to the hijacker, and top it off by stealing any domains the victim may have registered. But is the proof of concept truly indicative of a security flaw in Gmail?
While it's true that there have been users affected by the scheme, Google ascertains the root cause has more to do with phishing than it does with Gmail.
"With help from affected users, we determined that the cause was a phishing scheme, a common method used by malicious actors to trick people into sharing their sensitive information," Google wrote in a blog post. "Attackers sent customized emails encouraging web domain owners to visit fraudulent websites such as 'google-hosts.com' that they set up purely to harvest usernames and passwords. These fake sites had no affiliation with Google, and the ones we've seen are now offline."
As is often the case when it comes to security issues, a combination of common sense and safe computing habits remains your best defense.
While drowning in an ocean of famished zombies attempting to grind your brains to make their bread, paying attention to the blips and bloops of tiny achievement indications is a tad difficult. Fortunately, according to Valve's newly released list of Left 4 Dead achievement statistics, you're not missing much.
Oh sure, Valve has loaded its game with wacky (and easily pun-able) methods of undead dead-making, but at this early stage of the game, only a small percentage of players have truly lived during their short spurts of undeath.
Especially noticeable, not a single player has managed to slay their way to the "Zombie Genocidest" achievement, which forces players to sacrifice 53,595 hapless zombies in order to appease its dark whims.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, 73.9% of players have laid claim to the "Drag and Drop" achievement -- wherein, you're simply required to chop through a Smoker's tongue before one of your buddies takes any damage.
So, which L4D achievements adorn your trophy case? Is your zombpocalypse training nearly complete, or are you only beginning to learn your ABZ's?
Just a few months ago, we could have summed up the browser wars in single word: BORING! That's not to say we haven't appreciated the new features that accompany each new release of Mozilla's Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer, but the results and the competitors always remained the same. It's become far too easy to predict how each new round will go - Firefox will add new features, get a little faster, and inch ever so closer in market share, while each new IE release will suck a little less than the last and continue to be the most widely used browser on the planet. At least in the chip wars, AMD and Intel have taken turns putting the smackdown on one another accompanied by the occasional trash talk.
It took a surprise release by an unlikely newcomer to finally get us excited about the future of browsers again. Google's Chrome seemingly came out of nowhere and has the potential to turn what has been a stale two-man scuffle into a three-way battle royal. Along with greater stability, Chrome's claim to fame is that it can render web pages faster than the competition, and indeed a recent benchmark comparison has pegged Chrome as the new speed king. But in order for anyone to truly take Chrome seriously, Google has to put extension support at the forefront of development, and it appears they're doing exactly that.
Hit the jump to see what Google is doing to add extensions to Chrome, and how it will differ from Firefox.
Straight out of the “yeah, they’re still doing that” file, Greenpeace has released this year’s Guide to Greener Electronics. Since last year there have been plenty of notable changes for the better, but even more for the worse. Nintendo’s score continues to plummet, and Greenpleace’s traditional enemy, Apple, has fallen to 14th.
Nokia comes in at the top spot with some notably high marks in the chemicals department, and sports and overall score of about seven over ten. According to the report, “Nokia scores very well on toxic chemical issues, launching new models free of PVC since the end of 2005 and aiming to have all new models free of brominated flame retardants and antimony trioxide by the end of 2009. “
Near the bottom of the scorecard is everyone’s favorite software giant, Microsoft, scoring only about three out of the ten possible points. “Microsoft remains in 17th position with an improved score of 2.9 points, which it earns mainly on the toxic chemicals criteria,” states the Report. “The company has committed to removing PVC vinyl plastic and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from its hardware products by or before 2010, and phthalates by the end of 2010.”
While there have been some that have spoken of the absurdity of the report, thanks to Greenpeace’s use of manufacturer information instead of conducting their own research, there are some validity to the numbers (as far as we can tell). Feel free to check out the report and draw your own conclusions.
After a brief look back at the original taskbar in Windows 1.0 (Windows turned 20 this month), the Engineering Windows 7 blog dug deep into the enhanced features of the Windows 7 taskbar in its most recent entry.
A More Visual Taskbar
The Windows 7 taskbar now features large icons, support for Aero Glass, and no text, and when a window is maximized, the taskbar and the window's title bar no longer turn opaque and dark.
Smarter Program Launch Options
Windows 7 no longer has separate taskbar and Quick Launch buttons for applications, avoiding duplications. Right-click a button on the taskbar, and you can open recently-used documents associated with the program. How can you tell which button represents a program that's already running? A new feature called Color Hot-track changes the color of a running program's taskbar icon when you move your mouse over it.
To find out what's new with thumbnails, the notification area, and for your chance to sound off about the changes, join us after the jump.
It's only a matter of time before someone comes up with a Fatal1ty brand energy drink (if it hasn't been done already), but in the meantime, Jonathan Wendel continues to have his gaming moniker marketed on more PC components, the latest being a line of power supplies by OCZ.
"These high-performance power supplies were co-developed with the expertise of Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, 12-time World champion, to meet the specific needs of fellow gamers," OCZ wrote in a press release. "OCZ Fatal1ty Professional Series PSUs feature incredible performance to power the latest graphics cards and hard drives."
The new 'co-developed' Fatal1ty power supplies will come in three configurations to start with, including a non-modular 400W, modular 550W, and non-modular 700W unit with a single +12V rail. All three power supplies are 80-plus certified and sport a red-LED 120mm fan. The 550W and 700W units also boast SLI-certification.
The PSUs are backed by 5-year (700W) and 3-year warranties (400W and 550W). No word yet on pricing or availability.
The new Street View updates allow users to see the streets far easier thanks to a new window that fills the whole screen instead of a small portion. It’s also coupled with higher resolution pictures that give you the chance to zoom in closer than you ever could before (hooray for the prospect of new sightings!)
On top of that, new navigation makes things easier. Pan the view with the A and D keys, and look at your apartment, license plate, social security number and list of fears up and down with the W and S keys.
The kicker? It’s not working with the latest version of Google Chrome. I guess that’s something to pay attention to in the future, huh?
The day that digital music outsells their time-tested physical counterparts is finally upon us. Just this week Atlantic Records announced that more than half of its music sold within the United States was digital, thanks mostly to iTunes and cell phone ringtones.
But sadly, with the lowered amount of in-store copies being bought, there’s ultimately a smaller pie to get a digital piece from. Analysts at Forrester Research are estimating that music sales in the United Sates will go down to $9.2 billion in 2013, from $10.1 billion this year. Compare that to the $14.6 billion in 1999, and there’s a disturbing trend for record execs.
It’s expected that piracy has a good deal to do with the lowering numbers, but the ailing economy could very well be a large factor. The real question though, is how long until an overwhelming majority of music sold is digitally? It can’t be too far off.