Sony patent signposts the end of previously-owned video games

used-games-shelfIt’s no great secret that developers and publishers in the video game industry would like to see an end to the used games market. The reasons for this are obvious: while everybody gets paid when a game is bought brand new, no one involved in the process of actually making the games get paid when it’s bought and sold for a second time.

However, there are several reasons why a healthy used games market is a good thing for the industry, and who knows how many gamers would give up on what is an expensive hobby if the chance to buy and sell games was removed. Unfortunately this isn’t stopping the efforts to curtail the market, with publishers such as EA making it harder to justify buying used games. And if Sony has its way the next generation of consoles could kill the market once and for all.

Used Games Market


Currently the used games market is huge, with a majority of gamers splitting their purchases between new and used titles. In the U.S. the used games market is worth at least $1 billion, and that’s a healthy chunk of the overall market. As well as big-name retailers and independent games stores offering trade-in value, there are the online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.

While there is one obvious downside to this situation (as outlined above) the developers and publishers seem to be blind to the upsides. For example, if a gamer sells a title on after finishing playing it, they’re likely to plow the money gained back into the industry by buying a new game. It also means people are more likely to gamble buying a full-priced title as they know they can offload it for a fair price if it fails to live up to expectations.

Sony Patent


This reasoning has made no difference to the overall anxiety amongst industry people, and most are clearly keen to force gamers to buy new rather than used. The latest weapon in this fight – which has already seen online functions limited to those who buy games brand new – is a new patent applied for by Sony just a few months ago.

As dissected by NeoGAF it would see RFID tags embedded in all new game discs. The hardware would have the ability to read that tag and determine whether the game should function on that particular console. A new game would be tied to one console, with used games becoming unusable or, at the very least, having some functionality removed.

Sony is expected to launch the PlayStation 4 in the next 12 months, so it’s entirely possible such a system for identifying used games is already in the works. Microsoft is also gearing up to launch a new console, and there have been constant rumors that the next Xbox is also going to stifle the playability of used games. So the next-generation could potentially be a fatal one for the used games market.


If this turns out to be the case then I suspect many gamers would have to think long and hard about whether they’re going to continue to invest time and money in their hobby. If just one of the next-gen consoles included anti-used games measures then the other is likely to win big. If they both include such a system then no one wins, especially not consumers.

Image Credits: Seth Werkheiser, Stephan Mosel

Apple iPhone may be king, but Android rules the world

In many countries around the world the iPhone is the most popular smartphone, beating all other pretenders to its crown whether they’re running Android, Windows Phone, or even BlackBerry OS. However, Apple is being roundly beaten by the strength-in-numbers behemoth that the Google operating system has grown to become.

The iPhone may be king, but Android rules the world.

The popularity of Android has been growing for several years, but it’s now reaching a level that threatens to upset the Apple apple cart. A strong Android spells disaster for the iPhone. The more people who opt for Android-powered smartphones over the iPhone, the more Apple should start to worry.

Three Out Of Four

According to a new report from IDC (via Reuters), 75% of all new smartphones shipped in Q3 2012 were running Android. This is a massive rise in market share over the same period in 2011, when Android accounted for 57.5 percent of all smartphones shipped. In total there were 181.1 million smartphones shipped in Q3, and Android was installed on 136 million of them.

Apple is lagging woefully behind, with just 14.9 percent market share in Q3 2012. This is a slight rise on the 13.8 percent market share iOS enjoyed over the same period in 2011. The new iPhone 5, an incremental upgrade if ever I saw one, will likely help boost these figures for next year, but when 75 percent plays 15 percent there’s only ever going to be one winner.

iOS Vs. Android

I’m of the firm belief that Android and iOS are both great operating systems. And Windows Phone also deserves to be thrown into the mix for those not keen on the offerings from Google or Apple. There are startling differences between the two, naturally, but they both essentially do the same job, and both do it extremely well.

The problem for Apple is that it has one device (in terms of smartphones) going up against the dozens of Android devices swarming the market. Most mainstream consumers won’t be the least bit interested in iOS vs. Android, and instead choose hardware based on its specs and how they align with their needs. In which case Apple just cannot compete.


Apple will keep banging on about the iPhone being the most popular smartphone on the market, but it’s being roundly beaten by the collective that is Android. This matters because one thing in particular is driving smartphone adoption: apps. With the number of Android users growing so will the quantity and quality of Android apps available on Google Play. And that will harm Apple for the long term.

Image Credit: Cheon Fong Liew

The iPhone 5’s incremental updates underwhelm many consumers

As you have no doubt heard by now, the iPhone 5 has been unveiled, with Apple doing the honors at a press event in San Fransisco on Sept. 12. Unfortunately, although it’s a great phone by itself, the expectations going in meant disappointment coming out.

It’s not that the iPhone 5 sucks or anything – in fact, it’s right up there with the strongest smartphone competition – but it’s pretty much identical to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S which is why many people felt disappointed after its announcement.

Apple and its legion of fans have to share the blame for this, and it suggests a future filled with despondency for the company and its followers.

Lackluster new offering

The iPhone 5 offers several improvements to the phone’s display, camera, and battery life. And the screen is bigger. And it’s thinner and lighter than ever. But it’s all so boring.

Incremental updates are fine, especially as the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S can still hold their own. But where was the headline-grabbing killer feature similar to those that have closed out past product announcements; the Retina Displays and Siris of this world. There wasn’t one. This is the iPhone 5, a great phone by anyone’s standards, but not enough of a jump for a company for whom innovation comes naturally.


The disappointment from all but the fanboys was palpable. Read any one of the reports from the Apple event across the Web by unbiased technology journalists, and their feelings are laid bare. Many Apple fans tried to put on a brave face for the cameras, the pick being MG Siegler’s illogical ravings about the negative reaction to the iPhone 5 in which he summons The Prestige and keeps repeating that it’s all about ‘The Turn’. Because repeating something makes it true.


The reason the iPhone 5 is a huge disappointment is because of expectation levels. Just watch the video embedded above, which was uploaded to YouTube a year ago. It shows several concept features that someone, somewhere imagined Apple could be planning to include in the iPhone 5. At the time of writing 61 million people have watched the video, all of whom will have had their expectation levels piqued.

On top of that, several months before this week’s iPhone 5 announcement, the leaks began. Whole websites cropped up dedicated to rumor-mongering around the iPhone 5, while even the big tech blogs got suckered into chasing pageviews in this way. This accomplished two things: the iPhone 5 was revealed in dribs and drabs over the course of months; the hype built to a crescendo that Apple could never sustain when the time came to reveal the truth.


Ultimately I suspect Apple’s future is now set. Its most innovative days are behind it, at least for several years to come. It boasts a line-up of products that sells phenomenally well, and a large enough set of dedicated fans that will upgrade every year or two regardless of how much the technology has moved on.

In spite of this, the speculation and leaks will continue, building to a climax in the weeks before each heavily publicized press event. And the reality will never quite live up to the hype. So anyway, what’s the iPhone 6 going to be like? The next day of disappointment is only 12 months away, after all.

Image Credit: V. H. D.

Facebook or Fakebook – It Doesn’t Matter

It was recently revealed that Facebook doesn’t have as many users as the official figures would suggest. Within the 955 million monthly active users the social networking site boasts are millions of bogus accounts, made up of duplicates, misclassifications, and undesirables.

The thing is that although this “news” made it on to technology websites around the world, no one could have been surprised by the figures, and even less could have cared about them. Because it doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things.

Bogus Facebook Accounts

As Craig Lloyd previously noted, Facebook IS fast approaching 1 billion users, with 955 active on a monthly basis. This is up from the 901 million recorded in April, showing that despite a slowing in the rate of growth, Facebook is still expanding. We know the size of Facebook’s userbase thanks to the company’s quarterly filing (via Indystar) with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. With Facebook now being a public company we’ll be able to track its growth and other statistics more easily than was previously possible.

Facebook is also now required by law to include in the filing any factor that could impinge on its future success. The idea being that shareholders need to be able to make more of an informed decision whether to hold on to or sell their shares in the company. Hence the revealing of an estimated 83 million bogus Facebook accounts.

The 83 million is made up of: 45.84 million (4.8 percent) duplicates where one person has set up two or more personal accounts; 22.92 million (2.4 percent) miscategorized where a person has created an account for a pet, child, or organization rather than a page; 14.33 million (1.5 percent) undesirables dedicated to spamming or other improper use.

Everybody Knew – Nobody Cares

I guess the news here is that Facebook itself is fessing up about the number of bogus accounts it has, but the manner in which the mainstream tech press lapped this up you’d think it was a shocking revelation. It isn’t at all.

Everyone with even the slightest notion about how Facebook works knew its numbers were off, and that there is a sizable proportion of bogus accounts. Hell, I am myself responsible for one of them, having created a Facebook account for my cat. What can I say, I was bored and lonely.

And really, who cares? Shareholders, of course, but then seeing as (at the time of writing) they’ve seen the value of their Facebook stock fall by 50 percent I’d say they have bigger concerns over Facebook’s future than the existence of some bogus accounts.

To sum up, a significant percentage of Facebook is actually Fakebook, but it really doesn’t matter.

Google+ Will Succeed By Integrating Everything

Google+ has been with us for a year now, having been launched at the end of June 2011. Over the past 12 months it hasn’t exactly set the world alight. It’s nice enough, especially after the recent redesign, and some of its core features and functionality are better than those of the competition. But its biggest claim to fame so far is the influence it has had on its nemesis, the big bad, ubiquitous Facebook.

These two social networks are locked in a battle of wills. Since Google+ launched, Facebook has nudged ever closer to boasting a user base of 1 billion people, and has finally gone public with its IPO. That didn’t go too well, but it still achieved its aim of becoming a public company worth tens of billions of dollars.

Facebook > Google+

Right now, Facebook bests Google+ in almost every department. The number of users, engagement levels, apps, games, photos shared, etc. Google is playing a severe game of catchup in the social networking arena, one that it’s not going to win easily and without pushing hard and fast into enemy territory.

But there is one way in which Google+ could succeed. It’s a strategy that would at the very least start eating into Facebook’s huge lead built up over the past eight years. It’s all about integration.

Integrate, Integrate, Integrate!

Google offers so many services that it’s often easy to forget how many of those services most of us use on a regular basis. From Search to Maps, from News to Docs, from Gmail to YouTube, Google has its tentacles spread far and wide across the web. Some of these services have already been integrated with Google+ to a degree, but that integration could be tighter across the board.

I firmly believe that if Google does head down this route of aggressively and progressively integrating all of its other services into Google+, people will turn away from Facebook. It already feels as though people are looking for an alternative. Facebook is now too mainstream and too old in the tooth for the zeitgeist-seeking, internet-savvy youngsters, but Google+ has yet to tempt them away in any great number.

Google+ > Facebook

After all of the other various free Google services are integrated into and inextricably linked with Google+, it will be a viable and valid alternative to Facebook — one which offers users the chance to choose the social network on which they can check their email and collaborate on Google Docs together all from one central locale.

At that point in time Google would hold all the cards, and Facebook could be left facing an exodus of users fleeing for fresher social networking pastures.

Will there really be a future for Smart Watches?

The smartwatch is a fairly new concept but has, so far, failed to take off in a mainstream way. And with good reason. At worst, they are utterly pointless, and at best, just a stopgap filling the void before something better and with a longer shelf-life is released. Or perhaps I’m alone in thinking this way.

The recent success of Pebble has seen many people waxing lyrical over the phenomenon. But that’s just tech bloggers, I hear you cry. Not so. They may be the ones shouting the loudest but the $10 million the project has so far raised on Kickstarter has come from a lot more than just geeks with a penchant for gadgets. These are ordinary people sinking money into a genre of product I personally cannot see the point of.

Smartwatches such as Pebble or the Sony SmartWatch are digital display devices which feed off information provided by the smartphone that accompanies them – including the time of day. Oh there’s a little more to them than that, with apps that can tell you how far you’ve run or how fast you’ve cycled. But nothing all that exciting and, crucially, nothing you can’t already do on your smartphone.

So let me get this straight. This is a watch costing $150 that will do little beyond saving me from having to fish my phone out of my pocket. And that’s it. I have to conclude this is a form factor for lazy people, those who have become so intolerant of pulling out their phone every time they want to read a text message that they would rather look at their wrist instead.

Smartwatches offer nothing beyond what we already have at our disposal apart from being an extra link in the chain.

Just a Stopgap

Even if everybody does have an innate desire to stay connected at all times so much that they feel the need to own smartwatches, I cannot see this form factor being anything more than a stopgap. A watch which still needs to be connected to a phone is only useful to a point. And it will soon be superseded by the next big thing. Like Project Glass for example.

Let’s rewind to the beginning of April for a moment and remind ourselves what future Google is imagining for us all.


Do you think anyone will be wearing a smartwatch paired to their phone when the majority of early adopters are already sporting similar tech in their glasses? I assume that Project Glass specs will eventually be standalone units replacing rather than complementing smartphones. But even if the first-generation devices, which are now already at the prototype stage and being worn by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, require pairing with a phone they’ll still be cooler than a smartwatch.

Smartwatches may be a hit on Kickstarter but for me, they’re a total nonstarter.

Nokia Loses Mobile Phone Crown To Samsung After 14 Years On Top

Nokia has finally succumbed to pressure from the leading smartphone handset manufacturers and lost its crown as the leading cellphone vendor in the world. Samsung has taken its place at the top, while Apple remains in third place. Focusing in on just smartphone sales reveals Apple is still number one, with Samsung a very close second, and Nokia a long way behind in third.

This sets up a couple of interesting questions that will be answered over the coming years and beyond: Who will win in the titanic battle between Apple and Samsung for smartphone sales? Will Nokia be able to recover from this position, with Microsoft as its partner and Windows Phone as its operating system of choice?

Nokia Knocked Off Perch

For as long as I have owned a mobile phone Nokia has been the number one seller of the form factor. It has held the number one spot as mobile phone vendor since 1998, and in that time managed to see off plenty of competitors. Unfortunately that reign at the top of the pile has now come to a crashing end, with the news that Samsung has succeeded it as king.

According to data from IHS, Nokia’s handset shipments dropped from 114 million in Q4 2011 to 83 million in Q1 2012. That’s a drop of 27 percent. To be fair both Samsung and Apple also took a hit, with drops of 13 percent and 5 percent respectively. But that leaves them on 92 million and 35 million, meaning Samsung has hurdled Nokia to take the number one spot.

Apple Vs. Samsung

The smartphone sales figures are also interesting. Again, all three have taken a hit, with Apple dropping from 37 million to 35 million, Samsung from 35 million to 32 million, and Nokia from 20 million to 12 million. Apple has actually increased its lead over Samsung during the last quarter.

However, that doesn’t mean the titanic battle is over. Far from it, in fact. Samsung is expected to unveil its latest smartphone (almost certainly the Galaxy S III) at an event in London on May 3. Apple will then launch the iPhone 5 by October, although there is increasing speculation that it could arrive much sooner, possibly during WWDC in June.

Either way the scene is set for a huge fight between the two leading vendors of smartphones. The Galaxy S III is garnering almost-iPhone levels of anticipation and speculation, and I suspect many Android users will be looking to upgrade to it at the earliest opportunity.

Any Chance Of A Comeback?

This leaves Nokia in an awkward position. It has finally made the move to smartphones, partnering with Microsoft to offer Windows Phone on all its handsets, but reception to both the handsets and the OS that powers them have been mixed. To say the least. If Nokia wants to gain ground back on Samsung then it needs not only to produce compelling hardware but also for Microsoft to keep plugging away with Windows Phone. Perhaps Windows Phone 8 will be the turning point.

Image Credits: John Karakatsanis, Cheon Fong Liew, Maurits Knook

Samsung Galaxy Note – Phone, Tablet, or Worthless Piece of Junk?

Mobile phones started out resembling bricks. They were monsters, with the internal components necessary to make them work taking up so much space as to make early examples look ludicrous in hindsight. And then they shrank until the smaller they became, the better they were supposed to be.

But that trend has now reversed, as we’re all doing much more than just phoning and texting on our mobile devices. Some of us are living our lives through these things, and that trend is only going to increase as smartphones are effectively able to do everything we would ever want them to do.

With that in mind it’s time to welcome the Samsung Galaxy Note onto the stage.

Samsung Galaxy Note

The Samsung Galaxy Note is a smartphone/tablet based on the Android operating system. It’s powered by a 1.4Ghz, dual-core processor, boasts 1Gb of RAM, has up to 32Gb of memory, and two cameras; 8MP at the rear, 2MP at the front. And it looks fantastic.

The one problem is the 5.3-inch screen size, which means even the product itself is confused as to whether it’s a phone or a tablet. Perhaps it’s just a worthless piece of junk instead.

As A Phone…

The Samsung Galaxy Note works as a phone, barely. It has all the necessary internal gubbins, naturally, but whether you’d actually feel comfortable holding it up to your ear to take or make a phone call I’m not so sure. I’d advise Galaxy Note owner to get used to wearing a Bluetooth headset very quickly.

The sheer size of this thing makes it look unlike any phone you have ever seen in your life. The screen size is huge compared to anything that has gone before. Bear in mind that the iPhone has a 3.5-inch screen and the Galaxy S2 a 4.3-inch screen. These are both dwarfed by the Galaxy Note. With the screen measured diagonally the difference is wider than you’ll ever imagine.

As A Tablet…

The Samsung Galaxy Note works as a tablet, barely. It has been created as a kind of hybrid phone/tablet, or phablet. It comes with its own special stylus, which actually goes against the grain of using nothing but your fingers to type, dial, and write on your mobile device of choice.

Is 5.3 inches a big enough screen size for a tablet? I’m not convinced. Remember that the iPad has a 9.7-inch screen, and even cheap Android slates such as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet boast 7-inch screens. You’ll struggle to use the Galaxy Note as a tablet, and it certainly won’t be a comfortable proposition.


Personally speaking I’d rather own a smartphone with a decent-sized screen which handles phone calls really well and everything else adequately. Plus a 7-inch to 10-inch tablet which handles everything else apart from phone calls really well. And I suspect I’m far from alone on this.

The Samsung Galaxy Note isn’t a bad product at all. In fact its specs are pretty damn awesome; certainly for a smartphone, and even for a budget tablet. The problem is it’s trying to be two things at once, and struggling to be either.

It cannot therefore be branded a phone, a tablet, or a worthless piece of junk. It’s none of the above and yet all three at the same time. So I guess it wins the battle in terms of multi-tasking at the very least, just not in the way Samsung must have envisioned.

Image Credits: Retinafunk, Stuart Fleming

The Emerging Trends of CES 2012

CES 2012 has ended – drawing to a close rather too quickly for those of us either in attendance or glued to the Web watching endless coverage of it. The 2012 Consumer Electronics Show was a triumph in terms of visitor numbers, with a record attendance. But many reported it being a trifle dull in terms of what was on display.

Craig Lloyd gave us great recaps of Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 of CES 2012. There were some definite trends emerging, ones that will likely shape the technology landscape for the next 12 months and beyond.

Big(ger) Screen TVs

The majority of people have now upgraded from their old CRT television to a new, big, flat-screen TV. Or at least the majority of those I come into contact with. This means the TV manufacturers are having to find new ways of generating sales. The big trend of CES 2011 was 3D, and while that’s still being bet on in a big way, it’s now standard on most new TVs being sold.

This year saw the emergence of OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) technology, as seen on LG’s impressive new 55-inch television. But the 55-inch OLED is a little on the small side, with screen sizes stretching up to 84-inches. Smart TVs are also gaining a foothold, although it’s going to need one platform to rule them all before people really get interested. Google TV perhaps?


Ultrabooks are essentially the PC equivalent of the MacBook Air. They’re powerful laptops made thinner and lighter. Manufacturers including Acer, Dell, HP, Samsung, and Toshiba are all betting big on Ultrabooks, but the high cost of the product is somewhat prohibitive for mainstream consumers at this point in time. And those with cash to burn will likely go with the Apple product instead.


Tablets are emerging as the next big thing in personal computing. The touchscreen is a natural user interface, and the ultimate portability of tablets means they’re biting into the laptop market strongly. Unfortunately only the Apple iPad has managed to live up to the hype so far.

However, the sheer number of tablets at CES 2012 suggests Apple may soon have something to worry about. We’ve already seen the Amazon Kindle Fire provide the template for an affordable Android tablet, and many more are likely to follow in its footsteps. Including the $100 OLPC XO-3 tablet.


Microsoft may have only been a small part of CES 2012, but Windows was everywhere.

Windows Phone has already been written off by many, as it’s assumed to be too far behind iOS and Android to ever catch up and make its mark. But Microsoft has managed to get several handset manufacturers on board, including Nokia. The Windows Phone platform is now considered a dark horse.

Windows 8 is on its way, probably by the end of this year. At CES 2012 it was present on several of the tablets and laptops being developed by Microsoft’s partners. Windows 8 is an incredible gamble due to its new Metro UI, but it could just pay off. And in a big way.

Celebrity Endorsements

By far the least edifying sight at CES 2012 was the number of celebrities on display. Most of whom were present to endorse a company or product.

Justin Timberlake was there as co-owner of MySpace, Will Smith popped by the Sony press conference, gave an embarrassing performance as Intel’s Director of Creative Innovation, Justin Bieber sold out to show off a Vietnamese dancing robot, and a whole host of Z-list celebs put their name to headphones.

Dr. Dre has a lot to answer for.


As if you couldn’t already tell from the above, CES 2012 was a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly. And Justin Bieber. I suspect next year will be more of the same, with more visitors pouring in to see less and less genuinely-exciting products. And Justin Bieber. I cannot wait.

Image Credits: LGEPR, Ceo1017, and HighTechDad

Rupert Murdoch joins Twitter, the world laughs

I never thought I’d live to see the day Rupert Murdoch joined Twitter. But it’s happened. And it’s wildly entertaining watching the most-famous n00b in the world try to get his head around the micro-blogging social network. Long may it continue.

Rupe Is No Dupe

If a celebrity or famous face isn’t on Twitter then there will be an account either claiming to be them or openly spoofing them on the site. That’s just the way it is. So when a new Twitter account claiming to be owned by the real Rupert Murdoch appeared on the site, few people actually bought into it.

That was until the account was verified and then promoted by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, at which point the number of followers began multiplying at a rate of knots. At the time of writing @rupertmurdoch has just over 100,000 followers, but I suspect that number will keep climbing.

Why The Interest?

Why should we care that Murdoch is on Twitter? Because this is a man who controls a huge portion of the world’s media, and he can, unfortunately, help elect presidents and prime ministers. Hearing his unedited views on what is happening as they come fluttering into his head is fascinating.

There is also the fact that Murdoch is not a fan of the Internet. He hates what it has done to print newspapers, and struggles to see why people should be able to read news openly and freely when he could previously charge for it.

Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff summed up Murdoch’s views on the Internet in a 2009 Vanity Fair article, suggesting, “For him it’s a place for porn, thievery, and hackers.” Which it is, I guess, but it’s a lot more besides. Something it has taken Murdoch an age to latch on to.

Along For The Ride

It has already been fun following Rupert Murdoch on Twitter. We have had opinionated tweets such as, “Steve Jobs biog interesting but unfair. Family must hate,” and “Obama decision on terrorist detention very courageous – and dead right!” Which, whether you agree or disagree with the sentiment, is interesting to hear.

Proving the guy has lost none of his powers of classless promotion we have had tweets saying, “I LOVE the film ‘we bought a zoo’, a great family movie. Very proud of fox team who made this great film,” and “Got to watch Foxnews at 5 EST. Liberal Bob Beckel and team great replacement for Beck and much more fun.”

But by far the most fun to this point has been watching an old media dinosaur trying to get to grips with this new-fangled technology we call social networking. He has deleted a joke tweet – “Maybe Brits have too many holidays for broke country”. Murdoch has also randomly tweeted to a couple of random people, except he seems to have forgotten to include a message after their names.

Entertainment At Its Best

Twitter is awash with famous people, most of whom tweet nothing but garbage and plugs for their various moneymaking ventures. But I’d rather see Rupert Murdoch tweeting than I would Kevin Smith or Ashton Kutcher. It’s certainly more entertaining than reading any of Murdoch’s newspapers or watching any of his television channels.

Image Credit: Joe Wolf
Image Credit: World Economic Forum