Friday, February 18, 2011

US Justice Department and FTC looking into Apple's new subscription policy

Apple unveiled its new app store subscriptions earlier this week with a decent amount of controversy and even an official statement from Rhapsody saying it would not comply with the new regulations. The new policy requires any company offering subscription services to offer the same service, at the same price (or less) through Apple, with Apple skimming 30 percent off the top. It also no longer allows apps to have links to external sites where purchases can be made. Now, reports the Wall Street Journal, antitrust enforcers in the US are having a preliminary look into the new arrangement. So, what does that mean? Well, these kinds of pre-investigations are pretty common, so it could mean nothing at all. Or, it could lead to a more formal investigation into if the policy violates antitrust laws. When asked for comment on the story, unsurprisingly, no one at Apple, the FTC, or the Justice Department would comment.

[Source: Wall Street Journal via Engadget]

Thursday, February 17, 2011

IBM Jepardy Challenge: Finale Summary

Ken Jennings was thirsty for blood (silicon?) tonight. After struggling to buzz in faster than Watson during in the first match, Jennings was noticeably quicker in this match, buzzing in first and thinking about the correct response after. As a result, he finished with over 18,200 going into Final Jeopardy, just a few thousand dollars behind Watson's 23,440. Rutter meanwhile, was mostly invisible during this round much like Jennings was last round. But he still managed to rack up 5,600.

As for Watson, it may not have been quite as dominant as last round, but seemed less confused by questions this time around, only providing nonsensical answers a couple of times. But Watson proved it was the best contestant out there. If they played 10 rounds of Jeopardy, I'd be surprised if Watson lost any more than one time.

And you know what was disappointing? The interview segment of the show. Always a source of entertainment for conversations which are nothing short of AWKWARD, Watson never got his time to shine. Alex asked Jennings and Rutter about the charities they were donating half their winnings to, but not Watson. Instead of carrying out an exchange with Alex or rattling off a pre-determined message in is creepily lifeless voice, know what we got? Some WASP-y IBM stiff who was easily 100 (maybe even 101) times less interesting than Watson.

 But whatever. Unlike last night, there was actually a bit of intrigue going into Double Jeopardy. Jennings earned enough in this round that if he put his entire total for the night on the line and guessed correct, he could possibly eek out a victory against Watson. The category was 19th century authors and the clue was this:
Jennings correctly answered Bram Stoker. But his wager?

What Does This Mean?

Watson's victory is a pretty significant moment for machines. But don't get too carried away and start questioning the meaning of life while searching for a leather-clad savior to deliver us from our impending doom. I mean, the thing thinks Toronto is a U.S. city for God's sake.

That said, Watson is proof that we're closer than ever to having machines which interact with us as effortlessly and intuitively as humans do. Its voice recognition skills aren't there yet, and it's roughly the size of 1.5 Steve Ballmers (pretty big!), but we shouldn't be discouraged. Think about the computers that were around 60 years ago—or even 30 years ago—that took up entire rooms and what they were capable of. Now, most of our smartphones are more powerful (or nearly more powerful) than that.

So in many of our lifetimes, it's likely that we'll get to experience machines more powerful than Watson, which will fit into our hands, or be integrated into our homes, cars, hospitals, androids, etc. We talk. It listens and replies. It might even be smarter than us, as IBM suggests.

This, people, is an exciting possibility.

[Source: Gizmodo]

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac OS goes gold, hits the App Store

It's been available since October in beta form, but Microsoft has just turned its Windows Phone 7 Connector product to a shiny shade of gold, giving Mac owners a solid (if not Zune-free) option for hooking up their Windows Phones without firing up Boot Camp. We're told there aren't any new features in the latest build worth noting, so you'll get the same options as before: media synchronization, iTunes compatibility, and support for Windows Phone firmware updates.

[Source: Engadget]

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Entire Criterion Collection Is Coming to Hulu Plus

Good news for the handful of you that subscribe to Hulu Plus (and live in the U.S.): there are now over 150 pristinely-restored, culturally-important Criterion films now available on the subscription service, with over 800 titles—everything in Criterion's library—slated to appear in the next few months. That's actually pretty damn incredible.

The Criterion Collection, for those who aren't familiar, is an ever-expanding set of films both old and new, lovingly restored to the most pristine condition possible and presented with rich supplementary material. Basically: it's the best movies ever, presented in the best quality. The DVDs—gorgeous objects that they are—aren't cheap, and gaining access to masterpieces from cinematic luminaries like Kurosawa, Bergman, and Hitchcock to contemporary greats like Linklater, Fassbinder, and Cassavetes for just $8 a month is a staggering value. Just scroll through this list and let your eyes glaze over. Criterion says that supplementary materials will be coming to Hulu soon, and at this point, thanks to sponsors, all ads are up front so you can enjoy the movie without interruptions. It's sounding pretty sweet, and it might be just the content Hulu needs to stay relavent.

A year ago, say, when people were devouring episodes 30 Rock and the Daily Show like sumo wrestlers at an all you can eat buffet, Hulu seemed like an inevitably major player in the future of digital video. The prospect of a glorious, all-encompassing Hulu subscription service hung in the horizon. They had that funny superbowl commercial with Alec Baldwin. Times were good.

But since then Hulu's faltered a bit. Some favorite titles were yanked from the offerings. The subscription service was too expensive and not expansive enough. And all the while, Netflix doggedly expanded their Instant Watch library, quietly but significantly restructuring themselves as a streaming video powerhouse who also would mail you a DVD or Blu-ray if you wanted them to.

For people who love movies, though, the complete Criterion Collection is reason enough to reconsider Hulu. It's a gamble—it remains to be seen if the draw of some 800 cinematic masterpieces is enough to get people to join on—but in terms of bringing great works of art into the digital age, it's certainly an admirable start.

[ Source: Criterion via Gizmodo]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Microsoft Rally Ball demo shows Windows Phone 7, Kinect, Xbox Live living in perfect harmony

Though it's billed strictly as a technology demo -- not something we'll necessarily see in any imminent over-the-air update -- Microsoft showed off a pretty cool demo of how Windows Phone 7's Xbox Live integration could take advantage of Kinect down the road at Steve Ballmer's MWC keynote today. How, you ask? Using the Rally Ball game, a Windows Phone user was shown tossing balls to an on-screen character that's controlled by someone else on an Xbox using a Kinect. Simple, yes -- but perhaps as interesting as the Kinect aspect is the viability of real-time cross-platform gaming that Microsoft seems to be throwing its support behind.

[Source: Engadget]

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Borders headed for bankruptcy filing

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crysis 2 Leaked Online, Creators ‘Deeply Disappointed’

Crysis 2 won't be released officially for another month, but a playable version of Crytek's ambitious PC shooter has already made its way online, much to the disappointment of its creators.
According to those who have played it—we first heard about the leak via the Facepunch forums—that leaked build of Crysis 2 comes complete with multiplayer and the master keys to the game's piracy protection. It is allegedly playable from start to finish, a seemingly near-complete beta version of its campaign.
We contacted EA and Crytek for comment. Here's what they had to say.
"Crytek has been alerted that an early incomplete, unfinished build of Crysis 2 has appeared on Torrent sites," reads EA's response to Kotaku on the matter. "Crytek and EA are deeply disappointed by the news. We encourage fans to support the game and the development team by waiting and purchasing the final, polished game on March 22."
"Crysis 2 is still in development and promises to be the ultimate action blockbuster as the series' signature Nanosuit lets you be the weapon as you defend NYC from an alien invasion. Piracy continues to damage the PC packaged goods market and the PC development community."
The game is scheduled to be released on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on March 22 in North America.
[Source: Kotaku]

Here is a link to all the screenshots that have been posted so far.