Dating back to the negotiations for bigger cuts on Facebook Credits, Zynga and Facebook have been losing that special feeling they once had. While they have created new games, some with negative results, Zynga has shopped their concept around. They worked a deal with Google, as well as preparing for a post-Facebook world, built their own platform.
Being in a lot of places might not be enough for them, though, as this week the partnership terms between Facebook and Zynga have changed. Until now, Zynga was required to build some exclusive titles for Facebook, as well as provide their titles for the platform. That is no longer the case, and that could mean titles like FarmVille showing up on other networks, like Google+ or the new Myspace. That could be a big transition for the company, especially considering without Facebook, Zynga would never have existed. The change also drops the requirement for Zynga to advertise for Facebook everywhere - good deal for Zynga there.
The other side of the deal is the Facebook can also start producing its own games. Until now, the agreement had been that Zynga would kind of be the game studio of Facebook, but now Facebook, with all of its vast, dwindling resources, can begin to compete against Zynga, EA and any other studio producing games for the platform. This here is the part that is most concerning to Zynga, as well as the other studios. Facebook has never been good about equality, so you can bet you'll see a lot more advertising for their own games than other companies' titles. So long as they prepare by reading about Google's less-than-successful adventure in the same space.
The negative impacts of this deal, outside of the obvious potential loss of active users, showed up in the place we have all come to expect: Zynga's stock. In fact, after this announcement, the company's stock, which has not been doing well in the first place, dropped another 7%. Add that to their losses and staff firings, it paints a pretty bleak picture for investors. Just because the stock price falls, however, doesn't mean the company is exactly in trouble - it just means investors are doubtful of the company's decisions. It doesn't exactly provide any hurdles today, but it will if they need another round of funding, which they probably do if they had to lay off employees.
All-in-all, this is not necessarily a bad thing for Zynga - they could find success in Google+ or Myspace, they could find success in their own platform, or they could begin to focus on their OMGPOP brand and go mobile. Honestly, though, even if Zynga vanished tonight, would people really miss them? Let us know your thoughts.
It has been about 6 months since the Microsoft vs Motorola case really started getting good. As we know, Microsoft sued Motorola for using its patents within Android without permission - the same ones used on other Android manufacturers. Motorola, now owned by Google, counter-sued Microsoft for using its patents in the Xbox 360. The case was headed for both court and the International Trade Commission. For a while it looked scary for Xbox with the ITC, maybe even a pre-holiday import ban.
Then came the news that the ITC wouldn't decide until next year whether or not to prevent Microsoft from selling Xbox consoles within the United States. This week, however, a judge in Seattle, who has been dealing with the related case between the two companies, semi-invalidated Motorola's claims, claiming the patents were tied to widely used technology standards and therefore could not be used to get an injunction against Microsoft.
Bad break for Googorola, who was really hoping to deal a harmful blow to the now clearly-defined Microsoft ecosystem of Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox with this sales ban. To add insult to injury, the case also ended up with the determination that Motorola could not penalize Microsoft through licensing fees for the suit. Since the patents are used in accepted standards, in this case WiFi, it must adhere to the RAND (Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) rules whether or not they feel they have been insulted by this suit.
This trial was a bad sign for Motorola in the first place, as it indicated that the judge was already considering preventing injunctive relief, which can only be granted if the judge believes that the company or individual has been harmed in a way that money alone cannot account for. In this case, the judge wanted to talk licensing terms, which would certainly indicate that he wanted to know how much money Motorola would get, from the time of infringement until the statute of limitations. Obviously, from his ruling, he believed money was enough.
Because Microsoft will pay royalties under any license agreement from the time of infringement within the statute of limitations, this license agreement will constitute Motorola's remedy for Microsoft's use of Motorola's H.264 standard essential patent portfolio to include the Motorola Asserted Patents. Accordingly, Motorola cannot demonstrate that it has been irreparably harmed.
Motorola still has a chance with the ITC, though it would be very unusual for the ITC to rule differently on patent matters from the judge. It also doesn't bode well for Motorola that the ITC has shown issues with import bans based on standards-based patents. My guess is, when the ITC rules, we will see a very similar response to the Seattle court decision.
We've talked a lot about the ever-growing streaming music industry, with Spotify getting funding and Xbox Music's launch, and there is a lot going on. One brand that tends to be left behind is Sony Entertainment Network's (formerly Qriocity) Music Unlimited service.
Because of this seemingly constant oversight, Sony has decided to compete on price with Microsoft, offering a 1-year subscription for $12 to PlayStation Plus members. The service, like Xbox Music, normally costs $9.99 per month, but this promotion drops that price 90%. If you are not a Plus member, you can still sign up discounted, with a 50% discount. This is definitely not a bad deal either way, considering the broad range of platforms the service is available on: PlayStation (3, Portanle, Vita), Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. The difference is in the content.
While Xbox Music, currently the most populated of the on-demand streaming services, has over 38 million tracks available, Music Unlimited only offers 18 million. 18 million sure sounds like a lot, but that is still less than half of the Xbox Music offerings. On the other hand, Xbox Music is currently only available on Microsoft platforms - Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360, while Music Unlimited is available on non-Microsoft platforms. If you aren't a big Microsoft user, it seems like a no-brainer.
My concern here is that Sony is undervaluing its product. They have proven time and again that they are not able to successfully implement the WalMart loss-leader concept - lose money up-front, while retaining customers long-term to turn a profit. They have, year-after-year, continued to lose money on the PlayStation brand despite believing losing money on the console initially would pay off Nintendo-style.
If you are a PlayStation exclusive user, especially a Plus member, I think it is worth the money to give it a shot. If you sign up, or are already a member, let us know about your experiences in the comments section.
If you have spent any time online the past few days, you have probably seen this image. If you have, congratulations - you have a friend or colleague who is very gullible. The caption included with the photo reads,
Looks like I won't be going to work EVER!!!! Share this photo and I will give a random person 1 million dollars!
The problem is, this guy is not the winner of this week's Powerball drawing. The ticket in his hand is clearly a fraud. If you look at the quality of the numbers on the ticket, you will notice some of them are more or less clear than those around them. Also, more importantly, the numbers are not in numeric order, which the rules state the numbers must be.
Despite the fairly obvious fake, this image has been shared over 1.8 million times as of this writing, with over 17,000 likes and 8,000 comments. That is a lot of attention from a lot of people, many hoping to get a piece of the action. Needless to say, sharing the image will not cut you in on the action, as there is no action involved. One can always hope, though, right?
This may end up topping the confusion you get when you think of Sony selling CDs online and even Wal-Mart asking customers to bring in their DVDs to make a digital copy. We know that Cyber Monday is usually the day the media picks to hype up overpriced "deals" and consumers spend millions to break sales records each year. However, what you may not know is that federal agencies also use this day to take down criminals and scammers. For the third year in a row, US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worked with a group of State-side and international law enforcement agencies to take down over 130 Internet domains that have all been found to be selling fake or duplicated merchandise, in an operation called "Operation in Our Sites." I have to give it to the government for being clever on this one.
Among the sites seized and taken down were an overwhelming number of sporting good operations, counterfeit Louis Vuitton shops and others, but the ones I want to focus on are the sites that were selling duplicated DVDs. ICE was able to take down three prominent sites, dvdhood.com, dvdsetshop.com and tvdvdset.com, along with other less-known names. ICE said they were able to seize the domains and make arrests from undercover purchases they made over the course of their investigation.
ICD director, John Morton, said in a statement,
This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the National Intellectual Property Rights, or IPR Center. Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one.
The yearly event has been able to lead to the shut down of more than 1,600 sites that have been caught selling illegal merchandise since 2010. This year, Europol became a member of the IPR and joined the global hunt as well.
Europol became a member of the IPR Center this year, and I am glad to be able to announce these operational successes. IPR theft is not a harmless and victimless crime. It can cause serious health and safety risks, and it undermines our economy.
Now, while I am all for the takedown of people selling knock-off goods as described here and by no means want anyone to think I am siding with the criminals on this one, there is something I want to point out. I want to make sure we all realize there are sites out there that sell duplications of DVDs that they will mail to your house, and those sites were shut down. Now that we understand this fact, I want to also stress that there are thousands of sites out there that have this media available for free, digitally, and those sites, with the exception of MegaUpload and other file-hosting sites, have a pretty good track record of staying up and running.
There are also other, easily accessible options out there that prevent the whole "order something you could download or stream and wait for it to arrive in the mail" thing. Just like CDs I can order online and going to Walmart to place an order on UltraViolet, this is the year of 2012 and things like this shouldn't be happening anymore. So, shame on anyone who still participates in even the legal form of buying DVDs online. Even more shame on the guys in charge of dvdhood.com for not going the route of Aereo or Zediva, where you could've just streamed the one DVD you probably stole to make the copies in the first place. At least if you did that there'd be an interesting lawsuit to follow with a precedence to be set at the end. Instead, you guys just end up and jail and I have to look for another thing to make fun of.
For some strange reason, it seems that almost every single tech news publication has been bashing Windows 8 since its inception, citing "severe learning curves" and other nonsense. Be it their desire to love to hate great things or if it's to make up for the multi-figure check that's sitting in their back pockets from the iNeedGoodReviews company, the fact remains that consumers who read the publications have been misguided from the get-go. Despite all of the alleged reasons to not buy or upgrade to a Windows 8 machine, however, Microsoft said this week that since the launch, the company has sold over 40 million licenses of Windows 8. This outpaces Windows 7 as far as early upgrades are concerned and it also means that most people understood that you now start from the Start Screen.
Tami Reller, the new Corporate VP and CFO after Steven Sinofsky's departure, said in her presentation to investors and media at the Credit Suisse 2012 Annual Technology Conference,
The journey is just beginning, but I am pleased to announce today that we have sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses so far.
This accomplishment comes off the heels of Microsoft's previous news that the company sold 4 million Windows 8 upgrades in only three days. Of course, there's several reasons why the numbers are so high and putting Windows 7's performance to shame. First, you can upgrade from XP, Vista or 7 to Windows 8 for only $40 through January 1st. This is, in some cases, over $100 less expensive than those who upgraded to Windows 7 five years ago. Also, Microsoft has made a huge push to make upgrading to 8 as easy possible. Downloading the installer and even handing over your credit card information within the installation process is a piece of cake and is sure to entice some users who would otherwise be turned off by a more daunting upgrade procedure.
One thing to consider though is that Microsoft said that 40 million licenses were sold, leaving us to wonder how well PC, tablet and Surface sales are doing. We don't know yet exactly how many actual devices are leaving stores, although we do know that total PC sales are down 21% this month. It is completely possible more people are choosing to upgrade their existing machines to Windows 8 instead of moving to a more touch-oriented or more powerful piece of hardware. The third party manufacturers like HP and Samsung have definitely made some amazing computers that comes with Windows 8 installed; we just have to hope customers see the reason to buy a new PC as well as upgrade their old one, no matter how good that $40 upgrade deal may be.
The question now is will developers follow suit and create more apps on the platform? We know almost all of Windows 7 programs will work in the Desktop Mode, but at the end of the day, we want to see more
Metro Modern UI apps and it looks like Microsoft has a an incentive for devs. Any developer who has their app see over $25,000 in revenue will be able to keep 80% of the revenue they make off downloads fore the life of their app, which is a 10% increase from their initial take when the app hits the Store. This must have convinced more developers to get onboard, along with the fact that designing for the front-end of Windows 8 is a blast (at times). It's also interesting to note that Microsoft said the Windows Store had more apps in its store at launch than any other app store at their launch.
Have you upgraded to Windows 8 yet? Do you not find the new Start Screen useful or interesting? Debate it out in the comments section below. Also, all my early adopters should check out the Podcast Publisher Play, found in the Windows Store right now. It's the best and only working podcatcher app for Windows 8!