technology

Speaking of videogames, Electronic Arts announced an interesting offer in EA Access: for $5 a month or $30 a year, Xbox One owners can play all the games in EA’s so-called Vault, which currently consists of FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4; with more presumably in the pipeline.  You can also get 10% off EA titles purchased through the Xbox One game store.  If you’re planning on buying even one EA game, it’s worth getting EA Access for the 10%.  Essentially, EA Access comes free for one month with every >$50 game purchase.

This appears to be a modified approach of in-app purchases on mobile; i.e. lower barriers to adoption, create stickiness once adopted and monetize later via downloadable content.  If successful, it might even create network effects.

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I haven’t played my Playstation 4 much since finishing the excellent Tomb Raider Definitive Edition.  So I was excited to blow off the dust and purchase The Last Of Us Remastered, which I had started for a few hours on my Playstation 3 and is supposedly much better on the Playstation 4.  The lure of 60 frames per second is enough to get my money again.  I saw that Playstation Plus members get a 10% discount in addition to in-game benefits — perfect.

To my surprise, the same credit card I used to purchase my Playstation Plus subscription a few months ago failed to work.  “The credit card information is not valid. Please check your entries carefully.”  Huh?  I double checked just in case I was suffering from memory loss.  Nope, perfectly valid.  Tried my other credit card, same message.

Googling revealed this problem existed since 2007, all the way to July 2014!  Holy smokes, how has Sony not fixed this yet?  Over the next hour plus, I tried all the tips suggested:

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Mac computers have been steadily eating away at Microsoft’s share of the PC market the past few years; enough so that Panos Panay appointed the MacBook Air as the Surface Pro 3’s competition.  As PCs become increasingly lifestyle products, the Mac will continue to gain share.

When we say Macs are amazing, you’re probably thinking about its sexy look and premium finish; it’s proprietary software; it’s reputation for reliability (sometimes undeserved); the slick commercials; the aspirational Apple brand; or perhaps even unwarranted PR hype.

But you’d be wrong.  The most amazing thing about the Mac isn’t all those things, things that drive market demand; it’s Apple’s peerless ability to convert demand into profit.  And that’s about good old fashioned operations.

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As a Duke alumnus, it’s weird to be excited about college football; but after last season’s phenomenal 10-2 run here I am hopping on the bandwagon.  Yesterday was media day for ACC football, and one of the topics ACC commissioner John Swofford talked about is showing ACC games nationally on digital.

Given the ACC’s attractive footprint, I can see the potential.  But I can’t help think there’s a huge, missed opportunity: international.

US college sports is classic long tail content.  It’s content meant for a very specific person: the die hard college sports fan — already niche in the US, miniscule outside it — and alumni from the two schools competing in any particular game.  I follow college basketball quite closely but even I don’t really care about Missouri playing Arizon State.  During the regular season it’s Duke first and foremost, and perhaps ACC games second.

Any business model predicated on showing me multiple “Missouri vs. Arizona State” type games for the occasional game I really want to watch are bound to fail.

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Ten years ago, when Microsoft had more than 90% control of the computer market, they were handcuffed in how they can innovate Windows due to anti-trust concerns.  Some things were already obvious even for Vista (at least to me while I was there): native security, centralized app store, collaboration, etc.

The reality today is that Microsoft has merely 14% share of the larger devices market.  So Microsoft was finally able to build in security and an app store into Windows 8.  They misfired on the latter however by making it unpleasant for those living in the desktop world to download and use Modern apps; an error they are fixing for Windows 9.

Windows is in danger of losing relevance in today’s mobile world.  The brain trust in Redmond is busy figuring out how to catch up with Windows Phone, but it would be a great mistake to put Windows into maintenance mode.  Windows is still one of Microsoft’s greatest assets, and instead of fighting losing battles, they should be building more strengths unique to Windows.  Especially now that they don’t have to answer to regulators.

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Can videogames be a sport?  There’s an article about the subject at The Verge that’s so-so reading, but this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  In my younger days, I was a decent Virtua Fighter player, having won a national tournament in the US.  (That sounds better than it actually is, because the best US players are merely average in Japan and Korea, the meccas of Virtua Fighter players.)

I argue that videogames can and should be considered sports; but there are also fundamental reasons why it may never be an Olympic-worthy one.

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Satya Nadella posted a mission-styled memo to Microsoft employees yesterday. There’s good stuff in there, and while Nadella writes in clear prose, he does use jargon and corporate speak that might make it difficult to read between the lines. So we will attempt to distill his words into plain speak. Here we go:

Our Worldview

  • The world is changing with mobile and cloud, and we will lead that change
  • And more subtly: while my predecessor is sales-oriented, I’m mission-oriented

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Here’s another irresistible thought experiment: Android apps on Windows Phone.

GigaOm says the tweeter is “Eldar Murtzin, a long-time industry insider who has a few correct predictions to his name.”

The writing is on the wall for Windows Phone.  Even though Microsoft made significant inroads with the Lumia 520, that opportunity is rapidly closing with all the high quality, low price Android phones being sold at razor thin margins from Chinese manufacturers like Oppo, Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo.  The Android One program might be the killing blow.

Unless something changes, we don’t expect Microsoft’s share of smartphones to ever break double digits.  That change might be putting Android apps on Windows Phone.  Here’s how that could theoretically kick off a virtuous cycle of growth.

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If there’s a company I’d work for just because of its leadership, it would be Google.  Larry Page and Sergey Brin are just on another level when it come to thinking about technology, the world and our future.  If we think like ants, they think like giants.  I learn something new every time I hear them speak, and the latest Fireside Chat with Vinod Khosla is no exception.  If you haven’t, see the insightful 42-minute interview as soon as you can:

Khosla had remarked (at around the 13:50 mark) how scary it was that technology and machines are displacing a lot of the work that people used to do and what that meant for jobs.  Page pointed out that 90% of people used to be farmers, and Khosla then added that today the number is 2%.  Page goes on to elaborate how we should be living in abundance, and that in actuality it’s pretty easy to meet everyone’s basic needs, but we’d have a new challenge in giving people something to do.  I agree and disagree with his hypothesis.

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We wrote before how the future of driverless cars won’t be Toyota but Uber.  We hypothesized that car manufacturers won’t risk putting their brand behind such a project, and that you wouldn’t be able to walk into a car dealership in the next 7 years to buy one.  Instead, the future of driverless cars will be in services like Uber, where consumers don’t own the car but pay to ride it.

This excellent article from Reuters, chock full of insider reporting, supports all those hypotheses.

Car manufacturers won’t risk their brands:

Car companies, all too familiar with the devastating financial and brand damage of recalls, would see any hiccups with the self-driving car as a threat to their main business.

“We’re not going to put our name on a project like that because if something goes wrong, we have a lot more to lose.”  – Guy from major car manufacturer

It’ll be years before you can buy a driverless car from a dealership:

Some in the industry predict fully automated cars will be available as soon as 2020, though research firm IHS Automotive does not expect the cars to be widely available until 2035.

To start, driverless cars won’t be purchased but used on-demand:

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has described self-driving cars as an on-demand service that consumers summon when needed. That would represent a seismic shift from a longstanding model based on individual ownership.

Ahhh.  It does feel good to be right.  :)