Weekly News Roundup (21 October 2007)

Time again for the weekly news roundup. Got a lot to talk about this week, so let’s begin.

In copyright related news, YouTube has launched its new anti-piracy blocker. So that’s 90% of its videos being blocked now, and the rest is made up of clips of Chocolate Rain Guy, crying Britney Spears fan “guy” and video blogs from people talking about things nobody cares about. Even the lovable dramatic chipmunk might have to be removed, since it comes from a Japanese TV show which is no doubt copyrighted. In news that I should have covered last week, a UK car repair firm has been sued for copyright infringment because their workers had a radio on while working on the cars in the background. Has the world gone mad? It’s like the story of the mother being sued because her home video of her baby, which she had uploaded onto YouTube and removed, because there was some copyrighted music in the background. I think copyright control lost all common sense. It’s suppose to protect artists from lost revenue, but how does a home video of a baby hurt anybody? Comcast has begun to block certain P2P traffic in a bid to stop piracy, and possibly (more importantly) curb network usage. ISPs sell you bandwidth when they do not have the network capacity to accommodate it if everyone was using the maximum. It has worked before because most people don’t use anywhere near their allocated limits. Unfortunately with the net becoming more and more popular, and downloads becoming larger and larger (watching 24 hours of legal YouTube videos can use up GBs of bandwidth), people are using more and getting closer to their limits than ever before. If the net is to continue to thrive, then somebody, either in the private sector or the government, need to step in and fund further network infrastructure, because there is only so much you can do to limit traffic flow before it starts to hurt the Internet. Went a little off topic here, sorry about that.

Now to change the topic entirely, in gaming news, the PS3 has seen a sale surge up nearly 180% in recent weeks in the UK. At first glance, it seems that the surge is due to the introduction of the cheaper 40 GB PS2-emulation-less version of the PS3, but sales figure show that people are actually buying the discontinued model (with PS2 emulation) for fear that they won’t be able to buy a PS2 compatible PS3 in the future. I share their fears, but I lack the money to do anything about it. This might have been Sony’s strategy all along, but it all depends on what happens after the PS2 compatible PS3 sells out – will they introduce another model that has PS2 compatibility, or do what they are threatening to do now, which is to stop PS2 emulation support altogether? If so, won’t that hurt PS3 sales even more? While the situation may be far from desperate for Sony, they are sure acting like it with the latest news that they’ve sold their PS3 cell chip production plant to bitter HD rivals Toshiba. In the short terms, this frees up money for Sony and allows them to concentrate on their core products. But in the long term, won’t this gives Toshiba control over the pricing of PS3 cell chips and so wouldn’t this mean less price cuts in the future? Certainly, it will improve Toshiba’s profile as a technology leader, and the cost of running such a production plant can be offset easily by their record earnings recently. Toshiba is also developing a close relationship with Microsoft? Will we see a cell chip in the Xbox 720 perhaps? Microsoft themselves are doing pretty well recently due to Halo 3. It has pushed Xbox 360 sales past the Wii, shipping double the normal monthly number of consoles and almost 5 times as many sales as the PS3 (which declined 8% in a month which saw gaming sales actually increase by 64%). It’s amazing to think that a single game, the third in the series in fact, managed to do all of this. Sony really needs a game like this to push the PS3 instead of relying on Blu-ray to sell consoles, but there appears to be nothing on the horizon just yet (as least no exclusives). It’s not all bad news for Sony though, – their their PSP is doing very well, not a Nintendo DS beater, but still enough of a market to sustain it for a few generations. Microsoft, meanwhile, is planning to sell a Xbox 360 that includes a built-in HD DVD drive. Personally, I think they should have done it with the Elite, but I also don’t think they will do it until HD DVD become a more established format.

On to HD news, this article goes behind the scenes to look at the development of the Transformers HD DVD and the advanced interactive/web enabled content for the disc. The Transformers HD DVD has been selling very well, in the top 5 of disc sales on Amazon (that includes all DVD sales) – it’s the kind of movie that will sell discs, not because it’s a brilliant movie (it’s not), but it’s the kind of movie to really show off HD systems. It’s also selling well because the disc is region free, and I know lots of people here in Australia that have purchased through Amazon, and with the exchange rate and the horrible pricing of both Blu-ray and HD DVD movies here in Australia (the price for the Transformers HD DVD here in Australia is $US 38, compared to only $28 from Amazon), no wonder people are sourcing their HD movies overseas. There is also the strange situation where some movies are released by different studios worldwide, and these studios differ in which HD format they support – a Blu-ray exclusive in the US might be a HD DVD exclusive in the UK. With HD DVD being region-free, HD DVD owners are at an advantage when it comes to buying overseas. Blu-ray owners, however, have to be vigilant when checking to see if movies are indeed region-free (a lot of them are), or risk buying a movie they can’t play. Region control sucks. In Australia, companies cannot enforce DVD region control due to our competition commission (ACCC) stating that forcing region control might be against the Trade Practices Act. This is why almost all our DVD players are region free, even from big brands like LG or Samsung (there is usually a code to unlock these players). I hope the situation continues with HD players, but so far, all HD players are region locked. Speaking of HD players, Toshiba has finally started selling HD DVD players here in Australia, and it looks like they’ve read my post about free movie offers and the lack of them here in Australia. Toshiba are now offering free movies too with their players in Australia, more details here. Hopefully, this will allow HD DVD to break into the Blu-ray dominated market here in Australia (it’s not hard to dominate our very small market, especially considering the competing format has zero standalone players for sale).

That’s it for this week. See you in a week’s time.


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