Weekly News Roundup (17 August 2008)

A very slow news week. Actually, the volume of news articles I read wasn’t reduced, it’s just that most of them are just rehashes of old stories, or clearly PR releases that have absolutely no news worth. Unfortunately, there are more and more of these types of fluff stories. But that’s why we’re here. To filter out the crap, and the stuff that I didn’t want to or was too lazy to read.

CopyrightIn copyright news, Mark Cuban, the Chairman of HDNet expressing his opinion that piracy is better fought with promotion rather than prevention. Or perhaps just make better movies. The Dark Knight is a success not because nobody was able to pirate it, but because it’s a good movie. The other point of view that Mark expresses is that piracy will always be around and that people who pirate are usually those that would never have paid for it in the first place. I think this has always been the case, and those so called studies that say “X amount of money lost due to piracy” are all a load of crap, with the faulty assumption that people who pirated would have paid for it if piracy had been prevented. The studies then lead to more laws and funding to fight piracy, which can’t be fought anyway. Anti-piracy is now a billion dollar industry borne out of greed and stupidity.

Sony PlayTV will come with DRM

Sony PlayTV will come with DRM

Speaking of stupidity, Sony will add DRM to its PlayTV add-on. This means programmes recorded using PlayTV on the PS3 can’t be transferred to another PS3 and may be lost forever if, for example, your PS3 has been replaced or repaired. To be honest, it’s not a surprise for Sony to add DRM to everything, but it does seem a bit restrictive considering you can do the same thing on PCs and standalone boxes without DRM.

And onto politics for a moment, Senator McCain and potential President of the United States has released his net-neutrality and anti-piracy policies. Not good reading for Internet users, but then that’s what you would expect from a big business backed candidate. Well at least McCain knows what the Internet is, given his age and all (sorry, cheap joke that’s been used far too frequently).

High DefinitionOnto HD now, Warner Brothers is releasing a couple of movies on HD Video-On-Demand. What’s interesting is that the article classifies both Blu-ray and VOD as a threat to DVDs. I think HD VOD has great potential, with a large pool of cable subscribers to draw from, plus the ease of use of on-demand viewing versus searching online for cheap Blu-ray prices, purchase, wait for it the arrive and then insert disc. VOD is a threat not only to DVD, but to Blu-ray as well.

The PS3 still the best Blu-ray player?

The PS3 still the best Blu-ray player?

And if you’re wondering what’s the best Blu-ray player around, the answer apparently is still the PS3 according to Criterion, publishers of the Criterion Collection for serious movie fans. Paramount, now firmly in the Blu-ray camp after their earlier defection to HD DVD (which I bet they don’t want to bring up), is backing Blu-ray by providing a new rebate promotion. Selected Blu-ray titles will feature a voucher that along with a proof of purchase for the same title on DVD, gets you $10 back. This will help to get users who have DVDs to upgrade to Blu-ray, and with some titles going for under $15, it’s good value. It seems Paramount has spotted the fact that many users don’t buy Blu-ray movies that they already own on DVD as a potential problem for the HD format, and have done something about it. It’s a shame they couldn’t work something similar out for HD DVD.

Speaking of HD DVD, Toshiba has just released their next generation DVD player. It’s basically an advanced upconverting DVD player that’s priced between DVD and Blu-ray players. Will it be a success? Who knows, but hopefully it will drive the Blu-ray manufacturers to improve DVD playback quality of their players too (unlikely, and some even suggest that DVD playback quality on Blu-ray players is deliberately sabotaged to make Blu-ray more attractive).

And sort of HD related, BBC’s iPlayer will now use H.264 and AAC to improve quality. The use of a more efficient code will hopefully allow for full HD streaming one day, when bandwidth is less of an issue (currently 5 MB/s or 40 Mbps is needed for full Blu-ray quality, easily obtainable on home networks, but still quite rare for Internet connections). The bandwidth bill might be a bit high though (400+ GB per month, assuming you watch 3 HD movies per week).  

GamingAnd finally in gaming, I wrote up the analysis for July’s US NPD video games sales figures yesterday. Nothing surprising for this month. What was a surprise was that, for the first time ever, the Xbox 360 outsold the PS3 in Japan. Very likely just a one off event, but it was surprising to see the PS3 sell in so small numbers, 9,673 units compared to the Wii’s 38,506 and Xbox 360’s higher than average 24,962. Even the PS2 is still selling at 8,503.

Would you pay $2,000 for this The Dark Knight Limited Edition Xbox 360?

Would you pay $2,000 for this "The Dark Knight" Limited Edition Xbox 360?

The Xbox 360 sales surge in Japan had nothing to do with the price cut, and all to do with a new game (Tales of Vesperia). But while the average Xbox 360 is now cheap as chips, you can also go the other way and pick up a limited edition The Dark Knight Xbox 360 console. It will only set you back $US 1,200!

For the rest of us, the new upcoming Xbox 360 dashboard is looking better everyday. In a demo video, the HDD installation of GTA IV is shown, which would be very much welcomed. This makes sense of the 60 GB model becoming standard, and the demo looked like it was a full install, so the disc itself is only needed for copy protection checking.

And so we come to another conclusion to the WNR, a short one for this week. Hopefully the next week will bring more worthy news items, but with the Olympics going on, it’s probably going to be another quiet week. See you next Sunday.


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