Weekly News Roundup (19 July 2009)

Welcome to another edition of the Weekly News Roundup. Come to think of it, I really should have numbered the WNR editions (for example, WNR #57), so I can easily refer to each. Yes, I could go and count each WNR and then start using edition numbers (there are 94 according to the WordPress category post count), but screw it.

A busy week this week, since I actually bothered to do some work. I started a new series called “The History of Digital Digest” to celebrate the 10th birthday of this website. Part 1 was posted this week, and it talks about how Digital Digest was launched, and some tidbits that have never been made public before. The June 2009 NPD figures came out and as usual, I have posted the full analysis. It marks another month in which the only happy party is Microsoft, as it was the only company yet again to have any sort of year-on-year growth. The Wii is still the best selling console (portables not included), but the PS3 is struggling, in hardware and software numbers. All could be fixed by the magical elixir known simply as “a price cut”, but it’s going to take a while for Sony to figure it out I suppose. Yes, they lose more money if they cut prices without cutting manufacturing cost, but how much money are they losing by being 3rd in the console race at the moment? And game sales, the stable of console manufacturer income, is very much dependant on hardware numbers – this is why most game console are sold at a loss. Just bite the damn bullet, Sony. Anyway, onto the WNR proper …


Starting with Copyright news, continuing with The Pirate Bay coverage, or perhaps better expressed as “The Death of The Pirate Bay” coverage, the company that has bought TPB has hired a new man to helm the (in)famous website – step up Wayne Rosso, who is now courting the RIAA and MPAA and trying to make nice.

Wayne Rosso aims to destroy, I mean fix, The Pirate Bay by making it legal

Wayne Rosso aims to destroy, I mean fix, The Pirate Bay by making it legal

In a stomach churning interview, Rosso calls his best buddies at the RIAA and MPAA “unbelievably supportive” and vows to “turn over a legitimate new leaf” to make TPB completely legal. Rosso plans to do this by introducing some kind of fee, which will be used to pay the content owners – the fee can be reduced if users contribute P2P resources. I don’t see how this can work, because you cannot still offer pirated material even if you charge a fee and pass that on to the content owners, so the content would have to be legal and so will become limited by the content that content owners are willing to provide (so expect lots of DRM), which defeats the whole purpose of the website because there are already tons of sites offering the purchase of legal (and DRM infested) downloads. So if it wasn’t clear as to what will become of the TPB, it’s now pretty clear that TPB, as we know it, will end. At least if the intentions of the new owners are met – the only glimmer of hope is that often intentions give way to financial reality, and keeping TPB as it is might be more profitable.

The original founders of TPB have moved on it seems, and they’ve mentioned some political ambitions. The Swedish Pirate Party’s recent successes will no doubt fuel the political movement, with the Swiss Pirate Party being launched this week. There is already an Australia Pirate Party, although what Australia needs is an Internet Party. An Australian Internet Party is very much needed at the moment to help guide and oversee the government’s efforts to complete the National Broadband Network, as well as to keep them in line in terms of issues such as the Internet Filter Scheme. And such a party is needed even more so now that the government here has suggested that they might want to implement a three-strike anti-piracy system. A political voice is very much needed in Australia to fight the government on this issue, and a sizable number of votes in the next election could force the government into acting sensibly when it comes to these issues. And yes, I’m pointing my accusing fingers at you, Senator Conroy, recent winner of the Internet Villain of the Year award.

Continuing with the theme of posting people's pictures for this WNR, here's Stephen Fry

Continuing with the theme of posting people's pictures for this WNR, here's Stephen Fry

From politics to celebrities, noted Internet addict and actor Stephen Fry has launched an attack on the anti-piracy industry, specifically in relation to them going after TPB. The usual thing to do when celebrities speak is to wince, but Mr. Fry makes a lot of sense in his interview with the BBC and he’s Internet and real life celebrit-ism would be a good way to promote the injustices that are occurring all around us. One of the things that can quickly solve the piracy problem, as well as make users happy, would be an all-you-can-eat type music (and eventually, movies or games) download service. Charge $20 per month, sign up a couple of hundred million users worldwide, and let them download all the music they want. Would anybody still bother to pirate stuff? And if they can sign up hundreds of millions of users, which I think is not totally impossible, then that’s billions worth of revenue per month. With these kind of services, the users that download absolutely everything will be subsidized by the users that don’t download much, and because it’s all digital anyway, there’s no limit as to how many copies you sell, as opposed to selling CDs and physical content.

The alternative is to continue this fight against users, websites, and ISPs. While none of the actions actually solve the problem of piracy. All these legal and technological (DRM) measures have done is to force the implementation of new technologies that makes pirating easier, more private and harder to stop. With the imminent demise of TPB, public torrent trackers are the next big thing and the more public trackers there are, the harder it will be to shut down piracy. Meanwhile, the MPAA has vowed to attack and keep on attacking torrent websites, and for example, has vowed to chase isoHunt founder Gary Fung for the rest of his life, to try and claim the damages rewarded to the MPAA. So if Mr. Fung starts a new business, then the MPAA won’t be too far behind. If Mr. Fung gets a new job, then the MPAA will want a share. And so on, and so on.

High Definition

In HD news, there’s no much on Blu-ray that I found interesting, although there’s a bit about it that’s more to do with gaming and so it covered later on. All I know is that Blu-ray sales figures, as covered in this thread, shows that Blu-ray sales are fluctuating wildly between being excellent, and like last week, not being much better than the same time last year.

You will of course read more stories on how Blu-ray has grown a million percent in 2009 or something and compares that to drop in DVD sales and the come up with the conclusion that Blu-ray has won. But the fact is that Blu-ray has nowhere to go but up, and 2008 was a poor year for Blu-ray until the very end. DVD sales have nowhere to go but down, thanks largely not to Blu-ray but to increased spending on video games. And the increases in Blu-ray sales, as I’ve mentioned numerous times before, are nowhere near sufficient to make up for the loss in DVD income. Blu-ray wins when it reaches 51% market share compared to DVDs, and not a day sooner, in my books.

In slightly related news, Microsoft’s new version of the Silverlight platform now supports H.264 (and AAC), bringing it in line with the rest of the industry. There is no doubt now that H.264 is now the industry standard codec for video compression. Or is it? HTML 5 was supposed to anoint an official video codec, but due to pressure from various sides, it has backed down from naming such a format. Wikipedia wants to use Ogg Theora, Apple wants H.264, some of the browser makes prefer Ogg as well, but Google likes H.264 too and supports both in Chrome. Ogg Theora is open source and so it should be supported, but H.264 has so much industry support and it can’t be ignored. And I know what you’re going to say and “who cares” is not an acceptable solution to this puzzle.


And finally in gaming, and yes we have some notable gaming news this week finally, of course it’s time and an appropriate place to plug my June 2009 NPD analysis again. Really, it’s good reading especially if you like graphs and stuff.

Microsoft guy Aaron Greenberg says Sony distracted by Blu-ray

Microsoft guy Aaron Greenberg says Sony distracted by Blu-ray

Responding to the positive news from the June 2009 NPD figures, Microsoft is claiming all sorts of victories, while saying that the reason the PS3 is behind at the moment is largely due to Blu-ray. Can’t really argue with that, because Sony turned one of the most successful gaming platforms (PS2), that also came with a DVD player, into one of the most successful Blu-ray players, that also came with gaming capabilities. The change in focus is what did them. Now this isn’t to say that there’s no way back for Sony, far from it. A temporary, and largely avoidable setback aside, the solution to the problem is very simple. And they could do it through the PS3 slim, if it is real. This video seem to suggest that it is. A PS3 Slim that costs less might be just what the doctor ordered for Sony.

In any case, Microsoft will try to ride on this wave of success for as long as possible, and with the much more welcomed Windows 7 coming soon, this could prove a strong period for Microsoft. And perhaps to tie together the two potential successes, Project Natal may make an appearance on the PC as well. Games for Windows Live has tried to tie together the Xbox 360 with the PC, and  something like Natal would definitely help. And not all applications for Natal will be for gaming, as even on the Xbox 360, Natal is being used for everything from video chatting to media navigation.

Okay, that’s all for this week. More “History of Digital Digest” next week, some kind of mid-week rant I suppose, and another issue of the WNR same time next week. See you then.


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