Second Life Travel Guide

So you’ve decided to take a trip to Second Life. Good choice! Whether you’re coming for the uninhibited nightlife or the affordable jetpacks and rocket ships, you’re sure to have a memorable stay. Don’t bother with a suitcase – everything you could possibly want is obtainable here. But be sure to bring your imagination: Second Life is a world of endless reinvention where you can change your shape, your sex, even your species as easily as you might slip into a pair of shoes back home.

To help you navigate this new frontier, Wired has published a pretty good travel guide in their latest issue.

Check it out here.

Hand On the Zune

The old gamers at 2old2play got their arthritic hands on the Zune and offer a full report. The most important detail?

The top of the Zune had a clear glass layer while the exterior had a tactile feel to it, nothing like the hard metal and plastic of the iPod devices. The ‘skin’ of the Zune was a ‘rubberized’ material that had a smooth seductive feel to it. I found myself unable to stop stroking the device, so much that the demo assistant asked me to put it down.

Read the detailed review here: Hands On The Zune [2old2play]

Hollywood Insiders Second Guessing Blu-ray Support

A recent Variety article new window entitled “Pandora’s black box” examines Sony’s PS3/Blu-ray strategy and how, with their seemingly never-ending setback, the movie studios that signed up for the Blu-ray format are feeling a little uneasy.

Despite its many uses, industryites agree that the PS3 will sell primarily on its core vidgaming capabilities.

“PS3 is first and foremost about games,” states Kaz Hirai, head of Sony’s U.S. vidgame division. “That really is the entry point for the majority of people. Oh, and by the way, they’ll get a great Blu-ray player. It’s an excellent by-product.”

That “Trojan horse” strategy is what persuaded many studios to jump aboard Blu-ray, figuring that PS3 sales would put Blu-ray in tens of millions of homes where someone loves to play vidgames.

While some of those studios are taking a wait-and-see approach on the impact of PS3, others are already starting to feel burned by the delays and pricing concerns. “PS3 was a huge deal in our coming aboard Blu-ray,” confirms one top home entertainment exec. “I’m not sure we would have signed on if we had known then what we know now.

No matter how many stand-alone HD DVD or Blu-ray players are sold within the next 12 months, its likely (barring any other unforeseen delays) those sales will be dwarfed by the PS3, so from a pure numbers perspective I can see the allure. Unfortunately for the studios, this may prove completely irrelevant within a few short months. Embedding a Blu-ray player in the PS3 does not mean PS3 owners will be Blu-ray movie buyers.

The HD DVD camp is not sitting still either. Toshiba is moving on to it’s second generation HD DVD player after selling through 70k units of its original line. Add to this unannounced HD DVD players from other manufacturers and the up-coming Xbox 360 HD DVD player and it becomes apparent that dedicated, stand-alone HD DVD playback devices may very well eclipse the insert-number-here of PS3 owners who purchase Blu-ray movies. That insert-number-here figure really is the big unknown and will likely remain so for several months after the PS3’s launch.

The big question is, when do we get back to the business of authoring titles and selling HD disc players in one format and one format only? This is what’s needed to assure the consumer at large their not about to buy into the wrong format. Enter Nielsen’s Video Scan.

On October 12th Nielsen’s VideoScan numbers for the month of August new window alone, revealed that HD DVD movies outsold all other high definition formats by a factor of nearly three to one. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road folks, VideoScan numbers don’t lie, those numbers are sales not shipments and will factor heavily in future studio support decisions.

So will we see a reversal of this 3:1 margin in favor of Blu-ray, in the months following the PS3’s launch on November 17th? That’s hard to say in all honesty, in a vacuum yes 500K+ players would obviously create an up-surge in Blu-ray sales but of course the format war doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

The new Toshiba players, along with the Xbox add-on will put HD DVD into insert-number-here additional homes and from there who knows where this will go. Two things are certain: HD DVD has established a “beachhead” and the format war will keep most consumers on the sideline for the foreseeable future.

Man, are these guys in trouble….

I think I have already used this intro on a previous Sony post, but….

Just when you think you have heard all the bad news, here comes trouble.  Sony has already had enough problems this year to sink a less established company.  First the exploding batteries, and now it looks like that could turn into a cascading problem.  They can get enough Blu-Ray components to build the player/recorders, which leads to the ongoing saga of the PS3, the one product that they have bet the farm on.

Sources at Kotaku point us to a quote where Sony Computer Entertainment America co-chairman Jack Tretton backpedaled on the ship date of the PlayStation 3, saying that the game console’s widely-reported rollout on November 17 is not set in stone:

“The honest answer is it’s more of a target. Clearly we’ve had production issues.”

This can’t be good.  With the company bleeding cash, is the PS3 destined for the back burner for a while, and if so, how will that impact Sony’s overall health and credibility?

DirecTV adds HD locals in 25 markets

DirecTV continues to roll out MPEG-4 local channels in HD across the country, today announcing 25 markets that will be added during the fourth quarter. This brings the total number of local markets with HD to 67, representing nearly three-quarters of US households. As always, customers will need a new dish and receiver to get the ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox channels. No extra cost for the programming, which is available to all with Total Choice programming including local channels, but it might also be a good time to upgrade to the new HR20 DVR. This rollout seems to have gone pretty smoothly, starting at the end of 2005 with just New York and LA to this, and DirecTV still plans to have capacity for 150 national HD channels in 2007 thanks to two new satellites. The list follows after the break.
The 25 markets added
:

Albuquerque, N.M.
Mobile, Ala.
Buffalo, N.Y.
New Orleans
Des Moines, Iowa
Norfolk, Va.
Flint, Mich.
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Ft. Meyers, Fla.
Portland, Me.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Providence, R.I.
Green Bay, Wisc.
Reno, Nev.
Greensboro, N.C.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Greenville, S.C.
Spokane, Wa.
Harrisburg, Pa.
Springfield, Mo.
Jacksonville, Fla.
Toledo, Ohio
Little Rock, Ark.
Tulsa, Okla
Madison, Wisc.

How Apple Will Change the Rules (Again)

While most of the tech bloggers were going gaga last week over Apple’s announcement of new iPod devices and wondering when the iPhone is going to debut, a few guys with much more insight than me were writing about the real stories behind the “iTV” headline. 

I highly recommend both of these outstanding posts.

Carl Howe over at Blackfriars’ Marketing writes a great commentary predicting Apple’s entry in the flat panel TV market.  Lots of big boxers like Home Depot and Office Depot are announcing their entry into this rapidly growing market, following robust profit reports from Circuit City and Best Buy.  While the success of these Johnnies-come-lately is dubious, Howe makes a great case for Apple’s winning in the TV business.

Apple has design icon Jonathan Ive (among many other great designers), one of the best and most powerful brands in the world, incredible differentiation, and is repeatedly ranked number one for product support. It has a chain of 161 stores that generate 67% of the revenue of Best Buy with 10% of the floor space. And most importantly, Apple sells experiences, not low-priced hardware. They’ll offer two or three choices to avoid the tyranny of too much — and amaze everyone again by making more profits on fewer products.

Over at the Mac Observer, John Martellaro’s take on the “iTV” story is that Apple’s strategy:

  • Leverages 4 key competencies (customer inertia , the power of “the culture to influence”, large software development capability, & technical leadership),
  • Will lead to success, and
  • Will simultaneously confuses competitors and the analysts.

The result, Martellaro predicts, is that Apple has a strong chance of owning the game in home video entertainment.

Today, the home entertainment industry is confusing. Customers muddle through. Some dare to ask questions; some just plug it all in and hope things work. Issues linger: Is my 1080i HDTV already obsolete? What is HDCP, HDMI, de-interlacing, scaling, 802.11n? Should I go with cable or satellite? Will Blu-ray finally win? No one company has stood up, with courage, and said: “We have a vision. This is how to do it. Follow us.”

Now, Apple is starting to provide that leadership in home theater. They’re defining an architecture, putting the product pieces into place, and developing leading edge products.

But most importantly, Apple is inserting this orchestrated scheme of pre-planned and well defined technology into a massive technology consumption machine fueled by the consensus thinking on the Internet. If it sucks, it’s history. If it’s cool, it’ll be embraced, and any company that tries to force the issue against this massive thinking machine will fail.

The platform dubbed “iTV” will be revolutionary.  Apple has demonstrated the ability to bring simplicity to complicated things and they appear to be poised to do it again for home theater.  What’s more, iTV will bring video iChat and the internet to the living room.  When they introduce a flat panel display, you can bet it will have an “iSight” camera built into the top bezel just as their computers do now.  iChat, along with inevitable higher bandwidth connections could revolutionize home-based communications and the “internet from the sofa” will certainly bring increased impulse buying online, including of course, movies and more from Apple’s iTunes store.

The Music Store in Your Pocket

Seems that I am on a Zune kick lately, but I am not alone. Wired has an insightful story on the new content models that are emerging from Microsoft and the satellite radio guys. The big deal is that these models allow you to bypass the centralized store to get content wirelessly from other users (in the case of Zune) and from hundreds of channels of programming over satellite. The article discusses the Sirius Stiletto model, but XM has a similar offering. Regarding Zune, the article points out that it…

gives you another way to discover music without hunting and pecking through a multimillion-song, computer-based catalog on your lonesome. Users can beam songs directly to each other using the devices’ ad hoc wireless connections, significantly reducing the friction between a friend recommending something to you and you acquiring it. The beamed song will play three times before asking you to buy it — or, if you’re a Zune subscriber, you can keep it without paying an extra dime.

All of these new approaches are attempting to gain traction in the Apple-dominated digital music market through simplicity. An MP3 player with a music store and hundreds of music channels built-in could make the iPod seem unconnected, which is rarely a good thing to be.

It’s Offical, Microsoft Zune is Announced

zuneofficial.jpg

If Tivo3, Apple Movie Store, iTV, and Wii weren’t enought this week, Microsoft ham made official what most of us have known for a while by announcing their new “Zune” multifunction thingy (more pictures at the bottom of the post).  The player will have a 30GB hard drive, built-in FM tuner, 3.0-inch screen, and 802.11 wireless. It will also come in three colors, black, brown and white. 

You can share content with other Zunes across the wireless network.  You can listen to a track from another person for up to three days, after which you’ll have to buy it from the Zune Marketplace store—their official name for the store.  Zune Marketplace has two purchase options:  per song like iTunes, and unlimited download subscription like Napster.

And while the Apple fanboys have been speculating for months about an iPhone, it looks like Microsoft is serious about it.  At a press conference yesterday, Chris Stephenson, GM for Zune, told the press, “A Zune phone is definitely part of the future of this brand.”

zune2.jpg
zune4.jpg
zune5.jpg
zune6.jpg

Nintendo Wii Coming To America November 19th for $250

 

<via Gizmodo & GenDigital>

Expect to play Nintendo Wii in time for Turkey Day. The Date? November 19th. The price? $250.

To come with Wii Sports, which includes golf, bowling, baseball and tennis games controlled by swinging the wii-mote. 25 titles available by end of year. 30 classic games, including Zelda, Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong.

The info was accidentally leaked by the Seattle PI by some trigger happy web admin, likely. Your party foul, our news.

At $250, the new system is about half the cost of a juiced up Xbox 360 and less than half the cost of the yet-to-be-released Sony PlayStation3 (who just announced another delay this week which will effect European customers).  The unique selling point of the Wii will be its intuitive wireless “Wii-mote” that, when tilted by the user will produce movement and actions on screen.  If the media campaign promoting the Wii comes off flawlessly Nintendo will have positioned a less costly “fun” and “easy” alternative to the technologically advanced, considerably more expensive Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

I think Nintendo will be more successful than most people think.  Here’s why:

  • Sony PS3s are going to be extremely hard to get unless you pay outrageous prices on e-bay. 
  • Early indications have teens and college students pushing for upgraded portable digital music players (the $300 video iPod), premium jeans (Seven for All Mankinds can cost more than $200), and other luxury goods (i.e. competition for limited dollars)
  • Gift-givers might not be willing to spend $500+ on a console system.
  • Wii will come pre-loaded with a series of sports games touting the functionality of the wireless controller.  Games typically do not come bundled with the consoles, so this represents a real “value add”. 

Given these points, I think Nintendo’s Wii will be the sleeper hit of this year’s holiday season.

Wii Dated And Priced For North America [Kotaku]

It’s Showtime….

As usual, Engadget  provided great, real-time coverage of Steve Job’s announcments yesterday.  Lot’s of amazing stuff including a new smaller iPod, playing games Games like Pac Man on your ipod, and the sneak peek at the very exciting “iTV” product.  Apple is everywhere:  In your car, at the gym, at work.  Now they are aiming at dominating your living room.

10:54AM – “It looks like this [a flatter Mini]. It’s called iTV. That’s a codeword. we need to come up with a better name.”


10:55AM – No power brick
802.11
USB2
Ehternet
HDMI connector for all new big-screen flat panel TVs
Component video (RGB)
analog audio RCA jacks
Optical audio
Controled with the familiar white remote
Hooks directly to your screen or to your set-top box as another input, or to your receiver.

[Steve brings one out.] “This is it. More importantly I have a WORKING one plugged in right here … [he flips through iTV super-FrontRow app]”

10:56AM – [Steve finds and plays The Incredibles.]


11:04AM – [Still demoing!]

11:07AM – “You can do movie trailers form Apple.com right from your couch. This is big screen over the internet, live as we watch.”
[Trailer for All the King’s Men with Sean Penn]
[“Casino Night” episode of The Office]

[Album art scrolls by … Steve chooses Dylan, than Highway 61, which plays through the home theater setup]
“A lot of us have our stereos hooked up to our new TV’s, it’s the best stereo in the house now.”

Bud.tv – Budweiser To Launch Social Video Entertainment Network (bud tube)

Bud Tv225Karl Long over at Experience Curve has an excellent piece on the Launch of Bud.TV, a major effort by Budweiser to capitalize on the shift away from traditional Television to digital channels which foster social interaction.  Bud commercials have long been a huge draw (singing frogs, Bud Bowl, etc).  With Bud.TV they are really extending the entertainment component of their brand.

From the piece:

“In another nail in the coffin of network television Anheuser-Busch has just announced it will be launching Bud.tv in February ‘07. Bud.tv will be an online entertainment channel that will blend professionally produced content, news, sports and consumer generated content.”

“Bud.TV will engage contemporary adult consumers with a wide array of entertainment options in branded and original proprietary content including new humorous webisodes, sporting events, consumer-generated content, field news reports, celebrity interviews, music downloads and comedian vignettes. The first-of-its-kind initiative is slated to launch in February 2007, and more content providers will be announced in the coming months.”

What Will Jobs Do??

Sticky Fingers

On Tuesday Apple fans the world over will be on Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, when he is expected to announce the most ambitious iPod service yet – the sale of feature-length films via the internet for viewing on the devices, which may receive an expanded ‘widescreen’ and improved storage capacity.  Wired has a nice piece containing a number of creative mock-ups depicting what the new iPod design might be.  Interestingly, Amazon jumped into the video download business last week, trumping this weeks Apple announcement.

There are rumors that Jobs will also announce a long expected ‘iPhone’, combining the music function and sleek style of an iPod with a mobile phone.

Amazon trumps Apple in delivering video download store

Reuters is reporting that Amazon.com (Nasdaq:AMZNnews) on Thursday unveiled a widely anticipated Internet service offering movies and TV shows that can be downloaded to personal computers, moving it into a nascent and higher-margin business. }

The service, called Amazon Unbox, will offer thousands of titles from six Hollywood studios, including 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., and TV networks such as CBS and Fox and cable channels Comedy Central and E! Entertainment, Amazon said.

You can either buy the shows outright or just rent them in WMV format for watching on your computer or a portable device. You have to use the Amazon Unbox software to watch movies, and you can’t burn it to DVD so you can watch it on your TV.
Amazon’s digital download service launch comes ahead of an expected announcement by Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPLnews) on Tuesday that it would sell feature-length films on its iTunes service, which already sells TV shows from major networks.

Because avatars need phones, too

<via Springwise>

In what seems like a weekly occurence, another brand has popped up in Second Life. This time it’s Telus, Canada’s second largest telco, who opened a virtual store last week.  Telus is both the first major Canadian corporation, and the first major telecommunications company to enter SL. Unlike Aloft Hotel and American Apparel‘s store, which are both located on privately owned islands, Telus set up shop in a downtown area on SL’s mainland (visit location).

According to 3pointD, the telco’s foray into Second Life was initiated by a Telus advertising manager. Sparkle Dale, as she’s known in Second Life, has a personal passion for gaming and metaverses and saw an opportunity to extend her employer’s brand into a new realm.

The store was designed along the lines of flagship stores in Toronto and Montreal and features phones that are modelled and named after actual Samsung and Motorola models. While integration with Skype, other voice over IP systems and real life mobile phones would of course be an exciting way to merge virtual and real worlds, Telus’s SL phones currently only let users shoot off busy messages to other citizens. The phones are on sale for a few hundred Linden Dollars, which is the equivalent of a few US dollars.

Website: http://www.telus.ca and http://secondlife.com

Scion Drives into Second Life

This one is a bit dated as I have not been posting for a couple of weeks…

<via Springwise>

Scion just became first automaker to run a campaign in Second Life, releasing virtual cars in the popular metaverse. Toyota’s progressive brand announced the initiative at the Second Life Community Convention in San Francisco.While a real-world version of the boxy Scion xB was driven around a parking lot near the convention center, silver virtual models were dropped at various points in Second Life for residents to drive. A full launch will follow in October, when SL citizens will be able to customize Scion models. Makes sense, considering Scion already lets buyers do a fair amount of customization on real-world cars. For images of Scion’s launch in Second Life, see intellagirl’s coverage of the event. (Thanks to Cyrus Huffhines at Millions of Us for lending us an xB!)”

For more on brands entering Second Life, check out previous coverage of Aloft Hotels and American Apparel. The later has sold over 2,000 items of clothing in SL (source: AdAge), and offers virtual shoppers a 15% discount if they buy the same piece of clothing in the real world.

Who’s next? Continuing the trend of using SL as platform for testing designs, Adidas Reebok is planning a Second Life project that will let SL residents give feedback on sneaker models and colors.  And as I reported back in June, engineers at Amazon are working on building a bridge between Amazon and Second Life (Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is an investor in Linden Lab, which created Second Life).