TheONbutton Durham Computer Services

Remote IT Support and Computer & Technology Help in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh NC

Red rings, yellow lights; what no blue mouth?

wii blueWe know all too well about the Xbox’s infamous red ring of death and now the PS3 seems to want a piece of the action with its yellow light of failure.

This kind of attention is not necessarily the best type of attention, but they always said that any publicity is good publicity. So what about it Nintendo, are we going to see a ‘blue mouth of MotionLess’?

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

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Sep 18, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Hardware, Microsoft | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cheaper PS3 Still Too Expensive To Worry XBox 360

Hmmm…$299 for the lowest PS3 in the range a number of years into the current Wii/PS3/Xbox 360 cycle. Well it’s a start I guess, but let’s not expect it to turn the XBox 360/PS3 balance on its head anytime soon.

At $199 the XBox 360 arcade is still the obvious choice for the recession conscious consumer and it comes with access to a huge selection of games compared to the PS3. The Wii continues to be the broad-based family-fun choice. With many of Sony’s businesses languishing, is it really the right time for its cheapest PS3 to still be a Benjamin more expensive than the cheapest XBox 360?

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Aug 20, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Gaming, Microsoft, News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sony promises to increase prices, meanwhile Dell offers PS3 for $319.99

PS3 Dell HomeNow here’s a good holiday deal.  If you’ve been waiting for Sony to drop the price of the PS3 you may need to wait a little longer.  But…if you head on over to Dell’s US website pretty sharpish you can snag one for 20% off for a limited time.  Not sure if that will help Sony catch the monthly sales of 2 MILLION Wiis shipped in November alone, 360 Controller and Plantronics Headsetbut it might help prolong the PS3’s agony a little longer…especially as how it was crushed 2 to 1 by the XBox 360 and 5 to 1 by the Wii last month.  NPD’s reported sales figures for Nov were Wii: 2,040k units, Xbox 360: 836k units, PS3: 378k units.

Interestingly the ratio of Xbox 360 sales to PS3 in October was 1.87 to 1, whilst in November the 360 pulled ahead to 2.21 to 1, probably due to the price cut.  Microsoft clearly doesn’t need to do much to ward off the PS3 anymore, rather it seems to have it’s eyes on the Wii’s spot instead…although I can’t see it happening in this console generation.  It’s sure turned out different to the way we all thought back in 2005 though, the Playstation franchise needs something big now and these days Sony is in big trouble.

Back on the home front, I’ve been nurturing an ever-growing addiction to Halo 3 on the XBox 360.  I have trendnetbeen joining the faithful army of online Spartans and when I say army, think mass hordes…there are typically 250-300,000 Halo 3 gamers online each evening, US time.

Helping to make all this happen for me is a new Trendnet router.  Epix and FuzeReplacing a Trendnet 108mbps b/g, this 300mbps b/g/n speed demon has gigabit ethernet and flies along with rock-like stability.  Installation was a breeze, but pretty please Trendnet next time add a MAC address import feature; typing in all those addresses gets tiring!

I’ve also been giving the new HTC Touch Pro (at&t Fuze, the one the half gig ROM and 288mb RAM) and Samsung i907 (at&t Epix, the one with the optical mouse) a good workout recently…reviews to follow shortly.  Suffice to say they’re not too shabby.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Dec 13, 2008 Posted by | Analysis, Gaming, Hardware | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Game on at the library

If the word ‘library’ conjours up images of bookworms hard at work in silent study then you are not alone. All the more surprising then was the scene of welcomed gamers in the New York Public Library this afternoon.

I’m pretty sure that when this inscription was written over a hundred years ago, the scribe had not quite forseen the advent of the gaming industry.

But like the phrase’s democratic ideal of share and share alike, ‘Game on at the library’ brought the wonders of modern consoles to anyone to try for free.

Three projection screens hosted Xbox 360, Wii and Playstation 3 games, with some of the fastest Guitar Hero fingers I’ve ever seen!


Neil Berman

Mar 22, 2008 Posted by | Gaming | | Leave a comment

Are Wii seeing the demise of the Playstation – Part 2

Read the earlier post from August 2007 here.

During some of last year Nintendo’s Wii was outselling Sony’s Playstation 3 by two to one. At the time it looked like we were seeing a fundamental shift in console market dynamics. NPD has just released the latest console sales figures for February (New York Times 3/14/08), so let’s see what’s been happening.

According to NPD, the top selling console was Nintendo’s DS at 587,600 units. Next was the Wii at 432,000 units amid supply constraints. In other words, if there had been more Wiis available in stores then they would likely have been sold.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 sold 254,600 units, also amid supply constraints. Sony’s Playstation 3 sold 280,800 with no reported supply constraints, although interestingly consumers continue to prefer the positioning of the previous generation model – the Playstation 2 sold 351,800 units.

What does this mean?

1. PS3 is gaining ground

The ratio of Wii to PS3 sales has narrowed to 1.5 : 1. So although Wii continues to sell better than PS3, the trending suggests that their relative monthly sales volumes may become equal or possibly inverse over time. I.e. PS3 may start to outsell Wii in the future. However I expect it unlikely that PS3 will ever achieve a higher total sales volume than Wii, unless its production lifespan significantly outlasts Wii’s.

2. Upcoming mega-games will have an impact

Major releases this year will be key, now that PS3 is more affordable. I anticipate that Wii Fit, which is a big Wii release due in May, is likely to trigger significant cross-generational game and console purchasing. Sales of the much awaited GTA4 for Xbox 360 and PS3 are expected to be 2 to 1 on each console respectively throughout most of 2008 according to an analyst quoted in the aforementioned NY Times article.

If we assume that 360 and PS3 owners buy similar titles, then based on current figures we can predict that PS3 is unlikely to ever have a total console sales volume greater than Xbox 360, all other factors being equal. This leaves PS3 in a highly probable third place at the end of the 3rd gen life cycle unless PS3 sales start increasing significantly.

3. The Blu-Ray victory factor

Blu-Ray’s recent victory as the next gen DVD format should help PS3 sales during 2008, although it is too early to assess an impact from just the February sales figures.

4. Market positioning

Sony has been only partially competing in the 3rd gen console market. This is because the PS3 is still positioned at the upper end of the market and so is not yet within the budget of many mass market consumers. Sony has continued to market the 2nd gen PS2 at the opposite end of the market.

In doing so, Sony has failed to win the all-important middle of the bell curve, which is owned by Wii and Xbox 360. Microsoft compromised on hardware but offered next gen (and now defunct) HD DVD as an accesory option. This allowed Xbox 360 to sell at a reasonable price, which is still significantly less than the basic PS3.

The recent PS3 price cuts have attempted to move the console towards this mainstream price range of $200-350. However Sony has huge R&D costs to recover either through console or game sales so how much further can it really drop the price?

5. Franchise building

The fact that PS2 is still significantly outselling PS3 does have some benefit to Sony, because those owners experience the Playstation franchise. Sony now has to figure out how to turn these customers into future PS3 buyers.

I expect that a poll of Wii and 360 owners would reveal that many converted across from PS2s due to either the new gaming experience (Wii) or price (360), rather than buying a Ps3. Many modern day first time PS2 buyers are probably choosing that model because of its low price in the overall market.

Sony is likely to have a tough time converting them into future PS3 owners rather than losing them to Nintendo or Microsoft, unless the PS3 price falls significantly further. I would anticipate that a base PS3 model would need to cost $249 to appeal to current PS2 buyers as a follow-on purchase.

So has the market dynamic changed since August?

Yes, PS3 does seem to be making inroads. The price drop has helped and I expect the Blu-Ray studio victory will win it extra sales during 2008. But Wii’s position in the lead seems strong and Xbox 360 continues to look like a solid second.

Would a further PS3 price cut help? Perhaps. Sony might end up selling more of them but the payback period to recover the huge R&D costs would probably lengthen…and that I think is what will be taught in business schools once when we look back on the 3rd gen console wars: Sony’s over-engineering led to an inability to compete on the shelves; Nintendo and Microsoft played a better game.

Read the earlier post from August 2007 here.

Neil Berman

www.neilberman.com

Mar 16, 2008 Posted by | Analysis, Gaming, Hardware | , , | 31 Comments

CES 2008 News: Gaming

My CES 2008 news update comes in the following sections: Laptops & UMPCs, Home Entertainment, Media Players, Cellphones, Gaming and Trick Technologies. To read all the CES 2008 articles, click here. Details of dates, pricing and specifications described below are given from the best information available at the time of writing and may change at any time at each manufacturer’s discretion.

Gaming

Sony showed off its Skype and GPS add-ons for the PSP. Skype will be a free firmware update and will only work on the PSP-2000 version of the console. It is due for release around late Jan / early Feb this year. The GPS PSP attachment fits to the top of the console and is compatible with both the PSP-1000 and 2000 versions. The screenshot below shows a video rather than actual software as the roof over our heads obscured direct access to satellites. There is no pricing information available yet for the GPS attachment, which should hit the stores around fall 2008.

Many at the Sony stand commented on how light the PSP-2000 (already available) is compared to the original PSP. A Sony representative noted that 33% of the weight of the PSP-1000 had been shed in the newer version. That’s an amazing achievement.

Sony also debuted new games for the Playstation 3, such as Metal Gear Solid 4 (see screenshots) which is due to be released during summer this year. It is first-person gameplay and the graphics look great.

Sony also showed a working demo of LittleBigPlanet, which is a platform game due out on PS3 later this year. The game looked fun and cheeky, with characters moving around platforms with natural-style obstacles to overcome. Mii-style avatars can be created to personalize gameplay.A few times during the demo the frames momentarily froze and at one point the PS3 crashed. The demonstrators noted that this is not even yet an alpha version., so the kinks should be ironed out hopefully by the time it hits the streets around fall 2008.

Dell showed off a World of Warcraft XPS laptop with built-in Logitech Game Control and physical accelerator. View photos and read about it here.

See photos and read CES news about: Laptops & UMPCs, Home Entertainment, Media Players, Cellphones, Gaming and Trick Technologies.

To read all the CES 2008 articles, click here.

Neil Berman

http://www.neilberman.com/

Jan 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Predictions for 2008


1. Ultra Mobile PCs: Various form factors continue to emerge without mass-market penetration until 2010.

Innovative UMPC products continue to come to market with no all-conquering form factor. Price, size to weight ratio and successful keyboard/mouse implementation are the biggest factors to achieving good sales. Solid state drives become increasingly prevalent across UMPCs, which benefit from the resulting weight, speed and energy efficiencies. UMPCs fail to win mass-market penetration until 2010 when the laptop market is saturated and consumers see the UMPC as a more portable extension to their now-indispensable laptop.

2. Laptop market: Laptops become fashion accessories, mainstream consumers reduce focus upon technology as most machines will have key features.

Comparative features between models converge and manufacturers have difficulty differentiating themselves based upon technology. Increasingly in 2008 consumers base laptop buying decisions upon image. Laptops start to become mainstream fashion statements by the end of the year. Similar to the clothing market, the cost of buying into the image falls as mainstream manufacturers mass produce designer-style laptops and all-in-ones. Apple’s computer division comes under resulting pressure and the recessionary economic environment forces it to launch a budget MacBook.

3. Digital cameras: Cellphones put pressure on lower end of market.

By the end of 2008, the lower end of the digital camera market starts to come under pressure from cellphones. It is the start of the market’s decline towards a predominantly enthusiast consumer base by 2012.

4. Music downloads: More choice and more DRM-free tracks; iPod market share under pressure.

Driven by pricing pressures, sufficient numbers of record companies break their relationship with Apple. This reduces iTunes’ market share and puts pressure on the iPod range. The principal benefactor is Zune Marketplace, which also gains market share through mass availability of DRM-free downloads.

5. Video downloads: Lots of adverts but no popcorn.

Mobile pay TV and video downloading fail to take off due to pricing concerns from the studios, who fear a repeat of what happened with the music industry.

6. Cellphones: Apple successfully widens product mix amongst consumers, but fails to penetrate corporate market; established players continue to lag behind on user interface but move ahead on technology and features.

iPhone 2.0 comes out and the original model is reduced in price and made available at a new tariff to achieve broader market penetration. Corporates experience increased employee pressure to support iPhone but decline to do so due to security and strategic infrastructure compatibility issues. WiFi VoIP cellphones remain a niche market. LG and Samsung become main emerging threats to Apple in the fashion-conscious market. SonyEricsson continues to lead in music and camera implementation. Nokia’s N-series leads consumer data implementations. HTC originated smartphones fail to win significant market share from RIM in the corporate sector, whose Blackberry devices continue to become more multimedia and consumer orientated.

7. Processor technology: Energy saving on the road and cores races on the desktop.

Exceptionally low voltage x86 instruction-set CPUs start to emerge, allowing smartphones and other highly power-conscious ultra-mobile devices to achieve greater convergence with mainstream PCs. Laptops benefit from further processor energy saving technology. Desktop marketing becomes driven by the number of cores in a processor, but beyond a certain point mainstream operating system and application code fails to derive corresponding performance benefit from this race. OS releases and applications play catch-up in optimizing themselves for multi-core implementations.

8. Gaming: Wii gains wider appeal, PSP vs. DS goes to round two.

The release of Wii Fit gives Nintendo’s platform mass cross-generation market penetration. Playstation 3 finally gets flagship games but these come too late to challenge Wii for global dominance. However Blu-ray’s victory over HD-DVD boosts PS3 sales. Details emerge about the next generation of PSP and DS gaming handhelds. Gyroscope tilt controls and vibration feedback are built-in, as are webcams giving VoIP capability. PSP 2.0 gets two joystick controls. Rumours continue to circulate about an Xbox handheld, but this only arrives in 2009 when the Xbox 360 brand is more firmly established globally.

9. Home entertainment: OLEDs light up living rooms…of the rich and famous, next gen DVD format war continues throughout the year.

Organic LED displays provoke plenty of excitement but fail to enter the mass market yet due to prohibitive cost. It takes until 2010 for prices to start becoming genuinely affordable. The HD-DVD vs Blu-ray format war comes to an end, with Blu-ray winning following studio support.

10. Biggest 2008 rumour which does not become a successful production product: Apple UMPC

So many core Apple multimedia applications require substantial CPU, graphics and screen real estate resources that there is no mass market for an Apple UMPC. The fact that current Apples ship with such serious Intel Core 2 Duo power compared to most PCs means that an entirely new application suite would be needed for an Apple UMPC to be useful on a low power platform. This would be too risky for Apple in 2008, given that the UMPC market is so small and its stylish computer ranges will come under unprecedented pressure from competitors as well as economic recessionary forces.

Neil Berman

http://www.neilberman.com/

Jan 6, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Audio, Mobile | , , , | Leave a comment

Zap…Wii are surrounded!

I had to search for a while, but I finally found Wii Zapper stock. At an unreasonably cheap $19.99 including Links Crossbow Training from a major retailer, it would have been rude not to buy it.

The ingenious Zapper is simply a plastic moulding with a trigger and housings for the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Once these two controllers are fitted into place, with satisfyingly secure feeling mechanisms, the Zapper becomes a light gun with joystick control provided by the Nunchuck. A hole at the front allows communication with the Wii Sensor Bar.

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It’s a great design which works well in practise. The experience feels natural and as with all things Wii, it’s a case of pick it up and get straight into the action.

Links Crossbow Training is a fun arcade shooter with a variety of mini games through its levels. The games are amusing, each lasting a brief time before transitioning to the next sprite shooting fest. If goblins, walking skeletons and huge ice creatures are not your thing then the zapper is compatible with many of the Wii shooters out there, such as Ghost Squad.

The packaged game on its own is probably worth the twenty bucks I paid for the whole shebang. At this price the Wii Zapper should help Nintendo to further broaden the Wii’s appeal, if it even needs any help at this stage. As ever when I went into the store the PS3 and Xbox 360 boxes were piled high and a hastily scrawled sign at customer services read “We have no Wiis”. Nintendo seems to have the competition Zapped at the moment.

Click here to read about how the British are dealing with Wii stock shortages
Click here for Wii vs Playstation analysis
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Neil Berman
http://www.neilberman.com/

Dec 31, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Germanii to the Rescue

Judging by comments on the BBC’s website many disappointed shoppers have been unable to find Wii stock in the UK.

In the US the Wii outsold the PS3 by 3 to 1 last quarter and Sony have now cut the basic PS3 down to $399 to create momentum. Due to high demand, many Wii sales in the UK are based around packages which include games, accessories and inevitably a hefty price tag. So UK buyers seem to have been looking to European neighbors for help…

If the comments on the BBC site are anything to go by then Amazon.de in Germany seems to be the place to buy a Wii if you’re a Brit in need. People have been reporting stock of basic models at a reasonable price. And so Mario’s machine rolls on.

It looks like Nintendo have played this one like a pro. A year since release and no price cut, amazing sales figures and contracts to supply to retirement homes. Who would have guessed it?

Click here for Wii vs Playstation analysis

Click here to read about the Wii Zapper

Neil Berman
http://www.neilberman.com/

Nov 25, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Are Wii seeing the demise of the Playstation?

Click here for CES Gaming news including PSP Skype & GPS and PS3 MGS4

Last year a struggling console company announced a new product with a silly name. Being third in a three horse race, this looked like the beginning of the end for Nintendo. Meanwhile the PS3 marketing machine thundered on, with Sony’s new release opening to record crowds. Wii’s release by comparison was surrounded by less media hype, but of course the world was expecting less from the product.

What a difference a few months makes…

With PS3s in stock almost anywhere, Wiis are pretty hard to come by. There is still a line outside Nintendo’s Rockerfeller Center store every morning – I know, I was recently in that line for 2 hours – of people hoping to get a unit. Meanwhile US sales figures show Wii has outsold PS3 by over 2 to 1 this year. Adding to the pressure on Sony, Microsoft has now hinted that it is considering a lower preferred price point for consoles.

Read the February 2008 update & analysis on console sales here.

So where does this leave the Playstation dynasty? Overpriced and losing customers I expect. Three of my work colleagues who had Playstations now have a Wii. I had a PS1, a PS2 and I’ve got a PSP, but now I have a Wii and I don’t plan to buy a PS3. I just don’t see the need. I’ve experienced Wii gameplay.

What a mega risk Nintendo took and how amazingly it has paid off. Playing tennis for ‘real’ in my living room, I have no desire to return to old style controllers. I can play the Wii for 5 minutes or 5 hours and I’ll always come away with a big smile, plenty of exercise and probably a broken vase.

Sony’s model is based upon selling a critical mass of units to recoup R&D costs in game, Bluray DVD and accessory sales. However with the current Wii-driven dynamic in the market, will it achieve the sales volume it needs? PS3’s high retail cost is surely due to the colossal development effort which went into both the console and Bluray. So what happens if sales continue like they are and Bluray fails? Will there be a PS4…?

Then there’s the Microsoft element. Remember the Xbox 360 came out way before the PS3 and won more than a few 3rd gen sales at the expense of Sony’s delays. With Microsoft talking about a lower price point, where does this leave Sony?

Maybe I’m being over-pessimistic for Sony but if the current stock market turmoil does turn the world towards recession, then I’m not sure how many $499 consoles will really sell when the market leader costs only $250. More likely, I reckon Sony will follow Nintendo’s wave-it-in-the-air-fun-factor and be forced into margin-sapping price cuts. This will in turn have a negative effect on both the R&D budget for PS4 and it’s release date as PS3 will need to be in stores for longer to return a profit.

Maybe if the price drops to a reasonable level I’ll complete my Playstation collection. In the meanwhile though I’ll happily carry on with my Wii; breaking into smiles, sweats and of course breaking vases.

Read the February 2008 update & analysis on console sales here.

See photos and read CES news about: Laptops & UMPCs, Home Entertainment, Media Players, Cellphones, Gaming and Trick Technologies.

To read all the CES 2008 articles, click here.

Click here to read about the Wii Zapper

Click here to read about how the British are dealing with Wii stock shortages

Neil Berman
http://www.neilberman.com/

Aug 6, 2007 Posted by | Microsoft | , , , , | 13 Comments

   

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