August 18, 2006

Oh, Yeah, This’ll Move Hardware [3:19 pm]

Will Sony Ever Be Sony Again?

The latest fiasco is the recent revelation that Sony’s Blu-ray player for the PC will not have the ability to play HD movies on the PC. This is to protect the interests of the movie makers somehow. Are they kidding us?

At least Dvorak gets the explanation for Sony’s failures right:

The true beginning of the end for Sony actually started in 1988, when it paid $2 billion for CBS Records and in the next year bought Columbia and Tri-Star pictures. Instead of being an innovative electronics company, Sony got into the content business. Worse, it got into that business during the beginnings of the digital revolution, when content would be cheapened in true value by virtue of the fact that it could be easily turned into bits and sent around networks by the public.

So did Sony want to be the company making the devices to do this digital thing? Or was it more interested in the content that it needed to protect from the reality of a digital world? In this way, Sony created a conflict of interest between its future as an electronics innovator and its association with an old business that would be threatened by the digital landscape.

Of course, Sony could have led the way into new business models that might have revolutionized the movie and record businesses, but it didn’t. Instead it adopted a conservative ideology that would not serve its innovative soul in any way. In fact, the company obviously killed whatever innovative soul it had. And now Sony languishes while exhibiting an odd, inexplicable arrogance that cocoons everything it does and every decision it makes. It’s a shame.

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Game Addiction [12:08 pm]

Lost in an Online Fantasy World - pdf

They are war heroes, leading legions into battle through intricately designed realms. They can be sorcerers or space pilots, their identities woven into a world so captivating, it is too incredible to ever leave. Unfortunately, some of them don’t.

Video games have often been portrayed as violence-ridden vehicles for teen angst. But when several people in South Korea and other countries died after sitting hunched in Internet cafes, immersed in virtual worlds for hours on end without food or sleep, some began to see excessive online gaming as a new technological threat.

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WaPo on the “Left Behind” Video Game [10:34 am]

Fire and Brimstone, Guns and Ammo - pdf

Miami attorney Jack Thompson, already famous to a generation of Xbox and PlayStation owners for pitching campaigns against game companies, argues that games are rotting the minds of young people. But, as a practicing Christian, he says, he has more reasons than usual to dislike the latest target of his ire. The Eternal Forces game “breaks my heart,” he said.

“The game is about killing people for their lack of faith in Jesus,” he said. “The Gospel is not about killing people in the name of the Lord, and Jesus made that very clear.”

[...] [Spokesman for the Christian Game Developers Foundation Ralph] Bagley said he understands the need for a gamemaker to put in plenty of action to appeal to the market.

“There are people out there who think that if it’s a Christian game, it has to be about putting two animals on an ark,” he said. “But how many people are going to play that?”

Earlier FurdLog post: And I Thought The Book Was Disturbing

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Who Says You Pay For Content? [10:12 am]

An assertion that the British press is undermining the longevity of the DVD by giving away content.  DVD giveaways signal woes of once-booming format - pdf

British newspapers are now giving away free as many DVDs as are being purchased in stores, revealing a stealth contributing factor to the decline of Hollywood’s cash cow format.

The cover-mounted DVD giveaways, which have included “Prizzi’s Honor” and “Donnie Darko,” devalue the format in the eyes of consumers, one-quarter of whom said they would have bought the same title if they had seen it in shops for a reasonable price, according to a report released on Thursday.

[...] DVD sales came to a screeching halt across Europe last year, where they flattened at about 11.3 billion euros ($14.52 billion), after experiencing 41 percent growth in 2004 compared with 2003 and even more explosive growth earlier in the decade.

[...] Although most of the major Hollywood studios oppose the newspaper giveaways, the smaller local distributors who have licensed the films are opportunistically doing deals with publishers for short-term gains that can generate as much as 250,000 pounds for a film.

“The argument in favor of this is that the majority of these films have reached the end of their commercial cycle,” Jayalath said. “In many cases, they’re no longer stocked because traditional retailers have a limited amount of space. For the rights holder, it can be the last bite of the cherry.”

Of course, there are some incentives to kill off the format, too….  Screen Digest’s press release - pdf

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Educational Software Patent Fight: Blackboard and Open Source Projects [8:46 am]

Blackboard: Bully or Misunderstood? - pdf

Al Gore has yet to live down reports that he claimed to have invented the Internet. Now Blackboard is facing criticism from those who say the giant of the course management industry claims to have invented chat rooms. (If you are wondering, Blackboard says it never made such a claim.)

On Thursday, leading advocates for open source systems of course management announced that they were linking up with the Software Freedom Law Center to try to prepare legal and other defenses for attacks they fear will be coming from Blackboard.

“The recent announcement by Blackboard that it is attempting to assert patent rights over simple and longstanding online technologies as applied to the area of course management systems and e-learning technologies, and its subsequent litigation against a smaller commercial competitor constitutes a threat to the effective and open development of software for higher education and the values underlying such open activities,” said the announcement from the Sakai Foundation, which helps dozens of colleges and universities run open source course management systems.

[...] In the interview, [Blackboard's general counsel Matthew]Small said repeatedly that Blackboard has no plans to challenge open source projects on patent issues, and he said that such challenges “wouldn’t make good business sense” for the company. At the same time, Small declined to directly answer whether Blackboard believes that open source projects are infringing on the company’s patent rights. “No patent holder is under obligation to go out and find infringement wherever it may be,” he said. “We are not focusing on the open source community or the education community.”

Patent #6,988,138 - Internet-based education support system and methods

Abstract: A system and methods for implementing education online by providing institutions with the means for allowing the creation of courses to be taken by students online, the courses including assignments, announcements, course materials, chat and whiteboard facilities, and the like, all of which are available to the students over a network such as the Internet. Various levels of functionality are provided through a three-tiered licensing program that suits the needs of the institution offering the program. In addition, an open platform system is provided such that anyone with access to the Internet can create, manage, and offer a course to anyone else with access to the Internet without the need for an affiliation with an institution, thus enabling the virtual classroom to extend worldwide.

This is patentable? The comments section reveals that there’s quite the fight brewing here, as well as distress over what can certainly be read as an article that favors BlackBoard’s perspective. See for example the e-Literate blog has to say about this (e.g. the August 17 posts). Also see the O’Reilly blog posting.

See also the wiki where the patent claim is being deconstructed.

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A Smart-Alek’s Look At IPR, Trademarks and Ownership [8:23 am]

Let’s be careful out there!â„¢ - pdf

With the recent flurry of plagiarism suits in our industry, our lawyers have advised us to be extremely vigilant in all communications any time, any place, any where.TM 1 What you assume is your own inspirationTM 2 — your own witty and trenchant prose — may be somebody else’s pure genius.TM 3 Stop. Think.TM 4 Be sure you are not inadvertently stealing someone else’s brilliant intellectual property — we’re sure you see what we mean.TM 5

It’s good to talkTM 6 with your authors first. In fact, it starts here.TM 7 Explain to them it’s a small wonderTM 8 how many trademarked words and phrases exist out there. They need to think different,TM 9 to think outside the box.TM 10 In short, they need to thinkTM 11 in absolutely pureTM 12 language.

[...]

1 Martini, Inc.

2 Airwick

3 Guinness

4 Tylenol

5 Canon

6 British Telecom

7 Molson

8 Volkswagen

9 Apple

10 Apple

11 IBM

12 Cadbury

[...]

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