Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Playstation 3 will go BD Live this summer

Sources close to Sony has said that a BD Live update to the Playstation 3 could arrive as early as May or June.

Sony told Home Cinema Choice Magazine that PS3 owners can expect the firmware update when the first BD Live stand alone players hit the market.

The first Blu-ray player to feature BD Live is believed to be the Panasonic DMP-BD50 which should street in late May or early June.

BD Live allow for online features on Blu-ray releases.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Do anything with Play TV recordings.

It will be possible to export TV recordings made with PS3's forthcoming digital TV receiver in a standard file format and store them anywhere you like, Sony explained today.

Mark Bunting, a producer at Sony's Cambridge Studio, which is working on the software for the PlayTV device, showed how the MPEG-2 video files could be moved from the PlayTV interface to the PS3's home menu.

From there, they can be moved to another storage device such as a memory stick, backup hard drive or PC. There is no copy protection in place and no time limit on how long the recording can be kept. Asked what you could do with the file Bunting said: "Anything you like, really, as long as you do it legally. It's in its raw format."

He was no doubt alluding to the piracy of TV programmes that is currently rampant on BitTorrent peer-to-peer networks. It seems that there will be nothing to stop PlayTV acting as a source of these recordings, as can any PC TV tuner.

"We've talked to our legal department about it," said Bunting. "All we're doing is moving it out of PlayTV and to the cross-media bar as if it was any other recording. So hopefully users won't do stuff they shouldn't do with it.

"If I'm prohibited from getting the recording off and storing it somewhere else because some other dude is making money out of selling it, then I'd rather they brought the law in to catch those people," he added.

We'll be posting full details about PlayTV soon - although sadly, these still will not include a price or release date for the device, which are still under wraps.


Breaking: Phil Harrison Quits Sony

Phil Harrison is today announcing plans to leave Sony. Harrison is the company’s head of worldwide studios and has been instrumental in PlayStation’s development for 15 years.


Phil Harrison, president of Sony Computer Entertainment worldwide studios, will resign from Sony Computer Entertainment Group as of February 29, 2008, the company has announced.

Kazuo Hirai, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, will immediately assume responsibilities as president of SCE worldwide studios, in addition to his current duties.

Harrison joined Sony Electronics Publishing (later Sony Computer Entertainment Europe) in 1992 prior to the launch of the original PlayStation, and has since played a key strategic role in the launch of four PlayStation platforms, as well as building strong relationships with game developers and publishers globally. Harrison led SCE’s first party game development operations and aggressively pursued the development of new online entertainment experiences.

"As one of the founding members of SCE, Phil played a key role in the development and growth of the PlayStation business and our industry,” said Hirai. “It is sad to see him departing from SCE, but I wish to express my gratitude for his many invaluable contributions and also wish Phil the very best of luck in his future endeavors".

"The past 15 years at Sony Computer Entertainment has been the defining journey of my life so far," said Harrison. "I am grateful to all the PlayStation family for their incredible support, guidance and friendship. It has been a privilege to serve as part of the team and be inspired by them on a daily basis. I am so proud of everything PlayStation has achieved and will continue to support its future in every way I can".


Game-Ad Boom Looms as Sony Opens Up PS3

Three Key Sellers Will Battle in $400 Million Market

Sony is opening up its in-game advertising platform -- likely providing a boost to the already-burgeoning $400 million in-game-ad market and sparking a battle among the three key players who sell these ads.

The maker of the PlayStation3 system will offer an open platform, meaning in-game-ad-serving companies Double Fusion, IGA and Google-owned AdScape all will be able to sell ads in games that run on PS3, according to people familiar with Sony's plans. The three companies will strike deals with the major game publishers creating PS3 games, such as Electronic Arts, Activision and Ubisoft. Increasingly, those who score the plum publisher deals will turn out to be the winners in the competitive and fast-growing space.

"It'll come down to games and who has the largest catalog of games," said one person familiar with Sony's plans, but who did not have authorization to speak about it publicly.

In-house sales team
Sony is just starting to sell in-game ads and has its own PlayStation Network sales force to sell dynamic ads in Sony-produced games, such as the forthcoming "Pain" title. A Sony spokesman said the company doesn't comment on unannounced initiatives or products.

The decision will ramp up the competition for prime publisher inventory in a battle not unlike that in the greater internet space. There is no internet-ad-serving company that has a lock on web ads; however, ad networks (and their portal owners) duke it out for the right to sell those ads on publisher websites. During the past couple of months, Yahoo has expanded the network of newspaper sites on which it sells ads, Microsoft has inked deals with Viacom and Dow Jones sites, and Google has re-signed The New York Times' website as an ad-network partner.

While the ad-serving companies might have hoped for an exclusive contract to sell ads in PS3 games, analysts said that a more competitive model could benefit marketers and the in-game market in general. "Making things open only makes things better for marketers or people who want to place ads because they aren't the mercy of a given network," said James Belcher, a longtime video-game writer and senior writer at eMarketer. He said the market is already hypercompetitive. "Everyone's playing around with the best model -- how to charge, what gamers will and will not put up with."

According to eMarketer data, video-game advertising is a $400 million category this year and is expected to grow during the next five years at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 23%.

'Baked in'
Dynamic in-game advertising refers to ads that are changed in and out of games post-development, from interactive placements to signage to sponsorships. Video-game advertising also includes ads that are "baked in" to games -- meaning they are integral part of the game's development and cannot be switched out once they're created -- and ads that run on the console communities, such as XBox Live and the Sony Home network, which is in private beta.

Dynamic ads are considered less risky than baked-in integrations because they don't require a marketer to speculate whether a game will be a hit. Marketers can wait, see how a game performs and then buy ads in it -- much like buying "scatter" TV inventory.

Sony's open platform is a clear departure from how things are done on Microsoft's Xbox, whose exclusive model means all dynamic in-game ads must be brokered through Massive, a company the software giant acquired in May 2006. That acquisition essentially closed off the opportunity for other in-game ad brokers to sell inventory in games that run on its Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles -- and it elevated the bet they are placing on Sony.

Of course, one potential complication of an open philosophy is that, at least initially, Sony's decision will make in-game advertising harder to buy, as an advertiser could have to buy through as many as three different parties to place ads in a single game -- Massive for the title's Xbox version, another for dynamic ads in the version that runs on Sony's PS3 and a third for baked-in product placement in the game.

Sony signed a deal with Nielsen over the summer to measure in-game advertising. In October, it hired Darlene Kindler, a veteran of the video-game business who was most recently at AdScape, to oversee its in-game advertising efforts.


Video: PS3 UT3 Lego Mod

I am constantly amazed by the work people put into modding things. Just the thought of going into that code and trying to figure out how to change things around just makes smoke come out of my ears as my brain turns into a burnt potato chip. This video shows a great Unreal Tournament 3 mod with the world done as LEGO Land. All of the environments are destructible and it looks near perfect. Not only can you watch the video, you can download the mod for your very own if you'd like. It resides on GameBlews along with instructions for use on both US and EU PS3's. You can check out another video of the map after the jump.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

EU & US PlayStation Store Update 21st Feb 2008

Eu Playstation Store Update:

Lost Planet Online Demo

Assassin’s Creed “Developers Diary - Altair”
Conflict: Denied Ops “Launch”

Devil May Cry 4 Wallpaper
Sport Theme

US PlayStation Store Update:

PixelJunk Monsters demo
Jet Moto 3 (PS1) - $5.99
God of War: Chains of Olympus demo (PSP only)

Downloadable Content:
Rock Band tracks - $1.99 each:
Weezer “El Scorcho”
Stone Temple Pilots “Sex Type Thing”
G arbage “Why Do You Love Me?

PAIN™ Add On Character - Hung Lo
PAIN™ Fun With Explosives Single Player Add On (free)

Bionic Commando: Rearmed
Conflict: Denied Ops - “Developer Diary 4″
MLB 08 The Show - “Replay Vault Tutorial”
MLB 08 The Show - “Pitcher Batter Analysis Tutorial”
MLB 08 The Show - “Stolen Base”
Kung Fu Panda Teaser Trailer

Home Beta gets a significant update next week

Wow, where to begin. We've just received an email detailing a huge update to the Home beta next week. The update will bring the version number to 0.8.3 (taking us ever closer to its release at v1.0.0) and the information comes from the beta message board on the official PlayStation site, so we're certain it's legit. There's a lot of stuff to go over, so we'll pick out the most interesting bits and paste the full patchlist after the break.

Improvements to the UI and graphics engine mean that Home will look much prettier and be more functional from here on out. You will be able to check who's online from your friends list as well as who is in Home right now. A bubble machine has been made available to all beta testers, to test the new "Home Items" system. Video streaming is now made possible too, so you don't have to wait for a video to download completely before watching it.

The most exciting part of the update is the unveiling of the Marketplace in the main square. The Marketplace is stocked with clothes and furniture as well as other, undisclosed, content. We can't wait to see what's there. Game launching is also now available, though it is currently limited. Games can be started within Home, however the party will not be automatically generated within the game. Also, players with different versions of a game (such as American or European) won't be able to start a game together. The patch notes clearly state, however, that this is only temporary and will be fixed before launch.

There's so much more included in the update, but we're running out of room! Check after the break to see the full patch list.

New user interface

The UI has undergone a major change (our graphical artist calls the new interface "Home CS" [Home Chip System]) and it's not just there to look good; we also believe it improves the logical flow of your interactions.

Other UI changes include a new vector based font system that improves text clarity and improvements to a range of different icons (for example the loading icon under your character's feet now gives a sense of something happening).

Another nice addition is that people on your friends list in the virtual PSP are sorted by three different states: "Offline", "Online" and "Online in Home" - these are colour coded too.

The Virtual PSP has undergone considerable changes. We have changed the structure of the menus to try and make it easier and more logical to navigate. There are also new icons for all of the options and new backgrounds available to customise the look. In the past an option that was unavailable to you was simply invisible; but now the option will remain visible but be greyed out instead.

Finally when people on your friends list send text chat their name will appear in green in the chat log.

Major graphics engine changes

We now use an HDR approach to lighting and bloom so the glowing halos around bright objects have been toned down and things should look sharper overall. We've also improved the water shader so all of the water should look noticeably better. The new engine also provides more stable frame rates in very crowded areas.

Support for 1080p is also back.

The wardrobe

Character customisation has been unified under a new wardrobe system where both clothing and physical characteristics can be modified from the same place. Some of the key changes in this area include:

- The wardrobe is accessible from any location, not just your Home Space.
- A selection of pre-set characters is available with more coming.
- Jewellery is now available for both sexes.
- Improved the look of skin on all characters.
- Your avatar is well lit and has a mirror behind to make customisation much easier.
- The standard list of clothing has been reduced to our intended starting pack.
- More clothing is available from the new Marketplace (see below!).
- Save & Load! You can now save your character in 9 different setups.
- Extra clothing will be added soon to test our update system.

The Marketplace

The mystery building in Home Square can now be revealed and it's not a Flamingo Factory as US tester NO FEAR!! recently guessed.

In the Marketplace you'll find stores with all sorts of things for you to add to your character and Home Space such as clothing, furniture and even... well, why not explore it yourself.

Home Space

Not only have we improved the view from your balcony but we have also added a whole new Home Space for you to test - it is available from the Marketplace. Welcome to your very own summer house.

Another change is that our intended starting pack of furniture is now available for your Home Space. This is quite different from what you had available before. More furniture is available from the Marketplace and extra furniture will added in the coming weeks to test our update system.

Both the lamps available as furniture for your Home Spaces now have working light switches. These dynamically light your space and guests in your space can also turn your lights on and off.

Finally we've moved the entry point to your Home Space in Home Square back inside the building in front of the lifts so you have access to the seating areas either side.

Game Launching

Many of the problems that stopped Game Launching from working properly have been fixed; however there are still some temporary issues that you need to know about before you try it:

- Groups formed in PLAYSTATION® Home for Game Launching are not currently preserved into the game. This means that you can all get together and form a group but when you launch the game you will not arrive in a session together. It will not stay like this - we are working with game developers to integrate full support for Game Launching into a range of games. However as stated before, we really wanted to get an early version of Game Launching out so that you could test the menu functionality and see how it works for you within PLAYSTATION® Home.

- Game Launching currently only supports grouping up if you have identical versions of the same game. For example the EU and US versions of Motorstorm may not work together at the moment and there may be problems between the installed and disc version of Warhawk. Again it will not stay like this and eventually all versions of the same game will work together properly.

New streaming video system

Previously to watch a video you would have to download the whole thing before it would start to play. We've now changed to a streaming video system which allows you to start watching almost straight away. Additionally the Home Theatre has some new streaming video channels in it courtesy of Crackle. Once inside an auditorium here you can get more information on what you are watching and control playback by pressing the SQUARE button.

Regional support

Whilst the legalities, policies and practicalities of regional travel are addressed we have temporarily disabled the ability to switch between the European, US and Japanese regions via your virtual PSP.

Support for more languages has been added bringing our complete list up to: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, traditional Chinese and Korean.

Home items

We needed a way to test our new Home items system and therefore we are proud to present our first one... (Drum roll)... the bubble machine! You can find it in your virtual PSP under Personal> My Inventory. Place it down anywhere you like and blow some bubbles.

Sound system update

A lot of new sound effects have been added throughout PLAYSTATION® Home and we have also made some changes to voice communication so that it should be more stable with large groups of people.

Bug fixes

- Fixed the problem where you could appear in a location and some other characters there would be invisible.
- Fixed the floating pool balls.
- Fixed the levitating avatars.
- Fixed the issue that led to C967 errors.
- Fixed the inconsistencies between the view inside and outside different locations.
- Fixed the positioning of the PSP in your character's hands.


How the Blu-ray war was won - Sony outspent, outsold Toshiba

Sony's victory in the high-definition format war is a badly needed win for the Japanese electronics giant, after a series of humiliating failures that have left control of the music market with Apple. The question that Sony has yet to answer, however, is whether the price paid to see off Toshiba - at least $3 billion (£1.54 billion) - was worth it.

Blu-ray is more expensive to manufacture than Toshiba's HD-DVD player. Toshiba players are on sale for as little as £149.99 this year, £120 less than the cheapest Blu-ray. Although some of that discounting reflected a last throw of the dice from Toshiba, for the moment consumers have been saddled with a more expensive format and Sony's losses to make up.

The only way for Sony to distribute Blu-ray in large quantities was to build the technology into the PlayStation 3 and sell the games console at a discount. Sony's console division ran up a $1.97 billion deficit in the year to March 31 last year, which it followed with a $991 million loss in the first three quarters of the current year. Yet the true costs of Blu-ray are probably much greater: early research and development expenses have not been included.

Analysts believe, however, that Sony will recoup its $3billion-plus investment eventually. Richard Hooper, an analyst with Screen Digest, said: "It is hard to estimate precisely what royalties Sony will generate, but we believe that they will be able to recoup far more than $3 billion over the lifetime of Blu-ray. It's worth it".

Without PlayStation 3, Sony would would have been in deep trouble. In Europe, for example, Sony has sold up to an estimated three million consoles. Toshiba is similarly coy with its figures, but has admitted that it has sold "over 200,000".

David Walstra, a Sony Blu-ray specialist, said: "Blu-ray films have been outselling HD-DVD by roughly two to one in the United States, but by three or even four to one in Europe". It was becoming increasingly clear to Hollywood that Blu-ray's customer base - with 9.5million PlayStation 3s expected to be sold in the year to March 31 - was going to be far greater than HD-DVD could manage. Warner Brothers took the first step, abandoning Toshiba in January.

Incorporating Blu-ray into the games console, however, was not the only reason that Sony succeded. It was also able to keep enough Hollywood studios on board, with Walt Disney, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Brothers all backing the format.

Blu-ray's superior capacity - it will be able store 50GB when it introduces "dual-layer" technology, compared with Toshiba's 30GB - was also important. Anthony Peet, general manager of Disney's DVD business in Britain, said that the storage meant "we can include more bonus features and ship less discs".

Both Sony and its consumers still have to pay a price. For the company, it comes from building the expensive technology into a games console, which Sony executives concede is being sold at a loss. Nintendo has seized market share with its cheaper Wii, while Microsoft's XBox360 is also performing competitively. Where Sony dominated the second generation console markets, outselling Microsoft's Xbox by five to one, its present share globally is estimated at 20.8 per cent.

For customers, unlike those of Toshiba's HD-DVD, which was fully developed, Sony left some features out as it raced to get the product to market; in particular, the ability to incorporate internet downloads into the discs.

“Only the PlayStation 3 is future- proofed; it is not clear what will happen to other players which do not have ethernet [fast internet] connections,” Mr Hooper said.

That means that people who have bought a standalone Blu-ray player may have to buy new equipment if they want to take advantage of new features, making them, like HD-DVD owners, casualties of the high-definition format war.


Sony scholarship for female video game lovers

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) said Wednesday it is luring women into video game design with a 10,000-dollar scholarship and paid internships.

"We are under-represented," Devra Pransky of SOE told AFP after the announcement of the scholarship at a major Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

"Video game making is male dominated and we need to change that".

A Sony-sponsored survey in January of female students enrolled in game design and programming at The Art Institutes showed that about half of those surveyed think more women would play video games designed by women.

The perception of the video game industry being a male bastion deters women from getting into the field, those surveyed agreed.

"It is a misdirection that women don't like video games," said SOE publicist Taina Rodriguez, who sported a lime green t-shirt with the acronym G.I.R.L. -- Gamers In Real Life.

"If more women make games, then more women will play games and get excited about making games. We want to strengthen that cycle."

Students enrolled in The Art Institutes schools can begin applying for the SOE scholarship in April. The winner will get 10,000 dollars for tuition and a paid internship at an SOE studio.

The Art Institutes has 35 campuses in the United States and offers online education.

"I love games, but I'm a bit old school," said Niki Dominguez of The Art Institute of California in San Diego. "I'm an Atari fan".

She also boasts a nine handicap playing golf on Nintendo's Wii video game console.

Students enrolled in accredited universities or trade schools can also apply for SOE internships.


Can PS3 retake gaming crown?

Blu-ray platform gives Sony boost

No industry is as aggressive about maintaining momentum as the entertainment world, a lesson Sony Corp. clearly understands after its PlayStation 3 video-game console got the boost it needed after Toshiba Corp. abandoned its HD-DVD business on Tuesday.

It came at a crucial time. As NintendoInc.' s Wii continues to be snapped off retail shelves more than a year after it was launched, video-game pundits began to declare "game over" for the Sony system.

It was deemed too expensive and not as innovative as other Sony products, critics claimed, as the lack of Play-Station 3 sales contributed to Sony's games division posting a loss of US$1.97-billion in the last fiscal year.

Now with Blu-ray, the next-generation high-definition video player, on a roll as major companies back it, can Play-Station 3 reclaim its crown as the world's most popular video-game console?

Absolutely, said Paul O'Donnell, London-based Gartner principal analyst.

"The real winner in this race is the PlayStation 3," Mr. O'Donnell said. "The Blu-ray was such a critical part of their business model, they couldn't let it go. And now they've won."

While reports suggest Bluray was poised to capture the lion's share of the US$24-billion home-entertainment market, the figure dwarfs the US$37.5-billion worldwide video-game industry, a larger pie that Sony is now primed to take more of.

Although video games have been a relatively insular activity, it was only when Wii emerged that video gaming truly took off. To date, more than 21 million households have purchased Nintendo's console, lauded for its innovative wireless remote-control interface.

Both Sony and Microsoft Corp. marketed their consoles as more of a media centre than a video game. However, only Microsoft's Xbox 360 has proved to be a hit with consumers, with 17-million units sold, aided in part by the popularity of Halo 3, the best-selling video game of 2007 in the United States.

Today, Sony's strategy to marry the Blu-ray with its next-generation video console looks to be a winner, said Mark Perrella, IDC Canada vice-president of technology.

"They're giving more of that high-definition premium experience and now it's more attractive to a greater amount of consumers," he said.

Taking several cues from other failed format wars-- BetaMax, MiniDisc, the Memory Stick--Sony learned that to be successful with a new media player, it had to be able to control the content available.

When Blu-ray was introduced in 2002, Sony made sure it partnered with as many film studios and retailers as possible to strongarm consumers into adopting its technology.

After several years with no leader in the high-definition video world emerging, the real tipping point, Mr. Perrella says, was when Warner Bros. Entertainment decided last month it will release films only on the Bluray format.

"The key thing is having compelling content widely available consumed in that format," Mr. Perrella said.

The cheapest Blu-ray player on the market has a price tag between $399 and $499, and Mr. O'Donnell expects Sony to cut prices further within the next few months to maintain momentum.

"[Sony] will do everything it can to come back from the brink," he said. "You'll see pricing, bundled with Bluray discs and TVs. It's seen as more as a media centre for your living room that can play games as well".


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gran Turismo 5 prologue dated for Europe

In a press release regarding the Logitech Driving Force GT the Gran Turismo 5: Prologue release date for Europe has finally been nailed down.

The driving simulator will be available on both a Blu-Ray disc at retail and as a PlayStation Network download on March 28th. That's just under three weeks before America receives it on April 17th.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

LittleBigPlanet planning lip-synching voice chat, filters

ust when you thought you knew everything you could about Media Molecule's upcoming world-creator game LittleBigPlanet, we find something else that blows our minds and makes us anticipate the title even more. In the latest Edge magazine, it's been revealed that in addition to the emotions and such your sackboy (and sackgirl) can perform, there are plans to lip-synch voice chat. That is to say, the characters will move their mouths in roughly the same way you do (even if not, it's still cool). Down the line, expect stuff like voice filters, too. We think that's a pretty stellar move.


Sony to see 10% boost in PS3 sales

Analysts agree that HD DVD demise is good news for the console

Sales of the PlayStation 3 could see a rise of up to 10 per cent in the wake of Toshiba's pull-out from the next generation DVD war as a result of educated consumers who have been waiting for the format war to end.

That's according to Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, who also told that as well as the short term boost, the long term effect will be even more positive.

"Longer term, I think it's a huge boon for Sony, as most retail clerks will be instructed to push Blu-ray along with sales of HD monitors at holiday, so we should see a large increase in PS3 sales year-over-year at holiday," he said.

Ed Barton and Richard Cooper, from Screen Digest, broadly agree: "With the format war over, and the end of the consumer indecision resulting from it, video consumers are likely to purchase the PS3 as the most cost effective, future proof Blu-ray player," they said.

"In the longer term lower price, higher specification set-top Blu-ray players will take on the role as best entry level Blu-ray player but not within the next 12 months. This could result in a small but significant rise in the number of PS3s bought over the next 12 months as Blu-ray players".

On the question of what Microsoft's response might be, given that the Xbox 360 supported an HD DVD peripheral but with no official plans to do the same for Blu-ray at this point, opinion was mixed.

Pachter feels that while committing the Xbox 360 to Blu-ray is an option for Microsoft, either in terms of a built-in device or as a peripheral, both are unlikely - while to compete on that basis with the PlayStation 3 the company can only look towards price cuts.

Barton and Cooper feel that the demise of HD DVD won't have a negative effect on the Xbox 360, and that Microsoft will instead see benefits in other areas.

"If anything Microsoft will appreciate more Xbox 360 owners being driven to the Live Video Store as it makes more margin on HD content supply from XBL than via the HD DVD platform".

Sony is yet to officially comment on the HD DVD situation, while Microsoft has reiterated that it doesn't believe Xbox 360 sales will be affected.

"As we've long stated, we believe it is games that sell consoles and Xbox 360 continues to have the largest next-gen games library with the most exclusives and best selling games in the industry," the company said.


Sony U.S. shares rise on PS3, Blu-ray optimism

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. shares of Sony Corp (6758.T: Quote, Profile, Research)(SNE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) rose as much as 5 percent on Tuesday on optimism about sales of its PlayStation 3 video game consoles and Blu-ray DVD players after Toshiba Corp (6502.T: Quote, Profile, Research) pulled the plug on its rival HD DVD system.

Sony's PS3 machine has a built-in Blu-ray disc player, the dominant high-definition home movie disc technology now that Toshiba has conceded defeat.

"We believe Blu-ray's victory could drive market share gains for the PS3, as we believe consumers will now be more willing to pay up (versus 360) for the standard Blu-ray player," William Blair analyst Ralph Shackart wrote in a note to clients, referring to Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) rival Xbox 360 game device.

Sony U.S. shares rose to a session high of $47.07 in early trade on the New York Stock Exchange before easing to $46.30, up $1.52, or 3.4 percent from the Friday close. On Monday, markets were closed due to the U.S. President's Day holiday.

Toshiba surrendered in the next-generation home movie war on Tuesday, after losing the support of key movie studios and retailers -- most recently, Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research). Toshiba said it will aim to end its HD DVD business by the end of next month.

The Blu-ray win means consumers no longer have to choose between rival, incompatible formats and run the risk of being stuck with a 21st century equivalent of Betamax, Sony's videotape format that lost out to VHS in the 1980s.

Sony shares in Tokyo earlier Tuesday ended up 2.2 percent, spurred by the company's plans to spend 22 billion yen ($203.5 million) to develop the production technology for making medium to large organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels.


BDA Comments on the End of the Format War

The Blu-ray Disc Association has made an official statement regarding Toshiba's announcement that they would no longer be supporting the HD DVD format. Andy Parsons, Chairman, Blu-ray Disc Association U.S. Promotions Committee commented, "We in the Blu-ray Disc Association are very happy that this long format war is officially over. Now the task ahead for our member companies is to promote the Blu-ray Disc format as the best way to bring premier quality high definition content into consumers' lives."

As the main supporter of the HD DVD format, Toshiba's announcement that they no longer would be supporting the format effectively ends the format war and Blu-ray has been proclaimed the victor. As the only high definition format viable for consumer adoption, the BDA's focus will now be shifted towards ensuring consumers understand the advantages of Blu-ray and the superior movie experience it offers.


Toshiba Announces Discontinuation of HD DVD Businesses

TOKYO--Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market. Toshiba will continue, however, to provide full product support and after-sales service for all owners of Toshiba HD DVD products.

HD DVD was developed to offer consumers access at an affordable price to high-quality, high definition content and prepare them for the digital convergence of tomorrow where the fusion of consumer electronics and IT will continue to progress.

"We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called 'next-generation format war' and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop," said Atsutoshi Nishida, President and CEO of Toshiba Corporation. "While we are disappointed for the company and more importantly, for the consumer, the real mass market opportunity for high definition content remains untapped and Toshiba is both able and determined to use our talent, technology and intellectual property to make digital convergence a reality."

Toshiba will continue to lead innovation, in a wide range of technologies that will drive mass market access to high definition content. These include high capacity NAND flash memory, small form factor hard disk drives, next generation CPUs, visual processing, and wireless and encryption technologies. The company expects to make forthcoming announcements around strategic progress in these convergence technologies.

Toshiba will begin to reduce shipments of HD DVD players and recorders to retail channels, aiming for cessation of these businesses by the end of March 2008. Toshiba also plans to end volume production of HD DVD disk drives for such applications as PCs and games in the same timeframe, yet will continue to make efforts to meet customer requirements. The company will continue to assess the position of notebook PCs with integrated HD DVD drives within the overall PC business relative to future market demand.

This decision will not impact on Toshiba's commitment to standard DVD, and the company will continue to market conventional DVD players and recorders. Toshiba intends to continue to contribute to the development of the DVD industry, as a member of the DVD Forum, an international organization with some 200 member companies, committed to the discussion and defining of optimum optical disc formats for the consumer and the related industries.

Toshiba also intends to maintain collaborative relations with the companies who joined with Toshiba in working to build up the HD DVD market, including Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and DreamWorks Animation and major Japanese and European content providers on the entertainment side, as well as leaders in the IT industry, including Microsoft, Intel, and HP. Toshiba will study possible collaboration with these companies for future business opportunities, utilizing the many assets generated through the development of HD DVD.


Toshiba Schedules Press Conference, HD DVD Announcement Expected

Toshiba has scheduled a press conference for later today, at which it is widely expected to announce that it is officially ceasing support of the HD DVD format.

Japanese news site broke the news that Toshiba has scheduled a press conference for 5pm Tokyo time Tuesday (that's 12 midnight PST), at which the company is expected to announce that it will immediately stop manufacturing all HD DVD hardware and that it will cease selling them at retail by the end of March.

The news comes on the heels of a rapid succession of high-profile setbacks for the format over the past last week. First, three major retailers -- Netflix, Best Buy and Wal-Mart -- each announced plans to endorse the rival Blu-ray format, followed by intense speculation that Toshiba was mulling over its exit strategy for the nearly two-year old next-gen format (a claim that the company later confirmed, though it stopped short of declaring whether any decision had been made).

Needless to say, we'll keep you posted on any news out of Toshiba's press conference tonight, as well as any other developments as they unfold.


PS3 Hits 10.5 Million Sold

An Associated Press business article, dedicated mostly to the impending conclusion of that stupid, distracting "format war", has buried in its conclusion some PS3 sales figures. According to the piece, Sony have now sold 10.5 million PS3 consoles since launch. Which is good news for them, as it puts them squarely on track to meet their goal of selling 11 million by the end of March, a target they set themselves last December. Oh, before you go, those who like to dabble in the odd bit of conjecture and speculation should note that it's been Sony policy for a while now to count "sold" as sold, not shipped.


Why Scientists Love Games Consoles

Leading scientists are turning to the extraordinary power of games consoles to do their sums and simulate everything from colliding black holes to the effects of drugs.

  • Supercomputer 'virtual human' to help fight disease
  • Doctors use Nintendo Wii in therapy treatment
  • PlayStation3 Gravity Grid
  • Reprogram a PlayStation and it will perform feats that would be unthinkable on an ordinary PC because the kinds of calculations required to produce the realistic graphics now seen in sophisticated video games are similar to those used by chemists and physicists as they simulate the interactions between particles ranging from the molecular to the astronomical.

    PS3 console: 'You can build your own supercomputer using PS3s'
    PS3 console: 'You can build your own supercomputer using PS3s'

    Such simulations are usually carried out on a supercomputer, but time on these machines is expensive and in short supply. By comparison, games consoles are cheap and easily available, says New Scientist.

    "There is no doubt that the entertainment industry is helping to drive the direction of high performance computational science - exploiting the power available to the masses will lead to many research breakthroughs in the future," comments Prof Peter Coveney of University College London, who uses supercomputing in chemistry.

    Prof Gaurav Khanna at the University of Massachusetts has used an array of 16 PS3s to calculate what will happen when two black holes merge.

    According to Prof Khanna, the PS3 has unique features that make it suitable for scientific computations, namely, the Cell processor dubbed a "supercomputer-on-a-chip." And it runs on Linux, "so it does not limit what you can do."

    "A single high-precision simulation can sometimes cost more than 5,000 hours on the TeraGrid supercomputers. For the same cost, you can build your own supercomputer using PS3s. It works just as well, has no long wait times and can be used over and over again, indefinitely," Prof Khanna says.

    And Todd Martínez has persuaded the supercomputing centre at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, to buy eight computers each driven by two of the specialised chips that are at the heart of Sony's PlayStation 3 console.

    Together with his student Benjamin Levine he is using them to simulate the interactions between the electrons in atoms, as part of work to see how proteins in the body dovetail with drug molecules.

    He was inspired while browsing through his son's games console's technical specification "I noticed that the architecture looked a lot like high performance supercomputers I had seen before," he says. "That's when I thought about getting one for myself."

    An effort to interconnect tends of thousands of PS3s is under way with Folding@Home, an effort based at Stanford University to study the way proteins fold, which plays a key role in Alzheimer's, Huntington's Disease and Parkinson's disease.

    With about 50,000 such machines, the organisers of this huge distributed computing effort hope to achieve performance on the petaflop scale.

    The Wii, made by Nintendo, has a motion tracking remote control unit that is cheaper than a comparable device built from scratch. The device recently emerged as a tool to help surgeons to improve their technique.

    Meanwhile, neurologist Thomas Davis at the Vanderbilt Medical Centre in Nashville, Tennessee, is using it to measure movement deficiencies in Parkinson's patients to assess how well a patient can move when they take part in drug trials.