Thursday, May 25, 2006

More golf in HD....wonderful

As more and more professional and college sporting events are being telecast in high definition, golf continues to lag behind the field.

CBS a few years back showed the majority of its events in glorious high-def, a format that requires a specialty TV and a specialty receiver but one that delivers unparalleled picture clarity and sound. But CBS has backed off of their HD promise, showing only the Masters "toon-a-mint" in the format.

Now, NBC has announced that it will broadcast six hours of live coverage from the Senior PGA Championship from Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond, OK, this weekend. It's the beginning of the network's commitment to HD coverage. Expect to see the majority of its PGA coverage, including the US Open and Ryder Cup, in HD.

This is a very, very good thing. Golf telecasts can look washed out sometimes and they look entirely different in HD. You almost feel there. With the flowers and grass and water, it provides spectacular HD theater. I can only hope CBS will follow (and maybe a Golf Channel HD channel?).

USA Network will provide early round coverage of the Senior PGA today (Thursday) and tomorrow, 2-4 p.m. , simulcast in high definition on UniversalHD.

"It's going to take a lot of makeup to make these guys look good, myself included," said NBC analsyt Roger Maltbie.

I'm just glad NBC is making the effort.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I'm admitting it, I like IE 7

Yes, Microsoft has been bashed many a time over its Internet Explorer web browser. Yes, Firefox is better than the current Microsoft offering (until you encounter sites that are "optimized" for IE and don't load properly in the little orange browser).

But if you have visited Bill Gates' homepage lately, you'll notice a free download for a beta version of the next IE, version 7, that promises more security, faster downloads and generally just a better browsing experience.

After two days with IE7, I think Gates' folks have mostly succeeded. The new browser loads pages faster, allows for much faster switching between pages and generally just looks better.

Now instead of clicking the minimize button, or more, to change between websites, you can "tab" to a new site instantly. As you visit a site, you can click a small button near the top of the page to load a new browser window. Once you do that, you'll see your old page next to it with a small title of what the page is. This allows for much easier switching between pages.

This isn't a new thing, but it's new to IE and it works well.

Other features I liked were being able to resize pages before printing. With a touch of a button, you can shrink pages, by percentage, to fit on, say, one printer page, within the margins and you can see a print preview.

You can touch a button to subscribe to pages that have RSS feeds, like this one, to deliver the latest blogs and news updates to you when they are ready. The good ol' pop up blocker, which is handy, is back and Microsoft has added a new Phishing filter to let you check to make sure any website you visit is the real thing.

So when you get an email to reset the password for your PayPal and click the link in the email (and remember, we NEVER do that), you can get the page, which looks like PayPal, run the Phishing tool and find out if it's the real McCoy before you go typing in your mother's maiden name.

Searching is also easier. There's a search box in the upper right hand corner (no more tying in Google). You can pick from several search engines by pulling down an arrow key next to the box. Very easy. It's cake, really. And the new IE is, too.

But what do you think?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Microsoft's world domination strategy revealed -- and it's good

We know that Nintendo's new Wii unit and Sony's $499 to $549 PS3 are coming to market this year. But by the time they do, Microsoft boss Bill Gates said his Xbox 360 system will have a 10 million unit head start.

At the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Gates also announced plans this week to connect millions of Xbox 360 gamers with hundreds of millions of Windows-based PC and mobile gamers from around the world through the Xbox Live online entertainment network.

Dubbed “Live Anywhere,” the initiative puts gamers at the center of a always-on world where their digital identities, games, friends and digital entertainment are always accessible through the familiar Xbox Live interface, regardless of location or device. The plan also clears the way for groundbreaking cross-platform gameplay scenarios, with participants using Windows-based PCs, mobile phones and Xbox 360 consoles to play together simultaneously.

“By opening the Xbox Live entertainment network to the entire universe of Windows and mobile gamers, we’re creating unparalleled gameplay opportunities that will drive incredible growth of the online community,” said Gates. “Our vision is to deliver consistent, compelling experiences that make it easy for consumers to jump in and play, from any device at any time. It’s a vision that only Microsoft can deliver.”

If Microsoft is able to pull this off well, it would have a huge advantage on the competition. Essentially your PC could become an extension of your 360.

By this time next year, Microsoft expects more than 6 million gamers to be connected to Xbox Live. Currently, there are mor than 25 million casual gamers playing on MSN Messenger and MSN Games.

Gates plans to allow all of them to access Xbox Live this winter via Microsoft's new Vista operating system. Now, you know you had to get new software for this, right?

  • Microsoft plans to have 160 Xbox 360 titles available by years end. Gates dazzled the crowd with an initial look at “Halo 3,” the sequel to the Halo 2, which did more than $125 million in sales.

    In this third chapter of the “Halo” trilogy, Master Chief returns to finish the fight, bringing the epic conflict between the Covenant, the Flood and the entire human race to a dramatic, pulse-pounding climax.
  • Microsoft’s mobile offering will enable a true mobile gaming ecosystem, providing consumers with the opportunity to try games before they buy, store catalogs of the hottest bite-sized games locally on their phones, post game achievements and scores for others to see and most importantly, provide mobile gamers access to cross-platform gaming communities at any time, from any location.

  • The first Hip-Hop Gaming League championships will be held Saturday at Club Element in Hollywood. Rapper Snoop Dogg will host the event, which will feature two league semifinal matches, a championship and a VIP exhibition tournament.

All matches will be played on specially modded Xbox 360s.

If you're in Hollywood, look for red carpet arrivals to begin at 3 p.m. with folks like Snoop, FHM model Vida Guerra and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez. If you're not out west, MTV2 is scheduled to carry the proceedings at a later date to be announced.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

EA Sports creating exclusive Madden version for Wii

Nintendo's new Wii game machine got a big shot in the arm Tuesday when Electronic Arts announced that it was creating a customized version of its Madden NFL 07 especially for the machine.

EA says this game is "conceived as an entirely original football experience."

EA hopes to utilize Wii's groundbreaking console controller to give gamers more control over passing, kicking, snapping, throwing and running as never before.

“Nintendo is breaking new ground with Wii. The brilliance of their innovation is inspiring and we have dedicated ourselves to developing outstanding new play experiences for the platform,” said John Schappert, EA's Senior Vice President and Group Studio General Manager. “Deploying resources against a single platform in this manner is a new approach for us – but it is the right approach.”

Schappert added, “Madden NFL 07 is a Wii original. You may have played a football game in the past, but you’ve never played a game like this before.”

"EA is renowned for their superior games," noted Reggie Fils-Aime, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Nintendo of America Inc. ”With their in-house development talent and the huge innovative leap the Wii controller and the system offer, we can't wait to experience the games."

Finally, some official PS3 News

This is one of the biggest weeks for videogame nuts, the annual Electronics Entertainment Expo in L.A. And Sony used the opening day to drop some big news about its new PlayStation 3 unit, due Nov. 17 in the U.S.

The unit will come with either a 60-gig hard drive ($549) or a 20-gig drive ($499) and Sony expects to ship two million PS3s in the first month of launch and four million by the end of the year.

Microsoft's Xbox 360 is available now with a 20-gig drive for $399.

Electronic Arts CEO was at Sony's presser Monday and demonstrated the power of the new system. He showed a PS3 player model and a Ps2 model using the EA Sports "NBA Live" franchise.

On PS3, the NBA player actually had to pick up his feet to move. On Ps2, as gamers know, players just kind of slide around.

  • Toshiba’s has introduced the Qosmio G35-AV650, the first notebook PC shipping in the U.S. to incorporate an HD DVD-ROM drive. The system is backwards-compatible with current DVD formts and includes a bright screen display, HDMI support and Dolby Digital sound.
  • Super Computer International creating a customized gaming client that incorporates AOL's popular AIM service to optimize the instant messaging (IM) experience for online gamers. Called PlayLinc, it'll give online gamers server browsing, friend tracking, player invitations, collaborative game launching across a variety of gaming platforms, team management, VoIP, on-game controls and information.
  • Sales of digital televisions grew more than 100 percent during the first quarter of 2006, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. According to the CEA, the industry sold 3.4 million DTV units during the first quarter of 2006, equaling a 101 percent increase in unit sales over the same time last year, and $3.6 billion in dollar sales. Unit sales of flat panel displays 201 percent.
  • NewSoft has released key technology features in version 1.06 of the Presto! Digital Converter. It's an all-inclusive solution for direct to DVD conversion of analog video and audio to digital. The new version adds MPEG-2 support and the MPEG-4 format support for the Apple iPod and Sony PSP.
  • Sega will release a new Sonic title for Nintendos' Wii console early in 2007. Sonic's new adventure unfolds from a storybook of the classic tale, Arabian Nights, the last several pages from the book have gone missing, and it's up to Sonic to re-create the story.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Xbox 360s (hopefully) now hitting store shelves

After a serious product shortage hurt early sales of the excellent Xbox 360 system, Microsoft says it is now shipping two to three times the number of consoles that had previously been shipped to retailers each week.

The company said that would keep it on track to meet forecast of 4.5 to 5.5 million units worldwide by the end of June 2006.

Microsoft needs to up the hardware push. For the month of March, the videogame tracking NPD Group reported that nearly 277,000 new PS2 units were sold in North America compared to nearly 192,000 Xbox 360s.


PSP SALES UP: PlayStation Portable outsold Nintendo’s GameCube 192,000 to 63,000. In a year, more than 4.5 million PSP units have sold in North America. NPD data also showed that PlayStation 2 software outsold Xbox 360: (2.2 million to 1.6 million units.)

360 TITLES HOT: Xbox 360 games are doing well, however.

Both “Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter” (Ubisoft) and “Elder Scrolls IV: blivion” (Bethesda) are leaving store shelves fast.

Bethesda announced “Oblivion” shipped more than 1.7 million copies on the Xbox 360 and Windows platforms between its launch on March 20 and April 7, making it one of the fastest-selling RPGs ever.

In Europe, “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter” topped the all-formats sales charts the week it released – replaced only by “Oblivion” two weeks later.

XBOX LIVE POPULAR: More than 10 million pieces of content have been downloaded from the Xbox 360 Live Marketplace since launch.

In addition to high-definition movie trailers, games and demos, more than three million of the downloads were Xbox Live Arcade game titles. The ability to “try Arcade titles before you buy” is a big hit, with an average 20 percent trial-to-purchase conversion rate (39 percent for the most popular Arcade game, “Geometry Wars.”)

Coming up, gamers will be able to download three new content packs for “Kameo: Elements of Power” plus users will submit their own creative skin designs, with the winner’s skin available to the community after the contest concludes.

In “Perfect Dark Zero,” fans will enjoy new maps and new gameplay functions. The downloadable “Project Gotham Racing 3” Speed Pack gives racers access to new gameplay upgrades including new cars.

“Project Gotham Racing 3” also kicked off its first major tournament on April 17. When users register for the event, their game becomes tournament-enabled with the most recent update, and then they compete with other speed demons from around the world in a variety of events. Qualifiers and single-elimination tournaments culminate in a race for the gold at the Lamborghini Factory in Italy in June.

EXCLUSIVE X CONTENT: Lastly, Xbox Live users can now download exclusive content from Epic records, Each month, Epic features songs in 5.1 digital and high-definition videos from a new artist, starting with British singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield whose video “Unwritten” was available in April. Artists of the Month will also participate in the “Game with Fame” program on Xbox Live Arcade, giving fans a chance to test their mettle against their favorite musicians.