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  • March Website Rankings of 100 UK Retailers

    March Website Rankings of 100 UK Retailers

    The top five retailers all maintained their positions in the same order at the top of the table of the 100 retail websites tested this month with Tesco's direct catalogue site direct.tesco.com still holding on to the top spot ahead of Vision Express, Clinton Cards, Habitat and Next.

    The comprehensive list of 100 sites, which includes not only the largest players but also some of the smaller specialist online merchants, has been created by The Retail Bulletin and specialist website testing company SiteMorse that used its automated testing of the first 125 pages of each retailer's site to generate a ranked table.

    Lawrence Shaw, founder of SiteMorse, says: "I suspect it is a sign that there have not been many changes made to these sites over the past month but even if they have made updates to them then it shows that somebody is at least testing them before the changes happen. It is good news that there is some consistency coming in, which is what you would expect over time."

    Below the top five some major moves have been made up the table by pure play retailers with Figleaves climbing 31 places to 25th place with a score of 5.06 out of 10 compared with 3.16 last month. This might have been a result of the appointment of a new senior management team at Figleaves, who are looking to overhaul the entire business.

    "One thing we notice is the lack of accountability of people who do things online so if they know somebody is looking at the online operation then things could improve. With a new boss in place people will take more care until they know what exactly they can get away with," suggests Shaw.

    Other pure plays on the up are Firebox, which climbed 21 places to 24th spot with a score of 5.10 and Net-a-porter that moved up 13 places to ninth spot with a score of 6.10 out of 10.

    However, one of the major disappointments with the online-only operators is there shockingly poor scores on accessibility for visually impaired shoppers. Figleaves, Net-a-porter, Asos, Amazon, Endless, ebuyer and Play.com all failed the accessibility test on every one of their pages. Firebox was the best of the bunch with a lesser 25 per cent of its pages failing.

    "Bricks and mortar retailers don?t ignore accessibility in their stores so online retailers should not ignore it with their internet stores. This is obviously of particular importance for the online-only players so for them to be failing on 100 per cent of their pages is not acceptable and shows that they are not considering the accessibility issue," says Shaw.

    Although each of the top five retailers have respectable scores of over seven out of 10 Shaw says the overall scores registered throughout the rest of table remain low. Since SiteMorse first started running its tests there has been little evidence of any across-the-board improvements in website performance.

    He suggests this might be down to the fact online retailing is still relatively immature compared with selling goods in stores. "People are still finding their feet and retail managements still measure success purely in terms of sales whereas in physical stores many other measurements are taken into account such as footfall, sales per square foot, and customer service levels etcetera," explains Shaw.

    "When other measurements, in addition to sales, are taken into account then it is likely that improvements will be made in the performance of retailers websites and the scores throughout the top 100 table will start to improve."

    For yet another month it has not been possible to score and rank the sites of Gap and Boots as they continue to be excluded from the table as a result of them either being ?down? at the time of testing or because of their reliance on ?assistive? technology, which SiteMorse believes breaks the general ?rules of accessibility? of internet sites.

    Another serial offender Pets At Home has been removed from the list and been replaced by Ted Baker, which achieved a credible opening score of 4.32, to place it in 36th spot in the table.

    Rank
    Overall
    Rank
    Change

    Site
    Address

    Exact
    Overall
    meta
    data
    error
    occs
    Accessibility
    A % pages
    failing
    1 ~ direct.tesco.com 8.04 ok 0 0.00%
    2 ~ www.visionexpress.com 7.66 ok 133 0.00%
    3 ~ www.clintoncards.co.uk 7.50 ok 1 9.52%
    4 ~ www.habitat.net 7.49 fail 13 0.00%
    5 ~ www.next.co.uk 7.34 ok 3 23.02%
    6 + 3 www.fenwick.co.uk 6.39 fail 27 11.54%
    7 + 11 www.bhs.co.uk 6.16 ok 18 3.12%
    8 - 1 www.dfsonline.co.uk 6.10 ok 170 32.81%
    9 + 13 www.net-a-porter.com 6.10 ok 2 100.00%
    10 + 14 www.threshergroup.com 6.09 fail 2 40.35%


    see the remainin 90 via RetailBulletin

  • Grand Theft Auto IV Soundtrack on Amazon (XB360)

    Grand Theft Auto IV Soundtrack on Amazon (XB360)

    ndividual songs from GTA IV's soundtrack will be available for purchase on Amazon.com's digital music service.

    Posted by Antony Bruno, Billboard on Monday, March 31, 2008

    Amazon is lending its digital music service as a special feature for the much-anticipated upcoming videogame Grand Theft Auto IV, allowing gamers to download music discovered via the game's soundtrack.

    The game features a soundtrack of over 150 songs, most of which are streamed through the radio stations of various cars that the playable character can steal and drive around the city while conducting missions. Players can tag songs heard using an in-game mobile phone interface and dialing ZiT-555-0100. Players then will get a message via the in-game phone with the artist's name, song name, etc.

    Gamers who are registered with the pending Rockstar Games Social Club online community will also get an e-mail with a link to a special Grand Theft Auto section at Amazon. Each registered player will there find a custom playlist of all the songs tagged in the game, which they can then buy for between 89- and 99-cents.

    The track sales model is similar to that of music games Rock Band and Guitar Hero in that it allows for discovery and purchase from within the game. But it differs significantly in that the music purchased from Grant Theft Auto can be played on other devices. Music purchased from Rock Band and Guitar Hero can only be played from within the respective game.

    Rockstar has yet to release the full soundtrack list, but offered a sneak peek by saying it would include both rare tracks -- such as Electric Funk's "On a Journey" and Elton John's "Street Kids" -- to more mainstream fare.

    Additionally, several artists have created new songs exclusive to the game, such as the Greenskeepers' "Vagabond (Liberty City Mix)" and "War is Necessary" by Nas. DJ Green Lantern even has an entire radio station to himself on which he's written and produced all the tracks.

    Grand Theft Auto IV is scheduled to hit retail shelves April 29.

    Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter & gamedaily

  • Amazon MP3 Sales Make it a Fast-Growing #2 to iTunes

    Amazon MP3 Sales Make it a Fast-Growing #2 to iTunes

    Amazon MP3 Sales Make it a Fast-Growing #2 to iTunes

    It seems that Apple is finally seeing some formidable competition in the form of Amazon’s MP3 download store. Jeffrey Graham of USA Today reports that Amazon MP3, an exclusively DRM-free digital sales outlet whose lifespan goes back only about half a year’s time, “has quietly become No. 2” to Apple’s top placement, far surpassing the

    It seems that Apple is finally seeing some formidable competition in the form of Amazon’s MP3 download store. Jeffrey Graham of USA Today reports that Amazon MP3, an exclusively DRM-free digital sales outlet whose lifespan goes back only about half a year’s time, “has quietly become No. 2” to Apple’s top placement, far surpassing the industry’s prior second-place institution, eMusic.

    At present, Apple claims a music catalogue of some 6 million songs, one-third of which is now delivered DRM-free. Those tracks comprise collections sold by record giant EMI and various independent labels. Amazon’s gross count to date ranks at an impressive 4.5 million, all of which are sold devoid of software-based copyright restrictions.

    The ascent of Amazon MP3 can most likely be credited to Amazon’s de facto brand recognition, which derives from its online retail prowess honed over a large span of time, as well as its proven ability to expand its digital offerings tremendously over the course of only several months. When juxtaposed against the history of Apple’s iTunes Store, Amazon MP3 is without a doubt the long-awaited reckoning for Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

    The fast pace of Amazon MP3’s growth is of course partly due to the tremendous handicap placed on Apple’s own online music service by three of the four biggest record industry forces. While EMI granted Apple a DRM-free catalogue back in 2007, and to great acclaim, Universal, Sony BMG, and Warner have all chosen to side with Amazon MP3, at least temporarily, in their delivery of DRM-free material. This factor has likely contributed a good deal to the trend shown by Amazon’s service. While such a strategy likely stifles the potential for digital sales overall for the industry, one cannot deny that the move to offer Amazon such rights has granted Apple’s newest competitor the position it now touts, which may well be in the long-term interests of the media companies when sitting across from iTunes representatives at the negotiation table. Source: mashable.com

  • doof - An Integration of Gaming and Social Networking

    doof - An Integration of Gaming and Social Networking

    The Web 2.0 phenomenon affects millions of users as much of the movement is centered around social aspects of the Internet. Whether this be social networking, social bookmarking, or another form of Web 2.0 content, many services try to bring a friendly feel and encourage user interaction because the latter is drives the site’s popularity and success. You probably are in a social network, even if you don’t know it; Facebook, MySpace, last.fm, Twitter, and MyAnimeList all have elements of social networking involved. Many of these sites center around specific topics: Facebook formerly only covered college students, last.fm is centered around music, and BlackPlanet focuses on African Americans. An interest that has not been well covered by a Web 2.0 service, however, is gaming; there are a few minor services that try to incorporate gaming into their primary interest and subject, but they do little to actually integrate gaming into the social network.

    Enter doof. doof is a service that blends casual gaming and social networking. doof calls it “social gaming.” It’s not the gaming you expect; doof is not centered around PC games, handhelds, or the three major consoles. doof is all about casual gaming and specifically revolves around its own games. But not only does it offer fun, Flash-based online games, doof provides the full functionality of services such as Facebook or MySpace. You can make friends, send messages, and play games together. The website offers a great amount of simple games such as Cascade and Jumpin Ride, but the variety is incredible and as with most casual games, they will be drain the player’s time. The community options seem expansive, although somewhat limited; there is a “Wall of Fame,” a doof “Pulse” (similar to Facebook status messages), doofSpaces, Global Chat, and more; none of which are perfectly executed, but doof does a decent job at each of them.

    more...

  • Why Steam Works

    Why Steam Works

    "We're talking about Valve becoming the platform holder and guardian of the PC as a gaming system over the next two years," says Stephen Gaffney, Business Development Manager of Splash Damage.

    read more | digg story
  • Adobe Releases Free Online Version Of Photoshop Express

    Adobe Releases Free Online Version Of Photoshop Express

    Adobe Systems (NSDQ:ADBE) launched a beta of its much-anticipated Photoshop Express on Thursday, offering for the first time a free online version of its popular Photoshop photo editing software for the consumer market.

    Photoshop Express allows users to access Photoshop's photo editing and organizational capabilities through a Web portal with up to 2 GB of storage. Photoshop Express will also be able to connect and share photos with other online destinations like social networking site Facebook.

    Adobe says users can access the service from any Web browser including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari, but Adobe's Flash Player 9, the most recent version, is required to use it.

    "Photoshop is trusted technology that has changed the visual landscape of our world. Now, Photoshop Express allows anyone who snaps a digital photo to easily achieve the high-impact results for which Adobe is known," said Doug Mack, vice president of Consumer and Hosted Solutions at Adobe, in a statement the San Jose, Calif.-based company released on Thursday. "Photoshop Express is a convenient, single destination where you can store, edit and share photos whether you're at home, school or on the road."

    The online version has several of the same tools that come with Adobe's Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CS3 products, which retail for $99.99 and $649.99 respectively. Users can crop, resize and edit flaws like blemishes and red-eye using Photoshop Express. It also has more creative features like sketch effects.

    Adobe hosts the images and users can organize them in galleries that can be accessed and shared online. Tools to share photos via Facebook or on a blog are embedded in the interface so users don't need to leave Photoshop Express to share images. via ChannelWeb

  • Former Xbox Exec Proclaims Death of Consoles in 5-10 Years

    Former Xbox Exec Proclaims Death of Consoles in 5-10 Years

    Could the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii be the last round of true consoles? Sandy Duncan, who ran the Xbox business in Europe, envisions a radical change to the games industry.

    Sandy Duncan spent 15 years with Microsoft and as the former VP of Xbox Europe he played a key role in setting up Microsoft's console presence in the region. Now, however, Duncan believes that the very idea of the console itself could be on its way out. Speaking to That VideoGame Blog, he said that consoles could be extinct within five to 10 years.

    "The industry is fundamentally driven by technology. I think dedicated games devices i.e. consoles (and handhelds) will die [out] in the next 5 to 10 years. The business model is very risky and the costs associated with creating new hardware are incredibly high," he commented. "There is a definite 'convergence' of other devices such as set top boxes. There's hardly any technology difference between some hard disc video recorders and an Xbox 360 for example. In fact in 5 to 10 years I don't think you'll have any box at all under your TV, most of this stuff will be 'virtualized' as web services by your content provider."

    And if this does happen, it could represent a radical change to the structure of the video game industry itself and the hierarchy of the dominant players. "[Look] at how quickly Popcap or Oberon are growing, or look at what has happened to World of Warcraft in the last 3 to 4 years as so many more homes have easy access to decent broadband services," Duncan said. "Maybe you'll see YoYo Games competing with EA in 5 years... [and] why not?"

    YoYo Games is a company Duncan founded with Michel Cassius. via gamedaily

  • Cheat Like a Bully

    Cheat Like a Bully

    Access all the weapons, the girlfriends and even Hobo fighting moves with our list of cheats for Bully: Championship Edition.

    Bully: Scholarship Edition Cheats (40)

    via gamedaily
  • Pay Attention and Give a Shit

    Pay Attention and Give a Shit

    And it left me thinking, what have I learned? And more importantly what have I learned that I could share. Of late, I've simplified some lessons-learned into two ideas I keep repeating to myself: Pay Attention and Give a Shit. via speakup
  • Digital Distribution Video Special

    Digital Distribution Video Special

    March 19, 2008 - Digital distribution is getting a lot of press these days. Apple's iTunes Music Store revolutionized (major music labels say ruined) the means by which consumers buy and enjoy music, and now Apple, and a number of others, are aiming to develop a similar solution to allow users to rent movies without leaving the couch. Today, the Apple TV, Vudu, and Xbox 360 are squaring off in the first generation of the digital distribution war for the allegiance, and cash, of consumers who are ready to abandon brick-and-mortar movie rental chains in favor of on-demand access to thousands of titles accessible over the internet.

    There are some great benefits in convenience and selection to be had from these services, but which is the best option for you? In this video special, we go hands on with each of the three major players to show the strengths, weaknesses, and unique characteristics of each digital distribution solution.

  • Valve unites Epic Games, id Software and themselves under the same roof

    Valve unites Epic Games, id Software and themselves under the same roof

    ellevue (WA) - Steam content distribution platform just became THE 800-pound gorilla in the world of digital distribution. Valve just announced that Epic Games signed with Steam, making this three out of three for founders of FPS gaming.

    Steam is now expanded with a complete Unreal line-up, starting with Unreal Gold and Unreal II: The Awakening for single-player titles, and Unreal Tournament, UT2004 and latest baby, Unreal Tournament III. The oddball title that is not present in the line-up is of course, Unreal Tournament 2003. If you decide to buy the complete pack, that'll settle you back for $53.95 - four dollars less than a stand-alone version of UT3 in retail stores. That offer will expire next week, after which the pack will cost $59.95.

    With titles from Epic, id and Valve on offer, you do not need to see that future of PC gaming is closely tied with the success of Steam, which proved to be quite a brilliant solution for digital distribution, keeping piracy at bay with its content protection, but offering legal backup utility at the same time.

    You can check this offer over at www.steampowered.com. But seeing Gabe Newell, Tim Sweeney and John Carmack under one roof... who could have thought that would ever happen? via TGDaily
  • The tech behemoth is negotiating with the music duty to offer unlimited downloads from its iTunes store, the FT reports today. Nokia phone model.

    The tech behemoth is negotiating with the music duty to offer unlimited downloads from its iTunes store, the FT reports today. Nokia phone model.

    So now we can hypothesis why Apple has clung so tensely to DRM, which has all but disappeared from biggest epithet digital music retail in late months. It remains a vigorous bargaining chip. The tech gigantic is negotiating with the music business to offer numberless downloads from its iTunes store, the FT reports today.

    Money would be levied either on Apple’s music players, giving the individual access to iTunes downloads for the lifetime of the device, or for a monthly or annual fee fee, as with Rhapsody, Napster or eMusic. It’s not an unprecedented move. Nokia has invested heavily in an actuarial poser [] for its “Comes With Music” first move - where the phone holder gets full downloads “free” with the phone, and also gets to maintenance them. Nokia is reported as subsidising the program by as much as $80 per phone. The FT suggests Apple is only ready-to-eat to gain $20 per device.

    Nokia has only signed Universal Music, the world’s biggest label, while Apple is reportedly infuriating to take away a deal for as much of its iTunes beasts as it can. It isn’t totally at this status whether the chap can conserve the music once the investment is terminated. Napster and Rhapsody’s promise services are really rental models or “radio with predetermined caching”, whereas eMusic, because it sells DRM-free music, has no such restrictions.

    Nokia takes the midway ground: selling DRM music, but with the polytechnic restrictions not preventing the phone proprietress keeping the music. The music commerce is withering to see subscription models introduced to erect up for CD sales that are falling off a cliff, and per-unit digital sales that are flattening off, leaving the trade far smaller that it was. But as articulated by IFPI chairman John Kennedy in January, the music proprietorship fears that users would billingsgate the service.

    “You can’t have a price image where celebrity on a monthly model of guess $10, [can] go on in January, download six million tracks, and deviate from in February,” Kennedy said. Nor is it unstop how much “iTunes Unlimited” would cost. But we can shot in the dark what the music enterprise has in mind.

    The FT cites “an exertion executive” - and we can safely arrogate this executive isn’t Steve Jobs - touting a appraisal in which the sweet spot is $7-8 a month for immeasurable downloads, or a one-off pay of $100 per iPod or iPhone. But for what, exactly? Again, it isn’t clear, but room and board in capacity that the music business is negotiating two kinds of actuarial deals with network operators, consumer electronics manufacturers and institutions. These are: “Legal P2P” - innumerable file-sharing between members on the network, or between members of participating networks. File-sharing is encouraged, with royalties distributed proportionately, based on exchanges.

    “Covenant not to sue” - a one-off upfront payment to rights-holders to an institution, network or industrialist that grants a narrow licence, and permits predetermined forms of file-sharing to be “tolerated”. Royalty codification not based on exchanges. Now follow the money. PlayLouder MSP and Omnifone’s MusicStation are examples of the initially nice of deal. Nokia’s Comes With Music and the Apple “iTunes Unlimited” deal reported today topple into the second.

    There are veiled distinctions between the two models, but the preceding has two advantages. Since the historic mark a doubt encourages flows of music, it provides an remunerative carrot for the crowd to construct further businesses based on flows of bits. No such spur exists in the CN2S approach, where the rights holder wholly walks off with the depredate up front. If DRM is your concern, you can ruminate which of the two models provides an mercantile impetus for DRM-free music, and which doesn’t. But you should be responsible about the long-term implications of such deals, too.

    An ‘iTunes Unlimited’ deal for iPods and the online put by would almost certainly come regulatory scrutiny, as it grants Apple a important retail monopoly on digital music distribution. It may also reputation judiciary challenges from solicitation agencies and the indie sector, who second thoughts being cut out of the loop. But it also ensures there’s no fiscal incentive for DRM to be removed - which many believe a major track back for consumers. Why? Because it appeals to the dinosaur environment at the majors.

    While publishers and indies have extended favoured legalising (ie, licensing) P2P, and letting the bits flow, the outstanding labels have feared surrendering control. Apple helps them out hugely here, because it allows the Big Four to smack non-gregarious deals (cutting out publishers and smaller labels) and frustrate licensed P2P obligation models where file-sharing is encouraged. So the CN2S sport appeals to the anti-competitive instincts of the paramount labels and Apple alike, and DRM is the principal factor of that appeal.

    via Nokia1

  • GameStop's Sales Soar to Nearly $7.1 Billion in 2007

    GameStop's Sales Soar to Nearly $7.1 Billion in 2007

    GameStop continues to feast on the growing video game industry. Q4 sales driven by the likes of Call of Duty 4 and Rock Band helped full year earnings rise 82 percent.

    Leading video game retailer GameStop released its fourth quarter and full year fiscal results for the period ended February 2, 2008, and as expected it was all very positive. For Q4, net earnings rose over 46 percent to $189.8 million as sales rose 24.4 percent to $2.87 billion. Comparable store sales increased 17.4 percent and sales of new game software also grew over 38 percent. GameStop said the top five selling titles for the quarter were Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Rock Band, Assassin's Creed, Super Mario Galaxy and Guitar Hero III.

    For the full year, GameStop generated even more impressive results as a whole. The company posted $7.09 billion in sales (a 33 percent increase) and net earnings jumped over 82 percent to $288.3 million. In addition, the retailer's comparable store sales rose 24.7 percent and the company saw a 50 percent increase in operating earnings. Continuing its expansion, GameStop said it opened 586 new stores during the last fiscal year.

    "Our performance in 2007 was impressive from many perspectives. But what is particularly noteworthy is that 2007 was a transformative year with hardware sales setting records and the installed base of users reaching an all-time high. Likewise, the expanding demographic profile of the video game player has moved this business into the mainstream of entertainment. This will be compounded by a strong 2008 video game title lineup and the value aspect of GameStop's used model that appeals to a broad base of budget conscious consumers," said R. Richard Fontaine, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GameStop.

    He continued, "Prospects for the 575-600 new store openings in 2008 look very promising even with the current concerns about the U.S. economy. As one of the few American retailers actively seeking many new sites, GameStop is positioned to secure better locations with more advantageous lease terms and is more frequently being viewed as a critical brand to anchor strip centers."

    GameStop also provided guidance for the current quarter, the current 2008 fiscal year ending January 31, 2009 and some outlook for fiscal 2009. Concerning the first quarter of fiscal 2008, GameStop expects comparable store sales to be up 24-25 percent, driven by console and handheld hardware demand and top releases such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Devil May Cry 4 and GTA IV. Earnings per share are expected to more than double from fiscal 2007's $0.15 to a range of $0.32-$0.33.

    For the full 2008 fiscal year, the company expects sales to grow 19-21 percent, with comparable store sales up 10-12 percent. Earnings per share are anticipated to range from $2.25 to $2.34, which would be an increase of 25-30 percent over fiscal 2007. Looking even further ahead, GameStop said it expects earnings per share to grow at least 25 percent in fiscal 2009 "based on several key factors, including: the company's growing worldwide retail footprint, the company's ongoing cash generation, the continued expansion of the video game industry, and the broadening consumer base."
    via gamedaily

  • Capcom Digital Day Delivers Downloadable Delights

    Capcom Digital Day Delivers Downloadable Delights

    Over the next few months, Capcom's "digital initiative," announced at last year's press briefing, will finally be in full swing. Capcom is using digital distribution to revive several of its lapsed franchises, like 1942 and Commando.

    read more | digg story
  • Capcom Digital Day Delivers Downloadable Delights

    Capcom Digital Day Delivers Downloadable Delights

    Over the next few months, Capcom's "digital initiative," announced at last year's press briefing, will finally be in full swing. Capcom is using digital distribution to revive several of its lapsed franchises, like 1942 and Commando.

    read more | digg story
  • Valve's popular downloading service is getting a new set of games from Atari. Anybody who happened to miss Indigo Prophecy the first time around is in

    Valve's popular downloading service is getting a new set of games from Atari. Anybody who happened to miss Indigo Prophecy the first time around is in

    Atari announced today that it has signed a digital distribution agreement with Valve. Under terms of the agreement, a variety of Atari catalog titles will be coming to Steam. Titles that are now available to Steam users include Death to Spies, Indigo Prophecy, and RollerCoaster Tycoon 3.

    "Atari is excited to team up with Steam and deliver great games through a digital platform that our fans have asked for," said Nizzi Renaud, Vice President of Online Entertainment for Atari. "We look forward to making an extensive collection of games, across many genres, available to Steam's extensive, globally-connected community."

    "We're proud to welcome to Steam a company that has become synonymous with video games," said Jason Holtman, director of business development at Valve. "Atari cemented video games into the consciousness of modern culture and continues to produce a unique mix of games that appeal to a variety of audiences, as represented by the line-up heading to Steam."

    via GameDaily

  • PC Games From The Orange Box Flying Solo Into Retail April 9 and 11

    PC Games From The Orange Box Flying Solo Into Retail April 9 and 11

    March 13, 2008 - Valve, creators of Half-Life® 2 and Counter-Strike®, today announce the retail launch dates for the stand-alone, PC versions of Team Fortress® 2, PortalTM, and the Half-Life 2: Episode Pack are April 9th in North America and April 11th around the globe.

    Portal - the unique single player game that mixes puzzle, adventure and first-person action - is expected to retail for approximately $19.99. Portal has been named Game of the Year by over 30 publications worldwide and earned 40 more awards for special achievements in game design, writing, and music ("Still Alive" by GLaDOS and Jonathon Coulton).

    Team Fortress 2 (TF2), the sequel to the game that put team-based, multiplayer gaming on the map, is expected to retail for approximately $29.99. TF2 has been named Multiplayer Game of the Year by Gamespy.com, PC Gamer magazine, and other leading media outlets. This retail version, like all PC versions of TF2, includes the recently released Badlands map and the ability to receive auto updates via Steam® including the upcoming release of Goldrush, a new gameplay mode and map that combines the escort style gameplay of Hunted with the timed attack and defend gameplay of Dustbowl.

    The Half-Life 2 Episode Pack - which includes both of the award winning new episodes for the highest rated and best selling first-person action franchise of all time, plus Half-Life 2 Deathmatch for online play - is expected to retail for just $29.99. As was the case with The Orange Box, customers who already own one of these titles will have the ability to conveniently "gift" the game via Steam to a friend.

    "Given the unique nature and length of the games inside The Orange Box, the compilation approach was the right vehicle for the debut of these titles at retail," said Doug Lombardi, vice president of marketing at Valve. "With the flexibility of having different pricing and packaging options via Steam, we were able to test the market viability of the individual products. The results show an overwhelming demand for these stand-alone offerings as well as The Orange Box. This gives us tremendous confidence as we bring gamers more ways to get these titles at retail."

    All three packages include support for Steamworks achievements, automatic updates and more, and do not require Half-Life 2 to play. via steam
  • InstallShield Sold Again

    InstallShield Sold Again

    Macrovision Corp. has announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell its Software Business Unit to private equity firm Thoma Cressey Bravo. This may be of interest to Visual FoxPro developers and others because Macrovision's Software Business Unit includes the InstallShield® line of products, which Macrovision has owned since it acquired the original Installshield Software Corporation back in July of 2004.

    The deal was announced on Feb. 14, 2008, almost a month ago. I'm a little surprised that, with one exception, this hasn't generated any chatter among the developers I know or on the blogs I read regularly. The only public mention of this that I'm aware of was Stefan Kr├╝ger's post on his InstallSite Blog the day after the official annoucement was made public.

    Here are the official announcements from Macrovision and from TCB.

    via Rick Borup
  • Has Web Based Gaming Surpassed Boxed Retail Gaming?

    Has Web Based Gaming Surpassed Boxed Retail Gaming?

    The game industry has been wedded to the boxed cardboard and plastic retail game product for over 20 years, to the point that many people think that this is the industry. Everybody also knows that web gaming is growing and will be important in the future. But this is not the reality. The reality is that web based gaming is already bigger in terms of number of players and hours played. That advantage is increasing at a phenomenal rate. Boxed games will soon be insignificant in comparison. Here are some of the numbers.

  • PPM enables Single View of Product Data

    PPM enables Single View of Product Data

    A new Gartner report is suggesting how Product Performance Management (PPM) can help organizations achieve single view of product data. Gartner describes "PPM as the use of processes, methodologies, metrics and technologies to manage, report and influence product performance across the value chain. This approach embeds analytic-based insight into the decision-taking business processes at the intersection of supply chain design, configuration, optimization, strategy and operational management." PPM needs to be applied at multiple places across the complete supply chain (across departments, firewalls, company boundaries). It also needs centrally aligned governance of product master data via Master Data Management (MDM).

    Read the whole report here, "Single View of Product Data Can Improve Supply Chain and Drive Product Performance Management" (Registration required).

  • ADrive: Big Bucket of Free Storage

    ADrive: Big Bucket of Free Storage

    a new entrant in the market (currently in beta) giving out a whopping 50GB of online storage for free.

    read more | digg story
  • Web retail sales to dodge effects of slowing economy

    Web retail sales to dodge effects of slowing economy

    SAN FRANCISCO--Despite a slowing U.S. economy, online retail sales will continue to grow at double-digit rates for the next several years, but it will begin to take a turn toward maturity by 2012, according to new research from JupiterResearch.

    U.S. online retail sales are expected to reach US$148 billion in 2008, up 19 percent from sales in 2007 and comprising about 6.4 percent of total retail sales. That figure will grow to US$166 billion in 2009 and US$215 billion by 2012, for a compounded annual growth rate of about 11 percent, according to JupiterResearch analyst Patti Freeman Evans.

    In 2012, Web retail sales will account for 8 percent of total retail sales, according to JupiterResearch projections, but that percentage will top out at between 10 percent and 15 percent in the following years. The reason, Freeman Evans said, is the number of new online shoppers will have slowed by then and existing shoppers won't be adding to their carts.

    She added that a weakened economy now and in the coming years will likely not effect e-commerce growth.

    "Online is somewhat insulated," Freeman Evans said at an event here Thursday sponsored by PayPal, which is owned by eBay. "But the market will be a little dampened."

    PayPal held a small gathering for online retailers to highlight Jupiter's research and emphasize the growth of its Web payment services. It plans to hold five small meetings across the country in the coming weeks for existing and prospective customers to discuss retail strategies in a tough economy. PayPal is also touting research that shows more people are adopting alternative online payment methods like its own.

    In nine years, PayPal has amassed as many as 141 million customers for its online payment method. And an estimated 33 percent of Web shoppers who prefer alternative payment options use PayPal, and about 2 percent use Google Checkout, according to the research firm.

    The picture is still rosy for online retailers.

    Freeman Evans said more than half of online shopping categories are still growing at double-digit rates. For example, by 2012, as much as 37 percent of music will be sold online. More than 50 percent of consumer electronics will also be sold online by that time, too, according to JupiterResearch.

    "By 2012, at least half of all retail purchases will be influenced or transacted online. Eight percent of retail sales will happen online by that time and the rest will be influenced" by the Web, said Freeman Evans.

    This article was first published as a blog on CNET News.com.

  • Web retail sales to dodge effects of slowing economy

    Web retail sales to dodge effects of slowing economy

    SAN FRANCISCO--Despite a slowing U.S. economy, online retail sales will continue to grow at double-digit rates for the next several years, but it will begin to take a turn toward maturity by 2012, according to new research from JupiterResearch.

    U.S. online retail sales are expected to reach $148 billion in 2008, up 19 percent from sales in 2007 and comprising about 6.4 percent of total retail sales. That figure will grow to $166 billion in 2009 and $215 billion by 2012, for a compounded annual growth rate of about 11 percent, according to JupiterResearch analyst Patti Freeman Evans.

    In 2012, Web retail sales will account for 8 percent of total retail sales, according to JupiterResearch projections, but that percentage will top out at between 10 percent and 15 percent in the following years. The reason, Freeman Evans said, is the number of new online shoppers will have slowed by then and existing shoppers won't be adding to their carts.

    She added that a weakened economy now and in the coming years will likely not effect e-commerce growth.

    "Online is somewhat insulated," Freeman Evans said at an event here Thursday sponsored by PayPal, which is owned by eBay. "But the market will be a little dampened."

    PayPal held a small gathering for online retailers to highlight Jupiter's research and emphasize the growth of its Web payment services. It plans to hold five small meetings across the country in the coming weeks for existing and prospective customers to discuss retail strategies in a tough economy. PayPal is also touting research that shows more people are adopting alternative online payment methods like its own.

    In nine years, PayPal has amassed as many as 141 million customers for its online payment method. And an estimated 33 percent of Web shoppers who prefer alternative payment options use PayPal, and about 2 percent use Google Checkout, according to the research firm.

    The picture is still rosy for online retailers.

    Freeman Evans said more than half of online shopping categories are still growing at double-digit rates. For example, by 2012, as much as 37 percent of music will be sold online. More than 50 percent of consumer electronics will also be sold online by that time, too, according to JupiterResearch.

    "By 2012, at least half of all retail purchases will be influenced or transacted online. Eight percent of retail sales will happen online by that time and the rest will be influenced" by the Web, said Freeman Evans.

    via CNET

  • Portals in an E-Commerce 2.0 World

    Portals in an E-Commerce 2.0 World

    "Social shopping sites are definitely already more semantic than general Web 2.0 sites," Wishpot CEO Max Ciccotosto told the E-Commerce Times. "They do a lot of interesting things with the concept of 'product;' they are able to scrape for this info, parse it, etc. They are filtered gateways."

    For anyone doing business online, commerce meets collaboration at a Web 2.0 portal -- a mutual touchpoint for a company, its partners and customers (plus all their contacts) as well as a personalized filter of information and services found on the Web.

    The goal: aggregating high-value information about people, products and services -- reducing time spent searching Web resources for information, reducing the overload of found information while increasing its relevancy, delivering key information to places it can be used effectively, and alerting recipients to its presence and availability.

    Part 1 of this series discussed the changing role of portals in a Web 2.0 world. Portals are also changing as e-commerce evolves. The driving force behind all this activity is basic human nature, according to fashion blogger Kristopher Dukes.

    "People always want what's simple and intuitive," Dukes told the E-Commerce Times. "People are either too stupid or too busy to figure things out."

    E-Business and E-Commerce Web Portals

    A standard corporate e-business Web portal used for much of a company's online business presence can encompass internal business systems (CRM, ERP Latest News about enterprise resource planning, HR), enterprise communication and collaboration (e-mail, voice mail, VoIP, content management, business process management), and e-commerce for transmitting funds, goods, services and/or data between businesses (B2B) or between the business and its retail/e-tail customers (B2C).

    Web 2.0 technologies have amped up these basics, becoming a driving force within today's e-business industry. Included in the new e-business portal model are Web-based communities and hosted services such as social networking capabilities, wikis, blogs and folksonomies aimed at facilitating creativity, collaboration and sharing among users. Rich Internet application (RIA) techniques based on Ajax, Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE) Latest News about Adobe Flash, Flex and Java Latest News about Java improve the user experience in browser-based applications. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds from news sites, blogs, wikis and enterprise applications send information where it's wanted -- the Web, mobile devices, e-mail clients and desktops.

    Web 2.0 has greatly impacted the e-business role of e-commerce -- sales of goods and services where an order is placed by the buyer or price and terms of sale are negotiated over the Internet, an extranet, electronic data interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail or other online system. Payment may or may not be made online. Considered in this way, total e-commerce sales for 2007 were estimated at US$136.4 billion, an increase of 19 percent from 2006, according to the most recent estimates from the Census Bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce Latest News about U.S. Department of Commerce.

    What They Are

    Web portals are Web sites that function by aggregating data from a large number of providers. E-commerce Web 2.0 portals also do this while providing richer content and more rewarding experiences.

    "The portal (now) becomes a composite front end that integrates disaggregated services into a coherent, fluid user experience," wrote Simeon Simeonov in E-Commerce 2.0 -- The Velvet Revolution.

    Previously, in a portal, the various pieces of content were often independent of one another, according to Simeonov. In the e-commerce 2.0 portal, everything is highly integrated from a data and user experience standpoint.

    "The portal front end will initially run in parallel to the existing e-commerce 1.0 site because e-tailers will experiment and make the switch to e-commerce 2.0 gradually," said Simeonov. "Pieces of the front end will be embeddable in other sites. (Yes, even as MySpace widgets.)"

    Variety of Portals

    The world of consumer e-commerce provides a range of e-commerce portals:

    The big-box general merchandise retailers like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) Latest News about Wal-Mart, HomeDepot, Kroger, Costco and Target, with their extensive logistics and supply chains, all have brick-n-click, dot-com online presences. Vertical affinity service providers like iVillage and WebMD offer a shopping component on their Web sites. The big Web-only shopping portals include eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) Latest News about eBay, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) Latest News about Amazon.com, BizRate.com, MySimon.com, Yahoo Shopping, NexTag.com, Overstock.com, Shopping.com, Pricerunner.com, PricingCentral.com, MSN Shopping, Shop.com and Shopzilla.

    All of these portals are beginning to adopt Web 2.0 functionality, but it's eBay and Amazon.com -- the 1990s e-commerce portal pioneers -- that have perhaps most fully engaged with Web 2.0. For example, APIs from eBay facilitate program-to-program auction management. Amazon provides a set of retail APIs that allow developers to create computer programs that make use of Amazon's sophisticated online retail infrastructure. Third party software developers have used this to create specialized storefronts.

    Since 1999, eBay has offered the eBay API to enable developers to communicate directly with the eBay database in XML (extensible markup language) format, essentially turning its Web site into a platform. eBay Community has a feedback forum, chat rooms, discussion boards, news and more. eBay Wiki allows members to offer their own expertise on any eBay topic they care about. eBay Blogs lets members create their own blogs to promote their businesses, discuss favorite topics, products, eBay stores and more.

    Amazon launched Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2002. The service provides software developers, Web site owners and merchants with access to many behind-the-scenes features on Amazon's Web site. AWS teamed up with Facebook Latest News about Facebook in early 2008 to help developers build instantly scalable applications. Customers in Amazon's online community can personalize Web pages and create content, including product reviews, online recommendation lists, wish lists, image uploads, buying guides and customer discussions. Amazon describes Amapedia, its lightly promoted Wikipedia Latest News about Wikipedia clone, as "a community for sharing information about popular products." The Amazon Daily blog (formerly known as "Plogs") contains posts from throughout the Amazon site.

    Social Commerce Portals

    Social commerce involves customer-driven merchandising across a number of online properties to promote sales. The goal is to connect customers to one another in ways that drive measurable results to a company's business. Social commerce sites like Kaboodle, ThisNext, Wishpot and StyleHive combine two of the Web's most prominent activities: engaging in commerce and chatting with other like-minded people. The sites don't directly sell things, but they encourage users to share links to good bargains, obscure finds, products that work and ones that don't.

    Social commerce brings in the rest of the Web 2.0 compendium such as user-generated content (some of it pulled from blogs and wikis, the rest captured on e-commerce sites), trust/reputation building and information discovery and management through folksonomies and social networks.

    Kaboodle.com is a social network based on shopping and is designed to put its community members in touch with other shoppers who have similar interests in products. As members grow to know the community, their product reviews become more relevant based on recognition of some of the reviewers. Kaboodle is a distributed application, according to Kaboodle CEO Manish Chandra, and aggregation and distribution are where the global economy is heading.

    "When you have too broad a collection of products, as with eBay, the discovery process is not well facilitated, and social interaction is missing," Chandra told the E-Commerce Times. "This restricts users in ways that create boundaries in the shopping experience. We're about empowering them to create experiences for themselves without boundaries."

    ThisNext.com is an online media and social-shopping portal where people "shopcast" -- find, recommend and share their favorite products for others to discover and purchase online based on word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted sources called "influencers" or "mavens." A BlogIt tool enables ThisNext members to shopcast by posting lists, tags, recommendations or wish lists to their blogs, MySpace profiles or anywhere that supports HTML (hypertext markup language).

    ThisNext is not so much a portal as it is "a very large node on a much broader network, a product recommendation layer on the entire social Web," ThisNext CEO Gordon Gould told the E-Commerce Times.

    "We distribute different pieces of functionality that can be plugged in elsewhere on the Web and so have a much greater opportunity than just being a portal. As essentially a service layer, there is no Web destination site per se. Web 2.0 was about sharing. Web 3.0 is an information filtration service."

    Wishpot.com is a free social shopping service aimed at making it easy to save and share interesting things found in stores and online. Wishpot for Facebook lets people share their favorite products, give gift suggestions and discover what their friends like and recommend -- all within Facebook.

    "Social shopping sites are definitely already more semantic than general Web 2.0 sites," Wishpot CEO Max Ciccotosto told the E-Commerce Times. "They do a lot of interesting things with the concept of 'product;' they are able to scrape for this info, parse it, etc. They are filtered gateways."

    Stylehive.com is a social bookmarking community focused entirely on products and shopping using a wishlist of a member's desired items. The Stylehive "badge" works with the Stylehive site and allows members to display pictures of their favorite products on a blog or Web site.

    Stylehive CEO Michael Carrier also doesn't see social shopping Web sites as portals. "Social shopping is Web 3.0, which is to say it is a blend of Web 1.0 (content) and Web 2.0 (social)," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Web 3.0 is about sites like the Stylehive, where the content of the Web -- in this case shopping content -- is filtered through your trusted social group. This type of site gives the user the ability to control what they see by controlling the group of trusted recommenders."

    Despite this added energy for online shopping, JupiterResearch has found that the growth of social networks and online communities has had little effect on influencing online retail sales. In a July 2007 report, the firm said that social and community sites are only driving about 12 percent of online shoppers to buy more than planned.

    Business to Business

    B2B Web sites can generally be sorted into company sites, product supply and procurement exchanges, brokering sites that act as intermediaries between someone wanting a product or service and potential providers. (e.g., equipment leasing, information sites, sometimes known as "infomediaries"), and specialized or vertical industry portals. Portals provide a sort of "sub-Web" of information, product listings, discussion groups and other features. These vertical portal sites have a broader purpose than the procurement sites (although they may also support buying and selling).

    In creating new venues for the social scene, social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and the like have helped open the way for business users to adopt similar techniques to network and generate new business leads. The efficiency of online communities at sharing and prioritizing information are transforming enterprise business processes. Business networking services such as LinkedIn and Mzinga bring Web 2.0 social networking techniques to business users.

    Two Web 2.0 B2B e-commerce portals are the Chinese operations Globaby.com and Alibaba.com.

    Globaby.com calls itself a "B2B 2.0 portal" and professional marketplace specially designed for purpose-driven shopping and open to any suppliers of cost-effective products. Personalized Globaby locations called "MyHouse" let buyers register their suppliers and manage orders on the site. Buyers can leave messages for suppliers for further communication and invite suppliers to bid.

    Alibaba.com asserts that it is the "#1 ranked international B2B trade portal." Specializing in English-language B2B trades, Alibaba.com is designed specifically for international buyers trying to get into contact with Chinese sellers. The MyAlibaba Community function allows members to add and update products, check messages, post trade leads and more.

    Christopher S. Rollyson is founder and chief editor of the Global Human Capital Journal, which explores emerging phenomena like Web 2.0, social networking, innovation and globalization. He sees Web 2.0 following this trend.


    "Web 2.0 and social networks have been largely seen as idle curiosities by all but the most B2C-centric executives, but that began to change in 2007," wrote Rollyson in his "Year in Review 2007: A Slow Boil Overture to Pervasive Social Transformation." Social networks, he asserted, "will cross the 'enterprise adoption' chasm in 2008. Most consumer-facing companies and brands will have to develop robust social network offerings to remain relevant, and B2B executives should create and execute strategies in 2008. The accelerating adoption of LinkedIn and Facebook by B2B executives in 2007 means that they are getting experience with these spaces and tools, which will change their expectations and drive further adoption in 2008 to 2010."

    via E-Commerce Times

  • THQ Blocks Their Games From ANZ Steam Users

    THQ Blocks Their Games From ANZ Steam Users



    After a rocky start with the launch of Half-Life 2, Steam has matured from a slow piece of crap to the premiere online distribution service on the Internet. From Ubisoft to id Software, everyone wants to share in the potential of Valve's hard work (and tears, I'd imagine).

    THQ recently joined the party, only to quickly deny Australian and Kiwi users the ability to purchase and download their games. If you check out the Steam knowledge base, you'll find the following statement attached to all of THQ's games, including Company of Heroes, Dawn of War and Full Spectrum Warrior:

    "This game is not available for purchase through Steam in Australia or New Zealand."
    Feel free to speculate as to the reasons behind THQ's decision while we chase an official answer, but for now, Oz Kotakuite Ross, who sent in the heads-up, has his own theory:
    "In what I can only assume is a move by these publishers to ensure that AU/NZ consumers have to resort to retail given the favourable exchange rate between the US and AU dollar."
    Does that sound like a winner to you?

    Steam Error: This subscription is not available for purchase in your country [Steam Powered, thanks Ross]

    via Kotaku

  • More Publishers Phase Out DRM on Audio Books

    More Publishers Phase Out DRM on Audio Books

    The trend will allow consumers who download audio books to freely transfer these digital files between devices like their computers, iPods and cellphones — and conceivably share them with others. Dropping copying restrictions could also allow a variety of online retailers to start to sell audio book downloads.

    read more | digg story
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  • Game Developers Conference 2008 Review

    Game Developers Conference 2008 Review

    The Game Developers Conference in San Francisco traditionally has been about equipping developers with the tools to make better video games.

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