THE BROWSER: Truth and rumors from the tech world
New Sony PlayStation to break the bank
Sony's PS3 videogame console could cost $700 or more to make. Plus: Google Calendar rumors abound.
By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 Magazine online editor

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) - In the videogame business, hardware makers generally sell new consoles at a loss, making their profits by charging licensing fees to videogame publishers. But according to an analysis by, Sony (Research) is paying an unusually steep bill for its upcoming PlayStation 3 console. The system's components cost between $725 and $905, analysts estimate. The biggest culprit: Sony's new Blu-Ray disc drive, which will play high-definition movies as well as games. With the PS3 console expected to sell between $299 and $399, Sony will lose hundreds of dollars per console. Of course, if the PS3 is a hit, the move could still pay off. Component prices usually drop sharply as a console continues production, and the more consoles Sony sells, the more licensing fees it will garner from videogames sold for the PS3.

Google may schedule a calendar service

Forget about page-building tools, online chat, and e-mail enhancements, says Canadian tech journalist Mathew Ingram: Google (Research) Calendar is what he's really waiting for from the search engine. And by all signs, he won't have to wait long. Google already uses server "bots" to discover and index Web pages, and lately its bots have been doing the same thing for online calendars, suggesting that it's preparing to index event information. Meanwhile, HTML wizards have discovered that Google's Gmail email program has not-so-hidden capabilities to add invitations from, another calendar-related feature. When will Google Calendar launch? No date is set yet, but it looks like all systems are go.

GQ sends advertisers a text message

Following in the footsteps of USA Today, GQ magazine is launching a service that lets readers sign up to get text messages sent to their cellphones. GQ's move is the latest effort from a print publisher trying to use wireless technology to tighten its relationship with readers. The messages will be more promotional than editorial in nature, with information about private sales and events. M-Qube, a mobile-content startup based in the Boston area, is providing the service for GQ.

One online game to rule them all

Remember the Lord of the Rings? Midway Games is hoping you do. The videogame maker has agreed to help Turbine, a privately held game studio, publish and distribute "Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar." A split between Turbine and Vivendi Universal's game division last year pushed back the expected 2005 release date. One small problem: Users tend to devote their attentions to one multiplayer online game at a time, and the ever-growing popularity of World of Warcraft may have snapped up the audience for users who want to play online as elves and dwarves.

February 23, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) -- Under Steve Jobs, Apple has mastered the twin arts of keeping inventories lean and keeping new products under wraps. But sometimes these talents work at cross purposes, since shortages of old products are a tell-tale sign that new products are on the way. Brian at FreeMacBlog tried to place a large order of Mac minis, only to be told that Apple wasn't taking bulk orders for the compact computers at this time. Could Apple be running down its Mac mini inventory in advance of a product announcement scheduled for February 28? If so, it's likely that Apple is putting Intel chips in the Mac mini, too.

How to get your podcast on iTunes

PBS's Mark Glaser digs into a mystery: How do Yahoo (Research), Apple (Research), and others pick their top podcasts? One thing all the providers of podcast guides made clear: You can't buy your way onto the top spots, because they don't accept payment. PodShow, a commercial podcast network, will only feature shows from its own network, while Odeo and Yahoo, which offer podcast directories, rely on staff-chosen picks. Apple wouldn't answer questions about its podcast practices, but Glaser noticed a striking pattern: Disney (Research) podcasts show up prominently throughout Apple's iTunes Music Store podcast directory. Given Apple's content-distribution agreements with Disneyó"Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" from Disney's ABC network were the first TV shows sold on iTunesóand Disney's recent purchase of Steve Jobs' Pixar, this "smells of a sweetheart deal," says Glaser.

Small firm patents Web multimedia

This may come as news to programmers creating fancy Web applications: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a patent for "methods, systems and processes for the design and creation of rich-media applications via the Internet." Balthaser, an Internet design firm, says that its patent covers popular technologies like Flash, Java, and Ajax. It's not clear whether the patent will stand, however: easily found an example of "prior art," or earlier use of the technology that Balthaser patented. If Balthaser tries to enforce its patent against companies like Adobe (Research), Google (Research), or Yahoo, they could cite examples of prior art to try to get the patent invalidated.

Japanese electronics ban lost in translation

Engadget stirred up fears that secondhand Japanese electronics would be banned by April 1, based on a report in Akihabara News about a new law taking effect. But it turns out that the law mostly covers electrical equipment, not electronics like PCs, Mutant Frog discovered. The clarification comes as a reprieve for used-gadget shoppers who feared that Japanese bureaucrats had put an end to their plans to prowl the small shops of Tokyo's Akihabara district looking for deals.

February 21, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) -- More than half of white-collar workers surveyed in China's four largest cities said they keep a blog. The No. 1 topic? Complaining about work. Six out of ten bloggers complain about the boss in their blogs. Wisely, many bloggers make their blogs anonymous or restrict access to friends only.

Microsoft's (Research) MSN Spaces is the most popular blog service among the office-blogger set because users can set entries so they can only be read by Hotmail contacts or members of their MSN Messenger buddy list.

EarthLink and Google team up on SF Wi-Fi

After submitting separate proposals to unwire the city of San Francisco, Google (Research) and EarthLink (Research) have teamed up on a new plan to offer citywide Wi-Fi, Business 2.0 senior writer Om Malik reports. The two companies would share infrastructure costs, with Google offering a free, lower-speed service comparable to cheap DSL, and EarthLink offering a paid 1-megabit-per-second service -- a bit slower than a typical cable modem connection. By teaming up with EarthLink, Google may be getting more practical about its ambitions to blanket the nation with Wi-Fi.

Microsoft search ads best Google and Yahoo in test

A search-engine marketing specialist has tested Microsoft's new search-advertising tool, MSN AdCenter, and says it gives advertisers more bang for their buck. Google and Yahoo (Research) target search advertisements based on keywords in search requests, while MSN adds demographic data to the tools marketers can use for targeting. Now, if only Microsoft could do something about its declining share of Internet searches, it might have a shot at winning more search-advertising business.

New Apple security vulnerability reported

Fresh on the heels of reports of a Mac virus that spreads via Bluetooth wireless connections, Ars Technica describes another security flaw in Apple's (Research) Safari Web browser that could allow users to inadvertently download hostile "Trojan-horse" code. So far, no actual cases related to the flaw have been reported, but to be safe, Safari users should change a security setting to block the code. As Macs enjoy a resurgent market share, the platform is becoming increasingly attractive to virus writers, who had previously ignored it in favor of targeting Microsoft's vastly more widespread Windows operating system. Writes Ars Technica's Eric Bangeman: "I've said it before, and it bears repeating now: Macs are not inherently immune from viruses, Trojans, and other forms of malware." Top of page

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