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Snake Camouflage: Japan Gets Exclusive Metal Gear Solid 3DS System

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 04:14 AM PST


Resident Evil isn’t the only big video game series that made the news in Nippon today: Konami announced [JP] the so-called METAL GEAR SOLID SNAKE EATER 3D PREMIUM PACKAGE for the Japanese market. The set includes a special 3DS system, a copy of Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D, and two clear files in MGS design.

Here’s the so-called “Snake Camouflage”-style 3DS:

Here’s a photo of the box and the clear files:

The MGS package is only available in Konami Style [JP], the company’s online shop, for US$298.

Players living in Japan can already pre-order the set, but they will only get to buy one when they enter a raffle: the lucky winners get an email from Konami by February 10, followed by the package itself on March 8.

Capcom Announces Surprising November Release For Resident Evil 6 (First Trailer)

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 01:15 AM PST

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One of the world’s biggest video game franchises is getting a new title: Capcom today announced Resident Evil 6 [JP] for the Xbox 360, Sony PS3, and the PC. What’s interesting is that the company also said when exactly the game will come out, namely on November 20 in North America and Europe, and two days later in Japan.

Note that the release dates are for the console versions, the PC version hasn’t been dated yet. By way of comparison: Resident Evil 5 was announced in 2005 and went on sale four years later.

The new game is the first addition to the Resident Evil series (which is called “Biohazard” in Japan and sold 47 million units so far) in three and a half years.

Next to a number of new characters, it will star former protagonists Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield who have to fight a series of global bio-terrorist attacks. Capcom also said that Resident Evil 6 will have both single and cooperative play, just like the previous game in the franchise.

Here is the first US trailer:

Daily Crunch: Sense Effects

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 01:00 AM PST

Microsoft Girds Itself For Windows 8 Battle And Beyond

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 06:59 PM PST


Microsoft’s quarterly earnings statement didn’t have any big surprises. It was generally good news: record total revenue, growth in many key sectors, big sales in Xbox, 525 million total Windows 7 licenses sold, and they even seem to be losing a little less money in the Online Services area. But all that is a side show. 2011 was a big one for Microsoft in mobile (at least, big in that they took major actions), but for their core businesses it has been a hold-steady year. 2012 will be an adventure.

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s next big thing. And trends suggest that by the time Windows 9 comes around, things in the personal computing industry may look a lot different. The way they handle this next phase will set the stage for the inevitable “post-PC era” changes.

Look at the changes they’re building into Windows 8. The unification of the UI with Windows Phone and, to some extent, Xbox. A focus on non-standard form factors. ARM support. Integration of cloud services and apps. They’re getting ready for a final battle that they know will end in capitulation by the PC side, but when that time comes, they want to have negotiated a good position from which to bargain.

PCs aren’t disappearing, of course, and much of Microsoft’s income is from their enterprise, server, software, and services divisions. Those will be around for a long time yet, and businesses will be running on Microsoft for years to come. But the zeitgeist is moving on.

Online Services is still costing Microsoft half a billion dollars a year, which could be seen either as an ongoing investment or a failure to launch. They’re losing less than they did this time last year, though, on account of some decent growth.

What we’re seeing is the awkward early-middle stages of an attempted enclosure strategy by Microsoft, and part of that strategy is reducing the role Windows plays. If Windows was originally the center of Microsoft’s army and mobile and services were the flanks, things are changing so that things are more equally weighted. Both mobile and Windows will be accessing the same services; Windows will be more mobile, and mobile will be more Windows. It’s actually a bit Apple-esque: you use one, you’re far more likely to use the rest. It’s a winning strategy if you have good products. Microsoft has good products, but they’ve never been particularly good at saying why you should use them over the competition.

One thing they’ve got going for them: the developing market. Places like China and India are a wild card, markets billions strong that are disconnected from the normal Western software trends. But as they emerge further onto the global stage and their consumers have more to spend, they’ll become a more potent market force. Microsoft noted in their call that developing markets were growing faster than developed ones. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, and certainly Microsoft sees what’s coming.

Will a newly-empowered middle class in China buy Macs? Will they buy Android tablets? Or can Microsoft get a foot in the door with, say, cheap Windows Phone 7 devices like the Lumia 710?

The next year will show Microsoft positioning itself for major product synthesis. The post-PC era isn’t here, as some people are fond of suggesting, but it is coming, and Microsoft wants to guarantee itself a part in it. Not an easy task for the company that pioneered the PC era. They almost seem obsolete by definition — but the straitlaced Microsoft has been loosening up ever since Vista, and they might just have learned enough to ride this next wave without washing out.

ZOOM’s B3 Bass Effects Pedal Launches At NAMM

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 11:21 AM PST


In a lot of the Paneldome demos I have done, I (flailingly) play guitar, but I am actually a bass player. That’s why I am excited to hear about the ZOOM B3 Effect Pedal/Amp Simulator released today at NAMM.

The promise of “a stompbox pedalboard with the power of a multi-effects pedal and USB audio interface” for bass guitar is tempting. This all-in-one design would definitely be convenient to throw into your gear bag on the way to a gig, without requiring a bunch of extra cables and dongles — you know, kind of like a regular old pedal effect. Sounds interesting.

That being said, I would have to try one out to see if I really like the tones. Typically, I prefer to have core tones derived from the amp itself, but I am definitely not a purist in that way. In any event, I have yet to find a bass distortion effect I really like. Who knows, maybe this could do the trick?

This pedal is not yet available in the US market. Check here for more updates about pricing and availability.

iPads And Digital Textbooks Do Not Belong In Classrooms Yet

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 10:03 AM PST


I do not want my children learning math proofs on iPads. I simply do not see the value in it. iPads will not help with identifying sentence clauses or writing an essay. There’s a place for interactive learning and there’s not. It’s a clear line. Give science and history teachers iPads loaded with demos, videos and soundbites. Allow children to pinch and zoom DNA strands and the inner workings of WWI trenches. But make my kids do math drills on paper with a dull pencil. Please.

Simply put, the movement to digitalized learning scares me. iBooks 2 is just the start. Digital interactive learning has always been the future but I fear for my children now that it’s here.

Education evolves. Just several generations ago children were taught differently. Some subjects were clearly taught simply so children could learn how to learn. Basic history for example. Columbus did not discover the new world yet that’s what is taught to children through the classic poem. Most of us also learned cursive writing where previous generations also learned calligraphy — both somewhat useless skills today.

Kids are now taught to pass tests. Knowledge is externalized, stored on some Wikipedia server or graphing calculator until needed. Learning is still prevalent in schools, but the storage of facts and thoughts is not. Digital textbooks will only further this problem. Just click on a word to get its definition, says Apple.

My fear isn’t unique. iBooks 2 signals a stark change in education in a similar but more pronounced fashion as older tools. For instance my late grandfather, an engineer for the Michigan-based utility company Consumers Energy, proudly gave me his slide rule before my first trigonometry class. His hope was that I learned math rather than just learning how to get the right answer. I still have that slide rule, but I unfortunately never learned how to use it. I instead learned how to program Mario and Tetris clones into my TI-86 graphing calculator.

You see, my grandfather, like most of the greatest generation, knew math. He knew how math worked. That generation learned math methods in primary school prior to addition or subtraction. They learned the process of math since the tools were not developed yet to aid in problem solving. By the time the baby boomers came along, calculators were becoming commonplace and the process of externalizing knowledge had begun. Save an extraordinary math teacher, most of Generation X and Y saw math completely through the eyes of a calculator. Now ours kids are poised to learn through the iPad’s dual-core A5 processor.

Of course tools like calculators and digital textbooks are created and used with good intentions. Calculators let students perform actions like graphing before they completely understand the process. It gives a visualization previously not available. The same thing applies to digital textbooks as they are designed to make learning smarter, more fun, through interactivity. Students can get instant feedback on math problems rather than waiting for the teacher. Lessons can be broken up in 20-minute segments as that’s often the attention span of most people. But it’s important to remember that a calculator, and now an iPad, is a supplement and not a replacement for proven teaching methods.

Learning is expensive for everyone involved. Apple is smartly marketing iBooks 2 as a cheaper alternative. I remember paying $400 for an outdated textbook and the school only buying it back for $15. The college kid inside of me is excited. Cheaper books, less to carry to class, and a digital content management system — all awesome. iBooks 2 has a place at the collegiate level but my excitement has little to do with actual education but rather the additional conveniences offered.

My children are just now entering the school system. They have computers in the classroom that are part of the curriculum. Computers and iPads can be powerful tools, but they need to be used in a limited fashion in primary and secondary schools. Today’s children already have short attention spans. Hand an iPad to any child between kindergarten and twelfth grade and see what happens: they will jump around between apps. Then tell them to read a chapter of digital biology textbook. Nine out of ten will probably watch a video of a frog jumping at least a dozen times during the allotted time. Printouts and real books command focus in a way greater than an electronic device. Minds might wander away from the text, but at least they won’t be playing Infinity Blade II.

It’s easy to get caught up in Apple’s hype machine. It sounds great during Apple’s carefully crafted dog and pony show. iBooks 2 is no doubt a powerful tool — I wish I had it in college. This isn’t a luddite rant against the cotton gin, as I fully appreciate the positive impact that digital textbooks could have on learning. But I’m more fearful that the amount of pure learning and knowledge retention will be replaced by flashy videos and loud graphics. Remember, Apple’s primary goal is to make money, not educate our kids. Learning needs to be reinvented but I’m not sure the proper way is through an app.

[Image: F.C.G/Shutterstock]

Nike Officially Announces The Nike+ FuelBand

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 08:41 AM PST

Screen shot 2012-01-19 at 11.43.46 AM

Exercise gadgetry seems to be all the rage this season, with products like the Jawbone UP and MotoACTV entering the marketplace. Nike of all companies will certainly not be left behind, and has today announced a new wristband called the FuelBand. Not unlike its competitors, the FuelBand measures time, steps and calories during your fitness routine.

It’s incredibly similar to the Jawbone UP, as its a fitness tracking wrist band. The most poignant difference is that Nike’s FuelBand measures something called NikeFuel — a measurement of your wrist movement. Nike claims that “the more you move, the more NikeFuel you earn,” according to Business Insider.

The FuelBand can either sync to your PC through a USB connection or via Bluetooth to an iPhone app. From there you can keep all your stats in one place and set goals for yourself.

We haven’t seen the MotoACTV gain a whole lot of traction thus far, and we all remember what a failure the Jawbone UP was. Hopefully Nike’s offering will have more success than the competition.

Houghton Mifflin, McGraw Hill, Pearson First Textbook Publishing Partners For Apple’s iBooks 2

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 07:43 AM PST

Screen shot 2012-01-19 at 10.48.25 AM

Today at Apple’s education event, the company introduced iBooks 2, a textbook platform that effectively transforms $200 textbooks into iPad apps at a much more reasonable price. But of course, a textbook platform isn’t worth a thing without the educational powerhouse publishers behind it.

Luckily, the first up to the bat on the iBooks 2 platform are names we know well: Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They’re responsible for 90 percent of the textbooks sold.

Pearson will be offering Algebra 1, Biology, Environmental Science and Geometry, while McGraw Hill offers Algebra 1, Biology, Chemistry, Geometry and Physics. All of McGraw Hill’s offerings are available today, and Pearson’s Biology and High School Science are also available today, with its other textbooks to follow.

Apple is also working with DK Publishing, which has four books launching today: Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life, Natural History Insects, Natural History Animals, and My First ABC.

Sea Change: Apple Guts Textbook Publishing

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 07:20 AM PST


The days of the $500 college textbook bills are, it seems, over. With Apple’s announcement of iBooks 2, the world of textbooks is changed forever.

Education is a hard nut to crack. There are bright spots and clever new ideas, but technology hasn’t quite figured out how to do a better job than the “old ways.” That’s why Apple’s decision to launch iBooks 2 and the attendant editing tools is so important: it tears down a number of entrenched technologies while maintaining the scaffolding of familiarity. It leaves the stuff that works and saves the schools, students, and parents money and time.

In short, it stabs the publishing industry while it embraces it, ensuring that its old methods are no longer profitable but offering it new tools to go forward. Whether they survive the initial thrust, though, is anyone’s guess.

There are, according to Apple, 1.5 million iPads in educational institutions. Each of those can hold thousands of books, apps, and tutorials. It just makes sense for Apple to take the lead on something as important as education, just as Steve and Woz led the way with their first Apple IIs in 1980s classrooms.

I am a luddite when it comes to elearning. I see little value in one laptop per child or giving every kid an iPad. Technology is a distraction, at least to my David Foster Wallace view of where television dumped our generation into the doldrums of reruns and latch-key programming. However, if anyone can change my mind about giving the kids a tablet for school, it’s Apple.

Apple’s product is big on promise and will, in the end, kill the sale of paper textbooks. Of that I’m certain. How long it takes is the million dollar question today, but knowing the speed at which Apple forces the paradigm to shift, I doubt the textbook publishers will survive much longer just selling dead tree product.

Apple Announces iBooks 2, A New Textbook Experience For The iPad

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 07:11 AM PST


“Education is deep in our DNA, and it has been since the very beginning,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing. On that thought Apple just announced iBooks 2.

This move is centered around reinvent the textbook. Schiller explained today that Apple sees textbooks as amazing devices, but they’re heavy, not searchable or durable. According to Apple the iPad is the perfect counter. It’s portable, durable, interactive, searchable, current and capable of containing even richer content.

“Kids are really going to love to learn with iBooks,” said Phil Schiller

The platform embraces interactive textbooks. Pinch to zoom on DNA strands, watch videos about the Hindenburg, experience learning in an interactive fashion. The words are still there. Apple is just making learning a bit more exciting.

Apple claims that this will reinvent textbooks. It will allow the iPad to become a text book of sorts. Schiller started out the conference by proudly proclaiming that at least 1.5 million educational institutions use iPads. The goal here is to make those iPads a bit more functional.

The iBooks 2 also brings quizzes to the tablet, which are also interactive in a new way. Students might be asked to tap on a portion of the map to identify something.

Searching for definitions in iBooks 2 is as easy tapping the word and they aren’t limited to just a block of text. They can also include videos and pictures.

iBooks 2 is available starting today as a free download.

This announcement puts Kno in a bad position. iBooks 2 packs many of Kno’s prime features into a native iPad app. Kno might have the edge with content, though. The company has long worked with the top education publishers and has an impressive library of textbooks. Kno, as a 3rd party app, has the advantage of being able to embrace other platforms like the web and Android where iBooks 2 will likely remain only on the iPad. If Android is to explode, Kno might be able to springboard to victory (that’s a big “if” though).

Apple also announced that Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have signed on as partners. “I can’t overemphasize the importance of these partners working with us,” said Schiller. Starting today, several high-school text books are available for downloading for $14.99 each. These books are currently in school and used by more than four million high school students. More will be available soon.

Foxconn Chief Equates Employees To Animals

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 06:53 AM PST


While I suspect there’s a lot lost in translation here,Foxconn chairman Terry Gou made a wildly distasteful joke this week at the Taipei Zoo, saying (according to WantChinaTimes): “Hon Hai (Foxconn) has a workforce of over one million worldwide and as human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”

The comments came during a presentation at the zoo where the superintendant Chin Shih-chien gave a talk on feeding and taking care of his charges. Gou has apparently hired Chin to make recommendations and help Foxconn executives learn how to manage large organizations.

To be fair (and I don’t want to defend this guy, but still), he could have been talking off the cuff using a colloquialism like “herding cats” to a group of insiders. However, we must consider the worldwide animus aimed at Foxconn thanks to the recent suicides as well as a ThisAmericanLife piece by Mike Daisey, a noted thorn in Apple’s side.

Foxconn is much more benign than critics let on and, in the end, it’s companies like Foxconn that keep us in our gadgets. However, a CEO slipping like this – in front of a world already clamoring for his head – is pretty terrible.

Here Come The iPad 2S/3 Cases!

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 06:24 AM PST


It’s that time again, friends. Apple rumors are swirling and case makers are trying to get a jump in their competitive field. So much so that a Chinese manufacturing company “Chineestyle Co., Limited” is actually selling cases for the next-gen iPad, which they are calling the iPad 2S. Yep, it’s that time again.

The cases hint of minimal physically differences between the iPad 2 and the iPad 2S. The new version will look just like the current one. According to these specs the next iPad will be 1mm thicker than the iPad 2 and sport a slightly larger lens. These differences are in line with current rumors that state the next iPad will have a higher resolution screen and a better camera.

But that’s it. The overall design of the next iPad will be the same as the current one — at least that’s the story according to these iPad cases. The cases were reportedly built using information provided by an Apple supply chain vender.

This isn’t the first time cases have hit the market prior to Apple’s announcements. In the summer of 2009 iPod touch cases started appearing with a holes in the backside for a camera. The logical explanation was that Apple was prepping an iPod touch with a camera. A ton of these cases hit within weeks of each other. Apple was surely releasing an iPod touch with a camera, thought the Internet. But it didn’t happen for an entire year.

Then, just this past fall, a bunch of iPhone 5 cases hit lending to the theory that the iPhone 5 would be announced. The world got the iPhone 4S instead.

The same thing could happen with these iPad cases. They could be completely wrong. Or they could be completely right like the ones that appeared last year prior to the iPad 2′s announcement. The only safe bet right now is that Apple will announce a new iPad in the coming months.

Click to view slideshow.

Samsung: One In Ten South Koreans Now Owns A Samsung Galaxy S II

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 05:56 AM PST

White Galaxy S2 3

It’s not really news to say that the Galaxy S II is a hit, but it has actually become a mega hit in South Korea. According to maker Samsung, the Android handset has been sold a whopping 5 million times in its domestic market since release at the end of April 2011. In other words, a little more than 10% of the country’s entire population (48 million people) are now proud owners of the phone.

It’s the first cell phone that has reached this milestone in mobile-crazy South Korea, according to Japanese business daily The Nikkei. The paper also says that one out of four South Korean smartphones users owns a Galaxy S II (sounds like feature phones don’t play a big role in that country anymore).

In 2011, Samsung commanded a 53% market share in South Korea’s smartphone industry.

The company recently decided not to take legal action against its fiercest competitor, Apple, in its home market – despite being in a patent war with the iPhone maker the whole world over. It looks like Samsung can afford it.

Via Sammy Hub