Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Digital Prognostications for 2011

Bookmark and Share
Now only days remain in 2010, the time has arrived to take a look ahead to what I think 2011 holds in the technology industry. 

1. Digital Disaster August 31st: Now that the switch over from analog to digital is less than nine months away there still hasn't been much if any public education from television stations leaving those who use antennas to receive over the air broadcast television in the dark.  Retailers selling electronics have plenty of television sets with digital tuners in stock, but converter boxes that are required for the millions of existing TV sets that are hooked to antennas are very few and far between on store shelves.  Unless massive public education happens between now and the 31st of August many people who are dependent on over the air signals to get television will be staring at snow after the 31st.

2. No Installment of Call of Duty coming in 2011:  In the past few years many gamers have picked an early Christmas present, the latest installment of Call of Duty.  Early in November 2011 the shelves of retail stores will have a big hole on the shelves where a new installment should be.  All this is because the gutting of executives and employees from Infinity Ward one of the developers of the Call of Duty games.  As a response to controversy over the decision not to have dedicated servers CoD publisher Activision demanded changes at Infinity Ward, and most of the company tendered their resignations.  While there is a Modern Warfare 3 already in development it's expected until 2012.

3.  EA vs. Zynga: Let the legal b***h slapping begin:  At the end of 2010 the surprise success story of social network gaming, Zynga launched Cityville a game where players build (or destroy) their own virtual city.  If this sounds like a game you've probably played before that's because it is.  Electronic Arts is probably watching Cityville very closely and getting their army of lawyers ready to launch lawsuit claiming that Cityville infringes on EA's SimCity patents and copyright. 

4. Video Game Industry Downturn Becomes A Crash and Burn:  Between mid 2009 and the present video game software sales have gotten soft so to speak.  Most game publishers reporting sales down from a year ago which were down from the year before that.  Most sales declines can probably be blamed on the excess of titles to choose from but a shortage of quality games in the market.  Many games are launching at the average retail price only to fall to bargain bin prices in just weeks.  Some games are rushed through development to get into stores, such as EA Sports MMA.  Game publishers will need to cut down on the number of games being developed in order to get better games into stores.  Otherwise the current downturn will turn into something we haven't seen since the video game crash of 1983.

5.  If the Verizon iPhone launches it will be on LTE only:  It has been rumoured since launch of the original iPhone in 2007, an iPhone that runs on Verizon Wireless.  There were rumors that Apple was ordering chips from Qualcomm for a CDMA iPhone.  However the iPhone for CDMA networks has not yet materialized.  Now that Verizon now launched 4G LTE network Apple will be considering an iPhone for Verizon.  While CDMA was a popular technology, it's now outdated.  Cellular bandwidth on CDMA is limited to under 1 Mbps which was just not enough required for many Apps.  As advertised by both Apple and AT&T making a call on a CDMA phone disables any ability to use any other data requiring application such as surfing the web or retrieving an e-mail.  LTE does not have any of these constrictions.  To make sure that the iPhone experience is the same for all users regardless of their cellular carrier (you know that Apple is all about the user experience.)  That means that the dream of a CDMA iPhone will be a dream left in the past.  If Apple announces a Verizon iPhone it will be announced at the start of the year but won't launch until the end of 2011 to give Verizon time to expand their LTE network coverage.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2011 Will Be The Year of The Handheld Gaming Wars (Again)

Bookmark and Share
2011 is now just less than two weeks away, and it’s already looking like new handheld systems are going to be the biggest sellers to come from the video game industry in the year ahead.  There is already a new DS with 3D graphics coming from Nintendo.  The retail release of the 3DS is scheduled January for Japan and March for North America. 

Sony, still bruised from the thud made by the PSP Go when it hit the market at the end of 2009, will be looking for redemption from two new handheld systems.  The first isn't exactly a Playstation Portable, It's a smartphone that runs Google's Android operating system with a PSP shoehorned into it.  The controller slides out from the screen similar to the PSP Go.  Like the PSP the games will delivered exclusively as digital downloads.  What is not known is that the games downloaded for the PSP and PSP go will be the same game files that play on the PSP phone, or will the games for the PSP Phone be special versions for the PSP Phone.

Looking to launch their own next generation of handheld gaming the next system Sony is expected to launch the next system that is already dubbed PSP 2. Like the PSP Go and the expected PSP Phone the PSP 2 will only hold games downloaded from Playstation Network.  Some circulating rumours state that the PSP 2 will have a touch screen, and virtual analog control, an where moving a thumb on the surface of the PSP 2 will have the same effect as moving an analog stick on a game console controller.

Sony has not yet announced if downloadable games that play on PSP and PSP Go will work on the PSP 2.  It is highly likely that the PSP 2 will not have a UMD drive, which means games on disc will be stuck on the original Playstation Portable.  Whatever the form the PSP 2 and PSP Phone take, Sony will need find their target audience in order to be successful with the new PSP systems. The youth market continued to be dominated by Nintendo and Panasonic targeting the hardcore gamers with their Jungle handheld system that could launch by the end of 2011, there could be little room for Sony if they don't stake their claim with gamers now.  Nintendo, Sony, and Panasonic all have to compete against Apple's iOS based devices which Apple argues is the world's most popular handheld gaming platform.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Technology Predictions Revisited

Bookmark and Share
As another year draws to a close it's time to revisit the predictions made about a year ago on this blog.  To review:

1.  Beginning of the end of CDMA: Metro PCS, and Verizon launched LTE at the end of 2010, Sasktel turned on HSPA, leaving MTS as Canada's CDMA only carrier this on was right on the mark.

2.  No iPhone on Verizon this year: While rumors ran rampant the whole year long there was no Verizon iPhone to be seen.  Got this one right too.

3.  Palm offers WebOS based GSM smartphones: Here's one I missed: Palm gets bought out by Hewlett Packard and is MIA ever since.

4.  Facebook IPO:   Got another one wrong, I guess Mark Zuckerberg already a billionaire, then the thought of making easy billions selling shares of Facebook on the stock market hasn't entered his mind.

2 wrong, 2 right, my geek crystal ball was a little cloudy after all, for a look ahead to 2011 stay tuned.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Canada's Long Term Wait for LTE

Bookmark and Share
Any Canadian cell phone junkie who watches any American television has undoubtedly has seen the commercials for Verizon's 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) network and is already is wishing that it was available in Canada.  LTE is going to be one of those technologies that Canadians will get that familiar outside looking in feeling.  Like Small dish satellite TV, Tivo's and iPhones Canadians will have years to wait until LTE will make it's way over the border. 

The first barrier to getting LTE in Canada is the 700 MHz band needed for LTE is currently occupied by TV stations operating on channels 52-69.  The 700 MHz band will be cleared when Canada's DTV transition happens on August 31st. All TV stations will have to move to lower channels, even the rebroadcast relays even though those will be allowed to stay on Analog will have to move to a lower channel.  Once the spectrum is cleared, then Industry Canada in consultation will hold an auction to sell licences to operate LTE services in the 700 MHz band.  The process of the Auction could last a year or more.

After the auction process, the carriers that won licenses have to upgrade their networks in the case of incumbent carriers or build their networks in the case of startup carriers.  This could take another year or more.  At minimum it will 2013 before any LTE 4G service can launch in Canada.  Rogers and Bell are currently field testing LTE in Ontario but their networks are already traffic heavy with current HSPA traffic and legacy GSM and CDMA traffic which will remain on their networks for several years to come.  The incumbent carriers will need to win some licenses in the 700 MHz band before they can roll out LTE service.

Shaw Communications already owns licenses to offer wireless communications services using the Advanced Wireless Spectrum (AWS) bands found at 1700 MHz and 2100 MHz. Shaw has stated that they intend to use LTE as the technology to deliver Wireless service to consumers.  It will be advisable that Shaw will wait to bid on 700 MHz spectrum to supplement their existing licenses on AWS.  Subscribers on Wind Mobile and Mobilicity have discovered AWS has proven to be notorious prone to dead sports in densely populated urban areas.  Service on the 700 band will be less prone to dead spots.   

Subscribers on regional carriers such as Sasktel and MTS, as well as subscribers on startup carriers Wind Mobile and Mobilicity will have a longer wait as financing network upgrades for LTE will be an additional issue that these carriers will have to face.  Building or upgrading networks to support current HSPA has added an incredible debt load that these carriers will have to carry for many years to come.  Upgrading to LTE will add to this existing debt which will lead to a couple more years of delay.

Long Term Evolution seems aptly named especially for Canadians, because we'll see LTE sometime- in the long term.

More information on Long Term Evolution (LTE)

Blog Archive