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Intel, Fossil team up to work on wearables PDF Print E-mail

watch

Everyone wants in on the wearables game—Motorola, Samsung, LG, and if rumors are to be believed, Apple. Not to be outdone, Intel announced a new partnership Friday with watchmaker Fossil to “further develop wearable technology for the fashion industry.”

According to the two companies, Intel and Fossil will team up “to identify, support and develop emerging trends in the wearable technology space” and “work together on emerging products and technologies that will be developed for the fashion-oriented consumer,” according to a joint press release

Presumably, the partnership will eventually result in Fossil-branded wearables (likely smartwatches) with Intel’s technology inside.

In the joint press release, Fossil and Intel put emphasis on developing fashionable wearables. A major critique of early smartwatches is that they are mini-computers first,  watches second—that the fashion aspect comes second. And if wearables are to catch on outside tech enthusiasts, they need to look like something you’ll want to wear. 

Tech companies seem to be starting to “get it”—just take a look at the round-faced Moto 360 and LG G Watch R—but there’s still plenty of work to do. For instance, many current smartwatches are not well suited for those with smaller wrists, as Joanna Stern at The Wall Street Journal points out.

But having a major fashion-driven watchmaker like Fossil on board and providing smartwatches in a variety of sizes and styles should go a long way toward helping take wearables to a more mainstream audience.

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Dreadnought preview: It's like World of Tanks and Battlestar Galactica had a baby PDF Print E-mail

heavy corvette sneak up

"Everyone always wants to be the fast ships at first. And then they die." These are the dour words of the developer watching over my shoulder as I played Dreadnought, a spaceship combat game, last week. He was right. I died almost immediately, picked out of the sky by a much larger ship as I battered ineffectively against its armor.

Here's the easiest way to describe Dreadnought—the way it was described to me, and presumably the way it was described to everyone at PAX, and it's the first thing you think of when you play the game. Remember that scene in Battlestar Galactica where the ship warps in the atmosphere? Yeah, of course you do unless you didn't watch Battlestar Galactica in which case who are you?

Dreadnought is that scene.

heavy support laser attack

A heavy support vehicle attacking a light dreadnought.

It's a spaceship combat game, as I said, but not in the way you're probably thinking. This isn't Elite: Dangerous or Star Citizen or Enemy Starfighter. In fact, it's not even really a game about dogfighting, which is pretty anathema to the last twenty or so years of space game design.

Instead think of Dreadnought like a tank game with three dimensions of movement, like World of Tanks except with spaceships in the starring role. All of the key ideas of a tank game—positioning, for instance—are important here as you glide around obstacles and try to hide until the last possible moment. The PAX map even took place in a planet's atmosphere, making it feel like massive floating tanks (though there are space maps planned for the final release).

akula dreadnought

A titular dreadnought.

There were five ships in the demo I played, ranging from a small sniper/recon ship to the titular Dreadnought, which is your Imperial Star Destroyer/Battlestar size monster of a ship. Each ship is a bundle of compromises, with small ships being more maneuverable but also frail, while larger ships move at a snail's crawl but soak up lots of damage. You can think of the ships as different "classes" from a shooter, considering one is effectively a medic, one is equipped as I mentioned with a long-range weapon, et cetera.

Plus the Dreadnought can warp short distances and it makes a big whoompf noise right before it materializes/starts kicking space-ass and is all around one of the most satisfying moves to pull off in recent history. Oh, and it shoots nukes.

nuke launch

Nuclear missle away! 

But even the smallest ship has a hefty sense of weight that says "I'm a hundred tons of metal" more than "I'm meant for zipping around the galaxy." I'm sure a more experienced player can pull off some complex maneuvers with the smaller ships, but this is not a twitchy dogfighter. It's a tactical game that relies heavily on teamwork.

I had a lot of fun with the round I played at PAX, once I got used to the slow pace. I'm definitely more interested in the space maps (which the developers tell me will feature asteroid fields and ship graveyards) than the in-atmosphere settings, though the backdrop did make for some of those incredible Battlestar Galactica-esque moments.

And hey, the game is going to be free-to-play upon release so there's really nothing stopping you from checking it out. If there's anything good to be said about free-to-play, it's that the barrier to entry is incredibly low regardless of whether the game turns out impressive.

Space. Nukes. Warping. Millions of fictional people dying in massive planetary battles. Trillions of dollars worth of damage per second. Yeah, that's Dreadnought.

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10 hilarious, brutally devious ways PC game developers punish pirates PDF Print E-mail

The Sims 4 was released this week, but some people who eagerly snatched up a copy soon found themselves perplexed by an apparent bug: The entire game eventually became blurry and pixelated, with the effect beginning as a way to obscure nude Sims and blossoming out from there. Did a major error slip through EA's playtesting?

Nope. Those blurry pixels are intentional—and they appear only if you're using an illegitimate version of The Sims 4. Yes, EA is messing with game pirates.

This isn't the first time a developer's decided to get cute with its anti-piracy measures. In fact, some of the methods game makers have used over the years to thwart pirates have been downright insane. Here are some of the craziest, most hilarious examples.

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Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba seeks up to $21 billion in US IPO PDF Print E-mail

PCWorld News

Alibaba is looking to raise as much as US$21 billion in its U.S. IPO, according to documents filed Friday, making the Chinese e-commerce company’s debut one of the largest initial public offerings in U.S. history.

Its stock will be priced between $60 and $66 per share, according to a prospectus filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. At the top of that range, if Alibaba sells just over 320 million shares as planned, it would bring in just over $21 billion. According to published reports, using the midpoint of that range Alibaba would be valued around $160 billion.

The company is expected to begin its global roadshow in New York City on Monday, when executives will meet with potential investors before moving on to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The roadshow is expected to end on Sept. 18 with the pricing of the shares, which would go on sale the following day. Alibaba will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “BABA.”

Previous IPO documents showed Alibaba sold more merchandise than eBay and Amazon combined. But instead of using its own inventory of goods, as Amazon does, Alibaba manages an online marketplace for connecting merchants with consumers. The company runs the Taobao Marketplace and Tmall, two of China’s largest online retail sites. In addition, Alibaba affiliate Alipay is China’s largest third-party online payment service.

Alibaba has sold to U.S. customers through its supplier sites AliExpress and Alibaba.com, but the company is looking to expand in this country. It recently launched a new site called 11Main, which currently acts as an invitation-only marketplace offering items from specialty shops for clothing, jewelry and the arts.

One of the company’s biggest challenges in the U.S. is that consumers don’t know the company well.

“When an Internet company of our scale that originated in China enters the global scene, you should expect that it will encounter skepticism from different directions due to differences in cultural perspectives, values and even geopolitical positioning,” said founder and executive chairman Jack Ma, in an accompanying letter to investors.

Yahoo holds roughly a 24 percent stake in Alibaba. But the Internet company will sell roughly 121 million shares in the IPO, according to the prospectus, decreasing Yahoo’s ownership to 16 percent. At $63 per share, the stock Yahoo is selling would be worth about $7.62 billion.

Alibaba was formed in 1999 as a way to help small exporters in manufacturing and trading reach global buyers.

Zach Miners , IDG News Service

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service
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Comparing smartwatches -- what Apple has to beat PDF Print E-mail

PCWorld News

It’s been a big week for smartwatches and the next few days could be even bigger if rumors are true and Apple enters the battle for the wrist on Tuesday.

The company has been such a tremendous force in the smartphone and tablet markets that anything it does could quickly become the standard to which others are measured.

But what does Apple itself have to measure up to?

I spent time on the IFA show floor in Berlin using the new watches from Samsung, LG, Sony, Asus and Motorola and the bar Apple needs to clear is pretty low. All five models are clunky and I get the sense they’re still not above the level of high-tech toys for geeks.

The software

Four of the five phones run Google’s Android Wear operating system, a customized version of Android for smartwatches. It provides alerts about emails, weather, calendar items and details of flights, and there’s also maps, a calculator, games and a fitness tracker.

The exception is Samsung’s Gear S, which runs the Tizen operating system and has a 3G modem built in. It also has a tiny on-screen keyboard that can be used to reply to messages and can even be used to make calls. Samsung is pushing the watch as a mini phone in its own right, but that might be too much.

It’s a good bet that Apple, famous for minimalist design, will tailor its smartwatch to do a small number of things very well rather than a lot of things in a mediocre fashion. It probably won’t be overloading its watch with gizmos and features. An intriguing rumor is that the watch will support wireless payments, something missing from all five watches launched at IFA.

The screen

Just about all the interaction with a watch is done through the touchscreen display, so it’s a shame that none of the watches here had better screens. At around 200 or 300 pixels per inch, they’re noticeably less sharp than the screens on high-end smartphones, some of which have over 400 pixels per inch.

A sharper screen means greater power consumption, so it could be a conscious trade-off by designers, but this is an area that’s ripe for improvement. Apple made waves with its “retina” screens in the past and it’s a natural area for the company to attack competitors.

The battery

On the subject of power, most of the new phones will require charging every day or at least every other day.

With Sony’s Smartwatch 3, that’s via a USB port on the back of the device—a fiddly proposal. LG had a magnetic dock with built in charging terminals but Motorola has gone for wireless charging—a much better idea for daily charging and something that’s rumored to have been adopted by Apple.

The looks

It’s difficult to pass judgement on something as subjective as looks. As with conventional watches, what’s handsome to one person is ugly to another. But while styling differs, there’s one thing constant: all the watches here are about a centimeter thick. That’s perhaps expected for a new technology and an area that will certainly improve, but one that could significantly benefit the first company to make a thin and stylish watch.

Apple’s famous industrial design is perhaps the one piece of its smartwatch that is most anticipated and it would be great if the company came up with something stylish and didn’t imitate a wristwatch from the past. Who said a smartwatch had to look like a wristwatch anyway? One thing’s for sure: whatever Apple comes up with, it will have plenty of imitators.

The protection

On a wrist and exposed to the elements all the time, protection from water and dust is important. A gadget’s resistance to dust and water is signaled by an IP rating and on smartwatches there’s a big range. At IP55, the Asus Zenwatch is only resistant to a little dust and water, while Sony’s Smartwatch 3 is rated to IP68, which means dust won’t get inside and it can be submerged in up to a meter of water with no problem.

Getting this right isn’t perhaps as difficult as miniaturization, but it is a crucial area for Apple. The launch of a smartwatch would be ruined if people complain about scratches and wear and tear after a few days.

@martyn_williams

Martyn Williams , IDG News Service Follow me on Google+

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service.
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