4 millions Windows 8 upgrades, that's not much!

Posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 by Erlik

Steve Balmer told  at build that 4 million of Window 8 upgrades have been purchased electronically in 3 days. It may sound like a lot but 4 Millions upgrades are actually very unimpressive for Windows 8.

To put things in perspective there are 700 million PCs with Windows 7 out there yet only 4 million upgraded. That's much less than 1%

Keep also in mind that for once the upgrade is actually affordable at $39 or $15 if you bought a new PC. I could understand low upgrade numbers when the upgrades were grossly overpriced (the Windows 7 upgrade costs $119) but I can't understand it when the upgrade is 3 times cheaper.

There are probably 50 to 100 million PCs that are eligible for the $15 upgrade, but even at that price it does not sell well. Let's be real, if people are not willing to spend $15 on an OS upgrade either they don't care about the OS they are running (bad for Microsoft) or they don't want Windows 8 (even worse for Microsoft). If I was running Vista and Microsoft offered an upgrade to Windows 7 for $39 I would jump on the occasion, here I am not.

I strongly suspect that a lot of those 4 million upgrades are from Windows fans that don't mind that half the OS is actually an advertisement for the Windows phone and surface interface, not from the general public.

Maybe the low price of upgrades this time round is because MS knows that the OS will be unpopular with the masses and that no-one would pay the price they usually ask for upgrades?

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Why mature games are the future of mobile gaming (and the app stores are killing it)..

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 by Erlik

The one thing that annoys me the most with the new fashion of Apple and Microsoft mandating the use of their app stores on mobile and tablet platforms is the idiotic restriction on mature or adult content.

Well, you know what? The vast majority of gamers, smartphone and tablet owners are adults! Granted that not all adults want deep games or erotic content, but it is still the case for a large part of the market, a part of the market that currently goes unsatisfied.

I am a 37 year old gamer, and if you ask me what the games I enjoyed the most this decade are I would probably bring names like Vampire the masquerade: Bloodline, The Witcher, Oblivion and Age of Conan, with maybe Deus-ex, Battlefield 2 and Borderlands added as being not too bad. Yes, most of these games have a mature or adult only rating and feature a deep storyline, copious amount of violence and sometimes nudity. Well, you know what, life has a deep storyline, may involve violence and hopefully features some opposite sex nudity :-).

The problem is that there are not enough of those games to go around. I am certainly not playing as much as I used to simply because now that I am older I prefer games targeted to a more adult audience. Blasting aliens was fun15 years ago in the time of Duke Nukem, not so much anymore.

Now the main problem with mobile and tablet gaming is that Apple and Microsoft seems to do their best to discourage the kind of games that I like from getting in their official stores and this even has a knock-on effect on Android development as many studios develop for all platforms. As a result we are not seeing any game with any kind of depth on mobile or tablet platforms, and my tablet stays laying on the cupboard most of the time while I play on my PC.

If Apple, Microsoft and Google want the tablet format to be a real competitor to the PC they will have to relax some of the restrictions in their app stores and start promoting games and software targeting the mature users that want to do more than blast pigs with birds.

All hope is not lost however as Microsoft is starting to see the light. They have recently removed some of the restrictions on adult rated games in their store at least in Europe. Now let's hope that Apple starts to see the light too...

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Why netbooks are not dead yet

Posted on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 by Erlik

Some people are wondering if we will see the Netbook format disappear from store shelves this year.

I can still see a future for Netbooks for 2 reasons though:

First some people (like my wife) are very uncomfortable surfing the web on a touchscreen device. We've got a nice tablet but she always uses her Netbook to surf. don't forget that most of the web is designed for a mouse (or trackpad) and keyboard and that browsing some sites can feel very uncomfortable on a tablet. Browsing and contributing to forums for example is not a very pleasant experience on a tablet.

Second ARM based tablets won't support flash in the future (starting with android 4.1). Now for the casual gamer this is a showstopper as 99% of successful casual games (think Zynga products like Caslteville) are written in flash, even the new releases. Yes, it could change with HTML 5, but with all the standardization issues between the browser and the needed re-skilling of developers it will probably take at least 5 years before every major casual game is written in HTML 5 and flash is phased out.

For the Netbooks to disappear we would need to have intel based tablets running Windows and flash  sold at sub $300 prices with an optional keyboard and trackpad included in that price. But then that would just be a netbook with a touchscreen and removable keyboard...

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Why web apps will need Google Native Client

Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2011 by Erlik

Recently The Register posted a very informative article on Google Native Client and I got the feeling from from representatives from Mozilla and Opera that "this was not a good idea because web apps written in Javascript are good enough and more portable"

I beg your pardon? You think that the current crop of Javascript based web apps is good enough? What they seem to forget is that for a lot of things Javascript based web apps and by Web app I mean apps that run in your browser) have failed miserably.

- Gaming is one of them: why do web games look like some 2D thing out of the 90' ? Why can't I play Battlefield 3 or Skyrim quality games from my browser if my computer has the 3D hardware to do so? The only thing that currently looks like a decent "console quality games on the web" is OnLive and that's because all the processing happens on the server (and it needs a plugin anyway)! Why are most 3D MMORPGs downloads rather than web apps?

- Video is only remotely good with the flash plug-in. Youtube exists for years now but the only way to get decent (meaning hardware accelerated) web video on desktop and mobiles is still flash with no useable standard in sight. and don't get me started with video editing in the browser. Try to code a, Xvid decoder in Javascript and see the performance you get, I bet it will barely be usable.

- Mobile web apps are also a failure. Initially the iPhone was supposed to support only web apps, no app store. Have you seen how well that turned out: developers are fighting to get into the app store and the Android marketplace!

The fact is that current web apps and Javascript are OK for apps that mostly display data or do some limited data manipulation such as email, word processing or spreadsheet, but as soon as you want something more consistent there is not much. Where my web base GIMP (with all its filters and plugins)? where's my web based Audacity? Where is my web based premiere? where's my web base PowerDVD?

If the aim is to replace local applications and games by "browser hosted" web apps, then web apps need to be able to do all the tasks that users are currently performing with their computers with roughly the same level of performance, and that includes high-end gaming and multimedia, and currently there is no way to do that with Javascript.

The representative from Mozilla says that there was a 10 fold increase of Javascript performance in the last few years. To me this means that a few years ago Javascript was 10 time slower than a native application, and as an user I find that is not acceptable. I will not pay for a 3 Ghz computer to have the same performance with webs apps than a 10 year old 300 Mhz computer could provide with native applications.

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Why the Tegra 2 sucks at video decoding

Posted on Thursday, June 9, 2011 by Erlik

Recently several new Tegra 2 based Android tablets have been release by major manufacturers, such as the Motorola Xoom or the Eee pad transformer. Most of those manufacturers are claiming that their tablets have good multimedia capabilities and are proudly promising 1080P video decoding thanks to mojo from the Nvidia Tegra 2 chip. And in a way it makes sense: the Nvidia chipsets and video cards for PC are probably the best at decoding high definition H264 video. Most people purchasing these tablets to play high resolution video will probably be disappointed though because when you look at the specifications of the Tegra 2 platform you will notice that unlike its PC cousins the chip is unable to decode most 1080p H264 videos.

The issue is that there are actually several flavors of H264 videos. You have the Main profile that is relatively easy to decode and is used for things like Youtube and digital camera recordings. The Tegra 2 will have no problem with these. The other kind are the High profiles (yes there are several) that allow a much better compression vs quality ratio. This is used for most videos that you can actually download from the internet: Podcasts, fansubs, bittorent etc... There we have a problem: the Tegra 2 is incapable of decoding these videos in HD. What this means is that unless you are only using the video capabilities of your Tegra 2 tablet to watch Youtube, you will have to stick to lover definitions or transcode videos on your PC before watching them on the tablet, which defeats the point of having a tablet in the first place.

What is disturbing is that Nvidia "PC" chipsets such as the ION are perfectly capable of decoding High profile 1080p H264 video and that consumers purchasing Tegra 2 based tablets will likely expect the same level of functionality. It is only the next version of the Tegra chip (codenamed Kal-el) that will be able to decode HD video in a way similar to Nvidia ION chipsets a point that Nvidia should be much clearer about. If you want a tablet to watch HD, either purchase one with another chip or wait for Kal-el.

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