Sony

'Sony Needs a Fresh Hit' (bloomberg.com) 71

Even as Sony's CEO Kazuo Hirai has done a remarkable job over the past five years -- taking bold decisions on the areas the company should be focusing on, and cutting efforts on those that aren't working -- his company desperately needs a fresh hit to boost its revenue and to become relevant in the mind of most, writes columnist Tim Culpan for Bloomberg. An except from his article: According to a company statement Tuesday for investors' day, the key will be to "remain the 'last one inch' that delivers a sense of 'wow' to customers," expand recurring revenue, and pursue new businesses.Those three strategies are closely linked. With TV sales in decline, its Vaio PC business spun off, and its smartphones barely a blip on the radar, Sony's last inch is heavily dependent on the PlayStation. Sony's Game & Network Services business has grown at both the top and bottom lines over the past five years, but the games console business is stuck in time. [...] Sony needs to build a device that will be far more ubiquitous and can appeal to consumers beyond the current male-skewed slowly aging hard-core gamer base. Amazon and Alphabet, with Echo and Home, are two such examples, and Apple will probably follow suit. With its background in audio, video, sensors and entertainment, Sony has all the right parts to make it happen. For the company that invented the Walkman, dreaming up another hit shouldn't be so hard.
Movies

Resident Evil Getting Rebooted Into a Six-Film Franchise (variety.com) 164

Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the board at Constantin Film, confirmed to Variety at the Cannes Film Festival that the "Resident Evil" movie franchise is getting rebooted into a six-film franchise. From the report: The franchise was set to end with this year's "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," which grossed $312 million worldwide after its January release, including an eye-popping $160 million in China alone. Sony helped sow the seeds of success by securing a release for "Resident Evil: Afterlife" and "Resident Evil: Extinction" in China. Based on the Capcom video game, the series launched in 2002 with Paul W.S. Anderson directing, and Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Bernd Eichinger, and Samuel Hadida producing the first of a six-movie series. The "Resident Evil" movie franchise has earned $1.2 billion worldwide to date, making it Europe's most successful independent horror-genre movie franchise in history and the highest-grossing film series to be based on a video game.
Music

Spotify Premium Users Will Get Some Albums Two Weeks Before Free Users (theverge.com) 46

Spotify has signed a long-term licensing agreement with Universal Music Group, allowing new albums from Universal artists to be restricted to its premium service for up to two weeks. The Verge reports: In a statement, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek admitted that Spotify understands that its policy of releasing albums across its entire service couldn't last forever. "We know that not every album by every artist should be released the same way, and we've worked hard with UMG to develop a new, flexible release policy," Ek stated. "Starting today, Universal artists can choose to release new albums on premium only for two weeks, offering subscribers an earlier chance to explore the complete creative work, while the singles are available across Spotify for all our listeners to enjoy." The agreement with UMG should allow for deals with Spotify's other two major label partners, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Group, to be completed in short order -- deals that likely will match the parameters set in the Spotify-UMG deal -- paving the way for Spotify's initial public offering.
Power

John Goodenough's Colleagues Are Skeptical of His New Battery Technology (qz.com) 251

Earlier this month, a research team led by John Goodenough announced that they had created a new fast charging solid-state battery that can operate in extreme temperatures and store five to ten times as much energy as current standard lithium-ion batteries. The announcement was big enough to have Google's Eric Schmidt tweeting about it. However, there are some skeptics, including other leading battery researchers. "For his invention to work as described, they say, it would probably have to abandon the laws of thermodynamics, which say perpetual motion is not possible," reports Quartz. "The law has been a fundamental of batteries for more than a century and a half." Quartz reports: Goodenough's long career has defined the modern battery industry. Researchers assume that his measurements are exact. But no one outside of Goodenough's own group appears to understand his new concept. The battery community is loath to openly challenge the paper, but some come close. "If anyone but Goodenough published this, I would be, well, it's hard to find a polite word," Daniel Steingart, a professor at Princeton, told Quartz. Goodenough did not respond to emails. But in a statement released by the University of Texas, where he holds an engineering chair, he said, "We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today's batteries. Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted." In addition, Helena Braga, the paper's lead author, in an exchange of emails, insisted that the team's claims are valid. For almost four decades, Goodenough has dominated the world of advanced batteries. If anyone could finally make the breakthrough that allows for cheap, stored electricity in cars and on the grid, it would figure to be him. Goodenough invented the heart of the battery that is all but certainly powering the device on which you are reading this. It's the lithium-cobalt-oxide cathode, invented in 1980 and introduced for sale by Sony in 1991. Again and again, Goodenough's lab has emerged with dramatic discoveries confirming his genius. It's what is not stated in the paper that has some of the battery community stumped. How is Goodenough's new invention storing any energy at all? The known rules of physics state that, to derive energy, differing material must produce differing eletro-chemical reactions in the two opposing electrodes. That difference produces voltage, allowing energy to be stored. But Goodenough's battery has pure metallic lithium or sodium on both sides. Therefore, the voltage should be zero, with no energy produced, battery researchers told Quartz. Goodenough reports energy densities multiple times that of current lithium-ion batteries. Where does the energy come from, if not the electrode reactions? That goes unexplained in the paper.
Patents

Sony Patent Could Let You Wirelessly Charge Your Phone From Another Device (digitaltrends.com) 36

One of the biggest downsides to wireless charging is the wire necessary to actually charge your device. You generally need to place your wireless charging-enabled device on a compatible charger, which needs to be plugged into a wall. Well, Sony hopes to make the process of wireless charging a bit easier as it has applied for a patent that will allow you to wirelessly charge your phone straight from someone else's phone. Digital Trends reports: The feature could be very useful. Sure, an ideal situation would be if you had access to a power outlet whenever you needed it, but the fact is we've all experienced being out and about and running out of battery. With Sony's new tech, you could essentially just "steal" power from a friend who might have a slightly more charged up device than you. The patent filling itself was discovered by What Future, and the report notes that the tech may not be limited to phones. Instead, Sony could apply it to things like fridges, microwaves, TVs, computers, and really any kind of electronic device. The idea here is that all of you home devices could eventually become sources of wireless energy -- so your phone will almost always be charging if you're at home, without the need for wires.
PlayStation (Games)

PlayStation Now Will Bring PS4 Games to your PC (engadget.com) 84

You could soon play PlayStation 4 exclusives like Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us Remastered on your PC. From a report on Engadget: Sony is bringing the PS4 catalog to its streaming game service PlayStation Now, the company said today in a blog post. The announcement is light on details, but we know that every game in the service, including PS4 games, will be part of a single PS Now subscription.
PlayStation (Games)

PlayStation 4.5 Update Brings HDD Support, PS4 Pro 'Boost Mode' (theinquirer.net) 40

Sony has officially pushed out the PlayStation 4.5 System Update, codenamed "Susuke," which brings a new Boost Mode for PS4 Pro owners and lets PS4 owners download and install games directly to USB 3.0 hard drives up to 8TB in size. The INQUIRER reports: PS4 Pro owners are also being treated to a new Boost Mode, will offer improved performance for PS4 games released before the Pro console. "This feature has been designed to provide better performance for select legacy titles that have not been patched to take advantage of the PS4 Pro's faster CPU and its faster and double-sized GPU," Sony said in a blog post. "This can provide a noticeable frame rate boost to some games with variable frame rates, and can provide frame rate stability for games that are programmed to run at 30 Hz or 60 Hz." The PS 4.5 update brings an improved 2D mode to owners of Sony's PlayStation VR headset, which the firm claims will improve the resolution of the system screen displayed on your TV is significantly better when you're out of VR mode. The resolution of Cinematic Mode on PlayStation VR is also getting a boost, with Sony noting "if your PS VR screen size is set to Small or Medium, the frame rate of content viewed in Cinematic Mode goes up from 90Hz to 120Hz with this update." Other new features include added support for voice chat when using Remote Play on Windows, Mac or an Xperia device, an 'Off Console' icon that tells gamers when a friend is logged in but away from their device and updates to the PS Messages and PS Communities apps on iOS and Android.
Displays

What the Death of CRT Display Means For Classic Arcade Machines (venturebeat.com) 184

An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report:The cathode-ray-tube technology that powered the monitors for nearly every classic arcade game in the twentieth century is defunct. Sony, Samsung, and others have left it behind for skinnier and more lucrative LCDs and plasmas, and the CRTs that are left are about to sell out. The current stock of new 29-inch CRT monitors is dwindling. Online arcade cabinet and parts supplier Dream Arcades has fewer than 30 of those large displays sitting on its shelves. When it sells out of the current inventory, it will never get another shipment in that size again. "We've secured enough [of the other sizes] to get us all the way through next year," says Michael Ware, founder of Dream Arcades. "After that, that's it." The future of arcade-cabinet restoration is looking bleak. "The old arcade games are like aging people," says Walter Day, founder of high-score-keeping site Twin Galaxies. "They have old livers and aging kidneys. There will come a day when very few arcade cabinets have original components. Time will wear them out." To be clear, it's not that games like Donkey Kong or Pac-Man will suddenly become unplayable. The games can run on newer LCD screens, but they may not look as the developers intended.
Cellphones

Jolla Sailfish Will Build A Google-Free Mobile OS For China (silicon.co.uk) 60

Jolla released their Android-free mobile Linux OS (Sailfish) on their own smartphones, "but has always intended to offer it to other manufacturers," according to Silicon. The next Sailfish smartphone was the Inex Aqua Fish, and people with Sony Xperia phones can now also run Sailfish through the Sony Open Devices Program. But their next big customer is the nation of China. Mickeycaskill quotes Silicon. The Sailfish China Consortium has gained the exclusive rights and license to develop a Chinese operating system based on Sailfish. Russia is also using Sailfish to build a national mobile OS in a bid to reduce its reliance on Western technology and reduce the risk of foreign surveillance. Jolla claimed that there have been many attempts to build a national OS on Android but these had been unsuccessful because of Google's control over the code.
One of the consortium's investors claims "several" major Chinese companies are already interested in joining them, adding "I have been closely following Sailfish OS development, and seen many Chinese projects fail, while Jolla's Sailfish OS has been steadily progressing. Sailfish OS is the only viable alternative for China."
Businesses

Apple Cracks Down Further On Cobalt Supplier in Congo as Child Labor Persists (washingtonpost.com) 86

Last year, a Washington Post investigation found several instances of miners -- including children -- labored in hazardous, even deadly, conditions at Congo's artisanal cobalt supply chain. Amnesty International and other human rights groups also have alleged problems. Earlier this week, British broadcaster Sky New published an investigation that alleged continued problems in the cobalt supply chain. The Washington Post now reports: Apple said it has temporarily stopped buying cobalt mined by hand in Congo while it continues to deal with problems with child labor and harsh work conditions. The Post connected this troubling trade to Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company, a Chinese firm that is the largest buyer of artisanal cobalt in Congo and whose minerals are used in Apple products. Last year, Apple pledged to clean up its cobalt supply chain, but the tech giant said it wanted to avoid hurting the Congolese miners by cutting them off. Mining provides vital income for hundreds of thousands of people in one of the poorest countries in the world. Now, Apple says it has stopped -- for now -- buying cobalt from artisanal mines (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). "We have been working with Huayou on a program that will verify individual artisanal mines, according to our standards," Apple said in a statement, "and these mines will re-enter our supply chain when we are confident that the appropriate protections are in place."
Sony

Sony Launches Phone With World's First 4K HDR Screen; Nokia Brings Back the 3310 Handset (wired.com) 76

Rumors were true. Nokia did launch its 3310 handset at MWC. It's been almost 17 years since the 3310 first came out. In that time the Nokia brand has been bought, sold, and stripped for parts. From a report on Wired: The 3310 is still very much a feature phone. It has a web browser, but only barely -- it's a dumbed-down version of Opera, basically there for emergency tweeting. It exists for you to make phone calls, send texts the way you did a decade ago (T9 FTW!), and play Snake. The 3310 weighs less than three ounces, and its battery lasts an absurd 31 days in standby time, or up to 22 hours of talk time. The new 3310 has a camera, for one thing, a 2-megapixel shooter. It also has a 2.4-inch, 240x320 screen, which is hilariously small and low-res but still a huge improvement over the original. It is priced at 49 Euros ($51). Also at the event, Sony announced that it is not done with putting a 4K screen on smartphones. From a report on The Verge: The XZ Premium has the world's first 4K HDR (2,160 x 3,840, High Dynamic Range) display in a smartphone. Sony has the latest and best Qualcomm chip while others are still offering the Snapdragon 820 and 821, but the Xperia XZ Premium won't be out until late spring or just ahead of the summer. Hell, the demo units shown off ahead of MWC weren't running anywhere close to final software -- so Sony is pre-announcing its new flagship device by a long margin. Other notable features include water resistance, rated to IP65 and IP68, a thinner profile at 7.9mm, and MicroSD storage expandability. The phone's battery is a reasonable 3,230mAh, and there's a fingerprint sensor integrated into the side-mounted power button as usual.
United States

The Videogame Industry Is Fighting 'Right To Repair' Laws (vice.com) 266

An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard: The video game industry is lobbying against legislation that would make it easier for gamers to repair their consoles and for consumers to repair all electronics more generally. The Entertainment Software Association, a trade organization that includes Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, as well as dozens of video game developers and publishers, is opposing a "right to repair" bill in Nebraska, which would give hardware manufacturers fewer rights to control the end-of-life of electronics that they have sold to their customers...

Bills making their way through the Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Wyoming, Tennessee, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Illinois statehouses will require manufacturers to sell replacement parts and repair tools to independent repair companies and consumers at the same price they are sold to authorized repair centers. The bill also requires that manufacturers make diagnostic manuals public and requires them to offer software tools or firmware to revert an electronic device to its original functioning state in the case that software locks that prevent independent repair are built into a device. The bills are a huge threat to the repair monopolies these companies have enjoyed, and so just about every major manufacturer has brought lobbyists to Nebraska, where the legislation is currently furthest along... This setup has allowed companies like Apple to monopolize iPhone repair, John Deere to monopolize tractor repair, and Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to monopolize console repair...

Motherboard's reporter was unable to get a comment from Microsoft, Apple, and Sony, and adds that "In two years of covering this issue, no manufacturer has ever spoken to me about it either on or off the record."
Movies

Studios Push for $50 Early Home Movie Rentals (variety.com) 248

As many as five major Hollywood studios have been working with cinema owners to shrink the traditional release window and allow consumers to rent movies on-demand in as little as 17 days after they hit theaters, reports Variety. From the article: Warner Bros. and Universal have been the most aggressive in pursuing an arrangement that would see certain movies receive a premium video-on-demand release within weeks of their theatrical premieres, but now other studios are joining the discussions. Twentieth Century Fox has also begun to talk early releases with theater owners, while Sony is having its own separate talks with exhibitors and is trying to devise its own plan. Paramount, which previously did a pilot program with AMC and a few other exhibitors to release "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" and "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension" on digital platforms early, has continued to seek a similar strategy. Though different studios are exploring different scenarios, the plan that has gathered the most steam would involve offering up movies for $50 a rental some 17 days after their theatrical opening. Those rentals would be available for 48 hours. The latest round of discussions began roughly 18 months ago.
Data Storage

Sony Unveils World's Fastest SD Card (amateurphotographer.co.uk) 48

At CP+2017, Sony announced the SF-G UHS-II SD card that features read and write speeds of 300MB/s and 299 MB/s, respectively, which makes it the fastest SD card in the world. Amateur Photographer reports: Available in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB from March 2017, all versions of the cards are compatible with Sony's free file rescue software, for recovering lost content. Pricing has yet to be revealed. Alongside the SF-G series, Sony has also introduced a new memory card reader, the MRW-S1, due for release in April. It features an in-built SuperSpeed USB port for cable-free PC connection, so that your files can be copied faster than by using the slower SD slot on a PC. [From the press release:] "'As the continuous shooting of higher-resolution images and adoption of 4K video with DSLR and mirrorless camera increases, the inherent need for larger, faster and more reliable cards becomes apparent. Thanks to the SF-G series, we continue to show our commitment to providing a full range of extremely high performance media devices to professional photographers and enthusiasts, maximizing their camera performances,' said Romain Rousseau, European Product Marketing Manager."
Cellphones

Sony's Latest Smartphone Camera Sensor Can Shoot At 1,000fps (theverge.com) 86

Sony has taken the wraps off of its latest smartphone camera sensor which it says can shoot 1080p slow-motion video at 1,000 frames per second. "The new 3-layer CMOS sensor -- an industry first -- can capture slow motion video about eight times faster than its competition with minimal focal pane distortion, according to Sony," reports The Verge. From their report: The sensor can also take 19.3MP images in 1/120th of a second, which Sony says is four times faster than other chips, thanks to high-capacity DRAM, and a 4-tier construction on the circuit section used to convert analog video signals to digital signals. All of that fancy camera talk basically means this sensor blows every camera currently in a smartphone out of the water. Although the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel can shoot 1080p slow-motion video at 120fps, they are still miles behind what Sony has reached with its latest sensor. At 1,000fps it even surpasses the Sony RX 100 V, which can only shoot at 960fps.
Sony

If You Owned a PC With a DVD Drive You Might Be Able To Claim $10 (theverge.com) 99

If you owned a PC with a DVD drive more than 10 years ago, you're probably owed $10. From a report on The Verge: A class-action lawsuit is now accepting claims after Sony, NEC, Panasonic, and Hitachi-LG were accused of inflating the prices of optical drives sold to PC makers like Dell and HP. If you bought a PC with a DVD drive between April 1st 2003 and December 31st 2008, you'll be able to claim $10 for each drive as part of the class-action lawsuit. It appears you don't need to provide any proof of purchase -- the settlement administrators are simply collecting names, email addresses, and the number of drives owned at the moment. You'll need to submit a claim before July 1st, and the money won't be released until other defendants in the litigation have settled.
Android

Google Will Reportedly Remove Google Now Launcher From Play Store (androidpolice.com) 35

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Android Police: Google currently has two launcher apps in the Play Store; Google Now Launcher and Pixel Launcher. In a few months, there will only be one. According to an email forwarded to us by a tipster, Google has alerted GMS partners of its intention to remove Google Now Launcher from the Play Store in the coming weeks. OEMs that use GNL have options, though. The email (which you can see below) explains that the Search Launcher Services library for OEMs that has been in testing is now available. That's what Sony used to integrate the Google Now panel (now just the Google Feed) into its stock launcher a while back. That means OEMs can slap the Google Now panel on whatever launcher they want. Google plans to remove GNL from the optional GMS package on March 1st, meaning no devices with the launcher pre-installed will be approved after that. Existing devices can continue using GNL, though. It will technically still be updated via the Google app. However, the listing will go away by the end Q1 2017 (i.e. now-ish). That affects people who just installed GNL on their devices from the store. You can keep using it, but don't expect any major improvements.
Sony

Sony PlayStation 4 Is Finally Adding Support For External Hard Drive (playstation.com) 45

The Sony PlayStation 4's next system update, out now for beta testers, will allow users to connect an external USB hard drive. From company's blog post: It's easy to upgrade the HDD that came with your PS4, but if you're still looking for more storage space on the console, we've got you covered. With this update, you have the option to store content to an external HDD. Just plug a USB 3.0 HDD into your PS4, and voila, you now have more space on the console.
Piracy

2.5 Million Xbox and PlayStation Gamers' Details Have Been Leaked From Piracy Forums (thenextweb.com) 36

Xbox360ISO.com and PSPISO.com have been hacked by an unknown attacker in late 2015 and the details of the 2.5 million users affected have been leaked online. The leaked information contains email addresses, IP addresses, usernames and passwords. The Next Web reports: It seems that the operator of these sites did nothing to protect the latter, as all passwords were "protected" using the MD5 hashing system, which is trivially easy to overcome. For reference, that's the same hashing system used by LinkedIn. As the names of these sites imply, they were used to share pirated copies of games for Microsoft and Sony's gaming platforms. They also both have a thriving community where people discussed a variety of tech-related topics, including gaming news and software development. If you think you might have had an account on these sites at one point, and want to check if you were affected, you can visit Troy Hunt's Have I Been Pwned. If you have, it's worth emphasizing that anyone who gained access to that site, and anyone who has since downloaded the data dump, will be able to discern your password. If you've used it on another website or platform, you should change it.
Sony

Sony Warns It Will Take $1 Billion Writedown, Blames Slowing DVD Sales (reuters.com) 157

Sony has warned investors that it will take roughly $978m writedown on its film business, blaming a goodwill impairment charge that dates back to an acquisition of a Hollywood studio almost three decades ago. From a report on Reuters: The impairment charge came as Sony cut its outlook for profits from DVD, blu-ray discs and other home entertainment operations in line with a broader market decline, the company said in statement on Monday. Sony has been working to revive its movie business. In November, the Japanese conglomerate's chief financial officer, Kenichiro Yoshida, said a turnaround was "progressing, but it takes time for the benefit to be realized."

Slashdot Top Deals