For more than a decade, one of the largest untapped electronics markets in the world has been sealed off from game console developers.
Now, however, China could be opening itself up to console vendors, bringing a massive new crowd of potential customers. A government plan would allow for a limited lift of a ban that had forbidden console sales.
According to a report form the South China Morning Post, authorities would allow for sales of consoles within the Shanghai free trade zone. Vendors who would meet with country's “cultural” standard requirements would be allowed to sell consoles within the limited zone.
The move comes at a particularly advantageous time for hardware vendors. With a new generation of expensive consoles on the way from both Sony and Microsoft, expanding into China can help boost what is already expected to be higher margins on more expensive consoles.
The opening of the Chinese market could also help to boost what vendors hope will be a growing usage case for the consoles. Microsoft has already expressed hope that its Xbox One will be able to leverage its video-conferencing features to serve as a unified communications device in the enterprise sector.
Between the prospect of a move into China and the possibility of an expansion into the business market, the new-gen consoles could see a much smoother and more successful launch than their predecessors.
Statistics from an eBay study appear to show that 64 percent of the one million mobile applications on multiple platforms [Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Nokia Ovi] that went into development in 2012 never materialised, either due to rejection by app store gatekeepers or simply never being finished. This equates to roughly £3bn of wasted development time.
An even more surprising nugget of information revealed by the survey showed that a mere 42 percent of retail apps made it to consumers. That's a failure rate of 58 percent from companies whose aim is to sell products by all means possible.
That's not to say that they abandoned their plans altogether, the mobile web is certainly a more efficient means of creating cross-platform retail experiences.
V3 has covered a number of m-commerce stories in recent weeks, with all signs pointing towards a younger generation aspiring to buy their flared jeans and miniskirts (that's what the kids are buying these days, right?) via mobile apps. And yet it would seem that it's proving rather difficult to get right if these statistics are anything close to representative of the industry as a whole.
Olivier Ropars, the senior director of Mobile Commerce at eBay Europe, which most certainly has a vested interest in this area of the market, said of the statistics: "Many brands and retailers have created apps, but driving regular traffic to the app is another matter.
"EBay offers consumers access to the world's largest marketplace from just one app, which is why smart retailers and brands are using eBay as part of their mobile strategy."
Vested interests aside, Ropars does make an interesting point about retail apps. There must be a certain point at which consumers start to grow tired of having twenty apps that all do pretty much the same thing. Perhaps it's time for retail groups to team up and form an app that encompasses a broad selection of stores.
Elsewhere, the BBC took a different angle on yesterday's anniversary, getting hold of statistics which appeared to reveal that a large proportion of the apps in Apple's App Store are ‘zombies'. It showed that a little over 500,000 of the 800,000 apps in the store never make it into the ‘top 300,000', receiving negligible download numbers as a result. It's hardly a huge surprise, but certainly a headline grabber nonetheless.
There are plenty of reasons for this, including poor marketing strategies and simply poor quality. Paolo Pescatore from analyst firm CCS Insight said that it's a tough world out there for app developers who want to get noticed. "This is a common problem and not unique to Apple," he said. "If you're a new developer, it's hard to get visibility for your apps in any app store.
"We track the top apps being downloaded from all the major app stores and it's always the same names. We very rarely see new players breaking through. They face a monumental challenge."
Apple revolutionised an entire industry when the App Store came into being five years ago, but after the celebration must come the realisation that being a little fish in what is now a gigantic, multi-billion dollar pond makes making abreakthrough harder than it has ever been.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who avoids shopping at all costs
Apple is celebrating half a decade of its App Store service with a major sale on iOS App downloads as the firm's historic platform continues to dominate the mobile landscape.
The company has put multiple apps, including some of its best-selling game and entertainment applications, as free downloads in celebration of the milestone.
The App Store platform first launched in 2008 with around 500 applications. According to Apple, the store has since added some 900,000 applications. In that time it has come under increased pressure from Android and Windows App stores, although in terms of quality it is arguably still a cut above its rival's offerings.
Since its release, Apple's App Store has emerged as a template for mobile application vendors, the Apple store has set examples as a mobile application vendor and for rival vendors seeking to challenge Apple.
While App Store has met criticism from rivals, security vendors have hailed the Apple service as a breakthrough in the security space due to the company's strict control over iOS security settings.
The free Apps being offered by Apple include Barefoot World Atlas, Badland, Day One and Infinity Blade II. Sadly there don't appear to be any other apps other than games available for free, but if you know of any, do let us know.
10 Jul 2013
Apple and Amazon have agreed to end a prolonged legal feud over the use of the term "App Store".
According to a report from Reuters, the two companies struck a deal to end litigation and drop their case in a US District Court. The deal will avert a full trial, which had been slated to take place later this Summer.
Apple began the dispute in 2011 when it sued Amazon over the company's use of the term “Appstore” to describe its application retail service. Apple, which uses the “App Store” name for its own software store, has sued Amazon over claims of trademark infringement.
Amazon, meanwhile, has countered with a claim that the term “app store” is general and as such is too vague to be patented by one firm. The company had challenged Apple's standing to claim ownership of the name.
Earlier this year, Apple saw its case undercut when Judge Phyllis Hamilton threw out part of the case. The ruling prevented Apple from claiming that Amazon engaged in false and misleading advertising practices by using the Appstore name for its service.
While the deal ends a two-year legal effort for Apple to be the exclusive purveor of the app store, the company's legal team will still have plenty of work to do with its ongoing legal campaigns against Android hardware vendors.
Last night, tennis took over Twitter, as lifetime and one-time tennis fans came together to produce an onslaught of tennis tweets that in previous years would have stretched Twitter's service to its limits.
At its peak, Twitter users were sending over 120,000 Wimbledon-related tweets per minute. To put that in perspective, Centre Court holds 15,000 people, and they were loud enough by themselves; the racket created by 120,000 shouts and whoops per minute would have been a little much. The below graph shows the huge flurry of mentions right after Murray won the tournament.
In terms of what was actually being said in those tweets, the ball was in IBM's court to work out who was the favoured player. A foregone conclusion you might say. And you'd be right: Andy Murray dominated the Twitter rankings, receiving 1.1 million tweets throughout the Wimbledon competition. Second in the men's ranking was Serbian Novak Djokovic, with a respectable 868,000 mentions.
However, Murray will be appalled to discover that his approval rating wasn't the highest of all players. Indeed, most of the love went to fellow Brit Laura Robson whose twitter mentions were 94.7 percent positive. Murray could only manage a paltry 93.3 percent.
Elsewhere, the women's singles champion France's Marion Bartoli didn't top the Twitter rankings, despite the controversy caused by John Inverdale's infamous comments proclaiming her not to be ‘a looker'. She racked up 208,000 mentions and while she beat German Sabine Lisicki in the final, Lisicki can go home with the knowledge that she received 301,000 mentions throughout the tournament (and the £800,000 prize pot just for showing up to the final).
Murray, ever the outgoing attention seeker, took to Twitter after the match to express his happiness, and received a cool 90,000 retweets as a result.
Can't believe what's just happened!!!!!!!— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) July 7, 2013
Eight of the ten trending topics on Twitter last night were Wimbledon related, although how many of those were "I wish everybody would stop posting about tennis" wasn't clear at the time of publishing.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who isn't a tennis fan
While we enjoy a lovely, balmy summer (Is this right? – Ed) it's easy to forget that, as they say in Game of Thrones, Winter is Coming.
Ah, the crackle of a crisp winter’s night, eating hearty food, sitting in front of the telly without feeling guilty, running up astronomical heating bills…it’s part and parcel of the Great British Winter.
Of course, most people would rather do away with the huge bills we have to fork out to keep ourselves warm, especially when we’re often wasting energy on heating when we’re not even in, or it’s coming on too early or going off too late.
While this may be good news for the energy companies in theory, they’re actually making moves to simplify and improve our use of their services, both through smart metering technology, but also apps that allow us to run our heating more efficiently.
One such intiative that’s growing in size and awareness is the British Gas Connected Homes project run (obviously) by British Gas, which is centred around a mobile application called Remote Heating Control (RHC) that works on Android and iOS devices.
The app allows you to both control the timer for the heating in your home, and simply turn your heating on and off, from any location, so can ensure you’re not wasting money by pumping out heat when you’re not at home, or don’t really need it on.
Speaking with Kassir Hussain, the technology director of the British Gas Connected Homes project, it’s clear the firm is keen to end the issues seen by its customers around heating management, and it sees mobile technology as a key to this conundrum.
“How many times do you really look at your boiler interface? Most people just set it once and leave it and it’s the last thing on their mind to keep changing it, as they’re rushing around in and out of the house,” said Hussain.
“About £142 is wasted per year this way, and that’s a huge sum of money, so the RHC app should help reduce this: it doesn’t require any training and is easy to use, like most mobile apps.”
Installing the necessary kit on your boiler isn't cheap - a fully qualified engineer installation and the kit costs £229, although existing British Gas customers get a £30 discount. As this implies, the service is open to all homes, not just those with British Gas. The apps are free, though.
So far the firm has got about 20,000 units into people’s homes, but is hoping to increase this in the coming months and years by making people more aware of the capabilities on offer.
“We actually find people use it more when they’re just at home to adjust the temperature, whether in bed or in the living room, and this helps them better manage what they’re using. For some people the boiler is in an awkward place, under the stairs or in a cupboard, and they just can’t be bothered to alter it,” added Hussain.
While the idea of controlling your heating from your phone or tablet is a bit far out for most people, it’s clear British Gas is determined that it can revolutionse this, and Hussain makes a valid point as to the future of the project.
“In the future we’ll wonder how we did without connected home technologies, just like we can’t imagine the world without lightbulbs now. We need to get out there and make people understand why this technology is so important to them.”
Come the winter, perhaps there will be a few more home owners able to use technology to save themselves a few pounds, while they curl up on the sofa with a plate of sausage and mash and the Game of Thrones boxset on the TV.
While the government is usually lambasted for its shoddy approach to IT there are a few who remain voices of sanity in a world of confusion, and Labour MP Tom Watson is one of those.
He was one of the few MPs to seemingly grasp the horrors of the Digital Economy Act (DEA) before it was passed, and one of those brave enough to stand against the party whip and vote against the DEA in the wash-up, to little avail though.
So it is with interest to note that he has now stepped down from his role in the shadow cabinet due to his desire to have the ability to speak more openly on matters around technology, notably surveillance issues and the digital economy, free from the demands of a front bench role, as he outlined in a letter to Labour leader Ed Miliband.
“I wish to use the backbenches to speak out in areas of personal interest: open government and the surveillance state, the digital economy, drones and the future of conflict, the child abuse inquiries, the aftermath of the Murdoch scandal and grass roots responses to austerity,” he wrote.
How this will manifest itself in the coming months remains to be seen but it will certainly be welcome to hear more thoughts from Watson on such issues, especially if he remains as level-headed as in the past to the impact technology is having on society, while his fellow MPs apparently lose their heads with all kinds of mad ideas.
Watson also had some words of wisdom for Miliband when it comes to matters of music:
“John Humphrys asked me why you were not at Glastonbury this weekend. I said Labour leaders can’t be seen standing in muddy fields listening to bands. And then I thought how terribly sad that this is true. So: be that great Labour leader that you can be, but try to have a real life too. And if you want to see an awesome band, I recommend Drenge.”
There’s no real technology angle to that, but it’s just nice to see that a politician not only has a taste in a music, but a personality too.
Believe it or not, Slovakia is currently Europe's most established mobile payments market, at least according to Visa. In fact, the payments titan says the former Eastern Bloc member is zooming past the UK when it comes to contactless payments tech, with Visa listing it as its "hero market".
While I was at first sceptical about this claim, Visa had some pretty solid data to back it up, pegging Slovakia as responsible for one million contactless payments per month and being one of a select few countries where over half of all Visa cards are NFC enabled – to be exact, Visa says 60 percent of Slovakian cards are contactless. Even better, 36 percent of the country's businesses – of all sizes – accept contactless payments, and an impressive one in 10 transactions in Slovakia are contactless.
While this sounds small it's important to note Slovakia is too, with a population of 5.4 million, which makes the stats fairly impressive especially when taken in a global context: Visa currently claims there are 59 million contactless cards in the world. So when I got the chance to fly to Slovakia to try and survive a few days using just a Samsung Galaxy S3 loaded with O2 Wallet, I couldn't resist.
Having survived the experience, I have to say I'm really impressed with the tech and am won over by Visa's mobile push. Going through Bratislava in Slovakia, my experience suggested the 36 percent contactless terminals figure is a conservative one, with every business – including a local coffee house and beer hall – accepting my mobile payment.
As a result, despite my initial hesitation, I've found myself believing Visa's claim that by 2020 over half of all payments will be mobile. I'm even looking forward to it. Luckily for me, Britain's also well on its way to becoming a mobile payments hub, with Visa having inked lucrative deals with numerous UK services, such as Transport for London (TfL), which has apparently taken £2m in contactless payments since launching the service just months ago. This – combined with the positive feedback Visa got when it demonstrated its PayWave service at the London 2012 Olympic Games – means there has never been a better time for a UK NFC revolution.
And as far as I can tell, the only thing hampering mobile payments in the UK isn't a lack of customer interest, but a lack of handsets compliant with Visa's payment certification standards, with key players like Apple still refusing to add NFC support to its popular iPhone handset. Still with Samsung now running in partnership with Visa, this will hopefully change soon and the UK will catch up with Slovakia in its road to mainstream mobile payment adoption.
Written by V3's Alastair Stevenson.