Friday, 9 July 2010 - tech news fast! - tech news fast!

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood: no sequel in 2011

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 08:02 AM PDT

As our Assassin's Creed Brotherhood preview pointed out just yesterday, the gap between it and Assassin's Creed 2 was seriously short. But don't expect the next Assassin's Creed to arrive so quickly. Ubisoft Montreal's Jean-Francois Boivin has been talking about the future of the franchise. He says this is the end for Ezio and that we'll have to wait until 2012 or even 2013 for another Assassin's Creed adventure. But don't worry, they've promised not to do a Duke Nukem

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is out in November and it'll have to tide us over for the whole of 2011. Boivin tells Eurogamer: "I don't think there's going to be an Assassin's Creed in 2011…we're going to let it breathe a bit and really focus on something new and exciting next time around. This is the end of Ezio's story. This is it."

Boivin points to the ennui that set after the endless stream of music games from the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises. A gap after Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is one way of avoiding gamers getting bored. He says: "I think we could do something really true to the license if we skip a year and release it in 2012 or 2013…we need to keep it relatively close by…I don't think we do a service to the license if we pull a Duke Nukem on people."

When EP spoke to Boivin yesterday, he wasn't so keen on the idea on setting the follow-up to Assassin's Creed Brotherhood in Feudal Japan ("Japan has been overdone") but plans for the next game are already sketched out. He says: "We know exactly where we're going. It would lack vision and blunt intelligence to wing it episode after episode. We have to have some vision with the story. We very much do; we know all that stuff."

We interviewed Assassin's Creed game director, Benoit Lambert, back when Assassin's Creed 2 was set to arrive and he talked about future settings for the game then. It might just be worth giving that Assassin's Creed 2 interview a read for clues about what might be coming after Assassin's Creed Brotherhood.

Let us know: where do you want Assassin's Creed to travel to next?

Out November | TBC | Ubisoft (via Eurogamer)

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Final Fantasy XIV PS3 slips due to technical difficulties

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 07:45 AM PDT

Final Fantasy XIV is due out on PC in September, but fans of the series were dismayed to hear that the Playstation 3 wont be seeing the MMO until March 2011 at the earliest. Developer Square Enix has come clean about why this is the case.

Final Fantasy XIV Producer Hiromichi Tanaka has admitted that Square Enix have run into some ‘technical difficulties’ with the PS3 version of the title and that these are responsible for the nearly six month delay.

Tanaka spoke to French games site JeuxOnline and was suitably contrite about the delays.

"We understand the wrath of players and developers are sorry because they did everything they could to have a simultaneous release date, but unfortunately they have encountered many technical problems on the development of the game for PS3. We strive to release the game as soon as possible."

Tanaka did not reveal what the technical problems were, but we assume they are probably not graphical as Square Enix has done simultaneous PC & PS3 ports before without much difficulty. Could the problems related to the Massively Multiplayer aspect of the game? MMOs are notoriously hard to get right on consoles, so it may be that this is where Square are struggling.

Tanaka would not confirm a more definite release date for the game, saying, "If possible, we would publish the game sooner, we would like to start as soon as possible the beta on PS3."

Sept 2010(PC)/March 2011(PS3) | £tba | Square Enix (via Playstation Lifestyle)

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Google Maps Navigation: 20p per mile abroad

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 07:22 AM PDT

If you're planning on using your satnav or a maps app on your mobile for your holiday trip this summer you might want to think again. Data roaming charges when using Google Maps Navigation can stack up, and cost around 20p per mile.

Satnav providers Garmin tested the route from Calais to Paris, using an Android phone and plotting a route with Google Maps Navigation for Mobile. It tracked the trip four times and found that the journey used between 12-13 MB of data per journey.

On the O2 pay as you go SIM used, this meant £36 and over to travel the 185 miles from Calais to Paris. Contract plans will be less, but still carry a hefty premium with a maximum of £26 for the single journey from Calais to Paris.

There's an easy way to avoid these costs though, although it might not always be obvious. Check that whatever  maps app or satnav system you're using has maps downloaded, and isn't downloading them from a mobile network like Google Maps Navigation does.

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Analog to DAB radio switchover target date stays

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 07:01 AM PDT

The 2015 digital radio switchover date is staying, but only as a target, culture minister Ed Vaizey will set out today. But the digital radio switchover off has had some fierce opposition, and is currently first second and third place in the highest rated of Nick Clegg's law repeal site Your Freedom.

Vaizey's speech will also set out plans to give financial help for people needing it during the switchover, plus making sure that rural areas can receive digital radio. These have been two of the main concerns brought up since the switchover was announced, but if Clegg's site is anything to go by, people are far from convinced, and see the digital switchover as a key issue that lots of people feel strongly about.

One user comments: "There is a huge cost implication here for the public, which people will resent. I don’t understand what the benefit is supposed to be for the listener who currently uses the analogue signal?"

Another writes: "Like many people, I rely on FM radio, both in my home and car. It would be impossible for me to afford to replace my existing FM tuners, involving replacing an entire mini-hi-fi system, a car radio and several domestic radios."

Vaizey says: “We can’t impose this on an unwilling public, no matter how persuasive the business case, or how clearly we know that analogue is already providing a barrier to growth and creativity. Listeners need to be persuaded that the content on offer is compelling, that the quality is high and that digital radios…are affordable and have listening quality that is at least as good as FM.”

Manufacturers Pure have come out in support of Vaizey's speech. Paul Smith, general manager of  Pure, says: "There have been many confusing messages around digital radio switchover and this announcement gives much needed clarity to consumers and the radio industry as a whole."

But the main point of confusion seems to be around why this has to happen in the first place. With the country in such a tight economic bind, its unlikely the analog switch-off will be pushed forward, and the decision will be pushed down the list in favour of more politically popular moves.

Is analog outdated or undefeated? Let us know.

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Activision to take things slow – just one game at a time

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 06:45 AM PDT

guitar here: one at a time pleaseActivision studios handle a lot of games. With fifteen active studios all working on multiple titles you can perhaps understand why the market seems a little crowded sometimes and why – occasionally, we’re not pointing any fingers here – the quality control can slip a bit.

Activision bosses understand this too, which is why they have announced that from here on in each studio under the Activision umbrella will be sticking to just one title at a time.

Speaking to Joystiq, Activision vice president Dave Stohl said, “You've really got to focus, people want the freedom to put all their resources against the big opportunity, and that's what we're trying to do.”

The move is partly a response to how the industry fared over Christmas 2009, where major publishers like Activision had focused on one or two big titles. The other key issue is saturation – particularly noticeable in music games like Activision’s huge Guitar Hero franchise and its associated titles.

“Between Guitar Hero and DJ Hero, as a business overall, it’s still a big business,” said Stohl, “Is it as big as it was back in the heyday? No. But it’s still a big business and I think there’s still a lot of opportunity there.”

“We're not pursuing the strategy of doing as many SKUs [that's 'games' to non-marketing types]  as we were. And that's a good thing, because that will simplify the strategy around one release on the Guitar Hero side and focus on innovation there”

It sounds like a plan. While we might miss a few titles, we would certainly be happy to see more games arrive on time and not laden down with bugs because they had to be rushed out of the door. What do you think?

Out TBC | £tbc | Activision (via Joystiq)

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iPhone 3GS iOS4 battery problems? Steve Jobs says there are none

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 06:32 AM PDT

Reports from iPhone 3GS owners who've seen their battery life bottom out since installing iOS 4 have been fermenting on forums for a while. Now a Norwegian journalist says Steve Jobs replied to his queries about iOS 4's effects on iPhone 3GS battery life. And unsurprisingly, Steve says the problem isn't a problem at all…

Norwegian journalist, Jarle Aasland of the Stravanger Aftenblad told Wired that he emailed Steve Jobs to ask: "Any reason battery performance on a 3GS running iOS 4 should be worse than it was running OS3?" The reply: "Nope".

Over on the Apple Support forums though, there's a growing army of Apple users who disagree. A sprawling thread called iOS4 Burning Through Battery Life contains their many and lengthy complaints.

The pronounced drop in iPhone 3GS battery life experienced by some users is likely to be down to leaving background apps running but some users who have tried running their phone with no apps installed whatsoever have reported a drop in performance.

One user, Pidgeon75, who had iPhone 3GS battery problems with iOS 4 even when his phone was totally stripped of apps with location services, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off slams Apple for "ridiculous sabotage of a perfectly functioning near new product."

Another called Gotee12 reported that his iPhone 3GS was "losing 1% of battery every 2 minutes". He was advised by Apple to restore his phone and found his battery life went back to normal. But he soon found the problems returned and actually concludes his comments on the thread asking for Apple to add a multitasking killswitch to iOS4.

What do you think? Are iPhone 3GS owners just asking too much from iOS 4? Is there an unseen background process chewing through the battery life? Or is this the iPhone 3GS owners equivalent of those iPhone 4 signal woes?

Out now | £varies | Apple (via Wired)

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Microsoft Kin: real sales figures revealed, still embarrassing

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 06:01 AM PDT

The Microsoft Kin was killed before it could even make it to the UK and rumours this morning suggested that US sales were truly diabolical with just 503 phones flogged. Now it turns out that there might have been slightly more clamour for the Microsoft Kin but not nearly enough to get Steve Ballmer sleeping like a baby again…

The rumour reported by John Gruber at Daring Fireball that US Microsoft Kin sales amounted to just over 500 phones seems to be disproved by the Microsoft Kin Facebook app page. It's a rather deserted place, like a virtual memorial to the ill-fated Sidekick successor, but it does show that rather more people were convinced by the Microsoft Kin. 8,810 of them in fact.

The Kin Facebook app automatically registers itself and is only available on the soon-to-be-scarce social networking phone. That means Microsoft can actually claim over 8,000 Kin sales, unless a large chunk of those are owned by ultra-loyal Microsofties keeping up the numbers.

We’re not fans of kicking gadgets when they’re down so we thought we'd better set the record straight on Kin. But it still doesn't look good for Microsoft. It'll need a lot of luck with Windows 7 Phone to make up for the Kin's calamitous reception. Best not to mention the staggering iPhone 4 sales or the ongoing march of Android 2.2 Froyo either.

Let us know: do you think Microsoft can turn the corner with Windows Phone 7? Or should it call time on its phone making plans for good?

Out never | £NA | Microsoft (via Pocket Now)

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Digital Economy Act: ISP showdown

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 05:24 AM PDT

The Digital Economy Act faces a showdown with ISP's, as BT and Talk Talk announce that they've joined forces and filed papers demanding a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act.

Talk Talk and BT state that "provisions in the Act, aimed at the prevention of online copyright infringement, received insufficient scrutiny before being rushed through into law at the tail end of the last Parliament." It goes on to point out that the view is shared by many MPs.

The main concern is the Digital Economy Act's compatibility with EU laws which require protect privacy and restrict the role of ISP's in policing the internet. Talk Talk and BT are wary of high implementation costs for all ISP's which then may be recalled, or changed when the Digital Economy Act is found to be unworkable.

Charles Dunstone, Chairman, TalkTalk Group, said: "The Digital Economy Act’s measures will cost the UK hundreds of millions…Innocent broadband customers will suffer and citizens will have their privacy invaded. We think the previous Government’s rushed approach resulted in flawed legislation."

No privacy impact assessment was undertaken when the bill was rushed through parliament, and in hazy terms also looks to be asking wi-fi hotspot providers to police their own networks, although Ofcom does not wish to discourage open wifi networks.

Digital Rights Campaigner Jim Killock over at Open Rights Group has pointed out that "taking 'reasonable steps' to stop the use of bit torrent to infringe copyright without stopping legitimate uses is very difficult, if not impossible."

Gavin Patterson, CEO, BT Retail, said: "It's disappointing that we feel the need to take action but we feel we have no choice. We have to do this for our customers who otherwise run the risk of being  treated unfairly. We need clarity about whether this legislation is compatible with important EU laws."

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Android phone supplies hit by AMOLED shortage

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 04:51 AM PDT

shortages have hit AMOLED manufacturersAndroid phones are selling well – maybe a little too well. Market research firm iSuppli is reporting that demand for Android handsets with OLED displays is exhausting available supplies.

HTC has been chucking out AMOLED handsets left right and center – starting with the Nexus One for Google, and other manufacturers aren’t far behind. Trouble is, there are only two companies who can produce AMOLED is sufficient quantities to supply the industry, and at least one of them would prefer to hoard a stash for itself.

Samsung Mobile Displays and LG Displays are the two main sources of AMOLED panels. Samsung has recently announced that it is plough 2.2 billion quid into new facilities but LG has yet to commit any new funds. Between them, the pair have been able to keep producing the AMOLED dislays that Android phones are increasingly sing but as HTC and others have been surprised by the demand for the devices, they have found it hard to keep up.

To make matters worse, Samsung is keen to keep hold of a supply of AMOLED screens for use in its own range of phones, leaving poor LG to make up the difference.

iSuppli cites the difficulty of producing the delicate displays as the reason for the duopoly. The processes involved are complex and prone to error and phone manufacturers are becoming nervous about the prospect of supplies being cut short. This is one case where Apple fans can smile smugly to themselves and the AMLCD display process used to create the iPhone 4’s Retina display  is entirely different and Apple seems to have things covered on that front.

Are Android makers about to have the rug pulled from under them just as the platform is taking off? We’ll keep you updated as soon as we hear.

Out n/a | £n/a | iSuppli (via Engadget)

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PS3 3D upgrade to add 3D Blu-ray, 3D photo support

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 04:46 AM PDT

The PS3 has already had a 3D gaming upgrade. Now Sony says it’ll get firmware updates to add 3D Blu-ray playback in September, as well as 3D photo support later this year. Mick Hocking, a director at SCEE spilled the beans this morning, and while there’s no confirmed release date for the PS3 3D upgrade, he stressed that Sony was still focussing on games as the “killer content for 3D.”

Of course, if you snap up Sony’s new NEX-5 camera, or the forthcoming Sony Cyber-shot WX5 or Sony Cyber-shot TX9, you’ll be shooting 3D panoramas quicker than you can say ‘geeky glasses’, so shoving a 3D photo viewer into the PS3 makes perfect sense to us.

TBC | £free | Sony

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