Nokia increases gaming power

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Nokia, the world’s largest mobile phone maker, has increased its push into the gaming market by acquiring key software from Japan’s Sega.

Nokia has announced it will acquire Sega’s multiplayer online games assets, a computer server technology at the core of networked game play.

“This transaction will give Nokia full end-to-end capabilities – the device, the games and the back-end technology to support multiplayer gaming,” said Ilkka Raiskinen, senior vice president of Nokia’s entertainment and media business unit.

Mobile phone firms have become increasingly desperate to find alternative revenue sources to boost profitability in Europe’s saturated mobile market.

Nokia is releasing its N-Gage phone/gaming device on 7 October, and will go head to head with Nintendo’s Gameboy which currently dominates the market for mobile gaming.

Analysts said the acquisition, although financially immaterial, demonstrated Nokia’s commitment to making sophisticated gaming a priority for its new phone designs.

Nokia commands 37% of the world’s mobile phone market but has suffered steep declines in profits nevertheless as the mobile market stagnates.

N-Gage, a two-handed games console that can also be used as a phone, will go on sale for about $300 (£190).

Camera phone sales set to rocket

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More than 55 million people will soon have a mobile which can do more than just make a call.

Wireless industry analysts ARC Group say users will be seduced by new camera phone features and better multimedia messaging packages by Christmas.

It will mostly be existing rather than new users who drive the demand for better, upgraded handsets. This almost doubles the current number of those with phones able to take and send pictures.

Innovative design features like rotating camera heads and swivelling screens have attracted many across the globe, said the report’s author David McQueen.

“Along with the advent of multimedia messaging, colour of displays and polyphonic ring tones, we’ll see many consumers upgrading their phones this Christmas,” he said.

The number is set to continue to explode too, with predictions of 130 million handsets with all the bells and whistles which characterise 21st century mobiles being snapped up by 2005.

As 3G technology influences mobile habits, that number should nearly double again by 2008.

Asia stills lead the pack in camera phone technology and take-up. But Europe should improve its market share, with more providers improving picture messaging packages and services. The Japanese, unsurprisingly, head up the video phone market and it is expected that in the next six months, one in four camera phones sold in Japan will be able to record video.

There are still some big hurdles for handset manufacturers to jump, Mr McQueen warned, including the challenges of finding the balance between device costs, performance and style.

Branding and a stronger focus on what users want and can actually do with their phones will be increasingly important for manufacturers. This will not only be the case for the market leaders like Nokia and Motorola, but also for newer handset developers hoping to attract the snap-happy mobile generation.

Mobile video hits Edinburgh Festival

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With thousands of shows to choose from, it is not easy picking something to watch during the Edinburgh Festival.

But a new wireless video service is offering visitors a new way to use their mobile phones to sift through what is on offer.

Video clips from performers at the festival are available, together with reviews from critics, and festival goers do not need a third-generation mobile phone to watch them.

The service, which is available for free, provides an indicator of how people could interact with large events like this in the future.

Mobile networks have been offering reviews and information via text message for some time now, but this service takes that idea one step further.

The company behind it, Pocket Video, believes it offers people “a whole new way of interacting” with the Edinburgh Festival.

Anyone interested must register at the Pocket Video website, where they will be provided with a media player which is installed onto their phone.

When installed, a list of available video files is downloaded and organised into playlists, with one list for reviews, and another for recordings of actual festival performers, for example. When you pick a video clip to watch, the program downloads it onto your phone at speeds of up to 26kbps, while providing more detail – in text – about the show featured.

The data is streamed onto the phones using GPRS data connections which work over standard second generation mobile networks. A high-end processor is used to prepare the files, but a much less powerful chip can be used to play the video back, so the content can be seen on as many phones as possible.

Files are designed to start playing within a short period of time, and are stored on the phone to be watched as many times as required.

Festival newspaper Three Weeks has been helping to produce content for the new service. The paper’s publisher, Chris Cooke, said that at events like the Edinburgh Festival, mobile media really comes into its own.

“For audience members who are actually at the festival, web access isn’t always easy to come by, so the facility to get the latest info between shows via your mobile is an obvious way forward,” he said. “However, most of the shows have very visual components which you can’t represent through SMS – so this technology opens up endless possibilities.”

Performers have been very quick to make use of the new technology, according to Mr Cooke. “The festival is a very competitive place, full of outgoing performers – so when you point a camera at someone they just start talking,” he said.

Crews employed by Pocket Video have been touring the streets of the Scottish capital during the festival, demonstrating the service to a generally favourable response.

When shown the service, Edinburgh resident Emma Johnstone said she thought it would be “dead easy to use”, once she got used to it, but that there were would be other benefits for the city.

“The flyers used to promote the shows are such a waste of paper – this’d be much better for the environment,” she said.

More than 90% of people questioned at the festival would use their mobiles to watch video, according to the company behind the service. However, Alan Ogilvie, Pocket Video’s director, believes that the mobile networks will play a major part in determining whether the service is a success.

“GPRS works well, when it is working well, though we have recently suffered from the knock-on effects of events such as the power failure in the United States,” he said

While they have had, on the whole, “a very good reaction from the networks”, Mr Ogilvie says they could do more to help develop this and similar services.

“We have been unable to get access to network data that could help us understand how we can make our service better and more stable. GPRS costs are also fairly high. But some networks are encouraging customers to use more data, so hopefully this will bring the cost down.”

If the networks can provide a stable, cost-effective service, then the belief does seem to be, that mobile video could transform people’s festival experience, although widespread acceptance could take time.

Or, as one of the Pocket Video crew members put it; “no one who looks over 40 goes for it”.

 

Txt means goodbye to ‘hello’

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Traditional greetings like “hello” are being replaced by the language of e-mail and text messaging, a new report has found.

And the constant use of slang words could see basic words like ‘goodbye’ made obsolete within a generation.

People using new technologies to communicate are much more likely to start the conversation “hey” and sign it off “laters” than the more formal alternatives, says the study.

The report’s authors blamed the rise of “globespeak” – people from all over the world using the same shorthand.

“We have a situation where more people use electronic communication than old-fashioned letters.

“The way these technologies work often results in us talking faster and with more slang.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if, in 50 years, there was no longer a need for ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in general or certainly in electronic communication,” said Jonathon Green, a lexicographer and author of a dictionary of slang.

The report was written for website msn.co.uk which also commissioned a survey to discover examples of “globespeak”.

The most common alternative for “hello” when starting an informal e-mail or text message was “hey”, followed by “g’day”, “hola”, “howdy” and “yo”, according to the survey of 2,000 people.

When it comes to saying “goodbye”, the most likely alternative is “laters”, then “ciao”, “au revoir”, “hasta la vista” and “in a while”.

The survey also looked at how people writing to one another by electronic communication referred to a friend.

“Mate” was the number one choice, followed by “love”, “sweetheart”, “buddy” and “pal”.

Tracy Blacher, MSN marketing director, said: “What is interesting is the speed that language is being modified by the adoption of new technology.”