5 February 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Sega announced last week it would restructure the company to focus on its game content. The company plans a three-pronged approach: becoming a platform-agnostic third party videogame publisher for game consoles, focusing on its advantage in the networked gaming arena, and becoming an architecture provider of Dreamcast chip-set technology to a range of devices including the Pace Micro Technology set-top-box. The company will no longer manufacture the Dreamcast console. By embracing technologies including Java, Sega will also be taking advantage of different publishing channels and will deliver Sega games to Palm handheld computers and Motorola cellular phones.
Sega says it will ship more than 30 games for Dreamcast in the U.S. this year and a number for other platforms. The first Sega games to be available on other game consoles this year will include "Virtua Fighter 4," the "Space Channel 5" series, the popular "Sakura Wars" series and two titles from the "Let's Make a Sports Team" series (which has been highly successful in Japan) for Sony PlayStation2. "Sonic the Hedgehog Advance," "ChuChu Rocket!" and "Puyo Puyo" will ship for Nintendo's Game Boy Advance.
Sega will continue to sell through and market its remaining inventory of Dreamcast console and its games at retail for the next year. To help accelerate the transition of Sega from a hardware to a software company, the company has announced a new MSRP of $99.95 for Dreamcast. The new price point became effective on February 4, 2001 throughout the United States and Canada ($149 CND). In addition, Sega of America will be undergoing a company restructuring as it transforms into a third-party publisher.
YesSoftware last week released CodeCharge, a code-generation application for database publishing on the Web. The software is designed to generate code in server programming languages such as Microsoft Active Server Pages (ASP), Allaire ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML), Sun Microsystems Java Server Pages (JSP), Personal Home Page/Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP), Practical Extraction and Report Language (Perl), and soon ASP.NET. Generated code runs on Windows and UNIX/Linux platforms and may be freely distributed by commercial application developers as well as Open Source enthusiasts.
Developers can use any database to create dynamic, data-driven Web sites in just about any programming language. Included are samples, such as Online Book Store, Classifieds, Employee Directory, Task Management System, Yellow Pages, etc. These applications can be generated in any supported language with a click.
For visual site design, CodeCharge supports all HTML editors, thus allowing users of Microsoft FrontPage, Allaire HomeSite, Adobe GoLive, SoftQuad HoTMetaL Pro and other Web design applications to modify the look and feel of database-driven Web sites generated with CodeCharge. Other major features include WAP support, separation of code from content, page layout preview, site preview and site diagram view.
RidgeRun, Inc.'s new Open Multimedia Interface(OMI) is an API and multimedia plug-in for Linux. The product is designed to let Linux software developers integrate multimedia functionality into applications and games.
RidgeRun has announced sponsorship for GStreamer, a popular Open Source streaming media framework, which is an important infrastructure component of OMI. "There are many great Open Source libraries out there," said Phil Verghese, RidgeRun's CTO, "but most are tied to specific applications and few scale well. GStreamer stands out from the rest, because of its good design and multimedia performance."
Developers are encouraged to visit http://omi.sourceforge.net to contribute to this project. The first version of the OMI interface will be released there in the next few weeks, along with future enhancements to GStreamer. OMI and GStreamer are both released under the GNU Library General Public License (LGPL).
Focus Enhancements, Inc. and Be Incorporated recently came to an agreement that will enable Internet appliances powered by BeIA to utilize a TV as a display.
Under the agreement, Be will distribute the software driver for the Focus FS450 TV-out chip as part of the BeIA Client Platform. By including the chip in a BeIA-powered Internet appliance, a manufacturer can sell the device without a monitor. This solution enables the manufacturer to offer lower-priced IAs to consumers, who can plug the devices into their existing TVs.
"While there are other TV-out solutions in the market, the FS450 is the first to produce truly high-quality graphics," said Lamar Potts, vice president, sales and marketing for Be. "Virtually everyone in the U.S. owns a TV, and our work with FOCUS allows manufacturers using the BeIA platform to target consumers who want to use their TV to access the Internet."
BeIA consists of three components; the BeIA Client Platform, the BeIA Management and Administration Platform (MAP), and BeIA Integration Services. The BeIA Client Platform is a small footprint-operating environment for the device. BeIA MAP allows a service provider to manage the operation and update BeIA Client Platforms with no intervention on the part of the end user, so the device will operate reliably without user intervention. Through the BeIA Integration Services, Be assists device creators in the development and deployment of the devices.
The FS450 chip incorporates a broadcast quality encoder and programmable, flat, artifact-free scaling and an advanced 2D-flicker filter and it is targeted for Internet set-top boxes, Cable/DVD Player set-top boxes, Web appliances, and video kiosks. The FS450 supports XGA resolutions up to 1024x768. This allows full page Web-browsing on a TV without special formatting requirements.
Tower Technology Corporation, the provider of the TowerJ family of Java performance management solutions, announces the general availability of its TowerJ Java deployment platform on Linux/Intel Itanium-based servers. Through an Early Access Program, organizations can now move Java-based applications onto Intel's new Itanium Servers and begin testing and optimization. TowerJ is now available on Red Hat Linux, TurboLinux and Suse Linux, and will become available during 2Q01 for Windows 2000.
One recent demonstration showed an on-line banking application built on BEA WebLogic application server, deployed on TowerJ Java deployment platform, with Red Hat Linux running on a Dell PowerEdge Itanium-based server. Another showed an on-line retail golf shop application build on Lutris Enhydra application server deployed on TowerJ, Red Hat Linux and a Dell PowerEdge Itanium based server.
Tower's Early Access Program includes access to the TowerJ SDK for Itanium Servers, and services from Tower's Professional Services group to help move Java applications to the new servers along with testing, assessments, benchmarks and optimizations. For more information about the Early Access Program for Tower's Java deployment platform on Intel Itanium Servers go to http://www.towerj.com/intel, send mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 512/452-9455.
One-third of Americans with Internet access at home would give up television if forced to choose between television and the Internet, according to a new Arbitron/Edison Media Research Internet Study.
Additionally, "streamies" -- those who have ever listened to or viewed streaming media online -- are more likely to choose to get rid of television (41 percent). Streamies who listened to or viewed streaming media in the past week were equally as willing to give up television (47 percent) and home Internet access (47 percent).
“Since Internet access is a relatively new phenomenon, it is amazing that one-third of Americans with Internet access at home would be more willing to give up the long established medium of television,” said, Bill Rose, vice president and general manager, Arbitron Webcast Ratings.
“When measured on a monthly and weekly basis, streamies are more evenly divided between the choice of giving up television or home Internet access,” said Larry Rosin, president, Edison Media Research. “Our survey shows evidence that streamies are more sophisticated users of Internet technology and rely on it more for entertainment, work and news.”
The study also found that Americans between the ages of 12 and 24 are more apt to give up television (47 percent) than the Internet; whereas over two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans 25 years and older would rather forgo having Internet access at home than give up television (so sad … -ed.).
These facts are a preview of the findings in the upcoming ‘Arbitron/Edison Media Research Internet VI: Streaming at a Crossroads.’ The full study was released at the Radio Advertising Bureau’s 2001 conference in Dallas, Texas on February 2, 2001. Since 1998, Arbitron and Edison have conducted six studies of streaming media, one every six months.
The findings reported here are based on a January 2001 survey. The study, by Edison Media Research, consists of 1,356 ‘at-home Web users’ telephone interviews of Arbitron’s Winter 2000 radio diary keepers. The diary-based sample was drawn as a national random sample of persons over the age of 12.
For more information on the study, contact Arbitron Internet Information Services, 9705 Patuxent Woods Drive, Columbia, MD 21046; telephone (410) 312-8429.
2netFX and Linux NetworX will partner to provide streaming media to Linux clustered computer systems. 2netFX is a provider of enterprise streaming solutions for intranet and broadband Internet media delivery. Linux NetworX is a provider of large-scale Linux clustering solutions.
Cluster technology is a method of linking multiple computers through high-speed networks to form a single, more reliable system. The solution integrates the 2netFX ThunderCast Server and StreamRider Client Player software. This software delivers multicast, unicast, and broadcast delivery of both live and prerecorded content. It also features special bandwidth control, advanced media management and video on demand functions, remote administration, and program scheduling. Video codecs supported include MPEG-1, 2, and 4 as well as HDTV.
Aportis Technologies Corp., publisher of AportisDoc software for viewing eBooks on handheld computers, says its Aportis eBook Library, at http://www.aportis.com/library, now contains over 4,000 free (i.e., public-domain) titles for downloading to Palm handheld computers (including Palm handhelds, the Handspring Visor and the Sony CLIE handheld), as well as other handheld devices. The free eBooks and other documents in the Aportis Library are available in AportisDoc format.
The fiction and non-fictional books and documents that are arranged in over 30 categories including adventure, mystery, novels, religion, entertainment, and business. Some of the most popular titles being downloaded include 'Alice in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll, 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker, 'HTML Reference Guide', and 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu.
Tiny Software last week released its Tiny Personal Firewall, said to protect PCs before Windows launches. In conjunction with CNET, the full release of Tiny Personal Firewall will be available for free to home users exclusively at CNET Download.com (www.download.com).
The software is positioned between the network interface adapter and the operating system so that the PC is protected in the initial seconds of booting. This reportedly eliminates the possibility of hackers intruding with Trojan Horses during this critical and typically vulnerable stage.
Standard firewall features include MD5 signature support, which protects computers from unauthorized use of its applications. For novice users, Tiny Personal Firewall features three levels of predefined security rules: Low, Medium and High. For advanced users, it offers the ability to customize the rules to the administrator's liking.
It also includes remote administration.
Tiny Personal Firewall is compatible with Windows 9x, Me, NT and 2000. It is free for personal use and pricing starts at $39 for business use. Bulk license rates are also available.
Criterion Software and Hybrid have finalized a strategic alliance where Hybrid will integrate its future 3D graphics technology with Criterion's RenderWare and Criterion will be the exclusive distributor of products based on Hybrid's 3D tech. The distribution deal is designed to let Hybrid continue its research and consultation and also concentrate on delivering solutions for the PC, game console and upcoming mobile platforms.
The integration of Hybrid's technology with Criterion's multi-platform 3D game development toolkit - RenderWare3 - and its availability as a plug-in to RenderWare3, will reportedly offer Criterion's customers the ability to develop a new generation of games.
The forthcoming product offerings from Hybrid and Criterion will be announced and demonstrated on Criterion's booth at Game Developer Conference (San Jose) in March.
Dynamic Digital Depth Inc. says its latest 3D technologies -- automated rotoscoping tools -- have benefits for the 2D film and television special effects market.
DDD has developed "intelligent" tools to automate the process of depth mapping, which calculates 3D data for existing 2D images. Depth maps are used in postproduction to create and integrate animated computer-generated images and historical footage into live-action sequences.
DDD engineers developed the tools, an Intelligent Depth Map Key Framer and an Automated Depth Map Tweener, to improve the process of converting 2D content to 3D. The tools are based on an expert system that "learns" the steps that a human operator would normally perform. The Key Framer enables a graphic artist to create depth maps using an innovative "3D airbrush." With a few broad brush strokes by the artist, the software system is able to produce a detailed depth map in seconds.
The Tweener automates the process of creating depth maps for a sequence of images between two key frames. Key frames produced by any depth mapping process may be used. The artist first chooses two key frames between 10 and 100 frames apart. The machine-learning algorithm then reviews the depth maps in the first and last key frames and automatically interpolates accurate depth maps for all intermediate frames in the sequence.
DDD has commenced discussions with potential licensees and end users, and a product release is expected during 2001.
Curious Labs, Inc. last week began shipping Poser Pro Pack, a set of tools and plug-ins for its Poser 4 character-animation and figure-design software.
New features include:
Additional new features include 2D-Motion Blur, Multi-view Panes, Python scripting support, and new compressed library files that save valuable hard disc space.
Sold separately, Poser Pro Pack costs U.S. $149 and is available to owners of versions 4 through 4.0.3 of Poser. All Pro Pack customers using versions 1, 2 and 3 of Poser will need to upgrade to version 4.0.3, additionally priced at U.S. $99. Pro Pack is available for both Windows and MacOS.
Now available from Media 100 Inc. is its interactive streaming media production system for the Windows 2000 platform, iFinish 4. The software's interactive streaming media technology, called EventStream, lets Web designers embed interactive instructions directly into streaming media programs to trigger visual, content-rich capabilities, including graphics, Flash animations and Java applications - all synchronized with the streaming video on the Web site.
Using iFinish 4, Web designers can define hot spots, URL flips and chapter marks, allowing viewers to interact with streaming media programs by clicking on objects to gather information, launch related Web sites from the video and purchase items in the streaming video.
Autodesk division Discreet last week began shipping frost 2.5, the latest version of its real-time broadcasting graphics system. Integrating with Discreet's line of digital workflow solutions, frost was used by eight major networks (NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, CNNi, CNN Headline News, Fox News and ABC) for live coverage graphics during the surprise developments in the 2000 US Presidential Election.
New features include:
Coming in July from CyberEdge Information Services is its fourth annual survey of the Visual Simulation/Virtual Reality marketplace. It is the only multi-year analysis of the international VR industry.
Virtual reality (VR), also called visual simulation, is the technology that lets users enter a world that exists only within a computer's memory. Invented in the mid-60's, and commercialized in the 90's, VR has been seen as a science-fiction technology of value only to game players. But the CyberEdge Information Services studies have documented the error of that perception. VR systems are used today for medical training, energy exploration, automobile design, and training military personnel for dangerous operations.
Last year's report, entitled The Market for Visual Simulation/Virtual Reality Systems, Third Edition (ISBN: 1-929696-03-5), documented a worldwide market value of more than $24 billion. The report was based on responses from 226 VR developers and users from five continents. Systems included in the study range from simple online 3D chat peopled by avatars (3D representations of the players) to large-scale flight simulators used for pilot training.
It is no secret that the correlation between teenagers and videogame usage is high. In fact, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), 84 percent of teens surveyed between the ages of 12-17 have a videogame console in their home, with 58 percent playing for at least one hour per week. But what is the connection between these kids and their games? The results of the CEA study explore teens' videogame habits, including the number of years they have been playing, with whom they play and how they learn about new games, as well as videogame system characteristics and interest in other entertainment activities via a videogame console.
According to the study, few teen videogamers are new to the activity. In fact, only one percent has begun playing within the past year. Instead, many are veteran gamers, with two-thirds having played for at least five years. However, despite the length of time they have been playing, many teen gamers (45 percent) consider themselves to be casual players, stating that they play only when they don't have anything else to do. Only 19 percent of players stated that they play on a regular basis. In this regard, males were more likely to categorize themselves as regular players, whereas females were more likely to view videogames as a social activity.
The usage of video games as a social activity is another way in which gamers distinguish themselves. For the most part, gaming is not a solitary activity. Although eight percent of teens always play by themselves, a majority plays with friends and family to at least some extent. More than half (57 percent) spend at least the same amount of time playing with others as playing alone. On the other hand, 35 percent of teens play less frequently with others, instead playing their games mostly themselves.
Teens also have a strong interest in using their console for more than just gaming. In fact, the presence of additional entertainment features could have a strong impact on a future purchase decision.
The capability to view DVD movies is the most appealing of these features to teens, potentially impacting nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of decisions. In addition, females are more likely than males to be swayed by such features, including Internet access, e-mail and audio CD capabilities.
Todd Thibodeaux, senior economist and vice president of market research for CEA, commented "Teens are generally a very tech savvy segment of consumers. They are an ideal market for the emerging category of convergence products that gaming consoles can provide by combining a variety of functionality into a single unit."
How do teens get access to these games? Most teens receive their gaming consoles from others, with two out of three of current systems given to teens as a gift for a special occasion, such as a holiday or birthday. Only a small number of teens purchased their systems using all of their own money. And, most teens believe that their current videogame system will not be their last. Instead, nearly all expect to purchase or receive a new videogame system at some point in the future. Thirty-three percent anticipate getting a new system within the next six months, while only 16 percent believe it will be longer than two years.
The "Videogames: Teen Buying and Usage" study was conducted via telephone interview to a sample of 500 teens during November 2000. The complete study is available free to CEA member companies. Non-members may purchase the study for $499 by visiting http://www.eBrain.org or sending mailto:email@example.com.
Macromedia Inc and Element K have announced that Macromedia University now offers specific Macintosh courses for its Web publishing software. Macromedia University is an online training source for Macromedia products and overall Web skills.
Mac courses are now available for Director 8, Levels 1 and 2, Dreamweaver 3, Levels 1 and 2, FreeHand 9, Levels 1 and 2, Flash 5, Levels 1 and 2 and Fireworks 3, Levels 1 and 2. Additional online training courses for Mac users will be introduced in the first quarter of 2001 including Dreamweaver 4, Dreamweaver UltraDev 4, Fireworks 4 and UltraDev 4 Fireworks 4 Studio. A sample Macromedia Flash 5 lesson is available for Mac and PC users at the below url.
Existing Macromedia University courses are offered and priced on an annual subscription basis across three libraries: Basic, Complete and Web Professional. Both self-paced and instructor-led courses are available for most Macromedia Web publishing products. Macromedia University students get unlimited access to all Macromedia product training courses for an entire year.
O'Reilly Network has launched ONLamp.com, a Web site promoting the integrated use of several high-performance open source technologies used for Web development.
LAMP is an acronym describing a suite of Web-development tools: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, Perl, or Python. O'Reilly Network has previously focused on these technologies individually, and now has brought them together in one location.
ONLamp.com will provide articles and resources related to Web site performance, development, security, Linux/BSD system administration, Apache installation, Linux multimedia, and MySQL data management.
The new site will feature developers/writers such as Noel Davis writing the Linux Security Alerts column, Dave Phillips finding ways to enhance Linux performance, and longtime PHP Web developer Darrell Brogdon.
Derrick Story will manage the ONLamp editorial content, and Chris Coleman, Open Source Editor, will work with developers to deliver a steady stream of technology articles.
ONLamp's reference section will include such resources as a directory of LAMP-related products, helpful tutorials, in-depth columns by experts, industry analysis, and audio roundtables on key issues.
The term LAMP originated in Germany and is gaining currency among North American developers as a shorthand for the suite of tools that serious open source Web developers use.
While the acronym LAMP is relatively new, its technologies are not. For example, IDC reports that Linux is currently used by 20 million people worldwide. Apache is the most popular Web server (source: Netcraft survey). MySQL.com, reflecting the popularity of the database software's use, receives 8.7 million of page views per month.
SONICblue Incorporated, a specialist in the converging Internet, digital media and consumer device markets, last week signed a letter of intent to acquire ReplayTV, Inc., best known for its PVR digital video recorder technology. SONICblue's products include Rio digital audio players, HomeFree home networking solutions, Diamond Internet access products and frontpath Information Appliances
SONICblue will issue 16 million shares of common stock and options and warrants to purchase shares of SONICblue common stock in exchange for all of ReplayTV's outstanding equity interests, and ReplayTV will become a wholly owned subsidiary of SONICblue. Consummation of the transaction is subject to the negotiation of a definitive agreement and to regulatory and ReplayTV stockholder approval, and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions. SONICblue intends to account for the transaction as a purchase.
SONICblue also last week agreed to acquire Sensory Science Corporation, a digital entertainment products company specializing in developing and marketing digital video and audio products. Sensory Science product offerings include the Go-Video digital consumer products, California Audio Labs products, Rave-branded MP3 players and a distribution partnership with Loewe.
In the all-stock deal valued at $8 million, Sensory Science will become a wholly owned subsidiary of SONICblue.
Mediaweave recently acquired ImageMakers in a cash-based transaction. For over 20 years, both companies competed in the same market space, initially specializing in 35mm slide presentation graphics, and more recently in New Media design and development.
A few months ago, Abar Imaging of Providence acquired the ImageMakers Photo Lab division along with three of its employees. Through this most recent acquisition, Mediaweave acquired all remaining assets of ImageMakers and its eight-person core team, increasing the manpower at Mediaweave to 25 employees. The move represents a 50% manpower increase for Mediaweave, and this acquisition increases Mediaweave's depth in areas of overlap, while also broadening and expanding the skill sets.
Immersion Corp. has been trying to get game developers to use its TouchSense force-feedback mouse tech for quite some time, but it wasn't until last week that the firm could announce success: Peter Molyneux's Lionhead has incorporated a library of tactile sensations into its forthcoming release, Black & White. The game is due for release in spring 2001 from Electronic Arts.
Lionhead has added tactile sensations that correspond to events and environments within the game world "In Black & White, traditional icons and menus are replaced by an interface that closely resembles our natural interactions in the real-world," said Molyneux. "We view the Black & White hand as an extension of your own hand. Adding tactile sensations has strengthened that illusion of reality behind the screen."
With a TouchSense-enabled computer mouse, such as the iFeel Mouse ($39) and iFeel MouseMan ($59) from Logitech (http://www.logitech.com), the gamer can feel a range of physical sensations that have been incorporated into the game. For example, you can experience the sensation of fish nibbling at your hand as you feed them or of a heartbeat quickening as your spell powers charge.
Blizzard Entertainment last week announced details on the four races players will control in Warcraft III. The company also announced the game's full title -- Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.
In Warcraft III, four distinct races armed with unique units, magical abilities and weapons of war clash in their renewed struggle for dominance. The different races players command will be Orcs, Humans, Undead and Night Elves. The previously announced Demons race will now be a non-playing race that interacts with the four playable races and advances the game's storyline.
Other key features in the game include:
Warcraft III is expected to release during 2001 in Windows 95/98/2000/NT formats. A Macintosh version of the game is expected early 2002. The game will be available for around $50 at retailers nationwide and through the company's Webpage at http://www.blizzard.com.
Coming in March for PC from Eidos Interactive is Fate of the Dragon, a real-time strategy game based on the fourteenth-century historical Chinese novel entitled Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The story, from one of the most turbulent periods in Chinese history, has been passed down the generations throughout Asia through books, plays, puppetry, and storytellers.
Electronic Arts last week released SimCoaster, the sequel to the PC title Sim Theme Park. In SimCoaster players build, ride, and run pulse-pounding roller coasters in theme parks with 100 rides, sideshows, and shops in three new themes: Arabian Nights, Land of Invention, and Polar Zone.
As players build their dream theme park, they will research new rides, hire a staff and avoid bankruptcy. New features include a coaster design kit and a new storyline that challenges players to progress through 15 levels of play. Like Sim Theme Park, SimCoaster presents the parks in 3D, supporting Direct3D hardware acceleration as well as non-accelerated PCs. The 3D engine has been improved and now allows players to view a larger park area.
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) last week bestowed its third Free Software Foundation Award for the Advancement of Free Software, in Paris.
Richard Stallman presented the award, a one-of-a-kind handmade quilt, to Brian Paul for his groundbreaking work on the Mesa 3D Graphics Library. A panel of free software pioneers and leaders selected the winner and two other finalists from the scores of mostly volunteer programmers worldwide who dedicate their time to advancing free software. The selection panel included: Jeff Bates, chairperson; Steve Blood; Jeff Carr; Miguel de Icaza; and Bruce Perens.
"The Mesa 3D Graphics Library allows free software users to model and render in full 3D," said Jeff Bates, chairman of the Free Software Foundation Awards Committee. "The library has added tools and capabilities to the GNU/Linux system that are being utilized by people all over the world."
Paul was chosen from three finalists for the award. The other finalists were Donald Becker, who was nominated for his network device drivers for the GNU/Linux system and for the Beowulf project, and Patrick Lenz for his work on freshmeat.net, a vital site for news and information on free software.
Spectrum is an independent news service published every Monday for the interactive media professional community by Motion Blur Media. Spectrum covers the tools and technologies used to create interactive multimedia applications and infrastructure for business, education, and entertainment; and the interactive media industry scene. We love to receive interactive media and online development tools and CD-ROMs for review.
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