17 January 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Despite the well-publicized problems that some merchants encountered during this holiday season, consumers spent $7 billion shopping online and reported that they were satisfied with their shopping experience, according to new research from Jupiter Communications. Jupiter advises that Internet merchants focus on profiting from the momentum generated during the holidays by converting these holiday shoppers into loyal customers.
In the Jupiter Consumer Survey, fielded immediately after the holidays, 90 percent of online buyers, indicated that they were largely satisfied with their holiday shopping experience-compared with only 74 percent in 1998. The survey, which included 810 consumers who shopped online between November 1 and December 31, also found that only four percent of online consumers said that they would decrease their online spending in 2000 based on their current holiday shopping experience. In addition, 35 percent indicated that it would encourage them to buy more than they had previously anticipated.
Jupiter analysts attributed the highly successful holiday season to several factors, including large marketing expenditures that drove 25 million online consumers to buy online this holiday season, as well as a strong US economy, which led to a healthy holiday season for both online and off-line merchants.
However, online consumers are still cautious about entrusting the Internet with the majority of their holiday purchases. Online consumers cited inventory shortfalls, high shipping and handling costs, and slow site performance as reasons for their dissatisfaction; identical to their concerns during the 1998 holiday season. Furthermore, more than half of shoppers spent $200 or less with online merchants this holiday season.
"The goal of this holiday season was not about generating impressive sales numbers, but rather about developing relationships with new customers and securing long-term relationships," explained Ken Cassar, analyst with Jupiter's Digital Commerce Strategies research practice. "The next step for merchants is to determine how they can impel their holiday customers to make their next purchase, and to do so at the lowest cost possible."
Jupiter advises merchants to develop a relationship with consumers over time that does not depend on aggressive price promotions. To secure holiday sales, merchants enticed consumers with lower prices, and in many cases included "extras" such as free shipping and gift wrap. According to Cassar, "Holiday promotions were a necessary evil in the 1999 holiday season. Merchants that hope to operate profitably in the long run must strive to understand their customers' price threshold by engaging in a process of continuous price testing and evaluation."
RealityWave, provider of VizStream streaming 3D technology for the Internet, last week announced the implementation of VizStream on SolidWorks Corporation's Web site. Using RealityWave's WebKit, and Microsoft's ActiveX component, Web sites can access and display streaming 3D models and environments. SolidWorks is using VizStream on its Web site so that visitors can view and rotate examples of its users' 3D models and assemblies.
The RealityWave WebKit' uses the standard XGL 3D format, supported by a variety of 3D content creation programs. Users select the XGL file and places the 3D content on a VizStream server. When a user visits the site, the 200K ActiveX viewer automatically downloads, installs and begins streaming 3D content. The ActiveX then displays the 3D graphic or environment on the Web page.
Immersive Design, Inc. last week introduced IPA WebView, an Internet-based viewer that lets people interact with live 3D animations of product designs from any desktop running Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher. Immersive Design's IPA (Interactive Product Animator) software transforms CAD information into product animations. Initially designed to facilitate interactive Web-based manufacturing and service documentation, IPA WebView will be the core for Immersive Design's future Web-based 3D applications.
IPA generates interactive and photo-realistic animations from 3D mechanical design software files. Once generated, IPA animations are independent, yet still fully associated with the CAD software. The animations communicate complex designs visually. A 3D animation of a product in motion demonstrates its intricate mechanics and features that may otherwise be overlooked in traditional prototypes or static pictures.
Newly available from Austin-based Metrowerks is CodeWarrior for PlayStation 2 Version 1.5, an integrated development environment (IDE) for games developers on the PlayStation 2 platform.
Features include optimizing C/C++ compilers, a graphical user interface, a project manager for configuring and managing multiple build configurations and a debugger that can evaluate structures and complex expressions.
Future releases will include tools for optimizing game performance and detecting errors in game code.
Giage, Ltd. recently released its debut product, WebSpace. The $99 software reportedly lets Web users efficiently manage the wealth of information on the Internet by integrating PC files into the browsing environment and giving users free reign to organize information any way they want.
Giage describes WebSpace as a single environment for browsing and managing Internet information. Users can capture and organize information from Web sites, supplement the information with notes, contacts and tasks, and then organize and relate this information based on their unique way of working. Users can then easily find the information they have organized in their WebSpace and share it with others via email.
WebSpace creates an environment for browsing and working the Web on the user’s computer, splitting the user’s screen in two. The right side is the browsing window, which allows users to browse the Web or review information already saved. The left side is a directory tree called the Organizer, where information can be stored and related in any way specified by the user. The WebSpace Organizer allows users to arrange information by project, by task, by contact, by company, by date or by any other method that fits the users’ work patterns. WebSpace’s underlying technology allows users to save an item of information in multiple places in the Organizer, but by changing one of the saved versions, all are updated.
A 30-day trial is available at www.giage.com.
Digevent, a producer of interactive live digital events across a variety of industries, last week launched Digevent Music, its first regularly scheduled Web-based programming.
Based in Irvine, California, Digevent Webcasts events to a worldwide audience from its studios, using streaming video, custom presentations and conferencing capabilities. The company plans to offer a variety of original programming in the areas of entertainment, news and information, learning, and e-commerce. Digevent also provides original programming services to companies and organizations looking to maximize the efficiency of internal and external communication through real-time, interactive solutions. These services include online conferences, training, seminars, media outreach, analyst meetings, employee exchanges and other digevents tailored to the needs of clients.
The Digevent Website's first regular programming offers real-time participatory music instruction. Called Digevent Music, the courses are part of the Digevent Learning Series (DLS). Future DLS categories include finance, real estate, health and business promotion. Digevent learning programs allow people at home or work to see and listen to experts discuss a variety of topics. The interactive nature of the DLS gives participants the chance to ask questions and influence the class content.
Digevent Music currently offers hour-long courses on drums, keyboards and guitar, and includes basic and intermediate level classes designed to help music students with varying experience.
Samples of archived digevents are available at www.digevent.com/archives.shtml
Microsoft Corp. last week announced a new consumer study said to prove digital music in the Microsoft Windows Media Format sounds more like CD-quality audio in half the size of MP3. (In our opinion, MP3 is not CD quality, and saying WMF "sounds like" CD quality isn't very convincing. -ed.) ZD Labs conducted a study that compared Windows Media- and MP3-formatted content to original CD recordings. The study found that when compared to the CD-quality originals, nearly 90 percent of consumers tested preferred or could not tell the difference in quality between music in the Windows Media Format and songs in the MP3 format that were twice the size.
In addition, this study revealed that consumers overwhelmingly chose the quality of Windows Media for live streaming of audio at 32k bps and at 64k bps over MP3.
The ZD Labs report stated that "the test participants chose the Windows Media Audio codec over the RealNetworks/Xing MP3 codec in all our major test scenarios." The ZD Labs study tested two major consumer usage scenarios.
During the first test scenario, participants listened to a live streaming-quality usage scenario, which included listening to Internet radio, live music events over the Internet, and Web-based jukeboxes. Results showed that 97.6 percent of test participants responded that the music created with the Windows Media Audio codec sounded more like the original than the music created with the RealNetworks/Xing MP3 codec.
For the second test scenario, consumers were asked if they thought the Windows Media-formatted clip or the MP3 clip sounded more like the original CD recording. Each participant was asked to listen to 15 seconds of three clips. The first clip was, unknown to them, always the original CD music. The second two clips were a random ordering of the same 15 seconds of the Windows Media- and MP3-encoded files across different genres of music. Each file was encoded at CD-quality bit rates of 64k bps for Windows Media and 128k bps for MP3. Results from this test showed 8.9 out of 10 people either preferred Windows Media at 64k bps over MP3 at 128k bps or could not tell which of the two more closely resembled actual original CD clips, even though the Windows Media Audio clips were 50 percent smaller than the MP3 clips.
The full study results can be viewed on the ZD Labs Web site, at http://www.zdnet.com/zdlabs/stories/main/0,8829,2352352,00.html.
Web audience analysis firm WebSideStory last week reported that the installed base of Macromedia's Flash application has risen nearly 23 percentage points in the past year and now ranks as the No. 2 plug-in among Netscape users.
As of Jan. 10, Flash was installed in nearly 68% of all Netscape browsers, reported WebSideStory's StatMarket.com user-trend service. StatMarket.com publishes data gathered from more than 30 million unique daily visitors to more than 100,000 Web sites using WebSideStory's HitBox Web audience analysis technology.
Flash had a slightly higher installed base than AVI, which ranked third on StatMarket's top 10 list of Netscape plug-ins with a 67% base. LiveAudio had the largest installed base with 74%. Overall, multimedia applications dominated StatMarket's list. Only Adobe Acrobat, with a 36% installed base, did not fit in this category.
The top ten Netscape plug-ins on Jan. 10, 2000 were:
Rank Plug-in Installed%
1. LiveAudio 74.09
2. Flash 67.96
3. AVI 66.96
4. QuickTime 48.39
5. Beatnik 45.18
6. RealPlayer G2 40.74
7. Adobe Acrobat 36.04
8. Shockwave 34.50
9. Media Player 22.13
10. QuickTime 4.03 16.62
Just out from Robert McNeel & Associates is Rhino 1.1, an updated version of the developer's dedicated NURBS 3D modeling software.
For a complete list, visit:
German firm REALAX AG wants us to know that all its software products for Virtual Reality and 3D visualization will soon be available on Linux. Said products include Rxscene, a polygon- and spline-based modeler, and RXkinematic, an animation tool for the integration of processes and movements into 3D scenes.
SGI-owned Alias/Wavefront plans to develop a version of its Maya software for Intel's forthcoming IA-64 Itanium processor, and Microsoft's 64-bit Windows NT operating system. Previously known by the code name Merced, the processor uses a 64-bit architecture.
Sunnyvale, CA-based 3Dlabs, Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. plan to work together to deliver an optimized workstation solution for Windows NT using AMD Athlon processors and 3Dlabs Oxygen graphics accelerators.
3Dlabs says it will enhance its support for the AMD Athlon processor, including refining the optimizations for AMD's 3DNow! instruction set integrated into 3Dlabs' PowerThreads drivers. AMD will continue to provide technical support and engineering resources to 3Dlabs to enhance these efforts.
3Dlabs, Inc. last week demonstrated the Intel Itanium processor (formerly Merced) running accelerated OpenGL graphics using the 3Dlabs Oxygen GVX1 workstation graphics accelerator at the SolidWorks International User Conference & Expo in New Orleans. 3Dlabs has been working with Intel to port 3Dlabs' OpenGL ICD to the Intel IA-64 architecture.
CyberEdge Information Services' multi-year market research on the Visual Simulation and Virtual Reality (VizSim/VR) industry has entered its third year. The study quantifies and analyzes the market for VizSim/VR products and services world wide. A follow-up to last year's Second Edition report, The Market for Visual Simulation/Virtual Reality Systems, Third Edition (ISBN: 1-929696-03-5) will build on the work done previously.
It extends the breadth and depth of the study population, and provides trend data for the market, measured at over $17 billion last year. Last year's 120-page Second Edition report (ISBN:1-929696-01-9), which is still available, showed that growth and business opportunities in the virtual reality industry are growing nearly as fast as the Internet.
In December and January, interviews were conducted with the leading developers and users of visual simulation and virtual reality equipment, systems, and software in all application areas. Almost twice as many completed questionnaires were collected for this year's report than last year. The collected data is currently being analyzed, and the report will be issued this spring. It will comprise over 150 pages of tables, charts, and analysis.
O'Reilly and Associates has released "Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century" by Simson Garfinkel. "Database Nation" is about one of our most fundamental civil right--the right to personal privacy--and the serious threats to that right that we are facing today.
Fifty years ago, in the book "1984", George Orwell imagined a future in which privacy was vanquished by a totalitarian state that used spies and video surveillance to maintain control. In 2000, we find that the threats to our privacy are not coming from a monolithic "Big Brother", but--even harder to grapple with--hundreds of sources, not seeking to control us, merely to market to us, track us, count us, or streamline paperwork.
The result, though, is still as chilling as "1984". Threats include:
How can society protect itself from abuses by law enforcement officials, even when those abuses seem to be in the public interest?
"Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century" aims to be the "Silent Spring" of 2000. Simson's hope is that this important new book will open the public's eyes to the many intrusions on our privacy before it is too late.
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and sample chapter, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/dbnation/
Criterion Software Ltd and Hammersmith Technologies Inc last week announced a partnership for the distribution of RenderWare3 throughout North America. RenderWare3, Criterion's third-generation 3D game development toolkit, can be purchased directly through Hammersmith for all supported game platforms.
Customers will still be able to get support from Criterion, although further support and licensing options for RenderWare3 are now available through Hammersmith Technologies. North American inquiries about RenderWare3 can be directed to mailto:email@example.com.
Gamers can now download Microsoft's Allegiance, an online space-action game, and participate in the game's open beta program. Coming to stores in March, Allegiance will be playable on the MSN Gaming Zone as well as independent game servers. Allegiance combines space combat with the social challenge of squadron-based combat in a 3D universe.
To participate in the Allegiance open beta, visit: http://www.microsoft.com/games/allegiance/beta.htm
Just out from Electronic Arts is Jane's Combat Simulations' F/A-18, featuring the Navy's newest front-line carrier strike fighter, the F/A-18E Super Hornet. Features include physics-based flight models, simulations of the jet's avionics and weapons suites, and an interactive 3D cockpit. Also, panoramic canopy views, training missions, detailed briefings and debriefings, and in-flight objectives.
A new terrain-rendering system developed explicitly for the game shows pyrotechnics, glints of sun off the cockpit, shimmering water and ground clutter. Dynamic lighting, 3D clouds, weather effects and constantly changing sea states create a realistic environment as the player flies over the mountainous terrain of Northern Russia.
The title offers an air campaign based on the latest Jane's global intelligence information. The player will experience a modern conflict against an air force in and around the waterways of the Murmansk area of Northern Russia. The campaign allows players to conduct operations in alliance with Russian powers, and against breakaway Russian factions in control of highly advanced weapons.
Blue Byte Software, a developer and publisher of PC games, announced that Stephen King’s* F13 is scheduled to hit retail shelves January 21. F13 is a diversion from Blue Byte’s usual stock of gaming-only titles and its first product associated with best-selling horror author Stephen King, who is making his entrance into interactive entertainment.
The title includes:
Sony Computer Entertainment America announced last week that holiday sales of its PlayStation game console have catapulted the system to the position as the best-selling home console of all time. Sony says PlayStation business dominated in all sales categories - hardware, software and peripherals - equating to more than $1.5 billion in retail sales during this time period. The company originally predicted $1 billion sales, in November.
Additionally, Sony extended its lead with PlayStation console sales of almost 3 million units for the November 1 through December 31 timeframe, reportedly outselling its competitors by an average margin of more than 2 to 1. As Sony Computer Entertainment America continues to garner a 55 percent share of the videogame hardware market, these year-end sales bring the cumulative PlayStation installed base to 25 million units in North America. As a result of robust holiday sales, a PlayStation is now in one out of every four U.S. households.
In software, according to the TRSTS reports from The NPD Group, a market research firm that tracks the videogame industry, more PlayStation game titles were sold during the holidays than all other competitive formats combined. PlayStation software met the unparalleled demand with sales of more than 15.1 million games in December 1999, more than double that of Nintendo 64, and more than 10 times that of Sega Dreamcast.
While SCEA's Gran Turismo 2 claimed the top spot as the best-selling videogame in December, other top-selling PlayStation titles for the month included CTR (Crash Team Racing), Driver from GT Interactive, NBA Live 2000 from EA Sports, Resident Evil 3 Nemesis from Capcom, Spyro (2): Ripto's Rage!, Tomorrow Never Dies 007 from Electronic Arts and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater from Activision.
The December TRSTS reports demonstrated that PlayStation controlled 64.4 percent of the lucrative software market for December, and accounted for 63.9 percent of all life-to-date game sales. In addition, PlayStation continues to exceed industry expectations with a software-to-hardware tie ratio of more than 7.5 to 1.
The dedicated video game industry grew by more than $700 million in 1999 to total retail revenues nearing $7 billion, with virtually all of the increase attributed to products for Nintendo of America Inc.'s portable Game Boy Color system, including the Pokemon line of game software. Counting all retail revenues for all game products, Nintendo's industry leadership represents 47 percent of all industry retail sales.
According to independent sales data from the NPD Group, the popularity of Game Boy products boosted the portable segment of the industry from 8 percent of all sales in 1998, to 19 percent last year. Across all categories in 1999, Nintendo claimed the industry's top six games for a total of seven of the top 10 best selling games, encompassing five Pokemon titles and Donkey Kong 64, which sold more than 2 million units during the holiday season.
Top 10 Best Selling 1999 Interactive Entertainment Titles Ranked on Units Sold
Rank Platform/Title Publisher
1 GBOY Pokemon Blue Nintendo Of America
2 GBOY Pokemon Red Nintendo Of America
3 GBOY Pokemon Yellow Nintendo Of America
4 N64 Donkey Kong 64 Nintendo Of America
5 GBC Pokemon Pinball Nintendo Of America
6 N64 Pokemon Snap Nintendo Of America
7 PSX Gran Turismo Sony Computer Ent.
8 N64 Super Smash Brothers Nintendo Of America
9 PSX Driver GT Interactive
10 PSX Spyro the Dragon Sony Computer ENT.
Sega of America, Inc. announced that as of December 31, 1999, its Dreamcast videogame system had reached a sell-through milestone of more than 1.5 million units in North America since its launch on September 9, 1999. At year's end, Sega Dreamcast had sold through 1,550,000 units.
Also, during the holiday shopping months, Dreamcast software sold at a 3:1 software-to-hardware ratio. The most popular Sega titles during the holidays were the hot-selling "Sega Sports NBA 2K," "Sega Sports NFL 2K" and "Sonic Adventure."
At the height of the holiday buying season, four titles from Activision, Inc. topped U.S. retail sales charts. Skateboarding game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for the PlayStation Game Console, id Software's QUAKE III Arena and Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue for both the PlayStation Game Console and Nintendo 64 all ranked in the top ten of their respective categories.
Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, which has remained on NPD TRSTS' top 10 list of best-selling PlayStation games since its launch in Sept. '99, was the #1 best-selling PlayStation title by units sold from Oct.-Dec. '99.
Activision and id Software's QUAKE III Arena continues to top PC Data's list of best-selling software. In its third week of full distribution, QUAKE III Arena unit sales increased 65% and the title ranked #3 by revenue for the week of Dec. 12 - Dec. 18, according to PC Data.
Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 2 for the PlayStation Game Console was the #7 selling title by revenue for the week of Dec. 19 - Dec. 25, boasting a unit sales increase of 22% over the previous week; and Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 2 for the Nintendo 64 was the #5 best-selling game for the week ending Dec.
25, according to TRSTS.
The Web3D/VRML Symposium for the presentation of research and development in
interactive 3D graphics for use on the World Wide Web is occurring for the fifth time in Monterey, Calif. February 21-24.
Two days of tutorials and Web3D working group meetings will be followed by two days of peer-reviewed papers and panel discussions. Several hundred developers and users of the technology are expected in Monterey. Last year more than 3 dozen countries were represented when the symposium convened in Paderborn, Germany.
The Symposium will once again host the latest rendition of the Web3D RoundUP, the high-tech, high-speed shoot-out where of dozens of the world's best Web3D applications and technologies are shown, many for the first time (www.web3droundup.org). A major exhibition of art intended to be shared on the WWW will be shown in the Second VRML-ART Expo, also at the Symposium (www.vrml-art.org). The exhibition floor will showcase commercial and academic examples of tools and applications related to interactive, web-based 3D graphics.
Registration for the Web 3D/VRML symposium is open on the conference web site. Early registration discounts are available until January 20. Full registration includes all courses and panels, the Web 3D Round-Up, the VRML-ART Expo, and the gala Symposium Dinner at the famed Monterey Aquarium. Registration starts at $450 for the full conference.
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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