Sales of Blu-ray disc players haven't gotten a boost from maker Toshiba's capitulation over producing the rival HD DVD format, research firm NPD Group says. Toshiba Corp. said on Feb. 19 that it would stop making HD DVD players, doomed by Warner Bros. Entertainment's announcement Jan. 4 that it was dropping HD DVD to focus on Blu-ray. Sales of Blu-ray players, excluding PlayStation 3 game consoles, dropped 40 percent from January to February in the United States, according to NPD. Sales grew 2 percent from February to March. The firm didn't release numbers of players sold. "When we surveyed consumers late last year, an overwhelming number of them said they weren't investing in a new next-generation player because their old DVD player worked well and next-generation players were too expensive," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD. "It's clear from retail sales that those consumer sentiments are still holding true." While DVD players cost less than $100, Blu-ray players generally cost $400 or more. Another factor that may be holding back sales of Blu-ray players is that anticipated models with Internet connectivity haven't hit the market. Current models can't be upgraded. But sales of PlayStation 3s seem to be recovering, perhaps with help from their built-in Blu-ray players. Sony Corp. sold 257,120 in the United States in March, nearly doubling last year's figure. Another firm, ABI Research, estimates that PS3s will account for more than 85 percent of Blu-ray players in use this year and that the number of stand-alone players and Blu-ray-equipped PCs won't surpass them until 2013.
Adobe to give away Flash for mobile
Adobe Systems Inc. says it will license its video-enabling Flash software for free for mobile devices to help developers make mobile Internet experiences more closely resemble the experience on computers. The world's fifth-largest softwaremaker is launching what it calls the Open Screen Project with support from phonemakers Motorola Inc., Nokia Corp., Samsung Electronics, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba Corp., from chipmakers Intel and Qualcomm, and from content providers including NBC Universal, MTV Networks and the BBC, among other companies. With the Open Screen Project, Adobe said, it aims to improve Internet experiences on all electronics, including computers, TVs and digital video recorders.
Criminals try to 'copyright' malware
Even criminal hackers want to protect their intellectual property, and they've come up with a method akin to copyrighting — with an appropriate dash of Internet thuggery thrown in. Professional virus writers are selling a suite of software on the Internet with an unusual attachment: a detailed licensing agreement that promises penalties for redistributing the malicious code without permission. "I just kind of chuckled — it's kind of humorous," said Zulfikar Ramzan, senior principal security researcher with Symantec Corp. Symantec researchers noticed a Russian-language example floating around the Internet and wrote about it recently on the company's official blog.
Variety grows in
Owners of Wii game consoles from Nintendo Co. have always enjoyed the freedom its motion-sensing games offer, but the wire between the remote and the nunchuk needed for some games could limit movement. Video game accessory maker Nyko Technologies Inc. rolled out its $34.99 Kama Wireless Nunchuk, which is powered by two AAA batteries and a device that plugs into the bottom of the Wii remote. In a boxing game, the Kama could be key to delivering the perfect final uppercut. A few third-party controllers have appeared since the Wii arrived in stores in November 2006, most in the form of plastic shells that make the Wii remote feel more like a tennis racket, fishing pole or golf club.
Google recruits artists to add pizazz
Google Inc.'s once-austere Web site is turning into an eclectic art gallery. Hoping to spur more customization of its home page, the Internet search leader has unveiled a lineup of colorful graphics dreamed up by a mix of creative souls, ranging from fashion designer Oscar de la Renta to the rock group Coldplay. The panoramic decorations, known as "skins," can be draped around Google's search box if a user has a personal login. The custom home page, known as "iGoogle," is the company's fastest-growing service along with e-mail. Google won't specify how many people use iGoogle, but says the number is in the millions. Nearly 70 prominent artists from 17 countries contributed the new designs.