The UpStream

Sony CEO Kaz Hirai Certain That Revival Plan Will Work

posted Sunday Jul 1, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony CEO Kaz Hirai Certain That Revival Plan Will Work

Sony's new CEO Kaz Hirai addressed his 9,303 shareholders and employees this week at a hotel in Tokyo, after announcing his revival plan back in April to save the company, starting with 10,000 job cuts. He also defended keeping the former CEO, Howard Stringer, as chairman of the board.

Hirai continued his plan by providing details and updates on the progress, saying that there will be an increased focus on the gaming, camera and medial divisions as well as on the Xperia smartphone line, which we've seen new campaigns and advertising for as of late. The new CEO will also be expanding group sales to $106.97 billion in two years in order to combat the exponential losses in the TV sector. For gaming, Hirai mentioned that there was a goal to triple online gaming network sales by March of 2015, however he did not provide any details on how that was going to occur.

Howard Stringer did take the stage as well, to apologize for the monumental loss of $5.75 billion in the last fiscal year, citing the Japanese earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters that happened in 2011. A shareholder then asked Sony why Stringer and vice chairman Ryoji Chubachi were staying on the board after such a bad year. Hirai replied that "he needed the advice and support of Stringer and Chubachi." Hirai would also not comment on their potential $625 million purchase of endoscope maker Olympus Corp.

Overall, investors were still not convinced that Hirai can right the ship and were at times hostile during the meeting, interrupting speakers several times. I hope, for the sake of gaming and Kaz himself, that Sony can pull this off, however only time will tell. I will say this here: in order to monetize the online gaming sales, it is time (and has been for a while) to start charging for the PlayStation Network. The PlayStation Plus program was a good start but PSN remains the number one loss leader for the company and it is not generating enough revenue from the in-game or supplementary purchases to offset the cost. Charge for the PSN, lose the radical group who "won't pay to play" and watch the money start rolling in, Sony.

Vizio Adds Another Tech Offering with the Co-Star Streaming Media Player

posted Sunday Jul 1, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Vizio Adds Another Tech Offering with the Co-Star Streaming Media Player

Vizio has been known for a while now to make affordable TVs that feature a pretty nice looking picture on their screens. Last week, I mentioned that Vizio was launching a brand new line of sleek-looking PCs and laptops. Now, I have learned that the company is also looking to bridge the browsing and viewing products with a new streaming media player.

The Co-Star Stream Player, Vizio's newest tech toy, will feature the most recent version of Google TV to allow HDTVs to turn into Smart TVs, giving you live and streaming entertainment to a TV that otherwise couldn't be connected to the Internet. The company's attempt at a Roku/Boxee will have the usual line-up of what seems to be thousands of apps, and will feature full-screen web surfing using Google Chrome, with Flash and HTML 5 support. The device connects to your cable box so that your live TV works in-line with the Co-Star's apps and even OnLive's gaming service. What this does is allows you to use one remote to control all of the action without ever having to switch inputs to get to your additional box.

That remote to control it all will be the Co-Star's Bluetooth universal remote, complete with a touchpad with gesture support, and a QWERTY keyboard. The Co-Star will also support 1080p and 3D and has a USB port and 802.11n Wi-Fi. Aside from it being completely Google-powered, for $99.99 it's a good option for those looking to save a little bit and still want 1080p support. Vizio is taking pre-orders and is offering free shipping for those who act now.

It's interesting to see Vizio expanding their line of tech offerings as well as partnering up with some big names in order to make an impact in the spaces they are entering. I feel at this point a Vizio WinPho8 smartphone might not be out of the question. Combine that with a new Vizio electric car and smarthouse and Vizio will take over the world by 2016!

Microsoft Acquires Internet Startup Yammer for $1.2 Billion

posted Sunday Jul 1, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Acquires Internet Startup Yammer for $1.2 Billion

It appears that Microsoft wants more than just a slice of the social networking pie. If you thought theirSo.cl project was the only social interest the company had, think again. Microsoft has purchased Yammer, an Internet startup company, for $1.2 billion. This is all an effort to bring more social networking features to not just So.cl, but to all of their business software. This is very similar to what we are seeing in the collaboration efforts with their Windows Live suite, Office 365 and the OneNote IE9 integrations.

What is Yammer and why did Microsoft want any part of the company, let alone the whole thing? Yammer's freemium business model focuses on private social networking. Employees of the same company can connect with each other and see what each of their coworkers have going on in their business lives. Essentially, it's Facebook for work. Microsoft's new acqusition will allow its sometimes fragmented business suite to finally be pulled together in some way.

Zynga's Unleashed Event Featured New Games in Attempt to Save Company

posted Sunday Jul 1, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Zynga's Unleashed Event Featured New Games in Attempt to Save Company

Zynga has been able to make the news a lot as of late. After their initial $200 million purchase of studio OMGPOP, Zynga was then spotted at the ever so relevant E3 2012, however only in a meeting room. Then, just last week we mentioned that Zynga's usage of its popular games were down so much that the possible Draw Something game show might turn their ship around and make back some of the $200 million they spent on that studio.

This week, Zynga had a little media social at their office in San Francisco called Zynga Unleashed. Media and analysts were able to get a look at the roadmap of Zynga's games for the remainder of the year. After a dismal Q2, these games may be the only thing to save the company. Right now, the company only has Farm- and CityVille producing on a consistent basis.

Check after the break to see how the event went and what will the future be for Zynga.

Microsoft has No Plans to Build Their Own Smartphones

posted Sunday Jul 1, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft has No Plans to Build Their Own Smartphones

With the previous week Microsoft just had, you might assume they will end up taking over the gadget and tech worlds like never before. Microsoft's Surface announcement definitely shocked the industry and caused competitors like Google to play catch-up and release a tablet of their own. More importantly was the fact that Microsoft was now "manufacturing" their own tablet, which we all know is them just putting their logo on the new device. Later in the week, Microsoft announced the new Windows Phone 8, which raised the bar for mobile operating systems.

That is where this week's comments from Microsoft's senior marketing manager for Windows Phone, Greg Sullivan, have impact. Sullivan said that Microsoft specifically has no plans to build their own labelled smartphone, which goes against analyst predictions from last week.

This opens up a very interesting scenario for Microsoft. We go into detail after the break.

Xbox Decision Deferred to Next Year

posted Sunday Jul 1, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Xbox Decision Deferred to Next Year

Last week, the fear of an Xbox import ban was strong. Motorola's patent dispute had been validated by an International Trade Commission judge, with a recommendation of blocking all new imports. It all came down to the 6-member ITC panel to either approve of deny the judge's recommendation and, in grand government tradition, they managed to do neither.

Instead of making a decision, they pushed it back to the judge to look again and reconsider his findings. It appears that one of two things is happening here. The first possibility is that the commission is made entirely of cowards. They might not want to be on the bad side of either Microsoft of Motorola's parent company, Google. While the ITC is, theoretically, in charge, Obama's Chief Technology Officer is a former Microsoft exec and Google's products are slowly taking over the federal government. Getting on the bad side of these companies could end up making their own lives harder.

On the other hand, the ITC is currently investigating Google's Motorola division for fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms. Microsoft accused Motorola of using their patents to bully other companies, like in the licensing agreement that they pitched to Microsoft. The ITC has taken this claim seriously, launching an investigation into Motorola's licensing terms across the board to look for bullying. This investigation could certainly change the outcome of the judge's finding, so pushing the decision back on him might be a good decision.

We are expecting to not hear back from the judge until almost the end of the year, meaning for at least the holiday season, the Xbox 360 will be safe in the US market.

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