In the start-up world, there is the concept of a unicorn. This is a company in a crowded space that receives an unexplainable amount of investment dollars or sells for a price higher than can be explained. The concept of the unicorn has existed outside of startups, though. For example, the casual and mobile gaming industry as a whole seems to be a unicorn in itself.
For example, when Electronic Arts purchased PopCap, the original name in casual games, for more than $750 million, it seemed insane. How could the company that made
Bejeweled be worth that much money? Today, however, that number is considered small for this industry. Last year, Activision purchased for $5.9 billion, shocking the industry. Today, once again, that number seems small.
Candy Crush studio King
This week, mobile developer Supercell, had a major stake transfer for an even more major price. Parent company Softbank, the company that owns Sprint in the US, sold 84% of their stake in the mobile developer behind the
Clash of Clans franchise to Chinese developer Tencent. The purchase was for $8.57 billion dollars, valuing the studio at $10.2 billion. That is a lot of money for any purchase, especially for a company with a very small overall offering.
Let's put that number into perspective. In 2014,
Microsoft purchased Mojang, maker of Minecraft, for $2.5 billion. In the same year, Facebook purchased Oculus for $2 billion. In 2012, they purchased Instagram for $1 billion. The same year, Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion. All of those purchased together barely exceeds this single purchase, and it's below the overall value of the company.
That's right: Supercell, a studio it is likely you have never heard of, is worth roughly 2.5 times the combined value of
Star Wars and Indiana Jones, plus the infrastructure that has made them possible and successful. Why is that the case? Because fear breeds impulsiveness. It's what happened with Instagram, which Facebook paid far too much for because there was rumor that Twitter was interested. In this case, with Asian studios beginning to rule the landscape in mobile, it is no surprise that Tencent was willing to spend a lot of money to purchase a quickly growing competitor in a space that is expected to be 40% of the overall industry in 2 years.
One of the topics we talk about a lot here is personal security and for good reason: There are lots of ways to get harmed through technology. Whether it be a malicious ad on a website, an attachment in an email or an app in an app store, if someone wants your information there are plenty of ways to get it. Over the years Microsoft has tried to prevent that in Windows, but it requires everybody involved to be responsible and observant.
This week Lenovo announced that they had not fulfilled their end of the bargain. 2 flaws found in Lenovo Solution Center, a product that comes preinstalled on many of their computers, were found to make it easy for third parties to steal data off of Lenovo computers. This was done by giving would be hackers the ability to bypass Microsoft's User Account Controls.
UAC is Microsoft's way of ensuring that the person sitting at the computer means to do the thing that's about to happen. For example when you install software you get the yellow dialogue asking if you mean to do this. Almost every account on a computer has some sort of UAC limitation.
One of the few that does not is LocalSystem. This is an account created by Microsoft, designed specifically for Windows to be able to do things in the background without having to bother the user. One of the issues from Lenovo gives any user the ability to route commands through LocalSystem instead of their own user.
Obviously this issue does not create a problem on its own. What it does is gives third party software the ability to take advantage of a lapse in security. For example if you were to accidentally click on a bad link on a website, this exploit could install software on your computer without you knowing - The whole reason that UAC exists.
The second flaw allows the same software to install without other alarm bells going off. It allows a user to terminate an existing process without permission. So for example if a third party wanted to install hijacking software on your computer your antivirus would probably prevent it. That is unless the hijacking software terminated your antivirus before installing.
This is not Lenovo's first bout with major security problems. Last year the company made headlines for
Superfish, another product that came preinstalled on their computers which turned out to be adware. Because of these security issues, Lenovo has become the face of why you should uninstall the preinstalled software on your phone, computer and tablet.
If you don't plan on uninstalling the included software do you make sure that your automatic updates are turned on, which they should always be. This will allow them to patch these problems as they occur, which Lenovo has done this week.
For many of our readers, it's probably impossible to think back to a time when you didn't have a DVR in your living room. It's equally difficult to imagine the concept of having to pay a third party company for the ability to record your programs. That however has always been the business model of TiVo.
That might explain why TiVo is now under new ownership. The new owners, Rovi, have decided to reconsider TiVo's business model. In fact they seem to be throwing out the entire playbook.
Going forward, the company no longer wants to produce dedicated hardware. Instead the goal is to take the TiVo platform and license it to existing set-top box manufacturers. TiVo has had success with this in the past, having paired up with satellite and cable providers.
This does however mark a major departure for the company. It could potentially mean that if your cable or satellite provider does not offer a TiVo box you may not be able to use the service. That means that if you've been a loyal TiVo subscriber you may lose your capabilities at some point in the future.
While the idea of moving from dedicated hardware to partnerships with set-top box manufacturers makes sense, the company will need to be careful not to drive away existing customers. Either way the idea of having a Best of CES technology built right into your cable box is definitely a positive. It might even help to encourage regulation to allow any set-top box on any provider.
The culture of the Internet is not one of respect or concern for outcome, only for statistics. Because of that, publications like the National Enquirer have been usurped by websites like Gawker. The belief is that you can say or do anything on the web without any repercussions.
Recently, Gawker found out that is not the case. After publishing part of a Hulk Hogan sex tape online, the wrestler sued. After a contentious legal battle, the verdict was in Hogan's favor, with damages of $140 million against Gawker Media.
The company itself is not worth that much and therefore has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company asked for a stay on paying the penalty in hopes of being able to continue to operate. This week the judge declined their request. As a result the company has put themselves on the auction block.
Almost immediately, publisher Ziff Davis swept in and made an offer which the company has tentatively accepted. Under the agreement, Gawker Media will continue to operate independently while they appeal the court decision. Ziff Davis will pay court fees, which Gawker was no longer capable of paying.
The purchase is not finalized, however. As the company is in bankruptcy, the sale must go through an auction process. Purchasing a company with a major legal loss over their heads is not something that most other companies will consider, so it is likely that this will be the final outcome. If the purchase is finalized, Ziff Davis will add several high profile publications to their already large collection.
The important thing here is that through this case the Internet is beginning to learn a lesson. You can't say or do anything you want and expect no repercussions just because you're online. The legal system is aware of the Internet and will punish companies and individuals who break the law.
2016 is certainly shaping up to be the year of augmented and virtual reality. With products like Microsoft HoloLens, HTC's Vive and the Oculus Rift, it's almost impossible to avoid the topic. But along with that technology comes increased processing requirements.
It is no secret that virtual reality is coming to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The question we have all have is, "Can the consoles support the hardware?" For months it has been theorized that an updated version of the consoles would have to be released to support virtual reality. That update has been expected to be announced at E3.
While we have no confirmed news on what Microsoft is working on, we do know that Sony is working on an updated version of the PlayStation 4. Named Neo, this new hardware is expected to enhance the capabilities for virtual reality.
Sony President and CEO Andrew House said,
It is intended to sit alongside and complement the standard PS4. We will be selling both (versions) through the life cycle... All games will support the standard PS4 and we anticipate all or a very large majority of games will also support the high-end PS4.
So all games should be playable on both versions of the console. That's not to say all capabilities will be available on all hardware. It's possible that virtual reality will only be available on the new hardware. Unfortunately we won't get all of the details at E3. We will have to wait until a future announcement.
If virtual reality on the PlayStation 4 requires dedicated hardware, would you be willing to purchase a new console to use it? Let us know in the comments.
It was well into the second version of the standard before most people had ever heard the term Bluetooth, but today the wireless standard is becoming harder and harder to live without. Bluetooth headphones have become a norm; you can't go to the gym without seeing several pairs. Many people have their phone paired to their car for voice and data. Then of course there's the Internet of Things and connected homes, both of which rely on Bluetooth connectivity.
Next week the next major version of the Bluetooth standard will be revealed. Dubbed "Bluetooth 5," it is focusing on Internet of Things and location-based devices, and a technology needed to make those better. We will see range double and speed quadruple, as well as adding new capabilities for beacons and other non-pairing devices.
This is an important time for the technology. Smarthome and Internet of Things have never been more interesting than it is today, and as consumer demand grows so will the capabilities. Greater capabilities will mean more demand on connectivity.
Obviously there will be a lot more information available when the standard is revealed next week. But based on the tease we got this week, there is certainly a lot to be excited about.