The next edition of MV journal will happen after the Portuguese elections, which I know most of our non-Portuguese readers don’t care much, and after the American Federal Reserve System, January 24th and 25th minutes. The last one might trigger a worldwide cascade of events that will impact us, including the tech sector. The information ripples are already taking down the NASDAQ Composite, a stock market index that includes almost all stocks listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Troubled times ahead, but the tech show needs to go on, right?
The title probably isn’t the name of the device, and I was going to rift a bit with possible names, but Mr Mark Gurman, a journalist at Bloomberg, beat me to it. Nevertheless, the cat is out of the bag, with Apple allegedly postponing the launch of their first AR headset.. The rumours say that this is an intermediate device before an authentic AR experience that follows the idea behind Spectacles, covered in a previous piece.. Also, it will set you back 2000 dollars if the rumours are true. Only Google was missing from the new AR/VR momentum. Enter Project Iris since Google Glass isn’t enough for this battle. with the expected release in 2024. It will be a fun Meta ride in the next five years but probably an expensive one.
The World of Communication
Did I mention that it was a slow couple of weeks? Well, let’s see what we got from the Telecom industry.
At our last edition, we saw that many airports in the United States are concerned that there’s a chance of 5G signal leakage affecting old aeroplane models that still maintain many domestic flights. But what about Europe? “We’ve” been rolling out 5G without much concern, excluding some unfortunate events that stem from small pockets of conspiracy theories. The difference is in the spectrum. North America chooses a more energetic spectrum to allow faster speeds and lower latency. The 3.7 and 3.98 GHz band, also known as C-band, is too close to the 4.2 lower thresholds of some older equipment that still flies in some aeroplane models. Europe opted to work within the 3.4 to 3.8 GHz range, slower but safer, avoiding too close collision with critical bands. Nevertheless, the concern is just that since no evidence shows interference with existing operations.
Stil within the 5G world, Apple got sued, and nowadays, one doesn’t even blink when yet another legal issue hits a tech giant. Ericsson claims that Apple kept infringing their patents after the 2015 licencing deal for seven years. Now the funny part. Apple claims in every court that Ericsson extracts too high royalties and does not negotiate with good intentions, strong-arming Apple to renew the licences. This is going to be Epic for sure.
Going higher, SpaceX Starlink, the internet satellite service owned by Mr Elon Musk, is becoming a problem for astronomy research. Satellite pollution isn’t a new thing, and there are already some programs planning to get rid of unused hardware that already is an issue for current companies that want a slice of our skies. Starlink relies on hundreds of small satellites to provide internet everywhere in the world. Quite recently, Mr Elon Musk provided free access and equipment to Tonga, the tiny Pacific archipelago republic that was severely hit by a Volcano eruption. But the numbers become a problem for our earthly lenses that keep staring at the sky with the hope of finding weak signals from other stars and galaxies. [The Zwicky Transient Facility, a public-private partnership to study our optical night sky, published their findings showing that satellite light tracks are affecting measurements, becoming too frequent.] Maybe it’s time to get outside of our box and bet more on projects such as the James Webb telescope, but a space boy scout rule would be great. If you drop a satellite, you need to clean a few.
Finally, a couple of tangentially related news to the Telecom industry that is indeed troubling for the consumer. First, a VPN service in the United States agreed to collaborate with an ensemble of movie producers suing VPN providers that don’t make enough efforts to block torrent users. Instead of fighting, KeepSolid, one of VPN Unlimited’s companies, decided to stop torrent use within their service. The precedent is dangerous since torrent traffic isn’t illegal and shows that the legal strength that wealthy entities brandish is enough for doing their bidding. Let’s see how the VPN provider market reacts since one of the benefits of using such services is the security and anonymity of your footprint on the internet. On the other hand, the European Union, or just the EU, wants to build a DNS infrastructure to serve all members. DNS4EU, the name chosen for the service, will avoid reliance on a DNS market that operates mostly outside Europe’s jurisdiction. The idea has good intentions up to the point where strong filtering capabilities show up in the plan. The EU plans to block “bad actors” such as phishing and piracy sites, the same principle China uses to build their country-wide firewall subject to political controls. Time to stir up or friendly Cyberpunks out there.
Microsoft is Game Serious
On a couple of slow news fortnight, this one was the ceil. Microsoft splurged sixty-eight point seven billion dollars with the acquisition of the troubled Activision Blizzard, a game holding company with titles such as World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. Games aren’t new for Microsoft. I’m a firm believer that the company’s current success derives from the great work done with the Xbox division. Since then, Microsoft shifted from the enterprise boogeyman that consumed software developers and institutions, locking everyone in a non-open Windows environment to an open-source advocate that even includes Linux subsystems within Windows. Company-wide practices changed along the way, and management understood that the Xbox division was on the right track and should be kept that way. Fast forward 20 years since its inception, Xbox is a major player, with no pun intended.
Activision Blizzard is a pretty appealing company with intellectual property that any Hollywood producer would want to get his mitts on it, but inside there’s a rotten fire brewing for a long time. After getting some dreadful details from Mr Duarte Faria, a Software Developer at Multivision and ex-World of Warcraft guild player, I’ve written here about the subject.. [The rumours point out that one of Activision Blizzard’s most significant problems is about to disappear. Mr Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard’s CEO, was at the centre of the war between the workforce and a management layer seen as a bro club. The deal seems to include the current CEO exit after the fact],(https://www.businessinsider.com/activision-ceo-bobby-kotick-out-after-microsoft-acquisition-closes-report-2022-1) but nothing is said about existing legal actions against him and alleged collaborators. Microsoft has the work cut out for it with a workforce at arms against their management and players abandoning long-lived titles such as World of Warcraft, complaining of low-quality stories and the new ways of extracting money from gamers, including strategies that fall in the dishonourable category of “pay to win”.
On the other hand, Sony felt something in their nether regions with Microsoft’s move. When Microsoft bought ZeniMax media, a game development company, all previous arrangements between the sellee and Sony were kept. Titles such as Doom, Quake or Fallout are still available at the Playstore, Sony’s virtual online store, but new titles need approval from Microsoft. Successful titles such as Call of Duty are also a boon for Sony and are at risk for future releases on the Playstation game consoles. Sony already expressed their concern but also the expectation that Microsoft keeps the multi-platform format. And if it does, it will be better for the brand and gamer community. Licencing deals are very profitable, and locking users to a single platform might push the community to retaliate. The World of Warcraft community example should hint Microsoft to be even more attuned with the consumer market. In my opinion, Mr Phil Spencer, Xbox CEO, is on the right track showing his interest in reviving titles such as Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and the Tony Hawk skate game series. Players grow and are found in games that were part of their childhood and teenage years. The market for legacy consoles and their replicas just to play old games is growing considerably, so locking in decade’s old IP will cover a broad spectrum of players, starting with your grandpa and ending in your grandson.
As mentioned in one recent MV Journal’s edition, the Metaverse is near, and this can also be seen as a strategic buy. Meta and rivals are scrambling for talent to develop the entry-level applications for the Metaverse. What are those? Probably games. Introducing newcomers to AR or VR systems for day to day tasks might be too hard, so why not take the battle-tested approach of learning while playing? There’s a vast pool of talent at Activision Blizzard if Microsoft can qualm the labour wars within it. And if the company is successful, probably many will rejoin colleagues for doing what they liked, creating art in the form of video games.
Monopoly issues? We are seeing consolidation in the gaming industry at a scary pace. Subscription models or just digitally acquired games can be purchased from each console store, centralizing access for publishers. It will be worst if the game streaming options become standard, locking gamers to a brand. For old-timers like me. one knows what it is like to have a Nintendo gaming console but also liking Sonic. We couldn’t have both, but with PC gaming taking a massive leap with graphical card accelerators, we could play anything, whether it was legal or emulated. Significant acquisitions such as this need to pay in the long run. Gamers are the source of that money, and how they will be relieved from it is still to be seen, but the trend isn’t good for sure.
For now, we can only hope that Microsoft can fix Activision Blizzard internal distress and invest enough to get us to the next step of gaming in the Metaverse.