Rage3D Kombuting // October 11th edition



Author: Panagiotis Vagiakos
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: October 11th, 2012

This week: Controller woes, Lumia pricing and a bit about Steve Jobs

Is it a blog? Is it my rumblings with a spice of memes? Is it Stuff That Are Entirely My Opinion And Do Not Reflect That of Rage3D? Guilty as charged on all accounts. Enjoy and comment away :)

The end of a (controller) era

I am a PC gamer. Always was, always will be. Member of the "Glorious PC Gaming Master Race" as some of our forum members elegantly put it. Been gaming on my PC since the 80s, never have bought a console (I only have a Wii because I won it in some random competition), it was always PC for me. As a result, I game with my keyboard and mouse. Don't need no stinking gamepad, right? Well, after so many years of being in denial, a few days ago I bought this:

(that's a Microsoft XBOX360 Wireless Controller for Windows)

The reason? Sports games. I am an avid basketball/football fan, and I love playing sports titles on my PC, namely 2k's NBA games and FIFA/Pro Evolution Soccer. But, for the past years this has been a continuous struggle. Game companies don't cater to proper keyboard controls anymore. Yes, of course you can still game with it, but you're missing more than 50% of the potential moves, strategies and plays. The game is designed with the analogue sticks in mind, and that's kind of hard to replicate on the keyboard. And believe me, unless you play in some wimpy amateur difficult level, the CPU will kick your ass and call you Sally in no time. I am sure there are other games that will benefit from me using a gamepad controller, but I can't think of any right now. The problem of course is that I totally suck using a gamepad - I've never actually used one before, so I have to start playing games from scratch, mixing up buttons (which will make things even harder, since I am a creature of habit) and generally, fun times are ahead. So far, on my annual Season with the Phoenix Suns, it's a 3 wins, 4 losses score. I think I am slowly improving. If I can shake the habit of accidentally pressing pass instead of shoot when I am alone under the basket, I'll be peachy :)

Lumia 920 for €649?

Let's say you're Nokia. You've struggled enough the past few years, from being a top dog, to underdog. Now you're betting all your money on Windows Phone, and trying to make a fresh start. And guess what, your latest to-be-released models are met with praise when you announced them. Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 were much discussed, and they are packed with innovation and good looks. Coupled with Microsoft's latest mobile operating system, all you need to do is to price them competitively against your well-established competitors, in order to have a fire sale in your hands once they are officially released, right?

False.

It seems Lumia phones are available for pre-sale already, and in France that means €649. Yes, that is about $840 good old American dollars. Europe usually pays a premium for smartphones, I'll give you that; but when you can find a Galaxy S3 for less than €550, it's very difficult to justify the price premium. I am not really sure what Nokia people are thinking over this kind of pricing, but they need to shape up, and fast. I am not suggesting that they sell their latest flagship phone for cents, but you need competitive pricing in order for someone to consider leaving Android and an established platform for Windows Phone. I am not even debating whether Windows Phone is better or worse at the moment; that is irrelevant. What matters is, that it is different. Like it or not, Android is the benchmark for what people expect to find when buying a smartphone (I am not mentioning iOS here for obvious reasons); for them to switch to Windows Phone and to a wholly different ecosystem, you need incentives. And in a world deep in financial turmoil, pricing is a huge incentive in many markets. Even Samsung knows this, and their flagship Windows Phone 8 device, the ATIV S, can be pre-ordered right now for less than €550.

So please Nokia. If you want your double bet to succeed, that kind of pricing will get you nowhere, fast.

One year without Steve Jobs

So another piece about Steve Jobs; I am sure you think you've probably read enough already. Mine, of course, comes with a twist: I don't like Apple that much. I don't use Apple products, and their wow factor is lost in me. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I should write this, and I debated a lot with myself on what to actually say that hasn't been said already. So I decided to just start writing down my thoughts, and we'll see where that takes me.

Jobs is probably one of the most controversial figures to ever graced computing. A very powerful personality, that influenced a lot of things with his vision; and even that is debatable. You see, for every Jobs innovation you can think of, his critics will say "yes, but that was done already, he just took all the credit". MP3 Player? Check. Touchscreen phone? Check. Tablet? Check. Using a computer which has a GUI and needs a mouse? Check. Even Pixar was originally a part of LucasFilm's Computer and Graphics Division. On the other hand, especially since his second coming at Apple in 1996 and the release of little things like MacOS X, iMacs, iPods, iPhones and iPads, he ascended to a god-like status by many. The truth, as they usually say, is somewhere in the middle.

There is no point in making a flashback to what Jobs did while in Apple, most are public knowledge, and for those that aren't, Wikipedia is your friend as always. You can also buy his biography, which is a very interesting read and a window to the man's way of thinking - I've already bought it and it's on my to-read list, just after I finish the "Song of Ice and Fire" series. In my opinion, Jobs' best asset was a keen sense of taste. You see, us developers usually have a big disadvantage. We can write all the code you want, but most are lacking on the style department. That is the big reason behind Apple's initial success in my opinion. Wozniak was the engineer, and Jobs had the unique sense of what the people would love. Those two propelled a small startup company like Apple to iconic stardom, even before Jobs came back to turn the ship around - because, don't forget that, in the mid-90s, the company was this close to total bankruptcy, and it was becoming increasingly irrelevant to the computing world. That only magnified from the late 90s to today, where Apple is enormous in every way. The thing about Jobs was that he didn't have to be the first to come up with a good idea. He could see good ideas around him that were poorly implemented, take them, and turn them around and re-introduce them with instant success. That is a gift not many people have - and it proves beyond any doubt that it's not about who's first. It's about who does it right.

Which is the reason I feel Apple without him is a totally different company, not necessarily in a good way. The company still has many talented people, designers, engineers; but Jobs micro-managed everything. And I am not so sure that Apple has a person with his sense of what common people will actually like and find usable. Don't get me wrong, Jonathan Ive is still there, and he's a gifted designer. But the world of computing is filled with great and innovative designs nobody bought. Stop for a moment, and think about the launches Apple had this past year. Were you impressed by any of them? Quite the contrary; there was much negative buzz about flagship and iconic products such as the new iPad and the iPhone 5. All that, because for these products Apple didn't innovate. It held on to a tried and proven concept, and marginally made it better. The result of course is that, where Apple products were once considered the pinnacle of style and features, now they lack in both. Apple's competitors are beating Apple in their own game; taking great Apple ideas and making them better, with Apple suing as a result.

It's been one year without Steve Jobs, and already his absence from Apple can be felt. But his influence is everywhere around us. Like him or not, he has left his mark on computing like few others. And I believe that, in the end, that's all that matters. As an epilogue, and if you have time, go check out the historic interview Steve Jobs and Bill Gates gave to D5 in 2007, here is the link - and truly appreciate two of the most influential people of all time and the respect they had for each other.

Tune in next week, same Komb-time, same Komb-site.