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Tech stories that caught our eye in January

Posted by Joe McNamara on 3rd February 2014

CES 2014: And now for something completely different…

I was beginning to tire a little of CES. For the last three years I’ve felt it was turning into less a show about consumer technology innovation and more a ‘Pepsi challenge’ style competition of who could make the thinnest, fastest, most/least affordable smartphone or tablet. Actually, as you can read in Engadget’s excellent mobile, gaming and audio roundups, we’ve got at least until the end of this month when MWC hits us full in the face to take a break from mobiles. Wearables dominated the headlines and okay maybe consumers aren’t quite ready to wear computers on their wrists and cameras on their faces yet. However, it’s a new interesting space to watch and the opportunities in terms of collecting data can potentially have very positive uses (think medtech and healthcare rather than snooping). Gaming has also made a return to CES, despite the core gaming market breaking away to use E3 as its main stage in 1995. Perhaps Microsoft has got its wish that gaming has to become some watered down shell of its former self that lots of people like but absolutely nobody loves. Kind of like Dizzee Rascal going from being a London lad rapping about nonsense to making empty vessels of songs about harassing women with Calvin Harris.

Nintendo losses and Xbox bribes

Unfortunately, I’m going to report on this one with my usual Sony bias. Feel free to shoot me down, of course. Nintendo has had a torrid start to 2014 announcing losses of $15m in its Q3 financial results. That’s even despite the standard Christmas upturn in Wii U sales in its second festive season on the shelves. Unfortunately, it was in the company of two far better consoles this time around – even if one has realised it’s too expensive and has started effectively bribing people to trade in their rival’s old console for their new, overpriced one. I find it hard to criticise Nintendo due to childhood nostalgia but I think the time has come now for it to make something really, really good. The Wii U doesn’t cut it in the so-called next-gen world where Microsoft and Sony have caught up with motion gaming at the same time as providing all the other elements the modern console should. Nintendo still has some top gaming brands on side, but it can’t carry on relying on the dying portable console market and the saturated motion gaming market. Unfortunately, it needs another Wii. Something that is perhaps not even quite as good as the traditional consoles of the time, but something radically different. If I knew what it was, I’d be in my basement making it.

Facebook: Not a bad idea on Paper but…

There’s already been a lot of hysteria about this one and we’ve not quite got to the point in time where everybody gets incredibly paranoid about what data Facebook is insidiously mining from their activities. My view on it is that Facebook probably doesn’t really care what newspaper I read. It may care that a 21-30 year old man who likes football, beer and GTA V reads The Economist in his spare time, but to be honest, good luck to them. Anyway, Paper looks like a pretty good idea. Facebook is ideally placed to suggest content based on all the information that you gave to it (yes, you gave to it, nobody forced you!) and obviously it’s a pretty bold reaction to Google’s recently formed relationship with Feedly. The most popular complaint so far is that it’s better than Facebook’s standard mobile app. Oh no! How ridiculous that a company would make a new product better than its existing ones. They must be up to something.

Joe McNamara