LONDON — You don’t need a crystal ball, seer stone, scrying pool or any other spooky stuff to guess what one of the most talked-about design projects of 2010 will be. The tech blogs have been buzzing about it for months. It’s the iSlate, iTablet, iProd, Magic Slate, or whatever else Apple finally decides to call its new tablet computer.
Where two years ago everyone was talking about ‘casual’ games, now they’re all talking about ‘social’ games. Key developers have recently attracted some very big numbers. This article is not really about Zynga itself, but rather examining what underpins their business model, the likely threats to which it must adapt and how Zynga – as standard bearer of the social game community – will likely fare in the coming year. As Zynga goes, so the rest of the social game market tends to follow.
The first thing to say is that the people running Zynga are both very smart and competitive. They have streaked ahead of all of their competition by applying a relatively simple strategy of picking up on gaming trends, copying them quickly and then maximising every avenue of Facebook to spread their message thoroughly. Zynga currently has 4 times as many monthly active players in their games as their next closest rival…
Nick Bilton of the New York Times has weighed in on the speculation ahead of Apple’s rumoured special event to be held of January 26, 2010. Bilton offers some inside information about the tablet which is expected to be demoed next month and according to him begin “the year of the tablet”.
According to one senior Apple employee who Bilton spoke to, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is said to be “extremely happy with the new tablet.” Whilst another ex-Apple employee reportedly said that consumers will be “surprised how you interact with the new tablet.”
Bilton also offers some background on the development of the tablet which is said to have stretched back as far as five years, the first version was shelved by Steve Jobs but much of the technology has made it into other products, the iPhone for example.
Bilton also links the tablet to the successful App Store, although this looks like an element of speculation, “one of the barriers to producing the early tablets was the lack of software. The success of the App Store and the eagerness of the publishers show that this won’t be a problem for any new devices.”
year of the tablet ahead…
An Israeli hacker says he has broken copyright protections built in to Amazon’s Kindle for PC, a feat that allows ebooks stored on the application to work with other devices.
The hack began as an open challenge in this (translated) forum for participants to come up with a way to make ebooks published in Amazon’s proprietary format display on competing readers. Eight days later, a user going by the handle Labba had a working program that did just that.
The hack is the latest to show the futility of digital rights management schemes, which more often than not inconvenience paying customers more than they prevent unauthorized copying.
Once upon a time, Apple laced its iTunes-purchased offerings with similar DRM restrictions that evoked major headaches when trying to do something as simple as transferring songs to a new PC. When reverse engineering specialist DVD Jon neutered the mechanism, that was the beginning of the end to the draconian regimen, which Apple called, ironically enough, Fairplay.
But most vendors don’t bow so gracefully or quickly out of the reverse-engineering arms race. Witness, well, Apple, which regularly issues iPhone updates to thwart users who have the audacity to jailbreak the devices they own. Texas Instruments has also been known to take action against customers who reverse engineer calculators.
Amazon representatives have yet to indicate how they plan to respond. Queries put to a spokesman on Tuesday weren’t immediately returned.
According to a translated writeup of the Kindle hack here, Amazon engineers went to considerable lengths to prevent their DRM from being tampered with. The Kindle for PC uses a separate session key to encrypt and decrypt each book “and they seem to have done a reasonable job on the obfuscation,” the author says.
The crack comes courtesy of a piece of software titled unswindle, and it’s available here. Once installed, proprietary Amazon ebooks can be converted into the open Mobi format. And from there, you can enjoy the content any way you like. ®