Digital Life: All the TV you need is on the Net
Let's open the year with a prediction. This one is a bit of a no-brainer but, even so, please note there are no refunds should it turn out to be wildly inaccurate.
Within a year, most people under the age of 35 will consume at least half of their TV diet via the internet. We're not talking just about brief clips on YouTube of last night's X Factor or some dude gravely injuring himself in a skateboard stunt.
Thanks to broadband, TV online now extends to full-blown movies, regular shows such as EastEnders and news bulletins. It reaches every screen size, from your mobile phone to your laptop and even the lounge-room TV, much of it made better by social networking features.
The latest Android phones can now run Flash, the technology that powers many video sites, opening up myriad possibilities for on-demand TV such as the RTE Player and TV3 Catch-up.
Much as many people ditched their landlines in favour of mobiles, some will find it possible this year to get by at home without a satellite dish or cable connection. Movies on demand is a reality thanks to services built into some of the latest TVs from Sony and Samsung or via a cheap add-on box such as the Apple TV.
Meanwhile, video-game consoles are jostling for position as multimedia hubs. In recent weeks, the PlayStation 3 brought the RTE Player to your lounge. Even though the video quality doesn't look great blown up on a big TV, the free service is a viable way to snack on RTE programming at your convenience. The PS3 also hosts the Mubi arthouse cinema channel, which delivers hundreds of on-demand flicks in pristine quality for about €3.50 a pop or €13 a month for all-you-can-eat viewing.
Over on the Xbox 360, you can select from a small line-up of on-demand movies. Existing Sky customers can also watch many of the satellite channels via the Sky Player on the console -- rather pointless if you have a Sky box anyway. However, non-customers can simply pay for the channels they want to watch, no box required.
Sony still seems convinced there's a market for small camcorders the size of phones -- even though mobiles seem to have cornered that niche already.
In fairness, its latest version, the Bloggie Touch, is by far the best effort in this space. Compact and sleek with auto-focus, it captures impressively high-def video and decent pictures.
But the €210 price tag puts it into dangerous competition with high-end mobiles while lacking the power of bigger camcorders with zoom and stabilisation.
There's no Darth of 'Star Wars' games to sabre
STAR WARS:THE FORCE UNLEASHED II
Two years ago, Force Unleashed had the makings of the greatest Star Wars game ever. Even though it came undone at intervals due to poor targeting and clueless AI, this ripping yarn of Vader's secret apprentice called Starkiller still felt a bit special.
Fast-forward to the sequel and the mechanical flaws have been smoothed away but the epic storytelling has gone AWOL. Starkiller returns as the uber-powerful villain-turned-goodie, possessed of delicious Force powers such as telekinesis and lightning bolts.
As fun as it is throwing stormtroopers to their doom or zapping ninjas with your lightsaber, the stodgy storyline rarely gets above a canter.
We should cherish The Undergarden because we do not often see its like. A sensory experience as much as a puzzle game, this cheap download lets you explore a beautiful cave system, pollinating flowers into a riot of colour and music.
Nothing to kill, no scores to beat, it's gameplaying as therapy.
A movie rooted in the lore of videogames should have been ripe for a spin-off. Evolution nails the angular, neon-lit world but fails to supply gameplay to match.
Focused mainly on some lame platforming, it plays like a limp Prince of Persia clone. Even the thrill of the light-cycle races is too carefully staged to be compelling.
Perhaps it would have been better sold as a fitness title, because you'll expend plenty of energy swinging the PS Move controls in this boxing sim -- but unfortunately get precious little in return.
Inaccurate motion tracking and a lack of feedback make the bouts a test of endurance rather than skill. Not for nothing does your coach scream at you: "Don't move your feet or you'll BREAK THE GAME!"
Everything goes better with zombies, except this dull mobile tie-in to the excellent Dead Rising series. Repetitive missions and botched controls are its best attributes.
Bits & Bytes
- If Apple learned anything from the wildfire success of the iPhone App Store, it's that if you make it easy and safe for people to buy software, they will -- in their droves.
Hoping to repeat the trick, Apple launches the Mac App Store on Thursday, offering well known programs for easy download to your desktop. Unlike the iPhone, however, you will still be able to buy and install software from other sources but without the convenience and automatic updates, etc.
- Running out of juice is the bane of every mobile owner, which wouldn't be so much of a problem if you were always sure someone else's charger would work.
But thanks to the EU banging a few heads together, manufacturers such as Nokia, Apple and Samsung last week agreed a common charger standard based on micro-USB. Some phones already use micro-USB but expect to see a lot more of them in the coming year.
- The biggest gadget extravaganza of the year hit Las Vegas on Thursday as the annual Consumer Electronics Show kicks off. It's the industry showcase for the latest tech expected in 2011 so check out sites such as CNet for the big events and the hottest products.