TIME Video Games

Microsoft Claims Xbox One Sales Doubled Since Price Cut

Microsoft

But since Microsoft won't release unit sales figures, we have no way of gauging what that claim actually means

The Xbox One’s price drop from $499 to $399 in early June is apparently paying dividends: Microsoft says in an Xbox Wire post that Xbox One sales have more than doubled since the company began selling a Kinect-less version of its flagship games console on June 9.

The “more than double” claim is based on undisclosed May sales, and Microsoft says its data stems from sold-through units, meaning purchases, not just units shipped to stores. The company adds that Xbox 360 growth is “solid” as well.

The update comes in advance of NPD’s June video game sales figures, due later today. The XBox One slashed prices earlier this summer to parity with Sony’s PlayStation 4, which also retails at $399.

Since NPD stopped providing unit sales breakdowns years ago, and Microsoft didn’t provide specific May figures, it’s impossible to gauge or even much guess at what “more than double” means. Microsoft could have sold a dozen Xbox Ones in May (making June’s take a whopping 24!), or it could have sold half a million. All we know for sure, taking Microsoft at its word, is that Xbox One sales are up.

The last these companies talked unit sales specifics (around the end of March), Sony said it had sold-through some 7 million PS4s *, Nintendo that it had sold-through just over 6 million Wii Us, with Microsoft bringing up the rear at around 5 million Xbox Ones shipped to stores.

* Edge apparently reported in early July that Sony had sold 9 million PS4s, but Sony has not confirmed.

TIME

The Best Cities for Young Tech Professionals

It’s a familiar story. You’ve just accepted a flashy tech job across the country. The benefits are superb. The pay is incredible. They’ve promised three coolers full of Diet Coke and an employee incentive plan chalk full of stock options.

The only problem? The surrounding city is terrible. Somewhere between “flexible hours” and “free snacks,” you forgot that the closest decent bar is 15 miles out of town.

At FindTheBest, we gathered data for thousands of cities so you can scope the landscape before you sign the contract. And since we’re talking tech, we’re keeping things data-driven. We counted up the number of venues per 10,000 people for a handful of key businesses. Which cities have the most restaurants, cafés and bars? What about gyms and yoga studios? Where can you have a bit of fun on Saturday night (vice), and atone for your sins on Sunday morning (religious centers)? For today’s purposes, we’ll focus on just eight of the biggest tech-friendly cities in the nation.

The Candidates

San Francisco – the reigning champ

New York – Silicon Alley

Los Angeles – Silicon Beach

Denver – the rising star

Boston – blue collar meets Bitcoin

Austin – down south but not out

Seattle – because they’re more than just coffee

Restaurants

Winner: San Francisco (53.4 per 10k)

Runner-up: Seattle (50.6 per 10k)

What better place to blow your engineer’s salary than one of San Francisco’s 4,000+ restaurants? With 97% more eateries per capita than the United States as a whole, you’re bound to find something you like, even if lunch tends to cost nearly as much as a refurbished iPad.

Last place: Los Angeles (30.2 per 10k)

Bars

Winner: San Francisco (10.3 per 10k)

Runner-up: Seattle (9.47 per 10k)

After spending all day pitching your crowd-sourced, mobile-first, local deals coupon app to investors, you’ll want a decent bar to forget all those blank looks and awkward silences. Once again, San Francisco and Seattle emerge on top, with plenty of clubs, lounges, and dives to serve you over and over (and over) again. Three beers in, maybe you’ll even come up with an idea for a better app.

Last place: Los Angeles (2.95 per 10k)

Fitness Centers

Winner: Seattle (5.91 per 10k)

Runner-up: Denver (4.51 per 10k)

Who says the tech industry is out of shape? Thousands of beer-bellied, Cheeto-consuming web developers, that’s who.

Still, the rise of the fitness tracker means more geeks at the gym, and for the trim tech professional, Seattle beats its rivals handily, offering over twice as many fitness centers per capita than the country as a whole.

Last place: New York (2.04 per 10k)

Cafés

Winner: San Francisco (18 per 10k)

Runner-up: Seattle (17.9 per 10k)

We can talk all day about “office synergy” and “inter-departmental collaboration,” but sometimes the best tech breakthroughs happen outside the office—with the smell of Ethiopian coffee, the sound of temperature-controlled roasters, and the company of impatient baristas with names like Sebastian, Bianca and Antonio.

San Francisco roasts its rivals here, while sporting three times the cafés per capita compared to the rest of the nation.

Last place: Austin (7.94 per 10k)

Yoga

Winner: Seattle (2.39 per 10k)

Runner-up: Denver (1.58 per 10k)

Nothing says “tech” like ballooning valuations, insane CEOs and midday trips to a yoga studio. With nearly seven times as many yogis as the the average city, Seattle is your best choice for incense-fueled exercise.

New York comes in last, although you could argue that a daily subway commute in Manhattan provides many of the same sweaty, meditative, semi-spiritual benefits.

Last place: New York (0.4 per 10k)

Alternative Medicine

Winner: Seattle (3.79 per 10k)

Runner-up: San Francisco (3.25 per 10k)

The best tech CEOs think for themselves, disrupting years of tradition and shattering decades of traditional business wisdom. So why limit yourself to the tired old practices of modern hospitals and scientific health research?

Both Seattle and San Francisco offer over three times as many alternative medicine businesses than the average American city, including acupuncture, herbal wellness and restorative massage. But for Boston? Sorry: you’re stuck with proven medical procedures and the world-renowned surgeons at Massachusetts General. So much for thinking differently.

Last place: Boston (0.62 per 10k)

Vice

Winner: San Francisco (6.15 per 10k)

Runner-up: Denver (5.85 per 10k)

Starting a new tech venture is always a gamble, but nothing beats the thrill of throwing two paychecks on a single spin of the roulette wheel. Per capita, San Francisco offers more casinos, liquor stores and adult entertainment establishments than any other city on this list—and over double the average across the nation. Meanwhile, Denver sneaks in as the runner-up.

Last place: New York (2.97 per 10k)

Religious Organizations

Winner: Denver (17.4 per 10k)

Runner-up: New York (14.5 per 10k)

Tech employees taking advantage of Denver’s dirty nightlife will be happy to hear they have (literally) over 1,000 options for cleansing themselves of the previous evening’s adventures. And then there’s New York’s squeaky clean performance—last in vice but the silver medalist in religion. Who would have guessed?

But neither city should be too proud of its godly edge over rivals. Denver might beat all seven others on this list, but it still fall shorts of the national average.

Last place: Los Angeles (13.5 per 10k)

- – – -

Overall

With four victories out of eight tries, San Francisco—already the big favorite going in—wins easily. Sneaky Seattle grabs 2nd place, dominating the fitness and yoga categories while earning a string of second-place finishes. And last place? LA narrowly loses to its East Coast rival, NYC. Each had three dead last finishes, but in the end, the synagogues, churches, and mosques of New York were—appropriately enough—able to save the city from LA’s ignominious fate.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME Ask the Expert

How to Stop Your Child From Spending a Fortune on Mobile Games

A few taps and swipes, and the costs can start to add up

Forget huge voice and texting bills. Kids these days are racking up massive charges on their parents’ phones without making a single call. Popular children’s games for devices like Apple’s iPhone and Amazon’s Kindle Fire are allowing kids to spend disconcerting sums buying in-game items, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The titles are often free to download, but the games then entice users to spend real dollars to purchase access to new levels and prizes.

Now the FTC is targeting Apple and Amazon, claiming the companies’ confusing billing systems have made it too easy for years for kids to make unauthorized purchases. (In one complaint, a consumer told the FTC her daughter spent $2,600 by repeatedly tapping on a single iOS game.) “There was a blurring of the line between real money and virtual money in these games,” says Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Parents were not given the information to oversee their kids and make sure this didn’t happen.”

Apple agreed to pay at least $32.5 million in refunds to consumers earlier this year for such charges, but Amazon has resisted FTC appeals for a settlement, arguing that its practices are not deceptive. “Our experience at launch was responsible, customer-focused and lawful,” Amazon wrote in a July letter to the FTC. The dispute will be settled by a federal court. Meanwhile, parents will need to monitor their kids more closely.

FOR MORE FROM EXPERTS, GO TO time.com/asktheexpert

TIME technology

Comcast, AT&T Say They’re Not Big Enough Yet

Comcast
The Comcast Corp. logo is seen as Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast Corp., right, speaks during a news conference at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

At a Senate hearing ahead of major merger melees

Two of the biggest players in the telecom industry faced off against a public interest group, a trade group and a satellite company at a Senate hearing Wednesday in a debate that will help set the stage for upcoming battles over the future of broadband, television and streaming video.

The hearing comes just as federal regulators are staffing up to review two mammoth mergers: One between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and another between AT&T and DirecTV. To some degree, the hearing was only ceremonial: Congress won’t have any direct say over whether federal regulators approve or deny the mergers. But political winds in Washington can affect regulators’ moods, and the back-and-forth gave members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation a chance to publicly speak their minds on the mergers.

While the discussion at the hearing was unflaggingly respectful, it touched, just below the surface, on what has become a fiercely ideological war with regard to the future of TV, with each side presenting a vision incompatible with the other’s.

Comcast and AT&T argued that massive consolidation in the telecom industry is good for consumers, good for innovation, and good for the free market. They warned that if the government does not allow the mergers to go through, incumbent telecom companies would no longer be able to invest in basic Internet infrastructure, leaving consumers to pay more for fewer Internet and TV options.

Representatives from advocacy group Public Knowledge, a TV writer’s guild, and satellite TV company Dish made the opposite case. They said that recent consolidation in the telecom industry has been terrible for consumers, driven up prices and driven down the quality of customer service. They also said the lack of competition has squashed innovation and investment in broadband infrastructure.

At the center of the discussion was Americans’ shifting TV-viewing habits. When Americans want to watch TV, they’re increasingly bypassing traditional set-top boxes, instead opting for their smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Online video consumption grew by 71% in the U.S. between 2012 and 2013, according to Nielsen.

That trend has been the driving force behind skyrocketing broadband subscriptions—a major cash cow for cable companies and for telecom companies that offer services faster than DSL. AT&T’s revenue from its U-Verse high-speed broadband business was up 29% from last year according to a recent quarterly report, for example. Comcast, which already has more than 21 million broadband subscribers, says the broadband business is one of its fastest-growing offerings.

That so many Americans are streaming more video online has also made online TV and video content companies, like Netflix, YouTube and Vimeo, fundamentally dependent on telecom companies’ pipes to reach customers. Public Knowledge’s Gene Kimmelman argued that no online video streaming company can exist without going through broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast, whose services are necessary to deliver streaming content to consumers. That sets up a potential problem, as Comcast could be incentivized not to carry Netflix or YouTube content as quickly as its own video offerings (Comcast owns NBCUniversal, a major content production company).

“Everyone who wants to make the online video system works needs to make a deal with Comcast,” he said.

Also addressed during the hearing was many Americans’ frustration at having to pay large bills for pay-TV—bills that have risen faster than inflation—to receive hundreds of channels. The non-profit consumers rights group, Consumers Union, has said that at least two-thirds of pay-TV customers [PDF] would prefer to pay less for a handful of programs that they actually watch. The disconnect between these two methods—known as “bundling” versus “a al carte”—is at the heart of the future of online video.

“The younger generation doesn’t want to spend $120 for 500 channels,” said Jeffrey Blum, a senior vice president of Dish, the second-largest satellite company in the country after DirecTV. But fixing the problem, he said, requires going up against incumbent telecom companies, like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, which rely on bundling to underwrite their pay TV services, and would lose out if most Americans simply cut their pay-TV bill and began streaming shows online. Popular networks like ESPN would also lose out; in the current system, the telecom companies pay them large fees to redistribute their content.

Still, Blum said, there is already “too much power in the hands of too few” in the broadband space. A combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable “will have the incentive and ability to stifle competition,” he said.

Both Cohen and AT&T’s senior executive VP John Stankey dismissed concerns about anticompetitive behavior. In previous testimony before Congress, Comcast’s executive VP David Cohen has said that the merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable will not affect competition since the companies do not currently compete in any geographic region, and that Comcast has “only to gain” from more people streaming video online. The more demand there is for online video, “the more demand there is for our broadband service,” he said at a previous hearing.

In February, Comcast made a bid to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion; in May, AT&T’s bid for DirecTV was worth $48.5 billion. Neither deal has yet to pass regulatory muster.

Both Cohen and Stankey also reiterated their companies’ commitment to the Federal Communication Commission’s now-defunct rules on “net neutrality,” the notion that broadband providers treat all content that passes over their pipes equally. While both expressed their opposition to some public interest groups’ hopes that the telecom industry would be recategorized as a “Title II” industry, giving the FCC much more regulatory control over broadband, they said they supported the FCC’s newly proposed net neutrality rules.

Those rules have come under fire because they allow broadband companies to redirect some content to a “fast lane,” while relegating most content to a slower, regular lane. Cohen said that while he “didn’t understand” what “fast lanes and slow lanes” even were, he said it was a non-issue. “We don’t have any,” he said. “We don’t have any plans to develop any.”

TIME robotics

That Jibo Robot Does the Same Stuff as Your Phone, but People Are Freaking Out Anyway

jibo
Jibo

Jibo promises to be a lovable robot assistant, but it's unclear why you'd actually need one.

A crowdfunding campaign for a “family robot” called Jibo is picking up steam, blowing through its fundraising goals within the first day.

What is Jibo? It’s a little pod with a motorized swivel, equipped with cameras, microphones and a display. It recognizes faces and voices, and can act as a personal assistant by setting reminders, delivering messages and offering to take group photos. It also serves as a telepresence robot for video chat.

As of now, Jibo has raised more than $200,000 on IndieGogo–well beyond its $100,000 goal–and has racked up plenty of breathless coverage. Early bird pricing of $100 sold out long ago, but you can still claim a unit for $499, with an estimated December 2015 ship date.

Sorry to burst the hype bubble, but I’m not seeing how Jibo will more practical than a phone, a tablet or even a wearable device. Most of the things Jibo promises to do can be done better by the handset in your pocket–which, by the way, you don’t have to lug around from tabletop to tabletop.

To see what I mean, let’s deconstruct the scenario in Jibo’s pitch video, in which a man gets home from a long day at work. Jibo, perched on a nearby counter, turns on the lights, records an order for Chinese take-out, then starts reading back a voicemail from his girlfriend. The man then doubles the take-out order on the fly.

It’s the kind of demo that makes perfect sense unless you think about it too much. If home automation goes mainstream, a dedicated robot won’t be necessary, because our phones will do a better job of signaling when we’ve walked through the front door. The idea of having your messages read to you when you get home is a throwback to answering machines, which are obsolete now that we can check our messages from anywhere. As for the take-out order, you’ve got to be the dullest person in the world to order “the usual” every time you get home, and I’m not sure the man’s girlfriend will take kindly to having no input on what food she gets.

There is something to be said for a device that can persistently listen for your commands and act on them, but this is the same problem that wearable devices are trying to solve, and they’re better-suited to being wherever you are. While group photos and telepresence are potentially useful, now we’re getting into some very specific situations that don’t really justify a $500 purchase, regardless of how endearing Jibo tries to be. The only way Jibo makes sense as a robot is if it gains more physical capabilities, like a way to clean your windows or cook dinner, but it’s far too early to say whether that’s going to happen.

Maybe it’s unfair for me to judge at such an early stage, but that’s exactly what Jibo is trying to do through crowdfunding. The creators are asking people to throw money at something they’ve never seen, that has only been shown to the press in limited demos, and that won’t even ship until the tail end of next year. All we have to go on right now is a slick-looking pitch video and a whole bunch of promises. As talented as the folks behind Jibo seem to be, I’ve seen enough undercooked crowdfunded projects to know that some skepticism is in order.

TIME Video Games

This Former Dictator Is Suing the Call of Duty Makers

Manuel Noriega of Panama says the game used his image without permission

The former dictator of Panama is not happy with how he looks in the popular Call of Duty: Black Ops II video game.

Manuel Noriega filed suit Tuesday against video game developer Activision Blizzard, according to the New York Times. The 80-year-old former dictator, who is currently in jail in Panama for money laundering, claims the video game company used his image without his permission.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court and alleges that Call of Duty wrongly depicted Noriega as a “kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state,” according to the Times. Noriega is seeking lost profits and damages.

Noriega was the dictator of Panama from 1983 until 1989, when the U.S. invaded the country to overthrow him and bring him back to America for trial. He was convicted in Miami of turning his country into a hub for Colombian cocaine traffickers and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Noriega has also been convicted in Panama of embezzlement, corruption and ordering the murder of political prisoners.

An Activision spokesperson declined to comment on the suit. A lawyer for Noriega, Graham B. LippSmith, was not immediately available to comment.

[NYT]

TIME Companies

Apple Set to Pay Out $450 Million Over E-Book-Price-Fixing Scandal

Federal Judge Rules Against Apple In EBook Price Fixing Lawsuit
The Apple logo is seen through a fence in front of an Apple Store on July 10, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

However the settlement sum could drop to zero if Apple is acquitted in a separate lawsuit

Apple has agreed to pay $450 million to plaintiffs in 33 states, should it be found guilty of an e-book price fixing conspiracy — but that’s a big “if.”

Whether Apple pays that sum will depend on the outcome of a separate lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice, which also accuses Apple of conspiring to inflate e-book prices with several major publishers.

Should that case end in a guilty verdict, Apple will pay $450 million to avert a class-action lawsuit from customers in 33 states who claim they were overcharged by the company.

However, if the case is remanded to a lower court, then the settlement sum will drop to $70 million. If Apple is acquitted of any wrongdoing, the company will pay no settlement at all.

“This settlement potentially provides for exceptional consumer recovery and ensures an efficient use of judicial resources,” read a court document from the plaintiffs supporting the deal, first reported by the Hollywood Reporter.

Apple was found guilty of price-fixing by a Manhattan court last year, but the company has appealed the ruling and maintained that the government has attempted to “reverse engineer a conspiracy from a market effect.”

TIME technology

Silicon Valley’s Arrogance Is Out of Beta and Ready to Ship

The downtown San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge are shown during a 30-minute ferry ride across to AT&T Park on July 10, 2013, in San Francisco.
The downtown San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge are shown during a 30-minute ferry ride across to AT&T Park on July 10, 2013, in San Francisco. George Rose—Getty Images

Venture capitalist Tim Draper's proposal for a Silicon Valley state (and 5 others) is the apotheosis of tech hubris

Silicon Valley’s newest startup is not an app or a gadget. But it is, in the parlance of the hoodie-clad, disruptive. Wealthy venture capitalist Tim Draper, who funded products like Hotmail and Skype, wants to split California into six pieces, putting the state of Jefferson as well as North, Central, West and South California on the map. The sixth—the state of Silicon Valley—would stretch from the top of the San Francisco Bay ­Area down through San Jose, stopping just before the verdant vineyards of the Central Coast. The idea is that the new states would be more efficient and governable. On July 15, the consortium backing the plan announced that it had submitted enough signatures to put the issue in front of voters in 2016 as part of the state’s wildly democratic ballot initiative.

That the plan has little chance of becoming a reality—the Constitution requires the approval of the state assembly and Congress—hardly matters. A sovereign Silicon Valley, which would be the richest state in the U.S., with annual per capita income of $63,288, is the apotheosis of tech hubris, in beta for decades but now ready to ship.

Earlier this year, Draper told TIME:

The strongest argument for Six Californias is that we are not well-represented. The people down south are very concerned with things like immigration law and the people way up north are frustrated by taxation without representation. And the people in coastal California are frustrated because of water rights. And the people in Silicon Valley are frustrated because the government doesn’t keep up with technology. And in Los Angeles, their issues revolve around copyright law. Each region has its own interest, and I think California is ungovernable because they can’t balance all those interests. I’m looking at Six Californias as a way of giving California a refresh and allowing those states to both cooperate and compete with each other.

The idea is an ego trip of Randian proportions, a Galt’s Gulch kitted with Google Glass and $70,000 electric Teslas. It has its roots in the Valley’s libertarianism. This is a place, after all, where Facebook investor Peter Thiel is funding a floating utopia, venture capitalist Balaji Srinivasan has proposed a deregulated territory devoted to radical experimentation, and Elon Musk has toyed with the idea of a Martian colony. A place, in other words, that not only knows what it wants but thinks it knows what’s best for the rest.

Certainly, that arrogance is the twin of a more noble impulse in many technology innovators: a profound certainty that often yields wonderful results for the rest of us, from Gmail to gene therapy. The tradition holds that a good idea trumps convention or existing law. But the Silicon Valley that has created remarkable products (and wealth) is also prone to alienating detours like Bitcoin, the unregulated cryptocurrency, and Soylent, the trendy open-sourced food substitute. Or, a plan to create six new states, four of them awkwardly named some variation of California.

Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time California was shaped to serve powerful interests. At the turn of the 20th century, Harrison Gray Otis, owner of the Los Angeles Times and father of the Golden State’s most powerful political dynasty, used inside information and his newspaper to funnel resources from the agrarian Eden of the Owens Valley to the then fledgling city of Los Angeles. And why? As John Huston’s Otis-like character put it to Jack Nicholson’s Jake Gittes in Chinatown, “The future, Mr. Gittes. The future.

TIME Autos

Tesla’s New Models Will Be Around 50% Cheaper

CEO Elon Musk said the next generation of Teslas would retail for as little as $35,000, around half the price of existing models

+ READ ARTICLE

Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk revealed that the company’s next generation of vehicles would retail for as little as $35,000, or roughly half the price of existing models.

Musk unveiled the price as well as the name of the new electric vehicle, Tesla Model 3, in an interview with Auto Express.

The savings, he said, would come out of a thorough redesign of the vehicle that will cut the size down by 20% and install lighter, cheaper batteries from Tesla’s upcoming Gigafactory. It would also limit the range of the vehicle to roughly 200 miles, compared with a range of 265 miles for the Model S.

Tesla tapped British engineer Chris Poritt, formerly of Aston Martin, to oversee the design of the new vehicle, and most essentially its new battery technology, which could put electric cars in the same cost bracket as gas guzzlers.

Tesla expects the Model 3 to launch by 2017.

[Auto Express]

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