Sony PS3 Slim Announced, Prices Slashed

Sony finally announced the much-rumored PS3 slim earlier this afternoon. The company has also slashed prices by $100 in North America, bringing the total price down to $299. The announcement has been expected by gaming enthusiasts for over a year now and hardly came as a surprise with news announcements this morning of leaked adverts for the new machine posted online before Sony said a word.

Thankfully, no hardware has been cut on the new console and no old features have been lost which is a welcome change compared to previous strategies of re-releasing consoles with less features at lower price points.

It remains to be seen whether the new model and price cuts will be enough to spur PS3 sales which have generally lagged behind the rival XBOX 360 and Wii consoles since the launch of the next-gen platform.

The new console will be available starting August 24th.

Official press release follows

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Microsoft Zune HD May Give Apple a Run for its Money

Microsoft’s recently released Zune HD mp3 player may just give Apple’s highly successful line of players a run for their money. It offers a very rich feature set and touts solid all-round performance. The incredibly thin 3.3″ OLED display is truly breathtaking with true, deep blacks and the battery life is supposed to reach up to 30 hours which is nothing to snuff at. Other notable features include HD radio, which allows you to tune into local digital radio streams and the ability to share songs with other Zune users over the internet. Oh, and speaking of which, the Zune’s multi-touch display will also serve as a portal to the world-wide web because this device supports WiFi. Granted the browser is some cut-down version of Internet Explorer, but hey, it’s got a browser. Oh yeah, and did I mention the Zune will be supporting Apps, too?

Microsoft Zune HD in Black

You can find a review of this little guy over at Engadget. Overall reception seems to have been pretty positive and it definitely has Apple on the defensive for once as they lowered the prices on their competing iPod Touch device just a week before the launch of the Zune HD which retails for $219 for the 16GB model and $289 for the 32GB model. This will be killing off all prior models of the Zune, though in all fairness I can’t say that I’m really saddened by that at all.

Finally, the device will unfortunately only be made available in the US for the time being and Microsoft currently has no plans to sell it internationally as of yet. I for one hope that this can successfully unseat at least a little of the market that Apple holds. It’s time for something fresh, new and iTunes-less if you ask me!

StarCraft II Delayed Until 2010

Blizzard Entertainment has announced that it is delaying the launch of its highly anticipated StarCraft II title until 2010. They cite reasons of wanting to make sure that Battle.net is ready for the launch and indicate that they are meticulously combing through every aspect of the game to make sure that it is perfect once it hits store shelves. This is probably good news for gamers simply because the expectations for Blizzard’s latest title are that it be nothing short of perfect.

StarCraft II

Here is what the Blizzard PR team had to say:

Over the past couple of weeks, it has become clear that it will take longer than expected to prepare the new Battle.net for the launch of the game. The upgraded Battle.net is an integral part of the StarCraft II experience and will be an essential part of all of our games moving forward. This extra development time will be critical to help us realize our vision for the service.

Our mission is to develop games that deliver an epic entertainment experience. As part of that commitment, we will always take as much time as needed to ensure that our games and services meet the expectations of our players and the standard for quality that we set for ourselves as developers. As we work to make Battle.net the premier online gaming destination, we’ll also continue to polish and refine StarCraft II, and we look forward to delivering a real-time strategy gaming experience worthy of the series’ legacy in the first half of 2010.

We will share more details about the beta, Battle.net, and StarCraft II’s launch in the future. Keep an eye on the official website at www.starcraft2.com for updates, and as always, thank you for your continued enthusiasm and support for StarCraft II and all of Blizzard Entertainment’s games.

Best,

Blizzard PR.

Apple Censors the Dictionary!

Apple iPhoneWhat? Yeah, Apple has decided to help protect its users by taking 2 months to finally approve the Ninjawords dictionary App for its popular iPhone and iTouch platform. As it turns out, the only way that the developer could get his great app approved was if he removed words which Apple deemed offensive.

Now I can understand people being offended by things like baby shakers and porn, but trying to censor a dictionary? Come on, I can’t think of even one person who might find any dictionary even remotely offensive.

Then again, hearing stories like this are hardly surprising: it has always been part of Apple’s corporate culture to be incredibly cryptic in their procedures and the company has traditionally been far from shy to do things exactly how it wants. At this point though, with so many major debacles with AT&T, lock-in and senseless app refusals, I’m starting to think that maybe users and developers alike should start pursuing other, more open alternatives like the Pre or Android. Sure, the developer ecosystem isn’t in place yet and the neither of those platforms is even close to as big as Apple’s, but imagine how liberating and less stressful it would be for developers if they didn’t have to go through an inane approval process to make a living.

Apple is really going to have to do something about this because it started out being laughable and it’s finally worked its way up to just plain ridiculous. Rather than protecting the user base, it’s purposefully restricting what they can do. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot…

All Electric Nissan Leaf Unveiled

I’ve actually come out of writing retirement for the summer to bring you what I think is a pretty cool story: Nissan has finally given us some details about their upcoming “Leaf” full-electric vehicle (EV).

Unlike the Tesla roadster, this isn’t designed to be an expensive rocket on wheels, but what it does aim to do is to bring electrics into the mainstream market: Nissan is going to start making this car available in Japan, most European countries and the US around 10,000 – 15,000 Euro ($15,000 – $20,000 US), a common price point in the compact market.

The Leaf is powered by Lithium ion batteries using a custom chemistry developed by Nissan which are expected to give the car a 160 kilometer (100 mile) range and are designed to be charged to 80% in about 20 minutes using a quick-charging system. If charged via a standard 220V socket, expect your standard 8 hour recharge time and even longer from a standard North America wall socket.

Nissan Leaf

The electric motor packs quite a punch at its rated 80kW/280Nm, (107-hp and 207 ft-lbs of torque) which should make it really quick off the line despite the electronically-limited 145 Km/h (90 mph). While electric motors tend provide huge amounts of torque across the entire RPM band, higher RPMs lead to higher power draw and thus less range.

“Our car had to be the world’s first, medium-sized, practical EV that motorists could afford and would want to use every day. And that’s what we’ve created. The styling will identify not only Nissan LEAF but also the owner as a participant in the new era of zero-emission mobility” said Masato Inoue, the Leaf product manager.

The Leaf will begin production in Oppama, Japan, and will soon be expanded to Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant. The company also expects to launch two more EVs in the next 3 years, positioning itself as a strong contender in the electric market.

“The Nissan LEAF is a tremendous accomplishment – one in with all Nissan employees can take great pride,” said Nissan President Carlos Ghosn. “We have been working tirelessly to make this day a reality – the unveiling of a real-world car that has zero – not simply reduced – emissions. It’s the first step in what is sure to be an exciting journey – for people all over the world, for Nissan and for the industry.”

I’m really excited about this one, kids. This is a car that most people can actually afford and once governments start installing electric charging infrastructure, stopping for 20 minutes every 160 kilometers doesn’t sound so bad. Hopefully this can be used as a significant stepping stone to a world of quiet running, quick and practical electric cars with infrastructure to back them.