Nvidia enter the console wars
Whilst Sony's Playstation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One might be sitting pretty as the best selling games consoles on the market, there is always room for a little healthy competition. Nintendo's Wii U arguably fulfils a different need than either, with its focus on a pure gaming experience over the more multimedia focused offerings from Sony and Microsoft, so there is still room left in the ring for another living room hub, especially if it manages to bridge the gap between PC and console gaming. Enter the Nvidia Shield. Nvidia are perhaps the company best equipped to bring PC gaming to the console market, given their history as the PC platform's primary supplier of graphics cards, and their existing Shield products, including the Shield portable device. The Shield console, however, marks the first time the company has truly made an effort to reclaim the living room, and it is doing so at a price point both Microsoft and Sony will struggle to match.
The Nvidia Shield console was announced last week at the GDC 2015 in San Francisco
The set-top box console was unveiled officially at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week, and runs a bespoke version of Google's recently launched Android TV platform. It's available for just a shade under $200 (so we can probably hope for a £149.99 price point over in the UK), and is powered by Nvidia’s Tegra X1 processor which has a 256-core Maxwell architecture GPU and 64-bit CPU. Whilst it pales in comparison to the Sony and Microsoft behemoths, the sheer amount of Android titles available from launch, 50 of which will be optimised specifically for the console, mean that the initial library will be beyond compare. Also, users will be able to stream games from their more powerful PC rigs, which means in theory, the console will be capable of playing games at a higher quality than even the best efforts on the PS4 and Xbox One. It could also find an adoring audience as a more affordable media centre. Of course, it's early days yet, but the initial reports are good, and if nothing else, it might give the big boys a run for their money when it's released later this year.
George Osborne to introduce “Google Tax?”
According to a report in the Sunday Times yesterday (March 8), Chancellor George Osborne will be closing a number of the tax loopholes used by companies such as Google and Amazon to lower their UK tax liabilities. If true, this could go a long way towards quelling the mounting public anger over the amount of tax (or lack thereof) paid in the UK by tech-based multinationals. The so-called “Google Tax” has been expected for a while, but according to the Times, sources have told them that the tax will be seeing the light of day sooner rather than later, and will involve a 25% levy on firms deemed to be avoiding tax, significantly higher than the current corporation tax which is set at 20%. The official announcement is likely to be made on March 18, which will be Osborne's last budget before the general elections this coming May.
Google confirms drone project
At the Mobile World Congress trade show last week, Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai outlined the company's upcoming testing of solar-powered internet drones. The tests for the drones, codenamed Project Titan, are set to take place this year, and if successful, will bring wireless internet to the masses in a big way. The project falls in line, of course, with Google's existing Project Loon, which has been attempting to bring wireless LTE to remote regions via a fleet of balloons. Pichai confirmed that the idea is to launch a Mobile Virtual Network in the coming months, though he insists Google will not be competing with major carriers (in the US at least).
Apple drop the Beats in June
Apple will be launching its own answer to Spotify this June, at least according to a source with knowledge of the company's plans. This source tells us that the service, which will be an overhauled version of the existing Beats service, only with iTunes branding, is on track for a June 8 launch date, and will be officially unveiled at Apple's annual developer conference later this year. The service will reportedly be cross-platform, which makes sense, seeing as neglecting Android users completely would mean missing out on a large percentage of the market. It will also reportedly offer a competitive pricing structure of $7.99 in the US, which is a full $2 less than Spotify, its closest (and let's be honest, only real) competitor.
Apple will be launching its own answer to Spotify this June
With a massive existing install base thanks to the ubiquity of iTunes, and the Apple name attached to it, you'd have to be more than a little mad to bet against the service being a hit, especially considering the music industry appears to be embracing streaming as the future. The service will be attempting to bring in many of the features used in the Beats service, but it dropping the branding completely, which seems like a bit of an odd move considering the popularity of the brand. But then, Apple is Apple, and is there really a bigger brand in tech land? Nope. Not even remotely.