Soundoff: EA’s Riccitiello Talks DRM, Ads, Economy and More

game talkLike many high profile corporate executives, EA’s CEO John Riccitiello has his share of fans and critics.  They exist among gamers and stock watchers alike. Some support his stewardship of the gaming company.  Other’s can’t stand it.  Regardless of perspective, one thing that’s hard to argue about is his candor.  Riccitiello has a penchant for speaking directly and sharing his thoughts.  In New York for Dow Jones Media Money survey this week, he sounded off on issues from the prospect of working with Google, to Digital Rights Management to the effect of the downturn on the industry.  In summary, without interpretation, here are the excerpts:

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New MacBooks Revealed

macbooksTuesday, Apple revealed an evolved slate of thin, light, eco-friendly MacBook notebooks to waiting audiences.  Greener, leaner and more powerful than ever, the laptops remain high on style and function but despite prelaunch speculation to the contrary they’re still mostly premium priced, premium products.

Entry priced from $1299 to $1999 (with more expensive configurations also available)  the revised MacBook’s feature aluminum cases, more powerful NVIDIA graphics cards (a dual card structure on the 15 inch MacBook Pro), LED backlit displays and wear-resistant glass multi-touch track pads with near 40% larger usable area than some prior models.

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Viacom and CBS Cut, Ad Worries Hurting Media

media downWhen conditions are stable and sentiment calm, it’s relatively simple to look backward on recent performance to make educated guesses on near term trends.   But when things start to change suddenly and systematically? Then the prediction game is altogether different.  What advertisers were spending three or six months ago, for example, offers little insight into what they’ll spend three months from now.   

In July, thirteen of the top twenty five Internet advisers by media value were classified as financial services companies (via TNS Media Intelligence).  Where we are today is a different place.  The old rules don’t apply.  Many of the big financial companies that were buying up internet ad real estate are gone; bought out, sold out or shut down.  Those that remain may or may not pick up spending to fill the void. One theory says they will – a rush to reassure the market and address consumer fears.  Another theory says they’ll hoard cash, control non-critical spending and remain cautious.

Around the entire advertising world, online and off, nobody is certain how much of a pullback there might be. Click to Read More

Googles Game Play: Adscape Finally in Use

adsense gamesIn February of 2007, Google paid $27m to acquire small in-game advertising company Adscape.  The expectation was the acquired technology would quickly ramp into a Google platform to rival Microsoft’s Massive unit, IGA Worldwide and others chasing the expected boom in video game ads.   That never happened.  While EA linked with Massive, as did Activision, the Adscape platform remained locked away somewhere on Google’s campus.

In July, Venture Beat reported daylight might soon be let in.  The was no certainty but AdSense for Games, the report speculated, was quietly being tested for use with console games, web games and mobile offerings.  The platform was “something to watch for.”

This week, the doors were finally opened.  Click to Read More

Save the Date: Apple to Reveal New Macbooks Next Week

apple notebooksWhen Apple hinted at a new product release by September in July’s earnings call, many followed the trail of bread crumbs to the conclusion new Macbooks were coming.  The notebook computers were overdue for a makeover, they reasoned.  It was time. So as the launch day grew closer, the Applevine grew louder with more rumors, theories and predictions.  Some speculated new internals, new chips, maybe even from PA Semi Conductor.  Other’s predicted a redesigned aluminum case and a sleeker profile to match the design of the Macbook Air.   As it turned out, it was all false positives.   None of the rumors were right.  Apple’s September product announcements were musical: new iPods and iTunes.    Now, a month later, the Macbooks are finally poised to get their update too.

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EMI Taking New Digital Approach?

emi music storeIn the 2007 movie August Rush, the title character says “The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen.”  That’s especially true online.  From iTunes to Amazon, from Pandora to Slacker, from Facebook to MySpace and imeem, the songbooks and song vendors border on ubiquity.  You can buy a DRM-Free download or tune in to a free stream; you can catch a new single or embed a sample as soundtrack to your personal corner of the web.  And in case that’s not enough, if those options don’t overwhelm, now there will be another.  The Financial Times reported Wednesday that EMI, the smallest of the world’s Big Four music labels, is preparing to launch a digital music portal of their own in time for the holidays.

Few details have been released but the FT reports the service will offer both audio and video content, some paid and some free. 

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RealDVD Temporarily Restrained…Indefinitely

real dvd blockedNow you see it, now you don’t.  Real Network’s newly launched DVD copying software platform, RealDVD, has gone from controversial to contained in the blink of an eye. You could say the software has been sequestered.

Friday, days following the program’s launch, with litigation already pending from both sides,  U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel issued a temporary restraining order blocking all sales of the program pending a broader review of the software’s legality.

Tuesday, the TRO was extended.  The exact terms haven’t been made public but it appears the judge wants time to gain a more detailed understanding of how the software works and also, to allow the competing sides to prepare expert testimony.

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