Week that was

PG.biz week that was: Amazon gets serious with $199 Kindle Fire, Microsoft releases Mango, and Unity embraces the future in Unite 11

The past seven days' news compressed bite-sized

PG.biz week that was: Amazon gets serious with $199 Kindle Fire, Microsoft releases Mango, and Unity embraces the future in Unite 11
With Apple expected to make a splash this week, it was Amazon making the headlines during a busy week at PG.biz: the home of news and views on the business of app stores, smartphone platforms, developments in mobile game making and assorted technology.

Leaks had already revealed much about what's now known as the Kindle Fire tablet. Its price - $199, compared to 'sub-$250' - was a surprise, although this accessibility has resulted in a stripped down device - somewhere between tablet and e-reader.

It lacks a camera and microphone and uses a dual-core TI OMAP 4 processor, running at 1GHz, that's unlikely to be that impressive in terms of gaming grunt, although the 7-inch device has a resolution of 1024x600.

What's more important, however, will be the services Amazon offers in terms of video, music, cloud storage, and apps and games via the Amazon Appstore for Android. The Android 2.3 device will access these via the custom Silk browser.

Underlining its commitment to the market, Amazon also announced a cheaper entry-level Kindle, and wi-fi and 3G touchscreen versions.

Also-rans, has-beens

Other companies showing new tablet hardware included Chinese outfit ZTE showing its T98 device, the first to be running Nvidia's Tegra 3 chip, while details emerged about Motorola's Xoom 2.

More worrying news - quickly dismissed - was that RIM was thinking about discontinuing its BlackBerry PlayBook. The Canadian outfit got a new developer relations head in the shape of Alec Saunders, as executive Tyler Lessard left the company.

In smartphone-land, Nokia announced its only MeeGo device, the N9, was rolling out, although outside of Finland and Sweden, no one was exactly sure where it would be available.

The company continued its transition to a Windows Phone future, transfering 2,300 jobs to technology consulting and outsourcing specialist Accenture, which will be supporting Symbian until 2016. Nokia also announced a further 3,500 job cuts, taking its total in 2011 to 10,000.

Opening a window

As for MeeGo, the future of the open-sourced OS is unsure, with some rumours suggesting Samsung is interested in using it as part of its bada technology, while the Linux Foundation has decide to switch its support from MeeGo for new Linux-based OS Tizen, which will be more focused on HTML5.

Microsoft is ramping up its mobile OS as the launch pad of Nokia's first phones draws closer. The Mango update to Windows Phone (effectively WP 7.5) is now being rolled out to devices, while the company launched a web storefront to Windows Phone Marketplace, which was previously only available on-device.

Windows Phone is gaining wider support in the industry, thanks to Google's machinations with Android and Motorola. Android vendor HTC claims 30 percent of its shipped devices have used Microsoft's OS since it was launched in October 2010.

In addition, Microsoft and Samsung have signed a cross-licensing patent agreement as they agree to push Windows Phone.

Still, if you want to see massive phone sales (Apple-aside), it's Samsung that's in the ascendancy. It's shipped 10 million Galaxy S II smartphones since it launched in May.

Behind the scenes

US/Danish middleware company Unity had its Unity 11 conference this week in San Francisco. It announced the 3.5 version of the technology, adding universal achievements, analytics and IAP. It also revealed it would be opening an Canadian office as the result of its acquisition of animation company Mécanim. It's recently announced new offices in Tokyo, Stockholm and Brighton.

As for the conference, Diablo creator David Brevik gave the keynote, predicting a golden age of gaming, while Mika Mobile's iOS and Android title Battleheart won the Best Game Award.

Social mobile platform GREE, together with US subsidiary OpenFeint, continues to make news.

It's hired Playfish executive Shanti Bergel as SVP of business development, and appointed US ad agency Duncan/Channon to run its first consumer campaign, while ex-IUGO and Glu Mobile exec Sarah Thomson joins OpenFeint as director of developer relations

Look east

There's been plenty of news from developers, with Australian outfit Halfbrick particularly busy this week.

It's done a deal with Chinese publisher iDreamSky to take the Android version of Fruit Ninja to China, while it's using its scale in the west to become a publisher - it will be distributing Spry Fox's Steambirds: Survival.

Former Mythic CEO Mark Jacobs formally revealed his new studio City State Entertainment, which will launch with an iOS/Android game, while Canadian studio Massive Damage has raised $325,000 to fund the global roll out of location-based zombie fest Please Stay Calm.

But the prize for most money raised went to emerging markets social publisher Peak Games, which announced $11.5 million of funding bringing its total VC pot to-date to $19 million, which will be used to increase its release schedule and move into mobile.

Gold, always believe in...

A month ago, free app store GetJar announced its premium sales channel GetJar Gold, which would distribute paid Android games for free, paying developers for downloads through increased advertising. Now it's revealed this launch has increased its download volume risen 5,000 percent, as apps that would have been 'worth' $1 million have been given away.

There are plenty of similar app stores building out their business, with rival Opera buying cross platform app store Handster as it builds out its distribution channels.

Another company seeing strong growth is German ad mobile network madvertise, which has announced it's seen its half year turnover triple in 2011. EA is looking to make the most of new advertising opportunities with its EA Legend platform.

This is labelled a marketing data aggregation program, and will provide data for marketeers across the activity of 300 million EA gamers on mobile, social, online and console.

US outfit Kiip sells itself on its ability to link in-game achievements and real-world reward, something it's enhanced with a hook up with Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition. This will enable gamers to be rewarded with a certificate for their performance in Get Set Games' Mega Jump.

But the feelgood story of the week came from UK charity-enabler PlayMob. As CEO Jude Ower told us, its platform enables developers to connect specific IAP items with charity campaigns, providing players with in-game unique attributes and a warm fuzzy feeling.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.