A Nintendo DS….on the Rocks Please

April 28, 2009

Jodi Wykle knew her son would be thrilled when she gave him a new Nintendo DS for his birthday.

Instead, he was rocked.

According to WTSP-TV, the confused teen opened up his gift only to find bunch of stones and a rolled up Chinese newspaper in place of the popular handheld.

All I got was a rock.

Needless to say, mom was equally stunned.

“When he opened it, he was pulling the seal off, my sister-in-law carries a pocket knife and she opened it and that’s when he pulled it out and it was Chinese newspaper and a bunch of rocks,” she explained.

The troubling discovery prompted the Florida woman to contact the local Wal-Mart where she bought the curious box and complain, but reportedly workers there told her it wasn’t their problem and that she should contact Nintendo instead. Of course, Nintendo told her roughly the same thing, leaving mother and son with a $138 box of rocks.

“They don’t want to do nothing. They want me to keep the box of rocks. I’m not buying a box of rocks for $138,” she said.

Amazingly enough, however, Wal-Mart soon caved after learning that the same box of rocks had been previously returned by another disgruntled customer. How exactly it made it back onto store shelves remains a mystery, but for her troubles, Wykle was given a full refund and a $20 gift card.

It’s not the first time Wal-Mart has gotten into hot water for selling a questionable handheld. Earlier this month, a PSP system bought at a different Wal-Mart store in Florida was found to contain a memory stick filled with pornographic images.


Microsoft and Ebay are down, Apple, Amazon and Netflix are up

April 24, 2009

The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft posted a 32 percent drop in profit, its first decline in quarterly revenue in its 23=year history as a public company. The Windows business division of the company dropped by 16%.

Apple, on the other hand, posted a 15 percent increase in quarterly profit despite lower computer sales. The strong earnings come as consumers continue to buy iPods and iPhones, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In other technology business, Amazon reported a 24 percent jump in the first quarter profit.

The results indicate shoppers are continuing amid the recession to seek out Amazon’s ever-expanding online goods for their lower prices. In January, Amazon also reported strong results for the fourth quarter, fueled by its aggressive discounting, free shipping offers and growth into new sales categories.

The company’s longtime strategy of deep discounting has raised eyebrows on Wall Street as some analysts worry how it will affect the bottom line. But Amazon Thursday reported operating margins for the quarter of 6.6%, excluding stock-based compensation, among the highest in recent years, and a sign it didn’t have to further discount to keep sales climbing.

Ebay, on the other hand, posted a 22 percent drop in first-quarter profit. The Ebay Web site, as well as several other sites the company owns, fell 18 percent in the last year. However, PayPal and Bill Me Later credit service rose 11 percent during the year, as the number of registered users jumped 22 percent.

While PayPal made its early inroads among users on the eBay marketplace, its adoption by outside merchants is now a key growth driver. Francis Juliano, the chief information and marketing officer of Wine Enthusiast Cos., said his company found a 5% increase in new customers to its online sales after adding PayPal to its site last fall. Wine Enthusiast, based in Mount Kisco, New York, has a marketing relationship with PayPal.

EBay, which does half of its business outside of the U.S., also suffered in the first quarter from a drag on revenue from the strong U.S. dollar. Last week, the company moved to strengthen its Asian operations by buying Gmarket Inc., a South Korean e-commerce company.

Netflix reported a 68 percent jump in its revenue from the first-quarter, which ended March 31.


Second Life Economy looks better than the real world.

April 20, 2009

Virtual world Second Life is out with its Q1 2009 Economic Report and things are looking up. In fact, Second Life economics look much better than the real world.

Users are spending much more time on the site despite a drop in land ownership. In an interview with CNET News, Linden Labs CEO Mark Kingdon estimated “user-to-user monetary transactions in Second Life may hit $450 million in 2009, up from $350 million.”

An overall mood of increasing optimism – A number of factors drove the growth in the Second Life economy in Q1 2009: an increase in active users and user hours, a steady influx of new Residents, and continued improvements in grid stability. Anecdotal conversations with large estate owners and merchants point to a renewed optimism about the Second Life economy, while our recent business owner survey (as reported by M Linden on the Offical Second Life Blog), indicated that 68% of business owners are planning on maintaining or increasing their investment in Second Life in the next six months. And 61% of business owners are optimistic that their revenue from Second Life will grow. So despite the real life economic crisis, the Second Life economy continues apace.

Some obligatory statistics for all you numbers people:

  • 124 million user hours, an increase of 42 percent from the same quarter last year
  • Peak concurrent users of 88,200, an increase of 33 percent from the same quarter last year
  • The value of user-to-user transactions was $120 million, up 65 percent from the same quarter last year
  • The Island market has stabilized, although overall square meters of resident-owned Land has decreased
  • Gross sales on the Xstreet SL marketplace grew 23 percent over Q4 of 2008 and 72 percent over the same quarter last year

What does this all mean? Well, it’s a bit hard to tell since Linden Labs is private and doesn’t disclose real dollars. It does however prove that there is money to be made in virtual goods, provided you have a user base with enough transaction volume.


University Offers a Master’s Degree in Social Networking

March 30, 2009

Birmingham City University (UK) will offer a master’s degree in social networking starting next year.

The degree will cost about $6,250 for the one-year program.

“During the course we will consider what people can do on Facebook and Twitter, and how they can be used for communication and marketing purposes,” says the course convener Jon Hickman, adding that “There has been significant interest in the course already, and it will definitely appeal to students looking to go into professions including journalism and PR.”

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Female Robot to Appear on Japanese Catwalk

March 19, 2009

According to the Associated Press, Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have developed a “cybernetic human” that will soon feature in a Tokyo fashion show next week. The robot was designed to look like an average Japanese woman and can walk, gesture and express emotion through facial expressions. An unsettling video of the machine can viewed here.