Wolverton: Amazon’s new Kindle Fire can compete against Apple’s iPad

San Jose Mercury News tech columnist Troy Wolverton today delivered this column on Amazon’s newly-introduced Kindle Fire tablet, which he says may be the first “worthy competitor” to Apple’s iPad.

Apple, of course, has the big advantage of creating a market for tablet computers like the iPad and being able to deliver a product to its fiercely loyal fan base. Other companies, like Hewlett-Packard, have tried to break into the tablet business but have not been able to knock the iPad from its perch. Hewlett-Packard, of course, made the bewildering decision to cancel its TouchPad tablet this summer, mere weeks after entering the marketplace.

Amazon seems to have been
paying attention to the failings of other iPad competitors. Unlike
previous tablets, the Kindle Fire is not trying to be an iPad clone.
It’s got a much smaller screen than the iPad. It has a much smaller
amount of storage space. It doesn’t have any cameras, so you can’t use
it to take pictures or do video chats. And it only connects the Internet
via WiFi, not the cell phone networks.

But those differences
help make the Kindle Fire distinct — and allow Amazon to offer it for a
much lower price. At $200, the Kindle Fire is in a completely different
league than the iPad and the iPad knock-offs. That price is even $50
cheaper than Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color, a similar device that’s
marketed as an eBook reader. It’s a price that, in these tough economic
times, is going to be a lot more accessible to mainstream consumers.

The San Jose Mercury news is the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and Sun’s sister newspaper.

Elder Scrolls V gets high-profile cast

Swedish actor Max von Sydow played chess against Death himself in “The Seventh Seal,” the 1957 Ingmar Bergman film dealing with questions about religious faith and the prospect of an afterlife.

Von Sydow is now scheduled to appear in a game itself. Bethesda Softworks announced today that he along with Academy Award-nominated actors Christopher Plummer and Joan Allen will all have roles in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Actress Lynda Carter, best known for her performance as television’s “Wonder Woman,” also appears in the cast.

The cast also includes Michael
Hogan

(“Battlestar Galactica”), 

Vladimir
Kulich
(“The
13th Warrior,” “Smoking Aces”),
 
Claudia
Christian

(“Babylon 5″)
, Diane
Louise Salinger

(“Carnivale”), Renee Victor (“Weeds”), and
Saturday Night Live-alum George Coe.

Skyrim’s release date is scheduled for Nov. 11.

Sports Illustrated swimsuit models are back, in video game form

Betting that video game players, as a set of the American population, includes a number of people who also enjoy looking at attractive women, EA Sports today announced a pair of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models will have co-starring roles in Need for Speed: The Run.

The models are Irina Shayk, who scored the cover of this year’s Swimsuit Edition and Chrissy Teigen. The women will play the roles of best friends who are competing against Jack, the game’s protagonist, in a race from San Francisco to New York City.

The game is set for a Nov. 15 North American release for Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. Shayk and Taigen, however, will not appear on the Nintendo versions.

Chainsaw bayonets, the Mojave Desert and basketball

“Gears of War 3″ is today’s biggest new release, and other notables include “Lonesome Road,” the final storyline-based DLC for Fallout: New Vegas and 2K Sports’ demo for NBA 2K12.

By all appearances, Epic Games’ conclusion to its Gears of War saga follows its predecessors tradition of chainsaw-bayonets, cover-based tactics and hulking characters. Some people say Gears of War can be too much on the “dudebro” side of things, and although they have a small point, Epic Games deserves a lot of credit for pioneering the cover -based mechanics that are pretty much standard in any game featuring a third-person perspective.

In my opinion, no one has done it quite as well since. I also got a kick out of the developer’s introduction in the original’s manual, which explained how a game of paintball led to a new approach to gameplay.

Gears of War 3 is an XBox 360 exclusive.

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Battlefield 3 open beta to begin Sept. 29

Would you like to go to Paris and shoot at people?

Of course you would, but you probably don’t have the authority to initiate military actions against France. That being the case, you may be interested in learning that the open beta for Battlefield 3 is scheduled to be open to PC, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 players on Sept. 29.

The beta takes place in a multiplayer map set in Paris. See for yourself:

The Netflix split. Why, Netflix? Why?

Netflix made a lot of people angry this summer when the company announced a price hike for its DVD-by-mail and video streaming services. The price change split the DVD-by-mail and streaming services into two separate options, when previously they were bundled.

Price hikes are never popular, but the complaining and media coverage of said complaining may have gone too far.

The split between the DVD-by-mail and streaming services became more pronounced today, when Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced in a letter to subscribers (who include this blogger) that Netflix will continue to stream video, but its DVD-by-mail option will be carried out under the guise of a new company called Qwikster.

The switch, to happen in a matter of weeks, will mean that customers who have streaming and mail services will have to manage two separate accounts. Qwikster customers will also be able to rent video games by mail if they pay an additional premium, but Hastings tells customers there will be no further price changes.

Got that? No? Maybe? Is Netflix crazy like a fox?

My initial reaction is that Netflix’s impending split makes no sense at all, but maybe the company’s executives know more than I do. Nonetheless, Qwikster strikes me as a terrible name. The name “Netflix” tells me that I can watch movies, or, “flicks” on the Internet. The word “Qwikster” tells me something is quick, but I have no idea what.

Netflix announced lowered subscriber estimates but the company also reported that executives stuck  by their new pricing plan. But splitting the service makes it easier for customers to leave at least half of their plan, and the competition seems to be tougher in the streaming services that Netflix pioneered.

If I want to watch a movie that Netflix doesn’t stream, it’s easy under the company’s current structure to request the DVD and have it in a couple of days. If another company has a better streaming option, which Hulu Plus may have with its addition of the Criterion Collection, I may end up choosing to leave Netflix and maybe keep Qwikster. Or maybe I just support my local video store, depending on which is a better value for my dollar.

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Get your skills on for Diablo 3

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The mighty skill trees of Diablo 3 are finally available for everyone to peruse at their leisure.The beta is due out “soonish”, though prospective demon slayers can slap down a few skills using this free tool online to plan out the perfect build for their chosen character. Or characters. Endless scrutiny ahoy!

The tool does remind prospective adventurers that the level cap for the beta is set at 13, though it allows window shopping skills that unlock further on such as at level 29.

All of the classes are represented from the muscle-bound juggernaut, the Barbarian, to the newish Demon Hunter who apparently replaces the Rogue. I’m tempted to go Wizard or Monk this time around, though the voodoo-inspired trickery of the Witch Doctor – who is apparently covering for the no-longer-around Necromancer – is also a tempting choice.

So Nyan Cat is in Unreal Tournament 3

A group of modders got together and replaced the area-clearing, uber weapon from Unreal Tournament 3, the Redeemer, with Nyan Cat. If you’re not sure what Nyan Cat is, you can follow this link to the original video and bear witness to an internet meme that some find hilarious and others use as an excuse to never wander around on the internet again.

It’s a PC only mod meaning that I might have to fire up UT3 just to try this out. Or to see who will have the guts to use this in multiplayer.

Trailer: Kid Icarus: Uprising

The good news is that the visuals, especially the backgrounds, in Kid Icarus: Uprising look amazing in this trailer.

The bad news is that the game is being delayed again. Nintendo promised at E3 that the much-anticipated title would be out for the Nintendo 3DS before 2012, but the game is not going to make that deadline, the company reported today.

Better late than lame (in a similar vein, I don’t know if I saw any complaints when Bioware pushed Mass Effect 3 into next year), but the hype around Uprising seems to put it in the position of being the game that makes or breaks the 3DS.
 

Video embedded from the unofficial Nintendo 3DS channel on YouTube