Romaine Jerome Targets The Wealthy Arcade Lover With New Pac-Man Watch


This watch probably costs the equivalent of all the money I put into arcade games as a kid. Swiss watchmaker Romain Jerome helps you once again recall your video-game addicted youth with a limited edition luxury watch. RJ started mining our nostalgia veins with the Space Invaders watch that we covered here and now Inky, Blinky, and Clyde have their day on your wrist.

Romain Jerome uses a fancy technique that layers the dials in a matrix to create a high-resolution three dimension dial that looks like it was made out of pixels. Game play from PAC-MAN is displayed on four dial choices. Each have Pac-Man and the ghosts in (nearly) living color. You can opt for two versions with cherries on the dial as well. The watches are 46mm wide and in black coated steel. The case are actually part of the brand’s Moon Invader watch collection, and are said to contain some trace metal elements from the Apollo 11 moon lander.

The Romain Jerome PAC-MAN watches will be limited to 20 total pieces with a hefty price of $ 17,800.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Bag Week: The HEX Fleet Messenger Bag


As surely as the seasons turn and the sun races across the sky, Bag Week is upon us once again. Last year I took a risk by taking a white Ogio backpack for a spin (surprise: it still looks pretty good!), and this time around I decided to step out of my comfort zone again with the comparatively tiny HEX Fleet Messenger bag ($ 79.99).

There’s such a thing as being over-designed, and iPad cubby aside, the canvas Fleet bag definitely isn’t. It’s simple and squarish, and the version I spent time with was clad in fetching dark-and-light gray stripes. In an effort to mix things up a bit, HEX threw in some brown faux-leather on the zipper and around the bag’s edges, and a simple, adjustable black strap rounds out the package.

Opening up the velcro-fastened flap reveals something a bit unusual — instead of say, providing a pocket for an iPad (or a similarly svelte tablet), there’s a fabric-lined slot with a big hole it in allowing people to fiddle with their tablets while they’re ensconced in a nifty fabric frame. It’s a peculiar (and sort of cool) touch, but it requires owners to carefully peel those tabs out of whatever protective doodad they’re already wearing — kind of a hassle, if you ask me.

Now we come to the bag’s one major caveat — this little guy is wonderful if all you plan to tote around is a 15-inch laptop and an iPad, but the situation gets dicey quickly if you plan to pack some accessories (or, god forbid, a hardcover book).

The laptop compartment is lined with micro-fleece to reduce the chances of scratches and scuffs appearing on your precious portable, but it’s a pretty tight squeeze — I had to pop the tiny Logitech unifying receiver out of my 15-inch MacBook Pro’s USB port before it would go in all the way. There’s a bit of extra space in front of that main compartment that’s just large enough to contain a MacBook Pro charger a few other small doodads, but this is the sort of bag that forces you to pack wisely.

On the upside, lugging the thing around is pretty dang comfortable. There’s a tendency for unadorned messenger bag straps to dig into my shoulders, but that never happened here. Weight never manages to be an issue, probably because there’s only so much stuff you can squeeze into the bag at any one time.

Now, all that said, I don’t dislike this thing. Far from it — it’s comfy, easy on the eyes in a minimal sort of way, and the front-facing PadPort is a nice touch. I’ll admit to having some packrat-ish tendencies, though not everyone is going to need a bag that’s capable of storing tools for every contingency. Road warriors would do well to steer clear of this thing, but folks looking for a svelte, unobtrusive laptop bag will find a solid companion in the HEX Fleet Messenger.

Bag Week is our yearly celebration of laptop bags. Being that they are, for the most part, quite boring, we don’t find it odd that most folks settle for janky bags they get free with their laptops. Therefore we’ve created Bag Week, a service for you proud men and women of the laptop carrying world. We’ll be talking about a panoply of travel and back-to-school sacks and if you have a favorite you’d like featured, drop us a line at [email protected] with the subject line BAG WEEK. You can read all of our bag week coverage here

TechCrunch » Gadgets

MilkTape: $15 For 128MB USB Drive Disguised As A Cassette Tape

Screen shot 2012-08-23 at 1.10.25 PM

Johnny looked Amanda in the eye. They had only been dating for a couple of weeks, but in a summer romance, just before heading back to college, weeks seemed like forever. And yet, were still never enough.

He nervously patted down his own pockets, as if he had forgotten something, and then sighed with relief when he felt the cassette tape secure in the breast pocket of his flannel shirt.

Her iPhone buzzed. It was her mom, but she ignored the call and instead responded with a quick text. She handed him one of her earbuds and turned to the Music app before playing “Call Me Maybe,” bopping along to the beat.

It was the perfect moment, he thought, and placed the cassette tape in her hand, the same one he had been holding.

“Oh my god! Did you make me a mix tape?” she squealed. Her name was written on the tape, and a list of fifteen songs had been sloppily jotted down on the paper case cover that had come with it. “I don’t even know how I’m going to listen to this. Do you have a tape player?”

“You don’t need one.” Johnny smiled before taking the case from her hand and removing the tape. He hooked his fingernail on a little USB key, that swung out of the cassette tape on a hinge. “You have your laptop with you, right?”

“Just my dad’s PC,” she said. “My MacBook is at the Genius bar.”

“That’s ok. MilkTape works on both.”

She plugged it in, slightly bummed that it wasn’t a real mix tape, but she hid that from Johnny. On the bright side, she thought, he can give me way more songs with a USB than a cassette.

She opened the drive and scanned through a list of 15 songs, before becoming quickly disappointed. And it showed on her face.

“What’s wrong?” Johnny pleaded. “You don’t like the songs? I only put Gotye on there because I know you like the song, not because you’re somebody that I used to know.”

“Six megabytes remaining? Really?” She was furious. “How much did you pay for this? It’s a cute thought, but if you spent more than a couple bucks on this…”

“It was $ 15,” he said, head bowed.

“Did they come in a pack?

He shook his head.

I mean, you can get a 16 gigabyte flash drive for $ 10. I guess I just don’t know why you spent so much for 15 songs.”

Amanda closed the laptop.

“I could have gotten a 4GB flash drive for $ 5, and that would still hold a thousand songs,” he answered. “The point of limited storage is that I have to choose carefully. You know, like they did in the old days? With cassette tapes.”

“I guess that’s kind of cute,” she said, snuggling up to him once again. “But when I make you one I’m just going to put it on Spotify, ok?”

Click to view slideshow.

[via Reddit]

TechCrunch » Gadgets

NPD: 18% Of Consumers Watch Online Video Daily On TVs; China’s Urbanites Watch The Most Of All


Online video — helped along by the rise of tablets, better broadband and a flood of content from YouTube, Netflix, Amazon and many others — has seen a huge rise in usage in the last few years; and while PCs remain the most common way to consume it, thanks to consoles like the Xbox, even TV screens are becoming popular for online video consumption.

According to a new study out from NPD surveying 14,000 consumers across 14 countries, some 18% of users are accessing online video on TVs on a daily basis, with some 25% accessing it several times a week, with movies driving much of that growth.

Similarly, it noted that tablets and smartphones are also continuing to see more usage for online video. The fact that overall PCs have a higher penetration than tablets may be the reason why PCs — both laptop and desktop — still prove more popular than tablets and smartphones as a place to watch online video. But as we have seen before, when people do have tablets, some are actually spending more time watching video on them than they are PCs, by as much as 30% more.

China — urban China, that is — is coming out as the most online-video-friendly country at the moment. As you can see in the table below, which measures online video consumption in different countries by device, China’s urban users beat every other country surveyed, across every device. This may be down to simple user behavior, but it’s also, NPD says, because Chinese users can access a lot more video content online than they can from domestic broadcasters and pay-TV providers.

Going back to the bigger picture, the rise in online video watching on TV is not exclusively because people are buying fancier televisions with internet built into them; also playing a role are the consoles that they are attaching to their existing sets. Products like the Xbox or set-top boxes from pay-TV providers that link up with broadband-enabled on-demand services have propelled TV into a strong category for online video, especially in particular markets.

In Mexico, some 30% of users watch online video on TVs. Among urban parts of China the number is nearly 40%. Neither still reaches the number of people watching on PCs — 52% on laptops and 73% on desktop PCs, respectively — but it is getting close.

“Online content is mostly viewed on computers or mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones, but TVs are increasingly becoming devices of choice for consumers, particularly since an increasing numbers of sets have either built-in connectivity or can be connected to the internet via a peripheral device such as a connected Blu-ray player or set top box, among others,” noted NPD DisplaySearch research director Riddhi Patel in a statement.

NPD says films are the most popular online video on TVs, overtaking TV content.

But, lest you think the whole world is getting connected, think again. NPD says that 44% of viewers have “no interest” in content on TVs; a further 30% said they do not own the equipment to watch online video.

And even if they were given the tools to watch online video on TV, only one-third of those without the possibility to do so now say they would want to. Within individual countries, India ranked the highest among those with “no” online video viewing options, at 67%. But it’s not just an emerging market story: Japan was the second-highest market in the no-online-video game, at 42%.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Sony Mobile To Lay Off 1,000 People, Move HQ To Tokyo From Sweden As Part of Restructuring


The crunch among handset makers who are not Samsung and Apple continues apace. Today, Android OEM Sony announced that its loss-making mobile handset division Sony Mobile Communications would be laying out 15% of its workforce — 1,000 people approximately — as part of a bigger restructuring. It will also move its HQ and “certain other functions” from Lund, Sweden to Tokyo, Japan in October 2012.

It looks like the main impact will be in Sweden in terms of layoffs, as Sony moves the operation closer to home base: 650 in Lund, with the rest “primarily consultants in Sweden.” The process is due to complete by March 2014 “as the company seeks to increase operational efficiency, reduce costs and drive profitable growth.”

Sony Mobile also notes that its Lund operation is not closing down altogether: it will continue “to be an important strategic site for Sony Mobile, with the main focus on software and application development,” the company says. In addition to Lund and Tokyo the company also has operations in Beijing, China. As part of the restructuring, Sony Mobile says it will be “redefining” the roles of each site, although details of what that will mean where not revealed in the release.

Sony took full control of Sony Mobile from the JV with Ericsson in February 2012 to shore up control of the mobile division at a time when the business was losing a lot of steam to Samsung and other Android handset makers, as well as Apple in the overall smartphone space.

Sony has concentrated its smartphone effort into its Xperia brand of devices, but it’s not clear that it is able to wrest enough market share off of Samsung to convert this into a profitable business. At the end of last year, it was estimated that Sony’s Xperia phones made up 12% of all Android phones sold. At that time Samsung had a 41% share. Gartner notes however that in Q2 Samsung made up more than half of all Android devices sold, concentrating its lead.

At the same time Sony Mobile’s parent company is seeing difficult times. Earlier this month Sony Corporation posted a $ 312 million loss for its quarterly earnings.

In the statement issued announcing the news, Sony Mobile president Kunimasa Suzuki — who took over from Berg Nordberg earlier this year — attributes the restructuring to better align the company with the wider business. He says that the Xperia brand “continues to gain momentum” with consumers:

“Sony has identified the mobile business as one of its core businesses and the Xperia™ smartphone portfolio continues to gain momentum with customers and consumers worldwide,” said Kunimasa Suzuki, President and CEO of Sony Mobile. “We are accelerating the integration and convergence with the wider Sony group to continue enhancing our offerings, and a more focused and efficient operational structure will help to reduce Sony Mobile’s costs, enhance time to market efficiency and bring the business back to a place of strength.”

However, if the “momentum” is real, the last earnings show that this is not translating yet into profit. The unit in the last quarter posted a $ 356 million net loss. Part of that, Sony noted, was due to “the impact of the above-mentioned lower sales of PCs and the impact associated with the acquisition of Sony Mobile.”

At the same time sales increased 132.9% year-on-year to $ 3.6 billion. In fact, research from Enders Analysis shows that among the bigger handset makers, Sony Mobile was the only one, apart from Samsung and Apple (of course), who grew mobile revenues over last year.

Ericsson — and then Sony Ericsson — once enjoyed a position as one of the world’s biggest handset makers. They were also very early movers in the touchscreen smartphone space, with the P800 being one of the very first touchscreen Symbian devices, in 2002, to hit the market.

But like other companies from the Old Guard, Sony has been hit hard by competition from newer entrants. According Q2 handset sales figures from Gartner, Sony Mobile didn’t make rankings among the top mobile phone makers. That list was led by Samsung, with Nokia and Apple filling out the top three, flanked then by a number of newer Chinese handset makers. (Motorola, another old-timer that Google will now be trying to infuse with new life, is still just about in the list with a 2.2 percent share.)

Full release below.

Sony Mobile Communications Announces New Operational Structure and Reduction in Workforce

LONDON, UK – August 23, 2012 – Sony Mobile Communications AB (“Sony Mobile”) today announced that it is altering the global operational structure of its development sites in Tokyo, Japan, Lund, Sweden and Beijing, China. In October 2012, Sony Mobile will move its corporate headquarters and certain other functions from Lund, Sweden, to Tokyo, Japan. Sony Mobile has also redefined the roles and responsibilities of each major development site to leverage the strengths of each respective site. These measures aim to enhance operational and development capabilities of Sony Mobile such as time to market efficiency, streamline supply chain management and drive greater integration with the wider Sony group.

“Sony has identified the mobile business as one of its core businesses and the Xperia™ smartphone portfolio continues to gain momentum with customers and consumers worldwide,” said Kunimasa Suzuki, President and CEO of Sony Mobile. “We are accelerating the integration and convergence with the wider Sony group to continue enhancing our offerings, and a more focused and efficient operational structure will help to reduce Sony Mobile’s costs, enhance time to market efficiency and bring the business back to a place of strength.”

In relation to the operational structure changes, Sony Mobile plans to reduce its global headcount by approximately 15 percent (approximately 1000 personnel, including consultants) throughout the financial years of 2012 and 2013 (i.e. by the end of March 2014) as the company seeks to increase operational efficiency, reduce costs and drive profitable growth.

Today Sony Mobile filed a redundancy notification (“varsel”) with the Swedish authorities to notify them that the company expects around 650 employees across a number of functions at Sony Mobile in Lund to be affected by job closures. The remaining headcount reductions will be primarily consultants in Sweden. Lund will continue to be an important strategic site for Sony Mobile, with the main focus on software and application development.

Sony Mobile is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Corporation, following Sony Corporation’s acquisition of Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson’s 50% stake in Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, completed on February 15, 2012.

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