Last February I bought a PS3. That is right, a Sony PlayStation 3. If I were to believe what seems to be the general opinion on the Net, I would have to conclude that I must be extremely stupid because I could have bought a much better console for half the price. That is at least what most of the Wii fanboys out there would want everyone to believe. Thank God I am old enough to be immune to peer pressure and therefore able to take my own decisions.
The Nintendo Wii may sport innovative controls and offer some fun games but it uses graphics that will make it obsolete before the end of 2008. Just compare any Wii games to games developed exclusively for the PS3 like Resistance: Fall of Man or Motorstorm on an 1080p screen and you will understand. It is clear that the Wii is less expensive than the PS3, but I would argue that it is simply a cheaper device.
Wii gamers tend to dismiss the fact that the PS3 supports Blu-ray. They are wrong, dead wrong. Since I started buying movies in this new format, I have never looked back. There is simply no way for me to go back to the traditional DVD format, the difference in both image and sound quality is so incredible that you have to see it to believe it.
My PS3 lives in my TV room, and is placed just under my 42” plasma screen. Three cables is all I need to enjoy an amazing multimedia experience. That is really important to me because the proliferation of cables is something you really want to avoid if you care about aesthetics. How many cable would I need to use if I had to buy a Blu-ray player in addition to my game console? How-much would that cost?
If you ask me, I will tell you that I am extremely pleased with my PS3 and that I totally recommend it. So, where do the negative comments come from? Short answer, kids who do not have the budget to buy a PS3 or a big flat TV for their room. You simply do not care about graphics quality or cable proliferation when you play on a small screen in your room or dorm. If you add to the mix a sense of treason towards Sony for producing an expensive console that most teenagers cannot afford, you get what we are currently witnessing, a violent, systematic backlash against the console.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand these kids. They are frustrated because they feel that a product designed for them can only be purchased by adults like myself. Sony probably made a mistake by creating a console not targeted at their traditional customer base. However, that does not mean that the Wii is better than the PS3, that is not true, there are no facts to back that claim. While I am aware that sometimes a cheaper product can be better than more expensive options it usually is simply not true, even if a legion of loyalists say so.
That takes me to a comment Steve Jobs made recently at the annual Apple shareholder meeting. He said that if effective R&D depended only on money, Microsoft would have been able to release great products. That may have provoked some laughs in the audience but it concerns me. If Steve thinks that Apple is winning against Microsoft because the Zune failed miserably or because the Mac market share has increased slowly but steadily over recent years, he is missing the whole picture. Apple faces multiple threats from Microsoft and most are much more serious than what they have been battling so far.
One of these threats is the XBox 360. The device has sold well over ten million units and is therefore much better positioned than the Apple TV to win the battle over the living room. The other significant threat is Silverlight, a recently announced technology that has the potential to change forever the way we interact with web applications and move content creators to the Windows platform. Both products are good examples of healthy innovation coming from Redmond and are the result of investing billions of dollars in R&D.
When I read that comment I felt that Steve Jobs was trying to cover the truth and use us, Mac loyalists, to continue spreading that tale that you can do much more with much less, much in the same way that Nintendo fanboys spread the tale that their cheap console is much better than the expensive one. Apple has grown a lot over the last year but R&D spending has not benefitted significantly. In order to remain competitive, Apple has relied a lot on open-source technologies to produce innovation. In fact, some of the most touted improvements that will be included in Leopard (ZFS and DTrace) actually were created by Sun Microsystems. That has worked well so far for OS X , but it is clear that Apple lacks the R&D punch to create and push new standards in new areas, unlike Microsoft or companies such as Sun Microsystems, Oracle or IBM which are perceived to be much larger but have a comparable market cap value to that of Apple.
Right now, the big technological battles are raging around the technologies that will be used for the next generation web interfaces. Adobe (Apollo), Microsoft (Silverlight) and Sun (Java) are the main players that are fighting for this strategic market. Apple is not participating in this war or even endorsing one of these technologies. Come on Apple, we all know that you can do better. Spend more on R&D, you future is at stake. Unless you move the puck yourself, it may become harder and harder to know where it will be.