Sony In $2.3 Billion Deal For EMI, Becomes World’s Biggest Music Publisher

Sony said on Tuesday it would pay about $2.3 billion to gain control of EMI, becoming the world's largest music publisher in an industry that has found new life on the back of streaming services. Reuters reports: The acquisition is the biggest strategic move yet by new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida and gives Sony a catalogue of more than 2 million songs from artists such as Kanye West, Sam Smith and Sia. The deal is part of Yoshida's mission to make revenue streams more stable with rights to entertainment content -- a strategy that follows a major revamp by his predecessor which shifted Sony's focus away from low-margin consumer electronics. The spread of the internet led to a shrinking of the music market from around 1999 to 2014, Yoshida said, but added that has turned around with the growth of fixed-price music streaming services. The deal values EMI Music Publishing at $4.75 billion including debt, more than double the $2.2 billion value given in 2011 when a consortium led by Sony won bidding rights for the company. EMI currently commands 15 percent of the music publishing industry which combined with its Sony ATV business would make the Japanese giant the industry leader with market share of 26 percent, a company spokesman said.

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Sony shrinks its Digital Paper tablet down to a more manageable 10 inches

I had a great time last year with Sony’s catchily named DPT-RP1, an e-paper tablet that’s perfect for reading PDFs and other big documents, but one of my main issues was simply how big the thing is. Light and thin but 13 inches across, the tablet was just unwieldy. Heeding (I assume) my advice, Sony is putting out a smaller version and I can’t wait to try it out.

At the time, I was comparing the RP1 with the reMarkable, a crowdfunded rival that offers fantastic writing ability but isn’t without its flaws. Watch this great video I made:

The 10-inch DPT-CP1 has a couple small differences from its larger sibling. The screen has a slightly lower resolution but should be the same PPI — it’s more of a cutout of the original screen than a miniaturization. And it’s considerably lighter: 240 grams to the 13-inch version’s 350. Considering the latter already felt almost alarmingly light, this one probably feels like it’ll float out of your hands and enter orbit.

More important are the software changes. There’s a new mobile app for iOS and Android that should make loading and sharing documents easier. A new screen-sharing mode sounds handy but a little cumbrous — you have to plug it into a PC and then plug the PC into a display. And PDF handling has been improved so that you can jump to pages, zoom and pan and scan through thumbnails more easily. Limited interaction (think checkboxes) is also possible.

There’s nothing that addresses my main issue with both the RP1 and the reMarkable: that it’s a pain to do anything substantial on the devices, such as edit or highlight in a document, and if you do, it’s a pain to bring that work into other environments.

So for now it looks like the Digital Paper series will remain mostly focused on consuming content rather than creating or modifying it. That’s fine — I loved reading stuff on the device, and mainly just wished it were a bit smaller. Now that Sony has granted that wish, it can get to work on the rest.

Sony Is Done Working For Peanuts in the Hardware Business, New CEO To Detail Shift Away From Gadgets

Kenichiro Yoshida, who took over as chief executive officer in April, is set to unveil a three-year plan on Tuesday that embraces Sony's growing reliance on income from gaming subscriptions and entertainment. From a report: The transition is already happening: even though the company sold fewer hardware products such as televisions, digital cameras, smartphones and PlayStation consoles in the year through March, it was able to post record operating profit. It's a tectonic shift for a company built on manufacturing prowess. Sony popularized transistor radios, gave the world portable music with the Walkman and its TVs were considered top-of-the-line for decades. With the rise of Chinese manufacturing, making and selling gadgets has become a business with razor-thin profit margins. Investors have applauded the transformation that's been under way since Kazuo Hirai took over as CEO in 2012, with the shares climbing more than five-fold amid a turnaround.

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Sony is killing production of physical PS Vita games in 2019

Pour another one out for Sony's PlayStation Vita. Despite being a powerful, capable handheld that's great for a bit of fun on the go or as a companion to your PlayStation 3 or 4 when you're at home, Sony's all but ignored the diminutive gaming console over the past couple of years. In 2015, Sony told gamers that they didn't think it was worth making a successor to the Vita.

Fair enough: mobile gaming is Nintendo's jelly. It still hurt to hear, though: I've always had a soft spot for Sony's portable systems (I may well be one of the few people that actually liked the PSP Go). But the death of the Vita didn't feel real to me until today. According to Kotaku, the production of PlayStation Vita game cards will soon be upon us.

From Kotaku:

Sony’s American and European branches “plan to end all Vita GameCard production by close of fiscal year 2018,” the company told developers today in a message obtained by Kotaku. The message asks that all Vita product code requests be submitted by June 28, 2018, and that final purchase orders be entered by February 15, 2019. Sony’s 2018 fiscal year will end on March 31, 2019.

As sigh inducing as this news is, it isn't the end of the world. Vita owners will still be able to download games from the online store baked into the PS Vita's OS. If Sony's support for the Vita is anything like it has been for the original PlayStation Portable, the digital titles that gamers bought should be available to download for years to come.

Image: Evan-Amos - Own work, Public Domain, Link

Sony Ends Production Of Physical Vita Games

Sony is ending physical production of Vita games, news outlet Kotaku reports. Although the hardware manufacturer says digital distribution will continue, this move will mark the end of physical cards for the maligned portable game system, Kotaku added. From a report: Sony's American and European branches "plan to end all Vita GameCard production by close of fiscal year 2018," the company told developers today in a message obtained by Kotaku. The message asks that all Vita product code requests be submitted by June 28, 2018, and that final purchase orders be entered by February 15, 2019. Sony's 2018 fiscal year will end on March 31, 2019.

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Gear for getting better at your side gig

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work.

In this day and age, either you have a side gig or you know someone who does. The type of work that’s done outside of your 9 to 5 is one thing that sets side hustles apart—the type of gear that’s used is what can help you get better.

From vlogging to graphic design to music production, accessories and must-have equipment should come with features and capabilities that enhance your projects. Here are a few of our favorite picks fit for upping your side gig skills.

Podcasting: Yeti USB Microphone

The Yeti by Blue, our top pick for USB microphones, sits above the competition because it offers the best overall audio, build and included features. It’s a good option for podcasters because its balance of bass and frequency peaks help to make a wide range of voices sound clear and captivating. It has a dial that can be set to four different pickup patterns, which comes in handy when conducting interviews with multiple people. Whether used for live or pre-recorded voice work, its zero-latency and mic-gain control features allow you to do most anything you want — and well.

Of all the microphones we tested, the Blue Yeti makes it easiest to sound good on a podcast, live stream, video call, or most any other kind of recording. (Photo: Nick Guy)

Vlogging: Sony RX Mark IV Camera and GorillaPod 1K Kit Tripod

High-quality video is no longer something that’s only necessary for filmmaking. In our guide for the best vlogging camera and gear, we recommend the Sony RX Mark IV as an also great pick—and the best vlogging camera—for its small size, image stabilization and its ability to record in slow motion. YouTubers and social media video fanatics can easily create top-notch video content recorded at 4K resolution.

Use Wi-Fi and your smartphone as a remote to capture the best selfies with the camera’s flip-up screen and facial recognition feature. Coupled with the flexible GorillaPod 1K Kit Tripod, the camera can be positioned to snap difficult shots.

The Sony RX Mark IV’s small size, image stabilization and ability to record in slow motion make it our best pick for a vlogging camera. Photo: Michael Hession

Video and Photo Editing: Dell XPS 15 Laptop

The ports and connections on the Dell XPS 15 Laptop accommodate all types of gear used for capturing and transferring video. In addition to having a huge 4K display, it has a powerful processor and graphics card. This means you’ll spend less time waiting around as large files load and render faster.

One reason that it’s our top pick for video and photo editing laptops is because its keyboard is comfortable enough to use during long editing sessions. The XPS’s trackpad is responsive and its touchscreen is intuitive—two features which contribute to the ease of making precise edits.

The Dell’s 4K display and powerful processor and graphics card make this laptop well-suited toward video editing.

Building & Prototyping: CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit

It’s a lot easier to create hardware prototypes when you have a legitimate starting base. The Raspberry Pi 3, a mini Linux computer, can operate as a starting point and brain of a variety of gadgets. We recommend the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit to get going on building anything from a gaming console to a smart-home speaker. The included Raspberry Pi 3 Model B computer has software and general input/output pins for running added lights, sensors, or switches. The kit is also packed with everything you need to begin a project including cables, a power supply, a microSD card, and a case for convenience.

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. (Photo: Andrew Cunningham)

Music Production: Arturia MiniLab MkII MIDI Keyboard Controller

Listening to music is a favorite pastime for many, creating it is possibly a curiosity for more. You don’t have to break the bank when buying gear that’ll help you take a stab at music production. The Arturia MiniLab MkII is our top pick for MIDI keyboard controllers for beginners and it’s perfect for making electronic music or playing it live. Its compact design is a plus and its pads offer the responsiveness you need, especially when paired with its included software. The MiniLab Mkll comes preconfigured but it’s functions can be customized through a separate app.

This set-up for beginners is perfect for making electronic music or playing it live. Photo: Michael Hession

Digital Art: Wacom Intuos Draw

There are endless graphic design software options and it’s helpful to have a tool that seamlessly pairs with them. The Wacom Intuos Draw, our top pick for drawing tablets for beginners, comes with its own software (Art Rage Lite), and it’s compatible with Windows, macOS and top-rated art programs. Artists who are just starting out will find the tablet’s grid pattern useful.

It connects to other devices via USB and also comes with a comfortable, customizable pen that can be used for drawing and painting. We like the tablet’s pressure sensitivity and the precision of its pen which will allow for easier detailing and add to the overall quality of your creations.

The Wacom Intuos Draw is the top pick for drawing tablets for beginners. Photo: Michael Hession

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

Here’s the ultra-low-light phone camera Sony promised

Sony promised an ‘ultra low-light camera’ during its Mobile World Congress press conference back in February. The off-hand announcement was intended to throw a bit of shade at Samsung’s recent flagship, but ultimately had the unintended consequence of undermining the company’s own newly announced XZ2. But, then, Sony’s never been great when it comes to marketing handsets.

That said, the company didn’t waste a lot of time delivering on that promise. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the the Xperia XZ2 Premium was the phone the company would have liked to have led with at the world’s largest mobile show, but just wasn’t fully baked at the time. In fact, the handset won’t actually be arriving until this summer.

When it does hit retail, it will sport a number of improvements over the regular XZ2 (and likely a steep price tag to match). Most notable here are the upgrades to the camera, because, well, Sony. The company says the phone’s capable of capturing ultra-low-light stills with an ISO of up to of 51,200 — with up to 12,800 for video. Press materials issued this morning say the phone accomplishes this by utilizing its dual camera sensors (a new addition with the XZ2 line), utilizing the company’s AUBE signal processor.

That’s a pretty impressive feat, if true, and would certainly surpass Samsung’s recent low-light camera advancements. I can’t say as I’m always excited to try out the latest Xperia handset, but this is one I’ll want to put through its paces. Sony’s certainly wowed us with its camera prowess in the past — in fact, that’s really the main thing Xperias have going for them. U.S. availability, on the other hand, isn’t likely to be one of them.

Other bits and bobs worth mentioning: there’s a 4K HDR display here — pretty much a given on a Sony flagship at this point, along with 4K movie recording. The phone also sports a similarly smooth design to the other XZ2 models — a notable upgrade from the old, boxy design. There’s also a beefy 3540mAh battery on board, along with a Snapdragon 845.

Given Sony’s traditional use of the Xperia line as a funnel for camera technology, I’d say it’s probably safe to expect similar low-light camera to start trickling into other manufacturers’ handsets in the not too distant future.

FTC warns companies that void warranties over using third-party services

The days of reading the small print to see whether a repair or new part for your ailing laptop will void its warranty may be coming to an end. The FTC has officially warned several companies that their policies of ceasing support when a user attempts “non-approved” repairs or servicing are likely illegal.

It’s the sort of thing where if you buy a device or car from a company, they inform you that unless you use approved, often internally branded parts, you’re voiding the warranty and your item will no longer be supported by the company.

The idea is that a company doesn’t want to be on the hook when a user replaces an old, perfectly good stick of RAM with a new, crappy one and then comes crying to them when the computer won’t boot. Or, in a more dire situation, replaces the brakes with some off-brand ones, which then fail and cause an accident. So there’s a reason these restrictions exist.

Unfortunately, they’ve come to encompass far more than these dangerous cases; perhaps you replace the RAM and then the power supply burns out — that’s not your fault, but because you didn’t use approved RAM the company takes no responsibility for the failure. The result is consumers end up having to buy components or servicing at inflated prices from “licensed” or “approved” dealers.

“Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” explained Thomas Pahl, from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the announcement.

The agency gave several examples of offending language in customer agreements, blanking out the names of the companies. Ars Technica was quick to connect these with the major companies they correspond to: Hyundai, Nintendo and Sony. Here are the statements the FTC didn’t like, with the company names in bold where they were blank before.

  • The use of Hyundai parts is required to keep your . . . manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
  • This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by Nintendo.
  • This warranty does not apply if this product . . . has had the warranty seal on the PS4 altered, defaced, or removed.

It’s one thing to say, don’t overclock your PS4 or we won’t cover it. It’s quite another to say if the warranty seal has been “defaced” then we won’t cover it.

“Such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act,” the FTC announcement reads, and in addition “may be deceptive under the FTC Act.” The companies have 30 days to modify their policies.

This could be a major win for consumers: more repairs and service locations would be allowed under warranty, and modders of game consoles may be able to indulge their hobby without trying to hide it from the manufacturer. That will depend on the new phrasing of the companies’ policies, but this attention from the FTC will at the very least nudge things in the right direction.

Lyft is considering entering Japan’s challenging ride-hailing market for some reason

Lyft, Uber’s chief nemesis in the U.S., is thinking of entering the fiercely competitive Japanese ride-hailing space, according to comments from one of its founders.

“We would love to be in Japan, and we also will be looking at that possibility,” John Zimmer, Lyft co-founder and president, said at the New Economy Summit 2018 in Tokyo.

“I think the regulatory framework here will play an even larger role than it likely had in other regions,” he added, according to a report from Japan Times.

Lyft made its first global expansion when it entered Canada last December so it is natural that the firm is eyeing overseas opportunities. Japan is one that springs to mind since it has counted Rakuten, the country’s dominant e-commerce service, as an investor since 2015, while the taxi market is one of the most lucrative in the world. Business in Tokyo alone is estimated to be worth over $15 billion in annual sales.

Hopping over the border to Canada is an obvious first move for many companies, but Japan would, by contrast, be a far more complicated market for Lyft to navigate.

Just ask Uber .

The U.S. giant has struggled to gain a foothold in a market that remains dominated by licensed taxi operators. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi recently paid a visit to Japan where he said he conducted “promising” meetings with taxi companies aimed at boosting Uber’s licensed taxi product in the market.

However, there are plenty of rivals.

Japanese taxi companies have an Uber of their own, JapanTaxi, which recently raised $69 million from Toyota. (Toyota is also an Uber backer, but those conflicts are becoming normal.) Beyond top backers, JapanTaxi is notable for being owned by Ichiro Kawanabe, who runs Japan’s largest taxi operator Nihon Kotsu and heads up the country’s taxi federation.

Other rivals include Line, Japan’s top messaging app which has offered taxi services for a few years, while Sony plans to introduce AI-based taxi hailing and Didi, Uber’s Chinese frenemy, is planning a Japan expansion in partnership with SoftBank, the notorious Uber investor.

In short, Lyft may harbor an interest in Japan but it would do better to prioritize less complicated markets for its next expansion.

Sony PlayStation 5 Unlikely To Arrive Until 2020: Gizmodo

A recent online rumor got people buzzing about a possible 2018 release of PlayStation 5, but that's probably not going to happen, Gizmodo reports. Citing a source, the outlet says it believes the next PlayStation may not arrive until 2020. From the report: It's been nearly five years since the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched, which has triggered bouts of nervousness and excitement among video game fans who want to know when they'll have to start hoarding pennies for a new generation of consoles. The PS4 launched seven years after the PS3, the Xbox One eight years after the Xbox 360. It's not unreasonable to be thinking about the next generation. We don't have a concrete answer just yet, but we have been asking around, and what we've heard is a whole lot of uncertainty.

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