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Google will not be the only Internet giant undergoing scrutiny for its recent advertising purchases. The Federal Trade Commission has decided to investigate Microsoft and Yahoo's recent acquisitions as well. Microsoft, which recently purchased online marketing company aQuantive for $6 billion, and Yahoo, which dropped a cool $680 million for 80 percent of ad firm Right Media that it didn't already control, will both be the subjects of an antitrust review by the FTC. HangZhou Night Net

Google's $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick is getting a full, formal investigation from the FTC after consumer advocates raised concerns over data privacy. Other groups, such as AT&T and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, have called on the FTC and Department of Justice to closely scrutinize the acquisitions over antitrust concerns. In the wake of the advertising acquisition frenzy, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo now control a sizable chunk of the online ad market, a development that has raised concerns not at only other ad firms, but also at companies that rely on a robust ad market.

The Microsoft and Yahoo deals do not appear to be getting the same level of scrutiny from the FTC—at least not yet. So far, the FTC has not made "second requests" of the companies for more data, a move that would indicate a more detailed investigation would be forthcoming.

A Microsoft spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal (subscription) that his company would cooperate fully with the FTC, adding that Microsoft "look[s] forward to addressing any questions the FTC may have."

Unlike the Google investigation, which was first centered around privacy concerns and has since expanded to include the antitrust angle, the FTC's decision to look at Microsoft and Yahoo centers around competitive concerns. Ironically, Microsoft pressured the US government to oppose the Google-DoubleClick deal for the many of the same reasons that the FTC is now looking at the Microsoft-aQuantive deal.

The sales boost Sony was hoping for hasn't come through yet, as the May NPD numbers show an ever-dominant Nintendo sitting on its perch far above the rest of the pack, with the Xbox 360 in distant second, and the PS3 trailing everyone by a significant margin. HangZhou Night Net

As you know, Nintendo absolutely owned the first quarter of the year, and with 338,000 more Wii consoles sold in May, the sales show no sign of slowing down. Still, the DS took top honors, with 423,000 units sold. These amounts almost look anomalous, for the sales of every other system are so far below Nintendo's preternatural numbers. As this trend continues month after month, Nintendo's domination is becoming a fact of life. When will it end?

The 360 sold a disappointing 154,900 units, down from April's 174,000. The system has a strong library of games with many standout hits, but increasing evidence of a price drop as well as widespread Internet complaints of reliability issues may be keeping the system from selling in higher numbers. Whether or not a price reduction is in the works, it may be what Microsoft needs to get more customers interested in the system.

The news is mixed for Sony this month. The PSP's price reduction paid off big; the system sold 221,120 units in May to eclipse even the PlayStation 2, which sold 187,800. These are strong numbers, and the PlayStation 2 is still seeing impressive exclusive content in games like Odin Sphere. The bad news is that the PlayStation 3 sold an abysmal 81,600 units in the same time frame. Sony is trying to leverage the PSP's relative success to boost PlayStation 3 sales numbers, but without a price drop and more exclusive games, the system is having a rough time fitting into the competitive hardware market. Luckily, Sony is beginning to hint at a price drop, and with Metal Gear Solid 4, Lair, and Final Fantasy still exclusive, things could look up this holiday season.

To date video games sales are up 47 percent from last year, but a closer look at the numbers shows that only Nintendo systems and Sony's last-generation hardware are moving in real volume. While Microsoft may try to hang on to its current price points as long as it can, at this point it looks like only a price drop will help it shift more units. If the company is able to reduce the price of their hardware near the release of Halo 3, it would be a one-two punch that could send sales skyrocketing during the holiday rush. Sony has a more complicated road ahead, with a price drop being almost essential to staying competitive while it tries to turn its strengths with the PS2 and PSP business into PS3 sales. Fortunately, it looks like one is on the way. Nintendo is in an enviable position: all it needs to do is worry about getting enough hardware into the market to meet demand.

For the more than nine years that Ars Technica has been publishing online, we've been outspoken when it comes to the lack of balance between the threat of piracy (which is always overstated) and the "solutions" to piracy (which are often draconian) that some copyright holders demand. Whether it's laws that would turn the possession of software into a crime, completely baked piracy reports, or yet another law meant to criminalize civil infractions, we've cast a critical eye on an industry that defines solipsism. HangZhou Night Net

And, everyone once and while, we're accused of hyperbole—of exaggerating our objections. That's why it's with both a grin and a lonely tear that I report to you the latest ridiculous claim from the copyright-trumps-all brigade.

NBC/Universal general counsel Rick Cotton suggests that society wastes entirely too much money policing crimes like burglary, fraud, and bank-robbing when it should be doing something about piracy instead.

"Our law enforcement resources are seriously misaligned," Cotton said. "If you add up all the various kinds of property crimes in this country, everything from theft, to fraud, to burglary, bank-robbing, all of it, it costs the country $16 billion a year. But intellectual property crime runs to hundreds of billions [of dollars] a year." Cotton's comments come in Paul Sweeting's report on Hollywood's latest shenanigans on Capitol Hill.

There are two obvious rejoinders to such a ridiculous statement. The first is that "hundreds of billions of dollars a year" is a myth. The MPAA's own cherry-picked study from Smith Barney in 2005 put their annual loss at less than $6 billion, and while the music and software industries also like to publish trumped-up claims, the figures are nowhere near hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

The second objection, of course, is that the traditional crimes Cotton describes often involve the destruction of people's lives along with property. Burglaries can result in homicide, as can fraud (ask the preacher's wife), while bank robbery is, without a doubt, a dangerous game. Those crimes also typically involve real property. For better or for worse, real property should not be confused with intellectual property, which is not subject to the same rules of scarcity. Stopping a bank heist is, without a doubt, a far more important matter than stopping the bootlegging of Gigli or Spider-Man 3. Chances are you would prefer that the cops spend their efforts protecting people from rampant home burglaries than chasing down kids with pirated music on their iPods.

Regardless, Cotton and his Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy are seeking to change federal law enforcement emphasis so that intellectual property crimes are given priority over other kinds of crime… a realignment, to play off Cotton's statement. Battling organized crime is hardly objectionable, and we hope the coalition sees success in taking down the profiteers of piracy. Offending the public with yet more lies and hyperbole isn't going to curry much favor, however.

HangZhou Night Net

While I've played the original Prince of Persia a few times in passing, Prince of Persia Classic on the 360 Live Arcade is the first time I've sat down and seriously gave the game a chance. At $10, it's on the higher end of Arcade pricing, but the game instantly impresses with beautiful graphics and animation, as well as honest to goodness cut scenes. The more I played, the more I started to think that the $10 price wasn't that high after all; this is a game with a solid design foundation, and the cosmetic makeover will impress even jaded gamers.

The game has a great set up. The evil vizier Jaffar has given the princess a choice: either marry him so he can grab control of the throne, or she dies. She has one hour to make up her mind. The princess' real man is locked deep in the dungeons, and has to escape to save her. You're the knight in shining…well, hammer pants, fighting against both the bad guys and time to reach the princess and save her. The game retains the smooth animations from previous iterations of the franchise; it's almost as fun to simply run around and backflip across chasms and run up the walls before springing to a hard-to-reach area as it is to get to the end of each level. Still, you have that clock counting down through the entire game; a constant reminder to hurry.

Most of the game involves finding your way out of each level and moving onto the next one, and the addition of waypoints make the game easy to pick up and play—you won't have to put a solid hour into the session to have any hope of beating it. Prince of Persia also has a fun sword-fighting system where you have to parry and thrust your way to victory. Watching the well-animated characters clang their swords together is quite the thrill, even if the fighting can be frustrating before you master the nuance of combat.

By definition, the game is only an hour long, but you can also unlock time trial and survival modes, and for the hyper competitive this is a great game to perfect a speed run. For the more casual fan, this is an inviting game that shows how well the original Prince of Persia still stands up to modern games. If you've never played the original, you're in for quite the treat.

A new bill introduced into the House of Representatives yesterday would force cable operators to offer a family tier of programming, along with an "opt-out" à la carte cable programming option. At the same time, it would apply broadcast indecency standards that restrict indecent programming to the hours of 10 PM and 6 AM to cable and satellite networks. HangZhou Night Net

The Family and Consumer Choice Act of 2007 is cosponsored by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and would be the à la carte law that Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin says is necessary. The bill has not yet appeared on the Library of Congress web site, but Ars was able to obtain a copy of the legislation from Rep. Lipinski's office.

Tiers and à la carte

The bill has something for everyone who has been advocating for à la carte cable. Those concerned by the amount of programming available on cable that's inappropriate for young eyes should be pleased, as there's a very real "think of the children" thread running through the bill. "Of those homes with children subscribing to cable service, the vast majority subscribe to expanded basic cable service," notes the bill. For that reason, the bill would mandate the creation of "real family tiers of programming," which the bill defines as all channels in the expanded basic tier aside from those carrying programming rated TV-Mature or TV-14 between the hours of 6am and 10pm.

Those who are tired of paying for channels that they never watch will like the bill's opt-out provision, which will give cable and satellite subscribers the ability to cancel channels on an individual basis. The legislation says that anyone electing to do so would receive a "credit on the monthly bill… for such blocked channels in an amount equal to the amount that such distributor pays for the right to provide such blocked channel."

That rumbling you're hearing is the heavy-duty lobbying machines of the cable companies being revved up and put into gear. Cable and satellite providers have consistently opposed à la carte programming, saying that it would raise overall programming costs while dooming niche networks that have a limited audience. A couple of cable companies—most notably Time Warner—have created family tiers, but those are the exception, rather than the rule. And despite all the discussion about à la carte cable, consumers are generally indifferent to it and unrealistic about its price.

Applying broadcast standards to cable

Moving beyond à la carte and family tiers, the legislation would extend indecent programming restrictions that are currently applied to terrestrial TV to cable and satellite networks. "In accordance with the indecency and profanity policies and standards applied by the [FCC] to broadcasters, as such policies and standards are modified from time to time, not transmit any material that is indecent or profane on any channel in the expanded basic tier of such distributor" except between 10 PM and 6 AM.

Rep. Lipinski and FCC chairman Kevin Martin, who has advocated for expanded indecency regulations, believe that parents need government help in protecting their children from objectionable content. "In today's culture, parents are increasingly worried that their children are exposed to obscene, indecent, and violent programming," Rep. Lipinski said in a statement. "While there is no doubt that parents are the first line of defense in protecting their kids, clearly they need more help."

With the parental controls built into every television set, set-top box, and DVR being sold these days, the need for such legislation seems questionable at best. Unlike broadcast television, which is available to anyone with a TV and an antenna, people subscribe to and pay for cable/satellite. Those who are concerned about the possibility of indecent programming during the daytime already have several options available to them, including not subscribing to cable or using some of the technological means available to block objectionable content.

In a conference call on Thursday, Intel laid out its mid- to long-term plans for the Itanium Product Family (IPF). With all the hype around Penryn and Nehalem and the ongoing popularity of chatter about Itanium's eventual demise at the hands of 64-bit x86, Intel took a moment to remind the press and analysts that Itanium is still here, still posting double-digit year-over-year growth in revenue and unit shipments, and still looking toward the future. HangZhou Night Net

Indeed, Itanium's future was the focus of the call, in which Intel described its IPF roadmap for the next few product iterations. Here's a summary of what was announced.

The next version of Itanium to hit the streets will be Montevale, which is a tweak of the dual-core Montecito with some additional RAS features.

Following Montevale in 2008 will be the quad-core Tukwila, the next major version of Itanium since Montecito brought the platform into the dual-core realm. Tukwila is a 65nm quad-core part (all four cores are on the same die, so AMD would approve) with an on-die memory controller and support for simultaneous multithreading. Intel claims that Tukwila will offer two times the performance of Montecito at the same TDP.

The major feature that Tukwila will bring to the Itanium line is support for Intel's sorely needed and extremely delayed common systems interconnect (CSI). CSI promises a new socket and bus protocol format that will support either an Itanium chip or a Xeon. Intel will also release chipset hardware that will support either processor on the same motherboard. At last, Xeon and Itanium will be drop-in replacements for one another, a feature that should go a long way in helping with IPF's uptake.

Of course, CSI also offers bandwidth improvements and a host of other features that will finally give Intel a real competitor to AMD's HyperTransport, which by then will be in its 3.0 iteration.

Tukwila's microarchitecture will be essentially the same as that of Montecito, which is itself the same as the Itanium2 processor launched in 2002. IPF's basic microarchitecture won't get a major overhaul until sometime around 2010, when the 32nm Poulson chip launches. Intel was pretty mum on Poulson, not giving too many details.

If Poulson details were scarce, details about its successor, codenamed Kittson, were nonexistent. Intel would only give a codename, with no word on a timeframe, features, or anything else.

Opera Software vice president Tatsuki Tomita has confirmed that his company is developing a replacement for the Adobe Flash plug-in for use with future versions of the Opera Mini mobile web browser. HangZhou Night Net

Tomita explained that the reason for this move is that the traditional Flash plug-in uses a large amount of CPU and memory resources, limiting speed and battery life on mobile platforms. The problem is exacerbated when the Flash plug-in is not well-optimized for the platform it is running on; Macintosh users can attest to this firsthand. "You cannot execute and provide a good user experience," Tomita told InfoWorld, referring to running the Flash plug-in on mobile devices.

The new technology will add video capability directly into the Web browser so that users can see and play back video content directly in Opera. As of yet, Opera has not commented on whether or not the new native playback ability for Opera Mobile will be able to play existing Flash content.

Flash playback has often been a sore point for Opera users on various platforms. Earlier versions of Opera had difficulty playing back fullscreen versions of YouTube videos, for example, until Opera fixed that particular bug. Users of Opera on the Wii have noted that not all Flash content is playable on that device.

Tomita did not give a date for when the Opera Mini Flash replacement would be available. He said that he expects the web browser to continue to gain functionality as more and more companies move towards making web-based versions of their applications. He said that the limitations of web-based applications can be overcome if browser providers work with individual mobile device makers to control the hardware and software capabilities natively. In this case, it seems like he is referring to phone manufacturers who want to deliver their own premium video content to users, which he believes the new Opera native Flash replacement will do better than existing solutions.

A few days ago, Ars reviewed the new 17" MacBook Pro. Most of that review also applies to the new 15-inchers, but there is one aspect to the latest incarnation of the 15" MacBook Pro that warrants another look: the LED-backlit screen. HangZhou Night Net

When I started up my new 2.2 GHz 15" MacBook Pro this morning, I wasn't immediately struck by the brightness of the screen. Sure, it was brighter than the screen of the PowerBook I was replacing, and maybe even a bit brighter than the CRT that still decorates my desk, but not by a huge margin. Then again, it was a cloudy day, so no sun to wash out the image on the screen. However after it had gotten dark, I launched an investigation into rumors that the iSight now has a 1.3 megapixel resolution. (It doesn't. Too bad.) Initially, the iSight images were too dark to be useful. So I thought I'd increase the screen brightness, thinking that maybe that would illuminate my face. Did it ever. I almost had to squint because of the barrage of photons sent my way. You can actually video conference in complete darkness, with only the display to light your face. So, yes, it's bright. Apple says that the brightness is the same as the previous model, but remember, I'm upgrading from a nearly four-year-old PowerBook. Also, the screen goes to full brightness immediately. No warming up. The keyboard backlighting is also very bright and is a bit on the purple side.

The next thing I wanted to know was whether the yellow cast observed in some photos of the new MBPs meant that the new screens have a different color temperature than the old ones. They don't. Visual inspection shows no color cast, and looking at the color profile for the screen with the ColorSync Utility shows that the native white point is identical to that of the previous-generation of MBP 15" screens. That would be standard 6500K or D65—the color of daylight on an overcast day. However, looking at the screen from an angle makes the image brown-yellowish. I was a bit worried about the viewing angles, but it's not as bad as I had feared. If you sit back a bit and adjust the screen so it's perpendicular to your line of sight, you're in good shape. When leaning in, however, you'll look at the corners of the screen at enough of an angle to introduce color shifts.

The black level is very good for an LCD screen: it's not entirely pitch black, but it's getting there. The one thing I don't like so much is that the very top of the screen (10 to 15 pixels) is brighter than the rest of the display. But the top of the screen is the best place for this flaw, as it's normally hidden by the menu bar and when playing video, the problem area will likely end up in the letter boxing for wide screen content, as the aspect is 16:10 while wide screen video is 16:9.

Really good LED-backlit LCD screens are supposed to have a wider range of colors (the gamut) than regular LCD displays with cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) backlights, but cheap LED-powered displays can have a worse-than-usual gamut. Apple says the new screens are identical to the old ones, which is hard to believe considering the fundamental change in underlying technology. So I was very interested to see how the information in the color profiles of the new screen compares to that of its immediate predecessor. If you look at the images closely, you'll see that the triangle that encompasses the gamut of the display is slightly bigger for the new MacBook Pro: it extends farther into the yellow part of the spectrum. However, compared to the sRGB profile, the change doesn't amount to much.

So although Apple's claim that the new screens are identical to the old ones isn't strictly true, it's not hard to see hard to see why they would say that.

A few weeks ago, I agreed to be an interview subject for George Kenney's podcast series, Electric Politics. Kenney is a really interesting guy with an distinguished and varied biography, and his podcast series hosts an impressive range of guests on a variety of topics related to politics and technology. I was honored to follow Chalmers Johnson as an interviewee, and my interview is now available from Kenney's site. HangZhou Night Net

A few words of warning before you download the interview. First, Kenney had mentioned that the particular type of broadcast-quality audio recording equipment that he uses doesn't work as well with Skype as it does with standard phone lines. My house is Skype- and mobile-only, so POTS wasn't an option for me. I typically talk in a fairly low register, so when you combine that with the Skype-related static, it sounds like I really need to cough throughout most of the interview. Not that the audio is bad, mind you, but listening to it I kept thinking, "man, I sound kind of gurgly."

The second caveat relates to the extremely open-ended and wide-ranging nature of the conversation: politics, religion, technology, and everything in between. The spontaneous, open-endedness of it all—there was no plan to talk about one particular topic—and the total lack of visual cues on my end that would let me know when I'm rambling and when I'm staying on topic, made it extremely difficult for me stay focused in my responses. On the whole, I think I did a pretty good job given the circumstances, but there are a few moments that (to me at least) seem to veer into "dorm room bull-session" type territory because I'm on this kind of extended, free-form rant about some super-deep topic.

I was keenly aware of this factor over the course of the interview, and so as I sat there alone in my office, with my Skype headset on, speaking to the voice at the other end of the ether about the problems of empire and the nature of the human condition (not my usual topic of conversation), I was really trying to hold it all together and make coherent, worthwhile points. If you've never been in this position—where you've got 1.5 hours worth of rope to hang yourself with, and no net—then you have no idea what a challenge it is to tell when you're making a point and when you're just thinking out loud. (All the previous interviews I've done have been one-topic affairs, where I could prepare beforehand.)

The end result of all this is that my conversation is rhythmically punctuated with verbal artifacts like "um..", "y'know…," "well…," and so on that are pretty much the stutters and stumbles of an amateur sweating and weaving on a high-wire above the circus floor.

At any rate, George did a great job of navigating all of this, and without him nudging me along it could've been much worse. So I hope you guys enjoy listening to me think out loud for an hour and a half—in spite of the amount of effort involved, it was a good experience and I'm glad I participated.

Oh, and the source of this post title is a term that I must've used at least five times in various contexts in the interview: "flip side." I think this jumped out at me mainly because it's not something I normally say.

Fox Entertainment Group announced its intention to get into Internet broadcasting this morning through a partnership with Internet TV service Brightcove. The group, which carries Fox, FX, and SPEED, will be hosting targeted, ad-supported content on Brightcove, which will then allow users to share and embed that content wherever they please. The partnership also allows Fox to syndicate its content through affiliates' web sites as well as social networks. HangZhou Night Net

Brightcove, in some ways, is akin to a YouTube for major content providers in that it allows them to make content available via a web page and syndicate it through other sites. Unlike YouTube, Brightcove allows its partners to choose whether or not their content can be embedded by users and allows the providers to plant advertising in their videos. Although the companies don't specify whether the content from Fox will be in the form of full shows or clips, initial inspection indicates that clips will be the norm.

Fox Digital Media VP David Baron said in a statement that the partnership would help the company in its goal to deliver its content to consumers in as many ways as possible. "Brightcove's tools and services enable us to quickly and easily deploy broadband video on our network Web sites while retaining control over the quality, brand experience, and monetization of our content," he added.

Notice the word "control," for that's what this YouTube-ish plan is all about. Entertainment companies like Fox would prefer to keep as much control as possible, and that includes control over advertising placement. As streaming video grows online, Fox and others will always want the option of working ad deals across their distribution channels, as opposed to turning it over to another ad rep, such as Google's folks at YouTube.

Some of Brightcove's other broadcast partners include Sky Broadcasting, Discovery, National Geographic, and MTV. Brightcove also inked a deal with CBS last month that would make the company the main syndication platform for all CBS News online. Unlike the deal with Fox, however, Brightcove's deal with CBS does not involve a user-embeddable Flash player. Fox's move to include one signals a certain level of comfort in allowing their content to be rebroadcast nearly anywhere, outside of (some of) its control.

Brightcove VP of marketing and advertising Adam Berry told Variety that while other networks may be trying to offer Internet-based content through their own solutions, such an endeavor could be limiting. "They're basically limited by the capabilities of their tech team," he told the magazine. "What this does is let the media companies focus on what they do best, creating great content and marketing that content."

Fox's deal with Brightcove to syndicate content online in this manner is among the first from the major TV networks. The announcement also comes just before the launch of the much-anticipated video sharing network announced by News Corp. in March. Those plans also involve providing free, ad-supported TV content through a number of partnerships with various syndication channels, and will launch sometime late summer/early fall with a laundry list of popular TV shows and movies.