Japan Video Games Blog


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Please contact me or drop a comment on any posts you guys don't want up and I'll take it off within 24 hours, thanks!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Music Service iLike Tops 30M Users, Adds Full-Song Streams | Digital Media Wire

Seattle - Social music discovery service iLike announced on Monday that it has surpassed 30 million registered users, and said it signed a deal with RealNetworks (NASD: RNWK) to offer full-length song playback via that company's Rhapsody service.

The Rhapsody full-song streaming feature -- which caps plays at 25 songs per month -- will soon be made available on iLike's Facebook application as well.

The company is also planning to enable music syndication via third-party developers starting in the third quarter.

Seattle-based iLike further announced the launch of a new self-service advertising platform, which concert promoters, venue owners, booking agents and independent bands can use to reach its users.

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BetaNews | QVC 2.0: TiVo users can buy products on their TV through Amazon

In an attempt to further monetize its DVR offering, TiVo has partnered with online retailer Amazon to allow advertisers to sell products to TiVo users directly through their TV.

The new service is most easily described with this example: an author appears on The Oprah Winfrey Show to promote his or her new book. At the end of the show, TiVo pops up a window with an option to purchase the book. TiVo currently embeds advertisements at the bottom of certain windows, which is likely where this offer would appear.

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While at the current time the system will only guess the appropriate product, the company says it will offer the service to advertisers and programmers to make the suggestions more relevant.

In either case, TiVo says the feature would allow for an entirely new connection with the consumer where the advertiser can take advantage of impulse buying. The product can either be purchased directly through the TiVo, or placed in the viewer's Amazon shopping cart for later.

Purchases done through the TiVo would be secured by a PIN number, which the customers would need to set up before using the service.

"If their product is seen or advertised on any TV show or network, and sold by Amazon.com, it can be merchandised to viewers through TiVo," explained TiVo broadband services director Evan Young.

Series2, Series3, and TiVo's HD DVRs would gain the functionality immediately thanks to the recent 9.4 software upgrade that also brought YouTube video integration. The first programs that will feature the product showcase include Oprah, The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Colbert Report, and Burn Notice.

TiVo sees the new offering as a way to further cozy up to advertisers who continue see the company as more of a threat than opportunity. Rather than skip over ads, product placement could help some advertisers retain viewers, as well as sell their products more directly to the consumer.

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WTF - Japan's Bullet Train Gets Its Pokemon On (Pika! Pika!) [Pokemon]

They've got Pokémon planes so why not Pokémon trains? As summer vacation kicks off here in Japan, Japan Rail East is rolling out four Pocket Monster bullet trains for the Tohoku and Joetsu lines and one each for the Yamagata, Akita and Nagano lines. Says one 7-year-old boy traveling with his parents to Iwate Prefecture:

I was surprised to see Pikachu, but I really like the character so I'm happy...It's a cool bullet train.

And Pikachu was surprised to see you. Summer 2008, this is the photo op. Hit the jump for a clip of the train in action.

ポケモン新幹線運行 上野駅にピカチュウも [Mainichi via Japan Probe Thanks, RB!

View Original Article

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McDonald's (MCD): Help from Europe - BloggingStocks

Europe is not exactly a growth market for most US companies. The economy there is slowing much as it is in America. But, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) may be an exception. According to Bloomberg, "McDonald's Corp., the world's largest restaurant company, may report a second-quarter profit after European sales rose twice as fast as in the U.S."

The news is unusually good because rising commodities prices are likely to squeeze the fast food company's margins. The costs of bread and meat have been up sharply over the last year.

Europe seems an unlikely savior for McDonald's numbers. It is often viewed at a region where good food and traditional cuisine are part of the culture. Who wants a hamburger from a fast food place when the local restaurant has crepe suzette?

But fast food, filled with fat and salt, is irresistible. McDonald's have proved that in every country where it does business.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 247wallst.com.

Tags: consumer spending, ConsumerSpending, europe, f
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Bloomberg.com: U.S.

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Yahoo! Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jerry Yang will have to revive the Internet company's profit with a divided board and Carl Icahn as minority leader.

The billionaire investor, who had sought Yang's ouster and pushed for a takeover by Microsoft Corp., will become a director and name two others to the 11-person board under an agreement announced yesterday. While Yang keeps his job, disappointing results will make his position tenuous, said Darren Bagwell, director of equity research at Thrivent Assent Management Inc.

Analysts on average project a 13 percent drop in earnings when Yahoo reports second-quarter results today, and Yang's promises to lure users from Google Inc. and expand sales 72 percent by 2010 may fail to materialize, Bagwell said.

``The quarter probably won't be that good, probably uglier than some people are expecting,'' said Bagwell, whose Appleton, Wisconsin-based firm oversaw about $60 billion and had 1.6 million Yahoo shares as of March. ``The inevitable is that there's either a significant change in the upper management team or the thing just gets sold off in pieces.''

Yahoo, owner of the second most popular Internet search engine, may say second-quarter sales expanded 10 percent to $1.37 billion, excluding fees passed on to partner sites, according to the average of 26 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That is little changed from 11 percent growth a year ago.

Net income may have dropped to $140 million, or 10 cents a share, from $161 million, or 11 cents, the survey showed.


``The sentiment's pretty much at rock-bottom at this point,'' said Ross Sandler, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in New York. ``Everybody thinks Yahoo is going to have a crummy quarter.''

Icahn, 72, and Yahoo spokeswoman Diana Wong didn't return messages seeking comment. Yahoo will report results after U.S. markets close today.

Yahoo fell 73 cents to $20.94 at 9:43 a.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. Before today, Yahoo had dropped 17 percent since Microsoft walked away from a takeover of the company June 12. Nine analysts recommend buying Yahoo shares, 18 say to hold and four advise selling.

Icahn owns about 5 percent of Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo, or more than 68 million shares. He must resign from the board if his stake falls to fewer than 30 million shares, Yahoo said in a regulatory filing yesterday. Icahn also must be invited onto any board committee that's negotiating a transaction, the filing said.

Wrapping Up Fight

``Today, Yahoo moves past a distracting proxy contest,'' Yang said in a blog posting last night. The settlement with Icahn will ``allow us to get back to the business at hand.''

As a board member, Icahn may press Yang, 39, to take immediate steps such as cutting jobs, selling some units and making acquisitions, said Jeff Lindsay, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York. The potential candidates for the two other spots on the board include Jonathan Miller, the former chief of AOL.

Yang has sought to revive investor faith in his strategy with predictions of faster sales growth. The company forecast in March that sales, excluding revenue shared with partner sites, will rise to $8.8 billion in 2010, from $5.11 billion last year. Analysts on average estimate sales for that period will climb to $7.3 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Before yesterday's agreement, Icahn had claimed Yang didn't have the operational expertise to run Yahoo. Yang and David Filo co-founded the company more than a decade ago as graduate students at Stanford University. Yang took over as CEO in June 2007, following the departure of Terry Semel, who ceded the lead in Internet advertising sales to Google.

Display Slowdown?

Yang also has to cope with an economic slowdown that may prompt customers to curb ad budgets. Sales of banner ads and so- called display promotions on Web pages will rise 12 percent in the U.S. this year, researcher Magna Global in New York said this month. Magna lowered its forecast from a 17 percent increase, citing the impact of soaring fuel and food prices on the economy.

Yahoo gets about 20 percent of U.S. Web queries, or a third of Google's share. Acquiring Yahoo would triple Microsoft's percentage of U.S. searches. Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw didn't respond to messages seeking comment.

``Microsoft has been and continues to try to catch a runaway freight train with Google, and the reality is Microsoft's tried organically so many times and really has little to show for it,'' said Citigroup Global Markets Inc. software analyst Brent Thill in San Francisco.

Yahoo's deal with Icahn ``opens the door a little'' to a transaction, Thill said.

Bill Miller

Yang's biggest ally among shareholders, Bill Miller, also says he wants a new bid from Microsoft. The Legg Mason Capital Management Inc. chairman, whose firm holds about 60.7 million shares, said July 18 he would back Yahoo's board in a shareholder vote, putting pressure on Icahn to settle.

Microsoft said last week that Internet-advertising sales fell short of its targets. Google last week reported profit that missed analysts' estimates as legal and research costs expanded.

``The quarter's going to be a mess'' for Yahoo too, said Larry Haverty, an associate portfolio manager at Gamco Investors Inc. in Rye, New York. By forging an agreement with Icahn, Yang may have gained ``a couple of quarters'' to show evidence of a turnaround, and if not, a sale to Microsoft is the alternative, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Crayton Harrison in Dallas at tharrison5@bloomberg.net

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Bloomberg.com: Special Report

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would cost taxpayers an estimated $25 billion over two years under the Bush administration's rescue plan, the Congressional Budget Office said.

While the assessment is more pessimistic than Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's prediction that a bailout is unlikely, the CBO report may quell concerns among some lawmakers that the price tag would be higher.

There is probably a ``better than 50 percent'' chance taxpayer funds won't be needed to save the two largest mortgage- finance providers, though ``that scenario is far from the only possible result,'' said the CBO, a nonpartisan agency in Washington that provides economic and budget analysis for lawmakers, said in a report today.

``Many analysts and traders believe that there is a significant likelihood that conditions in the housing and financial markets could deteriorate more than already reflected'' in the companies' finances, the CBO said. ``Such continuing problems would increase the probability that this new authority would have to be used.''

While neither the Treasury nor the White House budget office has estimated publicly the cost of a bailout, lawmakers including Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Richard Shelby of Alabama said last week they were concerned the cost could reach into the trillions of dollars. The CBO said it reached its assessment by taking into account the probability of various outcomes.

Helping the Markets

Paulson said today he anticipated legislation will be passed this week to authorize his July 13 request for authority to extend credit to the mortgage-finance companies or take an equity stake. Lawmakers have negotiated with Paulson over the details, with the goal of putting the package to a vote in the House of Representatives tomorrow. The Senate would also need to vote.

Paulson has said the plan alone would restore investor confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee almost half the $12 trillion in U.S. home loans outstanding, and thereby pose little cost to taxpayers. He said the Treasury has no plans to execute the financial backstop plan, and added that if it did so, he would consult with Congress and the companies.

``This is about not only our housing markets, but it's about our capital markets more broadly,'' Paulson, 62, said today in a Bloomberg Television interview. ``This goes well beyond the two institutions -- Fannie and Freddie -- it has to do with investors in the United States and investors all over the world.''

Potential Turmoil

Congress may have little choice but to sign off on Paulson's request because investors are already anticipating approval, the CBO said.

``Financial markets already appear to be assuming that expanded authority to assist the GSEs will be granted to the Secretary and failing to provide such authority at this point could trigger turmoil in the nation's financial and housing markets,'' the CBO said.

Fannie Mae fell $1.14, or 8 percent, to $12.99 at 12:41 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Freddie Mac dropped 51 cents, or 5.8 percent, to $8.24.

Loss Probabilities

The CBO estimate includes the likelihood that losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won't worsen and the government plan will prove unnecessary, the CBO said in a report today.

``The CBO report is sure to be utilized by politicians on both sides of the aisle, with opponents pointing to the hefty cost, and supporters pointing to the sub-50 percent odds placed on the likelihood of those costs ever being realized,'' Tony Crescenzi, the chief bond strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York, said.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, called the estimate ``good news.'' He said the CBO assessment will be ``very helpful to those who want to advance this legislation.''

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who has argued the bailout is unlikely to generate significant costs, said last week the CBO estimate would be ``higher than reality would justify.'' His spokeswoman, Heather Wong, today called the CBO's analysis ``very encouraging,'' saying ``we especially like that there is less than a 50 percent chance that it will be used.''

Tester, a Democrat, said during a July 15 Senate Banking Committee hearing he was concerned the government would be ``potentially spending $1 trillion. Shelby, the panel's top Republican, told reporters that day he was ``uneasy about giving this blanket authority.''

Mortgage Losses

The Bush administration is depending on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to help pull the U.S. out of the worst housing slump since the Great Depression. The companies, which buy mortgages from banks, face mounting credit losses stemming from the collapse of the subprime-mortgage market.

Freddie Mac may cut purchases of home loans from banks and bonds backed by housing debt to shore up its capital amid record delinquencies.

CBO numbers assume Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won't exceed the $85 billion in fair value losses on their balance sheets, agency officials told reporters in Washington today. The CBO said today it's taking into account an almost 5 percent chance credit losses may reach $100 billion.

Fannie Mae, created in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal plan, and Freddie Mac, started in 1970, have the implicit backing of the U.S. government and get access to funds at lower rates than banks, became more indispensable this year after private providers of mortgages collapsed or were acquired.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Faler in Washington at bfaler@bloomberg.net; Dawn Kopecki in Washington at dkopecki@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: July 22, 2008 12:43 EDT
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U.S. stocks turn mostly up on oil's drop, mixed earnings - MarketWatch

U.S. stocks scale back early losses Tuesday as the price of crude dips more than $4 a barrel, countering earnings results and guidance from American Express Co., Apple Inc. and Wachovia Corp. that intensified worries about the economy. See full story.
Apple shares hit on weak forecast despite strong earnings
Apple Inc. shares tumble more than 8% after the consumer electronics maker issues a weak fourth-quarter profit forecast, taking the shine off a 31% jump in third-quarter earnings. See full story.
Wachovia swings to loss on writedown, cuts div
Wachovia Corp. took $6.1 billion of write-downs for bad investments related to the mortgage and credit crises, and increased its write-off and loan loss provisions, swinging the company to a loss for the second quarter and prompting its second dividend cut this year. See full story.
AmEx falls as economy chokes growth
Shares of credit-card giant American Express shed as much as 12%, in reaction to second-quarter results underscoring the fragile state of the U.S. economy. See full story.
U.S. plan for GSEs has $25 billion price tag: CBO
A proposed plan by the Bush administration to backstop struggling mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will cost $25 billion over fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. See full story.
John Dvorak's Second Opinion: The Microsoft conundrum
Microsoft has posted continuous profits and great financial results over the years, including its whopper earnings report on Thursday. Meanwhile, the stock has done nothing for years and everyone must wonder why, writes John Dvorak. See full story.
Special Report: Is it time to worry about your bank deposits? Yes, and no
If you're an investor, banks aren't looking pretty. But for bank customers, it's another story: As long as your assets are covered by FDIC insurance, you should be sitting pretty, even if your own bank fails. The question is: Are your assets covered? See full story. End of Story
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