Q&A with AMD's Rick Bergman on the graphics sweet spot

Rick Bergman is the senior vice president and general manager of the graphics products group at chip company Advanced Micro Devices. His team of graphics chip designers –- formerly known as ATI Technologies until AMD acquired the company in 2006 — has scored well with the recent launch of the ATI Radeon HD 4800 series family. The so-called “sweet spot” strategy caught rival Nvidia flat-footed. While Nvidia created a high-end graphics chip that burned a lot of power, AMD created a smaller chip that targeted the middle of the market. It decided that it could put two such chips into a board to create a low-cost, top-performance solution for high-end gamers. Meanwhile, the single chips could be easily targeted toward the mid-range and low-end of the markets. Nvidia, by contrast, has had to wait longer to redesign its chips for the mid-range and low-end markets. The result has been a big shift in market share from Nvidia to AMD, whose graphics chip division is now profitable after a tough 2007. I spoke with him at AMD’s recent analyst meeting at its headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., after Bergman gave an upbeat outlook for AMD’s graphics business.

You'll love Sling.com if you have a Slingbox or can't live without CBS — otherwise you'll still love Hulu

Sling Media, makers of the Slingbox, have just opened up their television streaming site, Sling.com, to the public. The service, which is not only just like Hulu but actually streams some of Hulu’s content as well, also allows you to watch any content you have on your Slingbox at home right on your browser. That’s a nice feature, but it’s hardly enough to make the masses turn to Sling.com rather than Hulu. That will only happen if said masses can’t live without CBS content. In other words, it won’t happen… yet.

The curious case of the Microsoft Zune phone

While Microsoft has been busy dilly-dallying with its Zune digital music device, rival Apple has started dominating a vastly more powerful market: Mobile phones. The iPhone has changed things — it makes even the iPod feel like a relic, which makes the Zune feel like bad relic. So it should be no surprise that we’re now hearing a lot of rumors about Microsoft jumping into the mobile phone space.

Microsoft goes for The Guild

The Guild, the popular web series, premieres its second season today with a Microsoft twist — the episodes will be distributed through Microsoft’s platforms of XBox 360 Live, MSN and Zune. The deal between series creator/producer Felicia Day and Microsoft was announced on Monday.

Google Maps updated to emphasize Street View

Google Maps underwent some user interface changes today. The controls on the right-hand side now look cleaner and there is an easier way to enter Street View, Google Maps’ optional view that allows you to explore a location through real photos taken at street level.

Where'd the iTunes Plus area vanish to?

When Apple refreshes the iTunes store onTuesdays, I feel like a kid in a candy store. Each Tuesday, it adds new music, new movies and new deals on content. But today’s changes may have signaled the start of something much bigger: A revamp of iTunes Plus.

Google stock rains on the tech rally parade

The stock market had a good day today. The tech-heavy Nasdaq continued its climb back towards 1,500, ending the day up 87.67 points (6.33 percent) to close at 1,472.02. Looking at various tech stocks, it looks like most had very nice gains today, but one notable one did not: Google.

A million G1s by the end of 2008

HTC, which makes the first phone to use Google’s Android platform, the T-Mobile G1, said it expects shipments of the device to reach one million before the end of 2008, according to DigiTimes. The number, stated by HTC chief executive Peter Chou a few days ago, represents a significant increase from the company’s original forecast that it would ship 600,000 G1s by the end of 2008.

Amid iPhone success, rumors of a Microsoft phone

While Microsoft has been laughably trying (and failing) to chase down Apple’s iPod digital music player with its Zune device, a much bigger fish has risen from its rival: The iPhone. It could easily be argued that if Microsoft wants to do hardware, it should focus its efforts on the mobile market, a space where it’s only been pushing software to date — its increasingly outdated and badly outgunned Windows Mobile platform. If a report by English tech journal The Inquirer holds any water, Microsoft will have a phone … soon.

Apple's 2008 ad budget: Nearly a half billion dollars

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how much money Microsoft is spending (and some would say wasting) on its new advertising campaigns to promote its brand. Of course you’ve seen them: The Bill Gates/Seinfeld ads and the newer “I’m a PC” ads. But there hasn’t been much focus on how much Microsoft rival Apple is spending on its advertising. You might think it’d be hard to get a figure out of the ever-secretive company, but BNET’s Technology Industry Blog was able to dig the figure up from Apple’s 10-K filing.

Wallpaper Universe is hoping sex sells on the iPhone

Some days I like to check out what new applications are being released in the App Store. But seeing as there are usually well over a hundred (and sometimes several hundred) each day, it’s hard to pick out individual ones. But Wallpaper Universe got my attention today with something very obvious: Pictures of scantily clad women staring at me.

The revenge of the $9.99 iPhone apps

When Apple’s App Store first launched back in July there was a wide range of prices for individual applications. While many were free, quite a few of the early games were $5 or $10. But as time has passed, there’s definitely been a trend of the paid apps to move towards $0.99, which seems to be a magic price point for high sales. But $0.99-an-app isn’t much of a way for developers to make a living, and quite a few of them are now trending back towards $10.

Aurora Feint II: The Arena brings asynchronous online multi-player gaming to the iPhone

Since the launch of the Apple App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch in July, there have apparently only been two games that have racked up over 2,000 reviews while maintaining a 4-star or above average (out of 5 stars): Tap Tap Revenge and Aurora Feint: The Beginning, says Aurora Feint investor and chairman Peter Relan. What that means is that a lot of people have really enjoyed these games, and in Aurora Feint’s case, there is an established fan base. With that in mind, its creators are launching a new iteration: Aurora Feint II: The Arena.

Apple releases the iPhone 2.2 update. It's a big one

The signs were all pointing to a tomorrow launch of the 2.2 software update for the iPhone — Apple jumped the gun. (Though I guess technically it is Nov. 21 on the east coast of the U.S.) The update is available now through iTunes, and it’s actually larger than the big 2.1 software update that Apple pushed out back in September (246.4 megabytes versus 237.8 megabytes).

MySpace application helps Blackberry phones get more social

The MySpace application for Research In Motion’s Blackberry smartphones has been downloaded more than 400,000 times since it was introduced a week ago. The two companies claim this is an app download record for them. Its users have sent a total of more than 15 million messages and updated their statuses more than two million times so far, they say.

Online ad growth slows in Q3

Internet advertising revenue reached $5.9 billion during the third quarter of 2008. That’s the second-highest number ever, but quarter-to-quarter growth is slowing, according a new report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

New World of Warcraft expansion sold 2.8 million in 24 hours

I guess they should rename the company Blizzard Activision. In any case, Activision Blizzard scored big time with the launch of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. Published by Activision Blizzard’s Blizzard Entertainment division, the online game expansion for WoW players sold 2.8 million copies in its first 24 hours.

Rolando, one of the best looking iPhone games, plays even better

I’ve been excited about an iPhone game named Rolando ever since a video of it spread throughout the internet back in July right before the launch of the iPhone 3G (and App Store). The developers had hoped to release it in August, but that came and went, and the buzz largely subsided. But today I got a chance to play the basically completed version of the game — it’s even better than the original demo video — the buzz will be back soon.

Yahoo's stock rockets…downward

Those who were hoping that Yahoo chief executive Jerry Yang stepping down would solve Yahoo’s recent stock woes got a very rude awakening today — to the tune of a 20.87 percent drop in share price. Yes, Yahoo’s stock is now below $10 a share, closing the day at $9.14.

SimCity for the iPhone may ruin my life (in a good way)

No game captured my imagination when I was growing up like SimCity. Certainly, a part of it was my God complex, but more it was the open-ended nature of a game with few rules that let you build a city. I spent countless hours on my computer playing it, I even spent countless hours on the Super Nintendo playing it when it was ported to that console. Now it’s coming to the iPhone — countless hours will be lost again.

Admob's iPhone ad business continues to grow

Mobile web advertising provider Admob is finding significant traction with its iPhone ad network. The device has gone from generating 28 million ad requests in July, when the company launched interactive iPhone-specific ad features, to 236 million in October. Now the iPhone is the top device on Admob’s network, making up 4.1 percent of all ad requests.