Meet the PiS2: A PS2 Portable Built with a Raspberry Pi 2 Server


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Redditor and modder darkwingmod has posted a video of his new, homemade Sony PS2 portable — which isn’t actually a thing Sony ever built, but after seeing this, possibly should have been. According to posts he’s made, the well-named “PiS2” is based on a Raspberry Pi 2 board connected to a PS2-to-HDMI output, which is connected to a 5.6-inch HDMI display.

Ingredients. Photo by Darkwingmod.

Instead of installing a DVD drive, the portable unit uses a Raspberry Pi SMB server to deliver games. Making the Raspberry Pi fit in the back of the console shell was a bit difficult, and Darkwingmod wound up stripping most of the headers off the board. There’s an extensive thread on BitBuilt.net that dives into the construction of the unit, with various users chiming in with documents showing how components are wired together and contributing ideas towards the overall fit and finish.

It’s a rather interesting read if you are into the whole homebrew console scene. Projects like this can take years to complete — the thread picks up in 2017 after Darkwingmod took a four-year break, and continues up to the present day, showing how the various components of the platform came together. There are photos with breadboard details showing how everything is wired up internally.

One point I want to draw out is that this portable unit actually contains a physical motherboard from a PS2. The Raspberry Pi 2 SMB server is being used to transfer games to the PS2 over an Ethernet port, replacing the role of a DVD drive. So what you’ll see in the video below isn’t an emulator — it’s the motherboard from a PS2 doing the heavy lifting, with games served off a Raspberry Pi.

Don’t sneeze. Image by Darkwingmod.

The amount of wiring and soldering required to pull all of this together is rather impressive. The PiS2 even supports the option to switch the console between portable and TV output — you can still play it with the video being displayed on a larger TV, in other words.

Battery life is limited and the system displays a warning when voltage drops below 6.3V. This provides approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes of playtime. That’s not great, but remember, he’s using an original PS2 board, not a modern emulator running on a more efficient platform. In this case, an emulator running on top of the RBP natively would probably actually result in lower power consumption, but it would also come with the various headaches associated with emulation. I messed around with getting a PS2 emulator up and running on a PC this year, and while it’s absolutely do-able, there’s still some significant troubleshooting involved. A six-year project with some pretty hefty construction requirements may not qualify as less work, but it’s a really cool way to create a unique product.

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Pour One Out for the Dreamcast, Sega’s Awesome, Quirky, Gone-Too-Soon Console


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On September 9, 1999, Sega launched the Dreamcast in North America — it’s last, best hope for relevance in the console market. The console, which was intended to put Sega on a more even footing against competitors like Sony, wound up being the company’s hardware swan song. Sega never launched another console — the company’s Genesis Mini, which releases on September 19, is the first Sega-branded hardware to ship in 20 years (not counting the products Tectoy produces in the Brazilian market).

The Dreamcast is a rare example of a platform that failed despite having relatively few weaknesses or flaws relative to other consoles at the time. The N64 wasn’t as popular as Nintendo hoped because the cartridges of the day had limited storage capacity and therefore limited space for detailed textures. Despite these limits, they were also quite expensive compared with CD-based media. The previous Sega console, the Sega Saturn, was difficult to program and had been rushed out the door in an attempt to beat Sony’s PlayStation to market. The original Xbox One was less powerful than the PlayStation 4SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce and debuted with a confused, half-baked marketing strategy that saw Microsoft attempt to launch a new game console by focusing on everything it could do besides gaming, and pour substantial resources into a camera add-on rather than the actual machine.

The Dreamcast, in contrast, was a solid piece of kit. It used a 32-bit two-way superscalar RISC CPU designed by Hitachi, the SH-4, rated for 360 MIPS and clocked at 200MHz. The CPU offered an 8KB instruction cache and 16KB data cache and interfaced with a GPU designed by NEC, the PowerVR2. While reportedly not as powerful as the 3dfx hardware that Sega had originally planned to use for the Dreamcast, the PowerVR solution was an affordable option and an effective one. The Dreamcast was designed to use off-the-shelf components to make it an easier target for developers, but the platform was ahead of its time in several respects.

Dreamcast Controller

The Dreamcast controller, with Video Memory Unit (VMU)

The Dreamcast shipped with a modem at a time when 80 percent of the US population was still using dial-up to get online. It used a GD-ROM format that could hold up to 1GB of data — not as large as DVDs, but more capacity than a typical CD-ROM offered. It offered a memory card that doubled as a miniature gaming device, the Visual Memory Unit. Sega’s overall goal with the Dreamcast was to build excitement around its products in the months before the PlayStation 2 would debut, to give it a leg up on the next-generation competition.

From the beginning, however, the console faced an uphill battle. Retailers who had been burned by short-lived Sega products like the Sega CD or 32X (not to mention the Sega Saturn) were unhappy with the company. Sega had initially intended to use hardware from 3Dfx, but when 3Dfx filed for its own IPO it revealed the Dreamcast before Sega had been prepared to make the announcement. Meanwhile, EA decided not to support the Dreamcast, despite having been a major partner on previous Saturn systems. According to a retrospective on the console, this decision was driven by a host of factors, including the specific component choices Sega made, the company’s indecision over whether to make a modem standard on the entire console range, and Sega’s hardball tactics during licensing may have killed EA’s interest in the platform. A different source in the same article, however, claims that EA walked away from Dreamcast because Sega wouldn’t give it a guaranteed exclusive on all sports’ titles for the console, given that Sega had just purchased a development studio, Visual Concepts, to build these titles.

Sony’s PS2 Marketing Blitz

The other factor that has to be factored into the Dreamcast’s demise is the absolute torrent of marketing Sony unleashed. In September 1999, all eyes were on Sony’s PlayStation 2, still over a year away. In theory, this should have opened a window for the Dreamcast to establish itself. In practice, that didn’t happen. Sony put an all-out marketing blitz behind the PlayStation 2, with its “Emotion Engine.” Sony’s reputation, by this point, was also better. The company had shipped one massive hit, the original PlayStation. Sega, in contrast, had shipped a number of half-baked, expensive flops. The Sega Saturn debacle was only part of the problem. The Sega CD and Sega 32X — both Genesis / Mega Drive add-ons — had failed to impress the market. Handheld products like the Sega Nomad had flopped.

If you were on the fence between Sega and Sony in the late 1990s, Sony looked like the safer bet. Sega’s Dreamcast enjoyed a very strong North American launch, but sales dropped off as the PS2’s launch date approached. Sony had the deep pockets to dramatically outspend Sega in terms of marketing dollars, while Sega was losing money despite brisk hardware sales. It cut Dreamcast prices to boost demand, but that meant taking a loss on the platform. While the attach rate for games was reportedly high, the install base wasn’t large enough for the company to achieve profitability this way. By the time the PS2 actually launched, Sega was hemorrhaging cash. Unable to compete with the PS2, Sega threw in the towel on hardware manufacturing altogether.

Image credit: TheDreamcastJunkyard, which has additional screenshots of comparisons between PS2 and Dreamcast visuals in Ferrari F355 Challenge, for the curious.

Compare Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 games today, and it’s clear that the gap between them wasn’t as large as Sony wanted it to seem. Sega Retro notes:

Compared to the rival PlayStation 2, the Dreamcast is more effective at textures, anti-aliasing, and image quality, while the PS2 is more effective at polygon geometry, physics, particles, and lighting. The PS2 has a more powerful CPU geometry engine, higher translucent fillrate, and more main RAM (32 MB, compared to Dreamcast’s 16 MB), while the DC has more VRAM (8 MB, compared to PS2’s 4 MB), higher opaque fillrate, and more GPU hardware features, with CLX2 capabilities like tiled rendering, super-sample anti-aliasing, Dot3 normal mapping, order-independent transparency, and texture compression, which the PS2’s GPU lacks.

Today, the Dreamcast is remembered for the uniqueness of its game library. In addition to absolutely stunning arcade ports like Soul Calibur, the Dreamcast had Phantasy Star Online, which was the first online console MMORPG. Games like Shenmue are considered to be progenitors of the open-world approach favored by long-running series like Grand Theft Auto (which itself began life as a top-down game, not a 3D, open-world, third-person title). Games like the cel-shaded Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi established the Dreamcast at a platform willing to take chances with game design. Titles like Skies of Arcadia offered players the chance to be sky pirates. Games like Seaman were… really weird.

Really, really weird.

Sometimes, the issues that sink a console are technical. Sometimes, the hardware is fine and it’s everything else that goes wrong. Here’s to one of the short-lived champions of a bygone age — and a more daring era in gaming, when developers and AAA publishers took more chances with quirky titles than they do today.

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Sony Is Back to Making Compact Phones With the Xperia 5


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It is traditional for Sony to launch two flagship phones per year, so naturally, everyone expected its big IFA 2019 announcement to be the Xperia 2. After all, it released the Xperia 1 earlier this year. Instead, Sony unveiled the Xperia 5. The numbering scheme is unusual because this phone is essentially a smaller version of the Xperia 1, and that could make a lot of people very happy. 

For years, Sony was the only smartphoneSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce maker that resisted the trend toward larger and larger phones. Companies that did make “mini” versions of their phones often hobbled them in some way to keep the price down. Sony simply made “Compact” editions of its larger flagship phones with all the same features and specs. It moved away from that as sales slumped, but the Xperia 5 could be a return to form. 

The Xperia 1 sports a 6.5-inch 4K OLED display, but it’s a 21:9 ratio. That makes it very tall and narrow. Thus, it was more comfortable to hold in one hand than a 16:9 or 18:9 phone with the same diagonal measurement. Although, the overall length made the phone somewhat awkward at times. The Xperia 5 has a 6.1-inch OLED at 1080p, and it’s still 21:9. At just 68mm wide, it’ll be easy to use one-handed, provided you don’t have to reach up to the top of the screen too often. By comparison, the Note 10+ is almost a full centimeter wider. 

On the inside, the Xperia 5 has almost the same setup as the Xperia 1. There’s a Snapdragon 855, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of internal storage. The battery is necessarily a little smaller at 3,140mAh (3,300mAh in the Xperia 1), but the lower resolution display should more than make up for that. The phone runs Android 9 Pie, and Android 10 just launched a few days ago. It’s not uncommon for phones launched each fall to ship with a year-old version of Android, and Sony’s track record with Android updates is spotty at best. 

The Xperia 5’s triple-camera system includes a 12MP main unit, a 12MP telephoto, and a 12MP wide-angle shooter. Sony says the camera app uses the same autofocus technology found in its line of Alpha mirrorless cameras. Although, Sony’s software processing has fallen behind the likes of Google and Samsung. 

The Xperia 5 should be available for pre-order next week in Europe with shipping in October. We don’t have a price, nor confirmation of a US launch timeline just yet.

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AMD Will Pay $12.1M to Settle Bulldozer CPU False Marketing Claims


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Back in 2015, AMD was sued by a pair of individuals claiming that the company lied when it sold Bulldozer products to customers. The lawsuit — which I have always believed is without technical merit — essentially conflated being disappointed with the FX family’s performance with the idea that AMD had lied by marketing Bulldozer as an eight-core CPU.

AMD has agreed to settle the case for the relatively low sum of $12.1M. According to the lawsuit, this is a sufficient sum of money to ensure that the members of the class will receive compensation of at least $35, even if up to 20 percent of the class members notify that they wish to be included in the settlement — a rather high number. The brief estimates that between 50,000 and 150,000 people may seek reimbursement for purchases of Bulldozer or Piledriver parts.

Members of the settlement class are defined as individuals who purchased “one or more of the following AMD computer chips either (1) while residing in California or (2) after visiting the AMD.com website: FX-8120, FX-8150, FX-8320, FX-8350, FX-9370, and FX 9590.”

That’s one of the ways you can tell that this lawsuit didn’t actually have any merit to it: It’s confined to AMD’s eight-core CPUs. There’s no logical reason for this to be true — if AMD actually falsely advertised its eight-core chips, it also falsely advertised its six-core, quad-core, and dual-core CPUs as well. AMD had a top-to-bottom product mix in-market based on Bulldozer and its derivatives. If the eight-core chips aren’t “real” eight-cores because they shared resources, then why are the other chips off the hook?

There’s one line in the brief that still grates on me, even though the lawsuit is settled. “According to Plaintiffs, the “cores” in the Bulldozer line are actually sub-processors that cannot operate and simultaneously multitask as actual cores.”

Bulldozer Blend

Bulldozer shared resources. It didn’t use a processor / sub-processor configuration

This is untrue. For an example of a CPUSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce with true sub-processors, look to Sony’s Cell Broadband Engine. The Cell had a Power Processor Element (PPE) and up to eight secondary Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs). Seven of these were enabled for the PS3. As RealWorldTech wrote (concerning Cell):

The function of the PPE is to act as the host processor and perform real time resource scheduling for the SPEs. To implement those functionalities, PPE modules must be written to perform generic processing tasks and I/O handling. Then, to fully utilize the power of the CELL processor, programmers must focus their attention on the creation of SPE modules. Each SPE module should use multiple SPE threads to take advantage of the parallelism afforded by the multiple SPE’s. To simplify the task of scheduling, all SPE threads in an SPE module are always scheduled simultaneously. Furthermore, SPE threads within an SPE module are started and stopped at the same time to reduce the complexity of synchronization. However, the complexity of scheduling remains and a PPE module must handle the scheduling of the SPE’s on a module-by-module basis.

If you want an example of a CPU that has “sub-processors” that must then be corralled and properly fed in order to keep performance high, it’s Cell, not Bulldozer. Bulldozer didn’t have “sub-processors.” Bulldozer shared certain execution units and, as we’ve documented before, continued to offer improved performance when workloads scaled above four threads. It did not have an asymmetrical core configuration with one core used for scheduling workloads on all the others.

No, Bulldozer and Piledriver chips didn’t offer equivalent performance to their Intel counterparts, which is why AMD’s CPU prices were so low for much of the same time period. In 2014, an FX-9590 could be had for as little as $229. The equivalent eight-core Broadwell HEDT CPU in 2015 was well over $1000. And one of the basic rules of PC components that still generally holds true is that higher prices tend to equal generally higher performance.

The problem with this lawsuit is the same as it ever was. The plaintiffs wanted to pretend that AMD’s lower performance constituted false marketing because one AMD core offered dramatically less performance than one Intel core. But CPU cores are not defined by performance, and this lawsuit has never even attempted to articulate a technical distinction between Bulldozer and Piledriver’s resource sharing and the resource-sharing of other CPUs.

This lawsuit was never grounded in a technical argument over the definition of a CPU core. At least now it’s dealt with.

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The Void’s Curtis Hickman on scaling, creative IP and the future of VR experiences – gpgmail


What can you do with virtual reality when you have complete control of the physical space around the player? How “real” can virtual reality become?

That’s the core concept behind The Void. They take over retail spaces in places like Downtown Disney and shopping malls around the country and turn them into virtual reality playgrounds, They’ve got VR experiences based on properties like Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and Wreck-It Ralph; while these big names tend to be the main attractions, they’re dabbling with creating their own original properties, too.

By building both the game environment and the real-world rooms in which players wander, The Void can make the physical and virtual align. If you see a bench in your VR headset, there’s a bench there in the real world for you to sit on; if you see a lever on the wall in front of you, you can reach out and physically pull it. Land on a lava planet and heat lamps warm your skin; screw up a puzzle, and you’ll feel a puff of mist letting you know to try something else.

At $30-$35 per person for what works out to be a roughly thirty-minute experience (about ten of which is watching a scene-setting video and getting your group into VR suits), it’s pretty pricey. But it’s also some of the most mind-bending VR I’ve ever seen.

The Void reportedly raised about $20 million earlier this year and is in the middle of a massive expansion. It’s more than doubling its number of locations, opening 25 new spots in a partnership with the Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield chain of malls.

I sat down to chat with The Void’s co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Curtis Hickman, to hear how they got started, how his background (in stage magic!) comes into play here, how they came to work with massive properties like Ghostbusters and Star Wars, and where he thinks VR is going from here.

Greg Kumparak: Tell me a bit about yourself. How’d you get your start? How’d you get into making VR experiences?


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Microsoft: Xbox Next Will Bring Faster Load Times, 60fps, Backward Compatibility


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The next console generation is less than 18 months away, and Microsoft is starting to share a little more information about what it’s prioritizing for the next generation of Xbox consoles. Playability, load times, and backward compatibility for controllers and software are all top priorities for Redmond with the launch of Xbox Next.

“I think the area that we really want to focus on next-generation is frame rate and playability of the games,” Spencer told Gamespot:

Ensuring that the games load incredibly fast, ensuring that the game is running at the highest frame rate possible. We’re also the Windows company, so we see the work that goes on [for] PC and the work that developers are doing. People love 60 frames-per-second games, so getting games to run at 4K 60 [fps] I think will be a real design goal for us.

The thing that’s interesting is, this generation, we’ve really focused on 4K visuals and how we bring both movies through 4K Blu-ray and video streaming, and with Xbox One X allowing games to run at 4K visuals will make really strong visual enhancements next generation. But playability is probably the bigger focus for us this generation. How fast do [games] load? Do I feel like I can get into the game as fast as possible and while it’s playing? How does it feel? Does this game both look and feel like no other game that I’ve seen? That’s our target.”

This is more or less what ET predicted earlier this year. 60fps is a much more realistic target for the Xbox Next than the 240fps rumor that was going around. Despite various vague statements that the Xbox Next will support 8K, Spencer sensibly makes no mention of it as a gaming resolution target. There’s no chance a 2020 console will have a GPU powerful enough to support this resolution and we’re glad to see the company pivoting towards an emphasis on other aspects of gaming.

According to Microsoft, backward compatibility is a key pillar for Xbox moving forward. Xbox One, Xbox 360, and OG Xbox games will all continue to be supported on Xbox Next, Spencer told Gamespot. The company has promised that this backwards compatibility pledge extends to controllers as well, saying, “So really, the things that you’ve bought from us, whether the games or the controllers that you’re using, we want to make sure those are future compatible with the highest fidelity version of our console, which at that time will obviously be the one we’ve just launched.”

Will Microsoft Actually Push a 60fps Target?

Historically, there have been a handful of games that specifically targeted 60fps for console play, but it’s been an uncommon frame rate target. The Xbox One X and PS4 Pro expanded the list of titles that offered this frame rate by encouraging developers to release updates for new and existing games that would add new resolution options or the ability to play at higher frame rates than the base title supported. Actually moving the game industry (back) towards a 60 fps target, however, would be a feat.

There’s some reason to think both console manufacturers could pull it off. The Xbox Next and PlayStation 5 will both target performance levels above the existing Xbox One and PS4 Pro.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce The use of Ryzen and an RDNA-derived GPU for both platforms guarantees that the consoles will pack more performance, but the level of perceived visual quality improvement one console generation offers over the next has been shrinking every cycle. Instead of simply chasing improved levels of detail, Spencer wants developers to target smoothness and load times — two other objective areas where it’s possible to deliver major generational gains, particularly with SSDs being adopted for the first time.

Statista-TV-Market-Share

One major question is how the 1080p/4K split will be addressed. Spencer refers to a 4K/60fps target, but 1080p still accounts for a large percentage of TVs sold and the install base for the older standard is enormous. The simplest way for Microsoft to handle a 1080p output limit is to render internally at 4K and then output at 1080p. This effectively applies supersampled AA to the entire image and would deliver a substantial improvement in image quality over standard 1080p. With the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, both Microsoft and Sony gave developers a variety of ways they could use the additional power of the newer consoles to punch up the base experience, and we expect a similar approach here. One of the advantages of having a powerful GPU paired with a lower-resolution display is that you can crank up secondary features like AA without worrying about the performance impact, and we’re hoping Microsoft brings some of that flexibility to its Xbox Next design.

The PC gamer in me can’t help noting that the already barely-there line between consoles and PCs will be even thinner next cycle. Consoles have provided backward compatibility before, but it’s often come up with qualifiers related to your hardware version and been limited to one previous platform. Microsoft isn’t just going to support Xbox One games on Xbox Next, it’ll continue supporting Xbox 360 and OG Xbox, as well as Xbox One peripherals. That’s exactly the kind of backward compatibility support we would expect when upgrading from PC build to the next and it’s nice to see consoles catching up after a few decades.

The flip side, of course, is that the console-versus-PC debate gets goofier every generation. At this point, you might as well just ask “controller or keyboard?” (keyboard, natch). Functionally, at the hardware level, we’re all gaming on PCs.

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Sony’s New CarPlay and Android Auto Receiver Has a Giant 9-inch Screen


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Most new vehicles come with Android Auto or CarPlay included, or at least as an option on more expensive trims. However, older vehicles can get a more modern multimedia experience with the help of an aftermarket head unit. Most of these devices have stuck to a tried and true 7-inch form factor, but Sony’s new unit has a larger 9-inch screen. Plus, it’ll be compatible with more cards (and wallets). 

CarPlay and Android Auto have gained popularity because most people are using one of those two operating systems, and everyone carries around their personal data on smartphones. These in-car systems pull data directly from the phone, so all your music, podcasts, and contacts are automatically available. The interfaces, while intentionally simplified for cars, are dramatically better than what carmakers offer. If you don’t even have a touchscreen in your car, Sony’s new XAV-AX8000 receiver could give you some bragging rights over friends with newer rides. 

The XAV-AX8000 has a sizeable 8.95-inch touchscreen, which is larger than many new vehicles that ship with 7-inch displays. However, that display is only WVGA resolution (480 x 800). That’s probably much lower than your phone, but you won’t have your nose right up against the dashboard. 

To ensure it’s compatible with as many vehicles as possible, Sony designed the XAV-AX8000 to use a single DIN slot — it’s on an adjustable arm that holds it away from the slot. So, even vehicles that have narrower entertainment decks (think: a compact CD player) can cram this gigantic screen into the dash. 

The single DIN frame should fit in most vehicles that don’t already have a large embedded touchscreen.

Sony was able to make this head unit so compact be removing unnecessary components like the CD player and front-facing inputs. The hardware includes a 4-channel amplifier at 55 watts per channel and vehicle reverse cameras. If you don’t want to plug in your phone for media, the system also has Bluetooth streaming with SBC and AAC codecs. 

Sony plans to launch the XAV-AX8000 in December for $600, which sounds like a lot. However, that’s comparatively cheap in the world of high-end automotive head units. Many of the latest receivers from Alpine, Pioneer, and others are well over $1,000. Keep in mind, professional installation of these systems will add at least a few hundred extra to the price.

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How a Swedish saxophonist built Kobalt, the world’s next music unicorn – gpgmail


You may not have heard of Kobalt before, but you probably engage with the music it oversees every day, if not almost every hour. Combining a technology platform to better track ownership rights and royalties of songs with a new approach to representing musicians in their careers, Kobalt has risen from the ashes of the 2000 dot-com bubble to become a major player in the streaming music era. It is the leading alternative to incumbent music publishers (who represent songwriters) and is building a new model record label for the growing “middle class’ of musicians around the world who are stars within niche audiences.

Having predicted music’s digital upheaval early, Kobalt has taken off as streaming music has gone mainstream across the US, Europe, and East Asia. In the final quarter of last year, it represented the artists behind 38 of the top 100 songs on U.S. radio.

Along the way, it has secured more than $200 million in venture funding from investors like GV, Balderton, and Michael Dell, and its valuation was last pegged at $800 million. It confirmed in April that it is raising another $100 million to boot. Kobalt Music Group now employs over 700 people in 14 offices, and GV partner Avid Larizadeh Duggan even left her firm to become Kobalt’s COO.

How did a Swedish saxophonist from the 1980s transform into a leading entrepreneur in music’s digital transformation? Why are top technology VCs pouring money into a company that represents a roster of musicians? And how has the rise of music streaming created an opening for Kobalt to architect a new approach to the way the industry works?

Gaining an understanding of Kobalt and its future prospects is a vehicle for understanding the massive change underway across the global music industry right now and the opportunities that is and isn’t creating for entrepreneurs.

This article is Part 1 of the Kobalt EC-1, focused on the company’s origin story and growth. Part 2 will look at the company’s journey to create a new model for representing songwriters and tracking their ownership interests through the complex world of music royalties. Part 3 will look at Kobalt’s thesis about the rise of a massive new middle class of popular musicians and the record label alternative it is scaling to serve them.

Table of Contents

Early lessons on the tough road of entrepreneurship

Image via Kobalt Music

It’s tough to imagine a worse year to launch a music company than 2000. Willard Ahdritz, a Swede living in London, left his corporate consulting job and sold his home for £200,000 to fully commit to his idea of a startup collecting royalties for musicians. In hindsight, his timing was less than impeccable: he launched Kobalt just as Napster and music piracy exploded onto the mainstream and mere months before the dot-com crash would wipe out much of the technology industry.

The situation was dire, and even his main seed investor told him he was doomed once the market crashed. “Eating an egg and ham sandwich…have you heard this saying? The chicken is contributing but the pig is committed,” Ahdritz said when we first spoke this past April (he has an endless supply of sayings). “I believe in that — to lose is not an option.”

Entrepreneurial hardship though is something that Ahdritz had early experience with. Born in Örebro, a city of 100,000 people in the middle of Sweden, Ahdritz spent a lot of time as a kid playing in the woods, which also holding dual interests in music and engineering. The intersection of those two converged in the synthesizer revolution of early electronic music, and he was fascinated by bands like Kraftwerk.


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Sony Will Likely Raise PlayStation Prices If Chinese Tariffs Increase


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The US and China have been engaged in a trade war for months now, but the two nations have thus far managed to avoid a new round of mutual escalation. While the United States has threatened to raise tariffs on a range of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent, the Trump Administration hasn’t actually done it yet. According to Sony’s Senior General Manager of Finance Department and Corporate Planning, Naomi Matsuoka, the company may have no choice but to raise console prices in the United States if the tariffs go through.

In the quote below, the reference to “Level four” tariffs refers to the fact that this would be the fourth set of tariffs imposed by the United States in the ongoing trade dispute. These are typically referred to as “tranches” (a tranche is defined as “a portion of something, especially money”). Tranche 4 tariffs are expected to impact $250B worth of Chinese goods if they go into effect. Tranches 1-3 previously covered goods collectively worth $250B, so the 4th tranche represents a substantial expansion in terms of the number of goods to be tariffed, as well as a significant increase in the tariff amount.

Sony-Earnings

When asked about the potential impact of tariffs on Sony’s PS4SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce business, Matsuoka responded with the following:

Well supposing hypothetically, the Level four tariffs are actually decided, so this is based on the assumption that it will take place up to the — it’d be up to the timing of that as well as the specific conditions attached. But supposing — and we are not currently assuming that, but if this is actually invoked, what will be the impact? What we are foreseeing is that in Game & Network Services, hardware business will be affected… higher tariffs on these products will actually impact distribution and employment and consumers in the United States will be a negative for the U.S. economy as such.

So our subsidiary are working with the industry associations and government associations, approaching the government where we have sent the opinion leaders to the government. And as of now, we are of course contemplating these actions based on the potential risk for Level four and for all the products affected, for instance the changing of the production sites or passing through of the prices to the market or changing the continuous sales structure.

So, we are considering risk ahead of the current actions if this happens. And once the decision is made to introduce Level four, all the contributing actions will be put to force to mitigate the negative impact.

Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have all previously asked the Trump Administration not to raise tariffs on consoles, noting that the machines are largely built in China and that moving their supply lines would be difficult to impossible. That may be true for some companies more than others, however, as Nintendo has already said it’s moving production of the Switch Mini to Southeast Asia to avoid potential tariff entanglements. It’s also possible that it’s easier with some product lines as opposed to others — Sony and Microsoft may have long-term production contracts on the PS4 and Xbox One that are difficult to break, or the two companies may face short-term problems with supply chains and the associated costs of setting up shop in a new location.

As for the actual trade negotiations themselves, there has been a little movement on that front. China said three days ago that it would begin larger purchases of some farm products and the US and China trade delegations met on Wednesday, July 30 for several hours. The meetings did not resolve any outstanding issues, however, and the ongoing trade war continues with “No deal in sight” according to the New York Times. The White House called the talks “constructive,” while the Chinese state news media characterized the talks as “frank, efficient, and constructive.”

This was the first formal meeting of the two sides since talks fell apart three months ago. President Trump has tweeted that there may be little chance of a trade deal before the 2020 election is complete. If the Tranche 4 tariffs actually go into effect, we may see the impact on consoles from multiple manufacturers and different product generations, depending on whether Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo can secure a waiver. The trade talks will resume again in September.

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Sony Crowdfunds Pocket Air Conditioner for Our Modern Climate Hellscape


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Four years ago, Sony launched its own crowdfunding platform to fund Sony-specific projects. First Flight was intended to help the company achieve profitability while still allowing it to explore business ideas and concepts outside its normal development cycles. The company recently launched a new project for a personal air conditioner, dubbed the Reon Pocket, and while the launch is currently Japan-only, the little device has already met its crowdfunding target of 66 million yen (approximately $606,000 USD).

If you walked outside during the Great US Heat Wave of July 20-21, or in Europe last week, you’re probably newly acquainted with the joys of heat indexes well above 100 degrees. I, for example, was unaware that breathing outside in these conditions feels not unlike inhaling soup. One reason for the Reon Pocket’s sudden flux of popularity may be that Sony launched the campaign when outside temperatures have literally been unsurvivably hot without additional cooling across a significant chunk of the world.

The video above shows how the device is meant to be worn. It slaps on the back of the neck and can reportedly reduce personal temperature by 13 degrees Celsius or increase it by ~8C. The device uses the Peltier effect to perform this task. The Peltier effect, also known as the thermoelectric effect, is the use of electricity to create a temperature differential across two sides of a device, raising the temperature on one side and lowering it on the other.

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From the First Flight crowdfunding page

The Reon Pocket requires a mobile app to control the temperature at the moment, and the 24-hour battery life being advertised isn’t entirely accurate, according to Engadget. That time refers to the device’s expected time on standby in total, not the amount of time it can actually cool you. Cooling performance is reportedly less than two hours. That’s definitely enough time to spend some time outside, but we suspect it falls short of what people might want.

It isn’t clear if Sony will bring the Reon Pocket to the US or other western countries yet. The hardware is clearly designed to be worn under a T-shirt or suit coat and some of the available funding levels include shirts with a built-in pocket for the hardware. The Reon Pocket Light works only in basic mode and starts at $117, while the Reon Pocket standard includes “Auto” mode, “Air volume control,” and a customizable “My mode.”

Will projects like this catch on? That’s fundamentally unclear, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they do. Tour de France riders competing last week were wearing ice vests on their torsos to keep cool while working out. Japan has relatively high levels of air conditioning installation, but many nations, including a number of European countries, do not. Personal cooling products like this could be a means of staying comfortable in hotter weather. Importantly, they would help cool people without increasing CO2 emissions as much as adopting central AC. Whether personal cooling products can ever provide enough support is, of course, an open question — but the world is going to need high-efficiency cooling that works at every scale, from personal to communal, if we want to weather summer weather in the future.

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