Nokia N-Gage Fails In Sales

During my last commentary, I gave my opinions of the Jokia Un-Gage and the eventual failure I predicted it would be. Turns out I may have been right all along. In its first week of release, my sources say only 5,000 units were sold in the US, with an additional 500 in the UK. Not only that, but both EB and Gamestop are now selling the Un-Gage at $199, although it is actually due to an instant rebate.

Still, even with a $100 price drop, there is no way that the Un-Gage will even have a slight chance against the Game Boy Advance.

The Un-Gage will fail, there's no doubt about that. We've seen many portable systems attempt to unseat the Game Boy lineup: the Game Gear, Turbo Express, Nomad (which shouldn't really count since it really is a portable Genesis), and the heavily underrated Neo Geo Pocket Color (a haven for classic 2D fighters). All of them failed, but still more systems make the attempt.

Sony has announced their plans for a PlayStation Portable (PSP) at E3, but there was no idea of what it would look like. We knew that it was going to be using a proprietary mini-disc storage media, and would be capable of handling 3D graphics that no other portable could even dream of, but still, where are the pictures? The first concept designs of the PSP were leaked out to the public after Sony's Corporate Strategy Meeting. When I saw it, I had my share of likes and dislikes about it.

On the bright side, the screen looks very promising. It will be a 16:9 widescreen display capable of 24-bit color at 480×272 resolution and MPEG4 video. It also will have a stereo headphone jack that the GBA SP is sorely missing, as well as using Memory Sticks to handle storage (which I was hoping that the PS2 could use in addition to the Memory Cards).

What concerns me, however, is the control scheme. Based on the image I saw, it looks like the buttons will be touch sensitive. I don't know how this will work out because I have never felt comfortable with touch controls. In addition, is the control pad an analog or digital? We can't tell from the picture, but then again, it is an early concept design, so things might change.

When the PSP comes out, I'm sure it will cause quite a stir in the handheld market, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

More recently, a company called Tapwave, consisting of ex-Palm employees, released their long awaited handheld device, the Zodiac. Based on what I have seen so far, the Zodiac has vast potential.

Running off an enhanced version of Palm OS 5.2, the Zodiac is powered by a Motorola ARM9 processor with an ATI Imageon 2D/3D graphics processor. The control scheme and interface looks like a breeze to use, and the display is massive. Based on images I have seen online, the screen display (320×480 resolution) appears to be about 50 percent larger than that of the GBA. It will also be able to play MP3s and video clips using their Kinoma video player. Even better, unlike the Jokia Un-Gage's online play where you can only play against online "ghosts," the Zodiac will offer true online multiplayer using the expensive Bluetooth technology.

The whole package looks very impressive: a true gamer's PDA. Currently it is available for retail, but only on Tapwave's web site (www.tapwave.com) and two versions are available. The Zodiac 1 with 32 MB of onboard RAM will cost $299, and the Zodiac 2 loaded with 128 MB RAM will go for $399. I only wish I had the money to purchase one of these. Hopefully Tapwave will be kind enough to provide GiN with a review unit. If so, I'll be sure to give you all the details about this impressive-looking new device.

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