Apple opens world’s biggest store in Covent Garden

Pictures don’t do this place justice. It’s huge.

Stealing the crown from Regent Street, Covent Garden now hosts the biggest Apple store in the world. Taking cues from the recently opened Opéra store in Paris, the new Covent Garden store successfully fuses classic architecture with modern design. Apple has been eyeing up a new location for their flagship store in London after the success and subsequent overcrowding of Regent Street. Interestingly, development for the store began 7 years ago, before the Regent Street store even opened. Just like 5th Avenue NY, this iconic store is likely to be popular with tourists and fits perfectly into the Covent Garden culture.

Someone entering the store (not me, by the way!)

The store opened last Saturday (August 7 2010) at 10AM to thousands of customers queuing up outside for hours (including me – more on that later) to have a look around, or to buy an iPhone 4. I got there at 6AM – there were probably around 150 people in the queue at that point. The other queue, for iPhone 4 purchases, was much longer however.

At around 9:50AM the hype began with relentless applause and shouting drowning out the rest of Covent Garden. At this point, a bystander asked me what this was all about. I told him it was for the new Apple Store, at which point he rolled his eyes and walked away.

I got into the store at around 10:10AM, ushered in through the applause tunnel high-fiving all the employees.

Pictures don’t do this place justice. It’s huge. When they said they could fit the 5th Avenue cube into the courtyard, they weren’t kidding. The store comprises four floors: basement for toilets, ground floor for Macs, mezzanine for iPhone/iPod/Genius Bar, first floor for accessories/business. Linking these floors together are two stunning glass staircases, and the coolest lift you’ll ever experience.

The store takes existing architectural features such as exposed brickwork and a stunning glass roof and puts them alongside more modern features such as the iconic glass staircases.

The store has arguably the best location in Covent Garden, just down the road from the nearby Tube station, right next to the market – i.e. you can’t miss it. The store is set back into the building behind stone archways and is identified with some slick minimalistic Apple signage outside.

Check out the media below to see more of the store.

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Valve brings Steam to Mac

You’ll have seen the teasers by now, but it’s official. Steam is coming to Mac. Titles such as Half-Life, Portal, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike and Left 4 Dead 2 will be winging their way to your Mac this April via Valve’s highly successful download-delivery platform, which has served millions of PC gamers to date, along with Valve’s powerful Source engine. “Our Steam partners, who are delivering over a thousand games to 25 million Steam clients, are very excited about adding support for the Mac,” said Jason Holtman, Director of Business Development at Valve.

Counter-strike is one of the most influential shooters on the industry

It’s not just the kick-ass games though, as the announcement heralds in a new version of Steamworks for Mac which features all the publishing, development and matchmaking tools present on the PC version along with a new feature called Steam Play, which as Jason explains, “allows customers who purchase the product for the Mac or Windows to play on the other platform free of charge.” Imagine you’re in the middle of a game at work. When you’re done, just save it to the Steam Cloud and pick up right where you left off on your Mac when you get back home. That is just flat out awesome.

“We looked at a variety of methods to get our games onto the Mac and in the end decided to go with native versions rather than emulation,” said John Cook, Director of Steam Development. “The inclusion of WebKit into Steam, and of OpenGL into Source gives us a lot of flexibility in how we move these technologies forward.”

Portal, the highly successful 3D puzzler, is getting a sequel later this year

Valve have decided that they’re treating the Mac as a serious gaming platform, and they assure us that all of their future games will be released on Windows, Xbox 360 and Mac on the same day, along with their title updates. It gets better than that though, with the commitment that both Mac and Windows players will be able to share cross-platform multiplayer games. “We fully support a heterogeneous mix of servers and clients. The first Mac Steam client will be the new generation currently in beta testing on Windows.”

Portal 2, the sequel to Valve’s surprise hit puzzler, releases this winter alongside PC and Xbox 360 versions. “Checking in code produces a PC build and Mac build at the same time, automatically, so the two platforms are perfectly in lock-step,” said Josh Weier, Portal 2 Project Lead. “We’re always playing a native version on the Mac right alongside the PC. This makes it very easy for us and for anyone using Source to do game development for the Mac.”

“As we transition from entertainment as a product to entertainment as a service, customers and developers need open, high-quality Internet clients,” said Gabe Newell, President of Valve. “The Mac is a great platform for entertainment services.”

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The Apple iPad

In what has to be the biggest surprise of the year, Apple has finally revealed their first proper attempt at a tablet computer. The iPad is promised to be Apple’s “most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price”. While at first glance it looks like a steamrolled iPhone, from what I’ve seen, it certainly has the potential to be a worthy addition to Apple’s product line.

Specs wise, it’s been quoted as being “a generation faster than the iPhone 3GS” by utilising the new in-house 1Ghz A4 chip from Apple’s recent acquisition of P.A. Semi. It also has a 9.7” 1024×768 IPS LED-backlit LCD display (translation: kick-ass screen) with a 132 ppi, which despite not being as sharp as the iPhone’s 160 ppi, is supposed to look pretty damn good.

As expected, the initial reaction in the tech community is one of questions, after reading so much about this revolutionary device that’s supposed to have “facial recognition technology”, “OLED displays” and “revolutionary video conferencing capabilities” and just being left with hardware that isn’t dissimilar from what you’ll find in your typical smart phone. Even the software is just a modified iPhone operating system with the obligatory “best web browsing experience ever” that seems to appear on every product Apple makes, and once again lacking support for Flash.

We’ve seen this before, remember. As with the iPhone, features lacked from the start: MMS, copy/paste, third-party applications, etc… All of those are now a reality thanks to software driven updates and most of them are even available on the first generation iPhone that released back in 2007. People were annoyed. It was supposed to be the most amazing phone ever – it didn’t do copy/paste, picture messaging, bluetooth, removable batteries, applications, expandable memory, or document support. Those are all basic functions of a mobile phone that even the cheapest bargain-bin handsets have.

All I’m saying is that the iPad, yeah, of course some people are disappointed – everyone overhyped it. The media have been talking and speculating about this thing for about 20 years now. If they crammed everything everyone wanted into it, they wouldn’t be able to get it out at $499. So it’d be realistic to think that if you buy an iPad when it releases in March, that there’s gonna be a steady stream of new updates and features waiting along the line.

The iPad’s similarities with the iPhone and the iPod touch leave me thinking – well, why didn’t you just call it an iPod and slap an ‘XL’ on the end? Yeah, sure it’s a larger device and does a whole lot more than an iPod, but it runs the same core OS (iPhone OS 3.2 in fact) and as we learnt tonight, the same apps.  Shuffle. Nano. Classic. Touch. XL. It just makes sense, right?

There’s a good reason why the iPad was designed to be similar to the iPhone and iPod touch. In fact there’s over 75 million reasons why. Everyone has an iPhone now and if you don’t, I bet you know someone who does. Apple have designed a product that’s built on the iPhone’s framework, maintaining its ability to be picked up by anyone and used effectively. If you’ve ever tried to use a netbook to browse the web, check your email, look at photos or even watch a movie, you’ll know that the experience is lousy because the software wasn’t built for that environment – Desktop Operating Systems suck on a 7 inch screen.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – the user interface on the iPad is nothing short of gorgeous. Apple have redesigned applications like iPod and Calendar from the ground up along with new applications like iWork and iBooks, the new Apple eBook service, making use of delicious and innovative 3D-like interfaces.

The iPad is set to ship in March with a Wi-Fi only model for $499 (£310) at 16GB with capacities going up to 64GB. If 3G’s your thing, it’s $130 (£85) more with a slightly weightier body, plus an additional prepaid data plan from the network of your choice and an extra month of waiting time. International plans and partners have yet to be announced but O2 and Orange have placed orders for the proprietary microSIMs that the iPad uses suggesting that they could be involved.

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Channel 4 News Remix

So I was walking with a mate of mine around town when he began to beatbox. For some unknown reason, I started humming the Channel 4 News theme. After much effort on both the video and audio side, with a lot of tweaking and computer crashes, we created something unthinkable: a drum and bass remix of the Channel 4 News theme tune!

‘Medal of Honor’ returns in 2010 with Afghanistan setting


The godfather of first person war shooters, Medal of Honor, is back and is finally leaving the Second World War theatre. The highly successful Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, developed by 2015 (now Infinity Ward) was considered by many to be a revolution in gaming. It laid the foundations for franchises we know and love today, like Call of Duty and Battlefield. Well, it’s back again, and this time in modern-day Afghanistan.

Introducing the Tier 1 Operator, a “relatively unknown entity directly under the National Command Authority who takes on missions no one else can handle” – sound familiar? EA have been working together with the real Tier 1 Operators to design a game that is “inspired by real events”. “When we first set out to reinvent Medal of Honor, we wanted to stay true to its roots of authenticity and respect for the soldier but bring it into today’s war” said Greg Goodrich, Executive Producer. “We are honored to have the rare opportunity to work closely with these men to create a game that shares their experience.”

The single player campaign is being developed by EALA, developers of the original Medal of Honor and, more recently, Medal of Honor: Airborne. However, the multiplayer, and you’re gonna love this – it’s genius, is being developed by Digital Illusions CE (DICE) of Battlefield fame.

“We are so proud to bring together two powerhouse development teams to make this game a reality; EA Los Angeles and EA DICE. Medal of Honor promises to be an unforgettable entry in the modern shooter genre.”

Medal of Honor should be hitting PCs and consoles some time next year, but if you can’t wait, Spike TV’s 2009 Video Game Awards on Saturday, December 12 at 8pm PST, will be showing a world premiere of the game – and if you can’t wait that long, there’s a teaser, right here.

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Halo 3: ODST. It’s The Future…

Halo 3: ODST tells the story of the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (or the ODSTs for short) and their deployment in the middle of an invasion in a future version of the Kenyan city of Mombasa.

If you’ve played Halo before, you’ll know that Kenya is particularly important, especially Mombasa and Voi, and even more importantly, what’s in between. If you haven’t played Halo before, well, firstly you’re missing out, but essentially, the region plays a key role in the mythology of the series.

The ODST squad (Dare, Buck, Mickey, Romeo, Dutch and you, Rookie) all get dropped in the city. Except, you veer of course, crash land and are forced to attempt to make it through the night alive while at the same time, trying to find the rest of your squad. Sounds like a typical scenario for a squad shooter, right? Wrong. This time you’re playing in one massive level, Mombasa Streets, the biggest open area that the game’s developers, and Halo godfathers, Bungie have ever created. The city is a living, breathing character, full of emotion, fear, excitement and loneliness.

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It’s only Rock and Roll, but we like it…


Could the next iTunes look like this unofficial mockup?

Summer’s just ended, Christmas is coming, it’s that time again – new gadgets from Apple! For a good few years now, Apple has typically hosted a special event featuring updates, announcements and product reveals for its entertainment business, usually followed by a live performance by a special guest, just like Jack Johnson did last year. The event, titled “It’s Only Rock and Roll, but we like it”, kicks off in just under half an hour – if you want live coverage or spoiler free goodness, the internet has got you covered. So what’s gonna happen tonight? I’m hoping for an iTunes update…

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Call of Duty: Classic – Multiplayer revealed!


The game that started it all… Call of Duty: Classic, the remake of the original Call of Duty, hits Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network this November and comes free with both the Hardened and Prestige editions of Modern Warfare 2.

New information states that the game has been rescaled in HD, with improved visuals. Additionally, online multiplayer is present with a variety of modes including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Retrieval, Headquarters, Search & Destroy and Behind Enemy Lines, and will support 8 players.

Check out the video below to get an idea of the game. It shows the opening mission which features the first ever kill in the Call of Duty series – Nice.

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Criterion Games, developers of Burnout, are Confirmed to be Working on a new Need For Speed title

Well, if the announcements at this year’s E3 weren’t enough for you, here’s some more. G4 have confirmed that EA Developer, Criterion Games, based in Guildford, here in England, are working on a new Need For Speed title. The franchise up to this point has been developed by EA Black Box in Vancouver, Canada. Recently, titles such as Carbon and Undercover have met poor reception from gamers, while other rival titles such as Midnight Club: Los Angeles and Burnout Paradise have been more popular than ever.

EA’s Chief Operating Officer, John Pleasants confirmed at the William Blair Growth Stock Conference earlier today that Burnout creator and developer, Criterion Games is currently developing a new title for the Need For Speed franchise.

“We’ve taken the Burnout team and combined it with our Need For Speed franchise. So we now have that in our favor because that Burnout team is probably one of the more online-centric and notably high-quality game developers that we have out at Criterion.”

While this sounds absolutely awesome and will clearly do wonders for the franchise, which hasn’t exactly done that well recently, I’m a little bit concerned that this means that we’re not getting a new Burnout title in the near future.

More information on this project is likely to be revealed over the coming months.


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Nintendo 64’s Perfect Dark Comes to Xbox Live Arcade This Winter

Xbox Live’s Major Nelson reported yesterday on his Twitter that the original Perfect Dark (the plot-sequel to Perfect Dark Zero) on Nintendo 64 is coming to Xbox Live Arcade, for an unannounced price, this winter. Details are currently unknown but personally, I’m hoping for online multiplayer. All we know is that it has been digitally rescaled to full native 1080p (according to Major Nelson), a rarity for an Xbox 360 game. There are only a handful of games currently on the market for Xbox 360 that run at native 1080p:

  • Wolf of the Battlefield Commando 3 (XBLA)
  • Feeding Frenzy 2 (XBLA)
  • Portal: Still Alive (XBLA)
  • Boogie Bunnies (XBLA)
  • EA SPORTS NBA Street Home Court
  • Virtual Tennis 3

Just because it says 1080p on the back of the box, it doesn’t mean it’s running native – it’s likely only being upscaled, unless it is one of the above games, which now includes Perfect Dark XBLA. Read more after the break!
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