Strange New World: Picks of the Week

Finally, the smoke has cleared around the iPhone madness enough that we can get on with what really matters: comics and video games.

Sony has come to its gaming platform senses and knocked the price of its flagship PlayStation 3 down to almost Wal-Mart levels.

Old-school graphic novels and comics are enjoying a golden age, both online and off. And news of a smaller, cheaper iPhone has bubbled into our picks of the top tech stories of the week.

Hey, it's Steve Jobs' world. We just live in it.

$499 Buys a PS3

If you were a global megacorporation that recently launched the next iteration of a flagship product, only to see it languish in third place in its category, what would your next move be? If you guessed cut prices, you could probably get a job at Sony.

The PS3 now costs $499 after a $100 price cut — only about $20 more than the Xbox 360. That makes it our top pick for the week by a mile.

Suddenly, a state-of-the-art gaming platform has been transmogrified into a moderately priced Blu-ray DVD player with some high-powered extras, i.e., those pesky little video games. How amazing is that?

And the console market is getting downright feisty.

Microsoft just announced that it will extend the Xbox 360's warranty from one year to three years. The company faces massive quality problems with the initial version of the 360 and expects to take a $1.15 billion charge against earnings to fix the problem.

Comics Livin' the (Digital) Vida Loca

About 10 years ago, it looked like the comic book industry was about to go the way of the VHS tape. Then Hollywood came calling, along with its never-ending thirst for computer-generated characters that can fly, melt things and blow stuff up.

Suddenly Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men and the rest were major movie franchises and oodles of cash filled the pockets of Marvel Entertainment, DC and the others, bailing out the entire comic book industry. Comic book movies went from campy and weird to awesome and dynamic.

Now, major comic book companies are taking their act to another high-tech medium: the Internet.

DC announced last week a new online comics brand called Zudacomics.com. True, there are plenty of Web comics out there, but this is a major player putting its weight behind Net comics.

We also like what gocomics.com/ and wirepop.com are doing. There are also cool indies such as Girl Genius from Phil and Kaja Foglio.

The struggling music industry could learn a thing or two from these guys.

The iPhone Nano

The iPhone is a revolutionary device and the company will sell probably close to 30 million of them. But, just think how cool the iPhone could have been if it were the size of a real phone, cost $79 and ran on any carrier. Well, there are rumors out of Asia that Apple has a tiny iPhone in the works. This one would be based on its iPod Nano media player and cost about $300.

As much as we hate to keep talking about this thing, we think even the prospect of a more major market iPhone makes this story a pick of the week.

The Nano phone would, obviously, have much less functionality than the iPhone, but maybe Apple will get it right this time. The company could sell the phone for less, open it up to multiple carriers and get off the slooow EDGE data network on which AT&T hosts the iPhone service.

Jonathan Blum and Dan Evans co-host "Strange New World," a weekly syndicated radio show. Blum hosts the blog Blumsday.com and Evans is a features editor at PC Magazine.

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