Strange New World: Tech Picks of the Week

This week's picks are devoted to giant corporations striking back at the competition. Maybe next week we'll give the little guys a chance, but right now let's talk billionaires.

RIM's new BlackBerry is going right after Apple's iPhone. If Apple is going to take the iPhone to work, it makes sense for RIM to send the BlackBerry home. Electronic Arts sees all the money that Nintendo is getting with casual games and wants a piece, and finally Yahoo is no longer No. 1.

Who's No. 1?

This week Google replaced Yahoo as the most visited U.S.-based Web site. Google landed 141.1 million unique U.S. visitors last month, up 18 percent. Yahoo only managed 140.6 million, up 7 percent, but not enough to keep the title. Microsoft actually came in third with about 121 million unique visitors. No word on how many of those visitors were logging on to complain about Vista.

We figure we can just add this to stack of good reasons why Yahoo isn't selling out to Microsoft. When things are going this well, why stop?

RIM's New Blackberry Has Been Harvested

This week, Research in Motion unveiled the latest addition to its BlackBerry line of smartphones.

The new 3G phone will be called the BlackBerry Bold 9000 and will run on the new 3G network that all the major carriers have been rolling out, including T-Mobile, which recently joined the party.

The Bold will have more processing power under the hood (624 Mhz processor), so it will be able to run more applications than previous BlackBerries. And although the company would never say it, it has designed this thing to go head to head with the iPhone.

Recently, Apple has been trying to make the iPhone easier for businesses to use within their enterprise networks, and with the release of the slick new Bold, RIM is giving Apple a warning to "stay in their own yard."

The business-friendly BlackBerry is getting more personal. Everybody knows that e-mail is the main reason people buy BlackBerries, and you don't need a 3G phone for that, but you do need 3G for quicker downloads and better Internet functionality -- stuff that RIM never really concerned itself with until now.

The Bold will come in three form factors, much like the Curve, Pearl and 8800. The platform includes a 624 Mhz Marvell Tavor PXA930 processor, a 320-by-480 screen, HSDPA or EVDO networking, Wi-Fi, GPS and support for up to 16 GB MicroSD cards. While the phone comes with Roxio's media platform, the stat sheet specifically says it will also work with iTunes.

EA Gets Casual

In case there were any doubts about the significance of the casual gaming market, software giant EA Sports put them to rest last week with the announcement of its new Freestyle game line.

The fact that EA is getting into casual gaming seems counterintuitive for a brand that has built its formidable reputation on creating highly accurate sports simulations. But think about it a little bit and it makes all the sense in the world.

We don't want to sound like wide-eyed fan boys here, but we're continually impressed with the quality of EA Sports titles. This year's round of games all featured fluid, natural game play and looked great rendered at 60 frames per second on the next-gen consoles. We especially enjoyed the NHL, NBA and FIFA soccer offerings. While there certainly are sports games out there from other publishers, these are the ones we reach for.

But the emergence of the Wii and the idea that gaming is becoming an all-generations activity has opened up a whole new front for video game makers. There is a certain brand of gamer out there who isn't looking for ultra-realism or visceral experiences. These gamers want something simple when they pick up a controller -- plug-and-play gaming, if you will.

So EA is planning easy-to-play games that are ostensibly geared at kids. But don't be fooled. Most importantly, this whole effort is aimed at the moms who are so often responsible for video game buying. You can't go into a GameStop without seeing an elementary school kid begging his mom to buy everything in sight. And you're not going to hook the moms with create-a-player mode on "NBA 08."

Can EA do for casual gaming what it's done for sports simulations? That remains to be seen. But consider this: It's got people talking about casual gaming two weeks after the release of one of the most immersive titles ever -- "Grand Theft Auto IV." To us, that says a lot.

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