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Opinion: Doug Thompson and Daddy Warbucks

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Big screen bliss
By Doug Thompson

Iowa had a straw poll and Karl Rove is leaving. One of those developments is about as important as the other.
A bigger question is, do you want to watch all this non-stop political coverage on a big-screen TV?
Tom’s Hardware Guide, which is as close to a venerable institution as tech journalism gets, came out with a big screen TV article on Aug. 8. An even better one that I missed came out Aug. 1: “A Quality HDTV for Less Than $1,000”
These plain-English articles are easiest to find at www.geardigest.com, a subsidiary site of Tom’s that is also linked to the homepage. For future reference, tomshardware.com/us/ is the homepage and is far more technical than Gear Digest.
I don’t own a high-definition big-screen television set, but I’m grateful they exist. They’ve driven down the price of a decent tube TV. The big screens are clearly very popular items with people wealthier or less financially shy than me.
If you’re going to buy a big screen and want a high-definition movie player to take full advantage of it, what should you get? The choice is between the Blu-Ray and the HD-DVD. The Blu-Ray seems to be winning, but the war’s far from over.
I wouldn’t buy either an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player yet, even if I had money to burn. However, if your family’s interested in games at all, there is a way to cover both high-definition bases and get some value.
As I’ve mentioned many times in this space: You just can’t use a PlayStation 3 to anything close to its full potential without a decent-sized high-definition TV rig. The same is true to a lesser extent for an Xbox 360. Even the lowly graphics of the Wii have some modest HD features. With a Wii, though, you’re better off hooking it up to the TV you just replaced, judging from accounts in the press. The Wii does not play DVDs, much less next-generation formats.
A brand-new Xbox 360 retails for about $350 and its HD-DVD kit costs an additional $180. This combination will allow play of almost every good “next-generation” console game and give access to high definition movies. You might also want to throw in a hard drive to allow you to play original Xbox games. That’s another $100, about what you’d pay for a used, original Xbox.
I believe Blu-Ray will win the format war. So why not buy the PlayStation 3, which is a heavily subsidized Blu-Ray player and quite a bargain, relatively speaking, at $500?
The time to buy a PlayStation 3 will come, but now is not that time. The console continues to suffer an appalling hard-luck streak in game supply. The next version of Grand Theft Auto, a hugely popular game franchise, has been delayed until sometime next year. “Lair,” an upcoming dragon-riding game that was supposed to showcase the PS3’s awesome abilities, will receive an abysmal 5.5 of 10 score when the next issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly comes out on Sept. 1, as a friend of mine told me and I’ve since confirmed at gamerankings.com.
“Halo 3” will come out for the Xbox 360 next month. This latest entry in this hugely popular franchise has already sold more than a million copies through pre-orders.
To update a comparison I’ve used before, there are 57 Xbox 360 games with a score of 8 or better out of 10 on the Gamespot review website. The same figure for the PS3 is 22, and the large majority of those are available on the Xbox 360.
The PS3 has one major advantage over the latest Xbox. It works. The bugs in the early model 360s have become notorious. Microsoft extended buyers’ warranties and spent $1 billion fixing the problems. Supposedly, it’s all been worked out. Xboxes coming off the assembly line now supposedly work fine.
Assuming that Microsoft threw enough money at the problem, enjoy an Xbox 360. When and if Blu-Ray wins the format war, buy a PS3. They’ll have some games for it by then.

DADDY WARBUCKS

Gandhi-Mart?
Is India the right place for Wal-Mart, some say no!

Yep, Wal-Mart has gone and done it again. The world’s largest retailer this week has inked a contract to join with the Bharti Group to lead Wal-Mart into India – one of the largest consumer markets in the world.  But it comes with some risk. Indian business is tightly controlled. Only Indian based companies can do business in that nation. With Wal-Mart going in the back door by joining with Bharti Group, they can now do business there. The same tactic was tried by Wal-Mart in Japan with disastrous results. In Japan customers are fiercely loyal to a brand and will even pay a higher price to protect that brand. Wal-Mart has been bleeding red ink and low production in Japan ever since. Remember that India was under British rule for almost a century, but they still did things the India way by working around the British control. The Wal-Mart/Bharti Group could be headed for some rocky and unprofitable ventures in India. Wal-Mart’s man on the international side of things has said that the $600 million investment will show Indian citizens “great prices.” Watch and see.

LOW LINE
Arvest Banks home-grown economic report – The Skyline Report – says bluntly there is now a glut of retail space in NWA. Do you think? Daddy W.
has been saying that developers have overbuilt in retail space from the Missouri state line down to Greenwood for the last three years. Now the figures are for real. The current value of retail spaces has dropped 35 percent. There is roughly 1.47 million square feet of vacant retail space available.

SMART DOUGH
Looks like there will soon to be four new bagel shops in NWA and really good ones, Einstein Brothers Bagels. A franchise has been purchased for NWA and it looks like Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville will be joining cities like Dallas and Kansas City where they shops are extremely popular.

DOG GONE SALES
Looks like Lowell will be joining Fayetteville in banning roadside puppy sales? Daddy says hooray. There are limited restrictions on selling animals in Springdale and Rogers, but nary a line of city ordinance on this in Bentonville. While all kids need a puppy or a kitty kat, hawking them on the side of the road is a bad thing.

RITZY DIGS
The Legacy Building just off Dickson Street will hold a 50 bucks a pop open house tonight. There’ll be tours of the fancy digs, door prizes, a DJ and probably some real estate hawking, Daddy suspects. The proceeds will go to Fayetteville Downtown Partners—an interesting way to raise money on both ends.

MOVIN’ ON
The Race For The Cure is moving from the Northwest Arkansas Mall to the new professional baseball stadium in Springdale. Reasons cited for the move: more room and—get this—more centrally located. Watch out! This may be a trend. If Fayettevillians don’t pick up on this, well one day we may all be wondering where these events went. What’s next Bikes, Blues and BBQ? Hey, wait, some might say, that is just what Pinnacle needs.

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