Monday, September 21, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO | As any video game aficionado knows, it’s easy to pop a game into your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 and spend hours working your way from one level to the next. Without the hefty console, though, you’re out of luck if you want to keep blasting those aliens while away from home.

A startup called Spawn Labs thinks it has a solution. The Austin, Texas, company is selling a box that is much like a Slingbox — a device that lets you watch your home TV remotely — for video gaming.

Spawn Labs’ HD-720 costs $200, or about the same price as Microsoft’s cheapest Xbox console. When the Spawn box is connected to a gaming system, you can remotely access any video game disc already inside, along with any games stored on the console’s hard drive.

You can connect the HD-720 to up to two video game systems, including an Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3, and to a TV set to play games at home. If you install Spawn Labs’ free software on a computer, you can then log in to the company’s Web site and play games remotely in real time, using a video game controller plugged into one of the computer’s USB ports or a keyboard.

Spawn Labs, which showed off its product at the TechCrunch50 startup conference in San Francisco, is also pushing its product as a way to connect remotely with friends who might not be able to come over to play games with you. Instead, you can allow them to access your console online, and they can play on a computer from wherever they happen to be.

If you want to let more than one person play remotely, Spawn Labs sells $30 adaptors that plug into the back of the box, enabling group gaming.

You’ll need a good Internet connection to use the HD-720: Chief Executive Officer David Wilson said that the box streams video games in high-definition. If a connection isn’t speedy enough, though, the HD-720 can show games in standard definition, he said.

“This will take two or three years to fully roll out into the mainstream, probably, and as that happens everyone will have a fat pipe they can play with,” he said.

After outcry, T-Mobile drops paper billing fee

NEW YORK | T-Mobile USA has dropped a plan to begin charging customers $1.50 per month to get a paper copy of their bills in the mail.

The wireless phone carrier had recently informed its 33 million customers that the fee would go into effect this past Saturday and apply to anyone who didn’t sign up for a paperless billing plan, in which bills can only be viewed on the Internet.

After an outcry from customers and threats of legal action, however, the company changed its mind. In a statement posted on a company Web page, T-Mobile said it had decided not to implement the fee, “for now.”

New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, whose office had issued T-Mobile a warning over the planned fee, said the company couldn’t legally impose new charges without giving customers the option of ending their service contracts early.

“My office will not sit back and let a company change its prices under the guise of ‘going green,’” he said.

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