Apple Updates App Store, Hopes to Combat Antitrust Claims

Apple is hoping that its new App Store website will help curb accusations regarding antitrust and anti-competition practices. Ahead of next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, the company launched a new App Store site with details about how apps are carefully reviewed and curated, and the different business models that are available to app developers. “We created the App Store with two goals in mind: that it be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers,” the company detailed on the site. Continue reading Apple Updates App Store, Hopes to Combat Antitrust Claims

NBC Targets News Junkies With Ad-Supported OTT Service

NBC News is introducing its free, ad-supported streaming video service with an eight-hour programming day (3:00-11:00 pm Eastern, Monday through Friday) and a mix of news content. “NBC News Now” hopes to attract a new generation of information aficionados with a blend of short-form “Briefly” updates, live reports and in-depth stories. “We want to be the premiere place for viewers who are news junkies — news savvy, digitally savvy, but may not be watching on traditional platforms or have access to cable service,” explained Rashida Jones, SVP of specials for NBC News and MSNBC, who is overseeing the initiative. Continue reading NBC Targets News Junkies With Ad-Supported OTT Service

Cable Providers Hope Wireless Deals Will Curb Cord-Cutting

New York-based cable provider Altice USA is planning to compete in the crowded wireless market by launching a new mobile service that offers consumers unlimited data at a $20-$30 monthly price point per phone, according to individuals familiar with the plans. Employees will test the new service, likely to be named Altice Mobile, in the coming weeks, with plans for a summer launch. The company will be joining cable rivals Charter and Comcast in offering wireless deals to subscribers. Cable providers are hoping that offering wireless service will discourage their customers from cord-cutting. Continue reading Cable Providers Hope Wireless Deals Will Curb Cord-Cutting

New Company Acquires Meta’s AR Assets and Hires CEO

Meta View, a new spatial computing company backed by Olive Tree Ventures and BNSG Capital, has acquired the IP assets of Meta Company, a pioneer in AR head-mounted displays that shut down earlier this year. Meta Company previously generated a lot of buzz regarding its Meta 2 headset and wide field-of-view display system. To run the new San Mateo, California-based company, Meta View has hired former Qualcomm VP Jay Wright as CEO. Wright co-founded Vuforia, where he served as president and GM cultivating the popular AR platform. Continue reading New Company Acquires Meta’s AR Assets and Hires CEO

Facing New Pressure, Huawei Trademarks Own Mobile OS

As the trade war between China and the U.S. escalates, the Trump administration’s order preventing telecoms from using foreign-made hardware that could threaten national security has placed Huawei under increased scrutiny. As a result, a number of major tech companies — including ARM, Broadcom, Intel, Qualcomm and Xilinx — as well as carriers in Japan, Taiwan and the U.K. have stalled business with Huawei. Since Google plans to cut off Android support for new Huawei phones, the Chinese company faces significant trouble in Europe where it historically has been very successful. In response, Huawei is taking matters into its own hands and was granted a trademark last week for a smartphone OS to replace Android. Continue reading Facing New Pressure, Huawei Trademarks Own Mobile OS

IGTV Shifts Model From Exclusively Offering Vertical Video

Instagram launched IGTV last year with plans to exclusively offer long-form vertical videos for mobile devices. Landscape video uploads would not be included. However, enthusiasm on the part of video creators failed to gain traction, and now IGTV is changing its vertical video policy. As of last week, users can upload horizontal landscape videos that can easily be viewed full-screen by turning a mobile device on its side. “Ultimately, our vision is to make IGTV a destination for great content no matter how it’s shot so creators can express themselves how they want,” the company explained. Continue reading IGTV Shifts Model From Exclusively Offering Vertical Video

Snap Inc. Hoping to Expand Use of Music in Snapchat App

As Snap faces increased pressure from competitors such as Facebook’s Instagram and ByteDance’s TikTok, the company is reportedly talking with music labels for broader licensing agreements to allow increased use of music via the popular Snapchat app. According to people familiar with the matter, Snap is in discussions with Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. Snap is not looking to launch the next Spotify, but rather expand the way its users can integrate music into Snaps and social media applications. Continue reading Snap Inc. Hoping to Expand Use of Music in Snapchat App

NLRB Considers Uber Drivers Freelancers, Not Employees

In an opinion released May 14, the National Labor Relations Board concluded that Uber drivers should be classified as independent contractors, and not company employees. According to the NLRB, Uber drivers qualify as independent workers because they are given “significant entrepreneurial opportunity” and “virtually complete control of their cars, work schedules, and log-in locations, together with their freedom to work for competitors of Uber.” The opinion is a victory for Uber and a setback for drivers and labor advocates, since it makes it more challenging for drivers to file labor complaints, form a union, or seek federal protection. Continue reading NLRB Considers Uber Drivers Freelancers, Not Employees

Disney Finalizes Deal with Comcast to Take Control of Hulu

Comcast, which owns roughly one-third of Hulu, has agreed to sell its stake in the streaming video service to Disney. The deal calls for Comcast to sell its interest for Hulu’s fair market value no earlier than 2024. The Hulu joint venture launched nearly 12 years ago with the goal of providing a legal platform for television content that would serve as an alternative to YouTube and pirate sites. The platform has since become a major Netflix competitor. Disney’s share increased with its recent $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox’s movie and TV studios. AT&T, which picked up 9.5 percent of Hulu with its $85 billion deal for Time Warner, recently sold back its share to Hulu for $1.43 billion. Continue reading Disney Finalizes Deal with Comcast to Take Control of Hulu

Supreme Court: App Store Customers Can Now Sue Apple

In what could become a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has ruled to allow individual iPhone users to sue Apple in antitrust violation cases related to the tech giant’s App Store. In a 5-4 decision written by Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court agreed with a lower court ruling that determined App Store customers could sue Apple for allegedly driving up prices by forcing them to purchase apps exclusively from the App Store. Apple lost its argument that was based on the contention that third-party developers set the prices for apps. While Apple holds steady in its belief that it does not represent a monopoly, the ruling could have future ramifications regarding consumers who seek to sue other app sellers for antitrust violations. Continue reading Supreme Court: App Store Customers Can Now Sue Apple

YouTube Launches New Ad Tool Dubbed Bumper Machine

Ahead of the May 14th Google Marketing Live event, during which the company will describe its latest digital marketing products, YouTube announced a new editing tool designed to streamline ad production. Bumper Machine, which YouTube is currently alpha testing, intends to help advertisers optimize content for mobile audiences by identifying compelling moments in video content to create packages of six-second videos that highlight key brand and product information. According to IAB, mobile video ads are steering a significant part of the digital media market, worth $107.5 billion last year in the U.S. alone. Continue reading YouTube Launches New Ad Tool Dubbed Bumper Machine

Study: High-End VR Activity Increased Significantly in 2018

According to a new report from research firm IDC, consumer interest has waned recently for smartphone-dependent VR devices, while tethered and standalone models are growing more popular. IDC surveyed 1,643 VR users across France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and learned that the number of “high-performance” VR headsets increased 60 percent from 2017 to 3.9 million devices in 2018. The study identified different categories of users, based on their amount of time spent with VR devices, including a “hardcore” group (12 percent) that spent 16 or more hours monthly with VR. Continue reading Study: High-End VR Activity Increased Significantly in 2018

WhatsApp Calls Used to Inject Spyware on Mobile Phones

Hackers have reportedly been injecting Israeli spyware onto smartphones via the popular Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp. The surveillance software, named Pegasus, was developed by Israeli firm NSO Group and can access an iPhone with a single missed voice call on WhatsApp. NSO claims that it carefully vets its customers; the company’s software is intended for government agencies to combat crime and terrorism. While it is currently unknown how many users may have been affected at this point (the problem was first discovered in early May), WhatsApp says it has created a patch to address the vulnerability. Continue reading WhatsApp Calls Used to Inject Spyware on Mobile Phones

New Silicon Valley Stock Exchange Is Approved by the SEC

U.S. regulators have approved a new stock exchange originally introduced to the Securities and Exchange Commission last year by tech entrepreneur Eric Ries, who raised $19 million from VCs for his project. The new Long-Term Stock Exchange (LTSE) will provide tech firms with options to traditional New York exchanges. The “Silicon Valley-based national securities exchange” is “promoting what it says is a unique approach to governance and voting rights, while reducing short-term pressures on public companies,” reports Reuters. Continue reading New Silicon Valley Stock Exchange Is Approved by the SEC

India Reportedly Launches Antitrust Investigation of Google

Sources informed Reuters that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered an antitrust investigation into Google for allegedly using the popularity of its Android operating system to block competitors. CCI began evaluating the complaint in 2018, and by April of this year reportedly determined that there was enough merit to launch a full investigation. A similar case played out in Europe last year, which resulted in a $5 billion fine against Google. In that case, the EU determined that Google had violated antitrust rules by forcing Android phone manufacturers to pre-install the Google search app and Chrome Web browser, providing the Google Play Store with an unfair advantage. Continue reading India Reportedly Launches Antitrust Investigation of Google

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