Lawmakers Grill Major Tech Companies in Antitrust Hearing

Republican and Democratic lawmakers excoriated tech giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google this week on Capitol Hill. Chief among the critics were Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who oversees the Constitution subcommittee, and Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) who leads an antitrust subcommittee. Although the companies acknowledged the upheaval their technology has created in many industries, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) responded that, “every time Americans trust you, they seem to get burned.” Continue reading Lawmakers Grill Major Tech Companies in Antitrust Hearing

Once Again, Prime Day Shatters Sales Records for Amazon

According to Amazon, this week’s Prime Day 2019 topped last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Despite competing discounts offered by eBay, Best Buy and Walmart, Prime members purchased more than 175 million products during the annual sales event. The tally is challenging to compare to previous Prime Day events since the e-commerce giant keeps expanding the duration of the sale (this year it was 48 hours, compared to 36 hours in 2018 and 30 hours in 2017). However, the event set a number of sales records, including new milestones for Amazon devices. Continue reading Once Again, Prime Day Shatters Sales Records for Amazon

Dish Releases AirTV Mini, its Next-Gen 4K Streaming Stick

Dish Network’s AirTV subsidiary has launched the AirTV Mini, a 4K streaming dongle powered by Android TV that promises more memory and a faster processor than similar devices from competitors such as Amazon, Google and Roku. The Wi-Fi-enabled, HDR-compatible stick offers Dish’s Sling TV, Netflix, OTA channels, and apps created for Android TVs — all accessible via a single interface. It also provides support for Google Assistant and Google Play. When teamed with an OTA antenna and AirTV Wi-Fi network tuner, the palm-sized $79.99 device provides a streaming solution for TV viewers and cord-cutters that includes OTA feeds from networks. Continue reading Dish Releases AirTV Mini, its Next-Gen 4K Streaming Stick

Facebook in Global Crosshairs for Privacy, Antitrust Issues

The Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook about $5 billion for privacy violations, but the sum is considered a slap on the wrist since it neither hurt the company’s bottom line nor limited its ability to collect data. But, since 2016, 43+ countries have passed or introduced laws regulating social media and the spread of fake news, and U.S., European and Canadian regulators have initiated investigations and proposed regulations that will likely be much more draconian. Congress is considering a federal privacy law. Continue reading Facebook in Global Crosshairs for Privacy, Antitrust Issues

France Inks Law to Tax Tech Firms, U.S. Threatens Probe

France’s Senate has approved taxing Amazon, Google and other large technology companies, despite the threat of a U.S. probe into discrimination. In fact, the vote came hours after U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said he would investigate the French legislation based on the same law President Trump used in the trade clash with China. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire responded that, “France is a sovereign state. It makes sovereign decisions on tax matters and will continue to make sovereign decisions on tax matters.” Continue reading France Inks Law to Tax Tech Firms, U.S. Threatens Probe

Tech Expands its NYC Foothold, Investors Build Film Studio

Although Amazon bypassed New York City for its second headquarters four months ago, the Big Apple has attracted numerous other high-tech companies that are renting office space and creating jobs. Google inked a deal to lease 1.3 million square feet in lower Manhattan, with plans to add 7,000 jobs over 10 years. Facebook is also in talks to lease one million square feet of office space on the far West Side. Now, actor Robert De Niro and his son are part of an investment team building a film and TV production studio in Queens. Continue reading Tech Expands its NYC Foothold, Investors Build Film Studio

IBM to Take on Competitors With Its Hybrid Cloud Strategy

IBM has a new strategy to compete with Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Alibaba in cloud computing: it spent $34 billion to acquire Red Hat, which specializes in open source software tools to write cloud computing applications. Red Hat already has partnerships with all the major cloud providers. IBM, a latecomer to this highly competitive sector, is presenting itself as a neutral party to those concerned about becoming too dependent on a single player. For this reason, Germany also has plans to build its own cloud infrastructure. Continue reading IBM to Take on Competitors With Its Hybrid Cloud Strategy

Live-Streamed Music Events Prove Effective For Marketing

Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Music are among the music streaming services using live events and concerts to stand out from the crowd. For its Prime Day promotion, for example, Amazon live-streamed a Taylor Swift concert in New York City. Musicians also find these live streaming events as a way for their songs to rise above the millions available on the services. Streaming services are experimenting with different kinds of concerts, including album-listening parties and those based on popular playlists. Continue reading Live-Streamed Music Events Prove Effective For Marketing

Amazon-Google Truce Offers More Cross-Platform Access

Google and Amazon, which reached a truce in April after months of wrangling, opened the door to multiple cross-platform compatibilities: Amazon Fire TV streaming platforms will now carry Google’s YouTube, YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps — and Google Chromecast platforms and Android TVs will carry Amazon Prime Video. In addition, users will be able to request YouTube content on the Fire TV via the Alexa voice assistant. Not available yet is the ability of Google Assistant to work with Amazon Prime Video on Chromecast. Continue reading Amazon-Google Truce Offers More Cross-Platform Access

BBC and ITV Join Forces to Launch Rival to U.S. Streamers

In the U.K., Amazon and Netflix now own about two-thirds of that country’s video streaming market and, for the second time, the BBC and ITV are trying to pool their assets to launch their own streaming platform. Their first effort to do so, in 2007, was squelched by regulators. The new platform, dubbed BritBox (a version of which has been available in North America), is expected to make its U.K. debut later in 2019, with the two broadcasters’ popular shows and new content. But the BBC and ITV are still struggling to resolve issues of budget, audience data sharing and content exclusivity. Continue reading BBC and ITV Join Forces to Launch Rival to U.S. Streamers

Spotify Allows Music Labels to Access Data About its Users

Music streaming service Spotify allows users to “pre-save” an upcoming release to their accounts. But users don’t realize that, by doing so, they are also agreeing to let Spotify release more personal data than is typical to the upcoming release’s label. Those labels can access information to track a user’s listening behavior, change the musicians they follow and possibly even control their music streaming remotely. In an era in which data privacy is receiving more consumer attention, Spotify’s practice is likely to become an issue. Continue reading Spotify Allows Music Labels to Access Data About its Users

Lawmakers Aim to Control Malicious Content Enabled by AI

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee began a series of hearings to look into “emerging technological breakthroughs” to control malicious content posted on digital platforms by AI-enabled software including bots. Facebook head of global policy management Monika Bickert testified that the company has prioritized the development of such tools. Chief information officers at numerous tech companies are paying attention, worried that lawmakers are considering regulating the use of AI. Continue reading Lawmakers Aim to Control Malicious Content Enabled by AI

Toshiba Fire TV Model Lowers Price Barrier for Dolby Vision

Amazon and Toshiba are launching a line of Fire TV Edition sets that include support for Dolby Vision. The 4K televisions, which will be sold exclusively through Amazon and Best Buy, come in a 55-inch model ($499.99) that is available today, followed by 43-inch ($329.99) and 50-inch ($379.99) models to be released on June 30. Dolby Vision’s HDR format is regarded as superior to HDR10 because it allows scene-by-scene adjustments to picture quality. The Amazon-Toshiba sets mark the first time that Dolby Vision will be available in more affordable Fire TV Edition models. Continue reading Toshiba Fire TV Model Lowers Price Barrier for Dolby Vision

Change in Antitrust Thinking Could Be Problem for Big Tech

A shift in antitrust thinking is gaining momentum in the U.S. as regulators are increasingly scrutinizing Big Tech. Scholars are examining antitrust issues in a context that focuses on the clout of leading companies. Antitrust regulation has historically focused on consumer welfare and whether or not there is economic impact. In recent decades, tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have experienced massive growth by offering free or cheap digital services. “People might enjoy using the tech platforms but they are also asking, ‘What kind of society do we want?’” suggests Hal Singer of George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy. Continue reading Change in Antitrust Thinking Could Be Problem for Big Tech

Jury Finds VidAngel Must Pay Movie Studios $62.4 Million

U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte had ruled that VidAngel, which has streamed hundreds of Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. movies without permission, was illegal. Now a jury has ordered the company to pay $62.4 million to those injured studios, potentially forcing it to shutter its doors. The Utah-based VidAngel ripped movies from DVD copies and then created versions sanitized of violence, sex and other so-called objectionable material. Earlier, VidAngel stated that it was allowed to do this under the federal Family Movie Act. Continue reading Jury Finds VidAngel Must Pay Movie Studios $62.4 Million

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