Smaller Rivals Lose Google Search Engine Auction in the EU

To comply with a 2018 EU antitrust decision, Google now provides Android OS users in Europe a “choice” screen that lists competing search engines to pick as the device’s default. The problem is that numerous smaller search engines that have popular followings in Europe didn’t win spots in large European countries in the latest auction and therefore don’t appear on that list of choices. DuckDuckGo, for example, a U.S.-based search engine that doesn’t collect personal data, only won the auction in four small European countries. Continue reading Smaller Rivals Lose Google Search Engine Auction in the EU

Apple Under Increasing Pressure to Change App Store Fees

Apple’s 30 percent commission on digital goods and services in its App Store has raised the ire of numerous companies, including Netflix and Spotify, which have formed a coalition to promote legal and regulatory changes for app marketplaces. Apple and Epic Games are battling the issue in court, and Spotify filed an antitrust suit in Europe last year, with claims that it unfairly harms competitors. Apple is, however, giving a brief COVID-19-related reprieve on fees to some companies selling virtual experiences. Continue reading Apple Under Increasing Pressure to Change App Store Fees

Amazon Unveils Devices for Gaming, Autos and Smart Home

Amazon announced new smart home devices during its fall hardware event last week, including an expanded Fire Stick collection, redesigned Echo speaker lineup, and Ring in-home drone. Amazon is also launching its Luna cloud gaming service, and introducing Car Cam and Car Alarm to Ring’s lineup. Alexa’s capabilities have expanded, from being able to read books to children to a new security feature, Guard Plus, that can detect sounds around a user’s house and trigger dog-barking to scare off intruders. In times of COVID-19, said Amazon head of devices and services Dave Limp, “our homes have become our offices, our classrooms, movie theaters and more.” Continue reading Amazon Unveils Devices for Gaming, Autos and Smart Home

Microsoft Inks Deal With OpenAI for Exclusive GPT-3 License

Microsoft struck a deal with AI startup OpenAI to be the exclusive licensee of language comprehension model GPT-3. According to Microsoft EVP Kevin Scott, the deal is an “incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology.” Among potential uses are “aiding human creativity and ingenuity in areas like writing and composition, describing and summarizing large blocks of long-form data (including code), converting natural language to another language.” Continue reading Microsoft Inks Deal With OpenAI for Exclusive GPT-3 License

Microsoft Acquires Indie Video Game Publisher ZeniMax Media

Microsoft just purchased ZeniMax Media, a large independent game publisher whose studios have produced some of the video game industry’s most notable titles: id Software, which developed “Doom” and “Quake”; Arkane Studios, responsible for “Dishonored” and “Prey”; Tango Gameworks, developer of “The Evil Within”; and Bethesda Game Studios, home of “The Elder Scrolls” and “Fallout.” With regulatory approval expected by the second half of next year, Microsoft paid $7.5 billion in an all-cash deal for the publisher. Continue reading Microsoft Acquires Indie Video Game Publisher ZeniMax Media

Amazon and Microsoft Boosting Cloud Services With Startups

San Francisco-based startup Abnormal Security is moving its AI-driven email security software to Microsoft’s Azure Marketplace, in exchange for Microsoft’s promise to sell Abnormal’s services to its enterprise clients. This is the first such deal for Microsoft, which is battling Amazon for cloud computing dominance. Amazon has already inked similar deals; in a January agreement, cloud-cost management software company Apptio expanded its use of Amazon Web Services in exchange for Amazon’s help to sell Apptio’s services to its clients. Continue reading Amazon and Microsoft Boosting Cloud Services With Startups

Ex-Facebook Scientist Reveals Slow Action on Fake Accounts

A recently fired Facebook data scientist, Sophie Zhang, sent a 6,600-word memo giving specific examples of how the social media company ignored or was slow to act on solid information on fake accounts undermining global politics and elections. That included her proof that, in Azerbaijan and Honduras, government leaders and political parties used fake accounts to shift public opinion. She found similar evidence of coordinated campaigns to impact candidates or elections in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, India, Spain and Ukraine. Continue reading Ex-Facebook Scientist Reveals Slow Action on Fake Accounts

More Details on Oracle’s Bid to Be TikTok’s Trusted Partner

Although Microsoft and Walmart’s joint bid was considered the leader to become the “trusted partner” of the U.S. operations of ByteDance’s social video app TikTok, cloud and platform services company Oracle has come out on top. The structure of the Oracle deal is still unknown, but one source said it will not be an “outright sale.” The White House and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) still have to approve the proposal. President Trump stated he would ban TikTok if it isn’t sold by September 20. TikTok has about 100 million monthly users in the U.S. Continue reading More Details on Oracle’s Bid to Be TikTok’s Trusted Partner

Apple Reveals a Number of Changes to Its App Store Rules

In response to complaints from developers, Apple tweaked rules surrounding in-app purchases for iPhone and iPad games that stream directly from the Internet. The company is not changing the 15 to 30 percent fees for app downloads, in-app purchases and subscriptions — a major bone of contention for many developers — but is applying the fees to fewer situations. This change and several others, however, does not impact the existing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games, and Epic chief executive Tim Sweeney criticized Apple’s latest move. Continue reading Apple Reveals a Number of Changes to Its App Store Rules

Oracle-TikTok Deal Is Under Review by Federal Government

In an effort to avoid a ban in the U.S., popular social video platform TikTok aims to partner with cloud services company Oracle. TikTok parent ByteDance proposed a deal in which Oracle would serve as tech provider in the U.S., although details have not been revealed regarding any potential changes to TikTok’s ownership structure. ByteDance submitted the proposal to the U.S. Treasury Department and Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced plans to review it this week with a particular emphasis on security issues. If approved, the deal could make Oracle a major advertising player that is more relevant to younger audiences. Continue reading Oracle-TikTok Deal Is Under Review by Federal Government

Epic Games and Apple Continue Heated Feud Over App Fees

The battle between Apple and Epic Games over the former’s commission fees for games sold in its App Store has heated up. Apple and Google both tossed Epic Games’ “Fortnite” from their app stores after Epic debuted an in-app payment system that prevented both companies from reaping 30 percent of customers’ spending. Epic Games filed a lawsuit, and Apple just filed a countersuit, accusing the software developer of “duplicity and greed” and asking a judge for punitive damages. Epic Games has seen its iOS- and Mac-based usership plunge. Continue reading Epic Games and Apple Continue Heated Feud Over App Fees

Microsoft Confirms the Debut of $299 Xbox Series S Console

Following a series of leaks, Microsoft has now confirmed the existence of another new game console, the Xbox Series S, which it dubs the smallest Xbox ever (60 percent smaller than the Series X). The company said the “slim, white console” will debut “soon,” provide “next-gen performance” and be priced at $299. Reports suggest that Series S and Series X will be available for purchase on November 10 and hint that many Series S features are similar to those of Series X, but with less disc drive and less powerful CPU and GPU. Microsoft stated that the Xbox Series X “will be four times more powerful than its predecessor, the Xbox One X.” Continue reading Microsoft Confirms the Debut of $299 Xbox Series S Console

Nvidia Purchase of Arm Signals Inflection Point in Computing

If Nvidia acquires Arm Ltd. in the next few weeks, which many experts predict will happen, the company may be in the position to dominate the next computing ecosystem. Jefferies semiconductor analyst Mark Lipacis notes that, the computer industry goes through a “strategic inflection point” every 15 years, with research showing that dominant players in each era account for 80 percent of the profits. Different ecosystems are the result of “multi-pronged” strategy by those companies that come out on top. Continue reading Nvidia Purchase of Arm Signals Inflection Point in Computing

Microsoft Develops Video Authenticator to Identify Deepfakes

Microsoft debuted a Video Authenticator tool that can analyze a still photo or video to determine the percentage of the chance that it is an AI-manipulated deepfake. For videos, Microsoft said the tool will work on a frame-by-frame basis in real time. The company’s tool is based on a FaceForensics++ public database and detects the “blending boundary” of the deepfake, with “subtle fading or grayscale elements” that may be indistinguishable by the human eye. It has been tested on the Deepfake Detection Challenge dataset. Continue reading Microsoft Develops Video Authenticator to Identify Deepfakes

Nvidia Debuts GeForce RTX Chip Series With Lower Latency

Nvidia debuted its 28-billion transistor Ampere-based 30 Series graphics chips for PC gamers, ideal for Microsoft and Sony’s next-generation consoles to unveil by the holidays. The 30 Series GeForce RTX chips (available September 17) are comprised of the RTX 3070 ($500), 3080 ($700), and 3090 ($1,500), with second generation RTX (real-time ray tracing graphics). According to chief executive Jensen Huang, there are “hundreds of RTX games” in development, joining “Minecraft,” “Control” and “Wolfenstein: Youngblood,” which already feature RTX. Continue reading Nvidia Debuts GeForce RTX Chip Series With Lower Latency

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