Apple Inc (AAPL.O) on Thursday agreed to loosen App Store restrictions on small developers, striking a deal in a class-action lawsuit as the iPhone maker awaits a ruling by the same judge in a separate App Store dispute brought by the developer behind "Fortnite."
The deal includes changes in how all developers can communicate with customers, an issue highlighted by the judge herself in the Fortnite case.
But Apple kept intact the vast majority of the App Store business practices that have been challenged in courts and legislatures. Instead it gave up only $100 million, a small sum for a company worth more than $2.4 trillion, and a set of email marketing restrictions that legal experts had said could be difficult to defend even under a prior U.S. Supreme Court case that allows companies to bar their business partners from steering customers toward alternative payment methods.
A group of smaller software developers brought the lawsuit in 2019, alleging that Apple broke antitrust laws with practices such as charging commissions of up to 30%. The Cupertino, California-based company said it has reached a proposed settlement that covers U.S. developers that made $1 million a year or less under which the developers release all claims that Apple's commissions were too high.
Apple is waiting for a decision in the much higher-profile antitrust case filed by Fortnite creator Epic Games. The proposed settlement on Thursday will need approval from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, who is expected to hand down a decision in the Epic case.
As part of the Thursday deal, Apple said it will make changes to the App Store, including extending for three years a change made last year that lowers commissions for smaller developers to 15%.
Developers have long been able to take other forms of payment outside of their apps to avoid commissions to Apple, and some, like Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) eschew Apple's in-app payment system.
But Apple maintains strict rules against developers using contact information gleaned from customers who sign up via the App Store to later tell those customers about alternative payment methods, which are often priced lower because they do not require fees to Apple.
Smaller developers without Netflix's name recognition have long objected that Apple's restrictions prevented them from establishing direct billing relationships with customers.
During the Epic-Apple trial in May, Gonzalez Rogers had criticized Apple's rules, even though Epic had not made them a centerpiece of its case.
"Apple's hiding of that information in a way that is not directly reflected to the consumer seems to be anticompetitive," she said.
Apple said the changes will apply to all developers globally, not just the class of smaller developers in the United States covered directly by the settlement. The company will also create a $100 million assistance fund for small developers.
Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, which represented the developers in the case, said the settlement would bring "meaningful improvements."
Google's (GOOGL.O) YouTube won its latest copyright-infringement challenge after Europe's top court said online platforms are not liable for users uploading unauthorised works unless the platforms failed to take quick action to remove or block access to the content.
The case marks the latest development in a long-running battle between Europe's $1 trillion creative industry and online platforms, with the former seeking redress for unauthorised works that are uploaded.
It is also part of the wider debate on how much online platforms and social media should do to police the posting of unauthorised, illegal or hateful content, an issue that European Union regulators are targeting with tough new rules that could come into force next year.
"As currently stands, operators of online platforms do not, in principle, themselves make a communication to the public of copyright-protected content illegally posted online by users of those platforms," the EU Court of Justice said.
"However, those operators do make such a communication in breach of copyright where they contribute, beyond merely making those platforms available, to giving access to such content to the public," judges said.
The EU court said platforms could also be liable if they do not put in place the appropriate technological tools to tackle copyright breaches by their users or where they provide tools on their platforms for illegal sharing of content.
In response to the court ruling a YouTube spokesperson said: "YouTube is a leader in copyright and supports rights holders being paid their fair share."
"That's why we've invested in state of the art copyright tools which have created an entirely new revenue stream for the industry. In the past 12 months alone we have paid $4 billion to the music industry, over 30% of which comes from monetised user generated content."
The case underlines a long-running debate on the responsibilities of online platforms, with the CJEU giving useful guidance to national courts assessing such disagreements, said Nils Rauer, a partner at law firm Pinsent Masons.
"The core question is and remains whether the platform is in a rather passive role (no liability) or in an active role (liability). There is a fine line between those two roles," he said.
"With today's ruling, the domestic courts will be able to build on more guidance from Luxembourg where to draw the line between the good ones (platforms) and the bad ones," he said.
YouTube found itself in the dock after Frank Peterson, a music producer, sued the company and Google in Germany over the uploading to YouTube by users in 2008 of several phonograms to which he holds the rights.
In a second case, publishing group Elsevier took legal action against file-hosting service Cyando in Germany after its users uploaded several Elsevier works on its platform Uploaded in 2013 without its approval.
A German court subsequently sought advice from the EU Court of Justice, which ruled on both cases on Tuesday.
Existing EU rules exempt YouTube and its peers from such liability regarding copyright when they are told of violations and remove them.
The EU last year overhauled its copyright rules for the first time in two decades to help its creative industries by adopting a key provision known as Article 17. This requires YouTube, Facebook's (FB.O) Instagram and other sharing platforms to install filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials.
But this has drawn criticism from civil rights groups worried about potential censorship by authoritarian governments and risks to freedom of expression.
Several EU countries have yet to transpose the EU law into national legislation, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The European Commission has also proposed much a more wide-ranging Digital Services Act, which sets stringent obligations on very large online companies, online platforms and hosting services, backed by fines up to 6% of a company's revenue for non-compliance.
This would apply to websites, internet infrastructure services and online platforms such as online marketplaces, social networks, content-sharing platforms, app stores, and online travel and accommodation platforms.
The draft rules need to be thrashed out with EU countries and EU lawmakers before they can become law, likely to be next year.
The cases are C-682/18 YouTube and C-683/18 Cyando.
Being scratch and water resistant to 50 meters, Apple's latest Watch Series 6 is already popular with swimmers, hikers and other athletes. However, Apple is reportedly planning to make a more rugged version designed for extreme sports and weather, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.
Known internally as the "Explorer Edition," the rugged Watch would reportedly be offered as an additional model, possibly like the Watch SE or special edition models co-branded with Nike and Hermes. It would have the same features as a regular Watch but could be extra resistant to impact like Casio's G-Shock lineup, with a rubberized case in place of the current steel, aluminum and titanium shells.
A rugged Watch seems like a feasible and even sensible addition to the lineup, given the immense popularity of Apple's smartwatches. According to a recent IDC report, Apple owns 36 percent of the wearable market and generated $30 billion in wearables and home accessories — its most successful segment next to the iPhone.
Apple is also working on a swim tracking Watch feature, according to the report. The new rugged model could come as early as September, when Apple normally rolls out its latest Watch models. However, it could also be delayed or canceled altogether, as frequently happens with rumored Apple products.
The Wall Street Journal reported Microsoft and Discord have now entered exclusive talks that might lead to the communication platform being purchased for “$10 billion or more.”
After initial reports placed Microsoft in early talks to acquire Discord, it appears those talks have advanced to the point where a deal could be closed by the end of April.
Previous reports from GamesBeat and Bloomberg said Discord had no immediate plans to sell, but it appears talks with Microsoft have potentially shifted that decision. The Bloomberg report said the early conversations with the Discord team were being led by Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox. Bloomberg also reported Discord held discussions with Epic Games and Amazon.
Microsoft has made its willingness to try and acquire additional assets, specifically well-known online brands very clear over the last several months. With the successful purchase of ZeniMax, the parent company of Bethesda, and making an offer to purchase TikTok last year, the company is aggressively trying to increase its presence in consumer media.
Discord recorded over 140 million monthly active users late in 2020 and is a community hub for multiple different demographics, which has only continued to grow over time. WSJ notes that the platform not only grew its userbase but also nearly tripled its revenue to around $130 million last year.
Should a deal be reached, Microsoft would be able to integrate Discord into its gaming and communication ecosystem, which could potentially allow the players to use the app on Xbox consoles to communicate with PC players natively as an alternative to basic party chats. The company has also previously partnered with Discord to offer perks as part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription service, including three months of Discord Nitro to its subscribers.
No deal has been officially confirmed, but WSJ reports that something could get done within the next month.
Google and Microsoft are at knives drawn.
Driven in part by pressure from lawmakers and regulators over the extraordinary power the two technology companies wield over American life, the California-based search engine giant and Washington-based software firm are wrestling to throw each other under the bus.
Tensions between Microsoft Corp and Alphabet-owned Google have been simmering for a while but the rivalry has become unusually public in recent days as executives from both firms have been put on the defensive over competing crises.
Google faces bipartisan complaints - and journalistic ire - over its role in gutting the media industry’s advertisement revenue, the subject of a Congressional antitrust hearing on Friday.
Microsoft, meanwhile, faces scrutiny for its role in back-to-back cybersecurity breaches.
In the first, the same allegedly Russian hackers who compromised the Texas software firm SolarWinds Corp also took advantage of Microsoft’s cloud software to break into some of the company’s clients. The second, disclosed on March 2, saw allegedly Chinese hackers abuse previously unknown vulnerabilities to vacuum up emails from Microsoft customers around the world.
Addressing lawmakers on Friday at a House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee on news, Microsoft President Brad Smith was due to fire a shot at Google, telling representatives that media organizations are being forced to “use Google’s tools, operate on Google’s ad exchanges, contribute data to Google’s operations, and pay Google money,” according to excerpts of his testimony published by Axios.
Google fired back, saying that Microsoft’s “newfound interest in attacking us comes on the heels of the SolarWinds attack and at a moment when they’ve allowed tens of thousands of their customers — including government agencies in the U.S., NATO allies, banks, nonprofits, telecommunications providers, public utilities, police, fire and rescue units, hospitals and, presumably, news organizations — to be actively hacked via major Microsoft vulnerabilities.”
If you don’t hit the ‘Accept’ button in time…If you don’t accept the new privacy policies after May 15, you will lose some key functionality. Which ones exactly? “For a short time, you’ll be able to receive calls and notifications, but won’t be able to read or send messages from the app,” says the company on a new FAQ page titled What happens on the effective date?
You’ll lose key functions & risk account deletion
As for the ‘short time’ in WhatsApp’s ominous announcement, it will last a few weeks (via TechCrunch). WhatsApp has reportedly started sending a communique detailing the aforementioned changes to its merchant partners, which are apparently business accounts that use the platform for commerce and pay a fee in exchange to the Facebook-owned company.
What are your options?
So, you’re now left with two options:
So, you essentially have 120 days to think and accept (or reject) WhatsApp’s updated privacy policies. However, each day after May 15, you will have to live with limited functionality (read: Not being able to send or read messages) if you haven’t accepted the new rules.
What if you delete your WhatsApp account?
Or, you can download your chat history and say goodbye to WhatsApp. However, the company says that if you delete your account, you will be kicked out from all groups, and all your chat history and backups will be permanently deleted. “It is something we cannot reverse,” WhatsApp says.
Alternatively, you can migrate your WhatsApp data to Telegram that the latter offers. You can move your WhatsApp chat – including media and documents – from personal as well as group chats with a new chat export feature in Telegram.
Apple is rumoured to be working on a VR headset filled with cameras and features that could set consumers back $3,000 (£2,191) a unit.
The gadget could launch in 2022 sporting a dozen tracking cameras and a LiDAR system to augment the headset's VR and AR (augmented reality) capabilities.
According to a drawing from The Information, which first reported on the mixed-reality headset, the device looks more similar to goggles than headsets such as the Oculus Rift or Google Glass.
Apple employees who spoke to The Information described the device as offering mixed-reality experiences - a VR headset but with augmented reality features, such as with the popular Pokemon Go game, layered on top.
The dozen cameras that feature in the glasses mean it will be possible for the software to identify objects in the real world and integrate them within the AR landscape.
Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg described Apple's augmented reality glasses as one of the reasons why the company was "one of our biggest competitors" in a recent call with investors.
He was more likely referring to Apple Glasses, however, which would be more focused on AR.
More similar to Oculus Rift, the VR headset which is owned by Facebook, than Google Glass, Apple's mixed-reality headset will completely occlude the wearer's view of the world around them.
However the dozen cameras on the outside will feed 8K footage into the two displays, which will use eye-tracking technology to ensure the view remains realistic.
The eye-tracking feature will also help power the device by ensuring that details in the periphery of the user's vision are rendered at a lower resolution than the objects they are looking at directly.
Two people who spoke to The Information explained that the wearer will also have a thimble-like device on their finger to assist with hand tracking and to help with controls.
Apple and Google have been showcasing AR tools available for iOS and Android smartphones since 2017, allowing developers to superimpose digital information on real world objects through people's phones.
But the lack of developer tools available for Apple's VR features has prompted some to suggest the launch of the mixed-reality headset may come much later than 2022, with Apple Glasses likely to launch earlier borrowing AR features from the iPhone and iPad.
Source: Sky News
Facebook Inc said on Monday it would provide academic researchers information on how political ads were targeted in the lead-up to the presidential election in the United States last year.
The social media giant said the data would include targeting criteria, such as location and interests, selected by advertisers running social issue, electoral or political ads.
Academics and researchers can apply for access to this information through the Facebook Open Research & Transparency (FORT) platform on Feb. 1, Facebook said in a blog post, adding that the data package would cover more than a million ads that ran between Aug. 3 and Nov. 3. (bit.ly/3a3L91r) Both Facebook and Alphabet Inc's Google have currently paused political ads after the presidential election as part of measures to police misinformation and other abuses.
India’s ministry of electronics and information technology has issued fresh notices to make permanent a ban imposed on video app TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps in June, Indian media reported late on Monday.
When it first imposed the ban, the Indian government gave the 59 apps a chance to explain their position on compliance with privacy and security requirements, the Times of India bit.ly/3iJxgcX reported on Monday.
The companies, which include ByteDance’s popular video-sharing app TikTok, Tencent Holdings’ WeChat and Alibaba’s UC Browser, were also asked to respond to a list of questions, the newspaper said.
"The government is not satisfied with the response/explanation given by these companies. Hence, the ban for these 59 apps is permanent now," business newspaper Livemint bit.ly/3a3Us1t quoted a source familiar with the notices as saying. It said the notices were issued last week.
The ministry’s June order stated that the apps were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
The order, which India referred to as a “digital strike”, followed a skirmish with Chinese troops at a disputed Himalayan border site when 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
In September, India banned another 118 mobile apps, including Tencent’s popular videogame PUBG, as it stepped up the pressure on Chinese technology companies following the standoff at the border.
A TikTok representative told the Economic Times bit.ly/39lKf1v newspaper that the company was evaluating the notice and will respond to it as appropriate.
The ministry of electronics and information technology could not be reached for comment outside regular working hours. TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.
Apple Inc’s hardware engineering chief, Dan Riccio, will step down to oversee a new project, the iPhone maker said on Monday, providing few details on the longtime executive’s latest role.
Riccio will report to Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, Apple said in a statement. He will be replaced by company veteran John Ternus, who will join the executive team as senior vice president of hardware engineering.
Riccio, who joined Apple over two decades ago as vice president of product design, was named vice president of iPad hardware engineering in 2010 and leads the Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod engineering teams.
The company has been focusing on newer projects and moving forward with self-driving car technology, targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, Reuters had reported last month.