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The FTC Accidentally Reveals Distrust of Google

posted Saturday Mar 21, 2015 by Scott Ertz

The FTC Accidentally Reveals Distrust of Google

In early 2012, it was pretty clear that the Federal Trade Commission was preparing for a lawsuit against Google for anticompetitive practices through its search engine. There had been over a year of investigation that was leading the organization to believe that Google had misused its search dominance in ways that directly harmed consumers. In November of that year, after 17 months of investigation, a small excerpt of a memo leaked that recommended the lawsuit to the commission.

Two months later, in January of 2013, after 19 months of investigation, the FTC decided not to charge Google with anti-competitive practices, despite the information contained in the leaked memo. The change of heart came about with the commissioners after Google agreed to make some changes to their search content, including no longer stealing content from Yelp and presenting it as their own. Part of the end of the investigation was that the original recommendation was to be kept private.

This week, as part of a Freedom of Information Act request from The Wall Street Journal, the FTC accidentally released the rumored document along with the other information requested. As it turns out, the recommendation was 160 pages of information, all leading to the conclusion that the suit against Google should be filed. It said that Google's practices could cause "real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets."

While the document paints a very clear picture of the FTC's beliefs, it is clear that something very drastic must have happened to cause a complete change of plans. Google has a very different idea of what transpired, however. Kent Walker, Google general counsel, said,

After an exhaustive 19-month review, covering nine million pages of documents and many hours of testimony, the FTC staff and all five FTC Commissioners agreed that there was no need to take action on how we rank and display search results.

So, according to Walker, in a 60 day period the staff of the Federal Trade Commission went from writing a 160-page recommendation for an antitrust suit against Google to being unanimously against that action, and there is absolutely nothing suspect about that move. Referencing Yelp, who was specifically called out for concern in the report, Walker said,

For example, Yelp calls itself the 'de facto local search engine' and has seen revenue growth of over 350% in the last 4 years.

Interestingly, 4 years is almost exactly the amount of time since Google shut down their Yelp theft practice. It certainly makes sense that Yelp's revenue would be up greatly since Google stopped stealing their content wholesale and presenting it as their own.

It is unlikely that we will ever know exactly what transpired in that 60 day period between Google and the FTC, but it is pretty clear from this document that whatever it was, it was major.

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Nintendo Forms Partnership for Mobile Games

posted Saturday Mar 21, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Forms Partnership for Mobile Games

When Nintendo released their Nintendo DS handset in 2004, the smartphone and tablet markets represented a small enough portion of the overall mobile market that participating in it would have been insane for the company. In fact, ignoring that product segment did well for them, selling over 154 million units of the DS family. Today, however, mobile is a different space and smartphone and tablet gaming is challenging the 3DS family in a major way.

Over the past few years, Nintendo has seen profit losses for the first time in its history. A lot of this has to do with the company's handling of portable gaming in an increasingly smartphone-toting world. After over a year of looking into mobile gaming, Nintendo has officially taken the plunge through a partnership with DeNA.

Rather than trying a straight-forward partnership where DeNA would license Nintendo's characters and produce games based on them for mobile, Nintendo and DeNA will share development responsibilities, product ownership and revenue. This is a change of pace for Nintendo, whose previous partnerships have turned out some real garbage. After being burned so bad in the past, the company has understandably kept its intellectual property close. This is the second major change to the company's licensing policy, starting with a Netflix-produced, live-action Zelda series.

DeNA West CEO Shintaro Asako talked about the excitement behind this news with GamesBeat, saying,

Mobile gaming is our core business, and we definitely wanted to be the No. 1 mobile gaming company in the world - we've wanted to be a dominant player. We were originally focused on the feature phone space and then shifted over to smart phones, and now (we have) a lot of initiative in both the domestic and international markets. But we really want to be leading player.

It is important to note that this deal will only result in new titles - we will not see any ports of existing titles to the mobile platform. The mobile gaming service, however, will be tied to a membership service, which will be available on multiple platforms, including modern and future Nintendo hardware. This is similar to how Xbox Live works, providing content and connectivity to Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone and Windows 10 devices.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this partnership pans out for Nintendo, and how good the games that come out of the DeNA studio could be.

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NBCUniversal to Launch Comedy Video Platform

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

NBCUniversal to Launch Comedy Video Platform

Aereo's demise, by coincidence or not, has sprung a bunch of standalone video on-demand subscription apps created by major broadcasters or cable companies. HBO Now, SlingTV, Starz and CBS all come to mind, and mixed in with that are the time-tested services like Netflix and Hulu. However, even with NBCUniversal's involvement in many services already, including their own monthly subscription platform, the company is launching yet another online video network.

This one is a little different, as it will be focused on NBCUniversal's comedy, but it will certainly add to the company's portfolio of Internet offerings that they're involved in. The service is still in the beginning phase of development, but it is said that it will contain The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. NBCUniversal's newest employee, Evan Shapiro, who is the executive VP for digital enterprises, will be spearheading the endeavor.

This gives NBCUniversal four different video on-demand services they're directly involved in, with Radius, NBC's fitness-based channel, being the newest and latest project. Could so much parity between offerings cause NBC more trouble? Or will genre-specific programming play better to the consumer? We'll know the fate of this comedy-based channel in just a few short months.

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Microsoft Stays Committed to the Xbox 360 with New Preview Program

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Stays Committed to the Xbox 360 with New Preview Program

If you wanted concrete proof that Microsoft was still committed to the Xbox 360, Major Nelson's announcement this week should have been the proof you were looking for. The 360 is here to stay, for at least the next handful of years, and the new Preview Program for the 360 should eliminate any doubt that the console would be phased out.

From Major Nelson's blog,

Starting in early March select invitees will be able to join the Xbox 360 Preview program. This will work much like the Xbox One preview - and selected customers will be able to sign-up directly from their Xbox 360. Look for a special Xbox Live message then head to Settings, then account then under account management if you've been selected, you'll see Xbox 360 Preview Registration. Sign up there and enroll your console. Nothing will happen yet, but we'll let you know when the Preview is ready to begin through a Xbox Live message.

In our upcoming release will be addressing common customer issues including improving the ability to troubleshoot common network issues from the 360 and adding a Network Connectivity test including Download and Upload speed tests.

There will be even more changes coming later this year - so sign up to be a part of the Xbox 360 Preview Program.

I've already received my invite and have accepted the new terms, but it doesn't appear that any updates have been pushed yet. Rumors are that we'll see a Windows 10-style skin in the coming months, along with some enhancements towards the media side of the console. Of course, all of that could change and we could see new game additions. At this point, all we know is that Microsoft is still committed to the Xbox 360 and it's here to stay for a while. It's been my favorite go-to media device in the bedroom and spare room, with the Xbox One taking its throne as my living room device.

Do you still have a 360? What do you use it for more, gaming or media? Let us know in the comments section.

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Google Launches Program to Advertise Apps on Play Store

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Google Launches Program to Advertise Apps on Play Store

In a move that shouldn't surprise anyone but will almost certainly add more malware to unsuspecting users' smartphones Google is launching a new advertising platform for its Google Play Store. Be ready to call your parents and those you know who aren't so tech savvy to be careful what they start tapping on.

Rolling out to a small set of developers in the next few weeks, companies will be able to, much like the sponsored results on Google's searches, to pay for the top spot in the Google Play Store. The only notification will be a small orange square that says "Ad" which will be placed next to the developer's name. Currently, you can already advertise your app on a Google search, but now this places those apps into the prime position on the Play Store's homepage or search results.

This new programs comes with the good and the bad, as you would expect. The good is that independent and startup developers with some capital can advertise their app so it doesn't go unseen. This could give some great exposure to a talented team and reward them for their efforts. Google shelled out over $7 billion to developers last year, so why not reap the benefit of more downloads?

However, the big red flag staring me in the face is the amount of malicious and fake ads that will be advertised because of this. Google doesn't prevent these companies from hijacking top and common search queries on Google results, so what would make them put the clamp down on that fake Skype app on the Play Store? I can see more devices being infected with malware in the near future, as shady apps start being promoted on these search results.

The program is currently in a test phase, with only a certain number of users seeing a pilot group of advertisers who have chosen to advertise their app. Google will look to expand this to full-scale in the coming months.

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IKEA Embraces its Inner Qi, Will Launch the Tech-Infused Hardware Next Month

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

IKEA Embraces its Inner Qi, Will Launch the Tech-Infused Hardware Next Month

Long time subscribers of our content that includes our International CES coverage know that we're huge fans of the Qi wireless power standard, headed by the Wireless Power Consortium. For several years now, Qi has been implemented into phones, giving wireless charging capabilities to those devices. However its vision was to expand to common appliances, hardware and other applications in a household or business setting. Because of this, we've been waiting to see when major retailers would pick up the idea and place it into their own offerings. And while we've seen some companies serve up some Qi, it is with great excitement and happiness that I tell you that IKEA will be launching a full line of Qi-powered desks and furniture coming next month!

Beginning April 15, IKEA will be selling tables, work desks, nightstands, complete with Qi from the WPC. The company will be offering these products to European and North American stores for now.

This decision from the biggest furniture manufacturer is a pretty bold move. First, it puts IKEA on the leading edge of technology and innovation. Not many companies are currently offering tech-infused solutions into business and work furniture and this makes IKEA stand out even more, Swedish meatballs aside. Second, a nod from a company like IKEA proves that businesses see the need to carry this type of product for the consumer. Some of the items we talk about at CES are just vaporware - ideas and products that never make it to market for one reason or another. However with Qi, we're now seeing real-world application of the technology in dozens of different environments and use cases. Additionally, IKEA choosing Qi over the competition means that companies solidly believe in the WPC, instead of some of the other standards out there right now that are also powered by big name companies like Samsung and Qualcomm.

Now all we need to see is food chains switch from the other standards to Qi and we'd have a match made in heaven, especially if those brands grab their hardware from IKEA. IKEA has also announced that it will be selling a standalone kit that will bring wireless power to furniture that does not already have the feature. The company will be offering one or two full collections in their massive showrooms each year, with the idea to bring 10 total collections to their lineup in a few years.

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