Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals. The European Commission concluded that the search giant abused its near-monopoly in online search to "give illegal advantage" to its own Shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said Google "denied other companies the chance to compete" and left consumers without "genuine choice." The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region's competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. From a report: Google has 90 days to "stop its illegal conduct" and give equal treatment to rival price-comparison services, according to a binding order from the European Commission on Tuesday. It's up to Google to choose how it does this and it must tell the EU within 60 days of its plans. Failure to comply brings a risk of fines of up to 5 percent of its daily revenue. [...] "I expect the Commission now to swiftly conclude the other two ongoing investigations against Google," Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany. "Unfortunately, the Google case also illustrates that competition cases tend to drag on for far too long before they are eventually resolved. In a fast-moving digital economy this means often enough that market abuse actually pays off and the abuser succeeds in eliminating the competition." Google has been pushing its own comparison shopping service since 2008, systematically giving it prominent placement when people search for an item, the EU said. Rival comparison sites usually only appear on page four of search results, effectively denying them a massive audience as the first page attracts 95 percent of all clicks. In a blog post, Google said the EU has "underestimated" the value Google's services brings to the table. "We believe the European Commission's online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay. [...] Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case," wrote Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel at Google.
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DeviceGuru writes: Results from LinuxGizmos.com's annual hacker-friendly single board computer survey are in, and not surprisingly, the Raspberry Pi 3 is the most desired maker SBC by a 4-to-1 margin. In other trends: x86 SBCs and Linux/Arduino hybrids have trended upwards. The site's popular hacker SBC survey polled 1,705 survey respondents and asked for their first, second, and third favorite SBCs from a curated list of 98 community oriented, Linux- and Android-capable boards. Spreadsheets comparing all 98 SBCs' specs and listing their survey vote tallies are available in freely downloadable Google Docs.
Other interesting findings:
Other interesting findings:
- "A Raspberry Pi SBC has won in all four of our annual surveys, but never by such a high margin."
- The second-highest ranked board -- behind the Raspberry Pi 3 -- was the Raspberry Pi Zero W.
- "The Raspberry Pi's success came despite the fact that it offers some of the weakest open source hardware support in terms of open specifications. This, however, matches up with our survey responses about buying criteria, which ranks open source software support and community over open hardware support."
- "Despite the accelerating Raspberry Pi juggernaut, there's still plenty of experimentation going on with new board models, and to a lesser extent, new board projects."
BrianFagioli quotes a report via BetaNews: Goodness gracious, Virgin Mobile USA has made quite the bold moves today. The cellular service provider has become the world's first iPhone-exclusive carrier. In other words, it will no longer offer Android at all. Crazy, right? This is through a partnership with Apple, and Virgin will offer many versions of the device, including iPhone 6, 6S, 7, and SE. The craziness doesn't stop there, however, as there is even something much more exciting -- Virgin Mobile USA is offering unlimited talk, text and data for a dollar. No, that is not a typo -- a single buck will get you unlimited everything for up to a year! This is through a new scheme called "Inner Circle."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched a new browser for Android. In addition to Firefox, the company now also offers Firefox Focus, a browser dedicated to user privacy that by default blocks many web trackers, including analytics, social, and advertising. You can download the new app now from Google Play. Because Google isn't as strict as Apple, Android users can set Firefox Focus as their default browser. There are many use cases for wanting to browse the web without being tracked, but Mozilla offers a common example: reading articles via apps "like Facebook." On iOS, Firefox Focus is basically just a web view with tracking protection. On Android, Firefox Focus is the same, with a few additional features (which are still "under consideration" for iOS):
- Ad tracker counter -- Lists the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app.
- Disable tracker blocker -- For sites that are not loading correctly, you can disable the tracker blocker to fix the issues.
- Notification reminder -- When Firefox Focus is running in the background, a notification will remind you so you can easily tap to erase your browsing history.
From an ArsTechnica article: Smartphone companies don't seem to care about cultivating a true "lineup" of phones. If you aren't spending at least $650, most companies will offer you anonymous, second-rate devices that seem like they've had no thought put into them. Enter the OnePlus 5, which continues the company's tradition of offering an all-business, high-end smartphone for a great price. Today OnePlus is both announcing the OnePlus 5 and lifting the review embargo on the device, which we've had for about two weeks now. $479 gets you an aluminum-clad pocket computer with a 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835 SoC, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery. You still get OnePlus' physical 3-way alert switch, a USB-C port, capacitive buttons with a front-mounted fingerprint reader, and a headphone jack. The phone has two cameras on the back: one 16MP main camera and one 20MP telephoto camera, arranged in the most iPhone-y way possible. Besides the $479 version, there's a more expensive $539 version, which ups the RAM from 6GB to a whopping 8GB, adds another 64GB of storage for a total of 128GB, and changes the color from "Slate Grey" to "Midnight Black." Further reading: OnePlus 5 review: as fast and smooth as Google Pixel, without the price tag - The Guardian; OnePlus 5 review: the me-too phone - The Verge; OnePlus 5 Review - Wired.
anderzole shares a report from BGR: Brian Merchant's new book, The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, provides a captivating and intriguing look at how the most revolutionary product of our time was designed and developed. Through a series of interviews with Apple engineers and designers who played an integral role in the iPhone's creation and development, Merchant maps out how the iPhone came to be after more than two years of non-stop work at breakneck speed. One of the more interesting revelations from the book is that the iPhone design Apple unveiled in January of 2007 might have looked vastly different if Steve Jobs had his way. According to Imran Chaudhri, a veteran Apple designer who spent 19 years working on Apple's elite Human Interface Team, Steve Jobs wanted the original iPhone to have a back button in addition to a home button. Believe it or not, the original iPhone could have very well looked like a modern-day Android device. "The touch-based phone, which was originally supposed to be nothing but screen, was going to need at least one button," Merchant writes. "We all know it well today -- the Home button. But Steve Jobs wanted it to have two; he felt they'd need a back button for navigation. Chaudhri argued that it was all about generating trust and predictability. One button that does the same thing every time you press it: it shows you your stuff. 'Again, that came down to a trust issue,' Chaudhri says, 'that people could trust the device to do what they wanted it to do. Part of the problem with other phones was the features were buried in menus, they were too complex.' A back button could complicate matters too, he told Jobs. 'I won that argument,' Chaudhri says."
When the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ went on sale in the North American market, it was missing one of its most touted features -- the Bixby smart assistant. Technically, it was available on launch day but its voice functionality was missing due to issues with the English language version, thus rendering the dedicated Bixby button on the side of the S8 and S8+ nearly useless. Today, Bixby Voice is finally making its stateside debut -- but only as a preview. TechCrunch reports: The company is positioning this is a "sneak peak" for the feature that was initially planned to debut on its new flagship phones. Starting this week, a select number of Galaxy S8 and S8+ can sign up to be among the first in the U.S. to test it out. From the sound of it, Samsung's still working on some tweaks here, using this limited launch to basically do some public beta testing. The company didn't have a lot to say about the closed launch, aside from reiterating some of its grandiose plans for making Bixby, "an integral part of our connected ecosystem," according to the company's CTO.
An anonymous reader shares an article: The list of Chromebooks that can officially run Android apps has been a bit limited, but that's changing. Google on Thursday updated its list of Chromebooks that now have official support, and 16 new machines have been added. They include: Acer Chromebook 11 N7 (C731, C731T), Acer Chromebook 15 (CB3-532), Asus Chromebook C202SA, ASUS Chromebook C300SA/C301SA, CTL NL61 Chromebook, Dell Chromebook 11 (3180), Dell Chromebook 11 Convertible (3189), Dell Chromebook 13 (3380), HP Chromebook 11 G5 EE, HP Chromebook 13 G1, Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook, Lenovo N23 Yoga Chromebook, Lenovo N22 Chromebook, Lenovo N23 Chromebook, Samsung Chromebook 3, and Mercer Chromebook NL6D.
An anonymous reader writes: Samsung cellphones used to have a stock app called S Suggest. The company apparently discontinued the app recently, and then forgot to renew a domain that was used to control it. This snafu left millions of smartphone users vulnerable to hackers who could've registered the domain and installed malicious apps on the phones.
While Google has yet to release official sales numbers for its flagship Google Pixel smartphone, a Play Store app may shed some light on roughly how many units are in circulation. The Pixel Launcher, which is installed by default on the Pixel and Pixel XL, just crossed into the "1,000,000-5,000,000" install tier, leading us to assume that Google has finally sold 1,000,000 Google Pixel units. Ars Technica notes that "the Pixel is seen as Google's answer to the iPhone, but considering Apple sells 40 to 50 million iPhones in a quarter, Google has some catching up to do." From the report: This calculation is complicated by the fact that Google Play doesn't show exact install numbers; it shows installs in "tiers" like "100,000-500,000." So most of the time, we won't have an exact Pixel sales number -- except when the Pixel Launcher crosses from one download tier to another. So guess what just happened? The Pixel Launcher just crossed into the "1,000,000-5,000,000" install tier (you can see some third-party tracking sites, like AppBrain, still have it listed at 500,000). So for this one moment in history, eight months after launch, we can say Google finally sold a million Pixel phones. The Play Store device targeting ensures no one other than Pixel owners can download the Pixel Launcher, and the install count doesn't include sideloading. The most popular sideloading site, APKMirror, has more than 1.3 million downloads on just a single version of the Pixel Launcher, so we know that sideloaders actually outnumber legitimate Pixel Launcher users. There are some statistically insignificant root shenanigans you could pull to download the Pixel Launcher from the Play Store on a non-Pixel device, but there is no way the number of sold Pixels is higher than 1 million units at this point in time.
A recent hire at Google indicates big changes are coming for future versions of the Google's Pixel phone. Manu Gulati, an Apple micro-architect who worked on the company's chip development for nearly eight years, has just joined Google. From a report: Gulati started working at Apple in 2009, and was instrumental to the company's efforts to build custom chips for the iPad, the iPhone and Apple TV. Apple began using its own chips in 2010, starting with the introduction of the iPad in 2010, which was powered by the company's A4 chip. To this day, the company uses custom-designed microchips for each of their devices, which make it possible to optimize processors both for performance and energy consumption. In the industry, these integrated chips for mobile devices are also known as SoCs, or "systems on a chip." In contrast, Google relied on a chip designed and manufactured by Qualcomm when it introduced its first Pixel phones last fall. The same chip is being used by a number of other Android phone manufacturers, including HTC, LG, Lenovo and Asus -- all of which goes to say that these phones all offer very similar performance specs. Qualcomm has become the de facto-manufacturer for higher-end Android phone chips, making it harder for the companies to differentiate their devices from one another.
An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla today launched Firefox 54 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The new version includes the next major phase of multi-process support, which streamlines memory use, improving responsiveness and speed. The Electrolysis project, which is the largest change to Firefox code ever, is live. Firefox now uses up to four processes to run webpage content across all open tabs. This means that complex webpages in one tab have a much lower impact on responsiveness and speed in other tabs, and Firefox finally makes better use of your computer's hardware.
An anonymous reader writes: "A team of researchers from French company P1 Security has detailed a long list of issues with the 4G VoLTE telephony, a protocol that has become quite popular all over the world in recent years and is currently in use in the US, Asia, and most European countries," reports Bleeping Computer. Researchers say they identified several flaws in the VoLTE protocol (a mixture of LTE and VoIP) that allow an attacker to spoof anyone's phone number and place phone calls under new identities, and extract IMSI and geo-location data from pre-call message exchanges. These issues can be exploited by both altering some VoLTE packets and actively interacting with targets, but also by passively listening to VoLTE traffic on an Android device. Some of these flaws don't even need a full call/connection to be established between the victim and the target for the data harvesting operation to take place. Additionally, another flaw allows users to make calls and use mobile data without being billed. The team's research paper, entitled "Subscribers remote geolocation and tracking using 4G VoLTE enabled Android phone" was presented last week at SSTIC (Symposium sur la Securite des Technologies de l'Information et des Communications), a security conference held each year in Rennes, France.
An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: Apple is giving users the option to enable much stricter location rules with iOS 11, according to MacRumors. The company began this effort last year by adding a new option to iOS 10 that grants apps access to your location only while they're actively being used. But this "while in use" setting is up to developers to actually enable. The vast majority of popular apps did integrate that new feature. Others, however -- Uber chief among them -- still force iPhone users to choose between always or never providing location data. The latter choice breaks the functionality of an app like Uber, leaving customers with really only one option. Apple seems poised to eliminate this false choice in iOS 11 by making the "while in use" restriction available for every app.
Japan's SoftBank is buying robotics group Boston Dynamics -- the makers of the bipedal Atlas, the jumping Sand Flea and the animal-like BigDog, Spot and Wildcat robots -- from Alphabet, more than a year after Google's parent put the unit up for sale. From a report: Google acquired Boston Dynamics in 2013 under the leadership of Andy Rubin, the co-inventor of Android, who was leading a wave of acquisitions of robotics companies under the search giant. Boston Dynamics' robots routinely make headlines, including a high-profile demo at this year's TED conference. The company, led by CEO Marc Raibert, has made a robotic cheetah that can run 28 miles per hour, a robotic dog that it recently used to deliver packages to doorsteps in Boston, and most recently a massive legged and wheeled robot that can clear hurdles and walk down stairs. The firm has been hailed by other roboticists for its ability to blend hardware and artificial intelligence to make machines capable of dynamic, agile movements. Its most recent wheeled robot, Handle, can manipulate objects that are comparable to its own weight, and its four-legged, animal-like robots can maneuver over different types of terrain.
An anonymous reader writes: The newest version of the Skype app takes a big hat-tip from social media platforms like Snapchat and Facebook's Messenger with its newest features, adding a Stories-like feature called Highlights, a big selection of bots to add into chats and a longer plan to upgrade group conversations with more features. Now, as part of the effort to get people to use the new Skype more, the company is also doubling down on something else: Skype is trying to get users off of older versions of Skype. As part of that push, the Microsoft-owned company has sent out messages to users this week noting that it will be retiring a host of older iterations on July 1. Those who are still using them after that day will likely no longer be able to sign on. Skype app won't work on the follow OS versions: Android 4.0.2 and lower, BlackBerry OS 7.1 and lower, iOS 7 and lower, Linux (Linux users must upgrade to Skype for Linux Beta), Mac OS X 10.8 and lower, Symbian OS, Skype mobile for Verizon, Skype on 3, Skype on TV, Windows 10 task-based app, Windows Phone 8.1 and lower, and Windows RT.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today launched the third Android O developer preview, available for download now at developer.android.com and via the Android Beta Program. The preview includes an updated SDK with system images for the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, and the official Android Emulator, and there's even an emulator for testing Android Wear 2.0 on Android O. The big highlight with this preview is that the Android O APIs are now final. Google launched the first Android O developer preview in March and the second developer preview in May at its I/O 2017 developer conference. Google is planning to release one more preview with near-final system images in July and has slated the final version for release "later this summer" (in Q3 2017). Developer Preview 3 includes the latest version of the Android O platform with the final API level 26 and "hundreds of bug fixes and optimizations."
Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Essential, Andy Rubin's new startup, has added $300 million to its war chest as it looks to break into the highly competitive field of consumer electronics. The financing round valued Essential at $900 million to $1 billion, according to an analysis by Equidate, which runs a market for private company stock. In an interview, Rubin, who created Android, shared how the company plans to move forward: "I think when there's this duopoly with these two guys owning 40 percent of the market, this complacency sets in," Rubin said. "And that's the perfect time to start a company with this. Some people are complacent and it needs to be disrupted."
Youenn Fablet, software engineer at Apple, writes: Today we are thrilled to announce WebKit support for WebRTC, available on Safari on macOS High Sierra, iOS 11, and Safari Technology Preview 32. [...] Currently, Safari supports legacy WebRTC APIs. Web developers can check whether their websites conform to the latest specifications by toggling the STP Experimental Features menu item "Remove Legacy WebRTC API". Legacy WebRTC APIs will be disabled by default on future releases. Websites that need to accommodate older implementations of the WebRTC and Media Capture specifications can take advantage of polyfill libraries like adapter.js. Peer5, a startup that offers serverless CDN for massively-scaled video streaming, writes in a blogpost: This is HUGE news for the computing industry. Since its introduction in 2011, WebRTC has become an incredibly important part of everyone's favorite platforms and applications. It is at the core of a few services that you might have heard of, including Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Slack. WebRTC is also supported natively by most major web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox and Opera. But there were 2 big holdouts -- Microsoft's Edge browser and Apple's Safari. This meant that people using those browsers couldn't access WebRTC-based services without installing some type of plug-in. Well, those days are over given the WWDC news and Microsoft's announcement back in January regarding WebRTC support in Edge. Developers can now create compelling browser-based applications that incorporate real-time audio and video (and maybe even a peer-to-peer component) and know that 99% of the world's Web surfers will be able to use their services without having to install any plug-ins or additional software. This newfound ubiquity for WebRTC might even make a developer question whether he has to build a native iOS or Android app to deliver his service to end-users.
The functionality of Google Maps is expanding to include air pollution levels. Depending on where you live, you will soon be able to see the specific air quality in your neighborhood. Oakland, California is the first city to have air quality information, but data should be released soon for the Los Angeles and Central Valley regions of California. Android Authority reports: In a blog post, Google says it has been working with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Aclima since 2015 on this project. Google Street View cars were equipped with devices from Aclima to monitor the levels of nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and black carbon in the city of Oakland, California. You can now see those modified Google Maps on the EDF website. The Google Maps that have this information show how pollution levels can change in Oakland based on specific locations, street activity, and more. The idea is that posting this data in an easy visual way will assist communities to campaign for better air quality standards in their neighborhoods to their local and state governments.