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UK blocks Microsoft-Activision Gaming Deal, Biggest In Tech

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LONDON, England – British antitrust officials halted Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of video game company Activision Blizzard on Wednesday, delaying the largest technology transaction in history due to concerns that it will hinder competition for popular titles like Call of Duty in the fast-growing cloud gaming industry.

In its final report, the Competition and Markets Authority stated that “the only effective remedy” for the significant loss of competition “is to prohibit the Merger.” The firms have promised to file an appeal.

The all-cash deal announced 15 months ago faced stiff opposition from rival Sony, which manufactures the PlayStation gaming system and was also under scrutiny by regulators in the United States and Europe over concerns that it would give Microsoft and its Xbox console control of hit franchises such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.

According to Liam Deane, a game industry analyst for research firm Omdia, the UK watchdog’s decision “surprised most people” and adds to global doubt over the arrangement.

“It’s a big enough market to throw a serious spanner in the works for Microsoft and Activision, but things will get a lot worse if the European Commission makes the wrong decision in a few weeks,” he warned.

The UK watchdog was concerned about the deal’s impact on cloud gaming, which streams to tablets, phones, and other devices and saves gamers money on expensive consoles and gaming computers. Gamers can continue to play popular Activision products, including mobile games like Candy Crush, on their preferred platforms.

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Microsoft secured deals with Nintendo and some cloud gaming companies to license Activision properties, such as Call of Duty.

According to Martin Colman, chair of the Competition and Markets Authority’s independent expert panel reviewing the acquisition, cloud gaming can transform the industry by offering gamers more choices over how and where they play.

“This means we must protect competition in this emerging and exciting market,” he explained.

The ruling reinforces Europe’s position as a global leader in attempts to limit the dominance of Big Tech firms. A day earlier, the government of the United Kingdom proposed draught legislation that would give regulators more authority to safeguard consumers from online fraud and phony reviews while also increasing digital competition.

The verdict in the United Kingdom undermines Microsoft’s hopes that a favorable conclusion would help it resolve a lawsuit filed by the United States Federal Trade Commission. The trial before the FTC’s in-house judge is scheduled to begin on August 2. Meanwhile, the European Union’s decision is scheduled on May 22.

Activision reacted angrily, claiming that the watchdog’s decision sends a negative signal to international investors in the United Kingdom when the British economy faces serious issues.

The California-based game developer said it would “work aggressively” with Microsoft to appeal, claiming that the action “contradicts the ambitions of the United Kingdom” to be a desirable location for tech firms.

“We will reconsider our growth plans for the United Kingdom.” “Global innovators of all sizes will note that, despite its rhetoric, the United Kingdom is closed for business,” Activision stated.

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Based in Redmond, Washington, Activision Microsoft indicated it was not ready to quit.

“We remain fully committed to this acquisition and will file an appeal,” said President Brad Smith. He says the decision “rejects a pragmatic path to address competition concerns” and hinders tech innovation and investment in the UK.

“We’re especially disappointed that this decision reflects a flawed understanding of this market and how the relevant cloud technology works,” Smith added.

In a blog post, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick stated that both businesses had begun working on an appeal to the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal.

This isn’t the first time British regulators have stretched their antitrust muscles over a Big Tech transaction. They had earlier banned Facebook parent Meta’s acquisition of Giphy because of concerns that it would hinder innovation and competition. The social media behemoth appealed the ruling to the tribunal but was unsuccessful and was obliged to sell the GIF-sharing platform.

Microsoft already has a significant foothold in the broader cloud computing business, and regulators judged that the transaction would strengthen the company’s position by giving it control of key gaming titles.

To assuage fears, Microsoft secured deals with Nintendo and some cloud gaming companies to license Activision properties, such as Call of Duty, for ten years while giving the same to Sony.

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A request for comment from Sony’s European press office still needs to be returned.

The watchdog evaluated Microsoft’s remedies “in considerable depth” but determined that they would necessitate its control, whereas stopping the merger would allow cloud gaming to flourish without intervention.

Cloud gaming accounts for a minor portion of the £5 billion ($6.2 billion) video game market in the United Kingdom. However, experts predict that it will grow rapidly in the next years, with user numbers tripling from the beginning of 2021 to the end of 2022. According to authorities, the cloud game market is likely to reach £1 billion by 2026.

They dismissed worries that the arrangement would harm console gaming last month, claiming that making Call of Duty exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox system would be counterproductive.

SOURCE. – (AP)

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Google Denies Gmail Is Shutting Down After Viral Hoax

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Google has been forced to publicly affirm that Gmail is “here to stay” after a hoax claiming it was shutting down went viral on social media.

A post on X, formerly Twitter, which has been read over seven million times, stated that it would close in August.

Google responded to the same platform to deny the bogus allegation.

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Google Denies Gmail Is Shutting Down After Viral Hoax

A communications expert told the BBC that it was “a classic example” of the risks of misinformation.

“Most people believe what they see online, and there’s a lack of tools and processes to verify the facts,” said Richard Bagnall, CEO of CARMA, a communications evaluation organisation.

“Whilst social networks can act without responsibility and pump unfiltered, unverified information to their audiences, this Gmail incident won’t be the last case we’ll see.”

All social media sites struggle to combat misinformation, but X has been singled out for special criticism, with the EU saying in 2023 that it was worse than its rivals at propagating lies.

The corporation has previously stated that it is devoted to “tackling hate speech” while aiming to “protect free speech.”

The BBC has contacted X for comment on this scam, which appears to be based on an email from Google in 2023. It informed users that access to Gmail’s most basic HTML view would be disabled.

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Google Denies Gmail Is Shutting Down After Viral Hoax

The initial HTML interface was utilised when Gmail started in 2004 and would be unfamiliar to most individuals who use the service today.

“We are reaching out to share an important update about Gmail,” the viral post states.

“After years of connecting millions worldwide, enabling seamless communication, and fostering countless connections, the journey of Gmail is coming to a close.”

Gmail is the world’s most popular email service, with over 1.5 billion active users globally, according to Statista.

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Google Denies Gmail Is Shutting Down After Viral Hoax

Despite firmly denouncing the bogus claims in the hoax communication, Google has closed numerous services in recent years.

In 2023 alone, Google discontinued its Stadia gaming service and its Snapchat-like YouTube Stories feature and began deleting old and inactive Gmail accounts.

It has stated plans to close Google Podcasts however this service has been effectively replaced by YouTube Music, which it also controls.

SOURCE – (BBC)

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AI Chip Firm Nvidia Valued At $2tn

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Nvidia’s market value has reached $2 trillion (£1.58 trillion), marking a new milestone in the chipmaker’s meteoric rise to the ranks of the world’s most valuable corporations.

Shares of the Silicon Valley corporation gained more than 4% in opening trading on Friday before falling slightly.

The gains built on the company’s impressive earnings announcement earlier this week.

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AI Chip Firm Nvidia Valued At $2tn

The company is profiting from improvements in artificial intelligence (AI), which has boosted demand for its processors.

The company’s turnover doubled last year to more than $60 billion, and CEO Jensen Huang told investors this week that demand was “surging” worldwide.

The corporation, which became worth $1 trillion less than a year ago, is now the world’s fourth most valuable publicly traded company, trailing Microsoft, Apple, and Saudi Aramco.

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AI Chip Firm Nvidia Valued At $2tn

After shares fell from their early Friday highs, the company’s market capitalization ended the day just under $2 trillion.

Nvidia was founded in 1993 and was originally recognized for producing computer processors that processed images, primarily for computer games.

Long before the AI revolution, it began adding capabilities to its chips that it claims to aid in machine learning, which has helped it acquire market dominance.

It is currently regarded as a vital company to monitor how quickly AI-powered technology spreads throughout the commercial world.

The firm’s stock price has more than tripled the previous year, from less than $240 per share to about $800 in midday trading on Friday.

On Thursday, the day after its earnings release, purchasers snapped up shares, boosting its value by $277 billion, the greatest one-day rise in Wall Street history.

He research has also contributed to a larger market rise, appearing to persuade investors that, as Derren Nathan of Hargreaves Lansdown put it, the AI boom is “living up to the hype”.

nvidia

AI Chip Firm Nvidia Valued At $2tn

“It’s being used in automotive for design, in telecommunications for network planning, and in mainstream companies to figure out and get insights into data that they haven’t been able to get before,” Bob
O’Donnell, a technology analyst based in the United States, told the BBC earlier this week.

“This is now really starting to hit the kinds of companies across the board, not just specialized tech companies and that’s a real tipping point for the industry.”

SOURCE – (BBC)

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Caps A Decade Of Change And Tremendous Growth

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Satya Nadella celebrates his tenth year as CEO of Microsoft on Sunday, culminating a decade of spectacular development as he steered the slow-moving software behemoth into a laser focus on cloud computing and AI.

Since Nadella took over as CEO in 2014, Microsoft’s stock has increased by more than 1,000%, compared to the more steady 185% growth of the S&P 500. Microsoft’s market valuation has risen to $3 trillion, surpassing that of any other publicly traded firm in the United States, including long-time rival Apple.

“Nadella’s had the biggest transformation of a tech company, potentially ever,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives. “The only one that would rival it was (Steve) Jobs coming back to Apple and turning it around with the iPhone.”

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Caps A Decade Of Change And Tremendous Growth

Microsoft has generated $2.8 trillion in shareholder wealth over the last decade, meaning an investor who purchased a $10,000 investment in Microsoft when Nadella came office and did nothing with those shares would now have a holding worth approximately $113,000.

“Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation,” Nadella warned employees in his first memo ten years ago, foreshadowing larger shifts to come. Microsoft denied requests for interviews.

Some were sceptical that an insider who had previously spent 22 years at the Redmond, Washington corporation could morph into a Wall Street hero. He is just Microsoft’s third CEO, following Steve Ballmer, who served for 14 years, and Bill Gates, who co-founded the business in 1975 and took it public in 1986.

Big changes happened swiftly under Nadella. He marshalled resources to develop the Azure cloud computing platform, a shift in priorities from the company’s previous reliance on its iconic Windows operating system and the royalties it receives for each PC sold. And he halted Microsoft’s ill-fated attempts to catch up in the smartphone market, which began with his predecessor Ballmer’s $7.3 billion acquisition of Nokia’s phone division.

File - Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella arrives at the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on June 28, 2023, in San Francisco. Nadella marks his tenth year as Microsoft CEO on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, capping a decade of stunning growth as he pivoted the slow-moving software giant into a laser focus on cloud computing and artificial intelligence. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Caps A Decade Of Change And Tremendous Growth

However, some of the most significant changes were in the company’s culture, which shifted away from Microsoft’s loud outward reputation and internal fighting towards a more collaborative approach modelled by Nadella’s collegial nature and engineer’s thinking.

“Microsoft is known for rallying the troops with competitive fire,” Nadella said in his 2017 book. “The press loves that, but it’s not me.”

Much of Nadella’s strength lies in distinguishing himself from the normal “very strong ego CEO,” according to Raimo Lenschow, a stock analyst at Barclays who follows 36 tech companies. Instead of making dramatic statements, Lenschow claims Nadella adopts a more deliberate approach to articulating “where he thinks the future is going.”

At the same time, “whether it’s the person making food in the cafeteria, an engineer, finance executive, a customer, he treats everyone in the same way, with respect,” says Ives. It is not just Wall Street analysts that believe so.

A little firm from Zeeland, Michigan, running a stand at January’s CES gadget show in Las Vegas, piqued Nadella’s interest when he arrived, shook founder Tim Murphy’s hand, and requested a presentation. Audio Radar visualises sounds in video games for deaf and hard-of-hearing gamers.

“He’s very down to earth,” said Murphy, who arrived with a small crew that included his teen son. “I gave him the pitch, we played some games, and he said, ‘It’s great what you’re doing.'” I don’t recall much of what he said since I was so stunned.”

Nadella has always prioritised technological accessibility, motivated in part by his experience parenting a visually impaired, quadriplegic son with cerebral palsy. Zain Nadella died in 2022.

Its emergence as an artificial intelligence leader has propelled Microsoft to new heights, defining the agenda for how AI products might be employed in the workplace and society. While Nadella has emphasised AI for the majority of his tenure, its importance was not certain and came after years of meticulous planning, which resulted in a close collaboration with ChatGPT creator OpenAI. (OpenAI pays an undisclosed sum to license The Associated Press’s news archive).

“Historically, if you’re a cool startup that was doing something amazing, Microsoft wasn’t really your first choice,” says Lenschow. “So the fact that he got OpenAI to commit to Azure was an amazing masterstroke … it gives him a massive, competitive advantage over Google and Amazon.”

That position was jeopardised late last year when OpenAI’s board of directors abruptly ousted CEO Sam Altman. A weekend of behind-the-scenes manoeuvres and a threatened mass evacuation of staff, spearheaded by Nadella, helped bring Altman back and stabilise the firm, assuring clients and shareholders. “He handled that like he was in the World Series of Poker playing against little kids,” Ives said.

Nadella’s tenure has been challenging, especially given how much of the globe relies on Microsoft goods – sometimes to the chagrin of those who use them.

Its aggressive implementation of sizable AI language models is evidence, in the opinion of cybersecurity experts, that it has a history of sacrificing security for convenience. Microsoft Office 365, the company’s trademark suite of work tools, has also been successfully compromised in recent years, with elite Russian and Chinese cyber operators gaining access to the email accounts of senior US officials and members of Microsoft’s senior leadership team.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Caps A Decade Of Change And Tremendous Growth

It stepped in to give cloud hosting to Ukraine right before Russia’s 2022 invasion, but intrusions frequently target the networks serving NATO allies. That, combined with the escalating ransomware epidemic, has prompted Nadella to advocate for a cyber Geneva Convention between Russia and China.

And, despite Nadella’s proclaimed aversion to “competitive fire,” Microsoft is again facing the antitrust investigations that plagued Gates and Ballmer in previous years. Nadella’s strong speech at a federal court hearing last summer helped convince a judge not to stop Microsoft’s acquisition of video game giant Activision Blizzard, but the corporation is now facing new scrutiny over its cooperation with OpenAI.

None of these problems will likely force Nadella, 56, who received $48.5 million in total remuneration last year and has headed Microsoft’s board since 2021, out of his leadership positions anytime soon.

“From everything I can gather, he’s enjoying himself,” said Lenschow. “We live in very, very intriguing times. I expect him to stay for a while.

SOURCE – (AP)

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