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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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Apple Gets Fined Nearly $2 Billion By The EU For Hindering Music Streaming Competition

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LONDON — On Monday, the European Union imposed its first antitrust penalty against Apple, fining the US tech behemoth almost $2 billion for unfairly favouring its own music streaming service by prohibiting rivals such as Spotify from informing users how to pay for cheaper subscriptions outside of iPhone apps.

Apple prohibited streaming services from informing users about payment options available through their websites, which would avoid the 30% fee charged when people pay through apps downloaded from the iOS App Store, according to the European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm and top antitrust enforcer.

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Apple Gets Fined Nearly $2 Billion By The EU For Hindering Music Streaming Competition

“It’s illegal. And it has had an impact on millions of European consumers who were unable to freely choose where, how, and at what price to purchase music streaming subscriptions,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, at a news conference in Brussels.

Apple, which opposes the judgment, acted in this manner for a decade, resulting in “millions of people who have paid two, three euros more per month for their music streaming service than they would otherwise have had to pay,” she said.

It culminates a heated, years-long battle between Apple and Spotify for music streaming domination. Five years ago, a complaint from the Swedish streaming service sparked the investigation that resulted in the 1.8 billion euro ($1.95 billion) penalty.

The ruling comes the same week that new laws are implemented to prevent tech behemoths from dominating digital markets.

The EU has spearheaded global attempts to push down on Big Tech companies, including three fines totalling more than 8 billion euros for Google, charges against Meta for distorting the online classified ad market and forcing Amazon to reform its business practices.

The commission stated that Apple’s sanction is so hefty because it includes an additional lump sum to dissuade it from repeating the offence or other internet companies from committing similar offences.

It is not the only punishment that the tech behemoth could face. Apple is also attempting to resolve a second EU antitrust investigation into its mobile payments service by committing to open up its tap-and-go mobile payment system to competitors.

Apple fired back at the commission and Spotify, announcing it would appeal Monday’s penalties.

“The decision was reached despite the Commission’s failure to uncover any credible evidence of consumer harm, and ignores the realities of a market that is thriving, competitive, and growing fast,” the business said in a press release.

It claimed that Spotify would gain from the EU’s stance, citing that the Swedish streaming behemoth met with the commission over 65 times throughout the probe, has a 56% share of Europe’s music streaming market, and does not pay Apple for using its app store.

“Ironically, in the name of competition, today’s decision just cements the dominant position of a successful European company that is the digital music market’s runaway leader,” Apple said in a statement.

Spotify hailed the EU penalties but did not answer Apple’s charges.

“This decision sends a powerful message — no company, not even a monopoly like Apple, can wield power abusively to control how other companies interact with their customers,” Spotify wrote in a post on its website.

apple

Apple Gets Fined Nearly $2 Billion By The EU For Hindering Music Streaming Competition

The commission’s examination was initially focused on two concerns. One example was the iPhone maker’s policy of forcing app developers selling digital material to utilize its in-house payment system, which charges a 30% commission on all subscriptions.

However, the EU later shelved that to focus on how Apple restricts app developers from informing their users about cheaper options to pay for subscriptions that do not require using an app.

According to the research, Apple prohibited streaming businesses from informing users about the cost of subscription offers outside of their apps, including links to pay for alternative subscriptions, and even contacting customers about alternate pricing alternatives.

“As a result, millions of European music streaming users were left in the dark about all available options,” Vestager stated, adding that the commission’s inquiry revealed that slightly over 20% of consumers who would have signed up for Spotify’s premium service did not do so due to the restrictions.

The fine comes just before new EU laws to stop big corporations from dominating digital markets are slated to take effect.

The Digital Markets Act, which goes into force on Thursday, imposes a set of do’s and don’ts on “gatekeeper” corporations such as Apple, Meta, Google parent Alphabet, and TikTok parent ByteDance, putting them under the prospect of heavy fines.

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The EU fines Apple nearly $2 billion for impeding music streaming competition.

The DMA’s restrictions are intended to deter tech titans from engaging in the type of behaviour at the centre of the Apple inquiry. Apple has previously stated that it will comply by allowing iPhone customers in Europe to use app stores other than its own and allowing developers to offer alternative payment mechanisms.

Vestager warned that the commission would closely monitor how Apple followed the new guidelines.

“Apple will have to open its gates to its ecosystem to allow users to easily find the apps they want, pay for them in any way they want and use them on any device that they want,” she said.

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.

google

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.

nvidia

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.

nvidia

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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