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Disconnect.Me files antitrust case against Google for banned app

Posted by wicked June - 2 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

Disconnect Me

Google is already facing a legal battle in Europe to determine if it has been abusing its dominant market position, and now Disconnect Inc. is piling on the pressure with its own a case against the technology giant, claiming that the company abused its position when it banned its app.

The Disconnect Android app aimed to block ads and third party tracking software, along with any potential injections of malware. It was banned from the Google Play Store for breaching Google’s terms and conditions.

“Disconnect charges Google with abusing its dominant market position by banning Disconnect’s app, a revolutionary technology that protects users from invisible tracking and malvertising, malware served through advertisements,” – Disconnect.Me

Specifically, Google points to clause 4.4 of its Google Play policy, which prohibits apps on the store from interfering with other apps, either by altering their functionality or by removing their way of making money. By removing ads, Disconnect could be used to deprive developers of revenue. Given that the freemium app segment continues to grow at a strong pace, Google and app developers are clearly interested in preserving their revenue streams.

“Our Google Play policies (specifically clause 4.4) have long prohibited apps that interfere with other apps. We apply this policy uniformly — and Android developers strongly support it. All apps must comply with these policies and there’s over 200 privacy apps available in Google Play that do.” – Google

The case becomes a little more complicated though, as Disconnect claims that it’s not trying to disable all ads, but is offering users the option to protect themselves from invisible tracking and malware, stating that advertising doesn’t have to violate user privacy and security to be successful. The company has referenced several article on the subject of privacy and ads in the past, but clearly hasn’t persuaded Google of the case.

Google had previously blocked the app two times in the past year, leaving the developers to offer the app as a side-loadable apk. The company has filed the lawsuit with Google in pursuit of “equal treatment” so that all Android users can access its app. It is also not clear exactly what compensation the company is after as well, if anyway.

The choice to file a complaint in Europe, rather than say in the US, is most likely to capitalize on the growing legal hostility towards the tech giant in Europe. Disconnect’s case could also be merged with other anti-trust complains on the continent.

Where do you stand on the issue of privacy and ads?

Exclusive: Huawei P8 will have 3-year warranty in selected markets

Posted by wicked June - 1 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

Huawei P8-29

While most modern smartphones come with standard manufacturers’ warranty, some companies are trying to offer additional services to entice customers. LG is offering free screen replacements in Korea with the LG G4, HTC is offering free damage protection in the USA with the One M9 and we can exclusively reveal that Huawei is offering three years warranty with next-day or three-day turnaround time for repairs with the Huawei P8 in selected Western European markets.

The Head of Device Service for Western Europe at Huawei spoke to us and told us that the company is testing different propositions to see which works best for customers. We’ve already exclusively revealed that the Huawei P8 will come with free same day warranty replacements and now we can reveal the service benefits that Huawei is offering Western European customers who buy its latest flagship.

As part of its Huawei VIP service, customers in the following Western European markets will receive the following service levels with their Huawei P8 smartphone:

Country Service
UK 3 years warranty for the first 5000 customers to register on the Huawei website
24 hours Turn Around Time (TAT) with next-day door-step replacement.
FR 3 years warranty
requires registration and submission of Proof Of Purchase
DE 3 years warranty when you register with Huawei Club
Out of Warranty insurance free for first 3 months
IT Special line customer care
Express Pick up and delivery from customer home for repairs
ES 3 days TAT for repairs
special hotline & courier pick up from customer
NL 3 years warranty
3 days TAT
PT 3 years warranty if you buy the device before 31st July 2016
BE 3 years warranty
3 days TAT
CH 3 days TAT

The 24-hour turn around time for repairs in the UK is certainly impressive, given that most OEMs can only offer 7-14 days TAT and the 3 years warranty will certainly ensure your handset continues to work for longer than the contract you bought it on. In Germany, three months out-of-warranty insurance should provide some reassurance for customers that, if the worst should happen, at least Huawei will foot the bill for the first three months.

Do you think warranty is important enough? Has the extra warranty or the other added benefits influenced your decision on whether to buy the Huawei P8? Let us know your views in the comments below!

Top European countries seeing dip in Android marketshare as people switch to iOS

Posted by wicked May - 6 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

Samsung-Galaxy-S5-Note-4-Android-5.0-Lollipop-b

The Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain have reportedly seen a dip in Android marketshare given the emergence of newer iOS devices. The launch of the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus may have been a factor in users switching over from Android.

In the first quarter of 2015, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus continued to attract consumers across Europe, including users who previously owned an Android smartphone,” said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. “On average, across Europe’s big five countries during the first quarter, 32.4% of Apple’s new customers switched to iOS from Android.”

The Android marketshare saw a fall by 3.1% compared to the same period last year with the figure now standing at 68.4%. iOS on the other hand saw an increase in marketshare by 1.8%, which isn’t big, but significant nonetheless. iOS is now said to have 20.3% of the pie in Europe.

Source: Kantar World Panel

Come comment on this article: Top European countries seeing dip in Android marketshare as people switch to iOS

EU vs Google: is there a case against Google?

Posted by wicked April - 30 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

 

eu european union flag Sébastien Bertrand

It looked as though maybe Google had dealt with the antitrust problem last year when it agreed to promote rival ads to avoid EU fines. But, just the other week a new press release from the European Commission laid out a Statement of Objections which focuses on Google favoring its own Google Shopping comparison product in general search results.

There was also news that a formal investigation into Google’s conduct on Android has been opened, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s see what merits, if any, the EU has in its charge against Google.

Is Google gaming search results?

Of course it is, but it’s pretty difficult to see exactly where the line is when it’s Google’s job to decide on the results. As Amir Efrati points out, at The Information, the idea that Google is not providing the “the most relevant results” doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Google is deciding what’s relevant in the first place, there is no objective standard.

The internal memo response from Google, published at Re/code makes for interesting reading and lays out Google’s defense, starting with the idea that “The competition is just one click away – and it’s growing.”

There’s definitely a problem with the idea that a company is reliant on Google Search for traffic when there are search alternatives, social networks, and a growing dependence on mobile apps.

EU's new competition overseer Margrethe Vestager is leading the charge against Google

EU’s new competition overseer Margrethe Vestager is leading the charge against Google

On the other hand, there’s a clear issue for competitors when Google is in charge of search, providing the lion’s share of traffic to specific businesses, such as shopping comparisons websites, and also competing with them. Is it favoring its own product in the results, as the Commission alleges? It seems very likely. Does that hinder the competition and stifle innovation? It’s a little harder to say.

The FTC found worse and nearly sued Google a few years back, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Those allegations focused on Google scraping content from Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Amazon, sticking it into the search results, and then threatening to remove those companies from the results when they complained. Although, Google has argued successfully before that it’s not a publisher – search results can’t really work without headlines and snippets of content.

The antitrust laws

Competition is good, unless you’re getting too big

The idea that competition is good, is at the heart of capitalism, and it makes sense to safeguard consumers from price fixing agreements. We don’t want a monopoly or an oligopoly blocking competition and innovation, while fleecing us in the process. But, it’s not easy to get your head around the antitrust laws because a monopoly is not illegal, it’s achieving or maintaining one by “anti-competitive” means that makes it an offense.

That means you can engage in anti-competitive practices without penalty, unless you get too successful. So, Google can be penalized for things now, that its less successful competitors (in monopoly terms) are still doing.

What this could mean for Android

There’s an awful lot of gray in the search argument, but if you take a look at the scope of the European Commission’s formal investigation into Android, it’s easy to see trouble ahead. The structure of Google’s Android is a lot closer to Microsoft’s Windows strategy in the 90’s, which led it into serious antitrust problems.

These are the three main areas the investigation will focus on:

  • whether Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival mobile applications or services by requiring or incentivising smartphone and tablet manufacturers to exclusively pre-install Google’s own applications or services;
  • whether Google has prevented smartphone and tablet manufacturers who wish to install Google’s applications and services on some of their Android devices from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android (so-called “Android forks”) on other devices, thereby illegally hindering the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems and mobile applications or services;
  • whether Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival applications and services by tying or bundling certain Google applications and services distributed on Android devices with other Google applications, services and/or application programming interfaces of Google.

It seems perfectly possible Google will be found guilty here. When Google insists that specific things are pre-installed, or that you can’t use Google apps and services on Android forks, it’s opening itself up to antitrust issues. But, they don’t really have much to do with consumer interests, do they?

google apps nexus 5

Google’s apps come with some strings attached

Business or consumers

Google has argued in the past that the controls it enforces on Android are about ensuring the user experience is good. It’s up to you if you believe that or not, but having used a number of different forks and tried Android without Google services, it seems like a valid point to me.

The thing about these examples the European Commission is throwing up is that they clearly relate to competition with other businesses and don’t demonstrably harm consumers.

Does Google Search or Android really have a monopoly? They’re dominant, but there are still plenty of competitors that appear to be perfectly healthy. What if it’s a monopoly based on merit? Few people are going to argue that the alternatives to Google Search are better, but if you do feel that way, just go ahead and use something else. There’s nothing stopping you, is there?

You can argue that, if a competitor developers a better service, then we’ll all just jump ship. But, there is another side to the argument which is also worth considering. If Google uses its better service in one sphere, say search, to drive you into using its inferior service in another sphere, say Google Shopping or Google+, then is it getting an unfair advantage from that monopoly? Maybe it is, and maybe it doesn’t benefit the consumer.

In any case, the chances are good that Google will come to some kind of agreement. The EC can technically fine Google 10% of its 2014 revenues, which would come to $6.6 billion, but that seems very unlikely. Google is admitting no wrong-doing so far, and insists it hasn’t been anti-competitive. We’ll keep you posted on this one as it develops.

EU files antitrust case against Google, also looking into Android

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

The rumors have been officially confirmed, as the European Union has filed antitrust charges against Google with regards to their search practices and business dealings. The formal complaint says that the tech giant has been “systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages”. The commission has said they may also be opening an investigation into Google’s other business, Android, as they may also be infringing antitrust rules in their business dealings with other OEMs.

The crux of the charges is that Google has been skewing search results to favor their Google Shopping results to the determent of their competitors. This violates the antitrust law because “it stifles competition and harms consumers”. EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager emphasized that there is nothing wrong with Google’s dominance in the market, but rather what they want is for these dominant companies to not abuse their position through practices that will restrict fair competition among the other players.

This is not the first time that Google has faced accusations like these, with various cases brought against them in different courts. Companies like Microsoft and Tripadvisor among others have filed complaints in the past. The EU has been conducting this investigation for five years but it seems there is “a new sense of urgency” according to some news reports. With regards to looking into Android, they will be looking into whether or not Google has been “hindering the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems, applications and services to the detriment of consumers and developers of innovative services and products.”

Google has not officially responded to the news, but an internal memo that has been leaked suggests that obviously, the company disputes the charges and will fight the complaints with evidence of their own that will prove they have not violated any law. In the past, Amit Singhal, Senior Vice President for Google Search has said that the cases previously brought against them were dismissed and they were not able to back up their claims.

VIA: SlashGear (1), (2)

EU to reportedly file anti-trust charges against Google

Posted by wicked April - 15 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

If reports are to be believed, today will be a historic day for Google, and not in a good way. Rumors are swirling about that the European Union will finally be filing charges against the tech giant for violating antitrust laws. This may be the biggest battle of this kind since the anti-trust case against Microsoft almost a decade ago. While this will not come as a surprise since the investigation has been going on for five years already, it will definitely have huge financial consequences for Google should they lose the case.

The EU is acting on complaints that Google, which holds over 90% of Europe’s general search market, has been favoring its own services over those of their competitors which is a clear violation of the anti-trust law. There are four major areas of concern, as cited by the EU: bias in search results, rival websites’ content being scraped by the company, collusion with advertisers that may have been excluding search-advertising results from its rivals, and finally, contracts with marketers that may be limiting them from using other platforms.

They are also reportedly looking into Google’s business practices for its Android platform, which may turn into a formal investigation eventually. While there has been no official response yet from the company, sources say that they are already preparing a response, and that they are of course, very disappointed with this news. An internal memo shows charts, both from comScore and their internal data, showing that in fact, searches on Amazon and eBay is way higher than those from Google Shopping in Germany, France and the United Kingdom. They also claim that they have “a very strong case” in case charges will be filed.

This is serious business for Google, as they may face fines as much as $6 billion, which may be a drop in their bucket given their revenues. However, this will also lead to injunctions, modifying contracts with advertisers and clients, and of course, looking into their other businesses as well. A previous antitrust lawsuit against Google was dismissed by an American court just a few days ago.

VIA: WSJ, ReCode

Google issues internal memo to employees over EU antitrust lawsuit

Posted by wicked April - 15 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

Google_logo_474844It’s old news that the European Union has been investigating Google over antitrust claims that their dominance in the search engine market has created somewhat of a monopoly for the company. The EU is reportedly planning on instituting a 6.4 billion dollar fine on Google, which is a massive penalty, even for a company even like Google.

Google has already prepared a response to that judgment and they’ve sent out an internal memo to companies ahead of the announcement, which has some pretty interesting info in it. The memo shows how well Google does against other companies when it comes to things like shopping searches and what customers use when searching for travel information in other countries. The graphs included don’t show Google as a massive company with a complete strangehold on the market, as they’re consistently beat out by the likes of Amazon and eBay in countries like Germany, France, and the UK.

As an added note, Google also points out that by offering so many features within its search engine, its able to save time and effort for its users. Why would you not want to be able to check commute time and the weather in your search app while you’re already there?

This ruling will be interesting, but it certainly won’t be the end of the situation for Google, If you want to read the full internal memo, hit the link below.

source: re/code

Come comment on this article: Google issues internal memo to employees over EU antitrust lawsuit

WSJ: EU is preparing to hit Google with antitrust charges

Posted by wicked April - 2 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

 european union eu flag MPD01605

The European Commission is gearing to launch antitrust charges against Google over alleged anti-competitive practices.

Following more than five years of investigation and three unsuccessful settlement attempts, the European Commission, EU’s top antitrust authority, appears to be in the final stages of preparing formal antitrust charges against Google.

Google, which holds up to 90 percent of the search market in Europe, has been facing accusations of anti-competitive practices, including using its dominant position in search to funnel traffic to its own properties, rather than competitors’, “scrapping” content from news and media sites, and imposing unfair restrictions to companies that look to operate on its platforms.

According to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, the EC is currently asking companies who have filed complaints against Google for the permission to publicize information that they supplied to the Commission confidentially. People familiar with the flow of antitrust investigations tell WSJ that this is a sure sign that the Commission will soon file formal antitrust charges against Google.

An eventual antitrust lawsuit would be the biggest since the famous suit against Microsoft, which the EC found guilty of anti-competitive behavior in promoting Windows and Internet Explorer. Microsoft paid $1.8 billion in fines and agreed to change its practices.

To be clear, there’s still time for Google and the EC to reach a settlement, though European leadership seems to favor formal charges over a settlement. And, even if Google is charged in an antitrust case, a settlement can be reached at any time. These type of affairs tend to drag on for years; if the EC finally decides to fine Google, it can slap the search giant with the equivalent of up to 10 percent of its annual revenue.

While Europe has been taking a more aggressive stance against Google, the Mountain View company had similar issues across the Atlantic. The FTC decided not to open an antitrust case against Google, but the decision has been controversial even among the regulator’s staff.

Uncategorized

ASUS launches Zenfone 2 in Europe

Posted by wicked March - 31 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

It was not a question really of if it would happen, it was more of when it would happen – and that day has arrived for ASUS to launch its new flagship phone the Zenfone 2 in Europe. Still buzzing from the record sales of its original Zenfone series – selling around 10 million units globally – ASUS is raring to see if people in Europe will take to the new improved flagship as well, having sold most of its units in Asia.

There will be three Zenfone 2 models out in the market in France starting March 31st, and while there is still no information on which countries will follow suit, we expect that information to be available shortly. The main version of the Zenfone 2, model number ZE551ML will be available for at a limited time offer of €299 or around USD$322. After the introductory price though, the standard retail will be €349, or USD$375.

zenfone2_france

This “flagship” model will have a whopping 4GB of RAM, 32GB internal storage, powered by a 2.3Ghz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 CPU. This will have a 5.5-inch full HD (1080p) display, microSD card expansion, 4G LTE connectivity, and a 13MP/5MP camera combo. The 3,000mAh battery is not bad as well, and it runs on Android Lollipop with ASUS’s ZenUI on top.

zenfone2_france1
zenfone2_france2
zenfone2_france3

There will be two other models, namely the Zenfone 2 ZE550ML and the lower-end Zenfone 2 ZE500CL. They will be sold at USD$268 and USD$193 respectively. Both phones will already be LTE capable. And if you’re not really sure about the Zenfone 2, ASUS is apparently willing to give you your money back within 2 months if you’re not satisfied.

VIA: GSM Arena

Xiaomi to open an accessory store in Europe too

Posted by wicked March - 4 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

Hugo Barra Xiaomi -19

Speaking at MWC, Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra announced that the company’s growing range of accessories will be heading to Europe at some point in the future. However, smartphones definitely won’t be sold through the e-commerce store.

Last month, Xiaomi made a similar announcement in San Francisco regarding opening an online store in the US. Although the company is not planning to sell smartphones in these regions any time soon, focus is still firmly on expansion in India, this store and the products on sale will offer essential feedback as Xiaomi tests the waters in Western markets.

“It’s going to be a different Mi.com experience from what we have in our markets in Asia, because we’re not selling phones… We’re only going to sell a small number of our hero accessories” - Hugo Barra

This is all part of the company’s brand awareness strategy. Xiaomi doesn’t just view itself as a smartphone manufacturer, but as a “lifestyle brand”. As well as smartphone accessories, such as power banks, fitness bands and headphones, Xiaomi also manufacturers low cost TV boxes, routers, and an air purifier designed for the Chinese market, some of which may also end up on sale in Europe sometime down the line.

Xiaomi has not announced any specific countries or dates for its new e-commerce store just yet.

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