A Group of States Led by Texas is Expected to Target Google in a New Antitrust Probe

(SAN FRANCISCO) — A group of states led by Texas is expected to announce an investigation into Google on Monday to examine whether the Silicon Valley tech giant has gotten too big and effective at stomping or acquiring rivals.

The probe is the latest blow against big tech companies as antitrust investigations ramp up in the U.S. and around the world. A separate group of states announced an investigation into Facebook’s dominance on Friday. The Department of Justice , the Federal Trade Commission and Congress are also conducting probes.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said only that the investigation will look at “whether large tech companies have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.” Reports in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal say Google will be the primary target.

Google expects state attorneys general will ask it about past similar investigations in the U.S. and internationally, senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker wrote in a blog post Friday .

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has a market value of more than $820 billion and controls so many aspects of the internet that it’s hard to imagine surfing the web for long without running into at least one of its services. Experts believe the antitrust probe could focus on at least one of three aspects of Google’s business that have caught regulators’ eyes.

An obvious first place to look could be online advertising. Google will control 31.1% of global digital ad dollars in 2019, according to eMarketer estimates, crushing a distant second place Facebook. And many smaller advertisers have argued that Google has such a stranglehold on the market that it becomes a system of whatever Google says, goes — because the alternative could be not reaching customers.

“There’s definitely concern on the part of the advertisers themselves that Google wields way too much power in setting rates and favoring their own services over others,” said Jen King, the director of privacy at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society.

Critics often point to Google’s 2007 acquisition of online advertising company DoubleClick as pivotal to its advertising dominance.

Europe’s antitrust regulators slapped Google with a $1.7 billion fine in March unfairly inserting exclusivity clauses into contracts with advertisers, disadvantaging rivals in the online advertising business.

Another visibly huge piece of Google’s business is its search platform, often the starting point for millions of people …read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

Apple Is Making it Easier to Get Your iPhone Fixed — But There’s a Catch

(NEW YORK) — There may soon be more places to get an Apple-sanctioned fix for a cracked iPhone screen.

Apple said Thursday that it will sell tools and parts to independent phone-repair shops in the U.S. and later in other countries. Repairs at these shops, though, will be limited to iPhones already out of warranty.

Customers with in-warranty repairs will still need to visit an Apple store or one of more than 5,000 authorized service providers worldwide, including all Best Buy stores in the U.S. Same goes for repairs on other products, such as Apple Watch and Mac computers, or for more complicated iPhone repairs.

Though many unofficial repair shops have been offering basic fixes such as screen replacements, they aren’t necessarily using Apple parts or qualified technicians, leading to variations in quality. Now, these shops will be able to buy parts directly from Apple, as long as they have an Apple-certified technician to make those repairs.

“When a repair is needed, a customer should have confidence the repair is done right,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.

With iPhone sales on the wane and people hanging on to their phones longer, Apple is trying to ramp up its services business, with offerings such as music subscriptions. It plans to launch a video streaming service this year.

…read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

Cyclists and E-Scooters Are Clashing in the Battle for Europe’s Streets

Electric pedal scooter

It was five o’clock on a recent Monday afternoon, and at one of the busiest connectors between the city’s center and its surrounding neighborhoods, rush hour was in full swing. Hundreds of vehicles flowed across Dronning Louise’s bridge every minute, but this being Copenhagen, the vast majority of them–some 48,000 by day’s end– were bicycles, not cars. Among the surging tide of cargo bikes, fixies, and plain, old-fashioned two-wheelers, two tourists stood upright on e-scooters, their uncertain weaving prompting a few angry chimes from passing bike bells. From the sidewalk, Marie Djernes, a 24-year-old student who was standing next to her own bike as she waited for a friend, watched the scene with bemusement. “Yeah, they’re a bit annoying,” she said. “They don’t really seem to know what they’re doing.”

Bird, Lime, Circ, Tier, Dott, Voi, Volo, Scoot, Trotti, Poppi: since making their first appearance in California in 2017, electric scooters with names that sound like modern-day versions of Snow White’s dwarves have popped up in over 100 cities worldwide, the progeny of companies aiming to become the next Uber of alternative transport (that includes Uber itself, which, despite having recently posted $5.2 billion in losses, has its own line of e-scooters, Jump). Yet for all its success, this new form of “micromobility,” as its promoters love to call it, has also brought a slew of problems, from safety risks to impassable sidewalks. The solution, say many scooter advocates in the U.S. and Europe, lies in creating the kind of infrastructure—wide bike lanes, ample parking— found in cycling-friendly cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. But as those cities are themselves learning, e-scooters and bikes don’t necessarily play well together either.

It’s not hard to understand the appeal of electric scooters. For a commuter arriving by train from the suburbs, already late and facing a half mile slog on foot to the office, or a tourist with only a day in a city and a lot of ground to cover, the devices present an easy solution: download the app, add credit card information, unlock one of the seeming gazillions of scooters parked nearby, and off you go. Because they are dockless, the devices can be left anywhere, and because they run on electric batteries instead of fossil fuels, they allow users to feel good about making a climate-friendly choice. And most of all, as their heavy use among the young suggests, zipping …read more

Source:: Time – Technology