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Congress grills Facebook over its acquisitions and feature cloning

Zuckerberg expanded on the idea in another email. “We can likely always just buy any competitive startups. But it’ll be a while before we can buy Google,” he wrote. Later, when asked about the quote, Zuckerberg said he didn’t remember writing the note, but said “it sounds like a joke.”

It wasn’t the only incident Zuckerberg claimed not to remember.

Some of the most intense questioning on the subject came from Washington Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who repeatedly asked Zuckerberg about Facebook's strategy of trying to copy competing apps. It led to a rather incredible exchange, in which Jayapal asked about Zuckerberg’s interactions with former Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom and Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, both of which Zuckerberg said he didn’t recall.

“Has Facebook ever threatened to clone the products of another company while also attempting to acquire that company,” Jayapal asked. “Not that I recall,” Zuckerberg said, prompting Jayapal to remind the CEO that he was under oath.

She then asked Zuckerberg if he had used Facebook Camera to “threaten” Systrom into agreeing to an acquisition. 

“I’m not sure what you would mean by ‘threaten,’” Zuckeberg said.

“Were there any other companies you used this same tactic with,” she asked, pointing to Snapchat and Zuckerberg’s well-documented pursuit of Snapchat.

“I don’t remember those specific conversations,” he said.

Jayapal ended the questioning by calling Facebook “a case study in monopoly power.”

“Your company harvests and monetizes our data, and then your company uses that data to spy on competitors and copy, acquire and kill rivals,” she said. “You’ve used Facebook’s power to threaten smaller competitors and to ensure that you always get your way. These tactics reinforce Facebook’s dominance, which you then use in increasingly destructive ways. So facebook’s very model makes it impossible for new companies to flourish separately and that harms our democracy.”

Zuckerberg wasn't the only CEO in attendance to face questions about his company’s acquisitions. Google CEO Sundar Pichai was also hit with tough questions around Google’s acquisition, and subsequent merger with DoubleClick

And Amazon’s Jeff Bezos was asked about Amazon’s pursuit of diapers.com, and its “plan to win” against the competing online retailer, which eventually resulted in Amazon buying of the company. Bezos, like Zuckerberg, cited a faulty memory.

“You’re asking a lot of my memory,” he said.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/congress-questions-facebook-acquisition-strategy-antitrust-hearing-211424926.html

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‘Sekiro’ is getting a free update with new gameplay modes and costumes

The mode feeds into the other new feature FromSoftware is adding to the game. Fashion Souls mavens will be happy to learn outfits are coming to Sekiro. The catch is that you earn two of them through the Gauntlet modes. The other one you get by completing the game once. "All outfits are purely cosmetic in nature: They are accouterments to your achievements within Sekiro," says FromSoftware. 

Lastly, From plans to add a feature called Remnants. The idea behind these will be familiar if you've played any of the studio's past games. Remnants will allow you to record a message and up to 30 seconds of gameplay. Other players will see these clips as a ghost-like version of Wolf in their game. If you create a remnant and someone rates it, your character's health will be refilled for free.

The update will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Stadia. Hopefully, the new content should tide FromSoftware fans over while the studio continues to work on Elden Ring, its collaboration with A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin. It will also give fans something to play while they wait for the upcoming PlayStation 5 remake of Demon's Souls.  

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/sekiro-shadows-die-twice-free-fall-update-213843186.html

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Apple’s App Store antitrust questions will be uncomfortable for Valve

Steam went live in 2003, five years before the debut of the App Store. It was Valve’s attempt to streamline the update process for its own games -- notably Counter-Strike -- with a pipeline for software fixes built directly into the client. Valve made Steam mandatory with the release of Half-Life 2 in 2004, and in 2005 the service began hosting a significant number of third-party games. By 2007, Steam had more than 13 million registered accounts and 150 games; in 2019, it had 1 billion accounts on record and tens of thousands of games. No other PC hub could compete, and few tried.

The 70/30 revenue split has been part of Steam’s business model from the beginning. Neither Google nor Apple referenced Steam when they opened their respective app stores in 2008, but they both launched with the same revenue-sharing model, to little criticism.

That rate is still the standard on Steam (and Apple, and Google) today. 

Only recently has Steam’s revenue-sharing model come under public scrutiny, and only because a new, actual competitor finally entered the market. The Epic Games Store went live in December 2018, and it has billions of dollars at its back, thanks to cash from Fortnite, the Unreal Engine and investors including Tencent Games. It launched with a bold promise for developers: a revenue split of 88/12.

The Epic Games Store scooped up a handful of exclusives, keeping these titles off of Steam, sometimes forever and sometimes for a limited window. In classic monopoly fashion, Valve didn’t respond.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney openly challenged Valve to commit to a higher revenue rate for developers, saying, “If Steam committed to a permanent 88 percent revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached, Epic would hastily organize a retreat from exclusives (while honoring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam."

Valve didn’t respond. 

Today, Apple CEO Tim Cook answered questions about the App Store’s treatment of content that could potentially compete with Apple’s own services, and whether it handles all apps the same. Developers including Spotify have filed unfair competition complaints against Apple. Basecamp CTO and co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson recently made his issues with Apple public after his email app, Hey, was rejected on the App Store for circumventing its built-in services for in-app purchases. After a few flip-flops from Apple, Hey is live on the App Store with no IAP and no 30 percent cut.

“We treat every developer the same,” Cook said during today’s hearing. 

In response, Hansson tweeted, “I think this has to take the top cake for a lie so far?”

Answering a question about Apple’s revenue-sharing model, Cook said, “We have never increased commissions in the store since the first day it operated in 2008. There’s a competition for developers just like there’s a competition for customers.” He then listed the App Store’s competitors as Xbox, PlayStation, Windows and Android.

“Lol,” Hansson responded via Twitter. “Yeah, we should have written HEY for PlayStation. That was our mistake.”

This week, Sweeney also called out Apple and Google for having an “absolute monopoly” on app stores. Much like Hey on the App Store, Epic attempted to avoid Google’s ecosystem -- and its revenue split -- entirely when it made the Android version of Fortnite available outside of the Play Store at launch. However, many players found the workaround difficult to use and Epic launched Fortnite through Google earlier this year. 

Sweeney plans to eventually launch the Epic Games Store on Google Play and the App Store, but so far, that’s been impossible.

“They [Apple] are preventing an entire category of businesses and applications from being engulfed in their ecosystem by virtue of excluding competitors from each aspect of their business that they’re protecting,” Sweeney told CNBC last week.

Scott Miller is the founder of Duke Nukem studio 3D Realms and a longtime advocate of independent developers. He officially entered the video game industry in 1987, back when Sweeney and Valve founder Gabe Newell were also starting their own careers in the industry.

“I used to have a higher opinion of Gabe,” Miller told Engadget last month. “But the fact that he's not adjusting the rates in favor of developers is disappointing because he's got a developer background too. And Valve is a development company. Why isn't he more pro-developer in the position he's at and at least cut it down to 20 percent?”

Valve operates in secrecy, and it’s earned a reputation as a too-cool company that does what it wants, on its own timeline. With this strategy, it’s garnered a horde of diehard fans. This, even though Valve hasn’t released a new game in a majority of its highly regarded, ridiculously popular franchises in a decade. Even though it’s refused to communicate with developers clamoring for more reasonable revenue agreements. Even though it has a habit of abandoning some of its most long-standing communities.

Valve hasn’t responded to Epic’s ultimatums because Steam, like the App Store, is secure. It’s big enough, with a rabid enough fanbase, to ignore the needs of developers, players or economic competition.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/apple-google-valve-steam-antitrust-hearings-app-store-221442066.html

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‘Ghost in the Shell’ (the good one) arrives in 4K on September 8th

More than merely being an anime classic, Ghost in the Shell is a cultural touchpoint. Not only did it spawn multiple sequels, offshoots and a not very good live-action remake, but it also inspired the Wachowskis when they went to create The Matrix. It came at a time when the internet was just starting to change every facet of our world and it asked questions that still resonate today.

The entire set will set you back $23 (it’s currently listed at $19.29 on Amazon, while the steelbook is $19.99 + $3.99 shipping at Best Buy), a modest sum to own a masterpiece if you ask us.

Buy Ghost in the Shell 4K at Amazon - $19.29

Buy Ghost in the Shell 4K Steelbook at Best Buy - $19.99

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/ghost-in-the-shell-4k-ultra-hd-230308830.html

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Samsung looks forward to quantum dot TVs, new game systems and phones

The rest of the year is also looking surprisingly positive from Samsung’s perspective, as the launch of new game consoles will push sales of RAM chips for their GPUs. It’s also preparing to launch several mobile devices of its own during the Unpacked event next week, including a new Galaxy Note, Galaxy Fold and more.

While we’ve heard a lot about its upcoming mobile plans, Samsung was less specific about its new TV technology. The company is investing billions to build a new plant to produce quantum dot-based TV screens that rival LG’s OLEDs, and will end LCD production entirely by the end of this year. In the release it confirmed that plan, saying “Samsung will continue to meet demand from its LCD customers until the end of the year and accelerate product development based on new technologies such as QD Displays.”

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/samsung-q2-2020-earnings-020726240.html

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GMC teases its 1,000HP electric Hummer truck and SUV

GMC’s video promises we’ll see the Hummer EV this fall and be able to reserve one then, with production starting about a year later. In another section of the video, we see a pre-production model truck with the hood lifted, exposing a front trunk that should be easy to load, and will add to the capacity of that short bed.

The teaser also flashes text with some of the features we can expect, including the Ultium battery that GM is planning its future around. Accordingly, GM provided an update on progress of the plant in Lordstown, OH that it’s building as a joint venture with LG Chem, saying that it’s on schedule. Ultium Cells LLC will eventually produce batteries for the Hummer EV and Cadillac’s Lyriq, which will be unveiled next week on August 6th.

Other features include an infinity roof and sky panels, which again bring to mind the Bronco we just saw, as well as “super fast charging, nest gen Super Cruise, ultra vision cameras, crab mode and adrenaline mode.” We’ll probably find out what all of that means sometime in the next couple of months.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/gmc-electric-hummer-truck-043051492.html

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Samsung’s unlocked Galaxy Z Flip 5G is now available for pre-order

The unlocked 5G version of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip is now available for pre-order on the company’s website, and you could score a pretty nice discount. For a limited time, you can get a credit worth up to $650 — instead of just up to $410 — towards a Galaxy Z Flip 5G if you trade in another device. In case your phone has a cracked screen, you can still get up to $400 in credits instead of up just up to $280. The foldable phone normally costs $1,450, so the bigger trade-in rewards could help you decide, especially if you’re thinking of waiting for Samsung to unveil its next foldable device next week.

The original Galaxy Z Flip is the best foldable we've tested so far this year, and the 5G version could be even better than its sibling thanks to a newer processor. It’s the first Galaxy device that uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus 5G chipset and is available in Mystic Gray and Mystic Bronze. Samsung says pre-orders will go through on August 6th and that the device will start shipping on August 7th. That’s also when the unlocked and carrier versions of the foldable phone will be available for purchase through ATT, Best Buy, T-Mobile and Amazon.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/samsung-unlocked-galaxy-z-flip-5g-preorder-060104358.html

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‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’ will support one VR headset this fall

The Reverb is a product of collaboration among Microsoft, Valve and HP, and the G2 model is due to land in the fall, likely with Flight Simulator support in tow. The headset is priced at $600.

Flight Simulator lands on August 18th, and it comes in three flavors, each at a different price point. The standard edition costs $60, and includes 20 hand-crafted planes and 30 hand-crafted airports. The deluxe edition costs $90, and adds five planes and five airports to the standard lineup. The premium deluxe edition, while redundantly named, is the biggest of them all — it costs $120 and offers 30 planes and 40 airports.

There are actually 37,000 airports in every version of Flight Simulator, visualized in ridiculous detail by machine learning systems and photogrammetry. The featured spots in each version are simply coded by hand, adding detail and depth to these settings. People with different versions of the game have access to the same locations, but the deluxe and premium deluxe editions will look a little better in some places.

“The premium build or deluxe build is not a barrier,” Sebastian Wloch, CEO of Asobo Studio, said. “People that have the standard are not going to be blocked; every airport in the world is there. Basically the entire planet is seamlessly present and you can fly, land on any airport on the planet. … The airports are all there, they have aerial photography from Bing, they’re all very realistic, but the buildings are automatically generated by AI and procedural building generation.”

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/flight-sim-2020-vr-fall-hp-reverb-070123550.html

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Playing ‘Flight Simulator’ at home feels like meditation


When they began building Microsoft Flight Simulator some years ago, developers at Asobo Studio had no idea how prescient the project was (even if Bill Gates kinda did). They didn’t calculate the exact date of a global pandemic or factor in the pent-up energy of a million canceled travel plans, but they ended up building an ideal playground for the self-quarantine era. Flight Simulator is impressive, attractive and deeply soothing, especially right now.

Even without quarantine-colored glasses, Flight Simulator is a spectacular feat. Using a combination of photogrammetry, procedural generation and hand-crafted code, developers have recreated the world in ridiculous detail, with particular attention paid to populous Western cities, famous landmarks and airports. There are 117 million lakes on Earth and all of them are in Flight Simulator, in the correct spots and with realistic reflections, ripples and even tide pools. Players can buzz the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, or Grand Canyon on a whim, or attempt to land in their own literal backyard. Time and weather are malleable.

Each plane -- and there are 30 total, from single-engine crafts to passenger jets -- has 1,000 fully simulated points that respond to a variety of factors, including the atmosphere, weather and player input.

Flight Simulator is dense, with hours of practice exercises and challenges. The main menu features Flight Training, Activities, News, Live Events and the World Map. Training is where I learned to use a controller instead of the keyboard of my Alienware m15 R3, which doesn’t have a number pad. The default Flight Simulator controls require a separate number pad or a significant amount of key reconfiguration, and it’s impossible to gently control a plane’s yaw, pitch and roll without pressure-sensitive keys. But the second I connected a wireless Xbox gamepad, the entire training scenario made sense. Analog sticks are crucial to a peaceful Flight Simulator experience.

Input methods aside, the best mode in Flight Simulator is the World Map.

The World Map is the sandbox portion of Flight Simulator. Pick literally any spot on Earth, adjust the weather, air traffic and clock, and start flying in the plane of your choosing. Or, use the “live” settings to soar around the actual, real-world conditions of any region, at any time. The globe is pockmarked with thousands of white-and-blue dots showing off airports and featured locations, but you’re able to take off from any area, marked or otherwise.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-flight-simulator-preview-070123565.html

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Qualcomm results suggest the 5G iPhone will be slightly delayed

Carolina Milanesi, Principal Analyst, Creative Strategies said to Engadget that “I would imagine this could be as simple as the iPhone not making the last week of Q3 as it has done over the past few years. Such a delay would be in line with rumors coming from the supply chain but would not necessarily mean that the delay will impact Q4.” Similarly, Anshel Sag, Consumer Chip Tech Analyst at Moor Insights Strategy surmised “that it's very likely to be Apple, especially when you consider that the company's most crucial period of its development cycle was probably hit the hardest during the peak of COVID-19.”

Apple is a few hours away from revealing its latest results and giving guidance to investors, and we may hear more about its launch plans then. If there is a delay on the launch of the next iPhone series, it’s likely only going to be a few weeks later than usual — think October instead of September — but Avi Greengart of Techsponential explained “Apple is certainly large enough to move the needle for any component supplier.”

On their call with investors, Qualcomm Akash Palkhiwala said “our customers end up buying chipsets that facilitate the launch in the couple of months before the launch. So what we’re really seeing here is because of the delay, a portion of those purchases are happening in the September quarter and they’re factored into our guidance and another portion would get pushed out to the December quarter.”

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/qualcomm-5g-iphone-delay-132023338.html

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