Reports in Korea claim that the country’s FTC watchdog is close to finalizing its two-year-long anti-trust investigation into Google, which could see charges against the search giant dropped.
Back in April 2011, domestic search rivals Naver and Daum accused Google of being anti-competitive. The two firms claimed the US Web giant forces Android phone makers to pre-load its search engine on devices, giving it an unfair advantage. The claim is particularly notable since Android dominates the country’s smartphone market — StatCounter estimates that it has a 90 percent share.
Now, the Yonhap News Agency says the watchdog organization is in the final stages of the probe and is “considering dropping the charges”.
The news organization cites an industry source as saying: “We were informed that the FTC temporarily decided to drop the charges against Google though the whole process has yet to be finalized.”
It is being suggested that Korean regulators are looking at other anti-trust cases against Google from across the world as they look to wrap up the investigation.
Just last month, Fairsearch Europe lodged a similar complaint to the European Union, claiming that Google uses the Android mobile operating system “as a deceptive way to build advantages for key Google apps in 70 percent of the smartphones shipped today”. The group claims Google’s involvement in Android gives its apps — for services like Google Maps, Search, Gmail, etc — an unfair advantage over competing services.
The group also filed formal objections with ICANN over Google’s applications for “.search,” “.map” and “.fly”, and representatives told TNW that it expects to see an outcome within five months. On the basis of today’s report from Korea, the Korean FTC will be making its announcement before then, so it will be interested to see what — if anything — it takes from this European case.
While the frustration of rivals like Naver and Daum is understandable, the fact remains that Google has poured considerable funds into Android, although it has always claimed that the operating system is ‘open’ to the industry and not a vehicle for its services.
Google escaped without legal repercussions when it stepped in to prevent Acer from launching a smartphone that featured a modified version of Android in China last year.
Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant that created the Aliyun ‘fork’ used for the handset, claimed Google’s decision was based on self-interest. Then Android head Andy Rubin claimed Aliyun as an incomplete version of Android and, therefore, that by launching it, Acer would forfeit its membership of the Open Handset Alliance (of Android partners), since forked devices are outlawed among members.
The FTC decision in Korea will be another interesting test of Google’s position as a search market leader and proponent of the Android operating system.
Headline image via Park Ji-Hwan/Getty
Tonight at the Facebook Gifts event at giant toy store Fao Schwartz in New York, the company announced that Facebook Gifts is available to tens of millions of users starting today. Many new partners are on board, as well: babyGap, Fab, Brookstone, Dean & Deluca, L’Occitane, Lindt, ProFlowers, Random House, Inc. and NARS Cosmetics, as well as subscription services Hulu Plus, Pandora and Rdio. Wines from Robert Mondavi Winery and Chandon will come in a couple of weeks.
Tapjoy co-founder Lee Linden took the stage, on the giant piano made popular by Tom Hanks in Big, to make the announcement. The theme of the conference was partners and availability, confirming that Facebook is committed to its new Gifts product.
With Facebook Gifts, which is the result of the company’s Karma acquisition, Facebook wants to make e-commerce more convenient by handling everything on the platform, from gift selection to payment and delivery. But Facebook’s main asset is that it remains the dominant social network on which to share personal things with friends. Gifts are now something else available for sharing. You can even choose to share publicly that you made a gift on Facebook.
Right after Hurricane Sandy, Facebook made it possible to give to charities using the Gifts service. It reiterated tonight that the feature will remain available.
When the company announced Facebook Gifts, it claimed that over 100 partners were already on board, including Uber, Starbucks, Warby Parker, 1-800-Flowers, Magnolia Bakery, Happy Socks, and Jessica Alba’s Honest Company. But it only rolled out to a few users in the U.S. While American users are still first, rollout has been much faster than anticipated as tens of millions of users can now use the service. It makes sense as this kind of service is particularly useful for holiday season.
Facebook Gifts will certainly help revenue for Facebook. It is a low-risk business, because partners handle stocks, availability and others tedious e-commerce issues. Another important side effect is that it will allow Facebook to collect home addresses and credit cards — data that could be valuable in the future.
Uber has noted in a blog post today that it will indeed be shutting down its taxi beta after around a month of operation, claiming its efforts to provide adequate Uber yellow cab supply was quashed by New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. Uber didn’t go into details about how exactly that happened, saying only that the TLC commented in private that Uber’s business is “legal under the rules.” Black car and UberX service will continue as usual.
This confirms an earlier report from The Verge, which claimed the shutdown would be costly for Uber. In the official blog post, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick expressed optimism that the TLC would enable UberTAXI to return to NYC streets sometime next year, and cited Boston and Toronto as markets where the service was still available. Kalanick spoke at Disrupt earlier this fall, telling the audience and Alexia Tsotsis in an interview that he was finding it necessary to go to battle with regulators in order to provoke real change. In a brief email interview today, Kalanick said that this setback is mainly going to limit choice for consumers in NYC, but doesn’t really represent a major blow to the startup’s overall business.
“The laws, regulations and politics are different in each city,” he wrote, when asked if this would affect Uber’s overall plans with respect to other areas. “UberTAXI continues in a bunch of other markets, and we expect rollouts in many more cities over the coming months.”
Uber previously partnered up with rival Hailo in London to help get past regulatory hurdles, but the companies took two very different paths when they entered the Toronto market. Hailo went out of its way to talk to city regulators and become a licensed cab company, while Uber claimed its solution is a technology one, and that it isn’t actually a cab company, so individual driver licensing should be enough. Uber’s future in Toronto is still uncertain with regards to local bylaws and regulations, and in polling cab drivers for a previous story, I found that, anecdotally at least, some drivers were hesitant to risk partnering with Uber without a license arrangement in place in the Toronto market.
Of course, changing any industry with well-established players is going to engender resistance – Square has faced plenty of opposition from existing payment gateway operators like VeriFone. This is a blow to be sure, but on its own, it definitely isn’t one that Uber can’t bounce back from.
Go here to read the rest: Uber’s Taxi Services Shutting Down In NYC, CEO Still Says To Expect “Rollouts In Many More Cities” Soon
Update: Facebook confirms this definitely wasn’t a hack. See the bottom of this post for their full explanation.
Facebook is down for many users in Europe (France, Germany, Norway, Italy and Greece reported so far), according to several TC tipsters and widespread reports on Twitter. Twitter user @AnonymousOwn3r is claiming responsibility, as he had done in the past for a major GoDaddy outage as well. Later, GoDaddy claimed that a technical problem on its own end was responsible, not any hacking attack, however, and the cause of this current European outage is still unknown.
In the case of the GoDaddy outage, that company claimed that the DNS problems that brought down thousands of its websites was actually caused by “a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables,” and not Anonymous Own3r, as had been originally claimed by that individual’s Twitter account toward the beginning of the outage.
We’re looking into the cause of Facebook’s downtime (DNS issues are being cited by some), and have reached out to Facebook to find out more. Let us know if you’re in Europe and whether or not you’re able to access the social network, we’ll keep updating as we learn more.
Update: A user in France reports that simply switching to Facebook’s mobile site can restore service for those affected:
— canalcoffee (@canalcoffee) October 11, 2012
Update 2: It’s unclear how wide-reaching this is – some claims now that it’s only affecting a small percentage of European users:
— Anon_Online (@Anon_Online) October 11, 2012
Update 3: Add Romania to the list of countries affected:
— Cristian Baciu (@baciucristian) October 11, 2012
Update 4: Reports now coming in that service has been restored:
— Chris Ciapala (@KCiapala) October 11, 2012
Update 5: More reports of service restored, after at least an hour long outage:
— Alain Mevellec (@netking17) October 11, 2012
Update 5: Facebook has given us official word: This isn’t a hack, they say, and provided a full statement:
Earlier today we made a change to DNS as part of a traffic optimization test, and that change resulted in some users being temporarily mis-routed. We detected and resolved the issue immediately, but a small number of users located primarily in Western Europe experienced issues accessing the site while the DNS addresses repopulated. We are now back to 100 percent, and we apologize for any inconvenience.
Chinese Internet giant Alibaba has claimed that threats from Google led to the cancellation of a planned launch of Acer’s latest smartphone in the country — the CloudMobile A800 – which is powered by the e-commerce firm’s Aliyun operating system.
In a post published to its website, the company claimed that the launch of the phone was being scrapped after Google “threatened to cancel Acer’s license to use Android” if it went ahead and released the 2,999 yuan ($473) smartphone.
A fuller statement from Alibaba, released to media after the event was cancelled, read:
We believe that by introducing the Aliyun OS we are giving consumers and hardware makers more options which is the foundation of a healthy and strong market. We think that it should be left to the market to decide.
The move comes just days after an Alibaba executive outed the company’s goal to beat Android in the Chinese market. Chief Strategy Officer Zeng Ming told The Wall Street Journal last week that Android is unable to provide a “good user experience” in the country.
Days earlier, Dave Chan, who heads up the Acer smartphone business in China, explained to the Journal why the firm had partnered with Alibaba.
“We chose Aliyun for the new smartphone because of the user experience it can offer. Aliyun is also easy for first-time users to navigate,” Chan said.
The CloudMobile A800 is not the first smartphone powered by Aliyun, the Linux-based platform that Alibaba announced last year, however Acer is the most significant brand to adopt it, to date. The most recent Aliyun launch saw Chinese manufacturer Haier unveil the ‘Zing’ in June, building on the momentum started when the Tianyu-produced K-Touch was introduced in July 2011.
The Aliyun platform runs Web-based apps from Alibaba’s remote servers. Though it comes with a host of applications — including mapping and email — devices are also able to install and use apps for Google’s Android system.
Aliyun is said to have been three years in the making, thanks to 1,600 engineers. Alibaba recently revealed it has sold more than 1 million Aliyun-powered phones but, for now, the platform remains a niche player in China’s smartphone market, which is the world’s largest based on shipment volume.
Though Android is the top smartphone operating system in China, with an estimated 80 percent market share, Google faces competition from local vendors like Alibaba, Xiaomi and Baidu, that are looking to push their own mobile products.
The Chinese government was reported to have sought reassurances around the continued openness of Android when it agreed to greenlight Google’s $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Though Aliyun isn’t Android-based, allegations that Google is pressuring handset makers is sure to stir up fresh trouble in the country.
Google declined to comment on the matter when contacted by The Next Web. We were unable to telephone through to anyone at Acer’s Asia headquarters, which were closed at the time of writing, but have reached out to representatives from the company for more information.