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1. Microsoft and Sony lay down their controllers and shake hands

It’s one of the biggest rivalries in tech. Sony and Microsoft have battled over home consoles in the multi-billion dollar gaming industry for almost two decades.

But just as Earth’s warring nations will unite once the aliens arrive, the two companies have managed to strike a deal to face a common foe: Amazoogle.

Microsoft's Satya Nadella and Sony's Kenichiro Yoshida shaking hands.

Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida (left) and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (right).

Microsoft

  • Sony and Microsoft have announced a new strategic partnership focused on cloud-based game experiences (Microsoft).
  • “The two companies will explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure to support their respective game and content-streaming services,” wrote Microsoft in a statement yesterday (Azure being Microsoft’s existing cloud services platform).
  • Through this memorandum of understanding, Microsoft said the companies “aim to deliver more enhanced entertainment experiences.”
  • As part of the agreement, Sony and Microsoft are also set to collaborate on semiconductors and AI technologies.
  • The companies will “build better development platforms for the content creator community” too – something which may become more significant as the influence of streamers grows.
  • Hard details of what’s included in the agreement weren’t revealed.

Sony Playstation mobile games.

What’s behind the move?

  • The threat of competing cloud services is key, here.
  • Amazon and Google are Microsoft’s major rivals in cloud services – Microsoft is securing an important partner, even if that’s a deal with the devil.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers basically every cloud product a company could want plus gaming and VR services.
  • Microsoft Azure is its fastest-growing part of the business, but AWS currently has around twice the market share.
  • Google, meanwhile, is launching its own cloud-based game streaming platform, Stadia.
  • This browser-based service, capable of streaming triple-A titles, stands to prove home consoles aren’t necessary anymore.
  • If it does, Microsoft and Sony may have to find their own alternatives or improve consoles in such a way as to make them competitive with Google’s console-less solution.
  • Sony is already facing strong competition from this console generation. The Nintendo Switch sales have already passed the PlayStation 4’s in Japan despite going on sale three years after the PS4.
  • Switch sales are set to get stronger still with two new models rumored to arrive this year, a lower-cost and a (slightly) higher-powered model.
  • Google Stadia has an eye on the content creator community too, with dedicated functionality aimed at streamers and their followers.
  • This aspect of Stadia – whether it works out or not – is something Microsoft and Sony will be thinking about.

What will be the fruits of this partnership?

  • We can’t pinpoint the precise outcomes of the Sony/Microsoft deal yet.
  • Sony has a game streaming platform with PlayStation Now. Perhaps it’s planning on integrating some new features into this, or else eyeing a brand new service entirely.
  • Sony may also try to leverage some of Microsoft’s Azure servers to roll out its current streaming services further and wider.
  • Microsoft, on the other hand, is in the midst of building a game streaming service called xCloud. Is Sony – again, its console rival since 2001 – about to give it a hand with that?
  • We don’t know, but one thing is for sure: this ain’t the plot of a 99 cent eBook – major business rivals don’t climb into bed together lightly. Microsoft and Sony must be seriously concerned about the moves their other competitors are making in cloud-based initiatives.
  • This competition may lead to some great products for us consumers, though.

For more, Computer Weekly has a good analysis of what the cloud competition rivalry between AWS, Microsoft, and Google looks like.

2. New Asus ZenFone 6 looks flipping great

The Asus ZenFone 6 flip up camera close-up from the front.

Asus showed off its new flagship handset in Valencia, Spain yesterday. Asus may not be the biggest name in smartphones, but the midrange ZenFone 6 arrives as a standout product in a sector of Android overrun with quality products lately.

  • The big draw? A motorized, flip-up camera system allowing the 48MP + 13MP rear cameras to become front-facing cameras at the tap of a button.
  • The system is more than a gimmick: it saves space on the front of the phone, could reduce costs (thanks to fewer total cameras), and means you get the same great camera quality whether shooting selfies or otherwise.
  • Other ZenFone 6 specs include a 6.4-inch display with FHD+ resolution, Snapdragon 855 chipset, up to 8GB RAM, and up to 256GB ROM.
  • My colleague Kris Carlon was in Valencia for the launch yesterday and had this to say:
  • “Now that OnePlus has abandoned it’s high-spec, low-price origins, there’s a host of contenders looking to fill the vacuum.”
  • “Whether officially chasing OnePlus or not, Asus is leaning into its fringe-dweller status with the Zenfone 6, a $499 specs beast with a wild flip camera system, stock Android + and 5,000mAh battery.”
  • The phone most people want to see it compared to? The OnePlus 7 Pro.”
  • Find out more in Android Authority’s hands-on review and video coverage here.

The Asus ZenFone 6 at an angle shot from behind.


3. Response to the U.S.’s Huawei blacklist news has been flooding in, including this tidbit from the South China Morning Post. Huawei has been hoarding U.S. components for just such an event, apparently (SCMP).


4. Also, the Financial Times reckons the Huawei Ban may hit rural areas pretty hard: its technologies are in use in about 25 percent of them (Financial Times).


5. NASA chooses SpaceX, Blue Origin and 9 other firms for moon-lander research (LA Times).


6. Yes, Google’s Live Transcribe tech can technically detect farts (Android Authority). The rumors turned out to be more than just hot air.


7. Netflix saves our kids from up to 400 hours of commercials a year (Local Babysitter). I mean, it sounds good until you look at the number of hours kids are watching TV…


8. AT&T may make you pay more for faster 5G speeds — Here’s why that’s bad (Android Authority).


9. Watch an autonomous drone dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge a football (The Verge).


10. Watch Galaxy S10 5G hit gigabit speeds on Verizon’s 5G network (Android Authority).


11. Yes, Quora still exists, and it’s now worth $2 billion (Vox).


12. 7 Google privacy settings you should revisit right now (Fast Company).


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