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Perseverance lift-off, Big Tech grilling highlights, and more tech news today
Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Thursday, 30 July 2020. Hooray! NASA’s Perseverance rover aboard the Atlas V rocket launched successfully. Touch down is expected 18 February 2021, at Jezero Crater, Mars.
1. The Grilling of Big Tech
After an hour delay, yesterday’s congressional subcommittee hearing stretched nearly six hours. Much has been said about too many members of the subcommittee wasting time with politically-motivated questioning …during an antitrust hearing.
But enough committee members came prepared, with internal corporate emails and detail from interviews with smaller companies that said they were harmed by anti-competitive practices. And questions yielded some surprising answers from the tech CEOS.
- Mind you, we did see many questions evaded by promises to get back to you, as tracked by The Markup. Bullets were dodged:
Did we get any fundamental new revelations? Yes and no. Here are some of the big moments out of the five hours, 29 minutes, thanks to great reporting:
- ‘Instagram can hurt us’: Internal Facebook emails outline plan to neutralize competitors by buying them (The Verge). These emails brought to light are fascinating because it shows how Zuckerberg was thinking in 2012, and there’s almost an admission of guilt where email timelines show evidence that Zuckerberg knew he’d revealed too much.
- Zuckerberg also was quick to throw shade, moving away from his prepared statement made the night before, aiming to make Facebook appear smaller than it is: “In many areas, we are behind our competitors. The most popular messaging service in the US is iMessage. The fastest growing app is TikTok. The most popular app for video is YouTube. The fastest growing ads platform is Amazon. The largest ads platform is Google.” Notable, specific Apple apps like iMessage are not a focus of the antitrust concerns. How Apple operates its App Store, is.
- Tim Cook was questioned the least, but Apple didn’t escape: Emails revealed in antitrust hearing show Apple has considered increasing App Store fees to 40% (9to5Mac). Also, Apple halved its App Store fee to get Amazon Prime Video on devices (Bloomberg).
- CNET highlights this moment around Google and Yelp where Google CEO Sundar Pichai was on the back foot but escaped without a direct answer: “The choice Google gave Yelp was let us steal your content or effectively disappear from the web site. Isn’t that anti-competitive?” US Rep. David Cicilline asked in a pointed and forceful line of questioning.”
- “Somewhat sheepishly, Pichai avoided a direct answer, saying: “When I run the company, I’m really focused on giving users what they want. We conduct ourselves to the highest standard. Happy to engage, understand the specifics, and answer your questions further.“
- Jeff Bezos was calm and polite in his first Congressional appearance. But he did nothing to quiet a huge concern (Recode). Many moments involving Bezos focused on patterns where Amazon has copied competitors with cheaper imitation products:
- “Bezos told Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who represents Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, that the company’s investigation into violations of the policy outlined in the Journal report was ongoing. “I’m not satisfied that we have gotten to the bottom of it, and we’ll keep looking at it,” he said.” This answer was a stumble (Business Insider).
- TechCrunch writes: Bezos ‘can’t guarantee’ no anti-competitive activity as Congress catches him flat-footed.
- Also, Amazon’s not-so-secret plan to take down Diapers.com was revealed via newly released emails, which showed just how pointed and strategic the operation was – “no matter the cost” (Wired).
- Cook was questioned 7 times, Bezos 13 times, Zuckerberg 16 times, and Pichai 16 times, the latter three for at least 50 minutes each (VentureBeat).
- A merciless ranking of tech CEOs’ rooms (Slate).
- The 5 biggest little lies tech CEOs told Congress — and us (WashPo).
- Also: TikTok launched a vicious attack on Facebook (Ars Technica).
2. From motion blur to audio zoom, here’s what Google could soon bring to Pixels based on app teardown insights (Android Authority).
3. Report: HUAWEI eclipses Samsung as the world’s biggest smartphone maker (Android Authority).
4. Alexagate is a gloriously unnecessary tool to stop Amazon Echo from listening (Android Authority).
5. Google One will backup iOS or Android devices for free (The Verge).
6. Apple earnings tonight: What to watch for, including iPhone 12 launch (CNET). Mind you, a possible spoiler: Qualcomm results suggest the 5G iPhone will be slightly delayed: “Qualcomm is expecting “a partial impact from the delay of a global 5G flagship phone launch” (Engadget).
7. AMD: No delays for PS5, Xbox Series X, Zen 3 CPUs, and RDNA 2 GPUs, on-schedule projects underscore Intel’s continuing failures to deliver (Ars Technica).
8. Sony plans to test its prototype Vision-S electric car on public roads. The surprise from CES might be more than a concept car (Engadget).
9. Mars’ elongated cloud has reappeared. Like clockwork! (Gizmodo).
10. Del.icio.us might be back? Discussion here (Hacker News).
11. ELI5: Why have we settled on 16:9 as the standard aspect ratio? (r/explainlikeimfive)
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