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Apple delays privacy feature that would let iPhone owners keep ad tracking at bay – The Verge

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Apple is delaying a controversial new privacy rule it’s implementing with iOS 14 that will require developers to ask users for permission to gather data and track them across mobile apps and websites on the iPhone and iPad, the company announced in a developer update posted Thursday.

Apple originally intended for the rule to go live with iOS 14, slated for released sometime this fall, but it’s now giving developers more time to comply with the changes. Among the companies most concerned about the change is Facebook, which said it would stop using the unique identifiers Apple intends to warn users about but expressed concern for third-party advertisers on its network that cannot afford to do the same.

“We are committed to ensuring users can choose whether or not they allow an app to track them. To give developers time to make necessary changes, apps will be required to obtain permission to track users starting early next year,” reads the developer note. Apple says developers can begin complying with the rule when iOS 14 launches if they choose, but it won’t require them do so until 2021.

“We believe technology should protect users’ fundamental right to privacy, and that means giving users tools to understand which apps and websites may be sharing their data with other companies for advertising or advertising measurement purposes, as well as the tools to revoke permission for this tracking,” Apple said in a statement given to The Verge. “When enabled, a system prompt will give users the ability to allow or reject that tracking on an app-by-app basis. We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year.”

Apple isn’t necessarily going to war with the digital and mobile ad industries, but the privacy feature is among the iPhone maker’s most aggressive developer policy changes it has introduced in recent memory. First revealed at this year’s WWDC back in June, the new feature will show users a prompt when an app has requested their so-called Identification for Advertisers, or IDFA, code. Many users are expected to decline, and Facebook has said the feature may “severely impact” its ad network, according to a report from Bloomberg last week on the social network’s decision to stop collecting IDFA codes altogether.

The code is a unique identifier that helps advertisers track the effectiveness of ads cross mobile apps, websites, email clients, and more. This is traditionally how advertisers know when you’ve, say, downloaded an iOS game from an app install ad within Facebook or when you’ve clicked on a product within Instagram that redirects you to an online web store. There are other complex methods and tools advertisers use to track you on the internet, but the IDFA is a generally industry-standard approach that’s useful across various ad types, devices, and platforms. Apple’s decision to place it behind an opt-in message may have substantial consequences for the advertising industry and how it makes use of mobile tracking.

Related to the opt-in feature is another new privacy policy Apple says developers will need to read up on in order to be compliant later this year. It’s a new list of privacy information that will be attached to App Store product listings that detail in depth how a given app collects and stores information across a series of domains, ranging from health and fitness data to location information to web browsing history.

“On each app’s product page, users can learn about some of the data types the app may collect, and whether that data is linked to them or used to track them. You’ll need to provide information about your app’s privacy practices, including the practices of third-party partners whose code you integrate into your app, in App Store Connect starting this fall,” reads a new page Apple published on its developer portal on Thursday.

The page details the types of data that a developer will have to disclose its collection methods for, as well as guidelines over how a developer communicates the way it uses that data. Developers will also be asked to identify whether “each data type is linked to a user’s account, device, or identity by you and/or your third-party partners.” There’s also instructions around disclosures for tracking and privacy policies.

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Xbox’s Bethesda acquisition is evidence of blockbuster gaming’s volatility – VentureBeat

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Microsoft’s Xbox gaming division is acquiring The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim publisher Bethesda for $7.5 billion. And it’s difficult to overstate how much this changes gaming. The easiest way for me to think about this is that Xbox just bought one of the only other companies that actually has a major media presentation during E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show) each year. This has led to a lot of talk about what the purchase means for Xbox and its Game Pass subscription service. But the deal tells us just as much about how unsustainable the triple-A blockbuster gaming business is.

Bethesda is one of gaming’s main publishing companies. Like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two, it built a business by creating studios and releasing games for PC and consoles. Its biggest releases are megahits like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. And yet the owners of ZeniMax Media — the parent corporation of Bethesda — sold off their interests in the gaming business to Xbox. Why? What is happening in games that would make ZeniMax stakeholders want to cash in?

Well, the explanation is evident in the recent history of Bethesda, and it speaks to the challenges facing the entire games-publishing business.

One flop away from failure

Making video games is a difficult and volatile business. Blockbuster budgets inflated over the last 10 years to well over $100 million for a single, top-tier release. And that makes every game a massive bet that could prove disastrous.

On top of this, publishers and developers struggle to predict what consumers will want. The audience has fickle tastes. And even when a studio is working on something with proven appeal, like a military shooter, they must compete against ingrained properties often from teams with even bigger budgets.

This leads to escalating investment costs as studios try to compete. Is your game not as pretty as Red Dead and not as big as Assassin’s Creed? Well, that sounds like a game I can wait to play until it’s on sale.

Live-service games come for us all

The especially tough thing for publishers is that even if they launch a high-quality game to good reviews, it’s often not enough to pull an audience away from their chosen live-service games. More players are returning to evergreen hits like Fortnite, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Warframe repeatedly for months and years at a time.

In that environment, it often seems like only the most prestige single-player narrative-driven games breakout from the crowd. This raises the threshold for what games can succeed. This is why you’ll often hear people lamenting that the middle-tier game is disappearing. The threshold for success is higher than ever. On the PlayStation 2 and then the Xbox 360, a “B” game could make a return on its investment. Now, they struggle to pull any attention away from whatever is hot on Twitch at the moment.

That can leave publishers feeling like the only safe bet against this trend is their own live-service games. But these are just as hit driven as any other game. The only upside is that developers have a better chance of slowly building a service game into something more appealing over time.

Subscriptions and stores

The other way to compete is to start your own distribution store, your own subscription service, or both. If a company can directly monetize their audience, this can offset some of the increasing costs of development. No more sharing 30% with Steam. And establishing steadier and more predictable revenue streams.

But the challenge is that starting your own PC digital store is expensive. Epic Games continues to invest heavily into its Epic Games Store, and it’s still struggling to compete with Steam. And a subscription service requires a huge upfront investment to build content without any guarantee that players will stick around.

Bethesda tried everything

Bethesda ran into all of the problems I listed above.

It tried to compete with high-budget single-player experiences. At E3 2017, the company even had an initiative called #saveplayer1 about ensuring the future of solo games. That led to games like a Dishonored 2 expansion, The Evil Within 2, and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. But none of those games were huge financial successes, even if they all are beloved by their fans and received positive reviews.

Bethesda then tried to launch the live-service game Fallout 76, which had a disastrous release (although it’s slowly building an audience through updates that have improved the game). That game likely would have performed better if Bethesda would have delayed it, but — again — making games is difficult. That’s the point.

The publisher also tried its own store with the Bethesda Launcher on PC, only to witness EA soften its position toward running the EA Origin store. It also saw companies like Ubisoft and EA try their own subscription services. Bethesda knows how expensive and challenging it would be to get those programs off the ground. And in the end, Steam and Xbox Game Pass are probably still going to win in the end.

The reality is that the industry is going through a massive shift where publishers probably aren’t going to look like the company Bethesda grew into. That left its stakeholders with an option: Try to figure out the painful process of transforming Bethesda into something new, or sell Bethesda to a company that needs it. And Microsoft can use Bethesda because Game Pass is already a de facto industry standard with 15 million subscribers.

This deal ensures that the people and teams that make up Bethesda have a chance to remain together. The alternative under an independent ZeniMax Media was likely closures, layoffs, and fewer games. And I guess that’s the good news for fans. This deal will get you more games.

Meanwhile, if you’re one of the people on the receiving end of that $7.5 billion payday, take that money. In a few years, gaming’s tectonic plates will settle into place — at least momentarily. And then you can start your next gaming startup when you know what the future looks like.

Media consolidation is bad, but so is everything

Not to give into nihilism, but I can only get so worked up regarding concerns about media consolidation. This Microsoft move echoes Disney’s efforts in film and TV, but it’s not like the status quo in gaming has led to a dynamic and healthy market. And ZeniMax’s options here were likely shrinking down to either selling or aggressively reorganizing. Business as usual was probably not under consideration.

And the reorganizing option would have led to studio closures and layoffs. Under Microsoft, the plan (for now) is to let Bethesda keep operating as it always has. It seems like most of the people involved will continue in their current positions. The only difference is that Satya Nadella will sign their paychecks.

So yeah, media consolidation is bad and reduces competition. But game publishers are so afraid of the aforementioned risks that we don’t have a ton of competition in the blockbuster segment as is.

Ultimately, I view Microsoft’s Bethesda acquisition as an enabling move. It is purchasing eight new studios to empower them to keep making games. This is distinct from prohibitive moves where a company pays a publisher a fee to keep a game off of a competing platform.

It’s hard to say that the deal is good for the game industry, though. But for now, it’s probably better for the people making games at Bethesda.

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Heart Analyzer for iPhone and Apple Watch adds iOS 14 widget, blood oxygen data, more – 9to5Mac

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Heart Analyzer is one of the most powerful ways to visualize and access your Apple Watch heart data. A new update to Heart Analyzer this week brings integration with the Apple Watch Series 6 Blood Oxygen readings, iOS 14 home screen widgets, and more.

With this week’s update to Heart Analyzer, the app now supports Apple Watch Series 6 Blood Oxygen data. This includes a new complication for your watch face as well as tracking directly in the Heart Analyzer app on your Apple Watch. One of the new complications for Apple Watch is a full-size heart rate graph for the infograph modular watch face.

iOS 14 widgets have become a staple of app updates this week, and Heart Analyzer is no different. Heart Analyzer version 8.2 includes new home screen widgets for easily monitoring your heart rate without launching the app itself. Heart Analyzer has also extended the available data for heart rate tracking to four years.

Heart Analyzer also integrates with Apple Watch ECG recordings, including the ability to compare two readings side-by-side.

Here are the full release notes for today’s Heart Analyzer update:

  • Blood Oxygen Saturation support
  • Electrocardiogram viewing and comparison
  • A configurable Dashboard for App Customization users
  • Extended Data doubled up to four years of heart rate data
  • Brand new complications on Apple Watch
  • Blood Oxygen Saturation tracking in the Watch app including on a complication
  • Watch Face sharing support
  • New support for more workout types
  • The Heart Analyzer Guide, now available in the app for those wanting to broaden their app knowledge
  • Improvements to Heart Rate Recovery metrics in the Deep Analytics section
  • Dashboard interface tweaks for more intuitive navigation
  • A new option for complication privacy on the Watch Face

Heart Analyzer is available on the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch. It’s a free download with in-app purchases for additional features.

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Here's where you can pre-order the Xbox Series X and S in Canada – MobileSyrup

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Earlier this month, Microsoft confirmed that its pair of next-gen consoles, the Xbox Series X and Series S, will launch on November 10th in Canada.

The beefy Series X will be priced at $599 CAD, while the lower-cost, all-digital Series S will cost $379.99.

Ahead of launch, Canadian retailers will start taking pre-orders for both consoles on September 22nd at 11am ET/8am PT. Keep in mind that this only applies to online pre-orders, so you’ll need to check with your local retailer to see whether they are taking any in-store.

Additionally, it’s important to note that not every retailer has put up their online listings for the consoles yet. Therefore, we’ll update this story with the appropriate links as they go live.

For now, at least, know that Series X and S pre-orders will be available at the following retailers at 11am ET:

Amazon Canada

Best Buy

EB Games

London Drugs

Xbox Series X
Xbox Series S
Games and accessories

Microsoft Store

Shoppers Drug Mart

Xbox Series X
Xbox Series S
Games and accessories

The Source

Note: most retailers only charge you once the item ships, but The Source will charge you as soon as the pre-order goes through. Therefore, prepare to spend several hundred dollars now if you’re looking to get a console from The Source.

Walmart

Given that we don’t know exactly when pre-orders will sell out, you’ll want to be quick on the draw. To save time at checkout, it’s a good idea to already have an online account for whatever retailer you plan on pre-ordering from. Make sure all of your shipping and payment details are up to date. Finally, log into your account ahead of 11am ET. Doing all of this ahed of time will ensure that all you’ll need to do at the top of the hour is add the consoles to your cart and finalize the transaction.

Some food for thought

It’s important to note that Xbox All Access, Microsoft’s console financing option, is coming to Canada exclusively through EB Games. That said, the program will not be available come pre-order time, with Microsoft simply saying it will launch sometime before the consoles release on November 10th. Further, specific Canadian details like pricing have not yet been confirmed.

It’s also worth mentioning that Microsoft just announced plans to acquire Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion USD (nearly $10 billion CAD). Once the deal is finalized, this means that developers like Bethesda Game Studios (The Elder Scrolls), id Software (Doom) and Arkane (Dishonored) will be wholly owned by Microsoft. The timing of this news — a mere one day before pre-orders go live — was no doubt intentional, given that it’s now gotten many people actively talking about Xbox.

With all of that said, then, you may want to factor in the current unavailability of All Access — as well as the long-term prospect of Bethesda games on Game Pass — into your pre-order plans.

What about the PS5?

The simultaneous launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders across all retailers is a markedly different strategy than the one employed by Sony with its own next-gen console, the PlayStation 5.

Last week, the Japanese tech giant revealed mere hours after its big PS5 Showcase that pre-orders would open the following day, only to suddenly announce right after that they were going live that same night. Making matters more complicated was the fact that retailers soon began to accept pre-orders at different times. This all came after Sony had specifically said it wouldn’t just drop PS5 pre-orders “at a minute’s notice.”

A few days later, Sony apologized for the PS5 pre-order situation, noting the process “could have gone a lot smoother” while promising to have more stock available between now and the end of the year. Overall, the company says it will have more PS5s available at launch than it did for the PS4 when it launched in November 2013.

We’ll have more on additional Canadian PlayStation 5 pre-orders as that information becomes available. The PS5 will launch in Canada on November 12th for $629 CAD alongside its $499 disc-less Digital Edition counterpart.

Which console(s) are you planning to pre-order? Let us know in the comments.

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