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Facebook bashes Apple for refusing to waive commission fees, seizing on backlash – Reuters

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(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Friday that Apple Inc (AAPL.O) had declined its request to waive a 30% commission fee the iPhone maker charges apps listed on iOS devices, taking a shot at its fellow Big Tech peer as developers challenge the policy.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The move is the latest salvo in a long-running cold war between two of the world’s most powerful tech companies, which have clashed over their approaches to user privacy as both face regulatory scrutiny over alleged anticompetitive behavior.

Facebook said it requested the waiver so that small businesses would not have to pay Apple’s cut for a new paid online events product the world’s biggest social media company is launching on its core platform.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, Apple removed popular video game “Fortnite” from its app store for violating its in-app payment guidelines, sparking a backlash online and prompting developer Epic Games to file a federal antitrust lawsuit challenging Apple’s rules.

Apple takes a cut of between 15% and 30% for most app subscriptions and payments made inside apps, though there are some exceptions for companies that already have a credit card on file for iPhone customers if they also offer an in-app payment that would benefit Apple.

Developers have long criticized the commissions, as well as Apple’s prohibitions on courting customers for outside sign-ups, and what some developers see as an opaque and unpredictable app-vetting process.

A mock-up of the new events product on iPhone, provided by Facebook, showed that the company planned to tell users that Apple would take 30% of the purchase.

Google (GOOGL.O) also typically takes a 30% commission for payments within apps on its Android devices, although it was not immediately clear whether it would assess a charge in this case. In its Android mock-up, Facebook noted only that it would not take a fee, without disclosing its arrangement with Google.

Google declined to comment on its fee arrangement for the product, and Facebook did not respond to the request for comment.

Facebook also did not say whether it had tried to make use of Apple’s “multiplatform” exceptions.

The disclosure is likely to touch a nerve with Apple, whose App Store rules bar developers from discouraging the use of its in-app purchase system. Spotify in the past has said Apple rejected its attempts to communicate with users about the fee structures.

Fidji Simo, who heads the core Facebook app, announced the tool in a media conference call featuring small business owners who praised it as a way to reach customers and earn revenue online during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said Facebook considered it “important to be transparent, when people are supporting small businesses,” as users might not be aware that part of their payments could be “going to an almost $2 trillion company.”

Asked if she thought Apple would approve the change, even with language about fees that could discourage users from using the in-app purchase mechanism, she said she expected to find out “in the next couple days.”

Reporting by Katie Paul in San Francisco and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Maju Samuel and Sonya Hepinstall

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Microsoft's Purchase Of ZeniMax Gives Them Access To Orion Streaming Tech – GameSpot

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Microsoft threw down the gauntlet for next generation recently with their purchase of Bethesda parent company ZeniMax, and in the wake of the deal there’s been a lot of speculation about what it all means for the Xbox Series X. Microsoft has said that this isn’t just about exclusives, and there could be some truth to this–not only with Microsoft benefit from having Bethesda’s games on Game Pass, but they didn’t just pick up games in this sale.

Windows Central has noted that Microsoft’s purchase gives them access to Orion, the streaming tech Bethesda announced at E3 2019. The technology was touted as “a game- and platform-agnostic technology that optimizes game engines for streaming,” but the technology might be less platform-agnostic following this sale.

Orion’s stated goal is to stream games at low bandwidth with high-settings–making accessible the sort of game experiences that are often reserved only for people with powerful PC set-ups. The technology aims to cut latency down and deliver an excellent streaming experience.

Microsoft has just launched their own streaming system for Game Pass called xCloud, and it’s pretty good. If Microsoft wants to push their streaming technology further, though, then the purchase of Bethesda could be instrumental in doing so.

It could take a while to see the fruits of this purchase, but it’s very likely that Orion factored into Microsoft’s decision. The tech giant now owns 23 creative studios.

The Xbox Series X/S launch on November 10. If you want to try and get your hands on a system at or close to launch, check out GameSpot’s preorder guide.

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Now Playing: Orion Is Bethesda’s Game Streaming Service | Bethesda Press Conference E3 2019

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ZeniMax's 'Orion,' and how it will boost Microsoft's Xbox xCloud streaming tech – Windows Central

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Microsoft shook the industry this week when it revealed its $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax Media, which gives it the rights to legendary IP like The Elder Scrolls, DOOM, Fallout, and all of the talented studios known for making these epic, lasting experiences. One of the biggest criticisms of Xbox since practically forever has been the quality of its internal portfolio, which leaned incredibly heavily on Halo as its primary exclusive offering. With ZeniMax under its belt, that narrative is well and truly shattered — but there’s another vastly important aspect to this acquisition that is being overlooked.

At its 2019 E3 showcase, Bethesda revealed Orion, its patented cloud streaming SDK, which it says its easy to integrate into existing games. Bethesda claims Orion allows games to run at “max settings” with minimal bandwidth usage, even if you live far away from a data center. To demonstrate these claims, Bethesda and id Software who are leading development of this SDK, demonstrated DOOM 2016 at 4K 60 frames per second, running on a smartphone. We’ve uploaded the presentation clip so you can take a look below.

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ZeniMax has several job listings related to the Orion SDK on its website, and has a public test offering on its website as well, although it’s unclear if the closed tests are still open to new users.

Microsoft’s own streaming tech Project xCloud is potent in of its own right, but it only streams at 720p, up to 30 FPS, and even then, most of the time you can feel the latency. While this makes it perfectly usable for turn-based experiences and games that don’t require pinpoint precision, like brawlers maybe, 3D shooters do suffer a fair bit unless you’re in absolutely optimal conditions.

This could be a shot of adrenaline Project xCloud needs

Some of the biggest barriers to xCloud isn’t necessarily the speed of your network, but the conditions too, namely 5GHz WiFi, or high-quality 5G (with a compatible smartphone). Bethesda’s Orion demo showcases DOOM 2016 running at 4K, with 60 frames per second, with “no perceptible latency,” which is most likely the ideal end-goal of Microsoft’s xCloud tech for Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming.

If it truly works as Bethesda describes, this could be a shot of adrenaline Project xCloud needs to propel the user experience into meetings Xbox lead Phil Spencer’s vision of “console-quality” game streaming. The patents associated with this technology and the sole rights to distribution to the SDK will give Microsoft’s xCloud another big leap over Google Stadia.

Stadia is struggling to catch up on the basics right now — namely content — even if they have the technology and server infrastructure down. The acquisition shows that Microsoft isn’t complacent to the idea that one day, Google or one of Microsoft’s other competitors could pull ahead in this space.

It all just further slams home that ZeniMax was a perfect acquisition for Microsoft, with almost every aspect of the operation fitting nicely into Microsoft’s wider goals for its gaming division in 2021 and beyond. You can try Project xCloud gaming for yourself right now on an Android device, with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

Thanks for the tip Rekenber and thanks to YaBoyTwiz!

Today’s the day



Xbox Series S (Preorder)

Experience next-gen gaming for less.

Microsoft serves the next-generation for less with its budget-friendly Xbox Series S. The console packs the same high-performance CPU and SSD technology as Xbox Series X, while scaling back the GPU and removing the disc drive.

Act fast



Xbox Series X (Preorder)

The full next-generation experience.

Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s new flagship, as its most powerful console with over 12TF GPU performance and a custom SSD. It boasts up to 4K resolution and 120 FPS, full backward compatibility across four generations, and ray-tracing support.

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PS5 and Xbox Series X pre-orders are a disaster — what to do now – Tom's Guide

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After months of breathless speculation, you can finally pre-order the PS5 and the Xbox Series X. Or, at least, you would be able to, if you could make heads or tails of the pre-order process.

For those who haven’t followed the whole debacle, the PS5 pre-order process went so poorly that Sony had to publicly apologize for it. Microsoft promised that similar difficulties would not beset the Xbox Series X — but then, of course, they did.

Essentially, if you tried to pre-order a next-gen console, there’s an excellent chance that you didn’t get one. And even if you did, you may find yourself with an order that’s delayed, at best, or canceled, at worst. If you want a PS5 or Xbox Series X, it feels increasingly like you’d have a better experience just waltzing into a store in mid-November and trying your luck.

Let’s break down what went wrong with both pre-order processes — and dispense some advice for those who didn’t manage to score a new system. While we can’t guarantee anything, there’s still plenty of time between now and November to turn your luck around.

PS5 pre-orders

(Image credit: Sony)

The PS5 pre-order process got off to a rocky start when Sony elected not to share any information about it during the PS5 September showcase. Right after we got a price and release date for the PS5, the livestream ended, and fans assumed that was that — until Sony hopped on Twitter and casually mentioned that pre-orders would begin at “select retailers” the next day. 

“The next day” meant “a few hours later,” as some retailers began selling the devices right away. Some retailers were sold out of pre-orders before September 16 was over; some waited until midnight on September 17; some didn’t start until later that morning, or in the afternoon. Consoles went in and out of stock for hours on end. Some websites wouldn’t load; others crashed when people attempted to check out.

In short: It was a mess, and there wasn’t much that buyers could do except click and pray.

Our head of testing, Matthew Murray, was one of the unhappy customers. While Tom’s Guide usually receives review consoles from Microsoft and Sony, we also buy our own units, since we need consoles for office use, as well as home testing. It may comfort you to know that our luck has been no better than yours.

“Let’s just say it was chaotic,” Murray told me via Slack. “It was just like everything sold out right away, not like the websites wouldn’t even work.”

Even if you managed to procure a PS5, your woes may not be over. Even after going through the checkout process, many customers learned that their orders weren’t processed properly, and they wouldn’t be getting PS5s at all. Others received e-mails that their orders went through, but there was no guarantee of a November 12 shipping date. There was no guaranteed date at all, in fact — it’s entirely possible that these customers will be waiting until January.

Sony put up a frank apology tweet on September 19, promising that more PS5 stock would become available between now and the end of the year. While that’s probably true, it doesn’t give us any indication of how PS5 pre-orders might proceed from here.

After a frustrating day of stymied pre-orders, Murray — like many other customers — threw his hands up and reassured himself that the Xbox pre-orders would be a smoother process.

Xbox Series X pre-orders

(Image credit: Microsoft)

On its surface, it seemed like Microsoft had a plan in place for Xbox Series X pre-orders. Shortly after the company announced the Xbox Series X’s price and release date, it let buyers know that pre-orders would begin on September 22. After that, it filled in the blanks about participating retailers, time of day and so forth. While there would still be a rush, at least both users and websites knew what to expect, and when.

Even so, many — if not most — potential pre-order customers left empty-handed.

“All of the websites were overloaded in one way or another, and all gave us bizarre error messages and problems,” said Murray. “On Target, the ‘pre-order’ button just didn’t work.  Best Buy would claim the item was available, but not add it to your cart. The Microsoft Store took ages to let me add [the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S] to my cart, and when it eventually did, it wouldn’t accept my payment information.”

Both Walmart and Sam’s Club (which are owned by the same company) let Murray add the systems to his cart, then immediately deleted them. GameStop crashed. Amazon gave him a litany of error screens for the Xbox Series X; it didn’t seem to have the Xbox Series S available at all.

Between crashed websites, empty shopping carts and missing products, Xbox customers had plenty of problems to worry about. But, as with the PS5 pre-orders, the issues didn’t stop there. Many customers put orders through, but have yet to receive confirmation e-mails. By this time tomorrow, we expect cancellation e-mails to make the rounds, as well as “we cannot guarantee delivery on November 10” e-mails.

The situation wasn’t much better in person, where certain GameStops could confirm fewer than 10 pre-orders.

In short, the Xbox Series X pre-order process had an orderly plan, and a chaotic execution. Whether this is better or worse than Sony’s “chaotic plan, chaotic execution” depends entirely on your perspective — and whether you wanted a PS5 or an Xbox Series X.

How to get a PS5 or Xbox Series X now

(Image credit: Xbox)

While there’s some catharsis in bemoaning a broken pre-order system, it’s not a very practical activity. Instead, let’s take some time to figure out next steps for those of you who weren’t lucky enough to score a console during the first round of pre-orders.

Murray gave me this advice:

“I’m going to keep trying to get the systems I’m looking for,” he said. “Be patient, keep trying and try to follow when preorders are likely to start again. I think eventually there will be enough to go around, but whether everyone will get them by launch day, I don’t know.”

“Be patient and keep trying” may sound like a cliché, but it’s a cliché because it often works. Sony and Microsoft both plan to release additional stock between now and mid-November, and retail websites will work a lot mor smoothly when they’re not slammed with a pre-order rush. I’ve personally found that mid-morning and mid-afternoon are good times to check stock: 10 AM and 2 PM ET, respectively, but there’s no secret to it. Retailers restock whenever they can, and sometimes it’s just a matter of clicking on the right website at the right time.

Failing that, console manufacturers don’t generally sell through their entire stocks during pre-orders, as they need to put products on store shelves, too. While you may just be trading one type of chaos for another, you could always try your luck at retail stores — but I wouldn’t do so on November 10 or 12. Give it a week or so, and wait until the second wave of consoles starts trickling in. By that time, the initial rush has died down, and you can often find a single console hiding on a store shelf in a small outlet somewhere.

I wouldn’t recommend turning to eBay. For one thing, you’ll pay at least twice what a system is worth; for another, you’ll be rewarding scalpers, who make the buying experience worse for everyone. Furthermore, there’s absolutely no guarantee that you’ll receive a brand-new, functioning console instead of, say, an old car battery, or nothing at all.

My final recommendation is a little different: Don’t pre-order a console, or scramble to get one on launch day. This may seem a little counterintuitive, but it’s been my personal practice for the last three console generations, and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. The vast majority of PS5 and Xbox Series X launch games will be available on the PS4 or Xbox One. That means you’ll have plenty to play between now and January. And come late January (maybe even earlier), consoles will be a dime a dozen and whatever retailer you frequent, free from cumbersome, expensive bundles or obnoxious website malfunctions.

Being patient is your best strategy, particularly since many current-gen games you buy this year will get free next-gen upgrades whenever you find a new console. Your friends may have shiny new consoles before you, but you’ll have your sanity intact, which is arguably worth a lot more.

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