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Google takes down Indian ‘Remove China’ app

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PALO ALTO/NEW DELHI — Google has moved to cut access to an app that became hugely popular in India after it promised to help users identify and remove smartphone services linked to China, at a time of escalating tension between the Asian rivals.

The U.S. search giant took the app — called Remove China Apps — from its Google Play Store on Tuesday. Google acted over violation of its deceptive behavior policy, the Nikkei Asian Review has learned.

Remove China Apps, which claimed to be “educational,” had briefly been the most popular in India’s store, being downloaded more than 1 million times within 10 days of launch.

The app enabled users to detect where any apps on their phones were from and delete them if desired, according to its developer, Jaipur-based OneTouch AppLabs.

OneTouch AppLabs announced that the app had been suspended from the Play store on a tweet Wednesday morning but did not confirm why the app was removed.

Remove China Apps gained popularity in India amid rising anti-China sentiment after Chinese soldiers moved into what India sees its territory along the disputed Himalayan border between the two countries.

The latest tensions appear to be the worst since the 2017 standoff at the Doklam plateau, which lasted 73 days and was the longest such confrontation in decades between the two nuclear-armed countries. They share a 3,500 km border over which they fought a war in 1962.

India has also grown increasingly concerned at the prevalence of Chinese companies in the economy. In April, New Delhi moved to tighten rules that allow it to block “opportunistic” investment from its neighbor.

The hashtag #BoycottChineseProducts is trending on Twitter, with many Indians, including Bollywood celebrities, pledging to stop using Chinese goods.

On its website OneTouch AppLabs cited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call last month for India to become “self-reliant”.

It said its app would help people to support the policy by identifying the origin country of apps installed on their phones.

Google prohibits apps that “attempt to deceive users or enable dishonest behavior,” according to the Play Store website. Google also prohibits apps from encouraging or incentivizing users into removing or disabling third-party apps unless it is part of a verifiable security service. It also bans apps in Google Play Store from making changes to a user’s device settings or features outside of the app without the user’s knowledge and consent.

According to the TechCrunch website, some users of Remove China Apps found that it flagged content with no clear China link, including U.S. videoconferencing app Zoom.

OneTouch AppLabs published a disclaimer on its website that Remove China Apps was “being developed for educational purposes only … we do not promote or force people to uninstall any of the application(s).”

Meanwhile, Google Play Store also appears to have removed another popular app, Mitron, a video sharing platform that was touted as an answer to TikTok. It became instant hit in India after being launched in April and reportedly had over 5 million downloads.

Mitron, which means friends in Hindi, is a word Modi uses often to address countrymen in his speeches.

Source:- Nikkei Asian Review

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Samsung Galaxy S30 could ship without a charger — just like iPhone 12 – Tom's Guide

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The Samsung Galaxy S30 could copy one of the iPhone 12‘s most controversial rumored changes by shipping without a charger. And while that sounds frustrating, there’s a couple of good reasons why Samsung’s considering this.

The news of Samsung’s potential plan is from ETNews (via TechRadar). ETNews quotes what it describes as ‘industry officials,’ who state: “Samsung Electronics is discussing how to remove the charger from smartphone components with related companies.”

The reasoning is pretty simple: the majority of users have USB-C phone chargers already, so removing them from the box of every new phone means less electronic waste and a small reduction in the price of phones. This likely won’t mean a large price drop, since chargers are by no means an expensive component. But we’ll take any discount we can, given that flagship phones now regularly cost $1,000 and over.

This will apparently go into effect with “some models released next year.” Samsung perhaps foresees that this could be a very unpopular move, so it’ll be enacting this change gradually. It could target only a specific class of its phones, for example the budget Galaxy A series, where the discount could be most noticeable. On the other hand, maybe the Galaxy S30 and other premium flagships may see their boxes emptied out, given that their customers are more likely to have existing cables handy.

While many potential customers will already own USB-C chargers, the difference in manufacturers’ fast charging speeds could prove to be an issue. Getting the best charging performance out of your new phone will usually require one of the company’s own chargers, which would mean new customers would have to pay up for optimal charging speeds.

Apple is also rumored to exclude both the charger and its wired EarPods headphones from the iPhone 12, but this move has additional complications. Since Apple uses the proprietary Lightning connector, anyone who wants to swap from an Android phone to an iPhone would need to stump up more cash for the charger. That said, since Apple is allegedly planning on moving to wireless-only charging with the iPhone 13 and the Qi wireless standard is almost universal on 1st-and 3rd-party chargers, perhaps any difficulties with wired charging can be offset by a focus on wireless charging instead.

The Galaxy S30 (if that is indeed the name Samsung goes with), won’t appear until February 2021 at the earliest. In the meantime, Samsung is likely releasing both the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Fold 2 at a Galaxy Unpacked event on August 5. As far as we know, both the stylus-equipped phablet and foldable phones come with Samsung’s standard 25W chargers, so you’ll be able to buy them without worrying about not having a way to power it up.

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Epic Games Receives Strategic Investment from Sony Corporation – Business Wire

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TOKYO & CARY, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Sony Corporation (“Sony”) and Epic Games, Inc. (“Epic”) are pleased to announce that Sony has agreed to make a strategic investment of $250 million to acquire a minority interest in Epic through a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony. The investment cements an already close relationship between the two companies and reinforces the shared mission to advance the state of the art in technology, entertainment, and socially-connected online services.

The investment allows Sony and Epic to aim to broaden their collaboration across Sony’s leading portfolio of entertainment assets and technology, and Epic’s social entertainment platform and digital ecosystem to create unique experiences for consumers and creators. The closing of the investment is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

“Epic’s powerful technology in areas such as graphics places them at the forefront of game engine development with Unreal Engine and other innovations. There’s no better example of this than the revolutionary entertainment experience, Fortnite. Through our investment, we will explore opportunities for further collaboration with Epic to delight and bring value to consumers and the industry at large, not only in games, but also across the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape,” said Kenichiro Yoshida, Chairman, President and CEO, Sony Corporation.

“Sony and Epic have both built businesses at the intersection of creativity and technology, and we share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences leading to a convergence of gaming, film, and music. Together we strive to build an even more open and accessible digital ecosystem for all consumers and content creators alike,” said Tim Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Epic.

About Sony Corporation

Sony Corporation is a creative entertainment company with a solid foundation of technology. From game and network services to music, pictures, electronics, semiconductors and financial services – Sony’s purpose is to fill the world with emotion through the power of creativity and technology. For more information, visit: http://www.sony.net/

About Epic Games

Founded in 1991, Epic Games (epicgames.com) is a leading interactive entertainment company and provider of 3D engine technology. Epic operates Fortnite, the world’s largest game with over 350 million accounts and 2.5 billion friend connections. Epic also develops Unreal Engine, which powers the world’s leading games and is being adopted across industries such as film and television, architecture, automotive, and manufacturing for visualization and simulation. Epic has over 2,200 employees across 35 offices worldwide with headquarters in Cary, North Carolina. Follow @EpicGames for updates.

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Sony invests $250 million in Fortnite maker Epic Games – VentureBeat

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Sony has invested $250 million for a minority stake in Fortnite maker Epic Games, the companies announced today. With the new money, Epic Games has raised $1.83 billion to date.

The companies said the deal cements an already close relationship and reinforces their shared goal to advance the state of the art in technology, entertainment, and socially connected online services. This close relationship was underscored in May when Epic first showed the upcoming Unreal Engine 5 graphics running on a PlayStation 5. As the company itself has disclosed, Epic Games raised $1.58 billion to date in three previous funding rounds. In 2012, the company received a $330 million investment from Tencent for a 40% ownership stake.

Under the deal, the investment enables Sony and Epic to broaden their collaboration, with Sony’s portfolio of entertainment assets and technology and Epic’s social entertainment platform and digital ecosystem (think Fortnite’s increasing use as a social space or the Epic Games Store), to create unique experiences for consumers and creators. The closing of the investment is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

Epic confirmed it will still be able to publish to other platforms. As noted, Sony is acquiring only a minority part of Epic Games, and it is not acquiring a controlling stake in the company. (Update: Sony is acquiring a 1.4% stake of Epic, which means the deal values Epic Games at $17.86 billion).

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The deal is important for Sony because it needs allies in the upcoming console war. Later this year, Sony plans to launch the PlayStation 5 game console in competition with Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. But Epic has said that its Unreal Engine 5 and Fortnite will work with all game platforms, as Epic has generally been neutral when it comes to making cross-platform technology. If Sony gets any advantage from investing in Epic, it isn’t clear from this deal.

In a statement, Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said that Epic’s technology keeps it at the forefront of game development and that is exemplified in the features of Fortnite. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, meanwhile, said in a statement that both Sony and Epic have created businesses at the intersection of creativity and technology and they share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences that will lead to a convergence of gaming, film, and music. He also said the parties plan to build a “more open and accessible digital ecosystem for all consumers and content creators.”

The music reference seems like a call out to the recent virtual Travis Scott concert in Fortnite, which drew more than 27 million people. The mention of a more open and accessible digital ecosystem is also a surprise, as Sweeney has long been a proponent of open systems, while Sony has been an example of a company that protects its proprietary technology. Sony has, however, enabled Fortnite to function as a crossplay game that also lets friends play each other across other platforms.

A separate deal

The deal is different from the one that Bloomberg reported in June, which we independently confirmed, that Epic Games was seeking to raise $750 million at a pre-money valuation of $16.3 billion, with a post-money valuation (the value of the company after the deal is done) of $17 billion. Epic declined to comment on that deal.

Epic Games is both the developer and publisher of Fortnite, which has more than 350 million registered users. And it is also the creator of the Unreal Engine, a fundamental toolset for building many games (and increasingly, making movies and TV).

Bloomberg said in June that new investors participating in the separate round are T. Rowe Price Group and Baillie Gifford. Existing investors KKR & Co. will also participate, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources. Epic did not comment on that detail either.

Above: This Lara Croft-like character is not a glimpse at the next Epic Games title.

Image Credit: Epic Games

Epic’s financials, based on sources

As we reported earlier in June, Epic Games’ fundraising gave us a window into the company’s current financial picture, as the privately held Epic does not disclose its revenues or profits. Epic has declined to comment on the below numbers.

Sources told GamesBeat that in 2019, Epic Games reported $4.2 billion in revenue and $730 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA, a key measure of profitability). Revenue for 2020 is forecast to be $5 billion, with EBITDA of $1 billion.

In April alone, thanks to the pandemic, Fortnite revenue was $400 million, sources told me. In April, players spent 3.2 billion hours in the battle royale shooter, sources said.

In 2018, Epic Games did better than it did in 2019. Revenue in 2018 was $5.6 billion, with EBITDA of $2.9 billion, sources said. Epic used a lot of that money to invest in its Epic Games Store, expanding its staff for Fortnite and Unreal Engine, and some acquisitions.

The Unreal Engine 5 can handle global illumination.

Above: The Unreal Engine 5 can handle global illumination.

Image Credit: Epic Games

In 2017, the company received a strategic investment from Disney as part of the 2017 Disney Accelerator program. And in October 2018, Epic raised $1.25 billion at a $14.5 billion post-money valuation. Investors in that round included KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Ventures, Smash Ventures, and Iconiq.

As part of the Unreal Engine 5 announcement in May, Sweeney said in an interview with GamesBeat that Epic had a close relationship with Sony. “We’ve been working super-closely with Sony for quite a long time on the storage architecture and other elements. It’s been our primary focus. But Unreal Engine 5 will be on all next-generation platforms, and so will Fortnite,” Sweeney said at the time.

He added, “Sony has done an awesome job of architecting a great system here. It’s not just a great GPU, and they didn’t just take the latest PC hardware and upgrade to it, following the path of least resistance. The storage architecture in PlayStation 5 is far ahead of anything that you can buy in any PC for any amount of money right now. It’s great to see that sort of innovation. It’s going to help drive future PCs. They’ll see this thing ship and realize, ‘Wow, with two SSDs, we’ll have to catch up.’”

Epic Games didn’t say what it would use the money for. But it’s a good bet the company will continue to make acquisitions, invest in its Epic Games Store, expand Fortnite, and drive toward the creation of the Metaverse. The latter is the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One. Sweeney has said this is one of his goals.

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