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Google to enforce 30% cut on in-app purchases next year

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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai gestures during a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 22, 2020.
(Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Google said on Monday that it will enforce rules that require app developers distributing Android software on the Google Play Store to use its in-app payment system.

The move means developers have until Sept. 30, 2021 to use Google’s billing system, which takes a 30% fee from payments, instead of independent payment systems. The announcement brings Google Play’s policies in line with Apple’s App Store policies, which have come under fire from developers and regulators over several issues, including its own 30% cut.

Apple has argued against scrutiny of its App Store by pointing out that other app stores, like Google Play, also take a 30% fee from in-app purchases.

Google’s existing policy said developers have to use Google’s billing system on in-app purchases made within the Google Play Store, but it had not been enforced, Google said on Monday in a blog post.

Google didn’t name apps that had been skirting the rule. It said 97% of developers selling digital goods already comply with its policies. Netflix and Spotify prompt users inside their Android apps to use a credit card to pay them directly.

“We want to be sure our policies are clear and up to date so they can be applied consistently and fairly to all developers, and so we have clarified the language in our Payments Policy to be more explicit that all developers selling digital goods in their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system,” Google said in the announcement, signed by Sameer Samat, a VP of product management.

Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, updated its Android software in August to allow gamers to directly pay Epic for in-app purchases of digital goods like colorful outfits, which circumvented Google Play billing.

Google responded by removing Fortnite from the Play Store. “While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies,” Google said at the time. Epic Games sued Google.

Apple also removed Fortnite from its App Store and is embroiled in its own legal battle with Epic Games.

Google’s Play Store doesn’t attract as much attention as Apple’s App Store

Google has received significantly less attention than Apple over its 30% cut, even though its policies are similar to Apple’s.

One core complaint from Apple developers is that Apple takes 30% from digital purchases made within the app, which can hamper services like Spotify, which have significant costs associated with their services like rights to music.

Android allows users to install apps without using the Play Store, including apps that distribute other apps, such as Samsung’s Galaxy App Store, the company pointed out in its Monday blog post. But, the Google Play Store is the way most users download applications on an Android phone.

Google hasn’t taken as much heat on its cut of in-app purchases, however.

Developers including Epic Games, Spotify, and Tinder parent company Match have created a nonprofit group to challenge Apple’s App Store practices, for example.

And, when Apple CEO Tim Cook testified in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust this summer, he answered specific questions about which apps Apple allows on its platform and how it uses its power to hamper smaller developers.

When Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified at the same hearing, he faced questions about Google’s role in advertising, search, and data collection, instead of how much Google charges app-makers to use the Google Play store.

Google said next year’s Android release will “make it even easier for people to use other app stores” without compromising user security.

Source:- CNBC

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PlayStation reveals updated mobile app with overhauled UI, voice chat and more – MobileSyrup

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Sony has revealed a major update to its free PlayStation app on Android and iOS that brings with it a suite of changes and new features for use with both PS4 and the upcoming PS5.

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Most notably, the update introduces a complete overhaul of the app’s UI, with a new home screen that displays what your friends are playing and easy access to your recently played games and Trophy List.

Further, a new ‘Explore’ tab is being added to let you see official news from game developers and PS Blog content. On top of that, the PlayStation Store has been integrated into the app for smooth browsing and shopping. From here, you can also remotely download games and add-ons directly to your PS4 and PS5.

Elsewhere in the app is newly added support for voice chat and party groups. This means that you can create party groups from within the PS app and begin voice chatting with up to 15 friends through your mobile devices.

As part of these new social features, you’ll also be able to send PSN messages through the app. With this new functionality, however, Sony says it will be retiring its existing standalone PS Messages mobile app. While a date for this wasn’t provided, Sony noted that all existing PSN messages will carry over to the new version of the PS app.

Sony says the PS app update is rolling out globally later today on iOS (12.2 or later) and Android (6.0 or later) devices.

The PlayStation 5 will launch in Canada on November 12th for $629 CAD. We’ll have more on the console in the coming days.

Source: PlayStation

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AMD’s newest graphics cards: RDNA2 power from $579 to $999 – Ars Technica

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Today, AMD launched the first of its “Big Navi” RDNA 2 architecture Radeon graphics cards, the RX 6800 XT and RX 6900 XT. These cards compete directly against Nvidia’s RTX 3070, RTX 3080, and RTX 3090.

Like Nvidia’s RTX 3000 line, the new cards offer 60+ fps 4K gaming, with full DirectX 12 Ultimate support, including hardware-accelerated real-time ray tracing.

Performance

RDNA2 brought enormous gen-on-gen fps gains from last generation’s “little Navi” RX 5000 series—but what most people will care about is how the components compare to Nvidia’s offerings, not to last generation’s AMD. In terms of sheer GPU horsepower, Nvidia’s RTX 3000 series and AMD’s RX 6000 series appear to be in a dead heat. As always, it’s worth taking a vendor’s own private benchmarks with a grain of salt—but we don’t expect to see materially different results in private testing later as these cards filter down to the market.

AMD did not compare the RX 6800 (non-XT) with Nvidia’s RTX 3070; instead, the 6800 was compared with last generation’s RTX 2080Ti. But for most intents—and as backed up by our own Sam Machkovech’s recent testing—these cards perform quite similarly. So we can reasonably read the RX 6800 chart as comparing to the RTX 3070.

Features

The biggest addition to the Radeon arsenal with RDNA 2 is real-time ray tracing and support for DirectX 12 Ultimate. The new cards feature one Ray Accelerator for each Compute Unit on the card, offering a roughly tenfold increase in ray-tracing performance compared to software-only implementations.

The addition of real-time hardware ray tracing brings Radeon to gaming-feature parity with Nvidia’s lineup, at least on paper. It will take some time to decipher how well Radeon’s ray-tracing support stacks up to Nvidia’s in real life—and particularly in the context of real-world games, which up until now have been advertised loudly with “Nvidia RTX” logos, even though they largely rely on a more open DirectX Ray Tracing protocol.

On the console front, Microsoft was keen on immediately reminding gamers that its next-gen consoles would leverage the “full feature set of RDNA 2 in hardware.”

The new RDNA2 architecture also brings greater power efficiency to the Radeon lineup, with the 300W 6800 XT and 6900 XT beating out their Nvidia competitors by 20W and 50W, respectively. On the lower end of the lineup, Nvidia takes the lead, with the 220W Nvidia RTX 3070 beating the 250W Radeon RX 6800.

Pricing

AMD cardAMD priceMost comparable Nvidia cardNvidia price
Radeon RX 6800$580RTX 3070$500
Radeon RX 6800 XT$650RTX 3080$700
Radeon RX 6900 XT$1,000RTX 3090$1,500

In some ways, AMD looks like it might have gotten caught with its pants down on the RX 6800 pricing. Consumers will probably have a hard time justifying an extra $80 at that price bracket on a card with higher thermals and a more uncertain real-time ray-tracing pedigree. But in other ways, AMD might have the edge—if higher amounts of VRAM in each class are your selling point. The RX 6800’s 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM doubles that of Nvidia’s comparable RTX 3070.

The value proposition is closer to even when upgrading to the 6800XT and just about overwhelming at the top tier. That’s where Nvidia’s RTX 3090 costs a whopping 50 percent more than AMD’s RX 6900 XT for roughly the same 4K frame rates delivered. Both of these AMD cards sport 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM, as well, but that’s not clocked as highly as Nvidia’s choice of GDDR6X VRAM (11GB of it in the RTX 3080, and 24GB in the RTX 3090).

If all you’re looking for is the best raw 4K frame rates on current AAA games, ray tracing be damned, the top end of the RX 6000 series seem like clear winners. For anyone heavily invested in ray tracing, sticking with Nvidia—who brought it to market a generation sooner—might be the better bet if you can’t wait a few months to see how those features and their performance shake out in the market.

This article has been updated with more information about VRAM capacity in AMD’s newest GPUs.

Listing image by AMD

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Apple search crawler activity could signal a Google competitor, or a bid to make Siri a one-stop-shop – TechCrunch

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Encouraged by the spate of antitrust activity brewing in both the Justice Department and on Capitol Hill, Apple may be developing a search competitor to Google, according to a report in the Financial Times.

That would be a move ripe with irony as the push for an end to anti-competitive practices is seemingly creating greater competition among the largest companies which already dominate the technology industry rather than between those established companies and more nimble upstarts.

Signs of Apple’s resurgent interest in search technologies can be found in both a subtle but significant change to the latest version of the iOS 14 iPhone operating system and increasing activity from Apple’s spidering tools that are used to scour the web and refine search functionality, the Financial Times reported.

Apple is now showing its own search results and linking directly to websites when users type queries from its home screen in iOS 14. For context, this is a behavior that has been known for a while as people have seen the feature pop up in beta versions of iOS. And the search volume being up on Apple’s crawler is something that Jon Henshaw of Coywolf had noted back in August.

Sources cited by the Financial Times said that the change marked a significant step-change in Apple’s in-house search development and could be the basis for a broader push into search.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company certainly has the expertise. A little less than three years ago it nabbed Google’s head of search, John Giannandrea in what was widely seen as an attempt to shore up Apple’s foundations in artificial intelligence and voice search via Siri. Because of the way that Apple is organized internally, it’s unlikely that Giannandrea will be devoting full-time effort to both a potential “search product” and Siri . But it’s within the realm of possibility that he could be lending his expertise to a team working on a separate feature.

Any development of a search tool would be a third way for Apple, which now uses Google as its default search service thanks to a lucrative contract between the two (one that’s also at the heart of a Justice Department inquiry into Google’s purported anti-competitive activities around search). The only other major search services on the market rely on Microsoft’s Bing to power their results.

While the signs do point to an actual uptick in activity, there could be an explanation for Apple’s crawler activity that’s less heavy on corporate skunkworks skulduggery and more in line with goals that Apple’s stated pretty clearly.

While the story about Apple getting into direct competition with Google on search makes for a great headline, the uptick in activity could be explained equally as rationally by Siri getting more search queries and being more of an interlocutor between Apple and search services like Google or Microsoft’s Bing. This disintermediation is something that Google began years ago and has even modified and expanded over the years to combat the same kind of behavior from Siri.

Some of this comes down to semantics. By “search engine” do we mean “a web site that people type queries into” or do we mean a voice assistant that steps in to white-label web results with its own sourcing. Cutting down on the brand presence of a monster like Google on your own platform is a powerful motivator for any competitor, no matter the space.

Making Siri a one-stop-shop could inoculate Apple in the scenario where they are forced to enable a search provider choice in the iOS onboarding flow by regulation. It won’t do anything to help Google though, who pays Apple billions because iOS users are worth way more than any other mobile web users to its business. Google, for its part, says that when people have a choice they still pick Google anyway. Perhaps another reason why making Siri the search equivalent of an overtalker is the strong play for Apple.

TechCrunch has reached out to Apple for comment and will update when we hear back.

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