The biggest announcement of the recent Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary Direct was the reveal of Super Mario 3D All-Stars. As this is a collection, of three old games, obviously we’re curious to know how they’ll look on modern displays.
With a lot of focus lately on how smartphone app developers are treated on Apple’s and Google’s app stores, Google has decided right now is a great time to announce more stringent app store billing rules. A new post from the official Android Developer Blog promises a crackdown on in-app billing that sounds like it’s targeted at big streaming services like Netflix and Spotify.
Google’s post really beats around the bush trying to sugar-coat this announcement, but it starts off by saying, “We’ve always required developers who distribute their apps on Play to use Google Play’s billing system if they offer in-app purchases of digital goods, and pay a service fee from a percentage of the purchase.” This rule has not been enforced, though, and a lot of big developers have just ignored Google’s billing requirements. Today, Netflix and Spotify don’t use Google’s in-app billing and instead kick new accounts out to a Web browser, where the companies can use PayPal or direct credit card processing to dodge Google’s 30-percent fees.
“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 continues. “For those who already have an app on Google Play that requires technical work to integrate our billing system, we do not want to unduly disrupt their roadmaps and are giving a year (until September 30, 2021) to complete any needed updates.”
That’s basically the meat of the blog post: everybody needs to use Google billing by this time next year. A look at the “Payments Policy” shows examples like “subscription services” that offer things like “music” and “video.” It also warns readers at the top that “changes are coming to this policy!” and that “any existing app that is currently using an alternative billing system will need to remove it to comply with this update.”
Google draws a clear distinction between Android and iOS by pointing out that on Android, developers have a “choice of stores” and that most Android devices ship with multiple app stores. Google mentions twice that “each store is able to decide its own business model and consumer features” with the implication being that if developers want to be on Google Play, which has 2 billion active users, they’re going to have to start following the rules or look elsewhere.
Better third-party app store support in Android 12?
One other tidbit in this post is news of an Android 12 feature: “We will be making changes in Android 12 (next year’s Android release) to make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place. We are designing all this now and look forward to sharing more in the future!”
Currently, installing a second app store requires a few extra checkboxes, but given that stepping outside of Google’s walled garden really does expose users to more threats, the two warning messages don’t seem excessive. Google regularly publishes stats comparing the malware rate of Google Play-only devices versus devices that have installed apps from outside the Play Store. While Google Play is by no means perfect, Google is one of the few app store operators big enough to put every app through some kind of vetting process, and as a result, users have been anywhere from 5 to 10 times more likely to get malware outside the Play Store than inside it for the past two years.
The current app store install process is not that arduous. If you’re downloading something like F-Droid (an open source app store), first Chrome will give you a warning that this type of file (an APK) can harm your device, which you can click through. If you’ve never installed an app from the browser before, you’ll be forwarded to the device settings so you can flip the “allow installs from source” checkbox for Chrome. Then you can install the app store. Android requires any app that installs apps to be given the “install unknown apps” checkbox, so you’ll also need to flip this setting to allow the new app store to install apps.
This move to make third-party app stores easier to use makes a bit more sense as a response to Fortnite‘s developer, Epic, which is currently suing Google over its alternative app store policies. “Directly downloading Fortnite on an Android device can involve a dozen steps, requiring the user to change default settings and bravely click through multiple dire warnings,” Epic’s antitrust lawsuit reads. “And even if a persistent user manages to install a competing app store, Google prevents such stores from competing on equal footing with the Google Play Store by blocking them from offering basic functions, such as automatic updating of apps in the background.”
Like any lawsuit, Epic’s filing is a bit blustery. By my count, installing a third-party app store takes five taps, not “a dozen steps.” While any pre-installed app store (in the locked-down system partition) can install app updates, Epic is right that user-downloaded app stores can’t automatically update apps. Letting downloaded apps install new code in the background without user consent sounds just a little scary, but maybe Google could add a highly privileged “app store” permission for downloaded apps to make companies like Epic happy. Epic also says it doesn’t like “dire warnings” attached to these permissions either, though, and correctly informing users of how powerful an app store permission would be would require a pretty scary-sounding warning. Epic was already caught irresponsibly using these powers once, when the Fortnight Installer opened up Samsung devices to a security vulnerability.
(Reuters) – Microsoft Corp has resolved a major outage to its Microsoft 365 services that impacted users of business products including Outlook and Teams, the company said on Tuesday.
The company said it has rolled back an update to its services, which had likely caused the disruption.
Microsoft did not disclose details on how many users were impacted, but outage tracking website Downdetector.com showed that at its peak nearly 8,000 individuals reported issues with Teams and Outlook on late Monday.
The issue, which persisted for several hours Monday night, had caused an uproar on Twitter, with several users complaining that the outage meant they could miss their job interviews and deadline for college assignments.
Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Arun Koyyur
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will get access to EA Play just in time for Microsoft’s next-gen console launch. EA Play is arriving on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on November 10th, the same day that Microsoft launches both the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. Only Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers ($14.99 per month) will get access to EA Play, alongside the xCloud and bundled Xbox Live Gold benefits.
EA Play will include access to more than 60 additional EA games, including The Sims, FIFA, Mass Effect, and many more. EA Play is similar to Game Pass but exclusive to EA’s games. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will also be able to download and play games from EA Play on Windows 10 PCs in December, boosting the collection of games available on the PC side of Xbox Game Pass.
Microsoft is also planning to add Bethesda’s classic franchises to Xbox Game Pass for both console and PC soon. The additions come after Microsoft acquired Bethesda Softworks parent company ZeniMax for $7.5 billion. Doom Eternal will be one of the first additions on October 1st, but Microsoft hasn’t yet revealed the full list of Bethesda games that will make their way to Game Pass.
If you already subscribe to both EA Play and Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft is canceling EA Play subscriptions and any remaining time over 50 days will be “rounded up and converted to the nearest month of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate at a ratio of three to one.” There’s a full FAQ over at Microsoft’s Xbox support site, but essentially if you have up to 3 months of EA Play already on your account, you’ll get 1 month of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate added to your account. Between 4 and 6 months of EA Play left on your account means 2 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate added to your account. Here’s the full table for conversions that Microsoft estimates will be added to accounts:
EA Play and Xbox Game Pass conversions
EA Play months remaining
Approximate Ultimate time given
EA Play months remaining
Approximate Ultimate time given
1 month and 14 days
1 month and 21 days
2 months and 14 days
2 months and 21 days
3 months and 14 days
3 months and 21 days
Update, September 29th 10AM ET: Added information on EA Play to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription conversions.
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