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Judge says Apple may not be required to allow Fortnite on the App Store – 9to5Mac



The dispute between Apple and Epic Games has been going on for about two weeks now, but this is probably just the beginning of a long legal fight. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who is hearing the case, said today that she is “inclined” not to require Apple to allow Fortnite on the App Store, but also that the decision to terminate Epic’s developer account may be reversed.

On August 13, Fortnite was updated to include Epic’s own payment system that let players buy in-game items for lower prices. Epic claimed that Apple’s In-App Purchases system forces developers to charge users higher amounts, as the company takes a 30% commission on each sale.

As Apple explicitly forbids developers from offering any paid content within apps by evading its In-App Purchases system, Fortnite was then banned from the iOS App Store. Epic Games started a public campaign inviting Fortnite players to join the company against the Apple decision, which resulted in Apple terminating Epic’s developer account.

Epic Games sued Apple for removing Fortnite from the App Store and also for suspending its developer account, claiming that the App Store rules are anti-competitive. In response, Apple said that Epic was seeking special treatment and that all developers are required to follow the same rules.

The two companies have yet to agree on how much time they need to work on their defenses before the trial (via Stephen Nellis). Epic asked for 4 to 6 months, while Apple said it needs 6 to 8 months. In the meantime, Judge Rogers said she may not “grant relieve” on Apple’s decision to ban Fortnite, but that doesn’t mean Apple will win this battle.

I can tell you right now that I am inclined not to grant relieve with respect to the games, but I am inclined to grant relieve with respect to the Unreal Engine.

In other words, while Apple may not be forced to allow Fortnite once again on the App Store, the judge may demand that Apple grant Epic Games access to its development platforms. Epic doesn’t offer other relevant iOS apps at the moment, but the company is responsible for Unreal Engine — which is used by several developers to create different games.

Judge Rogers expressed concerns about how Apple preventing Epic from accessing development platforms could impact the gaming business. She also considers that Apple has decided to give “retaliatory” punishment to Epic.

What Apple has done is reached beyond its one contact with Epic Games and is using hard leverage and has slammed Epic Games with this additional penalty. Remember, I just got this case, but it does to me look retaliatory.

Apple’s attorney Richard Doren argued that Epic decided to involve its customers in a business dispute, and that Apple wasn’t even obliged to give Epic 14 days to reverse the situation, but they did. Epic’s lawyer Katherine B. Forrest claims that this “is an act of maintained of monopoly, not the exercise of a contractual right.”

At the same time, Judge Rogers seems to be extremely skeptical about Epic not knowing exactly what they were doing when they decided to break the App Store rules and right after that announce a public campaign against Apple.

We still don’t have a specific date for the trial, but given the disagreements of the two companies this may not happen before 2021.

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Coronavirus: Third of tests in England 'not linked' to new NHS app, developers suggest – Sky News



The developers of the new NHS coronavirus tracing app have admitted that more than 60,000 tests carried out in England yesterday – just under a third of the total – cannot be linked to its systems.

The admission appears to undermine the central role of the software, which is to warn people when they have come into contact with anyone who subsequently tests positive.

The long-awaited NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app launched on Thursday across England and Wales.

This was the NHS app response to the issue, raised by a user on Twitter

However, in a response to a tweet by a user who said they had been tested but could not upload the result because they had not received a code, the app’s developers said it is not linked to test results processed in a Public Health England lab or NHS hospital.

“If your test took place in a Public Health England lab or NHS hospital, or as part of national surveillance testing conducted by the Office for National Statistics, test results cannot currently be linked with the app whether they’re positive or negative,” they wrote.

Official government figures show a total of 210,275 people were tested in England on Friday, including 61,481 in hospitals and PHE labs (Pillar 1) and 148,894 in testing centres (Pillar 2).

The admission on the app’s official Twitter account means the results of just under a third (29%) of the tests carried out a day after the app went live could not be linked.

More from Covid-19

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are urgently working to enable positive tests for people who aren’t already given a code to be added to the COVID-19 app.

“NHS Test and Trace will continue to contact people by text, email or phone if your test is positive advising you to self-isolate and for those who don’t have a code, the contact tracers will shortly be able to provide codes to insert in the app.

“If you book your test via the app the results will be automatically recorded in the app and the isolation countdown will be updated.”

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth questioned the issue on social media.

The shadow health secretary tweeted: “We all want to see this app succeed. We’ve encouraged people to download it.

“But have they really launched an app that doesn’t actually link to tests carried out by NHS hospital labs & PHE labs instead only including tests carried out via the outsourced lighthouse lab network??”

The Welsh government pointed out that Public Health Wales results can be processed and urged people to continue using the app.

Posting on Twitter, Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething urged people “shouting” that the app is “useless” to “please calm down”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called the new mobile phone app an “important step forward” in the UK’s fight against COVID-19.

The app includes a link to enter a code which people receive via email or text message from the testing service if they have tested positive for COVID-19.

It asks users to self-isolate for 14 days if it detects they were in close proximity to someone with coronavirus.

Those who are tested in a NHS hospital, PHE lab or under one of the surveillance studies, including the ONS, and test positive are currently contacted by NHS Test and Trace contact tracers by text, phone or email.

Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery, former chair of the ethics advisory board for the first edition of the app, said: “This is clearly a glitch. I imagine it won’t be that difficult to sort out, and the focus is on making sure the system is integrated.

“If they book the tests with the system they can feed them back into the app, clearly we haven’t yet got it right in terms of the other parts of the testing system being able to feed in and we would expect that to be sorted pretty quickly.”

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran told Sky News: “How on earth can we trust this government with our data with a test-trace isolate system that is meant to be the key to unlocking this country through this pandemic and keeping us all safe, when the very basics of the information that are meant to be given to this app, we find out over a tweet? It is just bizarre.”

A person on the NHS coronavirus contact tracing app, which Isle of Wight residents have been getting their hands on, as the island plays the role of guinea pig to the technology which is hoped to enable at least a partial return to normal life.

Is long-awaited test and trace app up to the job?

Sky’s political correspondent Rob Powell said: “This could be a fairly serious blow to what was touted obviously by the prime minister as a world-beating test and trace system.

“To add insult to injury, this appears to be an England-only issue.”

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AI Weekly: Amazon went wide with Alexa; now it’s going deep – VentureBeat



Amazon’s naked ambition to become part of everyone’s daily lives was on full display this week at its annual hardware event. It announced a slew of new Alexa-powered devices, including a home surveillance drone, a suite of Ring-branded car alarm systems, and miscellany like an adorable little kids’ Echo device. But it’s clear Amazon’s strategy has shifted, even if only for a product cycle, from going wide to going deep.

Last year, Amazon baked its virtual assistant into any household device that could accommodate a chip. Its list of new widgets with Alexa seemed a mile long and included a menagerie of home goods, like lamps and microwaves. The company also announced device partnerships that ensure Alexa would live on some devices alongside other virtual assistants, tools to make it easier for developers to create Alexa skills, networking devices and capabilities, and wearables. It was a volume play and an aggressive bid to build out its ecosystem in even more markets.

This year, Amazon had fewer devices to announce, but it played up ways it has made Alexa itself better than ever. That’s the second prong of the strategy here: Get Alexa everywhere, then improve the marquee features such that the experience for users eclipses anything the competition offers.

As is always the case at these sorts of events, Amazon talked big and dreamy about all the new Alexa features. Users will find out for themselves whether this is the real deal or just hype when Amazon rolls out updates over the course of the next year (they’re landing on smart home devices first). But on paper and in the staged demos, Alexa’s new capabilities certainly seem to bring it a step closer to the holy grail of speaking to a virtual assistant just like talking to a person.

That’s the crux of what Amazon says it has done to improve Alexa, imbuing it with AI to make it more humanlike. This includes picking up nuances in speech and adjusting its own cadence, asking its human conversation partner for clarifications to fill in knowledge, and using feedback like “Alexa, that’s wrong” to learn and correct itself.

Amazon is particularly proud of the new natural turn-taking capabilities, which help Alexa understand the vagaries of human conversation. For example, in a staged demo two friends talked about ordering a pizza through an Alexa device. Like normal humans, they didn’t use each other’s names in the conversation, they paused to think, they changed their minds and adjusted the order, and so on. Alexa “knew” when to chime in, as well as when they were talking to each other and not to the Alexa device.

At the event, Alexa VP and head scientist Rohit Prasad said this required “real invention” and that the team went beyond just natural language processing (NLP) to embrace multisensory AI — acoustic, linguistic, and visual cues. And he said those all happen locally, on the device itself.

This is thanks to Amazon’s new AZ1 Neural Edge processor, which is designed to accelerate machine learning applications on-device instead of in the cloud. In the event liveblog, Amazon said: “With AZ1, powerful inference engines can run quickly on the edge — starting with an all-neural speech recognition model that will process speech faster, making Alexa even more responsive.” There are scant details available about the chip, but it likely portends a near future when Alexa devices are able to do more meaningful virtual assisting without an internet connection.

Given the utter lack of information about the AZ1, it’s impossible to say what it can or can’t do. But it would a potential game changer if it was able to handle all of Alexa’s new tricks on devices as simple as an Echo smart speaker. There could be positive privacy implications, too, if users were able to enjoy a newly powerful Alexa on-device, keeping their voice recordings from Amazon’s cloud.

But for Amazon, going deep isn’t just about a more humanlike Alexa; it involves pulling people further into its ecosystem, which Amazon hopes is the sum of adding device and service ubiquity to more engaging user experiences.

Part of that effort centers on Ring devices, which now include not just front-door home security products but also car security products and a small autonomous drone for the inside of your home. They’re essentially surveillance devices — and taken together, they form an ecosystem of surveillance devices and services that Amazon owns, and that connects to law enforcement. You can buy into it as deeply as you want, creating a surveillance bubble inside your home, around your home, and on board your vehicles, regardless of where you’ve parked them. The tension over Ring devices — what and who they record, where those recordings go, and who uses them for what purpose — will only be amplified by this in-home drone and the car alarm and camera.

Whether Amazon goes deep or wide, what hasn’t changed is that it wants to be omnipresent in our lives. And with every event’s worth of new devices and capabilities, the company takes another step closer to that goal.

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Epic Games and Spotify are founder-members of a new 'anti-app-tax' organization –



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Deirdre O’Donnell, 2020-09-25 (Update: 2020-09-25)

I became a professional writer and editor shortly after graduation. My degrees are in biomedical sciences; however, they led to some experience in the biotech area, which convinced me of its potential to revolutionize our health, environment and lives in general.
This developed into an all-consuming interest in more aspects of tech over time: I can never write enough on the latest electronics, gadgets and innovations. My other interests include imaging, astronomy, and streaming all the things. Oh, and coffee.

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