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Microsoft says it will open up the Xbox store in light of the Activision Blizzard deal – TechCrunch



Microsoft is working to warm lawmakers up to its plans to bring a collection of the world’s most popular video games under its wing. The company announced its intention to buy Activision Blizzard last month in a deal that would be worth $68.7 billion — the largest gaming acquisition of all time, if the deal goes through.

The acquisition isn’t exactly ill-fated, but it’s a risky time for Microsoft to attract attention from regulators. In the U.S., lawmakers and regulatory agencies have largely focused on some of the tech giant’s peers, particularly Meta (formerly Facebook), Google, Apple and Amazon. Microsoft’s name doesn’t come up in contentious conversations about social networks, advertising or online marketplaces, so the massive company has managed to mostly fly under the radar in recent years in spite of its size.

With the Activision Blizzard deal on the table, that’s unlikely to last. Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that the proposed acquisition will be reviewed by the FTC, an agency now chaired by Lina Khan, an antitrust scholar keen to disrupt escalating consolidation in the tech industry.

Microsoft President Brad Smith addressed regulators directly in a new blog post Wednesday, striking a cooperative tone and outlining a set of “Open App Store Principles” that the company will adopt in light of proposed regulation and its own plans to buy a cluster of the world’s most popular gaming titles.

Microsoft framed the new ideology as a preemptive effort to accommodate regulatory changes, but it’s also clearly an appeal to the federal government to sign off on the acquisition:

… We recognize that the emerging new era of tech regulation brings with it both benefits and risks, not just for a single company but for our entire industry. As others have pointed out, there are risks with any new regulation, and these deserve a fair hearing and thorough consideration. But as a company, we continue to be more focused on adapting to regulation than fighting against it. In part this is because we have been adapting for two decades to antitrust rules, and we’ve learned from our experience. While change is not easy, we believe it’s possible to adapt to new rules and innovate successfully.

The principles Smith lays out here touch on a handful of issues of interest to regulators, including a promise to not leverage app store data to compete against developers and a commitment against self-preferencing. The company also committed to not forcing developers to use its payments system or disallowing them from communicating with customers about better deals to be had on other platforms.

Microsoft says that the set of open principles is adapted from guidelines it created for Windows, but it plans to institute them for the Xbox “beginning today.” Notably, the company stops short of making those promises for the key bits about opening up payments in the Xbox store, though claims it will work to “close the gap” by implementing the remaining principles in the future:

We will not require developers in our app store to use our payment system to process in-app payments.

We will not require developers in our app store to provide more favorable terms in our app store than in other app stores.

We will not disadvantage developers if they choose to use a payment processing system other than ours or if they offer different terms and conditions in other app stores.

We will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their customers through their apps for legitimate business purposes, such as pricing terms and product or service offerings.

Smith also addressed some specific concerns around the deal directly. He confirmed that if the deal goes through, Call of Duty will still be available through Sony’s PlayStation “beyond the existing agreement and into the future” so Sony console owners won’t be left out in the cold.

“We are also interested in taking similar steps to support Nintendo’s successful platform,” Smith wrote. “We believe this is the right thing for the industry, for gamers and for our business.”

Smith notes that “other popular Activision Blizzard titles” will also get the same treatment rather than immediately becoming Microsoft exclusives. Beyond Call of Duty, the Activision Blizzard deal includes a deep roster of hit games like Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft, Hearthstone and Candy Crush.

The console wars enter a new era

It’s hard to imagine that Microsoft wouldn’t leverage the massive deal to draw gamers toward the Xbox side of the gaming equation, but the console wars aren’t as relevant as they used to be — at least, not in the way that we’re used to thinking about them.

During the Epic v. Apple trial, Microsoft admitted that the company subsidizes hardware sales and doesn’t make a profit off of Xbox consoles. Game sales and game subscription services are how console makers actually make money, but hardware isn’t totally irrelevant: Much like the app model, gaming is all about getting customers into your software store and keeping them there. Making hardware people want to buy is one of the main ways to pull that off.

If customers are playing your game on someone else’s console, your competitor can take a cut of that cash — the standard 30% — but you’re still making money. For Microsoft, deciding how open its gaming ecosystem should remain is all about doing that math and balancing it against the expanded customer base it’ll maintain if hit titles — particularly those with subscriptions and in-game purchases — remain playable across platforms.

Smith acknowledged this reality explicitly in the blog post, noting that app stores are both the future and present of the game industry. “Just as Windows has evolved to an open and broadly used platform, we see the future of gaming following a similar path,” Smith wrote. “… Our vision is to enable gamers to play any game on any device anywhere, including by streaming from the cloud.”

Of course, the way app stores work right now is subject to change. One antitrust bill wending its way through Congress, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, would explicitly prevent companies from self-preferencing and putting competitors at a disadvantage on their platforms. Another bill, the Open App Markets Act, would similarly tear down the walled gardens that software platforms have been tending for the last decade. Both bills made it out of committee in the last month and are likely looming large for companies like Microsoft, even if gaming platforms won’t be subject to all of the changes that could sweep over the App Store and other software marketplaces.

“We want to enable world-class content to reach every gamer more easily across every platform,” Smith wrote. “We want to encourage more innovation and investment in content creation and fewer constraints on distribution. Put simply, the world needs open app markets, and this requires open app stores.”

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Xiaomi 12S debuts Leica partnership and 1-inch camera sensor, but won’t launch outside of China – 9to5Google



Xiaomi today launched its latest flagship Android smartphone in the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, but this one is exclusive to the Chinese market.

The Xiaomi 12S lineup consists of three devices, the Xiaomi 12S, 12S Pro, and 12S Ultra.

All three devices share a camera partnership with Leica, the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, and a high-end package overall. But each device is a bit different.

Looking at the base model, Xiaomi 12S has a 6.28-inch FHD+ display, 8GB or 12GB of RAM, and 128/256/512GB of storage. The phone is powered by a 4,500 mAh battery with wired fast-charging up to 67W and wirelessly up to 50W. The camera array consists of a 50MP primary sensor backed up by a 13MP ultrawide and 5MP telephoto lens.

Moving over to the “Pro” model, there’s a slightly larger 6.73-inch display and 4,600 mAh battery (120W wired, 50W wireless), and also includes a camera upgrade. There are three 50MP sensors for standard, ultrawide, and telephoto focal lengths. Both phones also have a 32MP selfie camera.

Both also carry co-branding from Leica, an established camera brand that previously lent its name to Huawei. Xiaomi says the cameras on these phones were “co-engineered” with Leica.

The display also jumps up to an LPTO AMOLED panel at 120Hz, in contrast to the standard 120Hz AMOLED on the lower model.

There’s also a version of the Xiaomi 12S Pro that uses MediaTek’s Dimensity 9000+ chipset instead of Qualcomm’s.

xiaomi 12s pro

But the real point of attraction here is with the flagship Xiaomi 12S Ultra. This top-tier smartphone is focused primarily on being the ultimate piece of mobile camera hardware.

Alongside the core specs – Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, 8/12GB RAM, 256/512GB storage, 6.73-inch QHD+ AMOLED display, 67W charging, IP68 water-resistant – Xiaomi is using Sony’s IMX989 50.3MP camera sensor which is a huge 1-inch sensor. Sony just announced the IMX989 last month, and it’s one of the biggest camera sensors for mobile devices ever produced. Of course, it’s not the first either, as we’ve seen 1-inch sensors in a few previous devices. The big benefit to such a large physical sensor is better bokeh and light capture. Results will typically look closer to what a traditional point-and-shoot camera is capable of – Sony itself uses a 1-inch sensor in its RX100 series.

Lecia steps in to bolster the sensor with the 8P element lens and its coating. There are also special “Leica Authentic Look” and “Leica Vibrant Look” options in the software.

Beyond that primary sensor, though, Xiaomi 12S Ultra also packs a 48MP periscope telephoto lens and a 48MP sensor used for ultrawide shots.

xiaomi 12s ultra

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra is also the first Android phone to support Dolby Vision HDR recording with 10-bit h.265 videos that can be captured in HLG.

All three devices ship with Android 12 and Xiaomi’s MIUI 13.

The real catch here for folks outside of China, though, is that Xiaomi has no plans to launch the phone globally. Xiaomi usually launches an international version of its flagship smartphones for Europe and other parts of Asia, but that won’t be the case this time around, as Richard Lei of Engadget China reports.

Pricing for the Xiaomi 12S family starts at CNY 4,000 for the 12S, CNY 4,700 for the Pro, and CNY 5,999 for the Ultra.

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Asus ROG Phone 6, 6 Pro Gaming Phones Take Samsung's OLED to a 165Hz Refresh Rate – CNET



Asus debuted two new gaming phones Tuesday, the ROG Phone 6 and ROG Phone 6 Pro, which feature the newest Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor and a Samsung AMOLED display capable of running at a 165Hz refresh rate. Alongside the phones, the AeroActive Cooling 6 accessory that clips onto the line claims to both reduce temperatures by up to 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees F) from the back of the phone while including tactile shoulder buttons.

Both phones also include a 6,000-mAh battery with 65-watt charging, and additional sensors that add gaming controls through the phone’s gyroscope as well as along the phone’s corners. They also each include a 50-megapixel main camera, 13-megapixel ultrawide camera and 5-megapixel macro camera. Both phones also include a 12-megapixel front camera.


The Asus AeroActive Cooler 6.


The main differences between the standard 6 and the 6 Pro come with its storage and memory options: The 6 starts with 256GB of storage with models that include 8GB and 12GB of RAM, while the 6 Pro includes 512GB of storage and 18GB of RAM. The Pro also has a second display on the back that can show notifications, system information and animations. The 6 instead gets a LED logo that can be customized to light up for different situations.

These are all specs that — like other gaming phones — are meant to prioritize power and performance in order to get the most out of Android games. The battery in particular is especially notable and its 6,000mAH capacity matches last year’s Asus ROG Phone 5. That phone has one of the longest battery lives that we’ve seen on an Android phone, according to CNET reviewer Patrick Holland, and was accomplished through two 3,000-mAh batteries. Last year’s phone also had a very fast 144Hz screen though, and this year’s even faster 165Hz screen might affect how quickly it burns through a charge.

Having that 165Hz screen should also make animations extremely smooth, especially for games that are capable of supporting that threshold. I found during my review of the RedMagic 7, which also has a 165Hz refresh rate, that only some Android games support that right now since most phones cap out at a 120Hz refresh rate. For most people, 120Hz is plenty smooth enough, but for the gaming crowd this phone is targeted toward, 165Hz does bring out a bit more precision in what you can see.

Release dates aren’t yet available, but both phones are set to first arrive in Europe at 999 euros (roughly $1,024; £858; AU$1,510) for the 6 and 1,299 euros for the Pro. This puts them well into flagship territory in terms of pricing, and an uptick over last year’s ROG Phone 5, which started at 799 euros.

While we would need to wait for a hands-on with the phone in order to check out the Snapdragon chip in the phone, this latest chip along with the higher refresh-rate display on a Samsung-made display are intriguing as they both could eventually end up in more mainstream phones down the line.

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The Morning After: Xiaomi's flagship phone has a Leica camera with a massive one-inch sensor – Yahoo Canada Finance



Just six months after its last flagship launch, Xiaomi has announced another one. The Xiaomi 12S Ultra packs a massive one-inch, 50.3-megapixel Sony IMX989 main sensor. And unlike the Sony Xperia Pro-I, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra apparently uses the entirety of its one-inch sensor. And the camera unit itself? Well, it looks gigantic.



Inside, there’s a Leica Summicron 1:1.9-4.1 / 13-120 ASPH camera system that combines three rear cameras: a 50.3-megapixel main camera (23mm, f/1.9), along with the 48-megapixel ultra-wide camera (13mm, f/2.2) and the 48-megapixel periscopic camera (120mm, f/4.1). Both 48-megapixel cameras use a half-inch Sony IMX586 sensor. The circular camera island (continent?) has a special coating to mitigate lens glare and improve image consistency. Oh, and there’s a 23K gold rim as well. Because excess.

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra is now available for pre-ordering in China, ahead of retail launch on July 6th. The 12S Ultra starts at 5,999 yuan (around $900).

Leica has spread its bets over the years in mobile imaging partnerships. It has previously collaborated with Sharp, Huawei and Panasonic — Chinese phone makers are quick to pal up with renowned photography brands. In late 2020, Vivo joined forces with Zeiss, while Oppo and OnePlus released handsets jointly developed with Hasselblad.

The result has, broadly, meant better smartphone cameras from these companies looking to go toe-to-toe with the iPhones and Galaxy Ss of this world.

— Mat Smith

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