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Slack accuses Microsoft of anticompetitive practices in EU complaint – CNBC

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Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack, waits to do a television interview after ringing the opening bell the New York Stock Exchange in New York on June 20, 2019.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Slack filed a complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission alleging anticompetitive behavior, the company said on Wednesday. 

Slack alleges in the complaint that Microsoft abused its market dominance to eliminate competition for its Teams work communication product by tying it to its popular Office productivity suite. Slack claims that move meant millions were forced to install the app without the ability to remove it. Slack runs a service that competes directly with Microsoft Teams.

Slack’s stock was down about 1% Wednesday morning and Microsoft’s was slightly positive. A Microsoft representative was not immediately available to comment. A spokesperson for the EU Competition Commission confirmed it received the complaint and said in a statement, “We will assess it under our standard procedures.”

The complaint stems from previous frustrations at Slack. CEO Stewart Butterfield told The Verge in an interview in May, “Microsoft is perhaps unhealthily preoccupied with killing us, and Teams is the vehicle to do that.” Still, Butterfield told CNBC earlier that month that “Teams is not a competitor to Slack,” even though a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission names Microsoft as Slack’s “primary competitor.”

Microsoft has largely avoided scrutiny from antitrust authorities in recent years after the landmark case against the company brought by states and the Justice Department around the turn of the century. In that case, U.S. officials accused Microsoft of maintaining a monopoly by bundling its browser, Internet Explorer, to its Windows operating system. Prosecutors argued that this limited the marketplace for competing browsers for Windows.

Slack’s complaint echoes aspects of that earlier Microsoft case by claiming the company bundles its Teams product to its Office suite.

“Microsoft is reverting to past behavior,” Slack’s General Counsel David Schellhase said in a statement in the press release announcing the complaint. “They created a weak, copycat product and tied it to their dominant Office product, force installing it and blocking its removal, a carbon copy of their illegal behavior during the ‘browser wars.’ Slack is asking the European Commission to take swift action to ensure Microsoft cannot continue to illegally leverage its power from one market to another by bundling or tying products.”

Slack’s move to file its complaint in the E.U. is telling. Though both companies are based in the U.S., Slack is undoubtedly aware of the E.U.’s recent history of aggressive antitrust enforcement under Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Vestager has brought record fines against Google and has announced or is reported to be investigating several other major U.S. tech companies including Amazon, Apple and FacebookSpotify used a similar strategy in March of 2019 when it filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in the E.U.

Still, the complaint is likely to raise questions among U.S. antitrust authorities, whose investigations of the tech industry have been among the most closely watched. Microsoft hasn’t completely escaped scrutiny by U.S. officials, though it has certainly seen less attention than many of its peers. The Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Policy Planning included Microsoft in its review of past acquisitions in the tech industry, a project that is not part of its enforcement arm but could dig up potential enforcement issues.

-CNBC’s Steven Kopack contributed to this report.

WATCH: How US antitrust law works, and what it means for Big Tech

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Samsung officially reveals Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra – MobileSyrup

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Following weeks of rumours, Samsung has officially revealed the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20.

In terms of look, both smartphones are very similar and take their visual cues from Samsung’s still somewhat recently released S20 series, but with a slightly more boxy design.

Regarding technical specifications, both the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra feature Qualcomm’s 5G-capable Snapdragon 865+ processor and start at 128GB of storage, though the Ultra also has a configuration that features 512GB of storage.

The Note 20 Ultra’s 6.9-inch curved Dynamic AMOLED screen measures in at 3,088 x 1440 pixels with a 21:9 aspect ratio and a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s important to note that, according to Samsung, the Note 20 Ultra’s screen can’t run at 120Hz when it’s set to 3,088 x 1,440 pixel resolution, just like the S20 Ultra. Other Note 20 Ultra specs include a 4,500mAh battery, an in-display fingerprint sensor, 12GB of RAM and Android 10.

On the other hand, the Note 20 features a 6.7-inch Super AMOLED 2,400 x 1,800 pixel display with a 20:9 aspect ratio and a 60Hz refresh rate. Other Note 20 specs include a 4,300mAh battery, an in-display fingerprint sensor, 8GB of RAM and Android 10.

In terms of cameras, the Note 20 Ultra features a 108-megapixel, 48-megapixel and 12-megapixel camera, on its rear. The front-facing camera comes in at 10-megapixels.

The Note 20 features a 12-megapixel, 64-megapixel and 12-megapixel rear camera array, coupled with a 10-megapixel front-facing camera.

In terms of new features, Samsung says the S Pen now features a 40 percent improvement in latency across the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, coming in at just 9 milliseconds. The stylus is also getting new S Pen gestures, including ‘move forward,’ ‘home’ ‘recent app,’ ‘smart select’ and ‘screen capture.’

Samsung’s Notes app has also been expanded with timestamps when you’re making a voice recording and taking notes, as well as PDF editing. Further, the Notes app now syncs with Microsoft’s Outlook and OneNote apps.

Other information worth noting is that Samsung says that smartphone features “optimized latency with powerful 5G connectivity” and “Wi-Fi optimization technology” in relation to Microsoft’s project xCloud video game streaming service. It’s unclear precisely what this means, but the experience with xCloud should be improved when the platform is running on the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra.

Dex, Samsung’s desktop platform, is also going wireless with the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, allowing users to view media on any TV that supports screen mirroring. Finally, the Note 20 Ultra features Gorilla Glass Victus, a new form of glass that is capable of surviving a two-metre drop and that is twice as scratch resistant as Gorilla Glass 6.

Samsung is offering the first 15,000 Canadians that pre-order or buy the Note 20 an ‘e-voucher’ available through the Samsung Members app that gives purchasers the option of 3-months free of Game Pass Ultimate, an Xbox controller and a wireless charger, or free Galaxy Buds+. With Note 20 Ultra pre-orders, you’ll be able to select between the same free gaming bundle, or Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds Live earbuds.

In the box, the Note 20/Note 20 Ultra include an S Pen, 25w charger, a USB C-to-C data cable, a screen protector, but no headphones. Despite rumours that Apple would be the first smartphone manufacturer to stop including wired headphones in the box, Samsung made the controversial move first.

It’s also worth noting that while the Note 20 Ultra still features a microSD card slot that works with up to a 1TB card, the Note 20 doesn’t. Further, the Note 20 features a flat display, while the Note 20 Ultra’s screen is more curved like last year’s Note 10+.

The 128GB Note 20, which is available in new ‘Mystic Bronze’ and ‘Mystic Green’ colours is also available in ‘Mystic Black,’ and costs $1,399 CAD. The 128GB Note 20 Ultra costs $1,818, and the 512GB configuration costs $2,029. Ultra colours include ‘Mystic Bronze’ and ‘Mystic Black.’

Pre-orders for the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra launch on August 5th with the smartphone being available on August 21st.

Image credit: Samsung

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Here's how to watch Samsung's August 5 Galaxy Unpacked event – MobileSyrup

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Samsung’s August 5th Galaxy Unpacked event will kick off at 10am ET/7am PT. The event will be completely online thanks to the ongoing pandemic, but it’s bound to be an action-packed affair.

The South Korean phone maker is expected to launch several new phones and devices. That includes the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Galaxy Watch 3, Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7 Plus.

Phew, that’s a lot of stuff. It should make for a hectic morning and potentially a long live stream for anyone who tunes it. Still, for Samsung fans, it should be a fun event.

For those interested in tuning in, it looks like the event will run a little different than in years past. For starters, you have to head to ‘www.samsung.com’ to watch it. When you first arrive on the site, an animation plays showing the tip of an S Pen dropping a copper colour, which splashes and fills the screen.

After, the site shows an image of a copper splash and says the ‘Galaxy Unpacked’ event will start ‘live’ on the website. Further, the Samsung Canada site includes a link to a sign-up form, although it’s not clear what, exactly, users sign-up for.

[embedded content]

There will also be a live stream accessible on YouTube (either by clicking here or watching the embed above).

For those who don’t want to or can’t follow along live, keep an eye on MobileSyrup for the latest from Samsung. Check out our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages for details as well.

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Samsung’s next folding phone needs to feel more normal – The Verge

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Today, Samsung is going to announce a giant pile of new gadgets. Here’s what to expect: Two Note 20 phones, a couple of Tab S7 Android tablets, a new Galaxy Watch, and Galaxy Ear Buds Live. I am on record that Samsung should have the guts to call those earbuds Ear Beans because tech needs to have a little more fun but also look at them.

The event kicks off at 10AM ET and although it’s an online-only affair, we’ll be doing a liveblog with real-time commentary — so you can find it all in one place instead of trawling for takes on Twitter.

If you ‘d rather just get the highlights, here’s a story stream that will have all the big news: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 event: all the latest rumors, news, and more.

When Samsung first announced the event, I wrote in this newsletter that the company needs a certifiable flagship — the kind of device that is the best thing Samsung can make, one that will put a halo on the brand and draw people in to buy the other phones. Of the contenders, I put my money on the Galaxy Z Fold 2.

The leaks in the past week or so have shown that the Note 20 Ultra isn’t going to be a sleeper, though. AT&T just whiffed and put out a video confirming nearly every feature in it. But the Z Fold 2 looks impressive in other ways: the smaller hole punch and the gigantic front screen resolve two of the many issues I had with the first one.

Rumor has it that the Fold 2 may be somewhat delayed (there’s a lot of that going around this fall), however, so we may just get a tease today. Late breaking rumors say we should expect “some real hype shit” about the design.

Something interesting has happened in the world of tech YouTubers and Android writers in the past couple of months: they love the Galaxy Z Flip folding phone. Granted, that’s an audience you’d expect to be into a fancy device like that — but also I think that it’s the only audience that really should be buying a fancy device like that. The people I see using folding phones the most are starting to advocate for them. That doesn’t mean you should get one, but it’s interesting.

If Samsung can make the Z Fold 2 just a little more durable, I think it has a shot at getting a small cadre of dedicated users who love it and advocate for it — something more than the YouTubers and writers, but enough normal users to form a community around the device. That’s not far from what happened with the original Galaxy Note, the phone that was panned as a “phablet” until its size became the new normal.

Every folding phone to date has been too expensive for me to feel comfortable recommending. Unless Samsung absolutely shocks me with the price, I’m sure that the Z Fold 2 will also not be something I think is a good value. Objectively, it’s only fair to expect it to be a thing for the very wealthy (or somewhat foolish).

Tech companies very much want to make folding phones just another option in the smartphone ecosystem. To get there, they need to be approachable not just in terms of price but also in their durability and technology.

It’s going to take a little more than a few devices from Samsung. Microsoft needs to get its Duo out the door (it’s not a folding screen, but it’s a similar idea). Motorola needs to make a Razr that doesn’t creak like a door in a bad horror movie. LG needs to, well, let’s not ask too much of LG right now it’s been a rough half decade.

I’d also like folding phones to become a normal part of the smartphone world, simply because I think diversity of form factors is good and leads to more innovation. One of the reasons the original Fold’s failures were so disappointing is they threatened to poison an otherwise promising new well.

The Z Fold 2 doesn’t need to singlehandedly make folding phones feel mainstream — but it does need to push them in that direction.

The course I’m describing here is one of slowly building momentum. It could fall apart at any moment if the phones themselves fall apart physically. But the Z Flip’s very modest success is something to build on. Here’s what I wrote at the end of that review:

If folding phones are ever going to stop being just expensive curiosities, they have to start being normal. I need to be able to just tell you about the screen and performance and camera, not spend the majority of my time explaining why this time maybe — maybe — the screen and hinge won’t explode. They also, obviously, need to start having much more normal prices.

Yup.


Apple News

Apple updates the iMac with new Intel processors and a better webcam. I’m pretty bummed that it’s not the new design, but I’m happy to see Apple sees that people want matte — excuse me, nano texture — displays. Hope it makes its way to laptops someday, and hope it won’t be a $500 upgrade when it does.

Greg Joswiak replaces Phil Schiller as head of Apple marketing. This is very big news! If you aren’t familiar with the names (which would be surprising), the thing I’ll note is that you should not assume “marketing” means what it does at other companies, either. It’s the central org for most of the stuff you care about from Apple. Here’s how it’s put in Apple’s press release:

Joswiak takes on the role of senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. This organization is responsible for Apple’s product management and product marketing, developer relations, market research, business management, as well as education, enterprise, and international marketing.

Apple is not interested in buying TikTok. Busy day for Apple news, honestly.

Google news

Android’s ‘Nearby Share’ file sharing feature is finally launching. Why did it take Google nine years to come up with a viable Android version of AirDrop? It’s ridiculous. If you’re an iPhone user, you probably have taken AirDrop for granted. Now if Google can get the Chrome browser on Windows and Mac to work with this, I’d be very happy. Better not take another nine years!

Nearby Share works very much like Apple’s AirDrop feature for the iPhone: you simply select the Nearby Share button on the share menu and then wait for a nearby phone to appear. Then whatever thing you’re sharing is sent directly over your transfer method of choice to the other phone.

Google Play Music will begin shutting down in September. RIP.jul

Google is adding new homeschooling features to Assistant smart displays and speakers. Most of these features are variations on broadcasting messages to your household. Nice, but also digital interactions can never truly replace the bonds that are formed by wandering around your house yelling your children’s names until they are forced to respond.

EU launches full investigation into Google’s Fitbit acquisition over health data fears.

More from The Verge

Prototype of SpaceX’s future Starship rocket flies short hop to 500 feet. Loren Grush:

The prototype is that of SpaceX’s Starship, a spacecraft the company wants to build to transport people to deep-space worlds like the Moon and Mars. The final version of the spaceship would stand at nearly 400 feet high and 30 feet wide, and be capable of sending more than 100 tons of cargo into low Earth orbit, according to SpaceX.

We can’t skip steps on the road to a COVID-19 vaccine. Clear, cogent explanation of why even in an emergency, rushing through the important third phase of testing isn’t a good idea from Nicole Wetsman:

Sticking with the car metaphor, once a vaccine hits the test track, there’s a chance it’ll stop running (not actually protect people from COVID-19) or, in the worst-case scenario, crash (have some serious side effects). Its first test drives have to be carefully watched, so that the people designing it can monitor exactly what’s happening.

Mulan is heading to Disney Plus on September 4th for $30. On Twitter, Julia Alexander characterized this move as a giant middle finger to the theater industry. No more waiting around and Disney gets to keep literally every penny of revenue from people who watch this. Disney says this is a one-off, but I doubt it.

Cloak your photos with this AI privacy tool to fool facial recognition. James Vincent:

The way the software works is a little complex. Running your photos through Fawkes doesn’t make you invisible to facial recognition exactly. Instead, the software makes subtle changes to your photos so that any algorithm scanning those images in future sees you as a different person altogether. Essentially, running Fawkes on your photos is like adding an invisible mask to your selfies.

The biggest problem with Microsoft’s fractured TikTok deal. Russell Brandom nails it:

Microsoft isn’t bidding for TikTok; it’s bidding for the portion of TikTok in four countries: the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. No one has ever split up a social network along regional lines, much less under threat of a national ban from the president. Peeling those four countries away from the rest of TikTok would be enormously difficult, and even if it were successful, it would leave Microsoft with an undersized and strangely regional social network, presenting significant investment and revenue challenges. Trump, ByteDance, and Microsoft have a lot to hash out over the next six weeks, but if they can’t solve that central problem, then none of it matters. And that central problem is much harder than anyone is willing to admit.

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