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What’s next for Microsoft’s $69 billion Activision deal after UK ban?

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By Paul Sandle

Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Wednesday blocked Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of ‘Call of Duty’ maker Activision Blizzard over concerns it would hinder cloud gaming.

The ruling was a shock after the regulator had already resolved its concerns about the consoles market, a sector dominated by Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox, which dwarfs cloud gaming.

Is the deal dead?

Not necessarily. Microsoft said it remained fully committed and would appeal. The regulator’s decision reflected a flawed understanding of the market, it said.

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How does the appeal process work?

Microsoft can appeal to Britain’s Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), an independent judicial body, which will only examine the CMA’s decision-making process, not the merits of the merger.

Microsoft will not be able to offer new remedies at this stage, such as offering to keep Activision content off its Xbox Game Pass, a subscription service for Xbox users, in Britain, as some analysts suggest.

“The CAT will not engage with the merits of the CMA’s decision or conduct a wholesale review of the parties’ evidence,” said Edward Lane, senior associate at law firm Harbottle & Lewis, where his particular focus is on creative industries, including film, TV, video games and music.

What’s next?

Microsoft must appeal by May 24 and a decision may take many months.

“The CAT aims to deal with ‘straightforward’ cases in under nine months – and Microsoft/Activision is anything but straightforward,” Lane, said.

What happens if Microsoft wins?

The Tribunal will return the case to the regulator for further review. Microsoft can then offer new concessions. “The likelihood is that without a material change in circumstances or new evidence, the CMA is most likely to reach the same conclusion as it did first time around,” said James Groves, a competition associate at European law firm Fieldfisher.

 

What about other regulators?

European regulators will rule on the world’s biggest gaming deal by May 22. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint to block the deal, which Microsoft has indicated it will fight.

If either of those blocks the deal, it could be game over, Lane said.

If the EU goes against it, Microsoft would be fighting an increasingly uphill battle and could decide to cut its losses, even if that would mean paying Activision a hefty $3 billion break fee.

What has happened to other CMS appeals?

Facebook-owner Meta appealed a 2021 decision by the CMA to block its acquisition of Giphy, seen as a test case for the British regulator’s resolve to take on “Big Tech”.

Meta succeeded on a single procedural ground, with the decision otherwise upheld. The CMA considered new submissions, but it came to the same view and Meta had to sell animated images platform Giphy.

Global financial services company FNZ appealed a block on its 2019 merger with rival GBST. The regulator then “identified certain potential errors” in its investigation chaired by Martin Coleman, who also oversaw the Microsoft-Activision case.
The CAT sent the case back to be reconsidered, and the CMA agreed to accept a new remedy whereby FNZ could sell GBST and then buy parts of it back.

 

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Motorola Says iPhone Owners Are Switching to Get Foldable Phones – CNET

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From Samsung to Motorola and Google, just about every major Android phone maker has released a foldable phone. But there’s one big, non-Android outlier: Apple. And according to Motorola, that’s prompting some iPhone users to make the switch. 

Specifically, Motorola has seen 20% of new Razr users coming from Apple products. That data point is from 2021 following the launch of the previous-generation Razr. 

“This is definitely the family that we have the most amount of iPhone users switching to us,” Allison Yi, Motorola’s head of North America product operations, said to CNET ahead of the company’s Razr Plus launch.

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Foldable phones still account for a fragment of the global smartphone market, but the category is growing quickly as tech giants search for the next major evolution of the mobile phone. Market research firm International Data Corporation estimates that worldwide shipments of foldables will increase more than 50% in 2023 compared to 2022. Motorola’s Razr line faces the most competition from Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip series, although Samsung hasn’t broken out its sales numbers to specify its percentage of iPhone converts.

This year is shaping up to be a milestone moment for foldables with the arrival of newcomers including Google and OnePlus, giving Motorola and other early entrants like Samsung more competition. Apple, however, is still noticeably absent from the foldable phone race, and that isn’t likely to change anytime too soon.

Apple hasn’t launched a foldable iPhone, nor has it announced any plans to do so. But these renders by YouTuber ConceptsiPhone imagines what a foldable iPhone could look like. 

ConceptsiPhone

Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst with TF International Securities known for his Apple product predictions, tweeted in April 2022 that he doesn’t expect Apple to release its first foldable gadget until 2025. A study from Counterpoint Research suggests there’s certainly demand for a foldable iPhone, at least in the US. Among the respondents, 39% named Apple as their preferred brand for a foldable phone, while 46% named Samsung — one of the earliest and most dominant players in foldable phones. Only 6% said Motorola.

The new Razr Plus and 2023 Razr are the company’s latest attempts to change that. The $1,000 Razr Plus, announced on Thursday and launching on June 23, has a giant cover screen that the company is betting will set it apart from rivals like the Galaxy Z Flip 4. Motorola is also launching a cheaper version of the Razr later this year for an undisclosed price that will be less expensive than the Plus model.

But whether it’s competition from Samsung or eventually the long-rumored iPhone Flip, Motorola isn’t fixated on its rivals.

“It’s not about what our competition is doing,” Yi said. “It’s more of what the consumer needs are, what consumers are wanting, rather than really focusing on competition.”

The Motorola Razr Plus 

John Kim/CNET

As first-timers like Google are just getting into foldable phones in 2023, companies like Motorola and Samsung are already brainstorming what could be next. Both companies earlier this year showcased concept devices with rollable or slidable screens that can expand as needed earlier. Motorola’s take involves a smartphone-sized device that can unroll to extend its display with the press of a button. It’s still a concept, and Motorola hasn’t said when or if this rollable phone will graduate to becoming a real product. 

But Jeff Snow, Motorola’s product manager for premium and flagship devices, said he could eventually see it becoming an “offshoot” of the Razr we know today. While both the Razr and the rollable concept aim to make phones more portable, they execute that goal through different means. The Razr’s clamshell shape enables it to fold shut, function as a regular phone when opened or serve as something in between when propped open halfway. The rollable concept changes its shape in a different way by expanding and contracting its screen.

“It’s a little bit of a different experience,” said Snow. “But we see it becoming part of the same category.” 

Motorola’s rollable phone concept

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Motorola is also evaluating larger book-style foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold, although Yi said she couldn’t comment on future products. Snow also said there’s “merit to that form factor,” but the company would have to make sure it’s not compromising the regular phone experience while also providing improved productivity and content consumption. 

“That space is taking off,” he said. “It’s something we’ll pay attention to.”

For now, the Razr Plus is Motorola’s biggest attempt at standing out in a crowded market, especially as Samsung and Apple continue to command the global smartphone market. The combination of technology improving and broader awareness around foldables makes now the right time for a new Razr, according to Yi.

“Sometimes you see the technology is ready, but the market is not ready to accept it,” she said. “And consumers are not willing to adapt or adopt. But in this case, we really feel that this is the right time.” 

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‘Diablo 4’ PS5 Players Hit With ‘Unable To Find A Valid License’ Error, Blizzard Comments – Forbes

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I’ll be honest, my jaw was hanging open a bit when I logged into Diablo 4 a minute after 7 PM ET, got a 4 minute queue which was…actually over in four minutes. I got in, created my Barbarian and I’m already level 4, pausing only to write this article. No wild wait times, no errors, no disconnects (yet).

But I’m on PC. PS5 players? They’re no so lucky.

At the time of this writing, there is a widespread error that says “Unable to find a valid license for Diablo IV (Code 315306).” This is happening, obviously, to people who very much have indeed purchased the game, so something is going wrong here with an interaction between Blizzard and PlayStation it seems.

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However, it may be Blizzard and console more broadly. I have heard of at least some Xbox players getting this error message as well, but overall players seem to be having more success with Microsoft. The PS5 error appears to be more widespread, for whatever reason.

Blizzard has indeed acknowledged the issue, via its community manager and a forum post here. They do say PlayStation specifically, even if a few Xbox folks are hitting it. The message just says:

“We are seeing reports regarding PlayStation users experiencing Invalid License errors. The team is looking into this right now and will update once we have more information.”

If you’ve come here for advice on a fix, I’m sorry I can’t help you yet, as there does not appear to be one. I would avoid drastic steps like reinstalling the 80 GB game or anything, as that is probably going to be unnecessary and not fix the problem anyway. But yes, there is a widespread problem, you are not alone.

Naturally, many Diablo players were concerned we could have another Error 37 issue on our hands, the old error code that endlessly crippled Diablo 3 at launch. It…doesn’t seem likely that we’re headed into something that bad. Given that this is a console-specific issues, it means that Blizzard’s servers are not totally melting down as a whole. This time around they also did a “server slam” and this is early access launch which are mitigating factors. But that’s cold comfort to PS players who can’t play yet because of the “no valid license” error.

As soon as there’s a new update on the situation I will post it here. Stay tuned, and hopefully this will be resolved soon.

Update: It seems this may be a PS-wide issue, as there are reports of many games returning the license error right now, not just Diablo 4. Bad coincidence or…sparked by a flood of Diablo logons? Not clear yet.

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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.

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Ahead of Apple's big VR debut, Mark Zuckerberg unveils Meta Quest 3 mixed-reality headset – Economic Times

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Just days before Apple‘s big annual conference, WWDC 2023, Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday announced brand new next-generation virtual and mixed reality headset, Meta Quest 3.

The new virtual reality headset, which features higher resolution and stronger performance, will launch later this year.

The Meta Quest 3 comes with Meta’s breakthrough Reality technology and a slimmer, more comfortable form factor. The headset will start shipping in all countries where Meta Quest is currently supported.
The tech giant said that it will share more details on the product on September 27 at Meta Connect. The Meta Quest headset starts at $499.99 (Rs 41,159 approximately) for the 128GB variant.

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“Meta Quest 3 is the supercharged all-in-one headset you’ve been waiting for — no wires required,” the company said.

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While making the announcement, Meta claimed that Quest 3 is the company’s highest resolution display and pancake optics that will make content look better than before. Quest 3 is also Meta’s first headset to feature a next-generation Snapdragon chipset which has been developed in collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies to give power to those extra pixels.”That next-gen Snapdragon chipset delivers more than twice the graphical performance as the previous generation Snapdragon GPU in Quest 2 — meaning you’ll get smoother performance and incredibly crisp details in immersive games,” Meta said.

Zuckerberg-led tech giant further claimed that the brand new headset are the company’s best-in-class Meta Reality technology that will allow users to seamlessly blend the physical world with the virtual one.

“These new experiences go beyond today’s mixed reality by intelligently understanding and responding to objects in your physical space and allowing you to navigate that space in natural, intuitive ways that were nearly impossible before,” the company said.

The upcoming headset is compatible with Meta Quest 2 catalog of over 500 VR games, apps and experiences, whereas Meta has more exciting new VR and MR titles lined up for launch.

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