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YouTube will stream the CoD and Overwatch leagues in 2020

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USA Today Sports / Reuters

Activision Blizzard’s next big esports bet, Call of Duty League, gets underway today. While the company worked with Twitch in the past on Overwatch League, that’s not where you’ll be able to watch its latest foray into top-level competitive gaming. YouTube will be Activision Blizzard’s exclusive worldwide streaming partner (except for China) for both leagues this year, along with Hearthstone events and other esports endeavors.

As part of a multi-year deal, Google Cloud will handle the publisher’s game hosting and streaming infrastructure. In a press release, Google said Activision Blizzard opted for Cloud “because of its highly reliable global footprint, advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, and commitment to open source, creating a platform for building future gaming innovations.” It also suggested the company might use Cloud AI tools to provide “curated recommendations for in-game offers.”

Losing Overwatch League and a chance to stream Call of Duty League is the latest in a string of blows for Twitch. It hosted OWL for the last two seasons and paid Blizzard a reported $90 million to be the league’s streaming partner in a two-year deal. By some estimates, Overwatch League was the most-watched channel on Twitch in the third quarter of 2019.

A number of big names have also jumped ship from Twitch in favor of other streaming platforms over the last few months, including Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek and Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter. It did manage to hang onto some popular streamers, including Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo, Saqib “LIRIK” Zahid and Timothy “TimTheTatman” Betar, but losing OWL is another setback for Twitch in its quest to remain the livestreaming kingpin.

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Google dangles paid upgrade to businesses using Gmail addresses

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Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday unveiled an option for small businesses to upgrade their Gmail accounts for greater calendaring, video chat and email newsletter functionalities.

Google Workspace Individual, which starts at $7.99 monthly including a temporary $2 discount, adds to the company’s expanding efforts to have users subscribe to some of its services such as YouTube and Google Photos in exchange for more support and features than are available for free. Subscription sales could help Google grow revenue beyond advertising.

The small-business offering compares with existing plans aimed at larger organizations that have their own websites to use in email addresses.

Javier Soltero, vice president for Google Workspace, told reporters that his unit had been informally saving photos of business cards or work vehicles mentioning an “@Gmail.com” address to “remind ourselves of the sheer number of people using our consumer products to run their businesses.”

Those that upgrade for appointment booking, newsletter production and other tools should be able to provide a more professional experience to clients, he said.

Workspace Individual will launch soon in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Japan.

Google announced other changes to Workspace on Monday. Big businesses will be able to control encryption of their files on Google Drive for the first time and prevent Google from unlocking them. Airbus SE is an early customer.

All users now have access to Google Chat, the company’s successor to instant-message program Google Hangouts.

Now for the first time in years, free and paid users alike will have the same set of chat and email services, providing a common foundation that makes it simpler to develop new features, Soltero said.

 

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Facebook says remote working move could slow jobs growth in Ireland

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Facebook still plans to “aggressively” grow staff numbers in its European headquarters in Ireland but a company-wide policy allowing permanent remote work from other countries could slow that growth over time, its Irish chief said on Friday.

Ireland’s economy is hugely reliant on multinational firms that employ around one in eight Irish workers and any move to facilitate remote working abroad would add to the challenge already posed by a planned global corporate tax overhaul.

Facebook, which is one of Ireland’s largest such employers with around 3,000 full-time staff and another 3,000 contractors, will allow some workers to permanently relocate after more than a year of many working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible employees in Facebook offices in Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom will be able to move to another one of those locations. U.S.-based staff can also move to Canada, it added.

Facebook Ireland’s Gareth Lambe said it was still working out how many Irish-based employees would be eligible to take advantage of the policy. Fewer than half of its staff are Irish nationals.

“We’re going to continue to grow aggressively,” he told national broadcaster RTE, citing a move in the next year or two to a new 57,000 square metre campus in Dublin that it intends to fill with 7,000 employees.

“This won’t have on balance a material impact on the growth of employment for Facebook in Ireland,” he said, referring to the remote working policy. “We have a target this year of adding about an additional 700 employees and we’re going to continue to do that and we’re going to continue to grow,”

“But this is a significant evolution and in the future over the coming years and decades, it is possible that the growth of jobs and numbers may not be as fast in Ireland as it would have been before it.”

Lambe said Facebook’s main Europe, Middle East and Africa decision makers will continue to be based in Dublin, meaning its corporate tax status will not change. However those permanently relocating abroad would no longer pay income tax in Ireland.

Responding to the move, Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said one of the consequences of the pandemic will be a lot more mobility of workers across national borders but that foreign direct investment will remain “an indispensable part” of Ireland’s economic model.

 

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Apple hires former BMW executive for car project

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Apple Inc has hired Ulrich Kranz, a former senior executive at BMW AG’s electric car division, to help its vehicle initiatives, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Kranz will report to Apple veteran Doug Field, who led development of Tesla Inc’s mass-market Model 3 and now runs Apple’s car project, the report said.

Apple did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when Apple first started designing its own vehicle from scratch.

In December, Apple said it was moving forward with its self-driving car technology and targeting to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology by 2024.

 

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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