Google is currently trying to resolve an antitrust case in Europe over promoted links in its search results. In order to satisfy regulators, Google had offered to separate promoted links from native search results in a bid to end the EU antitrust investigation. The European Commission expressed its concerns over the original proposals and pressed the company to find better alternatives. It appears that Google has now improved its original proposals.
"We have reached a key moment in this case."
European competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia revealed today that Google's offer has improved. "We have reached a key moment in this case," he said to lawmakers in the European Parliament. "Now with the significant improvements on the table I think we have the possibility to work again." Google provided additional concessions in September in an attempt to end the three-year investigation into its search results complaints. Almunia has previously revealed that he keeps lines of communications with Google open in order to resolve the case, even texting Google chairman Eric Schmidt.
The case centers around claims that Google promotes partners in its search results while burying competitor links. FairSearch, a group of organizations that includes Microsoft and Nokia, has been the main opponent in the case, pushing the European Commission to reject Google's previous remedies. Google and the EU have not yet revealed details of the latest proposals publicly, and FairSearch has not commented on their effectiveness. While Microsoft, a key member of FairSearch, has faced its own troubles in the US and Europe, CEO Steve Ballmer recently branded Google a monopoly worthy of discussion with competition authorities. The case continues in the EU, and Almunia now says a decision is expected in spring 2014.
CEATEC, or Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies for long, is Japan's biggest consumer electronics show. Held at Chiba's gargantuan Makuhari Messe convention center — the same stage occupied by Tokyo Game Show two weeks previously — it's where Japanese companies come together in an effort to demonstrate the country's sustained potency in the global technology arena.
Unfortunately, little in the way of major news breaks at the show, and companies from sectors such as photography and gaming — where Japanese hardware remains dominant — are virtually absent. Products on show have mostly been announced at larger events elsewhere like IFA, and big names from other countries tend to stay away.
But as a snapshot of where Japan stands in the technology world today, it's hard to beat. Take a look for yourselves.
Zynga sued hookup app Bang With Friends earlier this year over the use of the phrase "with friends" that it typically uses for games like Words With Friends and Chess With Friends. After Bang With Friends was forced to rename itself to Down, the two companies have now settled their dispute. Down will now be renamed again, and CEO Colin Hodge says he's pleased the companies have "reached an amicable resolution" over the dispute.
The new branding will come into effect "in the near future" says Hodge, and a new The Next Bang site simply hints that the renamed app is coming soon. It's not immediately clear whether The Next Bang will be the new name of the app or company. The hookup app works by anonymously connecting people through Facebook by allowing users to select which friends they're interested in. A connection is then made if both parties indicate they're interested in each other. The app rose to popularity through its controversial nature, with many suggesting the idea could revoluntionize social interactions. The attention led Apple to remove it from the company's App Store following widespread publicity over its use, before it eventually returned as Down.
Spotify is making it easier than ever to start following musicians, record labels, and other curators with the debut of its own "Follow" button for the web. Alongside buttons to subscribe to different parties' updates on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter, you could soon start seeing websites add buttons that will allow you to immediately begin following their profile on Spotify as well. An example of one of the buttons is below:
The web button isn't otherwise changing the follow feature that Spotify launched this spring. Following others will surface what they're listening to, what playlists they've put together, and for artists, what new music they've put out. Those content to listen to their favorite tracks from decades past may have little need for following a mass of others, but for anyone looking to keep up on the hottest new music, Spotify's making it all that much simpler to make sure you're following your favorite tastemakers.
Grand Theft Auto V debuted last month to recording breaking success, but the highly anticipated multiplayer option is only launching today. Grand Theft Auto Online is free for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 users, and an update is rolling out to both consoles today to provide access to the new multiplayer world. However, early reports suggest there's some expected server issues. A number of players are complaining of slow load times and the inability to access Grand Theft Auto Online at all.
The makers of Grand Theft Auto, Rockstar Games, anticipated these issues in a warning to gamers last week. "We are working around the clock to buy and add more servers, but this increased scale is only going to make the first few days even more temperamental than such things usually are," said a company spokesperson. Rockstar Games also warned of "crashes, glitches, crazy bugs, gameplay modes and mechanics that need re-balancing and other surprises!"
#GTAOnline Won't load pic.twitter.com/SC7lbPvTqq
— Tom Edwards (@edwo98) October 1, 2013
#GTAOnline isn't even letting me go online just stuck at a loading screen saying "waiting for other players"
— KYLΣ BRADFØRD (@KyleBradford_) October 1, 2013
#GTAOnline is sooooooo slow right now. #snore.
— Patrick Russell (@Patman_Russell) October 1, 2013
Once the server issues settle down, the online mode will provide access to a game set a few months before the events in the single player version of Grand Theft Auto V. Players can roam the online world with friends and visit locations like shooting ranges or movie theaters. Those interested in the various criminal acts of the game can also rob convenience stores to earn reputation in the game. The reputation works like a currency to let players level up and purchase items and features within the online world. Players can also participate in races, joint missions, and sports. Although the servers are struggling with the initial impact of thousands of eager gamers, Rockstar Games will be monitoring the online world and wants feedback about any glitches "to smooth such things out as they happen."
Shadow of the Eternals, the spiritual successor to GameCube classic Eternal Darkness, has been placed "on hold." Denis Dyack, chief creative officer at Precursor Games, broke the news on the game's forums, stating that staff are set to "take a break" from the project.
Precursor tried twice to secure Kickstarter funding for its game — most recently bringing longtime Solid Snake voice actor David Hayter on board to voice one of the game's characters — but was unable to collect the capital needed to proceed. Precursor had decided to continue with self-funded development, and successfully submitted the game to Steam's Greenlight service for release on Valve's download platform.
"Is the project dead? No, but it needs a rest."
Shadows of the Eternals has been plagued with controversy since its announcement. Precursor started accepting donations for its game outside of Kickstarter, money that wouldn't be returned if the project didn't reach fruition. A few months later, one of Precursor's founding members, Ken McCulloch, was arrested for the possession of child pornography.
Dyack's statement reads like a farewell to the project, but he stopped short of confirming the game was canned outright. saying "is the project dead? No, but it needs a rest."
Toyota's future lies in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, rather than all-electric cars like Tesla's Model S. Company chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada spoke frankly on the near-term future of cars in a speech on Monday, noting that electric vehicles require breakthroughs in battery technology to become a viable replacement for traditional cars. The Wall Street Journal quotes Uchiyamada saying "the reason why Toyota doesn't introduce any major [all-electric product] is because we do not believe there is a market to accept it."
Toyota has invested in Tesla
The comments come despite a business relationship between Toyota and Tesla that has yielded component sharing and a large investment in Tesla itself. Toyota currently owns 2.5 percent of the fledgling manufacturer, a figure that was larger but decreased as Tesla issued more shares. It's clear that Uchiyamada understands the recently profitable company is correct in pursuing the all-electric market, but doesn't see it as an appropriate market for a company the size of Toyota. The Japanese company has produced all-electric vehicles, but continues to target the mass-market with its Prius hybrid instead.
Toyota sees hybrids as a 'long and sturdy bridge to the future'
Toyota will aggressively pursue the energy-efficient market with hybrid vehicles, with Uchiyamada calling the Prius "the most important vehicle for [Toyota's] future." Should the all-electric market, which virtually every other major manufacturer is entering, prove to be larger than Toyota suspects, the company is in a good position to transition over — hybrid technology "encompasses all of the technologies required to make an electric vehicle," says Uchiyamada. "Some people say hybrid vehicles such as the Prius are only a bridge to the future... but we think it could be a long bridge and a very sturdy one. There are many more gains we can achieve with hybrids."
Looking further into the future, Toyota plans on selling a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle for around $50,000 in 2015. Fuel cells generate electricity through hydrogen, expelling only water. The advantages of fuel cells are a lack of local pollution and the ability to quickly refuel, but hydrogen itself is difficult to transport and store, costly to isolate, and not clearly environmentally friendly.