Monday, May 27, 2024

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EU Wants to Crack Open Apple’s Walled Garden Even More

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The EU has its sights set on Apple once again, with the bloc looking to force Apple to open its walled garden.

Apple is famous for its tightly controlled ecosystem. The company has already weather legal challenges within the US to its closed ecosystem, but the EU appears poised to issue further challenges, especially after forcing the company to adopt USB-C instead of its own Lightning port.

According to Reuters, EU industry chief Thierry Breton met with Apple CEO Tim Cook to discuss the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DMA is the EU’s sweeping legislation aimed at reigning in Big Tech, especially so-called “gatekeeper” companies that control entire platforms.

“The next job for Apple and other Big Tech, under the DMA (Digital Markets Act) is to open up its gates to competitors,” Breton told Reuters.

“Be it the electronic wallet, browsers or app stores, consumers using an Apple iPhone should be able to benefit from competitive services by a range of providers,” he said.

Only time will tell if anything more comes from Breton’s comments, but the EU is certainly not a jurisdiction to be trifled with when it comes to its efforts to regulate Big Tech.

Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Is Retiring

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Jim Ryan, the President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), has announced he is retiring after nearly 30 years with the company.

Ryan leads the division of Sony responsible for the PlayStation, and led the company during the difficult PlayStation 5 launch in the midst of the pandemic. Under his leadership, the PlayStation 5 is on its way to becoming Sony’s most popular console in the company’s history.

Nonetheless, Ryan says he has found it increasingly difficult to balance his work and life on two different continents:

As you will have seen today in the news , I have announced my retirement after nearly 30 years at Sony Interactive Entertainment. I did not take this decision lightly and I absolutely love SIE and our community, but of late I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to strike the right balance between having my home in the UK and my job in the United States. As mentioned in the press release, I will continue my role as President and CEO until March 2024. Effective April 1, 2024, Hiroki Totoki will be appointed Interim CEO of SIE while he continues his current role at Sony Group Corporation.

Not So Fast: FTC Renews Objections to Microsoft/Activision Deal

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The Federal Trade Commission is renewing its objections to Microsoft’s proposed purchase of Activision Blizzard.

Microsoft has been pursuing a $68.7 billion deal to purchase the game studio. The company has, however, been fighting an uphill battle against regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. While the EU eventually greenlit the deal, the UK and US both objected from the outset.

Despite withdrawing the initial case from adjudication, the FTC has decided to once again try to block the merger, according to an order the agency released:

The Commission has determined that the public interest warrants that this matter be resolved fully and expeditiously. Therefore, the Commission is returning this matter to adjudication.

The evidentiary hearing in this proceeding shall commence twenty one days after the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issues its opinion regarding the appeal of the district court decision on the requested preliminary injunction. Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell has determined that the evidentiary hearing will be conducted virtually. Pursuant to Commission Rule 3.41(a), 16 C.F.R. § 3.41(a), we have determined to make provision for appropriate public access.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has since softened its stance in response to concessions made by Microsoft, and has given preliminary approval to the deal. If the company is not able to prevail against the FTC, however, it would spell near-certain doom for the merger.

Threads Decouples a Bit From Instagram, Users Can Delete Accounts Separately

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Meta is making a major change to Threads, giving users the ability to delete a Threads account without also losing their Instagram account.

Threads is currently tied to an Instagram account, with no way for users to delete one without also deleting the other. According to TechCrunch, that is about to change, with Meta finally giving users a way to delete their Threads account independently.

“Technically, it was extremely challenging to allow deletion of a separate Threads account without also deleting your overall Instagram account out of the gate. So we paid particular attention to ensuring the user could still exercise their deletion rights, by deactivating the account to sort of hide all content, setting it to private or deleting individual threads,” said Michel Protti, Meta’s chief privacy officer for product.

The company says the new feature will be available by December.

Sling Rebrands Its Free Tier As ‘Sling Freestream’

Sling TV rebranded its free tier in February, representing one of the best deals in the streaming TV market.

Sling TV is one of the oldest and biggest TV streaming services. In recent years, however, it has been eclipsed by YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, and others. Nonetheless, Sling remains one of the best deals on the market, and its rebranded free tier solidifies that reputation.

Called “Sling Freestream,” Sling’s free tier includes “more than 210 channels and 41,000 on-demand titles – for free,” thanks to ad-supported programming.

“Sling Freestream is a great new service that helps meet consumers’ evolving needs,” said Gary Schanman, group president, Sling TV. “We know some people want free content, some may want a year-round paid subscription, while others may want to subscribe for certain events or shows. We have coupled world-class content with the option to easily flex in and out of premium pay TV, creating a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience.”

“On top of the popular content and a seamless user experience, Sling Freestream provides a premium advertising experience that benefits viewers and advertisers alike,” Schanman added. “Built on the same advertising tech that powers SLING, Freestream is yet another opportunity for us to lead, innovate and deliver a greater impact for our advertisers.”

The free service supports a wide range of streaming hardware and smart TVs. Users can sign up here.

iPhone Won’t Get New OLED Till the iPhone 16

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A new report says the Apple iPhone won’t receive new OLED tech until the iPhone 16, with the iPhone 15 slated to receive the existing tech.

According to The Elec, via AppleInsider, Samsung will use the same M12 OLED materials in the iPhone 15 as is currently used in the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max.

The next generation of materials, M13, seems slated for Samsung’s own phones, as well as those of other non-Apple clients. The next material upgrade for the iPhone will be M14 materials Samsung is already working on, and will likely be used in the iPhone 16.

While some will no doubt be disappointed that the iPhone will skip a generation of OLED tech, most people probably won’t notice, given how good the iPhone’s screen already is.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch Returning for a Third and Final Season

Lucasfilm announced Monday that its hit animated series Star Wars: The Bad Batch will be returning for a third and final season.

The Bad Batch follows Clone Force 99, a group of clones that have unique abilities and did not follow Order 66 to attack the Jedi. In the aftermath of the Jedi and Republic’s fall and the rise of the Empire, Clone Force 99 is trying to find its way, all while protecting Omega, a young clone who is their sister.

Much like Star Trek is best when it’s on the small screen, Star Wars does some of its best storytelling in animated series, and The Bad Batch is no exception.

Fans of the series will enjoy one more season, with Season Three set to debut in 2024.

Microsoft Cracks Down on Emulation on the Xbox

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Microsoft Xbox users are being told they can’t run emulated software, ending a long-standing ability gamers have enjoyed.

Gamers have been able to load emulation software on the Xbox Series X and Series S since their introduction, giving them the ability to run any number of legacy games. According to The Verge, Microsoft appears to be cracking down on the practice, with users being met with a message saying it violates Microsoft Store Policy.

“Unable to launch this game or app,” the message reads. “The game or app you’re trying to launch violates Microsoft Store policy and is not supported.”

According to Microsoft Azure developer Alyanna McKenna, the decision is the result of “legal issues with Nintendo.”

Disney Delivers Mixed News on Its Disney+ Streaming Platform

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Disney turned in its quarterly results, including a mixed bag of news regarding its Disney+ and other streaming services.

Disney+ gained some 12 million subscribers from the previous quarter, bringing the platform’s total to 164.2 million. The company’s total streaming subscribers, including Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu has now topped 235 million subscribers. This is an increase over the previous quarter’s 221 million.

“2022 was a strong year for Disney, with some of our best storytelling yet, record results at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment, and outstanding subscriber growth at our direct-to-consumer services, which added nearly 57 million subscriptions this year for a total of more than 235 million,” said Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “Our fourth quarter saw strong subscription growth with the addition of 14.6 million total subscriptions, including 12.1 million Disney+ subscribers.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news for the streaming services, with increased costs leading to a larger loss than the previous quarter.

Direct-to-Consumer revenues for the quarter increased 8% to $4.9 billion and operating loss increased $0.8 billion to $1.5 billion. The increase in operating loss was due to a higher loss at Disney+ and a decrease in results at Hulu, partially offset by improved results at ESPN+.

Sling TV Raises Prices

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Sling TV has announced it is raising prices, citing increased programming costs and rising inflation.

Sling TV is one of the more popular streaming TV platforms, appealing to users with its low pricing and à la carte package selection. Unfortunately, users are in for a price hike, with the company sending out an email to explain the increased charges.

“Thanks for being a valued Sling TV subscriber,” the email reads.

“Sling always fights for our customers and works with programming partners to keep costs as low as possible. Due to a continuous rise in programming costs and record inflation, Sling Orange + Sling Blue will increase by $5.”

The company does say that the price increase will not apply to extras, premium channel pricing, or other Sling TV services.