Colorado Dem Rep cautions FTC to rethink antitrust suit against Google

Jared Polis, U.S. Representative for Colorado’s 2nd congressional district

U.S. Federal Trade Commission officials supposedly want to bring an antitrust case against Google due to complaints about it suppressing competition in the market, but Colorado Rep. Jared Polis cautioned the regulatory body in a letter last week that such a lawsuit would be a “woefully misguided step.”

Many Internet businesses, such as Yelp and Nextag, have criticized Google at open hearings in Congress, asserting Google unjustly applies its search dominance to give web sites lower-quality rankings in search results. The effect would essentially push Internet users toward Google products that provide similar services.

Google has continually rebuffed any wrongdoing, and the Vice President of Engineering Amit Singhal even came to his employer’s defense on the Google Public Policy Blog earlier this summer —in an aggressive tactic not usually taken by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company—to spearhead the rumor-mill accusations in a “claim vs. fact” format.

Democrat Polis specifically wrote in his letter that an anti-trust lawsuit by the FTC would “threaten the very integrity of our anti-trust system, and could ultimately lead to Congressional action resulting in a reduction in the ability of the FTC to enforce critical anti-trust protections in industries where markets are being distorted by monopolies or oligopolies.”

Political newspaper The Hill, which first reported on the letter, further noted that Polis said the market for online search remains adequately competitive despite antitrust complaints:

He noted that customers search Amazon for shopping results, iTunes for music and movies, Facebook for social networking and Yelp for local businesses.

“To even discuss applying anti-trust in this kind of hyper-competitive environment defies all logic and the very underpinnings of anti-trust law itself,” Polis wrote.

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Google sponsors ‘Reroute/sf’ Hattery Labs hackathon with $10K in prizes for best innovation using Google Maps API

 

Google is sponsoring an upcoming hackathon by Hattery Labs that is awarding two grand prizes to innovators using Google Maps API.

The “Reroute/sf” hackathon runs from Oct. 19 to Oct. 21 at The Hattery, according to its Facebook page, and it aims to “improve transportation in San Francisco with technological innovation, and work with the City to make it real.” The three-day event essentially invites engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs to “make San Francisco a better place.”

The hackathon will host three challenges, i.e., “Collect the right data,” “Plan a trip anywhere – on-time,” “See what’s broken and watch it get fixed,” while senior representatives from the City of San Francisco and the technology community will determine who wins the following four prizes:

  • Best Innovation using Google Maps API | $7,500 Grant
  • Runner-up Innovation using Google Maps API | $2,500 Grant
  • Best Public Transit Innovation | $500 Clipper Card credit
  • Best Collaboration | 3 free General Assembly classes per team member

Aside from Google, the Hattery, the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Waze, Google Maps, and the General Assembly sponsor the hackathon. The Hattery is a collection of experts ranging from designers and engineers to investors and brand marketers, and some of their most notable collaborative work under Hattery Labs includes giving people clean water and helping Haitians rebuild schools through WellDone and Haiti School Project, respectively.

Registration details below.

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Google Doodle celebrates the marvel of ‘Little Nemo’ and his 107th birthday (video)

Little Nemo first appeared in the New York Herald on Oct. 15, 1905 as the protagonist kid of the “Little Nemo in Slumberland” comic strip, and Google is commemorating the tale’s 107th birthday today with an interactive doodle on the homepage.

Windsor McCay’s early 20th-century newspaper cartoon lasted nine years, while Little Nemo later inspired a slew of spin-offs such as the 1989 animated film “Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland” (YouTube video below).

Google’s visually breathtaking doodle transports Web surfers to the fanciful world of Slumberland. Folks can follow Nemo as he falls from his bed into a starlit-realm of dreams and continues tumbling for seven more panes until he ends up back in bed—tussled and amazed. It is certainly one of the search giant’s most stunning doodles ever.

Google’s full artwork for the doodle is below, while “Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland” is above.

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Microsoft launching Xbox Music tomorrow for Xbox, with an Android app coming later

Image via The Verge

Microsoft announced this evening its new music service, called “Xbox Music”, that aims to compete with iTunes, Spotify and RDIO. The service is set to launch tomorrow for the Xbox 360 and Oct. 26 for Windows 8 (coming pre-installed) and Windows Phone 8 devices. GigaOm noted the service will also launch as an Android app shortly after:

But the biggest story to me is that Xbox Music will embrace Android and iOS. Jerry Johnson, general manager of Xbox Music, wasn’t able to tell me exactly when the apps for those two platforms are going to come out, but the sense that I took away from the briefing was that his team is working on making it happen sooner rather than later. Xbox Music on Android and iOS will look very much like Xbox Music on Windows Phone 8, which itself in many ways follows the style formerly known as Metro.

There is no word on what pricing Android users will see, but Microsoft said it will offer a free ad-support version for Windows 8 device owners and a $10 ad-free plan for those wanting an ad-free experience.

More details are at TechCrunch.

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Report: FTC officials ‘convinced’ Google illegally used dominance to stifle competition, eyes antitrust case

A Reuters report (via CNBC) from this afternoon claimed top U.S. Federal Trade Commission officials want to bring an antitrust case against Google over numerous complaints about it abusing search dominance to suppress competition in the market.

The FTC announced earlier this year that Washington lawyer Beth Wilkinson is leading its investigation, while FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said last month they would reach a decision by 2013. If found guilty, the FTC and Google could enter settlement talks to resolve the matter or duke it out in court.

Reuters cited “three people familiar with the matter,” and it indicated Google could soon face the gristly negotiation process:

Four of the FTC commissioners have become convinced after more than a year of investigation that Google illegally used its dominance of the search market to hurt its rivals, while one commissioner is skeptical, the sources said. All three declined to be named to protect working relationships. Two of the sources said a decision on how to proceed could come in late November or early December. A long list of companies has been complaining to the FTC, arguing that the agency should crack down on Google.

Yelp  and Nextag have both criticized Google at open hearings in Congress, according to Reuters, asserting Google unjustly gives “their web sites low quality rankings in search results to steer Internet users away from their websites and toward Google products that provide similar services.”

Google has continually rebuffed any lawlessness or partial practices, and the search engine’s vice president of engineering, Amit Singhal, even stormed to the Google Public Policy Blog earlier this summer, in an aggressive tactic not usually taken by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company, to address the antitrust accusations in a “claim vs. fact” format.

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Google invests in state lobbying to make markets for driverless cars of the future (Video)

The Wall Street Journal just published a lengthy report detailing how Google convinced Nevada state assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, as well as other states’ transportation committees, to introduce legislation that would help legalize its driverless cars for streets.

“This will save taxpayers countless millions of dollars and revolutionize driving as we know it. No more being distracted, no more accidents, and not another DUI attorney again.”

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company persuaded lawmakers, according to The Wall Street Journal, with “demonstrations and rides in its exotic cars,” and it subsequently earned “legislative wins” in Nevada, California, and Florida. There are even bills pending before legislators in Hawaii, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia:

In the process, the Mountain View, Calif., company is building its credentials as an astute political operator. Google has been “pretty savvy” at navigating state capitols, said Frank Douma, a transportation-policy author and associate director at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. With its self-driving cars, Google “knew what they were doing by moving forward in Nevada” before approaching bigger states, he said. “If you blow it in the first state, you’ve really got problems.”

Success at legalizing self-driving car technology has broader implications for Google. Skills learned from lobbying state lawmakers could aid other endeavors that will require local policy-making, including the potential expansion of its Google Fiber Internet and TV service into markets dominated by cable companies.

Google spent roughly $9 million during the first and second quarters of 2012 lobbying in Washington and coaxing lawmakers and U.S. Department of Transportation officials, but Google did not disclose how much went toward lobbying state officials.

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YouTube optimizes search to reward engaging videos

YouTube is tweaking the way it ranks videos as part of its recent trend to improve video discovery.

Google’s video-sharing platform made changes to Suggest Videos in March, and it refreshed YouTube Analytics just yesterday, and now it is attempting to applaud and boost popular videos with new optimizations to ranking.

YouTube elaborated on the official YouTube Creator blog:

The experimental results of this change have proven positive — less clicking, more watching. We expect the amount of time viewers spend watching videos from search and across the site to increase.  As with previous optimizations to our discovery features, this should benefit your channel if your videos drive more viewing time across YouTube.

YouTube does not detail the exact adjustments, but it clearly wants to feed engaging videos to users who do not have a specific search query in mind. The result, as YouTube suggested above, will not only supply users with trending video but will also pipe more views to successful publishers.

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Gmail for Android 4.2 set to gain pinch-to-zoom, swipe-to-delete/archive, and more [Video]

Today, we are getting a look at what Android Police claimed is a new build of Gmail—one that “may or may not have come from an LG Nexus system dump.” Among the big new features for Gmail version 4.2, which the report noted also runs fine on Android 4.1, is pinch-to-zoom within your inbox. On top of that highly requested feature, the new Gmail will also get the ability to swipe to delete or archive.

The new app now provides a few options for swiping your conversation list, including: “Has no effect,” “Archive, delete,” or “Always delete.” The default option, “Archive or delete”, will archive conversations in your inbox, delete conversations when in All mail or sent, and it will remove the current label when viewing regular labels.

Also noted is the ability to report a message as phishing. It is unclear exactly when we might be able to get our hands on the new Gmail build, but we will keep you posted as always.

Handwriting recognition company Vision Objects announces deal with Samsung for Galaxy Note apps

Vision Objects, a company that provides handwriting recognition and digital ink technologies for various platforms, today announced a deal with Samsung to develop apps for the Galaxy Note line of devices. According to the company’s press release (below), Samsung has already integrated the technology into the input panel and S Note personal note-taker app in the Galaxy Note, Note II, and Note 10.1.

“Our partnership with Samsung is a great step forward in showing the industry that smartphones and tablets can be used for content creation and not solely for media consumption,” said Stefan Knerr, Founder and CEO of Vision Objects. “The tablet market is driven by mobility needs – but until now tablets have been used to access information, not create it. With our handwriting recognition and the S Pen, people can now expect a lot more from their device for uses such as note taking in meetings and lectures, writing messages, ideation and brainstorming, data capture in enterprises, document annotation, easily entering mathematical expressions, educational games and more.”

The company makes a number of apps for the desktop, Android, and iOS, but today it is updating its MyScript Notes Mobile iOS app with functionality similar to the smart note taking on Galaxy Note. The full press release from Vision Objects is below:

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YouTube rolls out improved analytics with more time watched data and annotation reporting

Google announced a few updates for YouTube Analytics today on the YouTube Creators blog. The new tools for content creators include enhanced “time watched” data, a beta version of “Annotations report,” and a few UI improvements.

For time-watched data, which Google originally rolled out earlier this year, channel owners can now see an enhanced Views report that includes “estimated minutes watched”. It also features other metrics from a “Compare metric” drop down menu, such as: “Monetizable views”, “Unique viewers”, “Estimated minutes watched”, and “Total estimated earnings”. You will also now find “Annotations (Beta)” in the YouTube Analytics sidebar, allowing you to “view data on the performance of your video annotations, with insights on viewer click and close rates.

As for design changes, there is now a Date Slider to easily adjust the time period you are viewing data for, a metadata section with data for video duration and lifetime views, and video hover cards to quickly view a thumbnail and info for your videos.

Samsung lifts the cloak on S III’s mini-me, the Galaxy S III mini (Gallery)

As promised yesterday, Samsung just unveiled the Galaxy S III mini in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Jelly Bean-powered handset features many of the same specs as the original Galaxy S, but the most noteworthy include a 4-inch WVGA Super AMOLED display, dual core 1GHz chipset, support for Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.0, and a 1,500 mAh battery. It also features a 5-megapixel VGA front-facing camera with LED flash, 720p video recording and playback, 8GB RAM, and MicroSD up to 32 GB.

The S III mini essentially packs the S III experience into a 4-inch screen at a presumably more pocket-friendly cost; however, Samsung did not announce details on pricing and availability. Check out the presser and gallery below for more information on this practical smartphone.

The press release is below.

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US court reverses Apple’s injunction on Samsung Galaxy Nexus

U.S. Judge Lucy Koh granted Apple’s request for a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone in June, and the decision resulted in the temporary removal of the device from Google Play pending a software fix with Android 4.1. Today, Reuters reported that Apple’s U.S. injunction on the Galaxy Nexus has been reversed. 

TheNextWeb got its hands on the official order. Samsung argued that its product would “sell almost as well without incorporating the patented feature” :

Samsung argued, somewhat humiliatingly, that the sales of the Galaxy Nexus were so poor that they didn’t pose a threat to Apple’s iPhone and that the unified search feature was not essential to the success of its device. The appeals court apparently agrees, as it states in its official order:

…it may very well be that the accused product would sell almost as well without incorporating the patented feature. And in that case, even if the competitive injury that results from selling the accused device is substantial, the harm that flows from the alleged infringement (the only harm that should count) is not.

According to Reuters, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled the court “abused its discretion in entering an injunction” and will send the case back to the California court for consideration.
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