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.

Read more

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.

Read more

YouTube live streaming Austin City Limits music festival all weekend

The Austin City Limits music festival is kicking off today, and YouTube is live streaming the entire event all weekend long at youtube.com/aclfestival. The live webcast will begin today at 11:30 a.m. PST. As for what acts you can expect to see:

The lineup is, if we can be immodest, stellar. Jack White and his hat. Florence Welch and her Machine. Iggy and his Stooges. You can snag time with headliners you’d never get so close to in real life, including The Roots, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Childish Gambino. Or check out rising indie sensations like Kimbra, Polica and Alt-J. Don’t know all the acts? Check out our playlist 10 Must-See Bands @ACL.

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.

Read more

LG shows off Optimus G, the future LG Nexus, in new 4-minute product video

Rumor has it that LG’s Nexus device is on the way and based on the LG Optimus G that we recently got hands-on time with at a media event in New York City. We might not have official word from Google or LG, but recent retail inventory listings and leaked images indicate an unveiling will happen in the coming weeks. Several reports agree the LG Nexus will sport almost identical specs to the Optimus G, but today we get a look at what we can expect from the new device with a lengthy 4-minute product video posted to LG’s YouTube account. Read more

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:

Read more

Google reportedly hiring for Nexus support call center

Today, Geek.com points us to proof that Google is preparing to open a call center for Nexus customers. Google is currently sourcing a third-party company to hire employees for the new call center, according to the report, with recruiters seeking “Android enthusiasts” to start in the next few weeks. The timeframe would of course line up nicely with all of the rumors of the LG Nexus and other OEMs preparing Nexus device launches, but Google is not publicly advertising the positions for now on its website.

Lack of support has been a big complaint among Nexus owners in the past. With the introduction of Nexus 7, and new devices on the horizon, we hope all this recruiting is really for a Nexus/Android-related call center. Google recently announced it would start phone support and email support for Apps customers.

Recruiters have been visiting Bay Area campuses looking for Android enthusiasts willing to come work for Google within the next few weeks. Applicants are not being told specifically what the position is for until after the applications are submitted, though the advertisement makes it fairly clear who they are applying to work for…We’re told that Google plans to have the call center fully staffed and trained by the end of the month.

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.

Read more

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.
Read more

Reminder: VP debate with Joe Biden and Paul Ryan to live stream on YouTube at 9 p.m. EST

The only 2012 U.S. Vice Presidential election debate, with nominees Vice President Joe Biden and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, will live stream tonight on YouTube’s Politics Channel.

The YouTube Politics Channel often swaps its feature video on the main page, as 9to5Google previously reported, but today’s prominent live feed is from partners ABC News and Yahoo News (above). ABC News just finished airing preview debate coverage with predictions, insights, and commentary by leading analysts, but the network will go live again this evening to cover the debate at 9 p.m. EST. The debate is scheduled to conclude at 10:30 p.m. EST.

The video below, now spotlighted on the channel’s main page, is “The Choice 2012″ by PBS’ Frontline. Additional preview coverage between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. contains live streams by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Al Jazeera.

A screenshot of the schedule is also below, or just check out the YouTube Politics channel now.

Read more