Business, Financial & Legal News - Page 225
Here comes another blow to the search giant. Not only are they being investigated by both US and EU regulators, but they are now being sued. A lawsuit has been filed in California Superior Court that is seeking class-action status, damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. The lawsuit names California residents Dodd J. Harris and Stephen Sabatino. Harris is upset because he purchased the app "Learn Chinese Mandarin Pro" for $4.83 in December. He claims that the app did not work as advertised, but he was too late. It was already 20 minutes past his purchase. Google's return policy only allows 15 minutes.
Sabatino, on the other hand, bought "aBTC", a BitTorrent client for Android, for $4.99 in January. The product didn't work, however, he tried tinkering with it for an hour before attempting to unsuccessfully return it. In December 2010, Google lowered the return policy on apps from 24 hours to 15 minutes. They stated this was because "most users who request a refund do so within minutes of purchase."
In addition to the refund policy, the suit is challenging Google's app approval process, or lack there of. Google, unlike Apple, has previously allowed any app to be posted to the market. This has led to many apps on the market which contain malware. In response to this, Google last month added a new layer of security, dubbed Bouncer, which will attempt to scan apps for evidence of malware and bounce them.
US and EU regulators have launched an investigation into Google and the allegations that they bypassed the privacy settings of Safari users on both desktop and mobile iOS users. Google spokeswoman contends that these actions were unintended. She said, "It's important to remember that we didn't anticipate this would happen, and we have been removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers." Let's try to understand what happened in a little more detail.
Google has discovered that when they created a temporary link between the user's Safari browser and Google's servers, it allowed other ad cookies to be placed on the browser. Google has since been removing these files, but the damage for Google has already been done. These investigations could have Google on the hook financially for quite a lot. If they are found to have broken a settlement agreement FTC, they could be fined $16,000 per violation, per day. In addition, state attorneys general can levy fines of up to $5,000 per violation. And all of this is only state side.
A lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas earlier this week by 13 individuals alleging that "the defendants -- several of the world's largest and most influential technology and social networking companies -- have unfortunately made, distributed and sold mobile software applications that, once installed on a wireless mobile device, surreptitiously harvest, upload and illegally steal the owner's address book data without the owner's knowledge or consent." The defendants in question are Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Yelp and 14 other companies.
This claim, if true, is pretty worrisome for users of the apps, such as myself. Last month, one of the companies named in the suit was pressured into issuing a public apology after a Singapore-based programmer uncovered the fact in a blog post. An article, Mobile Apps Take Data Without Permission by the New York Times, was cited several times in the 152-page complaint. This lawsuit comes at a time privacy concerns over mobile applications appears to be steadily rising.[img]3[/img]
According to our source:
Apple, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this week's lawsuit. A Twitter spokesman said the company did not comment on pending litigation.
Regina Dugan, the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is leaving and joining the warm, cuddly arms of Google. Dugan has only been with DARPA for three years, but was "offered and accepted [a] senior executive position" with Google, according to DARPA spokesperson Eric Mazzacone.
Mazzacone also added that Dugan felt she couldn't refuse an offer from such an "innovative company" like Google. Dugan has accepted the offer, and will slide into an unspecified "senior executive position" with Google. Currently there's no word on when exactly she'll join Google, but it should be over the next few weeks.
Considering Dugan worked for a company that worked on shape-shifting robots, Mach 20 missiles and mind-controlled limbs, it would have to be an extraordinary opportunity for her to switch ranks and join Google. Working for DARPA must feel like working for Skynet, so maybe that's what made her change her mind? Maybe she saw some crazy things at DARPA that just made her want to disconnect and have more of a "real" job where she could talk about what she was working on with her loved ones, friends, etc.
It was only a little over 24 hours ago that we reported that game retailer, GAME, had "two weeks to turn its fortune around", but it seems those two weeks were a bit of a stretch. It's now being reported that The Game Group PLC is losing share prices, and fast. Dropping from 62p per share of last year down to a catastrophic 1.28p per share yesterday.
In response to this, the group has now placed their entire business up for sale, desperately looking for a buyer. GAME owns 610 stores in the UK alone, with 6,000 staff, as well as another 4,000 staff and 663 more stores across the world, with brands such as ScoreGames, Centro Mail, GAME, Gameplay, and Gamestation. The board has said:
It is uncertain whether any of the solutions currently being explored by the board will be successful or will result in any value being attribute to the shares of the company ... It has not been possible to source new products from a number of suppliers.
There's also a March 25th date of doom floating around for the troubled group, where their second-quarter rental payment is due. If a deal cannot be struck between now and then, the firm may collapse and go into administration. In the words of Hicks from Aliens, "That's it man, game over man, game over!"
The latest report from the PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA) paints a different picture to the "PC gaming is dying/dead" argument, citing record software sales reaching $18.6 billion in 2011, a 15-percent increase over 2010.
This increase in sales, is said to be attributed to China, where they're seeing a growth twice as fast as the global market, generating $6 billion for a 27-percent jump on-year. Surprisingly, no geographical market declined in sales, with the US, UK, Germany, Korea and Japan seeing a nice 11-percent boost to $8 billion in revenue.
PCGA does not that free-to-play games provided a very nice slice of that profit pie, with Zynga alone reporting $1.1 billion in sales. The report reads:
The PC gaming juggernaut continues unabated, across the industry and geographic boundaries. While reports of gaming sales at retail show signs of struggle, the impact hasn't been as great for PC gaming which had an earlier adoption of newer formats, business-models and delivery...
This is something quite surprising, given the state of the economies of the world. People find solace in gaming, instead of going out and spending at retail, on cars, houses, etc. Gaming is an escape from the crumbling world around us. So, PC gaming isn't dying, but it is changing. We've seen a departure from the bleeding-edge graphics, next-gen graphics engines outed every 12 or so months, mod-friendly platforms, "hardcore" gameplay, and so on.
Forbes has a nice article out, where they've stated that Valve co-founder and managing director, Gabe Newell is one of the richest people on the planet, with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion, he ranks in at 854th out of 1,226 global billionaires.
Newell made his debut on Forbes' list of world billionaires, as Valve had a smash-hit 2011. Valve had massive success in both in-house developed games such as Portal 2, but as a game distributor, where Steam doubles its sales for the seventh straight year, and now features over 40 million users.
With the "most conservative estimates", Valve's enterprise value sits at more than $3 billion, and because Newell owns more than 50-percent of the company, he is worth in excess of $1.5 billion. The privately-held Valve Corporation are hush-hush when it comes to revenues, and Newell himself doesn't comment on his personal finances. So, Forbes consulted with video game industry insiders, equity analysts, investment bankers, and technology analysts to figure out just how much Valve is worth.
The US is hungry for blood over the MegaUpload debacle, and now US prosecutors have filed papers that seek the extradition of Kim Dotcom, founder of MegaUpload, along with three colleagues, who are charged in the US with allegedly running a criminal enterprise responsible for online piracy of copyrighted goods.
The extradition papers jumped over the pond on Friday and found themselves on the desk of the North Shore District Court in Auckland, New Zealand, confirmed by the country's Ministry of Justice's spokeswoman said on Monday, according to PCWorld. It was decided on Wednesday by the High Court of New Zealand, Auckland Registry that Dotcom could stay free on bail, after government prosecutors acting on behalf of US authorities appealed a February 22 decision of the District Court to grant Dotcom bail.
The judge has said that he understands the extradition hearing won't take place until August, and also observed that for Dotcom "to be incarcerated for another six months awaiting the extradition hearing, the risk of flight has to be a real one". Dotcom has an electronic monitoring device monitoring his every move, which was one of his bail conditions, which has reduced the risk of flight, he said. He added:
Just three years after spinning its semiconductor manufacturing arm into a separate entity called GlobalFoundries (or, GloFo), AMD is now giving up the remaining shares they hold of the company to Abu Dhabi-based Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC).
The deal was announced late-Sunday, which includes a $425 million payment by AMD to GloFo over two years, as well as a renegotiated wafer pricing deal. This year, both firms have agreed on a fixed water pricing under a "take or pay" arrangements. On top of this, they've also established a framework for wafter pricing in 2013, as well as agreeing that AMD's additional 2012 quarterly payment obligations specified in the 2011 amendment, totalling $430 million, will be waived.
Still, AMD continues to be one of GlobalFoundries' key customers, with the breakup giving AMD more flexibility in sourcing its chips. It also gives GloFo a better position to diversify its customer base. One of the first things to come from this newly-formed deal, is that AMD are now no longer bound by an exclusive arrangement to manufacture their 28nm-based APUs at GlobalFoundries, something that has been rumored since November due to a slow, low-yield production ramp.
Kodak have just recently entered into an agreement with Shutterfly, where they'll sell their online photo sharing service to them for $23.8 million. The deal includes Kodak transferring more than 75 million Gallery customer accounts and associated images in the US and Canada, on top of Kodak overseeing the deal to ensure a smooth transition.
Kodak Gallery is similar to Shutterfly, where it manages online photo galleries and allows customers to print photo books and stationary. When the sale is fully complete, Kodak customers that do not wish to have their photos and personal data handed over to Shutterfly do have options. They can opt to download all of their saved content, or have Kodak make their data available for purchase via DVD.
The deal is not 100-percent yet, as Shutterfly have entered into a stalking horse bid with Kodak for the online gallery. A stalking horse agreement, has the debtor (Kodak) essentially testing the market in advance of an auction to maximize the value of an asset. This allows other companies to submit competing bids for Kodak Gallery before the company seeks Bankruptcy Court approval for sale and auction by late-March.