TIME Companies

European Parliament Calls for Possible Breakup of Google

The vote went through despite U.S. concern over its politicization

The European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution Thursday asking the European Commission to consider breaking up Google as a means to address what some in Europe view as Google’s abuse of its dominance in search to benefit its other products.

The vote succeeded by an overwhelming margin of 458 to 173, the Wall Street Journal reports. The resolution is non-binding and Parliament has no power to break up Google on its own. Still, lawmakers are hoping it will put pressure on the European Commission, currently investigating Google’s search practices on the continent, to take action against the tech giant.

The resolution went forward despite the United States expressing “concern” over what it perceives as an unnecessary politicization of the anti-trust probe.

[WSJ]

TIME Gadgets

You Can Now Watch South Park on Your Chromecast

South Park
Characters from the cartoon TV show "South Park", including Elton John (rear) with (from L to R) Kenny, Stan, Kyle and Cartman are featured in a 1998 episode. Getty Images—Getty Images

Also Epix, Encore and Seasame Street Go

Google’s streaming stick Chromecast is getting some popular new content for the Thanksgiving holiday. The device will now support apps for Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street Go and TuneIn. Chromecast will also add more movies with the addition of Epix and Encore and more international content with the addition of the Indian television service YuppTV.

Chromecast seems to have been the most successful of Google’s many attempts to invade the living room. The device’s simple design and low price have been imitated by competitors like Roku and Amazon, which have either launched new streaming sticks or redesigned older models since the Chromecast’s release.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A bipartisan plan in North Carolina shrunk prison population and cut costs while the crime rate continued to fall. Can it serve as a model for other states?

By the Justice Center at the Council of State Governments

2. In international development, the massively scaleable transformative idea is usually too good to be true.

By Michael Hobbes in the New Republic

3. Net Neutrality could have a big impact on the future of healthcare, from telemedicine to electronic medical records.

By Darius Tahir in Modern Healthcare

4. Today’s renewable energy technologies won’t save us from climate change. We need new ideas.

By Ross Koningstein & David Fork in IEEE Spectrum

5. We must understand and counter the major trends fueling the ranks of Islamic radicals.

By Maha Yahya in the National Interest

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Tech

Why the War Between Apple and Android is Over

A visitor looks at Apple's website on the new Samsung Galaxy Note 4, in a Samsung pop-up shop in Soho in New York.
Richard Levine—Alamy

This is Tim Cook's Apple now—and Cook vehemently disdains litigation.

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

– Steve Jobs

You’ve undoubtedly heard this infamous quote by now from the late Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 1.1905% co-founder, which was included in his official biography that was published shortly after his death in 2011. Steve Jobs’ loathing for Google GOOGLE INC. GOOG -0.1312% Android was perfectly captured in this quote.

Over the years, this “thermonuclear war” has raged on, with Apple primarily targeting rival Android OEMs as opposed to Google itself. Naturally, the highest profile case was against Samsung, but Apple has also conducted its patent warfare through The Rockstar Consortium, a joint venture owned by 5 prominent tech companies. Apple and Microsoft are two of the main backers.

Rockstar was the entity that outbid Google in the 2011 auction to acquire Nortel’s massive patent portfolio, winning out with a $4.5 billion offer. Apple put up $2.6 billion of that total, presumably making it the majority owner of Rockstar.

That portfolio included important intellectual property surrounding Wi-Fi networking and cellular connectivity, among many other areas related to mobile technology. Rockstar proceeded to sue Google and numerous Android OEMs like Samsung and HTC with said patents a little over a year ago.

Well, Rockstar and Google just settled their differences, which could signal that Apple’s “thermonuclear war” is over.

War changes

No dollar terms for the settlement were disclosed, but the bigger story here is an underlying strategic shift for Apple. Cisco CISCO SYSTEMS INC. CSCO 0.5315% was also on the receiving end of patent litigation, and similarly just announced a settlement with Rockstar that will result in a $188 million pre-tax charge.

The patent wars have raged on for years, with little effect on the underlying competitive dynamics of the smartphone industry. From a financial perspective, litigation is unlikely to be worth the trouble, and it now seems that Rockstar’s shareholders (the 5 tech companies) are wary of the distraction and want to exit the consortium. Chances are that Rockstar will never come out ahead compared to the $4.5 billion it paid.

Apple also settled its litigation with Motorola Mobility earlier this year, while the handset maker was still officially under Google’s multi-colored flag (Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola closed in October). At the time, Apple and Google said they would work together in advocating for patent reform. In August, Apple and Samsung settled all of their outstanding patent disputes outside of the U.S. as well. Neither of these settlements includes any cross-licensing agreements.

Why the sudden change of iHeart?

A changing of the guard

There are a handful reasons why Apple’s war on Android would never bear fruit and why it may be giving up.

Apple’s primary goal was never to make money from these patent suits (it makes plenty of money as it is). It was trying to block popular Android devices from the market. But the underlying strategy of trying to preclude Android devices from the market was inherently doomed, considering the open-source nature of the platform and the sheer number of OEMs making Android devices.

Perhaps most importantly, the strategy was implemented under Steve Jobs. As you can see from the quote above, he had rather strong feelings on the matter. So strong, in fact, that they weren’t pragmatic. Not only would spending Apple’s $40 billion in cash (at the time) be an obvious breach of fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, but the company would have no chance of succeeding at keeping Android off the market. Naturally, Jobs was probably just being a little melodramatic.

But this is Tim Cook’s Apple now, which is very different than Steve Jobs’ Apple in more ways than one. Specifically, Cook vehemently disdains litigation. Here’s Cook on the Q2 2012 earnings conference call, less than a year after becoming CEO:

I’ve always hated litigation and I continue to hate it. We just want people to invent their own stuff. So if we could get some kind of arrangement where we could be assured that’s the case in a fair settlement on the stuff that’s occurred, I would highly prefer to settle versus battle. But the key thing is that it’s very important that Apple not become the developer for the world. We need people to invent their own stuff.

Philosophically, Apple just doesn’t want its rivals to continue copying its hardware and software designs. Legally, the company has limited options on how to stop it, particularly as it’s become painfully obvious that patent suits aren’t effective. That’s especially true for a Chinese competitor like Xiaomi, which mostly operates outside the jurisdiction of U.S. patent courts while China is notorious for weak intellectual property rights.

Fighting words

Without a doubt, Apple is just as upset about Xiaomi’s copying ways as it is about Samsung’s copying ways. Design chief Jony Ive has spoken twice in recent months regarding the Chinese smartphone maker. Here’s Ive at a Vanity Fair conference in October:

I’ll stand a little bit harsh. I don’t see it as flattery. When you’re doing something for the first time, you don’t know it’s going to work. You spend seven or eight years working on something, and then it’s copied. I have to be honest, the first thing I can think, all those weekends that I could have at home with my family but didn’t. I think it’s theft, and it’s lazy.

Ive’s comments at London’s Design Museum last week echo the same notion:

We may seem a little testy when things we have been working on for eight years are copied in six months – but it wasn’t inevitable that it was going to work. It’s not copying; it’s theft. They stole our time, time we could have had with our families. I actually feel quite strongly about it. It’s funny – I was talking to somebody and they said do you think when somebody copies what you do it’s flattering? No.

Naturally, Xiaomi adamantly denies the allegations. You be the judge.

The market will work itself out

By his own admission, Ive is not a shrewd businessman; Ive is a designer and he’s justifiably angry. However, the fact still stands that Apple has little effective recourse to stop companies like Xiaomi or Samsung.

It turns out that the solution is just as easily captured in another Steve Jobs quote. Apple’s most viable strategy in beating Android is simply to compete as aggressively as it can by creating the best products. In 2010, Jobs said, “And if we succeed, they’ll buy them. And if we don’t, they won’t. And it’ll all work itself out.”

TIME Media

Google Takes Over North America’s Biggest Digital Billboard

Billed as Times Square's largest and most expensive digital billboard, a new megascreen is debuted in front of the Marriott Marquis hotel on Nov.18, 2014 in New York City.
Billed as Times Square's largest and most expensive digital billboard, a new megascreen is debuted in front of the Marriott Marquis hotel on Nov.18, 2014 in New York City. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

And it's even higher-res than 4K displays

The lights of Times Square just got a little bit brighter, as Google is taking over a massive new digital billboard that spans an entire city block in the heart of New York.

The new screen is more than 25,000 square feet in size and has a pixel density even greater than high-definition 4K displays. Clear Channel, the company that built the ad space, says it’s the largest digital screen in North America.

Google is taking over the space just in time for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. The search giant will use the screen to present an interactive mobile game this week in which people can “Androidify” themselves, becoming cartoon characters similar to the ones in Google’s new Android marketing campaign. Google hopes to present 25,000 personalized Android characters on the screen each day. In addition to pushing products like Android, Chrome and Nexus, Google will offer some billboard screen-time to nonprofits such as Charity Water and Khan Academy.

The new screen is located on Broadway between 45th Street and 46th Street. The price of the ad wasn’t disclosed.

 

TIME Companies

European Parliament Wants to Break Up Google

Signage is displayed outside the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California, on Oct. 13, 2010.
Signage is displayed outside the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California, on Oct. 13, 2010. Bloomberg/Getty Images

European Parliament reportedly set to call for a break-up of the tech giant’s search engine from some of its other commercial businesses

Officials want the tech giant to unbundle its search engine from some of its other commercial business, according to a report.

Concerned over Google’s growing influence, the European Parliament is reportedly set to call for a break-up of the tech giant’s search engine from some of its other commercial businesses, according to the Financial Times.

Politicians are pushing the European Commission to limit Google’s reach either by passing new legislation or through its antitrust investigation into the company, which the EU recently reopened. A draft of a parliament motion that FT viewed argues that “unbundling [of] search engines from other commercial services” could be one appropriate path to curbing the Internet company’s dominance.

The expected recommendation, which FT says is backed by the parliament’s Socialist and European People’s Party political groups, would represent the most extreme action proposed to date by European regulators concerned over how much control American companies have over the Internet.

A vote on the recommendation is expected early next week, FT reports.

A Google spokesman declined to comment.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Gadgets

Google Sweetens the Chromebook Deal Ahead of the Holidays

Google Chromebook To Be Available Online On June 15
Google Inc. Chrome and Samsung Electronics Co.'s logos are seen on a Chromebook in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, June 9, 2011. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Free storage promotion runs until the new year

Google is offering a terabyte of free storage with its Chromebook computers for the holiday season, the company announced Friday.

Customers who buy qualifying Chromebooks priced at $199 or more will receive a two-year subscription to Google Drive with a terabyte of free storage space. That amount of space typically costs $9.99 per month, so the deal is worth about $240.

Chromebooks are stripped of many of the programs typically found on PCs, and instead offer apps that are accessed online, like Google Docs. They’ve slowly gained in marketshare since Google first unveiled the barebones laptops in 2011 — Chromebook sales are expected to triple by 2017.

The Google Drive promotion runs through January 1.

TIME Companies

Google Just Took its First Step Back Into China

The Google logo is reflected in windows
The Google logo is reflected in windows of the company's China head office as the Chinese national flag flies in the wind in Beijing on March 23, 2010. AFP/Getty Images

Chinese developers can now sell their apps as exports in Google's app store

Google is trying to woo mobile developers in China.

The search giant has announced that Chinese app developers will now be able to sell apps to Google Play users in more than 130 other countries. It’s one of Google’s first attempts to engage with the Chinese marketplace since leaving the country in 2010 in following conflicts with the government over national censorship policies.

The Google Play Store is severely restricted in China, so app makers in the country will be selling their wares as exports. It’s no surprise that Google is having second thoughts on leaving the country behind: China has more than 600 million Internet users, and that figure is expected to reach 800 million next year.

This olive branch to developers may be the first step in a more ambitious strategy. Google is reportedly looking to partner with a Chinese phone manufacturer or wireless carrier to launch a full-featured version of the Play store in the country, according to the The Information.

TIME Art

Google Doodle Celebrates Corita Kent, Feminist Nun Turned Artist

Google

It would have been her 96th birthday

Google celebrated what would have been the 96th birthday of artist Corita Kent on Thursday — also known as Sister Corita Kent.

In 1936, Kent started her career as a Catholic nun. She began taking art classes, and received a masters in art history — chairing the art history department at Immaculate Heart College. In 1968, she left the order and decided to pursue a full-time career as an artist.

Kent was known for her silk screens, and she often juxtaposed spiritual writing alongside symbols of consumerist culture. She was a well-known activist, fighting for civil rights, anti-war causes, and women’s rights.

She died in 1986.

MONEY Tech

Why “Facebook at Work” Might Not Work

Facebook at work on tablet
Alamy

Enterprise software is indeed a very lucrative space, but the time, energy, and development resources that it would require for Facebook to meaningfully challenge are simply too high.

This isn’t the first time, and it might not be the last. Dominant social network Facebook FACEBOOK INC. FB 2.6312% is reportedly looking to challenge LinkedIn LINKEDIN CORP. LNKD 0.887% in the enterprise segment, among others. The Financial Times reported that the social kingpin is developing a new “Facebook at Work” site geared toward corporate settings.

The service is said to feature ways to communicate with colleagues, connect with other professionals, and collaborate on documents. Personal profiles and professional profiles would be segregated for the sake of privacy, and would be free initially. Beyond LinkedIn, this service means Facebook would compete with other large enterprise software makers like Google GOOGLE INC. GOOG -0.1312% and Microsoft , as well as start-ups such as Slack.

Does Facebook have a chance? Let’s look at all of these areas where Facebook wants to make a dent.

Connecting people

Helping people make professional connections is LinkedIn’s claim to fame, and the company has established an incredibly strong business in connecting recruiters with job candidates. Before even considering monetization methods, Facebook is a much larger overall network, which means it has a shot at growing its position here.

At last count, Facebook boasted 1.35 billion monthly active users, or MAUs, worldwide. That’s over four times LinkedIn’s count of 331 million registered members. Of that total, 89.7 million members log in on a monthly basis. LinkedIn reports these as unique visiting members, but in practice they are the same as MAUs for the sake of comparison.

“Facebook at Work” is unlikely to tap into Facebook’s entire network, since its rollout is still speculative and would likely be on a small scale. Still, there’s definitely some long-term potential here if Facebook builds out the rumored service, and eventually integrates it with its broader network.

Communicating with colleagues

Microsoft Exchange is the dominant player in enterprise email, but a slew of popular chat applications are also used in the workplace. Slack has been skyrocketing in popularity recently, and is now one of the fastest-growing enterprise software applications ever.

The key to Slack’s success is the ability to integrate with a plethora of third-party services that are already popular within the enterprise segment, creating a platform out of the enterprise messaging service. Slack also has powerful search features to help workers find what they’re looking for. The start-up’s blistering growth has already attracted the attention of high-profile venture capitalists. Slack recently raised $120 million at a $1.1 billion valuation.

In general, messaging is becoming an increasingly competitive arena. Facebook has both Messenger and WhatsApp under its blue belt, so the company undoubtedly has plenty of experience with developing messaging products and services. Facebook might have some strength in consumer-oriented messaging, but it seemingly lacks the deep integrations that rival services like Slack can offer.

Playing well with others

On the collaboration front, Microsoft acquired Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion. Yammer is a private social network that integrates with collaboration software and business applications, and is now part of Office 365. Yammer is a big part of Microsoft’s strategy with collaboration software as it transitions away from SharePoint.

Microsoft also recently partnered with Dropbox. By integrating the other’s services, Microsoft and Dropbox will bolster the collaborative features that are critical to each company’s enterprise customers. Google Apps for Business has also been winning customers from Microsoft for years, becoming a notable player in the collaboration space in the process.

This is easily the most important area of enterprise software, since employee collaboration is so critical to productivity. This is also where Facebook likely brings the least to the table. Current providers of collaborative tools offer comprehensive feature sets and have become very entrenched in the enterprise. Facebook will face a steep uphill battle in this area.

We don’t know what we don’t know

To be fair, not much is known about “Facebook at Work.” The company reportedly uses the product internally, and only began testing it at other companies within the past year or so.

Facebook’s current portfolio of consumer offerings might not be representative of what it hopes to offer the enterprise space. However, it’s hard to imagine the company could develop a full-featured offering that spans all of these areas in under a year when incumbents have spent many more years specializing and catering to these precise needs.

On top of that, Facebook is predominantly associated with personal social networking. The ability to separate personal and professional activity might be an attempt to blur the line, but consumer connotations aren’t easily shifted. Besides, aren’t Facebook’s privacy settings cumbersome enough already?

Shares of LinkedIn fell 5% of the news that Facebook could be developing a competing service, so it seems there is indeed some investor concern. However, history doesn’t inspire much confidence in Facebook’s professional abilities, which should downplay these fears.

Facebook acqui-hired job-search site Pursuit in 2011, but hasn’t done much in the job listing space that LinkedIn is disrupting. Third-party professional networking service BranchOut attempted to carve out a niche within Facebook as a free application (casually known as the “LinkedIn within Facebook”), but failed spectacularly and is now trying to sell itself.

The risk is that Facebook could become distracted by its pursuit of the enterprise segment, rather than focus on key business developments, notably building out the infrastructure for video ads or determining some type of monetization strategy for WhatsApp.

As an investor, I do like when Facebook takes calculated risks, such as Paper or Home, even if they fail. But those were inherently low risks with high potential rewards. Enterprise software is indeed a very lucrative space, but the time, energy, and development resources that it would require for Facebook to meaningfully challenge are simply too high.

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