Apple’s sapphire manufacturing partner GT Advanced released its fourth quarter fiscal results today, and they announced a bunch of numbers and stuff about profitability as you might expect, but the more interesting info shared by GT clusters around their commentary regarding the ongoing Apple partnership, and what it could lead to next. Per GT Advanced CEO Tom Guiterrez from the official… Read More
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
We are still waiting for the antitrust commissioner in Europe to make his next formal statement on negotiations with Google, after the search giant in April this year suggested remedies in the ongoing antitrust case against it over dominance in search. But for now, it sounds like the ball is in Google’s court, with Joachin Almunia, the VP for competition in the European Commission, today confirming that he has written to Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, to request changes to Google’s proposals after concluding Google’s proposals were not good enough.
“After the analysis of the results of the market test that concluded last month [June 27], I concluded that the proposals that Google sent to us months ago are not enough to overcome our concerns,” he noted today in a press briefing in Brussels. Subsequently, he said, “I wrote a letter to Mr Schmidt asking Google for more improvements.”
It looks like this is the second letter that Almunia has sent to Schmidt on this case. The first, sent in May 2012, was closer to the start of the investigation out outlined Almunia’s main reasons for bringing the case against Google in the first place.
Almunia is scheduled to make one last statement to the press before the summer break in August, and sources expect his office to make a more detailed announcement about the Google case before legislators break for the summer.
So far, competitors have been invited to respond, and today more of those responses are trickling out, courtesy of lobbying group FairSearch, a group of businesses that include Microsoft, Oracle, Expedia and others trying to get more leverage over Google in Europe, where it dominates the search market.
Summed up, Google’s proposed remedies propose the following changes to how it presents search results in Europe, over the next five years:
On the surface, these sound like reasonable proposals, but the devil is in the details. The complaints from competitors range from the fact that Google’s proposals apply to google.com but not any of the country-specific domains that come up by default when you are in an individual country; to how clearly delineated things like graphical signage indicated “promoted links” will look. There is also the fact that, given there are significantly more than three competitors making complaints against Google’s dominance, how to balance that in a proposal that only allows for three rivals’ links to appear at any one time.
From a source close to the negotiations, we’ve also heard that there was some surprise within the EC at how little Google conceded in its first stab at making remedies. It’s perhaps a negotiating tactic that is more common in the U.S. — offer less than what you’re willing to actually give — but apparently the EC was expecting more.
It’s a can of worms, and in the talks I’ve had with different Google rivals involved, I’m actually not sure they all necessarily agree when it comes to making constructive suggestions for what they’d ideally like Google to do (“going away” not being a realistic option). On the other side, encroaching too far into what Google as a private company should have to do to make it easier for competition could also send out bad signals to other big companies who want to do business in Europe.
In the meantime, FairSearch, one of the main lobbying groups fighting Google in the antitrust debate, has today released the results of a survey of consumers that shows (surprise!) how ineffective Google’s current remedies would be, were they implemented.
On the third point above, for example, “We conclude that the ‘three rival’ links remedy proposed by Google would not draw consumer attention to rival websites,” said the study conducted by University of Illinois professor David Hyman and University of San Francisco professor David Franklyn. In one case, when one in five users clicked on a Google Shopping link, only one in 200 clicked on rival links presented in a box.
It also found that most users didn’t know that Google specialised search links were actually paid-for placements. “Consumers trust search results to be impartial and based solely on relevance to their query, without manipulation of the order or results,” the authors note.
And with the ongoing march to mobile screens, it appears that the issue becomes even more acute. “The researchers also tested mobile surfing-style screens and found the disparity between clicks on Google services and others even more pronounced than for desktop search,” the found. “Only one in 1,000 surfers clicked on a small blue box labelled ‘other links.’”
The report was part of FairSearch’s response that it submitted to the EC at the end of June. It will be interesting to see how much of this makes its way to Almunia’s next progress statement and Google’s next stab at a settlement.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Following calls for an investigation into the prosecution and recent suicide of internet activist, Aaron Swartz, MIT’s website is currently down. MIT’s President L. Rafael Reif today called for an investigation into the handling of the case brought against Swartz for his release of pay-walled academic papers from popular database, JSTOR.
There is a possible connection to the hacktivist organization, Anonymous. An unverified Twitter account, AnonymousIRC, tweeted this curious message:
The announcement came just in the thick of today’s Apple news, which is probably not an accident: A soft opening could help ease the ever-growing deluge of applications that the program receives each season.
Backstage yesterday at the ongoing TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012 conference we talked to YC partner Harj Taggar about the Summer 2012 batch of startups that just graduated out of Y Combinator last month in the incubator’s largest ever class and how it plans to grow going forward. Check that out right here:
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
A bit of a setback today for mobile payments and specifically iZettle — the startup modelled as a kind of “European Square” for merchants to take card payments on their phones. The company today had to shut off accepting Visa cards in three of the markets where it has been running pilots — Denmark, Finland and Norway — over what appears to be a problem with how it authenticated users on its platform, using an electronic signature instead of a PIN. The problem came to light when users started to receive emails from iZettle with the news (we have one from a reader below) and comes at a time when competition is heating up among point-of-sale mobile payments players, with mPowa, who you might better know as Square’s hand nemesis, now extending its payment services to Android; and Square reportedly getting a $200 million investment on a $3.2 billion valuation.
iZettle’s CEO Jakob de Geer describes the need to shut down Visa acceptance as “disappointing”, ”annoying,” and “puzzling,” but also notes that he thinks it’s just a short-term problem: “I’m pretty confident that we’ll find a way forward,” he told TechCrunch. “You have to regroup and adapt; that’s part of the game part of being in a disruptive space.” For its part, a Visa Europe spokesperson tells TechCrunch that the problem arose over Visa’s “standard acceptance device requirements:”:
“Visa Europe supports the development of new types of acceptance devices to be used by small merchants not previously accepting cards. However, Visa Europe has not yet agreed for Visa cards to be accepted on the iZettle platform, as it does not currently meet our standard acceptance device requirements.”
Some 15,000 active merchants across the three countries have been affected, says De Geer, with the dispute between Visa Europe and iZettle has been “in the works for a while now.”
Visa Inc. in the U.S. is an investor in Square, and MasterCard recently became an investor in iZettle, so it is easy to think that this story may be a case of muscle flexing between the two larger companies: perhaps a sign of Square setting the stage for a European launch?
De Geer says that’s very unlikely because Visa Europe is an association owned by its members in different markets, while Visa Inc is a publicly-traded U.S. company. “Two completely different creatures that work differently,” says De Geer. “I think people are linking these together but it doesn’t have anything to do with the Square investment.” What this does highlight, however, is that the business of linking up with requirements from existing players can be a messy and confusing business. De Geer says that iZettle has been approved by Master Card, American Express, Diners Club and EMV, the global standard for chip cards.
(This potentially also points another issue about these different payment services: they are all too reliant on existing, large players. This is where a PayPal or Dwolla can stand out and potentially be more disruptive and successful, notes Yann Ranchere, a financial services specialist out of Switzerland.)
Visa Europe’s spokesperson would not tell TechCrunch exactly which requirements are not being met by iZettle, TechCrunch understands that it may have something to do with how payments are authenticated on iZettle’s platform: a consumer pays using the chip on the card — different from the magnetic swipe strip most common on U.S. cards — but does not enter a PIN to authenticate; rather he signs on the screen of the device. This is an acceptable form of payment in the Nordics and PIN on mobiles is less secure, claims De Geer, but he admits that it may be that Visa wants the PIN element worked into the platform anyway.
What’s confusing is that De Geer tells us that Sweden, where iZettle has a commercial service in operation, does not have to shut down its Visa payment option. The UK, where iZettle is running a trial, never had Visa as part of its service — possibly because of this ongoing issue.
Visa Europe would not say if it was issuing similar orders to other mobile payment providers, but mPowa, which offers a similar kind of product to iZettle’s and Square’s, confirms it is in the clear.
“We don’t have a problem because we’re not chip and sign,” Dan Wagner, CEO of mPowa, told TechCrunch. In fact, the company has yet to launch and chip-and-pin services at all. These, he says, are coming in two month’s time. The company recently extended its dongle service to cover Android devices as well as iOS. It plans Windows upgrades “in due course” too. He says the company is currently under NDA with “major banks and telcos” to launch white-label versions of mPowa’s payment service in different markets.
Aleksander Soender passed to us the email iZettle sent out to users:
We are sorry to report that based on a policy decision by Visa Europe, we have no choice but to stop processing Visa card payments in Denmark, Finland and Norway on August 1.
Please know that we will continue to accept MasterCard and Diners Club cards, so for now those are the cards you’ll need to ask your customers to pay with. We hope we can bring Visa card acceptance back to Denmark, Finland and Norway shortly and will of course keep you posted on the development.
Thank you for your ongoing support and use of the iZettle mobile payments service. We very much appreciate your business and hope iZettle will still prove a valuable service for you.
We wish you a pleasant summer and hope to be back to you soon with news that we’ve resolved this disappointing situation.
Best wishes, Jacob de Geer, CEO
iZettle also posted about the news on its blog.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch