Featured Article : New 365 “Cloud PC” From Microsoft

Microsoft has announced its new hybrid Windows 365 cloud service where the operating system is stored in Microsoft’s Cloud and which securely streams each user’s apps, data, and settings to personal or corporate devices, acting as a full Windows desktop PC in the cloud.

New Era of Hybrid Personal Computer

Microsoft is calling the new subscription (SaaS) Windows 365 service (which is a simplified version of its Azure Virtual Desktop) as a “new era of hybrid personal computing” because it “draws on the power of the cloud and the capabilities of the device”.

Work From Anywhere, On Any Device, Pick Up Where You Left Off

The new Windows 365 service enables the streaming of a full Windows desktop from the cloud.  With the service, Windows 10 and 11 users can:

– Stream all their personalised applications, tools, data, and settings from the cloud across any device including a Mac, iPad, Linux device, or Android.

– Work from anywhere (e.g. a hotel room or a tablet from their car) and pick up where they left off because their individual PC in the cloud remains the same, even when switching devices.

Supports Business Apps

Windows 365 cloud service also supports business apps such as Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Power Platform, and Microsoft is offering to stand by its promise of app compatibility with App Assure, a Microsoft service that helps customers with 150 or more users fix any app issues they might run into at no additional cost.

Ideal For Remote Working

The fact that users can experience their whole, individual Windows PC streamed through to any chosen device from the cloud and saved/back-up in the cloud for whenever they log on makes it ideal for remote working and for the many businesses that look like continuing flexible working practices post-pandemic.  As Microsoft points out, “we’re seeing a new world of work emerge. Organizations everywhere have transformed themselves through virtual processes and remote collaboration. And as people embrace hybrid work—with people returning to the office, continuing to work from home, or some mix of the two—things will be different all over again”.

Microsoft also points to the finding of its recent Work Trend Index as proof of the need for a cloud-based hybrid solution of this kind.  The Index has boiled down a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries plus an analysis of trillions of productivity and labour signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn to arrive at some key statistics and 7 trends.

For example, the Work Trend Index found that 73 percent of workers now want flexible remote work options to stay, but 67 percent also want more in-person collaboration, post-pandemic. 

Analytics and Watchdog Service

The 365 cloud service also has built-in analytics that looks at connection health across networks to make sure Cloud PC users can reach everything they need on the network to be productive. The analytics are not only able to identify Cloud PC environments where a user’s performance needs aren’t being met, but also give recommendations and enable upgrades for users at the touch of a button, thereby saving time, simplifying problem-solving and quickly boosting productivity.

Zero Trust Architecture

The Zero Trust Architecture means that security needs can be met by storing and securing information in the cloud (not on the device) and using Multifactor authentication (MFA) to verify any login or access attempt to a Cloud PC through integration with Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).

Solves Some Old Problems

The fact that the individual Windows desktop PCs are stored securely in (and streamed from) the cloud as and when needed could solve a lot of traditional IT management problems.  For example, this hybrid system looks likely to give business greater flexibility and scalability, help productivity and support innovation by making remote work and collaboration easier, tackle many of the hardware challenges (cost and maintenance), allow faster problem solving (watchdog and diagnostics), and help reduce security risks and threats. Microsoft is also keen to stress the simplicity of the service.

When?

Microsoft says that the new 365 cloud service will be “generally available later this calendar year”, although it looks set to launch for business users from August 2. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The new Windows 365 cloud service sees Microsoft adapting and building upon its existing, popular Azure platform and virtualisation technology to try and create a hybrid service that should appeal to business users, particularly at a time where effectively managing the challenges of flexible (hybrid) and remote working look like being ongoing trends. This service also enables Microsoft to expand its subscription model and will appeal to the large businesses that are now ready to commit more to the cloud. The power, control, flexibility, simplicity, and security aspects of the service are also likely to appeal to businesses that need to be able to manage their computing needs and maximise the possibility of improved productivity at a time which seems very uncertain and where there are already enough risks to cope with in the rapidly changing business environment.

Tech-Insight : What Is 2FA?

Two-Factor-Authentication (2FA) refers to another piece of information that users are required to provide (in addition to username and password login details) to access a website/platform/account. Requiring another piece of information protects against others accessing the account if they simply know the username and password.

Reasons

The reasons for 2FA include:

– A huge increase in cybercrime and data breaches in recent years, and increasingly sophisticated attack methods that are more widely available, many of which can be bought off-the-shelf for relatively small amounts.

– Simply relying on passwords has become less safe.  This is because passwords are frequently stolen or cracked (a computer recently set a record by guessing 100 billion passwords per second), and we can only successfully remember shorter, more uniform, or more memorable strings of characters, and consequently these often end up being partly words, names, dates, or a combination (i.e. easier passwords to crack). Many people also still choose really simple passwords.  For example, in 2019, a study by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) into breached passwords revealed that 123456 featured 23 million times, making it the most widely used password on breached accounts.  The study also showed that the second-most popular string was 123456789 and that the words “qwerty” and “password”, and the string 1111111 all featured in the top five most popular breached passwords.  Christian names and the names of favourite football teams were found to be widely used as passwords. Also, password sharing (using the same password between many sites and platforms) is an all-too-common high-risk strategy. Add to this Moore’s law (the idea that computer-processing power available at a certain price doubles roughly every two years) and the fact that cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in their methods and can buy cyber-attack tools and lists relatively cheaply on the Dark Web, and the risks of weak passwords is even more clear.

– Legislation, compliance, reputation, and tightened security policies have meant that online sites and apps must offer tighter security (i.e. not just passwords).

Living With Passwords

Ways of making passwords more secure include basic specifications of what passwords must contain (how many and what characters), indications of password strength, and the use of password managers (as browser extensions).

2FA Types

2FA is usually based around something you know (e.g. a PIN or answer to a security question), something you have (e.g., a smartphone).  Multi-factor can also be based on something you are/something that’s inherent (e.g. biometrics). Popular types of 2FA include:

– SMS. Having a code texted to a phone number that has been linked with the account.

– Security questions.  Several answers to personal questions about the account holder are stored securely in the account and on login, the user is asked for the answer to one question.

– Hardware tokens. These are small physical devices (like a key fob) that generate a new numeric code every 30-seconds.

– Software tokens/ authenticator apps, such as Google Authenticator. These also generate a stream of new numeric codes that are valid for less than a minute, and the app is linked to an account by scanning a QR code.

– Push Notifications. Websites and apps send the user (to their device) a notification that an authentication attempt is taking place. The device owner can then view the details and approve or deny access. This can help prevent social engineering and/or human error-reliant attacks such as phishing, or man-in-the-middle.

– Biometrics. For example, this could be a fingerprint or face scan.

The Future

Although 2FA has gone a long way to making accounts more secure, the future is likely to be passwordless, based upon biometrics and, therefore, multi-factor e.g. fingerprint scans, face scans, iris scans, voice recognition and more.  Biometrics is, however, in its relatively early stages of development thereby making it vulnerable to a degree, and this in itself has led to it being tricked/faked (e.g. voice recognition). Also, biometrics can’t be remotely revoked, and if a fingerprint, for example, is compromised, it can’t be replaced (as a password can).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Most businesses are no longer able to remain compliant with data laws or to act responsibly towards staff, customers, and stakeholders by trusting just passwords. 2FA has added a valuable, additional layer of security, with the drawback being that it still relies upon human action and decisions, thereby leaving a possible human error element. The addition of biometrics seems more difficult again to get around, but the increasing sophistication and wider availability of attack methods are always threats to all security systems.

Tech News : New Lease of Life For Microsoft Paperclip ‘Clippy’

Following a vote of likes via Twitter and Instagram, Microsoft says it will be bringing back ‘Clippy’ the paperclip virtual assistant, but in as new, friendly-looking Emoji.

Clippy

From 1997 and until the mid-2000s, Microsoft Office users were used to seeing a paperclip symbol popping up on the screen to give help and advice about a wide variety of tasks. Unfortunately, ‘Clippy’ the paperclip was phased out after many users found the symbol’s constant appearances to be more annoying than helpful, and it was not included in XP. Users of Apple or Google smartphones, however, will still only be able to see the basic, old version of Clippy as a 2D paperclip.

Tweet & Insta Post

Microsoft’s Insta post and Tweet included a picture of the new, 3D emoji ‘Clippy’ with the massage “If this gets 20k likes, we’ll replace the paperclip emoji in Microsoft 365 with Clippy.”  As it turned out, that number of likes was surpassed within a day.

Part of Bigger Emoji Re-Design Push

The resurrection of the modernised ‘Clippy’ was, in fact, a way for Microsoft to help publicise a general upgrading of all its emojis to 3D versions ahead of last Saturday’s ‘World Emoji Day’. July 17 is the date of the annual “emoji day” which is reported to be the day chosen by the London-based founder of Emojipedia, Jeremy Burge.

Will Clippy Be Annoying Again?

Clippy was brought back for only one day back in 2019 as an animated pack of sticker freebies for Teams software users on Microsoft’s official Office developer GitHub page.

This now inevitable second return of Clippy has prompted many who remember the original Clippy to ask whether the emoji-fied version will be used in a way that could be as annoying as the first generation Clippy. It is, however, unclear how Clippy will be deployed and received this second (technically third) time around.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Microsoft has used World Emoji Day to introduce a branding element that it has been waiting to re-introduce for some time, and to give leverage to its promotion of the upgrading and modernising of all its emoji characters. This announcement, plus other recent Tweets from Microsoft, such as showing a screenshot of Tetris for Windows in 1990, helps to remind users of the brand history, nostalgia, and their connection with the brand over time, thereby, hopefully strengthening loyalty and triggering other positive memories about the Microsoft brand, which can only help as it steps up its competition with Apple.

Tech News : WhatsApp Without A Smartphone

Facebook’s WhatsApp is testing a new feature that will allow users to send messages without using just their smartphone.

Tied To A Phone

WhatsApp is currently linked to just a user’s phone, and to use the Web/desktop version, the user must select ‘Linked Device’ (formerly ‘WhatsApp Web’) mode to scan an on-screen QR code.

Multi Device Experience

WhatsApp is currently beta testing multi-device capability for WhatsApp which means that WhatsApp can be used on your phone and up to four other non-phone devices simultaneously, even if your phone battery is dead. This device-capability enables each companion device to connect with the user’s WhatsApp independently while still maintaining the same level of privacy and security through end-to-end encryption.

Smartphones Out of the Equation

Currently, a smartphone (app) is used as the primary device for WhatsApp with any companion devices maintaining a persistent (secure) connection with the phone and simply mirroring its contents on their own UI.

Removes Common ‘Hurdles’

Facebook says that the new multi-device architecture is a way of “taking smartphones out of the equation” and will remove “hurdles” such as avoiding companion devices getting slower or frequently disconnecting because the phone has to do all the work, may itself have a poor connection or low battery charge, or may be subject to the OS having problems.

Also, only having one companion device operative at a time means that people can’t be on a call in Portal while also being able to check their messages on their PC for example.

What About Security?

Facebook says that the new multi-device architecture will still be secure because the WhatsApp server will maintain a mapping between a person’s account and all their device identities. Also, extended security codes, Automatic Device Verification, QR code scanning plus biometric authentication will protect users from threats such as eavesdropping on communications.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Facebook sees this latest upgrade of WhatsApp as a way of solving a few issues, and making it even more appealing to today’s multi-device owning (business) users. Facebook has been working hard over the last year to cement WhatsApp’s place as the go-to free, secure messaging/chat platform and to retain the loyalty that it already has among business users. For example, in November, WhatsApp stepped up its security for users by introducing the “disappearing messages” whereby users can opt-in to placing a 7-day time-limit on read and unread messages before they are erased. Also, back in December, WhatsApp announced that it would be introducing voice and video calling to its WhatsApp Web desktop as part of its plan to improve the interoperability of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, and to help Facebook to compete with other messaging and cloud-based collaborative working /communications platforms. This latest update is another feature that will add value for business users and is another opportunity to remind users of the key benefits of the WhatsApp platform that haven’t changed which are that it offers value – it is free, it’s effective, it’s widely used by other businesses and customers, (and therefore compatible), and its end-to-end encryption (and new security upgrade) means that it continues to offer security.

Tech Tip – Help Improve Your Productivity With Microsoft’s MyAnalytics

If you’d like to get data-driven insights into your work habits to improve your productivity, you could try Microsoft 365 MyAnalytics platform. Here’s how:

– Sign into your Microsoft 365 account.

– Select MyAnalytics from the app drawer or click on the 9-dot square menu (top left) and select the ‘All Apps’ link and click on the ‘MyAnalytics’ link.

– Here you can get insights into (and address issues like) ‘Focus’ (time you typically have leftover to focus on your tasks outside of meetings, emails, chats, and calls), ‘Well-Being’ /’Quiet Days’ (days without interruptions), ‘Collaboration’ (the percentage of your time spent in meetings, emails, chats, and calls), and ‘Network’ (whether you are proactively managing your network of collaborators).

– MyAnalytics also shows what percentage of your week spent in meetings and what percentage of your calendar is booked when the week starts and makes recommendations to help.

Featured Article : What Does “Right-To-Repair” Actually Mean?

In this article, we look at the right-to-repair movement, where it comes from, and how it’s progressing.

The Right-To-Repair

The ‘right-to-repair’ is a movement that seeks to have rules/legislation passed that forces manufacturers (e.g. of appliances, electrical products, white goods and more) to make parts (and information) available to end customers, not just approved/authorised repairers, and technicians, so that it is possible for end-users to fix the product at home.  The basic idea is that this could help tackle built-in obsolescence, thereby prolonging product life cycles, creating better value and saving money for consumers, and reducing the number of products going to waste thereby helping the environment.

Built-In Obsolescence

Built-in or planned obsolescence is a policy of designing and making products that have an artificially limited useful life or a purposely frail design, thereby ensuring that they will become obsolete and useless to the buyer within a certain time period/will have a deliberately short lifespan (e.g. a few years). This, of course, will require the consumer to buy another product, thereby ensuring more sales. Part of the setup to support this cycle involves making the product a ‘closed book’ to the end consumer by making parts unavailable, limiting information about the workings of the product, and potentially making repair seem unattractive, too costly, or too or dangerous to consumers.

Although people some cite it as more of a conspiracy theory (preferring to blame consumers), planned obsolescence appears to have started a long time ago (e.g. “Phoebus cartel” in the 1920s) where leading light bulb manufacturers colluded to artificially reduce bulbs’ lifetimes to 1,000 hours.

Software and Apps

Today, it is not just the manufacture of physical goods that contributes to obsolescence.  For example, in the case of many tech items, not enabling the latest apps to run on older versions of a device can seriously limit the usefulness and appeal of the device.

UK’s First Small Step

Earlier this month, the UK government passed laws that mark what many consider to be a useful first step towards the right-to-repair.  The new UK laws mean that manufacturers must make spare parts available to people buying electrical appliances, and those parts must be sold directly by the manufacturer for 10 years, even if the complete products are no longer selling in their range. The new UK laws are accompanied by changes in efficiency standards of products that are designed to cut carbon emissions.

However, the new UK laws are limited to appliances (e.g. white goods) and the kinds of parts that manufacturers are required to make available are fairly simple and safe ones such as hinges or new baskets for fridges/freezers. Also, there is a grace period of the next two years before manufacturers must make spare parts available. Critics also argue that the UK government has not technically given consumers a legal right to repair because the spare parts and repairability criteria only apply to professional repairers, not end users/owners.

Elsewhere

In Europe, the European Commission (EC) has already announced plans to introduce right-to-repair rules for smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and in the US, there are reports that President Joe Biden is soon expected to sign an executive order which will ask the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to draw up some rules for the repair of farming equipment. Currently, however, only Massachusetts has a right-to-repair law which was passed in 2013 and relates to vehicle manufacturers providing diagnostic and repair information in certain circumstances.

Advocate

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is a known advocate of right-to-repair.  In a recent reply to another right-to-repair campaigner Louis Rossmann on Cameo (where video messages and greetings from celebrities can be purchased), Mr Wozniak pointed out that open technology was one of the key factors that led to the development of the first Apple computers and that he believes that inhibiting the right-to-repair could be a way for companies to simply gain power and control over everything. Mr Wozniak highlighted how the ability to build something from parts is also a way for people to afford something that they couldn’t ordinarily afford, help creativity, education/learning, and motivation.

The Safety Argument

One of the big arguments against the right-to-repair by manufacturers is that it may not be safe for consumers to attempt repairs. Tech companies Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are among those who specify who can repair their phones and game consoles on the grounds that there could be safety and security risks if end users attempted repairs of these electrical/tech items themselves. It has also been reported that the John Deere tractor manufacturer has expressed opposition to the idea of end-users repairing its products due to possible safety risks.

Low Price Products

Low prices are another way the motivation to repair an item can be eroded, thereby weakening the right-to-repair argument for many consumers. For example, if appliances are very cheap and go wrong within a few years, buying another one may seem cheaper and less trouble than trying to repair the existing one.

High Price For Parts

Similarly, making the parts (or software upgrades) for repair prohibitively expensive could be another way that companies could erode the motivation of consumers to repair their products.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Even though the right-to-repair movement has some sound reasons behind it (e.g. environmental) and some high-profile advocates, it still has a very long way to go. UK laws have taken one small step this month although there is a long grace period before companies must comply, and there is some hope that the US will make some new laws within weeks that it will advance right-to-repair beyond the very limited automotive areas where there are some rules at the moment, but still just to farming machinery.  As the movement gathers pace it will put pressure on manufacturers and tech companies to find ways to comply, maintain profits, and protect their image by being seen to be acting fairly and responsibly as consumers are becoming more environmentally aware as well as being able to take to social media to influence each other in their purchasing.

Tech Insight : Open Plan Offices Create Stress From Noise

Recent research by TheNextWeb.com has confirmed long suspected views that open-plan office designs can reduce psychological well-being, affect moods, and create stress.

This Study

The most recent study, published online by Cambridge University Press, is based on an experiment which compared the difference between the effects of office noise on those in a larger open-plan office (an OPO auditory environment), and a quieter private office (an office auditory environment).  A range of objective and subjective measures of well-being and performance were compared between subjects in simulated versions of an open-plan, and a private office setting.  The researchers looked at both objective and subjective measures of well-being and performance.

The Results

The results showed that although noise didn’t have a negative effect on the cognitive task performance of those working in an open-plan office (compared to the quieter environment), the noise of the open-plan space did reduce psychological well-being.

How Did They Know?

The researchers came to their conclusions by studying self-reports of the mood of the research subjects, their facial expressions of emotion, and the physiological indicators of stress of the subjects such, such as heart-rate and skin conductivity.

Arguments For Open-Plan

Although there now appears to be a growing body of research to suggest that open-plan offices may not have lived-up to their promise of easier communication and collaboration, there are what appear to be some sound, practical reasons for having an open-plan offices in the first place.  These include the desire to make teams feel closer and to encourage interaction (even though this may only happen with those in close proximity), making office culture and informal communication more transparent, making the office space more flexible, and saving costs.

Previous Research

Previous research about the effects of open-plan office design on workers, has, however, reached many more negative conclusions, including:

– Distraction can be a problem in open-plan workplaces.

– Lack of privacy affects engagement in tasks. Also, a Steelcase study (2014), showed that a lack of employee privacy in the workplace can negatively affect an employee’s overall ability to become deeply engaged in the work they are doing.

– Open plan doesn’t necessarily improve interaction or collaboration. A study by Bernstein and Turban, funded by Harvard Business School (2018) found that, contrary to popular belief, open office architectures significantly decrease the volume of face-to-face interaction (by approx. 70 percent).

– Employees in open-plan offices may be less likely to speak up or voice their concerns when they disagree with others. For example, the ‘Room – 2018 Office Woes Report’ highlighted how 31 percent of employees in open-plan offices say they hold back their true thoughts and opinions for fear of being heard and judged by co-workers. Similarly, being constantly observable in an office can dampen interactions that could help collaboration.

– Privacy and concentration are sacrificed in an open-plan setting in favour of the need for collaboration and interaction, but this trade-off has negative outcomes for productivity and work relationships.

Noise At Work Affecting Stress Levels

Just as indicated in the recent TheNextWeb.com study, noise (background noise and noise at work) has long been known to be a stress-inducing factor. For example, The Remark Group study (2019) showed that 65 percent of subjects said that that noise in the workplace impacted on their ability to complete work in an accurate and timely manner, almost half (44 percent) reported that noise had a negative impact on their overall wellbeing, and 40 percent reported that noise at work caused them to feel stressed.

Too Many People in (Open Plan) Office No Better

Other research has shown that putting large numbers of employees in an enclosed space can also cause stress and can make it much easier to spread viruses and infections.  For example, studies have shown that employees in open offices take over 60 percent more sick days (average) than employees in more traditional style workplaces.

The Pandemic Factor

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that office noise and distraction in open-plan offices have gone further down the list of concerns (below safety) from infection as many employees are making the return to offices.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Open-plan working appears to make workers feel less in control of their environment, more conscious of what they’re saying (often to the detriment of the company) and exposes them to other stress-inducing stimuli (noise and other distractions) that can also have a negative effect on productivity. Businesses need to focus attention on how they can build a close, productive team of people with complementary skills and attributes. As far as office layout goes, assessing the impact of things like noise (and other distractions) could enable data data-driven recommendations about the design and modification of workspaces, and businesses need to create balanced office layouts that enable employees to feel as though they have enough boundaries to make sense of their environment and feel comfortable, minimise noise and distractions, benefit collaboration, and contribute to workflow. The pandemic, however, has made office environments less attractive altogether for workers, and the challenge of designing post-pandemic office spaces that minimise yet another source of stress (fear of infection at work) has become a new challenge for many businesses, open plan or not.

Tech News : Trump Sues Social Media Platforms Channels For Censoring Him

Only 6 months after the storming of the United States Capitol in Washington and having his social media accounts suspended, former US resident Trump is suing Google, Twitter and Facebook, and their respective CEOs for allegedly censoring him.

Twitter Account Permanently Suspended

Trump’s presidency was characterised by his choice to constantly use Twitter as a means to bypass the mainstream media, who he often accused of spreading ‘fake news’. On January 8, Trump fell out of love with Twitter, and lost his chosen platform after Twitter imposed a permanent suspension of his account following 2 Tweets that, in the context of US events of the time, were found to be in violation of Twitter’s Glorification of Violence Policy.  The tweets were:

“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

and shortly after:

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Facebook

Trump was also suspended from all Facebook platforms following the 6 January US Capitol riot, and then his Facebook account was suspended until 7 January 2023, a period that could be extended if Facebook still believes there is a risk to public safety through reinstatement.

Google (YouTube)

Google and Alphabet Inc’s CEO Pichai Sundararajan (Sundar Pichai) fell out of favour with Donald Trump and now faces a lawsuit because Google’s YouTube video sharing platform indefinitely banned Trump back in in January.

Announced at News Conference

The news that Donald Trump had launched a class-action lawsuit against the 3 social media companies and their CEOs came at a news conference held at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey last Wednesday. On the same day, Mr Trump’s Republican allies in Congress announced their intention to “take on Big Tech” and get rid of the Section 230 law that protects social media companies from being liable for the things that users post.  Following the news conference, which was also attended by those with links to not-for-profit America First Policy Institute, messages appealing for money were sent out, with one reportedly including a link to the fundraising entity ‘Save America’, which also raises money for other Republican political initiatives.

Criticism

News of the lawsuits has prompted criticism from a variety of legal commentators, some of whom have dismissed any chances of success for the actions, highlighted how Trump appears to have a habit of instigating litigation, and suggested that the lawsuits may be more of a PR exercise.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The views expressed in the press appear to indicate that the lawsuits have little chance of success and are, therefore, unlikely to trouble the CEOs of the 3 named big tech companies. It is well-known that Trump, his supporters, and other Republicans appear to believe that Silicon Valley is somehow working behind the scenes to censor and silence conservative and far-right messages.

Trump himself though is facing a number of criminal and civil lawsuits and investigations and just days ago, the Arizona Secretary of State called for a criminal investigation into alleged efforts by Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and others to put pressure on Maricopa County supervisors following Trump losing Arizona in the presidential election. Also, the Trump Organisation and its finance chief have just been charged with tax-related crimes, which Mr Trump has, of course, dismissed as a “political witch hunt”.  It seems, therefore, that with all the trouble that Mr Trump appears to be facing, and with limited hope of success in his latest lawsuits against the tech giants, that not much will come of this, apart from some more publicity for Mr Trump, which may please some of his supporters.

Tech News : Google Facing Anti-Trust App Store Lawsuit

Google is facing an antitrust lawsuit by 37 US states over allegations relating to how Google may be abusing its position of power in relation to Android app distribution and competition.

The Lawsuit

The lawsuit makes allegations in three main areas which are broadly that Google:

  1. Unlawfully maintains its monopoly in the market for Android app Distribution.
  2. Has unlawfully maintained a monopoly in the Android in-app payment processing market.
  3. Is engaging in unfair and deceptive conduct that harms consumers. 

The key arguments in the lawsuit focus on allegations that Google is using its market monopoly power as the main Android app distributor through its Play Store to charge 30 per cent fees for in-app purchases (the same as Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft XBox) from developers.  The lawsuit also alleges that Google offered to “buy off Samsung” in order to prevent it from developing its competing app store.

Competitors

Competitors have taken advantage of the situation to make themselves more attractive to developers by charging less.  For example, Big G in India, which is a key market of Google, cut its commission to 15 per cent to those app developers who make less than $1 million per year.

Google Says….

In a recent, detailed blog post, Google has argued that the lawsuit appears to ignore the choice that it offers compared to competitors, saying, “If you don’t find the app you’re looking for in Google Play, you can choose to download the app from a rival app store or directly from a developer’s website. We don’t impose the same restrictions as other mobile operating systems do.”

Also, Google has taken a swipe at the group of state attorneys who are filing the lawsuit by saying that it attacks a system “that provides more openness and choice than others.”

There is also an argument in Google’s favour that Google has been relatively loose to date in enforcing app developers use its payment system for purchases made through the Play Store.

Criticism and Other Lawsuits

Critics who are more sympathetic to Google, have also suggested, however, that the lawsuit may be less about consumer protection and fairness, and more about protecting the interests of a number of app developers who are benefitting from Google Play without paying for it,

Other critics have suggested that while Google may allow other app stores, it appears to have taken steps to limit the traction of those stores e.g., other app stores can’t be downloaded from its Google Play Store.  Also, the Google Play Store is preinstalled on all Android smartphones, and it has been reported that other app stores can’t buy advertising on the Google search engine or YouTube. 

Google has faced other similar lawsuits e.g., Epic Games suing Google over the removal of Fortnite from the Play Store last year (it was also removed from the iOS App Store).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

With Google’s Play Store being pre-installed on Android phones, it is clearly a very important platform for app developers to be part of. Yes, apps can be downloaded direct from developers, but discovering and downloading apps would appear to be more convenient and likely via a central store. It also seems fair, however, that having access to that route to market should come at some price, and it is inevitable that the level of commission charged is a contentious issue and an area of competition between app stores.  The tech market has long been characterised by a group of big players apparently taking the lion’s share of the market, all of whom, including Google have face various antitrust legal challenges before, often with little real success. The fact that this one is from a multi-state group of attorneys, however, appears to give this one the impression of a bit more clout although it still remains to be seen how this plays out.

Tech Tip : Create Simple To-Do Lists Using Google Tasks

Google Tasks (like Microsoft To-Do), which is already built into Gmail and Google Calendar offers an easy way to create simple to-do lists. Here’s how to use it:

– Sign-in to Google, open Calendar, and click on the ‘Tasks’ symbol (right-hand side, blue circle with pen symbol).

– Click on “Add a task”.

– Add the title, details, date, and time, and click on the tick/complete link. You will notice that it has then been added to your calendar.

– For bigger tasks, click on the three-dot symbol next to the task name (right-hand side of Calendar), select ‘Subtask’, and add each subtask of the main task including time and date.

– When a task is completed, right-mouse click on it in Calendar and select ‘Mark completed’. This will put a line through the task.

– In Calendar, clicking on the yellow light bulb symbol enables you to add notes via Google Keep.