Google spanks naughty app developers

If you have an app on the Google Play Store, and that app provides for in-app purchases, watch out, because the Big G is coming after you.

Currently, under Google’s rules, if you provide in-app purchases, you must use the Google Play Store’s billing services, which basically means that Google keeps around 30% of your revenue.

This is nothing new. It has always been the case. However, a number of developers have decided to ignore this rule and Google is not pleased. So, it plans to reinforce it. Apple is taking similar measures, so the news for developers is not good.

In response, a coalition of app publishers, such as Spotify, Epic Games and Basecamp, “have announced the creation of the “Coalition for App Fairness,” which hopes to more fair arrangements between app stores and publishers,” Johan Moreno reports. The new organization formalises efforts the companies already have underway that focus on either forcing app store providers to change their policies, or ultimately forcing the app stores into regulation. You can find out more on the coalition’s website, where the group details its key issues, including anti-competitive practices, such as the app stores’ 30% commission structure, and the inability to distribute software to billions of Apple devices through any other means but the App Store. The group sees this as an affront to personal freedom.

They just happen to be some of the developers that have been thwarting Google’s fee rule, according to Bloomberg. They have managed to do this, “by mandating that users sign up for services (and pay) through the app’s website, which avoids the need for in-app purchases.”

The problem for Google is Android’s open nature. It allows users to download third-party apps, whereas Apple has a closed app ecosystem. As Moreno says, “on some Android devices, there may be a third-party app store, operating completely without the guidance of Google.”

App developers may continue to circumvent Google by creating and popularising, “a third-party app marketplace that can be loaded onto Android that may provide more fair terms for developers.”

Who Will Kill Bitcoin?

We are apparently living in an unprecedented time, although of course we aren’t; there have been plagues before this one. The only difference is that we are living through this is in an age of technology.

We know who the global tech giants are:They are Google, Facebook and Apple, and they all need to build their revenue. Amazon is excluded from the list, because it has already seen a massive growth in traffic and purchases, as consumers confined to their homes need to have stuff delivered.

 

One way in which the three tech giants could pursue rapid growth is by entering the financial services sector, something they have dipped their toes into, but have never embraced wholeheartedly. However, they face a challenge, and as Billy Bambrough, one of the expert cryptocurrency analysts I follow writes, while Google et al have been waiting around, “bitcoin has gained ground.”

What are Google and Facebook’s weak points?

 

As Bambrough says, these two companies have relied on ad revenue, but he believes that this is going to be squeezed hard by regulators in the post-virus world. In an earlier article, he wrote that the world will likely be looking for alternatives, and quotes the CEO of the blockchain-based privacy browser Brave, who believes Google “is going to be taken apart over coming years.”

Apple loses its grip

 

Apple has seen sales of its big money maker, the iPhone, decline. The reason being that less expensive phones have improved in quality, and improvements to the iPhone have not proved to be enough to really enthuse the consumer. Add to this the economic effects of the coming global recession and it is easy to see that those who might once have splashed out nearly $1000 on a new iPhne, may opt, indeed will have to opt, for cheaper models that effectively do the same job.

Google is apparently looking into launching a smart debit card, and Apple has already debuted a credit card, while Facebook is still moving ahead with its Libra stablecoin project that caused such a stir last year. It hoped to displace bitcoin as a leading cryptocurrency, but has clearly been foiled in its efforts.

 

Bitcoin offers stability

Meanwhile bitcoin, which has no tech company, government or central bank behind it lives on. And as Bambrough points out, it doesn’t even have an advertising budget, never mind a CEO. As he says, “Bitcoin, maintained by an evolving and decentralized network and beholden only to the mathematical principles that underpin it, is stability without authority.”

 

Google et al by contrast are deeply centralised, and so will any financial products they unleash on the market. They will never get away from that, whereas bitcoin continues to represent the antithesis of Silicon Valley capitalism. That’s why the big tech companies main option now is to kill it! But who will do it?

Free phones – but NO privacy!

Image result for Free phones – but NO privacy!

When I spotted an article in Forbes by Thomas Brewster, I was immediately intrigued. The headline is U.S. Funds Program With Free Android Phones For The Poor — But With Permanent Chinese Malware. It surely must strike anyone reading it as a giving with one hand and taking away with the other gesture. So, I had to check out what it was about.

As I live outside the USA, I was not aware that low income households in the States have been able to get cheap cell service and even free smartphones via the U.S. government-funded Lifeline Assistance program. And there is one provider of this service called Assurance Wireless that offers a free Android device along with free data, texts and minutes. It sounds good on the face of it.

But according to security researchers at Malware Bytes there is a significant drawback to the distribution of this largesse. The Android phones come with preinstalled Chinese malware, which effectively opens up a backdoor onto the device and endangers the users’ private data. And, the researchers say that one of the types of malware is impossible to remove.

Malware Bytes informed Assurance Wireless about the issue. Assurance is a Virgin Mobile company, just as a matter of interest. So far Malware Bytes have not received a response from the service provider. So, users should be aware that their devices are vulnerable. Interestingly, after Forbes published the article a spokesperson for Sprint, which owns Virgin Mobile and Assurance Wireless, said: “We are aware of this issue and are in touch with the device manufacturer Unimax to understand the root cause. However, after our initial testing we do not believe the applications described in the media are malware.”

The FCC, which runs Lifeline Assistance, confirmed to Forbes that the law requires “its fund not be used by partner carriers for spending on devices.”

As a result questions are being asked. Senator Ron Wyden asked the FCC why these phones are being distributed to low-income citizens: “It is outrageous that taxpayer money may be going to companies providing insecure, malware-ridden phones to low-income families. I’ll be asking the FCC to ensure Americans that depend on Lifeline Assistance aren’t paying the price with their privacy and security.”

According to the Forbes article, the affected device is a UMX phone shipped by Assurance Wireless, and one of the bits of malware is the creation of a Chinese entity known as Adups. It basically auto-installs apps and the user has no way of controlling that. Furthermore Adups tools have been caught siphoning off private data in the past. This included the full-body of text messages, contact lists and call histories with full telephone numbers.

All this begs the question that Thomas Brewster asks – is privacy only for the rich?

Bill Gates’ big mistake

What do you think might be the biggest mistake Bill Gates ever made? It doesn’t seem to have been too costly a mistake as he’s a tech billionaire turned philanthropist.

According to recent interviews reported by CNN Business channel, he has been telling the media that his “greatest mistake” was not ensuring that Microsoft became Apple’s biggest iOS rival.

As the story goes, Microsoft lost out to Google when it came to launching a system to challenge Apple’s iOS. That system of course is Android, used by every phone that isn’t an iPhone. So, you can imagine his regret that Microsoft didn’t manage to get ahead of Google.

Gates told venture capital firm Village Global: “In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform. … There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system.”

Microsfot’s problem stemmed from its domination of the computer market. If you weren’t working on a Mac, you were using a computer with Microsoft’s software. That was it; there were only two choices.

With so much concentrated in the computer market, Microsoft trailed behind Apple in the emerging smartphone sector. Although it needn’t have.

Microsoft came out with its own mobile operating system, called Windows Mobile, in 2000. Apple debuted its iPhone in 2007, followed by Google’s Android platform in 2008. So theoretically Microsoft had the opportunity, but it just didn’t keep up with Apple and then Google.

Gates told the Economic Club in Washington, DC

that the antitrust trial in that period was a major distraction. Moreover, the company didn’t place the best staff to work on mobile.

“We knew the mobile phone would be very popular so we were doing what was called Windows Mobile. We missed being the dominant mobile operating system by a very tiny amount. We were distracted during our antitrust trial. We didn’t assign the best people to do the work. So it’s the biggest mistake I made in terms of something that was clearly within our skillset. We were clearly the company that should have achieved that — and we didn’t.”

Gates also told Village Global that this error cost the company billions of dollars that ultimately went to Google. He also told them, “Our other assets like Windows and Office are still very strong, so we are a leading company. But if we had gotten that one right, we would be THE leading company, but oh well.”

And just so you know; Gates uses an Android phone. Perhaps using an iPhone would have been going just a step too far.