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Rainbow Six Siege will embark on its sixth year with four new operators and several map reworks, but the big launch is a reputation system that rewards positive gameplay behavior with in-game content, which Ubisoft Montreal has been shadow testing over the past few months.
The Reputation System already has been running in the background, according to a news release, and it’s been doling out in-game rewards to good teammates while limiting access to the ranked playlist for toxic ones. It’s also been working in other, unspecified ways to curb toxicity and encourage teamwork; Ubisoft said all this will become transparent when the tool launches at some point in the next year.
The system, and everything else, was discussed in a nearly hour-long livestream on Sunday, all of which is below.
The first season starts with Operation Rainbow Heist, starting March 18. Flores, from Argentina, is the first new operator, with subsequent operators for seasons 2 through 4 coming from western Canada’s Nakoda Nations, Croatia, and Ireland. Season 1 will see a rework of the map Border, with season 2 reconfiguring Favela, season 3 getting three map reworks, and finally Outback getting a polish with season 4.
Core gameplay changes will include the always ongoing operator and weapons balancing (developers have a much more technical discussion of that) as well as some new features and capabilities. Such as:
- Armor will be called Health, “for players to have a better understanding on how much damage they can take.”
- Players will be able to control cameras and gadgets after their death. “This change has been made to intensify the support phase in a game,” Ubisoft said in Sunday’s statement, “and make sure players that are out can better help their team.”
- The Attacker team will be able to change operators and their loadouts as many times as they want in the preparation phase, “making scouting even more tactical and offering many new tactical possibilities,” Ubisoft said.
These features will all arrive at an unspecified point in the coming year.
Also, Ubisoft and Capcom are teaming up to deliver two Resident Evil skins to the game. The first, coming March 2, gives Zofia an elite-level Jill Valentine look. The second is unspecified but might be coming closer to Resident Evil Village’s launch in May.
Rainbow Six Siege first launched in December 2015. Ubisoft said the game now has a player base of more than 70 million.
Among the many transformations accelerated by COVID-19, health care ranks at the top of the list. An industry that had been changing at a plodding pace before 2020 has been forced to rapidly embrace advances like telemedicine and health chatbots on a far greater scale to navigate the crisis.
As health care providers adopt these tools, they are receiving a wealth of new patient data that is creating new challenges and opportunities. On the front lines between patients and doctors, the companies driving these products are betting that they are part of a broader revolution that will place data at the heart of everyday treatment.
“We call it digital primary care,” said Nick Desai, CEO of telemedicine platform Heal. “There is still an irreplaceable value to the human-doctor patient interaction. What we want to do is give doctors data-driven decision support.”
Health care was already facing pressure to reinvent itself before the pandemic. A number of trends — such as population growth, longer lifespans, more complicated health issues, and doctor shortages — were among the factors contributing to higher health care costs and strains on the system.
At the same time, a number of digital trends had begun to collide. These include telemedicine platforms, connected health and fitness-monitoring gadgets, and chatbots, which had all steadily increased the amount of digitized health data being produced.
Telemedicine and chatbots got a nice boost when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expanded reimbursement for remote services such as telemedicine in 2019.
A Stanford University 2020 report published before the pandemic explored the rise of the data-driven physician. Among the factors that seemed to help this trend was the 21st Century Cures Act, passed and signed into law in December 2016. The law set out new data-sharing rules for Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems.
However, it was only last year that the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) finished defining the rules that would expand patient access to medical records, establish data standards, and enable more interoperability between EHR systems.
“For an industry that has long struggled with low levels of information sharing and poor interoperability across its technology systems, in 2020 we expect to see the final rules create a seismic shift in how health care stakeholders share and interact with digital medical records,” the Stanford report reads. “The rise of the Data-Driven Physician is a sign that the entire health care market is now grappling with the practical application of data and new technologies.”
Then came the pandemic.
Even with this forward momentum, many in the medical community were reluctant to embrace these tools. But with the onset of the pandemic, opposition melted away as hospitals became either overwhelmed or simply unsafe to visit.
Hospitals increasingly turned to companies like U.K.-based Babylon Health, which offers services such as video consultations and the ability to report illnesses to providers. The company saw usage soar at the onset of the pandemic, and in May 2020 it launched in its first U.S. market. Sweden’s video consultation platform Kry also launched in the U.S. last spring to address surging demand.
Doctolib, a Paris-based company that offered online booking for medical appointments in France and Germany, had just launched its video feature before the pandemic took hold. Doctolib saw the number of daily video consultations jump from 1,000 pre-pandemic to 100,000 in the first few months of the outbreak. The French government has now authorized it to be one of the main platforms for booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments.
After years of gradual progress, telemedicine and chatbots became overnight successes during the pandemic. According to the recent State of Healthcare report from research firm CB Insights, telehealth (which includes telemedicine and chatbots) became a centerpiece of executive discussions during earnings calls as companies considered how to provide services to employees.
And funding for telemedicine startups soared.
When it comes to chatbots, Ada Health’s combination of artificial intelligence and human doctors had made it a rising star even before the coronavirus began its global spread. The company had spent years developing a platform that allowed patients to input their symptoms so the AI could sort through its databases and either give responses or make a referral to a doctor.
Anyone can download the Ada app for free. To ascertain their symptoms, users are asked a series of questions Ada’s algorithm personalizes based on the responses from each user. The app then suggests possible health issues and proposes next steps, such as making an appointment or going to an emergency room. The app replaces the often tedious work of taking a patient’s history, which can be a big time-saver for doctors and nurses. Ada’s revenue comes via partnerships with health providers who integrate Ada into their early screening systems.
According to Ada cofounder and chief medical officer Dr. Claire Novorol, the company’s consumer app now has 11 million users. While Ada had already seen rapid growth prior to 2020, last year it enabled 5.5 million assessments, or about 25% of all assessments since its app launched in 2016.
Novorol said that during the first phase of the pandemic, when users needed more trustworthy health advice, Ada launched a dedicated COVID-19 assessment and screener to support individuals and health organizations. This screener has since been adopted and integrated into health organizations around the world.
According to Novorol, increased adoption is generating more transparent and consent-driven health data collection and finding ways to share that data will improve digital health services, as well as overall medical quality. This includes capturing data from a wider range of people who might not typically go to a physician.
Novorol said Ada’s access to global aggregated and pseudonymized health data holds the potential to unlock real-time insights that provide additional breadth and depth to treatments.
“In the long-term, not only can health data improve public health and medical quality, but it also has significant potential when it comes to personalization in health care,” Novorol said. “I believe personalized, tailored experiences will be essential to the future of health care — and data will be a key part of that.”
Heal’s Desai is also bullish about the potential for all this data to drastically improve health care.
The company’s telemedicine platform was initially designed to allow doctors to speak with patients from home. The theory was that seeing patients in their normal setting would be more convenient and give doctors insight into any home conditions that might impact a patient’s health.
Desai outlined four levels of data that can potentially impact health care, with Heal currently delivering the first three. The first level is real-time data that can be provided by simple actions, like a parent taking their kid’s temperature and then sending it directly to the doctor via Heal’s service.
The second level is continuous monitoring of patients via those aforementioned connected devices. Along the way, Heal has developed a suite of tools that allow doctors to continually monitor chronic patients from a distance, including factors like blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, and pulse.
That allows physicians to monitor trends in patients’ health status, rather than recording occasional data or relying on patient reporting. Those trends are more powerful for diagnosing a patient because it’s hard to know if a single measure is typical or not. In this case, the doctor can take corrective actions when the trend line seems troubling and more urgent interventions when something seems acute.
“If the doctor knows how your blood pressure’s been doing over the last month, or how your blood sugar has been doing over the last month, that’s very helpful to the doctor to make a more accurate diagnosis,” Desai said. “An average patient is not a good historian of their own health. This way, we keep them out of the hospital, but we’re using that data to more proactively deliver care.”
The third level is looking at the totality of all the data being captured from a patient. This allows for more contextual decisions by looking at a wide range of factors and how they are impacting each other.
However, it’s the fourth level that has Desai particularly excited. The company is currently working with university researchers to develop predictive medicine. This work involves trying to identify what data is useful, how to process it, and what conclusions can actually be made. He estimates such services are at least 12 to 15 months away.
The company is proceeding cautiously because the stakes are enormous. “The key is having it be absolutely accurate enough that the machine’s trend lines are indicative of reality,” Desai said. “Because the moment you make decisions based on machines, they’ve got to be good decisions.”
Even if the company cracks the formula, other hurdles remain. If a doctor can say with a high degree of certainty that a patient will develop a severe illness later in life, it might make sense to consider a preventive procedure. But while that decision might make sense at the time, it could lead to regret later if a treatment or cure for that same illness is developed many years later.
“Those are the kinds of things at an ethical level and at a practical level and at a cost level that become factors,” Desai said. “What is the insurance company willing to pay for the level of knowledge? It’s not just the science that has to advance, it’s also the business of health care, the insurance of health, ethical decisions, therapeutics, and treatment.”
But he added: “This is the holy grail. That machine-driven decision support, that’s the future for us.”
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Feud between Australian government and Facebook rages on with COVID campaign rollout – National Post
SYDNEY — Australia’s government pledged a publicity campaign for its rollout of COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday – but not in Facebook advertisements, as a feud continues over the social media giant blocking news content from its platform in the country.
Facebook Inc’s abrupt decision on Thursday to stop Australians from sharing news on its platform and strip the pages of domestic and foreign media outlets also blacked out several state government and emergency department accounts, drawing furious responses from lawmakers around the world.
Hours before Australia began inoculations with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government would embark on a wide-ranging communication campaign, including online, to ensure vulnerable people turned up for a shot.
But a ban on health department spending to advertise on Facebook would remain in place until the dispute between the Big Tech company and Australia – over a new law to make Facebook pay for news content – was resolved.
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“On my watch, until this issue is resolved, there will not be Facebook advertising,” Hunt told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “There has been none commissioned or instituted since this dispute arose. Basically you have corporate titans acting as sovereign bullies and they won’t get away with it.”
Since the news blackout, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said he would talk with Facebook about its move over the weekend. On Saturday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Facebook had “tentatively friended us again” without giving further details.
Morrison got an injection on Sunday to publicize the program, saying the country would use “all the communication mechanisms available to us to reach people” without commenting specifically about Facebook advertising.
Hunt said the authorities would use every channel to encourage Australians to get vaccinated, including messages on foreign language broadcaster SBS, but “there is the capacity to do paid advertising (on Facebook) and that element is not on the cards … for now.”
Frydenberg’s office did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment on Sunday.
On my watch, until this issue is resolved, there will not be Facebook advertising
Morrison said Facebook Inc. has re-engaged with the government after escalating tensions.
“They’re back at the table,” Morrison told reporters on Saturday in Sydney. “That’s what we want to see. We want to work through this issue.”
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The prime minister also welcomed a report that a Facebook executive had apologized for the company mistakenly shutting down pages operated by charities and others that covered public-health and safety announcements. Morrison described the actions as “completely indefensible.”
Facebook blocked news sharing on its platform in Australian in response to a legal standoff with the government, which is expected to pass laws next week aimed at compensating the local media industry for advertising revenue lost to digital platforms.
Facebook’s dispute on news sharing in Australia is part of a broader battle against global regulation, with lawmakers in other countries watching the case closely.
A Facebook representative said in an email that the company was “engaging with the Australian Government to outline our ongoing concerns with the proposed law (and would) continue to work with the government on amendments to the law, with the aim of achieving a stable, fair path for both Facebook and publishers.”
With files from Bloomberg.
Indians are so lonely they said ‘I love you’ to Amazon’s Alexa 19,000 times a day in 2020; read more – OrissaPOST
Bengaluru: Amazon Alexa turned three in India Monday and the customer interactions with the virtual assistant increased 67 per cent in 2020. The customers said ‘I love you’ to Alexa 19,000 times a day, up a massive 1,200 per cent from 2019, according to the company.
More customers in non-metro cities brought home an Echo device, accounting for over 50 per cent of India’s Alexa users.
“Be it the Echo device in the living room, 100+ Alexa built-in devices or your favourite smartphone, it is heart-warming to see users across the length and breadth of the country across age groups find value and adopt Alexa in their daily lives”, said Puneesh Kumar, Country Leader for Alexa, Amazon India.
“For us, it is always Day 1 as we learn from our customers and continue to add new features, improving Alexa’s understanding on topics that matter to users locally,” he said in a statement.
Customers from over 85 per cent pin codes purchased Echo smart speakers in 2020.
On Alexa’s third anniversary, Amazon said it will make the digital assistant affordable, more accessible for customers looking to welcome the voice service in their homes.
“Starting 12 midnight on February 15, for 24 hours, sellers on Amazon.in will have blockbuster offers on best-selling Echo Devices, attractive smart home bundles and more. Customers can also shop from a curation of smart-home accessories from some of India’s biggest consumer electronic brands,” the company announced.
Leading smartphone brands in India now offer Alexa built-in phones. Currently, there are six smartphones including Redmi Note 9 Pro and OnePlus Nord that offer built-in Alexa..
In 2020, Alexa debuted on the Amazon Shopping App (Android only) and responded to over 5.8 Lakh requests every day to search for products, best deals, and music.
Last year, customers in India asked Alexa to control a smart home gadget 8.6 lakh times every day, preferring voice to control their smart home gadgets.
Led by Amazon Echo devices, the shipments of smart home speakers were expected to cross 7.5 lakh units in India by the end of 2020, which is an all-time high, according to market research firm techARC.
The market is primarily led by Amazon Echo Smart Speakers, which had a massive 95.9 per cent cumulative market share for the January-September period.
. Beyond Amazon’s expanding lineup of , the tech giant also owns home security brands , and Wi-Fi router brand . Smart thermostat maker gets . Google owns Nest and , rebranding most of its smart products from “Google Home” to “Google Nest,” like the and the .
Our current list offeatures 12 products, and seven of them are Amazon or Google devices — or devices made by Amazon- or Google-owned (or funded) companies. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They’re all solid gadgets and we heartily recommend them. As much as Google and Amazon (the latter especially) deserve credit for bringing some much needed organization to the smart home category via their popular voice assistants, it’s easy to forget that the home industry is bigger than these two companies.
That’s part of the purpose of this post — to look at the smart home in a different way and to see what else is out there when you remove some of the most obvious players. That said, Alexa and Google Assistant are compatible with…well, pretty much every smart home gadget at this point. For better or for worse, this would be an exceptionally short list if we stuck to devices that are totally independent from Google Assistant and Alexa compatibility. It would be even shorter if we left off products that use backend support likeand .
Larger questions about market consolidation and data stewardship emerge the deeper down the rabbit hole you go on Amazon and Google’s omnipresence in our lives. There’s also the question of privacy. Amazon and Google dot headlines forand . Amazon’s home security company, Ring, has been the subject of for its .
I had to draw a line somewhere for this story, so for the purposes of this product roundup, Amazon, Ring, Blink, Eero, Ecobee, Google and Nest-branded devices are out.
Of course, the brands I list here aren’t impervious to data breaches either. Apple, which I nominate below for best smart speaker and best smart display display, had an issue with Apple’s FaceTime app made it possible to listen to a person receiving a call, even if they didn’t answer the call.that allowed hackers to gather personal information from websites. And an
Still, this is a particularly great list if you have concerns about the privacy of Amazon and Google products.
Now that all of that is out of the way, let’s get into this list of the top smart home devices that aren’t made by Amazon or Google.
Apple’s smart speaker — the HomePod — hit stores in early 2018. It delivers excellent sound quality and solid, albeit limited, third-party Siri voice integrations for controlling smart home devices. Pair two HomePods together to create a stereo pair or set up multiple HomePods throughout your home for multi-room audio.
Over the two years since the HomePod launched, Apple has dropped its price from $349 to $299 and added new features to remain competitive. It also recently launched the new $99 HomePod Mini.
Read more: The best smart speakers
Even so, the HomePod — much like Apple’s smart home platform, HomeKit — still lags behind Amazon and Google’s ever-growing lineup of branded smart speakers and partnerships with other companies that enable so many integrations with a simple “Alexa” or “Hey, Google” command.
There is one potential benefit to HomeKit and the HomePod’s slow third-party growth: improved security.
Again, this doesn’t mean Apple is immune to privacy breaches, but its smart home has remained relatively untouched when you consider the Amazon and Google headlines. That makes the HomePod a decent option for someone who’s a bit leery of smart speakers, particularly when it comes to user privacy.
We’re also keeping an eye on crowdfunded smart speakers, like the Mycroft Mark II, which claims to give “you the power of voice while maintaining privacy and data independence.” Interesting.
Netgear took a significant departure in price from the inaugural Orbi it introduced back in 2016 with this new Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi System. We liked the original model, but it cost a whopping $400. Fast-forward three years and Netgear is back with a whole new Orbi, this time for just $150.
For your money, you get a two-pack Orbi system that’s designed to cover up to 3,000 square feet and works with Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands. 3,000 square feet isn’t quite enough to blanket the large CNET Smart Home in Wi-Fi, but Netgear does offer three- and four-pack kits for $230 and $300 if you have more ground to cover.
Read more: The best mesh Wi-Fi systems
The Netgear app could use a redesign, but the Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi System offers a great overall value and is well worth considering if you’re not quite ready to make the move to Wi-Fi 6 (but want a solid Wi-Fi connection throughout your house).
If you’ve overlooked the lowly smart plug up until now, you might want to reconsider. The $30 TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini, available for less on Amazon (as of writing this, it’s just $15), makes it incredibly easy to control everyday household devices.
Connect your smart plug to a wall outlet, then plug in a desk fan, lamp, or other small electronic device for easy on/off control straight from your phone — or with an Alexa or Google Assistant voice command. In addition to the Kasa Smart Plug Mini’s reliable performance, I really like that this particular smart plug doesn’t block any other outlets — something that strangely isn’t always the case (including with TP-Link’s own Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug with Energy Monitoring).
Read more: The best smart plugs
The Kasa Smart Plug Mini can also be set to control a device automatically on a schedule. For example, if you want your entryway lamp to turn on at 6 p.m. and off at 10 p.m., just go to the app and schedule it. As long as your Wi-Fi connection is solid, your TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini will control your devices for you, so you can focus on more important things.
The Wyze Bulb is an unassuming choice for best light bulb. It only costs $8, a fraction of what Philips or Lifx charges — and yet, it earned top marks in our testing. That only makes its incredible value all the more impressive.
Wyze’s smart bulb is a dimmable white-light LED with a scheduling function and an adjustable color temperature.
Download the Wyze app, screw in the Wyze Bulb and follow the simple setup steps — and you’re just a few minutes away from having app-controlled lighting. Wyze Bulbs work with Alexa and Google Assistant as well, if you want to use a voice command to adjust them.
Read more: The best smart bulbs
While the app is easy to use and the dimming, scheduling and color temperature settings work well, I do wish the app had a sunrise/sunset setting that automatically adjusted the schedule based on the time of year. I have three Wyze bulbs in covered outside light fixtures and have to occasionally adjust my schedule to account for the changing seasons.
Still, they’re excellent bulbs at a great price; we highly recommend them.
Note: Wyze Bulbs are technically indoor lights, so make sure to follow Wyze’s guidelines when you install these yourself.
The $200 Honeywell Home T9 is a nice-looking smart thermostat at a reasonable price — especially because it comes with a remote sensor that tracks temperature, humidity and motion. The remote sensor, called a “Smart Room Sensor,” is powered by two AAA batteries and is supposed to have a 200-foot range. Additional sensors cost $40 each (steep, I know) and you can add up to 20.
If you aren’t interested in buying the T9 bundled with a Smart Room Sensor, the thermostat costs $170 on its own.
Read more: The best smart thermostats
The Honeywell Home T9 Smart Thermostat is easy to install and the app provides straightforward step-by-step instructions to get it connected to your Wi-Fi and paired to the app. As always, make sure to consult an electrician if you have any questions about how this thermostat will work with your particular home setup.
If you want to branch out from the app, the T9 thermostat also works with Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands.
Let’s get the annoying stuff out of the way first. At $500 for a two-camera pack, the Arlo Pro 3 is expensive (it’s currently discounted to $450 on the Arlo online store). That $500 kit also includes a required hub that you have to connect to your router. Arlo claims the hub helps extend the Wi-Fi range of its Pro 3 cameras and improves the battery life of each camera’s rechargeable battery, but feel superfluous compared to all of the non-hub Wi-Fi security cameras out there.
Read more: The best home security cameras
That said, the Arlo Pro 3 is my favorite home security camera. It’s weatherproof and can go anywhere, as long as your Wi-Fi network reaches it. It has easy-to-remove rechargeable batteries that can last for months on a single charge (battery life will vary based on use). And the camera itself has a built-in spotlight and siren to startle potential intruders.
With an Arlo Smart subscription, starting at $3 per month, you’ll receive custom motion alerts that tell you whether it sees a person, a car, an animal or a package — and get 30 days of access to recorded motion clips. Arlo cameras are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Simplisafe bridges the gap between professional security systems like Vivint or ADT and standalone home security devices like the Arlo Pro 3 camera. It’s a complete, scalable home security system you install yourself. The $229 “Foundation” security kit comes with basics, including a hub, a keypad, a door/window sensor and a motion sensor. Add extra sensors and other devices as needed.
Read more: The best home security systems
For $25 per month, you get professional security monitoring from a remote call center and access to the Simplisafe app where you can also check in on things yourself. Unlike professional security companies, Simplisafe doesn’t come with an “early termination” fee — or otherwise lock you into a contract. If you decide to cancel, or decide to move, you can either move your system to your new home or cancel without extra charges.
Simplisafe’s security system recently underwent a design overhaul, too, making it much easier on the eyes than the last version. Overall, it’s an ideal system for someone craving the accessory options of an ADT without the contract.
Unlike the pricey (but awesome) Arlo Pro 3, the $150 Arlo Video Doorbell is reasonably priced for a smart doorbell. The Arlo Video Doorbell has all the basics, including HD live streaming, motion alerts, night vision and two-way audio. It also has a wide 180-degree field of view in a 1:1 aspect ratio (meaning it’s easier to see packages left on the front porch than a traditional landscape view).
Read more: The best video doorbells
When the doorbell detects motion, or if someone rings the bell, a motion alert goes to your phone so you can see who’s there — and talk to them. The doorbell also comes with prerecorded messages if you don’t want to talk to them directly.
This hardwired doorbell has a built-in siren like the Arlo Pro 3 camera and offers the same optional Arlo Smart cloud subscription plan, starting at $3 a month. With Arlo Smart, you’ll get 30 days of saved custom video clips that specify whether the motion was a person, a car, an animal or a package being delivered.
The $229 August Smart Lock Pro is a Bluetooth-enabled smart lock. It comes bundled with a plug-in Connect Wi-Fi module so you can also control your lock beyond Bluetooth range from the August app. Like other locks from August, which is owned by the same company as Yale, this model retrofits over most existing deadbolts and makes for a simple installation.
Read more: The best smart locks
In addition to the lock and the Connect module, the Smart Lock Pro kit includes a door sensor and a related feature called “Door Sense.” With this feature, you can confirm whether your door is open or closed, as well as locked or unlocked straight from your phone. The app is easy to use, from following the step-by-step instructions to install your lock, to checking whether your door is open or closed — and customizing your lock’s feature in the settings menu. The August Smart Lock Pro supports Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri voice commands.
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Google’s threatened shutdown of its search engine in Australia over a proposed content licensing law would ripple across industries, saddling partners like Apple with a sudden revenue gap and retailers as varied as affordable Kmart to upmarket David Jones with a supply of potentially useless gadgets.
The Alphabet Inc-owned company last month said it would likely pull its core search function from Australia if the government pushes ahead with a plan to require it and Facebook Inc to pay media companies an indeterminate fee for news snippets shown on their services.
Google and Facebook are fighting the first-of-its-kind “News Media Bargaining Code” as other countries consider similar efforts to aid publishers that have lost ad sales to the tech companies. In a sign of the Australian effort’s potential to shake up the industry, Microsoft Corp – whose Bing search engine stands to benefit from any Google retreat – on Thursday called for the United States to adopt a similar law.
Australian lawmakers have said the law is needed to help media firms stay afloat and so will press forward despite the threat, which Google formalised in a securities filing last week that stated forced bargaining “could result in our having to alter or withdraw products and services”. Final passage of the legislation could come as early as next week.
Google is pitching its own payment program with terms it can better control, and last month reached a deal with major publishers in France as well as Reuters.
In Australia, Google users, advertisers and business partners have begun to worry about losing Google, which has a 94% share of the country’s search market. The interconnected nature of Google’s products means that devices including Android phones, Chromebook laptops and Nest smart speakers could be impaired without search.
“If Google’s search function no long longer exists in Australia, that will remove a lot of the features I use on Google Nest,” said Margaret Morgan, a screenwriter from Sydney who keeps a speaker in most rooms of her house and owns a Google Pixel smartphone.
Google declined to comment for this story. The company has argued that being able to link to other websites for free is essential to search and many other free services that benefit Australians.
REASON TO WORRY
The many companies that get paid in one way or another from Google search revenue have reason to worry, too. Apple Inc, for one, receives billions of dollars globally to set Google as the default search program on iPhones, the Safari web browser and the Siri voice assistant, U.S. antitrust authorities have said.
Browser makers including Mozilla and Opera get revenue share from Google, as do internet carriers in Australia such as TPG Telecom Ltd’s iinet, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd’s Optus and Telstra Corp.
The various partners did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment.
Exact terms of such deals could not be learned, but estimates based on publicly available information showed that half-a-billion dollars or more could be at stake.
Total search ad revenue in Australia is pegged at about $3 billion for 2021 by researcher eMarketer, with almost all of that going to Google. The company paid out about 22% of its global ad revenue to search and other partners last year, financial statements showed.
In the United Kingdom, with about 2-1/2 times the population of Australia, Google spent $1.5 billion to become the default search engine on a variety of devices in 2019.
Australian electronics chains such as JB Hi-Fi Ltd, Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd and Wesfarmers Ltd-owned Officeworks could also take a hit because they stock gadgets that have Google’s search engine built-in. The same goes for department store chains like Wesfarmers’ Kmart, Woolworths Group Ltd’s Big W, and David Jones, which is owned by South Africa’s unrelated Woolworths Holdings Ltd.
Though Pixel phones hold just 2% of Australia’s smartphone market, Nest speakers dominate with a 61% share, or 1.6 million households. Nearly a million Australians among a population of 25 million use five or more Google-owned services, technology analysis firm Telsyte said.
Search is “fundamental to Google’s business model across all its products,” said Foad Fadaghi, managing director of Telsyte.
Retailers have began seeking reassurance from Google about its products’ functionality if search disappears, though none have cancelled or returned orders, two people with knowledge of the communications told Reuters.
Google also has smaller search partnerships. Software vendors Hey You and Redcat enable restaurants to solicit orders via buttons that accompany search results, and the Australian Football League has let fans vote on awards through search.
Redcat sales and marketing director Lawrence Pelletier said the year-old search integration drives 15,000 orders a month, mostly from new customers.
“Would it be crippling if Google left? No. Would it be frustrating? Yes,” Pelletier said.
Hey You Chief Executive Uzair Moosa said he is exploring alternatives, but Google’s largest search rival, Bing, does not offer a comparable tool.
Catherine Rowlands, a nurse from Sydney with a Pixel phone, told Reuters she feared what was to come.
“My phone without Google,” she said, “might as well be an old Nokia or something that just makes phone calls.”
Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney and Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif.; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Christopher Cushing
Every January, huge crowds descend on Las Vegas for the CES gadget show, an extravaganza of tech and glitz intended to set the tone for the coming year in consumer technology. CES kicks off this week, but thanks to the pandemic, it will be in a radical new format — a “virtual” show taking place only in cyberspace.
Yes, that means everyone can still get a glimpse of the future, but only by via technology of the future — aka video streams and chat. If all goes well, attendees will be able to marvel at COVID-fighting “coronabots,” artificial intelligence-powered avatars and transparent TVs.
But it’s still not entirely clear exactly how all this all is going to work, or whether the show will generate anything resembling its usual boosting impact on the tech industry.
“It’s different. Obviously we’re not going to be in Las Vegas, we’ll be spread out around the world,” said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association, the trade group that produces CES. “But I think there’s an attitude that because of COVID that we’re all in this together and that is what the CES is about. It’s really the shared experience of the industry. Everyone just wants to come together.”
The show will be a trade-off, Shapiro said. Forget the attention-getting spectacles, like dazzling wall-high TV displays and Google’s theme-park ride from two years ago. Instead, Shapiro said, there will be a chance for a more personalized experience that attendees can set up in advance based on their particular interests.
That’s the optimistic view. On the flip side, smaller exhibitors are less likely to get noticed without a show floor. Serendipitous meetings between entrepreneurs and investors, potential acquirers and acquirees, job-seekers and employers — all common to the world’s largest tech show — will probably be scarce.
More than 150,000 attendees and 1,800 exhibitors will take part in CES from Monday to Thursday, a show that will now consist of virtual keynote speeches, product demonstrations and panel discussions. Plus, there’s the opportunity to network in virtual meeting rooms. Last year in the physical show, there were about 170,000 attendees and 4,400 exhibitors. The number of exhibitors were capped this year at 2,000 to insure the online experience, which is being run by Microsoft, was optimal.
Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies, insists that not much has changed about CES for him, despite the fact that he’ll be staring at screens rather than haunting meeting rooms and pacing the convention floor. He’s still researching products he wants to see demos of, scheduling meetings with people he wants to talk to one-on-one and focusing on keynotes and sessions to attend.
“The difference is I’m not there physically having to walk 10 miles a day and I’m not paying exorbitant high hotel fees,” he said. “I’m not having to battle people shoulder-to-shoulder to navigate the show floors.”
But smaller companies and startups might find it harder to stand out. While CES has gone to great lengths to let attendees search through exhibitors by topic and interest categories, the site still can be tricky to navigate. When the show is in Las Vegas, its “Eureka Park” is an area where you can wander — aimlessly or with purpose — through hundreds of booths extolling new internet-connected gadgets, unglamorous back-end technology services, or anything else you might want.
Online, you can search for “Eureka Park” or “startup.” But what you get is a seemingly endless set of pages bearing the logos of 600 companies, 12 at a time — and no description of any of them.
Qeexo, a machine-learning platform startup, exhibited during CES in 2019 and 2020, but has decided to sit 2021 out. The company entered the CES innovation awards and won an honour, but won’t have even a virtual booth after participating in other virtual events it didn’t find effective.
“The benefit of having an onsite booth is you get real time feedback, after showing a live demo,” said CEO Sang Won Lee. The company already has an online demo at its own website, and doesn’t see the point of additional investment. “It’s difficult to get engaged (online) when you can’t really talk to people directly,” Lee said.
Mark Ely, vice-president of product strategy at Roku, which is announcing technology that lets electronics makers create their wireless soundbars that work with Roku TVs, says changes to the show seem similar to the adjustments everyone has had to make over the past 10 months due to the coronavirus.
“In some ways our meetings approach is the same as it would have been over past few months doing Zoom calls,” he said. So they are adjusting to meetings at CES the same way they’ve adjusted to meetings during the pandemic, by going virtual. “The benefit is everyone shows up on time, which is always challenging at CES,” he said. “The downside is you don’t get the chance to engage with a broader range of partners.”
Tuong Nguyen, senior principal analyst at Gartner, said this year’s CES is taking more planning.
“The biggest challenge is sort of the ad hoc interactions that I usually have, walking the floor to catch someone doing something interesting,” he said. “I’m trying to do some more targeted outreach.”
But he’s not sure how his week will pan out. The experience reminds him of his first CES, an overwhelming extravaganza punctuated by huge crowds, chance meetings, big parties, endless walking and long taxi lines. “You don’t really know what’s going to happen,” he said.
AP Business Writer Joseph Pisani in New York contributed to this report