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Why are Apple and Epic going to court over Fortnite currency? | Apple

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Apple and Epic Games will go head to head in court in front of a US federal judge on Monday, the latest stage in the Fortnite maker’s campaign to break open the iPhone’s walled garden.

The feud has been growing since last August, when Epic set in motion a plan – known internally as “project liberty” – to try to get past the restrictions Apple places on software made for iPhones and iPads. Here is what brought the two companies to this point.

What is Epic’s problem with Apple?

The App Store is the only way to install software on iPhones and iPads, but companies have to play by Apple’s rules if they want to be included. Those rules are byzantine, controlling everything from adult content to security practices, but Epic’s main issue is with the rules controlling how it can charge customers for “V-bucks”, the in-game currency used to buy items in Fortnite.

Apple requires large companies to pay 30% of the money they receive for such sales of digital goods – since last December, smaller companies can apply for a discounted rate – a cut which Epic’s founder and chief executive, Tim Sweeney, had long complained was extortionate.

How did Epic kick off the fight?

Sweeney sent Apple a behind-the-scenes ultimatum: allow Epic to run its own App Store for iPhones, where it could take payments without a cut.

Apple rejected Epic’s terms, and on 13 August Epic unilaterally updated Fortnite to allow users to buy V-bucks direct, and offered a discount for those who did. Apple and Google, whose Google Play app store rules were also circumvented, retaliated within hours by removing the game. Epic took the fight public, reworking Apple’s famous 1984 commercial to pitch the company under Tim Cook as the new villain.

Does Epic have history with this sort of thing?

The showdown with Apple has echoes of past Epic campaigns, which have had mixed results. It successfully forced Sony’s hand in 2017 in a nearly identical playbook. Fortnite was updated to allow “cross play”, letting Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Switch players compete directly, but Sony refused to allow PlayStation owners to join. That autumn, a brief software update – which Epic said was a mistake – enabled the feature for PlayStation owners, proving that it was possible and casting Sony as the sole holdout. The company panicked, fearing it could lose its reputation as the console platform “for the players”, its tagline at the time, and relented.

Another attempt to bypass controls was less successful. Epic launched the Epic Games Store on Android in 2018, using a technical feature of Google’s mobile platform to legitimately bypass the company’s control. The store ran for two years, but was eventually shuttered because, Epic said: “Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage, through technical and business measures such as scary, repetitive security pop-ups.”

What has Apple’s response been?

Apple has held fast. The company not only removed Fortnite from the App Store, as Epic expected, but initially tried to go further by threatening Epic’s ability to publish software for Macs too. That would have harmed another wing of Epic’s business, where the company makes the Unreal engine, a popular tool for developing 3D graphics for the gaming, film and design industries. The courts blocked that salvo after Microsoft joined in on Epic’s side.

Apple insists there is no room for negotiation, and that the rules the App Store runs on are there to ensure the safety and security of its users. Requirements to funnel payments through Apple protect users against financial scams, and a ban on installing alternative app stores prevents malware from running rampant on the platform.

Does Epic have any supporters?

A whole load. Shortly after the case was launched, a new body, the Coalition for App Fairness appeared, with members including Epic, Spotify and the Tinder owner Match Group. CAF is firmly aimed at Apple, and argues that the company’s 30% cut “represents an enormous portion of their revenue, in many cases an untenably large one”. The Guardian is a member of the News Media Association, itself a member of News Media Europe, which in turn is part of CAF.

Other CAF members have similar complaints about different parts of the App Store. makes gadgets which can track lost items, a market Apple entered in April. Tile argues Apple has an unfair advantage, because it allows its AirTags software capabilities that Tile was barred from using.

What is the legal case likely to turn on?

According to court filings, Epic will present Apple’s restrictions as the acts of a monopoly player that is extracting unfair payments from companies with no option but to accede. Apple will argue that the success of other mobile phone makers shows that it is not a monopolist, and that the small portion of Epic’s business that occurs on iOS – reportedly less than 10% of Fortnite’s revenues before it was pulled – further supports the idea that the two companies are equals.

Are there any surprises in store?

It is rare that battles between companies this big make it to open court, because the incentive to settle beforehand is so big. The list of executives lined up to testify includes Tim Cook and Tim Sweeney, Apple’s Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi, the former App Store boss Scott Forstall and witnesses from Facebook and Microsoft. Testimony under oath extracted by skilled lawyers could produce some uncomfortable disclosures from everyone.

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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Charles River to create 90 new jobs at Ballina biologics site

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Charles River is expanding its testing capabilities in Ballina as part of its partnership with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories is planning an €8m site expansion in Ballina to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca.

The expansion at the Mayo site will create an additional 1,500 sq m of lab space and 90 highly skilled jobs in the area over the next three years.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The company provides longstanding partners AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of Vaxzevria for Covid-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.

The latest investment follows earlier expansions at the Ballina site and Charles River recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.

“We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” said Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina.

“Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients.”

Charles River acquired the Ballina facility, which focuses on biologics testing, in 2002. The company employs 230 people at its two facilities in Ireland, including the Mayo site and a site in Dublin, established in 2017, which serves as the EMEA and APAC headquarters for the company’s microbial solutions division.

IDA Ireland is supporting the expansion. Mary Buckley, executive director of the agency, said Charles River is an “employer of long standing” in Co Mayo.

“The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome,” she added. “Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations.”

Dan Wygal, country president for AstraZeneca Ireland, added: “Our Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”

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