Bloomberg is reporting that European Union antitrust regulators are preparing to launch an investigation aimed at concluding whether or not search giant Google “imposes exclusivity obligations on advertising partners.” Several companies, including Microsoft, are claiming that Google is preventing said partner-sites from placing ads for “competing services” on their websites. Foundem, a U.K. based price-comparison site, said Google was “stifling innovation” and that the company “should not be allowed to discriminate in favor of its own services.” In a written statement, Google explained: “There’s always going to be room for improvement and so we’ll be working with the commission to address any concerns.” The European Commission can levy fines of up to 10% of a company’s revenue for monopolistic practices. More →
If we know one thing about Apple it is this: they like control… and this latest rumor seems to reaffirm that creed. Blog GigaOM is reporting that Apple is planning to release an iPhone with an integrated SIM that can be used on any wireless carrier — partnered with Apple — in the EU. A universal iPhone if you will. As the report explains:
Sources inside European carriers have reported that Apple has been working with SIM-card manufacturer Gemalto to create a special SIM card that would allow consumers in Europe to buy a phone via the web or at the Apple Store and get the phones working using Apple’s App Store.
This special SIM would have an upgradeable flash component as well as a ROM component. The article goes on to explain:
The ROM area contains data provided by Gemalto with everything related to IT and network security, except for the carrier-related information. The flash component will receive the carrier related data via a local connection which could be the PC or a dedicated device, so it can be activated on the network. Gemalto will provide the back-end infrastructure that allows service and number provisioning on the carrier network.
This would be yet another way that Apple can control the end-user experience — and potentially the distribution — of its popular smartphone device. For us, one of the benefits of using a SIM-based device is having the luxury of popping the little plastic card into virtually any compatible, GSM device you choose. What do you think? More →
Qualcomm is now at the center of a European Commission antitrust investigation, it was revealed on Thursday. Stemming from a complaint from rival chipmaker Icera, the Wall Street Journal is claiming that “the main issue appears to be over the way Qualcomm links the patents from other companies to its own patent offering to bolster its chip sales.” For its part, Qualcomm says that the new allegations are more or less the same as previous antitrust case it fended off in 2005 in which six major competitors alleged the chipmaking giant was charging too much in royalty fees and making it difficult for new entrants to break into the mobile chipset market. More →
Some slick domain name and trademark sleuthing from MacRumors and TechCrunch uncovered information about several islate-containing domains and the companion trademark “ISLATE” that may point to Apple as the company behind this mark. It all began with MacRumors which uncovered information about the domain islate.com, a TLD that passed through several hands until 2007 where it landed with the registrar MarkMonitor, a well-known registrar that handles and hides domain registrations for large companies including Apple. Close inspection of the domain name history reveals a brief lapse in late 2007 which exposed Apple as the actual owner of the domain. A look at other TLDs reveals that MarkMonitor also registered islate.co.uk, islate.biz, islate.info, islate.jp and islate.cn in the month of November 2006. Other country designations such as, islate.de and islate.fr, don’t fit into the puzzle as they are registered to known companies with islate.de being registered to a Innovative Dynamics GmbH and islate.fr being registered to the IP property law firm of Wilson & Bertherlot. The mystery deepens when one takes a look at the “ISLATE” trademark information uncovered by TechCrunch, though. Hit the jump to read on.
The EU, and various other stakeholders, *cough* Mozilla and Opera *cough*, filed suit against Microsoft in 2007, alleging that the act of only having Internet Explorer installed on the Windows operating system by default was an anti-competitive business move that violated EU antitrust laws. The suit proved effective, as European regulators and Microsoft executives have reached an agreement on how to move forward without the “help” of the courts. Microsoft has consented to a five year contract that requires all copies of Windows in the EU to present the end-user with a “Choice-Screen” that presents an option of 12-browsers to have install. Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, AOL, and Flock all made the short list along with a few lesser known browsers. Microsoft, which has already paid around $1.7 billion in EU fines due to the IE debacle, will face additional penalties if they decide not to honor the five year deal. Microsoft estimates that 100 million current Windows users will be presented with the pop-up while another 30 million will see it as a result of new hardware or software purchases. The “Choice Screen” will be presented to users running Windows 7, Vista, or XP, and will begin showing up next year. More →
The Galileo navigation satellite project has been in the works for some time now in Europe, spearheaded mainly by the drive to mitigate reliance on U.S. foreign satellite guidance systems. Galileo will, in theory, “offer greater accuracy — down to a meter and less; and greater penetration — in urban centers, inside buildings, and under trees; and a faster fix” when compared to the U.S. run GPS satellites. The new system is set to be offered with a tiered service model, five tiers to be exact, and will also come with an integrity check of sorts, warning users if and when their reported location may not be exactly bang on. Any good news for those of us stateside? Sure is. The U.S. and EU have agreed to make both the GPS and Galileo systems interoperable; newer navigation hardware will be able to position you using either constellation as well as benefit from any future improvements to the United States’ system. Europe started launching Galileo ‘sputniks’ into orbit in December of 2005 and the main constellation is set to go live sometime in 2010. Here’s to hoping that our beloved smartphones are updated with the new technology sooner rather than later.
Intel faces a record 1.45 billion fine imposed by the EU on Tuesday for alleged anti-competitive practices designed to muscle its rival AMD out of the chipset market in Europe. The eight-year investigation into the company began in 2001 after AMD filed a complaint about Intel the year prior. Results of the EU investigation reveals that Intel used its dominant financial position to pay computer manufacturers Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and NEC as well as smaller retailers to postpone, cancel or avoid using and/or selling AMD products. Neelie Kroes, the Europen Union competition commissioner, further added that Intel “went to great lengths to cover up its anti-competitive actions.” The EU ordered Intel to immediately cease its anti-competitive practices and pay the hefty fine, though the amount would be held in a bank account, during the ensuing appeal process. As expected, Intel responded on Wednesday denying the allegations and vowing to appeal both the financial award and the order to change its practices. In its statement, Intel agreed to abide by the EU’s decision during the appeal process. Hit the jump for the full text of Intel’s rebuttal.
In a scathing response to European Commissioner Viviane Reding’s report on the mobile industry in Europe, Vodafone claims 40M million users, most of them “poor” pay as you go customers, may have to cancel their mobile service if her proposed changes to call termination charges go into effect. Termination charges are the fees mobile operators charge each other (and land line companies) for connecting to their networks. Currently mobile operators in Europe charge each other an average of 8 cents per minute. Reding proposes a reduction of these fees to 1 to 2 cents per minute. A reduction in fees is usually perceived as a good thing except these fees account for 15 to 20% of an operators revenue. That’s a good chunk of change for the mobile operators and the loss of that guaranteed revenue source has them, (well, at least Vodafone) shaking in their boots and spouting forth rhetoric.
Here in the United States, there are not legal limits on what carriers can charge for roaming, and things can get pretty pricey if you’re on a regional plan (which most people are not). This gets to be more of a problem if you’re a social butterfly on a continent with a lot of small, densely clustered countries. Last year, the European Union introduced caps on what European carriers are allowed to charge customers who roam in the EU. The current limit is 49 euro cents per minute for outgoing calls (about 72 cents US) and is being reduced to 46 euro cents (about 67 cents US). Incoming calls currently may be billed at up to 24 euro cents (about 35 cents US) and will be dropped to 22 euro cents (about 32 cents US). Rejoice, as these limits go in to effect this Sunday, August 31. Further, the European Commission wants the EU to impose a cap on SMS roaming of about 11 to 15 euro cents (16 to 22 cents US). While the economic consequences of price ceilings are something better understood by, well, an economist, we do applaud lower tariffs (didn’t you know that you’re supposed to italicize foreign expressions?).
All of the above prices, of course, exclude European VAT (Value Added Tax), so quadruple them for a more accurate figure.