Weekend news round-up: EU probes Apple over iPhone; Facebook relocating to NYC?

27 May 2013

Apple's iPhone 5

In our round-up of some of the weekend’s top tech stories, we discover the EU is probing European mobile operators about agreements signed with Apple; will the Xbox One enable two-way conversations; is Facebook shifting its HQ from Silicon Valley to New York; and who are the founders of Bang with Friends?

EU regulators probe Apple’s relationships with telcos

The Financial Times reported that European Union regulators are beginning to study Apple’s contracts with carriers to ascertain whether its stipulations for the right to sell the iPhone amount to anti-competitive behaviour.

A questionnaire has been sent to mobile operators to glean more information about their agreements with Apple.

“The nine-page questionnaire sent to telecoms groups primarily relates to sales practices, including whether Apple forces groups to buy a minimum number of iPhones, restrictions on the use of marketing budgets, and clauses that ensure Apple is always offered no worse subsidies and sales terms than other smartphone makers.

“It also asks whether Apple places technical or contractual restrictions on the iPhone 5 that mean it cannot be used on high-speed 4G networks in Europe.”

Xbox One: talking about a revolution?

In a preview of the new console, Polygon reported that the forthcoming Xbox One’s heavy reliance on speech via Kinect will soon result in two-way conversations between the gamer and the device.

“In one possible scenario, Kinect used its facial recognition to scan a room full of people and note if there was someone in the room it didn’t recognise. It then told the console owner that there is someone in the room it didn’t recognise and asked the new person to identify themselves. Once the person said their name, Kinect welcomed them and saved their information to the console.

“Xbox One’s ability to speak will allow it to function more like the iPhone’s Siri, according to Microsoft officials who presented the feature. The voice may not be available at the console’s launch, but if it isn’t it will be added in a post-launch patch within the first few months.

“The Xbox One will also feature the ability to Skype a friend to ask them for help on a game and then allow them to take over gameplay. The feature is designed to allow players to help one another get through sections of a game when they’re stuck.”

First we take the world, then we take Manhattan

Rumours have emerged that Facebook is considering shifting its headquarters from Silicon Valley to the bright city lights of New York. Crain’s New York Business blog reported that the social networking company with more than 1bn users worldwide and US$60bn of market value is considering taking 160,000 additional square feet of office space in Manhattan.

“Facebook is negotiating to lease the entire seventh and eighth floors at 770 Broadway, a 15-storey building that occupies the full block between East Eighth and East Ninth streets. Real estate investment trust Vornado Realty Trust owns the space.

“The company, which went public last year in a record-setting IPO, is interested in 160,000 sq feet space at the 1.1m sq-foot building, which served as home to Nielsen before the media company relocated to lower Manhattan last year. New York clothing retailer J. Crew also has its headquarters in the building.

“Facebook’s New York office is currently at 335 Madison Ave, between East 43rd and East 44th streets, where it leased 150,000 sq feet in late 2010. That office is home to advertising and sales staff, but according to written reports last year, Facebook had also started bringing on programmers and engineers, competing with other tech companies and Wall Street for talent.”

Heavily revamped version of Gmail on the way?

The Next Web published screenshots purporting to be leaked images of what could be the next version of Google email service Gmail.

“A source shared with us that the new Gmail will have a few default tabs as part of its new theme. Categories that will be listed are Main, Social, Offers, Notifications, and Forums.

“We’re told that with Main, users will find it for emails from friends, family members, and for communication that can’t be sorted into another place. In Social, all messages relating to social media, including emails from Zynga, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Google+, will be lumped into this category.”

Head banger

Bang with Friends, a social networking app that allows Facebook users to see if anyone on their friends list would like to be friends “with benefits”, is garnering a lot of curiosity at present.

But up until now the identities of its founders have been something of a mystery.

Valleywag revealed the founders to be Colin Hodge and Omri Mor, computer science graduates from Cornell University.

“According to Hodge, the service has more than 1m users who log in about 70,000 times a day. He said that it racked up more than 19m ‘down to bang’ clicks since January – 19 per user, on average – and more than 200,000 ‘couples.’” Strewth!

Google to star in a movie about itself

Google apparently receives, on average, 30,000 job applications per week. The question is will this number plummet or breach the stratosphere after a new comedy, The Internship, starring Vince Vaughan, Owen Wilson and Google hits cinemas.

According to the LA Times, Google lent its brand to the 20th Century Fox movie and let the production film two days on-site without charging location or licensing fees.

“Brainy staffers took on roles as extras (co-founder Sergey Brin appears twice, once wearing green neon slippers and riding an elliptical bike). The film highlights Google’s Gmail, Google Plus, Wallet and Maps, and the company’s self-driving car gets a cameo, too.

“Google helped the filmmakers reconstruct the company’s campus for filming at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, down to the details, such as the T-shirts employees wear and the colourful ‘Noogler’ propeller hats that interns wear during their first week. Google’s creative team designed the movie’s end credits. Google even contributed dialogue for two scenes.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years