Weekend news round-up: Google’s Willy Wonka moment; Apple breaks bad

9 Sep 2013

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In our round-up of tech news from the weekend, Google naming its next Android OS KitKat has upset some people’s palates; Breaking Bad fans are suing Apple in the US; Google is in a race against time with the US National Security Agency (NSA) over encrypting data; and Amazon is planning to offer consumers free smartphones.

Give us a break, Google

Comedian David Mitchell, writing in The Observer, pointed out that despite Google’s next Android OS being named ‘KitKat’, the Willy Wonka-style marketing campaign that will ensue from Nestlé in 19 markets won’t rid the food giant of questions about its role in developing countries.

“So KitKat really hit the spot,” Mitchell wrote. “I’m familiar with the feeling. Sometimes I wonder how dastardly a third-world scam Nestlé would need to pull to make me consider buying a Biscuit Boost. Still, Google’s decision is surprising. It aspires to be squeaky-clean. As aspirations go, it’s not been looking particularly realistic of late, as the corporation’s tax avoidance has become more evident, but it’s still a company that tries to generate a wholesome, quirky, Californian vibe. That’s why it called an operating system Cupcake. That’s why its offices are full of free snacks for employees. There’s still a faint echo of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ in the think spaces and mood rooms, albeit with an irritating interrogative inflection.

“So it’s odd that it would voluntarily couple one of its products with that of a company with a shameful history of wringing money from the poorest people on Earth. To my mind, the risks involved in that association outweigh the fact that more people have heard of a KitKat than a key lime pie. I don’t think the people at Google are doing anything wrong by using KitKat’s name – they’re not the ones peddling powdered milk in the developing world – but I don’t understand why they’ve done it.”

Fewer secrets, better phones?

Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s devices division will no doubt mean the two technology titans will share tech secrets – this will likely lead to better smartphones, CNET reported.

“The companies often touted their deep partnership on smartphones, but it turns out they still kept many secrets from each other. Sometimes those secrets caused one or the other to scramble to change features before a phone launched, and led Microsoft to rethink core aspects of its mobile operating system.”

Breaking Apple

GigaOM reported that fans of popular drama Breaking Bad claimed Apple short-changed them when it sold them a ‘Season Pass’ for the final season, but only gave them eight of the 16 episodes.

“An Ohio man has filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming the company owes him and other Breaking Bad fans US$22.99 for not including all 16 episodes in a ‘Season Pass’ to the show’s final season, which was split into two parts.

“In a class action suit filed in San Jose, California, Noam Lazebnik says Apple engaged in false advertising by providing only eight episodes to consumers even though its ‘Season Pass’ page explains that viewers will get ‘every episode in that season’.

A more mobile-aware Apple TV on the way

AllThingsD reported that in the big reveal in two days of new Apple products, the California tech giant is unlikely to introduce a new Apple TV device but will reveal a software upgrade.

“Sources said that one new feature in the works will let people who’ve bought content from Apple play that stuff on other users’ Apple TVs, via Apple’s Airplay system and Apple’s server. So if you bought a TV show or movie from Apple’s iTunes store, you could watch it at a friend’s house by calling it up on your iPhone and telling your friend’s Apple TV to start streaming it.”

Google’s encryption race with the NSA

The Washington Post reported that Google is racing to encrypt data flowing within its global data centre network in a bid to thwart the NSA and various governments.

“Google’s encryption initiative, initially approved last year, was accelerated in June as the tech giant struggled to guard its reputation as a reliable steward of user information amid controversy about the NSA’s PRISM program, first reported in The Washington Post and the Guardian that month. PRISM obtains data from American technology companies, including Google, under various legal authorities.”

Amazon plots free smartphones

Tech writer Jessica Lessin reported that e-commerce and cloud powerhouse Amazon is planning to offer free smartphones.

“The online retailer and Kindle maker is considering introducing its long-planned smartphone for free to consumers, according to people familiar with Amazon’s effort. There are many unanswered questions about the plan and what strings will be attached for customers. One of them is whether Amazon would require its smartphone owners to pay for services, such as Amazon Prime, the company’s loyalty program. But the people familiar with the matter said Amazon wants the device to be free whether or not people sign up for a new wireless plan at the same time. (Wireless carriers typically discount the price of devices if customers sign up for a one- or two-year wireless contract.)”

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com