All posts by JenThorpe

Microsoft’s Bid for TikTok was Rejected



ByteDance has selected Oracle as TikTok’s technology partner for its U.S. operations, The New York Times reported. This decision comes after President Trump issued an executive order that requires ByteDance to divest from its U.S. TikTok business withing 90 days (from the issuing of the order).

Microsoft released the following statement:

ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft. We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests. To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combating disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement. We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas.

Politico reported that the exact value or structure of the deal between Oracle and TikTok was not immediately clear. Will Oracle own part or all of TikTok’s assets? According to Politico, a source familiar with the matter described Oracle as a technology partner to TikTok and did not describe the transaction as a sale.

From this, it appears that ByteDance has potentially fulfilled at least part of President Trump’s executive order. ByteDance could be in the process of divesting from its US business with TikTok, and might able to do it before the deadline of September 20.

Another part of the executive order requires TikTok to destroy all data that was obtained from the application in the United States. If TikTok has not been outright sold to Oracle, I cannot help but wonder which company is going to be held responsible if that data is not destroyed.


Microsoft Warns of New Cyberattacks Targeting U.S. Elections



Microsoft warns that it has detected cyberattacks targeting people and organizations involved in the upcoming presidential election. This includes unsuccessful attacks on people associated with both the Trump and Biden campaigns.

The activity we are announcing today makes clear that foreign activity groups have stepped up their efforts targeting the 2020 election as had been anticipated, and is consistent with what the U.S. government and others have reported. We also report here on attacks against other institutions and enterprises worldwide that reflect similar adversary activity.

Microsoft has observed:

  • Strontium, operating from Russia, has attacked more than 200 organizations including political campaigns, advocacy groups, parties and political consultants
  • Zirconium, operating from China, has attacked high-profile individuals associated with the election, including people associated with the Joe Biden for President campaign and prominent leaders in the international affairs community.
  • Phosphorus, operating from Iran, has continued to attack the personal accounts of people associated with the Donald J. Trump for President campaign.

Microsoft believes that more federal funding is needed in the U.S. so states can better protect their election infrastructure. The company encourages Congress to move forward with additional funding to the states and provide them with what they need to protect the vote and our democracy.

Based on what Microsoft observed, it would be a good idea to stay vigilant when online. Shenanigans are happening that could affect the outcome of the upcoming election. We all need to take a step back and question election-related social media posts before spreading what might be misinformation from a foreign country.


Apple Files Countersuit Against Epic Games



In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, Apple has filed a countersuit against Epic Games. TechCrunch reported that Apple’s lawsuit alleges that Epic Games is in breach of contract. Apple is asking the court to award damages and prohibit Epic Games from attempting anything like this again.

This is the latest move in an ongoing battle between Epic Games and Apple. To make a long story short, this whole thing started when Epic Games created a direct payment option for its players. That decision could be interpreted as a way to get around Apple’s 30% payment that it collects from consumer payments made in Fortnite.

You can view an embedded copy of Apple’s countersuit on Scribd. Here is a small piece of it:

Epic’s lawsuit is nothing more than a basic disagreement over money. Although Epic portrays itself as a modern corporate Robin Hood, in reality it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing for the tremendous value it derives from the App Store. Epic’s demands for special treatment and cries of “retaliation” cannot be reconciled with its flagrant breach of contract and its own business practices, as it rakes in billions by taking commissions on game developers sales and charging consumers up to $99.99 for bundles of “V-Bucks”.

Apple is demanding a trial by jury “on all issues so triable”. Apple also has a list of things it wants the Court to do, including decreeing that Epic is liable for breach of its contractual obligations under the license agreement.

Apple also wants the Court to “enter a permanent injunction enjoining Epic, and all persons and entities in active concert or participation with Epic, from facilitating, assisting, or participating in (a) the continued operation of Epic’s unauthorized external payment mechanism in its apps, including Fortnite (b) the introduction of any further unauthorized external payment mechanism into any iOS apps, including Fortnite, and (c) the removal of IAP as an available payment mechanism for in-app purchases through any iOS apps, including Fortnite.”

If the Court decides to grant Apple that permanent injunction, I think it could have implications not only on Epic Games, but also on other gaming companies who have games on the App Store. To me, it sounds like a warning to other gaming companies about what Apple might do if they decide to make their own direct payment systems.


Microsoft Officially Announces Xbox Series S



Microsoft has officially announced the Xbox Series S after someone leaked information about it, Engadget reported. The Xbox Series S will be priced at $299 (ERP) and will be released on November 10, 2020.

In a tweet, the Xbox Twitter account announced: “Let’s make it official! Xbox Series S | Nex-gen performance in the smallest Xbox ever. $299 (ERP). Looking forward to sharing more! Soon. Promise.”

Xbox has also posted the “Xbox Series S – World Premier Reveal Trailer” on YouTube. the Xbox Twitter account announced: “Let’s make it official! Xbox Series S | Nex-gen performance in the smallest Xbox ever. $299 (ERP). Looking forward to sharing more! Soon. Promise.”

Xbox has also posted the “Xbox Series S – World Premier Reveal Trailer” on YouTube. The trailer is about a minute and a half long. It starts very artsy, with the Xbox S appearing to form itself before the viewer’s eyes. It also provides some details about the Xbox Series S.

Features Include:

  • Next-Gen Performance in the smallest Xbox ever
  • Nearly 60% smaller than Xbox Series X
  • Next-Gen Speed
  • Custom NVME SSD powered by Xbox Velocity Architecture
  • Incredibly fast load times
  • Seamless game switching
  • All digital gaming experience
  • Next-Gen frame rates up to 120FPS
  • Better with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
  • Play over 100 high quality games
  • Games optimized for next gen
  • All-digital
  • 1440P at up to 120 FPS
  • DirectX Raytracing
  • Variable rate shading
  • Variable refresh rate
  • Ultra-low latency
  • Custom S12 GB SSD
  • 4K Streaming Media Playback
  • 4K Upscaling for games

Engadget pointed out that (according to reports) both the Series S and Series X will be available to buy on November 10th. Series S could be offered as part of a $25-per-month Xbox All Access financing option. The Xbox Series X will reportedly cost $499 and be made available via a $35-per-month Xbox All Access financing option.

I think Microsoft made a good decision to release this information shortly after it had been leaked. Doing so reduces the chance of people making assumptions about the veracity of the leaked information. It also gives consumers time to consider whether the Series S or Series X is the best choice for them.


Epic Games Asks Judge to Return Fortnite to Apple’s App Store



There is a battle brewing between Epic Games and Apple. It started when Epic Games created a direct payment option in which Epic Games lowered the prices for consumers who used it. In short, the direct payment option could be seen as a way for Epic Games to get around the 30% payment the company collects from consumer payments made in apps like Fortnite.

Apple responded by terminating the Epic Games account on the App Store, The Verge reported. If you had Fortnite or Infinity Blade on your iPhone or iPad… well, you don’t have them anymore.

On September 5, 2020, the Epic Games Newsroom Twitter account tweeted:

Today we asked the Court to stop Apple’s retaliation against Epic for daring to challenge its unlawful restrictions while our antitrust case proceeds. This is a necessary step to free consumers and developers from Apple’s costly, anti-competitive control.

The tweet included a link of a PDF of Epic’s most recent legal request.

Previously, Epic filed a lawsuit against Apple. Bloomberg reported that U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Apple did not have to immediately reinstate Fortnite on its App Store. She also granted a temporary order blocking Apple from limiting game developer’s ability to access the Epic Games Unreal Engine.

The judge ruled that Epic’s problem is “entirely self-inflicted”, and that the sensible way to proceed would be for Epic Games to comply with the App Store guidelines and continue to operate as the case proceeds.

There is a difference between Epic’s new request and the previous one. The Verge reported that Epic claims that “Daily active users on iOS have declined by over 60% since Fortnite’s removal from the App Store”. Epic also said that iOS is the biggest platform for Fortnite, and that 63% of Fortnite users on iOS access the game only on iOS.

It remains to be seen what happens next. One thing is for certain. This back-and-forth between Apple and Epic Games is unlikely to come to a resolution that makes both companies happy. I think what it comes down to is whether a judge sees Epic’s loss of customers on iOS as self inflicted or as something caused by Apple.


Facebook Won’t Accept Political Ads in Week Before the Election



Facebook announced some steps it is taking to help secure the integrity of the US elections. According to Facebook, these steps are to encourage voting, connect people to authoritative information, and reduce the risk of post-election confusion.

Mark Zuckerberg made a lengthy post on Facebook about this. Here is a small portion of it:

The US elections are just two months away, and with Covid-19 affecting communities across the country, I’m concerned about the challenges people could face when voting. I’m also worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or even weeks to be finalized, there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country…

Here’s what Facebook plans to do:

  • We won’t accept new political ads in the week before the election.
  • We’ll remove posts that claim that people will get COVID-19 if they take part in voting, and we’ll attach a link to authoritative information about the coronavirus to posts that might use COVID-19 to discourage voting.
  • We will attach an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods, for example, by claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud.
  • If any candidate or campaign tries to declare victory before the final results are in, we’ll add a label to their posts directing people to official results from Reuters and the National Election Pool.

Personally, I think Facebook should have started working on that much earlier this year, previous to when the first caucuses were held. Imagine how much misinformation could have been removed – or at least labeled as such – if Facebook took this kind of action right from the start.

CNBC reported that Facebook users will still see political ads during the week of the election. The ban only affects political ads that were submitted after October 27, 2020. Older political ads won’t be removed.

CNBC also points out that the changes will go into effect after millions have already voted. In states that allow mail-in voting and absentee voting people are expected to cast their ballots before election day. The damage from false information on Facebook will have already swayed user’s views.

Another problem is that Facebook users, including political candidates, will still be able to spread false information right up through election day. CNBC says the only posts specifically banned are ones saying that people will catch COVID-19 if they vote in person.


DoD Reaffirmed JEDI Cloud Contract to Microsoft, Amazon Complains



The ongoing drama between Amazon and the Department of Defense about the JEDI contract continues, after a pause in August. Today, the Department of Defense announced that it has re-evaluated its decision to award the JEDI Cloud to Microsoft, and reaffirmed that decision.

The Department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI Cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the Government. The JEDI Cloud contract is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that will make a full range of cloud computing services available to the DoD. While contract performance will not begin immediately due to the Preliminary Injunction Order issued by the Court of Federal Claims on February 13, 2020, DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform.

Amazon does not appear to have accepted that outcome. The company posted a response explaining why they will continue to protest what they have described as a “politically corrupted contract award”.

Amazon feels that the review by the Department of Defense “was nothing more than a ‘do-over’ for Microsoft to fix its non-compliant proposal.” Amazon also complains that the Department of Defense cited price as a major factor in the previous decision, and Amazon feels that it offered a lower price than Microsoft did.

Personally, I doubt that Amazon’s decision to continue fighting against the Department of Defense’s choice to go with Microsoft is going to change anything. I find it incomprehensible that Amazon wants to sink more time and effort into something that is unlikely to go their way. But, this is the “hill they want to die on”, and Amazon clearly intends to keep pushing.