‘Fortnite’ maker Epic Games sues Apple, Google over game’s removal from app stores

Agencies
August 14, 2020

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Soon after Apple and Google removed the popular video game Fortnite from their respective app stores for allegedly violating their in-app payment guidelines, the game maker Epic Games has filed a lawsuit against the tech giants.

Challenging the iPhone maker's rules as well as Google, Epic Games filed the lawsuit in the US District Court in California, claiming Apple has set "unreasonable restraints" over how it handles in-app payments, reports The Verge.

"Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear," Epic Games said in its lawsuit.

In a similar suit against Google, Epic alleged that "Google was founded as an exciting young company with a unique motto: "Don't Be Evil" … Twenty-two years later, Google has relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought, and is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolise."

Epic further claimed that Google forced phone manufacturer OnePlus to break off a deal that would have seen a special Fortnite launcher preinstalled on OnePlus phones and also asked other phone makers like LG to abandon any plans to do the same.

Apple and Google removed Fortnite from their app stores because Epic Games allegedly added a direct payment option in both the iOS and Android versions of Fortnite, "bypassing the need to pay Apple and Google a 30 per cent cut on all in-app purchases". 

Launched in 2017, Fortnite features a battle royale format where 100 players compete to survive as the last player standing on a remote island. The popular game has amassed a huge following of 350 million players, and is available on multiple platforms.

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Agencies
September 18,2020

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New Delhi, Sept 18: Ending months of speculation, Apple is launching its first exclusive branded online store in India on September 23 just ahead of the festive season, offering a full range of products, support and premium experience to consumers and the large aspirational fan base across the country.

For logistics support, Apple has partnered with Blue Dart to be its on-ground fulfillment partner. Given the current pandemic situation, customers can expect safe, contactless deliveries in 24-72 hours from the date of purchase of all premium and new products, including the ones (Apple Watch Series 6 and new iPad Air) launched earlier this week.

"We are super excited to bring Apple Store Online to India. We love the passion Indians have for our products and supporting them has been our passion too. The Online Store will ensure seamless, safe and contactless delivery of our products in these Covid times as safety of staff and customers is our topmost priority." Deirdre O'Brien, Apple's Senior Vice President of Retail + People, told IANS.

The Apple India store, the 38th online store worldwide, would have specialists to lend expert advice and support to the Indian customers.

From learning more about product features to setting up new devices, customers can receive guidance directly from Apple, including online support in English and phone support in Hindi and English.

Those who buy Apple products will be eligible for a 30-minute, one-on-one online session with a trained executive to explore more about the device, set it up and or solve any other query.

The online store also provides the ability to custom-configure any Mac with just a few clicks.

With financing options and available trade-in programme, the Apple Store Online offers a range of affordability options.

Students can shop for a Mac or iPad with special pricing, and receive discounts on accessories and Apple Care+ that extends warranty with up to two years of technical support and accidental damage cover.

Apple currently has third-party reseller outlets and online channels to sell its devices in the country and its own branded online store will certainly help the company in giving a controlled experience of its devices and services.

Welcoming the Narendra Modi cabinet's decision to ease the 30 per cent local sourcing norm in single-brand retail (SBRT) in August last year, Apple said it looks forward to welcoming customers at its first retail store in India soon.

"We love our customers in India and we're eager to serve them online and in-store with the same experience and care that Apple customers around the world enjoy," Apple said.

Apple, which has already started manufacturing certain iPhone models in India, has reportedly selected locations for its exclusive retail stores in the country as well.

Apple currently has over 500 physical retail stores worldwide, with the world's first floating retail store at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

On its online India store, customers can expect free online 'Today at Apple' sessions led by local creative professionals, focused on photography and music in October.

Just in time for the festive season, signature gift wrap and personalised engraving will be available for select products.

Engraving of emojis or text in English, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu will be available for AirPods, and English engraving will be available for iPad and Apple Pencil.

For the health and well-being of Apple's teams, customers, and communities, all orders from the Apple Store Online will ship with contactless delivery.

Orders that do not require a signature will be left at the customer's door, and those that do will need only a verbal confirmation from a safe distance instead of a written signature.

Apple has been operating in India for more than 20 years, and the company's ongoing investment and innovation support almost 900,000 jobs across the country.

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Agencies
September 25,2020

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The new line-up of Echo devices, featuring completely new designs, enhanced audio, and more powerful hardware, will start from Rs 4,499 in India, Amazon announced on Thursday.

Echo Dot with a new spherical design to produce crisp, full sound and powerful bass will cost Rs 4,499.

Echo Dot is available on pre-order starting today, and will start shipping later this year. 

Echo will be available in black, white and blue for Rs 9,999 while Echo Dot with clock will be available in white and blue for Rs 5,499.

One can sign up to be notified when Echo and Echo Dot with clock are available for purchase, the company announced.

"With the new range of Echo devices, we are making it more natural and convenient for customers to interact with Alexa," said Parag Gupta, Head of Amazon Devices, India. 

"The new range of Echo speakers are completely redesigned for an improved audio experience, and seamlessly merge into the home decor. We are proud to share that these are our most sustainable products yet," he added.

The new Echo sounds significantly better owing to a 3.0-inch woofer, dual-firing tweeters, and Dolby processing that delivers stereo sound with clear highs, dynamic-mids, and deep bass.

The all-new Echo Dot has the same spherical design and fabric finish as Echo. 

It's compact but packs in a powerful 1.6-inch, front-firing speaker, producing crisp vocals and balanced bass for full sound. 

The new Echo Dot with clock comes with the same enhancements as the new Echo Dot, plus a simple LED display so you can glance at the time, outdoor temperature, timers, and alarms. 

The tap-to-snooze feature that customers love on Echo Dot with a clock will also be available on Echo Dot and Echo, the company said.

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Agencies
September 15,2020

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Mumbai, Sept 15: Toyota Motor Corp. won’t expand further in India due to the country’s high tax regime, a blow for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s trying to lure global companies to offset the deep economic malaise brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The government keeps taxes on cars and motorbikes so high that companies find it hard to build scale, said Shekar Viswanathan, vice chairman of Toyota’s local unit, Toyota Kirloskar Motor. The high levies also put owning a car out of reach of many consumers, meaning factories are idled and jobs aren’t created, he said.

“The message we are getting, after we have come here and invested money, is that we don’t want you,” Viswanathan said in an interview. In the absence of any reforms, “we won’t exit India, but we won’t scale up.”

Toyota, one of the world’s biggest carmakers, began operating in India in 1997. Its local unit is owned 89% by the Japanese company and has a small market share -- just 2.6% in August versus almost 5% a year earlier, Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations data show.

In India, motor vehicles including cars, two-wheelers and sports utility vehicles (although not electric vehicles), attract taxes as high as 28%. On top of that there can be additional levies, ranging from 1% to as much as 22%, based on a car’s type, length or engine size. The tax on a four-meter long SUV with an engine capacity of more than 1500 cc works out to be as high as 50%.

Ford, GM Out

The additional levies are typically imposed on what are considered to be “luxury” goods. As well as cars, in India that can include cigarettes and sparkling water.

India is planning to offer incentives worth $23 billion to attract firms to set up manufacturing, people familiar with the matter said last week, including production-linked breaks for automakers. International automakers have struggled to expand in the world’s fourth-biggest car market.

General Motors Co. quit the country in 2017 while Ford Motor Co. agreed last year to move most of its assets in India into a joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. after struggling for more than two decades to win over buyers. That effectively ended independent operations in a country Ford had once said it wanted to be one of its top three markets by 2020.

Such punitive taxes discourage foreign investment, erode automakers’ margins and make the cost of launching new products “prohibitive,” Viswanathan said.

“You’d think the auto sector is making drugs or liquor,” he said. Toyota, which also has an alliance with Suzuki Motor Corp. to sell some of Suzuki’s compact cars under its own brand, is currently utilizing just about 20% of its capacity in a second plant in India.

Automobile sales in India were weathering a slump before the coronavirus pandemic, with at least half a million jobs lost.

Taxes on electric vehicles, currently 5%, will probably also go up once sales increase, Viswanathan said, referring to what he says has become a pattern with successive governments in India.

While discussions are ongoing between ministries for a reduction in taxes, there may not any immediate agreement on an actual cut, India’s Heavy Industries Minister Prakash Javadekar said earlier this month.

A finance ministry spokesman didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

EV Challenge

Automobile sales in India were weathering a slump before the coronavirus pandemic, with at least half a million jobs lost. A lobby group has predicted it may take as many as four years for sales to return to levels seen before the slowdown.

The biggest players are the local units of Suzuki and Hyundai Motor Co., which have cornered the market for compact, affordable cars. Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. and Hyundai Motor India Ltd. have a combined share of almost 70%.

Toyota in India has largely pivoted toward hybrid vehicles, which attract taxes of as much as 43% because they aren’t purely electric.

But in a nation where few can even afford a car, let alone a more environmentally friendly one, EVs or their hybrid cousins have yet to gain much acceptance. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla Inc., has said import duties would make his vehicles unaffordable in India.

 

“Market India always has to precede Factory India, and this is something the politicians and bureaucrats don’t understand,” Viswanathan said. Modi’s much-touted Make in India is another program aimed at attracting foreign companies.

 

India needs to have demand for a product before asking firms to set up shop, yet “at the slightest sign of a product doing well, they slap it with a higher and higher tax rate,” he said.

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