Tag Archives: U.S.

U.S. surveillance law may see no new protections for foreign targets

Any reform of a controversial U.S. law allowing the National Security Agency to spy on people overseas will likely focus on its impact on U.S. residents, without curbing its use elsewhere.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) expires on Dec. 31, and some digital rights groups are calling on Congress to overhaul the law to protect the privacy of residents of both the U.S. and other countries. Congress will almost certainly extend the provision in some form. 

But a congressional hearing on Wednesday focused largely on the NSA’s “inadvertent” collection of U.S. residents’ data, with little time given to the privacy concerns of people overseas.

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Apple to pay $450 million as U.S. Supreme Court rejects e-books price-fixing appeal

Apple Store San Francisco Justin Ennis Flickr

WASHINGTON (By Lawrence Hurley, Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Apple Inc’s challenge to an appellate court decision that it conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices, meaning it will have to pay $ 450 million as part of a settlement.

The court’s decision not to hear the case leaves in place a June 2015 ruling by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that favored the U.S. Department of Justice and found Apple liable for engaging in a conspiracy that violated federal antitrust laws.

Apple, in its petition asking the high court to hear the case, said the June decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upholding a judge’s ruling that Apple had conspired with the publishers contradicted Supreme Court precedent and would “chill innovation and risk-taking.”

The 2nd Circuit’s ruling followed a 2013 decision by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote after a non-jury trial that Apple played a “central role” in a conspiracy with publishers to eliminate retail price competition and raise e-book prices.

The Justice Department said the scheme caused some e-book prices to rise to $ 12.99 or $ 14.99 from the $ 9.99 price previously charged by market leader Amazon.com Inc.

“Apple’s liability for knowingly conspiring with book publishers to raise the prices of e-books is settled once and for all,” said Bill Baer, head of the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division. Baer called the price-fixing conspiracy “cynical misconduct.”

Publishers that the Justice Department said conspired with Apple include Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group Inc, News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group Inc, CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster Inc and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH’s Macmillan.

On Feb. 17, the appeals court in New York upheld the proposed settlement, which had been challenged by an e-books purchaser.

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Justice Department accused Apple of colluding with the five publishers as the Silicon Valley giant was launching its iPad in early 2010 and was seeking to break up Amazon.com’s low-cost dominance in the digital book market.

The case is Apple v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 15-565.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Will Dunham)



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Clash Royale is already the top-grossing iOS game in the U.S.

Supercell's Clash of Clans followup.

Check out more of our 20th anniversary of Pokémon coverage this week at GamesBeat.

No other mobile game has done this so quickly in the age of Clash of Clans, Game of War: Fire Age, and Candy Crush Saga. A brand new game, Supercell’s Clash Royale fortress battle title, has become No. 1 in the U.S., not only on the top downloads chart but also on the top-grossing list on the iOS app store.

That is no small accomplishment in the $ 34.8 billion mobile game industry, considering that Clash of Clans alone generated well over $ 1 billion last year in revenues. That means that Supercell’s Clash of Clans is generating multiple millions of dollars a day in revenues, and now Clash Royale is beating that.

A lot of games hit No. 1 in top downloads as people discover them. But it’s rare, as mentioned, for anyone to break into the top-grossing list that has been dominated by Supercell, Machine Zone, and King. Then again, it is no surprise that Supercell, which has lots of fans and multiple hits, is the one to dethrone its own No. 1 title on the top grossing list. In the U.S., the game is No. 1 on Google Play downloads and it isn’t showing high on the top-grossing list just yet.

This is Supercell’s fourth hit, after Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, and Hay Day.

Ilkka Paananen, CEO of Supercell in Helsinki, Finland, said on his Facebook page recently that he was happy to release Clash Royale, particularly after the company had killed so many other games. Supercell rigorously tests its games in certain markets before releasing them. One of them, Smash Land, was pretty far along in development when the company decided to kill it in mid-2015. That kind of religious focus on quality has earned the company some loyal followers, and it tells you a lot about why Clash Royale is so important.

When SoftBank purchased a controlling stake in the company in June 2015, Supercell was valued at an astonishing $ 5.5 billion. Its success has spawned a lot of other mobile game startups in Helsinki, and everybody is chasing the company’s success. But Clash Royale shows that the company still has huge advantages, even as it remains a relatively small game studio.

It’s no wonder that Apple gave the game a huge feature position in the app store when it launched on Wednesday. Clash Royale is a blend of Clash of Clans, real-time strategy, and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games such as League of Legends. But the blend itself makes for something uniquely addictive, as I found in my own playing.

Clash Royale goes farther than Clash of Clans — which has asynchronous battles, where one online player attacks and an offline player defends — in going to synchronous, real-time combat. For this to function smoothly on mobile requires some huge infrastructure. I haven’t seen a hiccup yet in my battles against real players. It has a slight loading time at the beginning or end of a match.

You have a slate of characters that you can drop on the field and they start moving slowly toward the enemy’s defenses, which consist of two forts and a main castle. It has two lanes for combat, in contrast to five for typical MOBA games like League of Legends. The options for cards to play show up in the bottom of the screen. You get a choice of four. A “mana” meter runs along the bottom. If you have enough mana to play a card, it shows up in colors. If you don’t have enough, a timer that runs in real time shows you when it will be ready. When you are ready to play a card, you just press down on it and move it to the right part of the screen where you want it to appear. That’s all you are required to do. That makes the gameplay repetitive and simple. You just have to think fast.

Clash Royale

Above: Clash Royale

Image Credit: Supercell

It has some similarity to Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, the hugely successful collectible card game from Blizzard. You play cards and choose from among different ones in a deck, and you have to think offline about what kind of cards you want to get (and in this case, upgrade). But Clash Royale is much simpler.

Clash Royale has just a few dozen cards at the moment, but most of them are easily recognizable as characters from Clash of Clans. If you drop down a giant, it will lumber toward the enemy’s fort at a slow pace. Once it gets there, it can do a lot of pounding. Your fort can fire back, but you have to drop some kind of defense, like a dragon, to counter the giant, which can squish archers and goblins quite easily. Each character has advantages and disadvantages when facing other units on the field of battle. It’s a “rock-paper-scissors” kind of battle where you have to decide within seconds what to do.

The battles can end within three minutes. If you run out of time, the side that has destroyed more forts wins. And if you take out the king’s fort, you win. If the game is tied, you go into a sudden death for one minute. I’ve managed to win or lose a number of battles with just a few seconds left, and that’s what makes Clash Royale so exciting.

After each battle, you get a reward of a chest. A small wooden chest usually yields poor loot. But silver or gold chests release better stuff. It takes 15 seconds to open a wood chest. But it takes three hours to open a silver one and eight hours for a gold chest. You get better loot, but if you want to speed up the opening time, you have to spend gems, and those gems can either be earned in combat or purchased with real money. Those gems are the reason that Clash Royale has already hit No. 1 on the top-grossing list on the U.S. app store.

Now the question is how long it will stay at No. 1. But lord knows that Supercell has a huge ad budget, and it hasn’t even begun to advertise it for real yet.

Clash Royale gives you choices for your deck.

 



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Samsung says new U.S. offices are its ‘biggest investment in Silicon Valley’ to date

samsung-new-office-silicon-valley

Samsung officially opened the doors to its new 1.1-million-square-foot Silicon Valley offices Thursday, more than 30 years after its arrival in the San Jose tech corridor in 1983.

The building will house various research labs dedicated to semiconductors, LEDs and displays, staff in sales and marketing, and other support areas, the company said.

“[We are] laying the groundwork for a more aggressive pace of growth over the next several decades,” said Samsung’s chief executive, Dr. Oh-Hyun Kwon, at the grand opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, the company’s president of its U.S.-based device solutions operations, Jaesoo Han, said that the move “represents a major milestone as we open our most strategically important Samsung facility in the U.S., and also our biggest investment in Silicon Valley.”

samsung-office

Samsung also announced that it has established a $ 1 million STEM College Education Scholarship Fund. In its own words:

Deserving university students who are currently enrolled in STEM-focused programs at a California State or University of California school will benefit from this program, beginning with a $ 50,000 gift to San Jose State University this year. Each scholarship will cover tuition and living expenses for one year.

But the announcement of the new office has been largely overshadowed by news in virtual reality today: We reported that the Samsung Gear VR will launch as a consumer product this November for $ 99. (You can read our full roundup from today’s Oculus event here.)

Earlier this week, Samsung unveiled its new fonts-inspired Serif TVs, and shared more about how it relies on startups to stay ahead on technological innovation.

If you happen to be passing through the area, Samsung’s new building certainly looks worth checking out.

More information:

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Samsung says new U.S. offices are its ‘biggest investment in Silicon Valley’ to date

samsung-new-office-silicon-valley

Samsung officially opened the doors to its new 1.1-million-square-foot Silicon Valley offices Thursday, more than 30 years after its arrival in the San Jose tech corridor in 1983.

The building will house various research labs dedicated to semiconductors, LEDs and displays, staff in sales and marketing, and other support areas, the company said.

“[We are] laying the groundwork for a more aggressive pace of growth over the next several decades,” said Samsung’s chief executive, Dr. Oh-Hyun Kwon, at the grand opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, the company’s president of its U.S.-based device solutions operations, Jaesoo Han, said that the move “represents a major milestone as we open our most strategically important Samsung facility in the U.S., and also our biggest investment in Silicon Valley.”

samsung-office

Samsung also said that it has established a $ 1 million STEM College Education Scholarship Fund. In its own words:

Deserving university students who are currently enrolled in STEM-focused programs at a California State or University of California school will benefit from this program, beginning with a $ 50,000 gift to San Jose State University this year. Each scholarship will cover tuition and living expenses for one year.

But the announcement of the new office has been largely overshadowed by news in virtual reality today: we reported that the Samsung Gear VR will launch as a consumer product this November for $ 99. (You can also read our roundup from that event here.)

Earlier this week, Samsung unveiled its new fonts-inspired Serif TVs, and shared more about how it relies on startups to stay ahead on technological innovation.

More information:

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