Category Archives: Google

GDC 2019: Google’s Play For Gaming Ubiquity, Rise of Ray Tracing, Store Wars

The Game Developers Conference finished up Friday evening, wrapping one of the most exciting GDCs in recent memory with Google’s splashy entrance into AAA video gaming, the emergence of real-time ray tracing as a compelling technology for film, TV, and games, and the growing war between two global estore powerhouses: Valve’s Steam and the Epic […]

First Artificial Intelligence Google Doodle Features Bach

MOUNTAIN VIEW (CBS SF / AP) — Google is celebrating composer Johann Sebastian Bach with its first artificial intelligence-powered Doodle from the Mountain View-based internet giant.

Thursday’s animated Google Doodle shows the composer playing an organ in celebration of his March 21, 1685, birthday under the old Julian calendar. It encourages users to compose their own two-measure melody.

This image provided by Google shows the animated Google Doodle on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Google is celebrating composer Johann Sebastian Bach with its first artificial intelligence-powered Doodle. Google says the Doodle uses machine learning to "harmonize the custom melody into Bach's signature music style." (Google via AP)

This image provided by Google shows the animated Google Doodle on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Google is celebrating composer Johann Sebastian Bach with its first artificial intelligence-powered Doodle. Google says the Doodle uses machine learning to “harmonize the custom melody into Bach’s signature music style.” (Google via AP)

Google says the Doodle uses machine learning to “harmonize the custom melody into Bach’s signature music style.” Bach’s chorales were known for having four voices carrying their own melodic line.

To develop the AI Doodle, Google teams created a machine-learning model that was trained on 306 of Bach’s chorale harmonizations. Another team worked to allow machine learning to occur within the web browser instead of on its servers.

The Doodle will prompt users who are unsure of how to interact with the animated graphic.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Europe Fines Google $1.7 Billion In Antitrust Case

(AP) — Europe’s antitrust regulators slapped Google with a big fine Wednesday for the third time in less than two years, ordering the tech giant to pay 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for freezing out rivals in the online advertising business.

The ruling brings to nearly $10 billion the fines imposed against Google by the European Union. And it comes at a time when big tech companies around the world are facing increasing regulatory pressure and fierce political attacks over privacy violations, online misinformation, hate speech and other abuses.

Still, the latest penalty isn’t likely to have much effect on Google’s business. It involves practices the company says it already ended, and the sum is just a fraction of the $31 billion in profit that its parent, Alphabet, made last year.

Alphabet stock rose 2 percent on Wall Street on Wednesday.

The EU ruling applies to a narrow portion of Google’s ad business: when Google sells ads next to Google search results on third-party websites.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. European Union regulators have hit Google with a 1.49 billion euro ($1.68 billion) fine for abusing its dominant role in online advertising. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Investigators found that Google inserted exclusivity clauses in its contracts that barred these websites from running similarly placed ads sold by Google’s rivals.

As a result, advertisers and website owners “had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would be passed on to consumers,” said the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.

Anyone who suffered from Google’s behavior can seek compensation through national courts, she said.

EU regulators opened their investigation in 2016 — seven years after Microsoft filed a complaint — though by that time, Google had already made some changes to give customers more freedom to show competing ads. For that reason, regulators did not require a specific remedy to restore competition.

But Vestager said it appeared rivals haven’t been able to catch up, and some are “quite small.” By contrast, the EU said, Google has more than 70 percent of the European market for selling ads that run alongside search results on third-party websites.

Google did not say whether it would appeal.

“We’ve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the commission’s concerns,” Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker, said in a statement. “Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe.”

E-marketing analyst Bill Fisher noted a “growing wave of sentiment” toward curbing the influence of Big Tech and said that even if the EU’s rulings apply only to Google’s European operations, Google should “begin to open up, become more transparent and possibly look to alter some of its business practices” worldwide.

Earlier this month, a British expert panel recommended the government curb the dominance of giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google. In the U.S., Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed breaking up the biggest American tech companies, accusing them of wielding too much power.

This week, as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union and other activists, Facebook agreed to overhaul its ad-targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads.

The EU has led the way in promoting tougher regulation of big tech companies. Besides cracking down on antitrust breaches by Microsoft and Intel, it has enforced stricter data privacy rules that affect Facebook and other social media companies.

U.S. regulators haven’t been as tough, though the Federal Trade Commission recently created a task force focused on anti-competitive behavior in the industry.

Last year, Vestager fined Google a record 4.34 billion euros ($5 billion at the time) for forcing cellphone makers using the company’s Android operating system to install Google search and browser apps.

In 2017, she penalized Google 2.42 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for manipulating online shopping search results and directing visitors to its comparison-shopping service, Google Shopping, at the expense of its rivals.

Google, which is appealing those two earlier fines, has said it has since made adjustments to its shopping results and will start asking European users of Android phones if they want to use other search or browser apps.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Supreme Court: Google Class-Action Case Should Be Revisited

(AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed a lower court to take another look at a lawsuit that involved Google and privacy concerns and ended in a class-action settlement.

The high court said in an unsigned opinion that a lower court should address whether those who sued had the right to do so. The Google users who sued argued that the search engine sends website operators potentially identifying information when someone clicks on a link produced by a search. They said the practice violates users’ privacy under federal law.

Google eventually agreed to include certain disclosures about its practices on three webpages and settle the class action for $8.5 million.

Of that amount, $2.1 million went to lawyers, $1 million paid administrative costs and $5.3 million was set aside for six organizations that deal with internet privacy issues.

The individuals who initially sued received $5,000 each, but the millions of Google users they represented received nothing. If all 129 million people had been paid, they would have gotten 4 cents each.

The justices had taken the case because it raised issues of fairness in the rare instances in which courts approve a “cy-pres” settlement, roughly translated as near as possible, and find it’s impractical to send money to the very large class of affected people.

But the court’s opinion Wednesday didn’t deal with that issue. The justices said a lower court needed to address whether the individuals who sued were entitled to do so.

The justices said a federal trial court or the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should resolve that issue.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

EU Fines Google $1.7 Billion For Abusing Online Ads Market

BRUSSELS (CBS SF / AP) — European Union regulators have fined Mountain View-based Google 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for abusing its dominant role in online advertising, the third big antitrust penalty they’ve given the internet giant since 2017.

The latest punishment means the commission has now issued Google with almost $10 billion in fines from probes into various parts of the Silicon Valley tech company’s business.

In the latest ruling, Google and parent company Alphabet were found to have breached EU rules by imposing restrictive clauses in contracts with websites that used its AdSense advertising business. That prevented Google rivals from placing their ads on these sites, the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said Wednesday.

“Google abused its dominance to stop websites using brokers other than the AdSense platform,” Vestager told a news conference as she outlined the results of the long-running probe.

The AdSense For Search service — known simply as AdSense — lets Google act as a middleman between advertisers and website owners who want to make money by selling space for ads. AdSense allows web publishers such as newspapers and bloggers to place text ads on their websites, with the content of the ads based on results from search functions on their sites.

The commission said Google has 70 percent of the European market for “online search advertising intermediation.”

Microsoft filed a complaint with the EU in 2009 about Google’s service and the commission formally launched its probe in 2016, although it said at the time that Google had already made some changes to give customers more freedom to show competing ads.

Google “prevented its rivals from having a chance to innovate and to compete in the market on their merits,” Vestager said. “Advertisers and website owners, they had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would be passed on to consumers.”

Last year, Vestager hit the company with a record 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion at the time) fine following an investigation into its Android operating system. In 2017, she slapped Google with a 2.42 billion euro ($2.7 billion at the time) fine in a case involving its online shopping search results.

Google’s case highlights how the EU has led the way in promoting tougher regulation for the big tech companies. Besides cracking down on antitrust breaches by multinationals like Microsoft and Intel, the EU has enforced tougher data privacy rules that affect Facebook and other social media companies.

Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker, said the company agrees that “healthy, thriving markets are in everyone’s interest.”

“We’ve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the commission’s concerns. Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe,” Walker said in a statement.

Google, which is appealing both of the earlier cases, said ahead of Wednesday’s announcement that it has put in place remedies required by the commission. The company said in a blog post that it was making some tweaks to its shopping results. It will also start asking European users of new and existing Android phones if they want to use another search service or mobile browser.

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Supreme Court: Google Class-Action Case Should Be Revisited

WASHINGTON (CBS SF / AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed a lower court to take another look at a lawsuit that involved Google and privacy concerns and ended in a class-action settlement.

The high court said in an unsigned opinion that a lower court should address whether those who sued had the right to do so. The Google users who sued argued that the search engine sends website operators potentially identifying information when someone clicks on a link produced by a search. They said the practice violates users’ privacy under federal law.

Google eventually agreed to include certain disclosures about its practices on three webpages and settle the class action for $8.5 million. Of that amount, $2.1 million went to lawyers, $1 million paid administrative costs and $5.3 million was set aside for six organizations that deal with internet privacy issues. The individuals who initially sued received $5,000 each, but the millions of Google users they represented received nothing. If all 129 million people had been paid, they would have gotten 4 cents each.

The justices had taken the case because it raised issues of fairness in the rare instances in which courts approve a “cy-pres” settlement, roughly translated as near as possible, and find it’s impractical to send money to the very large class of affected people.

But the court’s opinion Wednesday didn’t deal with that issue. The justices said a lower court needed to address whether the individuals who sued were entitled to do so. The justices said a federal trial court or the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should resolve that issue.

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Game Industry Has Mixed Reactions to Google Stadia

Google’s new game streaming platform Stadia made its debut at GDC. Although still missing some intangible details (namely, pricing or a launch date), publishers and developers still have thoughts on this ambitious attempt at bringing streaming to the mainstream. Stadia debuted with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed as a key franchise for the platform. Ubisoft co-founder Yves […]

Google Launches Game-Streaming Platform

NEW YORK (AP) — Google on Tuesday unveiled a video-game streaming platform called Stadia, positioning itself to take on the traditional video-game business.

The platform will store a game-playing session in the cloud and lets players jump across devices operating on Google’s Chrome browser and Chrome OS, such as Pixel phones and Chromebooks.

Google made the announcement at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Some industry watchers were expecting a streaming console, but Google’s platform centers squarely on the company’s cloud infrastructure.

“The new generation of gaming is not a box,” said Google Vice President Phil Harrison. “The data center is your platform.”

Much like movies and music, the traditional video-game industry has been shifting from physical hardware and games to digital downloads and streaming. Video-game streaming typically requires a strong connection and more computing power than simply streaming video, since there is real-time interaction between player and game. Google says it is leveraging its data centers to power the system.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google said playing video games will be as simple as pressing a “Play Now” button, with nothing to download or install. An optional dedicated Stadia controller will be available. The WiFi-enabled controller has a button that lets players launch a microphone and use Google Assistant to ask questions about the games being played. Another button lets users share gameplay directly to Google’s video streaming service, YouTube.

CFRA Research analyst Scott Kessler said Google’s approach that ties YouTube sharing and video-game playing is unique.

“It is not necessarily at this point the easiest thing for people to livestream their games and now you can do it with the push of a button,” he said. “What they’ve done with Stadia is to connect and unify both the gaming platform and the streaming platform which obviously is new.”

No launch date or pricing was announced but the company said Stadia will be available in 2019 in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and parts of Europe. The company showed demos of “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” and “Doom Eternal.” More information about games is due this summer.

The U.S. video game industry raked in revenue of $43.4 billion in 2018, up 18 percent from 2017, according to research firm NPD Group.

BTIG Managing Director Brandon Ross said Stadia will be a positive for game publishers “assuming that it works and works at scale, which is a big assumption.”

That’s because the platform could bring in players not willing to spend the money upfront for a gaming PC or a console.

“What they’re presenting is a feasible way to play videogames in the cloud, and utilizing the cloud so you can play anytime, anyplace and anywhere,” he said. “There’s no friction, including the friction of upfront hardware costs.”

Ross added that Google’s platform could set up a distribution battle between Microsoft, which owns the Xbox, Sony, which owns the PlayStation, Google and perhaps Amazon, which reportedly is working on its own video-game service, as they race to lock down distribution of the most in-demand games.

To that end, Google launched Stadia Games and Entertainment which will develop Stadia-exclusive games.

“The differentiator for any of the distributors on a console or in the cloud is going to be available content,” he said.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Goodbye Console? Google Launches Game-Streaming Platform

MOUNTAIN VIEW (CBS SF / AP) — At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Google on Tuesday unveiled a video-game streaming platform called Stadia, positioning itself to take on the traditional video-game business.

The platform will store a game-playing session in the cloud and lets players jump across devices operating on Google’s Chrome browser and Chrome OS, such as Pixel phones and Chromebooks.

Some industry watchers were expecting a streaming console, but Google’s platform centers squarely on the company’s cloud infrastructure.

“The new generation of gaming is not a box,” said Google Vice President Phil Harrison. “The data center is your platform.”

Google vice president and general manager Phil Harrison speaks during the GDC Game Developers Conference on March 19, 2019 in San Francisco. Google announced Stadia, a new streaming service that allows players to play games online without consoles or computers. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Google vice president and general manager Phil Harrison speaks during the GDC Game Developers Conference on March 19, 2019 in San Francisco. Google announced Stadia, a new streaming service that allows players to play games online without consoles or computers. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Much like movies and music, the traditional video-game industry has been shifting from physical hardware and games to digital downloads and streaming. Video-game streaming typically requires a strong connection and more computing power than simply streaming video, since there is real-time interaction between player and game. Google says it is leveraging its data centers to power the system.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google said playing video games will be as simple as pressing a “Play Now” button, with nothing to download or install. An optional dedicated Stadia controller will be available. The WiFi-enabled controller has a button that lets players launch a microphone and use Google Assistant to ask questions about the games being played. Another button lets users share gameplay directly to Google’s video streaming service, YouTube.

CFRA Research analyst Scott Kessler said Google’s approach that ties YouTube sharing and video-game playing is unique.

“It is not necessarily at this point the easiest thing for people to livestream their games and now you can do it with the push of a button,” he said. “What they’ve done with Stadia is to connect and unify both the gaming platform and the streaming platform which obviously is new.”

No launch date or pricing was announced but the company said Stadia will be available in 2019 in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and parts of Europe. The company showed demos of “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” and “Doom Eternal.” More information about games is due this summer.

The U.S. video game industry raked in revenue of $43.4 billion in 2018, up 18 percent from 2017, according to research firm NPD Group.

BTIG Managing Director Brandon Ross said Stadia will be a positive for game publishers “assuming that it works and works at scale, which is a big assumption.”

That’s because the platform could bring in players not willing to spend the money upfront for a gaming PC or a console.

“What they’re presenting is a feasible way to play videogames in the cloud, and utilizing the cloud so you can play anytime, anyplace and anywhere,” he said. “There’s no friction, including the friction of upfront hardware costs.”

Ross added that Google’s platform could set up a distribution battle between Microsoft, which owns the Xbox, Sony, which owns the PlayStation, Google and perhaps Amazon, which reportedly is working on its own video-game service, as they race to lock down distribution of the most in-demand games.

To that end, Google launched Stadia Games and Entertainment which will develop Stadia-exclusive games.

“The differentiator for any of the distributors on a console or in the cloud is going to be available content,” he said.

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.