Enterprise

Congressional big tech hearing: Facebook and Google’s involvement

Why are Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google in trouble?

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This is a two-part series explaining the “Big Tech” debate in detail. With the recent congressional hearing, we’ve taken a look at Apple and Amazon in Part 1.

The new synonym of social — Facebook

Facebook has been at the center of all discussions about online privacy and security. The social networking company has grown exponentially in the last decade, and it almost seems like nothing can stop it.

Starting as a simple social networking alternative to the likes of Friendster and MySpace, Facebook has improved radically as a product as well as a company. It proved that a free-to-use social network is possible with ads and went onto grow an empire out of it. While competition soon fizzled out, Facebook constantly innovated. Remember the time everyone was hooked to Farmville?

When the original product, Facebook, started reaching a saturation level, and younger users were looking for something new, it acquired Instagram. The fledgling app became a huge success, thanks to Facebook’s already available user base. Within a decade, Facebook acquired multiple strategic investments like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus.

For a brief moment, Snapchat was considered to be a danger to Instagram. And, Facebook had no qualms in blatantly copying its features. Today, Stories are an integral part of the Instagram experience. Thanks to its investment in augmented reality as well as virtual reality, the filter library on Instagram is filled to the brim with creative options.

Even though Facebook had an in-built instant messaging service called Messenger, Facebook acquired WhatsApp. The acquisition gave it an unimaginable reach in developing markets. Today, the company has billions of active users across the globe.

But, did you notice one trend? Facebook pretty much controls all of social networking online. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp in one basket dominate the industry. Facebook has almost 2.5 billion active users.

The fact that it could practically mimic Snapchat without any liability proves how strong one company is. Now, the company is trying to bridge the TikTok vacuum with Reels and YouTube with IGTV.

A company mired with reckless management

Not only does its dominance stifle competition, but it also makes it responsible for a lot of user data. And, we all know Facebook’s reputation with privacy is quite muddy. It was revealed that data of more than 50 million users was used by foreign powers to manipulate the 2016 US Presidential election. Cambridge Analytica closely analyzed the preferences and opinions of these users and targeted them with political ads in a bid to change the voter’s decision and sway them towards a particular candidate.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed this psychological tactic was also used during Brexit. Political parties from around the world were clients, leveraging this as service. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has attended a congressional hearing in the past, and the internet is filled with memes about it. But, the primary concern continues to exist — is user data safe?

This question gets tougher to answer when we consider the scale at which the company operates. From the Upper Eastside to a warzone, Facebook has users everywhere. The company has always maintained that it follows industry-leading security standards, and users, as well as authorities, can trust it. However, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has introduced the common to the dangers of cyber warfare.

If ad targeting wasn’t enough, the story doesn’t end for Facebook. Experts widely criticize the platform for its lack of moderation and flow of misinformation. While rivals like Twitter have taken a wiser approach amid the looming presidential elections, Facebook chooses to stay away from intensive reduction.

Not just Facebook, even WhatsApp has long been in news for its misuse. The free flow of messages has led to mob justice instances that were actually instigated by misinformation. The app has introduced a wide range of measures to fight this, but it has brought negligible change on-ground.

Coming back to the “Big Tech” debate, should a company with a consistent history of shortcoming, be responsible for sensitive user data? We’ve already seen how data can be weaponized. What’s even more intriguing is, Facebook is technically an advertising company.

It quite literally acts as a middle-man between a vast pool of users and advertisers. While there’s nothing illegal about the business model, the company does need a wake-up call immediately and has to get its act together.

Google, the gateway to the internet

Google.com is often called the homepage of the internet. The search engine is everyone’s go-to website for two decades now. Anything you need is just a second away. The site lets you find something as general as a company’s website to an in-depth analysis from a white-paper PDF hosted on a university’s website.

Starting as a search engine, Google quickly expanded to new projects like Gmail, Maps, and YouTube. Its suite of applications is practically infinite and covers pretty much everything we need in the digital age. Google has more than 85 percent of the search engine market, and the nearest competitor is Microsoft’s Bing.

With the onset of the smartphone age, it acquired Android and changed history forever. Thanks to close partnerships with companies like HTC, Android got a much-needed boost to take on Apple’s iOS. Today, it also controls more than 85 percent of the market. Except for Apple, practically all other phone makers rely on it.

Over the years, Google has diversified massively. With a recent restructuring, Google has a parent called Alphabet. The parent company has interests in many more ventures like research and development-oriented X, self-driving car maker Waymo, DeepMind, and many more. It has a market cap of more than US$ 1 trillion.

Google rules the software world with its apps, operating systems, and enterprise packages. The most important point is, all of these services are free-to-use on a personal level. You have access to free email, maps, videos, music, and even news. It sells some add-ons like Drive storage or YouTube Premium, but these subscriptions aren’t its primary source of income.

Google, ruler of the free internet

Just like Facebook, Google also relies on advertising. In fact, Google is the world’s largest advertising company. It not only lets you deliver ads on its own products but also acts as a marketplace for advertisers and publishers. It single-handedly has a 37 percent share in America’s advertising industry (including offline). AdSense is widely used by other websites to monetize digital traffic.

Just like Apple, the problem with Google is its massive size and reach. It practically dominates multiple verticals like search engines, browsers, operating systems, and video streaming. Even a mammoth-like Microsoft has failed to challenge it with Bing. Regulators have fined the company multiple times for using its dominance to push its own products.

A majority of phones that ship with Android come bundled with Google apps. Without Google Play Services, one can’t leverage the Play Store. Indirectly, making it mandatory to partner with Google. Android is an open-source system, but it’s clear Google is the party that benefits the most.

When we combine all of these services and its associated analytical tracking, we realize Google knows everything about us. Google’s algorithms are constantly monitoring our preferences to deliver us more and more relevant content. A young venture like Google Pay in India came to a leading position within a short time, despite competition from fin-tech stalwarts like Paytm, PhonePe, and more.

When we consider the speed at which Alphabet is expanding, it’s clear it wants to play a fundamental role in our life.

Internet — man’s new best friend

“Big Tech” has another thing in common. They all play a critical role in our lives today and want to be as closer to us as possible. Apple wants to be your trustworthy hardware partner, Amazon wants you to buy everything from them, Facebook wants your entire social life, and Google makes it all possible, silently in the background.

On a regular day, I end up using their product at least a hundred times. Actually, my phone’s digital well-being feature says I unlocked my Android phone at least 100 times today, got 150 WhatsApp notifications, opened Instagram more than 15 times, spent 25 minutes window shopping on Amazon, and heard 3 hours of music on Apple Music. And, typed all of this on a MacBook Air.

This is the crux of the story. Big tech is all about wanting to be your best friend. Don’t get me wrong, these companies are also responsible for rapid innovation and unprecedented progress in computer science. The internet started as a top-secret government project. But gained lightning speed only when it was made public, and companies realized its business potential.

If you’re looking for a right and a wrong here, you’ve come to the wrong place. Standard Oil was a conventional entity that dealt in physical products like oil.

Data is equivalent to oil only in terms of valuation. With a fast-paced innovation cycle, these companies are constantly evolving. We can’t just break them into pieces based on geographical location. This is the reason why the big tech debate is extremely interesting. It’s an unprecedented situation and it’s clear that the big four have joined hands to fight the oncoming antitrust regulatory hurdles. The fact that all four companies agreed to appear for the hearing is a symbol of unity. Their survival is at stake and there’s no textbook answer to follow.


This is Part 2 of the series. We’ve covered Apple and Amazon’s involvement in Part 1.

Enterprise

Samsung is increasing the prices of its chipsets

Others have already accepted

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Shortages are still plaguing the tech industry. Because of various lockdowns throughout the past few years, new devices haven’t met the surge of demand from consumers. Besides not delivering devices, companies also deal with a loss in profit. Inevitably, that lost profit would rear its head in another way. Samsung, a major player in the chipmaking industry, has decided to up its chipset prices.

First reported by Bloomberg, Samsung is renegotiating the prices of its chipsets. If successful, the company’s clients will reportedly pay between 15 to 20 percent more to get their components. Additionally, chips made on legacy nodes will likely pay more in the end.

According to the report, some clients, currently unnamed, have already agreed to the price increase. Others are still in the process of negotiations. Though it’s certainly more expensive, the current forecast speculates that most clients will likely take the new deal. For one, other companies have already upped their prices as well. Samsung isn’t alone. However, the South Korean company has an advantage: more high-tech machines resulting in better chips and faster production.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. While some clients have already accepted, there is no indication as to who will ultimately shoulder the brunt of the price increase. Will this mean more expensive devices in the future, or will companies graciously take a lesser margin of profit?

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S22+ review: Love at first touch

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Qualcomm unveils its plans for Wi-Fi 7

Can reach up to 33Gbps speeds

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The transition from 5G to 6G shouldn’t be the only thing we’re excited for. Companies are also working on huge improvements for Wi-Fi. Because of the ongoing popularity of 5G, not a lot of the spotlight was shone on the current Wi-Fi 6 and 6E standards. However, home internet is just as important. Now, the future wants to make things even faster. Qualcomm has announced the next chips to introduce Wi-Fi 7.

Recently, the company officially revealed the Wi-Fi 7 Networking Pro Series. The lineup will eventually don the future of routers for a variety of environments including home and enterprise use. According to Qualcomm, the chips will reach speeds of up to 33Gbps with stabler connections and lesser interference. They will support 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz channels.

For reference, Wi-Fi 6 and 6E can reach only up to 9.6Gbps speeds. Though the jump is certainly dramatic, reaching higher speeds is crucial in today’s time when 4K streaming is quickly becoming a norm.

Of course, patience is key. Amid Qualcomm’s announcement, Wi-Fi 7 isn’t exactly here yet. Both networks and router makers haven’t released any products for the standard. However, some sources, like MediaTek, are currently predicting 2023 as a target date for the new standard’s launch in some capacity.

SEE ALSO: MediaTek hosts world’s first demo of Wi-Fi 7

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Samsung announces UFS 4.0

Coming to smartphones and smart cars

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While most consumers focus on the number of gigabytes a smartphone has, a lesser known specification is quietly improving a user’s experience. If you’ve owned any recent Samsung phone, you might have noticed “UFS 3.1” in the specs. Universal Flash Storage helps the smartphone process data faster. Now, Samsung has launched an improved version of the standard: UFS 4.0.

Announced recently, the new standard promises an impressive improvement from the current one. UFS 4.0 reportedly reaches up to 23.2Gbps per lane, double the speeds of UFS 3.1. While the latter finds its home in the Galaxy S22 series, the former will try to find its way into automotive and VR applications.

Using Samsung’s 7th-generation V-NAND technology, the standard can deliver sequential read speed of up to 4200MB/s and write speeds of up to 2800MB/s. Storages with the standard will also come in various capacities up to 1TB.

Samsung will produce the storage starting the third quarter of this year. With the timing down right, the standard will likely make its debut in upcoming smartphones from the company. Besides that, the company is also linking up with other companies around the globe for future partnerships with the standard. It aims to create a global ecosystem helped by the new standard.

SEE ALSO: Samsung is building phone batteries inspired by cars

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