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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.

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Apple working on an in-house modem

Saying goodbye to Qualcomm

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In-house components are on the rise. Instead of relying on other component makers, a few brands have started creating their own parts for their devices. For example, Google recently launched the Pixel 6 series with its own Tensor chipset, the company’s first in-house processor. Apple is reportedly joining the bandwagon, potentially launching an in-house modem for future iPhones.

According to Nikkei, Apple is partnering with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (or TSMC) for the latter’s 4-nanometer chip technology. With the partnership, Apple is on its way to building its own 5G modems for iPhones. Apple will also work on a battery management system built for the upcoming modem.

Prior to the announcement, Apple sourced its modems from Qualcomm. Ever since 5G became a ubiquitous feature, Qualcomm helped provide modems for most smartphones. Now, almost the entire market has 5G connectivity. The company has even stopped attaching the “5G” name to its chipsets with the assumption that every forthcoming product already has the feature attached.

Though Qualcomm is still a leader in the industry, numerous brands have already started ditching Qualcomm for their own components. As such, a huge chunk of the industry reduced their reliance on the semiconductor giant. For its part, Apple has already moved away from a lot of components, especially after its current chipsets.

SEE ALSO: Apple’s Self Service Repair will let you fix your broken iPhone on your own

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Samsung teases that sliding, rolling displays are coming

Officially teased

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Since the debut of the Galaxy Fold a few years ago, Samsung has dominated the foldable smartphone market with nary a competitor to hinder its success. Of course, folding screens aren’t the only ways to revolutionize display technology. Other brands, like LG, have developed sliding and rolling displays. Now, officially announced by the company, Samsung is officially trying its hand at other form factors.

Teased on their official site, Samsung Display has teased “a new era” with Samsung OLED. The company has released a few teaser images depicting a rollable and sliding display for the future. They will be called the Rollable Flex and the Slidable Flex, respectively.

However, though the form factor is officially coming now, Samsung has not announced where the new displays will launch. Though both are certainly staples of the television market, it’s within the realm of possibility that the new form factors will also come to Samsung’s smartphone lineup.

Back in May, Samsung patented the Z Rollable branding, potentially hinting at a future smartphone with the form factor. It might take a while for sliding and rolling displays to make their debut, though. Samsung still leads the foldable industry, but the market arguably hasn’t taken the industry by storm just yet, especially because of the form factor’s price tags.

SEE ALSO: Samsung launches 1000-inch TV display

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Qualcomm Snapdragon is getting a rebranding

It’s a new era for Snapdragon

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In terms of processors, Qualcomm Snapdragon is one of the most iconic barometers of a device’s capabilities. However, new followers of the smartphone industry might find it difficult to follow all the different numbering systems. Sensing the same difficulties, Qualcomm has announced that they are rebranding (and simplifying) the chipset series’ branding.

Officially announced by Qualcomm, the new era of Snapdragon is coming. For one, Snapdragon is officially dropping Qualcomm from its name. Instead of peddling its wares as Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, for example, the company’s chips will just be known as Snapdragon [insert number scheme here].

Speaking of its number scheme, the Snapdragon rebrand will also simplify the sometimes-arcane numbering system. Going forward, Qualcomm is trading in its triple-digit scheme for a single-digit one. The Snapdragon 888 (and its contemporaries) might end up being known as the Snapdragon 8 series now.

Finally, a small change that means all the difference: Snapdragon will no longer add in “5G” in the name of its future chipsets. When 5G was a novel feature, Qualcomm added “5G’ to its naming schemes to indicate that their products came with the feature. Now that 5G is ubiquitous now, Snapdragon will drop the scheme; instead, all future chipsets will come with the assumption that they are 5G-compatible.

However, despite Qualcomm’s announcement, we still don’t know how the new branding will look like exactly. We don’t have a concrete example yet. Qualcomm usually launches the next generation near the end of the year, so we might not have to wait long for an example.

SEE ALSO: Qualcomm promises zero carbon emissions by 2040

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