Tech Titans Yield to New EU Rules before March Deadline

The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
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Tech Titans Yield to New EU Rules before March Deadline

The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File

2024 will be a year of change for the world's biggest tech companies as they bow to EU rules that come into force next month, shaking up how Europeans use vastly popular platforms from Google to Instagram.
The European Union long ago set its sights on big tech, aiming to rein in globally dominant companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft.
The landmark law known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA) breaks new ground because, rather than acting after the fact, it seeks to prevent companies from becoming powerful enough to edge out rivals, AFP said.
"This is really a big, big intervention in markets that affect people's lives every day," said Fiona Scott Morton, senior fellow at think tank Bruegel.
Brussels in September named six so-called "gatekeepers" that face tougher curbs: Google's Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, TikTok parent ByteDance, Meta and Microsoft.
It singles out 22 "core" platform services by the big six, including Amazon Marketplace, Apple's App Store, Facebook, Instagram and Google's Chrome browser.
"The point of the law is to open up these platforms and make the interface widely accessible so that there can be competition," Scott Morton told AFP.
The firms have until March 7 to comply, with a flurry of changes announced since the start of the year -- even as Apple, TikTok and Meta pursue challenges to aspects of the law.
"We'll get some of the benefits of the opening up of these markets pretty quickly," Scott Morton predicted.
Wind of change
One of the biggest changes announced so far came from Apple, which said in January it would allow alternative app stores on the iPhone for the first time.
The firm has moved grudgingly to comply, while also legally contesting that its app stores across all products including the iPhone should count as one.
Google's EU users are seeing banners asking if they want to keep their Google services, like YouTube and Chrome, linked -- and therefore allow data sharing.
Another big change will be choice screens: the EU wants firms to make it easier for users to choose their default search engine or browser, in an attempt to challenge Google search's dominance.
Google has promised to overhaul its results page, with a group of links to price comparison websites and removing some features such as Google Flights.
Microsoft has also announced steps to comply -- including letting Windows users in the European Economic Area (EEA) -- uninstall its Edge browser from their computers, and scrapping pop-ups urging new users to try the interface.
The EEA includes the bloc plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Advertising services by Amazon, Google and Meta must also adjust to the new rules, and Amazon last month detailed changes to its ad service, including providing more information about pricing.
Letting users decide how much of their data should be shared between the biggest companies' various platforms is one of the headline changes sought by the EU.
Meta said last month that users in the EU, in the EEA and in Switzerland will be able to create a separate Facebook Messenger account if they do not want it linked to their Facebook account.
Individuals will also be able to access Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Gaming without using their main account information.
At the same time, Meta is contesting the law's application to Facebook's Messenger and Marketplace services.
Likewise, Chinese-owned TikTok, the only non-US business on the EU's list, says it does not meet various thresholds for the law to apply and has been wrongly designated.
Core Apple issues
Of all the giants it targets, the DMA has perhaps the greatest potential to alter Apple's closed ecosystem.
Apple has not hidden its contempt for the DMA, which it says creates privacy and security risks.
Inside the industry, Apple has been accused of acting in bad faith -- including by Meta's Mark Zuckerberg who suggested its changes made it no easier to create alternative app stores on the iPhone.
"Apple clearly has no intention to comply with the DMA," said Rick VanMeter, executive director of the more than 70-member Coalition for App Fairness, which has long called for Apple to open up its marketplace.
"Apple is introducing new fees on direct downloads and payments they do nothing to process, which violates the law," he said.
Apple has said that its changes comply with the DMA.
One vocal critic is Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, which is part of the app coalition and called Apple's announced changes "a new low" for the firm.
Echoing a rising chorus among Apple's competitors, Spotify voiced hope that the DMA will end "unfair stifling of innovation disguised by Apple as security protections".



Huawei Launches New Software Brand for Intelligent Driving

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is seen outside its headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is seen outside its headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
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Huawei Launches New Software Brand for Intelligent Driving

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is seen outside its headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is seen outside its headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

Chinese tech company Huawei unveiled on Wednesday a new software brand for intelligent driving, marking its latest push to become a major player in the electric vehicle industry.
The new brand Qiankun, symbolizing a combination of heaven and the Kunlun Mountains, plans to provide self-driving systems involving the driving chassis, audio and driver's seat, Jin Yuzhi, CEO of Huawei's Intelligent Automotive Solution (IAS) business unit, said during an event ahead of the Beijing auto show.
"2024 will be the first year for mass commercialization of smart driving and the cumulative number of cars on road equipped with the Huawei self-driving system will top 500,000 by the year-end," Reuters quoted Jin as saying.
He also expected within a year more than 10 car models adopting Huawei’s Qiankun system would hit the market.
The Shenzhen-based tech conglomerate launched its smart car unit in 2019 with the aim that it could become the equivalent of German automotive supplier Bosch of the intelligent EV era and supply software and components to partners.
Huawei said in November that the unit would be spun off into a new company which would receive the unit's core technologies and resources and take investment from partners such as automaker Changan Auto.
It has also unveiled seven EV models in partnership with Chinese automakers so far and they are selling well, Jin said.
They include three Aito brand models under partnership with Seres, the Luxeed S7 sedan co-developed with Chery , two models with Changan Auto-backed Avatr and one with Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC)-owned Arcfox.
On Tuesday, Huawei also unveiled the S9 sedan, the first model under the premium Stelato brand it launched with BAIC.
Its diversification into EVs comes amid an intensifying price war in the world's largest auto market, which is grappling with slowing sales momentum and deepening overcapacity concerns as more than 40 brands vie for consumer attention.
Earlier this month, Huawei-backed Aito offered discounts of up to 20,000 yuan ($2,760) on its new M7 SUVs until the end of April.


Apple Announces Event on May 7 amid Reports of New iPad Model Launches

People stand outside a recently-opened Apple Store in Shanghai's Jing'an district on March 26, 2024. (AFP)
People stand outside a recently-opened Apple Store in Shanghai's Jing'an district on March 26, 2024. (AFP)
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Apple Announces Event on May 7 amid Reports of New iPad Model Launches

People stand outside a recently-opened Apple Store in Shanghai's Jing'an district on March 26, 2024. (AFP)
People stand outside a recently-opened Apple Store in Shanghai's Jing'an district on March 26, 2024. (AFP)

Apple will hold an event on May 7, the company said on Tuesday, amid reports that it would roll out the long-anticipated revamped versions of iPad Pro and iPad Air next month.

The Cupertino, California-based company did not disclose more details about the event that would start at 7 a.m. PT (2 p.m. GMT).

Bloomberg News reported in March that Apple's overseas suppliers had ramped up production of the new iPads and a launch was planned for early May.

The new models would represent Apple's first overhaul to that lineup since 2018.

The potential launch comes at a time as iPad sales have declined. The sales dropped 25% to $7.02 billion in the first quarter, while those of iPhone, its most popular product, have also been slowing.

The tablet market is under duress as economic uncertainty looms and consumers cut back on non-essential spending, but Apple expects to combat the slump in demand with new products.

Apple's iPad sales contributed just 5.9% to the company's total net sales of $119.58 billion in the first quarter ended Dec. 30.

Apple is also scheduled to hold its Worldwide Developers Conference from June 10 to June 14.


Microsoft Launches Lightweight AI Model

A Microsoft sign is pictured at a trade fair in Hannover Messe, in Hanover, Germany, April 22, 2024. (Reuters)
A Microsoft sign is pictured at a trade fair in Hannover Messe, in Hanover, Germany, April 22, 2024. (Reuters)
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Microsoft Launches Lightweight AI Model

A Microsoft sign is pictured at a trade fair in Hannover Messe, in Hanover, Germany, April 22, 2024. (Reuters)
A Microsoft sign is pictured at a trade fair in Hannover Messe, in Hanover, Germany, April 22, 2024. (Reuters)

Microsoft on Tuesday launched a lightweight artificial intelligence model, as it looks to attract a wider client base with cost-effective options.

The new version called Phi-3-mini is the first of the three small language models (SLM) to be released by the company, as it stakes its future on a technology that is expected to have a wide-ranging impact on the world and the way people work.

"Phi-3 is not slightly cheaper, it's dramatically cheaper, we're talking about a 10x cost difference compared to the other models out there with similar capabilities," said Sébastien Bubeck, Microsoft's vice president of GenAI research.

SLMs are designed to perform simpler tasks, making it easier for use by companies with limited resources, the company said.

Phi-3-mini will be available immediately on Microsoft cloud service platform Azure's AI model catalog, machine learning model platform Hugging Face, and Ollama, a framework for running models on a local machine, the company said.

Last week, Microsoft invested $1.5 billion in UAE-based AI firm G42. It has also previously partnered with French startup Mistral AI to make their models available through its Azure cloud computing platform.


Adobe to Bring Full AI Image Generation to Photoshop this Year

An AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign is seen at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China July 6, 2023. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
An AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign is seen at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China July 6, 2023. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
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Adobe to Bring Full AI Image Generation to Photoshop this Year

An AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign is seen at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China July 6, 2023. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
An AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign is seen at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China July 6, 2023. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

Adobe said on Tuesday it plans to place a tool for full artificial intelligence image generation in its Photoshop software later this year.
Adobe's image and video editing tools are widely used by creative professionals, but it faces rising competition from startups such as Microsoft-backed OpenAI, Midjourney and Stability AI, all of which offer services that can generate images from text prompts, Reuters said.
Adobe is developing its own image-generation AI system called Firefly, which is trained on data that Adobe has rights to, in order to avoid copyright infringement claims against users.
Adobe previously released image-generation tools in Photoshop that can fill in or expand parts an existing image. At a conference in London on Tuesday, the company said full image generation will come later this year, based on a new AI system called Firefly Image 3.
Much of Adobe's focus has been on speeding up the work of professionals who use its software. The new image-generation tool will have the ability to tap a user's uploaded image as a reference for the general composition of an image.
For example, a designer could make a quick sketch of a scene on a napkin, snap a photo of that napkin with a smartphone and then ask Photoshop to generate fully featured images in a variety of styles, said Ely Greenfield, chief technology officer for digital media at Adobe.
"Rather than having to very carefully describe exactly what goes where and try to make sure that I'm specifying the things I want things and that I don't, it's borrowing from the reference. So this is an amazingly powerful capability," Greenfield said.
Adobe said a test "beta" version of the software is available to some users on Tuesday but did not give a date for general availability.


Tencent to Release ‘Dungeon and Fighter’ Mobile Game in May 

A Tencent sign is seen at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, October 20, 2019. (Reuters)
A Tencent sign is seen at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, October 20, 2019. (Reuters)
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Tencent to Release ‘Dungeon and Fighter’ Mobile Game in May 

A Tencent sign is seen at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, October 20, 2019. (Reuters)
A Tencent sign is seen at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, October 20, 2019. (Reuters)

Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings said on Monday it will release its much-anticipated "Dungeon and Fighter" mobile game on May 21 after seven years of development.

Officially named "Dungeon and Fighter: Origin", the action game, developed by Korean firm Nexon, is a mobile adaptation of the "Dungeon and Fighter" computer game, one of the world's most profitable computer games.

Tencent's shares rose about 4.5% on Monday morning.

The game was already released in South Korea in 2022 and became an instant hit. But its China release was delayed after the government cracked down on the gaming industry between 2018 and 2022.

In a February note, investment bank Jefferies expected the game to "secure a top 5 spot in revenue rankings" in China and to potentially generate between $600 million to $1.1 billion in annualized revenues there over time. But the bank expects a "cautious approach to engagement and monetization" during its initial launch.

Last month, Tencent conducted a closed test with 300,000 players and had delivered strong results. In a note this month, HSBC wrote: "Testing for DnFm yielded solid performance in metrics like [daily active users], retention rate and user's paying propensity."


Tesla Cuts Price of Full Self-Driving Software by a Third

FILE - A Model X sports-utility vehicle sits outside a Tesla store in Littleton, Colo., on June 18, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
FILE - A Model X sports-utility vehicle sits outside a Tesla store in Littleton, Colo., on June 18, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
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Tesla Cuts Price of Full Self-Driving Software by a Third

FILE - A Model X sports-utility vehicle sits outside a Tesla store in Littleton, Colo., on June 18, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
FILE - A Model X sports-utility vehicle sits outside a Tesla store in Littleton, Colo., on June 18, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Tesla slashed the price of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) driver assistant software to $8,000 from $12,000 in the United States.

CEO Elon Musk is betting on the technology to become cash cow for the world's most valuable automaker. But he has for years failed to achieve the goal of self-driving capability, with the technology under growing regulatory and legal scrutiny.

Musk earlier this month said Tesla will unveil its robotaxis on Aug. 8, after Reuters reported Tesla had scrapped its inexpensive, mass-market car in favour of robotaxis.

According to the Tesla website, customers can now pay $8,000 for the FSD feature, or subscribe to use it for $99 a month.

Tesla recently cut the US monthly subscription price for the feature from $199, while giving every Tesla customer a month's free subscription to the software.

Tesla has also been cutting prices on its auto line-up in major markets. Grappling with falling sales and an intensifying price war for electric vehicles, Tesla cut prices by nearly $2,000 across its line-up in China, in line with its price cuts in the United States.


Saudi Food and Drug Authority CEO Visits Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore

The CEO of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) visited the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore. SPA
The CEO of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) visited the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore. SPA
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Saudi Food and Drug Authority CEO Visits Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore

The CEO of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) visited the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore. SPA
The CEO of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) visited the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore. SPA

The CEO of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), Dr. Hisham bin Saad Al-Jadhey, visited the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore, and met with the Executive Director of the A*STAR Biomedical Research Council (BMRC), Dr. Azlinda Anwar, and A*STAR Executive Director of the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) Dr. Sze Tan.
Al-Jadhey was briefed on the work of the BMRC, the SIFBI, and the biotechnology ecosystem in Singapore.
A*STAR is an entity affiliated with the Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry which supports research and development in several areas, including human health and biomedicine in the public sector.
This visit came on the sidelines of the SFDA's participation in the 5th Annual Meeting of the International Heads of Food Agencies Forum (IHFAF), which took place in Singapore from April 16 to 20.


AI's Relentless Rise Gives Journalists Tough Choices

The arrival of ChatGPT sent shockwaves through the journalism industry. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP
The arrival of ChatGPT sent shockwaves through the journalism industry. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP
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AI's Relentless Rise Gives Journalists Tough Choices

The arrival of ChatGPT sent shockwaves through the journalism industry. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP
The arrival of ChatGPT sent shockwaves through the journalism industry. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

The rise of artificial intelligence has forced an increasing number of journalists to grapple with the ethical and editorial challenges posed by the rapidly expanding technology.
AI's role in assisting newsrooms or transforming them completely was among the questions raised at the International Journalism Festival in the Italian city of Perugia that closes on Sunday.
- What will happen to jobs? -
AI tools imitating human intelligence are widely used in newsrooms around the world to transcribe sound files, summarize texts and translate.
In early 2023, Germany's Axel Springer group announced it was cutting jobs at the Bild and Die Welt newspapers, saying AI could now "replace" some of its journalists.
Generative AI -- capable of producing text and images following a simple request in everyday language -- has been opening new frontiers as well as raising concerns for a year and a half, AFP reported.
One issue is that voices and faces can now be cloned to produce a podcast or present news on television. Last year, Filipino website Rappler created a brand aimed at young audiences by converting its long articles into comics, graphics and even videos.
Media professionals agree that their trade must now focus on tasks offering the greatest "added value".
"You're the one who is doing the real stuff" and "the tools that we produce will be an assistant to you," Google News general manager Shailesh Prakash told the festival in Perugia.
All about the money
The costs of generative AI have plummeted since ChatGPT burst onto the scene in late 2022, with the tool designed by US start-up OpenAI now accessible to smaller newsrooms.
Colombian investigative outlet Cuestion Publica has harnessed engineers to develop a tool that can delve into its archives and find relevant background information in the event of breaking news.
But many media organizations are not making their own language models, which are at the core of AI interfaces, said University of Amsterdam professor Natali Helberger. They are needed for "safe and trustworthy technology", he stressed.
The disinformation threat
According to one estimate last year by Everypixel Journal, AI has created as many images in one year as photography in 150 years.
That has raised serious questions about how news can be fished out of the tidal wave of content, including deepfakes.
Media and tech organizations are teaming up to tackle the threat, notably through the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity, which seeks to set common standards.
"The core of our job is news gathering, on-the-ground reporting," said Sophie Huet, recently appointed to become global news director for editorial innovation and artificial intelligence at Agence France-Presse.
"We'll rely for a while on human reporters," she added, although that might be with the help of artificial intelligence.
From Wild West to regulation
Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which has expanded its media rights brief to defending trustworthy news, launched the Paris Charter on AI and journalism late last year.
"One of the things I really liked about the Paris Charter was the emphasis on transparency," said Anya Schiffrin, a lecturer on global media, innovation and human rights at Columbia University in the United States.
"To what extent will publishers have to disclose when they are using generative IA?"
Olle Zachrison, head of AI and news strategy at public broadcaster Swedish Radio, said there was "a serious debate going on: should you mark out AI content or should people trust your brand?"
Regulation remains in its infancy in the face of a constantly evolving technology.
In March, the European Parliament adopted a framework law aiming to regulate AI models without holding back innovation, while guidelines and charters are increasingly common in newsrooms.
AI editorial guidelines are updated every three months at India's Quintillion Media, said its boss Ritu Kapur.
None of the organization's articles can be written by AI and the images it generates cannot represent real life.
Resist or collaborate?
AI models feed off data, but their thirst for the vital commodity has raised hackles among providers.
In December, the New York Times sued OpenAI and its main investor Microsoft for violation of copyright.
In contrast, other media organizations have struck deals with OpenAI: Axel Springer, US news agency AP, French daily Le Monde and Spanish group Prisa Media whose titles include El Pais and AS newspapers.
With resources tight in the media industry, collaborating with the new technology is tempting, explained Emily Bell, a professor at Columbia University's journalism school.
She senses a growing external pressure to "Get on board, don't miss the train".


Google Combining Its Android Software and Pixel Hardware Divisions to More Broadly Integrate AI 

Google logos are displayed when searched for Google in New York, Sept. 11, 2023. (AP)
Google logos are displayed when searched for Google in New York, Sept. 11, 2023. (AP)
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Google Combining Its Android Software and Pixel Hardware Divisions to More Broadly Integrate AI 

Google logos are displayed when searched for Google in New York, Sept. 11, 2023. (AP)
Google logos are displayed when searched for Google in New York, Sept. 11, 2023. (AP)

Google will combine the software division responsible for Android mobile software and the Chrome browser with the hardware division known for Pixel smartphones and Fitbit wearables, the company said Thursday. It's part of a broader plan to integrate artificial intelligence more widely throughout the company.

In a letter to employees, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the changes will “turbocharge the Android and Chrome ecosystems” while helping to spur innovation.

The decision will place both operations under the oversight of Rick Osterloh, a Google executive who previously oversaw the company's hardware group. Not long ago, Google insulated Android development from the hardware division, saying it wanted to avoid giving its phone designers an unfair advantage over the other major smartphone makers who used Android — including Samsung and Motorola, as well as Chinese companies such as Oppo and Xiaomi.

Then a few years ago, Google started to position the Pixel as a flagship for demonstrating what AI could accomplish and leaned heavily into developing features that could demonstrate its potential. That meant more integration of AI hardware and software to power those features on mobile devices.

In an interview with The Verge, a tech publication, Osterloh noted that AI is the primary reason for bringing together Google's consumer hardware and software engineers. He argued that phone technology is already growing more dependent on AI, citing the development of the Pixel camera, which among other things uses the technology for features that enhance nighttime photos or automatically choose the best of several closely timed shots.

Combining the teams, Osterloh added, is a way for Google to move even faster on infusing AI into its features. Designing the Pixel camera several years ago, he said in the interview, required deep knowledge of not just the complex hardware and software systems involved, but also the then-early AI models used for image processing.

“That hardware-software-AI integration really showed how AI could totally transform a user experience,” Osterloh said. “That was important. And it’s even more true today.”

“What you’re now starting to see Google do is flex its core AI innovation engines,” said Chirag Dekate, an analyst with Gartner. “Google wants to dominate the AI, the commanding heights of the emerging AI economy, both on the consumer side as well as on the enterprise side, essentially by infusing AI everywhere and by connecting it.”

Meanwhile, the chief of Google's software division, Hiroshi Lockheimer, is left without a title and, according to Pichai's letter, will be starting some other unnamed projects. Lockheimer did join Osterloh for the Verge interview, though, and the two men insisted the changes weren't the result of a power struggle.

Google is also reorganizing its AI research and responsibility groups, although those changes mostly won’t directly affect consumer products — at least not for now.


Apple Drops WhatsApp, Threads from China App Store on Official Order

China is a key market for Apple, which last year topped the country's smartphone market for the first time. Hector RETAMAL / AFP
China is a key market for Apple, which last year topped the country's smartphone market for the first time. Hector RETAMAL / AFP
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Apple Drops WhatsApp, Threads from China App Store on Official Order

China is a key market for Apple, which last year topped the country's smartphone market for the first time. Hector RETAMAL / AFP
China is a key market for Apple, which last year topped the country's smartphone market for the first time. Hector RETAMAL / AFP

Apple has removed the Meta-owned WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China following an order from the country's top internet regulator, Bloomberg reported Friday citing the tech giant.
Beijing engages in some of the world's most extensive internet censorship, with web users in mainland China unable to access everything from Google to many foreign apps without using a virtual private network, AFP said.
"We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree," said Apple in a statement, according to Bloomberg.
"The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns," said Apple, referring to China's internet regulator.
"These apps remain available for download on all other storefronts where they appear."
A Meta spokesperson referred AFP to Apple, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The CAC and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology -- another top Chinese internet regulatory body -- also did not immediately respond.
China is a key market for Apple, which last year topped the country's smartphone market for the first time.
But thorny issues of censorship and national security have long hounded the US-based firm's operations in China as Beijing and Washington engage in a fierce battle for technological supremacy.
In January, China said it had cracked Apple's encrypted AirDrop communication service, which had once given protesters a vital channel for sharing information during the major 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
State-backed experts said in January that they had devised a way to reveal an iPhone's encrypted device log, allowing them to then identify an AirDrop user's phone number and email accounts.
Many online platforms that are popular in much of the world -- including Google, Facebook, X, WhatsApp and TikTok -- are blocked in mainland China.
But savvy iPhone users in China have still been able to download banned platforms through Apple's app store, then use a VPN to get around the restrictions.
Removing WhatsApp and Threads from the Chinese app store will greatly complicate the ability of new iPhone users to access the apps.
The latest development comes a day before a scheduled vote in the US House of Representatives to force the wildly popular video app TikTok to sever all links with its Chinese parent ByteDance.
US officials have raised concerns in recent years over potential national security and privacy threats posed by TikTok, despite repeated assurances by the firm that it presents no risks to the American public.
Beijing has frequently lashed out against US restrictions on Chinese tech, claiming they are a pretext to contain the country's economic rise.