- In early August, Epic Games’ Fortnite was removed from Apple’s App Store after the gaming company tried to bypass Apple’s required 30% commission. The situation led to a lawsuit from Epic.
- Apple retaliated by attempting to block Epic’s Unreal Engine from being accessed by iOS developers. It also issued a countersuit and will revoke Epic Games Store users’ ability to use their Apple accounts to sign in.
- Epic Games has accused Apple of being a monopoly, saying that only allowing one app store on its devices and requiring a 30% commission is stifling competition.
- Fortnite being effectively removed from iOS means that nearly one-third of all Fortnite accounts are in limbo, which could be a major financial setback for Epic Games.
Epic Games Stirring Trouble With Apple
The battle between Apple and Epic Games reached new heights on Wednesday after Apple decided that users wouldn’t be allowed to use the “Sign In with Apple” feature to access their Epic Games account, regardless of what device they are on.
This is just the latest move in an on-going corporate feud between the tech giants that started on August 13. At that time, Epic Games tried to allow iOS users of their game Fortnite to bypass the App Store payment system and pay Epic directly, at a discounted rate.
Epic justified the discount by pointing out that Apple takes a 30% commission on all purchases through the App Store. In response to Epic Games’ move, Apple removed Fortnite from the App store. It’s widely assumed that this is what Epic wanted because it quickly released a video calling Apple a monopoly as well as a lawsuit ready to be filed.
Epic tried the same maneuver on Google’s Play Store and was similarly booted off the platform, embroiling the gaming company in another lawsuit.
Continued Escalations and Tit-for-Tats
Since Epic Games first took Apple to court, the two have further escalated tensions with accusations, countersuits, and petty retaliation.
On August 17, Apple extended its ban beyond Fortnite, targeting Epic’s Unreal Engine – a graphics engine that not only powers CGI for films and TV shows like “The Mandalorian,” but is also a cornerstone in the gaming industry. Apple told the company that unless it reversed course, Unreal Engine would also be removed by August 28. Removing its access to the App Store would mean countless iOS game developers would be left without a graphics engine for their games.
On August 24, the courts issued a series of early rulings that let both sides claim a victory. In a win for Epic Games, Apple was blocked from removing the Unreal Engine from the App Store; however, Apple was allowed to remove Epic Games’ own accounts from the App Store for a year.
Apple, for its part, thought the lawsuit and situation were ridiculous and could be easily resolved, telling The Verge, “The problem Epic has created for itself is one that can easily be remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers.”
Since then, things haven’t looked so great for Epic. The 116 million iOS users account for about one-third of all Fortnite accounts, but there’s been about a 60% decrease in iOS players since Apple blocked Epic from accessing its developer accounts.
In a September 5 court filing, Epic again asked the court to force Apple into allowing it back onto the App Store, arguing the loss of access to iOS players will do irreparable damage, writing, “Epic may never see these users again. It will also be denied the opportunity to access even a single new user among the one-billion-plus iOS users for at least the next year.”
While all that is happening, Apple upped the ante and hit Epic Games with a counter suit seeking punitive damages. The company claims that Epic trying to allow users to go around the App Store’s 30% commissions “…was little more than theft.”
Apple also says that “Epic’s lawsuit is nothing more than a basic disagreement over money. Although Epic portrays itself as a modern corporate Robin Hood, in reality it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing for the tremendous value it derives from the App Store.”
The company is asking the court to force Epic to pay it all the money Epic earned from iOS users who used the option to not pay the 30% commission.
Finally, in what’s being described as a petty move by Apple, Epic Games revealed that “Apple will no longer allow users to sign into Epic Games accounts using “Sign In with Apple” as soon as September 11, 2020.”
“If you used “Sign In with Apple”, please make sure your email and password are up to date,” it added in a statement Wednesday.
This decision could affect more players than just those who use an iOS device, as many players use this feature to login into their Fortnite and Epic Games’ account across multiple devices. For those with Epic Games accounts: if you still want access to your Epic Games account after Thursday, make sure you go to your Epic account and change your info, otherwise you’ll be effectively blocked from logging in starting tomorrow.
The entire situation will likely see another big update near the end of September when lawyers from the two companies will appear back in court for their next hearing.
Google Trying to Distance Themselves
During all of this there’s also a lawsuit between Epic Games and Google that largely revolves around the same issue: Google Play requires a 30% commission, Epic says that’s way too much, tried to side step it, and lost access to its accounts.
Google, however, is trying to make sure the courts don’t apply any decisions between the Apple and Epic Games lawsuit to their situation by arguing that Android allows users to access multiple app stores and even download apps directly from developers.
That means that Epic’s argument against Apple – namely that its an alleged monopoly because apps can only be accessed through the official App Store – shouldn’t apply to the situation between Google and Epic.
See What Others Are Saying: (Endgadget) (Business Insider) (Wall Street Journal)
Supply Chain Issues Trigger Price Hikes, School Lunch Shortages, and More
Many news outlets have cited experts warning of supply chain issues affecting holiday spending, but the consequences of ongoing bottlenecks are already being felt across the country.
Schools Struggle for Food
A host of supply chain bottlenecks are affecting products and businesses throughout the U.S., forcing prices of goods and services to rise.
In Colorado, the Denver Public Schools system said it’s struggling to make sure it has enough milk for students on a daily basis, Insider reported Sunday. In fact, the schools are so short on milk cartons they’ve now resorted to asking students to bring refillable water bottles instead.
“When the milk is available, we are prioritizing serving milk at breakfast at all schools and at our elementary schools for lunch,” Theresa Hafner, DPS executive director of Food Services, told Insider in an email.
Meanwhile, other schools are struggling to find additional lunch-related supplies including meats, orange juice, meal trays, and plastic cutlery.
According to NBC News, Shonia Hall, director of school nutrition services for Oklahoma City Public Schools, even found herself needing to make a run to a local Sam’s Club to purchase 60,000 spoons and forks each just “to get us through for a few days in hopes the truck would show up.”
“It’s an additional cost to your budget, to your program,” she added.
Zillow Pauses House Buying
The issues also extend to the housing market, as both labor and supply shortages have led to operational backlogs for renovations and closings.
Zillow cited those issues Sunday when announcing that it would stop buying homes at least through December. Instead, the company said it plans to first prioritize the selling of its current catalog of homes.
“We’re operating within a labor- and supply-constrained economy inside a competitive real estate market, especially in the construction, renovation and closing spaces,” Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow’s chief operating officer, said in a statement cited by Yahoo! Finance.
Zillow’s share price fell as much as 11% from around $94 to around $84 early Monday as investors pulled out of the company.
What’s Causing the Issues?
U.S. companies are having a hard time stocking their shelves with certain products and keeping prices from rising largely because of factors induced by the pandemic.
The first and most basic issue is that last year, most consumer spending halted amid COVID-19 lockdowns in March. Around that same time, many companies were forced to scale back production and lay off workers.
However, more people are now returning to the outside world, and with that comes a boost in shopping. Still, several businesses have found themselves unable to ramp up production to meet the increased and arguably unprecedented demand.
In addition to production issues, there are numerous transportation challenges. For example, a large wave of businesses have struggled for months to fill open positions. One such industry where that’s being acutely felt is trucking.
In fact, the country is so stressed for drivers to haul freight that at least one high school in California has now launched a program to train seniors to drive big rigs.
Meanwhile, Walmart, UPS, and FedEx all made 24/7 transportation commitments last week.
The supply chains problems don’t stop with ground transportation. One of the most pressing situations seen so far involves the problems at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California, where container ships are backed up.
Pre-pandemic, it was fairly unusual for any cargo ship to be seen waiting off the coast to get into one of the two ports, which process 40% of all shipping containers entering the U.S. Now, dozens of ships have been waiting weeks to get in.
Even once they unload, there’s another major backlog involving shipping containers at the ports. Because of those combined issues, Long Beach extended its operational hours in September.
President Joe Biden later announced on Oct. 13 that L.A.’s port will “operat[e] around the clock 24/7” as part of a “90-day sprint” to clear a path for cargo.
Supply chain issues are expected to impact holiday shoppers, but many analysts expect the problems to extend well into 2022. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg echoed that prediction on Sunday during an appearance on CNN.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Insider) (Wall Street Journal)
Facebook Is Reviewing More Than 2,200 Hours of Footage for Next-Gen AI
The project, which could prove to be revolutionary, is already raising some big privacy concerns.
Facebook’s Next-Gen AI
Facebook announced Thursday that it has captured more than 2,200 hours of first-person video that it will use to train next-gen AI models.
The company said it aims to make the AI, called Ego4D, capable of understanding and identifying both real and virtual objects through a first-person perspective using smart glasses or VR headsets. In effect, that could potentially help users do everything from remembering where they placed forgotten items to recording others in secret.
Facebook listed five key scenarios the project aims to tackle and gave real-world examples of how each may look for people who will eventually use the AI.
- “What happened when?” With that scenario, Facebook gave the example, “Where did I leave my keys?”
- “What am I likely to do next?” There, Facebook gave the example, “Wait, you’ve already added salt to this recipe.”
- “What am I doing?” For example, “What was the main topic during class?”
- “Who said what when?” For example, “What was the main topic during class?”
- “Who is interacting with whom?” For example, “Help me better hear the person talking to me at this noisy restaurant.”
Facebook said the amount of footage it has collected is 20 times greater than any other data set used by the company.
In the wake of recent controversy surrounding Facebook, it’s important to note that the footage wasn’t reaped from users. Instead, the company said it, and 13 university partners, compiled the footage from more than 700 participants around the world.
Still, that hasn’t alleviated all privacy concerns.
In an article titled, “Facebook is researching AI systems that see, hear, and remember everything you do,” The Verge writer James Vincent said that although the project’s guidelines seem practical, “the company’s interest in this area will worry many.”
Vincent pointe out that the AI announcement doesn’t mention anything in the way of privacy or removing data for people who may not want to be recorded.
A Facebook spokesperson later assured Vincent that privacy safeguards will be introduced to the public in the future.
“For example, before AR glasses can enhance someone’s voice, there could be a protocol in place that they follow to ask someone else’s glasses for permission, or they could limit the range of the device so it can only pick up sounds from the people with whom I am already having a conversation or who are in my immediate vicinity,” the spokesperson said.
Among positive reception, some believe the tech could be revolutionary for helping people around the house, as well as for teaching robots to more rapidly learn about their surroundings.
FDA Issues Its First E-Cigarette Authorization Ever
The authorization only applies to tobacco-flavored products, as the FDA simultaneously rejected several sweet and fruit-flavored e-cigarette cartridges.
FDA Approves E-Cigarette
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an e-cigarette pen sold under the brand name Vuse on Tuesday, as well as two tobacco-flavored cartridges that can be used with the pen.
This marks the first time the FDA has ever authorized the use of vaping products. In a news release, the agency said it made the decision because “the authorized products’ aerosols are significantly less toxic than combusted cigarettes based on available data.”
“The manufacturer’s data demonstrates its tobacco-flavored products could benefit addicted adult smokers who switch to these products — either completely or with a significant reduction in cigarette consumption — by reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals,” the agency added.
The company that owns Vuse, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, also submitted several sweet and fruit-flavored pods for review; however, those were all rejected. While the FDA did not specify which flavors it rejected, it did note that it has yet to make a decision on whether to allow menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, including ones sold under Vuse.
FDA Is Reviewing All Vape Products Still on the Market
In January 2020, the FDA banned pre-filled pods with sweet and fruity flavors from being sold. While other e-cigarette related products, including some forms of flavored vapes, were allowed to stay on the market for the time being, they were only able to do so if they were submitted for FDA review.
The FDA’s primary issue with fruity cartridges stems from statistics showing that those pods more easily hook new smokers, particularly underage smokers.
In fact, in its approval of the Vuse products, the FDA said it only authorized them because it “determined that the potential benefit to smokers who switch completely or significantly reduce their cigarette use, would outweigh the risk to youth, provided the applicant follows post-marketing requirements aimed at reducing youth exposure and access to the products.”
While some have cheered the FDA’s decision, not everyone was enthusiastic. Many critics cited a joint FDA-CDC study in which nearly 11% of teens who said they vape also indicated regularly using Vuse products.