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What caught my eye in tech: October 2020

Every month in 2020, I’m going to be sharing the top 5 interesting things in tech that have caught my eye. Enjoy!

1. The US big tech antitrust fight reaches its first head

Back in my July roundup, I touched on the ongoing US House Judiciary’s antitrust committee taking on big tech. At the time, the CEOs of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple were hauled in for grilling, the penultimate part of an investigation before the committee produced a report. Well, that report is now here and it’s as scathing as you’d expect. Each company is individually targeted and it’s clear change is coming. The report itself is 449 pages (what did you expect after that 6-hour hearing in July?!) but The Verge has a great summary in this long-form article if you’re short on time. 

It’s interesting to see how some of the big four have been reacting to preempt any move to reduce their power. Take a look at Apple and their 180 on game streaming and their 15% app store cut. I expect this will continue but will it be enough? 

Read the report in full via the New York Times

2. Not to be outdone, the EU takes on big tech once more

Big tech can’t catch a break right now. If the attacks on home soil weren’t enough, the EU is stepping up their agenda on any big tech company seen as a ‘gatekeeper’. This essentially targets the usual companies with a powerful monopoly, such as Apple with its App Store, placing them firm on the radar. 

The goal is still the same as the US in part, to curb the dominance each company has that limits competition, but also to demand more responsibility for the content housed on platforms these companies own. New laws will be coming in December, much to the expected opposition of the companies the EU is targeting.

More on the EU’s plan via Bloomberg

3. Music streaming under the lens of UK MPs

Whilst Spotify is pointing the finger at big tech, particularly Apple, the UK is ensuring the company doesn’t get left out of the current ‘big bad tech’ agenda. With Spotify, Google, Apple and others becoming some of the big players within the music industry through the shift to streaming services, UK MPs are questioning the control the companies have on the industry’s economics. MP Julian Knight, committee chair of The Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, made particular reference to questions many of us have had for some time. Do the platforms allow for fair compensation and do they provide equal opportunities for new talent to be discovered? 

The committee will look to answer these and we can expect a report outlining the findings of their investigation. Of particular interest will be some of the alternative business models the committee mentioned will be looking to push for.

More committees investigation via The Guardian

4. The End of Cinema? Disney reorgs around streaming content

Disney+ is the definition of right place, right time. With the pandemic closing down its theme parks and cinemas shut, Disney’s books were certainly propped up by the global rollout of its streaming service. With 73 million subscribers, Disney now has a huge audience on tap with a thirst for content from the Magic Kingdom.

Recognising a pivotal moment, the company has now been reorganised around streaming to take full advantage of the huge opportunity presented by a direct-to-consumer model. Whilst Disney state they still plan to release movies both to cinemas and via their own platform, is this just another nail in what is nearly a closed coffin? With Warner also announcing they plan to release many of their 2021 blockbusters via HBO Max, it certainly seems that way.

More on the reorganisation plans via The Hollywood Reporter

5. Amazon goes electric

Possibly the hottest sector right now is electric vehicles. Tesla has been on a major bull run, along with newcomers from China in Nio and X-Peng, and that only looks set to continue as the world shifts away from fossil fuels. Rivian is another player in the sector and has been enlisted by Amazon to create a range of custom vehicles for use in markets where Amazon operates ‘last mile’ deliveries. Amazon is on a mission to be a zero-carbon company by 2040 and the 10,000 vans on order will go some way to achieving that.

What interests me most here is the tech packed into the vehicles. Like most electric cars, autonomous driving hardware is baked in and once the software is up to scratch, Amazon is likely to have a fully driverless setup.  

More on Amazon’s plans via About Amazon

One more thing: Teslas full self-driving launches in beta

Tesla’s Model X

This announcement has both an element of excitement and fright all mixed in one. Tesla’s full self-driving mode is here in beta, marking one step closer to truly autonomous driving. The scary part? They’re using the average joe public to test the software. Watch the YouTube video below to see the first test out in the wild.

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