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Amazon’s AppStream can now stream any Windows application

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has updated AppStream to allow any Windows application to be accessed through a browser.

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Besides offloading graphics workloads to AppStream so that less powerful devices can access heavy duty applications, AWS developers can now use AppStream to deliver any Windows application to non-Windows devices such as FireOS, Android, Chrome, iOS, Mac OS X, as well as Windows devices.

“You can now stream just about any existing Microsoft Windows application without having to make any code changes,” AWS evangelist Jeff Barr wrote.

The example he offers is NVIDIA’s Design Garage for Windows 7, but it could equally be any CAD, 3D modeling, simulation, games, video and photo-editing software, medical imaging, and life sciences Windows applications.

After setting up the application in AppStream, an end-user can run the application on any OS that supports Google’s Chrome browser.

Amazon launched AppStream last year alongside its virtual desktop service, WorkSpaces, its cloud desktop that allowed included bundles of Office, antivirus, Internet Explorer and Adobe Reader.

AppStream cateres for any application, in particular of the 2D and 3D variety that would benefit from its GPU instance G2.2xlarge, based on NVIDIA GPUs along with 15GB RAM and 60GB of solid state disk.

AWS positions the service as a different way of delivering software, and one that cuts out the need for end users having to wait for hefty downloads to complete. Besides that, developers can protect their proprietary code from pirates.

“On the development side, running the remote side of the application in a single, well-understood, cloud-based environment can dramatically shrink the size of the test matrix. The client application is relatively simple, with responsibility limited to authenticating users, decoding video streams, and relaying local events to AppStream. Because the run-time environment is well-understood and under your control, issues related to libraries, DLLs, and video drivers are no longer an issue,” Barr notes.

The one catch is that AppStream is only available in the US East (Northern Virginia) and Asia Pacific (Tokyo) regions. Pricing for the service is based on total “streamed hours” per month, which costs $0.83 an hour.

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Google break-up plan emerges from Brussels

The European parliament is poised to call for a break-up of Google, in one of the most brazen assaults so far on the technology group’s power.

The gambit increases the political pressure on the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to take a tougher line on Google, either in its antitrust investigation into the company or through the introduction of laws to curb its reach.

A draft motion seen by the Financial Times says that “unbundling [of] search engines from other commercial services” should be considered as a potential solution to Google’s dominance. It has the backing of the parliament’s two main political blocs, the European People’s Party and the Socialists.

Getty Images

A vote to effectively single out a big US company for censure is extremely rare in the European parliament and is in part a reflection of how Germany’s politicians have turned against Google this year.

Watch: Google offers a subscription service to remove ads from site

German centre-right and centre-left politicians are the dominant force in the legislature and German corporate champions, from media groups to telecoms, are among the most vocal of Google’s critics.

Since his nomination to be the EU’s digital commissioner, Germany’s Günther Oettinger has suggested hitting Google with a levy for displaying copyright-protected material; has raised the idea of forcing its search results to be neutral; and voiced concerns about its provision of software for cars.

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Google has become a lightning rod for European concerns over Silicon Valley, with consumers, regulators and politicians assailing the company over issues ranging from its commercial dominance to its privacy policy. It has reluctantly accepted the European Court of Justice’s ruling on the right to be forgotten, which requires it to consider requests not to index certain links about people’s past.

The European parliament has no formal power to split up companies, but has increasing influence on the commission, which initiates all EU legislation. The commission has been investigating concerns over Google’s dominance of online search for five years, with critics arguing that the company’s rankings favour its own services, hitting its rivals’ profits.

“Unbundling cannot be excluded,” said Andreas Schwab, a German MEP who is one of the motion’s backers.

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Margrethe Vestager, the incoming European competition commissioner, has indicated that she will listen to Google and various complainants before deciding on how to move forward with the antitrust inquiry into the company.

Ramon Tremosa, a Spanish MEP who is sponsoring the motion, said it was necessary to consider unbundling as a long-term solution, because the commission could not “ask the secret of [Google’s] algorithm”.

Google declined to comment. However, executives at the company are understood to be furious at the political nature of the motion and only became aware of the document in the past couple of days, after an MEP contacted Google for advice on its meaning.

One technology industry source with knowledge of the motion also called it a “politically-motivated campaign to do something that is a regulatory matter”. He added: “These guys are calling for the break-up of Google. That is not in proportion to the degree of concern articulated by the commission during its investigation.”

The draft resolution’s final text will be agreed early next week, ahead of a vote, which is expected on Thursday.

European Parliament may propose Google break-up in draft resolution

(Reuters) – The European Parliament is preparing a non-binding resolution that proposes splitting Google Inc’s (GOOGL.O) search engine operations in Europe from the rest of its business as one possible option to rein in the Internet company’s dominance in the search market.

European politicians have grown increasingly concerned about Google’s and other American companies’ command of the Internet industry, and have sought ways to curb their power. A public call for a break-up would be the most far-reaching action proposed and a significant threat to Google’s business.

The draft motion does not mention Google or any specific search engine, though Google is by far the dominant provider of such services in Europe with an estimated 90 percent market share. Earlier on Friday, the Financial Times described a draft motion as calling for a break-up of Google.

Google declined to comment.

The motion seen by Reuters “calls on the Commission to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term solution” to leveling the competitive playing field.

Parliament has no power to initiate legislation and lacks the authority to break up corporations, and while the draft motion is a non-binding resolution, it would step up the pressure on the European Commission to act against Google.

Google already faces stern criticism in Europe about everything from privacy to tax policies, and has been wrestling with a European court’s ruling that requires it to remove links from search results that individuals find objectionable.

The company has grown so large as to inspire distrust in many corners, with a chorus of public criticism from politicians and business executives.

“It’s a strong expression of the fact that things are going to change,” said Gary Reback, a U.S. attorney who has filed complaints on behalf of companies against Google over fair search. “The parliament doesn’t bind the commission for sure, but they have to listen.”

RESOLUTION “VERY LIKELY” TO BE ADOPTED

Europe’s new antitrust chief said she would take some time to decide on the next step of the four-year investigation into the Internet search leader, after her predecessor had scrapped a proposed settlement with the company.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who took over from Joaquin Almunia on Nov. 1, said she would take a representative sample of views from parties involved in the case and check on the latest industry developments before taking any action.

Resentment, however, has been building in Europe for years.

Google has tried to counter that mistrust, which its executives believe is linked to European perceptions of the United States in general. But recent revelations about U.S. surveillance practices, including that Washington monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, have ignited a strong backlash, particularly in Germany, where the historic experiences of Nazism and Communism have left people deeply suspicious of powerful institutions controlling personal data.

Andreas Schwab, the German Christian Democrat lawmaker who co-sponsored the resolution, told Reuters it was “very likely” it would be adopted as both his own center-right group, the largest in parliament, and the main center-left group supported it. Schwab proposed the resolution along with Spanish centrist Ramon Tremosa earlier this week.

In a statement on Wednesday, the two said Google had failed to propose adequate remedies during the antitrust investigation by the commission. Vestager has said she wants time to study the dossier after her predecessor decided against a settlement with Google that would have ended the case.

Google ”continued thereby to suppress competition to the detriment of European consumers and businesses,“ Schwab and Tremosa said.

In a position paper, they cited a number of possible solutions to what they saw as Google’s abusive dominant position in search engines and its ability to drive Internet traffic to favored sites. If these failed, then, they suggested, legislation should be tried.

“In case the proceedings against Google carry on without any satisfying decisions and the current anti-competitive behavior continues to exist, a regulation of the dominant online web search should be envisaged,” they said.

Reflecting broad suspicion of Google, other parties in parliament may also support the non-binding resolution.

Jan Philipp Albrecht of the Greens said: “Search engines like Google should not be allowed to use their market power to push forward other commercial activities of the same company.

Officials at the European Commission could not be immediately reached for comment.

It was also not clear how U.S. regulators would respond. In a major victory for Google, U.S. regulators in 2013 ended an investigation into the Internet company and concluded that it had not manipulated Web search results to hurt rivals. It did get Google to agree to change some of its business practices, including halting the “scraping” of reviews and other data from rivals’ websites for its own products.

Rivals such as Yelp Inc (YELP.N) argue that the company is squeezing them out in Internet search results.

The review site, which has complained that Google ranks its own content higher than Yelp’s, said on Friday that the Internet search service harms users by favoring its own products, for instance social network Google+, which also carries review content.

“By hardwiring Google+ in the largest category of search, Google isn’t just stifling innovation, it’s harming consumers,” Luther Lowe, Yelp Director of Public Policy, told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco, writing by Edwin Chan; editing by James Dalgleish, Peter Henderson and Bernard Orr).

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twitter introduces offers discounts you claim in tweets and redeem in stores

The social network today is introducing Twitter Offers, discounts that users can claim right from an advertiser’s tweet by linking their credit or debit card account with Twitter. The Twitter user can then redeem the discount simply by paying with the synced card in the retailer’s physical store or online shop.

“We see Twitter users sending millions of expression of demand a day,” Nathan Hubbard, Twitter’s head of commerce, said in an interview. In turn, Twitter is focused on introducing tools that can, “where appropriate, turn those conversations into making transactions.”

The digital coupon offering marks the social network’s first formal foray into helping physical retailers measure the impact of online promotions. It also could allow Twitter to capture a piece of the 90-plus percent of commerce that still takes place in physical stores.

Twitter will initially make money by charging advertisers to promote the tweets that contain the offers. It could later decide to charge retailers a fee for every offer that is claimed or redeemed. Hubbard said Twitter plans to introduce other ways for its users to claim discount offers, especially in parts of the world where credit and debit cards aren’t commonly used.

Twitter has experimented with these kinds of deals for American Express customers in the past. For example, an American Express cardholder who linked a credit card account with a Twitter account and tweeted #AmexBestBuy automatically got a statement credit when she spent $250 in a Best Buy store.

But Twitter’s July acquisition of a startup called CardSpring allowed Twitter to formalize this type of product, eliminate the need for a hashtag, and make it available to all retailers and all card networks. Once a Twitter user syncs their payment card to the service, they can claim subsequent offers without re-entering their card information.

Select retailers and food chains will start promoting their offers on Twitter today, in time for the Black Friday weekend shopping frenzy. Twitter expects advertisers to target deals to people based on a variety of factors, including their location.

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In Another Fire Sale, Amazon Cuts Phone Price to $199 Unlocked, Still With a Free Year of Prime

In Another Fire Sale, Amazon Cuts Phone Price to $199 Unlocked, Still With a Free Year of Prime

 

The company has made its latest move, this time offering the phone for just $199 unlocked — a $250 price cut off the phone’s already reduced price. Making it an even better deal, Amazon is still including a year of free Amazon Prime, meaning that for those that are already paying for Prime or looking to sign up, the phone is really just $99 extra with no need for a contract.

Amazon signaled it would be taking more drastic action in its last quarterly earnings,taking a huge $170 million charge for the phone, sales of which have badly trailed the company’s initial hopes.

The Fire Phone was initially priced at $199 with a two-year contract or $649 unlocked. That put the device on par with flagship phones, including the latest iPhones. Many weresurprised to see Amazon not being more aggressive either with the price of the phone or with the associated monthly service. The Fire Phone, initially exclusive to AT&T, used that carrier’s standard rate plans.

In September, Amazon cut the price to 99 cents with a two-year contract, or $449 unlocked.

In an interview with Fortune, Amazon executive David Limp admitted the company got the pricing wrong.

Despite the rough start, Amazon pledged it would plug ahead with its phone business and promised bigger and better things are in store.

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Microsoft to pay China $140 million for ‘tax evasion’

(Reuters) – China has levied about $140 million in back taxes from Microsoft Corp in the first major case concerning cross-border tax evasion in the country, as regulators ramp up pressure on U.S. corporations doing business there.

According to an article published by China’s Xinhua official news agency on Sunday, an unnamed U.S. multinational must pay the Chinese government 840 million yuan ($137 million) in back taxes and interest, as well as more than 100 million yuan in additional taxes a year in the future.

The article refers only to a company whose name starts with “M,” is one of the world’s biggest 500 firms and which established a wholly-owned foreign subsidiary in Beijing in 1995. Microsoft is the only company that fits that description.

The Redmond, Washington-based company did not confirm the report, but also did not deny that it was the company involved.

“In 2012 the tax authorities of China and the United States agreed to a bilateral advanced pricing agreement with regards to Microsoft’s operations in China,” said a Microsoft spokesman in an emailed statement. “China receives tax revenue from Microsoft consistent with the terms of the agreed advanced pricing agreement.”

An advanced pricing agreement sets the tax treatment of transfer pricing, or methods of booking prices and sales between subsidiaries, which Microsoft uses across the globe.

According to its fiscal 2014 annual report, Microsoft’s overall effective tax rate was 21 percent – well below the standard U.S. corporate rate of 35 percent – primarily because it channels earnings through “foreign regional operations centers” in Ireland, Singapore, and Puerto Rico.

According to Xinhua, “M” reported losses for six years in China of more than 2 billion yuan while peers enjoyed profits and so the tax authorities concluded its behavior was unreasonable. It said the U.S. company admitted to tax evasion and its mainland subsidiary had agreed to pay the central government.

The tax payment is only the latest headache for Microsoft in China, where it is already under investigation by anti-trust regulators.

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Of course it won’t.

This is just the next step in killing third-party apps. Twitter doesn’t have the guts to just end them outright, so they’re just gradually inflicting passive-aggressive wounds over time to quietly shove them into the sunset.

We’re all just one compelling feature away from leaving our third-party apps on our own. For some of us, this full-archive search will be that feature. What’s next remains to be seen — I suspect direct-message enhancements may be — but I bet third-party clients will lose half of their users within two years without Twitter ever having to explicitly kill them.

We won’t even be angry at Twitter — we’ll move to the official apps voluntarily, and we’ll look back on all third-party clients like we look back on Tweetie, vanity link shorteners, and third-party image hosts today: as relics of a quickly abandoned past before we all started using Twitter’s better, newer features. You’ll see.

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Twitter has held talks with Shots, the selfie app backed by singer Justin Bieber, a source close to Shots told CNBC on Tuesday.

Twitter has held talks with Shots, the selfie app backed by singer Justin Bieber, a source close to Shots told CNBC on Tuesday.

Twitter’s acquisition plans became the subject of hot speculation on Monday after CFO Anthony Noto accidentally tweeted a message about making plans for a deal.

Re/code listed a handful of potential targets, including Shots, earlier Tuesday.

Twitter is attracted particularly to Shots’ user base, the source said—more than 3 million users, nearly two-thirds of them women under 24.

Pop star Bieber is an investor in the app. The company is run by John Shahidi, known to some as the “King of Twitter” for his broad popularity on the social media service.

Twitter shares fell 1 percent Tuesday, and were little changed after market close.

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Netflix Sues a Former Exec — Now Yahoo’s CIO — For Allegedly Collecting Kickbacks

Netflix says a former executive collected kickbacks from vendors he helped connect to the streaming video company.

Now Netflix is suing its former employee, who is currently Yahoo’s chief information officer.

Netflix filed suit in California state court on Monday, accusing Mike Kail, its former vice president of information technology operations, of fraud, breaching his fiduciary duties and other charges.

Kail left Netflix in August of this year, the same month Yahoo announced that he was going to be its CIO, reporting to CEO Marissa Mayer.

The Netflix suit says Kail, who joined the company in 2011, arranged Netflix contracts with IT service companies Vistara and NetEnrich, and then pocketed commissions of 12 percent to 15 percent of the monthly fees Netflix paid each company.

Netflix says it paid the two companies a total of $3.7 million from 2012 until Kail’s departure, which would mean he could have collected between $450,000 and $560,000. The suit says he funneled the payments to “Unix Mercenary,” a consulting company he controls. Netflix said Kail approved all payments made to vendors.

Vistara and NetEnrich are both run by Raju Chekuri; a spokesperson for the two companies, who said they had no comment on the suit, says Vistara was spun out of NetEnrich.

Netflix’s suit says the company believes Kail received payments from other companies that worked with Netflix during his tenure; Netflix thinks “such benefits may have included, among other things, stock and/or gift cards.”

I’ve asked Kail and Yahoo for comment. Netflix declined to comment.

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