This week Tony takes Our Week in Digital on a virtual trip to Silicon Valley as we take a look at the goings-on of the tech giants. This week sees product halts and launches from Google, another fine for Apple – bigger this time – and Windows 10 finally hits 1 billion devices.
Microsoft owned, GitHub launch Andriod and iOS app out of beta.
Developers are now in a position to improve communication with their teams, troubleshoot issues and even merge code right from their mobile device.
The company announced its first native mobile app at their Universe Developers conference in November. The iOS app debuted in beta then, with the Android beta app following in January.
GitHub were acquired by tech giants Microsoft back in 2018 for a $7.5m price tag. Despite it not earning enough money to be a line item in earnings report, GitHub is still a massive platform. In fact, worldwide, more than 40 million developers use GitHub for programming various projects. They could be considered tech giants themselves.
The company has made a lot of progress since the beta launch. GitHub Director of Engineering, Ryan Nystrom has revealed that his team have fixed over 200 bugs, acted on over 400,000 notifications, and merged over 20,000 code changes. This progress has been made possible by its wide user base. 60,000 testers have made 35,000 comments. Indeed, in the past few weeks alone, beta testers have commented on, reviewed and merged over 100,000 pull requests and issues.
GitHub list three main features for the app.
- It can organise tasks. Devs can swipe to finish a task or save the notification to return to it later.
- Developers can give feedback and respond to issues on the go.
- It can review, mark and merge pull requests so that developers can quickly move through the workflow.
Nystrom remarks that these features empower the developer community by allowing them to share feedback and review lines of code with just a touch. Users can also review and leave comments straight from their phone which can be synced to their computer. This enables developers to pick up their work remotely.
He adds that the success of the app was somewhat unexpected and didn’t believe that developers would want to read and review code on their phone. The team prioritised adding more features to mobile code review when one Android engineer prototyped commenting on individual lines of code. Consequently, the app is now shipping with per-line commenting on both Android and iOS.
This isn’t the end for the app either. Nystrom said “a pretty detailed roadmap full of features” will come to the app “over the coming months.”
Keen devs can download the app now from both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
Apple face record $1.23b fine.
Our second story comes from the tech giants Apple, who France’s competition agency have issued with a $1.23 billion fine. It is claimed that the tech giants conspired with distributors of gadgets such as the iPad to fix prices and limit competition.
This is the largest fine the agency has ever issued. It follows claims that Apple have restricted supplies and forced alternative sellers to match their prices through its online and physical retail stores.
The agency have also levied fines against the alternative sellers, namely Tech Data and Ingram Micro as penance for their part in the conspiracy. These, however, are not quite so large; $84.7 million and $69 million respectively.
Agency director, Isabelle de Silva said in a statement that it is Apple’s great size which motivated such a heavy sanction and is indicative of its potential to damage smaller distributors.
Why did the case come about?
This case has its roots in a dispute between Apple and one of France’s leading resellers, eBizcuss. eBizcuss accused the tech giant of abusing its position and in 2012 the reseller shut down in France as a result of what it claimed was unfair competition. The company was part of the Apple Premium Reseller (APR) program, whose participants sell only Apple products.
It is claimed that under the APR program resellers were told in advance how many of each product would be allocated to their stores. Apple then “recommended” prices and restricted the promotional materials a distributor could use. It is also claimed that should a smaller seller retaliate, Apple would use its size to bully them into submission by limiting product supply.
Additionally, the agency claimed that Apple limited supplies to APR partners during moments of heavy demand to enable them to steer customers toward its own stores.
Under French law, a company is not allowed to work with distribution partners to determine prices. It must treat partners the same way it treats internal sales channels. This includes allowing them to determine on their own how many and which products they want to order from a wholesaler.
Apple has a history of coming under pressure from European Union regulators. The company is still appealing a decision over its Irish tax breaks that the European Commission found allowed Apple to dodge more than $14.5 billion in taxes. Apple have also been implicated in a deal that led to a $1.23b fine against Qualcomm. Last year too, Apple agreed to pay France $571 in back taxes.
Microsoft 10 now runs on 1 billion devices.
Our third story also involves tech giants Microsoft. You may recall that back in September we reported they were on track to hit 1 billion, and now they have done it! They have been consistently adding 100 million active Windows 10 devices every six months over the past two years. Now, just six months after passing the 900 million device milestone, Microsoft have announced that Windows 10 is now running on over 1 billion monthly active devices.
This milestone is particularly noteworthy as Microsoft originally aimed to hit this number “in two to three years”. The company were forced to backpedal on this after it became clear that Microsoft 10 was not going to be as successful as they would have liked. Windows 10 was released about 4 and a half years ago in July 2015. It has taken the company more than double its ambitious estimate, and 20 months longer than its conservative estimate to pass 1 billion Windows 10 devices.
Windows 10 has become standard. In January, Microsoft ended support for Windows 7. As a result, it is anticipated that another 500 million devices or so will be running Windows 10 before too long. Microsoft have also shared that Windows 10 powers 80,000 models and configurations of laptops and 2-in-1s from over 1,000 different manufacturers. Additionally, Xbox consoles and upcoming models of the same both run Windows 10 variants.
What separates it from Windows 7?
Windows 10 is a very different product from its predecessors. Formally, Microsoft released a new version of Windows every two to three years. Windows 10, however, was developed “as a service” and therefore receives new updates every 6 months. It is tried and tested by 17.8 million Windows Insiders. Indeed, Microsoft have released 8 major updates so far with the 9th arriving in the next couple of months.
While this number may have arrived late, Windows 10’s update system is the real success. Undoubtedly, it will be the driving force behind the continued growth of the software. It is perhaps put best by Microsoft themselves. They have issued the following statement;
“One in every seven people on the planet are planning, creating, ideating, executing, moving, shaking, and doing great things with Windows 10. With 100% of the Fortune 500 now using Windows 10 devices, it has become a critical platform for driving business transformation in the enterprise and beyond. As companies transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10, they are making a commitment to running their business more efficiently, more securely, and positioning themselves to offer better products, services, and solutions to their customers”.
Google pauses Chrome and Chrome OS releases.
This week, tech giants Google have announced they are halting the upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases “due to adjusted work schedules”.
Google have confirmed that we will still receive security updates, however, which will get merged into version 80. The browsers current stable release version will “continue to prioritize any updates related to security, which will be included in Chrome 80” say the Google team.
Chrome version 81 is currently in beta testing and will likely remain in this channel for now. It is unlikely we will see any new features soon.
Google has also noted that Android App reviews will also take longer as a result of Covid 19. The pandemic has had a huge impact on in-office staffing levels. YouTube too, has revealed that it has taken a move toward relying on its AI algorithms in order to protect its teams. It will use AI to moderate content. This, in turn, will likely lead to more false positives. In this, YouTube is likely to take down more videos that weren’t actually violating its terms in the coming weeks.
Many tech companies across Silicon Valley and beyond have enforced working from home for their employees. It is therefore very likely that we will see many more of these announcements in the coming weeks.
Google launch Android 11 developer preview.
Google have announced the second developer preview of Android 11. Just like the first model, this second one is only meant for developers too and isn’t available as an over the air update. Instead, developers have to manually download and flash their supported devices which at the moment are limited to the Pixel 2, 3, 3a or 4.
Release number 2 doesn’t hold any groundbreaking new features. It mostly continues the work done with Preview 1. In the main, these are new APIs and other developer features.
Dave Burke, Google’s VP of Engineering writes;
“It’s still an early build, but you can start to see how the OS is enabling new experiences in this release, from seamless 5G connectivity to wrapping your UI around the latest screens, to a smarter keyboard and faster messaging experience”.
How is it preparing for 5G?
Features in the second preview include a 5G state API to see if a user is currently on a 5G network. Developers can then activate experiences that necessitate a 5G network, for example. There is also better support for foldable devices with a new API that can read data from a hinge-angle sensor so that apps can adapt to the angle of the hinge. It also includes new APIs for screening robocalls and support for variable refresh rates and more.
For those devs who use neural networks in their apps, Andriod 11 will include a new “hard swish-op”. This will enable faster and more accurate training for on-device models.
Most of these updates focus on developers. However, one feature users will likely notice is “resume on boot.” As the name suggests, this feature allows an Android device to immediately access Credential Encrypted storage and start receiving messages right away following an overnight reboot. In current versions, the phone would lie dormant until you login with your credentials.
We hope you enjoyed these stories from the tech giants of Silicon Valley! As always, if any stories have caught your eye then let us know in the comments.