Apple loosens App Store rules for some developers in deal with Japan

Apple loosens App Store rules for some developers in deal with Japan
Apple further loosened App Store rules on Wednesday, allowing some content companies to provide links to their websites so customers can sign up for paid accounts. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 September 2021

Apple loosens App Store rules for some developers in deal with Japan

Apple loosens App Store rules for some developers in deal with Japan
  • US tech giant’s concession was part of a settlement with Japanese anti-trust regulator

DUBAI: Apple further loosened App Store rules on Wednesday, allowing some content companies such as Netflix to provide links to their websites so customers can sign up for paid accounts.

The concession was part of a settlement with Japan’s anti-trust regulator, which said the change was enough for it to close a five-year investigation into Apple that focused on video and music apps but did not consider games.

The US tech giant, however, must still contend with other legal and regulatory challenges to rules it forces game makers to follow, including a closely watched antitrust lawsuit brought by Fortnite creator Epic Games.

The ban on providing separate links was lifted for so-called reader apps which provide content such as e-books, video and music that don’t offer a free tier of service, instead requiring payment at sign-up.

The change is set to take effect early next year and will be applied globally, Apple said. The company will retain ultimate say over which apps qualify as reader apps.

Some companies said the concession was not enough.

Spotify, which is pursuing an antitrust complaint against Apple with EU competition authorities, said in a statement: “A limited anti-steering fix does not solve all our issues.”

Apple’s App Store forms the core of its $53.8 billion services segment, and it collects commissions between 15 percent and 30 percent from in-app purchases.

Its rules for game makers have been among its most contentious, particularly the practice of not allowing developers to take other forms of payment inside apps, which is being contested by Epic Games.

That case may determine whether Apple can retain control over what apps appear on its devices and whether it is allowed to charge commissions to developers.

Responding to Apple’s latest announcement on its App Store, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney accused Apple of trying to appease with insufficient piecemeal measures.

“Apple should open up iOS on the basis of hardware, stores, payments, and services each competing individually on their merits. Instead, they’re running a literally day-by-day recalculation of divide-and-conquer in hopes of getting away with most of their tying practices,” he said on Twitter.

An official with Japan’s Fair Trade Commission stressed that the scope of its investigation did not cover games. “There is a possibility of there being an investigation into games too,” he said at a media briefing.

Apple has a 46.5 percent share of Japan’s smartphone market, where more than 30 million smartphones are sold annually.

The iPhone maker’s latest concession is the second in as many weeks. It reached a deal last week with a group of developers in the United States in a class-action lawsuit, ending a ban on them telling users in email messages about payment alternatives.

In one of the latest challenges, South Korea on Tuesday banned major app store operators including Apple from forcing developers to use their payment systems, effectively stopping them from charging commissions on in-app purchases.

The company is facing similar legislative action in the US and Europe.

It is also facing a new antitrust challenge in India that has been brought by a non-profit group, according to a source and documents seen by Reuters.


LinkedIn unveils top startups in Saudi Arabia 

LinkedIn has released its 2021 LinkedIn Top Startups list, identifying the top 10 startups in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
LinkedIn has released its 2021 LinkedIn Top Startups list, identifying the top 10 startups in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
Updated 24 September 2021

LinkedIn unveils top startups in Saudi Arabia 

LinkedIn has released its 2021 LinkedIn Top Startups list, identifying the top 10 startups in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
  • LinkedIn marked the Kingdom’s 91st National Day by revealing the first list of top startups in KSA

DUBAI: LinkedIn has released its 2021 LinkedIn Top Startups list, identifying the top 10 startups in Saudi Arabia. Based on data from the company and compiled by the LinkedIn News team, the Top Startups list globally is an annual ranking of the emerging startups to watch out for and work for.

In its inaugural year, the list from KSA highlights the Kingdom’s emerging startups through a four-pillar methodology that measures employment growth, engagement, job interest, and talent attraction. It showcases startups that are successfully navigating the evolution of consumer and business needs in the post-pandemic landscape.

Many are paving the way through the “Great Reshuffle,” a phrase coined by LinkedIn to signify the moment of unprecedented change in which employers and employees are rethinking how and why people work.

The startup funding rate in KSA, which was about $8 million per annum in 2016, surged to over $150 million in 2020 and continues to grow exponentially in 2021, according to business research firm Magnitt.

The top 10 companies on the list are:

- Sary

- Tamara

- Jahez International Co.

- The Chefz

- Salasa

- Zid

- Nejree

- Shgardi

- Hala

- Shift inc.

“Startups are a natural place to look to for forward thinking and innovation around the future of how we live and work. LinkedIn’s Top Startups list for KSA is the place to find the startups you should be paying attention to,” said Salma Altantawy, news editor for the Middle East and North Africa region at LinkedIn.

Based on the list, LinkedIn has identified three key trends driving the startup market in the Kingdom:

Convenience: The companies featured on the list are ones offering easy-to-use apps that have revolutionized the concept of convenience for customers and businesses in the country. Sary, for instance, connects small businesses with wholesalers to boost the supply chain, while Tamara aims to empower people with its buy now pay later business model.

Delivery: With people turning to e-commerce more and more during the pandemic, the convenience of using an app to order everything from groceries to sneakers has become second nature to most shoppers, explaining the success of companies such as Zid and The Chefz.

Logistics: Through innovation and technology, small companies are able to make a big impact. For example, Hala provides effective logistics solutions from warehousing to freight forwarding. Similarly, Shift inc. offers smart transportation solutions in an easy-to-use format.

“The startups — mostly in the apps, technology, information technology and business-to-business marketplace space — are innovative, contributing to the Kingdom’s growth and helping build the booming small to medium-sized enterprise ecosystem,” added Altantawy.


Burundian journalist briefly detained while investigating blast

Bujumbura was investigating a series of explosions this week that killed at least five people. (REUTERS)
Bujumbura was investigating a series of explosions this week that killed at least five people. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 September 2021

Burundian journalist briefly detained while investigating blast

Bujumbura was investigating a series of explosions this week that killed at least five people. (REUTERS)
  • Police on Friday briefly detained a journalist investigating a grenade attack in the commercial capital Bujumbura in Burundi

NAIROBI: Police on Friday briefly detained a journalist investigating a grenade attack in the commercial capital Bujumbura, his radio station said, after a series of explosions this week that killed at least five people.
Radio Bonesha FM had earlier said their reporter, Aimé-Richard Niyonkuru, had been mishandled and arrested by police in Bujumbura’s Kamenge neighborhood while he investigated a grenade incident that was said to have killed two people on Thursday.
“Radio Bonesha FM journalist arrested on Friday morning by the police has just been released. Aimé Richard Niyonkuru is still waiting for his recorder. He spent many hours at the Special Research Office under the hot sun,” the station said on Twitter.
Police spokespeople were not immediately available to comment on the arrest.
Burundi, a nation of about 11.5 million people, has suffered decades of war and ethnic and political violence. The United Nations says the youth wing of the ruling party and the security services are involved in the torture, gang-rape and murder of political opponents, charges the government denies.
On Monday, two grenade explosions hit a bus park in Bujumbura, while on Sunday a grenade attack in the administrative capital Gitega killed two, according to local media.
The Interior Ministry said “unidentified terrorists” were responsible for attacks in Bujumbura. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.
An airport worker said on Monday there had also been an attack on the Bujumbura airport on Saturday, for which Congo-based rebel group Red Tabara claimed responsibility, saying it fired mortars as the president prepared to travel to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Sylvestre Nyandwi accused leaders of a suspended opposition party, MSD, of being behind the recent attacks, adding that authorities had issued international arrest warrants for them.


Podean wins The Drum startup agency of year award

Global Amazon agency and marketplace consultancy Podean has been named as startup agency of the year at The Drum advertising awards. (Supplied)
Global Amazon agency and marketplace consultancy Podean has been named as startup agency of the year at The Drum advertising awards. (Supplied)
Updated 24 September 2021

Podean wins The Drum startup agency of year award

Global Amazon agency and marketplace consultancy Podean has been named as startup agency of the year at The Drum advertising awards. (Supplied)
  • E-commerce firm specializing in Amazon advertising scoops international gong

DUBAI: Global Amazon agency and marketplace consultancy Podean has been named as startup agency of the year at The Drum advertising awards.

The gongs were judged by a panel of C-suite industry experts from leading firms and brands including Danielle Bassil of Digitas, Lucy Taylor from MullenLowe, Emma Montgomery from Leo Burnett, and OMD’s Stephen Li.

They evaluated agency nominees based on, “demonstrated innovative thinking to build and develop their business, shareholder value, outstanding client experience, and a talented and engaged team,” according to a statement.

The awards’ startup agency of the year category is dedicated to individual companies that are less than three years old and provide examples of how the new entity has set out to solve a need in the market, has been creative and innovative in terms of strategy, and has managed to cut through and build a profile in a crowded field.

Global chief executive officer, Travis Johnson, accepted the award during the virtual event, and thanked all Podean teams for their “dedication and constant focus on delivering innovation and results.”

Podean founder and CEO, Mark Power, said: “We knew from the start that e-commerce could be a more sophisticated and innovative discipline and that marketplaces must fit into a brand’s broader retail context. This award reinforces that our approach is the right one and one that delivers results for clients.

“I’m especially proud that the work we submitted – and that won – was contributed by our teams all around the world. We know we are not simply raising the bar in the US but also in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, and EU regions,” he added.


Economist magazine calls for Georgieva to quit IMF over World Bank data scandal

Economist magazine calls for Georgieva to quit IMF over World Bank data scandal
Updated 23 September 2021

Economist magazine calls for Georgieva to quit IMF over World Bank data scandal

Economist magazine calls for Georgieva to quit IMF over World Bank data scandal
  • "The head of the IMF must hold the ring while two of its biggest shareholders, America and China, confront each other in a new era of geopolitical rivalry," the Economist said
  • Critics of multilateralism are already citing the findings as evidence that international bodies cannot stand up to China

WASHINGTON: The Economist magazine on Thursday called for International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to resign over her role in a China-related data-rigging scandal while at the World Bank, saying it has undermined the IMF’s credibility.
The influential London-based publication said in a scathing editorial that an external investigation’s findings that Georgieva pressured staff for changes to the World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings in 2017 to favor China compromises the IMF’s ability to act as the custodian of data for the world’s macroeconomic statistics.
“The head of the IMF must hold the ring while two of its biggest shareholders, America and China, confront each other in a new era of geopolitical rivalry,” the Economist said, adding that critics of multilateralism are already citing the findings as evidence that international bodies cannot stand up to China.
“The next time the IMF tries to referee a currency dispute, or helps reschedule the debt of a country that has borrowed from China, the fund’s critics are sure to cite this investigation to undermine the institution’s credibility. That is why Ms Georgieva, an esteemed servant of several international institutions, should resign,” the editorial said.
It cited the allegation in the WilmerHale law firm’s report that Georgieva, who at the time was the World Bank’s CEO, thanked a senior bank researcher for “doing his bit for multilateralism” in altering the China data.
“Now she too should do her bit for multilateralism by falling on her sword,” the Economist said.
The World Bank’s “Doing Business” reports, now canceled, ranked countries based on their regulatory and legal environments, ease of business startups, financing, infrastructure and other business climate measures.
Georgieva, a Bulgarian who is a longtime former World Bank economist and European Commission official, has denied the accusations in the WilmerHale report, saying last week they are “not true” and she has never pressured staff to manipulate data.
The IMF’s executive board is conducting its own review of the allegations and has emphasized “the importance it attached to conducting a thorough, objective and timely review.”
An IMF spokesman declined comment on the Economist’s editorial. A US Treasury spokeswoman also declined comment beyond the Treasury’s earlier statement that is analyzing “serious findings” in the WilmerHale report.


Advocacy group slams shooting of Afghan journalist in Kabul

Afghan journalist Mohammad Ali Ahmadi was shot by an unidentified man while he was traveling in a taxi in Kabul last week. (Salam Watandar)
Afghan journalist Mohammad Ali Ahmadi was shot by an unidentified man while he was traveling in a taxi in Kabul last week. (Salam Watandar)
Updated 23 September 2021

Advocacy group slams shooting of Afghan journalist in Kabul

Afghan journalist Mohammad Ali Ahmadi was shot by an unidentified man while he was traveling in a taxi in Kabul last week. (Salam Watandar)
  • Ahmadi, a reporter and editor with the privately-owned national radio broadcaster Salam Watandar, was shot by an unidentified man

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the shooting and injuring of an Afghan journalist, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, in the capital Kabul. 

Ahmadi, a reporter and editor with the privately-owned national radio broadcaster Salam Watandar, was shot by an unidentified man while he was traveling in a taxi van on Sept. 18. 

He was asked by a man sat next to him where he worked, and when Ahmadi said he worked for Salam Watandar, the unidentified man said that outlet was an “American radio station,” pulled out a gun, and fired several shots at Ahmadi, two of which struck him in the leg. 

Steven Butler, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ program coordinator for Asia, said on Wednesday:  “The shooting of journalist Mohammad Ali Ahmadi is a test of the Taliban’s commitment to justice: Will they stand by their pledge to allow journalists to do their jobs?

“The Taliban must conduct an immediate and impartial investigation into this attack, hold the perpetrator to account, and ensure that members of the press can work safely. The continued detention of journalist Morteza Samadi by the Taliban is also unconscionable, and must end immediately,” he added. 

Ahmadi was hospitalized, and no suspects have been identified as of yet. 

It remains unclear whether the Taliban was behind the attack. Since the group’s takeover of the country, many journalists have been living in fear for their futures. 

In early September, Taliban fighters raided the homes of two journalists and seized cars, desktop computers and a licensed weapon from one of the houses. 

According to Deutsche Welle, the Taliban also raided the homes of three of its journalists in Afghanistan last week and shot dead a relative of a DW reporter and severely injured another while attempting to track him down.