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Tech Daily: Google Loses Cookies & More

Sejuti Banerjea

Alphabet’s GOOGL Google getting rid of cookies and acquiring Pointy, Amazon’s AMZN Bezos visiting India and lending money to UK’s Deliveroo, Intel’s INTC new CIO and other stories are covered in this daily take. Here are the details-

Google Finally Getting Rid of Cookies Too

With privacy advocates, governments and users taking technology companies to task over the way users are tracked for ad targeting, it was only a matter of time before they all addressed the problem.

Apple AAPL was the first to cleanse its Safari browser of cookies, those tiny files that websites drop on user computers to study their browsing activity and determine what ads to serve them. It was recently joined by Mozilla and now Google, or at least the company will be doing it in a phased manner, over two years, to ensure that “the needs of users, publishers, and advertisers” have been taken care of and tools to mitigate workarounds by bad actors are ready.

Google’s Chrome browser, with by far the greater (2/3rds of the total) market share, has reason to be cautious. Not only does it have many more partners in content providers and ad tech companies, but it also stands to gain competitive advantage from the move unless there are suitable alternatives.

Because of its Android operating system, Google already has signed in customers who are searching, “YouTubing” (if I can call it that), or “Netflixing” or any other activities they may be engaging in. So Google doesn’t need cookies except indirectly, since they help its partners collect information on users. But its partners do, so without cookies, we may have a ton of websites we need to log in to every time we search, which could be detrimental to user experience.

Small sites or places where you don’t need to visit very often would be harder hit. So Google is right to take its time. That’s exactly what it needs to do, for all concerned parties.

Google Acquiring Pointy

Google is acquiring six-year-old Irish startup Pointy, which has raised $19 million in venture capital to date. The company will be dishing out $163 million for its $700 hardware and software tech, according to Techcrunch.

The companies have been working together since 2018 when Pointy had a piece of hardware that when integrated into retailer POS devices would upload/update inventory positions every time a unit was sold. This connected up with Google’s “see what’s in store” feature that allowed users to check this inventory and head out to the store. This helped footfall and drive even more sales at retailers. Pointy works with around 10% of all physical retailers in the U.S. on specific categories.

Mark Cummins (CEO) and Charles Bibby (CTO) said in a release announcing the acquisition: "We think this is the right way to accomplish what we set out to do -- to bring the world's retailers online and give them the tools they need to thrive" and “We look forward to building even better services in the future, with the backing of Google’s resources and reach.”

Jeff Bezos India Visit Update

At its Smbhav summit in New Delhi, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos announced that it would allot another billion dollars to bring small and medium businesses online. He also committed to selling $10 billion of made-in-India goods by 2025. With this cash infusion, Amazon India has received a cumulative $6.5 billion.

But small sellers, the group that’s expected to benefit from the investment, is not in the mood to talk. In addition to protests across the country, they’ve submitted a letter to Modi, in which they refer to Amazon, and rival Walmart WMT-owned Flipkart, as “economic terrorists” with their predatory pricing practices depriving the government of tax revenue and “compelled thousands of small traders to shut down.

Other issues seem to be alleged anti-competitive practices such as deep discounts, preferential listings and exclusionary tactics by Amazon and Flipkart that the Competition Commission of India has agreed to investigate.

Amazon needs to close this chapter quickly because competition is expected to get a whole lot more intense with Mukesh Ambani’s JioMart, expected to launch soon.

India’s e-commerce market is projected to grow to $150 billion by 2022, according to a 2018 report by software industry group Nasscom (a not-for-profit industry association, is the apex body for the 180 billion dollar IT BPM industry in India) and consulting firm PwC India.

Amazon Lends to Cash-Strapped Deliveroo

Amazon has advanced a loan of an undisclosed amount to restaurant and grocery delivery company Deliveroo after its proposed lead in a financing round in May ran into delays because of a surprise objection by the Competition and Markets Authority (competition watchdog of the UK). If the deal is finally approved, the loan will be converted to equity.

It’s clear that the company needs the money, since its balance sheet cash is reportedly at around 185 million pounds while its net loss before tax widened to 232 million pounds in 2018.

The regulator is expected to rule on the financing round by June 11, but in end-December, it said that Amazon had failed to alleviate "initial concerns that their investment in Deliveroo could be bad for customers, restaurants and grocers."

An Amazon representative has said that the company continues “to comply with the Initial Enforcement Order issued in June, which requires the parties to operate separately and restricts the parties from entering into non-ordinary course agreements like a loan. Deliveroo and Amazon have been working closely with the CMA and will continue to do so.”

India Wooing Apple and Samsung Suppliers

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is proposing to set up industrial zones where manufacturers will receive certain benefits in terms of taxation and customs clearance, while making use of necessary infrastructure such as roads, power and water supply, an official said confidentially.

Mobile phones are a focus area for the government, and Bloomberg says that the country is reportedly looking to manufacture $190 billion worth of mobile phones by 2025, up from the $24 billion worth it’s making now.

The finance ministry is considering the proposal, which could also be made part of the budget to be revealed on Feb 1.

FBI Unlocking Florida Terrorist’s iPhones

While the FBI continues to ask Apple to break into the terrorist’s phones, security experts are saying that the government can do the job, either on its own or with help from organizations like Cellebrite and Grayshift.

Meanwhile, President Trump has tweeted his disapproval of Apple’s stand on unlocking the phones of Saudi Air Force officer who killed three Americans at the U.S. Naval Station in Pensacola, Florida.

Major Security Flaw in Windows 10

In what is reportedly an unprecedented move, the National Security Agency (NSA) alerted Microsoft MSFT about a major security flaw in Windows 10 and the company has released a software patch so people can fix the issue. The NSA (or any government agency) usually keeps these things secret for their own exploitation. But in this case, the flaw would have allowed an attacker to conduct “man-in-the-middle attacks,” intercepting and decrypting confidential information on user connections that would appear as files from a trusted source.

Pinterest Overtakes Snapchat

eMarketer’s latest estimates show that Pinterest PIN has pushed past Snapchat SNAP to become the third largest social media platform in the U.S. In 2019, Pinterest had 82.4 million users, ahead of Snapchat’s 80.2 million (they were neck and neck in 2018). Advertisers clearly like where Pinterest is headed because the company saw very strong revenue growth of 47% in 2019 compared with Facebook’s 28% and Google’s 17%. If the projections hold true, Pinterest will widen the gap over the next few years while the growth rate slows down for both.

Intel Hires HPE CIO

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s chief information officer as its new CIO Archana Deskus is joining Intel as its CIO. She was previously HPE’s CIO and before that, oil industry giant Baker Hughes. She has also worked at Ingersoll Rand Inc., Timex Group USA, Inc. and United Technologies Corp.

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