Archive for day April 19th, 2012

Apple-Google Antitrust Case Is Going To Trial, And It’s Steve Jobs’ Fault

Google Apple Intel Antitrust

“We must do whatever we can to stop cold calling each other’s employees and other competitive recruiting efforts between the companies.” This quote from Steve Jobs to Palm’s CEO was central to a San Jose court ruling today for why a class-action antitrust lawsuit against Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, Pixar, and Lucasfilm won’t be dismissed and will move on towards a June 2013 trial.

Now lawyers representing five former employees of the tech companies will begin document discovery in hopes of surfacing more damning evidence. While we mean no disrespect to Steve Jobs, his actions could force Apple and these other companies to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to Silicon Valley employees in a settlement or damages ruling. Check out the full court ruling and our analysis below.

The tech giants put up a flimsy defense at a January court hearing, attempting to secure a motion to dismiss on the grounds that “no poach” agreements between them were isolated and not a conspiracy to keep employee salaries down. But Judge Lucy Koh disagreed, noting there was enough evidence to support the conspiracy charge for her to issue a failure to dismiss ruling.

Back in January, I broke the news when exciting evidence from the Department of Justice’s 2010 antitrust investigation against the seven companies was unsealed. The evidence showed that Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt brokered deals with their competitors to not try to steal each other’s employees — peace treaties that prevented bidding wars that could lead these employees to be paid more. Digging through the evidence, I saw strong indicators that a conspiracy between these companies was unfairly keeping engineers from being paid their full market value, and predicted the motion to dismiss would be denied.

A week later I blogged the motion’s hearing from the courtroom, publishing as soon as Judge Koh concluded “This case is moving forward…this case is going to survive the motion to dismiss.” Today Judge Koh formalized those sentiments into an official ruling, as reported by Reuters.

So, here’s why Google, Apple, et al defense failed.

The defendants cited Kendall precedent, where an antitrust case was dismissed because plaintiffs didn’t have evidence showing the “who, what, where, and when” of an alleged conspiracy. However, Judge Koh ruled that the Kendall case was distinguishable from this no-poach antitrust case because here the plaintiffs detail the “actors, effect, victims, location, and timing of the six bilateral agreements between Defendants” to not cold call recruit each other’s employees.

Specifically, the DOJ investigation evidence revealed emails between”senior executives” of these companies arranging no-poach agreements. It also showed the six supposedly isolated agreements were identical, including the “do not cold call” deals between Apple and Adobe in May 2005 and between Pixar and Lucasfilm in January 2005. These deals were shown to have the potential to reduce employee salaries, which is unlawful.

The defendants also tried to claim there was no “meeting of the minds” between the heads of these companies. However, at the time, Steve Jobs was CEO and sat on the board of Pixar, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was on the board of Apple, and Arthur Levinson sat on the boards of both Google and Apple, providing ample opportunity for conspiracy. Judge Koh wrote that “At least one of [these] three individuals had significant influence over at least one party to each of the six bilateral agreements…It is plausible to infer that the overlapping board membership here provided an opportunity to conspire.”

Judge Koh goes on to explain why a conspiracy is “plausible” and therefore the plaintiffs should be given an opportunity to discover more evidence. She also strikes down the defense that since only six agreements took place between the 21 possible pairings of the 7 defendants, employees of one company wouldn’t be injured by agreements between two others.  While not proven yet “it is plausible to infer that even a single bilateral agreement would have the ripple effect of depressing the mobility and compensation of employees of companies that are not direct parties to the agreement” due to negotiations exposing compensation benchmarks, so she refused to dismiss the case.

With the motion to dismiss denied, here’s what happens next. The court will convene on June 28th to hear class certification that will determine which employees are eligible to be represented by the class action lawsuit. That could be all of the defendants’ employees, software engineers and scientists, or just software engineers.

Then the case is set for trial in July 2012. If compensation was suppressed between 5% and 10%, as the plaintiffs lawyer Joseph Saveri estimated, each entry-level software engineer eligible for the class action suit could be entitled to $5,000 to $10,000 for each year they were employed between 2006 and 2009, and more senior employee could be entitled to much, much more.

Here is the full court ruling of the denial of the defendants’ motion to dismiss:



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Josh Constine

April 19th

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No-poaching antitrust case against Apple, Google and others will go to trial

Apple, Google and five other technology companies must face an antitrust lawsuit for illegally agreeing to not poach each other’s employees. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, rejected the companies’ bid to dismiss claims brought under the Sherman Act and California state law, Reuters reported on Thursday. In addition to Apple and Google, Intel, Adobe, Pixar, Intuit and Lucasfilm are accused of entering into the illegal agreements. The proposed class action lawsuit was filed after five software engineers claimed the companies conspired to reduce employee pay by eliminating competition for skilled labor.

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Dan Graziano

April 19th

Apple

Bio-Acoustics, Haptic Steering Wheels, RFID Everywhere: This is the Future According to AT&T [Video]

For most, AT&T is simply seen as the company that delivers phone and internet and TV service to the masses. But they also have a full-fledged R&D program, which spans multiple countries. Today they offered a glimpse into the fruits of those AT&T labs, with innovations ranging from clever to "OMG I WANT THIS NOW." Here are the three best things AT&T had to share. More »


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Adrian Covert

April 19th

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Tim Cook didn’t visit Valve, says Valve Co-Founder


Oh my. Last week, AppleInsider ran a post claiming Tim Cook visited the headquarters of Valve for some undisclosed business. We did not report it due to the sketchy nature of the source, but the story did receive some airplay amongst those less familiar with reputation of the source in question.

Anyway, long story short, it never happened. It was totally made up with the hope that neither company would call it out.

Unfortunately/fortunately, Valve did call the report out as a total fabrication.

Video game website Kotaku had a preview of the podcast from Seven Day Cooldown that included this quote:

We actually, we all sent mail to each other, going, “Who’s Tim Cook meeting with? Is he meeting with you? I’m not meeting with Tim Cook.” So we’re… it’s one of those rumors that was stated so factually that we were actually confused. 

No one here was meeting with Tim Cook or with anybody at Apple that day. I wish we were! We have a long list of things we’d love to see Apple do to support games and gaming better. But no, we didn’t meet with Tim Cook. He seems like a smart guy, but I’ve never actually met him.

Image credit JoyofTech


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9to5 Staff

April 19th

Apple

Mayfield Fund’s Tim Chang: The Future Is In Making Data Fun [TCTV]

timchang


Mayfield Fund managing partner Tim Chang is going long on the idea of the “quantified self,” which is about using the latest in both hardware and software technology to keep detailed tabs of people’s daily habits in the hopes of gradually improving their lives. Chang has written a three-part series of really interesting articles about the quantified self for TechCrunch in recent weeks, so we were pleased to have the chance to interview him on TechCrunch TV to hear him explain in a bit more detail about the space and where it’s going.

You can watch our full discussion in the video above, but here are a few interesting points he made:

  • Numbers alone aren’t enough.
    A lot of people today know the “quantified self” for health apps that track, say, the amount of calories you eat each day or how many miles you jog. But the real key in making these things successful is not just in, well, quantifying this data — it’s in parsing and packaging it in an interesting way. “Ultimately, people don’t care about data. They care about insights, meaning just tell me three fortune cookie likes things i need to focus on, then tell me what to do, and if you can, do it for me…. when you throw too much data at people it actually confuses folks. Although we think we want data, ultimately it’s not actionable and it’s not fun.”

    Chang has years of experience investing in gaming startups, and he sees the principles of that industry as being key to making the quantified self really take off. “When you marry gamification with the quantified self, that’s where i think the real fun begins,” Chang said. “When it’s fun, people will care, they’ll stick around, and they’ll actually engage with these types of products. Data is not engaging by itself.”

  • This goes way beyond health and fitness.
    Though the quantified self’s roots are in “life hacking,” Chang thinks that it will eventually move beyond that to include nearly everything that people do — work, shop, talk to friends, read, write, surf the web, and much more.

    “This notion of quantified self is not just about health and wellness. It’s about your consumer habits all throughout your day, from what sites you surf, what you buy, to what you like to brag about on your Facebook and Twitter,” Chang said. Measuring these actions can help make people more deliberate about their habits in all aspects of their lives. Even BranchOut, the professional social network in which Mayfield just led a $25 million investment, fits into this idea, Chang said.

  • Quantifying yourself could help you meet others.
    The more people dig into their specific habits and interests, the more appetite there will be for them to meet other people who share them. Chang sees a big opportunity right now for niche communities built on top of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networks that allow people to congregate around these passions.

    “I’m really big into vertical communities that are going to pop up around interests, or these other aspirational personas you have. Because if you think about it, people aren’t black and white,” Chang said. “We’re all like onions in the sense that we have all these sub-personas and layers to ourselves. There are a lot of interests that we have. Each of those interests have their own community, and you want to meet new people in those interests as well.”



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Colleen Taylor

April 19th

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Panic Buttons, Nook Cans, and Other Stories We Didn’t Post [Video]

So much news passes before our collective eyes every day that we couldn't possibly cover it all. Mostly because much of it isn't worth covering! But here are a some borderline tidbits we passed on, just in case. More »


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Brian Barrett

April 19th

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Iris App: View Your Instagrams on Your iPad [App Of The Day]

Though Instagram finally landed on Android, there isn't yet a tablet version. With its big, bright retina display, the iPad is the perfect venue to browse photos. Iris satisfies that need, letting you check out all your favorite filtered snapshots with Apple's slate. More »


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Leslie Horn

April 19th

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Developer earns over $1,000 per day with a Windows Phone game

While Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform may not be as big as Apple and Google’s offerings, it is still possible for app developers to find success on the emerging operating system. A year ago, FourBros Studio launched a free game called Taptitude on the Windows Phone Marketplace. The game, as of today, has earned the company over $100,000 in revenue and boasts more than 300,000 users, Business Insider reported on Thursday. Interestingly enough, the company’s revenue has spiked since the launch of Nokia’s Windows Phones. FourBros Studio uses Microsoft’s pubCenter, along with a service called AdDuplex, to sell advertisements on Taptitude, which is now making roughly $1,000 a day and averaging over 1 million daily impressions. The success of FourBros Studio could encourage more developers to join the Windows Phone platform, which has struggled to gain market share since launching more than a year ago.

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Dan Graziano

April 19th

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Clueless Hackers Took Down DC Government Sites Thinking They Were Attacking the Feds [Hackers]

This morning, hackers took down some of Washington DC's government websites. But as DCist reports, the hackers who did it probably thought they were going after the federal government. Sigh. More »


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Mario Aguilar

April 19th

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New Funding In Tow, Playsino Places Its Bet On Social Casino Gaming

PlaysinoLogo

Titan Gaming, the makers of a gaming platform that enables content sites and social networks to offer cash and prize-based game tournaments, is today announcing that it is embarking on a complete makeover that includes its rebranding as Playsino, along with a new focus, CEO, and some new funding.

Under its new moniker, Playsino will look to leverage its traction in the tournaments and virtual rewards space and double down on another emerging vertical: social casino games. Ambitiously, Playsino is setting out to build “the world’s largest social gaming casino platform,” and is naming a new CEO to help lead the way. Brock Pierce, who will be the startup’s CEO, is the managing Director of the Clearstone Global Gaming Fund, and a serial entrepreneur, having founded eight companies and acquired 30 more in various capacities.

Pierce played an early role in the development of virtual goods, founding Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE) in 2001 and Zam in 2003. In addition to new leadership, Playsino is also announcing today that it has raised $1.5 million in venture capital as part of an ongoing round. The investment was led by IDM Venture Capital, a Singapore-based venture capital firm, Pacific Capital Group, Siemer Ventures, and a number of angel investors, including Jordan Simons of GCP and Wicks Walker of W4 Ventures. Existing investor Tomorrow Ventures also participated in the round.

With its new capital in tow, Playsino is setting out on a mission to build the largest free-to-play social casino on the Web. Pierce believes that social gaming is at an inflection point, and that social casino games are the catalyst for that movement. Half of the people on the web, or about 510 million, he says, play some sort of social game — a gaming audience that has grown by 71 percent since 2010. With H2 Gaming’s estimate that online gambling could be worth as much as $30 billion globally by 2013, and the U.S. accounting for $4.5 billion of that total, online betting represents a big opportunity.

Social casino games have the ability combine the addictiveness of the games that have made Zynga such a big player in social gaming, like Farmville, with the monetization strategies of more hardcore games, which Pierce believes is a dangerous combination. The CEO says that he’s focused on using the startup’s new capital to step up internal development, but that the company also aims to publish relevant third-party content and will look to acquire independent players as well. So likely we’ll see Playsino developing its own casino games in conjunction with building a platform that allows developers and established players to sell their games as well, taking a cue from Zynga.com.

While the space represents opportunity, the big casino and gambling companies are also in the process of moving online, and competition is certainly going to increase. There’s also been plenty of attention from the Justice Department, and as the space moves forward, it’s likely to include a number of regulations to protect consumers — but which may also limit the amount gamers are allowed to gamble. According to BusinessWeek, at least five states have already introduced legislation that would allow people to play web poker against those in other states.

It’s a space that’s very much in transition as states consider online gambling legislation, and its evolution may well be shaped by regulatory restraints, but there’s certainly a lot of money to be made in social casino gaming, and Playsino wants to be a part of that. Though it’s still early, the established game companies have an easier road into social casino gaming when they see how the space will be regulated, so the startup will have to be ready with some addictive, quality games if it wants to avoid being stifled by the Zyngas and EAs of the world.

For more on Playsino, check ‘em out at home here.



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Rip Empson

April 19th

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