The company is betting the future of video games will be a subscription-based model where people pay a certain amount of money each month to get access to a plethora of titles.
Its Xbox Game Pass service does exactly that, offering access to a library of games developed both in-house and by third-party studios.
That’s mostly digital downloads, but last year streaming was added with Microsoft publicly releasing Xbox Cloud Gaming. The feature is sort of like a “Netflix for games,” allowing gamers to play games that are hosted on remote servers and then streamed to users over the internet.
Now, Microsoft is aiming to push its cloud gaming product to other platforms. It started rolling out Xbox Cloud Gaming to some users via a web browser on iPhones, iPads and PCs in April (Microsoft couldn’t launch a proper mobile app for cloud gaming on Apple devices due to a dispute over App Store policies). And on Thursday, the company announced it wants to expand the service to TVs as well.
One way it plans to do that is by partnering with manufacturers to add cloud gaming to smart TVs. But Microsoft is also developing streaming devices which users can plug into their TV or computer monitor to stream games from the cloud. The company didn’t elaborate on what those devices could look like, though it’s reminiscent of Amazon’s Fire TV and Google’s Chromecast dongles, both of which now support cloud gaming.
In addition, Microsoft says it is working with mobile carriers like Telstra in Australia to offer new Xbox subscription models. It’s also expanding cloud gaming to four new countries — Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Japan — later this year, and aims to publicly launch the browser-based version of the software to all members of its $15-a-month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription in the coming weeks.
Microsoft said it plans to add cloud gaming to its new Xbox Series X console, which launched last November to compete with Sony’s PlayStation 5. In the next few weeks, the company will also upgrade the servers that power its cloud gaming service from its old Xbox One hardware to the Xbox Series X.
Microsoft competes aggressively with Sony when it comes to gaming. But it’s taking a different strategy to its Japanese counterpart. While Sony is known for blockbuster exclusives that can only be played on a PlayStation console, Microsoft is focusing on embedding its Xbox services onto multiple platforms, including mobile and PC.
Microsoft has been stepping up its investments in gaming, buying the iconic studio Bethesda for $7.5 billion in its biggest video game-related acquisition yet.
The company is holding a joint event with Bethesda on Sunday as part of the E3 gaming conference to show off new games, with fans speculating they will reveal some details about a hotly-anticipated sci-fi game called Starfield.
Elon Musk showed off updates to his brain chips and said he’s going to install one in himself when they are ready
Neuralink logo displayed on a phone screen, a silhouette of a paper in shape of a human face and a binary code displayed on a screen are seen in this multiple exposure illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on December 10, 2021.
Jakub Porzycki | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Elon Musk’s health tech venture Neuralink shared updates to its brain-implant technology during a “show and tell” recruitment event Wednesday night. Musk said during the event that he plans to get one of the implants himself.
Musk said two of the company’s applications will aim to restore vision, even for people who were born blind, and a third application will focus on the motor cortex by restoring “full body functionality” for people with severed spinal cords. “We’re confident there are no physical limitations to restoring full body functionality,” Musk said.
Neuralink could begin to test the motor cortex technology in humans in as soon as six months, Musk said.
“Obviously, we want to be extremely careful and certain that it will work well before putting a device in a human, but we’re submitted, I think, most of our paperwork to the FDA,” he said.
But he also claimed he plans to get one himself. “You could have a Neuralink device implanted right now and you wouldn’t even know. I mean, hypothetically. In one of these demos, in fact, in one of these demos, I will,” he said. He reiterated that on Twitter after the event.
Since none of Neuralinks’ devices have been tested on humans or approved by the FDA, Wednesday’s announcements warrant skepticism, said Xing Chen, assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
“Neuralink is a company, it doesn’t have to answer to shareholders,” she told CNBC. “I don’t know how much oversight is involved, but I think it’s very important for the public to always keep in mind that before anything has been approved by the FDA, or any governmental regulatory body, all claims need to be very, very skeptically examined.”
Neuralink was founded in 2016 by Musk and a group of other scientists and engineers. It strives to develop brain-computer interfaces, or BCIs, that connect the human brain to computers that can decipher neural signals.
Musk invested tens of millions of his own personal wealth into the company and has said, without evidence, that Neuralink’s devices could enable “superhuman cognition,” enable paralyzed people to operate smartphones or robotic limbs with their minds someday, and “solve” autism and schizophrenia.
The company’s presentation Wednesday echoed these lofty ambitions, as Musk claimed that “as miraculous as it may sound, we’re confident that it is possible to restore full body functionality to someone who has a severed spinal cord.”
Musk showed footage of a monkey with a computer chip in its skull playing “telepathic video games,” which Neuralink first debuted over a year ago. The billionaire, who is also the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and the new owner of Twitter, said at the time that he wants to implant Neuralink chips into quadriplegics who have brain or spinal injuries so that they can “control a computer mouse, or their phone, or really any device just by thinking.”
Neuralink has come under fire for its alleged treatment of monkeys, and the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine called on Musk Wednesday to release details about experiments on monkeys that had resulted in their internal bleeding, paralysis, chronic infections, seizures, declining psychological health and death.
Jeff Miller/University of Wisconsin-Madison
Neuralink’s flashy presentations are unusual for companies in the medical devices space, said Anna Wexler, an assistant professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She said it’s risky to encourage people who have serious disabilities to get their hopes up, especially if they could possibly incur injuries as the technology is implanted during surgery.
Wexler encouraged people to put on their “skeptic hat” about Neuralink’s big claims.
“From an ethical perspective, I think that hype is very concerning,” she said. “Space or Twitter, that’s one thing, but when you come into the medical context, the stakes are higher.”
Chen, who specializes in brain-computer interfaces, said Neuralink’s implants would require subjects to undergo a very invasive procedure. Doctors would need to create a hole in the skill in order insert the device into the brain tissue itself.
But even so, she thinks some people would be willing to take the risk.
“There’s quite a few disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s and obsessive-compulsive disorder in which people have received brain implants and the disorders have been treated quite successfully, allowing them to have an improved quality of life,” Chen said. “So I do feel that there is a precedent for doing this.”
Wexler said she believes the decision would ultimately come down to an individual patient’s personal risk-benefit calculation.
Neuralink is not the only company trying to innovate using brain-computer interfaces, and many have made big strides in recent years. Blackrock Neurotech is on track to bring a BCI system to market next year, which would make it the first commercially available BCI in history. Synchron received FDA approval in 2021 to begin a clinical trial for a permanently implanted BCI, and Paradromics is reportedly gearing up to begin in-human testing in 2023.
Broke and down to one credit card: Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried claims he committed no fraud
Striking a contrite tone, former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried said he “didn’t do a good job” at upholding his responsibilities to regulators, customers, and investors in a hotly anticipated conversation with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the Dealbook Summit.
“I didn’t ever try to commit fraud on anyone,” Bankman-Fried said. “I saw it as a thriving business and I was shocked by what happened this month.”
“I’ve had a bad month,” Bankman-Fried added later.
“We completely failed on risk,” Bankman-Fried continued. “That feels pretty embarrassing, in retrospect.”
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Bankman-Fried appeared by video feed from the Bahamas, Sorkin said. “I’ve been in the Bahamas for the last year,” Bankman-Fried said when asked about why he remained in the island nation.
Sorkin asked Bankman-Fried what motivated his acquisitions in the crypto industry, given the size of Alameda’s borrowing from companies Bankman-Fried intended to acquire.
Bankman-Fried claimed that he believed that by the middle of 2022, Alameda had repaid all lines of credit to various borrowing desks. But Alameda still owes BlockFi over $670 million, according to court filings.
“What are your lawyers telling you right now? Are they suggesting it’s a good idea for you to be speaking?” Sorkin asked the former billionaire.
“No, they’re very much not.”
“The time that I really knew there was a problem was November 6,” Bankman-Fried said, after Alameda’s sizable FTT position was exposed by Coindesk. “When we looked at that, there was a potential serious problem.”
“Alameda had taken a huge hit” by that point. “We were seeing a run on the bank start,” Bankman-Fried said.
“I was nervous [when] the Alameda balance sheet” was exposed by Coindesk, Bankman-Fried said, but expected the damage was going to be limited to Alameda, not an “existential” crisis for FTX.
Sorkin asked Bankman-Fried why FTX and Bankman-Fried even had access to customer money.
“I wasn’t running Alameda, I didn’t know exactly what was going on, I didn’t know the size of their position,” Bankman-Fried said. “A lot of these are things I’ve learned over the last month [in the days leading up to bankruptcy.]”
New leadership at FTX said that Bankman-Fried exercised significant control over the entire empire.
Sorkin pressed Bankman-Fried on Alameda’s gambling on questionable cryptocurrencies, reading a letter out from an investor who lost his life savings of $2 million.
“The U.S. platform is fully solvent and funded,” Bankman-Fried claimed. “I believe withdrawals could be opened up today and be made whole.”
“Can I ask you about the drugs?” Sorkin said. “It’s funny hearing this. I have half a glass of alcohol a year,” Bankman-Fried responded.
The FTX founder repudiated claims of wild partying and off-label drug use, saying that FTX functions consisted of “board games,” or “dinner parties.”
Bankman-Fried claimed he was unaware of the Alameda exposure. In 2019, he said, 40% of FTX’s volume was from Alameda. By 2022, Bankman-Fried claimed, that number was down to 2%, which led him to believe that FTX’s exposure was lessened.
Sorkin continued to press Bankman-Fried on the lending of customer assets. Bankman-Fried demurred.
“In 2018, FTX didn’t have bank accounts,” Bankman-Fried said as justification for why users were asked to wire funds to an account in Alameda’s name instead of directly to FTX.
Bankman-Fried has engaged with the media only sporadically. “F*** regulators,” he told a Vox reporter in a Twitter message.
“I f***** up,” he wrote in another Tweet.
FTX was once hailed as the poster child of responsible crypto. Regulators and lawmakers looked to Bankman-Fried as the future of crypto regulation, a reputation that Bankman-Fried cultivated through appearances before Congress and deepened through generous political contributions.
Bankman-Fried was already known as one of the largest donors to Democratic candidates. He claimed in a recent interview that he gave equally generously to Republican causes, through so-called “dark pool” contributions.
Reporters, Bankman-Fried said, “freak the f*** out if you donate to Republicans.”
Elon Musk may be luring Apple into a fight with Republicans
Tim Cook walks in the Paddock prior to the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2022 in Austin, Texas.
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images
Apple has remained a sleeping bear in the face of Musk’s provocations. It has not commented, nor has CEO Tim Cook, and while its app review moderation staffers may be talking to Twitter behind the scenes over questionable content, Apple hasn’t pulled the app. In fact, Twitter got an update through app review last week.
Twitter is not that important to Apple from a business perspective. It’s just one of a vast number of apps on the App Store, and it isn’t a huge moneymaker for Apple through in-app purchases.
But on Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Ohio Senator-elect J.D. Vance, both Republicans, made remarks about Apple’s situation that show how Musk could put Apple in a tough spot.
Here’s one way it could go:
- Musk makes a change to Twitter in order to bypass Apple’s 30% fees, such as allowing users to plug their credit cards in to the app to subscribe to Twitter Blue or other new features.
- Apple pulls the app because of these violations.
- Musk frames the dispute with Apple as an issue over free speech and content moderation, and Republican politicians agree.
- Apple gets caught up in a nationwide debate over free speech and monopoly power focusing on its App Store.
On Tuesday, DeSantis said at a press conference that if Apple were to kick Twitter off, it would show that Apple has monopolistic power and that Congress should look into it. DeSantis framed it as an issue of free speech — many conservatives believe that social networks, including Twitter, generally discriminate against conservative viewpoints.
“You also hear reports Apple is threatening to remove Twitter from the App Store because Elon Musk is actually opening it up for free speech, and is restoring a lot of accounts that were unfairly and illegitimately suspended for putting out accurate information about Covid,” DeSantis said.
“If Apple responds to that by nuking them from the app store, I think that would be a huge, huge mistake, and it would be a really raw exercise of monopolistic power,” he continued.
Vance framed the situation similarly in a tweet, saying that if Apple pulled Twitter, “This would be the most raw exercise of monopoly power in a century, and no civilized country should allow it.”
In fact, Apple’s app review department is unlikely to pull Twitter over content. While Apple regularly bans apps over questionable content, they are rarely big brand names such as Twitter — they’re usually smaller, lesser-known apps. Apple’s rules for apps with significant user-generated content, such as Twitter, focus less on specific kinds of infringing content and more on whether the app has a content filtering system or content moderation procedures. Twitter has both, although Musk’s recent cuts to Twitter’s staff could hurt its ability to flag problem posts.
But Apple would be much more likely to pull the Twitter app if Twitter tries to cut Apple out of its platform fees.
It’s happened before. In 2020, Fortnite added a system inside its iPhone app that allowed users to buy in-game coins directly from Epic Games, cutting out the 30% of sales that Apple typically takes. Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store the same day. The episode kicked off a legal battle, which Apple won on most counts but is currently in appeals.
Google takes a similar cut for Android apps sold through its Play Store but also allows other Android app stores to exist and allows people to “sideload” apps directly onto their phones, while Apple has an exclusive lock on all iPhone app distribution.
Musk has good business reasons to pick this fight.
In particular, Musk wants Twitter to make much more money from direct subscriptions and not advertising. But Apple’s 30% cut of purchases made inside apps is a major hurdle for a company that is slashing costs and has a significant debt load.
So Musk could pull an Epic Games move and enable direct billing, spurring Apple to take action, while at the same time framing the debate around free speech. If that happened, as DeSantis suggested, perhaps Congress would start asking questions. Apple would become a football in political debates. Executives could be forced to testify or provide written responses.
At the very least, you’d have lawmakers such as Vance using the words “monopoly” and “Apple” in the same sentence. That’s a risk to Apple’s brand. Debate over these topics could reenergize pending regulation such as the Open Markets Act which threatens its control over the App Store and its significant profits.
The last time Apple pulled an app that was popular with conservatives for lack of content moderation was Parler in January 2021. It was restored in April.
In the interim, Apple faced official inquiries from Republican Sens. Ken Buck and Mike Lee about why Parler was removed from the App Store. Cook appeared on Fox News to defend the company’s decision.
Twitter is a significantly more important and well-known social network than Parler was and would grab more attention.
It’s probably most valuable for Apple if Twitter remains on the platform. The controversy-averse iPhone maker would probably like this whole Elon Musk narrative to go away.
Indeed, it could play out this way: Apple remains silent, working with Twitter behind the scenes on its app, and Musk tweets about the 30% cut when it irks him. Nothing really changes.
But Musk is unpredictable, and if he does really want to “go to war” over 30% fees, Apple could be forced into a tough spot.
Apple and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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