2027 could spell the dawn of artificial superintelligence

As China edges closer to the proverbial ‘splinternet’ there is more talk of the advent of AI on the continent. According to IBM, ASI is a hypothetical software-based AI system with an intelligence scope beyond human intelligence, possessing cognitive functions and thinking skills well beyond that of known humans.

According to SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, at the implementation level, ASI will bring about real change to our societies in about ten years. The CEO assured investors of his company’s plans to tap in to the trend, pinpointing the company’s majority shareholder portfolio in the chip design firm, Arm.

Similar developments in China see Huawei releasing HarmonyOS, the beta version of a mobile operating system, and rival to Android on the continent. Versions of the software are carded to come to market housed in smartphones, tablets, computers, smartwatches, smart glasses and earbuds by year end. The company also plans to build an ecosystem around the OS. Such technological developments in China further behooves the East and West to approach the table of negotiations as equals in the field of AI and other emerging technologies governance.

UK’s CMA investigates Hewlett Packard over $14 billion acquisition of Juniper Networks

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has commenced investigating Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) proposed $14 billion acquisition of Juniper Networks. The inquiry seeks to determine whether the acquisition might lead to competition issues within the UK market, with a deadline set for 14 August to decide if a more comprehensive probe is warranted.

In January, HPE, a US-based technology firm, announced its intention to purchase Juniper Networks to enhance HPE’s AI capabilities and expand its networking business. HPE anticipates doubling its networking operations through this acquisition, aligning with the broader industry trend known as the AI gold rush, where companies invest heavily to advance their technological offerings.

Why does it matter?

The CMA’s preliminary investigation points to potential regulatory concerns about reducing competition, focusing on UK market dynamics and consumer choices. If significant issues are identified by the August deadline, the CMA may thoroughly examine the merger.

The legal action underscores the CMA’s role in maintaining fair competition and monitoring significant market transactions, especially in the rapidly evolving AI sector, to prevent monopolistic practices and ensure a balanced market environment.

Neither HPE nor Juniper Networks have provided comments attributed to the Juneteenth holiday affecting market operations in the US.

Google’s bid to end US antitrust case over digital advertising rejected

Google has lost its bid to dismiss a US government lawsuit accusing it of monopolistic practices in the digital advertising market in an ongoing antitrust scrutiny of major tech companies. The ruling marks a critical juncture in the broader effort to regulate and curtail the market power of tech giants. US District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia, denied Google’s motion to dismiss the case during a recent hearing, as documented in court records.

The decision allows the lawsuit, originally filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in January 2023, to proceed. The DOJ alleges that Google has engaged in anti-competitive behavior to maintain its dominance in the digital advertising market, using its position to unfairly disadvantage competitors, violating Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The lawsuit is part of a broader wave of antitrust actions targeting Big Tech, as regulators aim to address concerns over market monopolization and its effects on competition, consumers, and innovation. According to the DOJ, Google has employed various strategies to stifle competition, including acquiring competitors, favoring its own services, and implementing restrictive policies that disadvantage rival ad tech firms.

Last week, Google achieved a notable victory when Judge Brinkema allowed the trial to proceed without a jury, following a settlement of claims that its conduct harmed the US government. Judge Brinkema is scheduled to preside over the trial on September 9. In response to the ruling, a Google spokesperson expressed disappointment, stating that the company strongly disagrees with the DOJ’s claims and plans to vigorously defend itself in court. Google maintains that its digital advertising products benefit publishers and advertisers by providing efficient, effective tools that foster competition.

Why does it matter?

The outcome of this case could have implications for the tech industry, particularly for digital advertising. If the court ultimately rules against Google, it could lead to significant changes in how digital advertising markets operate, potentially requiring Google to divest parts of its advertising business or change its business practices. The case against Google is pivotal to the ongoing debate over the power and influence of tech giants. It reflects increasing regulatory scrutiny and a shift towards more aggressive antitrust enforcement.

The ruling not only impacts Google but also sets a precedent for future actions against other major players in the tech industry. As the case moves forward, it will be closely watched by industry stakeholders, policymakers, and consumers alike, as it holds the potential to reshape the digital advertising ecosystem and redefine the boundaries of acceptable business practices for tech companies.

Japan mandates access for third-party apps

Japan has passed a new law requiring tech giants like Google and Apple to allow access to third-party smartphone apps and payment systems on their platforms, threatening substantial fines for non-compliance. Like the EU’s Digital Markets Act, this legislation mandates fair access to operating systems, browsers, and search engines, with fines reaching up to 30% of revenue for continued anti-competitive behaviour.

The law was approved by Japan’s National Diet with no amendments and aimed to align Japan’s digital market regulations with those of the United States and Europe. That move is intended to foster fair competition and improve the competitive environment for software, such as app stores while ensuring consumer security. The law is set to take effect by the end of 2025.

Japan’s Fair Trade Commission highlighted the necessity for this new legal framework to address the dominance of major tech companies. Although the law does not explicitly name companies, it targets those like Google and Apple, often seen as a ‘duopoly’ in the smartphone app market. The EU’s similar regulatory efforts, particularly the Digital Markets Act, have faced criticism from Apple regarding potential risks to user privacy and security.

India’s EU-inspired antitrust law raises concerns among tech giants

India’s recent legislative push to implement antitrust laws like those in the EU has stirred significant concern among technology giants operating within the country, like Google, Meta, Apple and Amazon. That move, aimed at curbing the dominance of big tech companies and fostering a more competitive market environment, was met with a mixed reception, particularly from those within the technology sector.

The proposed antitrust law draws inspiration from the regulatory framework of the EU, which has been at the forefront of global antitrust enforcement. The EU’s regulations are known for their rigorous scrutiny of large tech corporations, often resulting in major fines and operational restrictions for companies that violate competition laws. Adaptation of this model in India signals a shift towards more assertive regulatory practices in the tech industry.

The Indian government is examining a panel’s report proposing a new ‘Digital Competition Bill‘ to complement existing antitrust laws. The law would target ‘systemically significant digital’ companies with a domestic turnover exceeding $480 million or a global turnover over $30 billion, along with a local user base of at least 10 million for its digital services. Companies would be required to operate in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, with the bill recommending a penalty of up to 10% of a company’s global turnover for violations, mirroring the EU’s Digital Markets Act. Big digital companies would be prohibited from exploiting non-public user data and from favoring their own products or services on their platforms. Additionally, they would be barred from restricting users’ ability to download, install, or use third-party apps in any way, and must allow users to select default settings freely.

Both domestic and international tech firms have voiced concerns about the potential impact of these regulations on their operations. A key US lobby group has already opposed the move, fearing its business impact. The primary worry is that the new laws could stifle innovation and place difficult compliance burdens on companies. That sentiment echoes the broader global debate on the balance between regulation and innovation in the tech sector.

Why does it matter?

  •  Market Dynamics: These laws could significantly alter the competitive landscape in India’s tech industry, making it easier for smaller companies to challenge established giants. 
  • Consumer Protection: Robust antitrust regulations are designed to protect consumers from monopolistic practices that can lead to higher prices, reduced choices, and stifled innovation. Ensuring fair competition can enhance consumer welfare.
  • Global Influence: By aligning its regulatory framework with that of the EU, India could influence how other emerging markets approach antitrust issues.
  • Investment Climate: Clear and consistent regulatory standards can attract foreign investment by providing a predictable business environment. However, the perceived stringency of these laws could also deter some investors concerned about compliance costs and regulatory risks.

Turkey fines Google $14.85 million over hotel searches

The Turkish competition authority has fined Google approximately 482 million lira ($14.85 million) for not meeting obligations related to hotel searches. The fine stems from Google’s failure to address the authority’s concerns regarding fair competition with local search engines.

The decision highlights ongoing issues with Google’s compliance with competition laws in various countries. The competition board in Turkey aims to ensure a level playing field for local businesses in the digital marketplace.

Google has faced similar scrutiny and penalties in other regions, emphasising the global nature of regulatory challenges confronting major tech companies. The fine reinforces Turkey’s commitment to enforcing fair competition practices within its digital economy.

Google settles allegations of digital advertising dominance in US, avoids jury trial

Alphabet’s Google will avoid a jury trial over allegations of digital advertising dominance after paying $2.3 million to settle the US government’s monetary damages claim. The payment means the case, involving non-monetary demands, will be heard directly by a judge. Initially, the Justice Department and several states had sued Google, accusing it of monopolising digital advertising and overcharging users, seeking primarily to break up its advertising business.

US District Judge Leonie Brinkema scheduled the non-jury trial for 9 September, where she will directly hear arguments and decide the case. Google criticised the Justice Department’s damages claim as contrived, denying any wrongdoing and not admitting liability by making the payment. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

The Justice Department initially claimed more than $100 million in damages but later reduced the demand to less than $1 million. Google’s $2.3 million payment covers the interest and potential tripling of damages under US antitrust law. Google accused the government of inflating its damages claim to secure a jury trial, while the government contended that Google has worked to keep its anticompetitive conduct hidden from public scrutiny.

Binance faces £10 billion lawsuit in London over delisting of Bitcoin Satoshi Vision

Crypto exchange Binance has requested the dismissal of most of a £10 billion ($12.8 billion) lawsuit in London, alleging collusion with other exchanges to delist the Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV) cryptocurrency. The lawsuit, brought to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) on behalf of over 200,000 BSV owners, claims that exchanges, including Kraken, engaged in anti-competitive behaviour to delist BSV in 2019, causing its value to plummet and hindering its potential to become a ‘top tier’ cryptocurrency.

BSV Claims’ lawyers argue that the delisting prevented BSV from gaining prominence and have valued this aspect of the claim at up to £9 billion. Despite not opposing the case’s certification under the UK’s collective proceedings regime, Binance’s lawyer, Brian Kennelly, argued that those who retained BSV made a voluntary decision and could have reinvested in other cryptocurrencies.

While Binance declined to comment on the ongoing litigation, Kraken described the lawsuit as ‘baseless.’ The delisting of BSV by Binance, Kraken, and others in 2019 followed claims by Australian computer scientist Craig Wright, who asserted he was the pseudonymous inventor of bitcoin, ‘Satoshi Nakamoto.’ Wright was recently found to have lied and forged documents to support his claim, a ruling he intends to appeal.

Intel CEO announces company ambitions in line with US semiconductor policy

In a recent interview, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger presented how Intel intends to remain a relevant actor in the Chinese chip market while also scaling up production in the US. This was done at the occasion of the Computex tech conference in Taipei, where Intel released its new Xeon 6 processor, destined for data centres. Its release comes at a time when tech giants are challenging Nvidia’s chip dominance. 

Gelsinger aims to build an Intel foundry in the US after the organisation was incentivised to increase facilities in the US with as much as $8.5 billion in grants and $11 billion in loans under the CHIPS and Science Act. In its release, the White House stated this is a step towards ‘protecting national security’ and increasing US share of global chip production to ‘20% […] by the end of the decade’.

“The capital is critical. We said that we have to have economic competitiveness if we build these factories in the US, and that’s what the CHIPS Act has done. It’s created a level playing field if I were building a factory in Asia versus US,” Gelsinger said.

Why does it matter?

At the same time, Gelsinger reiterated the importance of the Chinese market to his company. “China is a big market for Intel today, and one that we’re investing in to be a big market for Intel tomorrow as well,” he said. Intel has been competing to catch up its global market share since 2017, when South Korea’s Samsung overtook it as the largest chipmaker in terms of revenue. Since then, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company reportedly overtook Samsung in 2023.

Microsoft, OpenAI and Nvidia face antitrust scrutiny in USA

The US Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have agreed to proceed with antitrust investigations into Microsoft, OpenAI, and Nvidia’s dominance in the AI industry. Under the agreement, the Justice Department will focus on Nvidia’s potential antitrust violations, while the FTC will examine Microsoft and OpenAI’s conduct. Microsoft has a significant stake in OpenAI, having invested $13 billion in its for-profit subsidiary.

The regulators’ deal, expected to be finalised soon, reflects increased scrutiny of the AI sector. The FTC is also investigating Microsoft’s $650 million deal with AI startup Inflection AI. This action follows a January order requiring several tech giants, including Microsoft and OpenAI, to provide information on AI investments and partnerships.

Why does it matter?

Last year, the FTC began investigating OpenAI for potential consumer protection law violations. US antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter recently expressed concerns about the AI industry’s reliance on vast data and computing power, which could reinforce the dominance of major firms. Microsoft, OpenAI, Nvidia, the Justice Department, and the FTC have not commented on the ongoing investigations.