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How three young informants made tech giant Google cough up Rs 1,338 cr fine

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Three young informants, Umar Javeed, Aaqib and Sukarma Thapar finally forced the tech giant, Google to cough up a whooping fine of Rs 1,338 crore for abusing its dominant position in multiple markets with its Android mobile operating system.

While Umar Javeed and Sukarma Thapar were then working as research associates with the CCI, Umar’s younger brother Aaqib was then a law student in the University of Kashmir.

The CCI, the national competition regulator, is responsible for promoting competition and preventing activities that have an appreciable adverse effect on market competition in India.

Umar and Aaqib belong to the Valley. That Google was abusing its dominant position in multiple markets was the complaint filed by the three young informants in 2018.

The three young informants are all lawyers now, with Umar working at a public sector undertaking, Aaqib a practicing advocate in Delhi and Sukarma an independent consultant for law and policy.

Umar said that compiling evidence was a tough task because they only had access to consumer-facing information to support their cause.

“We can look at an Android phone and say there are some Google-owned apps that cannot be deleted even if we wanted to, but besides that, as consumers, we have little information on how exactly Android smartphone manufacturers and app developers are affected by the role Google plays in the Android ecosystem,” he explained.

Aaqib said that the three of them were already interested in how the digital market was shaping up in India and how the policies and laws governing technology were influencing consumers and tech companies.

“There were many late nights and early mornings where we would just work throughout the night.

“I was still a law student then and helping these guys meant I was juggling research along with studying for exams and assignments,” Aaqib said.

The process of compiling a comprehensive dossier of information was not easy and took about two months.

“We had to focus on our day jobs and then research for this later in the day. That is when we would have some free time,” Sukarma said.

Then, events related to Google in Europe caught the trio’s attention. “In July 2018, the European Commission (the EU’s competition watchdog) imposed one of its largest fines on Google of 4.34 billion Euros for violating EU antitrust rules,” Umar said.

After considering this information submitted by the three informants, the CCI launched an investigation in April 2019 into Google’s conduct in the Android mobile device ecosystem which eventually resulted in the October 20 CCI judgment and fine.

In its response, Google had said it would review the competition watchdog’s decision. “CCI’s decision is a major setback for Indian consumers and businesses opening serious security risks for Indians and raising the cost of mobile devices for Indians.”

Thanks to the whistle blown by these three informants, CCI has now tightened its noose around other big tech companies like Apple and Facebook after they were hauled up by European and Australian regulators.

CCI has, however, not been successful in going all out in such anti-competitive activities by these companies. Apart from the current penalties, Google also faces a probe from CCI in two other cases. CCI hopes that these cases will serve as a ‘guidance note’ for other companies which may be flouting competition rules.

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Premium segment at highest spot, 5G phones at 32% market share in India

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 Premium segment (Rs 30,000 and above) contributed 11 per cent to India’s smartphone shipments and 35 per cent to overall market revenue in 2022, the highest ever.

Samsung led the market in 2022 in terms of shipment value share with a 22 per cent share, followed by Apple, in the country, according to Counterpoint Research.

However, in terms of shipment volume, Xiaomi led the market in 2022 with a 20 per cent share, closely followed by Samsung.

Xiaomi slipped to third position in Q4 2022 with Samsung and vivo capturing first and second spots respectively.

5G smartphones captured a 32 per cent share in 2022. Samsung became the top-selling 5G brand in 2022 with a 21 per cent share.

Apple continued to lead the premium smartphone segment, with the iPhone 13 emerging as the top-selling model. Apple also led the market in Q4 2022 in terms of shipment value.

“Consumer demand started declining from the second quarter when the global economy was crippled by multiple macroeconomic issues like all-time high inflation, rising unemployment and geopolitical conflicts, affecting India’s economy as well,” said senior research analyst Prachir Singh.

Inventory build-up across channels after the second quarter led to lower-than-expected shipments throughout the second half of the year.

“We believe that the inventory and demand situation will continue to affect the market in the first half of 2023 before improving in the latter half driven by the festive season and upgrades to 5G devices,” Singh added.

India’s smartphone shipments declined 9 per cent YoY to reach over 152 million units in 2022, according to the report.

The decline, which is the second ever in India’s smartphone market, can be attributed to the decline in entry-level and budget segments which faced supply constraints at the beginning of the year and then witnessed lower demand throughout the year.

“While entry-tier and budget segments were most affected, the premium segment remained immune and showed double-digit growth. OEMs’ increased focus, consumers upgrading for premium features and, most importantly, availability of various financing schemes,” said research analyst Shilpi Jain.

Overall, India smartphone market revenue remained flat despite a 9 per cent YoY decline in shipments.

OnePlus grew 50 per cent YoY in 2022 driven by the OnePlus Nord CE 2 series.

It focused on diversifying and expanding its product portfolio across different price points and increasing its offline presence to drive sales, the report mentioned.

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WhatsApp working on new software that uses Apple Mac Catalyst

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 Meta-owned WhatsApp is working on a new Mac app that uses the Apple Mac Catalyst development environment to make better use of system resources.

According to AppleInsider, WhatsApp currently provides a web-based Electron app for Mac users in addition to its web app via browsers.

Electron and Catalyst are software development frameworks that help developers create desktop apps.

The new app has been in a closed beta for a few months, but now anyone can download the file on macOS Big Sur or later on the WhatsApp website, according to the report.

Following installation, it will display a QR code that users can scan with their iPhone to link their accounts using the WhatsApp iOS app.

The Mac app’s three-panel interface provides access to archived chats, starred messages, phone calls, and settings.

The Catalyst app includes features not available in the Electron version, such as file drag-and-drop and a spell-checker, the report mentioned.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp has reportedly rolled out some new shortcuts for group admins to quickly and easily perform actions for a certain group participant, on iOS.

The new shortcuts simplify interactions with group members as now the platform supports large groups of up to 1,024 participants, reports WABetainfo.

The new update will help group admins quickly manage and communicate with such a large number of participants in private.

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Mumbai: No jumbo block on Western Railway on Sunday

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There will be no jumbo block on Sunday, January 29 over Western Railway’s (WR) Mumbai suburban section, the WR announced today.

Major block to dismantle Gokhale bridge

Earlier last week, the Western Railway had enforced a major 4.5 hour block on the down slow lines from 12.15am to 4.45am on the intervening nights of Jan 19-20 and Jan 20-21 to carry out dismantling work of the Gokhale road overbridge at Andheri.

As a result, a number of local train services were affected.

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