News roundup: LG closes phone business, Google wins Oracle lawsuit, new UK tech regulator, and more

A roundup of this week’s technology news, including LG’s plans to close down its phone business, Google’s win in a longstanding lawsuit with Oracle, and the launch of a new tech regulator in the UK.


LG shutters mobile phone business

LG has confirmed the closure of its mobile phone business as it fails to compete with the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google, and Huawei.

The South Korean tech giant said the closure of its smartphone unit would be finished by July 31st and that its board of directors had approved the move on Monday.

Once upon a time, LG was among the top five smartphone makers. But over the last six years, the firm has been hit by $4.5 billion of losses.

“LG will provide service support and software updates for customers of existing mobile products for a period of time which will vary by region. LG will work collaboratively with suppliers and business partners throughout the closure of the mobile phone business. Details related to employment will be determined at the local level,” explained the firm in a statement.

After stepping away from the smartphone market, LG intends to focus its attention on verticals such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, artificial intelligence, business-to-business solutions, and platforms and services.

The firm went on to explain: “Moving forward, LG will continue to leverage its mobile expertise and develop mobility-related technologies such as 6G to help further strengthen competitiveness in other business areas. Core technologies developed during the two decades of LG’s mobile business operations will also be retained and applied to existing and future products.”

Google wins longstanding lawsuit with Oracle

The US Supreme Court has taken the side of Google in a turbulent decade-long lawsuit with rival Oracle, according to a report by the BBC.

In 2010, Oracle filed a lawsuit against Google after accusing it of illegally copying large amounts of its code and using it in the Android operating system.

A lower US court had previously decided that Google violated copyright laws when it used over 11,000 lines of Java API code in Android. But the US Supreme Court voted 6-2 to quash the earlier ruling.

Justice Stephen Breyer explained in an Opinion of the Court that upholding the former ruling would “risk harm to the public". He wrote: “Given the costs and difficulties of producing alternative APIs with similar appeal to programmers, allowing enforcement here would make of the Sun Java API’s declaring code a lock limiting the future creativity of new programs. Oracle alone would hold the key.”

Kent Walker, SVP of global affairs at Google, wrote in a tweet: “Today’s Supreme Court decision in Google v. Oracle is a big win for innovation, interoperability & computing. Thanks to the country’s leading innovators, software engineers & copyright scholars for their support.”

But Oracle has vehemently criticised the Supreme Court’s decision. Dorian Daley, executive vice president and general counsel at Oracle, said: “The Google platform just got bigger and market power greater—the barriers to entry higher and the ability to compete lower.

“They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can. This behavior is exactly why regulatory authorities around the world and in the United States are examining Google’s business practices."

New UK tech watchdog

A new watchdog that will crack down on the growing power of tech giants like Facebook and Google has launched in the UK.

The Digital Markets Unit, run by the Competition and Markets Authority, said it’ll ensure large tech firms “cannot exploit their market dominance to crowd out competition and stifle innovation online”.

One of its first tasks is to develop new codes of conduct aimed at governing the relationship between tech companies, users, advertisers, and other key stakeholders.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden described the opening of the Digital Markets Unit as “a major milestone”, explaining that it’ll help to create “the world’s most competitive online markets, with consumers, entrepreneurs and content publishers at their heart”.

He added: “The Digital Markets Unit has launched and I’ve asked it to begin by looking at the relationships between platforms and content providers, and platforms and digital advertisers.”

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority, said: “People shopping on the internet and sharing information online should be able to enjoy the choice, secure data and fair prices that come with a dynamic and competitive industry.”

Apple affected by production delays

US tech giant Apple has had no choice but to delay the production of certain MacBooks and iPads as a result of major component shortages, according to Nikkei Asia.

Sources familiar with the situation told Nikkei Asia that a lack of computer chips has made it harder for Apple to mount key components onto printed circuit boards, which is required for assembling MacBooks.

Meanwhile, the production of specific iPads has been slowed down due to display and other screen component shortages. This situation has led Apple to stop ordering key components for the MacBook and iPad until the second part of 2021.

While Apple hasn’t been affected by component shortages in the production of the iPhone, two sources revealed to Nikkei Asia that the availability of certain iPhone components is “quite tight”.

Security roundup

  • The personal details of 533 million Facebook users have been uploaded to an online hacking forum and can be downloaded by other cybercriminals free of charge. These include phone numbers, Facebook IDS, full names, locations, dates of birth, relationships, biographies, and some email addresses. Alon Gal, co-founder and CTO of cybercrime intelligence firm Hudson Rock, discovered the breach and wrote in a tweet that cybercriminals would “certainly use the information for social engineering, scamming, hacking and marketing”. Mike Clark, product management director at Facebook, wrote in a media release: “We believe the data in question was scraped from people’s Facebook profiles by malicious actors using our contact importer prior to September 2019. This feature was designed to help people easily find their friends to connect with on our services using their contact lists."
  • Facebook isn’t the only major social media platform that made the headlines this week after being impacted by a major cyber breach. According to a report by CyberNews, the information of 500 million LinkedIn users is being sold on a major hacking forum after being scraped by cybercriminals. The leaked data, listed in four folders, reportedly contains full names, email addresses, phone numbers, information about where people work, and more. The threat actor has also leaked 2 million records to prove that they have access to this large amount of scraped LinkedIn data. A spokesperson for LinkedIn told IT Pro: “While we’re still investigating this issue, the posted dataset appears to include publicly viewable information that was scraped from LinkedIn combined with data aggregated from other websites or companies. Scraping our members’ data from LinkedIn violates our terms of service and we are constantly working to protect our members and their data."
  • Rising cybercrime is costing US citizens billions of dollars every year, according to new research from StockApps. It found that cybercrime in the US has grown by 55% over the past two years, with the annual financial losses caused by cybercrime reaching $4.2 billion in 2020.
  • Google faces a new lawsuit in France after being accused of violating European privacy laws by tracking Android users without their permission, as reported by the Financial Times. Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy campaigner, believes that Google is breaking the law because Android smartphones automatically create unique advertising codes on behalf of users. He alleges that the US tech giant is violating the privacy of the 300 million Android users who live in Europe. With these codes, Google can build a clear picture of the different websites people browse and provide them with personalised advertisements based on this data. If the French courts agree that Google has infringed upon data protection laws, it could face a hefty fine.
  • Cyber attacks launched or supported by nation-states have increased by 100% over the past few years, according to new research from computing giant HP. It also found that most nation-state attacks (35%) are targeted at enterprises, while cyber defense (25%), media and communications (14%), government bodies and regulators (12%) and critical infrastructure (10%) are also popular targets.

M&A roundup

Twitter has previously conducted acquisition negotiations with audio social networking app Clubhouse, according to a report by Bloomberg. It’s thought that the US social media giant discussed a possible $4 billion acquisition of Clubhouse in the last few months. But those talks have come to an end, and the reason for this is unknown. Despite stalled negotiations with Twitter, Clubhouse is believed to be gearing up for a multi-billion dollar investment round.

Indian edtech firm Byju this week announced the acquisition of physical tutoring provider Aakash Educational Services Limited in a deal worth $1 billion, according to a report by TechCrunch. Founded in 1988, AESL runs more than 200 test preparation centres for students looking to pursue medical and engineering courses. Aakash Chaudhry, managing director and co-promoter of Aakash Educational, commented: “Students who have wanted to access physical classrooms have gotten that from us. And those who wanted to access content and learning online has [sic] been served by Byju’s. Together, we will leverage the physical location and technology and online learning and offer students that is unique,”

Acorns, a savings and investments app, has purchased fintech startup Pillar in an undisclosed deal. Pillar has developed an online platform that helps users pay off their student loans. Michael Bloch, founder and CEO of Pillar, revealed to TechCrunch: “We were in a pretty lucky position to have a lot of interest from many of the top fintech companies that are out there. We had multiple offers on the table and Acorns was really our top choice just given how the business has been doing and the team, the culture and the mission.”

TelcoSwitch, which provides hosted voice, unified communications, and compliance solutions, has acquired Coventry-based telecoms firm PBX Hosting in a £4.5 million deal. As a result of the acquisition, TelcoSwitch will gain 32,000 active users and channel partners from PBX Hosting. Russell Lux, CEO of TelcoSwitch, said: “The PBX Hosting team have built a successful business, underpinned by great technology and a loyal customer base. We’re looking forward to welcoming them into the TelcoSwitch Group, and exploring the opportunity to add further value to their customers and partners through the wider product portfolio.”

Intelligent information management firm M-Files has acquired collaborative work platform HubShare. M-Files said the acquisition would allow it to expand its external content sharing and collaboration capabilities while also improving the digital client experience. However, it hasn’t publicly disclosed the financial details of the acquisition.

EE continues 5G rollout

EE is accelerating the rollout of 5G across the UK after turning on its next-generation mobile network in 35 new towns and cities this week, as reported by TechRadar.

These include tourist hotspots such as Brighton Pier, York Minster, Swansea Bay, and Sandbanks in addition to other locations around the country.

So far, the telecoms firm has brought its 5G network to 160 locations in the UK and is on course to hit the one million 5G customers milestone by the end of April.

Marc Allera, CEO of the consumer division at BT, said: “We’ve announced that we’ve switched on our award-winning 5G network in a further 35 towns and cities across the UK, fulfilling the commitment we set last year to double our 5G place count.

“With the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions expected in the coming weeks and months, the increased capacity and faster speeds of our 5G network will ensure our customers stay connected as footfall starts to increase in historically busy places.”

Microsoft Teams to get webinar functionality

Microsoft is planning to roll out support for large webinars and meetings at some point this month, according to a report by Windows Central.

The US tech giant originally announced a Microsoft Teams webinar function in March, and it was meant to be released last month. But as outlined in a Microsoft 365 roadmap, the feature will now likely launch in April instead.

If this goes ahead, Microsoft Team users will soon be able to conduct interactive meetings and webinars attended by 1000 people. When it comes to holding interactive meetings and webinars on Microsoft Teams, users will also have access to a range of host, moderation, and reporting tools.

“Schedule and deliver 1,000 person webinars with the same Teams app you use for meetings! Webinar capabilities support registration page creation, email confirmation for registrants, host management for attendee video and audio, attendee reporting, plus interactive features like polls, chat and reactions,” writes Microsoft in the roadmap.