Disney+ to Launch Across Europe This Week With Reduced Streaming Quality, Launch in France Delayed

Disney's premium streaming service, Disney+, will launch across Europe on Tuesday with temporarily degraded video quality, according to Reuters. The measure aims to reduce the burden on the continent's data networks as millions of people switch to working from home.


In a company statement, Disney said it had agreed to a European Union request for streaming-video providers to "ensure the smooth functioning of the broadband infrastructure."
Anticipating higher consumer demand, the company is instituting measures to "lower our overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25 percent in all of the markets launching Disney+ on March 24th," said Kevin Mayer, head of Disney's Direct-to-consumer and International business.
In addition, the launch of Disney+ has been delayed in France by two weeks on request of the French government. Disney+ will now launch in the country the week of April 7.

Facebook yesterday also committed to downgrade video streaming quality across its social media platforms, including Instagram.

Last week, the European Union asked streaming services to consider temporary reductions in streaming quality due to the abnormally large number of people working from home and taking advantage of streaming services amid the viral outbreak. Netflix, YouTube, Apple TV+, and Amazon all responded to the call.

Currently, streaming content providers have only been asked to lower streaming quality in Europe, so the lower streaming rates do not affect the United States and other countries. The United States has not called on streaming content providers to implement data reduction measures.

It's not clear how long Disney plans to stream with reduced quality and whether tweaks will be made for a better compromise between quality and data usage. Netflix said that it will continue using the lower quality stream for the next 30 days.
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Netflix Reduces Streaming Video Quality in Europe to Lower Data Usage and Ease Strain on Broadband Networks

Netflix has complied with a request from the European Union to lower its streaming video quality in Europe to ease network strain from the millions of people working from home.


According to the BBC, Netflix is reducing video quality in Europe for the next 30 days. Netflix says that the change will reduce data consumption by 25 percent, but that viewers will still be satisfied with picture quality.

To limit data use, Netflix is cutting streaming bitrates, which could cause videos to look a bit more pixelated.
"Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and [Netflix chief executive] Reed Hastings, and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus, Netflix has decided to begin reducing bitrates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days," the company said.
The European Union asked Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming services to consider temporary reductions in streaming quality due to the abnormally large number of people working from home and taking advantage of streaming services.

The EU wants streaming platforms to limit content to standard definition instead of high-definition, and it also wants individual users to pay attention to their data consumption rates.

Having a large number of people at home has led to worries that broadband connections, which are designed to cope with evening surges in traffic, may not be able to handle long days of adults engaging in video conferencing and children taking online classes or playing games. Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, saw a 75 percent rise in home broadband and mobile network traffic over the weekend.

Netflix has not said whether the bitrate reduction will be implemented in other countries like the United States, but it does not appear that U.S. internet providers have called for such measures at this time. The United States Federal Communications Commission earlier this week permitted Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular to temporarily use additional spectrum to meet increased demand for broadband access.
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The EU Wants All Phones to Work With Interoperable Chargers, Here’s What That Means for Apple’s Lightning Port

Despite pushback from Apple, the European Parliament in January voted overwhelmingly for new rules to establish a common charging standard for mobile device makers across the European Union. This article explores what form the EU laws might ultimately take and how they could affect Apple device users in Europe and elsewhere.


What Exactly is the EU Calling For?


To reduce cost, electronic waste and make consumers' lives easier, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) want "binding measures" that ensure chargers fit all smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices.

According to a 2019 impact assessment study on common chargers of portable devices conducted by the EU, almost a fifth of people surveyed reported having faced "significant issues" because of non-standard chargers. Such issues included incompatible chargers between devices, variable charging speeds between different chargers, and having to have several chargers available to cover all needs.

In addition, the EU claims that by agreeing on a common charger standard, it will put an end to charger clutter and 51,000 tons of electronic waste annually.

The recent 582-40 parliamentary vote in favor of a common charging standard came about because the European Commission's previous approach of merely "encouraging" tech companies to develop a standardized solution "fell short of the co-legislators' objectives," according to a briefing on the European Parliament website.


How Did the EC's Earlier Approach Play Out?


The European Commission's efforts to establish a common charging standard for smartphones span more than a decade. In 2009, the EC estimated that 500 million mobile phones were in use in all EU countries. It found that the chargers used often varied according to the manufacturer and model, and that more than 30 different types of chargers were on the market.

In a bid to harmonize standards, the EC negotiated a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by 14 tech companies including Apple, Samsung, Nokia, and other prominent smartphone manufacturers.

According to the MoU, phone makers agreed to adopt a micro-USB connector standard for smartphone chargers in the European Union that would allow full charging compatibility with mobile phones to be placed on the market.

The plan was for new phones to be sold with micro-USB chargers for a period of time, after which phones and chargers would be sold separately in order to allow customers who already owned chargers to continue using their existing ones.

There was considerable speculation about whether Apple would be able to meet the requirements of the micro-USB standard. At the time, Apple used a proprietary 30-pin dock connector compatible with both the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

However, the wording of the MoU offered Apple a loophole: For those phones that did not have a USB micro-B interface, an adapter was allowed under the agreed terms. And that's exactly what Apple did. In 2012, Apple introduced the ‌iPhone‌ 5 with a new Lightning proprietary connector to replace its 30-pin connector, and additionally offered a separate Lightning to micro USB adapter to comply with the 2009 EU agreement.

Apple's micro-USB to Lightning adapter

Consequently, Apple ultimately wasn't required to abandon its proprietary connector or include a separate micro-USB interface directly on the device for charging purposes.

Why Was the 2009 MoU Considered a Failure?


A progress report provided by the MoU signatories in February 2013 indicated that 90 percent of the new devices placed on the market by the signatories and other manufacturers by the end of 2012 supported the common charging capability. But that statistic was so high only because it took into account the fact that Apple offered a Lightning to micro-USB adapter.

One member of the Commission would note: "The perception among the citizens and the European Parliament is that the common charger does not really exist, and looking at what we find among the most popular smartphones, we have to agree with them. The future MoU must be clear in its outcome, we cannot afford to admit adaptors."

The lack of progress frustrated the Commission, and in 2014, the European parliament passed the Radio Equipment Directive, which called for a "renewed effort to develop a common charger." The directive gave the commission the power to directly set technical standards by means of a delegated act – in this case, a legislative act implementing EU rules.

By 2016, the Commission acknowledged that micro-USB had become dated and that USB-C had become the de facto standard across most devices. The Commission was advised by MoU facilitators that all manufacturers were ready to sign a new agreement in line with different approaches but keeping the solution of using solely USB-C connectors – except Apple.


Why is Apple Against the Idea of a Common Charger?


In 2016, Apple supported the adoption of USB-C as a standardized interface at the power source (i.e. the charging plug), but remained against conforming to a standard on devices themselves. The company argued that conforming to a device-side standard would cost it up to €2 billion and hamper innovation, largely based on the claim that iPhones were too thin to house a USB-C port.

Apple even commissioned a study by Copenhagen Economics outlining the potential consumer harm from a mandatory move towards a common charger.

The study concluded that it would cost consumers €1.5 billion if common charger rules became law, outweighing the €13 million associated with environmental benefits. The study also claimed that 49 percent of EU households rely on different types of chargers, but only 0.4 percent of those households experience any significant issues.

Apple's stance on the issue left the Commission deadlocked, but in 2018 the Commission agreed to continue working with manufacturers in order to achieve a suitable voluntary agreement. However, a year later the Commission concluded that its previous voluntary approach and the new MoU still allowed manufacturers to use adaptors with proprietary solutions and would not result in full charger harmonization.


Where Does the EU Go From Here?


In response to the Commission's 2019 impact assessment on common chargers, Apple said regulations that would force all smartphones to have the same charging port would "freeze innovation," be "bad for the environment," and be "unnecessarily disruptive for customers."
More than 1 billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning to serve our collective customers. We want to ensure that any new legislation will not result in the shipment of any unnecessary cables or external adaptors with every device, or render obsolete the devices and accessories used by many millions of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Apple customers worldwide. This would result in an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconvenience users. To be forced to disrupt this huge market of customers will have consequences far beyond the stated aims of the Commission.
The EU parliament's January 2020 vote on the matter was overwhelmingly in favor of bringing in rules to standardize chargers, but the manner in which it plans to enforce them is anything but clear. The Commission's impact assessment laid out several possible options for the proposed legislation:

  • Option 0: Cables can have either a USB-C or a proprietary connector at the device end, and adapters continue to be available for purchase (the current status quo).

  • Option 1: Cables must have a USB-C port at the device end (effectively outlawing Apple's Lightning connector).

  • Option 2: Cables must have a USB-C port at the device end, or any manufacturers that wish to use a proprietary port on their device must include an adapter from USB-C to the proprietary connector (in Apple's case, a USB-C to Lightning adapter) plus a USB-C AC power plug.

  • Option 3: Cables can have either a USB-C or a proprietary connector at the device end. Manufacturers that choose to use a proprietary connector must include a USB-C AC power plug in the box (Apple provides a USB-C AC power plug, but the ‌iPhone‌ can continue to have a Lightning connector).

  • Option 4: All connectors at both the device-end and on the AC power plug must have USB-C interoperability (Apple must make USB-C chargers).

  • Option 5: All connectors at the device-end must be USB-C and manufacturers must include a new fast-charging 15W+ AC power plug (Apple must make a USB-PD-compliant power plug).
In considering wireless charging as a potential solution, the Commission concluded that it was an "incipient technology" with around 60 percent energy efficiency, whereas wired technologies are close to 100 percent efficiency.


Overall, the Commission's impact assessment suggests the most effective approach would be to pursue option 1 (common connectors) in combination with option 4 (interoperable external power supply). If the Commission were to go with this recommendation, Apple would no longer be able to make new mobile devices that use its proprietary Lightning connector. But whether the Commission accepts the recommendation of its impact assessment and enshrines it in EU law remains to be seen.

Can the Initiative Work?


The EU initiative aims to limit fragmentation of the charging solutions on the market without hampering future technological innovation. By standardizing chargers, it hopes to lower prices and increase quality, therefore reducing the presence of counterfeit chargers and increasing user safety.

It also expects a reduction/minimization of e-waste, by reducing the necessity to purchase different types of chargers and by giving the possibility to reuse already owned ones. This would also increase consumer convenience, argues the impact assessment, since users would be able to charge not only mobile phones "but potentially also other portable devices with a common cable (and charger), as well as being offered the option of retaining existing chargers and purchasing mobile phones without chargers for a lower price."


It is unknown whether any changes Apple might have to make to comply with the European regulations will also be made in other markets around the world, for financial or practical reasons. Regardless, however the proposed legislation plays out, all the signs are that Apple's stance will remain firm and it will continue to lobby against the EU's intention to regulate the market.

"We do not believe there is a case for regulation given the industry is already moving to the use of USB Type-C through a connector or cable assembly," said Apple following the recent parliamentary vote. "This includes Apple's USB-C power adapter which is compatible with all ‌iPhone‌ and ‌iPad‌ devices. This approach is more affordable and convenient for consumers, enables charging for a wide range of portable electronic products, encourages people to re-use their charger and allows for innovation."


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EU Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly in Favor of Charging Cable Standard, Despite Apple’s Protestations

Despite criticism from Apple, EU lawmakers on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favor for new rules to establish a common charger for all mobile device makers across Europe (via Reuters).

Members of the European Parliament voted by 582-40 for a resolution urging the European Commission, which drafts EU laws, to ensure that EU consumers are no longer obliged to buy new chargers with each new device.

The resolution said voluntary agreements in the industry had significantly reduced the number of charger types, but had not resulted in one common standard.
The Commission should adopt new rules by July, the lawmakers' resolution said, calling for "an urgent need for EU regulatory action to reduce electronic waste, empower consumers to make sustainable choices, and allow them to fully participate in an efficient and well-functioning internal market."

The proposed charging ports for portable devices include Micro-USB, USB-C, and the Lightning connector. Thursday's resolution didn't specify what the mobile charging standard should be, but non-Apple mobile devices and increasingly laptops and tablets are charged by USB-C, so the EU is highly unlikely to choose Apple's Lightning connector.

Apple last week pushed back against proposals for binding measures to make smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices use a standardized charging port such as USB-C.

In a statement, Apple said that the industry was already moving to USB-C and that regulation to force conformity would stifle innovation, harming European consumers. Apple also claimed that such a move would "create an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconvenience users."

The European Commission, which acts as the executive for the EU, has been pushing for a common charger for more than a decade. However, the latest resolution makes legislation more likely, with the EU executive having included the common charger standard as one of the set of actions it plans for this year.


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European Lawmakers Want to Force All Smartphones to Have Same Charging Port, Apple Defends Lightning

With goals of reducing waste and increasing convenience, European lawmakers today will debate whether all smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices should have a standardized charging port such as USB-C.

At least some members of the European Parliament want "binding measures" that ensure one type of charger is compatible with all portable devices, as the European Commission's previous approach of merely "encouraging" tech companies to develop a standardized solution has "fell short of the co-legislators' objectives," according to a briefing on the European Parliament website today.


The proposed charging ports for portable devices include Micro-USB, USB-C, and the Lightning connector.

Nearly a year ago, Apple said regulations that would force all smartphones to have the same charging port would "freeze innovation," be "bad for the environment," and be "unnecessarily disruptive for customers."
More than 1 billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning to serve our collective customers. We want to ensure that any new legislation will not result in the shipment of any unnecessary cables or external adaptors with every device, or render obsolete the devices and accessories used by many millions of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Apple customers worldwide. This would result in an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconvenience users. To be forced to disrupt this huge market of customers will have consequences far beyond the stated aims of the Commission.

Beginning in 2009, Apple led industry efforts to work together to promote a common charging solution. And with the emergence of USB Type-C, we have committed alongside six other companies that all new smartphone models will leverage this standard through a connector or a cable assembly. We believe this collective effort by many of the industry’s leading companies is better for innovation, better for consumers and better for the environment.
A vote on the matter will be held in a forthcoming parliament session. While some members want the policy to be regulated, forcing companies like Apple to comply, there is still a possibility that it will be implemented with a voluntary approach, which could simply be ignored, according to the European Commission.

European lawmakers have been considering similar regulations since at least 2009.


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Austrian Privacy Watchdog NOYB Accuses Apple and Others of Failing to Comply With GDPR in Europe

Austrian non-profit organization NOYB, the "European Center for Digital Rights," has reportedly filed a complaint against Apple and seven other tech companies for allegedly failing to comply with GDPR in the European Union.


NOYB said it tested each company's compliance with GDPR by requesting private data held about 10 users and found that "no service fully complied."

"Many services set up automated systems to respond to access requests, but they often don't even remotely provide the data that every user has a right to," said NOYB founder Max Schrems. "This leads to structural violations of users' rights, as these systems are built to withhold the relevant information."

Other companies named in the complaint include Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, and three more, according to Reuters.

GDPR was implemented in May 2018 and gives European Union residents the right to access any personal data a company has stored on them. The regulation led Apple to launch a Data and Privacy portal that allows its customers to download a copy of any data associated with their Apple ID account that Apple maintains.


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Apple Turns Down Invite to EU Hearing on Tax Evasion Because it Could Be ‘Detrimental’ to Appeal Process

As Apple continues to face a legal battle with the European Commission concerning the regulator's claim that Apple received illegal state aid from Ireland and owes billions in back taxes, the latest development has seen the Cupertino company decline an invitation to testify before a special committee on the tax evasion claims (via Reuters).

According to a letter to the European Parliament shared on Twitter today by Parliament member Sven Giegold, Apple said it "will not be able to participate in a public hearing" on the topic of tax evasion.

The company's senior director for European government affairs, Claire Thwaites, explained that while the company appeals the Commission's decision alleging state aid from Ireland, "it is important to ensure public commentary does not prejudice those proceedings."


Because of this, Apple fears its presence at the June 21 EU hearing "could be detrimental" to its appeal, and "any potential appeals thereafter." Thwaites ended the letter by stating Apple would, however, be open to meeting privately with Committee members to address questions on its decision.
Since the appeal is ongoing and likely to be heard at the General Court in the near future we will not be able to participate in a public hearing on this topic as it could be detrimental to the proceedings at the Court, and any potential appeals thereafter.

I'd like to emphasize that we have the deepest respect for the Committee, it's members and the important work you are undertaking. We would be happy to meet privately with you or other Committee members and address any questions you may have.
Despite Apple's appeal, the company has started paying the 13 billion euros in back taxes to the Irish government this month. Like the wording in Thwaites' letter today, Apple has remained adamant that the company follows the law and pays "every cent of tax" it owes "in every country" it operates. In the wake of the legal battle, Apple CEO Tim Cook called the decision "total political crap" back in 2016, saying that "the decision is wrong, and it's not based on law or facts, it's based on politics. And I think it's very important that we stand up and say that very loudly."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Apple Wins EU Trademark Case Against Xiaomi and its ‘Mi Pad’ Tablet

Apple Tuesday won the right to prevent Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi from registering its "Mi Pad" mobile tablet device as an EU trademark because the name has been deemed too similar to Apple's iPad (via Reuters).

The General Court, the European Union's second highest, ruled that registering Mi Pad as a trademark was not in the public interest, as consumers were likely to be confused by the similarity of the signs.

"The dissimilarity between the signs at issue, resulting from the presence of the additional letter 'm' at the beginning of "Mi Pad", is not sufficient to offset the high degree of visual and phonetic similarity between the two signs," the Court said in a statement.
The decision comes three years after Xiaomi filed an application with the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to register Mi Pad as a trademark, which prompted Apple to lodge a complaint. The EUIPO sided with Apple's view, based on the grounds that Mi Pad could be misconstrued as a variation of the iPad trademark.
The court agreed with the EUIPO's decision and said English-speaking consumers were likely to understand the prefix "mi" as meaning "my" and therefore pronounce the "i" of Mi Pad and iPad in the same way.
Xiaomi could appeal against the ruling at the EU's highest court, the Court of Justice of the European Union, but so far no statement on today's decision has been given by the Chinese mobile maker.

Xiaomi's expansion into Europe kicked off last month when it began selling its smartphones in Spain. The company has managed to become China's fourth largest mobile vendor by sales and has launched in dozens of other countries including Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Ukraine, as part of a $1 billion overseas expansion drive.

Its devices, ranging from smartphones to tablets, have been publicly criticized in the past for heavily borrowing design elements from Apple's iPhones and iPads and adopting marketing materials tactics similar to Apple's.


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