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Google blocks YouTube on Amazon devices

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KATHMANDU — Google is pulling its popular YouTube video streaming from Amazon’s Fire TV and Echo Show devices in an escalating feud that has caught consumers in the crossfire.

The internet search giant, owned by Alphabet, said on Tuesday that the decision to block YouTube from Fire TV and Echo Show was due to a ‘lack of reciprocity’ from Amazon, and followed failed attempts to reach an agreement over mutual access to products and services for customers of both companies.

Experts say the steps mark an escalation of a business row in which consumers have been caught up in the fallout. Previously, Amazon had stopped selling several of Google’s hardware products.

Amazon and Google square off in many areas, from cloud computing and online search, to selling voice-controlled gadgets like the Google Home and Amazon Echo Show.

Amazon`s suite of voice-controlled devices has outsold Google`s so far, according to a study by research firm eMarketer from earlier this year.

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In a statement, Google said, “Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make (its) Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of (our sister company) latest products.”

“Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV,” Google said. “We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

Amazon,since 2015, has refused to sell Google’s Chromecast video and audio-streaming dongles.

Amazon said in a statement, “Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website.”

It said it hoped to resolve the issue with Google as soon as possible but customers could access YouTube through the internet — not an app — on the devices in the meantime.

Amazon had explained the move by saying it wanted to avoid confusing customers who might expect its Prime Video service to be available on devices sold by Amazon.

Amazon and Apple mended ties earlier this year when it was announced Prime Video would come to Apple TV. Not so with Google.

Agencies

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Google to open artificial intelligence center in China

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BEIJING — Google announced Wednesday that it will open a new artificial intelligence research centre in Beijing, tapping China’s talent pool in the promising technology despite the US search giant’s exclusion from the country’s internet.

Artificial intelligence, especially machine learning, has been an area of intense focus for American tech stalwarts Google, Microsoft and Facebook, and their Chinese competitors Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu as they bid to master what many consider is the future of computing.

AI research has the potential to boost developments in self-driving cars and automated factories, translation products and facial recognition software, among others.

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Google’s move to open a Beijing office focused on fundamental research is an indication of China’s AI talent, widely seen as being neck-and-neck with the United States in research capability.

“Chinese authors contributed 43 per cent of all content in the top 100 AI journals in 2015,” Li Feifei, a researcher leading the new centre, wrote in a blog post on Google’s website.

“We’ve already hired some top experts, and will be working to build the team in the months ahead.”

Li noted that Chinese engineers formed the backbones of the winning teams in the past three ImageNet Challenges, an international AI competition to test which computing technology is better at recognising and categorising pictures.

Chinese search engine Baidu’s team was banned for a year for breaking the rules during the 2015 competition.

The country’s large population and strong mathematics and sciences education has nurtured a slew of engineering talent.

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Google operates two offices in China, with roughly half of its 600 employees working on global products, said company spokesman Taj Meadows.

Its job board in China shows about a dozen openings in the AI field. The China centre will join Google’s other research facilities outside of its Silicon Valley hub, including in New York, Toronto, London and Zurich.

Google’s search engine and many of its services are blocked by China’s Great Firewall, but internet regulators have recently allowed access to its translation product, one that has made leaps and bounds in accuracy by incorporating the company’s AI research.

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