Europe Charges Google with Unfair Practices
The world's undisputed Internet search leader is at odds with authorities once again after a European regulator charged the tech giant with unfair practices that cheat consumers and competitors. According to a spokesman for the European Competition Commission, the Mountain View, California-based firm was sent a detailed list of charges this week, and has just ten weeks to prepare a response. The latest round of charges against the company involves its Google Shopping service, which authorities say Google has given favoritism in search results over competitors like Amazon and eBay. European officials are also investigating Google concerning other products and services, and many expect the shopping case to set key precedents that will affect other ongoing probes.
Google Under Fire for Blackmailing Websites
Internet giant Google is feeling pressure again after an FTC report leaked revealing the company has threatened a handful of websites with pulling them from its search results if they didn't make content available for Google. The report seems to show that evidence was found that Google was effectively blackmailing competing websites like Amazon and Yelp into allowing Google to use their data in Google search results. If they refused, their sites would no longer show up on Google results. The report recommended that charges be filed over the matter, but instead Google made some voluntary changes and the case was closed. Officials in the European Union are still looking into allegations of unfair practices by Google, but consumer advocacy groups now want the FTC to re-open its case against Google in light of the leaked report.
Condo Residents Evacuated as Police Search for Suspect
Residents at a northwest Colorado Springs condominium complex were kept from their homes for several hours Friday as police searched for a man who they say drove his vehicle over an officer. The incident began near the intersection of Chuckwagon Rd. and Centennial Blvd., when a Col. Springs police officer on motorcycle pulled over a vehicle driven by Robert L. Denhartog. Instead of waiting for the officer to approach, Denhartog allegedly backed over the officer and his bike, then sped off. Three passengers in Denhartog's vehicle were taken into custody a little while later, but Denhartof fled to a condo in the nearby Saddleback Ridge complex. A standoff of about three hours ensued before police were able to locate and apprehend the suspect, who was charged with attempted murder and other charges. Duri9ng the search, a number of Saddleback Ridge residents were evacuated and those who weren't home when the search began were not allowed in the complex. Parts of Chuckwagon and Centennial were closed off during the search as well.
Could Realtor.com Surpass Zillow & Trulia Despite Merger?
When Zillow's merger with Trulia was approved in February, most observers assumed the game was over for smaller competitors in the online real estate industry, as the merger brings together the sector's two biggest players. As evidenced by a string of legal steps taken in the last few weeks, however, competition is still very much alive in the industry thanks to a key strategic advantage held by Realtor.com, the sector's second-largest company after the Trulia acquisition by Zillow. Realtor.com was acquired late last year by News Corp subsidiary Move.com, which also operates a company called ListHub, which currently supplies listings to both Trulia and Zillow. Since the Zillow-Trulia merger was approved, ListHub has decided to let its agreement with Zillow expire in April, and to end an agreement with Trulia early. Trulia asked a court to stop ListHub from pulling its listings, and got a temporary injunction, but the injunction was pulled at a hearing days later.
AT&T Bumped from Dow in Favor of Apple
Apple was accepted into an elite club on Friday when it was announced the tech giant will replace AT&T on the Dow Jones industrial average. The change is scheduled to take place on March 19th, and is not expected to affect the overall value of the 30-stock index. S&P Dow Jones Indices, which manages the Dow, said the move is in response to a planned stock split by VISA. The scheduled four-to-one split will reduce VISA's stock price by 75 percent, thus reducing the weight of the information technology sector on the index. Bringing in Apple, the index manager said, will help offset the loss of value caused by VISA's stock split.
Zillow Challenged On Accuracy of “Zestimates”
The CBS morning talk show, “CBS This Morning,” addressed a major real estate issue last week when they invited Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff to discuss the company's controversial “Zestimates”, or automated value estimates for homes. With more than 73 million visitors in December alone, Zillow is easily the world's most popular real estate information website. In addition to active listings of properties currently on the market, the site also provides information about homes not for sale. This information often includes square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, photos, property tax information and so-called “Zestimates”.
California Opens Solar Plant That Can Power 160,000 Homes
California Governor Jerry Brown was beaming Monday as one of the world's largest solar power plants opened in the Southern California desert. Located in Riverside County, about 170 miles east of Los Angeles, the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm was operating at full capacity and pumping 550 megawatts of juice into the grid. Officials say that's enough electricity to power 160,000 homes. The solar plant is just the first step in Brown's ambitious plan, announced several weeks ago, for 50 percent of the state's power to come from renewable sources by the year 2030. Officials also noted that the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm will prevent the release of 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, likening it to taking some 60,000 cars off the road.
Apple Becomes World's 1st $700 Billion Company
The world's largest private company surpassed a new milestone Tuesday when Apple became the first company in world history to achieve a market capitalization of over $700 billion. The Cupertino-based tech giant was already riding a wave of stock gains after reporting its highest quarterly earnings ever in January, then got another boost last week in the form of a very successful bond sale. The development that took the company over the $700 billion hump came Tuesday, meanwhile, when the company announced a partnership with First Solar to build an $848 million solar power plant on 1,300 acres in Monterey County, California. When completed, the massive solar plant will power Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, a data center in Newark, California, 52 stores across the Golden State and all the company's California-based offices.