Along with a tsunami of smart home products announced by Amazon on Thursday, a new gaming service appeared through the clouds.

Luna looks like being a credible competitor to cloud gaming services being offered by Microsoft (xCloud) and Google (Stadia), as well as Apple’s Arcade and Sony, Nintendo and games publishers’ online services.

US customers can now request early access to the service, whose $50 controller leverages Amazon Web Services. This should mean minimal latency (lag) in playing games, plus its Cloud Direct technology enables easy pausing and switching between devices such as Fire TV on the big screen to a laptop or a mobile phone.

Amazon’s ownership of the game streaming service Twitch gives it credibility with gamers. It will also avoid Microsoft, Google and Facebook’s problems in offering their games services through Apple’s App Store, by opting for a browser-based web app.

Pricing is competitive as well, at $5.99 a month for access to dozens of games including Resident Evil 7 and Control. Content could prove a weakness, but Amazon is cleverly tempting publishers by offering them their own premium channels on its service, with Ubisoft first to take this up.

With Microsoft buying Elder Scrolls publisher ZeniMax this week, the pressure is now on Google to improve its content offering. It all adds up to a battle royale between the cloud gaming rivals that will most benefit publishers, developers and the players themselves.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Apple concedes on cut for live events
Apple is to drop taking its 30 per cent cut of online event sales made through Facebook, Airbnb and ClassPass iPhone apps until the end of the year. The concession came after Facebook accused Apple last month of putting a huge burden on small businesses that are trying to pivot to sell more digital services during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Google is tightening up how it takes a 30 per cent cut of in-app purchases, reports Bloomberg.

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2. EU challenges Apple tax ruling
Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition policy chief, said on Friday that Brussels will appeal to the European Court of Justice over the July court decision that quashed an order for Apple to pay back €14.3bn in tax advantages to Ireland.

3. Vodafone wins Indian tax battle
Vodafone has won a long-running dispute with the Indian tax authorities that argued the UK telecoms group should pay almost €3bn in back taxes and penalties related to its 2007 acquisition of a local operator. An international arbitration court ruled in Vodafone’s favour on Friday after more than a decade of wrangling.

4. Google settles sexual harassment suits
 Alphabet has settled a series of shareholder lawsuits over its handling of sexual harassment claims, agreeing to greater oversight by its board of directors in future cases of sexual misconduct and committing to spend $310m over the next decade on corporate diversity programmes.

5. UK Covid tracing app starts with 1m downloads
The new England and Wales app to help trace the spread of coronavirus hit the top of Apple and Google’s app charts on its first day, in a promising start for a project that has been marred by delays and confusion. The free NHS app launched on Thursday after a four-month delay and a complete overhaul of its design. It was installed more than a million times on its first day on Android devices alone.

Tech tools — Ring’s in-home drone

Security (and privacy) alert! Ring unveiled a new camera combined with an indoor drone at Amazon’s Thursday product event. The Ring Always Home Cam “flies your chosen, personalised paths so that you can easily check in on your home for peace of mind — like whether someone left a window open or forgot to turn the stove off”. Also, if someone breaks in, triggering a separate Ring alarm, the drone will automatically fly a set path to see what’s happening, streaming video to you in-flight. It is expected to cost $249.99 when it starts shipping next year.

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