Disney+ comes to Canada and the Netherlands on Nov. 12, will support nearly all major platforms at launch

Disney+ will have an international launch that begins at the same time as its rollout in the U.S., Disney revealed. The company will be launching its digital streaming service on November 12 in Canada and The Netherlands on November 12, and will be coming to Australia and New Zealand the following week. The streaming service will also support virtually every device and operating system from day one.

Disney+ will be available on iOS, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Android, Android TV, PlayStation 4, Roku, and Xbox One at launch, which is pretty much an exhaustive list of everywhere someone might want to watch it, leaving aside some smaller proprietary smart TV systems. That, combined with the day-and-date global markets, should be a clear indicator that Disney wants its service to be available to as many customers as possible, as quickly as possible.

Through Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Apple TV devices, customers will be able to subscribe via in-app purchase. Disney+ will also be fully integrated with Apple’s TV app, which is getting an update in iOS 13 in hopes of becoming even more useful as a central hub for all a user’s video content. The one notable exception on the list of supported devices and platforms is Amazon’s Fire TV, which could change closer to launch depending on negotiations.

In terms of pricing, the service will run $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year in Canada, and €6.99 per month (or €69.99 per year) in the Netherlands. In Australia, it’ll be $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year, and in New Zealand, it’ll be $9.99 and $99.99 per year. All prices are in local currency.

That compares pretty well with the $6.99 per month (or $69.99 yearly) asking price in the U.S., and undercuts the Netflix pricing in those markets, too. This is just the Disney+ service on its own, however, not the combined bundle that includes ESPN Plus and Hulu for $12.99 per month, which is probably more comparable to Netflix in terms of breadth of content offering.

 

Just Eat and Takeaway.com reach agreement to gobble each other

The boards of Just Eat and Takeaway.com have reached agreement to combine their two European food delivery businesses.

The pair of publicly listed companies announced they were in talks to combine their businesses a week ago, saying then that talks were at an advanced stage.

Today they said their boards have reached agreement on the terms of “a recommended all-share combination”, and both will be recommending unanimously that shareholders vote in favor of the merger at respective meetings.

Meetings to seek shareholder approval are to be held no later than 20 December, and the pair say they expect the merger to be completed in Q4, assuming shareholders give the green light.

“The Combination would create one of the largest food delivery companies in the world, with scale, strategic vision, industry-leading capabilities, leading positions in attractive markets and a diversified geographic presence,” they write in today’s note, adding that the merger has “compelling strategic logic” and represents “an attractive opportunity” for both to build on “the strong individual platforms of Just Eat and Takeaway.com with the potential to deliver substantial benefits to respective shareholders, consumers,  employees and other stakeholders”.

Commenting in a statement, Jitse Groen, CEO of Takeaway.com, also said: “The Combination of Just Eat and Takeaway.com creates one of the world’s largest and most powerful food delivery websites. It will become a formidable company that will make an impact on tens of millions of consumers across the globe; it will be at the forefront of product and tech development in the sector, and it will lead the way in its relationship with its consumers, restaurant partners, its staff, and its delivery drivers. It is a dreamed combination, created by the sector’s dream team, and I can only be grateful for the opportunity of leading it.”

In another supporting statement, Just Eat’s chairman Mike Evans added: “The Board believes that this is a compelling offer for Just Eat shareholders which will create a global leader in a dynamic and rapidly growing sector. Our businesses have a shared philosophy and culture, and together we will create one of the world’s largest online food delivery platforms with leading positions in key markets. With a significant commitment to the UK and to the employees of Just Eat, we believe the new combination and proven leadership team will allow us to better serve our millions of consumers and thousands of restaurant partners around the world. Just Eat will be a driving force in the creation of an exciting global leader and I am looking forward to working with Jitse and the talented Takeaway.com team to seize this opportunity together.”

Under the agreed terms, Just Eat shareholders will be entitled to receive 0.09744 Takeaway.com shares for each Just Eat share which they state implies a value for Just Eat of 731 pence per Just Eat share based on Takeaway.com’s closing share price on 26 July 2019 of €83.55 — representing a premium of 15% to Just Eat’s closing share price on 26 July 2019 (ahead head of the announcement of the merger talks).

While, following completion, Just Eat Shareholders will own approximately 52.15% and Takeaway.com Shareholders will own approximately 47.85% of the combined group — which is set to be called Just Eat Takeaway.com N.V., and will be headquartered in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.

The pair say the current intention is to maintain “a number” of Just Eat’s current headquarter functions in London (they do not state how many or which), and “a significant part of its operations in the United Kingdom, including its existing operations in London, Borehamwood and Bristol”.

“A full assessment of the Combined Group’s other locations has not yet been conducted, and as a result, there are no specific plans in relation to these other locations,” they add.

A two-tier board structure is planned for the merged entity, with a management board and supervisory board, both of which will comprise a mix of members from the Takeaway.com boards and from the Just Eat board — including current Takeaway.com CEO Groen assuming the role of CEO of the combined group and Paul Harrison, the current CFO of Just Eat, taking up the CFO role for the merged entity, while Takeaway.com’s current CFO, Brent Wissink, will become co-COO of the combined group, along with Takeaway.com’s current COO Jörg Gerbig.

For the supervisory board, the plan is for current Just Eat chairman Evans to take the chairman role, while Adriaan Nühn, currently the chairman of the Takeaway.com supervisory board, will be vice-chairman and senior independent non-executive director.

The supervisory board will also comprise three independent non-executive members identified by Just Eat and two non-executive members identified by Takeaway.com.

The pair say approval will be sought for the listing and admission to trading of the enlarged share capital of the Combined Group on the Premium Segment of the London Stock Exchange’s Main Market for listed securities; and of the new Takeaway.com shares on Euronext Amsterdam; and inclusion of the Combined Group in the FTSE 100 Index and FTSE All-Share Index.

“Based on initial discussions with FTSE, Takeaway.com and Just Eat anticipate that the Combined Group would be eligible for inclusion in the FTSE 100 Index and the FTSE All-Share Index from completion of the Combination,” they add.

Toyota testing improved solar roof for electric cars that can charge while driving

Toyota is testing a new and improved version of the solar power cells it previously launched on the Japan-exclusive Prius PHV, in a pilot along with partners Sharp and Japanese national research organization NEDO. This demo car’s prototype cells can convert solar energy at 34% and up, which is much better than the existing commercial version’s 22.5%, and unlike its predecessor it can also charge the car’s driving battery while the car is actually moving, recouping significant range while the vehicle is in use.

The new system will provide up to 44.5 km (27.7 miles) of additional range per day while parked and soaking up sun, and can also add up to 56.3 km (35 miles) of power to both the driving system and the auxiliary power battery on board, which runs the AC, navigation and more.

Using a redesigned solar battery cell film that measures only 0.03 mm (that’s 0.001 inches), the vehicles engineers could put the film over a much broader surface area of the vehicle compared to the existing production version, with solar cells that wrap around covered body components, the rear door and the hood with relative ease. And as mentioned, the system can now work while the car is actually driving, thanks to changes in how generated power is fed to the system, which is a huge step up from the last generation which could only push power to that auxiliary battery to run the radio, etc. when in motion.

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This new test vehicle will hit the road in Japan in late July, and perform trials across a range of different regions to test its abilities in different weather and driving conditions. Ultimately, the goal is to use this research to facilitate the commercial deployment of more efficient solar power generation tech that can work in a number of transportation applications.

Solar powered cars to date have been a bit of an outlier proposition: There’s Toyota’s own Prius PHV, but it’s quite limited in terms of what you gain vs. a traditionally plug-in electric. Lightyear One, a startup from The Netherlands, unveiled its own solar electric consumer car last month, but production on that vehicle isn’t set to start until 2021, and it’s a new entrant into the market, at that.

Lightyear One debuts as the first long-range solar-powered electric car

Electric cars are better for the environment than fossil fuel-burning vehicles, but they still rely on the grid, which can be variously dirty or clean depending on what sources it uses for its energy. The new Lightyear One is a prototype vehicle that would improve that by collecting the power it needs to run from the sun.

Lightyear, a startup from the Netherlands born as Stella, has come a long way since it won a Crunchie award in 2015, with a vehicle that now looks ready for the road. The Lightyear One prototype vehicle unveiled today has a sleek, driver-friendly design and also boasts a range of 450 miles on a single charge – definitely a first for a car powered by solar and intended for the actual consumer market.

© Twycer / www.twycer.nl

The startup says that it has already sold “over a hundred vehicles” even though this isn’t yet ready to hit the road, but Lightyear is aiming to begin production by 2021, with reservations available for 500 additional units for the initial release. You do have to pay €119,000 up front (around $136,000 USD) to secure a reservation, however.

Lightyear One isn’t just a plug-in electric with some solar sells on the roof: Instead it’s designed from the ground up to maximize performance from a smaller-than-typical battery that can directly grab sun from a roof and hood covered with 16 square feet of solar cells, embedded in safety glass designed with passenger wellbeing in mind. The car can also take power directly from regular outlets and existing charging stations for a quick top-up, and again because it’s optimized to be lightweight and power efficient, you can actually get around 250 miles on just one night of charging from a standard (European) 230V outlet.

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The car should supplement existing electric cars for buyers who are more conscious of range anxiety and nervous about having enough charge, the company says. It still have to actually enter production, however, and even when it does it’ll be a fairly expensive and small batch product, at least at first. But it’s an impressive feat nonetheless, and a potential new direction for EVs of the future.

KLM Airlines wants to help build a more efficient jet with in-wing seating

Air travel accounts for a significant chunk of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, and the amount of air travel has risen steadily over the past few decades, with emissions from aviation predicted to grow significantly through 2020 and beyond. Electric passenger planes are in the works, but unlikely to replace our workhorse passenger jets any time soon – which is why efforts like a new type of conventional fuel aircraft designed being backed by KLM Airlines.

The new aircraft design, conceived by designer Justus Benad and being further realized by a team of researchers at the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology, per CNN. The look of the aircraft is clearly different from the start, ditching the typical cylindrical tube main fuselage for a ‘squat slice of pizza’ look that extends the body through the wings of the plane.

This beefed up core holds passengers, fuel and cargo, and through this distribution, which improves the aircraft’s overall aerodynamics, the plane will manage to be 20 percent more fuel-efficient vs. the Airbus A350, which carries approximately the same amount of passengers depending on its configuration.

A savings of 20 percent in fuel consumption may not seem like much, but over time, and at scale, it could potentially make a huge difference – especially if the pace of electric aircraft development and other alternatives doesn’t pick up. That said, timelines for deployment aren’t super immediate: These could enter service sometime between 2040 and 2050 based on the current development schedule, which isn’t exactly tomorrow.

Testing an all-new design for passenger jets, which basically look like they did when they were first introduced, is obviously not something one undertakes lightly, however. The good news is that the team is hoping to put a scale model into real-world flight testing later this year.

FBI has seized Deep Dot Web and arrested its administrators

The FBI have arrested several people suspected of involvement in running Deep Dot Web, a website for facilitating access to dark web sites and marketplaces.

Two suspects were arrested in Tel Aviv and Ashdod, according to Israel’s Tel Aviv Police, which confirmed the arrests in a statement earlier in the day, Local media first reported the arrests.

Arrests were also made in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Brazil.

Deep Dot Web is said to have made millions of dollars in commission by offering referral links to dark web marketplaces, accessible only at an .onion domain used specifically by the Tor anonymity network. Tor bounces internet traffic through a series of random relay servers dotted across the world, making it near-impossible to trace the user.

Its .onion site displayed a seized notice by the FBI, citing U.S. money laundering laws. Its clear web domain no longer loads.

Tuesday’s arrests follow an earlier operation by U.S. and German authorities earlier in the week that took down the Wall Street Market, one of the largest remaining dark web marketplaces. Thousands of sellers sold drugs, weapons and stolen credentials used to break into online accounts.

Efforts to reach Deep Dot Web over encrypted chat were unsuccessful.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the FBI did not immediately comment. A spokesperson for the Israeli consulate in New York did not respond to a request for comment.

Tech regulation in Europe will only get tougher

European governments have been bringing the hammer down on tech in recent months, slapping record fines and stiff regulations on the largest imports out of Silicon Valley. Despite pleas from the world’s leading companies and Europe’s eroding trust in government, European citizens’ staunch support for regulation of new technologies points to an operating environment that is only getting tougher.

According to a roughly 25-page report recently published by a research arm out of Spain’s IE University, European citizens remain skeptical of tech disruption and want to handle their operators with kid gloves, even at a cost to the economy.

The survey was led by the IE’s Center for the Governance of Change — an IE-hosted research institution focused on studying “the political, economic, and societal implications of the current technological revolution and advances solutions to overcome its unwanted effects.” The “European Tech Insights 2019” report surveyed roughly 2,600 adults from various demographics across seven countries (France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, and the UK) to gauge ground-level opinions on ongoing tech disruption and how government should deal with it.

The report does its fair share of fear-mongering and some of its major conclusions come across as a bit more “clickbaity” than insightful. However, the survey’s more nuanced data and line of questioning around specific forms of regulation offer detailed insight into how the regulatory backdrop and operating environment for European tech may ultimately evolve.

 

Distractions

Google has quietly added DuckDuckGo as a search engine option for Chrome users in ~60 markets

In an update to the chromium engine, which underpins Google’s popular Chrome browser, the search giant has quietly updated the lists of default search engines it offers per market — expanding the choice of search product users can pick from in markets around the world.

Most notably it’s expanded search engine lists to include pro-privacy rivals in more than 60 markets globally.

The changes, which appear to have been pushed out with the Chromium 73 stable release yesterday, come at a time when Google is facing rising privacy and antitrust scrutiny and accusations of market distorting behavior at home and abroad.

Many governments are now actively questioning how competition policy needs to be updated to rein in platform power and help smaller technology innovators get out from under the tech giant shadow.

But in a note about the changes to chromium’s default search engine lists on an Github instance, Google software engineer Orin Jaworski merely writes that the list of search engine references per country is being “completely replaced based on new usage statistics” from “recently collected data”.

Their choices appear to loosely line up with top four marketshare.

The greatest beneficiary of the update appears to be pro-privacy Google rival, DuckDuckGo, which is now being offered as an option in more than 60 markets, per the Github instance.

Previously DDG was not offered as an option at all.

Another pro-privacy search rivals, French search engine Qwant, has also been added as a new option — though only in its home market, France.

Whereas DDG has been added in Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Bolivia, Brazil, Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Germany, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, India, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Moldova, Macedonia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Paraguay, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Switzerland, UK, Uruguay, US and Venezuela.

“We’re glad that Google has recognized the importance of offering consumers a private search option,” DuckDuckGo founder Gabe Weinberg told us when approached for comment about the change.

DDG has been growing steadily for years — and has also recently taken outside investment to scale its efforts to capitalize on growing international appetite for pro-privacy products.

Interestingly, the chromium Github instance is dated December 2018 which appears to be around about the time when Google (finally) passed the Duck.com domain to DuckDuckGo, after holding onto the domain and pointing it to Google.com for years.

We asked Google for comment on the timing of the changes to search engine options in chromium. At the time of writing the search giant had not responded.

We’ve also reached out to Qwant for comment on being added as an option in its home market.

 

Uber pays $2.6M to settle historical charges it violated Dutch taxi laws

Another fine for Uber’s historical playbook: The ride-hailing giant has agreed to pay around $2.6 million (€2.3M) to settle charges in the Netherlands related to violations of local taxi law, dating back to when it was operating a peer-to-peer ride-hailing service in contravention of local transport laws.

Uber offered its UberPop service in the Netherlands between July 2014 and November 2015, when it pulled the plug — saying the service “had become a blog to regulatory progress”. Which is a long-winded way of saying it wasn’t legal to operate it.

The Dutch Public Prosecution Service (DPPS) announced the settlement today, saying it consists of a €2,025,000 fine across the four Uber companies — Uber International BV, Uber Netherlands BV, Uber BV and Rasier Operations BV — in addition to €309,409 in “criminally earned capital”, via Uber’s 20% commission on rides, which is being clawed back.

The DPPS said it’s happy to settle with Uber as it believes the courts would have reached the same penalizing conclusion.

In a press release announcing the settlement it writes that the four named Uber entities “co-perpetrated” the violation of local taxi law, which requires transport services to have a taxi license to operate (whereas with UberPop Uber allowed anyone with a vehicle to sell a ride).

Uber BV has been given the maximum possible fine (€810,000). The other three entities have been fined half the maximum — as a result of smaller roles in the violation, the DPPS said.

“The person responsible for the rollout of UberPop in the Netherlands has performed a 90-hour [community service] penalty,” it adds.

Commenting on the settlement in a statement, an Uber spokesperson said: “We have changed the way we do business across the world, putting integrity in the core of everything that we do. We are committed to being a good partner to Dutch cities. We have shut down UberPOP services in 2015. Since then, we only allow professional and certified drivers on the app, through uberX, Van and Black services.”

Also since 2015: Europe’s top court judged Uber to be a transport company — firmly closing the regional book on any more attempts to circumvent taxi laws by claiming it’s ‘just a technology platform’.

Medal.tv’s clipping service allows gamers to share the moments of their digital lives

As online gaming becomes the new social forum for living out virtual lives, a new startup called Medal.tv has raised $3.5 million for its in-game clipping service to capture and share the Kodak moments and digital memories that are increasingly happening in places like Fortnite or Apex Legends.

Digital worlds like Fortnite are now far more than just a massively multiplayer gaming space. They’re places where communities form, where social conversations happen, and where, increasingly, people are spending the bulk of their time online. They even host concerts — like the one from EDM artist, Marshmello, which drew (according to the DJ himself) roughly 10 million players onto the platform.

While several services exist to provide clips of live streams from gamers who broadcast on platforms like Twitch, Medal.tv bills itself as the first to offer clipping services for the private games that more casual gamers play among friends and far flung strangers around the world.

“Essentially the next generation is spending the same time inside games that we used to playing sports outside and things like that,” says Medal.tv’s co-founder and chief executive, Pim DeWitte. “It’s not possible to tell how far it will go. People will capture as many if not more moments for the reason that it’s simpler.”

The company marks a return to the world of gaming for DeWitte, a serial entrepreneur who first started coding when he was 13 years old.

Hailing from a small town in the Netherlands called Nijmegen, DeWitte first reaped the rewards of startup success with a gaming company called SoulSplit. Built on the back of his popular YouTube channel the SoulSplit game was launched with DeWitte’s childhood friend, Iggy Harmsen, and a fellow online gamer, Josh Lipson who came on board as SoulSplit’s chief technology officer.

At its height, Soulsplit was bringing in $1 million in revenue and employed roughly 30 people, according to interviews with DeWitte.

The company shut down in 2015 and the co-founders split up to pursue other projects. For DeWitte that meant a stint working with Doctors Without Borders on an app called MapSwipe that would use satellite imagery to better locate people in the event of a humanitarian crisis. He also helped the non-profit develop a tablet that could be used by doctors deployed to treat Ebola outbreaks.

Then in 2017, as social gaming was becoming more popular on games like Fortnite, DeWitte and his co-founders returned to the industry to launch Medal .tv.

It initially started as a marketing tool to get people interested in playing the games that DeWitte and his co-founders were hoping to develop. But as the clipping service took off, DeWitte and co. realized that they potentially had a more interesting social service on their hands.

“We were going to build a mobile app and were going to load a bunch of videos of people playing games and then we’re going to load videos of our games,” DeWitte says. 

The service allows users to capture the last 15 seconds of gameplay using different recording mechanisms based on game type. Medal.tv captures gameplay on a device and users can opt-in to record sound as well.

It is programmed so that it only records the game,” DeWitte says. “There is no inbound connection. It only calls for the API [and] all of the things that would be somewhat dangerous from a privacy perspective are all opt-in.”

 

There are roughly 30,000 users on the platform every week and around 15,000 daily active users, according to DeWitte. Launched last May, the company has been growing between 5% and 10% weekly, according to DeWitte. Typically, users are sharing clips through Discord, WhatsApp and Instagram direct messages, DeWitte said.

In addition to the consumer-facing clipping service, Medal also offers a data collection service that aggregates information about the clips that are shared by Medal’s users so game developers and streamers can get a sense of how clips are being shared across what platform.

“We look at clips as a form of communication and in most activity that we see, that’s how it’s being used,” says DeWitte.

But that information is also valuable to esports organizations to determine where they need to allocate new resources.

“Medal.tv Metrics is spectacular,” said Peter Levin, Chairman of the Immortals esports organization, in a statement. “With it, any gaming organization gains clear, actionable insights into the organic reach of their content, and can build a roadmap to increase it in a measurable way.”

The activity that Medal was seeing was impressive enough to attract the attention of investors led by Backed VC and Initial Capital. Ridge Ventures, Makers Fund, and Social Starts, all participated in the company’s $3.5 million round as well, with Alex Brunicki, a founding partner at Backed, and Matteo Vallone, principal at Initial, joining the company’s board.

“Emerging generations are experiencing moments inside games the same way we used to with sports and festivals growing up. Digital and physical identity are merging and the technology for gamers hasn’t evolved to support that.” said Alex Brunicki, partner at Backed.vc, in a statement.

Medal’s platform works with games like Apex Legends, Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft and Oldschool Runescape (where DeWitte first cut his teeth in gaming).

“Friends are the main driver of game discovery, and game developers benefit from shareable games as a result. Medal.tv is trying to enable that without the complexity of streaming” said Vallone, who previously headed up games for Google Play Europe, and now sits on the Medal board.