Dubai Corporate Games celebrates 17th year with record-breaking turnout

The Dubai Corporate Games returns for its 17th edition, promising the largest event to date with an impressive lineup of participants and activities.A total of 55 esteemed companies, including industry giants such as Google, Amazon, Chalhoub Group, and Nakheel, among others, have rallied over 7000 individuals for a two-day extravaganza of sports and camaraderie.Attendees will indulge in a diverse array of activities, spanning from classic favourites like football, tennis, and basketball to more unique offerings such as padel, dragon boat racing, and gaming competitions. Notably, the event boasts 68 football teams, engaging in a staggering 116 games, with a commendable representation of 5 women’s teams. Additionally, 48 men’s and ladies' basketball teams will vie for victory, alongside a remarkable 360 entries for padel enthusiasts.This year's event is generously supported by esteemed headline sponsors, including Transmed, Emirates Snack Food, IFFCO Group, and Oasis Water, underscoring the significance of corporate engagement and community spirit. Other notable sponsors include ITP, American Hospital Dubai, RECAPP, and Channel 4.The action-packed festivities will unfold on February 24th and 25th at ISD Dubai Sports City, commencing at 8 am and concluding at 9 pm. Spectators are warmly invited to join in the excitement and cheer on their favourite teams as they vie for glory in this celebration of athleticism and teamwork.

Google launches short video series with Saudi content creator

Google is launching a new short video series to answer the top searched questions on AI on Google by users in the Middle East and North Africa. The six-episode short video series in Arabic which aims to demystify the most common misconceptions around AI will be hosted by popular Saudi content creator, Abdullah AlAlawi and will feature veteran AI experts from Google including Mehdi Ghissassi, Director of Product Management at Google DeepMind.According to Google, Arabic queries on AI by users in the Middle East and North Africa region rose significantly in the last 12 months, and many of them are related to its daily practical uses. The six episodes will address the top searched questions -Episode 1: What is Generative AI?Episode 2: How can I use AI in my studies?Episode 3: What is the difference between AI and Machine Learning?Episode 4: How can I use AI everyday?Episode 5: How can I protect my data while using AI tools?Episode 6: How can I use AI to be more productive and creative?Googleyat will be published every week starting February 5th and will run on Google Arabia’s channels on YouTube, Instagram and X, as well as the channels of Abdullah AlAlawi on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Elon Musk's xAI seeks $6 billion to challenge OpenAI

Elon Musk's AI ambitions take a bold leap forward as his AI start-up xAI aims to raise a staggering $6 billion from global investors. This move positions xAI as a major contender in the burgeoning generative AI arena, with OpenAI, backed by Microsoft, as its key target.The fundraising push spans continents, with xAI courting wealthy individuals and investors worldwide. Whispers of talks with family offices in Hong Kong, despite the territory's complex ties with Beijing, highlight the intensifying global AI race.Musk's vision for xAI is ambitious. He seeks a $20 billion valuation, fueled by the $6 billion capital injection. This hefty sum reflects the colossal resources needed to develop cutting-edge generative AI models, demanding vast computing power, data, and specialized chips.However, negotiations are in a flux, and Musk's target raise might shift. He's reportedly explored additional avenues, including sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and potential investors in Japan and South Korea.Meanwhile, xAI has already taken its first steps. In December, it launched Grok, a chatbot trained on social media data, touted to offer more current and comprehensive responses than rivals.The pressure is on, as OpenAI boasts a sizable $13 billion war chest injected by Microsoft alone. Additionally, Anthropic and Cohere, fueled by tech giants like Google and Amazon, join the competition.Musk's past connection to OpenAI adds an intriguing layer. He co-founded the company but later disagreed with its direction, particularly its perceived lack of safety measures and alleged censorship tendencies. This fueled his decision to launch xAI in July 2023.Financial details of xAI's past funding remain murky. Public filings reveal a $1 billion fundraising goal through equity investors, with $135 million already secured. A reported $500 million raise in January further adds to the uncertainty.Despite the complexities surrounding xAI's financial state, one thing is clear: Musk's AI ambitions are not to be underestimated. Whether xAI secures the coveted $6 billion and dethrones OpenAI remains to be seen, but one thing is certain - the battle for AI supremacy has just entered a new, high-stakes chapter.

Google lays off employees in ad sales team amid AI push

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking it toll. Alphabet-owned Google has announced the implementation of workforce reductions within its advertising sales team, as disclosed on Tuesday. The tech giant says it is embracing AI and automation to navigate the changing landscape, following industry trends. Hundreds of Google advertising sales team members are expected to experience job cuts.The layoffs follow a series of workforce adjustments within Google, including personnel reductions in hardware teams overseeing Pixel, Nest, Voice Assistant units, and Fitbit, as well as the AR team. Google emphasizes that its customer solutions unit will play a pivotal role in driving future growth. The announcement aligns with a broader industry trend, as companies across sectors increasingly turn to AI and automation to enhance productivity. Google's latest model, Gemini, showcases its commitment to staying ahead in the AI gold rush. disclosed last week its plans to undertake workforce reductions in its streaming and studio operations, along with 500 layoffs at its video streaming platform Twitch.

Google appoints Ziad Jammal as Google Cloud Country Manager in the UAE

Google Cloud announced the appointment of Ziad Jammal as UAE Google Cloud Country Manager to further drive digital transformation for UAE businesses in the new AI era. Ziad brings extensive experience in the technology industry and a deep understanding of the UAE’s digital landscape to this strategic role.As Google Cloud Country Manager, he will be responsible for overseeing Google Cloud’s go-to-market strategy, supporting partners relationships, and driving customers' success across the UAE. He will focus on scaling Google Cloud’s offerings in the UAE to help organizations across various industries, including the public sector, financial services, media, aviation, telco and retail, innovate faster.“We are delighted to have Ziad at the helm of our UAE operations,” said Abdul Rahman AlThehaiban, Google Cloud Managing Director, Middle East, Turkey and Africa. “His leadership, expertise, and knowledge of the region will be instrumental in elevating customers’ experience with Google Cloud, while ensuring businesses benefit from both cutting-edge solutions and the trusted support needed for their unique cloud journey.” Ziad has over 20 years of experience in information technology and tech sales leadership. He joined Google Cloud in 2017 and has since played a pivotal role in expanding the company’s value proposition in the UAE. In his most recent role at Google Cloud, he led the Startups and Digital Natives team where he successfully developed the go-to-market strategy to support, grow and empower local businesses and entrepreneurs.“I am excited to take on this new challenge and to spearhead the next chapter of Google Cloud’s journey in the UAE,” said Ziad. “The UAE has long championed ambitious plans for its digital economy, and looking at an entirely new era of digital transformation fueled by generative AI, there are unprecedented opportunities for businesses in the country to transform their operations and disrupt industries. With this, our AI-infused solutions for data, infrastructure, productivity, and security will help organizations in achieving transformative business outcomes and leveraging new technologies like generative AI.

The cookie crumbles on Chrome, officially!

Google finally took the first bite out of the third-party cookie on January 4, 2024. A 1% of Chrome users globally, around 30 million people, are now cookie-less, paving the way for a fully cookieless Chrome by the end of this year. This comes after multiple delays and false starts.It's a slow rollout, Google says, to give advertisers, publishers, and ad-tech firms time to "test our readiness for a web without third-party cookies."Safari, Apple, and Firefox beat Chrome years ago in cookie deprecation.Google’s plan is to come up with privacy-focused alternative technologies for advertisers. The new Tracking Protection feature, automatically cuts off a website’s access to third-party cookies.Google vice president Anthony Chavez said that the tech giant is taking a responsible approach to phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome.“If a site doesn't work without third-party cookies and Chrome notices you're having issues... we'll prompt you with an option to temporarily re-enable third-party cookies for that website."Though Google announced the decision to do away with cookies from Chrome in 2020, the plan was postponed twice.Google's cookie deprecation announcement caused tremors in the ad world, triggering widespread skepticism about ‘Privacy Sandbox’ filling the gap. Fears abound that these untested substitutes will prove inadequate, further entrenching Google's already-dominant position in online advertising.Understandably, publishers’ online ad businesses rely heavily on the granular data gleaned from third-party cookies, enabling them to personalize ads and maximize revenue. Google's replacements like Privacy Sandbox are raising concerns about their ability to deliver the same level of targeting and revenue generation.And the industry is witnessing different technologies as alternatives to third-party cookies. Brands are slowly shifting to cookieless alternatives such as contextual targeting, geo/location-based targeting, first-party data, etc. to target customers. All these are privacy-centric targeting methods.Using AI and machine learning to analyse user behaviour patterns and make accurate predictions about user preferences without relying on individual user-level data.AI and operational machine learning will be increasingly used to analyse user behaviour patterns and predict user preferences without taking recourse to personal-level data.This is an ongoing process with no immediate answers. While challenges abound, the quest for a more privacy-respecting online advertising landscape is a positive step for both users and publishers. By fostering open dialogue and collaboration, the industry can hopefully navigate this transition and create a future where targeted advertising thrives alongside user privacy.

Google to pay $700M in antitrust settlement

Google has committed to a $700-million payment and facilitating increased competition within its Play app store, as outlined in the terms of an antitrust settlement with US states and consumers revealed in a San Francisco court.The tech giant will enable developers on its Play app store to provide direct payment options to users, addressing antitrust concerns in the ongoing regulatory scrutiny of the tech giant's practices.Google has been accused of suppressing competition to its Play Store on Android devices. The tech giant was also accused of overcharging customers through unnecessary fees for in-app transactions. The proposed settlement dictates that Google should contribute $630 million to a fund for consumers and $70 million to a fund for states, pending final legal approval. Eligible customers may receive a minimum of $2, with the possibility of additional payments based on their spending patterns on Google Play between August 2016 and September 2023.Google's Vice President of Government Affairs, Wilson White, said that this settlement builds on Android's choice and flexibility, maintains strong security protections and retains Google's ability to compete with other OS makers and invest in the Android ecosystem for users and developers.Criticism has mounted against Google for alleged abuse of competition practices and monopolistic behavior. This recent settlement addresses concerns specifically related to its app store, which has been subject to intense scrutiny. Notably, the Google Play Store, alongside Apple's App Store, is one of the primary marketplaces for mobile apps, and its fee structure has been a point of contention.

Google plans third-party cookie block by 2024, unveils tracking protection

On January 4, 2024, Google will launch a new browser feature named Tracking Protection, designed to enhance user privacy by automatically restricting a website's access to third-party cookies.Google aims to complete the phasing out of third-party cookies in Chrome by the end of 2024.The implementation plan involves the gradual activation of Tracking Protection for 1% of a randomly selected global group of Chrome users on January 4. Users included in this initial cohort will be notified by a modal pop-up on the right side of the address bar upon opening Chrome on either desktop or Android. The modal will display the message "Browse with more privacy" alongside an eye-shaped icon with a strike through it.The success of this initiative hinges on the oversight of the UK's Competition and Markets Authority, responsible for the Chrome Privacy Sandbox. Anthony Chavez, VP of product management for the Privacy Sandbox, marked this event as a "key milestone" in a blog post released on Thursday announcing the rollout.Contrary to the extended timeline since the initial announcement over three and a half years ago, Google officially made the APIs in the Chrome Privacy Sandbox generally available in September. This has allowed developers and ad tech companies to intensify their testing efforts and seamlessly integrate the APIs into their solutions.However, despite the general availability, testing adoption has been gradual, particularly on the buy side. According to a survey conducted by Blis and Sapio Research in late October, 61% of US marketers and media planners have yet to commence testing the Chrome Privacy Sandbox. Nevertheless, a staggering 98% express concern about signal loss and the disappearance of third-party cookies.Google remains optimistic about the acceleration of testing efforts. Victor Wong, senior director of product for the Privacy Sandbox on Chrome and Android, emphasized that general availability serves as a compelling signal for companies to initiate API integration promptly.In an effort to facilitate live testing, Google is introducing Tracking Protection gradually, starting with a small percentage of Chrome users. This measured approach enables developers to assess their readiness for a web environment without third-party cookies.Crucially, in instances where a site encounters functionality challenges during the 1%-of-users phase, Chrome will automatically present an option to disable Tracking Protection temporarily. This allows the reactivation of cookies to prevent disruptions in the browsing experience while the site addresses any issues before the complete deprecation of third-party cookies.Google's Tracking Protection rollout represents a pivotal step in their ongoing Privacy Sandbox initiative. Stakeholders need to stay updated about these developments and adapt their strategies accordingly to navigate the post-cookieless era.

Epic battle: Google guilty of running illegal app store monopoly

Epic Games has emerged victorious in its legal battle against Google as the jury in the Epic v. Google case unanimously declared that Google has turned its Google Play app store and Google Play Billing service into an illegal monopoly. This landmark verdict comes three years after Fortnite-maker Epic Games filed a lawsuit against both Apple and Google, alleging illegal app store monopolies.The jury's decision, delivered after just a few hours of deliberation, affirmed that Google holds monopoly power in the Android app distribution markets and in-app billing services markets. Furthermore, the jury found that Google engaged in anticompetitive behavior in these markets, causing injury to Epic Games. The verdict highlighted an illegal tie between Google's Google Play app store and its Google Play Billing payment services, along with anticompetitive elements in its distribution agreements, Project Hug deals with game developers, and arrangements with OEMs.Google's affairs and public policy VP Wilson White announced the company's intent to appeal: "The trial made clear that we compete fiercely with Apple and its App Store, as well as app stores on Android devices and gaming consoles." In response to the verdict, Epic Games issued a statement on its company blog, declaring the outcome a victory for all app developers and consumers globally. Epic Games said the verdict is a win for all app developers and consumers around the world. "It proves that Google's app store practices are illegal, and they abuse their monopoly to extract exorbitant fees, stifle competition, and reduce innovation."The future of Google's app store now rests in the hands of Judge James Donato, who will determine the appropriate remedies for the case. Epic Games did not seek monetary damages but aims for a court ruling granting every app developer the freedom to introduce their own app stores and billing systems on Android.

Google releases the top trending searches of the year in MENA

Google released today the top trending searches of 2023 for the Middle East and North Africa. The annual lists reveal the most trending search queries which experienced a higher volume of search over a sustained period in 2023 compared to 2022. The lists included the top searched news, platforms, events, movies, TV series, tournaments and personalities. Egypt: In the news list, the war in Palestine ranked first, followed by the devaluation of the Egyptian Pound and the earthquake that happened in the country earlier this year. As for the Personalities list, the Egyptian footballer Emam Ashour was ranked first, followed by Jory Bakr and Bassem Youssef following his interview with Piers Morgan. Saudi Arabia: The Kingdom has been searching for football throughout the year, with many events and tournaments happening on-ground. The match between AlHilal SFC and Real Madrid CF was ranked top in the football tournaments list. As for the personalities list, footballers remain at the top list with Aleksandar Mitrovi? and Karim Benzema amongst others. The war in Palestine was the top searched topic in the news list, which also included the devaluation of the Pakistani Rupee, and Buerger's disease. There has also been interest in local platforms such asd, Absher, Jadarat, Etima amongst others.UAE: In the UAE, there was huge interest in cricket matches. The Cricket World Cup match between India and Sri Lanka was the top searched tournament. Local and regional events made it to the list this year including Gitex 2023, COP28 and UFC 294. People in the UAE also used Google Search to follow the news in Palestine, as well as the devastating events that happened earlier this year including the Earthquake in Turkey, Syria, and Morocco.The full lists of top 2023 trending queries can be found on Google Google Trends website.Egypt: Arabia: Lists in MENAUAESaudi

Google stands by its 2024 cookie deprecation deadline: Dan Taylor

Amid the Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit against Google and the imminent self-imposed deadline for removing third-party cookies from its Chrome browser, Google's Vice President of Global Advertising, Dan Taylor, asserts that the company is unwavering in its commitment to the timeline for cookie depreciation."Cookies will be phased out completely from Chrome at the end of 2024." Despite the challenges posed by the antitrust suit, which alleges Google's violation of U.S. antitrust laws and manipulation of the search ad auction market, Taylor remains confident that the advertising business will persevere. We disagree with the DOJ's claims. We have no intention of selling or divesting this business. In fact, we're focused more than ever on helping our publisher partners and our advertiser partners deliver great ROI and great monetization," said Taylor.Discussing the ongoing efforts to introduce alternative solutions to third-party cookies, Taylor highlighted the importance of adapting to the changing landscape of online privacy. He urged stakeholders to move beyond legacy technologies, emphasizing the inevitability of a more private internet that still facilitates advertising use cases.Regarding the impending real-world testing environment in January 2024, when 1% of cookies will be deprecated from Chrome, Taylor expressed anticipation. This environment will allow a comprehensive understanding of how campaigns, performance, volume, and ad relevance will be affected in the absence of a third-party cookie signal.Reflecting on recent experiments, Taylor shared promising results from a Q2 experiment in Google Ads on Topics, where third-party cookies were replaced with Topics. The experiment demonstrated high fidelity in terms of scale, performance, and relevance, indicating positive progress with API alternatives.Taylor said: "That gives us a good signal that we're on the right path with regard to these APIs, but seeing them testing in a real-world environment is something we're looking forward to."

Report unveils global impact of invalid traffic on marketing budgets

In an era dominated by automation and artificial intelligence, the prevalence of Invalid Traffic (IVT) is reaching unprecedented levels, posing a significant threat to businesses worldwide. IVT, which includes non-human traffic and fake interactions, has emerged as a marketing black hole, wasting budgets, distorting analytics, and hindering business growth.The recently released Wasted Ad Spend Report 2024 by Lunio, a leading marketing analytics platform, sheds light on the global impact of IVT, particularly in the context of paid media campaigns. The report, based on an analysis of 2.6 billion paid ad clicks and 104 billion impressions from over 60,000 ad accounts over a 12-month period (May 2022 to May 2023), provides a comprehensive overview of the issue.The Scale of the ProblemAccording to the 2023 Imperva Bad Bot Report, nearly half (47.4%) of all internet traffic in 2022 came from bots, representing a 5.1% increase from the previous year. Lunio's report focuses on the proportion of IVT directly affecting marketing performance and business revenue.Impact on BusinessesInvalid traffic isn't just a security concern; it's a financial drain on businesses. With a return on ad spend of 0:1 for invalid clicks, businesses are losing out on revenue opportunities and facing unpredictable revenue forecasts. Lunio's real-time decision engine aims to combat this issue by analyzing the validity of millions of paid ad clicks across major marketing channels.A Collaborative Approach to AnalysisTo provide a comprehensive view, Lunio collaborated with industry leaders, Integral Ad Science (IAS), specializing in programmatic media buying protection, and Scope3, the world's largest database of georeferenced emissions factors, to understand the environmental impact of IVT.MethodologyThe report combines Lunio's data with IAS's insights into programmatic ad verification and Scope3's data on emissions associated with digital advertising. The methodology details are available in their respective reports.Key FindingsThe report highlights that Google, with its proactive stance against IVT, still experiences an average invalid traffic rate of 5.5%, causing significant financial implications, especially for larger enterprise brands.Non-Google channels, lacking the same level of resources for IVT prevention, show higher vulnerability. The report recommends a strategic approach, emphasizing diversified marketing mixes to mitigate wasted ad spend due to IVT.Channel AnalysisThe breakdown of invalid traffic rates across individual ad channels, including Google, Meta, Bing, LinkedIn, TikTok, and others, reveals insights into projected wasted ad spend and lost revenue opportunities.LinkedIn's TroublesLinkedIn emerged as the worst-performing ad channel in terms of IVT, with the platform's authenticity under scrutiny. A 2022 investigation by NPR found fake profiles, AI-generated profile photos, scrapers, and engagement bots contributing to high levels of invalid activity.Empowering MarketersThe goal of Lunio's report is to provide a data-driven understanding of the threat posed by IVT and empower marketers with insights to maximize ad spend efficiency, eliminate sources of fake engagement, and reduce carbon footprints.

Google pays Apple 36% of search ad revenue from Safari

Google pays Apple 36% of its search advertising revenue from Safari under their search default agreement. This was revealed in an open court in the US during the ongoing anti-trust case against Google filed by the US Department of Justice. The revelation, made by an Alphabet witness, Professor Kevin Murphy from the University of Chicago, was hitherto unknown to the world. And it is a testament to the financial gains for both companies, who have been reluctant to disclose such details due to potential anticompetitive concerns.The revelation was unexpected and came as part of Alphabet's defense against the Justice Department's claims of Google illegally maintaining dominance in search and advertising markets. According to a Bloomberg report, The Williams & Connolly antitrust partner, John Schmidtlein, reportedly reacted visibly when the figure was disclosed.The focal point of the proceedings revolves around the search default agreement, with Judge Amit Mehta characterizing the Apple-Google deal as the case's "core." Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi estimates that Apple stands to generate $19 billion in revenue in 2023 through the search engine default deal with Google.It was also revealed during the trial that Google has paid more than $26bn to companies like Samsung, Apple, Mozilla, etc. for making Google as the default search engine. While testifying, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai tried to defend such agreements, but competitors, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, have expressed criticism, viewing the arrangement as harmful to their businesses. According to Nadella, the ongoing discussions with Apple regarding a default search engine deal for Microsoft's Bing had not resulted in an agreement, even if it entailed short-term losses. He underscored that the notion of an "open web" is deceptive, contending that what truly exists is the "Google web."

Google eyes strategic investment in AI startup Character.AI

Google is in discussions to make a substantial investment, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, in Character.AI. This artificial intelligence chatbot startup is seeking capital to train models and meet the increasing demand from users, according to a Reuters report.The investment could be in the form of convertible notes, which would strengthen the existing relationship between Character.AI and Google. The startup uses Google’s cloud services and Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) to train its models.The startup was founded by Noam Shazeer and Daniel De Freitas, who used to work at Google. Character.AI enables individuals to engage in conversations with virtual representations of celebrities such as Billie Eilish or anime characters. Users can also craft their own chatbots and AI assistants.It offers a free service, but also has a subscription option that costs $9.99 a month for users who want to access a chatbot without waiting in line.Character.AI’s chatbots, which have different personalities and styles, have attracted users aged 18 to 24, who make up about 60% of its website traffic, according to Similarweb data. The startup aims to provide more fun and personal AI companions than other chatbots from OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.The company said that its website had 100 million monthly visits in the first six months after its launch.Character.AI is also seeking equity funding from venture capitalists, which could give the company a valuation of over $5 billion, sources said. In March, it raised $150 million in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz at a $1 billion valuation.The sources said that the talks with Google were not final and the terms could change.Google has been investing in AI startups, including $2 billion for model maker Anthropic in convertible notes, in addition to its previous equity investment. Anthropic uses Google’s cloud services and its latest TPUs.

Google's Pichai to Testify in US Government Antitrust Hearing

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc and its subsidiary Google, is set to testify on Monday, October 3, in a landmark antitrust battle with the US government. This case revolves around Google's alleged monopolistic control over search and certain aspects of search advertising.Pichai, appearing as a witness for Google, is expected to face questions about the company's efforts to maintain its dominance in online search, particularly as smartphones have become the primary device for web searches. The inquiry will likely focus on innovations related to search advertising as well.On the other side, the government's cross-examination may probe Google's multibillion-dollar annual payments to secure its position as the default search engine on various smartphones. The government contends that Google, which commands approximately 90% of the search market, has unlawfully paid around $10 billion per year to smartphone manufacturers, such as Apple, and wireless carriers like AT&T, to ensure that Google search is the default option on their devices, thereby preserving its market dominance.Google's strong position in the search market translates into significant influence in the highly profitable advertising sector, which serves as its primary revenue source. The tech giant argues that its revenue-sharing agreements are lawful and that it has made substantial investments to maintain competitiveness in the search and advertising realms. Additionally, Google maintains that consumers have the option to switch to alternative search providers if they are dissatisfied with the default search engine on their devices.

Victoria Webb appointed as new Managing Director of Incubeta MENA

Victoria Webb has been appointed as the new Managing Director of Incubeta, MENA region. Backed by over 18 years of experience in both traditional and digital media marketing, Victoria’s elevation to this leadership role is testament to her skill, dedication, and outstanding contributions to the agency since she joined in 2017.Having started as the Client Services Director for the SSA region, Victoria had an immediate impact on the company and swiftly climbed the ranks, most recently holding the title of Regional Growth and Innovation Director at Incubeta MENA since 2022. Her tenure at the company boasts several notable achievements, such as spearheading growth in the SSA market while retaining tier 1 clients, driving regional expansion by leading winning pitches across the MENA region, and solidifying our key regional partnerships including with TikTok and Google.In her new role as Managing Director, Victoria is committed to enhancing Incubeta’s position as the leading digital solutions partner in the MENA region, with a focus on delivering tangible business benefits to clients and partners through seamlessly integrated marketing strategies. This will be accomplished by increasing investment in four critical areas: innovation, talent, client relationships, and partnerships. Incubeta’s strategy also involves diversifying its current service offerings to align with market demand and emerging technologies, with a particular focus on leveraging Incubeta’s Cloud solution.“I’m deeply honored to be stepping into the role of Managing Director for Incubeta MENA,” commented Victoria Webb, Managing Director, Incubeta MENA. “Over the years, I’ve been privileged to witness and contribute to our dynamic growth and evolution, and I am incredibly excited to be leading our team as we strive to further innovation, nurture new talent and foster stronger, long-lasting client relationships that will shape the digital landscape of the MENA region.”Neal Patel, the outgoing MD, has been Managing Director and Partner of Bruce Clay since 2017 and saw it through its acquisition by Incubeta in 2022. Under his leadership the company grew exponentially, with the workforce expanding from 5 to over 120 members of staff, and attracted some of the most well-known brands in the world including Johnson and Johnson, McDonald’s and Saudi based destination, AlUla. He will be leaving to focus on other entrepreneurial ventures in the fields of AI, Edtech, Cloud based marketing and creative technology.“We’ve already seen a great deal of success in the MENA region, and I am certain that this will continue and grow under Victoria’s leadership,” added Lars Lehne, Global CEO, Incubeta. “She has had a significant impact on the company ever since she joined and was the perfect candidate for this position. I am also incredibly grateful to Neal for his hard work, passion and commitment to the business, and I’m pleased that he will stay close to the business in a senior advisory capacity”

U.S. vs. Google: Highlights from the Ongoing Antitrust Case

The legal battle between the U.S. government and Google is approaching its halfway point as allegations of antitrust violations are being scrutinized. Here are five significant takeaways from the ongoing trial:Google's Multi-Billion Dollar Payments for Search Dominance: Witnesses from companies like Verizon, Samsung, and Google itself revealed that Google pays around $10 billion annually to ensure its search engine remains the default on smartphones and web browsers. Critics argue these practices harm competition, with privacy-focused search engines like DuckDuckGo and Neeva citing adverse effects. Neeva, one such competitor, ceased operations earlier this year. Google's executive, James Kolotouros, testified that these agreements granted Google exclusive search privileges and that the company closely monitored compliance.Impact of Google's Search Dominance on Ad Prices: Google's executive, Adam Juda, explained the role of a formula in determining Long Term Value (LTV) and ad quality, affecting which advertiser wins the split-second ad auction. Advertisers are not informed of their LTV, and Google uses "tunings" to adjust ad prices. Testimony by Joshua Lowcock, global chief media officer for UM Worldwide, highlighted Google's dominance in the market for search-related ads, leading to increased ad prices over the last decade. In 2020, Google generated over $100 billion from search ads, as acknowledged by Jerry Dischler, Google's vice president and general manager of ads.Search Queries as an AI Advantage: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella emphasized the importance of access to search queries on a massive scale, similar to Google's, for improving search engines and dominating artificial intelligence. Nadella pointed out that enhancing AI relies on sufficient computing power, including servers, and large volumes of data to train software.Google's Defense Argument 1: Quality Trumps Antitrust Allegations: Google has countered the government's claims by asserting its search engine's immense popularity is primarily due to its quality. Google argues that dissatisfied users can readily switch to alternatives. Apple's senior vice president of services, Eddie Cue, praised Google's search engine quality and confirmed discussions with Microsoft and DuckDuckGo. However, he deemed these alternatives inadequate during questioning.Google's Defense Argument 2: Default Status Doesn't Guarantee User Loyalty: Google contends that despite paying billions each year to be the default search engine on Apple and Android devices, this status does not guarantee user loyalty. Google's lead lawyer, John Schmidtlein, cited instances where Microsoft's default status on certain devices eventually led users to bypass Bing and conduct most of their searches on Google.The trial, which commenced on September 12, is expected to continue until mid-November, with the U.S. Justice Department scrutinizing Google's tactics in online search and advertising. The central question revolves around whether Google violated antitrust laws in dominating these sectors.

Former Samsung Executive Details Google's Pushback in Antitrust Case

In a significant antitrust trial against Google, a former executive from Samsung Electronics' venture capital arm revealed that pressure from Google hindered the expansion of mobile app developer Branch Metrics' software on Samsung smartphones.Patrick Chang, who formerly worked at Samsung Next, advocated for the integration of Branch Metrics' software into Samsung's Android smartphones. However, he encountered resistance due to concerns raised by Google. Branch Metrics had to limit some of its software functions to address Google's complaints, ensuring that its in-app searches did not link to the web.Chang also highlighted opposition from wireless carriers like AT&T, which sell Android phones and were influenced by Google's dominance.The U.S. Justice Department presented evidence suggesting that Google pays substantial sums, around $10 billion annually, to smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers in exchange for making its software the default option, thereby maintaining its search monopoly.During cross-examination, Google's attorney questioned Chang about whether Samsung's reluctance to adopt Branch's software might also be attributed to its perceived inefficiency, with few users clicking on the links offered by Branch.This testimony occurred during the fourth week of a lengthy trial, during which the Justice Department sought to demonstrate that Google engaged in anticompetitive practices to maintain its search and advertising monopoly. Google contends that its business practices comply with the law.

Google Faces Tough Questions on Ad Pricing Practices Amid Antitrust Trial

In a pivotal moment during the ongoing antitrust trial in Washington, a lawyer for the US Justice Department grilled Google executive Adam Juda on the search and advertising giant's pricing practices in the online advertising industry.The Justice Department has accused Google of manipulating the multibillion-dollar online advertising auctions to favor its own financial interests, and this trial is seen as a once-in-a-generation event that could reshape the tech industry.Juda testified that Google uses a formula, which considers ad quality, to determine the winners of advertising auctions on websites. However, the Justice Department alleges that Google has used these formulas to unfairly influence pricing in its favor.During questioning, Justice Department attorney David Dahlquist confronted Juda with a document prepared for the European Union in which Google admitted it could "directly affect pricing through tunings of our auction mechanisms." Juda denied agreement with this statement.Juda explained that one aspect that can be "tuned" is a formula that assigns a long-term value (LTV) to an ad based on factors like the bid amount, potential click-through rate, and ad and website quality.Dahlquist asked Juda if Google had made changes to ad sales that increased the cost-per-click for advertisers. Juda acknowledged this possibility.However, Google's attorney, Wendy Waszmer, later questioned Juda about whether his ad quality team could unilaterally raise prices. Juda responded with a firm "No."Google's advertising practices have faced scrutiny for a lack of transparency, with both advertisers and website publishers accusing the company of retaining an excessive share of revenue.This focus on advertising pricing marks a shift in the trial's proceedings, which previously concentrated on Google's expenditures to maintain its search engine as the default on various devices.The outcome of this trial could have significant ramifications for the tech industry, potentially leading to regulatory changes and shifts in the competitive landscape.

Apple's Search Engine Ambitions Could Disrupt Google's Monopoly

Apple could be gearing up to develop its own search engine, potentially ending its long-standing reliance on Google as the default search engine for its devices. According to various credible media reports, Apple has all the necessary elements in place to create a competitive search engine. While the move is seen as a "long shot," Apple has been quietly working on its search technology, codenamed Pegasus, which offers more accurate search results. This speculation comes amid ongoing antitrust concerns regarding Google's dominance in online search and ad sales. Apple's potential search engine could generate advertising revenue comparable to its Apple Watch market.

Google partners with Arabic streaming platform Shahid

Dubai: Google has announced its partnership with Shahid, the MBC GROUP-owned Arabic streaming platform. This collaboration brings Shahid's content to the forefront of Google search, enriching the entertainment experience for users. With the integration of Shahid's vast content library into Google's 'What to watch' feature, individuals in the UAE can now seamlessly explore and access the latest shows and series from Shahid's extensive collection.By leveraging the 'What to watch' feature, Google users in the UAE can conveniently discover Shahid's diverse content lineup. Whether searching for a specific series, show, or simply typing "series on Shahid or MBC," users will be presented with an array of options directly within Google Search. This innovative feature, initially introduced during Ramadan earlier this year, currently supports both English and Arabic languages, catering to the preferences of UAE residents. Google aims to expand this feature to additional countries in the Middle East and North Africa region in the near future."We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Google, as the first regional streaming service on Watch Actions, to bring Shahid's vast content library directly to our audiences in Google search results," said Ahmed Qandil, Director of Growth and Brand Marketing at Shahid.The integration between Google and Shahid enables a seamless entertainment experience for users. By selecting the 'Watch Now' icon, individuals will be swiftly redirected to Shahid's site or mobile app, ensuring uninterrupted access to their favorite shows and series. This collaboration exemplifies Google's commitment to enhancing user experience and providing easy access to quality content across multiple platforms.Google and Shahid's partnership marks a significant milestone in the realm of Arabic streaming platforms, leveraging the power of Google's search capabilities to deliver premium content to a wider audience. Users in the UAE can now explore Shahid's extensive content library, making Google Search the go-to destination for discovering the latest and most captivating shows and series.

Employees preparing for a tech-focused world: Pearson Skills Outlook

Dubai: Globally, workers are focused on developing their human skills, even as they see a future dominated by technology-driven work and automation, according to a new study from Pearson, the world’s leading learning company. For the latest edition of the Pearson Skills Outlook series, Pearson partnered with Google to examine how and why people across different regions are looking to upskill as they face a rapidly changing economy.Pearson Skills Outlook: Employee View, the survey of 4,000 workers, revealed that people are most interested in careers in the tech and business-related fields such as e-commerce, software services, data science, and financial services. However, they believe that they will need to focus on human skills to land these jobs or advance in their current role. They believe human skills – like problem solving, leadership, and teamwork – are the most attractive to employers now and in the future.According to the report, problem solving, decision-making, teamwork, and leadership are the key human skills that workers are actively prioritizing developing and maintaining to advance their careers. Looking to the future, most skills workers want to train for remain focused on human skills such as Leadership; Entrepreneurial skills and Project management [Tie], Problem solving, Language skills, Coding / Programming, Data processing, and Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning [Tie].The report also signals that in non-English speaking countries, learning English is emerging as a key skill for employees to advance in their careers, according to 85 percent of Indians and 77 percent of Brazilians.“This valuable new research shows that job seekers are prioritizing human skills at a time when machine learning and artificial intelligence are having an increasing influence on work,” said Mike Howells, president of Pearson Workforce Skills. “Human skills are proving critical to personal and organizational success, and workers are motivated to sharpen and develop those skills to stay competitive and advance their careers.”The study also found that the majority of workers (73 percent of Americans, 68 percent of British, 89 percent of Indians and 70 percent of Brazilians) also say they prefer to learn via their employer. And an even higher number expect their employer will increase or maintain learning and development opportunities.In a world where people are living and working longer, and having multiple careers, the Skills Outlook series provides guidance to employers, employees, and job seekers on where they should focus their training, education, and learning. While Pearson’s second Skills Outlook report, conducted in September 2022, examined skilling through an employees’ lens, the first study identified the most in-demand skills from an employer’s perspective.

Former Google and YouTube executive joins Rise Studios

Rise Studios, the newly-launched entertainment company driving investment in content from regional markets, appoints Diana Baddar as Managing Director for Digital Content and Development to drive the company’s digital content strategy and business. Diana will build relationships with major platforms and identify regional talent, focusing on bridging the gap between long and short-form content. Diana brings two decades of industry experience to Rise Studios, having spent eight years at Google where she spearheaded the growth of YouTube in the MENA and Turkey markets. As the first Head of Women at Google in MENA, she worked closely with regional female content creators to build their channels on the platform. Some of her major accomplishments include relaunching Sesame Street in Arabic after a 20-year hiatus; launching YouTube Space Dubai, an official blog and portal for creators in MENA, and achieving a Guinness World Record for the most viewers of an Iftar Livestream on YouTube. Prior to her work at Google, she directed the business development and affiliate channels at OSN, establishing new opportunities for OSN, Disney, Discovery and E! Entertainment. She also worked on the launch of OSN’s first VOD platform, OSN+.Watan Network, one of the largest multi-channel networks in the Arab world with over 5 billion combined views monthly on YouTube, Facebook and Snap, is already part of the Rise Studios group with certified partnerships in place with YouTube, Daily Motion and Facebook. The network supports original content owners with monetising their content, protecting their copyrights and building business strategies. Diana will propel the digital content strategy through Watan Network, in conjunction with the major platforms, by using into her network of content creators to develop untapped regional stories. She will also lead talent identification for long and short-form content, bridging the gap between TV and digital platforms.Commenting on the appointment, Amanda Turnbull, CEO of Rise Studios said: “We are ecstatic about welcoming Diana onboard. She brings exceptional digital knowledge to the business with over 20 years’ experience in our industry. She is perfectly positioned to drive our digital content strategy for the business, championing the rich talent we have in the region.”Diana Baddar said: “It gives me great pleasure to be working alongside industry veterans with such a clear mission: to work closely with our community of creators to showcase their talent to the world, delivering a lean-forward entertainment experience for viewers.”