High-Tech Suits a Suspect in Weak US Speedskating Performance
Today in international tech news: Under Armour's high-tech suits are implicated in the U.S.' woeful speedskating performance at the Winter Olympics. Also: The European Commission is apparently less than thrilled about its pending antitrust deal with Google; Nintendo calls out a handful of countries that it deems piracy hotspots; and Germany's new coordinator for trans-Atlantic relations is pessimistic about a no-spy deal with the U.S.
The U.S. speedskating team's high-tech suits -- which theoretically are supposed to help shave seconds and accrue medals -- have been identified as a suspect in the team's stunning faceplant at the Sochi Games.
Before the Games, the suits, designed by U.S.-based sportswear giant Under Armour, were deemed to be on the cutting edge of racing technology. They come equipped with vents on the back to allow heat to escape, but racers wonder if the vents actually are allowing air to seep in, thereby creating drag and slowing things down.
While the suits' share of the blame is debatable, there is no doubt that the U.S. speedskating team has been a disappointment. Heather Richardson, the world's top-ranked women's skater, finished a lowly seventh in the 1,000-meter race, while Brittany Bowe, who owns the world record, finished eighth. On the men's side, Shani Davis, the top-ranked skater, was eighth in the 1,000-meter race.
Several skaters had the suits altered Thursday in an attempt to give themselves an advantage -- or at least remove the disadvantage.
Kevin Haley, the senior vice president of innovation for Under Armour, said he was confident in the suits, but added that Under Armour will "move heaven and earth to make them better."
EC Underwhelmed by Imminent Google Deal
A week after European regulators signaled that Google and the European Commission were ready to settle a years-long antitrust investigation, reports have surfaced that no less than one-third of European Commission members oppose the pending deal.
The one-third disapproval would not be enough to halt the agreement. However, it is uncommon for such opposition to be voiced publicly when an agreement is on the horizon.
If things go as planned, the deal with the EC will enable Google -- which controls something like 90 percent of the European search market -- to avoid both a fine and admission of wrongdoing.
The definitive vote on the potential Google settlement, which would end the commission's three-year antitrust investigation, will be held in the coming months.
The EC has "a lot of concerns and questions," said Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier.
"We haven't finished our work on this subject," he added.
To that end, the internal discussion about Google's concession lasted four hours, according to a commission official.
Google's competitors also voiced dissatisfaction over the looming settlement. Competitors had been asked to weigh in on Google's previous attempts to appease antitrust concerns, but they reportedly will not be consulted on the current debate.
Nintendo Weighs In on Piracy
Nintendo named Brazil, China, Mexico and Spain as particularly problematic countries when it comes to protecting intellectual property.
Nintendo's prognosis was part of the U.S. Trade Representative's Special 301 Report, published annually in an effort to identify problems related to intellectual property.
The gaming company has had a rough time of late, prompting executives, including its CEO, to take paycuts as they plot their turnaround.
In addition to weak Wii U sales, Nintendo cited piracy as a major problem, saying in a letter that copyright infringement resulted in "huge losses" for the company.
Nintendo asserted that piracy-facilitating websites should be blocked, and Internet service providers held more accountable for their role in allowing piracy to take place.
[Source: Torrent Freak]
Germany Pessimistic About US Spying Agreement
A legally binding "no-spy" agreement between the U.S. and Germany is unlikely, according to the German government's new coordinator for trans-Atlantic relations, Philipp Missfelder.
Germany has been eager to strike a deal with the U.S. on spying since revelations that the U.S. snooped on Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone.
Missfelder's pessimism over a potential deal could be fueled by President Barack Obama's comments earlier this week, when he said that there was no country with which the U.S. had this type of hand-off agreement.
[Source: The Associated Press]