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Google greases the gears of government with $5.16M on lobbyists

According to the Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, Google spent $5.16 million on lobbyists in 2010 – a 28 percent increase since 2009. Rightly so: Google has had its hands full this year attempting to influence the right authorities. Between its privacy battles and online tracking battles and the net neutrality ruling that has Internet companies on edge, it’s been an important year for Google to get its foot in the door with policy makers.

The drastic increase is also due in part to Google’s expansion. The Internet titan first hired lobbyists in 2006, when it was little more than a search engine. Now, its repertoire has grown to include mobile phones, VoIP, a smartphone OS, Places…the list of Google products is never ending. And the margin spent on lobbying government officials reflects this growth. Its number of acquisitions has notably skyrocketed as well, which didn’t go unnoticed by the Department of Justice (Google’s purchase of ITA Software has yet to be approved by the government). The higher its aspirations, the more it has to shell out to protect them.

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Just to give you a comparison, Google spent more than Apple (which shelled out $1.61 million) but less than Microsoft. Microsoft spent a monstrous $6.91 million on lobbyists – and it shows: The company brought in nearly 50 percent more revenue than Google in the fourth quarter.

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What to expect at Mobile World Congress 2015: Samsung Galaxy S6, HTC One M9, and more
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CES is long gone and it's been a mighty cold winter ever since we left the desert. Now it's time to pack our bags and move to a sunnier locale -- Barcelona, Spain -- for the biggest mobile tech show in Europe.

Mobile World Congress officially opens its doors on March 2, but everything really kicks off on March 1, and we'll be there, reporting live from all the events. But before we leave for España, let's take a look at all the cool smartphones, wearables, and gadgets expected at MWC 2015.
Samsung: The Galaxy S6 and perhaps a surprise or two
Samsung truly left us hanging at CES. Not a phone nor tablet was in sight during its entire press conference. However, it seems the Korean company is determined to make it up to us at MWC 2015. We've been invited to a March 1 event, during which Samsung is widely expected to debut its new flagship phone, the Galaxy S6. At this point, reports contradict one another as to whether there will be one version of the much-rumored S6 or two.

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Rumor: Google is turning Quickoffice into a cloud-based Microsoft Office competitor

Google may not've talked about its plans for Quickoffice at Google I/O this year, but the company is looking to turn its acquisition into a full-fledged Microsoft Office Web Apps competitor, according to ReadWriteWeb.
Quickoffice started out as an app-based office suite best known for its compatibility with Microsoft Office's .DOCX file format, which is standard for files created with Office 2007 and later. With the app, users can basically open and edit any Word document or Powerpoint presentation on the go.
That's what drew Google to acquire Quickoffice last June, with Google's Engineering Director Alan Warren writing in the company blog last year that Quickoffice's "seamless interoperability with popular file formats" is what it wants to bring to Google Apps. Currently, Quickoffice is available to business subscribers of Google Apps, which provides cloud-based office software like Google Docs and Sheets, as well as 30GB of cloud storage on Google Drive. But it seems Google is not content to let Quickoffice be just a sidekick to Google's suite of office tools.
ReadWriteWeb's sources are saying the Mountain View company has been "internally testing, or 'dogfooding' QuickOffice" to run as a cloud-based office suite in Chrome. It believes "QuickOffice will become the foundation of Google Apps."
While Google Apps like Sheets and Docs are already popular with users, they are not compatible with the .DOCX file format that is baked into Quickoffice. By making Google Apps more compatible with Office standards, these tipsters seem "confident" that Microsoft won't be able to "block Quickoffice with licensing issues of other legal threats." Microsoft's own lawyers would probably disagree, but that's a whole other story.
According to these tipsters, Google's target isn't really the traditional desktop-based Office, it's Office Web Apps. Microsoft has been pushing its own set of free and cloud-based office tools, Office Web Apps, which comes with free cloud storage accessible through, and works as the online companion to the traditional, desktop-based Office suite. That's why Office Web Apps actually poses a more direct threat to Google Apps and Drive than Office. 
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DOJ says Google can buy travel software maker ITA
ITA Software Logo

The U.S. Justice Department has granted its approval to Google's planned $700 million acquisition of travel software maker ITA. However, the approval comes with some conditions attached, including a provision that Google is required to license ITA software, continue development of ITA's next-generation "InstaSearch" service, and establish firewalls and in-house procedures to protect ITA users' proprietary information and prevent Google from mining it for competitive advantage.

"The acquisition, as originally proposed, would have substantially lessened competition among providers of comparative flight search Web sites in the United States," the Justice Department noted in its statement. As such, the DOJ has sued to block the acquisition. However, the agency's approval of the deal is in the form of a proposed settlement to that suit. If Google agrees to the terms and the court approves, Google can go ahead with the acquisition.

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