Amazon blocks LGBT products in UAE, says it “must comply with local laws”

The United Arab Emirates flag blowing in the wind on a flagpole.

Enlarge / The United Arab Emirates flag. (credit: Getty Images | Tim de Waele )

Amazon has started blocking LGBT-related products and search results in the United Arab Emirates to comply with a government demand in the country, which bans homosexuality.

The new restrictions are spelled out in internal Amazon documents, according to The New York Times. “The Emirati government gave Amazon until Friday to comply under threat of penalties, the documents show. It was not clear what those penalties would be,” the NYT story said.

Amazon’s “Restricted Products team” removed individual product listings, “and a team that manages the company’s search abilities hid the results for more than 150 keywords,” the NYT wrote. Searches for terms such as “lgbtq,” “pride,” “closeted gay,” “transgender flag,” “queer brooch,” and “chest binder for lesbians” now turn up zero results in the UAE. Removed products include books such as My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi, Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.

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#amazon, #lgbt, #policy

Until demand drops, Amazon limiting Plan B purchases to 3 per week

Until demand drops, Amazon limiting Plan B purchases to 3 per week

Enlarge (credit: areeya_ann | iStock / Getty Images Plus)

With abortion access becoming more limited throughout the US, demand has spiked for emergency contraceptive pills that can help prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours after sex. This week, in an effort to maintain supply, Amazon joined retailers like CVS and Walmart by placing temporary limits on the number of “morning-after pills” that can be purchased.

CNBC reports that Amazon customers will be capped at a maximum purchase of three units each week of emergency contraceptive brands like Plan B, which is the most widely available option. However, if you shop around, you can find “varying quantity limits” for different brands. A generic option like My Choice can still be purchased in higher quantities, up to 30 units at once.

At CVS, temporary limits are no longer in place because demand dipped back down to normal levels. Walmart said that purchase limits can fluctuate with demand in its online stores, but the company has no policy to limit sales of emergency contraceptive pills.

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#amazon, #policy, #supreme-court

Amazon uses kid’s dead grandma in morbid demo of Alexa audio deepfake

amazon echo dot gen 4

Enlarge / The 4th-gen Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker. (credit: Amazon)

Amazon is figuring out how to make its Alexa voice assistant deepfake the voice of anyone, dead or alive, with just a short recording. The company demoed the feature at its re:Mars conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, using the emotional trauma of the ongoing pandemic and grief to sell interest.

Amazon’s re:Mars focuses on artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and other emerging technologies, with technical experts and industry leaders taking the stage. During the second-day keynote, Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist of Alexa AI at Amazon, showed off a feature being developed for Alexa.

In the demo, a child asks Alexa, “Can grandma finish reading me Wizard of Oz?” Alexa responds, “Okay,” in her typical effeminate, robotic voice. But next, the voice of the child’s grandma comes out of the speaker to read L. Frank Baum’s tale.

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#alexa, #amazon, #deepfakes, #tech

Amazon says its drones will deliver packages to backyards this year

Amazon's latest delivery drone design, the MK27-2.

Enlarge / Amazon’s latest delivery drone design, the MK27-2. (credit: Amazon)

Amazon is detailing plans to begin its drone delivery service, Amazon Prime Air. The company still has some regulatory obstacles to overcome but expects drones to be dropping packages into customers’ backyards in Lockeford, California, by the end of 2022.

In a blog post this week, Amazon said that after receiving approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Lockeford officials, it would launch its drone delivery service in Lockeford and build it based on customer feedback. Amazon said it’s already been working with the FAA and has acquired an air carrier certificate.

Amazon highlighted Lockeford’s connection to aviation, namely former resident and 1900s aviator Weldon B. Cooke. But it probably also helps that Lockeford is a rural town. It’s about 100 miles east of San Francisco, with an estimated population of about 3,500. Amazon also has some facilities in the city’s San Joaquin County.

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#amazon, #drones, #tech

Big Tech pulls out all the stops to halt “self-preferencing” antitrust bill

Big Tech pulls out all the stops to halt “self-preferencing” antitrust bill

Enlarge (credit: FT | Reuters | Unsplash)

Amazon and Alphabet are spearheading what is shaping up to be the most intense political campaign by corporate America in recent history as part of a last-ditch attempt to stop Congress from passing laws to curb their market power.

The companies are targeting a “self-preferencing” bill which would prevent large online platforms from using their dominance in one field to give other products an unfair advantage — for example, Alphabet using its Google search engine to promote its travel or shopping products.

If the bill goes through, it is likely to lend momentum to a wave of legislation aimed at strengthening America’s competition rules, in what could be the biggest update of the country’s antitrust rules in a generation.

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#amazon, #antitrust, #apple, #google, #meta, #policy, #tech

Online retailers are offering rare, endangered bugs

Image of a website that has a specific category for selling rare insects.

When a rare species is a product.

Alive or dead, rare or mundane, bugs are weirdly easy to find for sale online. However, in some cases, the insects or spiders sold through the various e-commerce sites, both niche and large-scale, may be of dubious provenance. Some may be bred and reared in sustainable programs. Others might be taken from wild populations that are at risk, according to new research out of Cornell University that was published last week.

“It’s not always clear… if they’re sustainable or not,” John Losey, a Cornell entomology professor and one of the paper’s authors, told Ars. “There are sites out there that are definitely not providing documentation that what they’re selling is being done sustainably.”

According to Losey, some websites will provide no documentation or proof showing that a rare pinned butterfly specimen or pet tarantula was collected in a way that doesn’t pose a risk for wild populations. Some of them could very well have been reared in a sustainable program, Losey said—there’s just no way to tell.

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#amazon, #bugs, #conservation, #e-commerce, #entomology, #etsy, #insects, #internet, #science

Amazon is hiring to build an “advanced” and “magical” AR/VR product

The "Sword of Damocles" head-mounted display, the original augmented reality headset, circa 1968.

Enlarge / The “Sword of Damocles” head-mounted display, the original augmented reality headset, circa 1968. (credit: Ivan Sutherland)

Amazon plans to join other tech giants like Apple, Google, and Meta in building its own mass-market augmented reality product, job listings discovered by Protocol suggest.

The numerous related jobs included roles in computer vision, product management, and more. They reportedly referenced “XR/AR devices” and “an advanced XR research concept.” Since Protocol ran its report on Monday, several of the job listings referenced have been taken down, and others have had specific language about products removed.

For example, Protocol wrote that the description for the role Sr. Technical Program Manager, New Products contained the phrase “you will develop an advanced XR research concept into a magical and useful new-to-world consumer product.” Now simply reads, “you will develop a magical and useful consumer product,” though it also says, “our team specializes in inventing new-to-world, category creating products using advanced sensing, display, and machine learning technologies.”

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#amazon, #ar, #augmented-reality, #tech, #xr

Amazon imposes 5% “fuel and inflation” fee on sellers who use Prime shipping

A large Amazon Prime delivery truck driving on a highway.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto)

Amazon said it will impose a 5 percent “fuel and inflation surcharge” on third-party sellers who ship through Amazon starting on April 28. The new fee for shipments in the US was detailed on Amazon Seller Central and applies to the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service in which sellers rely on Amazon to store products in its warehouses and ship them to customers.

The 5 percent charge will be applied to fulfillment fees on products shipped on April 28 or later, including products purchased before that date. Amazon also said that this “surcharge is subject to change.” Amazon reportedly told sellers that the “surcharge will apply to all product types.”

In a “notice sent to sellers Wednesday, the company said its costs had gone up since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic due to increases in hourly wages, the hiring of workers, and construction of more warehouses,” the Associated Press wrote.

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#amazon, #biz-it, #policy

Jeff Bezos and Amazon just hired everybody but SpaceX for Project Kuiper

A giant rocket is transported on its side to a launch pad.

Enlarge / Amazon is counting on the Vulcan rocket, a pathfinder for which is shown here, to deliver a large number of satellites into space. (credit: United Launch Alliance)

Amazon on Tuesday announced the largest commercial launch deal ever. The company said it has finalized agreements with three different rocket companies for a total of 83 launches. The rockets will deploy a majority of Amazon’s low-Earth-orbit constellation of broadband satellites.

With this deal, Amazon has acquired an extraordinary amount of medium- and heavy-lift launch capacity over the next five years, procuring launches from every major Western provider except for its direct satellite competitor, SpaceX. Aside from SpaceX, this purchase represents the vast majority of any “spare” launch capacity for larger rockets in the United States or Europe over the next half-decade.

Amazon announced launch agreements with the following companies as it seeks to build out its constellation of 3,236 satellites:

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#amazon, #launch, #project-kuiper, #science, #space

Antitrust bill in Senate would help rein in Big Tech platforms, DOJ says

Antitrust bill in Senate would help rein in Big Tech platforms, DOJ says

Enlarge (credit: James Leynse/Corbis)

The Department of Justice is throwing its weight behind an antitrust bill working its way through the Senate, with the department saying that it needs new tools to help police markets dominated by platforms such as Amazon, Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple, and Google.

“The Department views the rise of dominant platforms as presenting a threat to open markets and competition, with risks for consumers, businesses, innovation, resiliency, global competitiveness, and our democracy,” Peter Hyun, acting assistant attorney general, wrote in a letter to the Senate. “Discriminatory conduct by dominant platforms can sap the rewards from other innovators and entrepreneurs, reducing the incentives for entrepreneurship and innovation.” The letter was first obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, cosponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would limit Big Tech firms’ ability to “unfairly preference” their own products and services. For example, under the proposed bill, Amazon couldn’t boost search rankings of its private-label products, and Apple and Google couldn’t do the same for their apps in their app stores.

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#amazon, #antitrust, #apple, #department-of-justice, #facebook, #google, #platforms, #policy

How did a vast Amazon warehouse change life in a former mining town?

The Amazon Fulfilment Centre on November 24, 2021 in Rugeley, England.

Enlarge / The Amazon Fulfilment Centre on November 24, 2021 in Rugeley, England. (credit: Nathan Stirk | Getty Images)

Avril John was nine years old when she overheard a conversation in a train station that would stick in her memory. She and her family were on their way from Northumberland in the north of England to a small town in the Midlands called Rugeley, where a modern coal mine had just opened.

The year was 1960, and her father was one of many miners moving to the area for work. They were met at Birmingham station by a man from the National Coal Board. “I will always remember, for all I was only nine, how he said to my dad that [the mine] had just opened and it was guaranteed work for 100 years.”

Thirty years later, the mine closed. In 2011, the US online retailer Amazon opened a warehouse the size of nine football pitches right on top of it. When John, by then a 60-year-old, applied to work there, no one was making the kind of promises given to her father all those years ago: “At the Job Centre, it was stressed that it was till Christmas, possibly Easter, and maybe, maybe, a permanent job at the end of it. When I went to do my tests for the agency, it was stressed again: maybe.” None of her new colleagues should have been surprised when their jobs didn’t prove to be permanent, she says.

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#amazon, #features, #labor-relations, #policy, #uk

Amazon completes MGM merger, will add studio’s films and TV to Prime Video

Illustration of the MGM logo with a picture of Jeff Bezos instead of a lion, James Bond actor Daniel Craig, and a man wearing a jacket with an Amazon logo.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Steve Jurvetson)

Amazon announced on Thursday that it has completed its acquisition of MGM, saying the iconic maker of movies and TV shows is joining Prime Video and Amazon Studios. “The storied, nearly century-old studio—with more than 4,000 film titles, 17,000 TV episodes, 180 Academy Awards, and 100 Emmy Awards—will complement Prime Video and Amazon Studios’ work in delivering a diverse offering of entertainment choices to customers,” Amazon said.

The $8.45 billion deal was announced in May 2021. Amazon was able to complete it without a protracted fight because the Federal Trade Commission hasn’t challenged it in court, despite other conflicts between Amazon and the FTC.

“The move comes after Amazon certified to the Federal Trade Commission that it had provided all the information requested by antitrust investigators reviewing the deal,” The Wall Street Journal wrote today. “That step put the deal on a regulatory clock with the agency that has now expired, leaving the company free to move forward, a person familiar with the matter said.”

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#amazon, #mgm, #policy

Amazon lied about using seller data, lawmakers say, urging DOJ investigation

Amazon lied about using seller data, lawmakers say, urging DOJ investigation

(credit: Getty Images)

Amazon lied to Congress about its use of third-party seller data, the House Judiciary Committee said today. In a letter to the Department of Justice, the committee chairs asked prosecutors to investigate the company for criminal obstruction of Congress.

“Amazon lied through a senior executive’s sworn testimony that Amazon did not use any of the troves of data it had collected on its third-party sellers to compete with them,” the letter says (emphasis in the original).

The committee said that not only was Amazon’s sworn testimony knowingly false but that repeated attempts to get Amazon to correct the record or to provide evidence to substantiate its claims were either rebuffed or ignored.

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#amazon, #antitrust, #department-of-justice, #house-judiciary-committee, #policy

Companies selling fake reviews are “tarnishing” brand, Amazon says

Cropped human hand arranging 5 stars against purple background.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

After being pressed by the media and government organizations about paid reviews on its site, Amazon is taking its fight against compensated reviews to the courts. On Tuesday, the company filed lawsuits against AppSally and Rebatest, firms that Amazon claims sell “fake” positive Amazon reviews.

The claims: 5-star reviews for sale

Amazon’s two lawsuits in the King County Superior Court in Seattle against AppSally (PDF) and Rebatest (PDF) provide in-depth details of fake review packages purportedly offered by the companies, which have both been operating since at least 2018. Amazon believes AppSally and Rebatest are hurting customer trust by selling packages that let sellers pay for positive reviews of their products.

Amazon’s Community Guidelines say that “creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind, (including free or discounted products, refunds, or reimbursements)” and “offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content” is not allowed.

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#amazon, #policy, #tech

Amazon will increase the annual price of Prime in the US

A package with the name

Enlarge / An Amazon Prime-branded shipping box.

Amazon will increase the price of its catch-all Prime membership to $139 annually in the United States, up from the prior price of $119. For those who subscribe month-to-month, the monthly charge will rise from $12.99 to $14.99.

As far as new sign-ups go, the new price will go into effect very soon: February 18. The change will happen with the first renewal date after March 25 for existing members.

Amazon cited higher transportation costs and wages as well as expanded products and services within the membership as reasons.

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#amazon, #amazon-prime, #tech

Big Tech increases funding to US foreign policy think tanks

Big Tech increases funding to US foreign policy think tanks

Enlarge (credit: Financial Times)

The world’s largest technology companies are pouring money into the biggest foreign policy think tanks in the US, as they seek to advance the argument that stricter competition rules will benefit China.

Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple are behind an increase in funding to four of Washington’s most prestigious research groups: the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Center for a New American Security, Brookings, and the Hudson Institute.

Total donations from Big Tech companies to the four think tanks have risen from at least $625,000 in 2017-18 to at least $1.2 million in 2019-20, according to a Financial Times analysis of financial disclosures. These figures could be as high as $1.2 million in 2017-18 to $2.7 million in 2019-20.

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#alphabet, #amazon, #apple, #big-tech, #china, #facebook, #google, #lobbying, #meta, #policy

AG says he forced Amazon to shut down “unlawful price-fixing” program

Cardboard boxes made to resemble Amazon packages, but with the logo in the shape of a frown.

Enlarge / Cardboard boxes made to resemble Amazon packages during a protest outside the home of Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos in New York on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (credit: Getty Images / Bloomberg Collection)

Amazon must shut down the price-fixing program known as “Sold by Amazon” (SBA) under a legally binding resolution announced today by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Amazon had already suspended the program amid an investigation, but the settlement prevents the program from being restarted.

“The ‘Sold by Amazon’ program allowed the online retailer to agree on price with third-party sellers, rather than compete with them,” the announcement said. Ferguson alleged that Amazon violated antitrust laws by “unreasonably restrain[ing] competition in order to maximize its own profits off third-party sales” and that “this conduct constituted unlawful price-fixing.”

Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Amazon and the consent decree in King County Superior Court today.

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#amazon, #policy

Amazon ends widely mocked scheme that turned workers into Twitter “ambassadors”

A large Amazon logo seen on the outside of a warehouse building.

Enlarge / Amazon fulfillment center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (credit: Getty Images | 4kodiak)

Amazon has killed a program under which it paid warehouse employees to say nice things about the company on social media. “Amazon quietly shut down and removed all traces of the influence campaign at the end of last year, people with direct knowledge of the decision told the Financial Times,” FT reported today. FT noted that the social media program suffered from “poor reach and embarrassing backfires.”

Amazon began paying workers to tweet in 2018 in a widely mocked effort to counter negative perceptions about the company. As Business Insider reported in August 2018, “The company now has a small army of ‘FC Ambassadors’ saying nice things about the company online and engaging in dialogue with average Twitter users. The ambassadors are full-time employees, according to an Amazon spokesperson, and it is their job to share their experiences working at a fulfillment center.”

“FC” stands for fulfillment centers, and the “ambassadors” worked in the Amazon warehouses before being paid to tweet, and in at least some cases, they split duties between the warehouse and Twitter. “I get paid $15/hr whether I am answering tweets or out on the floor stowing. I do this 2 days a week and 2 days a week I stow,” one Amazon employee explained in 2019, as seen in a Bellingcat report that found 53 Amazon FC Ambassador accounts on Twitter.

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#amazon, #policy, #twitter

Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings TV series gets a name and a teaser video

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power teaser video.

Amazon has been hyping its Lord of the Rings TV series for a while now, but details have been scarce. That changed a bit this week, as Amazon finally announced the name of the series and released its first teaser video.

The name of the series is The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

The title is a mouthful (and maybe redundant), but it ties in with the time period in which the show is set. Amazon has previously said the series is set in the Second Age, the era preceding the events depicted in author J.R.R. Tolkien’s most famous books (The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy).

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#amazon, #amazon-prime, #amazon-prime-video, #fantasy, #gaming-culture, #j-r-r-tolkien, #streaming, #the-lord-of-the-rings, #the-lord-of-the-rings-the-rings-of-power, #tv

Amazon halts plan to ban Visa credit cards in UK

Amazon halts plan to ban Visa credit cards in UK

Enlarge (credit: Leon Neal | Getty Images)

Amazon has halted a plan to ban customers using UK-issued Visa credit cards from this week, as the companies work on a “potential solution” to a rancorous dispute that threatened to severely disrupt shoppers.

The world’s largest online retailer announced the proposed ban in November, citing the “high fees Visa charges for processing credit card transactions,” and advised customers to find new payment methods.

However, on Monday Amazon said that “the expected change regarding the use of Visa credit cards on Amazon.co.uk will no longer take place on January 19.” The group added that it was “working closely with Visa on a potential solution that will enable customers to continue using their Visa credit cards on Amazon.co.uk.”

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#amazon, #credit-cards, #fees, #policy, #visa

SpaceX abandons Starlink plan that Amazon objected to, but fight isn’t over

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk appears on a giant video screen while he discusses Starlink.

Enlarge / SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discusses Starlink at Mobile World Congress Barcelona on June 29, 2021 . (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

SpaceX has abandoned a Starlink plan that Amazon objected to during a high-profile battle at the Federal Communications Commission last year and wants to launch its second-generation broadband satellites starting in March. But the dispute isn’t over, as Amazon says that SpaceX’s latest filing “raises a number of issues that call for analysis and a potential response” and asked the FCC for a month-long delay before comments are due.

In August 2021, Amazon satellite-broadband subsidiary Kuiper Systems objected to Starlink proposing “two different configurations for the nearly 30,000 satellites of its Gen2 System, each of which arranges these satellites along very different orbital parameters.” Amazon said that proposing “two mutually exclusive configurations” violates an FCC rule and would force competitors to do double the work to evaluate the potential for interference.

SpaceX said it pitched two possible configurations in case its preferred setup doesn’t work out. The FCC rule doesn’t specifically prohibit SpaceX’s approach but says that an application will be rejected if it “is defective with respect to completeness of answers to questions, informational showings, internal inconsistencies, execution, or other matters of a formal character.”

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#amazon, #kuiper, #policy, #satellite, #spacex, #starlink

Amazon’s Fallout TV series is about to enter production

A screenshot from <em>Fallout 4</em>, the most recent main entry in the game franchise.

Enlarge / A screenshot from Fallout 4, the most recent main entry in the game franchise. (credit: Bethesda)

Amazon Prime Video’s adaptation of the Fallout franchise of video games is entering production this year, and its two lead writers have been named, according to reports in Deadline and Variety.

It was previously known that Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy (who worked together on HBO’s Westworld) would be executive producers, and Variety and Deadline both report that Nolan will direct the first episode of the show.

But Nolan and Joy will not be the primary creative leads on the series. Rather, Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner have been attached as showrunners.

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#amazon, #amazon-prime-video, #bethesda-game-studios, #bethesda-softworks, #fallout, #gaming-culture, #geneva-robertson-dworet, #graham-wagner, #jonathan-nolan, #lisa-joy

Amazon Echo Show 15 review: Alexa on the big screen

Amazon's Echo Show 15 is about the largest smart display you can find.

Enlarge / Amazon’s Echo Show 15 is about the largest smart display you can find. (credit: Scharon Harding)

When getting a display of any type, the first thing to consider is size. And unless the display will be moving around, chances are that the bigger it is, the better your experience will be. TV manufacturers have gone big, smartphones (to my chagrin) insist on doing so, and now it’s time for a newer category, smart displays, to step onto the big screen.

The Amazon Echo Show 15 isn’t just the biggest Echo package yet, it has the biggest screen you can easily find in a smart display of any brand. The 15.6-inch display is meant to be anchored and serve as a central organization hub for your household. Boasting Alexa-powered widgets like shared calendars, shopping lists, to-do lists, and the abilities to call household members and manage your other smart devices, there’s a lot of utility to take advantage of.

Navigating the Echo Show 15’s content sometimes feels clunky, and some features are hard to discover, despite Amazon’s efforts to stuff the UI with tips. Different family member profiles can be activated via facial recognition, but the transition isn’t always smooth. You’ll have to train your family to use the Echo Show 15 to make it really worthwhile. But if you’re going down the path of smart displays, the Echo Show 15 comes with a bigger screen and bigger possibilities than the competition.

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#amazon, #amazon-echo-show, #echo-show-15, #features, #gadgetology, #smart-home, #tech

Alexa suggests 10-year-old put a penny on partially exposed plug

Alexa suggests 10-year-old put a penny on partially exposed plug

Enlarge (credit: WichienTep | Getty Images)

A 10-year-old girl and her mother got a lesson about the utility of voice assistants after Amazon’s Alexa suggested the girl try the TikTok plug challenge. According to the girl’s mother, Kristin Livdahl, the dangerous suggestion came after her daughter asked Alexa for a challenge to do.

(credit: Twitter)

“We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shot on your foot, from a Phy Ed teacher on YouTube earlier,” Livdahl explained in her Twitter thread. “She just wanted another one.”

For the (blessedly) uninitiated, the plug challenge consists of partially plugging a phone charger into an electrical outlet and then dropping a penny onto the exposed prongs. Results can run the gamut from a small spark to a full-on electrical fire.

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#alexa, #amazon, #tech, #tiktok, #voice-assistant

AWS suffers third outage of the month

3D Amazon logo hangs from a convention center ceiling.

Enlarge (credit: Chesnot | Getty Images)

December has been a rough month for Amazon—at least for Amazon Web Services. The massively popular cloud computing platform suffered its third outage of the month Wednesday, affecting Slack, the Epic Games Store, and several other services. 

The AWS Service Health Dashboard shows the problem lies within a data center in northern Virginia and affects customers in the US-EAST-1 Availability Zone. The first outage was reported at 7:35 am EST. 

Slack users began seeing problems shortly after the outage, and the Epic Games Store noted that the AWS outage was causing problems “affecting logins, library, purchases, etc.”

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#amazon, #aws, #biz-it, #slack

OSHA probes Amazon warehouse where workers died with no tornado shelter

A first responder walks among the wreckage of a damaged Amazon warehouse on December 11, 2021, in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Enlarge / A first responder walks among the wreckage of a damaged Amazon warehouse on December 11, 2021, in Edwardsville, Illinois. (credit: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced yesterday that it is opening an investigation into the deaths of six workers at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois that was struck by a massive tornado, one of more than 40 that ripped through the region over the weekend.

Nearly half of the 1.1 million-square-foot building was demolished as winds as high as 150 mph (240 kph) tore through the structure. “The west-facing walls of the warehouse collapsed inward, which was followed by multiple structural failures as the tornado moved through the complex,” the National Weather Service said.

The first warnings came relatively early, at 8:06 pm and again at 8:16 pm, when the NWS issued tornado warnings. A “warning” means that a twister has been sighted or radar data suggests one will form. The NWS says that the tornado formed at 8:28 pm as an EF-0, the lowest on the scale, and quickly intensified to an EF-3 as it moved across Interstate 255. More than 20 minutes elapsed between the first warning and touchdown, over double the average lead time.

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#amazon, #osha, #policy, #tornadoes, #warehouses

Amazon fined €1.1 billion by Italy for antitrust abuse

Amazon fined €1.1 billion by Italy for antitrust abuse

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto | Amazon)

Amazon said it would appeal a €1.1 billion fine from Italy after antitrust investigators found the online shopping giant had given unfair preference to sellers who also ship their goods through Amazon’s logistics service.

Amazon had previously tried to halt the case in Italy on the grounds that it is facing a parallel investigation in Brussels covering the same ground. Its attempt was dismissed in November by the European General Court in Luxembourg.

On Thursday, Italy’s competition regulator said Amazon had been more lenient in applying performance criteria, which can lead in extreme cases to merchants being suspended, if sellers were also paying for Amazon to ship their parcels.

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#amazon, #antitrust, #eu, #european-commission, #italy, #monopoly, #policy

Labor board orders a do-over in Amazon warehouse union election

The Amazon logo on the side of a multistory window.

Enlarge / An Amazon warehouse in Germany on April 2, 2020. (credit: Patrick Pleul | picture alliance | Getty Images)

A regional official at the National Labor Relations Board has called for a new union election at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, fulfillment center following recommendations issued in August by a hearing officer. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which seeks to represent workers in the Bessemer warehouse, filed 23 objections disputing the fairness of the election shortly after votes were tallied back in April. 

No date has been set for the new election, and Amazon could still appeal the decision to the full National Labor Relations Board.

The decision to call a new election hinges primarily on a mailbox that Amazon installed in the warehouse’s parking lot to collect ballots. According to the NLRB’s report (PDF), the mailbox was installed without the approval of the NRLB, creating the impression that the box was being surveilled and that Amazon, not the NLRB, was conducting the election. Amazon also installed a tent over the mailbox with Amazon’s anti-union campaign messaging “printed on at least one side,” and the company conducted “mandatory small group meetings” where it provided anti-union campaign materials to employees.

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#amazon, #bessemer, #policy, #union

Amazon is nearing a deal to make a Mass Effect TV series

A galaxy

Enlarge / The galactic setting of Mass Effect, as seen in the teaser trailer for the next game in the series. (credit: EA)

Amazon is nearing a deal with Electronic Arts to develop a TV series for the Prime Video streaming service based on the beloved Mass Effect video game franchise.

The revelation can be found buried midway through a recent Deadline article about the performance of the recent Wheel of Time series premiere on Prime Video and Amazon’s overall programming strategy.

Specifically, the piece dives into Amazon’s focus on genres like fantasy to drive viewers and says that will be a focus for Prime Video moving forward. “You will see us continuing to invest in fantasy genre of all kinds, we have a genre-focused team on the ground in Studios who work tirelessly with our creative partners on those slates, and you can look forward to more,” Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke told Deadline.

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#amazon, #amazon-prime-video, #bioware, #ea, #gaming-culture, #mass-effect, #streaming, #tv

Amazon’s new Prime Video app for Mac enables local downloads on desktop

The Amazon Prime Video app for macOS.

Enlarge / The Amazon Prime Video app for macOS. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Amazon has released a Prime Video app that runs natively on the Mac. The app offers many of the same features as the mobile app but is available in the Mac App Store.

The app is free to download but requires an Amazon account to access content. That content includes both shows and movies that stream free with Amazon Prime Video, as well as purchases and rentals from Amazon’s entire catalog. In fact, there’s a prominently placed toggle button labeled “Free to me” in the top-right corner of the app. Checking this means that you’ll just see content that is free with Prime.

The app is broken up into home, store, find, downloads, and my stuff tabs.

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#amazon, #amazon-prime, #amazon-prime-video, #apple, #mac, #mac-app-store, #macos, #macos-big-sur, #macos-monterey, #streaming-video, #tech

California says Amazon must stop hiding COVID case counts from workers

A sign outside an Amazon warehouse displays arrows and instructs visitors and associates to go in one direction and trucks to go in another direction.

Enlarge / Amazon fulfillment center and warehouse in Sacramento on August 23, 2019. (credit: Getty Images | Sundry Photography)

California’s attorney general yesterday said that Amazon has been hiding COVID-19 case counts from warehouse workers throughout the pandemic and announced a settlement in which Amazon agreed to keep workers up to date on the number of infections in their workplaces.

Attorney General Rob Bonta alleged in a lawsuit that Amazon violated a COVID-19 notification law enacted by California in September 2020 and violated the state’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL). The proposed settlement that Amazon agreed to was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court and is still pending a judge’s approval.

The settlement “requir[es] Amazon to end harmful labor practices that concealed COVID-19 case numbers from workers and to provide key information on workplace protections in line with California’s ‘right-to-know’ law,” Bonta’s announcement yesterday said.

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#amazon, #covid-19, #policy

New World disables wealth transfers as item dupes ruin in-game economy

Artist's conception of <em>New World</em> players watching their in-game investments explode.

Enlarge / Artist’s conception of New World players watching their in-game investments explode. (credit: Amazon Games)

Amazon has shut down wealth transfers in New World for the second time in a month, hobbling the in-game economy in an attempt to limit the damage from yet another item duplication bug in the popular MMO.

Over the weekend, news started to filter through the New World community regarding a trophy duplication glitch, letting unscrupulous players create copies of the lucrative items at will. As word of the glitch spread, the price for those trophies began to crater in the in-game marketplace, ruining the investments of time, effort, and in-game money for many legit players.

On Monday, New World Community Manager Tosch notified the community that the developers were aware of the glitch. In response, Tosch said they were “disabling all forms of wealth transfer between players (i.e. sending currency, guild treasury, trading post, player to player trading) while we investigate. Any player that has engaged in the use of this exploit will be actioned against.”

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#amazon, #economy, #gaming-culture, #glitch, #new-world

Amazon liable for crash because software “micromanages” delivery drivers, victim says

An Amazon delivery truck drives down a street in Anaheim, California.

Enlarge / An Amazon delivery truck drives down a street in Anaheim, California. (credit: iStock)

Amazon is currently defending itself against a lawsuit that could determine whether it is liable for the actions of its contract delivery drivers.

In March, Ans Rana was going to see his sister’s new house with his father and brother, who was driving a Tesla Model S, when they came upon a disabled vehicle on Interstate 75 outside Atlanta. Rana’s brother slowed to a near stop, but the Amazon delivery van behind them apparently didn’t notice. The driver of the van was going nearly 14 miles per hour over the speed limit, Rana’s lawyers allege in a lawsuit. The van slammed into the rear of the Tesla with such force that it pushed the car into the left lanes of the interstate where it was struck by a Toyota Corolla before hitting the median barrier.

Rana suffered life-threatening injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, and had to be placed on a ventilator. His spinal cord was also damaged, and he hasn’t been able to regain the use of his legs or arms despite months of therapy and rehabilitation.

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#amazon, #amazon-flex, #amazon-logistics, #lawsuit, #policy

Amazon’s satellite launch schedule puts it nearly 4 years behind Starlink

Illustration of a rocket with an Amazon logo rising above the clouds.

Enlarge / Illustration of an ABL RS1 rocket that will carry Amazon broadband satellites. (credit: Amazon)

Amazon plans to launch its first prototype broadband satellites in Q4 2022, which would be nearly four years after SpaceX launched its first prototype Starlink satellites.

“This morning, we filed an experimental license application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch, deploy, and operate two prototype satellites for Project Kuiper,” Amazon said in a blog post. “These satellites—KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2—are an important step in the development process. They allow us to test the communications and networking technology that will be used in our final satellite design, and help us validate launch operations and mission management procedures that will be used when deploying our full constellation.”

Amazon said it will launch the satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket, as part of a multilaunch deal the companies announced today. Amazon’s prototype satellites will operate at an altitude of 590 km.

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#amazon, #biz-it, #kuiper

Verizon will use Amazon’s low Earth orbit satellites to extend 4G and 5G

A giant Verizon 5G logo in an expo hall.

Enlarge / A Verizon booth at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles in September 2018. (credit: Verizon)

Verizon has made a deal to use Amazon’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to add capacity to the Verizon cellular network and provide fixed-wireless Internet service in rural parts of the US. Verizon said it will use Amazon satellite connectivity for both consumers and large businesses.

There won’t be any immediate change to Verizon’s services because Amazon has said its Project Kuiper division won’t launch any satellites until at least 2023. The companies yesterday announced a “strategic collaboration” in which they “have begun to develop technical specifications and define preliminary commercial models for a range of connectivity services for US consumers and global enterprise customers operating in rural and remote locations around the world.”

Verizon already provides LTE home-Internet service in rural areas and 5G home-Internet service in urban areas. But availability is limited, and Verizon plans to use Amazon Kuiper to expand its fixed-wireless offerings.

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#amazon, #biz-it, #kuiper, #verizon

Amazon makes it easier to bring different types of silicon to Alexa devices

Amazon makes it easier to bring different types of silicon to Alexa devices

Enlarge (credit: Getty)

Alexa gets around. The voice assistant has been in all types of devices, not just Amazon’s Echo products. You can talk to Alexa in coffeemakers, take it on the road with you, spend the holidays together, and even make it feed your pet. But inside many of those products—at least ones made from 2019 and on—is the same core hardware and silicon. Through a software development kit (SDK) Amazon announced this week, companies can still use Amazon’s cloud services, Alexa apps, and skills, while having greater freedom over the hardware used to deliver those services.

In 2019, Amazon launched Alexa Connect Kit (ACK), which allowed tech brands to use ACK modules, or, as Amazon explains it, “an Amazon-managed system-on-module” integrated into the Alexa device. It runs firmware that enables communication between the product and ACK-managed services, which come courtesy of Amazon Web Services’ IoT services business.

Before this week’s announcement, hardware was either a Mediatek WM-BN-MT-52 chipset with an Arm Cortex-M4 processor and MT7697H SoC or an Espressif ESP32-PICO-V3-ZERO, which uses Espressif’s ESP32-V3 SoC. Either ensures that makers of third-party Alexa products don’t have to “write an Alexa skill, manage a cloud service, or develop complex network and security firmware” for the voice assistant to work.

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#amazon, #amazon-alexa, #smart-assistant, #smart-home, #tech

Cardboard shortages deal another blow to strained supply chains

Cardboard shortages deal another blow to strained supply chains

Enlarge

First it was toilet paper. Then it was processors and other silicon. Now it’s cardboard. (And there’s a whole lot of other stuff in between.)

The latest kink in the planet’s ever-gnarled supply chain is one that is sending retailers, shippers, and consumers all scrambling. Cardboard supplies are unreliable, as are those for other packing materials like paper and plastic. And what is available costs more, with loads of companies passing the increased expenses to customers.

Many of the cardboard-producing paper mills around the world shut down at different points during the COVID-19 pandemic. While plants have come back online, they’re still scrambling to fill a backlog of orders.

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#amazon, #cardboard, #packing-materials, #policy, #shipping, #supply-chains, #tech

Amazon wins record US tax breaks to expand delivery network

Amazon wins record US tax breaks to expand delivery network

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto | Amazon)

Amazon has won a record amount of tax breaks this year as local officials try to lure the online shopping giant to expand its one-day or same-day delivery networks in their areas.

According to data from Good Jobs First, an economic development watchdog based in Washington, DC, Amazon has so far secured about $650 million in sweeteners from local and state governments in 2021, a mixture of grants, tax exemptions, and other incentives. This was likely to be a conservative estimate, the group said, because of the secrecy around some of the deals.

With three months still to go, 2021 already has the largest yearly tally since Good Jobs First began collecting the data in 2000, excluding incentives for non-logistics projects, such as filmmaking and office development, and the more than $750 million package Amazon was awarded in 2019 to build its “second” headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

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#amazon, #corporate-taxes, #monopoly, #policy, #subsidies, #tax-subsidies, #us

Amazon gives Alexa some more patience

It may be common for your kids, partner, and coworkers to tune you out, but shouldn’t your virtual assistant be different? Amazon Alexa will now practice a bit more patience with users, thanks to a Tuesday update that makes the service wait longer for a person to finish speaking commands before it stops listening.

As reported by Forbes, the feature is optional. It could certainly come in handy for those who speak slowly or just need more time to process their thoughts. But it’s really intended as an accessibility feature that makes it easier for people with speech impairments to use Amazon’s virtual assistant. Amazon added the new behavior after some customers told the company that “they just need a bit more time before Alexa responds to their requests,” Shehzad Mevawalla, head of Alexa Speech Recognition at Amazon, told Forbes.

Giving people more time to speak with Alexa could make the product more appealing to millions. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that more than 3 million Americans stutter, and almost 7% of Americans have a language impairment of some sort, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

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#accessibility, #amazon, #amazon-alexa, #tech, #uncategorized

Report: Amazon-designed fridge will use the same tech as Amazon Go stores

A sensor from inside one of the refrigerators in Amazon's stores. The home fridge would use similar technology.

Enlarge / A sensor from inside one of the refrigerators in Amazon’s stores. The home fridge would use similar technology. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

According to sources cited by Insider, Amazon is working on a smart fridge that will track the food you’re storing and help you quickly order replacements when supplies run low. The fridge would use some of the same technology seen in Amazon Go stores.

Codenamed Project Pulse, the refrigerator is being built by the same team as Amazon Go, with additional assistance from members of the Amazon Lab126 and Amazon Fresh teams. Amazon has reportedly been working on the product for two years and has spent $50 million per year on its development.

The appliance will include multiple cameras and use computer vision technology to track what is stored inside it. The basic tech is the same as that seen in Amazon Go’s “Just Walk Out” feature, which allows customers to simply pluck items off physical store shelves and walk out the door, confident that their Amazon accounts will be charged appropriately.

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#amazon, #tech

The 12 best deals from Amazon’s early Black Friday event

The 12 best deals from Amazon’s early Black Friday event

Enlarge

Amazon has created another mini tentpole event to get ahead of the holiday rush. This time, the company may be more justified than usual, as retailers and shippers across the country are warning of COVID-related shipping delays for the holiday season.

This isn’t a massive event like Amazon Prime Day, but there are still a few good deals. Some offers will change daily, but savings are live now for core items like Amazon devices, data storage accessories, and Apple and Beats headphones.

You can also snag $100 off one of our favorite home office items, Flexispot’s V9 Desk Bike, or go the more traditional route with a solid standing desk for just $220. Last on our list is the TRX Go Suspension Trainer, a versatile piece of exercise equipment for any home gym. It’s a great piece, whether you’re a beginner starting with mostly bodyweight exercises or an advanced trainer wanting to level-up your workouts with more dynamic activity.

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#amazon, #best-tech-deals, #black-friday-deals, #dealmaster, #staff, #tech

Settlement forces Amazon to tell workers they can’t be fired for organizing

Rally of tech workers holding signs that say,

Enlarge / Tech workers show support for Maren Costa (left) and Emily Cunningham (right) on Sept 16, 2021. (credit: Amazon Employees for Climate Justice)

Amazon has agreed to a settlement with two employees who alleged that they were illegally fired for speaking out about warehouse working conditions during the pandemic.

“Amazon will be required to pay us our lost wages and post a notice to all of its tech and warehouse workers nationwide that Amazon can’t fire workers for organizing and exercising their rights,” the fired workers, Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, said in a statement yesterday. “It’s also not lost on us that we are two women who were targeted for firing. Inequality, racism, and sexism are at the heart of both the climate crisis and the pandemic.”

Costa and Cunningham were tech workers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters and were fired in April 2020. “Both were active in an internal employee group advocating for climate issues and had circulated a petition inside the company calling on Amazon to expand benefits and pay for employees in warehouses,” we noted in an article at the time.

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#amazon, #nlrb, #policy

Amazon Halo View tracks your health on an OLED screen

Amazon continued its reach into health and fitness hardware today by announcing a health tracker coming out this winter. With a color display, the Halo View can compete with competitors like Fitbit by displaying real-time health metrics, including heart rate and blood oxygen levels.

The Halo View is Amazon’s second Halo-branded fitness tracker. The Halo Band announced in 2020 offers similar features but doesn’t have a screen. The Halo View stands out with a display made with AMOLED, a type of OLED known for even higher contrast and more flexibility. This display can show your sleep scores, track your workouts, and alert you with haptic feedback if you have a text or if you’ve gone too long since without moving around.

Amazon Halo Band in silver.

Amazon Halo Band in silver. (credit: Amazon)

The device works with the help of sensors, namely a skin-temperature sensor, accelerometer, and optical sensor for monitoring your heart rate and blood oxygen.

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#amazon, #amazon-halo, #health-tracking, #tech

Amazon’s Astro robot is straight out of The Jetsons

Amazon is rolling out (literally) a robot that can help monitor your home. Powered by Amazon Alexa and a bunch of artificial intelligence (AI) technology while patrolling about on a set of wheels, the Astro robot can handle numerous tasks, from providing a view of inside the home when you’re out to delivering a message to Mom.

The robot carries the same name as the dog from The Jetsons, but its simple face, rolling mechanism and, of course, advanced tech, make it much more similar to Rosey. Amazon’s Astro relies on AI, sensors, computer vision, and voice and edge computing to perform various workloads.

For example, Astro can roll around your home and give you a live view of what it sees. That means you can check on your pet, look out for intruders, or make sure you turned the oven off. Astro is mobile thanks to a technology Amazon has dubbed Intelligent Motion. It uses simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM) to ensure Astro makes its way around without crashing into stuff—even if someone forgot something on the floor that wasn’t there before.

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#amazon, #robot, #tech

Amazon Echo Show 15 arrives with new Neural Edge processor

At its invite-only hardware event today, Amazon revealed the new Echo Show 15 smart display, powered by the company’s next-generation “AI processor,” the AZ2 Neural Edge.

The upcoming Echo Show carries a 15.6-inch screen with 1920×1080 resolution. Inside lives the AZ2 Neural Edge CPU, which uses four cores and, according to Amazon, 22 times as many TOPS (trillions of operations per second) than the last-gen chip. The biggest difference between the AZ2 and AZ1 is the former’s ability to process machine-learning-based speech models “significantly faster,” according to Amazon’s announcement. Computer vision (CV) algorithms can be handled on the device rather than in the cloud, allowing the Echo Show 15 to handle features like visual ID and voice processing with comparatively less latency. And like the AZ1, the AZ2 can handle speech recognition and CV workloads simultaneously.

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#amazon, #amazon-echo-show, #artificial-intellignece, #tech

Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite returns with a bigger screen, USB-C and wireless charging

We’ve entered the throes of hardware season, with big events from all of the industry’s big names. Amazon has already announced a number of new Fire TVs, with plans for a big (likely Echo-focused) event a week from today. In the meantime, the retail giant just dropped a sizable surprise on our heads in the form of a brand new Kindle Paperwhite.

I say “surprise” primarily because the whole of the Kindle hardware division has been quiet for a while now. When the Paperwhite got its last major upgrade in 2018, we noted, “The Voyage may be dead, but the Kindle line still has some life left in it.” Because, let’s face it, the whole of the devoted e-reader market isn’t exactly bustling. Sure Kobo is still hanging around the edges, but Amazon more or less sits alone as a monolith these days.

Image Credits: Amazon

There were some rumblings, however, including a UI update for the line and a smattering of leaks, precipitating today’s news. And sure enough, here’s a new Paperwhite, representing the biggest update to the mid-tier Kindle in recent memory.

The star of the show is a long-awaited increase to the display — up from six to 6.8 inches, while maintaining the 330 PPI pixel density. That’s edging into the seven-inch 300 PPI Kindle Oasis territory. Like the Oasis, the bezels are flush with the device and they’ve been shaved down 12% from the previous generation (to 10.2mm) to help maintain the device’s footprint.

Image Credits: Amazon

Honestly, though, the most exciting addition here is USB-C charging. I realize that sounds a bit silly, but the Kindle line has been the last vestige of microUSB — it’s one of the few reasons I keep those cables around anymore. I fully expected the pricier Oasis to be the first device to adopt the new (well, newer) connector, but, then, that would require Amazon to release a new Oasis.

Charging is faster, requiring 2.5 hours to go from zero to full. The battery itself has also been improved, up to 10 weeks on a charge from six — but what’s a month between friends, right? The other surprise on the battery side of things is the arrival of wireless charging. That’s available with the new Paperwhite Signature Edition, which also bumps the base-level 8GB of storage up to 32GB. Amazon is also introducing a $30 charging dock, which is available separately — it should work with any standard Qi charging pad.

Image Credits: Amazon

Max brightness on the screen has been bumped up 10%, coupled with an auto-adjusting light based on ambient light. Like the Oasis, the light will adjust to a warmer color to save your eyes closer to bedtime. The processor has been improved since the last gen (no specifics there at the moment), promising 20% faster page turning. The device is made from with 60% post-consumer recycled plastics and 70% recycled magnesium.

The new Paperwhite runs $140 for standard and $190 for the Signature Edition. They come with four free months of Kindle Unlimited and are up for preorder today. Also up for preorder is the first-ever Kids edition of the device. The Kindle Paperwhite for Kids features a kid-friendly cover, a year of Amazon Kids+ and a two-year warranty. That runs $160.

#amazon, #e-reader, #hardware, #kindle, #kindle-paperwhite, #paperwhite

Netflix launches free plan in Kenya to boost growth

Netflix said on Monday it is launching a free mobile plan in Kenya as the global streaming giant looks to tap the East African nation that is home to over 20 million internet users.

The free plan, which will be rolled out to all users in Kenya in the coming weeks, won’t require them to provide any payment information during the sign-up, the company said. The new plan is available to any user aged 18 or above with an Android phone, the company said. It will also not include ads.

Netflix, available in over 190 countries, has experimented with a range of plans in recent years to lure customers in developing markets. For instance, it began testing a $3 mobile-only plan in India in 2018 — before expanding it to users in several other countries.

This is also not the first time Netflix is offering its service for free — or at little to no price. The company has previously supported free trials in many markets, offered a tiny portion of its original movies and shows to non-subscribers, and has run at least one campaign in India when the service was available at no charge over the course of a weekend.

But its latest offering in Kenya is still remarkable. The company told Reuters that it is making about one quarter of its movies and television shows catalog available to users in the free plan in the East African nation.

“If you’ve never watched Netflix before — and many people in Kenya haven’t — this is a great way to experience our service,” Cathy Conk, Director of Product Innovation at Netflix, wrote in a blog post.

“And if you like what you see, it’s easy to upgrade to one of our paid plans so you can enjoy our full catalog on your TV or laptop as well.”

The company didn’t disclose how long it plans to offer this free tier in Kenya — and whether it is considering expanding this offering to other markets.

On its past earnings calls, Netflix executives have insisted that they study each market and explore ways to make their service more compelling to all. The ability to sign up without a payment information lends credibility to such claims. Many individuals in developed countries don’t have a credit or debit card, which renders services requiring such payment instruments at the sign-up inaccessible to them.

The new push to win customers comes as the company, which is also planning to add mobile games to its offering, added only 1.5 million net paying subscribers in the quarter that ended in June this year, lower than what it had forecast. Netflix, which has amassed over 209 million subscribers, as well as Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services are increasingly trying to win customers outside of the U.S. to maintain faster growth rates.

Earlier this year, Amazon introduced a free and ad-supported video streaming service within its shopping app in India to tap more customers.

#africa, #amazon, #amazon-prime-video, #apps, #kenya, #media, #mobile, #netflix

Big tech companies snap up smaller rivals at record pace

An FTC study showed how big Silicon Valley companies bought startups to eliminate future competitors.

Enlarge / An FTC study showed how big Silicon Valley companies bought startups to eliminate future competitors. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

The world’s largest technology companies have snapped up smaller rivals at a record pace this year in a buying spree that comes as US politicians and regulators prepare to crack down on “under the radar” deals.

Data from Refinitiv analyzed by the Financial Times show that tech companies have spent at least $264 billion buying up potential rivals worth less than $1 billion since the start of 2021—double the previous record registered in 2000 during the dotcom boom.

The glut of acquisitions comes amid much tougher scrutiny from the White House, regulators and members of Congress, who have accused large technology companies—particularly Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft—of stifling competition and harming consumers.

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#amazon, #antitrust, #apple, #facebook, #ftc, #google, #microsoft, #policy, #us

Equity Monday: A global selloff to kick off Disrupt week

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here. I also tweet.

A few things this morning:

  • I shook up the show format a little, including how the script came together and how it was organized. Hit me up on Twitter if you have notes.
  • Disrupt is this week, so strap thyself in for the best tech event of the year, coming to your living room. The Equity team is hosting — between the group of us — a zillion panels and one of the two stages. Come hang out with us. It’s going to be on heck of a show.

It’s going to be a very busy few days. Pour some extra coffee, and get hype.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#amazon, #cars24, #china, #debt, #equity-monday, #equity-podcast, #evergrande, #fundings-exits, #india, #markets, #ovhcloud, #startups, #stocks