Amazon

Amazon’s Show Mode Dock makes the Echo Show mostly unnecessary

Google gave us a hardware blitzkrieg at CES. Among other things, the company announced a new smart display category, aimed at taking on the Echo Show through sheer, brute force. The new Show Mode Dock isn’t a direct response, but it’s a clever one. Two years ago, Amazon introduced Alexa for the Fire tablet line. Last year, the feature went hands-free. In June, all of those additions finally paid off with the addition of Show Mode for the Fire HD 8 and 10, along with the dock, which effectively turns the tablets into an Echo Show. It’s a perfect bit of stream-crossing synergy for the company. When I met with Amazon prior to release, I asked if the company was afraid of cannibalizing the Show. They seemed unconcerned. Not surprising, really. Hardware has always been secondary to its strategy...

Amazon’s EC2 gets faster processors, new high-memory instances

It’s a big day for Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing service today. Not only can you now run EC2 inside a Snowball Edge device, but the company also announced a bunch of new EC2 instance types in the cloud. Thanks to these new instance types, developers now have access to a new instance type (Z1d) with custom Xeon processors that can run at up to 4.0 GHz, as well as new memory-optimized instances (R5) that run at up to 3.1 GHz and that feature up to 50 percent more CPU power and 60 percent more memory than their predecessors. There are also some bare metal variants of these instances, as well as an R5d version that features local NVMe storage. As Amazon’s Jeff Barr notes in today’s announcement, these new instances types were made possible by AWS’s Nitro system, which allows the company to comb...

ACLU calls for a moratorium on government use of facial recognition technologies

Technology executives are pleading with the government to give them guidance on how to use facial recognition technologies, and now the American Civil Liberties Union is weighing in. On the heels of a Microsoft statement asking for the federal government to weigh in on the technology, the ACLU has called for a moratorium on the use of the technology by government agencies. “Congress should take immediate action to put the brakes on this technology with a moratorium on its use, given that it has not been fully debated and its use has never been explicitly authorized,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel, in a statement. “And companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and others should be heeding the calls from the public, employees, and shareholders to stop selling face surveillance t...

For the first time, Netflix tops HBO for most Emmy nominations

Netflix has broken HBO’s 17-year streak as the most nominated network at the Emmy Awards. In the nominations released this afternoon, Netflix came out slightly ahead, with 112 nominations compared to HBO’s 108. Those include Best Comedy nods for GLOW and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, as well as Best Drama nominations for The Crown and Stranger Things. Other Netflix shows got some love as well. Jordan Crook, my co-host on the Original Content podcast, will be glad to know that Jason Bateman was nominated for his work as both actor and director on Ozark. Meanwhile, Black Mirror‘s “USS Calister” episode was nominated for Best Television Movie. The other big streaming services had good news, too. Hulu received 27 nominations, with last year’s Best Drama winner The Handmaid’s Tale up for the big a...

Instacart hires its first chief communications officer, Dani Dudeck

Instacart, the grocery delivery platform valued at $4.2 billion, has today announced that it has hired its first Chief Communications Officer in Dani Dudeck. Dudeck has been in the communications world for the past 15 years, serving as VP of Global Communications at MySpace for four years and moving to Zynga as CCO in 2010. At Zynga, Dudeck oversaw corporate and consumer reputation of the brand before and after its IPO, helping the company through both tremendous periods of growth and a rapidly changing mobile gaming landscape. Dudeck joins Instacart at an equally interesting time for the company. Though Instacart is showing no signs of slowing down — the company recently raised $200 million in funding — the industry as a whole is seeing growing interest from incumbents and behem...

Apple’s Shortcuts will flip the switch on Siri’s potential

Matthew Cassinelli Contributor Matthew Cassinelli is a former member of the Workflow team and works as an independent writer and consultant. He previously worked as a data analyst for VaynerMedia. At WWDC, Apple pitched Shortcuts as a way to ”take advantage of the power of apps” and ”expose quick actions to Siri.” These will be suggested by the OS, can be given unique voice commands, and will even be customizable with a dedicated Shortcuts app. But since this new feature won’t let Siri interpret everything, many have been lamenting that Siri didn’t get much better — and is still lacking compared to Google Assistant or Amazon Echo. But to ignore Shortcuts would be missing out on the bigger picture. Apple’s strengths have always been the device ecosystem and the apps that run on them. With S...

AI spots legal problems with tech T&Cs in GDPR research project

Technology is the proverbial double-edged sword. And an experimental European research project is ensuring this axiom cuts very close to the industry’s bone indeed by applying machine learning technology to critically sift big tech’s privacy policies — to see whether AI can automatically identify violations of data protection law. The still-in-training privacy policy and contract parsing tool — which is called ‘Claudette‘: Aka (automated) clause detector — is being developed by researchers at the European University Institute in Florence. They’ve also now got support from European consumer organization BEUC — for a ‘Claudette meets GDPR‘ project — which specifically applies the tool to evaluate compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. Early results from this project hav...

Big tech companies are looking at Hollywood as the next stage in their play for the cloud

This week, both Microsoft and Google made moves to woo Hollywood to their cloud computing platforms in the latest act of the unfolding drama over who will win the multi-billion dollar business of the entertainment industry as it moves to the cloud. Google raised the curtain with a splashy announcement that they’d be setting up their fifth cloud region in the U.S. in Los Angeles. Keeping the focus squarely on tools for artists and designers the company talked up its tools like Zync Render, which Google acquired back in 2014, and Anvato, a video streaming and monetization platform it acquired in 2016. While Google just launched its LA hub, Microsoft has operated a cloud region in Southern California for a while, and started wooing Hollywood last year at the National Association of Broadcaste...

Hands on with the Echo Dots Kids Edition

Earlier this year, Amazon introduced an Echo Dot for kids, with its $80 Echo Dot Kids Edition device, which comes in your choice of a red, blue, or green protective case. The idea is to market a version of Amazon’s existing Dot hardware to families by bundling it with an existing subscription service, and by throwing in a few extra features – like having Alexa encourage kids to say “please” when making their demands, for example. The device makes sense in a couple of scenarios – for helicopter parents who want to fully lock down an Echo device before putting it in a kid’s room, and for those who were in the market for a FreeTime Unlimited subscription anyway. I’ve been testing out an Echo Dot Kids Edition, and ran into some challenges which I thought I’d share. This is not a hardware revie...

Amazon is turning Fire tablets into Echo Shows

Slowly but surely, Amazon’s been turning its Fire tablets into Echos. It started with push to talk Alexa function. Last year, the company added a hands-free mode for the voice assistant. Now, it’s adding Show Mode, which brings the same title card UI you get on the company’s screen-enabled smart speaker. Better still, Amazon’s introducing a Show Mode Charging Dock, a stand that effectively transforms the Fire into a makeshift Show. Place the tablet into a dock and it starts charging and automatically flips into Show mode, so you can do all of the standard Echo activities from across the room. The dock works with both the most recent Fire HD 8 and 10 (if I had to venture a guess, I’d say the 7 will probably be getting the functionality, as well). If you already have one of the devices, the ...

Amazon FreeTime Unlimited finally lands on Apple’s App Store

Five and half years after it launched, one of the more popular apps for kids’ reading and entertainment has finally arrived on the iOS. Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, the e-commerce giant’s subscription service for children 3-12 that gives unlimited access to 10,000 books, movies and TV shows starting at $2.99 for one user per month for Prime members, and going up to $9.99 per month for non-Prime members for a family plan of up to four users across tablets, phones, e-readers, and smart speakers, is now available on the App Store. Apple is promoting the new app at the moment on the home page of the App Store, where a reader saw it and flagged it to us. Prime members get a discount to $6.99 per month for the family plan, but you’d need to buy that via Amazon’s site, not iTunes. “We launch new pr...

After twenty years of Salesforce, what Marc Benioff got right and wrong about the cloud

Grant Miller Contributor As we enter the 20th year of Salesforce, there’s an interesting opportunity to reflect back on the change that Marc Benioff created with the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model for enterprise software with his launch of Salesforce.com. This model has been validated by the annual revenue stream of SaaS companies, which is fast approaching $100 billion by most estimates, and it will likely continue to transform many slower-moving industries for years to come. However, for the cornerstone market in IT — large enterprise-software deals — SaaS represents less than 25 percent of total revenue, according to most market estimates. This split is even evident in the most recent high profile “SaaS” acquisition of GitHub by Microsoft, with over 50 percent of GitHub’s revenue co...