Amazon Struggles to Adapt to Many Challenges of Pandemic

During the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon and its chief executive Jeff Bezos are weathering volatile times. Amazon is suffering shortages of goods, delays in shipping, an employee sick-out at Whole Foods Markets, and a walkout at a fulfillment center, which led to the firing of the strike leader. Amazon’s removal of counterfeit/price gouging products also means a shortage in face masks and sanitizers. At the same time, Amazon’s cloud-services company Amazon Web Services is booming, as home-bound customers stream content on Amazon Prime. Continue reading Amazon Struggles to Adapt to Many Challenges of Pandemic

Facebook Gives $100 Million in Local News Grants, Marketing

Although news media have seen a rise in digital subscriptions during the coronavirus, advertising has plummeted. Facebook has stepped in with the announcement it will provide $25 million in grants to local news outlets, as well as spend $75 million in marketing. Examples of outlets hard hit include BuzzFeed and American Media, which are cutting employees’ salaries, and alt-weeklies that have laid off as much as 75 percent of their employees. Facebook fact-checkers, meanwhile, are fighting coronavirus misinformation. Continue reading Facebook Gives $100 Million in Local News Grants, Marketing

Microsoft Unveils New 365 Personal/Family Plans This Month

Microsoft rolled out its new Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscriptions, to be available April 21. The plans, which will replace and enhance current Office 365 plans, are priced at $6.99 per month for Personal (one person) plans and $9.99 per month for Family (up to six people) plans. Both of the new plans include Office and access to a Microsoft Family Safety app and new features in Microsoft Teams for consumers, both of which will debut later this year. Other new features will continue to be unveiled over time. Continue reading Microsoft Unveils New 365 Personal/Family Plans This Month

Government, MIT Analyze Location Data For Spread of Virus

During the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. federal government, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local governments, is receiving analyses of people’s movements — based on location data from millions of mobile phones — in “certain areas of geographic interest.” The data, provided by the mobile advertising industry, is being used to understand how such movements may be impacting the spread of coronavirus. MIT researchers are also debuting a project to track COVID-19 patients via a phone app. Continue reading Government, MIT Analyze Location Data For Spread of Virus

Coronavirus Disruption Leads to Jump in Cloud Services Use

Amid the disruption of the coronavirus, cloud-computing services have become crucial in keeping people online and connected. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others also provide the foundational technology for e-commerce, workplace collaboration tools like Slack Technologies, streaming video services such as Netflix and streaming game services. In fact, cloud services are pushed to their limits in some areas. In Australia, Microsoft advised some customers that Azure cloud is running out of capacity in some regions. Continue reading Coronavirus Disruption Leads to Jump in Cloud Services Use

Even eSports Leagues Adapt to Online During the Pandemic

Video-game competitions are filling the void for many viewers who would ordinarily watch major professional sports. But even as traditional sports have had to go on hiatus, eSports leagues have also had to adapt and emphasize their “digital-first” nature. Every major eSports league, including the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), Call of Duty League (CDL), Overwatch League and ESL Pro League among others, have moved their competitions entirely online. Meanwhile, FOX Sports recently teamed with NASCAR for virtual racing and aired the celebrity Madden NFL Invitational tournament on Sunday. Continue reading Even eSports Leagues Adapt to Online During the Pandemic

Big Tech Responds to Coronavirus, Improving Its Public Image

With the advent of the coronavirus, companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google quickly responded, featuring links to “high-quality information” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). Big Tech has now donated thousands of N95 masks to healthcare providers and continues to highlight accurate news. Facebook committed $100 million in small business grants and Amazon put out the call for 100,000 new employees. Overall, Big Tech isn’t just doing good but doing well, with business holding steady. Continue reading Big Tech Responds to Coronavirus, Improving Its Public Image

Apple, Huawei Test Demand for New Phones in Tough Market

With the coronavirus in full force, Apple is one of many companies finding it challenging to predict consumer demand, even as it readies the release of its low-price iPhone model and 5G-enabled iPhones. Apple closed factories in China and its Silicon Valley headquarters as well as stores in Europe, impacting iPhone sales, which peaked in 2015. The new model was scheduled to debut this month but might be delayed; 5G phones are expected to unveil in September. Meanwhile, Huawei is also testing the demand for new flagship phones. Continue reading Apple, Huawei Test Demand for New Phones in Tough Market

Epic Games Becomes Game Publisher, Acquires Cubic Motion

Last week, Epic Games revealed its plans to fund, introduce and market new multi-platform video games, under the new Epic Games Publishing division. Epic Games stated that it will fund “up to 100 percent of all game development costs … studios will retain 100 percent control of their intellectual property … [and] once costs are recouped developers will earn at least 50 percent of profits.” Epic games also acquired Cubic Motion, which offers automated performance-driven facial animation technology. Continue reading Epic Games Becomes Game Publisher, Acquires Cubic Motion

In Europe, Some Film/TV Industries Tweak Release Windows

The film industries in Italy, France and Spain — European countries the hardest hit by the coronavirus — are enduring tough times, with the postponement of dozens of film releases. More worrisome is the future prospects of theaters in markets where indie distributors already contend with the dominance of U.S. content. In France, for example, Hollywood movies accounted for 59 percent of its 213 million theater admissions in 2019. One potential solution is to stream or air indie films on-demand. Continue reading In Europe, Some Film/TV Industries Tweak Release Windows

YouTube Streams Globally in Standard Definition for a Month

Due to increased Internet traffic during the coronavirus, YouTube will reduce the quality of its streaming videos to standard definition for a month. Viewers will, however, be able to choose to watch in high definition. In instituting lower resolution, the Google-owned company is extending the policy enacted in Europe, where regulators asked all streaming companies — including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — to do so. Sony, Microsoft and others are also working to minimize the impact of game downloads on bandwidth. Continue reading YouTube Streams Globally in Standard Definition for a Month

Apple App Store Rules Ban Cloud-Based Streaming Services

Apple has always had strict limits on apps that users can access on its devices. For gaming, that means its 1+ billion iPhone/iPad users have one option: Arcade, the subscription service Apple unveiled in September. The App Store guidelines also ban streaming from the cloud, which limits Arcade’s capabilities. Still, software developers need to be on Apple’s iOS if they want to reach a maximum number of users. According to Sensor Tower, the iOS App Store was responsible for 65 percent of all global app spending last year. Continue reading Apple App Store Rules Ban Cloud-Based Streaming Services

Advertising Sales Plummet Even as Social Media Usage Soars

Despite growing usage of social media platforms during the coronavirus pandemic, the platforms’ ad businesses are plummeting. Twitter, for example, saw its daily usage skyrocket 23 percent this year, but its revenue may have dropped as much as 20 percent in March. As businesses have slowed down or shuttered, marketers are decreasing or even stopping advertising, which is the core support of media companies. In difficult economic times, advertising spending on the media sector is often the first to be cut. Continue reading Advertising Sales Plummet Even as Social Media Usage Soars

Instagram Unveils Co-Watching Feature for Group Video Chat

Facebook’s Instagram recently debuted Co-Watching, a feature that makes it possible for users to video chat while they browse the app. With Co-Watching, users can engage in direct-message video-chat conversations to look at saved, liked and suggested photos and videos together. Co-Watching is just one example of ways that Facebook and Instagram are shifting to accommodate users and communities during the coronavirus pandemic, when many are confined to home. Instagram first began testing Co-Watching a year ago. Continue reading Instagram Unveils Co-Watching Feature for Group Video Chat

With NASCAR, Formula One, Racing Becomes Virtual eSport

With the absence of live sports on TV during restrictions due to the coronavirus, FOX Sports and NASCAR together came up with the idea of virtual races. On March 22, the first ever eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race was a huge hit, drawing 903,000 viewers on FS1, making it the highest-rated eSports TV program to date as well as the most-watched broadcast on FS1 since the cancelation of live sports events and broadcasting. As a result, FOX Sports plans to simulcast the remainder of the NASCAR iRacing series on FOX, FS1 and the FOX Sports app. Continue reading With NASCAR, Formula One, Racing Becomes Virtual eSport

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