Amazon, Target, Walmart Ramp Up Their Delivery Services

Walmart launched Delivery Unlimited, which offers consumers a subscription grocery delivery service for $98 per year or $12.95 per month, with a 15-day trial period. Per-order fees run $9.95 or less. The new subscription service is priced competitively, with Shipt and Instacart charging $99 per year. Prime Now costs $119 per year, but touts all of the benefits of Amazon Prime, including fast shipping and streaming media content. Target, which bought Shipt, now offers shoppers same-day delivery and a first-time $9.99 per order fee.

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California Considers Law That Would Reclassify Gig Workers

The California Assembly introduced a law that would require Amazon Flex, Postmates, Uber and other similar companies to treat their gig economy contractors as employees, with the wages and benefits of that classification. The bill, which was approved 53 to 11, comes only a few weeks after Uber’s IPO was met with a brief strike by ride-hail drivers around the world protesting their low pay and contractor status. The bill now heads to the Democratic-controlled state senate where it is likely to be signed into law. Continue reading California Considers Law That Would Reclassify Gig Workers

NLRB Considers Uber Drivers Freelancers, Not Employees

In an opinion released May 14, the National Labor Relations Board concluded that Uber drivers should be classified as independent contractors, and not company employees. According to the NLRB, Uber drivers qualify as independent workers because they are given “significant entrepreneurial opportunity” and “virtually complete control of their cars, work schedules, and log-in locations, together with their freedom to work for competitors of Uber.” The opinion is a victory for Uber and a setback for drivers and labor advocates, since it makes it more challenging for drivers to file labor complaints, form a union, or seek federal protection. Continue reading NLRB Considers Uber Drivers Freelancers, Not Employees

At $30 Million/Month, Apple Is Major User of Amazon Cloud

In January 2018, Apple earmarked $10 billion to build its own U.S.-based data centers in the next five years. In a December update, the company added that $4.5 billion of that would be spent in 2019. For now, however, Apple is on track to spend $30+ million per month on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The companies may be rivals, but Apple has come to depend on AWS as a way to deliver competitive online services. That’s become crucial, as sales of iPhones have slowed and the company has turned to online services to pick up the slack. Continue reading At $30 Million/Month, Apple Is Major User of Amazon Cloud

Microsoft Rolls Out Additional Plans to Combat Patent Trolls

Microsoft revealed plans to expand its Azure IP Advantage patent troll defense program by offering its customers building Azure-compatible IoT services with access to a library of 10,000 patents that can help protect them from IP lawsuits, especially related to cloud computing. The tech giant also announced that it is contributing some 500 patents to the non-profit LOT Network, founded in 2014, which provides patents from a growing number of member companies and additional sources to help protect startups against patent trolls. Continue reading Microsoft Rolls Out Additional Plans to Combat Patent Trolls

Companies Bid On Their Own Brands For Google Search Ads

According to NetMarketShare, Google controls 81+ percent of the mobile search market, which is why many businesses believe buying ads on the platform is necessary to stay in business. Appearing on top of search results is critical for many companies, and buying ads is the best way to achieve that. The urgency heats up when it comes to branded keywords, whereby companies must bid on their own names or see their rivals capture the space. If Lyft, for example, doesn’t buy the ad, Uber likely will, and grab the top spot. Continue reading Companies Bid On Their Own Brands For Google Search Ads

VR Filmmakers Explore New Platforms at Sundance Festival

At the Sundance Film Festival, there was evidence that that some of the pioneering virtual reality companies are expanding — or shifting — their purview from VR movies into other genres. Sundance’s New Frontier program, which launched five years ago, highlighted VR filmmaking. At this year’s festival, long-time VR producers such as Felix & Paul are still engaging in virtual reality projects, but others are exploring augmented reality, connected devices and artificial intelligence in their interactive stories. Continue reading VR Filmmakers Explore New Platforms at Sundance Festival

CES Panel: Imagining, Building a New Autonomous Ecosystem

At a CES panel on “connecting the world,” independent consultant Matt Jones posed the question all involved parties are asking as we move to an autonomous ecosystem. “We need to solve problems for real users,” he said. “It could be providers or cities looking at those questions, of how we’ll deploy and service these vehicles.” He started by looking at the issues from the level of a city — Los Angeles in this case — as represented by Los Angeles Department of Transportation general manager Seleta Reynolds. Continue reading CES Panel: Imagining, Building a New Autonomous Ecosystem

We Were Passengers in a Las Vegas ‘Self-Driving’ Rideshare

Autonomous vehicles have been a part of tech culture for so long that it’s hard to realize that only a handful of people have actually ridden in one. So it was with great surprise that our very first Lyft ride out of our Las Vegas hotel on Sunday night was in a “self-driving” vehicle. Lyft partnered with Irish auto-parts-company-turned-autonomous-vehicle-startup Aptiv (formerly known as Delphi) to offer CES attendees and Vegas commuters the option to ride in one of their 30 “self-driving” BMW 5 Series. Continue reading We Were Passengers in a Las Vegas ‘Self-Driving’ Rideshare

Here’s What We Hope to See This Week at CES Related to AI

With the buzz way down, AI research more vibrant than ever, and more mainstream experimentation, there’s a lot to potentially look forward to at CES 2019 in the field of AI and machine learning. And already it all seems to converge on one very interesting trend: pragmatism. As AI exits the lab, and heads into the world, we’re expecting new and compelling applications. At CES this week, we’re hoping to see advances in areas such as autonomous vehicles, consumer robots, computer vision, smart assistants, and a more integrated Internet of Things. Continue reading Here’s What We Hope to See This Week at CES Related to AI

Internal Emails Reveal the Way Facebook Treated Companies

Based on 250 pages of internal Facebook emails and documents from 2012 to 2015 and released by a U.K. parliamentary committee, it’s been revealed that Facebook used its massive cache of data to favor some companies, such as Airbnb and Netflix with “special access,” and punish others by cutting them off. Further, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg were closely involved in decisions to “increase sharing back into Facebook” and other moves to primarily benefit the company. Continue reading Internal Emails Reveal the Way Facebook Treated Companies

U.S. Consumers Admit to Sharing Amazon, Netflix Accounts

According to a new study from Country Financial, a majority of U.S. consumers are sharing their login info for mobile, shopping and streaming accounts, but are not necessarily sharing the tab. The study found that overall, 74 percent of consumers say they share accounts for Airbnb, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, Spotify and Uber with their family members and friends (and, in some cases, even their exes). However, more than 36 percent of those who freely share their accounts also indicate that they do not share the monthly costs of those accounts with others. Continue reading U.S. Consumers Admit to Sharing Amazon, Netflix Accounts

Walmart Expands Offerings in Growing Rivalry With Amazon

To better compete with Amazon, Walmart is reinventing itself from a big box retailer into a tech powerhouse, starting with the 2016 purchase of Jet.com. Other recent deals in this vein include a partnership with Alphabet’s Waymo to provide rides to and from its stores; Uber, Lyft and Postmates deals for grocery delivery; and another with Japan’s Rakuten for Kobo e-readers. Last month, Walmart switched its cloud operations to Microsoft Azure and Office 365 and inked a five-year deal to work with Microsoft on AI projects. Continue reading Walmart Expands Offerings in Growing Rivalry With Amazon

Uber Wins Appeal, Regains its License to Operate in London

Uber won an appeal yesterday that will allow the company to operate in London for 15 months. A judge overturned a ban so that Uber will regain its taxi license, after agreeing to increased government oversight. Regulatory agency Transport for London withdrew the company’s license last fall and Uber has been unable to operate during the appeals process. Transport for London had accused Uber of showing a “lack of corporate responsibility” regarding “public safety and security.” The decision marks a victory for Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced Travis Kalanick last year. Continue reading Uber Wins Appeal, Regains its License to Operate in London

iPhone Users Spending More on Games, Streaming Services

Sensor Tower has found that iPhone users in the U.S. increased in-app purchase spending by 23 percent last year over 2016. Active users spent an average of $58 in 2017 using Apple’s in-app purchase or subscription options. The figures do not reflect e-commerce spending via sites like Amazon or payments for services such as Lyft or Uber. At roughly 62 percent of average spending, mobile gaming leads the charge in this sector. Subscription-based streaming services, and music, dating and lifestyle apps also contributed to the rise in spending. Continue reading iPhone Users Spending More on Games, Streaming Services

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