Facebook Will Label State-Owned Media Links; Musk v Amazon; Docusign Gets COVID Boost; SaaS Firms Benefit From Shelter-In-Place

Facebook has announced it will label links that come from state-controlled media companies in an effort to make it clear where people are getting their news from. It’s because these news sources “combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state,” the social media company said Thursday. CNET.com reports It will also start labelling paid ads from media companies later this summer ahead of the 2020 election in November.
The labels will be applied globally, and they’ll appear in your news feed this week.

Elon Musk jumped to the defense of an author on Twitter on Thursday who was claiming that his book submission was “censored” by Amazon. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX tweeted, “Time to break up Amazon. Monopolies are wrong! According to geekwire.com there’s speculation that Musk’s desire to see Amazon broken up has more to do with competing with Amazon and Bezos. Amazon has invested heavily in Rivian, an electric vehicle maker which could produce 100,000 vans for the company’s delivery fleet. And SpaceX, has had at least three spats with Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture.

DocuSign’s e-signature and Agreement Cloud are among the first quarter winners as companies aim to go more digital and perform more work remotely. The company reported a first quarter net loss of 26 cents a share on revenue of $297 million, up 39% from a year ago. Zdnet.com says the firm’s Non-GAAP earnings for the quarter were 12 cents a share. Wall Street was expecting DocuSign to report first quarter non-GAAP earnings of 10 cents a share on revenue of $281.1 million. CEO Dan Springer said the COVID-19 pandemic spurred enterprises to accelerate digital transformation efforts and driving demand.

As the pandemic surged and companies moved from offices to working at home, they needed tools to ensure the continuity of their operations. Techcrunch.com notes that software as a service companies have always been focused on allowing work from anywhere there’s access to a computer and internet connection, so while the economy is reeling from COVID-19 fallout, modern software companies are thriving. The pandemic has forced companies that might have been thinking about moving to the cloud to find tools what will get them there much faster. SaaS companies like Zoom, Box, Slack, Okta and Salesforce have gotten a bump; cloud security companies like CrowdStrike have also benefited.


Next iPad Pros; Amazon Sued Over COVID-19; Zoom Encryption-Not For Free Calls; Fitbit Ventilator Gets Emergency Authorization

Apple is rumored to have new iPad Pro models in the works, but we might not get a look at them till next year. A leak posted on Twitter, spotted earlier Wednesday by MacRumors, says new iPad Pro models with 5G and mini-LED displays will launch in the first or second quarter of 2021. Previous rumors had suggested that Apple’s new iPad Pro models might be released later this year. Earlier this year, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the iPhone maker may be working on six mini-LED products for release in 2020 and 2021.

A group of three Amazon warehouse employees who work out of the company’s New York fulfillment centers have filed a lawsuit alleging the company put them and their families at risk of COVID-19 infection, according to a report from Bloomberg. The complaint accuses Amazon of fostering a work environment, through quotas and disciplinary action, led workers to avoid social distancing and other safety measures to continue hitting metrics and to keep up with surging demand. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Video calling company Zoom confirmed this week that it won’t enable end-to-end encryption for free calls in part because it wants to give law enforcement access to these calls if necessary. “We think this feature should be a part of our offering” for professional customers, said Zoom CEO Eric Yuan . “Free users — for sure we don’t want to give [them] that, because we also want to work together with the FBI, with local law enforcement, in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose.” Theverge.com says Yuan emphasized that encryption requires practical trade-offs as well, since people can’t do things like dial into an encrypted call with a phone.

Fitbit has secured an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA for its Fitbit Flow emergency ventilator. Techcrunch.com reports that the ventilator hardware is low-cost, and doesn’t require very much training or expertise to use, making it a good solution for deployment in scenarios where healthcare systems are overwhelmed by resource strain stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fitbit ventilator is based on the MIT E-Vent system, as well as specs provided by the UK government for ventilators to be used by hospitals in that country during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.


New Twitter Chairman; Amazon Summer Sale; Google Sued over ‘Non-Incognito’ Mode; Instacart Expands COVID-19 Sick Pay

Twitter has appointed CFO Patrick Pichette as their new Chairman of the Board. According to CNBC, Pichette has been on the board since 2017, and previously was CFO at Google from 2008 until 2015. He replaces another former Google exec, Omid Kordestani, as chairman at Twitter. He will remain on the board. In a statement, Pichette was quoted as saying “Given the strength and depth of Twitter’s management team and Board, we believe that now is the right time to evolve our governance structure in-line with best practices.”

Amazon might push back Prime Day this year, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to go without other sales in the meantime. Engadget.com says they have seen a document outlining plans for a “summer sale,” tentatively named “Biggest Sale in the Sky,” that would be used to “jump-start” sales for sellers hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fashion-oriented campaign would allegedly start June 22nd and last for seven to 10 days, with discounts of “at least” 30 percent for merchandise in the sale.

Google was sued on Tuesday in a proposed class action accusing the internet search company of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in a “private” mode. According to venturebeat.com, the lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion, accusing the Alphabet unit of surreptitiously collecting information about what people view online and where they browse, despite their using what Google calls Incognito mode. Google says in a statement it will defend itself vigorously against the claims.

Instacart will expand its COVID-19 sick pay to include more gig workers as part of an agreement with the attorney general for Washington, DC. Theverge.com reports that the company is also launching a telemedicine pilot in the DC area to remotely diagnose shoppers who believe they may have contracted the disease, and provide childcare assistance pay to eligible workers while schools are closed. In March, Instacart announced that employees who were quarantined or tested positive for COVID-19 would receive 14 days of sick pay, but getting that pay has proven difficult for shoppers.


Pixel Phones Gain Safety Check; Smartphone Sales; AI Detects Fake News

Google’s Pixel phones can now perform scheduled check-ins for your safety.
The Next Web reports with a new ‘safety check’ within the Pixel’s Personal Safety App you can ask your phone to check in to make sure you’re okay at a given time. You might use it walking home at night, are hiking alone, or are otherwise in a potentially risky situation. If you don’t respond to the safety check, your phone will alert your emergency contacts, and you also have the option to share your location or call 911 from the app or check in screen.

Globally, smartphone sales were down 20% in the first quarter, but iPhone Sales only Dropped an Estimated 8%. According to Gartner, Samsung’s sales were down 22.7 percent, and Huawei’s sales were down 27.3 percent. Xiaomi was the only smartphone manufacturer that saw a slight increase in sales, with the overall smartphone market down 20.2 percent….“The coronavirus pandemic caused the global smartphone market to experience its worst decline ever,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner.

AI tools could improve fake news detection by analyzing users’ interactions and comments, according to Venturebeat.com. Researchers affiliated with Microsoft and Arizona State University propose an approach to detecting fake news that leverages a technique called weak social supervision. They say that by enabling the training of fake news-detecting AI even in scenarios where labeled examples aren’t available, weak social supervision opens the door to exploring how aspects of user interactions indicate news might be misleading.


Waymo to Hit The Road Again; Apple Watch-No MicroLED Yet; BMW M5 EV Screamer; Zynga Buys Turkish Game Co

Previous rumors had the next iteration of the Apple Watch getting a Micro-LED screen, but it appears that will be delayed due to production issues caused by the pandemic. The Watch will continue to rock an OLED screen. Macrumors.com notes that Apple has been testing the Micro-LED screen since 2017. MicroLED screens can result in devices that are slimmer, brighter, and use less power. Still expected on the next Watch- faster performance, better water resistance, and improved wireless rates for faster Wi-Fi and cellular speeds.

Waymo’s self-driving mini-vans will be returning to Bay Area roads for the 1st time since early March when they shut down due to the coronavirus. Service will begin on June 8th, but not for passengers. According to theverge.com, they will be delivering packages for two Bay Area non-profits, Draw Together, which provides art kits to Bay Area kids, and Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Doing deliveries allows Google’s self-driving division to side-step restrictions that would otherwise keep them off the road. The vans are already rolling again in the Phoenix again.

BMW apparently has a 1006 hp, all electric M5 on deck for 2024. Electrek says the fully EV will be in addition to the plug in hybrid BMW has had since 2017. The range on this bad boy will be 435 miles, and it will have one front electric motor and two in the back. It will be capable of the faster 350Kw charging. A few weeks ago, people in the car industry were scratching their heads at BMW’s cancellation of their Vision M hybrid supercar. This full electric version is the likely reason.

Zynga is buying Turkish developer Peak for $1.8 billion in what is by far it’s biggest acquisition ever. Businessinsider.com reports that the company has had two titles…’Toon Blast’ and ’Toy Blast’, that have consistently ranked in the top 10 to 20 games on Apple’s App Store the last couple years. The deal is $900 million in cash, and $900 million in Zynga stock. They expect to close on the deal in the third quarter. Zynga says the acquisition should boost its margins and round out its games offerings. With the shelter-in-place from the coronavirus, Zynga had it’s best ever 1st quarter earnings with revenue up 52% year over year.


After Fact Check, Trump Threatens Twitter Regulations; Instagram Will Share Revenue With Creators; Facebook Buried Evidence of Algorithms Encouraging Polarization; Tesla Cuts EV Prices

After Twitter…at LONG last….mildly reined in Donald Trump, the Tweeter in Chief went crazy, as could have been predicted by a 3 year old. According to techcrunch.com, Trump started Tweeting threats to regulate the platform or even shut it down. “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices,” he tweeted. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016.” After railing against Twitter, Trump again went into his recent mantra about how bad mail-in ballots are, calling them “free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft.”

In a first for the platform, Instagram will begin sharing revenue with creators through ads in IGTV and badges that viewers can purchase on Instagram Live. Theverge.com reports that next week, ads will begin showing up in IGTV for about 200 approved English-speaking creator partners. Instagram will share a 55% cut with creators…the same percentage as what creators get on Facebook Watch. They plan to open up the cash payout to creators around the world as they expand the program. The ads will run about 13 seconds.

Some internal research showed that Facebook’s algorithms encouraged polarization, and apparently CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other brass killed the idea of fixing the problem. Businessinsider.com, quoting the Wall St. Journal, noted that the report concluded “Our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.” Zuckerberg and policy head Joel Kaplan repeatedly nixed fixing the problem either because they feared appearing biased against conservatives or simply lost interest in solving the problem. Multiple reports date back to 2016! Facebook teams pitched multiple fixes, including: limiting the spread of information from groups’ most hyperactive and hyperpartisan users; suggesting a wider variety of groups than users might normally encounter; and creating subgroups for heated debates to prevent them from derailing entire groups. However, these proposals were often nixed entirely or significantly diluted by Zuckerberg and policy chief Joel Kaplan.

Tesla has…without fanfare… whacked prices of its electric cars in the USD by thousands. Engadget.com says Model S and Model X have been given a $5000 haircut. The Model S Long Range Plus EV was $79990, and is now $74,990. The Model X SSUV is now $79,990, also 5 grand lighter than the prior price. The Model 3 has been trimmed by a lesser amount, $2000, while the new Model Y price is unchanged. Tesla will reportedly also cut prices in China by around 4%. Apparently making the money back on the back end, Tessa has eliminated free access to its Supercharger service for Model S and Model X SUVs.


T-Mobile Teams With Google on RCS Rollout; Amazon Kindle & Echo Team Working on COVID-19 Test; UK Dropping Huawei 5G Gear; Mercedes Launches EQV e-Van

SMS and MMS have had a long run, but now, T-Mobile and Google are partnering to roll out RCS messaging to every Android user on T-Mobile and Metro. 9to5google.com reports that T-Mobile has crowed about being first to bring RCS to the US, but it has been a very limited rollout up to now. RCS will work on Android across carriers and apps. T-Mobile says it will be baked into the system…Android users won’t have to download a new app. Right now, it’s not known if it will be a version of Google Messages, but we do know that it will feature end to end encryption.

Amazon has already been working on an internal COVID-19 testing lab since last month, using equipment from third-party manufacturers. Now, according to geekwire.com, they have enlisted their top-drawer Lab126 group to roll their own. This is the Amazon group that created the Kindles, Fire tablets, and Echo smart speakers. Lab126 is based in Silicon Valley, but Amazon is advertising for some positions in Hebron, KY, (near Cincinnati) where they have been hiring lab assistants, scientists and others for their COVID-19 testing program. This location is of note for being near a major Amazon Prime Air hub slated to open next year. Some analysts see this not as just Amazon gearing up to test its own massive workforce, but possibly moving into ‘a new business path’ over time.

The US has been haranguing the UK for months now to dump Huawei’s 5G equipment from their networks. Theverge.com says they finally caved. Members of the Conservative party there had already been pushing for the ban due to security concerns. Security agencies are concerned that firms closely linked to the Chinese government like Huawei and ZTE may have built back doors into the network infrastructure equipment that could ease spying efforts but the Chinese government. The UK will be purged of Huawei 5G gear by 2023.

Mercedes EQV electric van is now on sale in Europe. The high end e-van is around $78,352. Engadget.com reports that it can be set up to carry up to 8 passengers or configured to transport equipment or goods. The range? Glad you asked. It’s 260 miles on a charge. The base model…if you can call it that at nearly 80 grand tops out at 87 mph, but you can pay extra for 100 mph top speed. Besides quick charging, it uses regenerative braking to help keep the batteries up. Great for a well-heeled, larger family, but when it gets to the US, probably will be showing up as a shuttle or delivery ban. Pricey for those uses, but OTOH, a lot less to maintain, so over time, with savings on not buying fuel and upkeep, it could be competitive.