Instagram Will Overtake Twitter as News Source; EU Opens Antitrust Probes on Apple’s App Store & Apple Pay; Tesla Increases Range on Model S Long Range Plus; DocuSign Bumps United from Nasdaq 100Posted: June 16, 2020
Although it has become scary what is considered a ‘news source’ these days, the 2020 Reuters Institute Digital News report finds that the use of Instagram for news has doubled since 2018. Now, according to the BBC, Instagram is poised to overtake Twitter as a news source. (It should be pointed out that only 26% of people actually trust social media as a source of information about the likes of the coronavirus.) National governments and news organizations, on the other hand, were both considered trusted by 59% of respondents to the survey by the report. Still, almost aa quarter of 18-24 year olds in the UK have used Instagram as a source of news about the coronavirus. The Facebook-owned platform and its big brother Facebook now reach 85% of people weekly.
Ever vigilant, as the present US administration ruthlessly cuts regulation, the European Commission is opening two antitrust investigations into the App Store and Apple Pay practices. Theverge.com reports that the first investigation will look into whether Apple has broken EU competition rules with its App Store policies, after complaints by Spotify and Rakuten over Apple’s 30% cut on subscriptions. the 2nd investigation revolves around Apple Pay, and Apple’s limiting access to its NFC (Near Field Communications), which cuts out competing financial service providers that can’t offer NFC payments through their own apps. German lawmakers already voted several months ago to make Apple give access to iPhone and Apple Watch NFC chips.
We have previously reported that Tesla had cut prices, including on the model S. Now, Elon Musk says the range of the top Model S Long Range Plus is 400 miles. The actual EPA test came in at 392, but Tesla says a door was left open and key in the car, so the car went into waiting mode, and lost 2% of its range waiting. The EPA disputes this. Apparently, another test will be scheduled. CNBC says Tesla has boosted range by using lighter weight materials in the battery pack and drive units, and by using other lighter weight components. The company also announced a ‘hill hold’ or HOLD feature, which allows drivers to remain stopped on a hill without having to keep the brake pressed down. (NOTE: Studebaker had this feature in the 1950’s, so it’s not exactly a breakthrough, Elon.)
DocuSign jumped 7% yesterday, after the announcement that the company will join the Nasdaq 100, bumping United Airlines. According to geekwire.com, Nasdaq 100 has been described as “one of the world’s preeminent large-cap growth indexes.” Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Expedia, Starbucks, Adobe, Workday and Zoom Video Communications also are on the Nasdaq 100. The stock has more than doubled this year, with all the extra demand from the shelter in place. Last quarter, DocuSign revenue was $297 million, up 39% over the prior year.
Protests Boost Scanner & Secure Message Apps; Walmart Teams With Shopify; Tesla Model 3 Getting Standard Wireless Charging; Molds Indicate Next iPhones Have Flat Sides…Like Old iPhone 4Posted: June 15, 2020
As the protests have continued across the country, there has been a surge in downloads for scanner apps and secure messaging apps. According to to cnet.com, secure message app Signal had downloads jump 185%. Citizen and Neighbors were also up, with Citizen up 325%. Scanner apps like 5-0 Radio Police Scanner were up 311%. Police Scanner Radio and Fire was also up similarly. (If you are thinking about one of these, they do have a lot of ads in the free versions. You can get a paid, ad-free version.)
Walmart has teamed up with Shopify to open up their platform to Shopify’s over one million businesses. Techcrunch.com reports it should be a big boost in access to customers for businesses to appear on Walmart Marketplace, which has 120 million monthly visitors. Walmart is eyeing Amazon, with their over 300 million customers worldwide. Walmart describes growing Marketplace as a ‘strategic priority.’ The giant retailer saw its US e-commerce business grow by 74% last quarter, thanks to the pandemic.
The US version of Tesla’s Model 3 will now come standard with wireless charging at no extra charge. Engadget.com says if you already own one, you will be out $125 to add it. The new models will also come with standard USB-C ports. For that, if you already have a Model 3, you will have to resort to adapters from 3rd parties. The Model Y had already been equipped with both, as had the Chinese Model 3. Tesla is a little slow on the uptake on the charging pad…I’ve had one in my 2 year old Honda Hybrid. USB-C adapters aren’t quite a dime a dozen, but that’s a cheap fix- at least for charging devices.
Pics of molds have showed up on Twitter, along with CAD drawings, that show the iPhone 12 models with the predicted flat edges, like the old iPhone 4 & 5 had. 9to5mac.com notes that such molds, which are used by case makers to make cases that fit, may not be exactly like the finished phones. The molds don’t show a smaller notch on the front, nor added space on the back for the Time of Flight sensor. Most leaks show that sensor in the square camera bump on the existing phone, with the same number of cameras. The flat sides were revived earlier on the new iPad Pro, so Apple seems to be moving toward an integrated ‘corporate look’ to their mobile devices.
Amazon-Euro Anti-Trust Suits Coming; Amazon Suspending Cop Use of Rekognition; Apple Stock Sets Record; 5 States’ Online Voting Tech Flawed; Starbucks Closing 400 Stores- Going Pickup Only At MorePosted: June 11, 2020
European regulators are getting ready to file antitrust actions against Amazon for alleged use of using 3rd party seller data to compete with those retailers on its e-commerce platform. Geekwire.com reports that a Wall St. Journal investigation made public in April found that Amazon used seller data when considering new private label products. A formal statement of objections against Amazon could come from the European Commission next week or the week after.
In other Amazon news, the online giant has announced that it will suspend police use of its controversial facial-recognition tech, Rekognition, for a year. The company says it will still sell the tech to groups that help rescue victims of human trafficking. Businessinsider.com notes that Amazon Web Services has sold its facial-recognition software—Rekognition—to police departments across the country, but numerous studies have found bias in the software that disproportionately targets Black people and other people with darker skin.
The markets are back down today, but not before Apple stock hit a record. 9to5mac.com says the company surpassed a market cap of over $1.5 trillion, making it the first US company to do so. An analyst at Evercore ISI, Amit Daryanani, predicts that Apple could hit $2 trillion in market cap by or before 2024.
New research by a couple of computer scientists, Michael Specter of MIT and Alex Halderman from U of Michigan, find that Democracy Live’s OmniBallot election software has inadequate security protections, creating a serious risk to election integrity. According to arstechnica.com, the software is used by dozens of jurisdictions in the US. In addition to delivering ballots and helloing voters mark them, it includes an option for online voting. West Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey, have used the tech or are planning to in an upcoming election. Four local jurisdictions in Oregon and Washington state have used to online voting feature, too. Democracy Live defended its software in a statement. “The report did not find any technical vulnerabilities in OmniBallot.”
Starbucks will expedite the rollout of its new ‘Pickup’ store concept, powered by mobile ordering, and will close some 400 stores. Techcrunch.com reports that even before COVID-19, Starbucks hd found that over 80% of transactions at company owned stores were for ‘on-the-go’ orders. The pickup stores specifically cater to customers who order ahead and pay via the Starbucks mobile app. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Starbucks has accelerated its move to the new concept pickup stores.
Redesigned iMac Bow for WWDC; Amazon Plans Bi-Weekly COVID-19 Tests; Top Tesla Exec Bails; Twitter-Fact Check Labels on TweetsPosted: June 10, 2020
It appears that Apple may debut a new iMac with a new look at ‘virtual’ WWDC this month. According to 9to5mac.com, the new look will have slimmer bezels like the Apple Pro Display XDR, and will at long last go all SSD…finally losing spinning hard drives. Although internals have been regularly improved, the external design of iMac dates to 2012! With the move to SSD drives, the new iMac will also get the T2 co-processor chip for the first time. The iMac is expected to transition to all ARM processors and away from Intel by next year, as all the other Macs will.
Amazon is planning to test the bulk its workforce for COVD-19 every two weeks. CNBC.com reports that the company is setting up its own COVID-19 testing labs at its fulfillment centers. Warehouse workers that test positive will be referred to a third party (Grand Rounds) for telehealth consultations. The way it would work is that workers would swab themselves nasally…using a video for guidance…under the supervision of a clinical professional. Earlier, Amazon had said it would drop $4 billion into its COVID-19 response out of their expected 2nd quarter profit, and that they will spend a billion on testing this year. The testing is already being piloted on a smaller scale. Besides the nasal swabs, Amazon is also looking at other means of testing, like pulse oximeters.
Tesla has lost Robin Sen, VP of Business Development and one of the key people behind the company’s success in China. Electrek.co says Ren joined Tesla in 2015 when he took over worldwide sales. He is credited with securing the deal for the Shanghai plant. A week old rumor that Ren was gone has been confirmed on his LinkedIn profile. Tesla isn’t completely devastated by the loss, as Troy Jones remains in charge of sales for North America. Jones is a 10 year Tesla vet. Ken Morgan, who has been with the firm for the same amount of time, is still in place as VP of Sales Finance and Business Development.
Twitter is now putting fact-check labels on Tweets about 5G and COVID-19. Techcrunch.com reports that the labels are intended to tamp down some of the wild rumors about 5G radio waves being used to spread COVID-19. The 5G rumors seemed to have disappeared for a while, but are back like a vampire rising from the dead. Some labels even take a humorous tack:
Hopefully, Twitter’s proactive move will knock this truly bat crap crazy theory down before it gets really widespread. Previously, people in Britain were setting fire to 5G towers over the nutty rumor. It’s notable that COVID-19 spread there anyway…since a virus being spread by radio waves is totally ludicrous.
Google Maps Gets COVID-19 Updates; Apple Will Announce ARM Powered Macs; EV Batteries Last a Million Miles; Facebook Launches News Section in USPosted: June 9, 2020
Google Maps has unveiled some new features, including one that gives a heads up on how COVID-19 might affect your trip. CNET.com reports that section will show you travel restrictions and how crowded public transit might be. Transit alerts from local agencies are also included, for info like a service unavailable alert and whether or not masks are required. The alerts are now available in the US, UK, India, Mexico, France, Thailand, Spain, Netherlands, Columbia, Brazil, Argentia, Austria and Belgium. More countries will be added soon.
As previously rumored, Apple will announce that it is moving to ARM-based Macs at the virtual WWDC event coming up. According to macrumors.com, we will start to see the ARM powered Macs in 202, and they will have several features that will make them a step up from the present Intel chips. Among those are faster performance and lower power consumption. Apple is reportedly developing at least 3 Mac processors, with the first based on the A14 chip coming in the iPhone 12 models that will drop this fall. The first Mac processor will rock 12 cores…8 high performance ones and 4 energy-efficient ones. WWDC kicks off the week of June 22nd…and will be online only.
An issue that applies across all rechargeable batteries…they degrade over time and use. In addition to ‘range anxiety,’ this is something that hangs over the useable life of EV power systems. Now, engadget.com says Contemporary Amperex Technology Co, or CATL, has developed a cell that can last 1.24 million miles, or 16 years. Present day EV batteries generally have a useful life of about 200,000 miles, so this is a gigantic boost! CATL is already the world’s largest supplier of EV batteries, and so far they haven’t disclosed how they achieved this feat, but apparently Elon Musk flew to China to check it out. Musk will reportedly install the new cells in future Tesla Model 3 sedans built at the company’s Shanghai factory. Up to now, Tesla has relied on Panasonic and LG for its batteries. Zeng Yuqun, CEO of CATL, says the batteries only cost about 10% more than existing batteries.
Facebook has launched its dedicated news section to everyone in the US.Engadget.com reports that it’s just available as a bookmark, if you want it to show up as a tab. A local news section covers region-specific updates. A ‘Today In’ feature will be showing up soon with local events, and they are testing news video and breaking news alerts, too.
Yelp Tool for Black-Owned Businesses; Tools to Blur Protesters’ Faces; Facebook Kills 200 Hate-Linked Accounts; Apple Will Extend Monthly Payments Beyond iPhonesPosted: June 8, 2020
Yelp will launch a searchable attribute allowing businesses to identify as black-owned, making it easier for customers to find them. According to mashable.com, in the past week, Yelp saw a 25x increase in searches for black-owned business across a variety of industries as compared with a year ago. The attribute is opt-in, so the businesses themselves will have control over their decision to identify as black-owned. The Yelp Foundation will donate $500,000 to the Equal Justice Initiative and NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
A number of developers have been rushing to build out apps and tools to blur faces of protesters and strip metadata from photos, so facial recognition systems can’t identify people. Techcrunch.com reports that many protesters have feared retaliation for participants in marches and protests. Everest Pipkin has built a web app that strips metadata and lets users blur faces or mask them entirely. It runs entirely in a browser, and doesn’t upload or store data. The code has been open-sourced. https://everestpipkin.github.io/image-scrubber/
There are several other apps now up for the purpose. Hit this link to the article and there are embedded links within that will take you to them. https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/06/protesters-blur-faces-anonymize-photos/
Facebook has pulled around 200 accounts that were found to be tied to hate groups like the Proud Boys and American Guard. Both those entities had previously been banned from the platform. Engadget.com says this came shortly after Facebook cracked down on the so-called ‘boogaloo’ groups….racists and white supremacists….who were attempting to pose as ‘antifa’ members to gin up violence.
Apple is getting set to add iPads, Macs, and AirPods to iPhones, and allow customers to make monthly installments via the Apple Card. According to theverge.com, the plan will be 12 months, with 6 months interest free. Apple already has a 24-month, interest free plan for iPhones. As with the iPhone plan, you will get 3% cash back.
Facebook Will Label State-Owned Media Links; Musk v Amazon; Docusign Gets COVID Boost; SaaS Firms Benefit From Shelter-In-PlacePosted: June 5, 2020
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 AuthorizationPosted: June 4, 2020
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 PayPosted: June 3, 2020
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.
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.