Some Prime Deliveries Delayed; Apple Virtual WWDC; Apple Cardholders-Skip March; Verily Coronavirus Website; Goodyear ‘Self-Regenerating’ Tire

Amazon says some Prime delivery service is getting hit with delays. Also, theverge.com reports the online giant is running out of stock on some household staples because of the coronavirus. Amazon hasn’t indicated if employees or contractors choosing not to go to work is part of the issue. I ordered a non-critical item over the weekend with a Tuesday promise, and now it will be here Wednesday. Not a big deal, but if you do order something critical to you, keep in mind that they are experiencing delays. Amazon has set up a relief fund to help support its contractors and gig workers. It amounts to up to two weeks of pay if the worker is diagnosed with the virus or put into quarantine. Amazon seeded the fund with an initial donation of $25 million.

Joining most other tech giants, Apple announced that this June’s WWDC will be presented as a completely online experience. No date was announced yet, but we expect them to bow the latest iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. According to 9to5mac.com, Apple will release complete details and the schedule, as well as the dates in coming weeks. Apple also kicked in a million to local San Jose organizations to help mitigate economic losses due to no physical WWDC.

If you have an Apple Card, and are not able to work due to the virus, Apple and Goldman Sachs are giving you the option to skip your March payment without interest charges. You do need to contact Apple Customer support and enroll in their Customer Assistance Program to qualify, though.

Although the president said last week that Google would be rolling out a website dealing with COVID-19, that isn’t exactly the case. 9to5google.com says there is no nationwide site as yet, but an Alphabet subsidiary called Verily has gone live with a site today that allows San Francisco Bay Area residents to take an online COVID-19 screener survey. People who “meet eligibility and requirements for testing will be directed to mobile testing sites based on capacity” and take a nasal swab test. It wasn’t clear this morning if the testing was to be handled directly over the Verily site or separately by the testing provider. Verily will expand the coverage as “more testing kits and sites become available,” though only California is currently referenced due to the state partnership.

Goodyear has revealed its reCharge Concept tires. According to businessinsider.com, they are self-regenerating and have artificial intelligence features, which allow tire treads to change according to the environment and climate. Goodyear says they have designed the tire with three main goals: personalization, sustainability, and hassle-free use. As the tire is still in the development stage, there’s no word on when it might actually hit the market.

I’m Clark Reid


Google- Work From Home; Amazon Web Services Cancels SF Conference; iOS 14 Launch Even if No WWDC; EU Presses for Right to Repair

Google parent Alphabet has expanded its recommendation about employees working from home. CNN reports that now, they want all North American employees who are ‘in a role that allows’ to do so until April 10th because of coronavirus. There hasn’t been a number released on how many workers this would affect, but Alphabet employs around 120,000 full time workers. Amazon. Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple had all asked employees who can to work from home in both the Seattle and San Francisco Bay Areas earlier, as had Google. Some 200+ colleges and universities have also told students to finish the term from home via online…with exceptions for lab classes, art, performing groups, and the like. Google has also set up a COVID-19 fund to help temp staff and vendors to work from home and be paid their normal hours if they can’t come in due to the infection.

Amazon Web Services has cancelled its Summit San Francisco conference, which was scheduled for the Moscone Center on April 14th. According to businessinsider.com, they will hold a digital event in its place. This is on the heals of a couple of attendees at the RSA cyber security conference testing positive for COVID-19 earlier.

No announcement as yet, but it looks like Apple will punt its World Wide Developers Conference, scheduled for June 3rd through the 7th in San Jose. Santa Clara County presently has a ban on any gatherings of over 1000 people, and that may be extended through June. Bgr.com says that even if the event is cancelled or somehow rescheduled, Apple will likely roll out iOS 14 and the next versions of macOS, tvOS, and WatchOS. It’s possible that Apple may do an online event as is being planned by a number of other tech companies in place of the large in-person gatherings. Apple normally announces WWDC in Mid March, and has been thought to be planning a March event to show off the new, smaller iPhone 9 or whatever it will be called. That is probably not going to happen now. There may be an online rollout of some devices, but they may hold off on the iPhone model until later.

A commission of the European Union has floated plans for new ‘right to repair’ rules that would cover phones, tablets, and laptops by 2021 According to theverge.com, the EU argues that the devices need to remain useful for a longer period before being recycled or ending up in landfills. The rules are part of a set of product initiatives keyed on sustainability, and covering textiles, plastics, packaging, and food, with an aim of helping the EU to be climate neutral by 2050. Less e-waste will be a part of that if the initiative is passed by the European Parliament and becomes law.


iOS 14 Leaks; Facebook Tests Cross-Posting to Instagram; Google Maps New Hidden Feature; EV News From Tesla & Ford

More on iOS 14, thanks to some code leaked to 9to5mac.com. Apparently, the new iPad Pro will have a 3 lens camera, as an earlier rumor touted. It will include a time of flight 3D sensor in addition to a wide angle lens, ultra wide lens, and telephoto. The time of flight sensor will enable a new augmented reality app, which is designed to give users more info about the world around them via AR. The iPhone 9 will use Touch ID, as previously thought. It was already believed that Apple was working on a new Apple TV box, but the iOS 14 leak also indicates a new remote which may not rely on Siri so much, and may be less expensive. The long rumored AirTag item trackers appear in the software update. A new wrinkle: the AirTags will be able to be set up in bulk through iOS and there will be a user replaceable battery was the Tile trackers have. Also— the top new iPhone models will be able to track AirTags via augmented reality, and the AirTags will be able to play a sound to help in locating them!

Facebook is testing out an option to cross-post Stories to Instagram, instead of just allowing importing Instagram items to Daddy Facebook. According to techcrunch.com, this could save both social media managers and average users time, while letting them maximize views of content they create. It may be that the apps will sync up the ‘already viewed’ status of cross posted material, so you don’t end up seeing a rerun over on the other platform of something already viewed. You have been able to cross post Instagram content since October 2017, so this is not unexpected…although some complain that it is just a continuation of the ‘Facebookization’ of Instagram. Look for the platform to continue to unify its Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram Direct chat features, too…all with end-to-end encryption….something governments, law enforcement, and spies have been harping about. Facebook may see it as a way to make it tougher for governments to try to break up Facebook.

Like many complex apps, Google Maps contains Easter eggs you may not be aware of. Bgr.com says a new one in Maps pulls together features from a couple other Google apps….Lens and Translate. Right now, it’s only on Android, but apparently the new feature integration will let you see the physical menu of a restaurant with Lens and flag popular dishes. Even cooler, if you are traveling overseas (ok, maybe after the coronavirus wave is under control or there’s a vaccine), Translate will do its thing so you will know what the dishes in other languages are.You can even train it to personalize restaurant recommendations to match with dishes you prefer.

On Monday, Tesla announced they had built their 1 millionth EV, a Model Y. Model Y shipments are expected this month, according to CNET.com. Some buyers have already gotten delivery confirmations. Over at Ford, there are now Mustang Mach-E reservations from all 50 states. No numbers were released, but Ford expects to build about 50,000 in the first full year of production and looks to sell out of them. Ford did release a map showing that Rapid Red is the most popular color, followed by Carbonized Gray and Infinite Blue. The majority of the EVs are optioned with all-wheel drive and extended range battery, which Ford estimates will give a range of about 270 miles. If you want one, it’s a $500 refundable deposit to reserve a Mach-E.


Amazon Selling Cashierless Tech To Others; Twitter Tags Manipulated Biden Vid + Dorsey Stays CEO; Apple Watch 6 May Get Blood Oxygen Detection; Gates Foundation Targets COVID- 19 Detection

Amazon is offering its cashier less tech, which they have dubbed ‘Just Walk Out’, to other retailers. Cnet.com reports that Amazon has cut deals on the swipe and go shopping, which eliminates check out lines and registers, with several retailers so far. No names have been released, nor has the cost or timeline for implementing the system in other retail stores. Amazon does have a facility in LA which is several times larger than the one just opened in Seattle where they are trialing the tech.

Twitter has slapped a ‘manipulated media’ tag on a doctored video of Joe Biden that was shared by White House social media director Dan Scavino, then retweeted by Donald Trump. According to theverge.com, its the first use by Twitter of the tag to indicate fake media. Greg Shultz, Biden’s campaign manager, sent a heated statement to Facebook for NOT taking similar action on an obviously fake video. Twitter rolled out its ban on faked media March 5th. It covers ‘synthetic’ and manipulated media ‘likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm’, including sophisticated deepfakes as well as other content which has been deceptively edited.

In other Twitter news, the platform has cut a deal with conservative activist group Elliott Management. The firm had been trying to push out CEO Jack Dorsey. Twitter will buy back $2 billion worth o stock and name a couple new board members: one from Elliott and another from Sliver Lake, and investment firm that is putting a billion into Twitter to help fund the buybacks. The new board members will be part of a committee evaluating ‘the CEO succession plan,’ which should be revealed by year’s end.

Tim Cook has always looked to make the Apple Watch more of a health monitor. Now, it looks like the Series 6, due out this Fall, will have blood oxygen detection, and a better ECG. Appleinsider.com notes that the watch already has fall detection and heart rate monitoring features. Regarding the oxygen, if a wearer’s blood oxygen level drops below healthy levels, generally considered to be 95-100% saturation, the can lead to heart health issues or even cardiac arrest. The Watch’s detector will send the wearer a push notification if it finds a level below 95%. The Watch already has an ECG monitor built into the Digital Crown, but it has been somewhat limited. It will return inconclusive results if the heart rate is too high. the improved version will allow Electrocardiograms with a wider range.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is readying to fund at-home testing kits for the novel coronavirus in Seattle. Geekwire.com says plans aren’t final yet, but kits might be available in the ‘coming weeks,’ and would quickly identify where the disease is spreading. The tests are an offshoot of the Seattle Flu Study, a two year old research institute at the University of Washington, which is funded by Bill Gates’ private office to the tune of $20 million. Gates has been sounding the alarm for years about the rise of an unchecked epidemic that could result in over 10 million deaths and be a once in a century pandemic, and now his concerns and funding of research may pay off by saving millions of lives.


Microsoft Asks Seattle & SF Bay Employees- Work From Home; GM Reveals New EV Platform; Twitter tests ‘Fleets’; Coronavirus Spread Via Cash

Microsoft has asked employees located around Seattle and in the San Francisco Bay Area to work from home most of March due to the coronavirus. Businessinsider.com says this policy will be in place until March 25th, and that Microsoft will review it then and decide if it should be extended or lifted. Ten of the 11 deaths from the COVID-19 virus have been in the Seattle area, and Santa Clara County, in the heart of Silicon Valley, now has at least 14 confirmed cases of the virus.

General Motors rolled out around a dozen products yesterday to investors, underscoring the auto maker’s seriousness about moving to an electric future. According to theverge.com, GM showed a new modular EV platform with an improved battery pack called Ultium. The platform is intended to be flexible enough to work with a number of different vehicle types and shapes. the new batteries are unique due to the “large-format, pouch-style cells,” as opposed to cylindrical cells, which GM says enables them to be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack. These batteries will offer power ranging from 50 to 200 kWh, which could allow for a driving range up to “400 miles or more.” Motors designed in-house will support front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and performance all-wheel drive applications. GM has added aluminum to their battery mix, which reduced the cobalt content by 70%. They are striving to get the costs under $100/kWh, which is kind of the magic bullet amount to make EVs completely compatible with gas cars. Tesla will reportedly show off a new battery system next month that hits this level.

Twitter is testing out a version of Stories it calls ‘Fleets.’ Techcrunch.com reports that the testing is beginning in Brazil. Unlike Tweets, Twitter’s new Fleets can’t receive Likes, Replies or Retweets. And they’ll disappear entirely after 24 hours. The ephemeral posts aren’t private, but they are less accessible…you have to visit a person’s public profile to set them (even if you don’t follow them.) the Fleets won’t circulate Twitter’s network, or show up in Search or Moments, and they can’t be embedded on an external website. Fleets are intended to be ‘text centric,’ but you will be able to add photos, GIFs, and videos…although there are no editing tools for them. Videos will be limited to 2:20, or 512MB.

The WHO says cash may be spreading the coronavirus, COVID-19. Businessinsider.com reports that people should use contactless payments whenever possible, and wash hands or use hand sanitizer after handling cash, especially before eating. China has already indicated it would destroy cash from highly impacted areas in that country. The World Health Organization says the virus could remain on money for days after being exposed to it. This gives new meaning to ‘filthy lucre!’


Seattle Amazon Employee Tests + for Coronavirus; 14.1 Inch MacBook Pro Coming; Facebook-New Anti-Spam Tool; Google Cancels I/O

An Amazon employee in Seattle has tested positive for coronavirus. Geekwire.com reports that the person went home sick February 25th, and later tested positive for COVID-19. Amazon has notified other employees who came into close contact with the infected individual. The employee worked in Amazon’s Brazil building at 400 9th Ave N, near downtown.

Well reputed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says 6 new Apple products are coming this year with mini-LED displays, including a 14.1 inch MacBook Pro. In a story picked up by 9to5mac.com, Kuo also says they will release mini-LED screens in a 12.9 inch iPad Pro, a 27 inch iMac Pro, 16 inch MacBook Pro, a 10.2 inch iPad, and a 7.9 inch iPad. No release dates, but Kuo says the iMac Pro will drop 4th quarter. Why mini-LED screens? Apple is interested in adopting mini-LED screen panels for the rich wide color gamut, high contrast ratios, high dynamic range, and localized dimming. mini-LED is also believed to result in thinner panels that are more power-efficient, and they do not suffer from burn-in like OLED.

Trying to get rid of fake accounts is a perpetual game of whack-a-mole for social media like Facebook. Now, zdnet.com says Facebook engineers have cooked up a more efficient machine learning tool which has already helped the platform to kill 6.6 billion fake accounts in the past year. Facebook notes that there are additional millions of attempts to create fake accounts daily that they are able to block. They call the tech behind the takedown tool Deep Entity Classification. It looks for the “deep features” of each account, which are the behavioral patterns of profiles, rather than the direct characteristics of an account. In other words, instead of only registering details like the creation date of an account or the number of friend requests it has sent, DEP also looks at all of the properties of the profiles, groups or pages that a particular user has made contact with. It can reportedly catalog up to 20,000 unique features per account, and gives them a way to squash fake accounts that is super hard to reverse engineer. Of course, spammers will take this as a challenge!

Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, Google won’t hold its I/O 2020. According to 9to5google.com, Google is looking at some sort of alternative format, like doing events and interactive learning sessions online. Since they already have been streaming all the keynotes and sessions on YouTube, it may be that they can announce an alternative I/O pretty quickly….stay tuned.


Amazon Expands Same Day Delivery, Waymo Raises $2.25 Billion to Scale Up; Facebook Pulls out of SXSW; Browser Extension Adds Masks

Amazon is expanding same day delivery services with a series of mini warehouses. It’s expected that some Prime members will be able to get deliveries within hours of ordering. Amazon has quietly built smaller versions of its fulfillment centers closer to customers in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando and Dallas to bolster same-day delivery in those areas. They claim they will offer over 3 million items for same day delivery from the mini centers. When you go to order, you will see a ‘Today by’ tag on items eligible for the service. Overnight delivery will also be available. If something is ordered before midnight, they say it will be delivered by 8AM the next day. The ‘mini’ centers are about a tenth the size of a normal Amazon fulfillment center.

Alphabet subsidiary Waymo has raised $2.25 billion as the autonomous vehicle division begins to scale up operations. According to venturebeat.com, the financing came from Silver Lake, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Mubadala Investment Company (the sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi), as well as auto parts supplier Magna International, Andreessen Horowitz, auto retail giant AutoNation, and Alphabet itself. It’s an initial close on the company’s first round of funding.

Facebook has now bailed out of SXSW in Austin over concerns about coronavirus. They had previously cancelled their own F8 developer conference in the Bay Area. Theverge.com says Google and Microsoft just today cancelled two smaller conferences, although both are still on for their major developer conferences coming up in May. The Game Developers Conference, which was cancelled in February, has been postponed to sometime this summer. Date to be announced. **Update: Google will not hold an in-person I/O in May. They will hold a series of online events.

You can never be too safe! A new browser extension will put a face mask on every face it detects on the internet. According to businessinsider.com, it’s a proof of concept…so expect it to slow your browser way down. The extension is a creation of web developer Moritz Klack. A mask on every face on web pages is probably as effective as actually wearing masks to prevent the COVID-19 coronavirus…although experts say the masks do prevent infected people from spreading germs as widely.