Are you finding it difficult to buy household items from Amazon? You aren’t the only one! It turns out that Amazon itself is having trouble stocking products that became extremely popular after COVID-19 started spreading. Not even Amazon is immune to the problems that occur when people start hoarding toilet paper.
Amazon posted an explanation about the situation it is facing:
…As COVID-19 has spread, we’ve recently seen an increase in people shopping online. In the short term, this is having an impact on how we serve our customers. In particular, you will notice that we are currently out of stock on some popular brands and items, especially in household staples categories. You will also notice that our delivery promises are longer than usual. We are working around the clock with our selling partners to ensure availability on all of our products, and bring on additional capacity to deliver all of your orders.
CNBC reported Amazon has added a notice to the top of its marketplace that reads: “Inventory and delivery may be temporarily unavailable due to increased demand. Confirm availability at checkout”. This issue is affecting Prime users, as well as those who don’t have Amazon Prime. It is an equal opportunity shortage.
This problem is happening because people are hoarding things like toilet paper and cleaning products. Some people have been selfishly buying all the hand sanitizer out of stores and selling it on Amazon for an inflated price. In response, Amazon has removed those items and blocked the sellers who are trying to profit from a pandemic.
JEDI saga continues! A federal judge has ordered a temporary block on the JEDI cloud contract, which Microsoft was selected for (over Amazon) by the Department of Justice. The judge’s action was in response to a suit filed by Amazon.
The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud computing contract is intended to modernize the Pentagon’s IT operations. It could be worth as much as $10 billion over a decade. Personally, I don’t think Microsoft or Amazon would be in a dire situation as a result of not getting the JEDI contract. But, here we are.
CNBC reported that in January of 2020, Amazon’s cloud computing arm, AWS, filed a formal motion asking the court to pause Microsoft’s work on the JEDI cloud contract. The court granted that motion today.
Earlier this week, Amazon said that it wants to question President Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and former Defense Secretary James Mattis over the JEDI contract. Amazon has stated that the evaluation process included “clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias.”
Personally, I feel like this is a spat between two incredibly rich corporations over a contract that they both want – but neither of them actually need in order to stay in business. I’m finding it hard to care about the outcome of this case.
The saga of the JEDI contract continues! In October of 2019, The Department of Defense chose Microsoft over Amazon for its “Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure” project. The contract could be worth as much as $10 billion over a decade.
In November of 2019, The Washington Post (which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon), posted an article stating that Amazon would challenge the Pentagon’s decision on the JEDI project. Today, CNBC reported that Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s cloud computing arm, wants to depose President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and former Defense Secretary James Mattis over the JEDI contract that was awarded to Microsoft.
A spokesperson for Amazon Web Services told CNBC the following:
“President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use his position as President and Commander in Chief to interfere with government functions – including federal procurements – to advance his personal agenda. The preservation of public confidence in the nation’s procurement process requires discovery and supplementation of the administrative record, particularly in light of President Trump’s order to ‘screw Amazon.’ The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends.”
Personally, I don’t think this statement, or the (now unsealed) court documents filed by Amazon, are going to make any difference. The Trump administration has a history of not releasing information that it doesn’t want to. I have no idea why Amazon believes that Trump said ‘screw Amazon’, but honestly, this President has said other crass things, so it wouldn’t surprise me if President Trump actually did say that. I also do not understand why one of the richest companies in the world is so worried about the JEDI contract. It is unimaginable that Amazon needs the money.
The Department of Defense selected Microsoft over Amazon on a contract for their Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project. In short, the Department of Defense selected Microsoft’s Azure Cloud over Amazon’s AWS business. As you may have expected, Amazon is displeased by this decision.
The Washington Post (which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who is also the founder of Amazon), posted an article stating that Amazon will challenge the Pentagon’s decision on the JEDI project. From the article:
“AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the U.S. military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts,” Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in an emailed statement. “We also believe it is critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence. Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias – and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”
Reuters reported that Amazon filed the notice that it will formerly protest the decision on JEDI. Reuters also reported that President Donald Trump has long criticized Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos. CNBC reported that the decision about which company would get the JEDI contract was postponed until Secretary of Defense Mark Esper completed a series of thorough reviews of the technology.
Personally, I think this situation could potentially turn into a long series of court cases. In the meantime, it seems to me that the Department of Defense is not going to wait for the outcome, and will continue working with Microsoft.
The European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Amazon’s use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on Amazon’s marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “European consumers are increasingly shopping online. E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior. I have therefore decided to take a very close look at Amazon’s business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules.”
The Commission will look into:
- The standard agreements between Amazon and marketplace sellers, which allow Amazon’s retail business to analyze and use third party seller data. In particular, the Commission will focus on whether and how the use of accumulated marketplace seller data by Amazon as a retailer affects competition.
- The role of the data in the selection of the winners of the “Buy Box” and the impact of Amazon’s potential use of competitively sensitive marketplace seller information on that selection. The “Buy Box” is displayed prominently on Amazon and allows customers to add items from a specific retailer directly into their shopping carts. Winning the “Buy Box” seems key for marketplace sellers as a vast majority of transactions are done through it.
The Commission states that there is no legal deadline for bringing and antitrust investigation to an end, and that it has informed Amazon and the competition authorities of Member States that it has opened proceedings in this case.
The Verge reported that the antitrust announcement happened on the same day that Amazon announced changes to its third-party seller service agreement in response to a separate antitrust investigation by German regulators.
It appears that we won’t know how the European Commission’s antitrust investigation will affect Amazon until the investigation ends. It is unclear how Amazon’s changes, made to appease German regulators, will affect the European Commission’s ruling.
If there’s one thing that you’d expect the BBC to get right, it would be the news. Ask people in the street about BBC news and you’d expect words like authoritative, impartial, insightful, confident and trustworthy to litter the responses. But going by the number of one star reviews on the BBC’s Alexa flash briefing, it looks (and sounds) like the BBC’s screwed up.
Following the history of reviews, it would appear that the BBC changed the flash briefing to its new format between 19 & 20 May because since then there have been over 150 one star reviews and they have not been kind.
“This used to be excellent, now ruined by dumbing it down to something even Newsround would have found inane.” (Newsround is a children’s news programme)
“Please, let’s return to the grown-up reports without the pointless jingles.”
“Sounds like a children’s version of the news. Silly soundbites and background sound effects.”
“Two annoying ‘hosts’ trying to be cool in the morning is not what I use [the] BBC for”
For those not in the UK, the BBC’s radio stations are aimed at different demographics. Radio 1 typically features the most recent pop music, Radio 2 is more mainstream playing a catalogue going back decades, Radio 3 is classical and jazz music, Radio 4 is news and current affairs, with 5 Live carrying sport and 6 Music catering for indie and special interest music. The serious news journalism comes from Radio 4 through programmes like Today, World at One and PM.
Having had a listen myself, I can hear what the complaints are about. It’s a pair of chatty presenters (Dee & Lee) who present lightweight news and often fail to lead with one of the main news stories of the day. It’s clearly aimed at a younger audience and even talks about topics “trending on social media”. Radio 4, it is not.
What surprises me is that the BBC doesn’t have multiple flash briefings. How hard would it be to have a couple of briefings aimed at different listener demographics? That would keep everyone happy. Instead, they’ve alienated a large chunk of their listening audience.
Pocket Casts is one of the most used apps on my OnePlus 3T, playing podcasts in the car and while out walking. It’s a great app, though I’m still in two minds about the new version 7.0. Why do app developers feel the need to alienate existing users with radical redesigns for no real benefit?
Regardless, one of the coolest features of Pocket Casts is that it keeps playback in sync across multiple devices. Say I listen to Geek News Central in my car and I get about half-way through the latest show. Once I’m home, maybe I want to use my tablet rather than my phone and Pocket Casts knows exactly where I got to in the GNC show. It picks up where I left off without missing a word. Very cool.
And even more cool is that Pocket Casts has an Alexa skill that plugs into the same ecosystem. Once setup on your Echo, it’s “Alexa, open Pocket Casts” and Alexa responds “Welcome to Pocket Casts. Would you like to keep playing Geek News Central?” I say, “Yes” and Alexa plays from wherever I was. Fantastic.
Alternatively, I could decline the initial offer and ask to play a different podcast from my library.
To enable Pocket Casts, and in particular, the cross-platform syncing, there are three things you need to do
- Buy Pocket Casts for your smartphone (both Android and iOS) and setup an account
- Enable the Alexa skill via the Alexa app
- Log in to your Pocket Casts account via the Alexa app to link your account
With the Alexa and Pocket Casts account now linked, you can listen to podcasts on all your devices without having to scrub backwards and forwards to find the right spot. Give it a try.