Category Archives: amazon

DoD Reaffirmed JEDI Cloud Contract to Microsoft, Amazon Complains



The ongoing drama between Amazon and the Department of Defense about the JEDI contract continues, after a pause in August. Today, the Department of Defense announced that it has re-evaluated its decision to award the JEDI Cloud to Microsoft, and reaffirmed that decision.

The Department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI Cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the Government. The JEDI Cloud contract is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that will make a full range of cloud computing services available to the DoD. While contract performance will not begin immediately due to the Preliminary Injunction Order issued by the Court of Federal Claims on February 13, 2020, DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform.

Amazon does not appear to have accepted that outcome. The company posted a response explaining why they will continue to protest what they have described as a “politically corrupted contract award”.

Amazon feels that the review by the Department of Defense “was nothing more than a ‘do-over’ for Microsoft to fix its non-compliant proposal.” Amazon also complains that the Department of Defense cited price as a major factor in the previous decision, and Amazon feels that it offered a lower price than Microsoft did.

Personally, I doubt that Amazon’s decision to continue fighting against the Department of Defense’s choice to go with Microsoft is going to change anything. I find it incomprehensible that Amazon wants to sink more time and effort into something that is unlikely to go their way. But, this is the “hill they want to die on”, and Amazon clearly intends to keep pushing.


Amazon Tells Workers to Delete TikTok in Email Sent in Error



Amazon apparently sent its workers an email asking them to remove TikTok from their mobile devices. This was first reported by The New York Times, and several news sites have since posted about it as well. Later, Amazon changed its mind and said that the request had been sent in error.

Taylor Lorenz, a reporter for The New York Times Fashion and Style section, posted a tweet with a screenshot of the email that Amazon sent to its employees. The email was titled: “Action required: Mandatory removal of TikTok by 10-Jul”.

Hello,
Due to security risks, the TikTok app is no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email. If you have TikTok on your device, you must remove it by 10-Jul to retain mobile access to your Amazon email. At this time, using TikTok from your Amazon laptop browser is allowed.

According to The Verge, the email was obtained and independently published by multiple reporters on Twitter. Later, an Amazon spokesperson told The Verge: “This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error. There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”

To me, this seems a little bit strange. Why would a company as big as Amazon write a very specifically worded email telling its employees that TikTok was no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email… only to walk that back after the email was posted on Twitter? Did someone at Amazon accidentally send that email earlier than planned? Or was Amazon unhappy that the email became public knowledge?

What we do know is that the U.S. Navy banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices because the app represented a “cybersecurity threat”. U.S. Army cadets were also asked not to use TikTok. Some members of Congress expressed that they think TikTok poses “national security risks”.

Amazon appears to have had enough of a security concern with TikTok to tell its employees to delete it. Later that same day, Amazon seems to have changed its mind about that. One cannot help but wonder what happened behind the scenes.


Amazon Has An Oversupply Problem



During lockdown, I’ve been doing my very best to support local businesses and shop locally. However, sometimes the thing you want is simply too specialist to be carried by any emporium within a reasonable distance so inevitably I’ve fired up the browser and hopped on over to see what’s available at world’s largest online retailer, Amazon.

And it hasn’t always been a great experience. Too much of the market seems to be given over to sellers with company names full of consonants selling identikit products at similar prices. And there’s no way that the reviews are authentic: some of the products have hundreds of reviews but I very much doubt that they’ve sold that many items.

Take these ring LEDs…there are fifty three pages of sponsored products alone – that’s 367 items. Yes, there are variations based on ring size, accessories and so on but it’s obvious that many of the products are the same unit.

Some product categories are worse than others, but I’m quite sure everyone has seen this problem, whether with electronics, cookware or home furnishings. You can understand why companies are so keen on getting good reviews to bump their rankings to the first few pages.

In contrast, traditional bricks’n’mortar stores have a much more limited product range selected by the owners or a buying team who decide the best fit for the people coming into the shop. In this example, you could imagine a selection based on ring size but you’re probably choosing from three or four products at most. Not 367.

Brands are very relevant in these crowded markets too. I can’t be bothered to root through every single example and often rely on a brand name to help make the selection. Over the years, I’ve gathered my own selection of favourite go-to brands for preferred products and I’ll choose those over no-name clones every time.

Amazon does label goods as “Amazon’s Choice” as if this is the best product, whatever best might might be. My understanding is that these are only curated by algorithm and there’s no one behind the scenes checking, reviewing or testing.

There are consumer organisations like the UK’s Which? which provides advice and guidance on products in different categories. It’s a subscription service at just under GB£10 per month but perhaps worth considering if you are buying big ticket items. As an independent organisation it’s trusted and respected.

A tempting solution would be for Amazon to provide a similar service to Which? for its Prime members where real people test a range of products in a category and recommend the best. But would anyone trust Amazon’s recommendations? I’m not sure I would given some of the recent revelations about Amazon Basics.

There’s no doubt that Amazon has profited during the pandemic, but I’m seriously beginning to wonder if Amazon is allowing too many vendors with too many similar products. I know that I’m increasingly looking to other stores and branded products rather than going straight to Amazon. This week I’ve one delivery from Amazon but two from other online stores.

What about you?


Amazon is updating its Fire 8 tablets



It has been a while since Amazon updated its tablets, but that’s about to change. The company sort of snuck this by with no post to the official blog.

They have, however, come up with an update to the Fire 8 tablets. In an announcement sent to us the company says it will be releasing new Fire tablets soon. The next generation of its Fire HD 8 tablet lineup, designed with the entire family in mind: the all-new Fire HD 8, Fire HD 8 Plus, and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition.

“The new Fire HD 8 tablets offer the features that everyone in the family wants – great content, more storage, longer battery life — at a price that is incredibly affordable,” says Kevin Keith, Vice President, Amazon Devices.

So what do you get with the Fire HD 8? 32 GB of storage, up to 12 hours of battery life and fast charging thanks to USB-C.  Amazon also states “the Fire HD 8 Plus packs even more power with 50% more RAM, hassle-free wireless charging, and six months of Kindle Unlimited included.”

You can pre-order any of these now, but you’ll need to wait until June to get one. We’ll have one for review and let you know our opinion, but it sounds enticing. Prices begin at $89.99.


Pentagon Watchdog Says White House Didn’t Influence Decision on JEDI



The Defense Department’s inspector general found that the White House “doesn’t appear to have influenced” the decision on which company to award the JEDI contract to, CNBC
reported. According to CNBC, the inspector general noted in the report that it had limited cooperation from White House officials throughout its review, and could not complete its assessment of allegations of ethical misconduct.

Bloomberg reported that the 317-page report issued by the DoD’s inspector general’s office found that giving the JEDI contract to a single company – Microsoft – rather than dividing it among competitors was “consistent with applicable acquisition standards.”

Bloomberg also said that the report stated that the White House had limited cooperation with the inquiry. According to Bloomberg, the inspector general said the assertion of a “presidential communications privilege” resulted in the Defense Department general counsel instructing officials “not to answer questions about potential communication between White House and DoD officials about JEDI.”

Here’s some background for those who haven’t been following along:

Microsoft was selected over Amazon for the JEDI contract in October of 2019. JEDI stands for “Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure”. The contract, from the Department of Defense, could be worth over $10 billion over a decade.

In November of 2019, Amazon filed a notice that it will formally protest the decision on JEDI.

In February of 2020, a spokesperson for Amazon Web Services told CNBC (to paraphrase) that Amazon felt the President should not be allowed to use the budget of the DoD “to pursue his own personal and political ends”. A few days later, a federal judge put a temporary block on the JEDI cloud contract.

In March of 2020, Amazon asked a federal court to require the Pentagon to broaden its scope of a reevaluation of its decision to award Microsoft the JEDI contract.

Overall, I don’t see how Amazon can come out ahead on this situation at this point. I’m also confused about why a company with so much money is concerned about a contract that could be worth over $10 billion dollars over a decade.


Amazon is Out of Stock of Household Items Due to COVID-19



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.


Judge Temporarily Blocks Microsoft’s JEDI Contract



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.