Amazon Prime Air Prepares For Drone Deliveries



Amazon announced that Amazon customers in Lockeford, California, will be among the first to receive Prime Air drone deliveries in the U.S. Amazon wrote: The promise of drone delivery has often felt like science fiction. We’ve been working for almost a decade to make it a reality.

According to Amazon, Lockeford has historic links to the aviation industry. The community boasts one of the early pioneers of aviation – Weldon B. Cooke, who built and flew early planes in the early 1900’s – as a former resident. Now, over a century later, residents will get the opportunity to sign up for free drone delivery on thousands of everyday items,

Lockeford residents will play an important role in defining the future. Their feedback about Prime Air, with drones delivering packages in their backyards, will help us create a service that will safely scale to meet the needs of customers everywhere – while adding another innovation to the town’s aviation history.

Amazon says it is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and local officials in Lockeford to obtain permission to conduct these deliveries and will continue with that collaboration into the future.

CNET reported that Amazon has been developing drones for years. It gained FAA approval for the drones in 2020, before scaling back the project the following year.

According to CNET, the drones use sense-and-avoid systems to operate safely. The drones can reliably avoid obstacles including other aircraft, people, and pets, Amazon said.

Once the system launches, customers in Lockeford will be able to order products through Amazon Prime Air and wait for the drone to arrive. It will fly to its destination, descend to the customers’ backyard, and drop the package from a safe height, before zooming away.

The Hill reported that Amazon’s Prime Air is one of three drone delivery service companies that has earned an FAA air carrier certificate, according to the company. The Hill also reported that Amazon says its drones can carry up to five pounds.

I can understand why Amazon wants to use drones to send things to customers who pay for Amazon Prime. It would not only give Amazon a reason to use its drones to deliver packages, but also could encourage customers to keep their Amazon Prime subscription going.

What I don’t like about Amazon’s Prime Air drone deliveries is that it appears to limit who can make use of it. A person could have an Amazon Prime subscription – but not have a backyard for the drone to drop the package in.


Save The Date for Nothing



Upcoming tech firm Nothing has announced the launch presentation for its new smartphone via a “Save the Date” invite for 12th July ’22 at 16:00 BST.

Not familiar with Nothing? Its noise-cancelling earbuds ear(1) went down a storm for the innovative design, sound quality and price, but the real interest in Nothing comes from its founder, Carl Pei, who previously started OnePlus way back in 2013 with Pete Lau. OnePlus’ close links with OPPO mean that some of the startup flair has gone and people have high hopes that Nothing will bring freshness to the somewhat stagnant smartphone market.

Nothing has some significant backers – Google Ventures, Casey Neistat (YouTuber), Kevin Lin (Twitch), Steve Huffman (Reddit) so there’s a good chunk of cash driving a respected team.

The new phone(1) will be Android (obvs!) and Nothing has released a teaser launcher that can be downloaded for many recent smartphones. It has a couple of cool touches and you could use it daily but it doesn’t offer anything very different just yet.

Personally, I’m very interested to see what Carl Pei’s team are going to produce with the phone(1). Sign up to be notified on the Nothing website.

Disclosure: I have a small shareholding in Nothing via community investment


DoorDash Added New Features To Their App



DoorDash announced that it has added new features to its app. This could be useful for people who tend to use DoorDash often.

According to DoorDash, new restaurant review features and lists empower consumers to order with confidence, saving thousands of hours annually of decision fatigue searching for what to eat.

The possibilities are endless, but scrolling on the app doesn’t have to be. Today, we are launching new ways to rate, review, and discover the best in every neighborhood while also celebrating and spotlighting our most loved restaurants on Door Dash.

Most Liked Items: Find trusted recommendations from locals at a glance with the “most liked” tags, rate new favorite dishes, and save over 400,000 hours annually, reducing decision fatigue when searching for what to eat.

After ordering on DoorDash, consumers can rate the items in their order by tapping a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ icon. A restaurant’s three items with the highest numbers of ‘thumbs up’ ratings are displayed on the menu with a “most liked” tag.

Written Reviews: Read other customers’ valuable feedback or share your own recommendations directly in the app.

Public written reviews enable customers to explore detailed feedback and recommendations from their community to discover spots locals are loving directly on the DoorDash restaurant page, saving time toggling between multiple apps to research restaurant reviews.

Top 10 Lists: Peruse curated, dynamic lists that surface the most popular, trending and top-rated restaurants nearby from Top Breakfast Spots to Top New Restaurants.

Top 10 lists leverage DoorDash’s wealth of real-time data from consumer ratings and order volume to showcase the most popular, hottest, and best-rated restaurants to consumers nearby. These lists are dynamic and ever-evolving to further delight and inspire new choices of restaurants or dishes.

Most Loved All Stars: Find customer favorite restaurants that consistently make sure orders are right, on-time, and always delicious.

DoorDash is excited to celebrate top-rated local restaurants that go above and beyond for their customers’ online orders, time and time again with the launch of the Most Loved All Stars. Between the food, the service, and the delivery experience, creating a top-notch customer experience is no small feat.

All of this sounds good, and I can see where it would be useful to most people. Next, DoorDash should require all the restaurants on its app to provide a list of food allergens so people like me can make a safer choice about what to eat.


Microsoft Agrees to Respect Activision Blizzard Unionization



Microsoft said Monday it would respect the rights of Activision Blizzard workers to join a union, and would enter into a so-called labor neutrality agreement with major media union Communications Workers of America, which has been helping video game workers organize, The Washington Post reported.

According to The Washington Post, if Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is approved, the new labor agreement will take effect for the video game giant 60 days after the deal is finalized.

The Wall Street Journal reported that earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled a set of principles aimed at demonstrating its willingness to work with unions. The company said it wouldn’t discourage employees from using their legal right to form and join unions and wouldn’t try to complicate the process of unionization for its employees.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the principles marked Microsoft’s latest attempt to carve out a position distinct from other technology companies on a sensitive subject in the industry. U.S. tech companies have long avoided unions, and some have tried to discourage employees from joining them. Microsoft reported a global workforce of more than 180,000 last year. None are currently unionized in the U.S.

The New York Times reported: A group of nearly 30 employees at one of Activision’s studios voted to unionize through an N.L.R.B. election in May despite Activision’s opposition to holding the election. But completing such a process can be time consuming, with unions and employers sometimes spending months or even years litigating the results.

According to The New York Times, through the agreement, workers will have access to an expedited process for unionizing, overseen by a neutral third party, in which they will indicate their support for a union either by signing cards or confidentially through an electronic platform.

Chris Shelton, the president of the Communications Workers unions, said in an interview, “This process does give us and Microsoft a way to do this quote unquote election without spending the time, the effort and the controversy that goes along with an N.L.R.B. election.”

Personally, I’m happy to see that Microsoft is willing to work with unions. That’s a huge change from Activision Blizzard King, where the high-ups have been fighting against unionization. The Wisconsin workers in Raven Software were able to unionize – but not before Activision engaged in union-busting attempts. Raven contractors worked on franchises like Activision’s Call of Duty games.

It would be wonderful if the Activision Blizzard King workers, who have been struggling to get the company to accept their unionization efforts, can easily join a union after the Microsoft acquisition. If so, this would set a huge precedent for workers at other gaming companies.


Voyager Mystery #1605



Voyager 1 has a mystery it does not seem to know where it is. The challenge is talking to the spacecraft which is 14.5 billion miles away and messaging is a 2-3 day turnaround. It’s not the end but NASA has its work cut out to get Voyager back on track.

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CMA Plans Market Investigation Into Mobile Browsers and Cloud Gaming



The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) posted a press release announcing its plans for a market investigation into mobile browsers and cloud gaming. According to the CMA: Apple and Google “hold all the cards” with interventions needed to give innovators and competitors a fair chance to compete in mobile ecosystems.

More specifically, the CMA is consulting on the launch of a market investigation into Apple and Google’s market power in mobile browsers and Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming through its App Store. In parallel, it is also taking enforcement action against Google in relation to its app store payment practices.

Previous to this press release, the CMA held a year-long study of the companies’ mobile ecosystems. The final report was published on June 10, 2022. The study found that Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to excise a stranglehold over these markets, which include operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA said:

“When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards. As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice.”

“We all rely on browsers to use the internet on our phones, and the engines that make them work have a huge bearing on what we can see or do. Right now, choice in this space is severely limited and that has real world impacts – preventing innovation and reducing competition from web apps. We need to give innovative tech firms, may of which are ambitious start-ups, a fair chance to compete.”

“We have always been clear that we will maximize the use of our current tools while we await legislation for the new digital regime. Today’s announcements – alongside the 8 cases currently open against major players in the tech industry, ranging from tackling fake reviews to addressing problems in online advertising – are proof of that in action.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the CMA also announced a traditional competition investigation – which could lead to fines – into conditions Google places on in-app payments in its mobile store. That probe is similar to one the regulator opened into Apple’s App Store last year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple said that it disagrees with some of the CMA’s conclusions and that it aims to work with the British regulator “to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice, while ensuring consumers’ privacy and security are protected.” Google said that it has “reacted quickly to CMA feedback in the past” and would continue to engage with the regulator.

Once again, it appears that big companies like Apple and Google are playing a game. How much can they get away with – and still avoid facing serious consequences – from the regulators of various countries? It seems to me it would be a lot easier for those companies to just comply with various regulators than to fight them.


Apple Grudgingly Complies With Dutch Regulators Over Dating Apps



Apple announced “Further updates on StoreKit External Entitlement for dating apps in the Netherlands storefront”. This comes after pushback by Dutch regulators.

From Apple’s News and Updates site:

Following productive conversations with the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), today we’re introducing additional adjustments to Apple’s plan to comply with the regulator’s order pertaining to dating apps on the App Store in the Netherlands:

Developers of dating apps in the Netherlands can use the StoreKit External Purchase Entitlement, the StoreKit External Purchase Link Entitlement, or both entitlements.

In accordance with the ACM’s wishes, we’ve made adjustments to the user interface requirements announced this past March for developers who choose to use either or both of the entitlements.

We’ve adjusted the payment processing criteria for developers who wish to use either of the entitlements.

The 3 percent commission discount also applies to in-app purchases the qualify for a lower commission rate (for example, App Store Small Business Program enrollees or subscription services after one year of paid services – both of which already qualify for a 15% commission).

It should be noted that in February of 2022, Apple stated it would charge app developers in the Netherlands, who are using an alternative payment system, a “reduced” commission that is set at 27% net of tax. Apple typically charges 30% commission on purchases made using its In-App Purchase system.

The Verge reported that these rules are not wide-reaching (they only apply to Dutch dating apps) they do show what Apple is willing to do to comply with government regulation – which it could be facing a lot more of as the EU and US gear up to fight tech monopolies, and potentially even force the company to ditch the iPhone’s Lightning port.

The Verge also pointed out part of Apple’s news post that says: “As a reminder, developers of dating apps who want to continue using Apple’s in-app purchase system – which we believe is the safest and most secure way for users to purchase digital goods and services – may do so and no further action is needed.”

Apple continued, “We don’t believe some of these changes are in the best interest of our users’ privacy or data security. Because Apple is committed to constructive engagement with regulators, we’re making the additional changes at the ACM’s request. As we’ve previously said, we disagree with the ACM’s original order and are appealing it.”

Overall, the message Apple appears to be sending is that they are complying with what Dutch regulators want. In the same post, Apple makes it clear it doesn’t really want to make these changes, and will attempt to appeal it.