Amazon and Microsoft: Different Ways to Leverage $1 Billion

January 17, 2020

Author and big gun Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, allegedly wrote “Microsoft Will Be Carbon Negative by 2030.” To achieve this goal, the company will spend $1 billion dollars. Okay, that appears to work out to $8.3 million per month for 10 years. That’s about 11 Azure Cognitive S4 transactions. Impressive. I suppose it depends on one’s point of view. From the PR perspective, this is probably a decent billion. From other points of view, one’s mileage may vary.

Now contrast this Microsoft $1 billion with Amazon’s. Dark Cyber noted “During Bezos Visit, India minister Says Amazon’s $1 Billion Investment Is No Big Favour.” The write up states something that is a PR downer:

Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart are facing mounting criticism from India’s brick-and-mortar retailers, which accuse the U.S. giants of violating Indian law by racking up billions of dollars of losses to fund deep discounts and discriminating against small sellers. The companies deny the allegations.

Amazon’s reaction? Read on:

Bezos said on Wednesday [January 15, 2020] Amazon would invest $1 billion to bring small businesses online in the country, adding to the $5.5 billion the company had committed since 2014.

Stepping back, Microsoft is going for good ink. Amazon seems to be going after what may be the second or third largest market in the world for Amazon services and battery powered Ring doorbells.

Interesting uses of $1 billion.

Stephen E Arnold, January 17, 2020

Amazon: Maybe a Restraining Order to Halt JEDI Deal?

January 15, 2020

We noted “Amazon to Seek Order to Block Microsoft From Working on US DoD’s JEDI Contract.” The story appears to have originated with Thomson Reuters, so we assume its ethical and accurate and other good Thomsony stuff.

Here’s the passage we circled in true blue marker: will ask a judge to temporarily block Microsoft from working on a $10 billion cloud contract from the Pentagon, a court filing showed on Monday [January 13, 2020]. Amazon, which was seen as a favorite for the contract, plans to file a motion for a temporary restraining order on January 24 and a federal court will issue its decision on February 11, according to the filing.

After years on the trail, if true, Amazon may be paying a visit to the Last Chance Saloon. The interaction may go something like this:

Barista or baristo: What will you have, partner?

Amazonian: One JEDI, please.

Barista or baristo: You are out of luck. The last one went to those nice people over there. They’ve been fussing with a Windows 10 laptop for nigh on one hour.

Amazonian: What else you got?

Barista or baristo: The next big shipment don’t arrive until October 1, 2020. Wanna wait, partner?

Amazonian: Nope. [Sound of a Bezos bulldozer starting up and grinding toward the Middle East.]

Stephen E Arnold, January 15, 2020

Amazon and New, Quite Real Twitch Opportunity

January 14, 2020

In my lectures, I discuss Twitch. I won’t go into the examples of Twitch content in this blog. You can look for me at one of my law enforcement lectures this year.

I do want to call attention to “Twitch’s Non Gamers Are Finally Having Their Moment.” The write up includes an interesting factoid, which – like most Wired information – is super credible. Here’s the statement:

A new report from stream management site StreamElements indicates that in December, Twitch viewers watched 81 million hours of “Just Chatting,” Twitch’s category for streamers who do exactly that, plus any number of other grab-bag activities. That was a solid 7 million hours more than the first game listed, League of Legends, and 23 million more than the second, Fortnite. The popularity of “Just Chatting” is bleeding into January, too, and according to StreamElements, nongaming may be Twitch’s number two category in 2020.

Several observations:

  1. Microsoft and the GOOG are working hard to poach gamers from Twitch. This seems like a contentious issue for Amazon, and it will be interesting to see how the Bezos legal eagles respond to the talent drain. Maybe terminate their Prime accounts?
  2. The surge in Just Chatting viewing points to Twitch becoming the go to source for in real life streaming programs. Most programs are experimental, but a few of them – for example, BadBunny and the Raj thing – are starting to develop into a shotgun marriage of radio talk, live listener feedback, and visual content.
  3. Traditional content producers like the people who create TV game shows and wanna bes like Apple and Netflix, look a bit old fashioned when compared to content generated by Awkwards_Travel, who may be the future of travel information.

There are downsides. If you are interested in our Amazon briefing which expands on the Twitch innovations and their downside, write darkcyber333 at yandex dot com.

Net net: Twitch started with egames, but it is now on a path to create something which complements games and creates a fresh approach to video.

Stephen E Arnold, January 14, 2020

Amazon Finds a Home in the UK

January 10, 2020

Just a quick item about Amazon Web Service contract size. “Home Office Reinforces Commitment to AWS with £100m Cloud Hosting Deal” makes clear that a UK government entity has not been won over my Microsoft Azure. The write up reports this information:

“The award of the public cloud hosting services contract to Amazon is a continuation of services already provided to the Home Office,” a departmental spokesperson told Computer Weekly. “The contract award provides significant savings for the department of a four-year term.” The Home Office is renowned for being a heavy user of cloud technologies, and is – according to the government’s own Digital Marketplace IT spending league table – by far the biggest buyer of off-premise services and technologies via the G-Cloud procurement framework.

The contract is significant because it suggests that other Five Eyes’ participants will be exposed to the AWS approach.

For Amazon staff working on the contract, there may be some meetings at Clarendon Terrance. London taxi drivers know where that is. No digital map needed.

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2020

Is Open Source Changing and Rapidly?

January 7, 2020

Open source technology is what some perceive as unencumbered, handcuff free code. For outfits eager to slash costs, open source software is a foot stool for some developers and organizations. One interpretation of open source operates on the premise that the technology should be free and available for anyone. The social contract is that users “give back” to the open source community.

Some Amazon Web Services’ critics appear to suggest that the company is not giving back. Not surprisingly, some AWS-ers are not happy campers. ZDNet shares more on the story in the article, “AWS Hits Back At Open-Source Software Critics.”

Also, the deeply technical New York Times was not kind to AWS, when it stated that AWS, a giant cloud computing provider, consistently integrated open source software that non-AWS developers created. Vice President of AWS analytics and ElasticCache Andi Gutman claims that AWS is giving its customers what they want. Gutman says that Was customers want technology and services based off open source technology, so AWS is not strip mining, but truly answering their clients’ desires. He continued:

“The story is largely talking about open source software projects and companies who’ve tried to build businesses around commercializing that open-source software. These open-source projects enable any company to utilize this software on-premises or in the cloud, and build services around it. AWS customers have repeatedly asked AWS to build managed services around open source,” Gutman said.

He noted that AWS contributes to open-source projects such as Linux, Java, Kubernetes, Xen, KVM, Chromium, Robot Operating System, Apache Lucene, Redis, s2n, FreeRTOS and Elasticsearch.”

The complaints apparently come from AWS’s rivals, who have also discussed filing antitrust complaints against the company. One rival CEO, Matthew Prince of Cloudflare, is afraid Amazon’s ambitions are endless and might overpower or monopolize the entire cloud computing market.

Will open source return to its roots? Will some open source developers not permit big companies to privatize the community technology?

Which will triumph? Open source precepts or the needs of a publicly-traded company?

Elastic, the developers of open source Elastic, the write up “Why Elastic Stock Dropped 19% in December” may presage the impact of efforts to change the definition of open source.

Whitney Grace, January 7, 2020

Abandoned Books: Yep, Analytics to the Rescue

January 6, 2020

DarkCyber noted “The Most ‘Abandoned’ Books on GoodReads.” The idea is that by using available data, a list of books people could not finish reading can be generated. Disclosure: I will try free or $1.99 books on my Kindle and bail out if the content does not make me quiver with excitement.

The research, which is presented in academic finery, reports that the the author of Harry Potter’s adventurers churned out a book few people could finish. The title? The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. I was unaware of the book, but I will wager that the author is happy enough with the advance and any royalty checks which clear the bank. Success is not completion; success is money I assume.

I want to direct your attention, gentle reader, to the explanation of the methodology used to award this singular honor to J.K. Rowling, who is probably pleased as punch with the bank interaction referenced in the preceding paragraph.

Several points merit brief, very brief comment:

  • Bayesian. A go to method. Works reasonably well. Guessing has its benefits.
  • Data sets. Not exactly comprehensive. Amazon? What about the Kindle customer data, including time to abandonment, page of abandonment, etc.? Library of Congress? Any data to share? Top 20 library systems in the US? Got some numbers; for example, number of copies in circulation?
  • Communication. The write up is a good example why some big time thinkers ignore the inputs of certain analysts.

To sum up, perhaps The Casual Vacancy may make a great gift when offered by Hamilton Books? A coffee table book perhaps?

Stephen E Arnold, January 6, 2020

Oracle, Amazon, and Maybe Soon Open Source Excitement?

January 6, 2020

Remember the on going Google-Oracle Java dust up? Oracle may. According to “Oracle Copied Amazon’s API. Was That Copyright Infringement?”:

Among the companies offering a copy of Amazon’s S3 API is Oracle itself. In order to be compatible with S3, Oracle’s “Amazon S3 Compatibility API” copies numerous elements of Amazon’s API, down to the x-amz tags. Did Oracle infringe Amazon’s copyright here? Ars Technica contacted Oracle to ask them if they had a license to copy Amazon’s S3 API. An Oracle spokeswoman said that the S3 API was licensed under an Apache 2.0 license. She pointed us to the Amazon SDK for Java, which does indeed come with an Apache 2.0 license. However, the Amazon SDK is code that uses the S3 API, not code that implements it—the difference between a customer who orders hash browns and the Waffle House cook who interprets the orders.

DarkCyber thinks the author is saying, “Yep, we copied.”

But… and this is interesting.

the Amazon SDK is code that uses the S3 API, not code that implements it.

Is this going to have an impact on API use? A court may decide.

In the meantime, let’s approach this from a different angle.

What’s the future of software? In DarkCyber’s opinion the future of software is a mix of open source code with proprietary components. DarkCyber doesn’t have a nifty Waffle House analogy for this trajectory.

The idea is that the technical constructs we know and love as FANG for Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google want to reduce costs, create a glide path for young open sourcey developers, and lock in big spending customers.

One way to think about the Oracle copying Amazon move is in the context of the 2020 version of proprietary software. The APIs and the need for lock in are essential to the persistence of certain big companies.

Net net: What looks open is not? What looks like wordsmithing is a prelude to more aggressive maneuvers.

The name of the game is revenue and growth. Losers will eat in a Waffle House. Winners will not.

Stephen E Arnold, January 6, 2020

Informatica: A Play for Greater Relevance in an Amazon Chess Game?

January 3, 2020

Informatica was set up in 1993. The company was private, then public, and now private. Its new CEO is a former McKinsey professional, a background which some may find reassuring and others terrifying. (McKinsey had a racketeering lawsuit dismissed. How does a consulting firm ensnare itself in an allegation of racketeering? I will leave it to you to answer that question.)

The big news, however, is that Informatica is making an attempt to retain its relevance and increase its impact among Fortune 1000 firms, investment banks, financial services firms, insurance companies, and other blue chip customers.

The method, its seems to DarkCyber, involves Amazon. Keep in mind that Informatica’s previous attempts to add some zing to its quarter century of database-related work involved Microsoft and Salesforce, both next big things.

According to “Informatica Aims to Better Track Data Lineage with AI-Powered Data Catalog,”

its AI-powered data catalog, called Catalog of Catalogs is notable because it is trying to track data lineage across ecosystems. Catalog of Catalogs includes metadata scanners for business intelligence, data warehouses, big data and third party repositories.

The “new” Informatica is represented in this graphic, which has a remarkable resemblance to Amazon Web Services blockchain diagrams:


Is this an Amazon diagram in recognizable AWS orange or an Informatica diagram?

There’s a hook to Amazon’s data marketplace technology, support for Amazon’s smart workflow, and the federation of metadata.

But what’s missing in this real news story?

Read more

Alexa, the Mom

January 2, 2020

Amazon not only wants to sell computer technology and every conceivable item on Earth, but the company also wants to move into the healthcare industry. TechCrunch reports that “Amazon Launches Medication Management Features For Alexa.” Amazon’s Alexa, a smart speaker, is useful for a lot of things. Alexa can be used to set reminders, book appointments, order things from Amazon, play music, answer questions, contact emergency services, and spy on users for the CIA or FBI. While the latter has not been confirmed, Amazon wants Alexa to assist people with their medications.

Amazon developed a medication management feature that allows people to set medication reminders and request refills using Alexa. Currently the service is only available at Giant Eagle Pharmacy, a retailer in the Midwest and East Coast. Alexa is a tool of the future and simplifies tasks with vocal commands:

“ ‘Voice has proven to be beneficial for a variety of use cases because it removes barriers, and simplifies daily tasks. We believe this new Alexa feature will help simplify the way people manage their medication by removing the need to continuously think about what medications they’ve taken that day or what they need to take,’ noted Rachel Jiang, Head of Alexa Health & Wellness, in an announcement about the new features. ‘We want to make it easy for people to get the information they need and to manage their healthcare needs at home while maintaining the privacy and security of their information, and hope this feature is a step toward that vision,’ she added.”

Amazon’s move into the healthcare industry includes purchasing online pharmacy PillPack and Health Navigator. Amazon plans to transform Health Navigator into the company’s employee health program dubbed Amazon Care. The biggest barrier Amazon faces is guaranteeing that Alexa follows HIPPA laws. Amazon is developing protocols to be HIPPA compliant, such as deleting voice records from Alexa’s skills and creating personal passcodes. But secure? Surveillance centric? Hmmm.

Whitney Grace, January 2, 2020

Blockchain: A Loser in 2020?

December 31, 2019

I recently completed a report about Amazon’s R&D work in blockchain. If you want a free summary of the report, write darkcyber333 at yandex dot com. If not, no problem. You will want to read “Please Blockchain, Prove Me Wrong.” The author likes to use words on some online services stop list, but that’s okay. The writer is passionate about the perceived failings of blockchain.

Blockchain is, according to the write up:

a solution looking for a problem.”

More proof needed, you gentle but skeptical reader? How about this?

According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle, blockchain is still “sliding into the trough of disillusionment,” meaning the technology is struggling to live up to the expectations created by the hype around it.

There you go. Proof from a marketing company.

DarkCyber’s view is that encryption is likely to continue to toddle forward. Also, the charm of the distributed database continues to woe some people’s attention.

There may be hope, and perhaps that is why Amazon has more than a dozen patents related to blockchain technology. We learn from the impassioned analysis:

Blockchain’s purported promise is such that everyone is willingly taking a multi-faceted approach, not giving much thought to the possibility that its potential may, in fact, be limited. Or maybe blockchain is just the first iteration of something far more powerful, a base we can build on to restore our faith in decentralized systems.

To sum up, for a dead duck, there are some feathers afloat. And there are those Amazon patents? Maybe Mr. Bezos is just off base and should stick to bulldozing outfits like mom and pop stores and outfits like FedEx?

Stephen E Arnold, December 31, 2019

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