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Apple to add lossless audio to Apple Music at no additional cost [TechCrunch]
Apple announced addition of some new features to its music streaming service Apple Music. Starting next month, users will find some new options, such as spatial audio with support for Dolby Atmos as well as lossless audio files. Recently, Spotify announced a new high-end subscription tier with CD-quality, lossless audio files. But Spotify HiFi is not included in Spotify Premium by itself. However, Apple’s lossless audio is going to be included in the basic Apple Music subscription tier that costs $9.99 per month. Moreover, the entire Apple Music catalog of 75 million songs will support lossless audio.
Amazon makes its lossless music streaming service a free upgrade [TechCrunch]
Amazon announced that going forward, its high-quality streaming tier, Amazon Music HD, will be made available to all eligible Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers at no extra cost. Before the latest announcement, Amazon Music HD was priced at $12.99 per month for Amazon Prime subscribers and $14.99 per month for non-prime members. The move by Amazon to make its HD catalog a free upgrade follows a latest announcement from Apple that it will add lossless audio to Apple Music at no additional cost, starting next month.
France says Google, Microsoft cloud services are OK for sensitive data [VentureBeat]
Some of France’s most sensitive state and corporate data can be safely stored using the cloud computing technology developed by Google and Microsoft, if it is licensed to French companies, the government said. The comment, acknowledges US technological superiority in the field and contrasts with previous calls from European politicians for fully homegrown alternatives. Google said it welcomed the “clarification” provided by the French government, adding that it supported “the need for the greatest security levels.” Moreover, Microsoft added that this was good news for France’s digital transformation “in complete independence.”
Amazon's plan to reduce warehouse injuries includes guided meditation [Engadget]
Amazon is planning to launch a health and wellness program for its employees. The ‘WorkingWell’ program includes physical and mental activities, wellness exercises and health eating support that are aimed at reenergizing workers and ultimately reduce the risk of injury. There will be ‘wellness zones’ where employees can stretch and hourly ‘mind and body’ prompts that include breathing exercises and mental reflections. Also, there will be interactive kiosks named AmaZen, where workers can watch short videos on guided meditations, positive affirmations, calming scenes with sounds and more. The initiative comes months after a recent report from the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that Amazon employees at automated facilities have a 50% higher rate of injury compared to other warehouses.
Facebook wants ‘other companies’ to use the Oversight Board, too [Engadget]
Facebook executives have suggested that some of their peers could one day benefit from the its Oversight Board’s services, too. In a 2019 letter outlining “Facebook’s commitment to the Oversight Board,” Mark Zuckerberg hinted that the board’s purview could one day extend beyond just Facebook. The comment drew little attention at the time, but the idea has recently resurfaced. Such a move would have obvious benefits for Facebook, which would be able to claim their experiment with self-regulation was so successful that their competitors chose to join in. However, no other social media company has publicly expressed any interest in offloading its own content moderation decisions to Facebook, for now.
Twitch lowers subscription prices in most countries to reflect the cost of living [Engadget]
Livestreaming service Twitch is lowering the prices for subscriptions (including gift subs) in "most countries" to better reflect the costs of living in those places. Earlier, the company charged roughly $5 per month for a standard subscription regardless of where its users live. The price drops will start on May 20th in Mexico (48 Pesos per month, or about $2.40) and Turkey (9.90 TRY, about $1.20), with many countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East getting their cuts sometime in Q3’21. The Amazon-owned company said this should make it easier for viewers to support their favorite creators. Twitch is aware that this could lead to less take-home income for some broadcasters. It's promising to cover all of a channel's baseline subscription revenue for three calendar months and gradually lower those payments over nine months to ease people into the new price structure.
AWS introduces new Application Migration Service [ZDNet]
Amazon unveiled a new service designed to help customers manage "lift-and-shift" migrations of applications to AWS. The company said that the new AWS Application Migration Service will assist in minimizing time-intensive, error-prone manual processes by automatically replicating entire servers and converting customers' source servers from physical, virtual, or cloud infrastructure to run natively on AWS. Application Migration Service reportedly cuts the headache and costs involved in migration because users will not have to pay for multiple migration solutions, specialized cloud development, or application-specific skills. The service is now available to customers in parts of the US, the Asia Pacific region, and Europe.
Google is teasing a big Wear OS update for smartwatches Tuesday at I/O [TheVerge]
Google has teased an update for Watch OS at the I/O 2021 conference. The company has even suggested that the developer conference will feature an entirely new version of Wear OS on the I/O Adventure page, the “virtual sandbox” for trying the products Google will announce at the conference. Moreover, Samsung is reportedly dropping its Tizen OS in exchange for using Google’s software on its next smartwatches. With a big powerful new partner, a wearable team of its own, and the possibility of Android 12’s rumored new visual design coming to Wear OS, it is being expected that Google might have a plan for Wear OS.
Apple faces continued iPad Pro delays due to next-gen displays [Yahoo Finance]
Apple is grappling with continued supply chain constraints for its new high-end iPad Pro, potentially compounding an already month-and-a-half wait for the company’s tablet. The primary issue is producing the 12.9-inch model’s new MiniLED screen. Earlier, it was reported that the new device is facing supply constraints because of complexities surrounding the nascent technology. Reports suggest that Apple’s production partners are still struggling to produce the more intricate screens in larger quantities.
IPhone maker Foxconn finalizes auto partnership with Stellantis [Yahoo Finance]
Foxconn and Jeep maker Stellantis said that they are prepared to announce a new strategic partnership, solidifying another major cooperation between technology and automotive giants. The two companies said that they will hold a conference call about discuss their tie-up, but didn’t provide details about the partnership. Reports suggest that the new partnership may be focused initially on collaboration on a smart cockpit or in-car digital services. Last Year in October, Foxconn unveiled its first EV chassis as well as a software platform aimed at helping EV makers get models to market faster. The company also outlined plans to release a solid-state battery by 2024. Since then, it’s signed deals with Chinese EV startup Byton and US-based Fisker.
Volocopter debuts a bigger eVTOL aimed at the city-suburban commute [TechCrunch]
Germany electric aviation startup Volocopter revealed a new electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft targeting the suburban-to-city commuter. The four-seater VoloConnect is designed to have a range of 62 miles, making it well-suited for trips between the suburbs and the city, the company said. The aircraft design is a significant departure from the two-seat VoloCity (22 mile range), designed for shorter urban trips. VoloConnect features a hybrid lift-and-push design. The vertical lift is facilitated by six propellers that sit parallel to the aircraft body and are connected by two wings. The push comes from two large fans on each side of the craft. Three wheels can retract into and out of the plane’s belly during take-off and landing. The new craft can reach a cruising speed of 112 mph (180 km/h) and a top speed of around 155 mph (250 km/h). The company aims to achieve certification by 2026.
Intel's next-gen hybrid Optane SSDs are coming to laptops soon [Engadget]
Intel has announced a new memory and storage hybrid solution for laptops, entitled "Intel Optane memory H20 with solid state storage." It's slated to have two different capacities out of the gate: 32GB Intel Optane Memory + 512GB Storage, and 32GB Intel Optane Memory + 1TB Storage. Delivering innovation in storage through 11th Gen Intel Core processor-based platforms, Intel Optane memory H20 offers a personalized computing experience with a new level of performance and large storage capacity options for gamers, media and content creators, everyday users and professionals. NAND technology, Intel Optane memory H20 brings together two revolutionary memory and storage technologies on a single M.2 2280 form factor device. Intel Optane memory H20 with solid state storage will be widely available to OEM customers beginning June 20th.
Investment and M&A
AT&T announces $43 billion deal to merge WarnerMedia with Discovery [CNBC]
AT&T announced a deal to combine its content unit WarnerMedia with Discovery, paving the way for one of Hollywood’s biggest studios to compete with media giants Netflix and Disney. Under the agreement, AT&T will unwind its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, which closed just under three years ago and form a new media company with Discovery. The deal would create a new business, separate from AT&T, that could be valued at as much as $150 billion, including debt. AT&T said it would receive an aggregate amount of $43 billion in a combination of cash, debt and WarnerMedia’s retention of certain debt. AT&T shareholders would receive stock representing 71% of the new company, while Discovery shareholders would own 29%, it added. Shares of Discovery were up as much as 9% Monday morning before falling 4% in the early afternoon on May 17th. AT&T’s stock price was up less than 1%.
Twilio to acquire toll-free messaging provider Zipwhip for $850 million [ZDNet]
Twilio announced that it is acquiring Zipwhip in a cash and stock deal valued at around $850 million. Zipwhip is a provider of toll-free messaging services in the US, and Twilio plans to use its technology to strengthen its messaging products. Zipwhip's business texting platform enables companies to reach customers through SMS via their existing toll-free phone numbers. It also provides onboarding, gateway, registry, and spam detection and remediation for all of the major US carriers. The company currently has 30,000 customers globally, including resellers, and has seen growth of more than 400% over the last three years.
Gojek and Tokopedia merge to form GoTo Group [TechCrunch]
Ride-hailing firm Gojek and marketplace Tokopedia announced that they have combined their businesses to form GoTo Group, the largest technology group in Indonesia. GoTo will be preparing for a dual listing in New York and Jakarta later this year, the companies said. Gojek’s Andre Soelistyo will lead the combined business as GoTo Group CEO, with Tokopedia’s Patrick Cao serving as GoTo Group President. Kevin Aluwi will continue as CEO of Gojek and William Tanuwijaya will remain CEO of Tokopedia, the two firms added. The deal, which has been in the works for several months, comes after Gojek spent several quarters exploring a merger with Grab.
Amazon is in talks to buy MGM for $9 billion [TheVerge]
Amazon has reportedly offered $9 billion to buy MGM. By looking at the sudden impending existence of a new media giant as AT&T spins off WarnerMedia and combines it with Discovery, it wouldn’t be very surprising if Amazon and MGM made a deal. In December, it was reported that MGM has a library of 4,000 films and 17,000 hours of TV. James Bond in particular is one of the most valuable film franchises ever made.
Bright Machines to go public via merger with SPAC SCVX in $1.1 billion deal [MarketWatch, TechCrunch]
Industrial automation startup Bright Machines announced that is going public via merger with SPAC SCVX, in a deal with a pro forma enterprise value of $1.1 billion. The new company will have up to $435 million in cash proceeds. Moreover, a group of investors, including XN, Hudson Bay Master Fund, SB Management (a subsidiary of SoftBank Group and manager to SB Northstar), Fidelity Management & Research Company, and Alyeska Investment Group, have committed to invest $205 million in the form of a PIPE investment. The company will use the proceeds to accelerate its growth, including expanding into new markets.