Inside Amazon - December 12th, 2019

Inside Amazon (Dec 12th, 2019)

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1. Microsoft is apparently moving ahead with its work on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, despite Amazon's recent lawsuit seeking to overturn the award decision. CNBC reports that Microsoft is staffing up, luring talent from defense contractors and other companies while offering employees raises. The company is also trying to obtain the necessary authorization for workers to start on the project. Officials from the tech giant, including CEO Satya Nadella, are meeting with Defense Department officials in D.C. over the next two days to discuss preparations for the contract, NextGov reported. In its legal complaint unsealed on Monday, Amazon claims that it missed out on the $10 billion cloud-computing contract with the Defense Department because President Trump “used his office” to prevent AWS from winning the contract. The complaint, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, argues that Trump “made no secret of his personal dislike” toward the Amazon CEO. AWS is calling on the Defense Department to terminate the contract and undergo a second review of the submitted proposals. - NEXTGOV

2. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was named the businessperson of the decade by CFOs worldwide, according to a CNBC survey. Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 as an online book retailer and has transformed the company into the world’s largest e-commerce business, while simultaneously expanding into cloud computing, where its spinoff, AWS, today controls nearly half of the global IaaS public cloud market share. Nearly a third of respondents to CNBC’s latest Global CFO Council survey named Bezos as the most impressive business executive. Alibaba founder Jack Ma finished second, and Tesla’s founder Elon Musk third. -CNBC

A version of this story first appeared in Inside Cloud.

3. Some Amazon sellers are registering generalized trademarks that force competitors to remove their products from the online marketplace, according to a new report in The Washington Post. The report goes on to explain how sellers who register the trademarks - some of which likely wouldn't stand up in court - are "exploiting weaknesses" in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The dispute largely centers on the “Merch by Amazon" service, which allows sellers to upload designs for products like T-shirts that Amazon will print and ship after paying a royalty. Small sellers argue that the patent office is improperly registering trademarks for common terms that don't actually need protection, and Amazon isn't helping by generally siding with the trademark holders. An Amazon spokeswoman told The Post that the company is "not the proper place to challenge the validity of duly issued trademarks.” - WAPO

4. Amazon launched its celebrity voice program for Alexa today, starting with Samuel L. Jackson. People can pay 99 cents to have Jackson's voice respond to Alexa commands and questions, including asking him about his career and different roles. As The Verge notes, Alexa users have to specifically request the actor's voice by saying “Alexa, ask Samuel L. Jackson,” followed by the query. You can also choose between explicit and clean versions in the Alexa app settings menu. Future celebrity voices will cost $4.99, according to the company. - THE VERGE

5. Amazon earlier today released a Star Wars video that looks behind-the-scenes at “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." The film, which is due out for release on Friday, December 20, marks the final installment of the original Star Wars story. To find the "secret" video, you have to type “#TheRiseOfSkywalker” into the external search bar on Amazon.com or the Amazon App, or use your voice remote to tell Fire TV “Alexa, the Force will be with you always." (Or you can just reach it directly at amazon.com/threriseofskywalker). It's apparently part of a promo that Amazon did in partnership with Disney and Lucasfilm. - VARIETY

6. Amazon has renewed “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” for a fourth season, days after the third season made its debut. The series - which recently garnered two Golden Globe nominations for Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy, and Best Actress for star Rachel Brosnahan - has already won three Golden Globes and 16 Emmy Awards. Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said Season 3 was the series’ "most watched opening weekend ever" after its debut on December 6. - VARIETY

7. Amazon has reportedly paid $25 million for the worldwide rights to a Rihanna documentary. The untitled, Peter Berg-directed film apparently takes "an unfiltered look" into Rihanna's life and career, based on more than 1,200 hours of video footage. Berg previously told The Hollywood Reporter that he traveled around Europe with the singer, including a stop in Nice, France, where he witnessed the 2016 truck attack that killed 86 people and injured 458 others. The documentary was reportedly shopped to multiple distributors before Amazon picked it up. - THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

8. Amazon released Audible Suno - a free service of audio series - exclusively in India. The company doesn't want to call them podcasts, but rather refers to them as “hundreds of hours of audio entertainment, enlightenment, and learning.” The more than 60 episodes, which range from 20 to 60 minutes in length, are in both Hindi and English languages. They are available on an Android app and via the iOS Audible app, covering genres like scripted fiction series, celeb talk shows, and documentaries. - TECHCRUNCH

9. If you invested $1,000 in Amazon a decade ago, you would have $13,300 now, according to CNBC's latest calculations. The total return of the investment is around 1,232 percent, compared to the S&P 500's total return of around 255 percent during that time, CNBC notes. Interestingly, if you invested $500 at the company's IPO price of $18 per share on May 15, 1997, your shares (which now would tally 324 after stock splits) would be worth $568,620 at the current price of $1,755 per share, according to The Motley Fool. This is a total return of 113,000 percent. - CNBC

10. People who sign up for Amazon's Music Unlimited subscription can get an Echo Dot for 99 cents right now. The music service costs $7.99 a month for Prime members and $9.99 a month for non-Prime subscribers. However, people who already have Music Unlimited subscriber can’t access the deal. (Although there's nothing saying you can't cancel and then sign up again). The Echo Dot typically costs $50. - REVIEWED.COM

Written and curated by Beth Duckett, a former reporter for The Arizona Republic who wrote a book about the solar industry and frequently covers hobby and commercial drones. You can follow her tweets about artificial intelligence news here.

Edited by Sheena Vasani, Inside Dev editor.

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