Inside Amazon - March 13th, 2020

Inside Amazon (Mar 13th, 2020)

Amazon expands sick leave policy / JEDI to be reconsidered / Coronavirus test kits to be delivered

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Have a great weekend and wash your hands! -- Kathleen

AMZN 1,754.42  +77.81 (+4.64%). As of 3:50PM EDT. Market open.

1. Amazon has followed up on its announcement earlier this week allowing warehouse workers unpaid time off during the coronavirus outbreak, with a new policy to pay them for up to two weeks if they are sick with the disease. Amid worries that warehouse workers would come to work sick because they could not afford to take time off, and after a petition began circulating asking for paid time off, Amazon issued the updated policy, applying it to all employees including hourly and warehouse workers. This paid time off is in addition to the unlimited paid time off announced earlier. The company has also created a relief fund to support Amazon contractors such as Amazon Flex drivers, delivery companies and seasonal employees. "We will be offering all of these groups the ability to apply for grants approximately equal to up to two weeks of pay if diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine by the government or Amazon," a company statement said. Amazon Prime shoppers have complained this week on social media that same-day deliveries are now being flagged on the website to be held up for delivery in several days. -- BUSINESS INSIDER

2. Amazon got some good news from the Justice Department yesterday: Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith is expected to grant a re-evaluation of the JEDI contract award. Campbell-Smith issued a temporary injunction in February, preventing Microsoft from continuing work on the $10 billion project that had been awarded over frontrunner Amazon in October. Amazon brought the case to the Justice Department, claiming that Microsoft got the contract because President Trump had potentially interfered with the deal. The president's intervention is believed to be due to a dispute between him and Jeff Bezos, who is CEO of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post - a newspaper that has been critical of the Trump administration. It is not known when the official ruling will be issued. -- NEW YORK TIMES

3. Two Amazon executives announced their departure from the company yesterday. Maria Renz, VP of Delivery Experience, is leaving after more than 20 years with Amazon. She will be joining Social Financial (SoFi), a digital lender. Greg Hart, head of Amazon's Worldwide Video, is leaving for a position as chief product officer at Compass, a company that provides online tools and services to real estate agents. Renz began her career at Amazon as a marketing product manager and went on to become the first female tech adviser to Jeff Bezos. She helped launch the company's free shipping program and worked on several multi-billion-dollar retail categories. Hart has also been with Amazon for two decades, leading the launch of Amazon Echo and Alexa cloud service before moving on to Bezos' leadership team as head of Prime Video in 1997.

4. Amazon notified its sellers yesterday that it will not accept any new listings for coronavirus-related products including face masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfecting wipes. It will not remove products that have already been listed unless they are deemed to be price gouging. Amazon has taken measures to remove products that are over-priced, or make false claims to cure coronavirus, after its marketplace was flooded as fears about the coronavirus increased. Sellers also may not bid on "coronavirus" as a keyword in sponsored listings. -- CNBC

5. Google has reportedly pressured smart TV manufacturers away from using Amazon's Fire TV system, industry insiders anonymously tell the Protocol. According to the report, those who license Google's Android TV operating system for smart TVs, or use Android as a mobile operating system, have been pressured not to use forked Android versions, such as Amazon's Fire TV operating system. Manufacturers must agree not to do so, or they may no longer be able to access Play Store and Google's apps for its devices. "They cannot do Android TV and Fire TV simultaneously," said a senior employee of a major TV manufacturer. - PROTOCOL

Previously published in Inside Google & Alphabet

6. Amazon Care, the virtual health care initiative for Amazon employees, is teaming up with the Gates Foundation and other Seattle-based groups to deliver coronavirus testing kits in the Seattle area. Using its logistics expertise, Amazon would deliver test kits to people in Seattle who have been exposed to coronavirus or are showing symptoms that may be related. The nose swabs kits can be mailed to the University of Washington for processing. The Seattle Times reports that the project will use funds from the Seattle Flu Project that had been raised in anticipation of the regular flu season to help map the spread of an outbreak. Amazon and the Gates Foundation are currently in talks with local public health officials on how to proceed with the program. -- THE MOTLEY FOOL

7. Amazon is investing in four renewable energy projects in locations around the world that will help local power grids as well as Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers. The wind and solar projects are in New South Wales, Australia; Zaragoza, Spain; Västernorrland, Sweden; and Halifax County, Virginia. Altogether, the four projects should produce 300 megawatts of capacity and 840,000 MWh of energy. Amazon officials say the projects are part of their pledge to meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early. The company has pledged to reach 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% renewable energy by 2030 and net-zero carbon by 2040. “In addition to the environmental benefits inherently associated with running applications in the cloud, investing in renewable energy is a critical step toward addressing our carbon footprint globally,” said Kara Hurst, Amazon VP of sustainability. -- ENVIRONMENT & ENERGY LEADER

8. Amazon has licensed its "Just Walk Out" technology, which premiered at its Seattle Amazon Go Grocery store last month, to its first retail customer -- OTG. The airport-focused hospitality group will install the technology at its CIBO Express Gourmet Markets beginning with those located at the Newark Liberty airport in New Jersey on March 16. It will open a location at LaGuardia airport soon after. The Newark airport's terminal C, where the markets will be located, has several self-ordering kiosks and self-checkouts in stores. -- FORBES

9. In one of its key overseas markets, Amazon introduced an Alexa-enabled voice-powered shopping feature yesterday in India. This is the first time the technology has been taken outside the U.S. The Android app is available "primarily in English" but can also understand proper nouns and regional words from the various languages spoken in India. Indian customers can use Alexa to search for items on Amazon, add them to their carts, and then proceed to checkout. They will be able to track their orders through Alexa as well. Amazon has found that shoppers in India are more comfortable speaking English, rather than typing in English, to place orders. Last year, Google reported that in the past year, voice queries had grown by 270% in India. -- TECH CRUNCH

10. Below the Fold

Some days, there is more Amazon news than will fit in one newsletter! Here are some things you may be interested in:

Written and curated by Kathleen Walder, writer and humorist who began her journalism career using  a typewriter.  She co-hosts KatSoup, a weekly program on Ohio’s Radio Reading Service for the visually impaired and print disabled. Her blog, Date-a-palooza, takes a jaundiced look at the world of online dating. Follow her on Twitter @KatWalder.

Edited by Beth Duckett, staff writer at Inside.

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