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Amazon launches a new grocery delivery subscription in the U.S | TechCrunch

Amazon said today that it has launched a new grocery delivery subscription for Prime Members and customers with an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) in the U.S. across 3,500 cities and towns.

The company started testing grocery delivery in three locations last year, including Denver, Colorado; Sacramento, California; and Columbus, Ohio

The subscription costs $9.99 per month for Amazon Prime users and $4.99 per month for Amazon-registered EBT card holders.

The company said that with this subscription, users can avail of free delivery for grocery orders over $35 across Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, and other local grocery and specialty retailers on the Amazon site. Users will get a 30-day free trial before paying up.

the story is developing…



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Amazon ends California drone deliveries | TechCrunch

Amazon confirmed it is ending Prime Air drone delivery operations in Lockeford, California. The Central California town of 3,500 was the company’s second U.S. drone delivery site, after College Station, Texas. Operations were announced in June 2022.

The retail giant is not offering details around the setback, only noting, “We’ll offer all current employees opportunities at other sites, and will continue to serve customers in Lockeford with other delivery methods. We want to thank the community for all their support and feedback over the past few years.”

College Station deliveries will continue, along with a forthcoming site in Tolleson, Arizona set to kick off deliveries later this year. Tolleson, a city of just over 7,000, is located in Maricopa County, in the western portion of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Prime Air’s arrival brings same-day deliveries to Amazon customers in the region, courtesy of a hybrid fulfillment center/delivery station. The company says it will be contacting impacted customers when the service is up and running. There’s no specific information on timing beyond “this year,” owing, in part, to ongoing negotiations with both local officials and the FAA required to deploy in the airspace.

Expansion of the offering has been extremely slow going, in part due to regulatory matters. For much of the project’s life, it has seemed as if Amazon was simply dipping its toes in the unproven waters of drone delivery. It seems that Tolleson will be the service’s sole expansion this calendar year, with additional news held off until 2025. It remains to be seen whether the company will re-engage with California locales.

Amazon did reassert its commitment late last year, with the announcement of medication deliveries in College Station, bringing select Amazon Pharmacy orders to customers in less than an hour.

Select local governments clearly see these sorts of deals as an opportunity to advertise an openness to technological innovation outside of traditional hot spots like San Francisco or New York.

“This kind of delivery is the future, and it’s exciting that it will be starting in the Phoenix Metro Area,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego says. “The shift toward zero-emission package delivery will help us reduce local pollution and further cement our city as a hotbed for the innovative technology of tomorrow.”

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Amazon, eyeing up AI, adds Andrew Ng to its board — ex-MTV exec McGrath to step down | TechCrunch

If the decisions made by corporate boards of directors can indicate where a company wants to be focusing, Amazon’s board just made an interesting move. The company announced on Thursday that Andrew Ng, known for building AI at large tech companies, is joining its board of directors. The company also said that Judy McGrath — best known for her work as a long-time TV executive, running MTV and helping Viacom become a media powerhouse — will be stepping down as a director.

Taken together, the two moves sketch out an interesting picture of the tech giant’s intentions.

After many costly years of going all out on building an entertainment empire (Amazon spent almost $19 billion on its video and music business in 2023), it’s interesting to see that McGrath, who would have been an important advocate and adviser on that strategy, is not going to stand for reelection.

That’s not at all to say that Amazon will cease to be a huge force in streaming entertainment, be it video, music, gaming or anything else. The company is now folding in advertising across Prime Video, which is one big reason it may want to keep its audience happy and coming back.

Still, it will be interesting to see how investments play out in that segment in 2024. The company has laid off hundreds of employees in its studio and video divisions, and it has also been winding down Prime Video in some regions, which may indicate that the business could be smaller, or at least more focused, going forward. And given the AI whiplash that every Big Tech company is currently dealing with, it feels timely that McGrath is stepping away from the board now.

On that note, to stay at the forefront of tech, Amazon will be looking for better thought leadership on the next steps in its artificial intelligence strategy.

It’s worth remembering that Amazon has been a leading player in AI for a long time. Its Alexa assistant and Echo devices helped put voice recognition and connected assistants on the map; the company has been working on autonomous services, for in airborne and ground-level delivery as well as in-store purchasing; it uses machine learning to improve how products are targeted; AWS is a big player in AI compute; and now it is pouring billions into investments in big AI startups.

Yet, for at least a year, in the wake of OpenAI’s GPT advancements, Amazon has grappled with the impression internally and externally that it is “falling behind” on the technology.

Is it true? Is it just optics? Regardless of the answer, Ng’s appointment can only be helpful for advancing Amazon’s profile in the realm of AI. Put simply, the company wants, and believes it needs, to make real innovation in the space. Andy Jassy, in Amazon’s annual letter to shareholders, published shortly after the Ng announcement, went so far as to call GenAI Amazon’s fourth “pillar” (alongside Marketplace, Prime and AWS) in terms of future focus. That requires serious, high-level direction on how to make more than just follow-on moves.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Ng is potentially a triple-threat board appointment: He has experience in academia, investing, and hands-on building, and he has usually handled all three roles simultaneously. He is currently an adjunct professor at Stanford; a general partner at a venture studio called AI Fund; and he heads edtech company DeepLearning.AI and is the founder of computer vision startup Landing AI. Oh, and he’s also chair of Coursera, another edtech startup he founded and used to lead.

Ng has also served as the chief scientist and VP at Chinese search giant Baidu; and he founded and led Google Brain, which was that search giant’s first big foray into building and applying AI tech across its products.

Amazon did not provide any statement from Ng in its announcement. We have reached out to him directly, and we’ll update when and if we hear back.

It may feel like a new wave of companies and thinkers are setting the pace in AI, but the Amazons of the world are certainly not standing by idly.

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India scrambles to curb PhonePe and Google's dominance in mobile payments | TechCrunch

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the governing body overseeing the country’s widely used Unified Payments Interface (UPI) mobile payment system, is set to engage with various fintech startups this month to develop a strategy to address the growing market dominance of PhonePe and Google Pay in the UPI ecosystem.

NPCI executives plan to meet with representatives from CRED, Flipkart, Fampay and Amazon among other players to discuss their key initiatives aimed at boosting UPI transactions on their respective apps and to understand the assistance they require, people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

UPI, built by a coalition of Indian banks, has become the most popular way Indians transact online, processing over 10 billion transactions monthly.

The new meetings are part of an increasing effort to address concerns raised by lawmakers and industry players regarding the market share concentration of Google Pay and PhonePe, which together account for nearly 86% of UPI transactions by volume, up from 82.5% at the end of December. Walmart owns more than three-fourths of PhonePe.

Paytm, the third-largest UPI player, has seen its market share decline to 9.1% by the end of March, down from 13% at the end of 2023, following a clampdown by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

An overview of India’s UPI ecosystem. (Image: Macquarie)

The conversation follows the central bank expressing “displeasure” to the NPCI over the growing duopoly in the payments space, a person familiar with the matter said. An NPCI spokesperson declined to comment.

In February, a parliamentary panel in India urged the government to support the growth of domestic fintech players that can offer alternatives to the Walmart-backed PhonePe and Google Pay apps.

The NPCI has long advocated for limiting the market share of individual companies participating in the UPI ecosystem to 30%. However, it has extended the deadline for firms to comply with this directive to the end of December 2024. The organization faces a unique challenge in enforcing this directive: It believes that it currently lacks a technical mechanism to do so, TechCrunch previously reported.

The RBI is also weighing an incentive plan to create a more favorable competitive field for emerging UPI players, another person familiar with the matter said. Indian daily Economic Times separately reported Wednesday that the NPCI is encouraging fintech companies to offer incentives to their users, promoting the use of their respective apps for making UPI transactions.

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Amazon takes on India rivals with low-cost fashion store | TechCrunch

Amazon has quietly introduced a “special store” called Bazaar in India, featuring affordable and trendy fashion and lifestyle products, as it ramps up efforts against Walmart-owned Flipkart and Reliance’s Ajio, which have made deeper inroads in the Indian fast-fashion market.

The world’s largest e-commerce firm has rolled out the new store on its India Android app. Amazon began recruiting sellers for the new store in February, TechCrunch previously reported, promising them “hassle-free” delivery, zero referral fees, and access to a vast customer base.

“You can find items from clothing, accessories, and jewelry to handbags, shoes, traditional and western wear, and a wide array of home goods including kitchenware, towels, bed linens, and décor items,” the company wrote on a support page.

The growing popularity of affordable fast-fashion is increasingly driving purchases on many Indian shopping apps, making it crucial for Amazon to have a strong play in a category where it has traditionally struggled in the country, according to brokerage firm Bernstein.

“India e-commerce category mix is changing; Mobiles and Consumer electronics share is declining. Fashion has seen the strongest growth since FY19, and now holds the highest category share,” Bernstein analysts wrote in a note last month.

Bazaar’s offerings include “trendy” T-shirts starting at 129 Indian rupees ($1.55) and sneakers priced under $3.

India is a key overseas market for Amazon, which has invested more than $11 billion in the country to date. Despite the company’s cloud unit, AWS, maintaining its market-leading position in India, Amazon’s e-commerce arm holds the second spot behind Flipkart.

Last year, chief executive Andy Jassy announced plans to invest $12.7 billion in AWS in India by 2030, while also committing over $2 billion to the e-commerce division during the same period.

Screenshot of Amazon India Android app. Image Credits: TechCrunch

The fast-fashion e-commerce market has gained significant traction in India in recent years, with local startups drawing inspiration from global pioneers like Zara, H&M, and Uniqlo. While Flipkart (which owns fashion e-commerce platform Myntra) currently leads the category, it faces increasing competition from Reliance’s Ajio, which has captured approximately 30% market share in about a year, according to Bernstein.

Ajio launched its own fast-fashion platform, Ajio Street, last year, offering a wide selection of clothing and accessories at prices as low as 199 Indian rupees ($2.4). The platform guarantees the “lowest price” for its products, waives delivery charges, and offers a straightforward returns process.

Shein, a global pioneer in the category that was earlier banned by India, said last year it was prepping a return to the country through a joint venture with Reliance, the nation’s most valuable company. The oil-to-telecom giant also operates Reliance Retail, which is the nation’s largest retail chain.

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TikTok ban could harm Amazon sellers looking for alternatives | TechCrunch

In March, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that could force ByteDance to divest TikTok or face a ban in U.S. app stores. Much of the related discussion and debate has centered around American data security and speech rights, but a potential move also highlights something else: TikTok is growing its focus on e-commerce, but the interplay of tech giants and geopolitics is squeezing smaller merchants.

Over the past few months, merchants — many of them from China — looking for an Amazon alternative have flocked to TikTok to peddle clothes, cosmetics, electronics and a variety of other products to U.S. buyers, by way of TikTok Shop. In interviews with TechCrunch, sellers from Shenzhen — the Chinese megacity that’s a major hub for Amazon merchants —  said they felt a collective sense of frustration over rising geopolitical tensions and “helplessness” about a potential TikTok ban.

“The situation is not within our control,” a retailer specializing in maternity and baby products told TechCrunch. “It’s just difficult to know how things will develop.” With existing supply chains hard to shift, “we just have to play it by ear.” (The sellers asked not to be named due to political sensitivities.)

TikTok Shop officially launched in September 2023 with 200,000 merchants already on board. But since then it has not provided any updated numbers on how many merchants are currently on the platform, nor how much they sell there, nor how many sell elsewhere (and where else that might be).

Research from Jungle Scout, an Amazon data intelligence provider, gives some idea of TikTok’s e-commerce impact, however. It found that 20% of Amazon sellers, brands, and businesses have plans to expand to TikTok Shop this year. Before the current political backlash took off, ByteDance reportedly projected that it had the potential to grow its U.S. e-commerce business tenfold to $17.5 billion this year.

TikTok isn’t the only platform on the list for merchants looking for more channels beyond Amazon to expand their customer bases. Its rise is part of a bigger shift we’ve been seeing around alternative marketplaces like Temu commanding more attention not just from shoppers, but also from Chinese e-commerce exporters and merchants. And Amazon is reportedly taking notice, another sign that alternatives are picking up traction.

TikTok did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

A new way to sell and buy

TikTok has been trying to boost its e-commerce business since the U.S. launch last September.

The app is famous — or infamous, depending on who you talk to — for how it tightly controls what content is surfaced for whom. TikTok Shop also has a strong dose of curation to it.

Unlike Temu, known for its seas of cheap, white-labeled products from Chinese factories sold directly to U.S. consumers, TikTok’s strategy has been to onboard and highlight more branded goods, making it more of a direct competitor to Amazon.

TikTok is also looking to attract sellers with more traditional subsidies. According to reports, to encourage merchants to sell goods at a steep discount during the most recent Black Friday sales period, TikTok doled out subsidies to those merchants to mark down their prices by as much as 50%.

Incentives and algorithms aside, merchants have been interested in selling on the app simply because TikTok’s short video platform generates massive engagement. According to a survey from Tabcut, a Chinese firm that tracks TikTok Shop performance, nearly 70% of sellers reported an increase in sales year-over-year for the first 11 months of 2023.

This is also borne out by consumer behavior, where products endorsed by influencers continue to gain ground, especially with coveted younger consumers.

According to Jungle Scout, nearly 20% of consumers began their search for products on TikTok in the first quarter of 2023, up 44% from a year ago. While 56% of all consumers still preferred to start their product search on Amazon, 40% of the Gen Z demographic preferred TikTok for search instead of Google.

The heavy concentration of young shoppers is unsurprising, given 52% of TikTok’s U.S. users are aged 18 to 34, according to Pew Research. TikTok has the opportunity to reshape how America’s younger generations shop online.

Outside of leaning on its dynamics, TikTok has been doing some pretty bald media spinning to push its message.

Earlier this month, the commercial research firm Oxford Economics published a report on the impact of TikTok on the small to medium-sized business (SMB) sector in the U.S. It was funded by TikTok, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it provided a ringing endorsement of TikTok’s economic impact: It estimated that a presence on the platform (through advertising or just marketing themselves via accounts) led to $14.7 billion in revenue for the 7 million SMBs in the U.S. using it.

Amazon challenger?

TikTok seems to be serious about making inroads into e-commerce, but it’s still in flux. On one hand, the company — even as it faces a potential U.S. ban or forced sale — continues to roll out new e-commerce features, such as a new video shopping format it previewed at a conference this month. On the other, it’s modifying or enforcing seller policies seemingly on the fly as it tries to navigate how to grow under a particularly glaring spotlight.

“TikTok [Shop]’s internal management is a bit chaotic right now. It’s a new platform, so it hasn’t started squeezing sellers, but its policies are still changing,” said a merchant selling lamps, who has been selling on Amazon since the mid-2010s.

One of those policies appears to be related to what its algorithms are surfacing to which consumers. Merchants out of China say that in recent months, TikTok Shop in the U.S. has ramped up efforts to prioritize U.S.-based shops over foreign ones. Sellers tell TechCrunch that it’s led to the rise of black market “agents” — parties that broker deals between foreign sellers and American residents, who in turn set up TikTok Shops that appear U.S.-owned but are really run by the foreign merchants.

Merchants are willing to jump through these hoops to grow their touch points with users, and diversifying their channels as one giant emerges after another.

“Margins on Amazon are getting thinner and competition is increasingly fierce because of Temu, so TikTok gives us another option,” said the lamp seller.

To gauge TikTok’s impact on Amazon, “we need to understand the overall retail market in the U.S.,” said Richard Xu, partner at Starting Gate Fund, who invests in cross-border retail solutions between China and the U.S.

E-commerce comprises around 15% of U.S. retail, according to the Department of Commerce, so “if we talk about the small share of the online e-commerce sector alone, there isn’t much to discuss,” suggested Xu.

But if TikTok Shop’s strategy is mainly focused on bringing offline businesses online for the first time, that could be a very big move. “[Using] live streaming e-commerce to allow offline small shops and stores to participate, the potential is quite significant.”

In any case, while 15% sounds small, the number is still substantial — $285.2 billion — so TikTok Shop’s potential is enormous even if it just gets a small slice of the existing e-commerce cake.

Juozas Kaziukenas, founder of e-commerce intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse, doubts TikTok will ever replace Amazon. “It doesn’t have the broad selection and fulfillment, and shoppers in the West are used to search-based e-commerce,” he said. “But many people spend many hours using TikTok every day, thus, sometimes they will buy things on it.”

“In the U.S. and other countries in the West, shopping apps developed in parallel with apps that provide entertainment or connection like social media. We got used to getting different things from different apps, as opposed to going to one place for it all,” he added.

“Today, social apps like TikTok are trying to figure out shopping before retailers like Amazon figure out social (like through Amazon Inspire). But the status quo of different apps serving different needs remains.”

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Amazon will have to publish an ads library in EU after all | TechCrunch

Amazon will have to provide information about the ads running on its platform in a publicly accessible online archive after all, following a decision by the European Union’s highest court Wednesday.

The ads transparency requirement is contained in the bloc’s Digital Services Act (DSA), an online governance and algorithmic accountability rulebook, which has applied to Amazon’s marketplace since late August 2023.

Other tech giants designated under the DSA have complied with the ads transparency provision. But Amazon filed a legal challenge to its designation last year and was granted a temporary suspension on the ad library element last fall. However, on Wednesday, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) reversed the September decision by the EU General Court to grant Amazon the partial suspension.

The CJEU found the European Commission, which oversees Amazon’s compliance with DSA rules for larger platforms, was denied the chance to comment on its arguments during proceedings in the lower court “in breach of the principle that the parties should be heard”, per the court’s press release.

In the judgement, the higher court went on to dismiss Amazon’s application for interim measures.

The CJEU said that while Amazon’s arguments about why it shouldn’t have to comply with publishing an ads library are expressing what may be serious concerns, they must be balanced against the interests of EU lawmakers’ and their intent in passing the law — including the risk of a delay of, potentially, several years to this element of Amazon’s compliance undermining the objectives of the DSA.

The decision is a win for the Commission and a blow to Amazon — reversing the partial stay it gained last year.

It is also a win for platform transparency as it will force Amazon to be more open about the ads it displays and monetizes.

Last year, the company failed to convince the lower court to suspend other DSA measures that apply to its recommender systems, such as a requirement that it must provide users with alternative product recommendations that are not based on tracking and profiling their web activity.

Amazon’s legal challenge to the EU’s designation of its marketplace as a so-called “very large online platform” (aka VLOP) under the DSA continues. But its compliance with the full pan-EU rulebook will be expected in the meanwhile. If it does not get with the bloc’s program it could face investigation for non-compliance and the risk of large fines, of up to 6% of global annual turnover, should the EU confirm a breach of the rules.

In a statement following the CJEU decision provided to TechCrunch, and attributed to an Amazon spokesperson, the company said:

We are disappointed with this decision, and maintain that Amazon doesn’t fit the description of a ‘Very Large Online Platform’ (VLOP) under the DSA, and should not be designated as such. Customer safety is a top priority for us at Amazon, and we continue to work closely with the EC with regard to our obligations under the DSA.

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The market is forcing cloud vendors to relax data egress fees | TechCrunch

In recent months, the big three cloud vendors — Amazon, Microsoft and Google — have relaxed their egress fees, which are a tax of sorts that the cloud companies charge customers to move their data to another vendor. It’s a way to keep existing customers in the fold, but it’s kind of a ham-handed way to do it, and doesn’t exactly foster goodwill.

As a number of factors come into play, like the reality of a multi-cloud world, a stricter regulatory environment and consumer backlash, these companies are beginning to see the error in their ways by easing these fees, albeit with lots of caveats and a bit of friction involved. For example, there are limits to the kind of data you can move, and each requires you to contact the vendor and open a request to get your own data out of the cloud. But it’s a start at least.

This change of heart is really an acknowledgement of changing market dynamics, says John Dinsdale, chief analyst and managing director at Synergy Research, a firm that tracks the cloud infrastructure market. “I think this is a natural progression of the market. As true competition heats up, it would do cloud providers no good to be seen as being overly protectionist,” Dinsdale told TechCrunch.

“Giving customers what they want is just the right business strategy. In the IT world of the last few years, legacy companies that have tried to hang on to the old ways of doing things have not done well,” he said.

It’s also clear that we are moving into a multi-cloud world where it’s more important than ever to remove friction around moving data, says Jake Graham, CEO and co-founder at Bobsled, a startup that helps customers move data between clouds. His role puts him on the front lines of this issue.

“In the original cloud world, the three major cloud vendors were really fighting to try to build what felt like walled gardens, and as long as you built on top of them, everything was great. But going across them was really challenging,” Graham said. “They’re starting to get significant pushback from their enterprise customers, who are saying that there is no world in which a global enterprise is not using multiple platforms.” He says that charging these fees is putting up a significant barrier to moving data, making it difficult to share with customers, and even within divisions inside the same company.

Rudina Seseri, founder and managing partner at Glasswing Ventures, says the shift is partly due to regulatory pressure, but that isn’t the only reason. “At a high level, this emergence of regulation is a pretty simple explanation for the sudden change in behavior,” she said. “However, I think it is also worth pointing out the optics of preemptively making such a language switch, and how Google has used it as a marketing tool against Azure. If these companies see the demise of egress fees as an inevitability, then Google certainly has first-mover advantage towards painting itself as the ‘less restrictive’ cloud and attracting early-stage customers,” she said.

“Metaphorically, the market dynamic is moving away from the stick and back towards the carrot. Cloud customers looking to switch providers will need to be retained through innovative and accessible features now that the punishment of egress fees is being phased out,” Seseri said.

David Linthicum, a longtime cloud consultant, says that while these recent announcements are a pleasant PR move, he warns folks to review their bills carefully because egress fees aren’t the only problem. “This is a nice surprise, but it’s not necessarily consequential. Customers have to consider the costs holistically,” Linthicum told TechCrunch. “In other words, what are we paying for the services we’re leveraging? What are we paying for the networking fees, the egress fees, all the other hidden fees that come along with what people call junk fees that come from the cloud vendors?”

But this may not affect startups as much as larger enterprise customers. “There are more moving parts in a cloud ecosystem than just storage, such as services required for scaling and security, and the largest companies have built tight infrastructures that can be onerous to unwind,” Seseri said. “The experience of startups, however, will certainly improve as providers now must lean further into innovative features and improved customer satisfaction to win long-term loyalty.”

Graham, whose primary business is helping move data, sees his whole business model affected by these fees. He says the recent changes are a small but important step, but he also sees a future where it’s increasingly difficult to determine what is an egress fee and what’s not, which could lead to the ultimate demise of these fees.

That’s because migrations take a long time. It’s not a clean break like, “I was in AWS and now I’m GCP.” It’s a lengthy process over years where data sources that need to communicate are in both clouds for a period of time. At the same time, he says the original cloud vendor is working hard to get the customer to change their minds and come back, and it’s an impossible balancing act for these companies.

“You’re just going to have this battle between the team that is associated with winning back the customer, trying to make the customer happy, and another group that says, wait a second, we already lost this customer. We should be charging them everything. Why are we giving them favorable treatment?”

As data becomes increasingly valuable in the age of AI, being able to move data and put it to work is growing in importance for everyone. Cloud vendors are going to be a lot better off getting in front of this trend instead of throwing up roadblocks to make it more difficult to move data around. Perhaps this is just the start of something much bigger.

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AWS unveils new service for cloud-based rendering projects | TechCrunch

On Tuesday Amazon launched a new service called Deadline Cloud that lets customers set up, deploy and scale up graphics and visual effects rendering pipelines on AWS cloud infrastructure. The new service, which is geared toward the media and entertainment industry, was timed for the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas that kicks off later this month.

Using Deadline Cloud, customers in media and entertainment as well as architecture and engineering can use AWS compute to render content for TV shows, movies, ads, video games and digital blueprints, said AWS GM of creative tools Antony Passemard.

In other words, AWS is betting on increasing demand for tools that help media, entertainment and other execs navigate the ins and outs of cloud-based rendering.

“We’re at a tipping point in the industry where demand for rendering quality VFX and the amount of content created using generative AI are outpacing customers’ [compute] capacity,” Passemard added in a blog post. “AWS Deadline Cloud meets any customer’s rendering requirements by providing a scalable render farm without having to manage the underlying infrastructure.”

A startup wizard in Deadline Cloud walks customers through the process of setting up a render farm, including providing the size and duration of their projects to determine instance type and configuring permissions. Deadline Cloud then provisions Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud instances and manages the network and compute infrastructure. And — for customers with on-premises compute — Deadline Cloud integrates with this compute and uses it to execute rendering jobs.

Deadline Cloud’s dashboard provides a view to analyze logs, preview in-progress render jobs and review and control costs. With Deadline Cloud, customers can link their own third-party software licenses with the service or leverage usage-based licensing for rendering with existing rendering tools (e.g., Autodesk Maya, Foundry Nuke, and SideFX Houdini) and engines.

“[With Deadline Cloud,] creative teams can embrace the velocity of content pipelines and respond quickly to opportunities to accept more projects, while meeting tight deadlines and delivering high-quality content,” Passemard continued.

Deadline Cloud is now available in the U.S. East (Ohio, North Virginia), U.S. West (Oregon), Asia Pacific (Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo), and Europe (Frankfurt, Ireland) AWS server regions.

Cloud-based rendering is nothing new. Back in 2015, Google made a splash in the space with the acquisition of Zync, whose technology has since been used to launch Google Cloud–powered visual effects tooling in partnership with Sony’s animation studio, Sony Pictures Imageworks. Elsewhere, platforms like Arch and Chaos Cloud have provided on-demand cloud-based VFX infrastructure for years.

But the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated VFX workloads’ move to the cloud as the cost of maintaining hardware — and the space to store it — increased while work simultaneously dwindled, the result of work-from-home mandates and health-related shutdowns of productions. As Passemard alluded to, the rise of generative AI has fueled the demand for rendering hardware, too, and has led to the creation of entirely new cloud-based, GPU-accelerated providers.

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Amazon One launches new app to scan your palm for checkout | TechCrunch

Amazon announced Thursday the launch of its new app for Amazon One, its contactless palm recognition service that allows customers to hover their palm over a device in order to purchase from select places, including more than 500 Whole Foods Market stores, Amazon stores and more than 150 third-party locations.

Instead of signing up for Amazon One at a physical retail location, users can now download the Amazon One app (available for iOS or Android devices) and take a photo of their palm right at home. Once they create an online profile and add a payment method, the users’ palm is added to the system and can now be used for payment, entry, age verification and loyalty rewards at hundreds of stores, stadiums, airports, fitness centers and more.

The company explains that all palm images taken via the new app are encrypted and sent to a secure Amazon One domain in the AWS cloud. The images can’t be saved or downloaded to a mobile device.

Amazon says that Amazon One has been used more than 8 million times.

The app launch follows Amazon’s expansion of the technology for enterprise identity purposes, which gives companies the ability to authenticate employees when entering.

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