Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri

Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant, according to several people familiar with the matter. The effort is being lead by Ira Snyder, director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant. It’s unclear how exactly Facebook envisions people using the assistant, but it could potentially be used on the company’s Portal video chat smart speakers, the Oculus headsets or other future projects. The Facebook assistant faces stiff competiti


Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant, according to several people familiar with the matter. The effort is being lead by Ira Snyder, director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant. It’s unclear how exactly Facebook envisions people using the assistant, but it could potentially be used on the company’s Portal video chat smart speakers, the Oculus headsets or other future projects. The Facebook assistant faces stiff competiti
Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri Cached Page below :
Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-17  Authors: salvador rodriguez, jaap arriens, nurphoto, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, smart, reality, portal, apple, assistant, rival, according, effort, amazon, companys, working, video, users, voice, alexa, siri, facebook


Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri

Facebook is working on a voice assistant to rival the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The tech company has been working on this new initiative since early 2018. The effort is coming out of the company’s augmented reality and virtual reality group, a division that works on hardware, including the company’s virtual reality Oculus headsets.

A team based out of Redmond, Washington, has been spearheading the effort to build the new AI assistant, according to two former Facebook employees who left the company in recent months. The effort is being lead by Ira Snyder, director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant. That team has been contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain, according to two people familiar.

It’s unclear how exactly Facebook envisions people using the assistant, but it could potentially be used on the company’s Portal video chat smart speakers, the Oculus headsets or other future projects.

The Facebook assistant faces stiff competition. Amazon and Google are far ahead in the smart speaker market with 67% and 30% shares in the U.S. in 2018, respectively, according to eMarketer.

In 2015, Facebook released an AI assistant for its Messenger app called M. It was supposed to help users with smart suggestions, but the project depended heavily on the help of humans and never gained traction. Facebook killed the project last year.

The company in November began selling its Portal video chat device, which lets users place video calls using Facebook Messenger. Users can say “Hey Portal” to initiative very simple commands, but the device also comes equipped with Amazon’s Alexa assistant to handle more complex tasks.

–CNBC’s Jordan Novet contributed to this report.

WATCH: Here’s how to see which apps have access to your Facebook data — and cut them off


Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-17  Authors: salvador rodriguez, jaap arriens, nurphoto, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, smart, reality, portal, apple, assistant, rival, according, effort, amazon, companys, working, video, users, voice, alexa, siri, facebook


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Amazon Alexa is luring health developers, but it will be a while before we use it to call a doctor

If you want to schedule a doctor’s appointment or check on the status of a medication without picking up the phone, Amazon Alexa can help. As of this week, the voice assistant is HIPAA compliant, which means Amazon can work with hospitals and other health providers that manage protective health data to share personal information on an Echo. Currently, Amazon is working with applications on an invite-only basis, and none of the initial six developers link patients with doctors. “It’s tricky,” sai


If you want to schedule a doctor’s appointment or check on the status of a medication without picking up the phone, Amazon Alexa can help. As of this week, the voice assistant is HIPAA compliant, which means Amazon can work with hospitals and other health providers that manage protective health data to share personal information on an Echo. Currently, Amazon is working with applications on an invite-only basis, and none of the initial six developers link patients with doctors. “It’s tricky,” sai
Amazon Alexa is luring health developers, but it will be a while before we use it to call a doctor Cached Page below :
Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-14  Authors: christina farr, luke macgregor, bloomberg, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, theres, health, wrong, amazon, developers, information, consults, working, luring, alexa, medical, doctor, week


Amazon Alexa is luring health developers, but it will be a while before we use it to call a doctor

If you want to schedule a doctor’s appointment or check on the status of a medication without picking up the phone, Amazon Alexa can help.

As of this week, the voice assistant is HIPAA compliant, which means Amazon can work with hospitals and other health providers that manage protective health data to share personal information on an Echo.

But what users can’t do yet is connect with a doctor or a therapist through the device, and it might be a few years before they can. Currently, Amazon is working with applications on an invite-only basis, and none of the initial six developers link patients with doctors.

Developers focused on digital health have concerns about using home speakers like the Echo and Google Home for medical consults because privacy issues continue to emerge and there’s too much risk in sensitive health information falling into the wrong hands. Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that thousands of employees listen in to snippets of conversations on Alexa to supposedly improve the product experience.

“It’s tricky,” said Robbie Cape, CEO of 98point6, a Seattle-based company that provides virtual medical consults via smartphones and the web. “To uphold user trust, I can imagine that Amazon Alexa would need to confirm they’re talking to the right person, but also that there’s no one else in the room listening to the conversation.”


Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-14  Authors: christina farr, luke macgregor, bloomberg, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, theres, health, wrong, amazon, developers, information, consults, working, luring, alexa, medical, doctor, week


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Here’s Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder letter

Jeff Bezos on Thursday published Amazon’s annual shareholder letter, in which he called on rivals to match Amazon’s pay and benefits. You can read the letter in full below:To our shareowners:Something strange and remarkable has happened over the last 20 years. For example, we invented DynamoDB, a highly scalable, low latency key-value database now used by thousands of AWS customers. And customers are responding to our customer-centric wandering and listening – AWS is now a $30 billion annual run


Jeff Bezos on Thursday published Amazon’s annual shareholder letter, in which he called on rivals to match Amazon’s pay and benefits. You can read the letter in full below:To our shareowners:Something strange and remarkable has happened over the last 20 years. For example, we invented DynamoDB, a highly scalable, low latency key-value database now used by thousands of AWS customers. And customers are responding to our customer-centric wandering and listening – AWS is now a $30 billion annual run
Here’s Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder letter Cached Page below :
Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-11  Authors: todd haselton, alex wong, getty images news, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, letter, way, amazon, bezos, employees, shareholder, heres, aws, wandering, learning, alexa, customers, jeff, business, sellers, annual


Here's Jeff Bezos' annual shareholder letter

Jeff Bezos on Thursday published Amazon’s annual shareholder letter, in which he called on rivals to match Amazon’s pay and benefits.

Bezos also warned that because Amazon has such a massive size and scale, shareholders can expect “multibillion-dollar failures” as the company experiments with new initiatives.

You can read the letter in full below:

To our shareowners:

Something strange and remarkable has happened over the last 20 years. Take a look at these numbers:

1999 3% 2000 3% 2001 6% 2002 17% 2003 22% 2004 25% 2005 28% 2006 28% 2007 29% 2008 30% 2009 31% 2010 34% 2011 38% 2012 42% 2013 46% 2014 49% 2015 51% 2016 54% 2017 56% 2018 58%

The percentages represent the share of physical gross merchandise sales sold on Amazon by independent third-party sellers – mostly small- and medium-sized businesses – as opposed to Amazon retail’s own first party sales. Third-party sales have grown from 3% of the total to 58%. To put it bluntly:

Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly.

And it’s a high bar too because our first-party business has grown dramatically over that period, from $1.6 billion in 1999 to $117 billion this past year. The compound annual growth rate for our first-party business in that time period is 25%. But in that same time, third-party sales have grown from $0.1 billion to $160 billion – a compound annual growth rate of 52%. To provide an external benchmark, eBay’s gross merchandise sales in that period have grown at a compound rate of 20%, from $2.8 billion to $95 billion.

Why did independent sellers do so much better selling on Amazon than they did on eBay? And why were independent sellers able to grow so much faster than Amazon’s own highly organized first-party sales organization? There isn’t one answer, but we do know one extremely important part of the answer:

We helped independent sellers compete against our first-party business by investing in and offering them the very best selling tools we could imagine and build. There are many such tools, including tools that help sellers manage inventory, process payments, track shipments, create reports, and sell across borders – and we’re inventing more every year. But of great importance are Fulfillment by Amazon and the Prime membership program. In combination, these two programs meaningfully improved the customer experience of buying from independent sellers. With the success of these two programs now so well established, it’s difficult for most people to fully appreciate today just how radical those two offerings were at the time we launched them. We invested in both of these programs at significant financial risk and after much internal debate. We had to continue investing significantly over time as we experimented with different ideas and iterations. We could not foresee with certainty what those programs would eventually look like, let alone whether they would succeed, but they were pushed forward with intuition and heart, and nourished with optimism.

Intuition, curiosity, and the power of wandering

From very early on in Amazon’s life, we knew we wanted to create a culture of builders – people who are curious, explorers. They like to invent. Even when they’re experts, they are “fresh” with a beginner’s mind. They see the way we do things as just the way we do things now. A builder’s mentality helps us approach big, hard-to-solve opportunities with a humble conviction that success can come through iteration: invent, launch, reinvent, relaunch, start over, rinse, repeat, again and again. They know the path to success is anything but straight.

Sometimes (often actually) in business, you do know where you’re going, and when you do, you can be efficient. Put in place a plan and execute. In contrast, wandering in business is not efficient … but it’s also not random. It’s guided – by hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity, and powered by a deep conviction that the prize for customers is big enough that it’s worth being a little messy and tangential to find our way there. Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency. You need to employ both. The outsized discoveries – the “non-linear” ones – are highly likely to require wandering.

AWS’s millions of customers range from startups to large enterprises, government entities to nonprofits, each looking to build better solutions for their end users. We spend a lot of time thinking about what those organizations want and what the people inside them – developers, dev managers, ops managers, CIOs, chief digital officers, chief information security officers, etc. – want.

Much of what we build at AWS is based on listening to customers. It’s critical to ask customers what they want, listen carefully to their answers, and figure out a plan to provide it thoughtfully and quickly (speed matters in business!). No business could thrive without that kind of customer obsession. But it’s also not enough. The biggest needle movers will be things that customers don’t know to ask for. We must invent on their behalf. We have to tap into our own inner imagination about what’s possible.

AWS itself – as a whole – is an example. No one asked for AWS. No one. Turns out the world was in fact ready and hungry for an offering like AWS but didn’t know it. We had a hunch, followed our curiosity, took the necessary financial risks, and began building – reworking, experimenting, and iterating countless times as we proceeded.

Within AWS, that same pattern has recurred many times. For example, we invented DynamoDB, a highly scalable, low latency key-value database now used by thousands of AWS customers. And on the listening-carefully-to-customers side, we heard loudly that companies felt constrained by their commercial database options and had been unhappy with their database providers for decades – these offerings are expensive, proprietary, have high-lock-in and punitive licensing terms. We spent several years building our own database engine, Amazon Aurora, a fully-managed MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible service with the same or better durability and availability as the commercial engines, but at one-tenth of the cost. We were not surprised when this worked.

But we’re also optimistic about specialized databases for specialized workloads. Over the past 20 to 30 years, companies ran most of their workloads using relational databases. The broad familiarity with relational databases among developers made this technology the go-to even when it wasn’t ideal. Though sub-optimal, the data set sizes were often small enough and the acceptable query latencies long enough that you could make it work. But today, many applications are storing very large amounts of data – terabytes and petabytes. And the requirements for apps have changed. Modern applications are driving the need for low latencies, real-time processing, and the ability to process millions of requests per second. It’s not just key-value stores like DynamoDB, but also in-memory databases like Amazon ElastiCache, time series databases like Amazon Timestream, and ledger solutions like Amazon Quantum Ledger Database – the right tool for the right job saves money and gets your product to market faster.

We’re also plunging into helping companies harness Machine Learning. We’ve been working on this for a long time, and, as with other important advances, our initial attempts to externalize some of our early internal Machine Learning tools were failures. It took years of wandering – experimentation, iteration, and refinement, as well as valuable insights from our customers – to enable us to find SageMaker, which launched just 18 months ago. SageMaker removes the heavy lifting, complexity, and guesswork from each step of the machine learning process – democratizing AI. Today, thousands of customers are building machine learning models on top of AWS with SageMaker. We continue to enhance the service, including by adding new reinforcement learning capabilities. Reinforcement learning has a steep learning curve and many moving parts, which has largely put it out of reach of all but the most well-funded and technical organizations, until now. None of this would be possible without a culture of curiosity and a willingness to try totally new things on behalf of customers. And customers are responding to our customer-centric wandering and listening – AWS is now a $30 billion annual run rate business and growing fast.

Imagining the impossible

Amazon today remains a small player in global retail. We represent a low single-digit percentage of the retail market, and there are much larger retailers in every country where we operate. And that’s largely because nearly 90% of retail remains offline, in brick and mortar stores. For many years, we considered how we might serve customers in physical stores, but felt we needed first to invent something that would really delight customers in that environment. With Amazon Go, we had a clear vision. Get rid of the worst thing about physical retail: checkout lines. No one likes to wait in line. Instead, we imagined a store where you could walk in, pick up what you wanted, and leave.

Getting there was hard. Technically hard. It required the efforts of hundreds of smart, dedicated computer scientists and engineers around the world. We had to design and build our own proprietary cameras and shelves and invent new computer vision algorithms, including the ability to stitch together imagery from hundreds of cooperating cameras. And we had to do it in a way where the technology worked so well that it simply receded into the background, invisible. The reward has been the response from customers, who’ve described the experience of shopping at Amazon Go as “magical.” We now have 10 stores in Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle, and are excited about the future.

Failure needs to scale too

As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures. Of course, we won’t undertake such experiments cavalierly. We will work hard to make them good bets, but not all good bets will ultimately pay out. This kind of large-scale risk taking is part of the service we as a large company can provide to our customers and to society. The good news for shareowners is that a single big winning bet can more than cover the cost of many losers.

Development of the Fire phone and Echo was started around the same time. While the Fire phone was a failure, we were able to take our learnings (as well as the developers) and accelerate our efforts building Echo and Alexa. The vision for Echo and Alexa was inspired by the Star Trek computer. The idea also had origins in two other arenas where we’d been building and wandering for years: machine learning and the cloud. From Amazon’s early days, machine learning was an essential part of our product recommendations, and AWS gave us a front row seat to the capabilities of the cloud. After many years of development, Echo debuted in 2014, powered by Alexa, who lives in the AWS cloud.

No customer was asking for Echo. This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said “Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?” I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said “No, thank you.”

Since that first-generation Echo, customers have purchased more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. Last year, we improved Alexa’s ability to understand requests and answer questions by more than 20%, while adding billions of facts to make Alexa more knowledgeable than ever. Developers doubled the number of Alexa skills to over 80,000, and customers spoke to Alexa tens of billions more times in 2018 compared to 2017. The number of devices with Alexa built-in more than doubled in 2018. There are now more than 150 different products available with Alexa built-in, from headphones and PCs to cars and smart home devices. Much more to come!

One last thing before closing. As I said in the first shareholder letter more than 20 years ago, our focus is on hiring and retaining versatile and talented employees who can think like owners. Achieving that requires investing in our employees, and, as with so many other things at Amazon, we use not just analysis but also intuition and heart to find our way forward.

Last year, we raised our minimum wage to $15-an-hour for all full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees across the U.S. This wage hike benefitted more than 250,000 Amazon employees, as well as over 100,000 seasonal employees who worked at Amazon sites across the country last holiday. We strongly believe that this will benefit our business as we invest in our employees. But that is not what drove the decision. We had always offered competitive wages. But we decided it was time to lead – to offer wages that went beyond competitive. We did it because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage. Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.

Many of the other programs we have introduced for our employees came as much from the heart as the head. I’ve mentioned before the Career Choice program, which pays up to 95% of tuition and fees towards a certificate or diploma in qualified fields of study, leading to in-demand careers for our associates, even if those careers take them away from Amazon. More than 16,000 employees have now taken advantage of the program, which continues to grow. Similarly, our Career Skills program trains hourly associates in critical job skills like resume writing, how to communicate effectively, and computer basics. In October of last year, in continuation of these commitments, we signed the President’s Pledge to America’s Workers and announced we will be upskilling 50,000 U.S. employees through our range of innovative training programs.

Our investments are not limited to our current employees or even to the present. To train tomorrow’s workforce, we have pledged $50 million, including through our recently announced Amazon Future Engineer program, to support STEM and CS education around the country for elementary, high school, and university students, with a particular focus on attracting more girls and minorities to these professions. We also continue to take advantage of the incredible talents of our veterans. We are well on our way to meeting our pledge to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2021. And through the Amazon Technical Veterans Apprenticeship program, we are providing veterans on-the-job training in fields like cloud computing.

A huge thank you to our customers for allowing us to serve you while always challenging us to do even better, to our shareowners for your continuing support, and to all our employees worldwide for your hard work and pioneering spirit. Teams all across Amazon are listening to customers and wandering on their behalf!

As always, I attach a copy of our original 1997 letter. It remains Day 1.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey P. Bezos

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Amazon.com, Inc.


Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-11  Authors: todd haselton, alex wong, getty images news, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, letter, way, amazon, bezos, employees, shareholder, heres, aws, wandering, learning, alexa, customers, jeff, business, sellers, annual


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Here’s Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder letter

Jeff Bezos on Thursday published Amazon’s annual shareholder letter, in which he called on rivals to match Amazon’s pay and benefits. You can read the letter in full below:To our shareowners:Something strange and remarkable has happened over the last 20 years. For example, we invented DynamoDB, a highly scalable, low latency key-value database now used by thousands of AWS customers. And customers are responding to our customer-centric wandering and listening – AWS is now a $30 billion annual run


Jeff Bezos on Thursday published Amazon’s annual shareholder letter, in which he called on rivals to match Amazon’s pay and benefits. You can read the letter in full below:To our shareowners:Something strange and remarkable has happened over the last 20 years. For example, we invented DynamoDB, a highly scalable, low latency key-value database now used by thousands of AWS customers. And customers are responding to our customer-centric wandering and listening – AWS is now a $30 billion annual run
Here’s Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder letter Cached Page below :
Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-11  Authors: todd haselton, alex wong, getty images news, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, letter, way, amazon, bezos, employees, shareholder, heres, aws, wandering, learning, alexa, customers, jeff, business, sellers, annual


Here's Jeff Bezos' annual shareholder letter

Jeff Bezos on Thursday published Amazon’s annual shareholder letter, in which he called on rivals to match Amazon’s pay and benefits.

Bezos also warned that because Amazon has such a massive size and scale, shareholders can expect “multibillion-dollar failures” as the company experiments with new initiatives.

You can read the letter in full below:

To our shareowners:

Something strange and remarkable has happened over the last 20 years. Take a look at these numbers:

1999 3% 2000 3% 2001 6% 2002 17% 2003 22% 2004 25% 2005 28% 2006 28% 2007 29% 2008 30% 2009 31% 2010 34% 2011 38% 2012 42% 2013 46% 2014 49% 2015 51% 2016 54% 2017 56% 2018 58%

The percentages represent the share of physical gross merchandise sales sold on Amazon by independent third-party sellers – mostly small- and medium-sized businesses – as opposed to Amazon retail’s own first party sales. Third-party sales have grown from 3% of the total to 58%. To put it bluntly:

Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly.

And it’s a high bar too because our first-party business has grown dramatically over that period, from $1.6 billion in 1999 to $117 billion this past year. The compound annual growth rate for our first-party business in that time period is 25%. But in that same time, third-party sales have grown from $0.1 billion to $160 billion – a compound annual growth rate of 52%. To provide an external benchmark, eBay’s gross merchandise sales in that period have grown at a compound rate of 20%, from $2.8 billion to $95 billion.

Why did independent sellers do so much better selling on Amazon than they did on eBay? And why were independent sellers able to grow so much faster than Amazon’s own highly organized first-party sales organization? There isn’t one answer, but we do know one extremely important part of the answer:

We helped independent sellers compete against our first-party business by investing in and offering them the very best selling tools we could imagine and build. There are many such tools, including tools that help sellers manage inventory, process payments, track shipments, create reports, and sell across borders – and we’re inventing more every year. But of great importance are Fulfillment by Amazon and the Prime membership program. In combination, these two programs meaningfully improved the customer experience of buying from independent sellers. With the success of these two programs now so well established, it’s difficult for most people to fully appreciate today just how radical those two offerings were at the time we launched them. We invested in both of these programs at significant financial risk and after much internal debate. We had to continue investing significantly over time as we experimented with different ideas and iterations. We could not foresee with certainty what those programs would eventually look like, let alone whether they would succeed, but they were pushed forward with intuition and heart, and nourished with optimism.

Intuition, curiosity, and the power of wandering

From very early on in Amazon’s life, we knew we wanted to create a culture of builders – people who are curious, explorers. They like to invent. Even when they’re experts, they are “fresh” with a beginner’s mind. They see the way we do things as just the way we do things now. A builder’s mentality helps us approach big, hard-to-solve opportunities with a humble conviction that success can come through iteration: invent, launch, reinvent, relaunch, start over, rinse, repeat, again and again. They know the path to success is anything but straight.

Sometimes (often actually) in business, you do know where you’re going, and when you do, you can be efficient. Put in place a plan and execute. In contrast, wandering in business is not efficient … but it’s also not random. It’s guided – by hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity, and powered by a deep conviction that the prize for customers is big enough that it’s worth being a little messy and tangential to find our way there. Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency. You need to employ both. The outsized discoveries – the “non-linear” ones – are highly likely to require wandering.

AWS’s millions of customers range from startups to large enterprises, government entities to nonprofits, each looking to build better solutions for their end users. We spend a lot of time thinking about what those organizations want and what the people inside them – developers, dev managers, ops managers, CIOs, chief digital officers, chief information security officers, etc. – want.

Much of what we build at AWS is based on listening to customers. It’s critical to ask customers what they want, listen carefully to their answers, and figure out a plan to provide it thoughtfully and quickly (speed matters in business!). No business could thrive without that kind of customer obsession. But it’s also not enough. The biggest needle movers will be things that customers don’t know to ask for. We must invent on their behalf. We have to tap into our own inner imagination about what’s possible.

AWS itself – as a whole – is an example. No one asked for AWS. No one. Turns out the world was in fact ready and hungry for an offering like AWS but didn’t know it. We had a hunch, followed our curiosity, took the necessary financial risks, and began building – reworking, experimenting, and iterating countless times as we proceeded.

Within AWS, that same pattern has recurred many times. For example, we invented DynamoDB, a highly scalable, low latency key-value database now used by thousands of AWS customers. And on the listening-carefully-to-customers side, we heard loudly that companies felt constrained by their commercial database options and had been unhappy with their database providers for decades – these offerings are expensive, proprietary, have high-lock-in and punitive licensing terms. We spent several years building our own database engine, Amazon Aurora, a fully-managed MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible service with the same or better durability and availability as the commercial engines, but at one-tenth of the cost. We were not surprised when this worked.

But we’re also optimistic about specialized databases for specialized workloads. Over the past 20 to 30 years, companies ran most of their workloads using relational databases. The broad familiarity with relational databases among developers made this technology the go-to even when it wasn’t ideal. Though sub-optimal, the data set sizes were often small enough and the acceptable query latencies long enough that you could make it work. But today, many applications are storing very large amounts of data – terabytes and petabytes. And the requirements for apps have changed. Modern applications are driving the need for low latencies, real-time processing, and the ability to process millions of requests per second. It’s not just key-value stores like DynamoDB, but also in-memory databases like Amazon ElastiCache, time series databases like Amazon Timestream, and ledger solutions like Amazon Quantum Ledger Database – the right tool for the right job saves money and gets your product to market faster.

We’re also plunging into helping companies harness Machine Learning. We’ve been working on this for a long time, and, as with other important advances, our initial attempts to externalize some of our early internal Machine Learning tools were failures. It took years of wandering – experimentation, iteration, and refinement, as well as valuable insights from our customers – to enable us to find SageMaker, which launched just 18 months ago. SageMaker removes the heavy lifting, complexity, and guesswork from each step of the machine learning process – democratizing AI. Today, thousands of customers are building machine learning models on top of AWS with SageMaker. We continue to enhance the service, including by adding new reinforcement learning capabilities. Reinforcement learning has a steep learning curve and many moving parts, which has largely put it out of reach of all but the most well-funded and technical organizations, until now. None of this would be possible without a culture of curiosity and a willingness to try totally new things on behalf of customers. And customers are responding to our customer-centric wandering and listening – AWS is now a $30 billion annual run rate business and growing fast.

Imagining the impossible

Amazon today remains a small player in global retail. We represent a low single-digit percentage of the retail market, and there are much larger retailers in every country where we operate. And that’s largely because nearly 90% of retail remains offline, in brick and mortar stores. For many years, we considered how we might serve customers in physical stores, but felt we needed first to invent something that would really delight customers in that environment. With Amazon Go, we had a clear vision. Get rid of the worst thing about physical retail: checkout lines. No one likes to wait in line. Instead, we imagined a store where you could walk in, pick up what you wanted, and leave.

Getting there was hard. Technically hard. It required the efforts of hundreds of smart, dedicated computer scientists and engineers around the world. We had to design and build our own proprietary cameras and shelves and invent new computer vision algorithms, including the ability to stitch together imagery from hundreds of cooperating cameras. And we had to do it in a way where the technology worked so well that it simply receded into the background, invisible. The reward has been the response from customers, who’ve described the experience of shopping at Amazon Go as “magical.” We now have 10 stores in Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle, and are excited about the future.

Failure needs to scale too

As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures. Of course, we won’t undertake such experiments cavalierly. We will work hard to make them good bets, but not all good bets will ultimately pay out. This kind of large-scale risk taking is part of the service we as a large company can provide to our customers and to society. The good news for shareowners is that a single big winning bet can more than cover the cost of many losers.

Development of the Fire phone and Echo was started around the same time. While the Fire phone was a failure, we were able to take our learnings (as well as the developers) and accelerate our efforts building Echo and Alexa. The vision for Echo and Alexa was inspired by the Star Trek computer. The idea also had origins in two other arenas where we’d been building and wandering for years: machine learning and the cloud. From Amazon’s early days, machine learning was an essential part of our product recommendations, and AWS gave us a front row seat to the capabilities of the cloud. After many years of development, Echo debuted in 2014, powered by Alexa, who lives in the AWS cloud.

No customer was asking for Echo. This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said “Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?” I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said “No, thank you.”

Since that first-generation Echo, customers have purchased more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. Last year, we improved Alexa’s ability to understand requests and answer questions by more than 20%, while adding billions of facts to make Alexa more knowledgeable than ever. Developers doubled the number of Alexa skills to over 80,000, and customers spoke to Alexa tens of billions more times in 2018 compared to 2017. The number of devices with Alexa built-in more than doubled in 2018. There are now more than 150 different products available with Alexa built-in, from headphones and PCs to cars and smart home devices. Much more to come!

One last thing before closing. As I said in the first shareholder letter more than 20 years ago, our focus is on hiring and retaining versatile and talented employees who can think like owners. Achieving that requires investing in our employees, and, as with so many other things at Amazon, we use not just analysis but also intuition and heart to find our way forward.

Last year, we raised our minimum wage to $15-an-hour for all full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees across the U.S. This wage hike benefitted more than 250,000 Amazon employees, as well as over 100,000 seasonal employees who worked at Amazon sites across the country last holiday. We strongly believe that this will benefit our business as we invest in our employees. But that is not what drove the decision. We had always offered competitive wages. But we decided it was time to lead – to offer wages that went beyond competitive. We did it because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage. Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.

Many of the other programs we have introduced for our employees came as much from the heart as the head. I’ve mentioned before the Career Choice program, which pays up to 95% of tuition and fees towards a certificate or diploma in qualified fields of study, leading to in-demand careers for our associates, even if those careers take them away from Amazon. More than 16,000 employees have now taken advantage of the program, which continues to grow. Similarly, our Career Skills program trains hourly associates in critical job skills like resume writing, how to communicate effectively, and computer basics. In October of last year, in continuation of these commitments, we signed the President’s Pledge to America’s Workers and announced we will be upskilling 50,000 U.S. employees through our range of innovative training programs.

Our investments are not limited to our current employees or even to the present. To train tomorrow’s workforce, we have pledged $50 million, including through our recently announced Amazon Future Engineer program, to support STEM and CS education around the country for elementary, high school, and university students, with a particular focus on attracting more girls and minorities to these professions. We also continue to take advantage of the incredible talents of our veterans. We are well on our way to meeting our pledge to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2021. And through the Amazon Technical Veterans Apprenticeship program, we are providing veterans on-the-job training in fields like cloud computing.

A huge thank you to our customers for allowing us to serve you while always challenging us to do even better, to our shareowners for your continuing support, and to all our employees worldwide for your hard work and pioneering spirit. Teams all across Amazon are listening to customers and wandering on their behalf!

As always, I attach a copy of our original 1997 letter. It remains Day 1.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey P. Bezos

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Amazon.com, Inc.


Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-11  Authors: todd haselton, alex wong, getty images news, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, letter, way, amazon, bezos, employees, shareholder, heres, aws, wandering, learning, alexa, customers, jeff, business, sellers, annual


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Amazon is reportedly making an Apple AirPods competitor that will let you talk to Alexa

Amazon’s headphones will reportedly allow people to talk to Alexa, the company’s smart voice assistant. Apple’s AirPods let users speak with Siri and request anything from songs to the weather. The latest version of AirPods, released last month, makes this easier by letting people say “Hey Siri” instead of tapping the side of the AirPods. Also, Bose already sells one model of headphones with Alexa built in, the QC 35 II. Bloomberg reported that Amazon’s version of AirPods are expected to look si


Amazon’s headphones will reportedly allow people to talk to Alexa, the company’s smart voice assistant. Apple’s AirPods let users speak with Siri and request anything from songs to the weather. The latest version of AirPods, released last month, makes this easier by letting people say “Hey Siri” instead of tapping the side of the AirPods. Also, Bose already sells one model of headphones with Alexa built in, the QC 35 II. Bloomberg reported that Amazon’s version of AirPods are expected to look si
Amazon is reportedly making an Apple AirPods competitor that will let you talk to Alexa Cached Page below :
Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-04  Authors: todd haselton, leonard ortiz, digital first media, getty images, magdalena petrova
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, competitor, talk, apple, amazon, siri, amazons, making, apples, speak, version, music, headphones, let, alexa, airpods, reportedly


Amazon is reportedly making an Apple AirPods competitor that will let you talk to Alexa

Amazon’s headphones will reportedly allow people to talk to Alexa, the company’s smart voice assistant. Apple’s AirPods let users speak with Siri and request anything from songs to the weather. The latest version of AirPods, released last month, makes this easier by letting people say “Hey Siri” instead of tapping the side of the AirPods. Other products, such as Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds, let wearers speak with Google Assistant. Also, Bose already sells one model of headphones with Alexa built in, the QC 35 II.

Access to Alexa could be more appealing for people than access to Siri, since Alexa can be used to order goods from Amazon and provide updates on when they will arrive, for example. Also, Amazon’s ecosystem is more open than Apple’s, which means people can use Alexa to listen to a variety of music services, including Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.

Bloomberg reported that Amazon’s version of AirPods are expected to look similar to Apple’s headphones and can be charged in a case.

Amazon was not immediately available to comment.

Read more on Bloomberg.


Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-04  Authors: todd haselton, leonard ortiz, digital first media, getty images, magdalena petrova
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, competitor, talk, apple, amazon, siri, amazons, making, apples, speak, version, music, headphones, let, alexa, airpods, reportedly


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‘Alexa, find me a doctor’: Amazon Alexa adds new medical skills

Amazon’s voice assistant can now manage people’s sensitive health information, which represents an important step for the company into the $3.5 trillion health care sector. As of Thursday, consumers will be able to use about half a dozen new Alexa health skills to ask questions such as “Alexa, pull up my blood glucose readings” or “Alexa, find me a doctor,” and receive a prompt response from the voice assistant. Amazon is able to add these skills because Amazon can now sign business associate ag


Amazon’s voice assistant can now manage people’s sensitive health information, which represents an important step for the company into the $3.5 trillion health care sector. As of Thursday, consumers will be able to use about half a dozen new Alexa health skills to ask questions such as “Alexa, pull up my blood glucose readings” or “Alexa, find me a doctor,” and receive a prompt response from the voice assistant. Amazon is able to add these skills because Amazon can now sign business associate ag
‘Alexa, find me a doctor’: Amazon Alexa adds new medical skills Cached Page below :
Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-03  Authors: christina farr, todd haselton, daniel berman, bloomberg, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, voice, amazon, alexa, skills, medical, jiang, care, adds, health, information, hipaa, team, manage, doctor


'Alexa, find me a doctor': Amazon Alexa adds new medical skills

Amazon’s voice assistant can now manage people’s sensitive health information, which represents an important step for the company into the $3.5 trillion health care sector.

As of Thursday, consumers will be able to use about half a dozen new Alexa health skills to ask questions such as “Alexa, pull up my blood glucose readings” or “Alexa, find me a doctor,” and receive a prompt response from the voice assistant.

Amazon is able to add these skills because Amazon can now sign business associate agreements with health providers under HIPAA, which means third-party health developers who follow certain guidelines can meet the rules and requirements that govern how sensitive health information is transmitted and received. HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is designed to protect patients in cases where their personal health information is shared with a health care organization, like a hospital.

Voice technology has been heralded as a major breakthrough for the health field, particularly for seniors, kids and those with mobility problems. As a result, Amazon, and its rival Alphabet, have been increasingly focused on the needs of these populations, who view voice assistant devices as an important way to manage their medications, communicate with loved ones, and alert emergency services.

Amazon Alexa’s health and wellness team has been working for months on HIPAA compliance, and its team includes Missy Krasner, who previously ran Box’s health care efforts, and Rachel Jiang, who previously worked at Microsoft and Facebook. Jiang announced via the Alexa developer blog that six health partners have been selected for the invitation-only program, and it expects to grow that number in the coming months.

“These new skills are designed to help customers manage a variety of healthcare needs at home simply using voice – whether it’s booking a medical appointment, accessing hospital post-discharge instructions, checking on the status of a prescription delivery, and more,” Jiang wrote in the post.


Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-03  Authors: christina farr, todd haselton, daniel berman, bloomberg, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, voice, amazon, alexa, skills, medical, jiang, care, adds, health, information, hipaa, team, manage, doctor


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Here’s what all of the lights on your Amazon Echo mean, and how to turn them off

To remove other light notifications, like the green one, you can turn on “do not disturb mode.” This is good at night if you don’t want your Echo waking you up with alerts. To do this, open the Alexa app on your phone, choose Settings, select Device settings, then pick the Echo you’re trying to manage. Tap “do not disturb,” and turn it on. You’ll still see orange, purple or red lights if you lose a network connection or have muted your Echo, but you can turn those off by fixing the connection or


To remove other light notifications, like the green one, you can turn on “do not disturb mode.” This is good at night if you don’t want your Echo waking you up with alerts. To do this, open the Alexa app on your phone, choose Settings, select Device settings, then pick the Echo you’re trying to manage. Tap “do not disturb,” and turn it on. You’ll still see orange, purple or red lights if you lose a network connection or have muted your Echo, but you can turn those off by fixing the connection or
Here’s what all of the lights on your Amazon Echo mean, and how to turn them off Cached Page below :
Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-03  Authors: todd haselton, daniel berman, bloomberg, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, packages, amazon, alexa, disturb, connection, mean, settings, lights, notifications, heres, echo, phone, turn, manage


Here's what all of the lights on your Amazon Echo mean, and how to turn them off

You can manage some of the yellow ring notifications by opening the Alexa app on your phone and choosing notifications, selecting “Amazon Shopping” and removing notifications about packages out for delivery or packages that have been delivered.

To remove other light notifications, like the green one, you can turn on “do not disturb mode.” This is good at night if you don’t want your Echo waking you up with alerts.

To do this, open the Alexa app on your phone, choose Settings, select Device settings, then pick the Echo you’re trying to manage. Tap “do not disturb,” and turn it on. Alexa won’t bother you with notifications while do not disturb is active. You can also schedule times for “do not disturb.”

You’ll still see orange, purple or red lights if you lose a network connection or have muted your Echo, but you can turn those off by fixing the connection or turning off mute.


Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-04-03  Authors: todd haselton, daniel berman, bloomberg, getty images
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, packages, amazon, alexa, disturb, connection, mean, settings, lights, notifications, heres, echo, phone, turn, manage


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Mark Cuban’s advice: Alexa and Google Home are the best places to start a new business

Billionaire investor Mark Cuban sees a huge opportunity in writing skills for Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. “Alexa skills and scripting Alexa skills is really, really easy. But everybody thinks it’s really, really hard. Though a nascent business at this point, skills are the primary means to monetize a smart speaker beyond the point of sale. Cuban said a job scripting skills for the smart speakers could garner anywhere from $25 to $40 an hour.


Billionaire investor Mark Cuban sees a huge opportunity in writing skills for Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. “Alexa skills and scripting Alexa skills is really, really easy. But everybody thinks it’s really, really hard. Though a nascent business at this point, skills are the primary means to monetize a smart speaker beyond the point of sale. Cuban said a job scripting skills for the smart speakers could garner anywhere from $25 to $40 an hour.
Mark Cuban’s advice: Alexa and Google Home are the best places to start a new business Cached Page below :
Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-03-12  Authors: sara salinas, photo john lamparski, amazon
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, alexa, start, point, skills, google, mark, advice, places, business, really, smart, scripting, cuban, writing, cubans, best


Mark Cuban's advice: Alexa and Google Home are the best places to start a new business

Billionaire investor Mark Cuban sees a huge opportunity in writing skills for Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home.

“If I were going to start a business today, I’d build it around Alexa and Google Home,” Cuban told Recode’s Peter Kafka at Vox Media’s The Deep End at South by Southwest 2019. “Alexa skills and scripting Alexa skills is really, really easy. But everybody thinks it’s really, really hard. And so that disconnect is a great opportunity.”

Skills for Alexa-enabled devices or Google Homes cover everything from interactive games to purchasing transactions. Though a nascent business at this point, skills are the primary means to monetize a smart speaker beyond the point of sale.

Cuban said a job scripting skills for the smart speakers could garner anywhere from $25 to $40 an hour.

“They’re dying for help. It’s like the early days,” he said.

Read more of Cuban’s interview at Recode.

WATCH: Amazon and Google are becoming omnipresent whether you like it or not


Company: cnbc, Activity: cnbc, Date: 2019-03-12  Authors: sara salinas, photo john lamparski, amazon
Keywords: news, cnbc, companies, alexa, start, point, skills, google, mark, advice, places, business, really, smart, scripting, cuban, writing, cubans, best


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