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Report: Amazon will unveil 8 new Alexa devices at an event later this month

Amazon is about to add its popular voice assistant Alexa to more than half a dozen new products — devices that range from a microwave oven to an in-car gadget, all of which will reportedly be unveiled at a company event later this month.

The news comes via CNBC, which reports that at least eight new Alexa-powered products are on the way which include a subwoofer, an amplifier and a receiver. The company is expected to show them off at an event this month, CNBC goes on to note, according to an internal Amazon document.

“The new devices reflect Amazon’s ambition to make its Alexa voice technology ubiquitous by focusing on areas where people spend most of their time — at home and in the car,” the outlet reports. “Alexa was initially considered a geeky experiment at Amazon. Now it is one of the most popular voice assistants, leading the growth of the burgeoning smart speaker market, which is expected to be worth $30 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights.”

Worth noting is the milestone this set of new products represents for Amazon, which would as a result be moving into the home appliance market for the first time. As the CNBC report notes, the new products also potentially strike at established competitors like Sonos and GE. Sonos has an Alexa-compatible amplifier and subwoofer, while GE has a microwave that can be connected to Alexa.

Amazon, of course, declined to comment about the news.

Speaking of the home appliance market, we should note this is not Amazon’s first involvement with that market, not by a long shot. The company is also working on robots of some kind for the home, per Bloomberg. Amazon also earlier this year bought the smart doorbell maker Ring.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in July the company wants customers “to be able to use Alexa wherever they are,” which adds some obvious context to the new products in the pipeline. “There are now tens of thousands of developers across more than 150 countries building new devices using the Alexa Voice Service,” Bezos added at the time, “and the number of Alexa-enabled devices has more than tripled in the past year.”

It’s not just new products for the home the company is working on, meanwhile. Amazon is also stepping up partnerships with home installation companies and home builders. As an example — earlier this year, it teamed up with the home builder Lennar to add Echo speakers in some new homes.

All of which underscores how the company, pun very much intended, is certainly at home sniffing out opportunities wherever it can to put new Alexa-powered gadgets in the hands of consumers.

Amazon looking into claims that employees delete bad reviews for cash

Some merchants pay up to $2,000 for employees’ secret services.

Some Amazon drivers are going to extremes like peeing in bottles to makes deliveries on time

Neither rain nor snow nor the absence of a bathroom facility will apparently stop Amazon drivers from their appointed rounds.

With apologies to our vamp on that old motto for the postal service, Business Insider is out today with the results of interviews it’s done with almost three dozen Amazon delivery drivers, and the picture that’s painted of their working conditions is — well, pretty brutal. Then again, this is Amazon, where frugality is practically a religion that eliminates from the company’s billionaire chief executive, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that some of these drivers say they’ve resorted to extremes like peeing in bottles. Instead of, you know, pulling over and stopping for a quick bathroom break.

They’ve peed in bottles, bags, even outside right on the road. Anything to keep to what sounds like a near-impossible schedule — like dropping off as many as 300 packages during a nine-hour shift that’s supposed to include a 30-minute lunch break and two 15-minute breaks to go to the bathroom. Try to work that math out for yourself. Many of these drivers report that it either can’t be done, or can barely be done as long as you’re pretty much flying through red lights and basically sticking to a near-inhuman pace.

Inc. magazine looked at the math and figures you’d have to deliver one package every two minutes and 24 seconds in order to clear 200 items in eight hours (factoring in one hour for breaks).

“How many packages do you have left?”

That’s the response Zachariah Vargas told BI he got one day when he called an Amazon dispatch supervisor six hours into his shift delivering packages. A normal question from the supervisor, you’d think — except Zachariah had just explained that he’d accidentally slammed the door of his truck on his hand. Blood started to pour, and both his arms started to shake. He thought he could see bone.

The supervisor told him to deliver the dozens of packages he had left before he returned to the station or went for medical help. There was no first-aid kit in his truck, so he ignored that command and headed back anyway.

“‘Are you dying right now? Girls have come back with worse wounds than you,'” he told BI was the response from his supervisor.

There are plenty of other stories like that across Amazon’s network, which is probably to be expected given that Amazon delivered more than 5 billion packages to Prime members around the world last year. Prime members pay $119 a year and get free two-day shipping on millions of items, as same-day delivery on others.

Of course, there is a cost associated with meeting that demand.

“In interviews over the course of eight months, drivers described a variety of alleged abuses, including lack of overtime pay, missing wages, intimidation, and favoritism,” BI reports. “Drivers also described a physically demanding work environment in which, under strict time constraints, they felt pressured to drive at dangerously high speeds, blow stop signs, and skip meal and bathroom breaks.

“In response to this story, Amazon said that some challenges exist within its wide network of delivery providers and that it’s working to improve the system.”

One Chicago-area driver interviewed said everyone he knows speeds “like crazy.” “That’s the only way we were able to finish our routes on time. We were zooming through residential areas, all of us, all the time.” He said at one point he almost hit a child playing in the street.

Another driver, a former Army combat-arms specialist, told BI “it was nearly impossible to finish a delivery route within Amazon’s nine-hour time frame. He said the delivery job was more physically and emotionally challenging than his time in the Army.”

It looks like Amazon is leaning towards Washington DC for HQ2, based on a ton of clues

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is set to headline a meeting on Thursday of The Economic Club of Washington DC, a city that just so happens to be increasingly talked about as the probable choice for Amazon’s HQ2, based on a ton of clues that keep piling up.

Speculation about where the e-commerce giant will decide to put down stakes for its second US headquarters has ramped up considerably in recent days, with the announcement of the winning location seemingly pretty imminent. Conventional wisdom is that the announcement is coming anytime now, certainly by the end of the year, and we’re already passed the one-year mark since the search got under way.

Bezos reportedly won’t have an announcement to make on Thursday, according to a Tuesday afternoon report from The Washington Post. Intriguingly, though, Amazon’s board of directors will be in town, too, leading to speculation that Jeff wants to show off the city to them ahead of a formal announcement.

It’s not yet clear if there will be a formal meeting of the board while in DC. Meanwhile, among some of the other clues making DC seem likely a likely choice:

Amazon has just joined the Washington DC Chamber of Commerce as a paying member. The chamber’s president confirmed it to the Washington Business Journal, which could be indicative of the company getting all the pieces in place related to the home of its new headquarters.

At the end of July, the Puget Sound Business Journal also spotted an Amazon job listing that sought a DC-based economic development manager — a job the company doesn’t appear to have posted in any other city, according to the paper. “The job posting says Amazon is looking for someone with experience in economic incentives, which will likely play a major factor in its HQ2 project. It says the economic development manager would work directly with ‘state and community’ officials, but makes no mention of the federal government, the focus of much of Amazon’s existing D.C. workforce.”

Bezos (who, let’s not forget, personally owns The Washington Post) apparently already owns the largest home in DC, or will soon. The Post itself reported back in 2017 that Bezos had bought two mansions there, one of which he intended to turn into the largest in the city.

Let’s keep going. Business Insider has reported that of the 20 remaining HQ2 contenders believed to still be on Amazon’s short list, three of those are in the DC metro area. Fun fact: Washington DC is the only metro area with that many contenders left on the short list.

Also per BI, “Northern Virginia is attractive for tech firms due to its proximity to Data Center Alley, where 70% of the United States’ internet traffic flows through. That means more efficiency and reliability, as well as cheaper power.”

People are starting to be so convinced DC is going to be the winning locale that we’re already starting to see thinkpieces about whether or not Amazon will be good for the area. (See the Washingtonian’s “Would Amazon’s HQ2 Really Be Good for Washington?”)

One way or another, it looks like we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

Amazon listing suggests that ‘Halo 5: Guardians’ is coming to PC

Fans of the legendary first-person shooter franchise have waited nearly three years for Microsoft to announce that Halo 5: Guardians will be ported to PC, and an updated Amazon listing suggests that they might finally get their wish. As noted by Ars Technica on Sunday, a banner above the cover art on the Halo 5: Guardians box which at first read “Only on Xbox One” has been updated to read “Xbox One Console Exclusive.”

As All Games Delta on Twitter points out, Quantum Break and several other games which launched on Xbox One and PC feature the same “Xbox One Console Exclusive” banner. In fact, every first-party title has launched on PC as well as Xbox One ever since the Xbox Play Anywhere program debuted in 2016.

At the time of writing, neither Microsoft nor developer 343 Industries have said anything about the new box art, but the only two explanations we can fathom are that someone at Amazon made a really bizarre error or that the update went live before Microsoft had a chance to make an announcement. We’ve seen strange occurrences like in the past that turned out to be accidents with no substance behind them, so don’t get your hopes up quite yet.

Halo 5: Guardians launched exclusively for the Xbox One on October 27th 2015, about a year before the Xbox Play Anywhere program was instituted. Therefore, it wasn’t subject to the same rules as newer titles like Forza Horizon 3 or ReCore. Although Microsoft did bring Halo 5’s Forge mode to PC, the last full Halo title to be ported to computer was 2004’s Halo 2. Nearly fifteen years later, it’s time to finish the fight (on PC… with Halo 5).