UX conferences in 2020, Uber Works expansion, Grab growth, Spotify’s social music discovery, Annual state of startups, Facebook’s AR & VR OS & more

Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto.

🎰 The week in figures

2.5B: Amazon Logistics handles half of Amazon’s domestic shipments; the report also indicated Amazon’s in-house logistics operation doubled its market share of US package volume over the past year, from 20% to 40%; Amazon Logistics now ships 2.5B packages per year, and is on track to ship 6.5B per year by 2022, surpassing UPS and FedEx.

€150M: Spain-based on-demand delivery firm Glovo raises €150M Series E; the company has a post-money valuation of more than $1B; Glovo offers deliveries of groceries, pharmaceuticals, and more across 26 markets.

$1.4M: Amazon earned $1.4M in Alexa skill revenue (from third-party in-skill purchases) in the first 10 months of the year; the company reportedly targeted $5.5M for 2019; the article indicates revenue was in the low six figures for 2018, compared to a $5M target.

70%: PayPal completes a deal to acquire a 70% stake in China-based fintech firm GoPay; terms undisclosed; the agreement makes PayPal the first overseas-based firm to enter the Chinese payments market.

📰 What’s going on

German court bans Uber from operating ride-hail services in the country, citing the lack of a license to offer transport services using rental vehicles; a Reuters source said Uber would consider changing its model for Germany and fighting the ruling.

Uber is set to announce an expansion of its on-demand staffing division Uber Works to Miami; Uber started testing the short-term employment platform in Chicago earlier this year; the service connects workers with temporary positions in hospitality, events, and more; Uber plans to expand Works to more cities next year.

Uber is in advanced talks to sell its food delivery business in India to local rival Zomato; the deal values Uber Eats India at $400M; as part of the agreement, Uber may invest $150M to $200M in Zomato

Spotify is set to launch a social music discovery feature; app researcher Jane Manchun Wong uncovered code for Tastebuds, a tool that will let listeners find new music via those they follow; the feature can let users search and add others to a follow list; tracks can also be shared via social media, SMS, and more.

Amazon is exploring ways to offer premium content via Alexa devices; the company has considered allowing users to purchase subscriptions to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times via Alexa, upon which it would take a cut of transactions; it is also looking at a profit-sharing deal for ads on Spotify; Amazon has started offering premium celebrity voices, starting with actor Samuel L Jackson.

Facebook and Twitter deactivate a network of fake accounts promoting and supporting President Trump; the accounts featured AI-generated faces as profile photos; Facebook linked the initiative to a company called The BL, which Facebook believes to be associated with Epoch Media Group.

Facebook is pilot-testing a program through which a pool of community reviewers verify or debunk items that the company’s machine learning tools have flagged as potential misinformation.

Facebook is developing an operating system for AR and VR products, and Windows NT co-author Mark Lucovsky is leading the effort; could enable improved product integrations and privacy.

Facebook is in talks with record labels for the rights to distribute music videos on the Watch service; Facebook reportedly has tested music videos on Watch in India and Thailand; sources say Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music are in negotiations.

Facebook has acquired video-shopping startup Packagd; the deal happened earlier this year, terms unknown; Packagd was developing a YouTube-based live shopping service; the team is now working on a similar feature for Facebook’s Marketplace.

Instagram starts adding advisory notices to posts that contain misinformation; it will also use image-matching tech to find other instances of such posts, labeling them in the same way; content that is shown to be incorrect by third-party fact-checkers will be hidden from hashtag pages and the Explore tab; as with its parent company Facebook, Instagram will not remove demonstrably false content posted by politicians.

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Apple opens its bug bounty program to all security researchers; the company previously operated an invite-only program that focused on iOS; now the open program covers iCloud, iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS; Apple has increased the maximum reward from $200k to $1.5M.

Apple releases an open-source version of the HomeKit Accessory Development Kit; the HomeKit Open Source ADK enables prototyping and testing of smart home devices; companies planning to sell accessories must use the commercial ADK; Apple said the move was intended to accelerate development of a new universal standard for smart home device communications.

Apple is working on internet satellites and related wireless tech; full plans unclear, but the company has assembled a team of a dozen engineers to work on the project; Apple is aiming to deploy its first product in about five years.

Google, Amazon, Apple, and the Zigbee Alliance establish Project Connected Home over IP: an initiative to create a secure communications standard for smart home devices, ensuring compatibility between brands.

Google execs have set a 2023 deadline for its Cloud unit to become bigger than Amazon or Microsoft or risk losing funding; the timeframe was decided after Alphabet senior management expressed concern about Google Cloud being ranked third in terms of market share.

Share Now to shut down its Car2Go car-share service in North America at the end of February; will also withdraw from all of its European markets except London, Brussels, and Florence; the company said it couldn’t make the investment necessary to succeed in North America.

Singaporean ride-share company Grab says food delivery and financial services now represent more than half of its gross merchandise volume; food delivery sees higher margins than ride-sharing; Grab took over Uber’s Southeast Asia operations last year and has since expanded GrabFood to six more countries; Grab claims profitability in some markets.

👩🏾‍💻 Good reads

BuzzFeed News analyzes the impact of the digital revolution on our lives, arguing that the past ten years have seen us become more alienated, distrustful, and disengaged; covers the spread of toxic information and the plight of moderators, the increasing wealth and economic impact of people creating unhealthy products, more.

First Round’s annual State of Startups report finds 65% of founders believe fundraising will be more difficult in 2020; 70% of female founders surveyed said gender bias hurt their chances of raising money; employees at companies that don’t prioritize diversity are three times more likely to anticipate leaving within the next year.

The New York Times presents a look at the last decade in tech; includes archive interviews covering the introduction of the iPad, Instagram, Edward Snowden, Google Glass, Tim Cook as Apple CEO, and more.

Rolling Stone examines the music streaming market, which essentially settled on a ~$10-per-month fee more than a decade ago; because music streaming is ubiquitous, and providers carry essentially the same catalog with no exclusives, price hikes are too risky; giant companies like Apple and Amazon can afford to lose money on streaming, so competitors cannot raise prices; Spotify offsets by charging artists for data and insights.

Twitter and Facebook want to shift power to users. Or do they? A decentralized internet was hailed as a way to dethrone Twitter and Facebook. But to the tech giants, the idea could unload some of their burdens.

Are you confusing product discovery with research? Five questions to ask yourself to ensure you are practicing discovery and not just research.

UX & Design 2020 conferences, by InVision.

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Written by

Full-time learner, product stuff, “triathlete” & global traveller. Creating cool products @ Revolut, formerly @ Booking.com and @ Just Eat.

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