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AWS wants to rule the world – TechCrunch

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AWS, once a nice little side hustle for Amazon’s eCommerce business, has grown over the years into a behemoth that’s on a $27 billion run rate, one that’s still growing at around 45 percent a year. That’s a highly successful business by any measure, but as I listened to AWS executives last week at their AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, I didn’t hear a group that was content to sit still and let the growth speak for itself. Instead, I heard one that wants to dominate every area of enterprise computing.

Whether it was hardware like the new Inferentia chip and Outposts, the new on-prem servers or blockchain and a base station service for satellites, if AWS saw an opportunity they were not ceding an inch to anyone.

Last year, AWS announced an astonishing 1400 new features, and word was that they are on pace to exceed that this year. They get a lot of credit for not resting on their laurels and continuing to innovate like a much smaller company, even as they own gobs of marketshare.

The feature inflation probably can’t go on forever, but for now at least they show no signs of slowing down, as the announcements came at a furious pace once again. While they will tell you that every decision they make is about meeting customer needs, it’s clear that some of these announcements were also about answering competitive pressure.

Going after competitors harder

In the past, AWS kept criticism of competitors to a minimum maybe giving a little jab to Oracle, but this year they seemed to ratchet it up. In their keynotes, AWS CEO Andy Jassy and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels continually flogged Oracle, a competitor in the database market, but hardly a major threat as a cloud company right now.

They went right for Oracle’s market though with a new on prem system called Outposts, which allows AWS customers to operate on prem and in the cloud using a single AWS control panel or one from VMware if customers prefer. That is the kind of cloud vision that Larry Ellison might have put forth, but Jassy didn’t necessarily see it as going after Oracle or anyone else. “I don’t see Outposts as a shot across the bow of anyone. If you look at what we are doing, it’s very much informed by customers,” he told reporters at a press conference last week.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy at a press conference at AWS Re:Invent last week.

Yet AWS didn’t reserve its criticism just for Oracle. It also took aim at Microsoft, taking jabs at Microsoft SQL Server, and also announcing Amazon FSx for Windows File Server, a tool specifically designed to move Microsoft files to the AWS cloud.

Google wasn’t spared either when launching Inferentia and Elastic Inference, which put Google on notice that AWS wasn’t going to yield the AI market to Google’s TPU infrastructure. All of these tools and much more were about more than answering customer demand, they were about putting the competition on notice in every aspect of enterprise computing.

Upward growth trajectory

The cloud market is continuing to grow at a dramatic pace, and as market leader, AWS has been able to take advantage of its market dominance to this point. Jassy, echoing Google’s Diane Greene and Oracle’s Larry Ellison, says the industry as a whole is still really early in terms of cloud adoption, which means there is still plenty of marketshare left to capture.

“I think we’re just in the early stages of enterprise and public sector adoption in the US. Outside the US I would say we are 12-36 months behind. So there are a lot of mainstream enterprises that are just now starting to plan their approach to the cloud,” Jassy said.

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy says that AWS has been using its market position to keep expanding into different areas. “AWS has the scale right now to do many things others cannot, particularly lesser players like Google Cloud Platform and Oracle Cloud. They are trying to make a point with the thousands of new products and features they bring out. This serves as a disincentive longer-term for other players, and I believe will result in a shakeout,” he told TechCrunch.

As for the frenetic pace of innovation, Moorhead believes it can’t go on forever. “To me, the question is, when do we reach a point where 95% of the needs are met, and the innovation rate isn’t required. Every market, literally every market, reaches a point where this happens, so it’s not a matter of if but when,” he said.

Certainly areas like the AWS Ground Station announcement, showed that AWS was willing to expand beyond the conventional confines of enterprise computing and into outer space to help companies process satellite data. This ability to think beyond traditional uses of cloud computing resources shows a level of creativity that suggests there could be other untapped markets for AWS that we haven’t yet imagined.

As AWS moves into more areas of the enterprise computing stack, whether on premises or in the cloud, they are showing their desire to dominate every aspect of the enterprise computing world. Last week they demonstrated that there is no area that they are willing to surrender to anyone.

more AWS re:Invent 2018 coverage

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Google Pixel 6 Pro Review

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The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the best Android phone in the world today – but is it right for you? This is really the first time Google has created a smartphone that’s meant to battle the top-tier handsets in the industry, and it shows. But do you need the features that make this device cost more than its non-Pro companion?

Hardware

The Pixel 6 Pro works with a generous 6.7-inch LTPO AMOLED display with a centered punch hole for its front-facing camera. The display supports HDR10+, has a 120Hz variable image refresh rate, and boasts a healthy 1440 x 3120 pixels across its face, for a total of approximately 512 PPI density (pixels per inch).

This device has a curved-edge display panel with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus cascading off the left and right of the front. Because of the glass up front and around back, this device is quite slippery. That’s generally true of mostly-glass devices, and as usual, I’d recommend you get a protective case, if only to stop this Pixel from floating off the table every time you set it down.

The cases Google makes take account of the Pixel Camera Bar at the back, adding a bit of a bump above and below said bar for added protection. If you’ll take a peek at our Pixel 6 vs 6 Pro vs 5 hands-on guide, you’ll see how extremely similar the devices are – especially given their inclusion of the Pixel Camera Bar on both 6 and 6 Pro models.

The big differences come in the display and the power of both the front and back-facing camera arrays. The display on the Google Pixel 6 Pro is extravagant. If you’ve ever used a 120Hz display before, it’s difficult to go back to anything less. With the Pixel 6 Pro, you’re getting every bit the most powerful and good-looking Android 12 experience on the market today as a result of this panel.

The Pixel 6 Pro is 6.5 height x 3.0 width x 0.4 depth (inches) in size with a weight at 210g (7.41 oz). Exterior color options include Cloudy White (the one you see here), Sorta Sunny, and Stormy Black. The black model has a dark gray edge, Sunny has gold, and white has a reflective chrome edge. The front bezel is the same regardless of backside color.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro has an in-display fingerprint reader that works as well as I’ve ever seen an in-display fingerprint reader work. I’d still rather it be housed at the back or the side of the phone, as it feels most natural to me to scan my finger at either of those positions – but if it had to be in the display, I’m glad it works as well as this.

Having a Pixel with as large a display as this reminds me of using one of my favorite phones ever – the Nexus 6P. That device was announced back in 2015 with a 5.7-inch display, and it seemed overly-massive at the time. Now, with the Pixel 6 coming with a 6.4-inch display, and the Pixel 6 Pro coming with a 6.71-inch display, the smartphone experience at this size feels far more natural.

It’s important to note, here, that you’ll NEED to pay attention to the model you buy when you’re looking for 5G coverage. Make sure your chosen carrier has the Pixel 6 Pro you need to get sub-6 5G and/or mmWave 5G coverage, as the differences are significant.

Software

It’s thanks in a big way to Android 12 that this large smartphone feels so natural to use. I’ve used the default settings for the most part, but Android 12 on this Pixel 6 Pro has the option to change sizes and arrangement of elements to a degree beyond what I’d ever consider needing.

In Android 12 on the Pixel 6 Pro you’ll find a new sort of Style system. This system delivers a color scheme to the UI based on your wallpaper. This can be a Google wallpaper or your own, it doesn’t matter: It works by selecting colors based on your wallpaper automatically.

Because of this Style system, Android 12 on the Pixel 6 Pro creates an experience that is new to Google. In the past, Google delivered a stripped-down, vanilla (or near-vanilla) Android with their own-branded smartphones. Now, with Android 12 on Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, Google dares to present an experience that’s custom fitted to the Pixel in ways that are truly significant.

Camera

At the back of the Pixel 6 Pro is a 50MP Octa PD camera with a 1/1.31-inch sensor, 1.2um pixel capture, f/1.85 aperture, and an 82-degree field of view. There’s also a 12MP ultrawide camera with f/2.2 aperture, 1.25um pixel capture, and a 114-degree field of view.

The camera that sets this device aside from the Pixel 6 Pro is the third unit at the back of the phone. That is a 48MP telephoto camera with a 1/2-inch image sensor, 0.8um pixel capture, f/3.5 aperture, and a 23.5-degree field of view. This camera allows the array to reach 4x optical zoom.

The back-facing array also works with an LDAC (laser detect auto focus) sensor and OIS (optical image stabilization) for both wide and telephoto lenses.

Up front, this phone has an 11.1MP camera with 1.22um pixel capture, f/2.2 aperture, and a 94-degree ultrawide field of view. This front-facing camera is fixed focus.

The Pixel 6 Pro has the most professional set of cameras I’ve ever used on a smartphone. Google’s computational photography powers are at last paired with a set of cameras whose hardware meets the challenge of Google’s biggest competitors.

Above and below you’ll find a variety of examples of photos captured with the cameras of the Pixel 6 Pro. Among them you’ll find a few examples captured with Google’s new BETA camera features: Action Pan and Long Exposure.

Google includes both Action Pan and Long Exposure in a tab called “Motion” in the standard Google Camera app. Google is careful to tag both features as “Beta” releases, which is good, because they might need a bit of work before they’re ready to considered ready for prime time.

Both features are right on the edge of greatness, with what appears to be just a TINY bit of work left to do detecting the edges of a given subject. I’m glad to see Long Exposure, in any case – keeping the shutter open as long as I like (within reason) is a feature I’ve always like to have the option to use on whatever camera I’m using.

Battery

Inside this device is a 5,000 mAh battery (minimum 4,905 mAh), with fast charging capabilities. The Pixel 6 Pro has the ability to charge speedily with a Google 30W USB-C charger with USB-PD 3.0 (PPS). That’s sold separately from the phone, mind, but you might well have one at home already.

This device can also charge wirelessly, and reverse charge other devices. That’s also known as Battery Share – and it turns the back of the device into a Qi-certified charging panel. It’s useful for topping up wireless earbuds or a smartwatch in a pinch.

Android 12 and the Google Pixel 6 Pro offer a variety of options that allow us to go from quick-draining the battery all the way to extreme battery preservation. If I keep the “Smooth Display” active (120Hz “for some content”) and activate Increase touch sensitivity, turn off all battery saver options, keep the display at max brightness, and use only 5G mobile data to stream movies non-stop, I could potentially drain the battery in a matter of hours.

When using the device for standard activities – even capturing photos and videos and running games and tests for this review – it’s difficult to drain the battery in less than double-digit numbers of hours.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Verdict

Google seems to have moved beyond using the Pixel as a baseline experience for Android. Back when Google made Nexus smartphones for the public as effective demonstrations of the capabilities of the software, Nexus devices were not expected to compete with top-tier smartphones. Instead they were generally viewed as industry nudges, with the hope that other phone-makers would take the hint and shift things in the way that Google intended.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro, in contrast, is a masterpiece that stands on its own merits, coming correct with a hardware and software experience that delivers the best Google has to offer in a smartphone. This phone takes everything that works great in the Pixel 6 and adds features that elevate it to a true AAA hero phone that goes toe-to-toe with the best rivals on the market today.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro has a starting price of around $900 USD, and it is well worth the cash. Make SURE you get a case for this device right out the gate – the Google Pixel 6 Pro case we had here for this review is sold by Google for approximately $30 USD.

If you are looking for the newest in new Google Pixel smartphone action, but don’t need a device quite as large, with a display with 120Hz refresh rate, or that extra camera at the back, or the slightly better camera up front… there’s a Pixel 6 waiting for you at Google. That device has the same processor power, the same software, and every essential element of this Pixel 6 experience for several hundred dollars cheaper than this Pro model.

NOTE: If you’re reading this review on the 25th of October, 2021, you’ll need to wait just a short bit before our Pixel 6 Review (the non-Pro version) is posted. It’ll arrive on the 26th!

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Google Play Store cuts developer tax for subscriptions by half

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The industry practice of “70/30” revenue cuts between developers and app store owners have been put under a microscope in the past few years, especially after Epic Games made some big noise about it. It did force a few platforms to make changes to their policies, usually reducing the so-called “developer tax” under certain circumstances only. In general, however, storefront owners still take 30% of the profits by default, but Google is making a significant change in that policy to push subscriptions to the forefront.

Like many things in businesses, the 70/30 revenue split became a de facto standard without any explicit consensus among industry players. Giving store and platform owners 30% of profits might have worked well for the likes of Steam, where each product often sells in double digits, but it didn’t translate well to the mobile app market. Unfortunately, that has been the status quo for many years, which really hurt developers that sold their apps for an average price of $4.99 or even less.

It may be even worse for apps and services whose profits may come on a monthly or annual basis. At the same time, however, the likes of Google and Apple are trying to push the subscription model as a more viable and sustainable strategy compared to one-off payments for apps. In order to incentivize this model, Google is making it more attractive for developers to switch to subscription fees by lowering the tax they have to pay.

Starting January next year, the service fee or anything sold via Google Play Store will be reduced from 30% to 15%, meaning developers and publishers take away 85% of any of the revenue they make. Previously, Google allowed that same cut but only after 12 months of a recurring subscription. This change follows another big move last April when it cut the revenue cut to 15% for the first $1 million of a developer’s revenue.

Google is also adjusting some of the figures for ebook publishers and on-demand music streaming services. They can get their service fee reduced to as low as 10%, but only if they take part in Google’s Play Media Experience program. This program, the Android maker says, encourages publishers to target most or all of the devices where Android is available, making sure that the same experience and content is present in cars, TVs, and even smartwatches.

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Skype now works also on Firefox after two years

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When the video conferencing trend kicked up last year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was no surprise that Microsoft would jump on the bandwagon as well. What was a bit surprising, however, was that it prioritized bringing its younger Teams platform up to snuff instead of promoting the video conferencing service it has had for years. In fact, some might have almost forgotten about Skype at this point, including Microsoft. Two years after launching its new Web app, Microsoft has finally made Skype work on Firefox, though not without what might be an unnecessary warning.

Granted, there is a Skype desktop app anyway, so a Web browser experience might sound redundant. Not everyone, however, might want to install a separate app just for the occasional call, and not everyone might be keen on using Microsoft’s blessed browser. Depending on which browser you do prefer, however, you might have felt snubbed by Microsoft.

Switching Microsoft Edge from its homegrown edgeHTML engine to Chromium did mean that similar browsers like Chrome and Opera were able to support the new Skye for Web experience. Safari users on Macs, however, waited until May this year to be able to use Skype in their browser of choice.

Now it’s the turn of Firefox users to get equal treatment. According to Dr. Windows, going to the Skype landing page for browsers will finally let you use the communication platform’s functionality. There is still a warning that not all features might be available, but that might not actually be the case.

This compatibility with Firefox will be available on Skype 8.78, which is currently still in preview for Insiders. There’s no word yet on when it will roll out to the public, but until then, expect Skype’s official documentation to still believe that Firefox is the only browser that isn’t supported by Skype for Web.

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