Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has no need for distractions like space rockets and moon missions right now. Coronavirus, he told staff in a letter, meant “my own time and thinking is now wholly focused on COVID-19 and how Amazon can best play its role”.
It’s a crucial time for this planet and his company. Amazon’s mighty delivery infrastructure has the ability to get vital supplies quickly to stranded populations, making governments’ tasks of keeping people at home and away from infection more feasible.
Mr Bezos decreed in mid-March that only essential goods — medical supplies and household staples — would be allowed into its warehouses. It would mean, temporarily, cutting off everything else from the “everything” store.
“I get it,” says James Thomson, a former Amazon manager who now advises third-party sellers. “Amazon is the new Red Cross.”
Today’s free-to-read Big Read from Dave Lee and Patricia Nilsson looks at the internal stresses this is causing as employees worry about the health risks to which they are being exposed in its warehouses and out on its vans, as Amazon seeks to hire another 100,000 workers to cope with demand and staff absences due to the pandemic.
Some of the most vital deliveries they could yet make are of home self-testing kits. “A surplus of fast, effective, easy-to-access test kits would flatten the curve and protect people around the world,” wrote Mr Bezos on Instagram on Thursday, after holding a video call with the World Health Organization’s director-general.
The Internet of (Five Coronavirus) Things
1. Zooming in on security
How secure is Zoom, the videoconferencing hit of the pandemic? The service has suffered a string of cyber security and privacy-related mis-steps recently. The New York state attorney-general sent a letter on Monday raising concerns as to whether Zoom could cope with the sharp rise in traffic on its app and properly protect sensitive user data.
2. Airbnb covers cancellation
Airbnb will pay out $250m to cover some of the costs of hosts’ coronavirus cancellations. Brian Chesky, chief executive, wrote in a letter to hosts on Monday: “We have heard from you and we know we could have been better partners.” Lex says the San Francisco company’s plans for a market listing must receive a cancellation notice too.
3. Samsung chip plant case
Samsung has reported its first coronavirus infection at one of its chip factories, as the fallout from the pandemic reshapes global tech supply chains. An employee at one of its computer chip manufacturing facilities near Giheung, south of Seoul, tested positive. Production at the plant has continued, but staff who were in contact with the infected person are self-isolating.
4. Asian start-ups face selldown
Asia’s biggest companies are selling down their stakes in the region’s most promising tech start-ups, including Indonesia’s Gojek and China’s Didi Chuxing, as they refocus their resources to weather the coronavirus crisis.
5. Klarna more careful
Buy-now-pay-later fintech company Klarna is facing scrutiny over whether consumers are getting themselves into more debt as they are overextended by the coronavirus crisis. But the Swedish company has been toughening its credit criteria, reports Richard Milne in the latest #fintechFT.
Tech tools — Fitbit Charge 4
Fitbit today unveiled its first new device since Google said it would buy the Silicon Valley company for $2.1bn last November. The $150 Charge 4 is an update of its most popular fitness tracker, with built-in GPS added, NFC payments, Spotify compatibility, and a new focus on active minutes in addition to steps, reports Gizmodo.