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Microsoft confirms price and launch date for Xbox Series X | Games

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Microsoft has confirmed that its Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X consoles will launch on 10 November. The former will be priced at £249 (and $299), the latter at £449 ($499). Pre-orders for both will be available from 22 September.

The company was forced to announce its lower priced Xbox Series S machine on Tuesday after information was leaked on social media. The console will have less powerful specifications than the Xbox Series X but will offer next generation features such as fast load times, high frame rates and real-time ray-tracing.

On Wednesday Microsoft announced the Xbox Series X pricing on its Xbox Wire website. Both machines will be available via the company’s Xbox All Access scheme, which is to provide the machine and access to its monthly video game subscription service, Game Pass, for £28.99 a month over 24 months for Xbox Series X and £20.99 a month for 24 months for Xbox Series S. These deals will be available in the UK only through retailers Game and Smyths.

Microsoft also announced that membership of the Electronic Arts subscription service EA Play will be available at no extra cost to Game Pass subscribers, giving unlimited access to 60 EA titles including Fifa 20 and Titanfall 2.

Sony is yet to reveal the price or release date for its rival PlayStation 5 console, which is also launching this winter and will be similarly available in two iterations – one with a disc drive and one without. Nintendo is also rumoured to be revealing a successor to its Switch console.

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Amazon hits trouble with Sweden launch over lewd translation | Amazon

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Amazon’s launch of a Swedish retail site, its first in the Nordics, has caused embarrassment at the e-commerce company after a series of errors led to confusing, nonsensical and occasionally vulgar product listings scattered across the catalogue.

To start with, Amazon chose the wrong flag: the Argentine flag appeared where the Swedish flag should have been placed on the country picker. It is unclear how the error happened: aside from copious use of blue, the two flags are not similar.

Other problems were more understandable, thanks to some disastrous automatic translation from listings on other European branches of the retailer. Nintendo Switch games were listed as suitable for the Nintendo Circuit Breaker, and a collection of second world war-era Russian infantry figurines was translated as “Russian toddlers”.

Products featuring cats were hit particularly hard, with the lewd double meaning of the word “pussy” leading to a T-shirt with a cat on it being labelled with an vulgar Swedish term for “vagina”.

The wrong flag used by Amazon Sweden
Amazon Sweden used the Argentine flag to represent the country. Photograph: Amazon Sweden

Amazon said: “We want to thank everyone for highlighting these issues and helping us make the changes and improve Amazon.se. While we are really excited to have launched Amazon.se today with more than 150m products, it is only day one for us here in Sweden, and we are committed to constantly improving the customer experience.

“Therefore, if anyone spots any issues with product pages, please do use the link on the page to provide feedback and we will make the necessary changes.”

The errors drew additional mockery because of the high rates of English literacy in Sweden. “Golf clapping for everyone at Amazon involved in the genius decision of doing garbage machine translation for 95+% of the site from a language that most people in Sweden can understand,” tweeted Jake Shadle, a Stockholm-based games developer.

Amazon paired its Swedish launch with the announcement that the company was investing in a 91MW windfarm in Bäckhammar, western Sweden. The project will power Amazon’s datacentres and feed excess electricity back into the national grid.



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SoftBank-backed GetYourGuide secures $133 million from investors

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GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck.

GetYourGuide

LONDON — SoftBank-backed activity booking app GetYourGuide has raised 114 million euros ($133 million) as it tries to look beyond the pandemic. Total investment in the company now stands at over $780 million, while its valuation of over $1 billion remains the same.

The Berlin start-up’s latest funding round, led by U.S. private equity firm Searchlight Capital, has been raised as a convertible note, which is a short-term debt that will turn into equity in a future financing round.

GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck told CNBC on Thursday that raising money through standard means would have been “impossible” for a travel company in the current climate.

“This form of financing reflects the fact that our investor base shares the belief that our long-term mission matters, and that leisure travel is a fundamental human need,” he said via email. “People will travel again, and when they do, experiences will be what they crave the most.”

Existing venture capital investors including SoftBank Vision Fund, Lakestar, Battery Ventures, and Highland Europe also participated in the funding round.

Reck said the money will give GetYourGuide, which competes with Airbnb and Viator, the flexibility to invest in marketing and getting its products ready for future travelers’ “preferences and standards.”

On the digital side, GetYourGuide said that means ensuring the platform suits travelers that are more spontaneous and are more likely to cancel. On the physical side, it means ensuring guides have had mandatory training, as well as providing free masks and sanitizers to customers.

Decimated travel industry


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The racist business model behind Uber and Lyft | Erica Smiley | Opinion

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Uber and Lyft want you to know they aren’t racist. It’s why Uber put up billboards all over the west coast saying “If you tolerate racism, delete Uber.” It’s why Lyft is running ads featuring Maya Angelou’s “Lift up your eyes” poem over clips of Black passengers enjoying their service. It’s all to say – “We get it. We’re woke. We think Black Lives Matter just like you do. We’re with you in the struggle.”

OK, Uber and Lyft. You want a seat at the anti-racism table? Let’s talk about race.

These powerful companies are already in a strong position to discuss it. In fact, they have one of the most diverse workforces in the US. A UC Santa Cruz study found that, in their hometown of San Francisco, 78% of app-based drivers are people of color, and 56% are immigrants.

Wow, that’s great that Uber and Lyft are providing so many job opportunities to people of color – but wait. That was only the first line in the survey.

According to the same UC Santa Cruz survey, 71% of these app workers work 30 hours a week, and more than half work over 40 hours. Despite this, as much as 20% may earn zero dollars after expenses, and 15% are forced to rely on public assistance to get by. Zero dollars? The last workforce that was predominantly people of color that worked this hard for zero dollars was – well, let’s just say it wasn’t a great moment in our nation’s history.

So, can we call Uber and Lyft’s workforce diverse? Yes. But can we call it just? No. Here’s why.

Despite the anti-racist billboards and the Maya Angelou poems, these wealthy companies have built an entire business model on gaslighting people of color and exploiting them for cheap labor.

When Uber and Lyft first started, they told drivers (and often still do) they could make up to $100,000 a year if they drove full-time. But as the industry became more competitive, Uber and Lyft began to demand as much as 20% off each ride, all while drivers were paying their own car expenses. And when these apps realized that they needed larger fleets to compete, they started recruiting low-income, often immigrant drivers with false promises of the American dream. For example, even if you didn’t have a car or credit score, Uber would set you up with a car lease – all you had to do was commit to making 150-200 rides a week for the company. Can’t do it? No worries, Uber knows there are plenty of others for them to target – but you still have to pay that car lease Uber signed you up for.

All too often, these apps are feeding the false promise of stable living to immigrants and people of color. It’s what driver activists like to call “exploitation through innovation”.

Leandra Montiel, 34, joins a protest by Uber and Lyft rideshare drivers against California Proposition 22, in Los Angeles, California.



Leandra Montiel, 34, joins a protest by Uber and Lyft rideshare drivers against California Proposition 22, in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

California tech companies like Uber and Lyft have “innovated”, or “forcibly mutated”, the traditional model of employment into a more exploitative (but “flexible!”) model than the one that existed previously. Unlike a traditional employer, Uber says you can work whenever you want, for however long you want – but Uber won’t pay for your car expenses, and they won’t give you benefits. Essentially, you are just self-employed, but with a tech giant skimming 20% off everything you make on your own.

Here’s the problem with this “flexible” model of employment – as we’ve seen, most gig drivers aren’t working flexible hours. Again, 71% of drivers in Uber and Lyft’s hometown of San Francisco work 30 hours a week, and more than half work over 40 hours. And again, despite working full-time hours, this diverse population isn’t getting full-time pay. Or benefits, for that matter – more than one fifth do not have health insurance. And as most uninsured folks will tell you, life isn’t exactly “flexible” when you don’t have healthcare.

The lack of healthcare, the bad pay, the fact that 59% of app-based food delivery drivers said they could not save enough to handle a $400 emergency expense, according to the UC Santa Cruz study, led to a perfect storm when the coronavirus hit. A follow-up to that study found that 37% of those surveyed lost 100% of their pay, as Uber and Lyft were their only source of income. And there was no way for many drivers to collect unemployment when the shutdowns started, as they weren’t technically “employees”, thanks to Uber and Lyft.

How would Maya Angelou feel about all of this? Would she be OK with exploiting people of color for cheap labor? Would she be OK with leaving them out to dry in a pandemic? As a Black woman, I’m pretty confident in saying that she would not be OK with this.

Thankfully, we have the opportunity to change this racist, exploitative model for good – and it starts in Uber and Lyft’s home state of California. California voters can redefine app-based employment this November, and help countless POC drivers get the pay and the benefits they earned, by voting “No” on Prop 22. Prop 22 would partially overturn AB 5, a California law that expands the definition of employment to include app-based workers, so that they could receive full-time benefits for full-time work. If passed, Prop 22 would permanently exempt app companies like Uber and Lyft from providing benefits to their drivers, even those who work full-time hours for the app.

Uber and its allies has already spent a record-breaking nearly $200m on lifting up Prop 22, all while their drivers are struggling to get through the pandemic. So, despite all the anti-racist advertisements, and the faux “we care about our drivers” talking points, their priorities are clear – keep our POC and immigrant drivers in a constant state of financial insecurity, and protect our profit model at all costs.

But Uber and Lyft’s priorities aren’t the priorities of working people, of people of color, of immigrants, or of any decent human being who believes in equal pay for equal work. Don’t let them gaslight you into thinking otherwise.

Erica Smiley is the executive director of Jobs With Justice, a leading worker advocacy organization within the national labor movement. She is the first Black woman to hold the position.



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