Contact Me By Email

Monday, December 30, 2019

Be wary of Elon Musk despoiling the ‘vault of heaven’

It’s feasible to flood space with flotillas of small satellites – but do we really want to?

Elon Musk
SElon Musk wants to create a space network that will enhance global broadband communication. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

Changing economics and advancing miniaturisation now enable flotillas of small satellites to be launched into space – up to a hundred on a single rocket. These microsatellites are already being deployed, by companies such as Planet Lab in California, to survey every point on the Earth every day, with sharp enough images to study building sites, road traffic, land use and so forth.

But a bigger leap is now in the offing. Elon Musk’s company SpaceX envisages the “Starlink” project. This entails launching up to 40,000 spacecraft into orbit in order to create a network that will enhance global broadband communication. Other companies, such as Amazon, say they have similar plans.

In principle, these are exciting and welcome developments, especially if they bring broadband internet to the whole of Africa and other parts of the developing world. But there is a downside. Starlink would involve launching more objects into space, in this single constellation, than all the satellites launched in the 60 years since the birth of the space age. There would be roughly one in every square degree over the sky (the area on the sky covered by a small coin held at arm’s length).

Skywatchers could find that their familiar starry sky was augmented by huge numbers of bright spots moving across it, especially soon after sunset and just before sunrise (the periods in the day when the sun is below our horizon but shining on to satellites hundreds of kilometres above us.) For professional astronomers looking steadily at a single celestial body, these rogue lights would only be a minor irritant. However, they would cause more confusion to projects that monitor or search large areas of sky to seek transient objects – exploding stars or even more exotic cosmic explosions. Especially confusing will be the cases when part of the satellite acts like a mirror, creating a specially bright and brief flash when it’s oriented so that it reflects the sun.

SpaceX capsule docks at International Space Station – video

One particularly important project that could be impeded by these swarms of satellites is the search for asteroids. There are 2m asteroids, which are more than 50 metres across, whose orbits cross that of the Earth. Any of these could potentially hit Earth and would be big enough for its impact to destroy a large city. Even though most of the giant (dinosaur-killing) asteroids more than 1km across have been discovered, only 2% of these still dangerous smaller ones are known and there’s a strong motive to search for all the others, so that those with trajectories that could bring them dangerously close to our world can be deflected well in advance. In such searches, the “foreground” of unpredictably moving satellites would be a complication.

There are also concerns among astronomers making measurements in the microwave bands – trying to discover and understand young stars, protoplanets and such like, as well as their constituent gases and molecules. Such observations will be impeded if Starlink satellites’ uplinks or downlinks “pollute” observationally interesting wavebands.

Radio telescopes are constructed in “radio quiet” places to minimise artificial background, but there would be no hiding from the beams sent from these satellites.

In mitigation, this particular enterprise is motivated by a goal that we should acclaim: spreading the genuine benefit of broadband worldwide, especially to the developing world. And it’s a plus that the mega companies involved are genuinely aware of the downsides and will be doing all they can to minimise it by blackening the surfaces and choosing wavelengths carefully. These ventures are not as irresponsible as earlier (and fortunately quashed) proposals to build large advertising hoardings in space.

But we shouldn’t forget that it’s not just astronomers – a minority – who care about this issue. The night sky, the “vault of heaven”, is the one feature of our environment that has been shared, and wondered at, by all humanity through the ages. We should deplore anything that needlessly degrades its beauty and serenity, just as, more parochially, we don’t want tinsel or phone masts in our national parks.

 Martin Rees is the astronomer royalHis latest book is On the Future: Prospects for Humanity.”

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Canon EOS Ra (Astrophotography Road Trip)

In the 5G race of 2019, consumers were the real losers - CNET

In the 5G race of 2019, consumers were the real losers

"Commentary: The carriers were largely in testing mode, and consumers were the guinea pigs.

5G wasn't a complete bust, but it didn't live up to the hype either. 
Robert Rodriguez/CNET
It's the beginning of 2019, and the hype for 5G is immense. Verizon talks about all of the different applications at a keynote at CES. A few next-generation networks had already turned on in December 2018, and after years of big promises and anticipation, it looks like the game-changing technology is finally going to show up in a big way. 
Then 2019 happened. 
Those networks that turned on a few weeks prior? Consumers still don't have access to some of them. One initially touted a single robot customer. 
The handful of networks in the US that went live in the middle of the year suffered from extremely limited range. Overseas, coverage was promising, but likewise spotty. The broader range flavor of 5G, which promises to cover more people, launched this month with an incremental increase in speed over 4G. 5G smartphones have been pricey, suffered from weak battery life and been limited in the types of 5G bands they could access. 
Watch this: 5G kind of sucked this year. Here's how it may get better....
Game-changing this is not. 
The shaky launch of 5G this year underscores the fact that the wireless industry is still in testing mode when it comes to the technology, and you're the guinea pig. But the need to be first, which has driven many of these carriers, ultimately hurt consumers by over-promising and under-delivering. Yes, speeds can be 100 times what you could get on 4G, but it's not worth much if it's limited to an intersection. 
"Carriers made it sound like 5G would dominate the world in 2019/2020," said Lopez Research analyst Maribel Lopez. "The reality is that we've seen a few phones and a few cities deployed."
Going into 2020, I hope there's less of a focus on who's first, and more on simply offering a service that gets close to fulfilling the many promises made over the last few years. That also includes devices that are more affordable and can offer more flexibly to hop between carriers and different flavors of 5G. 
There's reason to be hopeful, as the technology matures and further deployments and upgrades continue. 
But after a rough 2019, you'll excuse me if I remain skeptical. 

5GE is a thing. Really

Getting 5G to consumers first meant so much to AT&T that it changed the definition of its 4G network. At the beginning of the year, the company rebranded its LTE Advanced network, which other carriers had built out as well, as 5GE, claiming it was on an evolutionary path to 5G. The 5GE symbol showed up on phones where the 4G symbol used to be. 
AT&T emphasized the 5G bit, causing a lot of confusion and leading many consumers to believe they had 5G. It sparked a lawsuit from Sprint, which was settled
AT&T later toned down the marketing of 5GE, including making the Evolution bit more pronounced, but the confusion had already set in. The company wasn't available to comment on its latest use of the term. 
AT&T declined to comment directly on the market confusion caused by 5GE, instead referencing the work its done to invest in its network. 
"We continue to push the boundaries of what's possible with existing network technologies, and results throughout 2019 in studies like Ookla and GWS show that AT&T's best nationwide network, accessible on over 20 devices, outperforms our competitors," said an AT&T spokesman. 
T-Mobile's low-band 5G network arrived. And while the speeds were sometimes impressive, often times they were just slightly better than its 4G network. 
Eli Blumenthal, CNET
In 2018, Verizon also played fast and loose with the definition of 5G in its claim to launch the first home broadband service. In truth, the company used a proprietary technology that was very 5G-like, causing rivals to dispute its achievement. It's since vowed to switch over to the industry standard for its home service, but hasn't expanded it. 
In 2019, Verizon talked up 5G UWB, or ultra wideband, its term for really, really fast 5G. (Here's a full list of 5G marketing terms.) But when the service launched in Chicago, testers needed a map to hunt down coverage. It was a mess, although it eventually got better. It plans to hit 30 markets by the end of the year, even if the coverage within those cities is spotty. 
"There were always going to be serious logistical challenges to 5G's deployment here," said IDC analyst Jason Leigh, noting that South Korea was successful. "There was going to be an inevitable letdown." 
Verizon, for its part, acknowledges that it's still early days for the deployment, but that consumers, businesses and governments are excited by the prospect of 5G. Applications like the Disney Star Wars experience, powered by 5G, give you an idea of what's possible. 
"They recognize the impact this network will have," said a Verizon spokesman on the reaction the company's received from its customers and other partners, noting that it's still early days in the 5G roll out. 
This month, T-Mobile and AT&T both launched 5G networks using low-band spectrum, which means way better range. The downside, however, are the lackluster speed boosts. T-Mobile says it gives you only a 20 percent boost in speed over 4G, but covers a wide area. AT&T launched a millimeter wave network a year ago, but still limits it to a closed group of business customers. It says its low-band 5G network offers similar speeds to 5GE. 
Ironically, Sprint, which is saddled with the reputation for poor service, has the most robust network in the few cities it operates in. It's using mid-band spectrum, a sweet spot that gives you a mix of better speed and wider coverage. It's also the type of spectrum that most of the world outside of the US is using. But given its financially strapped situation and the fact that it's waiting for T-Mobile to snap it up, it's hard to seriously consider. 
Globally, we saw similar results our expansive tests. In the UK and Australia, coverage offered big jumps in speeds, but big coverage gaps too. South Korea, however, performed the most consistently. Our overall conclusion: 5G had a long way to go. 

Don't buy a 5G phone

If you were looking at a 5G smartphone this year thinking you were future-proofing yourself, turn around and walk away. 
As mentioned before in numerous CNET stories, buying a 5G phone this year is a bad idea
They're expensive, tend to overheat and suffer from weak battery life. But more importantly, they don't future-proof you for upcoming 5G deployments. 
That's because 5G is a bit more complicated off the bat, utilizing different bands of spectrum. Verizon's 5G UWV uses championed so-called millimeter wave spectrum, which offers tremendous speed and equally tremendously short range. Think a glorified Wi-Fi hotspot with speeds that let you download whole seasons of Game of Thrones in minutes. 
A more expensive 5G variant of the Galaxy S10? Nah, pass. 
Angela Lang/CNET
As previously mentioned, AT&T and T-Mobile are starting their consumer push with low-band 5G, even if they too have small deployments of millimeter wave networks. Eventually, all of the carriers will start to incorporate low, mid and millimeter wave spectrum when the spectrum becomes available. 
But here's the rub about this year's 5G phones: They're limited in the bands you can tap. So Verizon's Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will get millimeter wave spectrum, but not low band. Or a T-Mobile low-band phone is stuck on that band. 
It's like being stuck in the middle lane of a freeway as faster, freer lanes all around you open up. 

A smoother 2020

As all technologies do, 5G will mature in 2020. Qualcomm has already discussed an integrated processor that includes a 5G modem that will run in more affordable phones. Companies like AT&T and T-Mobile will start building out the different bands of their 5G network. 
Now that 5G networks are live, and the idea of "first" is meaningless, my hope is carriers will just focus on making this work -- for as many people as possible. 
Because despite all my criticism, I do genuinely believe 5G will change the world. I look at how things have changed in the last 10 years since 4G launched, and things are wildly different. The combination of speed and latency from 5G can really enable a lot of new technologies, from remote medicine to self-driving cars
I'm ready for that revolution, even if I have to sit through an early stretch of marketing jargon and unwarranted hype. "

In the 5G race of 2019, consumers were the real losers - CNET

Sunday, December 22, 2019

How Your Phone Betrays Democracy

“In footage from drones hovering above, the nighttime streets of Hong Kong look almost incandescent, a constellation of tens of thousands of cellphone flashlights, swaying in unison. Each twinkle is a marker of attendance and a plea for freedom. The demonstrators, some clad in masks to thwart the government’s network of facial recognition cameras, find safety in numbers.

But in addition to the bright lights, each phone is also emitting another beacon in the darkness — one that’s invisible to the human eye. This signal is captured and collected, sometimes many times per minute, not by a drone but by smartphone apps. The signal keeps broadcasting, long after the protesters turn off their camera lights, head to their homes and take off their masks.

In the United States, and across the world, any protester who brings a phone to a public demonstration is tracked and that person’s presence at the event is duly recorded in commercial datasets. At the same time, political parties are beginning to collect and purchase phone location for voter persuasion.

“Without question it’s sinister,” said Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism at Columbia University and former president of Students for a Democratic Society, a prominent activist group in the 1960s. “It will chill certain constitutionally permitted expressions. If people know they’ll be tracked, it will certainly make them think twice before linking themselves to a movement.”

A trove of location data with more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans obtained by Times Opinion helps to illustrate the risks that such comprehensive monitoring poses to the right of Americans to assemble and participate in a healthy democracy.

Within minutes, with no special training and a little bit of Google searching, Times Opinion was able to single out and identify individuals at public demonstrations large and small from coast to coast.

By tracking specific devices, we followed demonstrators from the 2017 Women’s March back to their homes. We were able to identify individuals at the 2017 Inauguration Day Black Bloc protests. It was easy to follow them to their workplaces. In some instances — for example, a February clash between antifascists and far-right supporters of Milo Yiannopolous in Berkeley, Calif. — it took little effort to identify the homes of protesters and then their family members.

Satellite imagery: Microsoft and DigitalGlobe

The anonymity of demonstrators has long been a contentious issue. Governments generally don’t like the idea for fear that masked protesters might be more likely to incite riots. Several states, including New York and Georgia, have laws that prohibit wearing masks at public demonstrations. Countries including Canada and Spain have rules to limit or prohibit masks at riots or unlawful gatherings. But in the smartphone era — masked or not — no one can get lost in a sea of faces anymore.

Imagine the following nightmare scenarios: Governments using location data to identify political enemies at major protests. Prosecutors or the police using location information to intimidate criminal defendants into taking plea deals. A rogue employee at an ad-tech location company sharing raw data with a politically motivated group. A megadonor purchasing a location company to help bolster political targeting abilities for his party and using the information to doxprotesters. A white supremacist group breaching the insecure servers of a small location startup and learning the home addresses of potential targets.”

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Is Using a Smartphone While It's Charging Dangerous?

"Stay safe with manufacturer-approved battery and charger

"Where Did the Rumor Begin? 
Is Charging While Using a Cellphone Dangerous? 
How Can I Avoid Charging Problems? 
  • Use compatible batteries and power supplies with your cell phone model.
  • Use a surge protector when you charge the phone, especially when you are traveling.
  • Don't leave your phone in a hot car. Heat can damage the battery. There's no evidence that this can cause any danger, but it doesn't hurt to be careful. 
Two smart phones charging with a wall socket in the background.

Updated November 13, 2019
There are plenty of rules floating around about the best ways to charge your cell phone. You may have heard the rumor that cellphones can explode if you use them while they are charging, but this isn't accurate. Several instances of cellphones that caught fire were covered in the news, but none of them were traced to simultaneously using and charging the phone.

The original news story that likely started the rumor that it was dangerous to charge and talk at the same time didn't report the complete details. The story, which appeared all over the internet in 2013, said a Chinese flight attendant's iPhone 4 exploded when she used it while it was charging. 
As it turns out, the attendant was using a third-party charger, not the Apple charger that ships with the phone. It was almost certainly the cause of the incident.
That doesn't mean that problems can't happen with phones, but they are likely the result of poor wiring or incompatible or faulty phone parts. 

No explosion is likely to occur in the normal course of events if you use the phone while it is charging using a manufacturer-approved battery and charger. This doesn't mean you must buy a replacement from the manufacturer. There are acceptable off-brand chargers, but there are also cheap knockoffs that you should avoid at all costs. Buy from a reputable manufacturer. If you aren't sure, contact the phone's manufacturer for acceptable alternatives.

If you are worried about the possibility of danger from your phone, these commonsense steps may ease your mind:
Billions of cell phones have been sold, and only a handful of exploding cellphone stories have appeared. You are unlikely to encounter any danger from an exploding phone." 

Is Using a Smartphone While It's Charging Dangerous?

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Prime Leverage: How Amazon Wields Power in the Technology World

Nolan Pelletier 

Software start-ups have a phrase for what Amazon is doing to them: ‘strip-mining’ them of their innovations.

SEATTLE — Elastic, a software start-up in Amsterdam, was rapidly building its business and had grown to 100 employees. Then Amazon came along.

In October 2015, Amazon’s cloud computing arm announced it was copying Elastic’s free software tool, which people use to search and analyze data, and would sell it as a paid service. Amazon went ahead even though Elastic’s product, called ElasticSearch, was already available on Amazon. 

Within a year, Amazon was generating more money from what Elastic had built than the start-up, by making it easy for people to use the tool with its other offerings. So Elastic added premium features last year and limited what companies like Amazon could do with them. Amazon duplicated many of those features anyway and provided them free.

In September, Elastic fired back. It sued Amazon in federal court in California for violating its trademark because Amazon had called its product by the exact same name: ElasticSearch. Amazon “misleads consumers,” the start-up said in its complaint. Amazon denied it had done anything wrong. The case is pending.

Not since the mid-1990s, when Microsoft dominated the personal computer industry with Windows, has a technology platform instilled such fear in competitors as Amazon is now doing with its cloud computing arm. Its feud with Elastic illustrates how it brandishes power in that technical world. 

While cloud computing may appear obscure and geeky, it underlies much of the internet. It has grown into one of the technology industry’s largest and most lucrative businesses, offering computing power and software to companies. And Amazon is its single-biggest provider.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Amazon has used its cloud computing arm — called Amazon Web Services, or A.W.S. for short — to copy and integrate software that other tech companies pioneered. It has given an edge to its own services by making them more convenient to use, burying rival offerings and bundling discounts to make its products less expensive. The moves drive customers toward Amazon while those responsible for the software may not see a cent.

Even so, smaller rivals say they have little choice but to work with Amazon. Given the company’s broad reach with customers, start-ups often agree to its restrictions on promoting their own products and voluntarily share client and product information with it. For the privilege of selling through A.W.S., the start-ups pay a cut of their sales back to Amazon.

Some of the companies have a phrase for what Amazon is doing: strip-mining software. By lifting other people’s innovations, trying to poach their engineers and profiting off what they made, Amazon is choking off the growth of would-be competitors and forcing them to reorient how they do business, the companies said. 

All of this has fueled scrutiny of Amazon and whether it is abusing its market dominance and engaging in anticompetitive behavior. The company’s tactics have led several rivals to discuss bringing antitrust complaints against it. And regulators and lawmakers are examining its clout in the industry. 

Jason Henry for The New York Times

“People are afraid that Amazon’s ambitions are endless,” said Matthew Prince, chief executive of Cloudflare, an A.W.S. competitor that protects websites from attacks. 

A.W.S. is just one prong of Amazon’s push to dominate large swaths of American industry. The company has transformed retailing, logistics, book publishing and Hollywood. It is rethinking how people buy prescription drugspurchase real estate and build surveillance for their homes and cities.

But what Amazon is doing through A.W.S. is arguably more consequential. The company is the unquestioned market leader — triple the size of its nearest competitor, Microsoft — in the seismic shift to cloud computing. Millions of people unknowingly interact with A.W.S. every day when they stream movies on Netflix or store photos on Apple’s iCloud, services that run off Amazon’s machines. 

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, once called A.W.S. an idea “no one asked for.” The service began in the early 2000s when the retailer struggled to assemble computer systems to start new projects and features. Once it built a common computer infrastructure, Amazon realized other companies needed similar capabilities.

Now companies like Airbnb and General Electric essentially rent computing from Amazon — otherwise known as using the “cloud” — instead of buying and running their own systems. Businesses can then store their information on Amazon machines, pluck data from them and analyze it. 

For Amazon itself, A.W.S. has become crucial. The division generated $25 billion in sales last year — roughly the size of Starbucks — and is Amazon’s most profitable business. Those profits enable the company to plow money into many other industries.

In a statement, Amazon said the idea that it was strip-mining software was “silly and off-base.” It said it had contributed significantly to the software industry and that it acted in the best interest of customers. 

Some tech companies said they had found more customers through A.W.S.; even some companies that have tangled with Amazon have grown. Elastic, for instance, went public last year and now has 1,600 employees.

But in interviews with more than 40 current and former Amazon employees and those of rivals, many said the costs of what the company was doing with A.W.S. were hidden. They said it was hard to measure how much business they had lost to Amazon, or how the threat of Amazon had turned off would-be investors. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering the company.

In February, seven software chief executives met in Silicon Valley and discussed bringing an antitrust lawsuit against the giant, said four people with knowledge of the gathering. Their grievances echoed a complaint by vendors who use Amazon’s shopping site: Once Amazon becomes a direct competitor, it is no longer a neutral party. 

The C.E.O.s did not press forward with a legal action, partly out of concern that the process would take too long, the people said.

Now regulators are approaching some of Amazon’s software rivals. The House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the big tech companies, asked Amazon in a September letter about A.W.S.’s practices. The Federal Trade Commission, which is also investigating Amazon, has questioned A.W.S. competitors, according to officials at two software companies who were called in but were not authorized to discuss the matter.

What Amazon is doing to software start-ups is unsustainable, said Salil Deshpande, founder of Uncorrelated, a venture capital firm. 

“It has intercepted their monetization, it has forcibly wrestled control of software from their owners and it has siphoned customers to its own proprietary services,” he said.

‘Strip Mining’

Nicholas Albrecht for The New York Times

When Amazon Web Services began last decade, Amazon was struggling to turn a consistent profit. A service to provide computing power seemed like a distraction.

Yet start-ups embraced A.W.S. They saved money because they did not need to buy their own computing equipment, while spending only on what they used. Soon more companies flocked to Amazon for computing infrastructure and, eventually, the software that ran on its machines.

In 2009, Amazon established a template for accelerating A.W.S.’s growth. That year, it introduced a service for managing a database, which is critical software to help companies organize information.

The A.W.S. database service, an instant hit with customers, did not run software that Amazon created. Instead, the company plucked from a freely shared option known as open source. 

Open-source software has few parallels in business. It is akin to a coffee shop giving away coffee on the hopes that people spend on milk or sugar or pastries. 

But open source is a tried and true model nurtured by the software industry to get technology to customers quickly. A community of enthusiasts often springs up around the shareable technology, contributing improvements and spreading the word about its benefits. Traditionally, open-source companies later earn money for customer support or from paid add-ons.

Technologists initially paid little attention to what Amazon had done with database software. Then in 2015, Amazon repeated the maneuver by copying ElasticSearch and offering its competing service.

This time, heads turned.

“There was a company that built a business around an open-source product that people like using and, suddenly, they have a competitor using their own stuff against them,” said Todd Persen, who started a non-open-source software company this year so there was “zero chance” that Amazon could lift his creations. His previous start-up, InfluxDB, was open source.

Again and again, the open-source software industry became a well that Amazon turned to. When it copied and integrated that software into A.W.S., it didn’t need permission or have to pay the start-ups for their work, creating a deterrent for people to innovate.

That left little recourse for many of these companies, which could not suddenly start charging money for what was free software. Some instead changed the rules around how their wares could be used, restricting Amazon and others who want to turn what they have created into a paid service. 

Amazon has worked around some of their changes.

When Elastic, now based in Silicon Valley, shifted the rules for its software last year, Amazon said in a blog post that open-source software companies were “muddying the waters” by limiting access to certain users. 

Shay Banon, Elastic’s chief executive, wrote at the time that Amazon’s actions were “masked with fake altruism.” Elastic declined to make Mr. Banon available for an interview.

Last year, MongoDB, a popular technology for organizing data in documents, also announced that it would require any company that manages its software as a web service to freely share the underlying technology. The move was widely viewed as a hedge against A.W.S., which does not openly share its technology for creating new services.

A.W.S. soon introduced its own technology with the look and feel of MongoDB’s older software, which did not fall under the new requirements. 

That experience was top of mind this year when Dev Ittycheria, MongoDB’s chief executive, attended the dinner with the heads of six other software companies. Their conversation, held at the home of a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, shifted to something drastic: whether to publicly accuse Amazon of behaving like a monopoly.

At the meal, which included the heads of the software firms Confluent and Snowflake, some of the C.E.O.s said they faced an uneven playing field, according to the people with knowledge of the gathering. No complaint has materialized. 

“A.W.S.’s success is built on strip-mining open-source technology,” said Michael Howard, chief executive of MariaDB, an open-source company. He estimated that Amazon made five times more revenue from running MariaDB software than his company generated from all of its businesses. 

Andi Gutmans, an A.W.S. vice president, said some companies wanted to be “the only ones” to make money off open-source projects. He said Amazon was “committed to making sure that open-source projects remain truly open and customers get to choose how they use that open-source software — whether they choose A.W.S. or not.” 

By the time A.W.S. held its first developer conference in 2012, Amazon was no longer the only big player in cloud computing. Microsoft and Google had introduced competing platforms.

So Amazon unveiled more software services to make A.W.S. indispensable. In a speech at the event, Andy Jassy, the head of A.W.S., said it wanted to “enable every imaginable use case.”

Amazon has since added A.W.S. services at a blistering pace, going from 30 in 2014 to about 175 as of December. It also built in a home-field advantage: simplicity and convenience. 

Customers can add new A.W.S. services with a single click and use the same system to manage them. The new service is added to the same bill and requires no extra permission from a finance or compliance department. 

In contrast, using a non-Amazon service on A.W.S. is more complicated.

Today when a customer logs onto A.W.S., they see a home page called the management console. At the center is a list of about 150 services. All are A.W.S.’s own products.

When someone types “MongoDB,” the search results do not fetch information for MongoDB’s service on A.W.S.; it instead suggests an offering from Amazon that is “compatible with MongoDB.”

Even after a customer has selected a non-Amazon option, the company sometimes continues pushing its own product. When someone creates a new database, they are presented an ad for Amazon’s own technology called Aurora. If they pick something else, Amazon still highlights its option as “recommended.”

Mr. Gutmans said A.W.S. worked closely with many companies to integrate their offerings “as seamlessly as possible.”

Banning Words


Amazon’s A.W.S. developer conference is now one of the world’s biggest technology events, drawing tens of thousands of people to Las Vegas every year. 

The highlight is a speech from Mr. Jassy where he showcases new services. Because a new A.W.S. feature often spells hardship for some start-up, the presentation has earned the nickname “The Red Wedding,” a bloody event in a “Game of Thrones” episode.

“Nobody knows who is going to get killed next,” said Corey Quinn of the Duckbill Group, who helps companies manage their A.W.S. bills and writes a newsletter called “Last Week in A.W.S.” 

At last year’s conference, Amazon unveiled a new tool — Amazon CloudWatch Logs Insights — to help customers analyze information about its services. 

Daniel Vassallo, a former A.W.S. software engineer who helped develop the product, said executives wanted to go after the market, but were worried it would look like Amazon was targeting a company called Splunk, which offers a similar tool and is also a major spender with A.W.S. 

So Amazon previewed its new product to Splunk before the conference and agreed not to announce it during Mr. Jassy’s speech, Mr. Vassallo said. 

“They weren’t particularly happy. Who would be?” Mr. Vassallo, who left Amazon in February, said of Splunk. “But we still went ahead and did it anyway.”

Splunk said it had a “strong partnership” with A.W.S. and declined to comment further. 

Amazon has also created rules for its developer conference. Companies that pay tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a booth said they must submit their banners, pamphlets and news releases to Amazon for approval. 

According to an A.W.S. document from August explaining marketing guidelines for companies it works with, Amazon bans certain words or phrases, such as “multi-cloud,” the concept of using two or more cloud platforms. An Amazon spokesman said it had stopped this practice. 

Companies are also instructed to strike claims about being “the best,” “the first,” “the only,” “the leader,” unless substantiated by independent research.

Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

Redis Labs was founded in 2011 in Tel Aviv, Israel, to build a business around managing a free software called Redis, which people use to organize and update data quickly. Amazon soon offered a competing paid service. 

While that created a formidable rival to Redis Labs, Amazon’s move also validated Redis technology. The start-up has since raised $150 million, exemplifying the can’t-live-with-can’t-live-without relationship that many software companies have with Amazon.

Former Redis Labs employees estimate that Amazon generates as much as $1 billion a year from Redis technology — or at least 10 times more revenue than Redis Labs. They said Amazon also tried to poach its staff and undercut it with hefty discounts.

A.W.S. offers a discount to customers who commit to spending at least a certain amount with it, but it does not treat money spent on A.W.S.’s own services and rival services equally. Spending on outside services counts as only 50 cents on the dollar toward the balance. And discounts do not apply to non-Amazon products, according to A.W.S. customers.

If a customer still chooses Redis Labs through A.W.S., Redis Labs is required to kick back around 15 percent of its revenue to Amazon.

At one point, Amazon’s attempts to hire Redis Labs employees became so aggressive that executives removed some online biographies of its technical staff, said the former employees. A Redis Labs spokesman said the start-up had no recollection of that.

Some Redis Labs executives considered bringing an antitrust action against Amazon this year, the former employees said. Others balked because 80 percent of the start-up’s revenue came from customers on A.W.S.

“It was a love-hate relationship,” said Leena Joshi, a former vice president of marketing at Redis Labs. “On one hand, most of our customers ran on A.W.S. so it was in our interest to be tightly integrated with them. At the same time, we knew they were taking away our business.”

Redis Labs declined to comment on its revenues or A.W.S. actions. It said Amazon offered “important services.”

Not every company views A.W.S. as a threat. Ali Ghodsi, chief executive of Databricks, a San Francisco start-up that uses artificial intelligence to analyze data, said A.W.S. salespeople have lifted sales of his company’s products. 

“I don’t see them using shenanigans to stop us,” he said.

But Saket Saurabh, chief executive of Nexla, a 14-person start-up in Millbrae, Calif., said he had reservations about Amazon.

In August, Amazon began a service for processing and monitoring data that competes with Nexla. Investors warned him about sharing too much information with the giant.

Mr. Saurabh went ahead anyway and signed his company up to work with Amazon in September. The reason? Amazon’s giant sales teams can give Nexla access to a vast audience. 

“What choice do we have?” he said