Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam welcomes Amazon. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg) Amazon HQ2 is accepting applications. The Seattle tech company posted over the weekend for its new Arlington, Va. campus. The first openings at Amazon’s so-called second headquarters include three “Global Category Manager” jobs, a financial analyst, and an HR specialist. In a Monday, Amazon said it plans to hire 400 people by the end of 2019. The plan is to grow the Virginia office to 25,000 over the next 10 years. Why it matters: For more than a year, Amazon captured the attention of millions in its HQ2 search. Cities competed with one another for the prize which, at its core, was about jobs. Now we’re actually starting to see that job creation. Between the lines: In the blog post, Amazon touted the “warm welcome from the community and the strong support from state and local government” as one reason the company is “ahead of schedule and on pace to create 400 new jobs this year.” That’s a markedly different tone than the one Amazon struck in January after it to build another headquarters in New York, equal to the Virginia project. “A number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project,” Amazon said at the time.
A graphic from the CommutePool grant application describes the proposed system. (City of Bellevue) For more than a year, transportation wonks and city officials have been working to turn Bellevue, Wash., into a smart mobility hub. But news that Amazon a major team from its Seattle headquarters to the nearby city is adding a new level of urgency to that goal. The plan is to launch CommutePool, a network of self-driving, electric vehicles serving commuters in Bellevue and Kirkland, Wash. Advocates for CommutePool are accelerating their Bellevue plans in the wake of Amazon’s announcement, according to Bruce Agnew, Director of ACES, the organization behind the project. Agnew says the CommutePool partners are “recalibrating our private fundraising goals in light of accelerated commercial development of downtown Bellevue.” The City of Bellevue is seeking private funding to test autonomous vehicles along fixed routes downtown at low speeds. They’ve partnered with (Automated, Connected, Electric, Shared), the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, and AAA Washington on the project. Together they are interviewing three transportation firms for the tests: Keolis, Transdev, and First Transit. ACES is co-chaired by Madrona Venture Group Managing Director Tom Alberg, and INRIX CEO Bryan Mistele. The organization to seek grant funding and lay the groundwork for self-driving transit in Bellevue. Madrona Managing Director Tom Alberg, who was one of Amazon’s first investors, speaks with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at a Madrona event in 2015. (Madrona Photo) “We believe that we should receive the federal grant but, if not, we are encouraged that several of our major employers are interested in helping fund the launch of the program,” said Alberg, an early Amazon investor who is . Because efforts to secure public grant funding have been sluggish, Bellevue is exploring a new model to get its transportation vision off the ground. “We’re getting ready to do this CommutePool with or without a grant,” said Steve Marshall, who manages transportation technology partnerships for the City of Bellevue, back in February. “Particularly since Amazon’s made the announcements about having a lot more office space in Bellevue, we’re thinking that we ought to just go forward with this now and speed up the timeline.” The CommutePool partners are canvassing businesses in the area to seek funding for the project. In the next two weeks, they plan to meet with senior executives at Amazon. The launch date is dependent on fundraising. ACES hopes to launch tests during the final quarter of 2019 but the plans could be pushed out to early 2020. In April, that Amazon plans to relocate its entire Seattle-based worldwide operations team to Bellevue, Wash., adding thousands of employees to its new campus. The migration will begin this year and finish by 2023. The team will move into at least three Bellevue buildings: Summit III, a 17-story building , Expedia’s , and the 13-story Summit II building. Seattle employees may also move into Amazon’s Center 425 building. The news has Bellevue transportation officials doubling down on their CommutePool plans in anticipation of the arrival of thousands of new Amazon workers. Tapping the expertise of the region’s tech industry is key to the project. Amazon and Luum — a Seattle-based startup that provides commuting services — plan to develop an app to help travelers access the CommutePool system. The app will allow commuters to reserve parking at pick-up locations, reserve seats, and schedule pick-ups and drop-offs, according to the CommutePool . “If Amazon could start with this CommutePool service and then eventually expand it to be able to link to all kinds of public transit and bike-shares, other ride-shares, not only here but around the country, they’d be doing two things,” Marshall said. “They’d be helping their own employees in this area get to and from work but they’d also be setting up another business line.”
(Photo courtesy / ) Google is expanding the quiet relationship it has with Microsoft’s commercial software division, with plans to offer a managed version of the venerable SQL Server relational database on its public cloud in the near future. Cloud SQL will be a managed SQL Server cloud service offered by Google as a “sneak preview,” the company plans to announce Wednesday at . Google already offers customers the option of buying a Microsoft license from Google or bringing their own license to the party for , and will now extend that courtesy to a managed version of the database. It’s fair to say that , after becoming fierce competitors in office productivity software and search advertising, at least to some extent. But revenue opportunities have a way of bringing foes to the bargaining table, especially as both companies court cloud customers that are still running most of their workloads the old-fashioned way, and Google has supported Windows applications running on Google Cloud for quite some time. There’s been a lot of innovation in database technology since SQL Server was one of a relatively few options, but companies that built applications around it want easy ways to take advantage of cloud services without breaking those older apps. Amazon Web Services also offers , which helps cloud laggards feel better about moving their applications without having to rearchitect everything around a cloud-native database. Google also plans to introduce a cold-storage option for companies looking to stash data in a cheap but secure holding tank designed for infrequent access. The new “archive class” for Google Cloud Storage will cost $0.0012 per gigabyte per month when it is released later this year, and props to whoever at Google described other cloud storage options as “glacially slow” in a blog post about the new service, which has to be a nod to .
The first 737 MAX 8 plane undergoes final assembly at Boeing’s Renton plant in 2015. (Boeing Photo) Boeing will reduce its monthly production rate for its single-aisle 737 jets from 52 to 42, starting in mid-April, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said today. In a statement, Muilenburg said he’s also asked the company’s board of directors to establish an internal committee to review Boeing’s policies and processes for airplane design and development. The moves come in the wake of this week’s preliminary findings from an investigation into the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 plane that killed all 157 people on board. Less than five months earlier, a similar Lion Air 737 MAX crash in Indonesia killed 189 people. Those two incidents led to a worldwide suspension in 737 MAX flights. Both crashes were traced to the improper activation of an automated flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The system, which was added to the 737 MAX to safeguard against stalls, relied on data inputs from a single angle-of-attack sensor — and in both cases, there were indications that the sensor was providing spurious data. The MCAS problems have in turn raised questions about the process by which the 737 MAX, the latest incarnation of a 51-year-old narrowbody design, was . The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Justice Department are conducting separate investigations into that process, which has also been the subject of congressional hearings. Boeing manufactures its 737 MAX 8 and 9 planes — as well as an earlier model known as the 737NG — at its plant in Renton, Wash. Muilenburg said the temporary reduction in the production rate would not affect employment levels. At one time, Boeing had planned to by the end of this year. Here’s : “As we work closely with customers and global regulators to return the 737 MAX to service, we continue to be driven by our enduring values, with a focus on safety, integrity and quality in all we do. “We now know that the recent Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accidents were caused by a chain of events, with a common chain link being erroneous activation of the aircraft’s MCAS function. We have the responsibility to eliminate this risk, and we know how to do it. As part of this effort, we’re making progress on the 737 MAX software update that will prevent accidents like these from ever happening again. Teams are working tirelessly, advancing and testing the software, conducting non-advocate reviews, and engaging regulators and customers worldwide as we proceed to final certification. I recently had the opportunity to experience the software update performing safely in action during a 737 MAX 7 demo flight. We’re also finalizing new pilot training courses and supplementary educational material for our global MAX customers. This progress is the result of our comprehensive, disciplined approach and taking the time necessary to get it right. “As we continue to work through these steps, we’re adjusting the 737 production system temporarily to accommodate the pause in MAX deliveries, allowing us to prioritize additional resources to focus on software certification and returning the MAX to flight. We have decided to temporarily move from a production rate of 52 airplanes per month to 42 airplanes per month starting in mid-April. “At a production rate of 42 airplanes per month, the 737 program and related production teams will maintain their current employment levels while we continue to invest in the broader health and quality of our production system and supply chain. “We are coordinating closely with our customers as we work through plans to mitigate the impact of this adjustment. We will also work directly with our suppliers on their production plans to minimize operational disruption and financial impact of the production rate change. “In light of our commitment to continuous improvement and our determination to always make a safe industry even safer, I’ve asked the Boeing Board of Directors to establish a committee to review our company-wide policies and processes for the design and development of the airplanes we build. The committee will confirm the effectiveness of our policies and processes for assuring the highest level of safety on the 737-MAX program, as well as our other airplane programs, and recommend improvements to our policies and procedures. “The committee members will be Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., (Ret.), former vice chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who will serve as the committee’s chair; Robert A. Bradway, chairman and CEO of Amgen, Inc.; Lynn J. Good, chairman, president and CEO of the Duke Energy Corporation; and Edward M. Liddy, former chairman and CEO of the Allstate Corporation, all members of the company’s board. These individuals have been selected to serve on this committee because of their collective and extensive experiences that include leadership roles in corporate, regulated industries and government entities where safety and the safety of lives is paramount. “Safety is our responsibility, and we own it. When the MAX returns to the skies, we’ve promised our airline customers and their passengers and crews that it will be as safe as any airplane ever to fly. Our continued disciplined approach is the right decision for our employees, customers, supplier partners and other stakeholders as we work with global regulators and customers to return the 737 MAX fleet to service and deliver on our commitments to all of our stakeholders.”
(GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy) As Microsoft , the tech giant is reportedly planning to bundle Xbox Live Gold with its game subscription service . First spotted by and reported by and , the new service is called Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and it will cost $14.99 per month. That’s $5 per month less than the two services cost on their own. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update this story when we hear back. All digital gaming is quickly becoming the cornerstone of Xbox strategy as rumors of an. The Verge reports that Game Pass Ultimate could be announced alongside the anticipated Xbox console without a disc drive. The most ambitious part of Microsoft’s cloud gaming strategy is the Project xCloud service. for the service, which will let users played high-powered games like Halo on their smartphones. Last month, Microsoft , bringing the online community to iOS and Android devices. Prior to the announcement, rumors percolated that the expansion would also include Nintendo Switch, but the company stayed mum about Xbox Live compatibly with the smash hit console.
The first 737 MAX 8 plane undergoes final assembly at Boeing’s Renton plant in 2015. (Boeing Photo) In the wake of two catastrophic crashes that may have had a common cause, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao today opened the way for an audit of the process that led the Federal Aviation Administration to certify Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 jets in 2017. Because of the similarities between the two crashes, 737 MAX jets have been grounded worldwide. Boeing and the FAA are reportedly facing multiple investigations, including the audit announced today. Chao formally requested the audit in a referral memo to the department’s Office of Inspector General. The audit is meant to “help inform the department’s decision making and the public’s understanding, and to assist the FAA in ensuring that its safety procedures are implemented effectively,” Chao wrote. It will be part of a continuing review of factors related to aviation certification, she said. In a tweet, Boeing said it would “fully cooperate” with the audit. The audit is likely to address claims that the FAA put too much reliance on Boeing’s own analysis if safety issues surrounding the 737 MAX during its years-long development. The MAX is the latest version of Boeing’s workhorse single-aisle passenger airplane, with engines that are larger and more fuel-efficient than the previous-generation 737. The heft of the engines changed the aerodynamic characteristics of the 737. To minimize the need for pilot retraining, Boeing developed an automatic control system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS, which was designed to keep the plane from stalling if it encountered extreme conditions. Investigators say the MCAS appears to have played a role in last October’s crash of a nearly new Lion Air 737 MAX 8 jet in Indonesia, which killed 189 people. And preliminary reports suggest that an Ethiopian Airlines 737-8 traced a similar flight profile before it crashed on March 10 in Ethiopia, killing 157. In both cases, pilots reported flight control problems just minutes after takeoff, and soon afterward, each plane went into a catastrophic nose dive. In the Lion Air case, investigators surmise that the MCAS system received spurious data from a single sensor that monitored the wings’ angle of attack. Boeing says pilots can follow a procedure to disengage the MCAS in the event of a malfunction, but the Lion Air pilots didn’t follow that procedure. This week, reports emerged that readings extracted from the flight data recorder on the Ethiopian plane pointed to a similar angle-of-attack issue. Also this week, reports in and the raised questions about the procedures that the FAA and Boeing followed during development of the 737 MAX. To expedite that development effort, Boeing conducted its own safety analysis for the MAX and submitted it to the FAA. The Seattle Times quoted sources as saying that the initial analysis downplayed the scope and persistence of the MCAS system, as well as the need for additional pilot training. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former FAA safety engineer said there was “constant pressure” to review Boeing’s documents quickly. The Wall Street Journal said the Transportation Department will look into whether unwarranted shortcuts were taken during the certification process. A separate grand jury investigation was being directed by the Justice Department, the Journal reported, and congressional hearings are a near-certainty. Boeing says it will soon roll out a software update for the 737 MAX that limits operation of the MCAS, and issue new guidance for pilot training as well. But the fact that multiple investigations are in the works suggests that the software fix won’t immediately fix Boeing’s image problem. Even if the FAA clears the 737 MAX for flight, regulators in Canada and other countries outside the U.S. say they won’t take the FAA’s word but . Air Canada said it plans to . Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., whose district includes the Boeing plant in Renton where the 737 MAX is built, said today that he worries about the plane’s reliance on automatic control systems like the MCAS. “It’s like when you call information, it’s great to have all these different menus, but you always want to be able to press zero and talk to a human,” Smith said during an appearance at a quantum computing summit at the University of Washington. “When you’re setting up these machines, all else fails, you’ve got to be able to push a button and just operate the damn thing.”
Sources say Jody Allen is reshaping the leadership team for the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in the wake of last October’s death of her brother, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. (Allen Institute / Kevin Cruff Photos) Five months after the death of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the billionaire’s sister is taking steps to put her own stamp on a family foundation thought to hold at least $750 million in assets. Sources tell GeekWire that Jody Allen, co-founder of the , is bringing fresh blood to the charitable organization. Among the names being mentioned as potential additions to the foundation’s board or to an advisory panel are former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nancy Peretsman, managing director of the New York investment bank Allen & Co. Three sources discussed the transition on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. No principals in the process — ranging from representatives of the foundation and the Allen family’s holding company, Vulcan Inc., to representatives of Ballmer and Peretsman — were willing to provide comment. Changes in emphasis have already come to light in the form of , and organizational shifts at the and But based on the reports from sources, the transition to the post-Paul era is likely to take months longer, if not years. Most aspects of Paul Allen’s legacy are staying constant: For example, the research institutes that Paul Allen created — focusing on subjects ranging from neuroscience to cell science to artificial intelligence — are said to be on solid footing for years to come. That’s largely due to arrangements that Allen made before his . In the past, the family foundation was exclusively directed by Paul and Jody Allen and people who worked for them. show the two Allens as the foundation’s sole directors. The organization’s officers and managers were all Vulcan executives, with the exception of assistant secretary Allen Israel, who was Paul Allen’s personal lawyer. The same forms list the foundation’s net assets as $756 million, with $43.4 million paid out for charitable purposes during 2016. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation supports a wide range of charitable programs — including efforts to monitor climate change’s effects on glaciers, on the world’s oceans and on coral reefs. It backed the , which , and is continuing to focus on employing high-tech tools for wildlife conservation. Combating homelessness, promoting arts and culture, and encouraging health innovations are also part of the foundation’s portfolio. Last year, the foundation to get a homeless resource center off the ground in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood. It has a rich history of . And just this week, it kicked off a challenge program aimed at . Widening a family foundation’s circle of advisers is a classic phase of organizational evolution, particularly after a major transition like the death of a founder, said Benjamin White, an Atlanta-based estate attorney who specializes in family-based philanthropy but isn’t familiar with the Allen family’s detailed circumstances. “If you want the foundation to continue for a very long time, you’ve got to get outsiders involved,” White told GeekWire. The shift suggests that the foundation could plot a future course distinct from that of Vulcan Inc.’s for-profit ventures. Ballmer and Peretsman may not have a direct business relationship with Vulcan Inc., but they’re not total outsiders, either. Peretsman worked with Paul Allen on a series of investment ventures going back more than two decades, including investments in and . She was named in Paul Allen’s as an alternate personal representative in case Jody Allen couldn’t take on that role. Ballmer, meanwhile, got to know Paul Allen during their time together at Microsoft. Allen in his 2011 autobiography “Idea Man,” but in the years that followed, the two billionaires became close friends. When news of Paul Allen’s death broke last October, Ballmer was one of the . “Paul was a truly wonderful, bright and inspiring person — and a great friend,” he wrote. “I will miss him.” In his post-Microsoft career, Ballmer built up years of expertise running his own family charity, the , and getting involved in civic projects such as . (Ballmer and USAFacts are partnering with GeekWire on a podcast and video series called ) He even credits Paul Allen, who bought the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, with getting him involved in the sports world through his . “He used to yell at me, ‘Steve, you got to do it, it will fire you up,’ ” . “That too changed my life for the better.” If Ballmer takes on a role with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, he’ll be in a position to return his friend’s favor.
A flier marketing Amazon’s space in the Rainer Square project. (JLL Images.) Amazon has placed a high-profile Seattle office project on the sublease market, signaling plans to scale down its growth in its hometown. A marketing flier obtained by GeekWire confirms that the tech giant is seeking new tenants for its office space in Rainier Square, a building under construction that will one day be the city’s second-tallest skyscraper. Amazon had leased all 30 floors of office space in the building. After weeks of rumors, the listing was made official over the weekend, according to real estate brokers familiar with the marketing efforts. Amazon will make all of the office space it leased in Rainier Square available other companies. The skyscraper project, once an emblem of Amazon’s ambitions in Seattle’s urban core, now becomes a symbol of its uncertain future in its hometown. The move follows Amazon’s decision to back out of its HQ2 project in New York City after opposition there, amid signs that the company will focus its Seattle-area growth in nearby Bellevue, Wash. Amazon did not immediately respond to GeekWire’s request to comment on the news. Real estate company JLL is listing the space on the company’s behalf, according to the flier. Related: Earlier this month, a real estate broker who represents tenants in downtown Seattle told GeekWire that Apple, Dropbox, and Oracle were “circling” as possible tenants for Rainier Square, which is located at 4th and Union Street. Amazon pulling out of Rainier Square follows the company’s surprise decision to nix plans to open a 25,000-person office in New York. Earlier this month, blaming elected officials who vowed to fight the deal. The New York resistance effort mirrored opposition Amazon faces in Seattle. It’s not hard to draw a line between the battles; two Seattle City Councilmembers to warn Amazon opponents about what its like to have the company in your backyard. Rainier Square was at the center of a between Amazon and Seattle last year that became emblematic of the company’s troubled relationship with its hometown. As Seattle considered a tax on top-grossing businesses to fund affordable housing, Amazon threatened not to move into Rainier Square, claiming the City Council’s approach “forces us to question our growth here.” Although Amazon came out on top in that dispute, its future at Rainier Square remained uncertain. Amazon currently occupies 12 million square feet of office space in Seattle and has several additional projects under construction. The company will “continue to evaluate future growth” when those projects are finished, an Amazon spokesperson told GeekWire previously. From 2013 to 2017, Amazon scooped up at least 800,000 square feet of office space in Seattle every year, according to GeekWire research. But aside from last year, Amazon hasn’t snapped up any additional office space in Seattle proper. But in neighboring Bellevue, Amazon is of office space and is .
(GeekWire Photo) Amazon is reworking its film strategy, looking to get back on track after a couple of box office misses and a reportedly rough transition into self-distribution. , Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke said the company focused too narrowly on prestige films and didn’t have enough variety. Going forward, Amazon will emphasize several “lanes” of movies for both the big screen and its streaming service Prime Video, including award-worthy films, classic “sexual thrillers” like “Basic Instinct,” young adult movies and horror films from Blumhouse, the company responsible for “The Purge” series. Going forward, Amazon aims to roll out about 30 original movies a year, Salke told the Times. Some will hit theaters, while others will go straight to Prime Video. Budgets could range from a few million dollars up to $50 million or more. Jennifer Salke (NBC Photo / Mitchell Haaseth) Amazon got off to a hot start in the movie business, cashing in with a pair of Oscars in 2017 for “.” But the Times reports that Amazon’s trouble began later that year with the decision to distribute movies itself, rather than relying on established Hollywood partners to get its films in theaters. Though Amazon’s had a few misses on the big-screen recently, it’s found success with some of its original series. Most notable is “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which, including the honor for best comedy series. In the Times interview, Salke reiterated that the famed director Woody Allen will not be part of Amazon’s future film strategy. Amazon scuttled a deal with Allen to finance and distribute his films, amid renewed focus on the allegeations from his daughter Dylan Farrow, who has long alleged Allen sexually abused her when she was a child. Earlier this month,, alleging that the tech giant backed out of a deal to finance and distribute his films over what the lawsuit calls a “25-year-old baseless accusation.” Salke a year ago, several months after Roy Price was as the head of the studio amid allegations of sexual harassment. Salke had been the president of NBC Entertainment since July 2011, where she was responsible for comedy development, drama development, current programming, casting, and diversity programming initiatives, among other things.
The GitHub Octocat on the floor of the company’s San Francisco headquarters. (, Creative Commons.) Bug bounties have transformed the way enterprise tech companies think about security, and now that it’s part of Microsoft, GitHub is upgrading its program. Security researchers who find bugs in GitHub’s code will now be eligible for bigger rewards and will no longer bump up against a maximum reward amount should they find a real showstopper, GitHub plans to announce Tuesday. The software-development portal will also expand the program to cover any “first-party services” under the Github umbrella, including GitHub Education and GitHub Enterprise Cloud. More and more big tech companies are embracing the concept of bug bounties, where companies pay hackers to find and detail security holes in their software. If they are properly identified and disclosed in a responsible manner, bug bounties can be quite lucrative; security researchers have been awarded $31 million in recent years as these programs have become more popular, , and GitHub paid $250,000 to responsible hackers in 2018. GitHub now plans to pay between $20,000 and $30,000 for bugs deemed “critical” security flaws, and will increase the rewards for identifying lower-level bugs as well. The company is also expanding legal protections for researchers that report security flaws and plans to make it easier to report bugs while reducing the length of time needed to respond to bug finders. will pay up to $250,000 for vulnerabilities in critical software products like Windows or Hyper-V. More information on GitHub’s program .