5 things you should know about tech today

- May 1, 2020 4 MIN READ
Tesla's Shanghai gigafactory under construction. Photo: Tesla

Hello! How did it get to Friday already?

If you’re in NSW, enjoy being able to visit the important people in your life, but still take care, ok?

Here’s a few interesting things happening in the tech world.


1.  Go Teams

Microsoft Teams has nearly doubled the number of daily users in the past month to 75 million, as people move to remote working, up from 44 million in mid-March.

CEO Satya Nadella told analysts in an earnings call this week that the company had “seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and the company is rolling out new features as quickly as it can in its battle for supremacy against rivals such as Zoom and Slack.

The Microsoft boss more than 34 million Teams meetings were held by the healthcare sector in April and the education sector has also got into it in a big way, with around 183,000 institutions signed up. Accenture now has 500,000 users on the platform and the

One advantage Microsoft Teams has is it’s a single destination for a range of features, including calls, chat, collaboration and meetings, as well as hooking into Office 365 cloud suite.

The company is also looking at producing a consumer version of Teams for Office 365.


2. Apple’s mask ID

Apple is tweaking the iOS 13.5 update to make it easier to unlock an iPhone because Face ID isn’t working with people wearing masks. Phones with Face ID will have a passcode field when you swipe up from a locked screen.

The update is also expected to include an initial version of the contact tracing software as part of its program with Google to help health authorities with covid-19 exposure notifications. The program is expected to be completed and updated in mid-May.

For Australians, the update will most likely matter because currently iOS shuts down the government’s CovidSafe app, which uses Bluetooth to check in with other smartphones, when it’s running in the background, unless users go back in and switch it on. The hope is the update will fix that.

3. Tesla’s self drive moves to subscription

Elon Musk’s electric car company, Tesla, made a US$16 million profit in Q1 2020 of $16 million – its third profitable quarter in a row – despite shutting down its US and China factories – although it appears there was a fair bit of creative accountancy in the 5th profitable quarter in the last 3 years, including selling US$354 million worth of regulatory credits.

The quarterly update announced revenue of $5.9 billion, up around a third ($1.5 billion) on Q1 2019, with a gross margin of 25.5% on the cars. The Model Y shipped ahead of schedule, with the company declaring it profitable from the outset for the first time in its history that a new product has been profitable in its first quarter and Tesla’s still hoping to hit its 500,000 cars delivered target for 2020, saying it maintained production and delivery numbers in Q1 despite coronavirus
Meanwhile, its New York factory is now producing 4MW of solar roof panels a week – enough for 1000 homes. The other interesting news is the move from stumping up A$8500 for Full Self Driving (FSD) the software in Model 3s for autonomous driving – the best bit is the summon, where the car comes to you in a carpark, to a subscription model by the end of the year. Tesla’s setting the kit up to recognise traffic lights and stop signs in the US. And Australian owners received a little gift too – making its $10 a month premium connectivity free to early buyers.


It was all sounding so good, but it wouldn’t be a Tesla presentation without Elon going full Musk. Apparently the billionaire is not happy with his country’s lockdown restrictions, tweeting “FREE AMERICA NOW” and railing against isolation, declaring it fascist.

“To say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom, give people back their god damn freedom,” he said, labelling the current situation “de facto house arrest”.

The USA now has more than 1 million covid-19 infections and 63,000 deaths – around a third in New York. Those figures account for a third of global infections and a quarter of deaths.

China, where Musk is building gigafactories, reportedly welded apartment complex doors shut to keep people in lockdown to get the pandemic under control, but we must have missed his tweets complaining about that.


4. Online witnessing

Legal tech startup Lawpath has launched an online legal document witnessing system after the NSW and Queensland governments changed the law in response to coronavirus self-isolation to allow documents to be witnessed using video-conferencing software. The change is expected to roll out Australia-wide as other states and territories also amend their laws

Lawpath CEO Dominic Woolrych his startup’s online witnessing system means you can have legal documents witnessed by a lawyer without leaving home. It follows on from the introduction of eSignatures on the platform last year and Woolrych said they’d seen a 400% increase in their electronic signature services since covid-19 hit. It means, for example, that elderly clients are able to make a legally-binding will.


5. Xerocon Sydney canned

Accountancy software business Xero has pulled the pin on its big annual shindig, Xerocon, planned for Sydney in September, saying “we feel this is the right thing to do to ensure the health and wellbeing of our customers and our employees” in a blog announcing the decision this week.

The London Xerocon event planned for November is under review and “Xerocon Sydney will be back in 2021 better than ever” the company said. More here.


BONUS ITEM: We’re a massive fan of Madame Flavour’s tisanes – both at home and in Virgin lounges (we’re sorry if pocketing the occasional bag contributed to the airline’s downfall, but make no apologies for being a tea snob). Here’s a small reminder of the ripple effect of this pandemic. Corinne Noyes founded the business in 2007.

If you’re looking for inspiration and a cuppa as you WFH, you’ll find Madame Flavour in Coles and Woolies. The “deeply relaxing” – chamomile, spearmint, lime flowers, lemongrass, lemon myrtle, lavender, licorice root, passionflower, blue cornflowers – might help, it’s cheaper than single malt whisky and can be drunk before 3pm.

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Hi, I’m Corinne, and I started Madame Flavour tea in my spare room 12 years ago. ⠀ ⠀ You may have heard of us or seen us in your local supermarket, café, or maybe in the Virgin Australia lounge.⠀ ⠀ Our tea gives special moments to many across Australia and I am so thankful for the love and support shown to us over the years. ⠀ ⠀ Right now, many of our wholesale customers have been forced to close due to the pandemic, and for some, their doors are unlikely to reopen. ⠀ ⠀ Looking ahead for Madame Flavour, this will have a devastating effect on us. We look big, but we are actually a small business, with a small dedicated team who work really hard.⠀ ⠀ So, I am asking for your support.⠀ ⠀ If you haven’t tried our tea before, please do. I promise, it is delicious, fragrant, comforting – and in buying it, you will be helping out an Australian small family business. One of the last in tea in supermarkets.⠀ ⠀ If you already drink Madame Flavour, please keep spreading the word by sharing this post. ⠀ ⠀ With love, thanks, and thought for all who are struggling at this time.⠀ ⠀ Corinne Noyes⠀ ⠀ https://www.madameflavour.com/

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Enjoy the weekend and catch you Monday.