T-Mobile US is testing a system to send one call to many devices regardless of the operating system or cellular carrier. Also: Amazon knocks down report that it plans 2,000 brick-and-mortar stores, and Boeing’s campaign to cut costs leaves a Portland contractor out in the cold.
Gone is the time when an incoming phone call meant just your phone would ring.
Now your phone will ring, your work phone will ring, your computer will ring, your tablet will ring, your ears will ring — that is, if you want them to.
T-Mobile US’s latest eye-grabbing technology lets you use one phone number across multiple devices, regardless of operating system, so calls and messages can come in no matter which device you’re using. The technology also works in the reverse: One phone can carry multiple numbers, getting rid of the need for separate work and personal phones.
The technology, called Digits, is presented in a 15-minute magenta-heavy video featuring T-Mobile Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert and Chief Technical Officer Neville Ray. As Ray explains the technical details, Sievert types “translations” for nonengineers, including descriptions such as “It’s advanced AF” and “Suck it carriers. You can’t copy this one.”
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The latter is a reference to T-Mobile’s outspoken competitiveness against other carriers, mainly Nos. 1 and 2 Verizon Wireless and AT&T, in its bid to attract more customers. The campaigns seem to be working; T-Mobile added 2 million customers during the third quarter.
The T-Mobile team spent about two years working on the technology, Ray said, which aims to replace existing similar products such as Google Voice and AT&T’s NumberSync.
Digits’ main advantage seems to be its ability to work on pretty much any device, regardless of the cellular carrier. Even phones signed up with Verizon or AT&T can use the Digits app.
T-Mobile also said Digits phone calls are “carrier-grade,” meaning they are prioritized over data and are meant to interact well with cell towers even if you’re on the go.
Digits is now being tested with a small group of T-Mobile customers, and should be available to the public next year. T-Mobile hasn’t said how much the service will cost.
A big potential group of customers may be sales teams within businesses. Digits makes it possible for an incoming call to ring multiple members of a team.
The technology works around the assumption that a phone number is tied to a person, not to a device. T-Mobile calls it an “identity management platform” connected to each individual’s login.
One thing was missing from T-Mobile’s lengthy video: any mention of Sprint. T-Mobile surpassed Sprint to become the No. 3 carrier last year.
The No. 4 carrier has made headlines recently as some guess that the incoming Trump administration may be in favor of deregulation, possibly paving the way for a T-Mobile-Sprint merger, an idea that was shut down a couple of years ago.
— Rachel Lerman: email@example.com
Amazon denies plan for 2,000 stores
Amazon.com wants to make sure the American public knows it’s not mounting an Invasion of Normandy-scale attempt at brick-and-mortar retailing. At least for now.
After Amazon on Monday unveiled Amazon Go, a small-format store where technology would allow shoppers to skip checkout lines, The Wall Street Journal reported, based on confidential sources, that the company was working on several store formats and that it envisions having more than 2,000 stores under its brand if the pilot locations work out.
Asked about that on Monday, Amazon declined to comment, but on Thursday it had changed its tune.
“We have no plans to open 2,000 of anything. Not even close,” a spokeswoman said. “We are still learning.”
Amazon also repudiated another Journal assertion, that it planned a big, 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot store. “We have no plans to build such a store,” the spokeswoman said.
On Thursday, the Journal doubled down on its story. A Dow Jones spokesman wrote in an email that “we are confident in our sources and stand by our original reporting.”
The newspaper reported that it talked again to the “people familiar” with Amazon’s plans, and those people confirmed both the vision for potentially having 2,000 stores and the big-store concept.
Whatever the case, Amazon certainly is thinking big.
The company on Thursday had 35 “Amazon Go” jobs open. Several were for packaging and food-preparation associates, but many hinted at how Amazon is building the sinews of an ambitious platform. There were three postings for research scientists; Amazon is also hiring for quality-assurance techs, program managers and various types of engineering positions, from hardware reliability to software development and computer vision.
Even if Amazon doesn’t go all out with putting a smart grocery store under its own brand on every corner, it might choose to follow its usual mode of operation by creating a platform for other retailers to use the technology.
That’s what it did with Amazon Web Services, which rents out computing power and storage to other companies, many of them fierce retail rivals. And not only does it let other retailers sell products on its site for a fee, but it offers to handle their logistics for them through a business called Fulfillment by Amazon.
— Ángel González: firstname.lastname@example.org
Boeing ends paint contract
In line with its aggressive drive to squeeze costs out of its supply chain, Boeing is switching subcontractors at a facility that paints its jets in Portland.
Current subcontractor Commercial Aircraft Painting Services (CAPS) issued layoff notices Dec. 1 to all its 186 workers.
French company Finaero, which is headquartered in Toulouse and paints jets for Airbus, will take over the facility at the end of January and will likely rehire a significant portion of that highly specialized workforce — though possibly with lower wages or benefits.
Boeing owns the facility, which consists of two hangars at Portland International Airport. Because its Everett paint shop cannot handle all the widebody jets built there, Boeing uses the Portland hangars as an overflow paint operation.
The facility is CAPS’ sole location and the company is therefore going out of business, said its owner and president, Paul Lubomirski.
Lubomirski said CAPS paints anywhere from three to seven widebody airplanes per month, depending on the overflow needs from Everett. He said when CAPS moves out at the end of January there’ll be a transition period until Finaero restarts the operation.
“This operation is really important to Boeing,” Lubomirski said. “It’s in everyone’s interest to get the hangars back in production as soon as possible.”
CAPS has had the Boeing contract for the past five years. Workers there voted in July to join the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union, Local Lodge No. 63, which also represents more than 1,200 Boeing employees in Portland.
Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the unionization was not a factor in CAPS losing the contract.
When the contract with CAPS expired this year, the company failed to agree on pricing terms for renewal and Boeing put the work out to bid, he said.
Alder said the jet maker “had a good working relationship with CAPS,” but “we were unable to reach agreement on a long-term contract.”
“To meet our customer commitments and affordability targets, it became necessary to compete the contract through an open bidding process,” Alder said.
He added that the talks with CAPS over a new contract ended in June, “several weeks before we were even informed that a union vote was going to be called.”
CAPS is the latest casualty in Boeing’s intense push to lower costs, which has seen it switch from several longtime suppliers to others who can produce the savings the jet maker is looking for.
Finaero “underbid us, so obviously their cost structure is going to be different than ours,” Lubomirski said.
Boeing’s Alder said Finaero is “working with CAPS management to retain as many of their employees as possible.”
“Hiring fairs are scheduled to provide those employees with opportunities for continued employment.”
Britt Cornman, IAM Local 63 acting directing business representative, said the CAPS workforce has specialized skills and that if Finaero hires back more than half of the 147 workers in the bargaining unit, it will be obligated to negotiate a contract with the IAM. He said the union has had no contact yet with Finaero management.
— Dominic Gates: email@example.com