Month: May 2020

Huawei’s terrible week

When news broke Friday morning that Britain is looking to propose an alliance of democracies to build a 5G alternative to Huawei, you might think that that was the worst thing to happen to the controversial Chinese telecoms giant this week. In fact, it just caps off a series of fast-moving events that surely makes this one of the most decisive weeks yet in the global fight over next-generation 5G networks.

So let’s go back a step. After all, readers who have been following the Huawei debate might recall that not long ago the UK had controversially agreed to allow Huawei to attain up to 35% market share in “non-core areas” of its 5G network. So what was behind London’s sudden about-face?

The answer is politics. There was always a loud group of China-skeptic dissenters in Parliament, but anger over China’s handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic pushed more MPs from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own Conservative Party into the anti-Huawei camp and made the government’s position untenable. Rather than face a large parliamentary rebellion and possible legislative defeat later this year, Johnson instead gave in and announced plans earlier this week to phase out Huawei’s participation in Britain’s 5G network by 2023.

Now, Johnson seems to be going a step further. Reports indicate that he is seeking to organize fellow G7 countries Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United States, as well as Australia, South Korea, and India on the issue. Skeptics of the U.S. campaign against Huawei have long lamented that Washington is asking governments to oppose Huawei without proposing a viable alternative. London’s so-called D10 alliance is the first attempt to explicitly try to answer that question.

Meanwhile on the legal front, British Columbia’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that proceedings to extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to the United States could go ahead. Instead of being released and on her way back to China, Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, is now one step closer to facing trial in the U.S. on fraud charges relating to Huawei’s circumvention of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Huawei is used to geopolitical maneuvering, of course. After all, its plans to build an underseas cable last year connecting Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands with high speed internet were preempted when Australia, wary of growing Chinese influence in its South Pacific backyard, offered to pay for it instead.

When the Chinese ambassador to Denmark threatened to scuttle a trade deal with the Faroe Islands, a semi-autonomous Danish region, if Denmark didn’t choose it for its 5G network, Copenhagen responded by issuing tough new security requirements that Huawei has said would give it no choice but to leave the country entirely. And as I wrote in March, the question of Huawei has been increasingly debated at the highest levels of government around the world.

Yet, this week does seem to mark a dramatic turning point in the global 5G battle.

First, even limited access to the UK market had been a coup for Huawei. With its well-regarded Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, Britain’s seal of approval was a valuable signal to other governments on the fence about whether or not Huawei is worth the security risk. For Britain to not only reverse itself but then take the lead on coordinating an international alternative just a few days later marks a remarkable course correction.

A former British diplomat told me in March that the West’s lack of cooperation on the issue was “a striking failure” of political coordination. That’s certainly not the case anymore – and as other NATO, EU, and Five Eye intelligence allies consider whether or not to permit Huawei themselves, the existence of a democratic anti-Huawei consortium (should it truly develop) would make it that much harder for them to justify going against the U.S.

Second, the Meng case might be soundly based in international law, but to paraphrase Clausewitz: it’s international relations by other means. After all, U.S. investigators, concerned that Huawei was acting as an arm of the Chinese government, had been looking for an excuse to file charges against the company for years. Fittingly enough, the charges against Meng were linked to an unrelated geopolitical issue: violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

A defeat for the U.S. in the British Columbia Supreme Court would have struck a blow to the U.S. government’s attempts to extend its legal reach around the globe. Instead, its victory solidifies an already escalating global sanctions regime that is proving devastating for any company caught in its dragnet. As if the Meng case weren’t enough, TSMC, one of the world’s largest semiconductors contractors, also announced that it would no longer sell to Huawei in order to comply with new US export controls.

The question is thus: if this does mark a turning point in the US-China global tech rivalry, what will the next stage look like?

Given its history, there’s not much suspense in what the Trump administration will likely do next. Certainly it will keep pursuing Huawei’s Meng in court. And count on a new round of pressure in Europe as the EU deadline for members to stake out their 5G security protocols fast approaches this summer. But America’s 5G diplomatic push has been seen as tone deaf in European capitals – now that Britain is onside, Washington would be smart to let London take the lead.

How China responds is the more important question. Its continued strong and vocal support for Huawei should be assumed, but what form will it take? Huawei’s conciliatory approach in the UK has now clearly failed. But so too did its attempts to strong-arm Denmark. Will the gloves now come off? Or will Beijing be forced to distance itself from its national champion for Huawei’s own good?

Huawei has tried to have it both ways, benefiting from the support it draws from the Chinese government while assuring foreign governments of its independence at the same time. But as global public opinion harden against Beijing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Western nations take stronger actions against his company, Huawei CEO Ren might consider just how hazardous being yoked to a superpower can be.

Original Content podcast: ‘The Lovebirds’ has charming leads and not much else

“The Lovebirds” was originally slated for a theatrical release, but with movie theaters closed, Paramount decided to release the film through Netflix instead.

But even without a global pandemic, a Netflix release was probably the right call. As we discuss latest episode of the Original Content podcast, this doesn’t feel like a movie that would have done well in theaters.

It is, to be clear, a funny and watchable, thanks in large part to the charming performances of Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae as a couple who have hit a rough patch in their relationship — right as they’re also embroiled in a murder mystery. (There seems to be a whole subgenre of movies about couples who are inadvertantly caught up in crime stuff.)

The plot, on the other hand, is pretty thin, and it becomes even more perfunctory as the movie tries to wrap everything up at the end. That’s particularly disappointing since “The Lovebirds” reunites Nanjiani with his “Big Sick” director Michael Showalter — do not expect it to be as good as “The Big Sick,” or even close.

Before our review, we also discuss the launch of WarnerMedia’s HBO-and-more streaming service HBO Max.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:25 HBO Max discussion
10:51 “The Lovebirds” review
23:41 “The Lovebirds” spoiler discussion

This Week in Apps: Facebook launches trio of app experiments, TikTok gets spammed, plus coronavirus impacts on app economy

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week we’re continuing to look at how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the world of mobile applications, with fresh data from App Annie about trends playing out across app categories benefiting from the pandemic, lockdowns and societal changes. We’re also keeping up with the COVID-19 contact-tracing apps making headlines, and delving into the week’s other news.

We saw a few notable new apps launch this week, including HBO’s new streaming service HBO Max, plus three new app experiments from Facebook’s R&D group. Android Studio 4.0 also launched this week. Instagram is getting better AR tools and IGTV is getting ads. TikTok got spammed in India.

Meanwhile, what is going on with app review? A shady app rises to the top of the iPhone App Store. Google cracks down on conspiracy theory-spreading apps. And a TikTok clone uses a pyramid scheme-powered invite system to rise up the charts.

COVID-19 contact-tracing apps in the news 

  • Latvia: Reuters this week reported that Latvia aims to become one of the first countries to launch a smartphone app, Stop Covid, using the new toolkit created by Apple and Alphabet’s Google to help trace coronavirus infections.
  • Australia: The role of the country’s Covidsafe app in the recovery appears to be marginal, The Guardian reports. In the month since its launch, only one person has been reported to have been identified using data from it. A survey even found that Australians were more supportive of using telecommunications metadata to track close contacts (79%) than they were of downloading an app (69.8%). In a second survey, their support for the app dropped to 64%. The app has been maligned by the public debate over it and technical issues.
  • France: The country’s data protection watchdog, CNIL, reviewed its contact-tracing app StopCovid, finding there were no major issues with the technical implementation and legal framework around StopCovid, with some caveats. France isn’t using Google and Apple’s contact-tracing API, but instead uses a controversial centralized contact-tracing protocol called ROBERT. This relies on a central server to assign a permanent ID and generate ephemeral IDs attached to this permanent ID. CNIL says the app will eventually be open-sourced and it will create a bug bounty. On Wednesday, the app passed its first vote in favor of its release.
  • Qatar: Serious security vulnerabilities in Qatar’s mandatory contact-tracing app were uncovered by Amnesty International. An investigation by Amnesty’s Security Lab discovered a critical weakness in the configuration of Qatar’s EHTERAZ contact-tracing app. Now fixed, the vulnerability would have allowed cyberattackers to access highly sensitive personal information, including the name, national ID, health status and location data of more than one million users.
  • India: India’s contact-tracing app, Aarogya Setu, is going open-source, according to Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney on Tuesday. The code is being published on GitHub. Nearly 98% of the app’s more than 114 million users are on Android. The government will also offer a cash bounty of $1,325 to security experts who find bugs or vulnerabilities.
  • Switzerland: Several thousand people are now testing a pilot version of Switzerland’s contact-tracing app, SwissCovid. Like Lativia, the app is one of the first to use Apple and Google’s contact-tracing API. Employees at EPFL, ETH Zurich, the Army and select hospitals and government agencies will be the first to test the Swiss app before its public launch planned for mid-June.
  • China: China’s health-tracking QR codes, embedded in popular WeChat and Alipay smartphone apps, are raising privacy concerns, Reuters reports. To walk around freely, people must have a green rating. They also now have to present their health QR codes to gain entry into restaurants, parks and other venues. These efforts have been met with little resistance. But the eastern city of Hangzhou has since proposed that users are given a color-coded health badge based on their medical records and lifestyle habits, including how much they exercised, their eating and drinking habits, whether they smoked and how much they slept the night before. This suggestion set off a storm of criticism on China’s Weibo, a Twitter-like platform.

Watch live as SpaceX launches its first ever spacecraft with people on board

SpaceX is once again preparing to make history – the private spaceflight company is set to launch its Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission in collaboration with NASA today. This is the second time they’ve prepared to launch this mission, after an attempt on Wednesday last week was scrubbed due to bad weather. Today’s attempt is set for 3:22 PM EDT (12:22 PM PDT) and preparations, along with the launch itself, will be streamed above starting at 11 AM EDT (8 AM PDT).

The launch will take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and once again weather is a concern for today’s launch window. SpaceX and NASA have an instantaneous launch window today, which means they only have the one shot to take off – if the weather isn’t cooperating at 3:22 PM EDT, they’ll have to re-attempt the launch again, with the next possible window set for tomorrow, Sunday May 31.

This is the first time ever that SpaceX will be launching humans aboard one of its spacecraft – NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have the honor of being those first passengers. The mission itself is actually technically still a test, the final demonstration mission in the multi-year development of Crew Dragon, SpaceX’s first human-rated spacecraft. This launch will serve as the proof that Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 rocket that carries it, is ready for human-rating, after which it will be ready for regular operational service, flying U.S. and allied astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) in low Earth orbit.

That will mean the U.S. once again has domestic human launch capabilities, something it hasn’t been able to claim since it ended the Space Shuttle program in 2011. That’s a big deal for a number of reasons, but primarily because it means that NASA won’t rely on buying berths on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get to the ISS, which will help it save money and ultimately control its own access to Earth’s orbital lab.

If successful, SpaceX will be the first of NASA’s two Commercial Crew partners to achieve this milestone. The other, Boeing, is still in the process of working out the kinks of its CST-100 Starliner human crew capsule, which encountered errors during its first uncrewed demonstration mission, resulting in the need to run that launch again sometime later this year, and then, depending on how that goes, fly its first human flight hopefully in 2021. SpaceX, meanwhile, is set to begin operational missions with Crew Dragon later this year, if all goes well with Demo-2.

Provided the launch occurs today, Behnken and Hurley will then spend 19 hours on orbit as they make their way to rendezvous with the Space Station for docking. They’ll then staff the station for a period of between a few weeks and a few months, depending on NASA’s decision regarding their ultimate mission length. That will involve helping with station maintenance and conducting experiments, and then they’ll re-enter Crew Dragon and make the trip back to Earth for an Atlantic Ocean splashdown and recovery once their time at the station is over.

Amid unprecedented growth on its platform, Acorns cuts roles and shuts down an office

Acorns, which helps millions of people invest their spare change in the stock market, has laid off between 50 to 70 people, TechCrunch has learned from multiple sources.

The Irvine, Calif.-based company would not confirm the total number of people laid off, but did confirm that there were cuts at the company as a result of broader business changes.

The news emerged days after the fintech company closed its Portland office earlier this week, one of four offices the company maintained. While Acorns offered Portland employees an opportunity to relocate to its Irvine headquarters, some roles were terminated as part of the relocation, the company said.

Employees laid off largely were members of Acorns’ support team. And the internal cuts are related to an external partnership with TaskUs, which out-sources customer care and support needs for other businesses. Acorns will bring on roughly 80 new TaskUs support roles in the next year, which the company said would grow its support team, just not its internal staff.

The internal Acorns support team will handle high-touch customer care situations via phone, while external roles will handle email support.

Beyond support roles, Acorns cut some people from various teams across the company.

Acorns has found unprecedented growth as the coronavirus brings new users into its world of investing and saving money. The company recently hit a milestone of 7 million sign-ups, continuing the trend that trading apps are benefiting from a down market.

At the same time, Acorns also launched a debit card that depends on users spending in order to make sense as a business product. Payment processing is a risky space to play in right now because consumer spending has nosedived due to shelter in place orders. It could be a weak spot for the company at the moment. Earlier today, Brex laid off 62 staff members, just one week after raising $150 million in venture capital money.

So, why does a company like Acorns, that is facing immense growth, need to do layoffs? Even if you’re winning right now, the pandemic and potential of an extended recession is forcing businesses to reevaluate the way they’re spending money. In Acorns’ case, it will have more headcount next year than it does right now. But dig a little deeper, and its choice to outsource roles and shut down an office means that growing right now can come at the cost of slimming down.

Investors in Acorns include PayPal, DST Global, Rakuten, Greycroft and Bain Capital.

Toyota’s first plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime priced a skosh under $40,000

When Toyota unveiled the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime in November, the vehicle garnered a lot of attention because it achieved two seemingly conflicting goals. It was Toyota’s most fuel efficient and one of its most powerful vehicles.

Now, it’s getting praise for managing a base price under $40,000. Toyota said Friday that the standard trim of the plug-in vehicle, the RAV4 Prime SE, will start at $39,220,  a price that includes the mandatory $1,120 destination charge.

This plug-in RAV4 will have an all-wheel drive, sport-tuned suspension. When in pure EV mode it has a manufacturer-estimated 42 miles of range — putting it ahead of other plug-in SUVs. Toyota said it has a also has up to a manufacturer-estimated 94 combined miles per gallon equivalent. We’re still waiting on official EPA estimates.

The vehicle has a tuned 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine and when combined with the electric motors will deliver 302 horsepower and be able to travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a projected 5.8 seconds.

The plug-in RAV4 will be offered in two variants. Toyota equips all of its RAV4 models with its standard active safety systems that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise  control, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, lane tracing assist and road sign assist.

The cheaper SE comes standard with some notable features like 18-inch painted and machined alloy wheels, heated front seats, a power liftgate, a 3-kilowatt onboard charger and a 8-inch touchscreen along with Amazon Alexa integration and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Some advanced driver assistance features such as blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert also comes standard.

There is a weather and moonroof package for an additional $1,665 upgrade, that adds extras like a heated steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats and rain-sensing windshield wipers with de-icer function.

The pricier XSE trim starts at $42,545 (with the destination price included) and offers more luxury touches such as a two-tone exterior paint scheme pairing a black roof with select colors, 19-inch two-tone alloy wheels, paddle shifters, wireless phone charger and a 9-inch touchscreen. There are several other upgrades, of course, including one for the multimedia system that adds dynamic navigation and a JBL speaker system. The daddy of upgrades on the XSE costs $5,760 and covers weather, audio and premium features including a heads-up display, panoramic moonroof, digital rearview mirror, surround-view cameras and four-door keyless entry.

The vehicle is expected to show up at dealerships this summer.

Zuckerberg explains why Facebook won’t take action on Trump’s recent posts

In a statement posted to Facebook late Friday afternoon, Mark Zuckerberg offered up an explanation of why his company did not contextualize or remove posts from the accounts associated with President Donald Trump that appeared to incite violence against American citizens.

“We looked very closely at the post that discussed the protests in Minnesota to evaluate whether it violated our policies,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Our policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force, although I think today’s situation raises important questions about what potential limits of that discussion should be.”

Facebook’s position stands in sharp contrast to recent decisions made by Twitter, with the approval of its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, to screen a tweet from the President on Thursday night using a “public interest notice” that indicated the tweet violated its rules glorifying violence. The public interest notice replaces the substance of what Trump wrote, meaning a user has to actively click through to view the offending tweet.

Critics excoriated Facebook and its CEO for its decision to take a hands off approach to the dissemination of misinformation and potential incitements to violence published by accounts associated with the President and the White House. Some of the criticism has even come from among the company’s employees.

“I have to say I am finding the contortions we have to go through incredibly hard to stomach,” one employee, quoted by The Verge, wrote in a comment on Facebook’s internal message board. “All this points to a very high risk of a violent escalation and civil unrest in November and if we fail the test case here, history will not judge us kindly.”

Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s position saying that it would not take any action on the posts from the President because “we think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force.”

Facebook’s chief executive also drew a sharp contrast between Facebook’s response to the controversy and that of Twitter, which has provided a fact check for one of the President’s tweets and hidden Thursday’s tweet behind a warning label for violating its policies on violence.

“Unlike Twitter, we do not have a policy of putting a warning in front of posts that may incite violence because we believe that if a post incites violence, it should be removed regardless of whether it is newsworthy, even if it comes from a politician,” wrote Zuckerberg.

Twitter explained its decision in a statement. “This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today,” the company said.

Twitter Comms

✔@TwitterComms

We have placed a public interest notice on this Tweet from @realdonaldtrump. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1266231100780744704 

Donald J. Trump

✔@realDonaldTrump

Replying to @realDonaldTrump

….These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!

“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance,” the Twitter statement continued.

Perhaps, as Zuckerberg suggests, Facebook will have an opportunity to provide some answers to the questions around what the limits should be around allowing the state discussion of incitements to violence. For now, the company’s response only begs more questions.

A link to the full post from Zuckerberg follows below:

This has been an incredibly tough week after a string of tough weeks. The killing of George Floyd showed yet again that…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, May 29, 2020

As wildfire season approaches, AI could pinpoint risky regions using satellite imagery

The U.S. has suffered from devastating wildfires over the last few years as global temperatures rise and weather patterns change, making the otherwise natural phenomenon especially unpredictable and severe. To help out, Stanford researchers have found a way to track and predict dry, at-risk areas using machine learning and satellite imagery.

Currently the way forests and scrublands are tested for susceptibility to wildfires is by manually collecting branches and foliage and testing their water content. It’s accurate and reliable, but obviously also quite labor intensive and difficult to scale.

Fortunately, other sources of data have recently become available. The European Space Agency’s Sentinel and Landsat satellites have amassed a trove of imagery of the Earth’s surface that, when carefully analyzed, could provide a secondary source for assessing wildfire risk — and one no one has to risk getting splinters for.

This isn’t the first attempt to make this kind of observation from orbital imagery, but previous efforts relied heavily on visual measurements that are “extremely site-specific,” meaning the analysis method differs greatly depending on the location. No splinters, but still hard to scale. The advance leveraged by the Stanford team is the Sentinel satellites’ “synthetic aperture radar,” which can pierce the forest canopy and image the surface below.

“One of our big breakthroughs was to look at a newer set of satellites that are using much longer wavelengths, which allows the observations to be sensitive to water much deeper into the forest canopy and be directly representative of the fuel moisture content,” said senior author of the paper, Stanford ecoydrologist Alexandra Konings, in a news release.

The team fed this new imagery, collected regularly since 2016, to a machine learning model along with the manual measurements made by the U.S. Forest Service. This lets the model “learn” what particular features of the imagery correlate with the ground-truth measurements.

They then tested the resulting AI agent (the term is employed loosely) by having it make predictions based on old data for which they already knew the answers. It was accurate, but most so in scrublands, one of the most common biomes of the American west and also one of the most susceptible to wildfires.

You can see the results of the project in this interactive map showing the model’s prediction of dryness at different periods all over the western part of the country. That’s not so much for firefighters as a validation of the approach — but the same model, given up to date data, can make predictions about the upcoming wildfire season that could help the authorities make more informed decisions about controlled burns, danger areas, and safety warnings.

The researchers’ work was published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment.

Brex, the credit card for startups, cuts staff amid restructuring

Brex, last valued at $2.6 billion, is restructuring its credit card for startups business and cut 62 staff members, the co-founders Pedro Franceschi and Henrique Dubugras said in a blog post.

“Today we’re restructuring the company to better align our priorities with this new reality, while simultaneously accelerating our product vision. With that, I have some very sad news to share. 62 people will be leaving Brex today,” the post reads.

The cuts come as Brex’s customer base itself is struggling to stay afloat amid COVID-19: high-growth startups. The trickle-down to Brex’s core business, which depends on its customers spending money, was thus expected.

Brex has already cut some customer credit limits to mitigate some of the exposure risk, The Information reported, and Dubugras confirmed. Customers say the credit limit cuts came without warning or notice.

Additionally, the company, launched in Brazil and graduated from Y Combinator, raised $150 million recently.

When TechCrunch talked to Dubugras about the latest fundraise, the co-founder said the capital was offensive, rather than defensive.

“I’m glad this round came together, but if it hadn’t, we would’ve been fine,” he said last week. “The capital is so we can play offensive while everyone else plays defensive.”

In the blog post, the co-founders wrote to former staffers.

“Please continue dreaming big and don’t lose the ambition that attracted you to Brex. Don’t let anything, not even a global pandemic, take that away from you. I wish we could give each one of you a hug, so instead I’ll end this message like I’d do it in Portuguese. Abraços, Pedro and Henrique.”

Those laid off will be provided with eight weeks of severance, their computer and equipment, and Brex will dedicate a part of its recruiting team to help find new opportunities for ex-staffers. Additionally, Brex is making adjustments to the equity cliff and has extended healthcare benefits through the end of 2020.

Brex has amassed $465 million in venture capital funding to date.

Sony will show off the first PlayStation 5 games on June 4th

Sony has been dishing out details on the PlayStation 5 piece-by-piece, rather than dropping all of the details at one big mega event. First came word of the Holiday 2020 release window. Then came an overview of the specs — like that it’ll have a super fast solid state drive by default. Most recently, they showed off the controller. (The divvied up approach makes sense, really; with the ongoing pandemic preventing events like E3 and GDC from happening… why wouldn’t Sony work on their own schedule and make every aspect its own mini-spectacle?)

The next glimpse they give, it seems, will be of the first games coming to the console.

This morning Sony announced that they’ll be hosting a live-streamed event on June 4th at 1pm Pacific. In a blog post about the event, Sony Interactive CEO Jim Ryan clarifies the focus:

We’ve shared technical specifications and shown you the new DualSense wireless controller. But what is a launch without games?

That’s why I’m excited to share that we will soon give you a first look at the games you’ll be playing after PlayStation 5 launches this holiday.

Ryan also notes that the event should last roughly an hour, but doesn’t suggest how many different games that’ll cover.

In a video that managed to pull in millions of views, Epic Games recently gave a first look at its upcoming Unreal Engine 5 running on pre-release PS5 hardware. Given that video’s success, I’d imagine that Sony is pretty dang eager to keep the early looks coming.

Will we finally see the console hardware itself? That’s still unclear. Seeing as they’ve pieced just about everything else out, though, I’d bet they’re saving that one for an event a bit closer to launch.

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