Welcome to this week’s edition of “The Week in Tech,” where we recap some of the most interesting technology and mobile stories from the past week.
This week we highlight a big court decision against Uber, changes at Microsoft, the launch of YouTube Gaming, and Amazon’s new delivery scheme.
California Labor Commission classifies Uber driver as an employee, not contractor
The California Labor Commission ruled that an Uber driver who brought a lawsuit against the company is actually an employee, not a contractor, and should be reimbursed for over $4,000 in expenses.
While the ruling was non-binding and only applies to this particular driver, this could be a massively important precedent for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. These companies have always claimed that its drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and that they just provide the technology platform that connects these contractors to customers.
In reality, these companies have a lot of control over their drivers. Uber rules over the fares that riders pay and the drivers’ shares, determines whether vehicles are suited for use, and can fire drivers for poor ratings.
If all drivers were deemed employees, the profitability of these fast-growing and highly-valued ridesharing entities will certainly plummet. Uber, Lyft, and others would then be responsible for benefits like healthcare coverage and overtime pay, and they’ll also be on the hook for payroll and state taxes, unemployment insurance, and many other costs that come with hiring employees.
Ridesharing companies have hit bumps in the road with local governments and taxi cab commissions, but this ruling can be the making of a legitimate roadblock.
Microsoft shakes up its management team
Microsoft has just made some major changes to its management team in preparation for the launch of Windows 10.
The world’s largest software company has parted ways with three key executives. The most prominent of these is Stephen Elop, the former CEO of Nokia who came to Microsoft after it acquired the mobile handset maker. Microsoft’s devices business has been struggling under Elop; while the Surface has shown some promise, Windows Phones have failed to make a dent in the Android/iOS duopoly.
Also out is Kirill Tatarinov, head of Microsoft’s Business Solutions department, and Eric Rudder, who led the company’s “Advanced Strategy” team that attempted to help departments better communicate and collaborate with each other.
CEO Satya Nadella says that these organizational changes are necessary to better align resources to achieve its goals of becoming the preeminent company in productivity, cloud, and personal computing.
YouTube launches gaming site to take on Twitch
YouTube already has tons of video game content on its platform, and now it’s dedicating resources to make this content more easily accessible for gamers. YouTube Gaming will have over 25,000 pages dedicated to specific games that will include channels, videos, and live streams. Gamers will be able to more easily subscribe to these pages to receive updates of when new content is created.
More importantly, YouTube Gaming will improve its livestreaming tools to compete head-to-head with the core strength of Twitch. No longer will gamers have to pre-schedule a time a livestream, and they will be provided with a single link to all of the streams they create so they are more easily accessible.
Your move, Twitch.
You may be soon able to deliver Amazon packages for pay
Amazon is reportedly working on an app that allows normal people like you and me to get paid to deliver packages.
The program supposedly named “On My Way” would let users pick up packages at retail stores and other locations and deliver them to their final destination. There was no timetable to when this would launch.
Amazon spends billions in shipping costs and has experimented with many logistical solutions, such as lockers and even drones, in an attempt to keep these costs down. Why not let you and me make a buck in the process?
What do you think of these stories? Have you read other interesting mobile and technology stories this week that are worth mentioning? Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments.