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February 25 2014


February 21 2014

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February 06 2014

Amazon Puts Image Recognition Into Its Main iOS App – Prepare To Be Even More Showroomed, Retailers
amazon-flow-ios-appPeople already use their mobile devices for comparative shopping when paying visits to brick-and-mortar retailers – but it’s about to get a lot worse. Amazon has integrated shopping-by-camera functionality into its main iOS application, which is even easier than the previous barcode scanning feature it used to let shoppers compare prices. The image recognition feature isn’t new: Amazon previously released a standalone app called “Flow” run by its subsidiary A9 (the search and advertising wing of the e-commerce giant), and the new feature within the main app is called “Flow,” too. The standalone app was launched a little over two years ago, so Amazon clearly wanted to make sure the image recognition tech was fully baked before introducing it to the wider user pool of its main iOS application. Flow’s introduction (and its eventual rollout on Android, too) was preceded by Amazon A9′s acquisition of SnapTell, a startup whose main purpose was to develop visual product search. With SnapTell, you could take a picture of certain specific items (CD, DVD, book or video game covers to be exact) and get price and ratings from not only Amazon, but also Google, eBay and more. The in-app Flow feature in Amazon’s iOS title is much more flexible – it works by identifying not only media package covers, but also logos, artwork and other unique visual features – and can cover a much broader range of packaged items. You still can’t take a picture of, say, a pair of headphones you have lying around the house out of box, but for showrooming purposes (its main use case) that shouldn’t matter all that much. The ability to scan barcodes made it much easier for people to comparison shop, but it’s still a degree of complexity that makes it not all that convenient, since barcodes are sometimes difficult to find, and shoppers might not always know where to look for them, or want to bother. With straightforward package trait identification, it’s a simple matter of point-and-shoot, without even having to take an item down from its rack or shelf. Like a cowbird laying its eggs in the nests of wrens and sparrows, Amazon is using the retail floors of its competitors to demo products, while landing the final sale through competitive pricing. Image recognition definitely makes it an even more effective commerce parasite.

January 31 2014

At UC Davis, Amazon Demonstrates A Novel Way To Bypass College Bookstores
Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 11.52.07 AMWhy should college students waste their precious party days standing in line, when they can order Ramen from Amazon Prime? The University of California at Davis recently inked a deal with Amazon to offer student essentials, from Calculus 101 textbooks to mac and cheese, on a new university bookstore website that gives 2% of sales back to the school. According to the school’s university paper, the Aggie, UC Davis was the first such partnership Amazon announced. The program is now officially a go this week, and UC Davis is giving Amazon the power to blanket the campus with promotion. There’s even an Amazon student ambassador “During finals week of Fall Quarter, we had several ambassadors all over campus handing out free pizza and other goodies to fuel the students while they study,” said fourth-year political science major, Ting Jung Lee said who is now acting as Amazon’s rep. The discounted Amazon Prime membership also seems to making the rounds on student boards: Students are awash with discretionary spending, which they normally spend in shops around the campus. Amazon sells most of these items and more, from dorm decorations to official t-shirts. So, it makes sense that the University wants to take a cut that they never took before with the sourranding shops. I’ve witnessed stunts like these work in the past. Back in my college days, I used to see college co-eds in short shorts handing out Red Bull at streaking events and during finals. For brands, college students are a demographic with delightfully transparent desires and well-known spending patterns. Amazon is aware of its Walmart/Godzilla reputation among struggling businesses. It attempted to partner with indie bookstores to sell its Kindle reading tablet, which got a mixed reception. College bookstores don’t have the same heartstrings to pluck, so it makes sense for them to partner rather than fight. With enough momentum from the UC Davis experiment, Amazon won’t just partner with bookstores, it will be the bookstore.
India Fashion Portal Myntra Raises $50M On A $200M Pre-Money Valuation As Amazon And Flipkart Circle
myntraIndia's e-commerce market is projected to grow sevenfold to $22 billion in the next five years, and investors and global e-commerce companies want to have a piece of the action. We have learned that Myntra, one of the bigger fashion portals in the country focusing both on traditional and more western fashion, has closed a $50 million round of funding. And, as that round closed, it got approached by both Amazon and Flipkart (known informally as "the Amazon of India"), with Flipkart making an acquisition offer in the region of $200 million.

January 30 2014


Amazon Sheds 10% In After-Hours Trading, Erasing $19B In Market Cap

After reporting both a top and bottom miss, Amazon fell 10.32 percent in after-hours trading. The company had ended the day at $403.01 and is now trading at $361.41. As a company, Amazon is valued by investors on the strength or weakness of its revenue growth.

Amazon’s current share count is 457.73 million. At a per-share loss of $41.60 so far today, Amazon has lost around $19 billion in value.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 1.28.12 PM

Amazon not only failed to meet street expectations in terms of profit and revenue, the company also had first-quarter earnings guidance that was immediately called down as lackluster. As CNBC reported after the news dropped, Amazon’s stated revenue guidance for the current quarter of between $18.2 billion and $19.9 billion was below the market’s expected guidance of $19.67 billion.

As a company, Amazon is not valued by investors on its current or near-term profitability. Investors have given the company wide berth to invest in its revenue growth. As such, the company’s owners are not expecting it to generate profit in a way that could be disbursed to themselves in the form of dividends — at least for now.

The other side of that coin is that Amazon’s external growth expectations are steep, as investors are allowing it to invest their potential profits into its expansion. This means that lower than expected revenue growth is something of a cardinal sin for the firm. And when it misses, as it did today, down goes the share price.

We’ll have to wait and see if the company can recover in after-hours trading. Apple, VMware, and Yahoo reported disappointing earnings this cycle. Facebook and Microsoft, on the other tip, had strong quarters.

Amazon Stumbles 9% After Hours On Revenue, Earnings Miss And Weak Guidance
Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 12.15.48 PMToday after the market close Amazon reported its fourth quarter financial performance, including revenue of $25.59 billion, and earnings per share of $0.51. The company has operating income of $510 million in the period, up 26% year over year. The street had expected Amazon to report revenue of $26.06 billion, and earn $0.66 per share. Put another way, in a quarter of strong GDP growth Amazon managed to miss expectations on both its top and bottom line. In regular trading, Amazon was up a very strong 5%. In after hours trading, Amazon is down sharply, nearly 8%. Amazon’s expected earnings per share growth was more than 200%, for reference. Despite the disappointing earnings, the company was upbeat: “It’s a good time to be an Amazon customer,” said its founder. In the sequentially preceding quarter, for context, Amazon reported net sales of $17.09 billion, and an earnings per share loss of $0.09. That was the company’s second sequential loss. The gap between the company’s third and fourth quarter revenue is due to the holiday shopping period, a cyclically strong period for Amazon. In its year-ago quarter, Amazon had earnings per share of $0.21. For its calendar 2013, Amazon had revenue of $74.45 billion, up 22% year over year. Its operating income rose 10% in the same period to $745 million. Amazon ended the year with cash and equivalents of $8.6 billion. That Amazon was up in regular trading to more than $400 a share was perhaps due to Facebook’s stronger than expected earnings yesterday, which bolstered the social giant. Twitter was up a firm 8% today as well, riding the same winds. Now that we have the numbers, it appears those optimistic expectations were misplaced. For the coming quarter, Amazon expects to generate revenue between $18.2 billion and $19.9 billion, up 13% year over year. Amazon | Create Infographics Top Image Credit: Flickr
Tags: TC Amazon
Amazon Wants To Include Peer-to-Peer Payments In Its “Real World” PayPal Competitor
money handsEarlier today, the WSJ published a report on how Amazon is building a Kindle-based point-of-sale payments service for local merchants using technology it picked up via its Gopago acquisition --something we actually reported on back in December. In fact, this looks like just part of what Amazon has in mind. The e-commerce giant is also developing a solution for person-to-person payments -- bypassing banks and other payment networks -- putting it in even closer competition with P2P payment giant PayPal.

January 29 2014

Amazon Launches New Reporting Tools For EC2
aws_logoAmazon Web Services users today got a new reporting tool for the EC2 cloud computing platform. This will make it quite a bit easier to track how they are using their regular and reserved instances and what it costs them.

January 28 2014

Amazon Appstore Now Allows Developers To Charge For HTML5 Web Apps, Promote Them Through “Free App Of The Day”
HTML5_carouselAmazon is announcing a change to its Appstore today, which will now allow developers building HTML5 (web-based) applications to price those apps to sell, just the same as their natively coded counterparts. Previously, all HTML5 apps were automatically set to “free” when added to the Appstore, which may have lessened developer interest and uptake in this feature. As you may recall, Amazon took the notable stance of opening its Appstore to HTML5 apps last August, offering developers a way to quickly turn their web applications and mobile sites into Android apps that could be downloaded anywhere the Amazon Appstore is able to run, including on Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices, as well as on other Android smartphones and tablets. Developers wanting to use this option did not have to do any native app development – instead, they simply submit their URLs and Amazon does all the work of packaging up the app in the correct format, and adding the necessary metadata (like images, product descriptions, etc.) The move was one which Amazon had likely hoped would help its Appstore grow, by capitalizing on the fact that, while many developers today still go iOS-first, they often still have at their ready a responsive website which runs well on Android. For consumers, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the native and HTML5 apps – they aren’t listed separately in the Appstore, making them hard to spot at a glance. Had a significant number of developers participated here by submitting their web creations, that could lead to the perception that the developer community is turning to Android in greater numbers. However, Amazon didn’t share in its announcement how many HTML5 apps are available today – something that could indicate it doesn’t have numbers it wishes to tout just yet. (We’ve asked the company to clarify by offering us some figures, though, and will update when we have them.) In addition to being able to set pricing for their web apps, HTML5 developers are also now eligible to take part in Amazon’s Free App of the Day (FAD) promotion which can create exposure and send traffic and downloads to an application, similar to the way an iTunes App Store feature can. Those apps chosen for a FAD promotion receive highly visible placement on mobile devices, Kindle Fire, and the Amazon Gold Box Best Deals page, and are mentioned in Facebook and Twitter

January 24 2014

Microsoft Azure Drops Storage Prices To Match Amazon’s Latest Price Reduction
11305043715_060cade4a9_hEarlier this week, Amazon Web Services reduced its prices for its S3 cloud storage service and today, Microsoft is following suit with a price reduction for its own cloud storage services. Locally redundant storage on Azure now matches Amazon’s prices and Azure Storage transactions are getting a 50 percent price cut, which matches Amazon’s latest price cuts. In addition, Microsoft’s Locally Redundant Disks/Page Blobs Storage is seeing a 28 percent price reduction. Last April, Microsoft said it would match any AWS price drop, so today’s announcement isn’t surprising. Given that its new prices are effective worldwide, Microsoft argues, today’s price drop actually means that Azure storage will now be less expensive than AWS’s offerings in some regions. In its announcement today, Microsoft also stressed that, while pricing is obviously important for its users, it also wants to offer “best in class reliability / scalability.” Specifically, the company argues that its redundant storage option means data will also be replicated in data centers that are at least 400 miles apart. Microsoft also argues that because its users get durable storage with their virtual machines at no extra charge – whereas AWS customers have to pay for storage space on EBS – its service can be significantly cheaper for customers who rely on this kind of storage for their apps.

January 18 2014

Amazon Patents “Anticipatory” Shipping — To Start Sending Stuff Before You’ve Bought It
AmazonAmazon has filed a patent for a shipping system designed to cut delivery times by predicting what buyers are going to buy before they buy it -- and shipping products in their general direction, or even right to their door, before the sales click even (or ever) falls.

January 10 2014

The ‘Anti-Amazon Law’ Is About To Become A Reality In France, But It’s Not A Bad Thing
BooksThe cultural exception strikes again — France’s National Assembly will most probably pass the so-called ‘anti-Amazon’ law in the coming days. In a few months, Amazon won’t be able to offer free shipping for books in order to protect independent bookstores. It’s a logical evolution of the Lang Law. Book prices in France are hard to understand from a foreigner’s perspective. Back in 1981, French Minister of Culture Jack Lang established a fixed price for books sold in France. Since then, publishers have been fixing the price, printing it on the back of the book. Retailers from supermarkets to independent book sellers have had no choice but to sell those books at the official price. If you really wanted to compete on price, you could discount the book 5 percent below the publisher’s price — many bookstores chose to take advantage of this exception, but 5 percent was a reasonable price difference. When it was created in 1981, the government wanted to protect independent bookstores against supermarket chains. It worked really well, and independent bookstores are still around, for the most part. In fact, similar fixed book price laws started popping up in other European countries, such as Italy, Portugal, Spain or Germany. But bookstores had no idea that the most serious threat had yet to come — Amazon, Fnac and a few others opened their online stores. Despite having to wait a couple days before getting your book, the two heavyweights Amazon and Fnac found a way to remain competitive: they priced the books 5 percent below the publisher’s price and they offered free shipping, all the time, for all book orders. Independent bookstores saw that as unfair competition. As Amazon bills from Luxemburg where sales tax is very low, this model was sustainable and allowed the company to gain market share. The company is playing its usual market share game in France as well — profit and margins are not as important as increasing sales. Theoretically, the company can flip a switch any day now, increase prices and start the money-making machine. Today’s French Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti says that she has nothing against Amazon despite the law’s informal name — but free shipping has to stop. In a few months, online retailers will have to choose between free shipping and the 5 percent discount. If they choose the 5 percent discount, it won’t deduct 5 percent

January 03 2014

India May Relax E-Commerce Rules, Opening The Door Further For Amazon And Other Global Giants
ebay indiaAs India prepares to reconsider the ban on foreign investments in the country’s e-commerce sector, two of the world’s biggest e-commerce companies — Amazon and eBay — are anxiously hoping to conquer what they refer to as their last frontier. India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has put out a note inviting various stakeholders to share feedback on the existing regulations restricting foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail e-commerce. Sources at Amazon India and eBay’s operations in the country have told us that both the companies are aggressively preparing their pitches urging the policymakers to revoke the e-commerce ban. So far, both Amazon and eBay have had no choice but to operate as online marketplaces in India, limiting their ability to compete effectively with local rivals such as Flipkart. In the marketplace model, companies such as eBay do not own any inventory, or sell any of their own merchandise to Indian shoppers. They are only allowed to offer products from third-party sellers. In February 2013, Amazon’s global vice president, Paul Misener, had also met with an Indian trade minister, seeking amendments in the laws restricting e-commerce. This is what the Indian laws say on foreign investment in e-commerce: E-commerce activities refer to the activity of buying and selling by a company through the e-commerce platform. Such companies would engage only in Business to Business (B2B) e-commerce and not in retail trading, inter-alia implying that existing restrictions on FDI in domestic trading would be applicable to e-commerce as well. India’s nearly $3.1 billion e-commerce market (excluding online travel industry) is dwarfed in size by China’s nearly $200 billion market for online sales, but it’s expected to grow by over seven times to $22 billion in five years, according to a CLSA report published in November 2013. While existing regulations don’t allow foreign companies to run full e-commerce businesses in India, companies like eBay have become active investors in local startups that can. EBay beat Amazon and Walmart in April 2013 to lead a $50 million funding round in Snapdeal. Meanwhile, Amazon started its India site in June 2013: it is based on marketplace model that does not engage in any kind of direct sales to comply with the local regulations. Up to now, the Indian government has kept companies like Amazon at bay as a kind of protectionist move, to encourage local business development. In September 2012, the Indian government allowed 100% foreign investment

December 26 2013

What I Want For Christmas From Each Major Tech Company Next Year
3135583230_b97d1bc85b_oHere's my wish list. I realize it's too late for this year, but I'm hoping the companies are already planning for next year, and this way they have all of 2014 to deliver. Many of these are pretty big asks, I admit, but the companies in question have pretty deep pockets and access to world-class resources. So how about let's all deliver.

December 18 2013

Amazon Raises Its Game Against Alibaba, Will Expand AWS Cloud Services To China In 2014
3768491843_1baf95c7f4_bAnother step ahead for Amazon in its bid to become the world's biggest cloud computing platform for businesses, and to specifically take aim at a big regional competitor in Asia, Alibaba: today it announced that it would extend its Amazon Web Services suite of products to China beginning with a limited preview in early 2014. You can apply for early access on the AWS China homepage here. It is teaming up with local players to provide infrastructure to underpin AWS, and is also starting an incubator to develop more localized services to run in the AWS cloud.

December 17 2013

Amazon Reportedly Buys Mobile Payments Startup Gopago, Working On An ‘Ambitious’ New Project
gopago screensLooks like Amazon may have quietly made another acquisition, and another move to expand its role in the world of mobile: Italian newspapers are reporting that the e-commerce giant has acquired Gopago, a startup that offers consumers an iOS or Android mobile app to pre-pay for goods before picking them up at a store, and retailers a point-of-sale system to process those orders and more.

December 14 2013

Amazon Drones: As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap
Drone_Flying_EyeAs a drone hipster — I wrote an entire novel about a drone apocalypse a full five years ago — I watched the techosphere’s reactions to Amazon’s announcement that it was experimenting with drone delivery with a mixture of amusement and despair. Almost everybody is thinking so small. Jeff Bezos must feel like Butch Cassidy: “I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” The naysayers were out in force. “Even if the Feds Let Them Fly, Amazon’s Delivery Drones Are Still Nonsense,” bleated Wired‘s Marcus Wohlsen. Dan Lyons reacted to the piece with a condemnation of “the credibility of CBS and 60 Minutes,” again complaining that drone deliveries are “years away.” The Guardian‘s James Bell dismissed it as “little more than a publicity stunt,” and added: “what happens when next door’s kid decides to shoot the drone with his BB rifle?” And Slate called it “hot air” and compared it to an April Fool’s joke. What is wrong with these people? Do they moonlight as stock analysts who only care about the next quarter’s results? Do they have no vision at all? Do they not care about anything unless it will directly interact with them tomorrow, or at the absolute latest, next year? They’re the same ilk who, I’m sure, claimed that credit cards would never work, that merchants would never adopt them, that people would not use them, that fraud would make their use untenable. I’m choosing that as the analogy because drones lost to birds and BB guns will be treated in exactly the same way credit-card providers treat fraud today: as an acceptable loss in the context of that enormous business. Yes, drone reliability will need to improve, and bad weather will be a problem. Yes, regulatory roadblocks need to be hurdled. Yes, the logistics of drone delivery need to be fine-tuned. No, you won’t see drones arriving at your doorstep anytime soon; Amazon drone delivery will presumably begin with small pilot projects delivering to organizations that own their own buildings. To quote Bezos himself: The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood,’ But at the same time, “Technically it is totally feasible,” according to MIT aeronautics professor R. John Hansman. Which may explain why DHL and UPS are

December 09 2013

Amazon’s Kindle FreeTime Becomes An Even Better Babysitter, With New Educational Feature That Tells Kids To “Learn First,” Play Later
FreeTime Unlimited imageKindle Free Time, Amazon's parental control software built into its line of Kindle Fire devices, is being upgraded ahead of the holidays with additional educational features that will help the tablet do even more of the parenting on your behalf. Already capable of setting time limits on things like games and videos, the new Free Time software is now adding educational goals, which allow parents to block access to Kindle's more "fun" fare, like cartoons and games, until specific goals are met. These could include time spent reading or, for preschoolers not yet able to read, it could mean only allowing access to parent-approved educational apps.

December 05 2013

Amazon’s Grocery Delivery Service, AmazonFresh, May Launch In SF Next Week
What's better than drones delivering your stuff? Drones delivering your food*.
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