Hardware incubator hit hard by Fire Phone failure to launch
According to recent reports and rumors out of Seattle and Cupertino, e-commerce giant Amazon is scaling back some of its hardware ambitions. Amazon's Lab126, its hardware incubator has contracted somewhat, with "several hundred" of the 3000-strong staff looking for work following a combination of hardware development projects and the cancellation of some upcoming projects killed in the wake of the Fire Phone's failure.
Cheaper actually is better
We used to have all these old iPod 30-pin style cables and yet could never find one when we needed it. Now we have a building full of Apple Lightning cables and it's the same thing except slightly worse: our cables are wearing out. At £25 a pop here in the UK or $29, we counted the cable as a bonus when we had to buy an iPhone 6. It's expensive to buy a Lightning cable from Apple that way but it's expensive buying them from Apple in any way so we finally caved and tried an AmazonBasics Apple Certified Lightning to USB Cable 6ft (1.8m) in black.
Prime Now location in Seattle may offer order collection, crowdsourced deliveries
Amazon is allegedly looking into offering another way for customers to receive their orders, by collecting it from Amazon itself. A building in Kirkland expected to be the base for future Prime Now deliveries in the Seattle area is also displaying signs for an unannounced service called Amazon Flex, believed to be either a way for customers to pick up orders directly, or possibly for some form of crowdsourced delivery system.
High budget, creative freedom attracts Clarkson team to Amazon
Amazon's latest content acquisition may put more of a strain on its finances than expected. The team formerly behind popular BBC program Top Gear, is being provided with a budget of £160 million ($250 million) to produce a new show exclusively for Amazon's Prime Instant Video streaming service, making it not only the most expensive UK TV shows ever produced, but also an extremely expensive endeavor compared to other streaming-only shows.
Staples starts selling Amazon Echo connected speaker through online store
The Amazon Echo, the network-connected speaker hosting the retailer's Alexa assistant, has gone on sale through a third-party store for the first time. Staples is offering the cylindrical speaker through its website to all customers priced at $180, the same as Amazon. So far, it can only be acquired through the Staples website, with delivery to local stores available as a shipping option, though there is still the potential to sell it from stores directly.
Verizon offers FiOS customers access to HBO Now
Verizon has started to sell HBO's standalone streaming service, HBO Now, to its FiOS broadband customers. Following the lapsing of Apple's exclusivity period, Verizon is providing a 30-day free trial of the $15 service, which provides access to currently-broadcast programming as well as HBO's on-demand archive. Verizon Wireless customers won't be missing out for long, as HBO will apparently be included in Verizon's in-development Go90 Internet TV service.
Users report Windows 10 upgrade files starting to download to systems
Microsoft is allegedly preparing for tomorrow's launch of Windows 10, by preloading the operating system on computers that have been booked in for the upgrade. According to WinBeta, users that have already reserved their free upgrade from Windows 7 or later will start to see the files being preloaded ahead of a release after midnight tonight. The report also warns upgraders they can also expect to download a day one patch for Windows 10, weighing in at over 1GB in size.
Investors react to Amazon result, passes Walmart market cap
Amazon has managed to achieve a surprise profit in the last quarter, with an operating income of $464 million and a net income of $92 million, amid skyrocketing sales. Both of these figures are a reversal of the operating and net losses of $15 million and $126 million for the same period last year, with the diluted earnings per share of $0.19 compared to the second quarter of 2014's $0.27 loss.
Turning your e-book into a real, printed one
As I write this, the paperback of my book The Blank Screen: Blogging is working its way through the final stages of publication via Amazon. It's a book about blogging for writers and authors, but more importantly it has been the subject of the Summer Project. Through countless software apps and services, we've followed the creation of a genuine book. Not some test thing, not an afternoon's casual typing, but a real book that was already being written.
Amazon Fresh reportedly close to launch in United Kingdom
Amazon is preparing to launch its grocery delivery service in the United Kingdom later this year, according to reports. According to the Times of London and also Recode, the subscription-based Amazon Fresh service, where customers can order a selection of groceries and other consumable items, is apparently at an advanced stage and could start as soon as September, with London said to be the initial launch area.
Today's multiple deals, all in one convenient place
Today is going to be replete with deals. Since Walmart and Amazon aren't so nice as to have mostly all-day sales. Instead of being witty and talking about what something is, and what it isn't, we're going to do a bulleted list, with stop times as best as we can find them. Every so often, we'll check what's still available, pop in new deals, and bump this to to the top and label a time for an update so you've got an idea about relative freshness. And we're done here! This final frequent update is at 3:30 PM EDT, but we may still add as the day goes on, just with less fanfare.
Spring expands Direct 2 You deliveries to four new markets
Sprint is bringing its Direct 2 You home delivery and set-up service to two new markets. The latest major expansion of the service, Sprint will now be delivering smartphones and transferring files and user settings between old and new devices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver. This brings the total number of cities covered by Direct 2 You to 28, with it expected to roll out to more locations throughout the rest of this year.
Leading e-reader software gets extremely overdue features
The latest release of Amazon's Kindle software for iOS and Macs is devoted to improving how text looks on your screen as you read. Excuse us? With Kindle 4.9.1, it's five years since the application came to Apple gear and only now it's concerned with how you read on it?
Amazon Prime Instant Video starts streaming HDR content
Viewers of Amazon's Prime Instant Video in the United States can now watch some of the service's catalog in a high dynamic range (HDR) mode. The first shows in HDR, Mozart in the Jungle and the pilot of Red Oaks, can be watched on a number of Samsung Ultra HD televisions through the smart TV app, with more programs using HDR and ways to access them said to be on the way.
Alexa APIs allow developers access to Amazon voice recognition service
Amazon is allowing third-party developers and companies access to Alexa, the digital assistant included in the retailer's Echo network-connected speaker. As well as a collection of tools and APIs, Amazon is helping accelerate the push to make Alexa as useful as Siri and Google Voice Search by launching the Alexa Fund, a scheme where it will offer up to $100 million in investments to support developers and start-ups making use of the software and the technology.
Authors will be paid based on pages read from borrowed Kindle Unlimited titles
Amazon is making a change to the way it pays authors for allowing their books to be included in Amazon Prime's Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited. Starting from July 1, rule alterations to the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program will now pay authors based on the number of pages read in their ebooks by users of both services, instead of the previous method which counted the number of times books were downloaded by subscribers.
Amazon removes invitation requirement to purchase Echo
Amazon has finally made its Echo network-connected speaker available for purchase by anyone, seven months after the company initially launched the device. Previously only sold to Amazon Prime subscribers and on an invitation-only basis, the Echo can now be bought by all customers in the United States without requiring an invitation, with the retailer expecting to start shipments of the device on July 14.
Deal brings Marvel comics to Kindle Store
Comic book fans now have more of a reason to go to Amazon, as a deal between Marvel and the retailer has brought more than 12,000 digital issues to the Kindle Store, allowing for comics from the Amazing Spiderman, Daredevil, and other franchises to be downloaded to the Kindle app and Kindle ebook readers. The agreement does not affect ComiXology, the digital comic book service owned by Amazon, nor the ComiXology-powered Marvel Comics platform.
Spotify Taste Rewind suggests songs from previous decades
Spotify is trying to get its users to discover older songs they may like, by launching a promotional site. Taste Rewind allows users to select three artists from a list that they have recently played on Spotify, reports VentureBeat, with the site then providing playlists of songs the user may enjoy from each decade between the '60s and the 2000s. While a neat software toy that may help introduce younger listeners to older tracks they could enjoy, the results do not apparently cover the entirety of Spotify's catalog, and can come up with some odd suggestions. For example, a test using Nicki Minaj, Skrillex, and Ellie Goulding brought up a playlist for the '60s headed up by Leonard Cohen.
First transparency report suggests Amazon may have received National Security Letters
Amazon is joining the likes of Google, Facebook, and Apple, by issuing its first transparency report. Later than other online giants in providing the information, and only doing so after criticism from civil liberties and digital rights groups, the retailer's first report advises of the number of times the company has received requests from both US and non-US governments for customer data, and how many times Amazon has provided what was requested.
Complaint similar to 2011 investigation against Apple, publishers
The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon's business practices around e-book distribution and sales. The Commission will in particular investigate certain clauses included in Amazon's contracts with publishers that require publishers to inform Amazon about more favorable or alternative terms offered to competitors.
Amazon adds Audible audio support to Echo speaker
Amazon has updated its Echo network-connected speaker to work with Audible. Via voice prompts using the Alexa assistant or the Amazon Echo App, the speaker can start reading out Audible audiobooks to the user, with vocal commands allowing the book to be requested by title, paused, resumed, and to go forward or back 30 seconds. It also works with Whispersync for Voice, allowing listeners to pick up an audiobook from where they left off on another device.
Amazon UK users can order books from local shops for pickup or delivery
It's certainly possible to buy books from independently-owned shops through Amazon, but these businesses have registered to sell their stock on Amazon's platform, a sometimes-contentious act that has resulted in some bullying by the online retailer. Just as an Amazon app allows shoppers to scan a barcode in a brick-and-mortar bookstore and order that book online, a new Chrome plug-in, Bookindy, adds local shop options to Amazon's listings to give a shopper the option to support a local, independently-owned business, while using Amazon to "showroom" the product.
Amazon Echo can read appointments stored in Google Calendar
Alexa, the virtual assistant that forms part of the Amazon Echo network-connected speaker, has been upgraded to allow it to read Google Calendar events. Android Central reports Alexa can now be linked to the user's Calendar and will respond to queries about it, such as "Alexa, what's on my calendar?" and "When is my next event?" So far, it appears Alexa can only read appointments, not add new items, but this could be included in a future update of the device.
Free same-day delivery applies to daily staples
Amazon has modified its same-day delivery service, expanding the utility for Amazon Prime members. Starting today, Amazon Prime members in select areas will be able to order from a million-strong catalog, and receive free same-day delivery if the order exceeds $35. The previous $6 charge still applies to items not on the million-item list, or if the order falls beneath the $35 threshold.
A pre-teen survival horror game with puzzles and quicktime events
So, unlike our game from Amazon Game Studios (Lost Within), we didn't call Todd and ask him to keep us company as we played Til Morning's Light, but the story here is still pretty horrific. The game sits firmly in the classic survival horror genre of exploring a spooky old house, solving puzzles and occasionally being attacked by monsters. The puzzles aren't terribly difficult, although there's a very real danger of overlooking something important. We also enjoyed the production quality, and the quick-time combat system held our interest.
Google makes Roboto font open source
Roboto, the font used throughout Android, Chrome OS, and a number of other Google products has been made open source. Originally released under the Apache license as part of Android 4.0 in 2011, Google has now made it, and the toolchain used for its creation, into an open source project hosted on Github. Google has also added Latin, Cyrillic, and Greek characters found in Unicode 7.0, with the total number of glyphs increased from approximately 13,000 to more than 40,000 as part of the effort.
UK sales to be reported via local Amazon subsidiary following government tax crackdown
Amazon is altering its tax affairs in Europe, following pressure from governments and regulatory bodies over the way it and other tech companies attempt to shrink their tax bills. The retailer is starting to run sales it makes in the United Kingdom within the country itself, instead of funneling them through Luxembourg to minimize the amount of tax it pays, a change that is expected to bring in millions in corporation tax to the UK treasury.
Enterprising crafters consider an alternate or additional outlet for vending online
Over the course of several days, a number of entrepreneurs who sell on Etsy.com received an email from Amazon.com. The email contains an invitation to take a survey in preparation for a new marketplace the Internet retail giant is working on called "Handmade." The survey the email linked to asked the invited vendor to itemize Etsy-sold wares with categories including jewelry, baby, apparel, pet supplies, home and kitchen, alongside six others.
Three Manhattan stores providing fresh goods to Amazon Prime Now customers
Amazon is making its Prime Now one-hour delivery service more attractive to its users, by offering products from local businesses. The new addition, initially taking place in a limited number of areas in Manhattan, will provide groceries, prepared meals, and baked goods from stores, bakeries, and food sellers in the area, alongside its existing selection of products it ships from its own warehouse.
Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick gain HBO Go, Showtime Anytime access on Comcast
Comcast is finally allowing owners of the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick to access two major streaming apps. Showtime Anytime and HBO Go can now be used through the two streaming devices, with Comcast subscribers required to download the relevant apps and sign in using their Xfinity TV account details. Access to both Showtime Anytime and HBO Go has already been granted to a large number of other set-top boxes, including Roku, Apple TV, Xbox One, and Chromecast.
Prime subscribers can ask Alexa to re-order previously bought items
Amazon has made it easier for owners of its Echo to do online shopping, in what is an expected expansion of the capabilities of the retailer's portable speaker. Prime subscribers are now being given the option of placing orders for items they shopped for previously by voice commands alone, via the Alexa digital assistant, half a year after the Echo initially launched.
Amazon adds Prime Stations to Echo wireless speaker
Amazon has updated the Echo portable wireless speaker to work with Prime Stations. An email sent to Prime subscribers owning the device advises that the Alexa digital assistant can be commanded to play a personalized ad-free station from Prime Music. The verbal command "Alexa, play the Bruno Mars Prime Station" will start streaming the relevant station through the speaker, with "Alexa, thumbs up/thumbs down" rating the track for further personalization, and "Alexa, what song is this?" to receive more track details.
JetBlue bringing Amazon Instant Video to in-flight Wi-Fi service
JetBlue passengers will soon be able to use Amazon Instant Video during flights. While most in-flight Internet services either block or are not capable of high-bandwidth applications, such as streaming video, a partnership between the airline and the retailer will let Amazon Prime subscribers view Prime Instant Video content through JetBlue's satellite-based "Fly-Fi" service at no extra cost. Passengers without a Prime subscription will be able to buy and rent shows during the flight, with Amazon.
Multinational tax haven ruling will wait to prevent sacrificing the rule of law
Europe's anti-trust agency, the European Commission (EC) will miss its own internal deadline for a ruling on the tax probe it has underway against Apple, Starbucks, and Amazon. Citing the need for justice and accuracy in its ruling, EC chief Margrethe Vestager said that "we will not sacrifice the rule of law or the quality of our work to speed up the process."
Alexa assistant can trigger commands in other apps via IFTTT
Amazon Echo network-connected speaker and Alexa virtual assistant has been updated with the ability to make and receive commands through If This Then That (IFTTT). The new Amazon Alexa IFTTT Channel allows users to set new commands or "recipes" for the device to follow, expanding its functionality to work with a large number of well-known online services.
Amazon Instant Video iOS app adds HD video, cellular streaming
Amazon Instant Video now allows iOS users to watch HD content. Version 3.0 of the app upgrades the available resolution from standard definition to HD for both TV shows and movies. The same update adds cellular streaming to the app for the first time, as well as new mobile data usage settings, and also introduces streaming of content to an Apple TV using AirPlay.
Tag Heuer smartwatch may have 40 hour battery life
Tag Heuer's high-end smartwatch will be shipping in October or November, according to a report. More details about the Swiss watchmaker's device received by Bloomberg points to a sale price of almost $1,400, and a battery life of around 40 hours from a single charge. Earlier reports point to it as using Android Wear and using Intel components, though it is believed it will be designed to appeal more tot typical buyers of premium smartwatches instead of technology enthusiasts.
Amazon Business includes industry-only products, corporate credit lines
Amazon is extending its existing business services, by offering a version of its store meant for corporate use. Amazon Business is similar to the normal consumer store, except it has been customized to show work-related products and product categories, is limited to business customers, and has a number of features made specifically with corporate customers in mind.
Company points to foreign exchange rate issues, maintains execution excellent
Despite posting sales figures of $22.7 billion, e-retailer giant Amazon has posted a net loss of $57 million in its first quarter of business of 2015. Net sales increased 15 percent to $22.72 billion in the first quarter, compared with $19.7 billion in first quarter 2014. Excluding the $1.3 billion unfavorable impact from changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 22 percent compared to first quarter 2014.
Gaming news summary for April 15, 2015
The Weekly Game Replay is no more, because there will be more posts than just once a week, due to popular demand. Rebranded the Game Replay and published every Sunday and Wednesday, the staff of MacNN and Electronista provide a look at the wider gaming landscape. Today's list of noteworthy gaming items include the launch of Grand Theft Auto on PC, the return of Guitar Hero, and one gamer's attempt to recreate the ill-fated OnLive using Amazon Web Services.
Amazon Echo adds support for Hue, WeMo home automation systems
The Amazon Echo has been updated to include support for other connected devices. The voice-controlled device is able to make changes to the WeMo Switch, Insight Switch, and Light Switch, reports TechCrunch, with the Hue A19, Lux, BR30, Bloom, and LightStrip also supported, allowing users to verbally alter the lighting or control other devices.
Sling TV incorporates DishWorld service into new Sling International offering
Sling TV is adding more channels to its Internet TV service, by rebranding an existing Dish product. DishWorld has been turned into Sling International, providing close to 200 channels in 18 languages, for $15 per month. While Sling International has its own app, complete with the new Sling TV interface, customers who subscribe to both Sling TV and Sling International will be able to access channels from both subscriptions from within the same app.
Amazon adds Android tablet support to Prime Instant Video app
Amazon has finally allowed Android tablets access to Prime Instant Video. Previously only available to iOS devices and, since September last year, Android smartphones, tablet users can now watch the same Prime Instant Video content via their device, reports Android Police. Prime subscribers need to install the dedicated Prime Instant Video app from the Amazon Appstore before watching shows.
Single button ordering system offered to small number of Amazon Prime subscribers at no charge
Amazon is testing out a way to simplify the ordering process for consumable and perishable consumer goods, by providing customers with single-purpose buttons. A follow up to the Amazon Dash ordering device from last year, the Amazon Dash Button is a compact unit with a single button, which can be pressed to request an order for a variety of household goods, such as washing powder, coffee, or batteries.
Drone delivery tests carried out away from restrictive FAA regulations
Amazon's attempts to test its drone-based Prime Air delivery service on a larger scale are being carried out in secret in Canada, according to a report. The retailer has apparently tested out the drones outdoors in British Columbia on a frequent basis, in order to sidestep the restrictive rules that apply to commercial drones in the United States, hampering development of the potential service.
Customers can buy services packages from local professionals via Amazon
Amazon has launched a new service providing listings for professional services, something the retailer initially tested in November. Amazon Home Services offers the ability to search a list of pre-selected service providers in a number of different industries, such as appliance installation, plumbing, and other specialized household tasks, with the option to set an appointment with the provider to carry out the job at the customer's home.
Unlimited file storage on Amazon servers undercuts cloud storage competitors
Amazon is going after Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive, by offering customers unlimited cloud storage at a very low cost. The retailer is upgrading its existing Cloud Drive service by adding two more tiers for non-Prime subscribers, each providing unlimited storage of files and photographs, but with subscription prices that severely undercut the same offerings by its competitors.
Amazon expands Prime Now one-hour deliveries to Dallas
Amazon Prime Now, the retailer's high-speed delivery service, is opening up in Dallas. Just as with its other Prime Now locations, Prime subscribers in the fourth location will be able to use a mobile app on iOS and Android to place orders for groceries and household goods, between 8am and 10pm seven days a week, with TechCrunch reporting it still costs $8 for one-hour deliveries, while two-hour deliveries are free.
Recent Amazon drone authorization was for obsolete model
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is speeding up the process for commercial drone operators to be provided exemptions allowing them to fly. The change in policy comes amid complaints from Amazon over the application process, which it claims is so slow that its recent FAA approval it received was for a drone that has since become obsolete.