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.
Fire TV range adds external USB storage support, hidden PIN entry
Amazon has made a number of changes to its Fire TV and Fire TV Stick media streamers, as part of a software update. Changes to the devices, including the notable addition of support for external USB drives for extra local storage, come just in time before the retailer releases the Fire TV Stick in the United Kingdom, six months after the Fire TV shipped in the country.
Leaked presentation suggests selection of apps, in-app purchases will be offered at no charge
Android users may be able to benefit from free apps, if a rumor about Amazon is true, The retailer is said to be considering creating a new section of its Amazon Appstore called "Unlocked," which would provide users with access to paid apps at no charge, with typical in-app purchases also receiving the same treatment, being effectively free for users to select.
Restrictions of FAA certificate only for local testing of Amazon Prime Air drones
Amazon's plan to bring drone-based deliveries to the United States has taken another step to becoming reality, thanks to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The regulator has examined Amazon's request to test its potential service, and has granted the online retailer with an "experimental airworthiness certificate," allowing it to perform testing outdoors.
OnePlus alters price of One smartphone in Europe over exchange rate changes
OnePlus is raising the prices of its OnePlus One smartphone in Europe, due to euro exchange rate changes causing the smartphone to be sold at a slight loss. While accessories will cost the same as before, the 16GB Silk White edition of the smartphone will increase to €299 ($320), while the 64GB Sandstone Black model will cost €349 ($370), with the new pricing kicking in from March 25.
Company discovered breach seven months after intrusion
Washington state-based healthcare provider Premera has suffered a massive cyberattack, which has potentially led to the theft of 11 million customers' data. More than six million people affected by the breach live in Washington state, with many employees of Microsoft and Amazon at risk. The initial attack happened on May 4, 2014, with the realization that the system had been breached not occurring until January 29, the same day fellow provider Anthem realized that they had been attacked.
Company building facility devoted to Apple Watch inside Tokyo department store
In a previously-unannounced move, Apple is creating a store dedicated to just selling the Apple Watch (and accessories) as part of an existing upscale department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The "store-within-a-store," borrowing from previous Apple retail concepts, could be come a permanent display for the fashionable Apple Watch if sales merit it. The department store, Isetan, is placing the mini-shop near its main entrance.
MBA 13-inch version features 2x faster flash storage than before
Apple's just-updated 2015 MacBook Air and 2015 MacBook Pro are now available for sale on Amazon, following availability on the Apple online store. The company lists immediate availability for the two MacBook Air models, which start at $899, while the updated 13-inch MacBook Pro is slightly more constrained, with a warning that it may take an extra one to two days to ship, and 3-5 days for delivery. Pricing for the Pro begins at $1,299.
News from the video game industry for the week of March 2
Every Sunday, MacNN and Electronista rounds out the week by bundling together some notable stories from the world of gaming. In the same week as GDC's various hardware and software development announcements, EA shuttered the spiritual home of The Sims and SimCity, Amazon reveals it is porting games from its Fire devices to iOS, and Epic Games shows off what could be coming in its openly-developed Unreal Tournament reboot.
High-speed delivery of Amazon orders reaches more NYC Prime subscribers
Amazon is making its Prime Now one-hour delivery service available to more people in New York City. The retailer's initial service, launched in December, will now expand from its original small single-ZIP-code operating area to cover all of Manhattan, bringing the high-speed online delivery service to all Prime subscribers located within the borough.
Online retail behemoth may take the opportunity to showcase products, facilitate pickup
Last month, Electronista reported on the financial woes of venerable electronics retailer RadioShack. The 94-year-old company was facing the possibility of going bankrupt this month unless a solution was found. As the deadline nears, it appears that Sprint is interested in taking over a sizable chunk of their stores -- but they may face competition from Amazon, which has allegedly expressed interest in some of the company's stores as showcase and pickup locations.
Purdue University first to have staffed Amazon pickup, drop-off location
Amazon has started to offer Kindle Convert, an app which allows users to scan their existing physical books and turn them into Kindle ebooks. At the same time, the online retailer is continuing to help its physical book sales and those of other products by opening its first staffed customer order pickup and drop-off location in Purdue University.