Two years after U.S. lawmakers declared it a national security threat, China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is planning a campaign to win over U.S. consumers, rolling out new mobile phones and wearable devices backed by a marketing effort.
China’s second-largest smartphone maker, already with more than $40 billion in annual revenue from a wide range of telecom gear and products, is preparing to introduce Americans to several of its smartphones and wearable devices this year, including its youth-oriented “Honor” phone, Huawei officials told Reuters.
The company’s 2015 U.S. plans, which have not been previously reported, will encompass traditional advertising, online promotion and sports team sponsorships, said Huawei’s U.S. spokesman Bill Plummer.
Huawei is changing its approach to marketing as it tries to shed its image as a purveyor of cheap technology products – a common perception issue for many Chinese companies. It’s an important shift for a company that for years had been single-mindedly focused on engineering and relatively dismissive of consumer branding.
In December, it touted its new Honor 6 Plus phone on a billboard in New York’s Times Square. Plummer said that was “a sign of things to come.”
He declined to say how much Huawei will spend on its new marketing campaign or what sports team, or teams, it had in mind. It already sponsors London soccer club Arsenal, cricket teams in India and rugby clubs in Australia.
At the Mobile World Congress over the weekend in Barcelona, Huawei took the wraps off a smartwatch that will be sold in over 20 countries including the U.S.
Huawei now intends to appeal directly to consumers with several new phone models, both low end and high end. It hopes to secure deals with carriers, selling online through marketplaces, such as the one operated by Amazon.com, and on its own fledgling gethuawei.com U.S. direct-sales website.
China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is taking a $590 million stake in a little known domestic smartphone maker as the e-commerce giant explores ways to expand its mobile operating system in a shrinking, cut-throat handset market.
Extending a previously muted push into hardware, Alibaba said will acquire an unspecified minority stake in smartphone maker Meizu Technology Co. Dwarfed by rivals like Xiaomi Inc, privately owned Meizu’s slice of China’s smartphone market is estimated by analysts at below 2 percent.
The deal, unlike U.S. rival Amazon.com Inc’s foray into smartphones with its own-brand Fire Phone, is designed to help Alibaba push its mobile operating system within China through Meizu’s handsets. In return, Zhuhai, Guangdong-based Meizu will get access to Alibaba’s e-commerce sales channels and other resources, the companies said in a joint statement.
For China’s e-commerce king, with a market value of $213 billion market value, the $590 million price tag may be a costly entry fee. Meizu’s reach in China, and likely that of the Alibaba operating system, is severely blunted by domestic leaders Xiaomi, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Lenovo Group, as well as multinational giants Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.
“You could say they’re spending $590 million to experiment a bit and see what happens – it’s an expensive experiment, right?” said Michael Clendenin, Managing Director at Shanghai-based RedTech Advisors.
“My concern is that some internet players are confusing being able to just spend a couple hundred million dollars to buy a piece of hardware that looks pretty cool but is essentially a copy of what Apple has done and what Xiaomi has done,” he said.
Together, the leading five brands accounted for nearly 60 percent of China’s smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2014, said Nicole Peng, a Shanghai-based analyst with data research firm Canalys.
Meizu has pumped up shipments from a few hundred thousand in previous years to under 2 million in the last three months of 2014, but it still had less than 2 percent of China’s smartphone market share in that quarter, said Peng.
Amazon has considered using the RadioShack stores as showcases for the Seattle-based company’s hardware as well as potential pickup and drop-off centers for online customers, Bloomberg said.
Sprint and RadioShack have had talks about co-branding some of the stores, Bloomberg reported, citing two anonymous sources. The rest of the stores would close down, Bloomberg reported on Monday.
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), meanwhile, said its regulatory arm was acting to delist RadioShack shares, and would suspend their trading immediately.
Another bidder could yet emerge to buy RadioShack and continue operating the 94-year-old chain, Bloomberg said.
RadioShack declined to comment on the Bloomberg report and said it had not confirmed any of the information. Sprint declined to comment. Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Standard General, a hedge fund and the largest investor in RadioShack, was in talks to serve as the lead bidder at a bankruptcy auction.
On Monday, the NYSE said it started the delisting process as RadioShack did not intend to submit a business plan to address its non-compliance with the exchange’s listing standards.
RadioShack had received a warning from the NYSE last month — the second time in a year — that it had 45 days to come up with a business plan.
The exchange sends such a notification when companies listed on it fail to maintain an average market capitalization of $50 million over 30 consecutive days.
RadioShack warned last September that it faced bankruptcy if talks with lenders and stakeholders about a sale or a restructuring failed.
The electronics retailer was once the operator of go-to shops for innovators and engineers for products ranging from vacuum tube speakers to the first mass-produced PC.
But the company has failed to transform itself into a destination for mobile phone buyers, losing out to rivals such Amazon.com Inc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
RadioShack said in October that it would seek to convert a loan of $120 million, given by investors including Standard General and Litespeed Management LLC, into equity “in the coming months”.
Dailymotion Games will put the firm into a market that so far includes Twitch, a streamer that has cemented its place as a gaming add-on and a coveted option on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.
The Dailymotion information does not dwell on Twitch, which has been a feature of many a gushing press release from console makers such as Sony, but it does say that the live streaming gaming platform has some decent credentials.
For example, the promotional information says that the platform is backed with “industry leading video and live streaming technology”.
The firm also reminds us that it has some history here, and has been e-gaming for some time.
“Since 2011, with the first Dailymotion Cup on Starcraft, Dailymotion has accompanied e-sport growth on the internet,” said Martin Rogard, Dailymotion’s chief operating officer.
“Dailymotion Games is entirely dedicated to e-sports fans and streamers who come together every evening to form an amazingly talented and gregarious community.
“Over the coming months, we will significantly increase our investment in the e-sports domain to ensure worldwide recognition of all our talented content producers.”
Dailymotion said that live streamers will be able to monetise their content, which Microsoft recently confirmed is fine for its users, and that streamers could run their own “controlled video advertisement” and any number of social tools including search and real-time communications. Android and iOS apps are available.
The service is currently in beta. Dailymotion said that it serves some 180 million game videos a month.
Many people use their smartphone as their primary camera because it is always with them and sharing those photos is easy from your phone. Kodak announced they will be offering an Android-powered smartphone at CES in a couple weeks with a tablet and connected camera coming later in 2015.
The Kodak brand has been synonymous with cameras so it is encouraging to see them placing their brand on a new smartphone.
Apple’s iPhone is one of the most popular camera phones, primarily due to its simplicity and solid quality. The press release states that Kodak will not compromise on design and user experience while improving the printing and sharing experience.
The release also states that Kodak will include advanced remote management software to allow family members and friends to provide help and support. This sounds like Amazon’s Mayday service for the Fire Phone. With statements like this, it sounds like the new Kodak Android smartphone will be targeted to the masses and not the smartphone enthusiast.
Amazon.com Inc said on Friday it added more than 10 million new members to its Prime shipping and digital content service over the holidays and intends to offer one-hour shipping to more cities in 2015.
Amazon considers its $99-a-year Prime membership, which confers free two-day shipping and streaming of select movies and songs, essential to driving its growth and margins. It was unclear, however, how many of the 10 million new members were just taking advantage of a standing 30-day free trial offer.
The Internet retailer has never disclosed the precise number of Prime subscribers, except to say it is in the tens of millions. Analysts estimate it is growing at a rapid clip, and the company continues to try and spice it up with new content.
Amazon said customers ordered more than 10 times as many items via same-day delivery this holiday season, compared with a year earlier. It did not reveal figures for Prime Now, the novel one-hour delivery option unveiled for parts of New York City’s Manhattan borough just this month.
“We are working hard to make Prime even better and expanding the recently launched Prime Now to additional cities in 2015,” CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.
Amazon also said nearly 60 percent of its customers shopped via a mobile device this holiday, and total holiday sales through its smartphone app doubled this year. That may reflect “showrooming,” when customers browse physical stores but make their purchases online.
“Mobile continues to accelerate the secular shift from offline to online purchases,” said R.W. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian. “Consumer use-cases for last-minute shopping, in-store purchases and price comparison continue to expand.”
The No. 1 U.S. online retailer is also exploring adding a same-day delivery option on all items sold by third-party merchants on its site, a move that some logistics experts said may help offset the high costs of speedy, last-mile delivery.
The company’s global ambitions for same-day delivery were echoed in at least seven listings for senior product and marketing jobs based at the company’s headquarters in Seattle, including three posted online this week.
“Our long-term vision is that customers can order and receive a sellers’ product the same day anywhere in the world,” according to one job listing posted in late October.
It is not clear when Amazon hopes to meet its goals and how it would extend same-day delivery to more third-party sellers, who account for 40 percent of items sold on Amazon’s website and pay fees between 8 percent and 20 percent in most categories.
An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.
Amazon offers same-day delivery in just over a dozen U.S. cities, charging $5.99 for members of its Prime program while non-members pay $8.99. In October, the company launched a same-day delivery service in the United Kingdom with newspaper delivery company Connect Group PLC.
A senior product manager role advertised on Tuesday called for a candidate to shape the future of same-day delivery and “drive large worldwide projects with huge customer-facing and financial impact.”
Offering fast shipping is a key piece of Amazon’s strategy to compete with brick-and-mortar stores. But the effort is costly – during the first nine months of 2014, Amazon’s shipping costs were more than double its shipping revenue.
But the potential payoff could be big, analysts say. According to a September survey by RBC Capital Markets, just 4 percent of Amazon customers used same-day delivery, but they spent 15 percent more than others.
Amazon.com Inc will move more of its drone testing outside U.S. borders unless it gets quick permission from U.S. regulators to proceed with outdoor trials, the company said in a recent letter to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The U.S. online retailer has already started conducting outdoor tests “in other countries with regulatory environments more supportive of small (unmanned aircraft systems) innovation,” according to the letter written by Amazon vice president of global public policy Paul Misener.
Amazon says outdoor testing is crucial to developing its “Prime Air” program, which aims to use drones – small unmanned aircraft – to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. It said it preferred to keep that testing within the United States.
In July, Amazon sought permission from the FAA to test drones in outdoor areas near Seattle, where one of its research and development labs is working on the technology, but the FAA has been slow to give its approval.
“Without approval of our testing in the United States, we will be forced to continue expanding our Prime Air R&D footprint abroad,” Misener wrote in the letter, first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Drones are among several initiatives underway at Amazon to help control rising shipping costs and compete with brick-and-mortar stores by delivering items quickly. Amazon said there were dozens of U.S. job openings for its Prime Air division for hardware engineers and research scientists.
Amazon.com Inc has installed more than 15,000 robots across 10 U.S. warehouses, a move that looks to reduce operating costs by one-fifth and get packages out the door more quickly in the run-up to Christmas.
The orange 320-pound (145 kg) robots, which scoot around the floor on wheels, show how Amazon has adopted technology developed by Kiva Systems, a robotics company it bought for $775 million in 2012. Amazon showed off the robots ahead of Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year.
The robots are designed to help the leading U.S. online retailer speed the time it takes to deliver items to customers and better compete with brick-and-mortar stores, where the bulk of Americans still do their shopping.
The robots also may help Amazon avoid the mishaps of last year’s holiday season, when a surge of packages overwhelmed shipping and logistics company UPS and delayed the arrival of Christmas presents around the globe. Amazon offered shipping refunds and $20 gift cards to compensate customers.
Amazon deployed the robots this summer, ahead of the key holiday quarter, when the company typically books about one-third of its annual revenue. The updated warehouses are in five states — California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Washington.
The move comes at a cost. Amazon estimated in June 2013 that it would spend about $46 million to install Kiva robots at its warehouse in Ruskin, Florida, including $26.1 million for the equipment, according to company filings to local government.
The Kiva robots have allowed Amazon to hold about 50 percent more items and shorten the time it takes to offer same-day delivery in several areas, said Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations and customer services.
The company also just deleted thousands of negative online customer reviews of the smartphone on its website.
The latest discount first appeared on Amazon.com last week, dropping the unlocked 32GB price from its original $649 to $199; the price still includes one year of Prime service, worth $99, and is good through Cyber Monday (Dec. 1).
In addition to the price cut, Amazon deleted thousands of customer reviews of the product, leaving up only reviews posted since the price cut went into effect.
Just one review appeared as of noon ET Wednesday: “Dan” gave the Fire four stars out five and called the $199 price “awesome,” adding that he wished it ran pure Android. (It runs the Fire OS, an Android variant.)
An Amazon spokeswoman said there weren’t more reviews because the revised unlocked version just launched on its Web site. She said it has been upgraded with added features such as text translation, a secure corporate VPN and user interface and performance improvements; those added features will be rolled out to existing Fire customers over-the-air in coming weeks, she added.
By comparison, customer reviews back in late October scored the device with just 2.4 stars out of five, based on nearly 4,000 reviews.
Various negative complaints included access to too few apps and concerns that the Fire got hot to the touch. Some users called the phone “gimmicky,” pointing to various innovative features like Firefly for instant access to information on products and objects, customer support with Mayday and a sensor system with 3D-like capabilities called Dynamic Perspective.
Rocket Internet, whose shares have had a bumpy ride since listing last month, said its 12 most successful companies saw average growth in gross merchandise volume — a measure of sales made through online marketplaces — of 104 percent in the six months to June 30.
It also announced a global agreement with Facebook, which will involve the U.S. company helping Rocket with advertising strategy and automation of ads and giving it access to tests of new advertising features.
Rocket Internet shares, which have rebounded to above the offer price of 42.50 euros after positive broker notes in recent days.
Investors who bought shares in Europe’s largest tech listing since 2000 were hoping to ride a wave of euphoria which culminated in Alibaba’s bumper New York flotation. However, the shares came under pressure over concerns about how long it might take the Rocket start-ups to turn a profit.
Among Rocket’s top performers were Russian fashion site Lamoda and Indian online store Jabong, which saw first-half revenue grow 112 percent and 187 percent respectively.
Founded in 2007 by brothers Oliver, Alexander and Marc Samwer, Rocket has set up dozens of e-commerce and online marketplaces for everything from taxis to meal deliveries, aiming to replicate the success of Amazon and Alibaba in new markets like Africa, Latin America and Russia.
Sources are telling us that we should expect new skateboarding titles from both Electronic Arts and Activision in 2015. Word is that Activision is preparing a new Tony Hawk title and Electronic Arts will be bring out a new Skate title as well.
While Activision and Electronic Arts have not made the announcements yet, our sources tell us that we should expect both titles to be announced in the near future for a likely late 2015 release. It is unknown who might be handling the development on both titles, but word is that both titles are already deep in development.
With the release of a new Tony Hawk and Skate titles, it will revive the Skateboarding segment that has been dormant for quite some time. EA has not produced a new title in the Skate franchise since Skate 3 and the late couple of Tony Hawk titles didn’t do so well, but the re-issue of original Pro Skater for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with DLC made up of levels from 2 & 3 have shown that interest does still exist for this segment.
Our hope is that it will be less like what we saw with the SSX revival that EA tried and then realized that it was not really want the people wanted and more like a new next-generation skateboarding title that puts the fun back into skating. We will have to wait and see.
That’s according to Cisco’s fourth annual Global Cloud Index, which predicts that the cloud will account for 76% of total data center traffic by 2018. That’s up from the cloud’s accounting for 54% of data center traffic last year.
The report, released on Tuesday, also showed that by 2018, half of the world’s population will have residential Internet access, and 53% of those users will store content on personal cloud storage services.
Cisco’s study was released the same day that Google renewed its push to pick up momentum in the public cloud market by dropping prices and adding and updating features.
Google, along with cloud rivals Amazon, IBM and Microsoft, are pushing their cloud efforts because the market is growing so fast.
In the spring Forrester Research reported that the public cloud market is set for “hypergrowth,” and is expected to reach $191 billion by 2020. That’s a big jump from the $58 billion market at the end of 2013.
While the public cloud is showing a 50% growth rate, the growth rates of both hybrid and private clouds come in at a strong 40% and 45%, according to Synergy Research Group.
Cisco’s report echoes similar growth predictions.
The study predicts that global data center traffic will nearly triple from 2013 to 2018, growing from 3.1 zettabytes per year in 2013 to 8.6 zettabytes per year. A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes.
Cisco said 8.6 zettabytes of data center traffic is equivalent to streaming all of the approximately 500,000 movies and 3 million television shows ever made in ultra-high definition 250,000 times.
The company’s report is calculated by using data from server shipments to data centers, the installed base of workloads and the volume of bytes per workload per month. The company said it used data from market research firms Gartner, IDC, Synergy Research and Juniper Research.
Apple’s iPad finished in second place in the latest satisfaction survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, with a score of 824 out of a possible 1,000. For the first time, Amazon took first place, scoring 827.
Samsung came in at 821 for third, while Asus and Acer filled out the first five, but those stragglers’ scores were under the category average.
J.D. Power’s satisfaction score included five separate measurements for performance, ease of operation, features, styling and design, and cost, with each accounting for different percentages of the final number. Performance, for example, counted as 28% of the total; cost for 11%.
Apple received high scores in performance and styling and design, while Amazon performed best in ease of operation and cost, said Kirk Parsons, senior director of telecommunications services at J.D. Power.
“Within the tablet segment, there’s a balance of cost and value, and for this period, Amazon was at the equilibrium,” said Parsons. “For the money, [Amazon tablets] do what buyers need them to do. And the Mayday feature really helped them in ease of operation.”
Mayday is a feature on Amazon’s higher-end tablets that lets customers video chat with support representatives using the device.
Parsons called out Amazon’s Fire HDX, which launched in October 2013 in a 7-in. size and a month later in an 8.9-in. format, for driving the brand’s scores. Amazon now sells the 7-in. Fire HDX for $179; the 8.9-in. model starts at $379. “The new Fire HDX did really, really well” in the survey, Parsons noted.
J.D. Power polled nearly 2,700 U.S. tablet owners who had had their current devices for less than a year. The survey period ran from March to August.
The last time J.D. Power published tablet customer satisfaction scores, Amazon placed fourth. Its jump to first was a small surprise, said Parsons. “I figured [Amazon's] scores would improve, but I didn’t think they’d take the top spot,” he admitted.
Price is increasingly important to satisfaction, said Parson, as costs fall and capabilities climb across the board, making it more difficult for premium-priced tablets like Apple’s iPad, to retain their polled positions. On average, tablet customers now spend $345 on their tablets, $48 less than in April 2013, a decline of 12%.
Amazon is persisting in buying content to round out its service, with designs to take on Netflix Inc and other online digital media services. But that increasing spending has helped keep the company in the red, inviting criticism from investors.
Audible, the audiobooks service it bought in 2008 for $300 million, is picking up the 10-person company for an undisclosed sum. Audible founder and Chief Executive Donald Katz said in a statement on Monday the company had been attracted by Rooftop’s content as well as its pool of comic talent.
Rooftop records comedians at clubs across the country and licenses the digital rights to thousands of hours of comedy, which is broadcast either live or later on demand. The company’s media partners include Apple Inc and Yahoo, and it also works with streaming services such as Sirius XM, Spotify and Pandora.
Its content now becomes part of Audible, itself a fast-growing seller of online audiobooks, and vastly increases Rooftop’s audience, said Rooftop Chief Executive Officer Will Rogers.
Amazon is expected to continue acquiring digital content at a rapid clip. In past years, it began investing heavily to branch out from its online retail roots, delving into Hollywood-style content production as well as developing a line of tablets, smartphones and set-top boxes to accelerate the sale of digital content.