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Target To Match Amazon, Walmart Online Prices

October 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Target Corp says that it will match its online prices with more than two dozen online competitors including and Wal-Mart Stores Inc from Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

The change in policy is a huge change for the fourth-largest U.S. retailer, which until now only matched prices at its own stores and not at online rivals, AP said.

Target is increasing the number of online rivals that it will match from five to 29, including for the first time stores that require membership, such as Costco Wholesale Corp and Sam’s Club.

Target will now allow 14 days, up from seven days, for shoppers to get a price adjustment, AP said.

This is the company’s latest move under Chief Executive Brian Cornell, who has sought to narrow the retailer’s focus to a handful of product lines where Target believes it has an edge on quality and price while also investing to catch up with rivals online.



Amazon Finally Rids Itself Of Fire Phone Stock

September 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon appears to finally be putting an end to the Fire Phone. The product page for the smartphone on Amazon’s website shows both the 32GB and 64GB models out of stock, with no estimate about when they’ll be available again.

According to Amazon spokeswoman Michelle Taylerson, the company has “sold through our Fire phone inventory in the U.S. and globally.” Amazon ran out at the end of August, but the news was first reported Tuesday by GeekWire — a testament to how unpopular the Fire has been.

While Amazon didn’t say that the Fire will be permanently absent from its website, the company reportedly restructured its Lab126 hardware development division and laid off dozens of engineers who had been working on the Fire. It’s not clear when, if ever, the company plans to release a new smartphone.

It’s an ignoble end for a smartphone that fizzled shortly after Amazon announced it a year ago. While the company built a great deal of anticipation for its first foray into the smartphone market, Amazon wasn’t able to convince users to buy the device. In October of last year, the company took a $170 million write-down on the Fire, based primarily on unsold inventory.

The lack of sales didn’t stem from a lack of trying on Amazon’s part. While the Fire originally cost $199 with a two-year contract from AT&T, Amazon later cut the price to 99 cents with a similar contract.

The phone was hobbled by Amazon’s insistence upon using its own FireOS, a fork of Android the company developed to power its tablets and smartphone. Developers needed to port their Android apps over to Amazon’s AppStore if they were to work with the phone, which meant it had a smaller catalog of applications compared to the Google Play Store.



Amazon, Microsoft Linking Up With Disney’s Cloud Movie Service

September 9, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Walt Disney Co’s studio unit announced that customers of Inc and Microsoft Corp’s video services will gain access to the collection on its cloud-based movie storage service .

Studios like Disney, which has made blockbuster films like “Frozen” and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” have been attempting to steer movie fans towards digital purchases as sales of DVDs decline.

Walt Disney Studios added that it would launch the app on video streaming-device maker Roku Inc and Google Inc’s Android TV on Sept. 15, coinciding with the DVD release of “Cinderella.”

The collection in Disney Movies Anywhere can be accessed through its new app for theMicrosoft Xbox 360 and for Amazon’s Fire tablets, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.

The media company launched Disney Movies Anywhere in February 2014 with Apple Inc’s iTunes, and in November partnered with the Google Play online store and Walmart Stores Inc’s online store Vudu.

The two new additions come on the same day as its early digital release of Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”


Amazon Makes ‘Dash’ Button Free

September 4, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc announced that its ‘Dash’ button, which allows customers to place orders instantly, will now be effectively free.

The company’s Prime members can now purchase the button for $4.99 and get the amount discounted on their first purchase using the button, the e-commerce giant said on Wednesday.

The button will now be available to all Prime members – those paying $99 a year for two-day delivery and other benefits.

The company said it will add 11 more brands to the button, bringing the total to 29.

The ‘Dash’ button, launched earlier this year, allows Amazon’s Prime members to order a product with just a push, using a WiFi connection, and can be hung or hooked anywhere in the home.



Oracle Shows Off New SPARC Processor

August 27, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Oracle has been sharing a few details about its SPARC processor code-named Sonoma. Sonoma is not a sleeping Italian mama at all but a place where Americans grow wine that Europeans will not touch.

Sonoma is supposed to be a “low-cost SPARC processor for enterprise workloads.” The chip uses the SPARC M7 design, DDR4 memory interfaces, PCIe electronics and InfiniBand interfaces in a single package. Eight SPARC 4th generation cores, hooks into the system RAM and built using a 20nm process with 13 metal layers.

Each package has a shared 8MB L3 cache, shared L2 caches with 512KB per core pair and private L1 32KB caches.

There are two DDR4 memory controllers, each with four DDR4-2133/2400 channels, up to two DIMMs per channel, and up to 1TB of DRAM per socket. Oracle it can manage 77GB/s bandwidth with the wind behind it and if it is going downhill.

Basant Vinaik, Oracle’s senior principal engineer of CPU and I/O verification, told the Hot Chips conference that Sonoma contains a crypto-unit with user-level crypto instructions.

“The cache has been optimized to reduce latency and increase throughput. Sonoma achieves low latency with its integrated memory controller. We use speculative memory read to do this. Software can tune this using threshold registers.”


Amazon Expands Prime Now, Adds Alcohol Delivery

August 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc announced that it will begin delivering wine, beer and spirits to U.S. customers for the first time as part of its speedy delivery service, Prime Now.

The online retailer is expanding Prime Now, its one- and two-hour service, to Seattle, where the company is headquartered, and offering alcohol deliveries there.

Amazon Prime, the company’s $99 per year shopping membership program, offers free two-day delivery on millions of items. It is a key testing ground for the retailer’s new services, ranging from TV and on-demand video to fast delivery.

Amazon has said it has “tens of millions” of Prime subscribers. Analysts estimate the program to have around 40 million users worldwide.

The company has steadily expanded Prime Now since it launched the service in New York City last year. It facilitates integration of the retailer’s grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh, which has been slower to expand to new markets.

On-demand grocery delivery is a growing and competitive market in the United States. Instacart, a grocery delivery company, announced on Tuesday that it had expanded to Indianapolis, its 17th city. Other startups, like Postmates, which focuses on meal delivery, also deliver personal care goods and alcohol for customers using a network of couriers.

Prime Now customers can order using an app available on both iOS and Android devices. Orders are shipped from smaller warehouses, or hubs. An Amazon spokeswoman said the company opened two facilities in Seattle and Kirkland, Washington, to handle Prime Now deliveries.


LG Display To Focus On Next-Generatin OLED Screens

August 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

South Korea’s LG Display Co Ltd s announced on Monday it would focus investment on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, betting on the next-generation technology to steer it clear of price wars and ahead of the competition.

Through 2018, LG Display plans to put at least 10 trillion won ($8.47 billion) primarily into OLED displays for large products such as TVs, and flexible screens for smartphones and wearables. It will seek to expand OLED applications to signage and automobiles, and allocate some spending to premium liquid crystal display (LCD) products, the firm said in a statement.

LG Display and sister firm LG Electronics Inc have been the biggest proponents of OLED, which boasts improved color rendition and power consumption. The world’s top LCD maker hopes early investment in OLED will help it dominate when the technology becomes mainstream.

LG Display shares have fallen 34 percent this year, touching levels not seen since 2012 as investors see a future comprising sluggish LCD growth and profit-squeezing price wars with Chinese rivals. OLED, however, offers a market worth $28.3 billion by 2022 from $8.7 billion in 2014, said researcher DisplaySearch.

OLED is being increasingly adopted for premium smartphones and smartwatches, such as models from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc. But prices of goods sporting large, high profit margin OLED screens such as TVs are still far higher than comparable LCD products.

A 55-inch OLED ultra-high definition curved TV made by LG Electronics was on sale for $4,999 on Inc’s U.S. shopping site, marked down from $5,499.99. A comparable LCD set made by Samsung was priced $2,497.99, down from $3,999.99.

Samsung, the world’s biggest TV maker, has said OLED is still too expensive to produce for TVs.

As the two LG companies are the only major players pushing the technology for TVs, analysts and investors are skeptical whether they can by themselves create the economies of scale necessary to bring down prices enough for mass market adoption.



Facebooks Wants Drones In The Sky By Year End

August 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

At 140 feet, it has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, but doesn’t transport passengers — and it’s much lighter too, weighing in at no more than 1,000 pounds. And within the next couple months, Facebook hopes to get its drone off the ground on an inaugural test flight.

Named Aquila, the aircraft is the product of more than a year’s work at the social networking giant. Its function is not to drop retail items from the clouds like Amazon’s drones, but to provide Internet access to the hundreds of millions of people who don’t have it in under-served parts of the world. Facebook aims to partner with carriers and other companies to provide connectivity, potentially at a lower cost than typical infrastructure like cell phone towers.

Aquila comes out of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, formed last year to develop new technologies for expanding Internet access. The company also hired team members from U.K.-based unmanned aircraft maker Ascenta.

The drone is just one element in the company’s master plan to improve Internet access, which also includes satellites and data-carrying laser beams. But it might be the most awe-inspiring.

“If you think about these little quadcopters, that’s not what we’re building,” said Jay Parikh, Facebook’s global head of engineering, during a talk on the status of the company’s efforts at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

The plane’s entire surface is covered with solar panels. It’s meant to stay up in the air for three months at a time, at an altitude between 60,000 and 90,000 feet. That’s above commercial airlines and above the weather. It could potentially provide Internet access to people in a 50-kilometer (31-mile) radius, Facebook says.

Facebook has been flying scale models of the plane at altitudes of less than 400 feet. After on-the-ground testing, the company is now close to being able to launch the Aquila for a test flight, possibly at a location in the U.S., Parikh said.

The plane itself will receive Internet connectivity from a free space optical communication system, or lasers, also developed by Facebook. The lasers use light to transmit data through space. In this case, the laser system will beam an Internet signal to the plane from the ground.






Oracle’s New Processor Goes For The Cheap

August 3, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Oracle is looking to expand the market for its Sparc-based servers with a new, low-cost processor which it curiously called Sonoma.

The company isn’t saying yet when the chip will be in the shops but the spec shows that could become a new rival for Intel’s Xeon chips and make Oracle’s servers more competitive.

Sonoma is named after a place where they make cheap terrible Californian wine  and Oracle aims the chip at Sparc-based servers at “significantly lower price points” than now.

This means that companies can use them for smaller, less critical applications.

Oracle has not done much with its Sparc line-up for a couple of years, and Sonoma was one of a few new chips planned. The database maker will update its Sparc T5, used in its mid-range systems and the high-end Sparc M7. The technology is expected to filter to the Sonoma lower tier servers.

The Sparc M7 will have technologies for encryption acceleration and memory protection built into the chip. It will include coprocessors to speed up database performance.

According to IDG Sonoma will take those same technologies and bring them down to low-cost points. This means that people can use them in cloud computing and for smaller applications.

He didn’t talk about prices or say how much cheaper the new Sparc systems will be, and it could potentially be years before Sonoma comes to market.


Workhorse Wants In On The Drone Delivery Business

July 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Workhorse, a truck maker based in Loveland, Ohio apparently wants in on the drone package delivery business.

Workhorse isn’t as high profile as Amazon or Google, but it demonstrated an eight-rotor delivery drone designed to work with its electric trucks and use some of the same battery technology.

“Our concept is, you have a package-delivery drone that rides on top of a truck as the driver goes about his day, and helps to pick off outliers on his route to help cut down on the cost of delivery per package,” said Elliot Bokeno, a mechanical engineer with Workhorse, who demonstrated the drone at a conference at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

If a driver had four deliveries in one part of town but only one in another, the drone might be able to handle that single, less convenient delivery.

The technology combines autonomous and manual control.

GPS is used to determine the delivery location, and the drone flies there without any human input, Bokeno said. But when it gets to the address, a downward-pointing camera switches on and an operator at a remote center takes over.

The operator guides the drone down, making sure to avoid people and obstacles, and releases the package. The drone then resumes autonomous flight and makes its way back to the truck.

In tests, the drone has flown as fast at 55 mph and has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes. The company is working with Panasonic, which provides batteries for Workhorse’s electric vehicles, on more advanced battery technology that will increase flight times to 45 minutes.

Bokeno said his company has already talked to several package delivery companies about using its technology.

For now, tests of the technology over relatively short distances continue. Workhorse is collaborating with the University of Cincinnati and hopes to begin multi-mile delivery tests soon.






Cloud Services Behind Amazon’s Rising Revenue

July 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc’s shares surged more than 20 percent last Friday, adding more than $46 billion to the company’s market value, after strong growth in the e-commerce giant’s cloud business drove a surprise quarterly profit.

The company’s market capitalization soared to more than $270 billion, overtaking that of Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s biggest retailer.

Revenue from Amazon’s cloud operations – Amazon Web Services (AWS) – nearly doubled in the second quarter, indicating that the business was poised to drive sustainable earnings for the online retailer, Wall Street analysts said.

Operating margins at the unit jumped to 21.4 pct from 7.7 percent.

“Product sales are Amazon’s bread, but AWS is its butter,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said in a note, raising his price target on the stock by 21 percent to $700.

“They delivered a pretty large profit, we expected a loss … they exercised discipline and did not invest in new consumer electronic product launches.”

Investors have raised concerns that the company’s aggressive spending may not pay off. But strong growth in AWS and positive commentary on the Amazon Prime service allayed some worries.

Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year for speedier delivery and exclusive access to certain movies, music and Kindle books, tend to spend more than regular users of Amazon’s services.

“The scale of their distribution network is starting to generate better incremental margins,” Barclays analyst Paul Vogel said.

“That, coupled with the continued strong growth in both revenue and margins at AWS, moves us from cautious to optimistic on the next year of growth for Amazon.”

Amazon, which last reported a profit in the fourth quarter of 2014, considers AWS its main engine of growth, along with Amazon Prime and Marketplace, where the company acts as a middleman for third-party vendors.




Amazon Adds More Countries To List Of Places It Will Offer Loans

June 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc will rollout its business loan program for small sellers later this year in eight new places including China, where credit is becoming a key factor in competing for new vendors and grabbing market share.

Until now, the e-retailer has offered the service only in the United States and Japan. Amazon Lending, founded in 2012, now plans to offer short-term working capital loans in other countries where it operates a third-party, seller-run marketplace business, the head of Amazon Marketplace, Peter Faricy, told Reuters.

The countries are Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The service is on an invite-only basis and is not open to all sellers on Amazon’s platform.

Other large retailers including eBay Inc’s PayPal and Alibaba Group Holdings, which run third-party marketplaces, are also turning to credit to boost their vendor base.

Some lending industry officials who help lenders assess credit risk say these retailers are taking on risky loans because they don’t know the shape of the credit market in which the sellers are operating.

Small businesses have high failure rates, especially in China and India, added William Black, a former U.S. banking regulator and professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri.

Amazon said it can safely offer loans based on internal data and because it takes loan payments out of the sales proceeds it pays sellers.

PayPal spokesman Josh Criscoe said eBay merchants who use PayPal are eligible for the working capital loans and credit is offered to only those customers that have a strong PayPal sales history. PayPal has provided more than $500 million in capital since September 2013, with an average loan disbursement of $2 million per day.

A spokeswoman for Alibaba’s financial services arm Ant Financial, which offers these loans, said credit is offered to Taobao, Tmall merchants and other small business owners who meet certain conditions. The company also offers such loans to customers in some countries like the United States and Britain.



HBO To Offer Episodes Of New Shows On Facebook

June 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Premium cable network HBO said it would make available the premiere episodes of two new comedy series on Facebook, underlining the growing popularity of the social networking site as a video platform.

The popularity of web videos have led to U.S. networks experiment with new platforms to attract new viewers. With about 1.44 billion monthly active users, Facebook has become a sough-after outlet for companies looking to market their products via online videos, the fastest growing category of Internet ads.

Last week, Inc released the pilot episode of its show “Catastrophe” for a limited time on the social media network, instead of its own Prime Instant Video streaming service.

HBO, owned by Time Warner Inc, said on Wednesday viewers would be able to access the premiere episodes of Dwayne Johnson-starrer “Ballers” and “The Brink” on Facebook for a limited period. The two new original series premiered this past Sunday.

Turner Broadcasting, another Time Warner network, said in April it granted exclusive video-on-demand rights to its Cartoon Network and Adult Swim programs to video streaming service Hulu.

On Tuesday Hulu said it would soon allow users to add CBS Corp’s TV network Showtime to their subscriptions.



Oracle To Extends Cloud Offerings, Takes On Amazon

June 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Oracle Corp founder and Executive Chairman Larry Ellison announced that his database company is expanding its cloud-computing offerings, bringing Oracle into more direct competition with Inc.

“We’re prepared to compete with on price,” said Ellison in a webcast presentation, after announcing that Oracle would offer online storage and capability for customers to run their applications entirely in Oracle’s cloud.

The expansion is a major new step for Oracle, which is shifting its traditional database and customer relationship management businesses to the cloud.

“This is a really big deal,” said Ellison, who stepped aside in 2014 as chief executive of the company.

Amazon Web Services is the market leader in providing cloud computing capability to customers, followed by Microsoft Corp’s Azure service and International Business Machines Corp.

Oracle, which calls its cloud offering the Oracle Cloud Platform, will provide a cost-effective alternative to Amazon, said Ellison.

“Our new archive storage service goes head-to-head with Amazon Glacier and it’s one-tenth their price,” said Ellison. Amazon did not immediately return a request for comment.

Oracle’s cloud business is growing quickly, running at a rate of about $2.3 billion a year in revenue, based on last quarter’s figures.

By comparison, Amazon and Microsoft get about $6.3 billion each in cloud revenue per year.



Amazon Considering Non Courier People To Deliver Packages

June 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon Inc is currently working developing a mobile application that would pay ordinary people, rather than professional courier companies, to deliver packages en route to other destinations, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

Amazon would enlist brick-and-mortar retailers in urban areas to store the packages, likely renting space from them or paying a per-package fee, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company’s timing for the service, known internally as “On My Way”, could not be learned, the Journal reported.

The service could give Amazon more control over the shopping experience and help limit shipping costs, the report added.

Shipping costs at the Seattle-based e-commerce giant rose 31 percent in 2014, outpacing sales growth of 19.5 percent.

Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment.