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Oracle Going After Amazon Web Services In Cloud Storage Wars

September 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

oracle-cloud-storage-150x150Larry Ellison has placed Amazon Web Services on notice with his latest statement:  Oracle is going to give Amazon a run for its money in the cloud market.

“Amazon’s lead is over,” he said during his keynote address at the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco. “Amazon’s going to have serious competition going forward.”

To that end, the company he co-founded is launching a set of new cloud data centers that are aimed at providing more powerful compute instances to help it compete against the likes of AWS, Azure and other cloud players. The generation 2 data centers will help bring a variety of performance improvements to customers who want to run high-performance workloads in the cloud.

The infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering that Ellison announced on-stage is aimed at giving companies low-cost access to incredibly powerful hardware in the cloud. It’s an attempt to draw businesses towards Oracle’s services as they start migrating applications to take advantage of the performance and low pricing available as a result of not operating their own data centers.

Ellison showed off a new Oracle Dense Cloud IO bare metal cloud server offering that will provide developers with 36 CPU cores, 512GB of D-RAM, and 28.8TB of SSD storage. That’s a ton of compute capacity, all aimed at high-performance enterprise workloads. It’s more power than Amazon offers with one of its most powerful instance, the i2.8xlarge. It comes at a cost of $5.40 an hour, which is cheaper than what Amazon charges.

Deepak Patil, a vice president of product development at Oracle, said in an interview that the company was able to compete with Amazon on price and performance for three reasons: The different way that it architects its infrastructure, its access to the latest and greatest hardware and the fact that its cloud platform is built on top of Oracle-made hardware.

Oracle vice president of software development Mark Cavage said that the company plans to charge a flat 7.5 cents per instance hour per core across all of its compute offerings. In addition to its bare-metal options, the company will also offer four- and eight-core virtual machines at launch. By the end of the year, Oracle will also make one- and two-core VMs available.

 

Twitter Launches New Video Streaming Service

September 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

twitter-jack-dorsey-150x150Twitter Inc rolled out a new video streaming application for Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc TV platforms, as well as Microsoft Corp’s Xbox One gaming console as it brings its video content to the forefront.

The application will also be available for users of these devices without a Twitter account or a pay-TV subscription, the company said.

The application will feature video content from a number of Twitter’s partners, including the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, as well as curated tweets and shorter video from its Vine and Periscope services.

The news comes a day ahead of the first of the 10 NFL Thursday night games that Twitter obtained streaming rights for in April.

Jack Dorsey-led Twitter has made a significant push into video, signing deals with several media companies and sports organizations to stream major events.

Pandora, Amazon Both To Launch New Music Streaming Service

September 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

amazon-music-150x150Amazon.com Inc and Pandora Media Inc are gearing up to roll out new versions of their streaming music services in coming weeks, the New York Times has reported, citing several anonymous people with knowledge of the matter.

Pandora could announce its plans this to expand its $5-per-month platform this week, with possible features including skipping more songs or storing several hours of playlists, the newspaper said. The company plans to launch a full-fledged on-demand platform by Christmas. Such a platform, priced at $10 a month, would compete with Spotify and Apple Inc’ Apple Music.

Amazon, meanwhile, is expected to reveal a platform with a large catalog of music for $10 per month or about half that amount for customers using its Echo voice-activated speakers, according to the Times.

Both companies are close to completing months of negotiations for deals with record companies and music publishers that will allow them to offer the new services, the Times reported.

Amazon was preparing to launch a standalone music streaming subscription service at $9.99 per month, in line with major rivals, Reuters reported in June, citing sources.

Amazon so far has not responded to a request for comment. Pandora declined to comment.

Chrome Sets December As Deadline For Purging Flash Content

August 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has set an early December deadline for removing most Flash content from its Chrome browser, adding that it will take an interim step next month when it stops rendering Flash-based page analytics.

In a post to a company blog, Anthony LaForge, a technical program manager on the Chrome team, said the browser would refuse to display virtually all Flash content starting with version 55, which is scheduled for release the week of Dec. 5.

Previously, Google had used a broader deadline of this year’s fourth quarter for quashing all Flash content except for that produced by a select list of 10 sites, including Amazon, Facebook and YouTube.

Another anti-Flash change will reach Chrome with version 53, now slated to ship the week of Sept. 5. At that time, Chrome will stop rendering very small Flash elements, which are invisible to users but generate data for Web analytics platforms.

LeForge’s latest deadlines were what will probably be among the closing moves in Chrome’s years-long campaign to eradicate Flash. Like other browser makers — including Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla — Google has championed the elimination of Adobe’s once-dominant media player by arguing that it results in longer laptop battery life, faster page rendering and improved security.

Apple’s Safari has frozen some Flash content since 2013, and will beat Chrome to the no-Flash milestone when it ships Safari 10 with macOS Sierra between now and October: Then, Safari will default to HTML5 and only alert users that a site supports just Flash with a message that they need to download the plug-in. Microsoft’s Edge — Windows 10’s default browser — froze some Flash content in the version bundled with last week’s 1607 upgrade.

Mozilla has only begun to restrict Flash content inside its Mozilla browser. While the open-source developer has said it will require users next year to manually activate the Flash Player plug-in, it has not revealed a timetable for more drastic constraints, like those Google announced.

 

 

Alphabet Will Begin Drone Delivery Testing In U.S.

August 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google parent company Alphabet will begin testing a drone delivery service in the U.S., hoping to overcome any hurdles to rolling out the technology, the White House announced.

Alphabet will kick off a research study for Project Wing at a Federal Aviation Administration test site “to help regulators answer critical safety and human factors questions” for drone deliveries, the White House said in a statement.

Alphabet first tested its delivery drones in Queensland, Australia, in 2014, where the company delivered a first aid kit, candy bars, dog treats and water to farmers.

Google and Amazon are both developing drone delivery systems, but lots of questions remain about how the services will actually work, including how and where packages will be dropped off.

The tests at the FAA site could help assuage the U.S. government’s concerns about the safety of such systems and how they will operate.

The Project Wing announcement was one of several made during a White House workshop on drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs.

The National Science Foundation said it would invest $35 million in drone research over the next five years. The research is aimed at designing and controlling drones to be used for infrastructure inspection, disaster response, agricultural monitoring and studying severe storms.

The U.S. must avoid crippling the drone industry through slow-moving regulatory processes, FAA administrator Michael Huerta said during the White House workshop.

“This is an industry that’s moving at the speed of Silicon Valley,” he said. “We at the FAA know that we can’t respond at the speed of government.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior said it will use drones to support search and rescue operations, augmenting its manned aircraft operations.

In addition, the Future of Privacy Forum, Intel and PrecisionHawk released a report calling on drone makers to embrace privacy early in the design process, in response to concerns among consumers.

 

 

Tablet Shipments Fall To 3 Year Low

August 3, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Tablet shipments fell to their lowest point in three years in the second quarter of 2016, according to analyst firm Canalys.

However, analysts at Canalys and IDC are seeing a glimmer of hope for the devices with business demand for detachable tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro and the iPad Pro. The Windows 10 anniversary update, which rolls out tomorrow, could further the business trend toward detachable tablets as could the next version of Android, called Nougat, with its better multitasking support.

Canalys reported 35 million tablets shipped in the second quarter, down 16% from a year ago. IDC said overall shipments reached 38.7 million, a decline of 12.3%.

According to Canalys, Apple tablets took the top spot at a 28% share of the market, while Samsung took a 16% share and Lenovo and Huawei got 7% and 6% respectively. IDC’s numbers were about the same: Apple had 25.8%; Samsung, 15.6%; Lenovo, 6.6% and Huawei, 5.6%. IDC tracked Amazon with a 4% market share, citing its low-priced Fire tablets, based on an Android variant, including its 6-in. tablet, for the first time.

For more than two years, analysts have watched the tablet market decline. The reasons are primarily because users hold on to the devices for longer and because larger smartphones — those with displays over 5.5 inches — have caught on as an alternative to smaller tablets.

In June, IDC predicted global tablet shipments would drop by 9.6% for all of 2016, up from a prediction of a 6% decline in March.

IDC said the tablet decline would occur even when newer detachables tablets are included with slate tablets. Slates “are not coming back,” IDC analyst Jean Phillippe Bouchard said at the time.

Later in June, Bouchard joined IDC analyst Bryan Bassett in predicting that global business use of tablets would grow by nearly 6% annually through 2020. Even so, that figure would still not be enough to reach the number of total consumer and business tablets shipped in 2015. In 2015, IDC said 206 million tablets shipped, including 35 million for business users, but in 2020, the total number will reach only 202.6 million, including 59.4 million for business users.

 

 

 

U.K. Regulators Give Amazon Permission To Explore Drone Deliveries

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc announced that it has entered into a partnership with the British government to hasten the process for allowing small drones to makes deliveries.

The world’s biggest online retailer, which has laid out plans to start using drones for deliveries by 2017, said a cross-government team supported by the UK Civil Aviation Authority had provided it with the permissions necessary to explore the process.

Amazon unveiled a video last year showcasing how an unmanned drone could deliver packages, narrated by former Top Gear TV host Jeremy Clarkson.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said last month the use of drones for deliveries will require separate regulation from their general use.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc said last month it was six to nine months from beginning to use drones to check warehouse inventories in the United States.

 

 

Google Launches New Cloud Natural Language API

July 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google’s intelligent cloud developer tools added new features with the launch of a new Cloud Natural Language API. The service is aimed at helping developers create applications that understand human language.

It’s an important move for Google, as public cloud providers race to host new applications built with intelligent capabilities. Natural language processing allows developers to build apps that can tackle the challenging task of understanding how humans communicate. It is also key for building intelligent assistants and chat bots.

This API can provide information about a block of text back to an application, including the overall sentiment of a passage and an analysis of the structure of a sentence. The system can also identify entities mentioned, including people, organizations, locations, events and products.

The API is based on the same research that Google used to create Parsey McParseface, an open source parser for English text that the company released earlier this year.

The natural language API entered public beta alongside Google’s already announced Speech API, which lets applications take in recorded voice clips and get text back. By connecting the two APIs, it’s possible for developers to build an app that can listen to a user’s voice and then understand what that person is saying.

By launching these two services in beta, Google continues its competition against Microsoft, Amazon and IBM, which are also launching intelligent capabilities in their public cloud platforms.

 

 

Amazon Announces Prime Day Sale Was Best Ever

July 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon reported that it’s Prime Day was the biggest sales day ever for the online retail giant.

The company’s second annual sales event, which was held Tuesday, saw customer orders surpass Prime Day 2015 by more than 60% worldwide and more than 50% in the U.S., the company reported.

“It was a huge success,” said Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, an analyst with Forrester Research. “It was a big day, by all accounts, with enormous growth. It reinforces that e-commerce continues to grow and that Amazon is a significant part of that growth.”

Amazon’s Prime Day is a one-day sales event for members of Prime, the company’s membership program. Products in nearly all of Amazon’s copious shopping categories were put on sale.

Despite some reports of customers’ having problems checking out after making their purchases, more than 90,000 TVs were sold, along with more than 2 million toys, 1 million pairs of shoes and hundreds of thousands of Kindle e-readers.

Amazon also received twice as many orders via its mobile app than it did during Prime Day last year. More than 1 million customers used the Amazon app for the first time during the sale, the company said.

For U.S. sales alone, Amazon reported that device sales were three times higher compared to Prime Day 2015. It was also the biggest sales day for Amazon’s Echo personal assistant and the company’s e-readers.

When it came to techie purchases, Amazon sold U.S. members more than 14,000 Lenovo laptops and more than 23,000 iRobot Roomba 614 Vacuum cleaning robots.

While it was a big day for the online retailer, one day does not outshine the rest of the year, especially with back-to-school sales, and then holiday sales, coming up.

“No single day is going to change the fortunes of any retailer,” said Mulpuru-Kodali. “It’s one day of 365 or 366 days in any given year.

 

 

Slate Tablet Market Continues Downward Spiral

June 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Demand for slate-shaped tablets is losing steam even faster than expected.

For all of 2016, global tablet shipments will drop by 9.6% over 2015, market research firm IDC forecast this week, marking the second straight year of decline. In March, IDC had forecast a decline of 6% for this year.

The decline will occur even when newer detachable tablets, often called 2-in-1s, are included with slate tablets, IDC said.

“The impact of the decline of slates is having a bigger impact, faster than we thought. They are not coming back,” said IDC analyst Jean Phillippe Bouchard in an interview.

But Bouchard was quick to add that slates are not disappearing entirely. There will continue to be a robust market for small slate tablets, under 8 inches, that are sold for less than $125 by Amazon and others, primarily for use by children.

“There will also continue to be a slate market for commercial uses in healthcare, education and hospitality, so there are a lot of use cases for slates saying that slates are not going away,” he said. “There will still be a need for slates but not as great as in 2010.” IDC said well over 100 million slate tablets will ship annually through 2020.

As IDC and others have said in the past, slate tablets have saturated the market. “Everyone wanting a slate has one, and there’s very little reason to replace it or upgrade it,” Bouchard added.

IDC pegged the total tablet market of both slates and detachables at 207 million units shipped in 2015, but that figure will decline to about 187 million in 2016. IDC didn’t release its forecast for years beyond 2016, but said the market will continue to decline in 2017 before having a “slight rebound in 2018 and beyond, driven by detachable tablet growth.”

 

 

Amazon To Launch Private Label Products Soon

May 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc is gearing up to launch several new lines of its private-label brands in the coming weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The new brands with names like Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime and Mama Bear will include nuts, spices, tea, coffee, baby food and vitamins, as well as household items such as diapers and laundry detergents, the newspaper reported.

Amazon will only offer these labels to its Prime subscribers, the Journal reported, adding the first of the brands could begin appearing at the end of May or early June.

“We don’t comment on rumors or speculations,” a company spokeswoman said in an email.

Last week, Amazon launched Amazon Video Direct for users to post videos and earn royalties with them, setting it up directly against Alphabet Inc’s YouTube.

 

 

The Weather Channel To Launch New Mobile App

May 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

The Weather Channel is gearing up to roll out a mobile phone app for its recently launched online local news service Local Now in a bid to expand its viewership, Chief Executive Dave Shull told Reuters in an interview.

The independent TV network, which brings weather coverage from blizzards to tornadoes to millions of American homes, rolled out in January an online service “Local Now” that offers local news, weather, traffic and sports updates. The service is currently only available on Dish Network Corp’s online streaming service Sling TV.

“News should be personalized for you, hyper-local, and on-demand just like your favorite shows on Netflix or Hulu,” Shull said on Thursday. “You shouldn’t have to wait for the local news to come on at 11 p.m.”

The Local Now app, expected to launch in June, lets users access the service on iOS and Android phones by entering account information from their cable or satellite-TV subscription with some operators, such as Time Warner Cable Inc, Shull said. It offers a free trial for a week.

The launch comes as streaming services such as Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video gain popularity and viewers shun traditional pay-TV offerings.

Streaming or over-the-top services bring slim bundles of channels from sports to kids entertainment to viewers, but often lack rich local news content as streaming rights have to be painstakingly negotiated with hundreds of stations.

The challenge for local news stations is to satisfy mobile demand without undermining viewership for traditional broadcasts, which generate hefty fees from cable operators who pay to carry their content.

By identifying a viewer’s location, ad-free Local Now creates a real-time, short-form newscast using live data from Weather Channel traffic and weather cameras and news from a handful of content partners, such as the Associated Press. The newscasts, which do not feature a news anchor, use automated pre-recorded words strung together to deliver news.

By leveraging existing Weather Channel infrastructure and using cost-efficient technology, Local Now can offer local news coverage to distributors at a “fraction of the cost” charged by local news stations, Shull said.

 

 

 

Amazon Launches Video Service Similar To YouTube

May 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc debuted a service on Tuesday that allows users to post videos and earn royalties from them, setting up the world’s biggest online retailer to compete directly with Alphabet Inc’s YouTube.

The service, called Amazon Video Direct, will make the uploaded videos available to rent or own, to view free with ads, or be packaged together and offered as an add-on subscription.

Amazon will pay content creators 50 percent of the revenue earned from rental receipts or sale of the videos, according to the company’s license agreement. For ad-supported videos, the creators will get half of the net ad receipts.

Amazon’s fast-growing Prime loyalty program already offers original TV programming and access to digital entertainment products such as Prime Music and Prime Video, as well as one-hour delivery of purchases, for an annual fee of $99.

YouTube offers a free, ad-supported service as well as a $10-per-month subscription option called YouTube Red.

Amazon, though, has a long way to go to catch up with YouTube, the go-to venue for video on the internet since 2005.

“I don’t see 50 million Prime users making a huge dent in the 2 billion YouTube user ecosystem,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said in an email to Reuters.

Ivan Feinseth, at Tigress Financial Partners, said Amazon had the technological wherewithal and financial resources to be a contender in any business, but was similarly cautious.

“I don’t know if it’s going to totally disrupt YouTube, or even some of the other services, but for those that are heavy Amazon users, it will have an appeal,” he told Reuters.

Users of Amazon’s service will be able to make their videos available in United States, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom and Japan.

The company has also signed up several partners for the service, including Conde Nast Entertainment, the Guardian, tech blog Mashable and toy maker Mattel Inc.

Amazon has been making a concentrated push into video.

Amazon recently launched a monthly subscription to its video program for $10.99 and plans to offer its video streaming service as a standalone service for a monthly fee of $8.99.

 

Amazon To Beef Up Alexa With Investment In TrackR

May 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is investing between $250,000 and $500,000 in Bluetooth technology firm TrackR to expand the reach of its Alexa virtual assistant, according to a source familiar with the matter

Alexa is the cloud-based system that controls the Amazon Echo, a speaker system launched by Amazon in 2014 that has emerged as a surprise hit. “Alexa” is the name the device responds to when users make requests, such as “turn on radio.”

Amazon and TrackR declined to comment on the size of the investment.

Like Apple Inc’s  Siri and Google’s Google Now, Alexa is designed to answer questions or take other actions in response to simple voice queries.

Unlike its rivals, Amazon allows non-Amazon devices to integrate Alexa technology. The investment in TrackR came through Amazon’s $100 million “Alexa Fund,” which invests in and supports technologies that broaden Alexa’s abilities.

Santa Barbara, California-based TrackR uses Bluetooth technology to help track lost items. Users put a small chip on an item, such as a wallet or TV remote, and can order those products to make a sound through their phone so that they can be found.

If a TrackR customer loses an item out of Bluetooth reach, any TrackR user can connect to the device using the company’s network to alert the owner of the lost item.

The Alexa partnership will give the TrackR service a voice response capability and will also integrate in the other direction and enable people to find their lost items via the Echo.

“The ability to bring on more partners and realize that you are building an entire ecosystem – I think that is what was really important for us,” said Chris Herbert, who co-founded TrackR with friend Christian Smith in 2009.

TrackR raised $8.7 million last year in a Series A round led by Foundry Group.

Amazon has made roughly 15 investments so far through the Alexa Fund, including The Orange Chef, which helps connect kitchen prep devices, and Garageio, which makes a connected garage door opener.

 

EU Seeks Greater Transparency In Web Search Results

April 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The European Union’s digital chief wants search engines such as Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft’s Bing to be more transparent about paid ads in web search results but ruled out a separate law for web platforms.

European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, who is overseeing a wide-ranging inquiry into how web platforms conduct their business, said on Friday the EU executive would not take a horizontal approach to regulating online services.

“We will take a problem-driven approach,” Ansip said. “It’s practically impossible to regulate all the platforms with one really good single solution.”

That will come as a relief to the web industry, dominated mainly by big U.S. tech firms such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, who lobbied hard against new rules for online platforms and what they saw as an anti-American protectionist backlash.

“We praise the Commission for understanding that a horizontal measure for all platforms is practically impossible,” said Jakob Kucharczyk, director of the Computer & Communications Industry Association which represents the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon.

“While a lot of online platforms enable economic growth, their business models differ widely.”

However Ansip said he was worried about how transparent some search engines are when displaying ads in search results.

The Commission is also looking into the transparency of paid-for reviews as well as the conditions of use of services such as Google Maps, Apple Inc’s IoS mobile operating system and Google’s Android.

“Maybe it’s not too much to ask for more transparency talking about search engines,” Ansip said.

The EU executive is looking into making rules on taking down illegal content clearer and more effective without making hosting websites such as YouTube directly liable.

“Now musicians ask, please, take it down and keep it down,” Ansip said. “We want to make those rules more clear.”

But the Commission will not change a provision where websites such as Amazon, eBay and Google’s YouTube are not held liable for illegal content that is uploaded on to their systems. They do, however, have a responsibility to take it down once they are notified of it.

The Commission will publish a communication detailing its plans on web platforms in June.

 

 

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