Amazon recently experimented with brick-and-mortar stores with the opening of a bookstore in its home city of Seattle in November. An expansion of bookstores, which the company has not confirmed, would be a surprise reversal from the online retailer credited with driving physical booksellers out of business.
“You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 bookstores,” Sandeep Mathrani, chief executive of General Growth Properties Inc, said on Tuesday, responding to an analyst’s question after it reported earnings.
On the call, Mathrani compared Amazon’s plans to similar moves by eyeware company Warby Parker or men’s clothing retailer Bonobos, both of which opened physical stores after finding success online.
An Amazon spokeswoman said the company does not comment on “rumors and speculation.”
Before branching out to offer everything from fresh groceries to original TV programming, Amazon got its start as a bookseller 20 years ago. It has since revolutionized the publishing industry by introducing its popular e-reader, the Kindle.
Amazon’s bookstore in Seattle carries books selected based on customer ratings and popularity on Amazon.com. The storefront also provides a space for visitors to test-drive Amazon’s Kindle, Fire TV and other devices.
Any move by Amazon to expand stores would further antagonize long-time rivals like Barnes & Noble Inc, the largest U.S. bookstore chain, which operated 640 bookstores across the United States as of January. Shares of Barnes & Noble fell more than 5 percent on Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Mathrani’s comments on Tuesday.
Kevin Berry, vice president of investor relations at General Growth Properties, declined to comment beyond what was said during the conference call.
In a sweeping change of course directed at a tightly controlled television industry, cable and satellite operators in the United States will now be obligated to let their customers freely choose which set-top boxes they can use, according to a proposal announced by the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday.
The move is expected to have wide-ranging implications for large technology companies looking to get their brand names into every consumer’s living room. For example, under the new rules, Google, Amazon and Apple would now be allowed to create entertainment room devices that blend Internet and cable programming in a way the television industry has until now resisted. Next-generation media players, including the Chromecast, Fire TV and Apple TV, would now be granted permission to line the backs of their devices with coaxial inputs and internal “smart access card” equivalents integrated right into device firmware with a simple subscription activation process.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut investigated the cable set-top box market last summer and found that the cable industry generates roughly $19.1 billion in annual revenue from cable box rentals alone.
Meanwhile, the cost of cable set-top boxes has risen 185 percent since 1995, while the cost of PCs, televisions and smartphones has dropped by 90 percent. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler admits that these economies of scale don’t need to remain so unbalanced any longer.
The FCC says its focus will be primarily on improving day-to-day television experience. In the past, the burdensome requirements of long-term contracts tethered to clunky, unsightly cable and satellite boxes has been a major source of customer complaints.
Wheeler has also said that access to specific video content shouldn’t be frustrating to the average consumer in an age where we are constantly surrounded by a breadth of information to sift through. “Improved search functions [can] lead consumers to a variety of video content that is buried behind guides or available on video services you can’t access with your set-top box today,” Wheeler says.
The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal on Thursday, February 18th. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s full statement on the commission’s new proposal can be found here.
The Amazon “share” feature invites customers to share a product via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or Pintrest.
The court said on Monday that sharing by e-mail without approval of the recipient was illegal. It is “unsolicited advertising and unreasonable harassment,” the regional court in Hamm said, confirming the ruling of a lower court in Arnsberg.
The case was brought against one of Amazon’s resellers by a competitor.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ruling comes after Germany’s highest court ruled earlier this month that a similar feature that encourages Facebook users to market the social media network to their contacts as unlawful.
At the time, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV), which brought the Facebook case to court, had said the ruling would have implications for other services in Germany which use similar forms of advertising.
Online book seller Amazon is selling its own brand of ARM-based computer chips.
In a move which is a side step from its normal expansion into its own brand of groceries and clothing, Amazon is flogging its own chips which are being made by Annapurna Labs.
Annapurna is an Israeli subsidiary that Amazon acquired a year ago and the chips are called Alpine. They are ARM-based processors are designed to drive home gateways, Wi-Fi routers, and Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices.
They’re meant for things like data centers and cheap smart home devices rather than smartphones and tablet which makes the concept of Amazon selling them seem rather odd. After all if you are a datacenter you usually go to a supplier and buy shedloads of expensive gear. You don’t normally pop into Amazon and do a quick search, even if you are a Prime Member.
Intel currently has the data center sewn up and ARM chip use is still thin on the ground however Amazon has done well in the cloud so peddling chips as part of a product package makes a bit of sense.
It won’t initially be targeting the kind of high-end servers which are powering the Internet of Stuff which is supposed to be the next big thing. Asus, Netgear, and Synology are already producing devices that use Amazon’s Alpine .
Epic Games said it is investigating issue with Unreal Engine 4 and AMD CPUs.
The problem appears in Squad which is the first big, publicly available game using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4. The game was just stuck up on Steam so complaints about the AMD have been somewhat vocal.
The engine appears to create a poor performance on AMD CPUs due to an audio component of the engine. The issue has been reported before but no one took it that seriously. In fact some of theissues here seem to be a communication problem between Squad and Epic.
Squad developer Offworld Industries told Tweaktown that there was little it could do about this besides wait for Epic to fix it and release the fix in an engine patch.
However Epic’s senior marketing manager Dana Cowley said she didn’t even know about the problem until she was contacted by the media.
She said he was getting on the blower with the Squad team to investigate, and see how it could help.
There is a work around being suggested on the blogs which might help. If you navigate to C:UsersAppDataLocalSquadSavedConfigWindowsNoEditor, back up the Engine.ini file then open it with Notepad, find the [Audio] section, change MaxChannels from 128 to 96, 64, or 32, and save.
HP is exiting the low-end tablet market amid declining prices and slowing demand. Instead, the company will focus on detachables, hybrids and business tablets at the higher end of the market.
“We are going to focus where there is profitability and growth and will not chase the low-end tablet market. We are focusing on business mobility to deliver tablets built for field service, education, retail and healthcare,” said Ron Coughlin, president for personal systems at HP.
HP has already stopped listing many low-end Android tablets on its website. The remaining lower-end products — the US$99 HP 7 G2 tablet and $149 HP 8 G2 tablet — have been out of stock for months, and it’s likely they won’t be available again. They are however still available through some online retailers at cut-rate prices.
The least expensive tablet on HP’s site is now the $329.99 HP Envy 8 Note tablet with Windows 10. HP has Windows on most tablets now, with only a handful running Android.
There’s no shortage of low-cost tablets from other companies, though. It’s easy to find a low-cost Android tablet from little-known device makers for under $100, and big names also remain in the market. Amazon’s 7-inch Fire tablet is selling for $49.99. Lenovo, Acer and Asus also offer low-cost tablets.
HP’s change in tablet strategy came after the the original Hewlett-Packard split into two companies: HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. Cutting ties with low-end tablets is among the first decisions of the new HP Inc. to generate more cash flow.
The video was released nearly two years after Amazon announced that it intended to use drones to deliver parcels through a new service called Prime Air.
But the drone showcased in the video posted is quite different from the one it showed previously. The new drone, for example, carries the parcel in its fuselage rather than below the drone.
The new hybrid drone rises vertically to nearly 400 feet and then takes a horizontal orientation to become a streamlined and fast airplane, according to the Amazon video. The device lands vertically, drops the package at the destination, and then again rises up vertically. The user in the video is alerted on a tablet about the delivery.
The previous drone design will also probably continue. In time, there will be a whole variety of designs, with different designs for different environments, said the narrator, automotive journalist Jeremy Clarkson.
The new drone can fly up to 15 miles (24 kilometers) and is able to “sense and avoid” obstacles both on air and on land. Amazon said in its FAQ that it has more than a dozen prototypes that it has developed in its research and development labs. The online retailer has Prime Air development centers in the U.S., the U.K. and Israel, and is testing the vehicles in multiple international locations.
The commercial rollout of the retailer’s program in the U.S. is likely to depend on when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration finalizes rules for the commercial use of drones.
The FAA proposed rules earlier this year that could allow programs like those of Amazon.com for the commercial delivery of packages by drones to take off. The drones would still have to operate under restrictions such as a maximum weight of 55 pounds and follow rules that limit flights to daylight and visual line-of-sight operations.
Amazon is making it a little, or a lot, harder for miscreants to make off with user accounts by adding two-factor authentication.
It has taken Amazon some time to fall into line on this. Two-factor authentication has become increasingly popular and common in the past couple of years, and it is perhaps overdue for a firm that deals so heavily in trade.
Amazon is treating it like it’s new, and is offering to hold punters’ hands as they embrace the security provision.
“Amazon Two-Step Verification adds an additional layer of security to your account. Instead of simply entering your password, Two-Step Verification requires you to enter a unique security code in addition to your password during sign in,” the firm said.
The way that the code is served depends on the user, who can choose to get the extra prompt in one of three ways. They may not appeal to those who do not like to over-share, but they will require a personal phone number.
As is frequently the case, Amazon will offer to send supplementary log-in information to a phone via text message or voice call, and even through a special authenticating app.
It’s an option, and you do not have to enable it. Amazon said that users could select trusted sign-on computers that spare them from the mobile phone contact.
“Afterward, that computer or device will only ask for your password when you sign in,” explained the Amazon introduction, helpfully.
There are a number of other outfits that offer the two-factor system and you might be advised to take their trade and do your business through them. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Facebook and many others offer the feature.
A website called TwoFactorAuth will let you check your standing and the position of your providers.
The project, called the Amazon Wind Farm US Central, is expected to generate about 320,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of wind power per year beginning in May 2017; that’s enough electricity to power more than 29,000 U.S. homes a year.
While AWS’s latest wind farm is dwarfed by previously announced projects, it is still large compared to those typically built by non-utility businesses.
For example, one of the largest wind farms to be completed this year was the 300MW Jumbo Road wind project located about 50 miles southwest of Amarillo, Texas. The project was commissioned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary BHE Renewables, an electricity utility that sells power to Austin Energy. That wind farm cost more than $1 billion to build.
Amazon has launched a handful of wind farm projects and other renewable energy initiatives over the past two years as it moves toward a goal of 100% renewable energy use.
In April 2015, AWS announced that it was getting about 25% of its power from renewable energy sources; it plans to increase that level to 40% by the end of 2016.
In January 2015, Amazon announced a renewable project with the Amazon Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge) in Benton County, Indiana, which is expected to generate 500,000MWh of wind power annually.
Along with the new Amazon Wind Farm US Central, Amazon said its renewable projects will deliver more than 1.6 million MWh of renewable energy into electric grids across the central and eastern U.S., or roughly the equivalent amount of energy required to power 150,000 homes.
A Federal Aviation Administration task force submitted recommendations for registering drone operators on Saturday, setting the stage for regulators next month to propose regulations intended to help reverse a surge in rogue drone flights.
A final version of the panel’s recommendations was expected to receive approval from 25 task force members on Friday. It would signal broad agreement among stakeholders, including drone makers, pilots, hobbyists and regulators, on a free and user-friendly registration process for recreational users of unmanned aerial systems, or UAS.
Registration is one of several steps the FAA and other government agencies are considering to address a disturbing rise in reckless drone use this year, including near-misses with commercial airliners near airports.
Officials are concerned that safety and security risks could rise in coming years as drone sales continue to soar, with more than 1 million drones expected to be sold in the United States this year.
The task force report was not expected to be released to the public until next week, according to people familiar with the matter. But they said the recommendations would require drone operators to register on a website or via a phone app, if they own UAS weighing as little as 8.8 ounces (250 grams), and attach their registration number to their drones.
“On Saturday, the task force will deliver its report to the Federal Aviation Administration,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a blog posted to a federal website on Friday.
“We will consider their recommendations and the public comments as we develop an interim final rule on registration, which will likely be released next month and go into effect shortly thereafter.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who announced the registration initiative last month, had charged the task force with completing its work by Friday.
A majority of U.S. consumers plan to go to Amazon.com for most of their online holiday shopping, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, even after traditional retailers have collectively spent billions of dollars to try to capture Web demand.
The survey of 3,426 adults conducted from November 12 to 18 found that 51 percent plan to do most of their online shopping at Amazon this holiday season, compared to 16 percent at Walmart, 3 percent at Target and 2 percent at Macy’s.
A little more than a quarter of respondents said they would use another retailer not listed in the poll.
The poll underscored the hurdles that traditional retailers faced in expanding online. Their own sales data this week showed that such efforts were falling short.
Target Corp said on Wednesday its digital sales grew 20 percent in the latest quarter, missing its expectations for a 30 percent gain. The discount retailer cited weakness in electronics demand.
A day earlier, Wal-Mart Stores Inc reported quarterly online sales growth of 10 percent, slower than its target growth in the mid-to-high-teens this fiscal year. Wal-Mart pointed to sluggish market conditions in China, Britain and Brazil, and said it fared better in the United States.
In contrast, Amazon.com Inc had posted a 28 percent jump in North American sales in its quarterly report last month.
“The Big Kahuna that continues to grab market share is Amazon,” said Craig Johnson, head of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. “Both Wal-Mart and to some extent Target have simply not kept pace enough.”
Johnson added that sluggish spending overall contributed to the weaker-than-expected online sales at Target and Wal-Mart, which also faced increased competition from other online retailers, such as Wayfair Inc.
According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll, 8 percent of adults said they plan to shop only online this year, compared to 6 percent a year earlier. The proportion of respondents who said they would shop mostly online remained steady at 17 percent.
All major retailers are investing in e-commerce.
The brick-and-mortar store, Amazon Books, is a physical extension of Amazon.com with books being selected based on customer ratings and pre-orders on Amazon.com.
Popularity on Goodreads and curators’ assessments are also considered for short listing the books. The in-store and online prices of the books would be same, Amazon said on Monday.
The store will also have an option to test drive Amazon’s devices such as Kindle, Echo, Fire TV and Fire Tablet.
Amazon Books, which is located in Seattle’s University Village, will be open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, the company said.
David Vos, the leader for Alphabet’s Project Wing, said his company is in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration and other stakeholders about setting up an air traffic control system for drones that would use cellular and Internet technology to coordinate unmanned aerial vehicle flights at altitudes under 500 feet (152 meters).
“Our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017,” he told an audience at an air traffic control convention near Washington.
Alphabet and Amazon.com Inc are among a growing number of companies that intend to make package delivery by drone a reality. But drone deliveries are not expected to take flight until after the FAA publishes final rules for commercial drone operations, which are expected early next year.
Two years after initial research began, Project Wing was announced in August 2014 with a YouTube video showing a field test of its most viable prototype in Australia.
The prototype flown in Australia, 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) wide and 0.8 meters (2.6 feet) tall, shares the same four-propeller quad copter design as popular consumer drones, but the company said consumers can expect to see new vehicle types and shapes as the project unfolds.
Inside the United States, Project Wing has conducted testing with NASA.
Vos, who is co-chair of an FAA task force charged with coming up with a drone registry, said a system for identifying drone operators and keeping UAV away from other aircraft could be set up within 12 months.
“We’re pretty much on a campaign here, working with the FAA, working with the small UAV community and the aviation community at large, to move things along,” he said.
Vos said a drone registry, which the Obama administration hopes to set in place by Dec. 20, would be a first step toward a system that could use wireless telecommunications and Internet technology including cellphone applications to identify drones and keep UAV clear of other aircraft and controlled airspace.
“We’ll offer a one-click opportunity to get Genuine via the Windows Store or by entering an activation code purchased elsewhere,” said Terry Myerson, who heads Microsoft’s Windows and devices teams, which were recently reorganized under the “More Personal Computing” umbrella.
“Genuine” is Microsoft’s nomenclature for a legal license to its software.
Myerson said that the move, which he called experimental, would debut “soon” in the U.S. and would be expanded to other markets if it works here. “We’d like to welcome as many of these customers as possible to the legitimate Windows ecosystem,” he added in a post to a Microsoft blog.
The company will not give away Windows 10 to those whose PCs are powered by a pirated version, sticking with the decision it made earlier this year after some considerable back and forth.
In March, Myerson was quoted by Reuters as saying that pirated copies of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 could be upgraded to Windows 10 under a just-announced free upgrade program that Microsoft later kicked off in July. At the time, Microsoft confirmed that Myerson’s comments to the wire service were accurate, leading to conclusions that the company was offering an unprecedented amnesty.
But within hours, the Redmond, Wash.-based company took back that confirmation, saying that although pirates could upgrade to Windows 10, the operating system would still be stamped as counterfeit.
Microsoft is able to streamline a get-legal move by pirates because of a recent change to the way Windows 10 activates, a process that pairs a device with a legitimate copy of the operating system.
The same mechanism will be used to activate a non-Genuine copy of an older version upgraded to Windows 10. Users will purchase a license, and thus a product key code, from Microsoft or third-party retailers like Amazon and Newegg.com, then enter it into Windows 10 to make their software legit.
Oracle started shipping systems based on its latest Sparc M7 processor, which the firm said will go a long way to solving the world’s online security problems by building protection into the silicon.
The Sparc M7 chip was originally unveiled at last year’s Openworld show in San Francisco, and was touted at the time as a Heartbleed-prevention tool.
A year on, and Oracle announced the Oracle SuperCluster M7, along with Sparc T7 and M7 servers, at the show. The servers are all based on the 32-core, 256-thread M7 microprocessor, which offers Security in Silicon for better intrusion protection and encryption, and SQL in Silicon for improved database efficiency.
Along with built-in security, the SuperCluster M7 packs compute, networking and storage hardware with virtualisation, operating system and management software into one giant cloud infrastructure box.
Oracle CTO Larry Ellison was on hand at Openworld on Tuesday to explain why the notion of building security into the silicon is so important.
“We are not winning a lot of these cyber battles. We haven’t lost the war but we’re losing a lot of the battles. We have to rethink how we deliver technology especially as we deliver vast amounts of data to the cloud,” he told delegates.
Ellison said that Oracle’s approach to this cyber war is to take security as low down in the stack as possible.
“Database security is better than application security. You should always push security as low in the stack as possible. At the bottom of the stack is silicon. If all of your data in the database is encrypted, that’s better than having an application code that encrypts your data. If it’s in the database, every application that uses that database inherits that security,” he explained.
“Silicon security is better than OS security. Then every operating system that runs on that silicon inherits that security. And the last time I checked, even the best hackers have not figured out a way to download changes to your microprocessor. You can’t alter the silicon, that’s really tricky.”
Ellison’s big idea is to take software security features out of operating systems, VMs and even databases in some cases – because software can be changed – and instead push them into the silicon, which can’t be. He is also urging for security to be switched on as default, without an option to turn it back off again.
“The security features should always be on. We provide encryption in our databases but it can be switched off. That is a bad idea. There should be no way to turn off encryption. The idea of being able to turn on and off security features makes no sense,” he said.
Ellison referred back to a debate that took place at Oracle when it first came up with its backup system – should the firm have only encrypted backups. “We did a customer survey and customers said no, we don’t want to pay the performance penalty in some cases,” he recalled. “In that case customer choice is a bad idea. Maybe someone will forget to turn on encryption when it should have been turned on and you lose 10 million credit cards.”
The Sparc M7 is basically Oracle’s answer to this dire security situation. Ellison said that while the M7 has lots of software features built into the silicon, the most “charismatic” of these is Silicon Secured Memory, which is “deceptively simple” in how it works.
“Every time a computer program asks for memory, say you ask for 8MB of memory, we compute a key and assign this large number to that 8MB of memory,” he explained. “We take those bits and we lock that memory. We also assign that same number to the program. Every time the program accesses memory, we check that number to make sure it’s the memory you allocated earlier. That compare is done by the hardware.”
If a program tries to access memory belonging to another program, the hardware detects a mismatch and raises a signal, flagging up a possible breach or bug.
“We put always-on memory intrusion detection into the silicon. We’re always looking for Heartbleed and Venom-like violations. You cannot turn it off,” the CTO warned.
“We’ve also speeded up encryption and decompression, which is kind of related to encryption. It runs at memory speed there’s zero cost in doing that. We turn it on, you can’t turn it off, it’s on all the time. It’s all built into the M7.”
Ellison claimed that running M7-based systems will stop threats like Heartbleed and Venom in their tracks.
“The way Venom worked, the floppy disc driver concealed this code. It’s the worst kind of situation, you’re writing into memory you’re not supposed to. You’re writing computer instructions into the memory and you’ve just taken over the whole computer,” he explained. “You can steal and change data. M7 – the second we tried to write that code into memory that didn’t belong to that program, where the keys didn’t match, that would have been detected real-time and that access would have been foiled.
All well and good, except for the fact that nearly every current computer system doesn’t run off the M7 processor. Ellison claimed that even if only three or four percent of servers in the cloud an organisation is using have this feature, they will be protected as they’ll get the early warning to then deal with the issue across non-M7 systems.
“You don’t have to replace every micro processor, you just have to replace a few so you get the information real-time,” he added.
“You’ll see us making more chips based on security, to secure our cloud and to sell to people who want to secure their clouds or who want to have secure computers in their datacentre. Pushing security down into silicon is a very effective way to do that and get ahead of bad guys.”
SuperCluster M7 and Sparc M7 servers are available now. Pricing has not been disclosed but based on normal Oracle hardware costs, expect to dig deep to afford one.