EBay Inc is making over its local delivery program and extending more logistics options to smaller merchants that make up the bulk of the e-commerce giant’s sprawling base of marketplace sellers, according to one of its executives.
More of eBay’s smaller sellers, including some with annual sales under $100,000, will allow shoppers to buy items online that can be picked up in stores, an option now used by big companies such as Best Buy Co Inc and Toys ‘R’ Us.
EBay also plans to dismantle its standalone mobile app for its $5 same-day delivery service “eBay Now” as soon as this week. The service will instead be folded into eBay’s mobile app and website.
“The big play in the U.S. has been around buy online, pick-up in store,” Tom Allason, head of eBay Local, said Wednesday.
The shift reflects how eBay and other technology companies, including Amazon.com Inc and Google Inc, still struggle with the high cost of same-day delivery. Only a fraction of a small retailer’s sales come from customers who also opt for same-day delivery, making it difficult to make a profit.
“That’s a part of why delivery is only one piece of the equation,” Allason said in an interview.
Earlier, the e-commerce giant intensified efforts to court retailers as it prepares to split its marketplaces division next year from PayPal, the payments unit that has been the fastest-growing part of its business.
EBay had planned to expand same-day delivery to 25 markets by the end of 2014, but it is only available in New York, San Francisco, the broader Bay Area, Dallas and Chicago.
EBay is exploring other delivery options for the United States, Germany and other markets, including the “click-and-collect” model used by Shutl in the United Kingdom, in which shoppers pick up certain eBay purchases from British retailer Argos.
The company, which is reportedly opening the store on Manhattan’s busy 34th Street, is looking to experiment with a retail store that would focus on same-day delivery in the city, as well as give customers a place for product returns, exchanges and even online order pickups, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) .
The store also would give shoppers a place to check out – and hold in their hands — Amazon’s Kindle e-readers and Fire smartphone.
Kelly Cheeseman, a spokeswoman for Amazon, told Computerworld, “We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan.”
“This is kind of interesting because it’s so counter-intuitive,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. “People buy in different ways and often, with holiday buying, folks shift sharply to stores as their procrastination catches up with them at the end of the season. Amazon loses business when this happens and by setting up stores in very high-traffic areas, they can go after at least some of this business.”
The brick-and-mortar store also will be an in-your-face reminder for people to think about shopping at Amazon as they move through Manhattan. They might not be able to stop in the store but it might nudge them to look online – especially at Amazon.com — for that sweater, book or stand mixer they want to buy.
“I think it’s more about bringing publicity to Amazon during the holiday season rather than a new move to bricks and mortar,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “First, it’s in New York City — in the heart of midtown Manhattan — and it will be open during the Christmas shopping season. I would also imagine that this will garner Amazon a lot of attention during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events.”
New prices for the Surface Pro 2 — which debuted last fall — now run $799 for the model with 64GB of storage and $899 for the 128GB configuration. The cuts represent discounts of 11% and 10%, respectively.
Microsoft is scheduled to start selling the Surface Pro 3 it’s-a-tablet-it’s-a-notebook on Friday. The company has been taking pre-orders for the device since the Surface Pro 3′s unveiling on May 21.
The Surface Pro 3 tablets start at $999 for the 128GB model and end at $1,299 for 256GB of storage. Both devices sport a Core i5 processor, the same one used in 2013′s Surface Pro 2.
Three other Surface Pro 3 tablets won’t ship until August, Microsoft has said, including the $799 64GB model that runs an Intel Core i3 processor, and two configurations boasting the Core i7 CPU, priced at $1,549 (256GB of storage) and $1,949 (512GB).
The Surface Pro 3 devices available this week will be available in Microsoft’s own brick-and-mortar stores and those of retail partners like Best Buy, and on Microsoft’s online outlet.
When the $799 entry-level Surface Pro 3 reaches retail later this summer, Microsoft will probably slash the price of the Surface Pro 2 tablets even further to empty its inventory.
Microsoft has promised to support the Surface Pro 2 with software and firmware updates until April 10, 2018.
The Surface Pro 2 can be ordered through Microsoft’s website. The prices do not include a cover keyboard, which is essential for running Windows legacy applications.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called on the agency to “seize this opportunity” and act on a year-old proposal to make an additional 195MHz of spectrum in the 5GHz band available for Wi-Fi. The FCC now allows wireless devices to operate in 555 megahertz of spectrum in the 5GHz band, but the agency has set limits on how some of that spectrum can be used.
With some analysts estimating that 50 percent to 70 percent of mobile phone traffic is now offloaded onto Wi-Fi networks, the longtime Wi-Fi band at 2.4GHz is “getting mighty crowded,” Rosenworcel said during a speech before WifiForward, a new group set up to push for more unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum. Members of the group include Google, Microsoft, Best Buy and Comcast.
“Let’s start by leaving behind the tired notion that we face a choice between licensed and unlicensed airwaves, because good spectrum policy requires both,” she said. “Moreover, I think this kind of division is a simplistic relic from the past. ”
Some mobile carriers and congressional Republicans have questioned whether the FCC should carve out unlicensed spectrum in lower bands coveted by the carriers, but carriers don’t see a licensed use for the 5GHz band. Satellite firm Globalstar uses part of the 5GHz band, however, and has raised interference concerns about new Wi-Fi services there.
Cisco Systems predicts that by 2017, a majority of the Internet’s traffic will be carried on Wi-Fi. About 90 percent of the tablets now sold in the U.S. have Wi-Fi-only connections, added Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information. Counting several factors, including the cost for mobile infrastructure that would be needed without Wi-Fi, the annual value of Wi-Fi to the U.S. economy is about US$220 billion, Katz said at the WifiForward event.
In addition, part of the 5GHz band is targeted for use by smart automobile technologies, and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America and other auto groups have also backed opening that part of the band to Wi-Fi. The FCC may act on part of the 5GHz band as soon as its March 31 meeting.
Parts of the 5GHz band present a “terrific near-term opportunity” to add Wi-Fi spectrum, Rosenworcel said. “We should move beyond old dichotomies that pit licensed versus unlicensed spectrum,” she said. “Because across the board we need to choose efficiency over inefficiency and speed over congestion. Because we can take steps that inspire innovation and meet the growing demand for wireless services — or we will fall behind.”
Rosenworcel also called on the FCC to consider opening up parts of lower bands to unlicensed Wi-Fi, including parts of the 600MHz band now controlled by U.S. television stations. That spectrum, eyed by carriers as some of the best available for mobile broadband service, is scheduled to be auctioned by the FCC in mid-2015.
The C720P Touchscreen Chromebook has an 11.6-inch touchscreen, which displays images at a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. The lightweight laptop offers roughly seven-and-a-half hours of battery life and runs on an Intel Celeron 2955U processor based on the Haswell microarchitecture.
Chromebooks are laptops for those who do most of their computing on the Web. Chrome OS is mostly adapted for keyboards, but the touchscreen could ease selection of options in menus and improve interaction in browsers and other applications.
A new wave of Chromebooks running the latest version of Chrome OS started shipping in October.
The laptop will be available in early December through Amazon.com, Best Buy and Acer’s online store. The laptop will be available in the U.S., Switzerland, Germany, U.K., France, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden and Finland.
Other Chromebooks include Acer Chromebook C720-2848, which has an Intel processor and is priced at $199.99, and Hewlett-Packard and Google’s Chromebook 11, which has an ARM processor and is priced at $279. HP’s Chromebook 14 has a 14-inch screen, an Intel processor and is priced at $299 in Office Depot.
The C720P weighs 1.35 kilograms and boots in seven seconds. Other features include 32GB of solid-state storage, 2GB of DDR3 memory, USB 3.0 ports, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and an HDMI slot. Users will get 100GB of free Google Drive storage for two years with the laptop.
According to leaked and published advertisements of the sales, which will begin on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 28, Best Buy, Target and Walmart will all sell brand-name tablets at steep discounts.
Electronics chain Best Buy, for example, will sell Apple’s iPad 2, a tablet introduced in 2011, for $300, or $99 off Apple’s list price. Even though Apple recently launched the 9.7-in. iPad Air, and started selling the upgraded 7.9-in. iPad Mini with a high-resolution display, it kept the iPad 2 in its portfolio, reportedly because schools continue to purchase the model and some businesses have standardized on the tablet for point-of-sales devices.
Best Buy will also discount the 16GB iPad Air by $50, selling it for $449, or 10% less than list.
Both Walmart and Target will sells 2012′s iPad Mini — the one that sports 1,024 x 768 screen resolution — at Apple’s $299 stock price, but will throw in a $100 or $75 gift card, respectively, effectively reducing the price to $199 or $224.
Including the gift cards, the Walmart iPad Mini deal represents a 33% discount, while Target’s comes in at 25% below full retail.
Target will also sell the new 16GB iPad Air for $479, then include a $100 gift card, reducing the overall cost to $379, for a 24% savings.
Best Buy was the only one of the three retailers to also list Microsoft’s Surface, formerly tagged the Surface RT, a 32GB tablet that runs Windows RT, the scaled-down version of the legacy application-supporting Windows 8.1. Best Buy’s $200 sale price for the Surface will be 75% below list.
Although Microsoft continues to sell the Surface on its website and online store, the Redmond, Wash. company refreshed the line last month by introducing the Surface 2, which starts at $449.
Apple and Microsoft will probably run Black Friday sales of their own on Nov. 29; both companies did last year.
The laptop runs on Chrome OS, and is designed for people who do most of their computing on the Internet. It has an 11.6-inch screen and weighs 1.04 kilograms, making it one of the lightest laptops available.
In a laptop first, it only requires a micro-USB power adapter. That means any charger used to power an Android tablet or smartphone can be used with Chromebook 11.
“When you’re traveling, you don’t need to throw an extra charger into your bag,” wrote Caesar Sengupta, vice president of product management at Google in a blog entry.
The laptop can run for 6.5 hours on a single battery charge. It has a Samsung Exynos processor running at 1.7GHz, 16GB of solid-state drive storage and 2GB of low-power DDR3 RAM. The storage capacity may be small, but Google is offering 100GB of cloud storage for two years at no additional charge.
The screen displays images at a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. Other features include a webcam, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Chromebooks vary in price from $199 for Acer’s low-end C7 Chromebook to $1,299 for Google’s high-end Pixel. This is the second Chromebook running on an ARM processor besides Samsung’s Chromebook. Chromebooks with Intel processors were shown by Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard and Acer last month and are expected to ship by the end of this year. Lenovo also markets a Chromebook intended especially for schools.
Chromebook 11 will be available on Oct. 20 through Best Buy andAmazon.com in the U.S., and through retailers like PC World in the U.K. It will become available in other countries during the holiday shopping season, Google said.
The Silicon Valley startup that elevated the lowly thermostat with attention-grabbing designs is now launching a $129 “Nest Protect,” a smoke and carbon monoxide detector that speaks and responds to hand gestures.
Nest – co-founded by Apple alums Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers – has embedded its sleek gadget with a female voice that warns users when smoke and carbon monoxide levels get dangerously high.
Users can wave a hand to silence alarms, and choose to receive alerts on their smartphone or tablet, Matt Rogers said in an interview with Reuters.
“It’s really about finding the unloved and these things are incredibly important that you cannot live without,” he said, when asked why Nest decided to work on a smoke detector. “Yet they don’t work. They are frustrating. They are ugly.”
Rogers said there really has been no innovation in this market for many years and is ripe for disruption.
The market for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is three to four times bigger than thermostats, Nest’s first device that retails for $249, Rogers said. “We are again looking at the top end of the market.”
The new device has a battery life between three and seven years, and comes in black and white. It will first go on sale in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. And the smoke alarm can be set to warn in either English, French or Spanish.
Nest Protect includes nine sensors to help detect hand gestures and other movements. The device can also act as a low-powered night light that automatically switches on when someone walks under it.
The new gadget goes on sale in November at retailers such as Best Buy and Home Depot, or online at Amazon.com.
Nest, which counts Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Google Ventures and Shasta Ventures among its investors, employs a large number of designers and engineers from Silicon Valley firms like Apple and Google Inc.
It gained a large following with its first thermostat – a round, brushed-metal device with a convex glass screen that displays temperature and changes hue to match the color of the wall it attaches to. It also tracks usage and employs that data to automatically set heating and cooling temperatures.
Nest now has about 280 employees, up from 90 in 2011.
“It’s been an absolute ride,” Rogers said of Nest’s journey from a startup in stealth mode to a recognized brand in home automation.
During the blackout, more than 3 million Time Warner Cable customers in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas have been unable to watch CBS, and the companies have been unable to reach a new programming deal since their agreement expired in June.
The cable company notified customers on its website and by email that they could ask for basic indoor antennas at their local Time Warner Cable store. It also offered a $20 voucher for customers who want to buy antennas at Best Buy Co Inc.
“All blacked-out broadcast stations remain available over the air, and most households can receive the signals if they have the right equipment,” the cable company said.
It also offered Amazon gift cards so customers can watch CBS programs, using Amazon’s Internet streaming service.
CBS declined to comment on the offers.
CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said Thursday that both sides continued to negotiate but that no resolution was in sight. Most analysts expect the two parties to reach a deal by the time the National Football League season kicks off in September.
The cuts came three weeks after much more dramatic discounts to Microsoft’s Surface RT, which was reduced by up to 30% to prices starting at $349.
Microsoft said that the price cuts would be valid in the U.S. and Canada until August 30, or while supplies last. Discounts were also offered to customers in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
U.S. electronics retailer Best Buy — a key Microsoft partner — also was selling the Surface Pro tablets at the lower prices Sunday, as was Staples.
The Surface Pro tablets rely on Windows 8 Pro and Intel processors, rather than the stripped-down Windows RT and lower-powered ARM processors of the Surface RT devices. Surface Pro tablets can run traditional Windows software like the full-featured Office 2013 productivity suite.
While the price cuts were reminiscent of the more aggressive Surface RT discounts, their much smaller size could simply be part of Microsoft’s back-to-school marketing: August is the biggest month for that selling season, which is second only to the end-of-the-year holidays for retailers pushing consumer electronics, personal computers and tablets.
Microsoft is expected to refresh its Surface tablet lines this fall, a notion reinforced by company executives, who have repeatedly pledged that the company is in the tablet business for the long haul. The Surface Pro discounts could be part of the usual push to empty inventory prior to the launch of new models.
The 10% to 11% price cuts were also in line with other hardware makers’ recent discounting. Last month, Best Buy ran a short-term deal that chopped prices of the MacBook Pro by as much as 17%, and for college students, up to 25%.
EBay Now, which delivers products from stores including Target, Walgreen and Best Buy in as little as an hour, was launched last year in San Francisco and San Jose, California and Manhattan, New York.
EBay is expanding the service to Brooklyn and Queens in New York and to the Bay Area peninsula, between San Francisco and San Jose. Chicago and Dallas will be added later this summer and the service may expand outside the United States in the future, eBay executives said last week.
EBay’s expansion comes as Amazon builds more warehouses closer to customers, which will help the world’s largest Internet retailer offer faster delivery.
EBay, which does not own inventory and mostly avoids running warehouses, is partnering with retailers to create a network of existing physical stores that will, in effect, operate as mini storage and distribution hubs for online purchases.
“This is eBay’s answer to Amazon getting fulfillment centers closer to consumers,” said Ron Josey, an analyst at JMP Securities.
Both companies are chasing the latest frontier in e-commerce: the 75 percent of retail spending that happens within 15 miles of home.
This is a $2 trillion-a-year market in the United States that includes products suited to immediate neighborhood shopping, such as cleaning products, groceries, health and beauty items, according to J.P. Morgan estimates.
If EBay, Amazon and other companies can deliver such products quickly enough, they could grab a bigger share of this local commerce market, J.P. Morgan analysts including Doug Anmuth wrote in a recent note to investors.
Google Inc, the world’s largest Internet search company, is pursuing the same opportunity through its Google Shopping Express test, which started same-day deliveries in the San Francisco Bay Area earlier this year.
Palo Alto Toy & Sport, a Bay Area retailer, is on course to get about 5 percent of its sales this year through Google Shopping Express.
“It’s a way to offer more than Amazon,” said Miguel Natario, systems administrator at the retailer. “This gives us hope for increased sales.”
Wal-Mart Stores Inc is also testing same-day delivery through its Walmart To Go program in a handful of cities.
We don’t know how many iterations of Surface 2 are planned, but we can confirm that at least one of them is coming this year. This variant, powered by a Tegra 4 SoC, is scheduled to appear roughly a year after the first Surface RT.
Microsoft has long tradition of working with Nvidia as a chip provider for ARM based products and this is not likely to change anytime soon. Magazines have mentioned Qualcomm as a chip supplier for the next generation Surface, which is possible, but rumours are suggesting that there might be more than one ARM based Surface successor. We are probably looking at two distinct form factors.
Tegra 4 with Icera 500 chip has LTE capabilities, but chips such as the Snapdragon 600 and 800 already have great CPU performance and integrated LTE inside. The recent price cut of original surface RT to $349 for entry level part is just an intro into a normal product cycle, where a company prepares for the next generation product.
It’s safe to assume that the next generation Surface RT comes with Windows 8.1. Last time around the Surface RT launched on October 26 so we expect to see an update around this time. Let’s just hope that the next generation Surface RT can do a bit better than the first one.
The 64GB Surface RT was also discounted by $150, and now sells for $449, or 25% off its former price.
When Microsoft launched the tablet, it sold the 32GB device for $499 and the 64GB configuration for $599.
Microsoft started selling the Surface RT at the lower prices Sunday, as did some of its U.S. retail partners, including Best Buy and Staples. On its website, Staples noted that the discounted prices are valid until July 20, and only while supplies last.
Microsoft’s website, however, listed no caveats, hinting that the lower prices might be permanent or at least will be honored for longer than one week.
The prices are another attempt by Microsoft to clear its existing inventory in preparation for a second-generation line of Windows RT devices. Previously, Microsoft had launched multiple deals to rid itself of the poor-selling tablet, most recently in June when it slashed prices by 60% in a bid to get universities and K-12 schools to buy the device.
Earlier, it kicked off a buy-a-Surface-RT-get-a-free-cover deal that ran until June 30. And at several conferences, including June’s TechEd North America and this month’s Microsoft Partner Conference, the company sold attendees a 64GB Surface RT for $100, 83% off list price.
Today’s sale prices were nearly Microsoft’s cost, which according to estimates of the tablet’s component prices, runs the company at least $284 for the 32GB Surface RT.
Microsoft has not abandoned Windows RT, the pared-down operating system that powers the Surface RT, but virtually every third-party OEM has either pointedly ignored the OS or publicly announced that they would not support it with devices of their own. Instead, the OEMs have flocked to Windows 8 Pro, even though some analysts question the value of touch devices on a platform whose biggest selling point is legacy software that doesn’t support touch.
Microsoft has not revealed sales figures for the Surface line — which also includes the Surface Pro, powered by Windows 8 Pro — but estimates by research firms like IDC have been lackluster.
Samsung announced the Android Jelly Bean-based tablets globally earlier this month. The company said today that U.S. pre-orders will begin on Tuesday on its website and on the websites of 10 U.S. retailers, including Best Buy, Amazon and WalMart.
In addition to offering the 7-in. Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 for $199, Samsung will offer an 8-in. model, the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, for $299 and a 10.1-in. version, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1, for $399. The tablets come in either white or “gold brown.” All three come Wi-Fi-ready, with internal storage ranging from 16GB to 32GB, with storage expansion of up to 64GB with a microSD card.
All three also come with built-in infrared (IR) for using the tablets as universal remote control devices that can activate Samsung’s WatchOn service for recommendations on TV content. Samsung said that Nielsen research indicates that 85% of tablet users watch TV while using a tablet, with 41% doing so daily.
The Tab 3 8.0 will be the only one of the three to support Samsung’s Multi-Window functionality, seen previously in the Galaxy Note line of smartphone/tablets. With Multi-Window, people can use two apps side by side, with support for up to 20 apps, including Google Chrome and Facebook.
Android also gives users access to more than 750,000 apps in the Google Play store. Samsung is also offering Galaxy Perks content, other preloaded content and a $10 voucher for buying books, movies and music.
One unusual element is that the Tab 10.1 is powered by a 1.6GHz Intel dual-core processor, while the other two run on ARM processors — which is a more common architecture for tablets. Samsung is also using Intel chips for its ATIV line of tablets that run Windows 8.
Samsung noted that its decision to offer a lineup of tablets of various sizes is supported by emerging market research that shows that people use tablets for a variety of purposes, including reading e-books, using social networks, playing games and watching movies.
Microsoft Corp said it plans on opening 500 special stores within existing Best Buy Co Inc stores in the United States selling exclusively Windows-based tablets and computers and other Microsoft products in an effort to revitalize sales of its flagship operating system.
The world’s largest software company, which already has a chain of 70 or so of its own Microsoft Stores and kiosks within shopping malls, said on Thursday the initiative would add more than 1,200 Best Buy Microsoft-trained sales associates to help customers.
Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system has sold more than 100 million copies since launch in October, but sales of new tablets and PCs running the software, and its own Surface tablet, have not been as strong as it hoped. An updated version called Windows 8.1 is scheduled for release later this year.
Part of the problem has been that Microsoft has struggled to get the attention of shoppers at large retailers such as Best Buy due to the profusion and popularity of Apple Inc’s iPad and tablets running Google Inc’s Android system.
The new store-within-a-store approach “offers a large-scale, hands-on customer experience” of Microsoft products, said Tami Reller, head of marketing at Microsoft’s Windows unit.
Microsoft’s plan comes just two months after Samsung Electronics also unveiled plans to install its brand shops in more than 1,400 Best Buy stores this year.
The store-within-a-store effort is a key plank of Best Buy’s turnaround plan, which includes dedicating more space to more-profitable products like tablets and mobile phones.
Best Buy, the world’s largest consumer electronics chain, has also been trying to use its clout with suppliers to fight online and discount rivals and boost in-store traffic, sales and profitability.