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Amazon Extends Brick-and-Mortar Push With ‘Instant Pickup’

August 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc is introducing U.S. pickup points where shoppers can retrieve items immediately after ordering them, shortening delivery times from hours to minutes in its latest move into brick-and-mortar retail.

The world’s largest online retailer has launched ‘Instant Pickup’ points around five college campuses, such as the University of California at Berkeley, it said on Tuesday. Amazon has plans to add the program to more sites by the end of the year.

Shoppers on Amazon’s mobile app can select from several hundred fast-selling items at each location, from snacks and drinks to phone chargers. Amazon employees in a back room then load orders into lockers within two minutes, and customers receive bar codes to access them.

The e-commerce company, which said in June it would buy Whole Foods Market Inc for $13.7 billion, has come to realize that certain transactions like buying fresh produce are hard to shift online. It’s Instant Pickup program targets another laggard: impulse buys.

“I want to buy a can of coke because I’m thirsty,” said Ripley MacDonald, Amazon’s director of student programs. “There’s no chance I’m going to order that on Amazon.com and wait however long it’s going to take for that to ship to me.”

“I can provide that kind of service here,” he said of the new program.

Amazon’s ability to shorten delivery times has been a sore point for brick-and-mortar retailers, who have struggled to grow sales as customers have turned to convenient online options. Until Instant Pickup, Amazon shoppers could expect their orders within an hour at best via the company’s Prime Now program, or within 15 minutes for grocery orders via AmazonFresh Pickup.

Amazon Issues Recall For Solar Eclipse Glasses

August 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon has issued a recall to consumers who purchased eclipse glasses that may not have come from a recommended manufacturer.

The internet retailer began notifying buyers of the unverified glasses on Saturday, warning them not to use the product for viewing the much-anticipated total solar eclipse later this month. Customers who didn’t receive a recall email are safe to use the ones they purchased.

“We recommend that you DO NOT use this product to view the sun or the eclipse,” the email said.

Sales of eclipse glasses have been hot ahead of the Aug. 21 event, when the moon will pass in front of the sun, completely blotting it out for those along a 70-mile-wide corridor stretching across the contiguous United States.

Amazon said it issued the recall over concerns with the quality of the glasses.

“Safety is among our highest priorities. Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively reached out to customers and provided refunds for eclipse glasses that may not comply with industry standards,” Amazon said in a statement. ” We want customers to buy with confidence anytime they make a purchase on Amazon.com and eclipse glasses sold on Amazon.com are required to comply with the relevant ISO standard.”

The American Astronomical Society has information on how to make sure you are purchasing effective glasses for viewing the solar eclipse.

T-Mobile Launching Its Own Branded Smartphone

August 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

In a jump back in time when carriers differentiated themselves by branding and selling exclusive phones, T-Mobile confirmed Wednesday that it’s launching its very own budget Android phone called the Revvl.

The Revvl, which runs on Android Nougat, offers pretty basic specs: a 5.5 inch HD display, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. But it also throws in a fingerprint sensor and will cost T-Mobile customers just $5 a month with no down payment through the company’s Jump! upgrade program.

It goes on sale Thursday.

T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said in a blog that the company is catering to those who want the latest smartphone technology but can’t afford to pay for high-end devices. He added that the Revvl was built specifically for T-Mobile customers who, according to the company, use more data and upgrade their phones faster than those with other carriers.

Payment Firm Vantiv To Acquire Rival Worldpay

August 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. credit card processor Vantiv locked up a deal to acquire British-based rival Worldpay for 8 billion pounds ($10.4 billion) on Wednesday in a bid to create a $29 billion global payments powerhouse.

Vantiv’s  move, one of the biggest takeovers of a British firm since last year’s Brexit vote, is part of a wave of payments company mergers as consumers move away from cash transactions to digital payments.

Companies such as Vantiv with a strong presence in the United States are scrambling to establish a global footprint in the fast-evolving payments industry.

Once a backwater of banking, the sector is now both lucrative and fast-growing, but also faces competition from newcomers trying to disrupt the way merchants are paid.

Shares in Worldpay, Britain’s biggest payment provider, closed 1.28 percent higher at 388.5 pence after Wednesday’s announcement of the deal, which marks the second biggest takeover of a British company this year after China Investment Corporation’s $13.8 billion purchase in June of London-based warehouse firm Logicor.

Other recent deals in the payment sector include Britain’s Paysafe Group backing a 3 billion pound takeover offer from a consortium of Blackstone BX. and CVC Capital Partners and French payments specialist Ingenico making a 1.5 billion euro swoop on Swedish rival Bambora.

Although Vantiv’s deal was first announced on July 5, it has taken several weeks to conclude, with the deadline for a formal offer extended twice as Vantiv and Worldpay haggled over governance and safeguarding British jobs.

The combined Worldpay and Vantiv, which were both spun out of banks and have thrived in their home markets, will be called “Worldpay” and headquartered in Cincinnati, with a primary listing in New York and a secondary one in London.

Worldpay said that Vantiv has offered 55 pence in cash, 0.0672 of a new Vantiv share, an interim dividend of 0.8 pence per Worldpay share and a special 4.2 pence dividend, valuing the former RBS business at 397 pence per share.

“Our combined company will have unparalleled scale, a comprehensive suite of solutions, and the worldwide reach to make us the payments industry global partner of choice,” Vantiv’s president and CEO Charles Drucker said, adding that the deal will bring benefits in terms of size and technology.

Will Desktop Computers Grow Next Quarter?

August 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

While desktop demand was rubbish in the first half of 2017, it expected to start growing in the third quarter driven by new products from AMD and Intel for the gaming and high-end desktop markets.

Digitimes researchers, talking to suppliers, said that AMD and Intel will kick off a surge in buying. AMD’s new top-end 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 12-core 1920X will hit the shops on August 10, while its 8-core 1900X is scheduled to be released at the end of August.

Several vendors have already begun accepting pre-orders for desktop models using AMD’s latest top-end CPU processors since the end of July, including the Alienware Area-51 Threadripper from Dell.

AMD recently announced its new Vega-based GPUs including the Radeon RX Vega 64, using liquid or air cooling modules, and Radeon RX Vega’s prices start from US$399. AMD offers free games and discounts on hardware including Samsung’s CF791 monitor as well as price-cuts on CPU/motherboard bundles to help consumers save up to US$300.

Intel is releasing its next-generation 14nm Coffee Lake processors in the near future and will initially launch products such as the Core i7 8700K. Coffee Lake will also force users to buy a nice new motherboard.

AMD and Intel are also seeing growing sales in the server segment. AMD’s EPYC 7000 series processors were unveiled at the end of June. Although the processor series currently only accounts for less than one percent of the server market, orders for related server makers have been picking up recently and are expected to stay strong in the second half of 2017 with players including Microsoft, Baidu, Dell, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Supermicro, Inventec, Wistron, Asustek Computer, Gigabyte Technology and Tyan eagerly promoting their systems.

Intel debuted its Purley server platform in July which is seeing strong orders from enterprises looking to replace their existing server systems. Some market watchers believe the replacement trend will last for a whole year and shore up Intel’s profitability and revenues.

Courtesy-Fud

Was Apple Profits Really As Good As The Wall Street Spin

August 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple managed to convince the world’s press it was doing ok despite falling iPhone sales, declines in China and a fall in profits by 14.6 per cent.

Apple appears to have also fobbed off concerns about delays of its new iPhone by revealing a marginal increase in sales of its existing effort.

The launch of the latest iPhone could potentially move to October or November, instead of September, due to production issues, but Apple did not want to talk about that. Instead it claimed that its sales of the current iPhone were higher than expected.

It told the press that phone sales were staggering 1.6 per cent, or 41.03 million higher in the third quarter.

The Tame Apple Press went mental, and long with averts for the coming iPhone sent the company’s sales up 6 per cent. To put this figure in perspective a 1.6 per cent difference in predictions is well below a three percent accounting margin of error.

To make matters worse the figures confirm that the iPhone cash cow is still dying. This is the the second quarterly drop in iPhone sales in its third quarter earnings.

The new sales figures include its most recent phone, the iPhone SE, a cheaper four-inch display phone. Considering the iPhone takes up nearly two-thirds of the company’s revenue, this isn’t good.

All that is different is that the drop was expected by analysts.

The real truth of the figures is that Apple reported revenue of revenue of $42.36 billion, down 14.6% year-over-year, and an earnings per share of $1.42.

Apple’s fourth quarter generally includes first-weekend sales of the company’s latest devices so the delay in the new phone is crucial.

The company said iPhone sales rose 1.6 per cent to 41.03 million in the third quarter ended July 1, above analysts’ average estimate of 40.7 million units, according to FactSet StreetAccount. Apple sold 40.4 million iPhones a year earlier.

The company’s net income rose to $8.72 billion, or $1.67 per share, in the three months ended July 1, from $7.80 billion, or $1.42 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $45.41 billion from $42.36 billion in the quarter, typically the company’s weakest. Analysts on average had expected $44.89 billion.

Other warning signs for Apple is that that its Chinese sails are going down the toilet. Apple needs China to keep its growth. Apple’s revenue from the Greater China region fell 9.5% to $8 billion in the latest quarter, as consumers switched to newer domestic offerings.

Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri did a good job spinning this news too. He said China sales appear to have stabilized after several quarters of much larger declines. In fact the region saw a 21.6% jump in the company’s services business – which includes the App Store, Apple Pay and iCloud – to $7.27 billion.

Courtesy-Fud

Google Asked To Provide Details On How It Tracks Your Purchases

August 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Privacy advocates are questioning Google’s assurances that it’s protecting consumer privacy when it tracks the success of online ad campaigns into ringing up sales in physical stores.

The advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a formal complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission that asks the agency to begin an investigation into Google’s “in-store tracking algorithm.” The algorithm lets the search giant tell advertisers how well their marketing campaigns are working in offline sales.

The Store Sales Management program, which Google began testing in May, allows it to tell an advertiser how many people who clicked on an ad actually bought something. For example, it could tell Home Depot or Walmart what percentage of people who clicked on an ad for grills went to a store to buy one. The company gets credit card and other financial information from data brokers and marries it with its own online tracking software.

Giving marketers insight into how their online ads translate into physical store sales is difficult to do. Privacy advocates, like EPIC, worry information gleaned from these databases could reveal more about people’s private lives than they realize. That information could include medical conditions, religious and political affiliations, and other personal details. They want to make sure the data is protected because of Google’s advertising and consumer reach.

Google says all the data it collects is anonymized, so it never sees individual transaction data. The company says it matches transactions with Google ads in a “secure and privacy-safe way.” Google hasn’t said how it’s doing this.

EPIC says it doesn’t take Google on its word alone. It wants the company to explain what data on credit and debit card purchases it’s accessing, how it’s getting the information and what encryption it’s using to ensure user data remains anonymous.

“Here we have the largest company on the internet which has access to millions of people’s browsing histories and 70 percent of credit card records and they’re linking these things together and saying, ‘Don’t worry about this, we’ve got it covered,'” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC. “We think it’s reasonable to be concerned. And we’d like the FTC to do an independent investigation into how this data is de-identified.”

In its complaint, EPIC alleges Google is using a type of “double-blind” encryption known as CryptDB, which was developed by MIT researchers in 2011 with partial funding from Google. It argues this technology isn’t entirely secure.

A Google spokeswoman said the company isn’t using this encryption technology, but declined to give further information on how Google’s system works.

“Our researchers spent years working on a privacy-preserving methodology to measure the impact of advertisements on store sales,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “Our research will show that we are using cryptographic techniques in new ways and at scale.”

She said the company is planning to share this research in the coming months.

PayPal Teams With Baidu On Mobile Wallet Payments Service

July 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

There are over 1.3 billion potental new customers in China, and PayPal wants a piece of the market.

The king of digital payments has teamed up with Chinese search giant Baidu to bring Chinese online shoppers to PayPal’s 17 million international e-commerce sites. They’ll be able to pay with local mobile payment service Baidu Wallet, the companies said in a statement today.

The payoff is big for PayPal’s global merchants, who will tap the lucrative Chinese market and the 100 million users registered on Baidu Wallet. That’s already half the number of PayPal’s current 200 million active accounts.

PayPal isn’t the first foreign entity cashing in on China’s hugely lucrative market. US startup Stripe announced its collaboration with Chinese digital payment services Alipay and WeChat Pay earlier this month to enable the same service.

Though there are upwards of 100 million users registered on Baidu Wallet, according to Baidu, the digital payment market is dominated by Alipay and WeChat Pay, which have a combined share of 92 percent.

Louis Vuitton Launches e-Commerce Website

July 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

French fashion brand Louis Vuitton, part of luxury giant LVMH, announced it had launched an e-commerce website in China to tap a booming online shopping market.

Louis Vuitton, which opened its first store in Beijing in 1992, said the website offered leather goods, small leather goods, shoes, accessories, watch and jewelry, luggage, and the newly launched Les Parfums Louis Vuitton.

Payments can be made via UnionPay, Alipay and WeChat, the statement said.

The website will be available in 12 cities – Beijing, Shanghai, ChongQing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shenyang, Dalian, Haerbin, Wuhan. More cities will be added later on.

It is the 11th e-commerce market for Vuitton since it launched its first site in France in 2005.

Amazon Jumps Into Social Media Shopping With Spark Launch

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc has rolled out a social feature called Spark that encourages members to showcase and purchase products on its platforms, the retail giant’s first clear move into the world of social media.

Spark, which is currently only available for Amazon’s premium paying Prime members, encourages users to share photos and videos, just like popular social media platforms Instagram and Pinterest. The new feature publicly launched on Tuesday for use on mobile devices that use Apple’s iOS operating system.

Spark users can tag products on their posts that are available on Amazon and anyone browsing the feeds can instantly find and purchase them on the platform. Users can also respond to posts with “smiles,” equivalent to Facebook’s “likes.”

“We created Spark to allow customers to discover – and shop – stories and ideas from a community that likes what they like,” said an Amazon spokeswoman.

“When customers first visit Spark, they select at least five interests they’d like to follow and we’ll create a feed of relevant content contributed by others. Customers shop their feed by tapping on product links or photos with the shopping bag icon.”

Amazon has also invited publishers including paid influencers and bloggers to post on Spark. Their posts are identified with a sponsored hashtag.

Apple Pay Tempts Chinese Consumers With Huge Discounts

July 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

China’s mobile payments market is worth almost $6 trillion, and Apple wants to elbow its way in.

To entice more Chinese to start using Apple Pay, the iPhone maker is offering up to 50 percent discounts off purchases at participating vendors, many of them Western brands. It’s also rewarding users up to 50 times the usual points for designated credit cards, according to Apple’s official Chinese website. The promotion period will run from July 18 to 24.

China is a tough market to break into for Apple Pay, because the Chinese are more familiar with local mobile payment services such as WeChat Pay and Alipay. The two services have a combined market share of 92 percent, and people are so dependent on them that the companies have expanded overseas specifically to cater to Chinese travelers.

Promotions are offered by Apple Pay, but they are subject to varying terms and conditions set out by merchants. While Burger King and Costa Coffee have capped 50 percent discounts at 15 yuan (or $2.22), for example, 7-Eleven set its cap at 10 yuan (approximately $1.48). Starbucks, on the other hand, will take 15 yuan off purchases amounting to 60 yuan (or $8.86) or more.

Only 3 Out Of The Top 500 Online Merchants Accept Bitcoins

July 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

 

If you’ve somehow amassed cache of bitcoins and want to do some online shopping, the bad news is you probably won’t be buying much.

This year, the cryptocurrency is only accepted by three out of the top 500 online merchants, reports Bloomberg. That’s down from five from last year, making using Bitcoin to buy things from merchants a lot tougher.

The lack of merchants is puzzling, given the gains from bitcoins recently — one bitcoin is worth more than an ounce of gold — and may be a sign that the cryptocurrency is better off as an asset than currency.

The Bloomberg report also mentioned that transaction fees could be an issue why the crytocurrency is not widely accepted. With fees climbing, smaller transactions aren’t worth it compared to using other payment methods.

 

iPhone 8 May Come With Scaled Down Features

July 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The upcoming iPhone 8 may not debut with a complete set of features that Apple has planned. Problems with the iPhone’s rumored wireless charging and facial recognition software could cause Apple to disable these features when the phone arrives in stores, according to Fast Company.

June was allegedly a tough month for Apple’s iPhone team, according to the report. With Apple’s usual iPhone reveal likely falling sometime in September, the team is reportedly ironing out the wrinkles in time for the phone’s launch. One of Fast Company’s sources reported “a sense of panic in the air.”

The iPhone 8 (which is what we’re calling the phone for now) is said to receive a major redesign that will debut features never before seen on an iPhone. Apple’s inability to ready these features for launch could lead to impatience if buyers experience a serious delay. Samsung’s slow release of the Bixby Voice app on the Galaxy S8 is a clear example.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Apple delayed a feature release, either. Last year’s iPhone 7 Plus‘s Portrait Mode wasn’t enabled until after the phone went on sale. Fast Company reported that if Apple can’t get its new technology working smoothly in time, it may similarly ship the iPhone 8 with the right hardware built-in and activate it later on when the software is ready.

There have been persistent rumors that Apple might delay the iPhone 8 sale date due to issues with the fingerprint sensor.

 

Nokia And Zeiss Team Up Again For Phone Camera

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Nokia mobile phones of the future, you could pack a stellar camera as a headline feature.

Phone maker HMD on Thursday announced an exclusive partnership with imaging experts Zeiss that will see the two work together to develop cameras for upcoming Nokia phones.

Frustratingly, we don’t yet know when exactly we we’ll see a high-end flagship Nokia phone, but at least we know now that when we do it’s likely to have a camera with Zeiss credentials. The two companies will be collaborating on all aspects of camera tech, meaning lenses, sensors, software — the whole package.

The partnership is “very long term,” according to HMD’s chief marketing officer, Pekka Rantala, although he wouldn’t specify exactly how long he meant by that. As for what we can expect the focus of the partnership to be, it looks like it could encompass anything and everything.

“Video is an area we could see a lot of innovation in,” Rantala told CNET in a briefing. “Definitely AR is one of the big things. And we are here to brainstorm.”

It’s not the first time Nokia and Zeiss have teamed up. They also worked together back in the noughts on the Nokia N series, which preceded the more recent Lumia line. In the Lumia series we saw some experimental technology from the two that resulted in the PureView brand, which was all about lossless images, and a phone that boasted a staggering 41 megapixels.

It’s unlikely we’ll see anything like that again from HMD. “The answer is not to emphasize one number when it comes to megapixels,” said Rantala. Dual cameras, on the other hand, are “a very interesting idea,” he said. “That will give new possibilities for a player like us to possibly explore new experiences.”

For now HMD is concentrating on selling the Nokia 3, 5 and 6 (and of course the 3310), but it’s at least given us some idea of what’s coming next. “We have saved some space below three and above six for some expansion of the portfolio,” said Rantala.

Presuming you can count at least to 10, that’s a pretty self-explanatory hint.

Is The High-End PC Market The Most Profitable

July 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Acer has been focuing on flogging high-margin PCs including gaming notebooks, ultra-thin models and 2-in-1s, and it appears to be paying off.

Acer CEO Jason Chen said that each segment has been doing well this year. Acer’s revenues from its gaming PC business reached $300 million in 2016 and Acer has been outperforming the market average in many product lines.

Chen said that during the first five months of 2017, Acer’s gaming PC sales went up 80 per cent  from the same period a year ago, while the market’s average was only around 30 per cent. Acer is also seeing the same trend for its Chromebook business with first-five-month sales growing 80 per cent from a year ago. In this case the market’s average growth was only 20 per cent.

Acer’s strategy since falling from the peak of its operations three and half years ago, has been focusing on maintaining its profitability. Currently, Acer’s product ASP is up 14 per cent from before and gross margins reached 10 per cent in 2016, the highest in the past 10 years, Chen detailed.

Acer also sees gold in  virtual reality (VR), content and artificial intelligence (AI). Acer has partnered with Starbreeze to establish a joint venture for VR applications and has started seeing profits since the second half of 2016. The company’s high-performance PC for AI applications also recently acquired procurement orders from Thailand, and the company has already received a total of seven related procurement projects for 2017.

Acer’s VR arm is  focusing on gaming- and movie-related content and is also looking to merge the two concepts. Acer recently partnered with ZeroLight to develop high definition car VR solutions. The company has also been pushing its VR technologies into industries such as real estate, aerospace and training.

Courtesy-Fud

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