On Tuesday, Verizon, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA joined the “It Can Wait” campaign that AT&T began last year. Next Monday, the campaign will kick off TV, radio and online ads warning consumers about the dangers of texting and driving, and a driving simulator will tour the country to demonstrate how dangerous the practice can be.
Recent studies have raised concerns over the growth of texting while driving and its dangers, especially for teenagers. Almost 43 percent of high school students of driving age had texted while driving in the past month, according to a recent survey by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
The co-branded summer campaign, scheduled to run through Labor Day on Sept. 3, was timed for what the carriers called the most dangerous season for teen driving. It will also include messages in Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Radio Shack stores as well as the carriers’ retail shops.
More than 200 organizations are also joining in the campaign. On Sept. 19, just as they did last year, backers of the program will ask consumers to take a pledge not to text while driving.
“They are doing the right thing,” said mobile analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates. “I don’t think anybody, including the carriers, wants people texting while they’re driving.”
At the same time, the carriers may also be trying to head off further regulation of mobile use in cars. Texting while driving is illegal in many states, as is talking on a phone without a hands-free system. However, regulation might someday go further to outlaw mobile use even with hands-free systems, he said. Carriers may also fear being named in lawsuits over texting-related accidents, so they’re taking strong steps to warn against it, Gold said.
Samsung is making an aggressive sales play in the U.S. market by moving into thousands of third-party retail outlets where dedicated staff will sell and provide advice on the company’s smartphones,tablets and entertainment products.
Samsung has established “pop-up” stores in the past and had a full-scale outlet in New York that was ultimately shut down. A part of the new expansion plan includes retailer Best Buy, which on Monday announced that it would establish a special zone in its 1,400 U.S. retail stores to sell Samsung products.
The company already has authorized resellers, and the Best Buy partnership is an effort to give users a hands-on experience with its products, said Tim Baxter, CEO of Samsung Electronics America, during an event in New York on Wednesday to announce the Samsung and Best Buy partnership.
Providing a hands-on experience is a “vital” part of getting users to buy Samsung products, Baxter said.
Also, mobile computing is headed in a direction where tablets, smartphones and other devices such as TVs are able to easily interact with each other. A larger in-store presence will educate users on how these products work together, Baxter said.
Baxter declined to say if Samsung would open its own stores in key locations, but said that the company would partner with more retailers. Samsung spends $8 billion to $9 billion on product research every year, and a larger retail presence will also help understand product trends in the U.S., Baxter said.
The U.S. is a key market for Samsung, and the company believes it can grab a larger share in smartphones, tablets and PCs through a larger in-store presence. Samsung’s smartphone rival Apple already has a large retail presence where customers can buy products and get support.
Tim McDonough, Vice President, Marketing at Qualcomm, was Qualcomm´s commitment to Windows RT. Ever since Microsoft announced Windows RT, ARM supporters had high hopes and Windows RT has yet to live up to some.
Tim confirmed Qualcomm´s commitment to Windows RT and future releases, saying “we are here for the long run”. He describes the partnership as the beginning of a long journey and of course Qualcomm is going to continue rolling out chips that will run great with Windows RT.
Qualcomm mentioned that Samsung ATIV and Dell XPS 10, both of which use Qualcomm’s S4 dual-core APQ8060A chips, run really nice. Tim told us that he is a real fan of both devices and that he is currently using one of them.
We also learned that Snapdragon 600, the one used in the HTC One and some versions of Samsung’s Galaxy S4, is 40 per cent faster than the S4 Pro, adding that Adreno 320 graphics core is significantly faster than the Adreno 225 used in the S4 APQ8060A chip. Another number we got is that the Adreno 330 is up to four times faster than the 225, which is a huge leap forward. Let’s not forget that Snapdragon 800, which is up to 75 per cent faster than Snapdragon S4 Pro, is also coming in mid-year, second half of 2013. The 800 will be Qualcomm’s first chip with Adreno 330 graphics.
One can easily conclude that there should be some Snapdragon 600 and 800 Windows RT convertible tablets at some point in the future. To stay on the safe side, Qualcomm just confirmed that new and exciting things are coming in the next months and quarter and they are Windows based.
We have to notice that most people in the tablet world get really excited talking about convertible tablets in all shapes and sizes, as the physical keyboard is definitely an accessory you want to have.
AT&T will be the first U.S. carrier out of the gate with the next generation Galaxy S 4. On its S4 web page Tuesday, AT&T announced it would start shipping the units on April 30.
The company began taking pre-orders for the handset today.
AT&T is offering the S4 two 16GB models of the handset –one in white frost, the other in black mist.
The company’s unsubsidized price for the phone is $639.99. With a two-year contract, the phone sells for $199. Shipping is free if the phone is purchased online.
T-Mobile’s and Verizon’s release plans were tipped off Monday when Engadget posted a document from Staples listing the dates the retailer expects Galaxy S4 inventory to start arriving in its big box stores.
Tentative launch dates for the S4 in select Staple stores were May 1 for T-Mobile and May 30 for Verizon, according to the document.
The document also indicates that Staples expects the Galaxy S4 to be a hot item and will start taking reservations for the handsets. Those reservations–as many Windows Surface Pro shoppers already know all too well–are not a guarantee that you’ll get a handset on launch day, only that you’ll get a phone call when a phone is available.
Samsung, too, reportedly has big retail plans for the Galaxy S4. It’s setting up a number of ”mini” stores at select Best Buy outlets to hawk the company’s mobile products. The stores-within-a-store will be manned with Best Buy employees specially trained to explain the unique features of Samsung’s products.
The Galaxy S4 is expected to be another best seller for Samsung. One analyst has predicted the company will ship 10 million units during its first month on the market and 70 million by the end of the year.
Shipments aren’t sales, though, and it remains to be seen how many of those S4′s will wind up in the hands of users. Judging from the buzz surrounding the phone, however, it’s likely to be lots of them.
PayPal, part of eBay Inc, did not disclose a purchase price.
PayPal is a dominant online payments service with more than 120 million users, but its growth has slowed in recent years and the company’s new president, David Marcus, is looking for ways to revive that.
Iron Pearl, a Silicon Valley start-up, analyzes data and develops computer models designed to drive the viral spread of products and services over the Internet, often across social networks such as Facebook Inc.
This niche in the technology world is often called growth hacking, and PayPal’s Marcus said on Thursday that Chudnovsky and Currier are among the leading growth hackers. Other top growth hackers include Chamath Palihapitiya, who helped drive Facebook’s own rapid expansion, Marcus noted.
“It’s time for PayPal to take this very seriously,” Marcus said. “This is a key function of any growth company.”
Technology companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn Corp and Twitter have specific groups of employees who focus on growth hacking and PayPal should too, he added.
Chudnovsky will take on the new role of vice president of growth at PayPal and report directly to Marcus, while Currier will be a “growth adviser” to the company, Marcus said.
Chudnovsky and Currier started Tickle, an early social media company that used online viral marketing and was acquired for $100 million by Monster in 2004.
Chudnovsky also helped design online growth strategies for start-ups such as GoodReads, Path and BranchOut.
GoodReads, a social network for readers to recommend books to friends online, was acquired by Amazon.com Inc, the world’s largest Internet retailer, earlier this year.
Windows RT hasn’t really been a great success, to put it mildly. Despite the fact that tablets such as the Lenovo Yoga and Surface RT came with the Office package out of the box, they haven’t really been selling all that well and now vendors are cutting prices in an effort to boost sales.
Business people liked Excel, Word and now it seems Outlook is coming to Windows RT as well. However, it wasn’t enough. The problem is that you could not install legacy Windows applications on anything that doesn’t come through the Windows Store. What’s more, RT is rather bloated and quite pricey, so in order to keep the price low tablet maker are forced to use antiquated hardware.
Microsoft has learned from its mistakes and now we hear that Windows RT becomes a part of Windows Blue update that should come by the end of the year. This means that RT gets integrated in this new Microsoft OS update. This was confirmed by multiple high ranked industry contacts that preferred to remain anonymous and avoid the rage of Ballmer.
There are some indications that Microsoft will be able to make some applications run on ARM cores, despite the fact that they were programmed for the x86 architecture. This sounds like some sort of emulation but despite that, it sounds like a step in right direction.
End users don’t really care about ARM or x86 instruction set, they just want their applications to work.
Microsoft released Windows RT for ARM-based devices and Windows 8 for Intel-based devices in October last year. The price drop is an acknowledgement that Windows RT has failed, analysts said.
Prices of popular products usually don’t fall, but Windows RT devices were not in demand, and prices fell, analysts said.
The starting price for Dell’s XPS 10 is now US$449 for a 32GB model, scalping $50 off the original launch price. The 64GB model is $499, which is a drop from the original $599 price. By comparison, the price of the Latitude 10 tablet with Intel processors and Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS remained stable at $499.
Asus’ VivoTab RT, which is largely sold through retailers, is being offered by Amazon.com for $382 with 32GB of storage, which is a heavy discount from the $599 launch price. Retailers like Best Buy, Staples and Office Depot have also dropped the price of the tablet by $50, now selling it for $549.
Newegg is listing VivoTab RT as having been discontinued. Asus did not respond to a request to comment on whether the company was still offering the tablet.
Lenovo is offering the IdeaPad Yoga 11 for $599 as part of a seven-day deal, which is a drop from the original $799 price. However, TigerDirect is offering an IdeaPad Yoga 11 model for $599 on its website, while Amazon is selling a model for $499.99.
Samsung did not ship its Windows RT tablet, Ativ Tab, to the U.S. market.
However, the starting price of Microsoft’s Surface RT remained consistent at $499 on its online store. Microsoft also offers Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 11 through its store, but has stopped offering tablets like the VivoTab RT on its website. The company last month said it stocks its store with RT devices based on availability and demand.
Walmart’s “Scan & Go” program will soon be in more than 200 stores, up from about 70. The pilot began near its home office in Bentonville, Arkansas in late 2012, then expanded to Atlanta.
While the program is tripling in size, for now it will be in only a small fraction of Walmart’s more than 4,000 U.S. stores.
“We want our customer feedback to dictate the experience,” Gibu Thomas, senior vice president of mobile and digital at Walmart Global eCommerce, said this week. “You’ll see this roll out to more markets.”
For now, “Scan & Go” only works on Apple Inc devices. An Android version should be out soon, Walmart said.
With more than half of its shoppers using smartphones, Walmart is trying to make shopping more convenient for shoppers who embrace mobile technology. More than half of the customers who have tried the “Scan & Go” feature have used it more than once, Thomas said.
Shoppers scan bar codes on items they want to buy, using the Walmart app on their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad to keep track of the planned purchases and the total cost. Then they pay at a self-checkout screen, bypassing the typical registers.
As it expands the pilot test of “Scan & Go,” Walmart is also adding self-checkout lanes to many more stores. Right now, about 1,500 stores have self-checkout lanes, and another 1,000 to 1,500 stores should get them this year, said Jeff McAllister, senior vice president of Walmart U.S. Innovations.
DIGITAL COUPONS MAY BE COMING
Walmart is bringing “Scan & Go” into a dozen more markets: Denver, Colorado; Phoenix, Arizona; Omaha, Nebraska; Dallas and Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Wyoming; Bozeman, Montana; Seattle, Washington; San Jose, California; and Portland, Oregon.
Users can get an electronic receipt along with a paper one. Walmart has hinted digital coupons may be coming soon.
Scan & Go users pay in the traditional way, not via apps on their devices. The company declined to comment further on mobile payment possibilities.
Last year, Wal-Mart and other retailers joined together to develop Merchant Customer Exchange, a mobile payment network to try to match similar services from Google Inc and eBay Inc, among others. No details have emerged on the project.
Neiman launched a store on eBay.com in 2011 for its Last Call outlet brand. It was one of a slew of large retailers that eBay has attracted to its online marketplace in recent years, an important part of the e-commerce company’s effort to compete more with Amazon.com Inc.
However, Neiman spokeswoman Ginger Reeder said on Friday that the company’s Last Call products will be sold exclusively through the Last Call website and in its physical stores in the future.
“We parted on good terms with eBay,” she added. “We are always trying new partnerships, and this is one where we felt we learned a great deal and were able to reach a broader, global audience of fashion buyers.”
Neiman Marcus may have dropped its eBay store because it already gets enough customer traffic to its own websites and stores, said Scott Tilghman, an analyst at B. Riley Caris.
He added that eBay also takes a cut of each sale from the retailers and other merchants that sell on its marketplace, and that may have put Neiman off.
“There’s a cost associated with it,” Tilghman added.
Meanwhile, Amazon may be having more success wooing fashion brands. Earlier this week, 10 Crosby, a brand by designer Derek Lam, launched a store within Amazon.com.
Same-day delivery, one of the hottest e-commerce trends, is too expensive for most U.S. consumers, increasing the odds that this could become another online shopping fad that dies off, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
The Boston Consulting Group recently asked 1,500 U.S. consumers what would get them to shop more online and only 9 percent cited same-day delivery. Almost three-quarters of respondents said free delivery would do the trick, while half of those surveyed said lower prices.
Consumers said they would pay $7.50, on average, to get a $50 online purchase delivered on the same day, the survey found. That is lower than the fees charged by most retailers and e-commerce companies now providing these services, the consulting firm noted.
Same-day delivery has become the latest retail battleground, with Wal-Mart Stores Inc, eBay Inc and several other companies chasing Amazon.com Inc, which has been offering the service on selected items in certain cities since 2009.
Google Inc is preparing to launch a competitor to Amazon’s wildly popular Prime shipping subscription service and will offer same-day delivery from bricks-and-mortar stores, TechCrunch reported on Tuesday.
Shutl, a startup backed by United Parcel Service, has offered same-day delivery in the UK for three years and will be launching the service in the United States in a few weeks.
The U.S. Postal Service and FedEx Corp have each recently started same-day delivery in select U.S. areas.
But these players may find little room to make money because same-day delivery is destined to be a niche service, Boston Consulting’s survey concluded.
“The demand for this service and the willingness to pay do not match the cost of providing it,” said Rob Souza, a partner at The Boston Consulting Group, who worked on the survey and has advised companies on same-day delivery.
Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel and Club Bertelsmann will start selling the ‘Tolino’ eReader from March 7, with over 300,000 books available for download, to compete with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s tablets, the companies said in a joint statement.
As in Britain, where chains like Waterstones have come under pressure from the likes of Amazon, German book retailers have also suffered.
Thalia, the biggest German book retailer is undergoing restructuring and closing shops and saw sales fall 2 percent to 915 million euros ($1.2 billion) in its business year to end-September.
“The future of the German book industry should remain in our hands and not those of listed American groups,” Carel Halff of publisher and retailer Weltbild said.
While e-books make up over 10 percent of the book market in the United States, that proportion is at just 3.2 percent for the German market.
But the market is growing fast, with sales of e-books tripling in 2012 to 102 million euros, according to market research group GfK. E-books could account for 17 percent of sales on the German book market by 2015.
Amazon had total sales of $8.7 billion in Germany in 2012, more than its sales in the UK of $6.5 billion, according to a recent stock exchange filing.
Groupon Inc lost almost a quarter of its market value on Wednesday after the firm began to take a smaller cut of revenue on daily deals, sacrificing revenue and profits to attract and maintain merchants.
“This raises questions about how these guys are going to be able to scale the business,” said Tom White, an analyst at Macquarie. “The forecast is underwhelming.”
Groupon shares fell 22 percent to $4.65 in after hours trading on Wednesday.
The Chicago-based company started sharing more money from its deals with merchants early in the fourth quarter to persuade them to run an offer for the first time or work on another offer.
That dented revenue and profit in the fourth quarter, Chief Financial Officer Jason Child said in an interview.
“We are focused on driving growth,” he said. “We will make the investments we feel we need to optimize for growth and merchant profitability.”
Fourth-quarter revenue rose to $638.3 million from $492.2 million in the year-ago period. The company also reported a net loss and an operating loss in the latest period.
Groupon was expected to make 3 cents a share on revenue of $638 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Groupon Goods, the company’s discounted product sales business, generated a lot of the fourth-quarter revenue growth. However, sales growth will slow in the first quarter, as is typical with other e-commerce businesses, Child said.
A larger-than-expected seasonal decline in the company’s Goods e-commerce business also drove the weaker first-quarter forecast.
The move puts Office for Mac 2011 on the same pricing schedule as the new Office 2013 for Windows. The price increases and the disappearance of the multi-license bundles also makes Microsoft’s Office 365, a software-by-subscription deal the company has aggressively pushed, more competitive with traditional “perpetual” licenses.
It’s not clear when Microsoft raised prices. The oldest search engine cache Computerworld found with the new prices was Feb. 2, so the company boosted them before then, likely on Jan. 29, the day it launched Office 2013 and Office 365 Home Premium. Microsoft did not mention the changes to Office for Mac in its press releases that day, or otherwise publicize the move on its Mac-specific website.
The single-license Office for Mac Home & Student now costs $140, a 17% increase from the previous price of $120. Office for Mac Home & Business, an edition that adds the Outlook email client to Home & Student’s Excel, PowerPoint and Word, runs $220, or 10% higher than the older $200 price.
The new prices are identical to those of Office 2013 for Windows, as are the percentage increases.
Buyers can still find Office for Mac 2011 at the older, lower prices, however. Although Microsoft has boosted prices on its online store — as has Apple’s e-store, which also sells the suite — other retailers have not yet joined them.
The move comes as Yahoo faces rising pressure to stay relevant and offer mobile products for consumers as it struggles to compete against Google, Facebook and other social networks.
Alike is designed to let users enter a specific location or business into their device, and ithen provides recommendations on places to go that share qualities with the original place.
For instance, a person can enter the name of a boutique, single-origin, small-batch roasted coffee shop in San Francisco, and the app can return a list of similar cafA(c)s in Portland, according to a video posted on the service’s website.
“We believe that distilled information, deeply personalized and made accessible anytime and anywhere, is what makes mobile experiences a part of our customers’ daily lives,” the Alike team posted Tuesday morning on its website.
The acquisition follows recent remarks by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer on the importance of mobile in restoring the company’s growth.
During the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call last month, for instance, Mayer cited the firm’s redesigned Flickr iOS app and Yahoo Mail as positive steps for the company, but added that ”there’s a lot of work still to be done.”
But the extent to which the Alike acquisition will allow Yahoo to stake a claim in mobile location discovery remains unclear, given that Alike occupies a similar space as industry stalwarts like Yelp and Foursquare.
The site is now branded “Rakuten,” after Japan’s largest e-commerce firm, a massive online conglomerate that dominates even giants like Amazon at home. Rakuten (the site suggests it is read “rack” – “ah” – “ten”) boughtBuy.com in 2010 for $250 million as part of a global spending spree, and has been gradually rebuilding it since.
The old Buy.com, which mainly sold directly to customers, has been swallowed whole. It is now one of thousands of stores in a giant online shopping mall, along with those run by firms like Petco and wine.com. The online mall, “Rakuten Shopping,” is an attempt to recreate the brand’s success in Japan, where it is a household name and about 60% of the population are members.
Rakuten, the characters for which mean “optimism,” is converting acquisitions to branded online shopping malls all over the world. It has already rebranded online retailers Ikeda in Brazil and Tradoria in Germany, and sites like Play.com in the U.K. are on the way, as it moves toward its ultimate goal of establishing a global mega-mall. Rakuten already offers cross-border purchases on some products through its “Global Market.”
The company feels strongly that this strategy, which focuses on luring retailers and fostering relationships between them and customers, is different from the one taken by the online retailer it is chasing in most markets.
“You can’t think about e-commerce without thinking Amazon,” said Mark Kirschner, global chief marketing officer. “But Amazon is really focused on a vending-machine shopping experience – you search, you find, you buy, you’re done.”
In Japan, where Rakuten is omnipresent, its businesses include online travel, auction and e-books, plus a bank and securities firm, as well as a baseball team, the Rakuten Eagles.