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Cloud Services Behind Amazon’s Rising Revenue

July 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc’s shares surged more than 20 percent last Friday, adding more than $46 billion to the company’s market value, after strong growth in the e-commerce giant’s cloud business drove a surprise quarterly profit.

The company’s market capitalization soared to more than $270 billion, overtaking that of Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s biggest retailer.

Revenue from Amazon’s cloud operations – Amazon Web Services (AWS) – nearly doubled in the second quarter, indicating that the business was poised to drive sustainable earnings for the online retailer, Wall Street analysts said.

Operating margins at the unit jumped to 21.4 pct from 7.7 percent.

“Product sales are Amazon’s bread, but AWS is its butter,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said in a note, raising his price target on the stock by 21 percent to $700.

“They delivered a pretty large profit, we expected a loss … they exercised discipline and did not invest in new consumer electronic product launches.”

Investors have raised concerns that the company’s aggressive spending may not pay off. But strong growth in AWS and positive commentary on the Amazon Prime service allayed some worries.

Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year for speedier delivery and exclusive access to certain movies, music and Kindle books, tend to spend more than regular users of Amazon’s services.

“The scale of their distribution network is starting to generate better incremental margins,” Barclays analyst Paul Vogel said.

“That, coupled with the continued strong growth in both revenue and margins at AWS, moves us from cautious to optimistic on the next year of growth for Amazon.”

Amazon, which last reported a profit in the fourth quarter of 2014, considers AWS its main engine of growth, along with Amazon Prime and Marketplace, where the company acts as a middleman for third-party vendors.

 

 

 

HP Goes After Security In Smartwatches

July 24, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

HP has released a study suggesting that anyone who uses a smartwatch is offering their wrist to vagabonds, criminals and privacy probers.

Blam! HP ain’t messing. “You got a smartwatch?” it says. “Then damn, son, you are in trouble!”*

A report apparently straight outta HP finds that the smartwatch lets us all down by not doing encryption right, not considering privacy and using second rate authentication.

In the current threat market, this would be a pretty much a full house of problems and pretty bad form on the part of providers like Apple.

Security firm Bitdefender has wrapped itself around the study, and describes the threat as “extreme” in its reporting of the HP smartwatch horror story.

The INQUIRER has not been able to find the report, but it has found mention of it. We shall turn to what we can while our inquiries hang in PR purgatory.

ESET has its own report on the study and offers advice on securing wearable technology, including smartwatches, on its website.

The security firm quotes from the report, saying that HP security personnel are fretting about increased adoption and the rising tide of threats.

“Smartwatches have only started to become a part of our lives, but they deliver a new level of functionality and we will increasingly use them for sensitive tasks,” Jyoti Prakash, country director for India and south Asia at HP Enterprise Security Products, is quoted as saying.

“As this activity accelerates, the watch platform will become vastly more attractive to those who would abuse that access, and it’s critical that we take precautions when transmitting personal sensitive data or bringing smartwatches into the workplace.”

The best practice if a zombie has bitten your arm and infected you with a virus, for example, would be to chop it off. Your arm, that is.

Here, we suggest that perhaps you consider what you share, where you share it and what you share it on as your best response.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Walmart Buys Out Chinese E-commerce Yihaodian

July 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Wal-Mart Stores Inc acquired full ownership of Chinese e-commerce firm Yihaodian.com, buying out the 49 percent stake that it did not already own to accelerate its push online, the U.S. retail giant announced.

The investment will help Wal-Mart target China’s fast-growing online market at a time when largely brick and mortar retailers are feeling the pinch of competition from online rivals and a slowing of the world’s second-largest economy.

Wal-Mart’s move also comes after China said last month it will allow full foreign ownership of some e-commerce businesses, with the goal of encouraging foreign investment and the development and competitiveness of the sector.

“[Yihaodian's] local experience, combined with Walmart’s global sourcing and our strong local retail presence and supply chain will allow us to deliver low prices on the products customers need in new and exciting ways,” Neil Ashe, head of Wal-Mart’s e-commerce division, said in a statement.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, added the purchase of the stake would help accelerate its e-commerce business in China and boost coordination between its physical and online stores. It did not disclose the price paid for the stake, which was bought from former executives and financial services group Ping An.

Wal-Mart’s Asia head Scott Price told Reuters earlier this year that online retail was important to help tap China’s younger generations and that the firm would increasingly look to weave together its online and offline presence in the market.

Wal-Mart, France’s Carrefour SA and Britain’s Tesco PLC have all seen sales growth slip over the last five years in China, losing market share to local rivals, according to consumer analytics firm Kantar Worldpanel.

The U.S. retailer also announced on Thursday that company insider Wang Lu will take the helm at Yihaodian. The e-commerce firm’s CEO and Chairman had quit earlier this month “to pursue their next venture”.

 

 

 

Big Retailers Halt Online Photos After Potential Data Breach

July 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Costco Wholesale Corp , Sam’s Club and several other large retailers have disabled their online photo printing stores in recent days, over concerns about a possible data breach at PNI Digital Media, which manages and/or hosts photo services sites.

Last week CVS Health Corp disabled its CVSphoto.com site, and the week before Walmart Canada’s walmartphotocentre.ca took a similar action after it was informed that customer credit card data had been potentially compromised.

Other photo printing sites that might have been recently affected included Rite Aid Corp and British supermarket chain Tesco’s.

“We take the protection of information very seriously. PNI is investigating a potential credit card data issue, and outside security experts are assisting in the investigation,” said Kirk Saville, vice president, global communications at Staples Inc, which bought Vancouver-based PNI last year.

Some websites said they had been advised by PNI of a potential breach, while others said they acted because of recent reports.

Costco Canada and Rite Aid noted that PNI has limited access to customer information since it does not process credit cards, but the photo service sites were temporarily taken down as a precaution.

CVS and Walmart Canada asked customers to monitor their credit card transactions closely for unauthorized charges.

Tesco’s page simply said it was it was unavailable for routine maintenance.

The retailers’ main websites and other services were not affected by the potential breach.

 

 

Will Wearable Devices Ever Take Off?

July 16, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

While Intel and Apple are touting the Internet of Things as the next big thing, it is starting to look like the numbers will be too small to attract the necessary economies of scale.

Normally what happens when there is “new thing” in the tech market enough people buy a product to stimulate the supply chain. This encourages suppliers to mass produce and push costs lower. This maintains the momentum as a waves of others buy because the price drops on components.

But word on the street is that while vendors have launched wearable products, orders for wearable devices may not be sufficient to drive growth for related component suppliers.

The vendors have many different devices and each of them needs only a small amount of components support.

Component makers look at what they need to supply such devices and realize that they are not going to make their money back anytime soon and are giving it a miss.

The same applies to the upstream suppliers need to specifically establish a team as big as a smartphone team to help clients develop new wearable devices.
Already there is a lot of competition in the wearable devices market particularly as 90 per cent of wearable devices shipments are two types of products – smartwatches and bracelets.

Punters have shown that they are not interested in these and demand is really weak.

The Apple Watch was touted to be the leader of the wearable industry, mostly by Apple and its chums, only achieved sales less than three million units prior to mid-June, much weaker than originally expected.

The problem appears to be that while everyone is saying “wearables” no one has really come up with a good product yet, or one that attracts anyone’s attention. If Apple could not market up a storm, then chances are there will never be one.

This could put Intel in a bind. Much of its efforts have been going to providing products to support a boost in mobile wearables. If this never happens then it could be in trouble.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Pay Launch In Britain Not Without Problems

July 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple rolled out mobile payments in Britain on Tuesday, hoping to make a splash with consumers familiar with using cards for tap-and-go purchases, as resistance from hold-out banks and stores appeared to evaporate.

Starting Tuesday, Apple Pay became available in 250,000 sites, from Tube stations to coffee shops, supermarkets and travel services, making it more widely available than when it was first introduced in the United States nine months ago.

Users first load their credit and debit card details into an app on their Apple phones or watches. To pay, customers hold the device near a contactless terminal with the user’s fingerprints confirming their identity.

The service is one of Apple’s biggest bets, a way of binding customers more tightly to its phones and new smart watches, as well as taking a small slice of every retail transaction.

Apple Pay will eventually be supported by all major British banks. The last hold-out, Barclays, confirmed on Tuesday its debit card users and Barclaycard credit card customers will be able to use Apple Pay in the future.

However, there also were some first-day teething problems. Another major bank, HSBC Holdings said it was having technical problems that will lead to a two-week delay before its clients in the United Kingdom can sign up to the service.

Morning subway commuters in the capital were greeted by advertisements from several major banks encouraging the fraction of their customers with the latest-model Apple phones, tablets and smartwatches to link their payment cards to Apple Pay.

Tube-operator Transport for London and big retailers Boots, the British pharmacy business of Walgreens Boots Alliance; Costa Coffee, a part of Whitbread; supermarkets Marks and Spencer and Waitrose all lined up to support Apple Pay.

So far, Apple has been reported to be working to introduce its mobile payments service in China, South Korea and Canada.

 

 

 

 

Amazon Adds More Countries To List Of Places It Will Offer Loans

June 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc will rollout its business loan program for small sellers later this year in eight new places including China, where credit is becoming a key factor in competing for new vendors and grabbing market share.

Until now, the e-retailer has offered the service only in the United States and Japan. Amazon Lending, founded in 2012, now plans to offer short-term working capital loans in other countries where it operates a third-party, seller-run marketplace business, the head of Amazon Marketplace, Peter Faricy, told Reuters.

The countries are Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The service is on an invite-only basis and is not open to all sellers on Amazon’s platform.

Other large retailers including eBay Inc’s PayPal and Alibaba Group Holdings, which run third-party marketplaces, are also turning to credit to boost their vendor base.

Some lending industry officials who help lenders assess credit risk say these retailers are taking on risky loans because they don’t know the shape of the credit market in which the sellers are operating.

Small businesses have high failure rates, especially in China and India, added William Black, a former U.S. banking regulator and professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri.

Amazon said it can safely offer loans based on internal data and because it takes loan payments out of the sales proceeds it pays sellers.

PayPal spokesman Josh Criscoe said eBay merchants who use PayPal are eligible for the working capital loans and credit is offered to only those customers that have a strong PayPal sales history. PayPal has provided more than $500 million in capital since September 2013, with an average loan disbursement of $2 million per day.

A spokeswoman for Alibaba’s financial services arm Ant Financial, which offers these loans, said credit is offered to Taobao, Tmall merchants and other small business owners who meet certain conditions. The company also offers such loans to customers in some countries like the United States and Britain.

 

 

Cisco Warns Of Bug In Virtual App

June 30, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Cisco has warned of a default Secure Shell vulnerability in three of its virtual applications.

The flaw could allow attackers to decrypt traffic exchanged in the services, and has been detailed in a Cisco security advisory.

It affects Cisco’s Web Security Virtual Appliance (SMAv), Email Security Virtual Appliance and Security Management Virtual Appliance, which are already commercially available.

Cisco said that it “is not aware of any public announcements or malicious use of the vulnerabilities”, but warned that attackers who got hold of the private keys could decrypt communications with a man-in-the-middle attack.

The default private encryption keys were preinstalled on all three of the products, a move which is considered bad security practice.

“Successfully exploiting this vulnerability on Cisco SMAv allows an attacker to decrypt communication toward SMAv, impersonate SMAv, and send altered data to a configured content appliance,” the advisory said.

“An attacker can exploit this vulnerability on a communication link toward any content security appliance that was ever managed by any SMAv.”

Cisco has released a patch which deletes the preinstalled SSH keys and explains how customers can correct the problem.

The Cisco-sa-20150625-ironport SSH Keys Vulnerability Fix comes as part of several product upgrades, and must be manually installed from a command line interface.

Cisco’s advisory said that the patch is not required for physical hardware appliances, or for virtual appliance downloads or upgrades after 25 June.

Cisco revealed details of a new point of sale attack earlier this year that could part firms from money and customers from personal data.

The threat, called PoSeidon by the Cisco team, came at a time when eyes were on security breaches at firms like Target.

Cisco said in a blog post that PoSeidon is a threat that has the ability to breach machines and scrape them for credit card information.

Courtesy-TheInq

Facebook Allowing Users Without An Account To Use Messenger

June 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc has begun allowing users without an account to sign up for its Messenger app with a phone number, the social media company said on Wednesday, in another move to broaden the app’s reach and make it a standalone platform.

Earlier this year, Facebook opened up Messenger to developers, and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said he wanted to connect users directly with retailers, restaurants and other businesses.

With the latest update, users will be prompted by an option that says “Not on Facebook?” when they open the app. They can then sign up with their name, phone number and a photo.

The mobile messaging service, which has 600 million users, has added a number of new features in recent months, including games and video calling.

Facebook’s flagship social network has 1.4 billion users.

 

 

 

Apple Watch Expected To Dominate Smartwatch Market

June 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The Apple Watch is expected to capture nearly two-thirds of the smartwatch market for all of 2015, according to a new forecast from market research firm IDC.

IDC had said two weeks ago that Apple will ship to retailers about 21 million Apple Watches in 2015. That’s in the mid-range of other analyst forecasts of 15 million to 30 million for the new device.

Then last week IDC said that all smartwatches and a small number of other smart wearables will total 33.1 million shipments in 2015, putting Apple Watch at 63% of that total. Smart wearables are defined by IDC as devices capable of running third party apps, such as Apple Watch and Android Wear watches like the Moto 360.

The IDC prediction comes amidst some other striking analyst forecasts for the Apple Watch, but also amid questions about the overall value of smartwatches.

Financial analyst Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald recently declared the Apple Watch will “prove to be the best selling product in Apple’s history (within the first 12 months.)” Various estimates say it took one day of pre-orders to sell 1 million Apple Watches, while it took Apple 74 days to sell 1 million iPhones and 28 days to sell 1 million iPads.

Research firm Slice Intelligence told Reuters that about 2.8 million Apple Watches were sold through mid-June, nearly two months after the device first went on sale. Apple hasn’t reported how many Apple Watches it has sold and is not expected to separately report that number in the future. Slice gets its insights by mining e-mail receipts. The entry-level Apple Watch costs $349 and is the most popular in sales, Slice said.

About 20% of Apple Watch customers are also buying a spare watch band, with the entry-level sports band selling for $49, Slice noted.

 

 

 

Amazon Finally Goes Transpartent

June 16, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon has finally released its first transparency report, making it the last major technology firm in the Fortune 500 publicly to disclose the number of government data requests it has received.

The first biannual transparency report was released on Friday, in a move that probably signals the firm giving in to public pressure.

Amazon took the opportunity to say that it has never been involved in the US government’s PRISM surveillance program, and that customer privacy is among its key priorities.

Stephen Schmidt, chief information security officer for Amazon Web Services (AWS), said in a blog post: “Amazon never participated in the NSA’s PRISM program.

“We have repeatedly challenged government subpoenas for customer information that we believed were overbroad, winning decisions that have helped to set the legal standards for protecting customer speech and privacy interests.”

Schmidt also said that the firm has lobbied the US government to revamp its ageing privacy laws.

“We also advocate in Congress to modernize outdated privacy laws to require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant from a court to get the content of customer communications,” he said.

Following in the footsteps of Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon also spoke out about its strong stance on encryption, saying that, while it recognizes the “legitimate needs of law enforcement agencies to investigate criminal activity”, it opposes “legislation mandating or prohibiting security or encryption technologies”.

“We offer AWS clients strong encryption as one of many standard security features, and we provide them the option to manage their own encryption keys,” Schmidt added.

“We publish security best practices documents on our website and encourage our clients to use these measures to protect sensitive content.”

The biannual report covers the six months from 1 January to 31 May, and reveals that Amazon received 813 subpoenas, 35 search warrants, 13 other court orders, 132 foreign requests and one removal order.

The firm also received between zero and 249 national security requests.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Apple Pay To Launch In The UK In July

June 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Pay will debut in the U.K. in July, where it will initially work at 250,000 retail locations and the London transit system — with credit card support from eight major banks, according to an Apple announcement.

Some observers had expected Apple Pay to launch in Canada as well, but company executives didn’t discuss plans for Canada during the keynote address at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC).

Apple Pay first launched in the U.S. last October with more than 225,000 retailers and has steadily expanded. The mobile payment service will reach 1 million locations in the U.S. by July, said Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Internet services.

She said 2,500 banks now support Apple Pay in the U.S. adding that Discover cards will be supported sometime in the fall.

While 1 million locations is considered impressive, the expansion to 90% of all 12 million retail locations in the U.S. could take five to 10 years, according to banking and credit card experts. Banks are already pushing retailers to upgrade their in-store payment terminals to support smart credit cards by October, and nearly all those new terminals also support NFC payments, like Apple Pay uses. But the rollout will still take years.

As expected, Bailey announced that Apple Pay will automatically process loyalty and rewards cards. In other words, customers automatically get coupons, rewards, loyalty points and special offers from a specific retailer — or from Apple itself — applied when a purchase is made from an NFC-ready iPhone or Apple Watch.

But Apple Pay will also support some store credit cards beyond just major credit cards Visa and MasterCard. Bailey named JC Penney, Kohl’s, Fandango and BJ’s store credit cards as those that will be supported initially.

“Apple Pay automatically presents the right card” during the payment process, she noted. The improvements she described will work with the coming update called iOS9 for iPad and iPhone, as well as Apple Watch. The update is expected in the fall.

 

 

 

Google, Levi Collaborate On ‘Smart’ Clothing

June 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google executives have a vision that one day soon your jacket, shirt, pants — even your socks — might control your phone, tablet or even the lights in your house.

Ivan Poupyrev, Google’s technical program lead, received wild applause at a morning session at Google I/O today when he talked about Project Jacquard.

The project isn’t about a new smartphone or tablet or even a giant humanoid robot. It’s about smart textiles that could change the way we connect and communicate with our environment and devices. They can also track health and physical activity. (Yes, your pants will know if you’re sitting on the couch instead of doing power squats.)

The effort might seem odd for a global online search giant, but Google is also deeply involved in emerging technology like self-driving cars, robotics and high-flying balloons that can offer Internet access in remote regions.

Now it’s looking to move beyond smartphones and even smart watches. Why not control a device by swiping a hand down your shirt sleeve or rubbing your fingers together over your jacket or pants? Why not have socks that track your heart rate and the number of miles you’ve run?

With those possibilities in mind, Google announced that it has partnered with Levi Strauss & Co. to create smart clothing.

“If we can get people to sit and talk face-to-face, instead of having their face looking down at their mobile phone, that’s delivering value,” Paul Dillinger, vice president of innovation for the Levi’s brand, told a roomful of developers at Google I/O this morning. “This is something we want to get behind. Now, my friends, you are all fashion designers along with us. It’s going to be fast and fun, and we want you to come on with us.”

To show off the technology, he brought out a piece of cloth. As he waved his hand over it or made a swiping motion, a screen nearby showed the sensors reacting to the motion.

Poupyrev showed how, with a swipe of his hand over the sleeve, he could control his phone — and even make a call.

The jacket, Google noted, is 85% cotton and 15% Project Jacquard material.

 

 

Apple Jumps Into Augmented-reality With Metaio Acquisition

June 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc has purchase Metaio, a German company whose technology combine real-world imagery and computer-generated elements into moving video presentations, according to a corporate filing.

The terms were not disclosed.

Metaio’s previous investors included Westcott LLC, the investment vehicle of entrepreneur Carl Westcott, the founder of floral delivery firm 1-800-Flowers, and Atlantic Bridge, a Silicon Valley-based growth equity technology fund.

A document filed with a Munich court showed that Apple is now the company’s sole shareholder.

Metaio’s augmented-reality software is used in applications in retail, industrial and automotive markets.

Metaio technology is used to create virtual product showrooms and by retailers such as IKEA. It has also created visual manuals for repairing complex industrial or automotive equipment.

Augmented reality is software that overlays text or graphics on real-life images and objects, typically in video. The result can be viewed on TV displays, smartphones, tablets or dedicated eye-goggles. It differs from virtual reality, which replaces real-world views with more or less completely simulated ones.

Steffen Sorrell, an analyst with technology market research firm Juniper Research, said Apple, which builds custom computer chips it uses in a range of products, could incorporate Metaio’s intellectual property to differentiate its products.

This could give Apple a jump on rivals who are working to develop augmented reality semiconductors but remain at least 18 to 24 months away from delivery, the analyst said.

This technology was co-developed with ST-Ericsson, the former joint venture between mobile network equipment maker Ericsson and chipmaker ST Microelectronics.

 

Google To Ad ‘Buy’ Button To Mobile Search Results

May 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google will add a “buy” button in its search results on mobile devices in the coming weeks, according to a report last Friday in the Wall Street Journal, a move that could give online shoppers an easier way to buy products on small screens.

The change might also give consumers an alternative to mobile apps from companies like Amazon and eBay, though it might jeopardize retailers’ ability to directly market to their customers.

The buy button will appear on Google’s search results pages when people search for certain products on mobile devices, said the report, which cited unnamed sources. If users click on the buttons, they’ll be taken to another Google page where they can choose among sizes and colors, select shipping options and complete the purchase, the report said.

Google reportedly will let shoppers enter their payment information just once, store it, and automatically load it for future purchases on Google’s shopping pages.

The products will still be provided and sold by the retailer and not by Google. Macy’s is in talks with Google to take part in the launch of the button, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

Representatives of Google and Macy’s did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

The buttons will accompany only sponsored search results, not regular results driven by Google’s basic search algorithm, the report said. At first they will only appear with a small percentage of Google’s search traffic.

Over time, the buttons could help Google expand its search service beyond information and links to also encompass an online storefront.