Tag: Amazon

Algorithms gouge online buyers

smartphone-shoppingA study by a team of researchers at the Northeastern University have discovered that online shops target people based on their profiles and charge some more than others for the same products.

The team said that people regularly receive personalised content, such as specific offers from Amazon.  That, the study shows, can be to a person’s advantage but e-commerce sites manipulate search results and customise prices without anyone knowing.

The researchers looked at 16 popular e-commerce sites, including 10 general shops and six hotel and car rental sites,to measure price discrimination and price steering.

“We have found numerous instances of price steering and discrimination on a variety of top e-commerce site,” they said in a report.

Some sites altered prices by hundreds of dollars and travel sites showed inconsistencies in a higher percentage of cases.

They said Expedia and hotels,com “steered a subset of users towards more expensive hotels”.

The team said that price differences were significant in some of the cases. Amazon and Ebay were excluded from the study and so too were firms like Apple.

Although the researchers said they contacted the sites they surveyed, they did not say how or if the companies replied.

Amazon invests in German datacentres

amazonsMany people might think that Amazon is where you buy your books, your Hue lights and your CDs but behind the scenes it is  becoming a major player in the datacentre business.

And now, according to the Financial Times, Amazon will build several datacentres in Frankfurt in a bid to allay customers’ fears that their data is housed in places where security and privacy are not as high a priority as in Germany.

The FT reports that the EU has much stricter data protection laws than other territories.  And, of the EU countries, Germany has the best privacy control.

A senior VP of Amazon Web Services told the FT that many of its German customers would prefer to have their data held locally. Although a figure hasn’t been placed on the German infrastructure investment, it’s believed that such a project will require a multimillion dollar investment.

US providers like Google, Rackspace and others compete with Amazon but are based in the USA.  Amazon is believed to generate revenues from its cloud business amounting to over $5 billion during 2014.

Google plays Amazon red herring

red herringAs Google continues to be investigated by the European Union, chairman Eric Schmidt has decided to deflect criticism by saying that Amazon is its biggest search rival.

In a speech in Berlin, Schmidt – who has repeatedly denied that Google is a monopolistic player – he also took time to diss rivals Bing and Yahoo, saying they don’t matter at all.

According to the BBC, Schmidt said that people didn’t see Amazon as a search engine but most people go there when they want to buy something, rather than Google.

How Schmidt thinks this kind of argument will have any weight with the European Union is hard to fathom.

He said: “Amazon is answering users’ questions and searches, just as we are.”

Google isn’t the be and end of it all, added Schmidt. In a note of paranoia he suggested that somewhere will be new technology that will topple it from its premier position.

Tablet market is all shook up

ipad3Apple and Samsung are going to have to fight hard to keep their place as leaders of the tablet pack.

Because, according to market intelligence firm ABI Research, other vendors including Asus, Lenovo and Amazon are fighting hard for third place and creeping up on the leaders.

These emerging vendors are set to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.8 percent between 2014 and 2019.  Lenovo, for example will ship 21 million tablets by 2019.

Samsung saw a 35 percent decline in growth between Q1 2014 and the second quarter, while Apple saw a 19 percent decline.

In the first quarter, Apple and Samsung had a hefty 72 percent of the marketplace but their combined market share dropped to 66 percent and that’s the way things are headed.

In fact, ABI Research thinks that advanced and mature markets are experiencing a stall in growth, partly because tablets don’t need replacing every few years like notebook PCs.

Amazon can’t read Germany

german strikeUS online bookseller Amazon is continuing its war against the German unions despite multiple strikes shutting down its business.

American companies generally do not understand trade unions, which they see as a communistic method by which workers get things like decent wages and conditions which prevent the shareholders and management becoming as wealthy as they should. In the US, trade unions are identified as being in the pockets of organised crime.

In the EU, where things are a little more balanced, unions have a little more respect and power.  But not, in Amazon with appears to be going through the sort of battles that Margaret Thatcher had with the coal miners in the 1980s.

Workers at German warehouses of online retailer Amazon.com took strike action again on Monday as labour union Verdi pressed its demands in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

Verdi said in a statement it had called out workers to strike at distribution centers in Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig, Graben and Rheinberg. Verdi had in June staged walkouts at three of those sites.

Amazon hires 9,000 warehouse staff at nine distribution centers in Germany, its second-biggest market behind the United States, plus 14,000 seasonal workers.

Verdi wants Amazon to raise pay for workers at its distribution centres in accordance with collective bargaining agreements across the mail order and retail industry in Germany and has organised several stoppages over the past year.

Amazon insists that its warehouse staff are logistics workers and says they receive above-average pay by the standards of that industry.

Amazon introduces more tablets

Fire HD6 from AmazonInternet giant Amazon announced the Fire HD6 tablet, at a price of £79 for the base model. It also introduced the Fire HDX8.9 at £329, and two Kindles.

The cheap and cheerful Fire HD6 comes in two configurations, an 8GB and a 16GB version – the latter costs £99.

The device comes in a range of five colours, uses a 1.5GHz quad core processor, a six inch HD display, and front and rear cameras.

It also includes unlimited cloud storage for photos taken with all of its Fire devices. It gives access to Android apps and is compatible with most of the digital content on the interweb.

The device weighs 290 grams and has a claimed battery life of eight hours.  Full charge via a micro USB port – supplied in the box – takes six hours.

It also has a Slimport USB 2.0 microB connector that lets you plug it into HDTV or VGA monitors or to PCs and Macs.

The Fire HD6 has a limited guarantee of a year.

The Kindle comes with touch now and costs £59, while the Kindle Voyage costs from £169.

Amazon sells smartphone for 99 cents

fire-phoneAll those who paid over the odds for an Amazon smartphone will probably be gathering together their pitchforks and torches for a lynching.

When Amazon released its Fire smartphone, analysts wondered what it was playing at. Amazon’s Fire tablets had done rather well because they were subsidised, but the bookseller had put out a smartphone which was not only unsubsidised but also rather expensive.

As a product the phone was not that bad. It had a dynamic perspective screen that gives it a 3D look. It also has a new feature, Firefly, that lets users capture in physical objects, text and tag content from TV or radio, with the press of a button.

You could find better on the market for the sort of price that Amazon wanted for it. It appears that after a few weeks, no one wanted to buy one.

Now six weeks after hitting the market, Amazon is slashing the price of its Fire Phone to just 99 cents with a two-year contract.

For 99 cents, the Fire Phone will come with unlimited cloud storage for photos as well as a free year of Amazon Prime. The Fire Phone comes with 32GB of storage, so the new, lower cost is a pretty good deal.

The Fire Phone is only available on AT&T in the United States; the 99 cent offer is available both on Amazon.com and AT&T’s website as well as in AT&T stores.

A price drop this soon is not an encouraging sign that the Fire Phone is doing well and it is not clear if there will be any form of subsidy when the Fire hits the UK later.

 

Amazon Fire Phone fails to rage

quo_vadis_poster-nero-plays-while-rome-burns-w450Amazon’s Fire Phone was launched in July to a great fanfare over its 3D-effect maps and multiple front-facing cameras.

But apparently it has been greeted with a collective yawn by actual users and there are signs that Amazon priced itself out of the market.

The Fire Phone cost $200 for a 32GB version on an AT&T contract – the same price range as the iPhone 5S or Samsung GS5.

According to a release from Chitika, looking at activity on its ad network in the 20 days after the Fire Phone’s release, the Fire Phone accounted for 0.015 per cent of activity.

This sounds a low number, but it is possible to work out how many phones that might represent. Using data from ComScore for the three months to the end of June 2014 there were 173m smartphones in use in the US.

That figure is rising by between a million or two a month so two months later, by mid-August, when the Chitika data was collected, there would be about 177 million smartphones in use in the US. .015% of 177 million means 26,550 Fire phones in use.

Of course, you have to assume that Amazon’s Fire Phone will show up on Chitika’s network as often as any other phone, but even allowing for errors, does seem that the Fire sold only 35,000 Fire Phones during those 20 days.

Amazon said that it was in the phone game for the long play and it intends to be patient. That might work in the long term, but we would have thought Amazon would go for a cheaper more popular product, as it did successfully with its tablets.

Amazon getting into advertising business

amazonOnline bookseller Amazon is getting into the internet advertising business.

The Wall Street Journal has been telling the world+dog that the in-house platform aims to replace ads supplied by Google on Amazon’s own website.

However the plan is to later expand the program to challenge Google and Microsoft advertising business in the future.

Amazon’s system is similar to Google’s AdWords, and is planned to make it easier for marketers to reach the company’s users.

The retailer is also building a tool that would help advertising agencies buy in bulk for thousands of advertisers.

Analysts have been wondering how long it would take Amazon to try to stick its foot in the door of the advertising industry. After all, if you know what a person reads you can target a lot of advertising their way.

Amazon is sitting on a huge consumer data but has so far been reluctant to use it for advertising.

The company already has an advertising service it employs chiefly on its own website but it is extremely low key in comparison to the potential.

 

Hackers hack Amazon’s cloud

Amazon-Cloud-OutageHackers have worked out a way to break into Amazon’s cloud and install DDoS malware.

The hole is thanks to a vulnerability in distributed search engine software Elasticsearch which is a popular open-source search engine server. The software was  developed in Java that allows applications to perform full-text search for various types of documents through a REST API (representational state transfer application programming interface).

Elasticsearch is commonly used in cloud environments and is used on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine and other cloud platforms.

Versions 1.1.x of Elasticsearch have support for active scripting through API calls in their default configuration. For some reason this does not require authentication which is how the malware writers have broke into the systm.

Elasticsearch’s developers have not released a patch for the 1.1.x branch, but starting with version 1.2.0, released on May 22, dynamic scripting is disabled by default.

Kaspersky Lab has found variants of Mayday, a Trojan program for Linux that’s used to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

One of the new Mayday variants was found running on compromised Amazon EC2 server instances.

Kaspersky Lab researcher Kurt Baumgartner said that it was not the only victim. The attackers break into   virtual machines run by Amazon EC2 customers by exploiting the CVE-2014-3120 vulnerability in Elasticsearch 1.1.x, which is still being used by some organisations in active commercial deployments despite being superseded by Elasticsearch 1.2.x and 1.3.x.

Baumgartner saw the early stages of the Elasticsearch attacks and that the hackers modified publicly available proof-of-concept exploit code for CVE-2014-3120 and used it to install a Perl-based Web shell. This gave them a backdoor script that allows remote attackers to execute Linux shell commands over the Web. The script, downloads the new version of the Mayday DDoS bot, detected as Backdoor.Linux.Mayday.g.

Amazon faces off with the French

Obama BarackUS bookseller Amazon is engaged in a war of words with the French government.

Last month, the French parliament stood up for small book retailers and voted to ban major online book retailers, including Amazon and the French retailer FNAC, from offering free delivery on book orders.

The idea was that if customers had to pay for delivery for books they would be more inclined to shop at their local bookshop.

However it appears that they did not think the law through properly. Amazon did start charging for delivery, it was just that it charged a Euro cent.

It posted the following FAQ saying:

“We are unfortunately no longer allowed to offer free deliveries for book orders. We have therefore fixed delivery costs at one centime per order [0.01 Euros, or roughly a US penny] containing books and dispatched by Amazon to systematically guarantee the lowest price for your book orders.”

France has had a long running war on major US tech companies flogging books.

In 2011, the country updated an old law related to printed books that then allowed publishers to impose set e-book pricing. In 2012, there was a spat between French lawmakers and Google over the country’s desire to see French media outlets paid for having their content pop up in search results.

In most cases, the solution involved a quick and easy way to regain the upperhand. Google suggested it would sooner cut off French media sites than pay them for the snippets of content it features in search results. This would kill off the newspapers online efforts, or give a commercial advantage to those who did not insist Google paid up.

Quanta pins hopes on servers

server-racksTaiwanese ODM firm Quanta is hoping that demand for servers will help boost its profits.

That’s according to Digitimes, which claimed that Quanta’s direct customers include Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, NTT, KDDI, Korea Telecom and Singapore Telecom. NEC uses Quanta to build its units.

The wire reports that server shipments this wire will grow by 20 percent in volume and 40 percent in value.

Quanta, known primarily for its position as a notebook ODM, has decided to create a subsidiary aimed at growing direct sales.

It now has marketing units in the US, China, Japan, Singapore and Germany and hopes to increase sales by opening another European office.

Amazon UK accused of stressing workers

Amazon logoA BBC Panorama report is claiming that working at Amazon can really stress you out.

That’s a claim Amazon rejects.

According to the BBC, it planted a reporter at the firm’s Swansea warehouse and he used a hidden camera to record the action.

His job was to pick orders from the huge warehouse, using a handset that told him what to collect.

The handset gave the reporter, Adam Littler, a fixed time to pick the products and it started counting down and beeped at him if he got it wrong.

The handset reported the speed at which Littler was performing and if his performance wasn’t under par, he was reported to managers.  He worked 10 and a half hour night shifts at £8.25 an hour and reported that he walked 11 miles on an average shift.

Amazon told the BBC that it was “working hard to make sure we’re better tomorrow than we are today”. The Panorama programme airs tonight at 9:30PM.

Quanta slashes tablet forecast by a quarter

cheap-tabletsQuanta Computer, the world’s biggest laptop maker for hire, has slashed its tablet shipment forecast for 2013 from 20 million units to just 15 million. The reason? Cheap white-box tablets.

“We were optimistic about the company’s tablet shipments this year and didn’t expect that our clients’ products would face pricing competition from Chinese white-brands,” Quanta vice chairman C.C. Leung said in a conference call, reports Taipei Times.

In other words, it wasn’t exactly Quanta’s fault, it was their clients’ fault. Amazon and Google account for the majority of Quanta’s tablet orders and they obviously underestimated the impact of cheap white-box tablets on Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire sales.

However, Quanta still believes it will be able to ship 20 million tablets – next year, of course.
Luckily Quanta did not see a dip in laptop shipments and its annual forecast of 44 million units still stands. In addition, Quanta is hoping to see plenty of growth in server shipments next year thanks to growing demand for could servers.

eBay, Argos partner for collection

argos-logoFor some time now, eBay has been pushing discussion about the future of etail, the high street, and how brick and mortar will intersect with online shopping – now, in a bold move, the company has joined up with Argos in a bid to offer the best of both worlds.

Online shoppers will be able to buy selected goods from eBay and pick them up in-store at Argos outlets across the UK. 50 eBay merchants are taking part, but are anonymous at time of publication.

Argos already has its own click and collect service but expanding it to include popular eBay stores will certainly not harm the company, provided the scheme is implemented properly. Amazon, which eBay increasingly sees as its top competition rather than its original selling point as a bidding website, has collection points in the UK too.

Earlier this year, Argos reported its first sales boost in years. It attributed much of this to the check and reserve feature. This is not to be sniffed at considering the otherwise lacklustre state of the UK’s tattoo-parlour, betting and pawn-shop packed high streets.

eBay has trialled a service called eBay Now across the pond in New York and San Francisco, partnering with popular retail outlets such as Home Depot and Urban Outfitters to arrange for goods to be delivered within the hour for a fee. This may be rolled out to Britain next year.

Commenting on the announcement, Warick Business School’s retail expert, Dr Scott Dacko, said whether or not this service becomes “the” model, integration between online and offline sales is “the future for retail”.

“It is likely to be a win-win-win arrangement, with both partners and UK consumers benefiting all round,” Dacko said. “I am sure the arrangement will prompt a host of competitors to move more quickly into not only seamlessly integrating their online and brick-and-mortar operations but also looking into similar partnerships as well”.

During Christmas last year, eBay experimented with a bricks and mortar showroom where customers could try out products and interact with them through an app.