Category: Amazon

Read More

Amazon Across America

My first reaction to Amazon buying Whole Foods is “Huh?” Few brands could be any more different. The online retailer is all about giving customers the most for the least amount spent, while the grocer is the pricey purview of the alt-organic lifestyle elite. No moment is better metaphor for Whole Foods’ clientele than the exchange I heard between a thirtysomething couple standing at the deli holding chicken luncheon meat. “Is it free range?” the women asked her husband. It had to be, or she wouldn’t buy. They argued. I silently chuckled: luncheon meat—not a bird! It’s all pressed meat, Honey. You do know that?

But from another perspective, and one transcending retail store presence, are other considerations, like brand affinity and buyer demographics. For the first, Amazon may be all about value, but in an increasingly middle-class and well-to-do demographic kind of way, particularly among city dwellers. Despite sharing similar cut-throat margin, expansive business philosophies with Walmart, Amazon doesn’t carry the same stigma among the socially conscious “better-thans”. For the second, who do you think plunks down 99 bucks a year for Prime membership or can’t wait for two-day free delivery or is too busy to go to the store to buy groceries? Without hard numbers to back the supposition, I’d bet there is lots of existing and potential regular shopper overlap among these customers and those who walk Whole Foods’ aisles. 

Read More

Apple Fiscal Q1 2017

The measure of Apple fiscal first quarter 2017 isn’t record revenues ($78.35 billion) but comparison to major competitors: More than three times Google ($26.06 billion) or Microsoft ($24.1 billion). Amazon announces tomorrow, Groundhog Day. Will the retailer’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, see his shadow? The 3x multiplier nearly applies to net income: $17.89 billion, versus $6.64 billion and $5.2 billion, respectively, for the two rivals. Looked at differently, compared to Apple’s same quarter in fiscal 2010, seven years later, profits exceed total revenues ($15.68 billion). That’s an astounding comparison.

The results defy pundits’ prognostications, including my own, about gravity pulling the company back to Earth. iPhone, as major source of revenue, can only stay up for so long, before slowing smartphone sales wreck havoc. That said, credit where it’s due: CEO Tim Cook is, as I’ve asserted before, a logistics and manufacturing genius. He is a strategist, but not an innovation leader like predecessor Steve Jobs. Cook masterfully manages his inheritance, but he, nor Apple observers, should get lost in the quarter’s glow: iPhone remains boon and bane. 

Read More

Amazon Books San Diego

My wife and I drove to Westfield UTC to walk around on this bright sunny day, and to reminisce. Soon after we moved to San Diego in late 2007, my daughter started skating at Ice Town (since renamed UTC Ice), which is inside the mall’s food court. There, Firefighters gave her a Santa’s hat on Christmas Eve, 2008. We hadn’t visited the La Jolla retail complex for at least six months, and I suspect much longer. Hehe, we missed out. In September 2016, the second Amazon Books store opened there. The first is in Seattle, and there is another in Portland, Oregon.

Eleven months ago, when Wall Street Journal broke Amazon’s plan to open the shops, I offered some good reasons why the strategy makes sense, even if it might seem nonsensical when bookstores are shutting around the nation— the online retailer’s Kindle ebook business being a major reason. I had no idea then, or until today, that San Diego was among the locations. UTC is a good choice. Amazon Books is diagonally across from Apple Store, in a mall that is very outdoor shopping/walking friendly and courts a clientele that would shop for titles they can hold and read; no device or screen required. 

Read More

From Amazon’s Bookstore Risk Can Come Great Rewards

There is collective head-scratching across the InterWebs about a Wall Street Journal report that Amazon will open as many as 300, or even 400, stores selling books. The company’s massive success selling ebooks and the cost and selection advantages of warehousing their physical counterparts make the concept seem nonsensical. I contend that it’s brilliant.

Amazon is in process of expanding online services into the purview of local retail, which biggest competitive advantage is immediacy. In conjunction with the $99-per-year Prime program, the online retailer offers faster shipping; same day, and within hours, in some locales. The company increasingly contracts its own carriers, as well. Immediacy requires presence. What better location than a bookstore that also warehouses other goods and provides customer service operations? That’s all without considering the branding opportunities, which, as Apple Store demonstrates, can be huge. 

Read More

What Do Amazon, Google, and Twitter Share in Common?

Let’s spin some wild conspiracy theories—because it’s fun. You can choose whether or not to take them seriously, as nothing makes better hay than a presidential election year.  So I look fondly on the Obama Administration’s preparations for the president’s last State of the Union address—nearly a year before Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or some other soulless political pretend maven—boots him from the White House. Also, as a long-time tech journalist, what goes on behind the prep interests me.

Our Commander in Chief wants you to get the message whenever or wherever you may be. That’s an admirable ambition. But I can’t help wonder if the buddy-rule still applies; I suppose it could be coincidence that the tech that will bring you President Obama’s speech and followup conversations with the Veep, First Lady, and others is provided by people/companies close to the Administration. Hehe, a crony by any other name is still a crony, just not the same. 

Read More

Wow, the Amazon Home Page

Solidarité is right, and nothing for sale visible above the fold. Americans are often too oblivious to tragedy overseas, even among Western allies. If someone didn’t see the news, and shops Amazon, they have to wonder what the page refers to.

My wife and I watched live coverage for hours from CBS and Sky news services, streamed, since we’re cord-cutters again. To recap: Coordinated terrorist attacks left more than 120 dead in Paris, late last night (local time there). The city is in lock down. 

Read More

Amazon Fire TV Review

Streaming set-top boxes are no longer about media consumption. The newest entrants—from Apple, Amazon, and Google—fit into a larger lexicon of connected digital lifestyles. Think intelligent television for the information-obsessed and for visual voyeurs demanding the highest-quality video that is commercially available.

On Oct. 1, 2015, I started testing the new Amazon Fire TV, which goes on sale October 5th. I will later review the newer Google Chromecast but unlikely Apple’s device (because a review unit isn’t available and I wouldn’t buy one for personal use). There is nothing radically new about Fire TV. It’s more of the same only much better. Key benefit for some: 4K Ultra HD video support. Benefit for all: Enhanced voice-interaction capabilities that include Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant. Then there are iterative enhancements that improve overall benefits. 

Read More

Nexus 6 Returns

Contemplation turns to action. I had been looking for Nexus 6 to test Google’s Project Fi. My sister bought my phablet two months ago, when I got iPhone 6 Plus to test iOS 9, but N6 is the only device currently supported on the cellular service.

Last night, I oogled at Nexus 6 for $499.99 on Amazon, which already was a hefty discount. This AM, I rolled out of bed to see $349.99. Both prices are for the 32GB model. Double the memory and pay $399.99. Yesterday: $549.99. Surely the price and supply can’t last. That’s helluva good deal—and for both colors: Cloud White and Midnight Blue. What the hell. I ordered the bigger capacity dark one for free same-day delivery. 

Read More

I bought a Library on Prime Day

Well, July 15th is behind us and Amazon’s promise of deals bigger than Black Friday. If you were looking for Christmas in July, did you get it? I wasn’t that impressed with the selection of Lightning Deals and exclusives, but perhaps you were. Or not. My purchase, and call me crazy (some commenter usually does): I plunked down $143.86 for two years of Kindle Unlimited, saving 40 percent off the $9.99 for each of 24 months. The bookstore will become my personal library of sorts. There are many books I would read and reference for my professional writing but not necessarily buy.

Briefly, Amazon offered the 32GB Nexus 6 for $399 and Echo for $129—that’s $50 off. The smartphone sold out quick at that price but still remained available for $499 rest of the day. The other device built up a waitlist before finally being closed out. The 6-inch Kindle sold for $49, discounted from $79, and was still available as Midnight approached here on the West Coast (where I live; BetaNews offices are Eastern Time). 

Read More

Amazon Warehouse Makes Me Mad

Yesterday, I made the mistake of ordering Harman/Kardon Nova speakers from Amazon Warehouse, which advertised: “Used, Like New. Item will come in original packaging. Packaging may be damaged. All accessories are present and undamaged”. Present, yes. Undamaged, no.

A cord connects the two speakers together, but the pins on one end were badly out of alignment. I did try to straighten out the damn things but failed. I’m not sure success would have been better than what happened: Demanding a refund (that will take days); writing a stinging one-star review; and reboxing and returning the Nova. 

Read More

Amazon Brews Unexpected Coffee Deal

I best be watchful, for my wife is smarter than she pretends to be. If not, she’s the mother of all coincidence. Because by all appearances, the woman used the vendor online tracking everyone suspects to snake a great discount from Amazon. Maybe you can turn to advantage persistant invasion of your privacy.

Our story starts on Feb. 11, 2015, when following days of price comparisons she ordered a 12-pack of one pound Café Bustelo from the Internet retailer. Price: $52.90. As we consumed coffee, she returned to Amazon on March 17, when a shocker waited: Same item cost $69.31. Ah, yeah. That’s a 31 percent increase. But by apparently gaming the system, she later purchased for 19 percent less than previously paid. 

Read More

Which Streaming Stick? Chromecast, Fire TV, or Roku?

Mea culpa. I promised this comparison for Holiday 2014, and here it’s February next. The time between allowed for valuable cord-cutting experiment that will matter to some of you reading this review. The Wilcox household now streams Encore, HBO, Starz, and Showtime—via Cox Flex Watch—and the addition affects our choice of streaming stick; perhaps yours, too.

Google opened up the category with $35 Chromecast in July 2013, and the device gets better with age. Roku Streaming Stick, at $49.99, is priciest choice, while Amazon Fire TV Stick is the $39 in-betweener. Briefly, before deep diving, Chromecast is easiest to use and offers more commercial programming support. Roku delivers broadest streaming channel selection. Fire TV fits tightly into the broader Amazon Prime ecosystem, while offering satisfying, but incomplete, content options compared to either of the other devices.