Microsoft Closer to Consumer AR, Streaming Games Service

Magic Leap and Apple are the two technology companies currently at the forefront of augmented reality, but, behind the scenes, Microsoft has also been working on AR for years. It’s easy to discount Microsoft, since its HoloLens AR headset is squarely aimed at the enterprise sector. But the company also has its sights set on the consumer market. In addition, Microsoft has started to leak details about its upcoming Project xCloud cloud-based game streaming system. Project xCloud will enter beta testing this year. Continue reading Microsoft Closer to Consumer AR, Streaming Games Service

Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Four years after launching its program to allow outside developers to write apps for Alexa, Amazon’s voice system has some 80,000 “skills” — but no huge hit. In fact, most people with Alexa-enabled smart speakers still use them only to listen to music or make simple requests. That compares to Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, each of which are home to over 550,000 apps, many of which have been huge successes for developers. But voice-centric apps are challenging to build and don’t appear to attract consumers. Continue reading Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Elizabeth Warren Looks to Break Up Major Tech Companies

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) aims to be the Democratic Party’s candidate for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, but she just alienated Silicon Valley when she proposed to break up tech companies that generate more than $25 billion in online revenue. Her rationale is that companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google have become too big and too powerful, squashing small businesses and innovation, and more focused on their financial well-being than “the broader interests of the American people.” Continue reading Elizabeth Warren Looks to Break Up Major Tech Companies

France Slated to Impose Tax on Digital Companies’ Revenue

The French government introduced a three percent tax on the revenue of technology companies such as Google and Amazon that offer e-commerce or targeted advertising in France. Experts estimate that the tax could reap “billions of dollars” from Silicon Valley companies. The tax is also likely to come up as a topic of conversation in U.S. and European talks, convened by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), about corporate taxes in the digital age. Europe is pushing to tax Silicon Valley companies on profits made there. Continue reading France Slated to Impose Tax on Digital Companies’ Revenue

Tech Companies Appeal an Increase in Songwriter Royalties

Spotify, Google, Pandora and Amazon have joined forces to appeal a decision of the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) they believe “harms both music licensees and copyright owners.” In separate filings, the companies are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the decision regarding “recently issued … U.S. mechanical statutory rates” that they said “raises serious procedural and substantive concerns.” With the rule as it stands, songwriters would receive a 44 percent increase in payments. Proponents suggest the rule is necessary for songwriters in a digital age. Continue reading Tech Companies Appeal an Increase in Songwriter Royalties

Elizabeth Warren Introducing Plan to Break Up Tech Giants

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is proposing “a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google and Facebook,” according to The New York Times. “The proposal … calls for the appointment of regulators who would ‘unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition,’ as well as legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.” The plan would also call for the rollback of tech acquisitions, “including Facebook’s deals for WhatsApp and Instagram, Amazon’s addition of Whole Foods, and Google’s purchase of Waze.” Continue reading Elizabeth Warren Introducing Plan to Break Up Tech Giants

Amazon to Launch Another Grocery Store Brand in the U.S.

Amazon plans to open dozens of grocery stores — distinct from Whole Foods — starting with Los Angeles and then in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Washington DC, and Philadelphia among other cities, said sources. The L.A. store is expected to open as early as the end of 2019, with others scheduled for early 2020. The name of the stores hasn’t yet been disclosed. The move is part of Amazon’s more recent focus on physical retail, especially grocery stores. Now traditional grocers will have yet more competition from Amazon. Continue reading Amazon to Launch Another Grocery Store Brand in the U.S.

Amazon Says It Will Support But Stop Selling Dash Buttons

Amazon announced that it would stop selling its Dash buttons, small devices for the connected home that were designed to help consumers easily update orders of needed household items. Usefulness and interest in the Dash buttons has slowed, so the company has decided to halt global sales. However, Amazon explained that it plans to continue support for new orders through existing Dash buttons as long as consumers use them. The company claims that more options in the connected home helped to cause the device’s demise. Continue reading Amazon Says It Will Support But Stop Selling Dash Buttons

Amazon’s Project Zero Lets Brands Delist Counterfeit Goods

In the fight against counterfeiting, Amazon has introduced Project Zero, which allows brand owners to delete listings they deem to be fake. This is the first time that Amazon has shared responsibility for policing counterfeiting, reasoning that it is more efficient for brands than navigating the company’s reporting process. After testing Project Zero with 15 brands for several months, Amazon will begin to select and invite additional brands, with the goal of making it available to all brand owners at some unspecified future date. Continue reading Amazon’s Project Zero Lets Brands Delist Counterfeit Goods

FTC Targets Anti-Competitive Violations, Fake Amazon Posts

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will create a task force to take a broad look at potential antitrust violations in the tech industry, including re-examining already-approved mergers — possibly undoing deals deemed to have an anti-competitive impact today. At the same time, the FTC brought its first case against using fake ads to sell online products, settling with the New York City-based Cure Encapsulations and its owner for paying for fake ads about a weight loss product to be posted as Amazon reviews. Continue reading FTC Targets Anti-Competitive Violations, Fake Amazon Posts

Study Indicates Streaming Services Losing Revenue to Piracy

A study by CordCutting.com suggests that up to 20 percent of consumers are using another person’s account information to stream video from Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. “Netflix tends to be pirated for the longest period — 26 months, compared with 16 months for Amazon Prime Video or 11 months for Hulu,” reports TechCrunch. “That could be because Netflix freeloaders often mooch off their family instead of a friend — 48 percent use their parents’ login, while another 14 percent use their sister or brother’s credentials.” The reports estimates monthly revenue losses at $192 million for Netflix, $45 million for Amazon, and $40 million for Hulu. Continue reading Study Indicates Streaming Services Losing Revenue to Piracy

Advertisers to Spend More on Digital Than Traditional Media

New estimates from eMarketer indicate that advertisers in the U.S. will spend more on digital advertising through the likes of Facebook and Google in 2019 than traditional media such as television, radio and newspapers. Advertisers are expected to spend in excess of $129 billion on digital advertising this year as compared to the more than $109 billion they will spend on traditional advertising. The shift would mark the first time in history that digital advertising would comprise more than half of the U.S. ad market. Continue reading Advertisers to Spend More on Digital Than Traditional Media

Amazon Aims for Quality Not Quantity With 30 Films Per Year

Amazon hasn’t had a good year in the film business since 2017 when it moved away from its Hollywood distribution partners into self-distribution. Since then, the company released six flops in a row, including director Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel,” which cost $25 million and only earned $14 million in North America, and “Beautiful Boy,” which cost $23 million and made a mere $7.6 million. Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke surmised that the company put “too much focus on a narrow prestige lane.” Continue reading Amazon Aims for Quality Not Quantity With 30 Films Per Year

Diller and Spielberg on the Growing Dominance of Streaming

On Kara Swisher’s podcast Recode Decode, Barry Diller declared that Hollywood is “now irrelevant,” adding that those executives who used to hold a lot of power now have much less and that the six movie companies that once dominated everything no longer do. “For the first time, they ain’t buying anything,” he said. “Meaning they’re not buying Netflix. They are not buying Amazon.” Meanwhile, at the Cinema Audio Society Awards, Steven Spielberg declared his affinity for the movie theater experience. Continue reading Diller and Spielberg on the Growing Dominance of Streaming

Japan’s Recruit Aims to Compete With Top Global Websites

In Japan, Recruit Holdings, the center of a corporate scandal that ended with the ousting of the prime minister, is being put back together by a group of employees. Whereas the former Recruit was a magazine publisher and job-placement firm, the new version is an Internet behemoth that combines the capabilities of LinkedIn, Zillow, Yelp, eHarmony, Booking.com, Square and many other apps. Recruit chief executive Masumi Minegishi is betting the company has the experience and resources to dominate consumer spending by 2030. Continue reading Japan’s Recruit Aims to Compete With Top Global Websites

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