Cloud Battle Begins: Should Amazon take Lessons from Apple iCloud?

  • In order for Amazon to stay competitive in the cloud computing market, its S3 (Simple Storage Service) and EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing) could take some notes from Apple’s iCloud (launching October 12).
  • Seamless integration “provides iCloud with huge scale advantages over Amazon,” suggests Forbes, by wirelessly storing content from iPhones, iPads, the iPod touch, Macs or PCs and automatically pushing content to all devices.
  • “Consumer-centricity” makes cloud-computing user-friendly with targeted features like iTunes Match. “This feature prevents the need to painstakingly upload music into the cloud as iTunes Match itself creates a library matching the user’s existing playlist.”
  • And pricing. “While the iCloud provides free 5GB-worth of storage for documents, mail, and back-up for iOS 5 users, Amazon’s S3 service charges users for even the first gigabyte of storage space.”
  • The article points that little is yet known about Amazon’s other competitor, Google’s GDrive.

Amazon Hopes its Appstore will Stand Apart from Android

  • With its Kindle Fire, Amazon hopes to distinguish its Appstore from Google’s Android, even though the tablet’s OS is based on the 2.x version of Android.
  • “It seems that Amazon really wants to make sure that the Fire is a more curated and cohesive experience than most Android tablets,” suggests The Next Web, as is evident in the guidelines for submitting Kindle Fire applications. However, the post points out: “They’re not locking everything down though, as installation of ‘non-Appstore’ apps will be permitted without rooting.”
  • Interestingly, Amazon’s Appstore doesn’t support in-app purchasing. “Because Google’s in-app purchasing technology requires access to Google Mobile Services,” says Amazon, “it will not work on Kindle Fire. We are working on a solution that will let you sell digital content in your apps using Amazon’s merchandising and payments technology. Our solution is currently in Beta and available by invitation only.”

Are Popular Online Brands Leading to the Rise of Digital Monopolies?

  • France recently banned TV and radio show hosts from naming Facebook, Twitter, or other specific sites unless directly referencing a news story involving the companies. The regulation was created to reduce bias for the popular social networks over other striving, lesser known sites.
  • Apple’s iTunes has benefitted from the phrase “Now available on iTunes” commonly tacked onto advertisements where it was previously customary to simply say “Now available in all good music stores” — which could today be updated to say “online music stores” in order to include other music providers.
  • Additionally, the phrase “Now available on Amazon.com” has become standard for book promotions, which basically provides free advertisement for the site while ignoring other providers.
  • Similarly, “Follow us on Twitter” and “Like us on Facebook” have dominated commerce. “Social networks only work when people use the same ones. In other words, they naturally lend themselves to being monopolized,” suggests The Next Web.
  • Some brand names have now become part of everyday language. Google, for example, has grown so popular that it is commonly used as a verb when describing the act of searching online. TiVo is also regularly used as verb, and sometimes replaces “DVR” in conversation.
  • The article casts doubt on the actual effects regulation would have on social media monopolies: “…users will typically go where all the action is taking place.”
  • “The Internet isn’t a monopoly though. It’s an oligopoly consisting of multiple monopolies from different digital industries, and the reason this is happening really isn’t all that complicated,” adds The Next Web. “Success breeds success, something which underpins most monopolies, whether we’re talking about dominant languages, biological species or, indeed, Internet technology companies. Hegemony stems from success, and it’s certainly not unique to the Internet age.”

Evaluation Suggests Netflix is the Best Streaming Option for Now

  • A comprehensive comparison between Netflix and other streaming services shows that, even after the recent criticism regarding the split of its businesses, “Netflix is still the champ, but only if you count both its the streaming and DVD mailing services.”
  • In his evaluation of current offerings, David Strom of ReadWriteWeb examined services such as Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Vudu.com and Justin.tv.
  • “Overall, once you leave Netflix you will find fewer choices and searching won’t be as easy to find something to watch,” he writes. “Netflix has a great search engine that won’t just look for movie titles but also check for actors and other principals involved in the movie itself, something the other services don’t do as well at.”
  • Another upside to Netflix is the ability to use devices such as the iPad or TiVo box to stream movies. While of the services enable streaming to your Windows or Mac Web browser, they’re not all compatible with other devices.
  • “So while you might be upset about paying for two bills for your video rentals from Netflix, unless you are willing to spend more time searching for content, you are probably better off sticking with the service for the time being, at least until the others catch up with their content licenses,” Strom concludes. “Or if you already have a cable TV subscription, investigate whether it offers something similar to Comcast’s Xfinity and see what their coverage is there. Ironically, that might be your best alternative to Netflix after all.”

Will the Kindle Fire Help Amazon Take on Netflix? Content Will Decide

  • Amazon’s launch of the Kindle Fire tablet may have an impact on Netflix, since the new tablet will make it easier for users to watch streaming video content via Amazon.
  • “With its $199 price point the tablet could sell like crazy this Christmas,” reports Forbes. “Users will be encouraged to buy Amazon Prime in order to speed their Amazon purchases and Prime just happens to come complete with Amazon’s streaming video service.”
  • The decision for consumers between Amazon Prime and Netflix will likely be based on pricing and variety of content offerings.
  • Amazon Prime beats Netflix on price, set at $80 a year ($6.67 per month), while Netflix streaming costs $8 a month.
  • Netflix, however, has more variety of content with 51,000 titles currently available for streaming, compared to Amazon’s 11,000.
  • Amazon may soon be able to compete in this regard with added content from Fox and CBS deals. Netflix has similar deals with Fox and CBS and a new DreamWorks Animation deal, but it will lose movies from Sony and Disney with the loss of Starz.
  • Both companies may press Hollywood to license more content for streaming, but continuing to pay more for films could potentially break Netflix, while Amazon has other sources of revenue to cover costs.

Editorial on Kindle Fire and Silk: Forget iPad Killer, Amazon is Targeting Google

  • Chris Espinosa, a longtime Apple employee, gives his impression of Amazon’s Silk and Kindle Fire announcements.
  • “Amazon will capture and control every Web transaction performed by Fire users. Every page they see, every link they follow, every click they make, every ad they see is going to be intermediated by one of the largest server farms on the planet,” Espinosa writes in his blog. “People who cringe at the data-mining implications of the Facebook Timeline ought to be just floored by the magnitude of Amazon’s opportunity here.”
  • “Amazon now has what every storefront lusts for: the knowledge of what other stores your customers are shopping in and what prices they’re being offered there. What’s more, Amazon is getting this not by expensive, proactive scraping the Web, like Google has to do; they’re getting it passively by offering a simple caching service, and letting Fire users do the hard work of crawling the Web,” he adds. “In essence the Fire user base is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, scraping the Web for free and providing Amazon with the most valuable cache of user behavior in existence.”
  • “They use a back-revved version of Android, not Honeycomb; they don’t use Google’s Web browser; they can intermediate user click-through on Google search results so Google doesn’t see the actual user behavior. Google’s whole play of promoting Android in order to aggregate user behavior patterns to sell to advertisers is completely subverted by Amazon’s intermediation. Fire isn’t a noun, it’s a verb, and it’s what Amazon has done in the targeted direction of Google. This is the first shot in the new war for replacing the Internet with a privatized merchant data-aggregation network.”

Are There Implications to Consider Regarding the Silk Web Browser?

  • As part of its New York press event yesterday that unveiled the Kindle Fire tablet and three new Kindle e-readers, Amazon announced Silk, a new Web browser powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and available exclusively on its new tablet.
  • Amazon Silk is an important part of the Kindle Fire pitch, and as a “split browser” exclusive to the tablet it “gets the heavy lifting done on its EC2 cloud servers and promises faster access as a result,” reports Engadget. “Dubbed Silk to represent an ‘invisible, yet incredibly strong connection,’ it takes advantage of Amazon’s existing speedy connections, and that so many sites are already hosted on its servers to speed up Web access.”
  • Amazon’s cloud-accelerated browser may have some technical implications. First, Amazon may release a Silk desktop browser. It’s reliance on Amazon’s EC2 infrastructure may cut off access to the Web for customers during outages. That said, if Amazon succeeds, it may push other browser developer such as Google, Apple and Microsoft to follow. Mozilla may have a difficult time doing the same.
  • From a privacy perspective, Amazon talks about learning from “aggregate traffic patterns,” but in reality each Kindle has its own Amazon ID. Thus, Amazon will be able to track your personal Web habits, buying patterns and media preferences in detail.
  • “Until the Kindle Fire ships, there are more questions than answers,” suggests ReadWriteWeb. “I’m eager to get hands on a Fire so I can test out Silk and see for myself how it works. I’m not yet concerned about the privacy issues, but I do think they bear watching. What do you think? Is the Silk model something you’re excited about, or is Amazon a middle-man you’d rather do without when browsing the Web?”

Kindle Fire: Amazon Jumps into the Tablet Fray with iPad Competitor

  • Amazon has unveiled the Kindle Fire — a 7-inch touch-screen, color, and Wi-Fi tablet with dual-core processor that will sell for $199. The new tablet was announced by chief exec Jeff Bezos at a press event yesterday in New York City.
  • The Android-based device will offer access to Amazon’s app store, books, streaming movies and TV shows. Moreover, the expectation is that it will increase sales for Amazon’s other merchandise. Fire is available for pre-ordering and will be available November 15.
  • “The online retailer is gambling it can succeed with its tablet where several other giants, including Hewlett-Packard Co. and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd., have so far failed,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Unlike those companies, Amazon already has a vast library of digital content to sell and tens of millions of credit-card numbers.”
  • The article suggests that the Kindle Fire may have an advantage over other tablets that have attempted to take on the iPad: “Amazon’s library of digital content, which its tablet users can access. Customers can pay $79 a year for a service known as Amazon Prime, which gives them access to 11,000 movies and TV shows, as well as unlimited two-day shipping for physical goods purchased on Amazon.com. Amazon also sells single movies, TV shows and music songs, with a catalog that competes with that of Apple’s iTunes store.”
  • Amazon also introduced three new Kindle e-readers — a touch-screen 3G version for $149, a touch-screen Wi-Fi version for $99, and a non-touch-screen model for $79.

Amazon to Unveil the Kindle Fire Today: First Real Competitor to the iPad?

  • Amazon is expected to announce its long-awaited Android tablet this morning at a press event in New York City.
  • The 7-inch backlit Kindle Fire is expected to launch by the second week of November, just in time for the holidays. “The iPad has many challengers, but analysts say Amazon’s could be different — it has a chance to be more than a wannabe,” reports The New York Times.
  • Amazon built its own custom version of Android, has included a streaming video service, and will feature the Amazon MP3 service and the Kindle bookstore.
  • In related news from The Hollywood Reporter, major magazine publishers — including Hearst, Conde Nast and Meredith — have signed deals to sell digital versions of their publications. One big holdout is Time Inc., but it’s being reported that a deal could be reached “hopefully by the end of the year.”
  • One publisher with an Amazon deal said: “You’ve got beauty and design with Apple, which we love. But with Amazon you have marketing, and ease of use. We’re very optimistic.”
  • Amazon’s terms seem to be similar to those offered by Apple. Publishers get 70 percent of Amazon sales while the retailer shares customer information with the publisher. But, the report notes that those numbers could fluctuate depending on the title and customer offer.
  • We’ll have more on this story following the press event…

Dish Network Launches Blockbuster Movie Pass: Bad Timing for Netflix?

  • Dish Networks has announced its Blockbuster Movie Pass service that will offer streaming video; DVDs, Blu-ray discs and games by mail; and a satellite subscription service with on-demand movie channels.
  • Launching October 1, the service will initially be available to Dish subscribers and offered to others at a later date.
  • Movie Pass will include more than 100,000 movies and TV shows by mail, 5,000 streamed movies to TV and 10,000 to computer, and 3,000 games by mail. Users will have access to 20 premium Dish movie channels and the ability to exchange discs in-store at Blockbuster locations.
  • Current Dish Network subscribers will pay $10 per month for the service, while new Dish subscribers will have an opportunity for a free introductory year.
  • While the streaming capacity of the Blockbuster Movie Pass is not yet that of Netflix or Amazon, users will have access to movie offerings through Dish movie channels about a month earlier than other services. Also, Movie Pass touts “one company, one bill and one connection,” something that Netflix no longer has after splitting its streaming and mail-in services.

Amazon Kindle Lending Program Adds New Dimension to Public Libraries

  • Amazon announced this week that it has launched a new lending library initiative, allowing Kindle users to “check out” e-books from registered library websites.
  • Users will be able to rent books on their Kindle from more than 11,000 participating public libraries across the country.
  • Readers will also be encouraged to take notes on the e-books they check out: “Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re fixing this by extending our Whispersync technology to library books, so your notes, highlights and bookmarks are always backed up and available the next time you check out the book or if you decide to buy the book,” said Amazon in a statement.
  • The books are available on Kindle devices or through the Kindle app for Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone.

Amazon Elastic Cloud Tech: Stretching the Boundaries of Cloud Computing

  • Cycle Computing demonstrated the potential power of cloud computing by building a 30,000-core cluster running CentOS Linux for molecular modeling using Amazon’s Elastic Cloud 2 (EC2).
  • The cluster, created for an unnamed “Top 5 Pharma” customer, ran about seven hours at a peak cost of $1,279 per hour (including fees to Amazon and Cycle Computing) and performed approximately 10.9 “compute years of work.”
  • “Amazon EC2 and other cloud services are expanding the market for high-performance computing,” reports Ars Technica. “Without access to a national lab or a supercomputer in your own data center, cloud computing lets businesses spin up temporary clusters at will and stop paying for them as soon as the computing needs are met.”
  • The statistics are rather impressive; highlights include 30,472 cores, 26.7TB of RAM and 2PB (petabytes) of disk space. The cluster — dubbed “Nekomata” — ran across data centers in three Amazon regions in the United States and Europe.
  • It is unknown whether or not Nekomata is the largest cluster run on EC2 to date. “I can’t share specific customer details, but can tell you that we do have businesses of all sizes running large-scale, high-performance computing workloads on AWS [Amazon Web Services], including distributed clusters like the Cycle Computing 30,000 core cluster to tightly-coupled clusters often used for science and engineering applications such as computational fluid dynamics and molecular dynamics simulation,” indicated an Amazon spokesperson.

Has Amazon Become the Most Disruptive Company in Media?

  • Amazon has become “the most disruptive company in the media and technology industries,” suggests Wired.
  • Amazon’s rumored tablet has the potential to be the perfect machine to sell both digital goods delivered immediately or physical goods delivered in two days.
  • “Why not make an independent movie or television show and release it through Amazon?” asks the article. “Once the video is hosted on Amazon’s servers, it’s available for immediate digital download or streaming through Prime to desktops, tablets or set-top boxes. Both streaming and downloads promise a revenue share for content creators. Customers could buy a Blu-ray or DVD that Amazon burns and ships on demand — no storage, no overhead.”
  • While some of the content may not prove to be top quality, some of it could be the next Funny Or Die or Channel 101 while dramatically impacting distribution: “The breadth and independence of buying choices could easily differentiate Amazon from traditional studios — or even for those studios themselves, from competing services like Netflix.”
  • Amazon may also offer its forked Android-based OS as a platform to hardware partners providing a new platform with its own code, app and media stores, cloud services and revamped UI.
  • “In a year from now,” writes Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, “we could see a range of ‘Amazon tablets’ made by different hardware manufacturers.”

Will the Rise of Electronic Books Destroy Writing as a Profession?

  • During his bleak forecast of the publishing industry at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, novelist Ewan Morrison suggested the rise of the e-book will mean the end of writers as a profession, as piracy and a demand for steep discounts take over the book industry as it has with music, newspapers, games, porn, photography, telecommunications and home video.
  • Publishers will no longer be able to provide advances to enable writers to make a decent living and writers will increasingly depend on the “long tail” which cannot support them. Morrison adds that only established writers will prosper.
  • In 10 to 15 years, he believes the largest “publishers” will be Google, Amazon and Apple.
  • “The writer will become an entrepreneur with a short shelf life, in a world without publishers or even shelves,” predicts Morrison.

Will Dissolution of the Netflix-Starz Relationship Impact Video Biz?

  • Netflix walked away from another deal with Starz after that company insisted on a tiered-pricing model similar to what they would get with a cable channel. Netflix did not want to tamper with the simplicity of its monthly fee model.
  • Netflix had reportedly offered Starz more than $300 million per year to renew their agreement.
  • With the demise of the Starz deal, Netflix customers may feel that they are paying more and getting less. Still, Netflix counters that their Starz content accounts for only 5-6 percent of domestic viewing.
  • Netflix will be challenged by competitors like Hulu, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft XBox Live. Moreover, cable companies are increasingly offering similar access to video through TV Anywhere services.
  • Starz may either sell its content to a Netflix competitor or try and create its own streaming brand like HBO.

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