Amazon Unveils Devices for Gaming, Autos and Smart Home

Amazon announced new smart home devices during its fall hardware event last week, including an expanded Fire Stick collection, redesigned Echo speaker lineup, and Ring in-home drone. Amazon is also launching its Luna cloud gaming service, and introducing Car Cam and Car Alarm to Ring’s lineup. Alexa’s capabilities have expanded, from being able to read books to children to a new security feature, Guard Plus, that can detect sounds around a user’s house and trigger dog-barking to scare off intruders. In times of COVID-19, said Amazon head of devices and services Dave Limp, “our homes have become our offices, our classrooms, movie theaters and more.” Continue reading Amazon Unveils Devices for Gaming, Autos and Smart Home

Walmart Propels Its Digital Future With Walmart+ and TikTok

With its new deal to invest in TikTok (with Oracle), Walmart is taking big steps to create a transformative digital-centric future and a company that can successfully compete with its closest rival, Amazon. One analyst predicted the TikTok deal could “redefine retail” and Cowen retail analyst Oliver Chen called it a “bigger-picture opportunity.” Although it’s not yet clear what Walmart will do with TikTok, it now has another way to engage with consumers not actively shopping online, perhaps gathering data or serving ads. Continue reading Walmart Propels Its Digital Future With Walmart+ and TikTok

Amazon Music Offers Free Podcasts, Develops New Programs

Amazon Music now offers 70,000+ free podcasts and is also developing new podcast programming, making it the latest streaming music service to dive into the genre. Although the field is dominated by Apple Podcasts and Spotify, Amazon executives believe its offering will be competitive because it will be able to bring in new podcast listeners, especially via its Echo home speakers. Amazon’s free podcasts are available for all of its Music tiers and debuted first in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. Continue reading Amazon Music Offers Free Podcasts, Develops New Programs

Amazon’s Small Hub Plan Threatens UPS, U.S. Postal Service

As the holiday season looms, Amazon plans to launch 1,000 small delivery hubs throughout the U.S., according to sources. With COVID-19, online orders soared, and Amazon was not capable of meeting its two-day delivery pledge. The company hired 175,000 new workers, which has helped clear the delivery pipeline, but wants to ensure that Amazon Prime subscribers can get as many products as possible on the same day. Its rivals Walmart and Target are able to speed deliveries due to their thousands of well-located stores. Continue reading Amazon’s Small Hub Plan Threatens UPS, U.S. Postal Service

CBS All Access Will Be Rebranded Paramount+ Early in 2021

ViacomCBS plans to roll out Paramount+, a new version of its flagship streamer CBS All Access, that will take advantage of a larger program catalog created by last year’s merger of CBS and Viacom. Among the original shows exclusive to Paramount+ are “Lioness” from “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan and “The Offer,” a scripted series about the making of “The Godfather” saga. CBS All Access costs $5.99 per month with ads and $9.99 per month without them, but ViacomCBS didn’t release pricing for Paramount+. Continue reading CBS All Access Will Be Rebranded Paramount+ Early in 2021

Walmart to Roll Out Subscription Service With Free Shipping

On September 15, Walmart will debut its anticipated Walmart+ subscription service. At $98 per year, the new offering is intended to compete with Amazon Prime, priced at $119 per year. Walmart+ requires an order of at least $35 for free shipping directly from stores to customers’ homes. It offers 160,000 items, including produce and groceries, and subscribers will also get a 5-cent-per-gallon discount at its affiliated gas stations. Walmart hopes its many stores’ proximity to customers will mean delivery of fresher food than its rivals.

Continue reading Walmart to Roll Out Subscription Service With Free Shipping

ByteDance Considers Two Competing Offers for TikTok U.S.

ByteDance is expected to soon make a deal to sell TikTok’s U.S. operations to one of two groups of suitors: Microsoft, now teamed up with Walmart, or Oracle, potentially supported by a coalition of investors. According to sources, discussions are still “fluid.” Walmart entering the fray has changed the calculus; its background in digital sales could push TikTok to evolve to a platform with e-commerce integration. A sale to Oracle, however, might focus more on TikTok’s data to buttress its own advertising, cloud and data businesses. Continue reading ByteDance Considers Two Competing Offers for TikTok U.S.

Amazon Rebrands Twitch Prime in Shift to Gaming Strategy

Amazon debuted Prime Gaming this week, a rebranding of its first foray into the video game industry, Twitch Prime, which offers exclusive game content and free subscriptions to Twitch, the live-streaming site. There, users could enjoy free games from small studios, discounts for bigger titles like “Grand Theft Auto” and in-game gear. Prime Gaming will include those features and offer more titles and exclusive content, accessible without a Twitch account. Meanwhile, a group of artists has demanded that Amazon pay to license music streaming on Twitch. Continue reading Amazon Rebrands Twitch Prime in Shift to Gaming Strategy

Walmart Subscription Service Aims to Take on Amazon Prime

Later this month Walmart plans to unveil Walmart+, a subscription service intended to compete with Amazon Prime. Walmart+ will cost $98 per year and, according to sources, will offer same-day delivery of groceries and “general merchandise” as well as early access to product deals and discounts at Walmart gas stations. The company originally planned to unveil Walmart+ in late March or April but pushed the date to July due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s still not clear if Walmart will introduce the service regionally or nationally. Continue reading Walmart Subscription Service Aims to Take on Amazon Prime

Hulu Launches Watch Party Feature to Enable Social Viewing

Hulu is the first major streaming platform to launch a built-in Watch Party feature that allows its subscribers to watch a show in a group chat room. During COVID-19 shutdowns, watch parties have become increasingly popular, although most are enabled by third-party apps and services rather than built-in social viewing features. The Hulu Watch Party feature is now available to web users who subscribe to the platform’s ad-free plan. Plex also launched a Watch Together feature that works with the user’s own media and the company’s on-demand content. Continue reading Hulu Launches Watch Party Feature to Enable Social Viewing

Amazon: Rising Revenue and Technical Operation Challenges

With the coronavirus pandemic spurring online buying, Amazon saw its revenue for the quarter ending March rise 26 percent from a year earlier to $75.5 billion — the highest ever reached for what is ordinarily Amazon’s slowest quarter. According to FactSet, profit fell 29 percent from a year earlier to $2.5 billion, disappointing analysts’ average estimate of $3.26 billion. Amazon hired 175,000 new warehouse and delivery employees, and chief executive Jeff Bezos told investors this is “the hardest time” the company has faced. Continue reading Amazon: Rising Revenue and Technical Operation Challenges

Amazon Scales Up to Address Demand During the Pandemic

After prioritizing essential products, such as cleaning and healthcare items, Amazon is again allowing third-party sellers to ship non-essential products. Its refusal to accept shipments of such products frustrated its third-party sellers that form 58 percent of Amazon’s overall sales. Amazon, which will limit quantities of non-essential products, is hiring 75,000 more employees to keep up with demand. The company also asked new Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market delivery/pickup customers to join a waitlist. Continue reading Amazon Scales Up to Address Demand During the Pandemic

Google Offers Free Access to Stadia, Limited Pro Tier Games

Google is offering free gaming on Stadia, which ordinarily costs $130 for a game controller, Chromecast streaming device and game access, opening access to millions of people in 14 countries. With most people now confined to their homes, gaming has shot up, and even the World Health Organization has gotten into it, supporting a game industry initiative dubbed #PlayApartTogether. By making Stadia free, Google may also gain ground in cloud gaming against its competitors Amazon, Microsoft and Nvidia. Continue reading Google Offers Free Access to Stadia, Limited Pro Tier Games

Amazon Struggles to Adapt to Many Challenges of Pandemic

During the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon and its chief executive Jeff Bezos are weathering volatile times. Amazon is suffering shortages of goods, delays in shipping, an employee sick-out at Whole Foods Markets, and a walkout at a fulfillment center, which led to the firing of the strike leader. Amazon’s removal of counterfeit/price gouging products also means a shortage in face masks and sanitizers. At the same time, Amazon’s cloud-services company Amazon Web Services is booming, as home-bound customers stream content on Amazon Prime. Continue reading Amazon Struggles to Adapt to Many Challenges of Pandemic

Europe Attempts to Ease Strain From Increased Internet Traffic

European carriers such as Vodafone are experiencing a spike in data traffic due to increased usage by home-bound consumers. The European Commission, which has net neutrality regulations in place, warned the telcos to avoid blocking, slowing down or prioritizing traffic as they attempt to avoid gridlock. At the same time, the Commission is concerned that crucial services including healthcare and online learning might be impeded. Netflix, Disney+, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Amazon Prime are among the companies cooperating with the European Union to curtail bandwidth usage for the time being. Continue reading Europe Attempts to Ease Strain From Increased Internet Traffic

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