Tag Archive | amazon

Yet Another Way to Get a Super-Cheap Web TV Box

now tv

What’s that? You say you’re intrigued by the notion of a Web TV box, but $35 for a Google Chromecast is too rich for your blood?

Here you go – if you live in the U.K.: Satellite TV service BSkyB has rolled out a Web TV box for 9.99.

That works out to about $15, and what that gets you is essentially a rebranded Roku HD box – BSkyB invested in Roku last year, and once again this spring – tailored to support BSkyB’s Now TV streaming subscription service. That also means that the box won’t support BSkyB rivals Netflix and Amazon/Lovefilm.

You can see more specs and details here, but the big picture is that this shows yet another approach to distributing Web-to-TV hardware: Rather than have consumers buy the gadgets directly from the manufacturer, a programmer/distributor sells the box and subsidizes the cost.

Expect to see more of this in the future. For starters, note that Roku’s other investors include 21st Century Fox, Dish Network and Hearst, which owns both TV stations and stakes in TV networks including ESPN.

Meanwhile, Apple is in talks with Time Warner Cable about an Apple TV tie-up; for now, that deal doesn’t call for the cable operator to sell Apple’s boxes, but you could certainly imagine a pact where it does.

And remember that Amazon, which tried to buy Roku last year, has its own TV box in the works, which will be optimized for Amazon’s own video offerings.

Why Wall Street Should Care About Marketing Data


Image copyright leungchopan

Today’s CMOs are making major investments to reach their target audiences across dozens of touchpoints – on their own websites, through search, display advertising and email, and increasingly on social channels and mobile devices.

The problem is, most of the technology platforms marketers are using to accomplish this don’t talk to each other.

What’s more, many of the groups within the organization running these programs are just as siloed. This means that the things marketers learn about customers in one channel often don’t translate into sound strategy decisions for other channels.

I’ll give you an example. Today, if someone clicks on a display ad, reaches a landing page and fills out a form, the CRM or marketing automation system can capture that lead and track that it came from display advertising. What marketers can’t yet do is take advantage of the information exchange in the opposite direction. What if they could use the rich information stored in the CRM system – such as how far along a prospect is in the sales pipeline – to make the display ad creative and messaging more relevant?

Marketing executives know they need to get their systems and people to talk to each other. In fact, a new study by Accenture Interactive, “Turbulence for the CMO,” reveals that 70 percent of top CMOs think they have five years to fundamentally overhaul their companies’ corporate marketing operating model to achieve competitive success. Big marketing technology companies know this too, and it is why companies like Salesforce, Oracle and Google are duking it out to own the customer data and CRM system. They want to be at the center of the value created by unlocking this marketing data and getting at an integrated view of a prospect or customer.

Think about how powerful it would be to serve up personalized Web content based on the ads someone has previously been exposed to, events they’ve attended, or when they’ve most recently engaged with a sales rep, or, to easily target email or display ads to just those people who engaged with a social campaign.

One company in particular has built a business around this very concept: Amazon. Amazon.com might very well be the most sophisticated marketer on the planet today, and if you spend a few minutes on their site looking at products, you’ll notice that the follow-up emails you get, the next experience you have on the site and even the display ads you see will all be synched to your product searches and prior browsing history – all to help you convert. Amazon is far ahead of the pack, with very few keeping pace today.

As companies get better at integrating their marketing systems to more fully understand the customer journey – from first exposure to the brand to the last program that drove the sale, and every touchpoint in between – every marketing dollar spent becomes extremely efficient.

And it’s a lot of dollars at stake. According to research by Outsell, B2B marketers alone will increase their advertising and marketing digital spend by almost 11 percent to $65.9B in 2013. Imagine the bottom-line impact when the performance of these investments improves by five percent or 10 percent – just by having the left hand talk to the right.

As companies use data to optimize their digital tactics – whether it’s through better targeting, reaching people where they are consuming media or tying together all the pieces of the marketing funnel – they’ll inevitably achieve a step-function in efficiency in terms of deploying marketing spend for impact. They can then cycle the additional revenue back into marketing, or R&D, or more salespeople.

And this is where Wall Street comes in. Wall Street should care about marketing data because companies that do the best job of tying together and leveraging marketing data will ultimately win and create outsized shareholder value.

So how can you tell if a company has a data-savvy CMO? Look for clear evidence of marketing integration.

It’s actually pretty amazing how many large companies have yet to integrate their marketing tactics. Investors should be looking to see, for example, if a company has a Super Bowl TV spot that they’re also using search ads and display ads to reinforce the Super Bowl message. The company should also be previewing the ad online to test customer response and drive viral awareness before the TV ad ever launches. Companies that only have a single spot and don’t back it up (and there are lots of them!) aren’t communicating effectively across the organization nor are they maximizing returns on invested capital. This is likely a good indicator that other programs are not well integrated either.

Another great way to test for marketing integration is simply the relevance of the ads you’re seeing. If they are relevant, and improving over time, the company is likely making the right investments in marketing technology to be ready for the next 10 years of growth. If you still get the same untargeted direct mail piece that you throw away every week, there’s cause to be concerned.

There are a lot of reasons to be bullish about the economy and the stock market over the next five to 10 years. Look no further than the innovation beginning to hit the CMO’s office to help decide if you agree, and if so, how to find leaders to invest in.

Russell Glass, CEO of Bizo, is a serial technology entrepreneur, having founded or held senior positions at four venture-backed technology companies. Prior to Bizo, Russ led the marketing and product management teams at ZoomInfo, a business information search engine, where he sharpened his B2B marketing skill set and developed his love for business data.

Amazon Cloud Drive Photos App Expands To Support Video Upload & Playback On Android


Amazon Cloud Drive Photos, the photo-uploading utility that helps move photos from a mobile device into Amazon’s online storage, may have to change its name. Now, the tool doesn’t just support photo uploads, it supports videos, as well. Videos can be manually uploaded one by one, or users can opt to have videos auto-save from their devices directly into Amazon’s cloud.

This automatic upload option was already available for photos through an update out at the beginning of the year, but videos within Cloud Drive Photos had not yet been supported, whether manually or through the auto-upload feature within the application.

Amazon says that videos are restricted to 2 GB in size or 20 minutes in length, whether they’re being uploaded or downloaded from the Cloud Drive service – that’s slightly longer than YouTube’s default setting ahead of account verification. This is fine for the majority of users’ personal videos, of activities, pets, kids or events, for example, recorded on their mobile devices.

After the files are in Amazon’s cloud, the video can be played back to any device, including, of course, the Kindle Fire and other Android tablets. According to a post on Amazon’s Web Services blog about the technical underpinnings to the new feature, Amazon’s Elastic Transcoder service was used, which supports over 20 file formats and 40 video codecs. The team says its goal was to have videos transcoded within 15 minutes after uploading, but ended up achieving videos that are often ready within a minute or two. They also went ahead and processed all the videos stored in Amazon users’ Cloud Drive libraries ahead of launch.

Though the company offers a version of its Amazon Cloud Drive Photos app on iOS devices, too, only the Android version has received the video support at this time. That makes sense because not only is the Kindle and Android-based tablet, and therefore Amazon’s priority, the Android app was also the first to launch, back in November 2012.

The iOS version didn’t arrive until this May, and it serves as a viable alternative to Apple’s own iCloud sync and storage service, with reasonable pricing of 5 GB for free, then $10/year for 20 GB, $25/year for 50 GB and so on, all the way up to 1,000 GB for $500/year. Keep in mind that the storage goes up so high not because users need so much space for photos (and now videos, too), but because Amazon Cloud Drive is meant to serve as a competitor to Google Drive or Dropbox, with support for a variety of file types, including office documents and music, which can also be streamed back through Amazon Cloud Player.

In other words, this isn’t the first time users could upload videos to Amazon’s cloud. This is just making it possible to do so within the Cloud Drive Photos application.

The updated Cloud Drive app is available now on Google Play and Amazon’s Appstore.

When is it Time to Upgrade Your Mobile Tech?

iPad 2 vs iPad Air

I have an iPad 2. I don’t use it very much, but it’s there for me whenever a new game comes out … or whenever my Macbook is just out of reach.

The iPad 2 came out on March 11, 2011. In the grand scheme of things (and I’m not talking about the “cosmic calendar” from “Cosmos”), three years is nothing. But when it comes to consumer tech, my iPad is ANCIENT. If you count the two iPad mini models, five new iPads have launched since my iPad 2 first hit store shelves. Five! In three years!

Every time I look at my iPad, I think about how I want a new one. The new models are lighter, thinner and faster, and all have better screens. I haven’t upgraded from iOS 6 to 7 because I’ve heard it doesn’t play well on the iPad 2. But I’m not going to upgrade my iPad, because I don’t use it enough and it still works fine.

But that got me wondering: When is the right time to upgrade your mobile tech?

I like to buy a really good (but not usually top-tier) piece of tech, then run it into the ground before I upgrade. If you’re the type of person who needs to have the latest-and-greatest everything, this advice doesn’t really apply to you. But if you’re like the rest of us, and you just want to know when to pony up for a new gadget, read on.



Let’s start with tablets, since that’s what got me into this whole mess.

iPad: For new iPads, Apple usually tosses in a slightly more powerful processor and makes the device a little thinner. Sure, there are bigger changes from time to time – like adding a Retina display – but those are more uncommon than you might think. Plus, iPads are incredibly expensive (relative to most other tablets), so upgrading is more of a financial commitment here than in other instances.

  • Liberal Verdict: Every other generation. Got an iPad 2? Get a 4th-gen, then, too.
  • Conservative Verdict: Every three or four generations, or when a bunch of apps no longer support your device.

Android Tablets: To be honest, I’m not too familiar with the Android tablet landscape. I know it’s dominated by the Nexus 7, but that’s a relative newcomer to the field, and it’s hard to gauge just how much innovation Google’s going to throw at that line each upgrade. Android tablets are relatively inexpensive (especially when compared to an iPad), so upgrading is less of an investment, but there aren’t too many massive upgrades from one generation to the next, so upgrading isn’t a necessity.

  • Liberal Verdict: Every generation.
  • Conservative Verdict: When your device isn’t eligible for the newest major Android OS.

Kindle Fire Tablets: Like the Nexus line, the Kindle Fires are also relative newcomers to the tech scene. But Amazon has impressed me with how much it has added to each release. When you compare it to the latest Kindle Fire, the first-gen Fire I bought in the fall of 2011 is like a weird second-cousin that you avoid at family gatherings. Amazon’s added a ton of new software features – like FreeTime and Mayday – and has also launched tablets with bigger screens, which is an (obvious) big difference. At some point, though, Amazon will slow down its massive updates; until then, new Fire tablets seem like a reasonable investment.

  • Liberal Verdict: Every generation.
  • Conservative Verdict: When your toddler drops it one-too-many times and it doesn’t work anymore.



I think it’s a big lie that you need to upgrade your phone every two years. Just because your carrier gives you a big time discount to get a new device doesn’t mean you need to take them up on their offer. They’re only giving you that discount to lock you into another two-year deal; if you don’t upgrade (or buy your phone outright), you can opt out at any point with no penalty.

Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile all recently introduced plans that let you upgrade your phone whenever the wind changes. But that program isn’t for us – that’s for the tech elite.

iPhones are like iPads – rarely does one generation to the next do much to wow me. The iPhone 6 will have a bigger screen, which is (arguably) the best improvement since Siri was added back with the 4S. But is it enough for me to upgrade just a year after I got my iPhone 5? Probably not.

Android devices can become obsolete much more quickly, especially if the manufacturer doesn’t get the latest version of Android to your device. Buying a Nexus will negate this problem, as will buying the top-tier devices, like the Galaxy S4 or HTC One M8. But if you’re buying mid-range, you might run into issues – and you’ll want to upgrade more quickly.

  • Liberal Verdict: As soon as you’re eligible for an upgrade.
  • Conservative Verdict: When your device won’t get the latest OS update, or when you drop it so many times that you can no longer read the screen.

Amazon Mines Its Data Trove to Bet on TV’s Next Hit

In May, a dozen Amazon.com Inc. executives, including Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, gathered in a Seattle conference room to select the first original TV shows the company would produce for its streaming video service.

A group of 14 “pilot” episodes had been posted on the company’s website a month earlier, where they were viewed by more than one million people. After monitoring viewing patterns and comments on the site, Amazon produced about 20 pages of data detailing, among other things, how much a pilot was viewed, how many users gave it a five-star rating and how many shared it with friends.

Those findings helped the executives pick the first five pilots – winnowed down from an original pool of thousands of show ideas – that would be turned into series. The first will debut this month: “Alpha House,” a political comedy about four politicians who live together, written by Doonesbury comic strip creator Garry Trudeau.

Read the rest of this post on the original site

Study suggested that Netflix UK choose TV shows and Amazon’s LOVEFiLM instant for films

The current war between the rival on demand streaming service for building the customer base with enticing content has been done without inking any deal among the studios and the streamers. Earlier this week, LOVEFiLM has cracked a deal with NBC Universal for the coverage of hundreds of TV shows like US version of The Office and the 30 Rock. Yet it will be quite noisy to figure out that how substantial these catalogues will be from the rivalry services.Thanks to Oric, a UK based company which has provided data about online content and has made it easier for viewers to determine what they want to see online. The Oric has complied data about the Netflix UK streaming services (costing about 5.99 monthly) and about Amazon’s LOVEFiLM Instant (costing about 5.89 monthly with DVD rental services). Data about LOVEFiLM Instant has been complied by establishing customer crawler, specifying all the available titles on the present services. In case of Netflix UK data is require to boast more as it is about TV listing, however data about LOVEFLiM is more sizeable and having rich movie offerings.

Oric will require to beat more legs for collecting the data about Netflix UK. They have to manually access each genre page and extract HTML. However things are not s simple as it seems. Netflix UK having 40 plus titles requires more painful efforts to manually pull all the names along with URL. After compiling this data, the company will require to do custom crawling of extracted HTML. They have to manually correct all the season numbers of the TV shows from their date of release. Also they have to de-duplicate the titles, as one title can be available in multiple genres.

Oric said that it was the mission of the company to compile the data and it is also doubtless to explain that how much it is difficult to measure good and sizeable service catalogue data.

Related posts:

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  2. Will Google buy the Instant Street View Search App
  3. Amazon is planning to roll out AmazonCare to increase its sales revenue

As Amazon Reports Third-Quarter Earnings, Its Holiday Outlook Will Take Center Stage



When eBay reported its third-quarter earnings last week, its “cautious outlook” for the holiday season spooked both Wall Street analysts and the wider e-commerce industry, sending its shares down more than five percent.

The company’s CFO Bob Swan warned of “dramatically decelerating U.S. e-commerce growth,” citing comScore data that shows that the U.S. online retail market grew just 13 percent in the third quarter, down from a 16 percent mark in the second quarter.

So, when Amazon reports its own third-quarter earnings later today, its guidance for the fourth quarter will obviously be taking on extra weight.

On Oct. 1, the company said it was adding 40 percent more holiday workers to its distribution network than it did last holiday season, which was largely seen as a positive sign for holiday shopping. But, as Swan noted on eBay’s earnings call, the government shutdown that followed over the first 17 days of this month seemed to take its toll on shoppers’ psyche.

As a result, it’s possible that the rosy picture painted by the hiring announcement isn’t shining as bright right now.

That said, Amazon is largely in a league of its own, continually outperforming the growth of the U.S. e-commerce industry as a whole. As such, analysts are expecting on average that Amazon’s third-quarter revenue grew 22 percent year over year, to $16.8 billion.

Not surprisingly, Amazon is expected to once again post a loss – nine cents per share is the estimate. But, as long as Jeff Bezos’s retail juggernaut continues its impressive top-line growth as it enters new categories such as art, groceries and flowers that may lead to even greater growth, investors seem inclined to continue to boost its stock price.

The proof: Amazon lost money in 2012, as well as in the second quarter of this year, when analysts were expecting a profit, and its stock price is still up 39 percent over the last 12 months.

Amazon Launches New EC2 GPU Instances For High-Performance 3D Graphics In The Cloud


Amazon today launched a new type of instance for its EC2 cloud computing platform that is specifically designed for applications that require 3D graphics capabilities. When you think about cloud computing, high-performance 3D graphics are probably not the first thing that comes to mind, but given how much compute power that 3D visualizations and streaming graphics-intensive applications require, this new instance type is a logical next step for AWS.

Using these new instances, Amazon argues, its users can now “build high-performance DirectX, OpenGL, CUDA, and OpenCL applications and services without making expensive up-front capital investments.”

Amazon is making two of these new GPU instance types available for now. The g2.2xlarge version comes with 15 GiB memory, 60 GB of local storage, 26 EC2 Compute Units (that’s an Intel Sandy Bridge processor running at 2.6 GHz) and a single NVIDIA Kepler GK104 graphics card (with 1536 CUDA cores). The larger cg1.4xlarge version comes with 22 GiB of memory, 1690 GB of local storage, 33.5 EC2 Compute Units and two NVIDIA Tesla “Fermi” M2050 GPUs. On-demand prices start at $0.65 per hour for the smaller instance and $2.10 for the larger one.

A single GPU, Amazon argues, can support up to eight real-time 720p video streams at 30fps (or four 1080p streams).

These new instances are now available in Amazon’s U.S. East, West (California and Oregon) and EU (Ireland) data centers, and Amazon is making machine images with support for these instance types available, too.

“Since we launched Cluster GPU instances two years ago, many customers have asked for expanded functionality to extend the power of our GPU instances beyond HPC applications to graphics-intensive workloads, such as video-creation services, 3D visualizations and game streaming,” said Matt Garman, Vice President, Amazon EC2, AWS in a statement today. “By enabling the use of DirectX and OpenGL, G2 instances allow developers to cost-effectively build scalable, fast 3D applications on Amazon EC2 and deliver high-performance 3D graphics using the cloud.”

Amazon also supports OTOY’s ORBX.js on these GPU instances. This is a downloadable HD codec written in JavaScript and WebGL that allows you to stream 3D-intensive applications right from the cloud without the need for any plug-ins, codecs or other client-side software except for the browser. This project is backed by Mozilla, Autodesk and OTOY. This means, Mozilla notes in an announcement today, that “Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers will be able to use the power of graphics processing in the Cloud and OTOY’s ORBX.js streaming technology to deliver high performance games and desktop applications to the Web – using only HTML5 and JavaScript.”

Autodesk, for example, will use this technology to make applications like 3DS Max, Autodesk Maya and Autodesk Inventor available through any modern web browser. OTOY also today demonstrated apps like Photoshop CS6 and games from Valve running in the browser using ORBX.js. OTOY has already published a number of ORBX.js-enabled machine images for EC2, including one for Autodesk’s applications.

Amazon also announced that Playcast Media will use its new g2 instances to stream video games soon and that Agawi True Cloud will use it to stream games and apps to mobile devices.

Amazon’s Smartphones Detailed: ‘Project Smith’ 3D Flagship Model And A Value Handset With FireOS

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 4.58.49 PM

Amazon is in the process of developing two smartphones, one inexpensive model and one with a 3D eye-tracking interface, TechCrunch has learned. The details are somewhat sparse, but are corroborated by sources and reports from earlier this year.

Amazon is planning two devices, the first of which is the previously rumored ‘expensive’ version with a 3D user interface, eye tracking and more. Both devices were under the ‘Project B’ moniker before the news was leaked on WSJ earlier this year. The expensive model’s code-name has since been changed to ‘Duke’ and now ‘Smith’ – and a release is not planned this year.

Details of the devices appeared on a HN posting via a throwaway account earlier today and TechCrunch verified some aspects of the posting with our sources and came away with some additional information.

They match up with details from the WSJ report:

But the people familiar with the plans said the smartphone and set-top box are just two elements of a broader foray into hardware that also includes the audiostreaming device and the high-end smartphone with the 3-D screen.

Inside Amazon’s Lab126 facility in Cupertino, Calif., where each of the devices have been under development, the efforts are known as Project A, B, C and D, or collectively the Alphabet Projects, said the people familiar with the plans.

The ‘Smith’ project includes a device that sounds like a bit of a hardware beast. The screen itself is not 3D but the device features four cameras, one at each corner of the device that will be used to track eye and head motions in order to move the interface around to ‘give the impression’ of 3D. Instead of using the phone’s internal sensors, like Apple does with iOS 7, it would base the movements off of the user’s point of view. Theoretically, this will provide a more accurate 3D representation of the screen’s contents.

There has been some software testing on a feature that will recognize the user’s face and ignore other faces around it, so as not to project 3D perspectives that are proper for your neighbors, but not for you.

Another feature said to be planned for the device, but not yet locked for release, is an image recognition feature that lets users take a shot of any real-world object and match it to an Amazon product for purchase. The possibility of this object recognition model offsetting some of the cost of the device through purchases by users is mentioned in the posting.

Four cameras (5 including a rear camera for shooting images) would be a large additional expense, so it’s tough to imagine that making it to market, and it’s not needed for motion tracking. But it could be necessary for the object capture mode, and Amazon could be looking for a differentiating feature that sets its devices apart from the crowd.

It’s not clear what OS this device runs on but it’s hard to believe it’s anything but a heavily modified version of Android that supports the 3D views. What we’re hearing is that if you move your head you can see things like media player buttons that move around and can even ‘peek’ off the edges of the screen to see things not visible from the front. Much of this is said to be experimental and the effects may not be as pronounced in the final version.

A second project which fell under the ‘Project B’ handle is a value device. Said to be a ‘cheap’ phone with basic software that is similar to that found on the Kindle Fire tablets – now called FireOS. The posting says that Amazon is looking to release the inexpensive device this year, something that would dovetail with a report by ‘Jessica Lessin’ writer Amir Efrati from last month. Note that Amazon denied to Efrati that it would release a device at all this year and that if it did the device wouldn’t be free. Our sources indicate that this may be because the project’s target date has been shifting around and it may get pushed into next year. There is no word on whether Amazon would try to offer the ‘cheap’ device low-cost via ads.

The devices are being shipped around internally inside a locked metal case with just the screen visible, and are not allowed outside of the building, even for engineers working from home. The floors of Amazon’s Lab126 facility where the devices are under development are locked down. This has become standard operating procedure for secretive companies like Amazon and Apple when it comes to hardware development. The development teams for the devices are split between Sunnyvale and Seattle.

There is also some scuttlebutt around staffing in the posting, some of which we hear is accurate. Amazon has indeed pulled engineers from other projects onto the phone teams, leaving other hardware projects with reduced staff.

The posting also claims that Amazon wanted to have launched the device already, but had issues with software and hardware, as well as employee retention. We’ve been unable to corroborate this aspect of the leak.

Since these devices are still classified as in development, it is quite possible that the feature-sets may change – even dramatically – before they are released to the public. If there has been a struggle developing the devices, then Amazon could consider modifying its requirements for bringing them to market. We have reached out for comment on this story and will update the piece if we hear back.

Image Credit: Puamelia / Flickr CC