Tag: Amazon

Telly catches Fire

old-school-tvA separate Fire TV device might become a thing of the past as telly makers are starting to integrate the streaming technology.

Seiki, Westinghouse and Element Electronics are launching a series of 4K sets with Fire TV technology built-in. They all include Amazon’s current interface, including a wide range of Alexa voice commands thanks to a microphone-equipped remote. If you use an over-the-air TV antenna, you’ll have access to both a channel guide and favourite individual channels on the home screen.

The first lot are appearing at CES and so far, none of the companies are saying when.  There will be 43-, 50-, 55- and 65-inch models. These are budget telly makers so adding Fire into your telly will not cost much more.  It is also likely that other cheaper manufactures will follow suit.

Samsung, LG and Sony already have highly developed smart TV platforms (whether in-house or Android TV), and it’s doubtful they will bother.

Trump and Silicon Valley try to bury the hatchet

Donald-Trump-funnyDonald “Prince of Orange” Trump met with Silicon Valley’s top executives attempted to bury the hatchet and to smoke a peace pipe.

The meeting, in Trump Towers, focused chiefly on economic problems, including job creation, lowering taxes and trade dynamics with China, while largely avoiding the many disagreements the tech industry has with Trump on matters ranging from immigration to digital privacy.

For some reason, three of Trump’s kids sat in on the meeting. We guess it is because they know a little more than their dad about tech. Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, sat at the head of a large rectangular table as the meeting began in a conference room on the 25th floor of Trump Tower.

Of course there is a small problem of conflict of interest because Trump’s kids are going to be running his business while he is being president.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence was also there as was  Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’sSheryl Sandberg and Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk, Alphabet Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, and IBM’s Ginni Rometty. Missing was Twitter, which Trump claimed was too small to be at the table and it had nothing to do with the personal spat that Trump was having with Twitter.

Cook and Musk joined Trump for separate meetings after the other technology executives leave, according to a spokesman for Trump’s transition team.

Bezos said in a statement the meeting was “very productive” and that he “shared the view that the administration should make innovation one of its key pillars, which would create a huge number of jobs across the whole country, in all sectors, not just tech – agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing -everywhere.”

Silicon Valley got on well with  President Barack Obama and heavily supported Democrat Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.

Trump bashed the industry during the election campaign. He urged his supporters to boycott Apple products over the company’s refusal to help the FBI unlock an iPhone associated with last year’s San Bernardino, California, shootings, threatened antitrust action against Amazon and demanded that tech companies build their products in the United States.

Trump has also been an opponent of the Obama administration’s “net neutrality” rules barring internet service providers from obstructing or slowing consumer access to web content. Two advisers to his Federal Communications Commission transition team are opponents of the rules, as are the two Republicans on the FCC.

 

Now is the winter of Amazon’s discount tents

At_the_South_Pole,_December_1911Amazon workers have been sleeping in tents close to the company’s fulfillment centre in Fife.

According to the local press, three tents have been spotted in woodland beside the online retail giant’s base just off the M90 in Dunfermline in recent days.

The news follows claims that the agency workers are working up to 60 hours per week for little more than the minimum wage and are harshly treated.

The idea is that to save money commuting the workers are living in tents to during the Christmas rush.

One worker, who did not wish to be named, told the The Courier that the firm was a “poor employer” and criticised working practices at the Fife site.

He added that he had opted to stay in a tent as it was easier and cheaper than commuting from his home in Perth.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP, who has repeatedly called for the firm to improve its working conditions and its tax record, once more slammed Amazon after learning that some workers had apparently taken to staying in the woods.

“Amazon should be ashamed that they pay their workers so little that they have to camp out in the dead of winter to make ends meet,” he told The Courier.

“They pay a small amount of tax and received millions of the pounds from the SNP Government so the least they should do is pay the proper living wage.
Amazon employs around 1,500 staff on a permanent basis at its Dunfermline fulfillment centre but has created 4,000 seasonal jobs to help cover the busy Christmas and New Year period.

Tech companies ask Trump to backtrack on encryption

orangeUS internet companies including Facebook and Amazon have penned a letter to president elect Donald “Prince of Orange” asking him to be a little more accommodating to their policy priorities – particularly strong encryption.

Trump took an anti-encryption stance during the election, demanding tech companies provide spooks with back-doors. While some tech-companies are visibly upset about Trumps election, it appears that Facebook and Amazon hope they can get him to change his mind with a nice letter.

The letter sent by the Internet Association, a trade group whose 40 members also include Alphabet’s Google, Uber and Twitter, represents an early effort to repair the relationship between the technology sector.

Michael Beckerman, president of the Internet Association said that the internet industry looks forward to engaging in an open and productive dialogue.

Some of the policy goals stated in the letter may align with Trump’s priorities, including easing regulation on the sharing economy, lowering taxes on profits made from intellectual property and applying pressure on Europe to not erect too many barriers that restrict U.S. internet companies from growing in that market.

The association seeks immigration reform to support more high-skilled workers staying in the United States. Trump made tougher immigration policies a central theme of his campaign, but he has shied away from arguing against more H-1B visas for skilled workers. In March, he said he was “softening the position because we need to have talented people in this country.”

Trump has also urged a boycott of Apple products over the company’s refusal to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation unlock an iPhone associated with last year’s San Bernardino, California, shootings, threatened antitrust action against Amazon, and demanded Apple manufacture its products in the United States.

In a statement, Beckerman said the internet industry looked forward to working closely with Trump and lawmakers in Congress to “cement the internet’s role as a driver of economic and social progress for future generations.”

Amazon wants ebook problem sorted out with EU

AmazonAmazon is chatting to European Union antitrust regulators about settling a year-long investigation into its e-book deals with publishers without a fine.

The book seller is in a lot of hot water with the EU over its tax deals with Luxembourg, which may result in the US online retailer paying millions of euros in back taxes.  It is possible that the last thing it wants is to be hit with another big fine from the ebook case.

It is early days yet, but it seems that Amazon is keen to settle the ebook case. Under the EU’s settlement rules, the company would not face any fine or finding of wrongdoing if it can offer concessions to allay regulatory concerns.

European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso is saying nothing about any deal.

The EU competition watchdog opened an investigation into the case in June last year, saying Amazon’s e-books contracts with publishers giving it terms as good as those for its rivals may make it difficult for other e-books distributors to compete.

The focus is on Amazon’s e-books in English and German. The company is the biggest e-book distributor in Europe, while the market is growing rapidly.

Amazon launches Dash in the UK

AmazonAmazon has launched its Dash Button in the UK as part of its cunning plan to become a one stop shop for everything.

The product is now available for Amazon Prime customers in the country, who pay £79 a year in order to get access to a range of Amazon services.

Basically the Dash Button is a small hardware button that you can stick around your house, allowing you to order up to 40 different branded products.

These are things like Andrex toilet paper, Durex condoms, Pedigree pet food, Play Doh, and Rimmel make-up. Once the order has been placed, the products will be delivered within a day.

Although the Dash Button is £4.99, Amazon Prime users will receive £4.99 off their first order, meaning the device is essentially free.

Amazon is also launching its Amazon Dash Replenishment Service (DRS) in the UK.

DRS is a cloud-based service that allows manufacturers to enable their connected devices to automatically reorder household products from Amazon using a set of APIs. Amazon said DRS could allow a washing machine to reorder laundry detergent or a printer to reorder ink, for example.

Daniel Rausch, Director of Amazon Dash, said in a statement: “We’ve all experienced the frustration of running out of something we need—Dash Button and Dash Replenishment Service are designed to make that moment a thing of the past.

“Dash Buttons offer the convenience of 1-Click shopping from anywhere in the home—they can be placed near those frequently used items you don’t want to run out of, and when you see supplies running low, the Dash Button makes it easier than ever to order more. Just press the button and your item is on its way.”

Apple, Amazon and Google face the wrath of May

239266C400000578-2853011-Amusing_Theresa_May_pulled_faces_to_amuse_a_police_officer-89_1417190867961Britain’s first unelected woman Prime Minister is ending the cosy relationship that her government had with Apple, Amazon and Google.

Theresa May has decided that the previous chancellor George Osborne’s moves to write off the tax which should have been paid by Google, Amazon and Apple was not a good idea. Osborne allowed the Google to go free by negotiating that Google should play back a tiny proportion of what it should have paid.

She names and shamed Google and Amazon, whose tax dodging arrangements recently led to a huge amount of parliamentary scrutiny, but Apple does the same sort of thing so it is probably going to be facing the wrath of May too.

May has handed her home secretary job to Amber Rudd—who will now be responsible for the government’s push for greater online surveillance laws.

This should place her at odds with the minister now in charge of withdrawing the UK from the European Union. David Davis, who has—for years—opposed the government’s attempts to bring in a so-called Snoopers’ Charter and is suing the government over DRIPA—legislation that was rushed through by the Tories after the European Court of Justice had ruled that the Data Retention Directive was invalid for failing to have adequate privacy safeguards in place.

Elizabeth Warren takes on death cults Google, Apple and Amazon

160630103532-elizabeth-warren-hogwarts-exlarge-169High-profile democratic senator Elizabeth Warren has waded into the Google, Apple and Amazon megacorporations claiming that they are using their size to “snuff out competition”.

Warren is close to Hillary Clinton and is being tipped to be a Vice President.  She says she will would be pants at it because she has a tendency to alienate wealthy donors.  Judging by the attack on Google, Apple and Amazon she might be right on that. Still if she does get the job the big three might be a little concerned.

Warren said the big three were using its powerful platform to “lock out smaller guys and newer guys,” including some that compete with Google, Apple and Amazon.

Google, she said, uses “its dominant search engine to harm rivals of its Google Plus user review feature;” Apple “has placed conditions on its rivals that make it difficult for them to offer competitive streaming services” that compete with Apple Music; and Amazon “uses its position as the dominant bookseller to steer consumers to books published by Amazon to the detriment of other publishers.”

“Google, Apple and Amazon have created disruptive technologies that changed the world, and … they deserve to be highly profitable and successful. But the opportunity to compete must remain open for new entrants and smaller competitors that want their chance to change the world again.”

Strangely Warren has not slagged off Facebook or Microsoft.

Warren’s speech also mentioned Walmart and Comcast and politicians and regulators she thinks have abandoned their responsibility to “restore and defend competition.”

She said she does not expect those same politicians to pass new legislation to fix any of this, but she does want them to “enforce our laws in the way Congress originally intended them to be enforced.”

Capture

Samsung buys into the cloud

cloudSamsung has bought Joyent – a public and private cloud outfit giving the telly maker access to its own cloud platform capable of supporting its growing lineup of mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud-based software and services.

Injong Rhee, CTO of the Mobile Communications business at Samsung Electronics said that Samsung evaluated a wide range of potential companies in the public and private cloud infrastructure space with a focus on leading-edge scalable technology and talent.

“In Joyent, we saw an experienced management team with deep domain expertise and a robust cloud technology validated by some of the largest Fortune 500 customers,” Rhee said.

Cloud computing is key to providing smartphone and IoT users with reliable services and experiences on their devices. Joyent will allow  Samsung to scale its own cloud infrastructure and services as it continues to innovate with new software and technologies.

It gets Joyent’s team of technologists, including CEO, Scott Hammond, CTO, Bryan Cantrill, and VP of Product, Bill Fine will join Samsung to work on company-wide cloud initiatives.

Scott Hammond, CEO of Joyent said he was looking forward to working with Samsung. The company’s money will allow it to grow its cloud and software business and provide a partner for innovation in the emerging and fast growing areas of mobile and IoT, including smart homes and connected cars.

“Joyent’s unique combination of container-native infrastructure, object storage, server-less computing, and Node.js expertise is perfectly suited to help Samsung meet the needs of its customers,” he added.

The move might have the existing cloud companies looking over their shoulder. Although the likes of Amazon should not be immediately troubled, Samung makes rather a lot of gear which if integrated to its cloud could take business away from them.

 

Amazon’s new AI can tell if you are in a bad mood

screaming babyAmazon is about to spruce up the AI function on its Echo personal assistant so that it can tell if you are hacked off.

Researchers are working on natural-language-processing updates that will help it detect emotion in someone’s voice, as well as remember and connect known information about a user to their requests.

For example, if Alexa knows that a user lives in Mill Street in Oxford, it’ll factor in that information when deciding how to answer the question “who is singing at the Kite tonight?” It will know that the user is not asking about kites but the pub they most like sleeping under the tables of.

If Alexa knows its master likes to listen to popular beat combo artist Kanye West, it’ll be more likely to know that it is working with an illiterate, tone deaf moron who has no concept of music – and its user is just as bad.

But spotting emotion is important.  If Alexa can tell if you are upset or angry it can come up with all the emotional responses which are designed to soothe you. It might be the first to say “sorry” when you get mad at yourself for paying so much for it when there might be better personal AI servants on the market.

Rosalind Picard, a professor at MIT’s Media Lab, says adding emotion sensing to personal electronics could improve them: “Yes, definitely, this is spot on.” In a 1997 book, Affective Computing, Picard first mentioned the idea of changing the voice of a virtual helper in response to a user’s emotional state. She notes that research has shown how matching a computer’s voice to that of a person can make communication more efficient and effective. “There are lots of ways it could help,” she says.