Tag: Amazon

Amazon gets to play with drones

predator-firing-missile4Amazon has won approval from US federal regulators to test a delivery drone outdoors, less than a month after it blasted regulators for dragging their feet on approving commercial drone testing.

The Federal Aviation Administration had approved an Amazon prototype drone in March, but the company told US lawmakers less than a week later that the prototype had already become obsolete while it waited more than six months for the agency’s permission.

The FAA granted Amazon’s request to test delivery drones in a letter dated Wednesday, posted on the agency’s website.

Under the rules Amazon must keep flights lower than 400 feet and no faster than 100 miles per hour.

Amazon wants to sending packages to customers by air, using small, self-piloted aircraft. The FAA is caught between a rock and a hard place. While companies like Amazon are screaming to be allowed to use drones, there is public concern about safety and privacy.

Amazon wants to use drones to deliver packages to its customers over distances of 10 miles (16 km) or more, which would require drones to travel autonomously while equipped with technology to avoid collisions with other aircraft.

Ethernet sales reach new height

Global sales of Ethernet switches rose by five percent last year to stand at $21.7 billion.

Why the surge?

According to a report from IHS, it’s all about investments to network infrastructure to satisfy demands by applications.

China showed particularly strong growth last year with revenue up by 17 percent compared to the year before.

Sales of 10GE switches are slowing but even so, port shipments grew 27 percent last year.

But shipments of 40GE ports tripled last year, and revenues doubled.

40GE port shipments were outstripped by 100GE ports – which grew sixfold last year.

And white box switches – often supplied by players including Amazon and Google also showed strong growth.

Cisco only managed to boost its Ethernet switch sales by one percent in the fourth quarter of last year, but IHS thinks the giant company is turning its fortunes round.

Drones can’t deliver packages

The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled out the use of drones to deliver packages.

Drones were being tested by Amazon to deliver books and packages, but it turns out that the scheme might never get off the ground.

An FAA document is apparently seeking public comment on its policy on drones, or what the agency calls “model aircraft”.

Since 2007 the FAA has said that the commercial operation of drones is illegal.

A federal judge ruled in March that the FAA failed to call for public input before adopting the rules.

That decision is in the process of being appealed, but in the meantime the FAA is calling for public input wit the idea of looking at the commercial application of small drones later this year, with potential new rules in place perhaps by the end of 2015.

The FAA named Amazon’s December proposal as an example of what is barred under regulations that allow the use of drones for hobby and recreational purposes.

Amazon hopes the agency will change its mind, but is not holding its breath. 

UK spooks don’t need a warrant

GCHQ can snoop on British citizens’ use of Facebook and Google without an individual warrant because the firms are based overseas.

UK spy boss Charles Farr said that the services are classified as external communications and the spooks can hack into your account without needing a warrant.

The news came out as part of a continuing legal battle with campaign group Privacy International (PI).

Charles Farr, director general of the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism, told PI that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and web searches on Google, webmail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo, are classified as “external communications”, which means that they can be intercepted without the need for additional legal clearance.

If you have webmail or social networking accounts in the EU the government would need a search warrant signed by a minister and that can only be issued when there is suspicion of illegal activity.

However if your accounts or searches are on Google or your  posts on Facebook they are sending information overseas which can be collected under a broader warrant which does not need to be signed by a minister.

Farr said point out that data collected in this way “cannot be read, looked at or listened to” except in strictly limited circumstances.

Apparently there is a “significant distinction” between intercepting material and a person actually reading, looking at or listening it.

James Welch, legal director of human rights group Liberty, told the BBC that the security services consider that they’re entitled to read, listen and analyse all our communications on Facebook, Google and other US based platforms.

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International said the revelation showed that spy agencies operated under their own laws and cannot be considered accountable to parliament and to the public they serve when their actions are obfuscated through secret interpretations of Byzantine laws.

Seattle IT people suffer bad case of Darwin

It seems that straight male IT experts will become an endangered species in Seattle because the male dominated industry dominates the region and women are thin on the ground.

Apparently the problem is about to be made worse because of the growth of Amazon which has a staff profile which is 75 percent men.

Writing in his bog Jeff Reifman said Amazon’s 75 per cent figure is similar to Microsoft and other tech companies, as well. The difference is that Amazon has been expanding rapidly in Seattle, now employing nearly 25,000 people in the city, up from 5,000 in 2010.

By the end of 2014, Reifman projects, there will be 130 single men in Seattle for every 100 single women — up from a ratio of 119 single men to 100 single women in April 2010.

He said that over the past two years, I’ve personally found dating in Seattle has become increasingly difficult. It’s less common to meet single women in person and online dating is more difficult.

“It’s not that I can’t get dates but it’s harder to find women that are a good match for me. Online, it’s been harder to catch women’s attention, harder to get them to schedule a date and they cancel dates more frequently,” he said.

On the bright side, if you’re a straight single woman outside of Seattle, this might be a great time to move there. Well, if you want to marry an IT person and live in Seattle. The comments on the blog make for amusing reading too. 

Amazon wants to create 3D smartphones

Word on the street is that the online bookseller Amazon is preparing to announce the next generation of smartphones.

The new phone will feature a 3D screen and users will not need to use 3D glasses to see it.

Apparently the rumour is that the phone will “employ retina-tracking technology embedded in four front-facing cameras, or sensors, to make some images appear to be 3-D, similar to a hologram.

Some common features, like zooming in to get a closer look at a photo, will happen automatically. The 3-D screen technology can sense the movement of a person’s eyes and whether the screen is moving closer to a user’s face. The phone can automatically zoom into images as it moves closer to a user’s face and could manipulate text and images as a person moves the phone.”

Amazon has already been showing early versions of the phone to suppliers in Seattle and San Francisco and a formal announcement is expected in June. The phones should be shipping by September with Amazon ordering 600,000 of them.

What is unusual is that this is Amazon’s first foray into the phone hardware market and it is coming in with technology that no one else has.

The outfit has been increasing its tech output lately. On April 2, it introduced the video-streaming and gaming console Amazon Fire TV and it has offered the Kindle e-reader since 2007.

The company has not said which service carriers the phone will work with, or what operating system it will use.

It will be certainly cheaper that what is out there for the money. Not only will Amazon be getting a subsidy from the carriers, it will also be subsidising the phone itself. The company is ok about losing money on hardware to get people to use its services and buy more items through the devices. Amazon thinks that using devices to highlight its video streaming service, app store, or shopping options means more returning customers. 

Microsoft cuts Azure price

The price war on cloud prices between Microsoft, Amazon and Google is heating up and everyone is slashing the cost of their service.

Today it was the turn of Microsoft to announce cuts in the price of its Azure service in a move that will keep its promise of matching the price of Amazon . Amazon announced price reductions last week, Microsoft followed up with theirs today.

Microsoft made an announcement that “Consistent with our previously announced commitment to match Amazon on prices for commodity services, we are cutting prices on compute by up to 35 per cent and storage by up to 65 percent.”

Vole said that economics are a primary driver for some customers adopting cloud, and stand by our commitment to match prices and be best in class on price performance.

In addition Vole announced a new tier of General Purpose Instances called “Basic” (A0-A4) that offers similar machine configurations as the Standard tier of instances offered today (Extra Small [A0] to Extra Large [A4]).

This will end up 27 percent less than the corresponding instances in use today. These will still be around but will be called “Standard” and will not include load balancing or auto-scaling, which are included in Standard.

Microsoft’s announcement is showing how cutthroat the cloud market is becoming and how much difficulty Amazon is going to have staying on top.

Google started the current price war two weeks ago citing the plummeting costs of hardware. It was followed by Amazon matching the cuts.

However, it is good news for companies thinking of moving onto the cloud. The continual cloud price cuts make it hard to justify continuing to run in-house operations, which would be far more expensive, both in terms of hardware costs and maintenance costs. 

Disney takes away kids’ Amazon Christmas presents

Mickey Mouse outfit Disney has decided that its fluffy bunny image is not getting it anywhere and it is better to stop kids’ Christmas presents this year.

For a while now Amazon has been selling Disney’s Christmas catalogue to parents who want to sit kids down on Christmas Day with a nice cartoon. However it seems that, despite parents paying for the content, Amazon has deleted them from the library and the site.

According to Boing Boing,  Amazon said that the agreement that it has to distribute content contains a clause that Disney can pull its content at any time and ‘at this time they’ve pulled that show for exclusivity on their own channel”.

So Disney effectively pulled its Christmas content so that it could show it on its own channel and banned parents from seeing content, which they had paid for, until July.

To be fair it is all in Amazon’s terms and conditions in the small print that you never read, but it does seem rather odd that you can pay for something and have it taken away because it does not fit into a publishers’ schedule.

It is being seen as yet another example as to why Big Content completely fails to understand digital content sales. It still thinks that people will buy hard copies if digital copies are made too expensive or unreliable. In fact, they will simply go to a pirate site.

Amazon was also dumb allowing studios the right to revoke access to videos, something that many of the owners of its Kindle products would have been unaware. 

Save the internet: Nuke Netflix and YouTube

If you wanted to double the bandwidth of the internet overnight you could nuke Netflix and Youtube, according to a new survey.

More than half the traffic on the net is created by people watching Netflix movies and amusing videos of cats, according to Sandvine’s latest Global Internet Phenomena Report.

Last year, Netflix and YouTube made up 47.8 percent of total downstream traffic but this year the pair hit 50.3 percent.

Actually the real winner was YouTube as Netflix lost a bit of ground. It appears YouTube’s audience discovered that not only cats could be amusing, but dogs and pandas.

What is bad news is that video services like Hulu and Amazon traffic numbers are slipping,

Amazon accounted for 1.6 percent of total downstream traffic in September, compared with an average of 1.75 percent in the second half of 2012.

For Hulu, meanwhile, September’s 1.29 percent came up short of the 1.38 percent it captured last year.

All up, it would appear that less people are watching paid for movie content and are obeying the will of their feline overlords to watch YouTube instead. 

Amazon shacks up with HTC

Online bookseller Amazon is developing three smartphones with HTC to compete with Apple and Google.

According to the Financial Times, one device is already in an advanced stage of development.

However word on the street is that Amazon may not release it until 2014, if it can be bothered doing so at all.

Amazon and HTC could not be immediately reached for comment, but there has been rumour and speculation that the pair would release a phone ever since the bookseller started selling tablets.

In 2011, Citigroup said that Amazon would launch a smartphone in 2012 through a partnership with Foxconn. This never came about presumably, as Amazon could not see much of a connection with the other parts of its business.

There is also the problem that it had with finding telcos to support its products in Europe. It is not clear what might have changed the bookseller’s mind, as it is doing rather well flogging tablets.

The FT thinks that selling smartphones could help Amazon foster greater consumer loyalty as people will read content on phones as well as tablets.