Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘amazon’ Category

Smarter Speakers…and Payments

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Strategy Analytics has released sales figures for voice assistants in the first quarter of 2018, and has reported that Apple sold an estimated 600K HomePod speakers.

If that number is correct, then Apple would have captured just 6 percent of the global smart speaker market, well behind Amazon and Google, according to a report by MacRumors.

During the same time period, Amazon shipped an estimated 4 million Echo smart speakers, giving it a 43.6 percent market share, and Google 26.5 percent with 2.4 million sales.

And year-over-year, Amazon’s sales increased by two million, and Google’s by 2.1 million.

Meanwhile, back at the payment settlement ranch ​PayPal is looking to square its game against Square and Stripe by buying iZettle for $2.2 billion in an all-cash deal.

According to a report from TechCrunch, the deal is expected to settle in Q3 2018, and would be PayPal’s biggest-ever transaction.

iZettle currently has operations in 12 markets, including several in northern Europe and Mexico, as well as in the U.K.

Written by turbotodd

May 18, 2018 at 10:23 am

Posted in 2018, amazon, payment systems

Tagged with ,

No Laughing Matter

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Did you hear the one about the personal voice assistant that, for seemingly no apparent reason whatsoever, started breaking into strange laughing noises at random?

No?

Well, I heard about it firsthand, but apparently I missed the opportunity to hear random guffawing of my own personal Amazon Tap.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon confirmed yesterday that in rare circumstances, the voice assistant can mistakenly hear the phrase “Alexa, laugh,” which under its normal programming would cause it to chuckle. 

Amazon has updated a fix for the problem, and is changing the trigger phrase for laughing to “Alexa, can you laugh?” instead.

A few moments ago, I tried the new command, and all I got from Alexa was a “Tee hee.”  

How very anti-climactic.

This quirk has been referred to in AI circles as a “false positive.”

Let’s just hope the voice commands for the AI algos running the armed drones have their laughs in order.

Written by turbotodd

March 8, 2018 at 9:02 am

Smarter Chips

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Couldn’t help but notice these two in-the-same-orbit headlines from Amazon and Google re: their own AI chips.

First, in The Information, it’s being reported that Amazon is developing a chip designed for AI to work on the Echo and other hardware powered by Alexa. 

They report that the chip should allow Alexa-powered devices to respond more quickly to commands, by allowing more data processing to be handled on the device than in the cloud. 

It seems the cloud’s edge is moving back towards the center.

And at Google, according to a post in the Google Cloud Platform blog, the company’s cloud Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) are available in beta to help machine learning experts train and run their ML models more quickly.

Some speeds and feeds deets:

Cloud TPUs are a family of Google-designed hardware accelerators that are optimized to speed up and scale up specific ML workloads programmed with TensorFlow. Built with four custom ASICs, each Cloud TPU packs up to 180 teraflops of floating-point performance and 64 GB of high-bandwidth memory onto a single board. These boards can be used alone or connected together via an ultra-fast, dedicated network to form multi-petaflop ML supercomputers that we call “TPU pods.” We will offer these larger supercomputers on GCP later this year.

Written by turbotodd

February 12, 2018 at 4:28 pm

Amazon Delivers…Well, Even More

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Happy Friday.

I’ll say it again. Don’t look at the Dow.

Okay, maybe just a peek. After yesterday’s 1,000+ rout, and at last count, it was heading back north, slowly but surely.

But if you’re a long-term investor, you shouldn’t play these peak and valley games, right? Stop paying attention to that ticker and get back to work!

As for getting back to work, guess who’s getting into the delivery business? I’ll give you one guess.

No, not Domino’s pizza (at least not yet). Amazon!

The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Amazon.com is preparing to launch its own delivery service for businesses, putting it in direct competition with UPS and FedEx.

No, to answer your inevitable question, there is not a single business or industry won’t consider entering and disrupting.

Amazon’s push into logistics reflects its growing ambitions across a wide range of new businesses beyond online retail. The company runs a dominant cloud-computing services division, a Hollywood studio and a massive marketplace and logistics operation for sellers. Last year, it acquired Whole Foods for roughly $13.5 billion, transforming it into a brick-and-mortar grocer overnight.

The new service will be called "Shipping with Amazon," and will have the company picking up packages from businesses and shipping them to consumers.

It is the latest move by Amazon to create its own freight and parcel delivery network. In the last couple of years, Amazon has expanded into ocean freight, built a network of its own drivers who can now deliver inside homes and leased up to 40 aircraft while establishing an air cargo hub.

But as the Journal story reports, there’s steep (and deep-seated) competition from the incumbents:

It remains to be seen whether Amazon can successfully deliver packages for other businesses on a broad scale. UPS and FedEx have built out massive networks over the course of decades to allow them to deliver across the U.S. And it is expensive. UPS this year alone is​ ​
planning to spend up to $7 billion on upgrading its delivery network.​

In a related story yesterday, Amazon said it would begin delivery of Whole Foods groceries via its "Prime Now" service. Shortly, Whole Foods’ customers in Austin, Dallas, Virginia Beach,a nd Cincinnati will have the option of one – and two-hour grocery deliveries.

I guess that means I can finally stop stocking up on grocery bags?!

Written by turbotodd

February 9, 2018 at 9:09 am

Posted in amazon, shipping

Tagged with , ,

Amazon’s Prime 20 Second HQ Cities

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Amazon has whittled down the list of possible homes for its second headquarters to 20, reports The New York Times.

The finalists include Atlanta; Austin; Boston; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville; Newark; New York; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Raleigh; Toronto; and Washington, DC.

On the process:

The company, based in Seattle, selected the finalists out of a pile of more than 238 applications submitted by local officials in Mexico, Canada and the United States — all of them eager to attract the 50,000 high-paying jobs the company says it could bring.
– via www.nytimes.com

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough — all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of economic development. “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”
– via www.nytimes.com

Written by turbotodd

January 18, 2018 at 9:33 am

Posted in 2018, amazon, whyaustin

I Need A New Toaster!

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I need to order a new toaster.

My old one recently died a premature death.

Where do I find a new toaster?

The last one had been a wonderful wedding gift (which made me all the more reluctant to buy a new one…I’d be getting rid of a precious wedding gift…well, as precious as a toaster can get).

I could cook toast in the oven, but it’s not the same as a toaster, I don’t think. You have to keep a close eye on it, and I have to remove all those pots and pans from the oven first before I can toast anything. It’s just a hassle.

So, I’m now in the market for a toaster. How is that gonna go down?

Well, if it’s anything like the new French Presse coffee maker I ordered due to a crack in the old one (not a wedding gift), it’s gonna a little something like this: I’m going to go to Amazon, do a quick search, and buy the cheapest toaster I can find.

That’s how it’s gonna go.

But just overnight, Walmart and Google announced a new partnership that could change the toaster ordering game….at least for those who use the Google Assistant.

As reported by TechCrunch, the new partnership will enable voice shopping through Google Assistant, and will tap into Walmart’s “Easy Reorder” feature through an integration with Google’s shopping service, Google Express.

Sam Walton would be proud: You can now talk directly to Walmart and order your stuff. Even a toaster.

Furthermore, the story continues, Google Express is ditching its own membership fees (take that, Jeff B!), and is promising free delivery across its retailers in one to three days, assuming the customer orders are above each store’s minimum.

So, this is basically Google and Walmart ganging up to beat up on their friend, Amazon, and working to steal some share from Amazon Echo in the process.

“Okay, Google, but what if I’m already an Amazon Echo man?”

“Google? Google, are you there?!”

Written by turbotodd

August 23, 2017 at 8:47 am

Alexa, Buy Graphiq

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Amazon’s doing some shopping of its own, this week acquiring Santa Barbara-based data analytics and search engine startup Graphiq for an estimated $50M.

According to Crunchbase, Graphiq positioned itself as a data aggregation and visualization company focused on turning cmoplicated data into contextually-rich presentations of the world’s knowledge.

The company was founded in 2009 as “FindTheBest,” according to the LA Times, and was co-founded with former DoubleClick CEO and Founder, Kevin O’Connor.

How will Graphiq’s technology possibly be used in the Amazon?

The technology Graphiq has developed to connect the dots between billions of pieces of information could be valuable to Amazon as it tries to make Alexa smarter. Akin to Siri on the iPhone, Alexa answers queries about the weather, sports and other topics on devices such as Amazon’s Echo speaker. Last year, Graphiq produced a now-unavilable Alexa app that aimed to answer questions such as “What is the fastest 2016 sedan?” according to app aggregation website ChatBottle. Amazon also gave Graphiq access to a database about books to put its technology to the test, according to a source.
– via latimes.com

Written by turbotodd

July 21, 2017 at 10:41 am

Amazon Eats The Whole Food

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Since when did Fridays become M&A days? Did I miss a memo?

The big elephant deal in the room is Amazon’s acquisition of Austin’s own Whole Foods Market for a whopping $13.7 billion in an all cash transaction (what, no PayPal??).

Here’s what the two companies’ respective founders had to say:

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.” “This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” said John Mackey, Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO.
– via phx.corporate-ir.net

Also according to the press release, Whole Foods Market will continue to operate under the Whole Foods Market brand, and John Mackey will remain as CEO of Whole Foods Market. And their HQ will stay here in Austin.

The other deal was Walmart’s announcement that it had acquired Bonobos, a 10-year-old mens clothing brand that started as an online mens pants sales operation but later expanded into brick-and-mortar.

According to Recode, in that deal Walmart is paying $310 million in cash, and is offering $20M golden handcuffs to Bonobos co-founder and CEO Andy, along with other top executives.

Recode speculates that Walmat may end up selling Bonobos apparel less through Walmart stores or Walmart.com, and more through Jet.com, another shopping site it acquired for $3B that is aimed at an upmarket shopper.

At last count, Amazon’s stock was up 3.41 percent on the announcement of the Whole Foods acquisition, while Walmart’s stock was down 4.95 percent.

Written by turbotodd

June 16, 2017 at 9:49 am

Alexa, Remind Me To Finish This Blog Post In 10 Minutes

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Amazon Echo owners, Alexa is getting some new skills to help you stay on top of your GTD.

Specifically, Amazon announced Alexa will now be able to recognize commands to set reminders and named timers, reports our friends at Mashable.

To set a reminder, simply explain to Alexa what you need to do and when.

For example, I just said, “Alexa, remind me to finish this blog post in 10 minutes.” Alexa then had to ask me in how long, so much for telling Alexa the reminder in one fell swoop.

I’ll likely be finished with this blog post in less than 10 minutes, so I won’t be able to tell you if it worked or not.

But I did want you Echo/Tap/etc. owners to know this new “skill” was available. Now in the U.S., and rolling out to Germany and the UK in the next several weeks.

Written by turbotodd

June 2, 2017 at 9:39 am

Holiday Shopping And Streaming

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Santa brought Turbo a new (used) set of vintage 1988 Ben Hogan "Redline" blade golf clubs...whether or not they'll do anything to help lower his handicap remains to be seen!

Santa brought Turbo a new (used) set of vintage 1988 Ben Hogan “Redline” blade golf clubs…whether or not they’ll do anything to help lower his handicap remains to be seen!

Well, I hope you and yours are having a happy holiday season, wherever in the world you may be.

I just returned from a wonderful visit to see my parents and some extended family up in my hometown of Denton, Texas, where we were treated to our first white Christmas in three years, the snow billowing down starting around mid-day Christmas Day, and plunging the Dallas/Ft. Worth roads into a virtual ice skating rink.

As for the Christmas holiday shopping season, Sarah Perez with TechCrunch just reported that Amazon.com once again came out on top, in terms of online satisfaction.

No big surprise there.  I conducted a large portion of my own holiday shopping via Amazon, and received everything I ordered within a few days. I also treated myself to a set of Ben Hogan 1988 “redline” blade golf clubs, which I discovered on eBay for a very agreeable price. Unfortunately, the weather in Texas has kept me off the golf course (now back in Austin, I hope for that to change in the next few days!).

Of course, if you were trying to watch movies on Netflix on Monday, you might have found yourself watching a blank screen. Due to an Amazon Web Services outage, Netflix viewers were treated to bags full of coal starting around 3:30 PM on Monday, AWS’s third major outage this year.

Myself, I went on a “Redbox” binge over the holiday, discovering some recent titles for $1.20 a pop (including the latest Spiderman!), only to discover they’ll be bringing some competition to the streaming realm with the introduction of “Redbox Instant,” expected to go into private beta sometime soon. Redbox Instant is expected to match Netflix’s monthly streaming subscription price of $8 U.S.

Whatever your preference, it certainly looks like more and more Americans will be viewing filmed entertainment on devices other than their TVs. Another TechCrunch story reports that one in four Americans now owns a tablet computing device, with such devices now even having overtaken the number of e-reading devices like the Kindle (again, I did my fair share here over the holidays, giving out two Kindle Fire HDs as family gifts. Now I can only cross my fingers my family will use them!)

Regardless of your preference, the story goes on to say that one in three people in the U.S. now owns some kind of tablet or e-reading device, and this data before the full gamut of holiday shopping data has hit analysts’ spreadsheets.

One such analyst, Strategy Analytics, has Apple’s iPad still leading the pack, with Amazon and Samsung quickly narrowing that lead.

So what did Santa bring YOU for Christmas, and better yet, what did Santa YOU give others???

Written by turbotodd

December 27, 2012 at 10:56 pm

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