Entries with tag amazon.

US Agency Reaffirms Drone-Use Limitations

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is reaffirming its ruling that drones may not be used for commercial purposes, including the delivery of packages. Although Amazon and others have been working on concepts for drone-based delivery technologies, they will be barred from commercializing them according to a newly released document requesting public comment (www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FAA-2014-0396). The document cites examples of acceptable and unacceptable drone uses. The unacceptable ones all relate to the use of drones for commercial purposes, including package delivery and real-estate agents using the aircraft to take aerial photos of properties. The only exception has been commercial licenses granted to energy companies for monitoring pipeline conditions in the Arctic. The FAA allows hobbyists to use drones for personal or recreational purposes. This is not deterring Amazon. “[The ruling] is about hobbyists and model aircraft, not Amazon, and has no effect on our plans,” Amazon vice president of global public policy Paul Misener, told the Fast Company magazine. “Our plan has always been to operate as a commercial entity to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less through Amazon Prime Air and it has no effect on that.” In March 2014, a federal judge ruled that the prior FAA ban on using drones for deliveries was illegal because there was no public comment period prior to the rule adoption. The FAA is appealing the decision and will review the matter, possibly issuing new rules by the end of 2015. (SlashDot)(Ars Technica)(Fast Company)(The US Federal Aviation Administration)

Amazon Launches Smartphone

Amazon is releasing its first smartphone, which offers features such as 3D effects; a new navigation approach; and image, text and audio recognition. The Fire Phone, which will retail for $199 with 32 Gbytes of memory and $299 with 64 Gbytes, is scheduled to ship 25 July 2014 and will be available only on the AT&T network with a two-year contract. The device will have four face-tracking cameras and gesture controls that let users view objects in 3D and from different perspectives when they move their heads. Another feature lets users tilt the device to scroll or navigate pages on the device. However said Francisco Jeronimo, a mobile devices analyst at market research firm IDC, this isn’t new and hasn’t been very popular on phones on which it appears. The Amazon phone also offers Firefly, an image-, text- and audio-recognition technology designed to facilitate instant Amazon purchases for users. The application can evaluate physical and e-mail addresses, QR and barcodes, audio clips, and other information.  Amazon claims Firefly can recognize 70 million products, 35 million songs, 245,000 movies and TV episodes, and 160 live TV channels. Analysts don’t think customers are likely to move to the Fire Phone. James McQuivey, principal analyst at Forrester, told CNBC. “I think Amazon will have to offer more than just a year of free Amazon Prime service” to attract consumers. The phone is unlikely to make a dent in Apple’s market share, but could “have a minor impact” on Android smartphone vendors says Brian White, analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald. (BBC)(Bloomberg Businessweek)(CNN)(PC Magazine)(CNBC)(The New York Times)

US Agency Investigating Content-Delivery Congestion

The US Federal Communications Commission is investigating why content providers are experiencing congestion when trying to deliver their material to consumers. FCC chair Tom Wheeler says the agency wants to find out how Internet Service Providers handle video and data from providers such as Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. Content providers have accused Comcast and Verizon of throttling traffic from those content providers that have not paid for faster connections. The ISPs counter that they should be properly compensated for heavy, high-speed traffic volumes. Wheeler said the FCC wants to understand how these types of paid and un-paid traffic exchange arrangements work in order to help consumers understand what is happening with the services for which they are paying. “Consumers want transparency. They want answers,” said Wheeler. “And so do I.” (The Associated Press)(ABC News)

Amazon Enters US Music-Streaming Market

Amazon now offers music streaming service in the US to its Amazon Prime members, putting it in competition with companies such as Spotify and Beats Music. These companies offer 20 million songs, compared to Amazon’s 1 million. The company’s catalogue features popular artists such as Justin Timberlake, Pink, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna but is not as large as its competitors in part because of a failed licensing deal with Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company. For $99 per year, Amazon Prime members will be able to listen to streaming music without restrictions or advertisements on their Android or iOS mobile devices or on their PCs or Macs. The market for digital music is becoming increasingly crowded and competitive, particularly since Apple entered the fray by purchasing Beats for $3.2 billion in May 2014. (BBC)(USA Today)

US Consumers Receive Credits from E-book Antitrust Case

Consumers who purchased electronic books in 2010 and 2012 have begun receiving notices that they will receive credits from a $166 million settlement in a high-profile, price-fixing antitrust case that the US Department of Justice and state attorneys general brought  against five large publishers. The publishers—Macmillan, Penguin Group (USA), Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins—were accused of collaborating on their pricing strategies to ultimately raise the retail price of books. As a result, books sold on Amazon that had cost $9.99 rose to $12.99 or $14.99, causing consumers to pay more than they should have. Most consumers who bought e-books from the publishers between 1 April 2010 and 21 May 2012 were given credits ranging from 73 cents to as much as $3.17 per book, the higher amount for a book on the New York Times bestseller list. Consumers in the state of Minnesota will receive between 94 cents and $3.93 per book as that case was settled separately. Most of the affected consumers were Amazon customers who can use the credit to purchase print or e-books from the company, which was not a party in the suit. Other retailers are also providing customers with credits or, in the case of Sony, checks. Apple, which also sells e-books, has yet to settle its case with the government and is scheduled to go to trial in May. (Reuters)(Bloomberg Businessweek)(San Francisco Chronicle)(Attorneys General and Class E-books Settlements)
 

Amazon Expands Micropayment System to Android

Amazon announced it will now support its virtual currency on Google Android mobile devices in the US, UK, and Germany. Amazon Coins are a virtual currency introduced by the company in 2013, originally intended for Kindle Fire tablet users to make micropurchases, including applications. Each coin is now worth a penny. The company is reportedly working toward establishing “an end-to-end ecosystem” for developers. Some observers are skeptical about Amazon billing it as a virtual currency since it is linked to a user, unlike Bitcoin, which is anonymous. (SlashDot – 1)(SlashDot – 2)(Tech Crunch)(Amazon.com)

Amazon Tries Vending Machines for Kindle Products

Pioneering online retailer Amazon has begun testing the waters in the physical world by offering its tablets and e-readers in vending machines. The company didn’t appear at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas but did have one of its vending machines at the Las Vegas airport. Amazon launched its Kindle Kiosk machines late last year. “Electronics vending is not novel, but “any foray by Amazon into the world of offline retail is a big deal,” said Wired. (Wired)(GeekWire)

Report: Web-Based Firms Increasingly Build Internet Infrastructure

Numerous Internet-based companies—including Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft—are increasingly buying and constructing the Internet’s network backbone, bypassing conventional development by telecommunications firms such as Sprint. According to the Wall Street Journal, companies active on the Internet are buying, leasing, or installing dark fiber infrastructure to ensure they have needed connectivity for their customers. Google now owns 100,000 miles of private fiber-optic routes worldwide, while Facebook recently invested in a trans-Pacific cable. Driving the investment is the explosion in traffic prompted by streaming video and smartphones use. “Internet companies are responding by investing in pipes themselves to make sure that traffic can be supported and reach new and more remote users,” noted the Wall Street Journal. “That is partly because telecom companies aren’t spending as much on new construction to avoid squeezing their profit. But it is also because Web companies crave the certainty that comes from owning the assets.” (Gizmodo)(The Wall Street Journal) 

Amazon Plans Delivery by Drones

Although Amazon is best known for its online technology, it announced it is working on a novel delivery system that would use autonomous flying robots or drones. Jeff Bezos, the company’s chief executive, told the 60 Minutes television newsmagazine its Prime Air is being designed to deliver packages via octocopter drones within 30 minutes of purchase. After a consumer makes a purchase, the less-than-five-pound item would be placed in an Amazon container, which moves on a conveyor belt to an Amazon drone. The flying drone delivers the package to the person’s doorstep, according to a company video. Although it will require Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory approval, Bezos claims Prime Air will be airborne in 2015. Amazon has been working on other delivery programs in the meantime, including same-day delivery, Sunday delivery via the United States Postal Service, and expanded grocery service. (SlashDot)(The Los Angeles Times)(60 Minutes Overtime @ CBS News)
 

Amazon Problems Take Sites Offline

Several websites reliant on Amazon Web Services were offline as a result of software problems at an Amazon's data center. Sites including Airbnb, Instagram, Netflix, and Vine experienced hours of problems 25 August 2013 that were triggered by a series of operational problems at the company’s northern Virginia datacenter. Users reported issues, starting at about 4 p.m. EDT, including intermittent access and problems with logging in. Service was restored by about 6 p.m. PDT/ 9 p.m. EDT. Amazon attributed the problems to “partial failure of a networking device.” The company’s own website went dark for about 30 minutes less than a week ago. (BBC)(PC Mag)
 

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