Amazon has been pretty good about digital distribution in the past. Their music store is a strong competitor to Apple’s iTunes, and now it looks like they’re planning to man up the casual game division with their own game download center.
The fledgling game store is already packed with 600+ titles here on day one, and they’re planning to add more as time goes on. And, as a bonus to people that sign up with the store this week, they are offering full versions of “Jewel Quest 2,” “The Scruffs,” and “Build A Lot,” all for free.
Though, they are sure to note that this is only a beta launch, so if there are kinks, don’t stress about them too much. Growing pains are all part of starting something like this. Amazon, we’ll keep our eyes on you, you’ve impressed before.
Oft rumored but not yet confirmed, New York Times blogger Brad Stone says Amazon will introduce the Kindle 2 eBook reader in New York City on February 9th. Reaching that conclusion took a little bit of detective work on the part of Stone, who noticed Amazon changed the ship date for its out-of-stock Kindle from 11 to 13 weeks down to 4 to 6 weeks. This would coincide with a news conference Amazon has planned for February 9th at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York.
"The device has been out of stock since November, after Oprah Winfrey touted it on her show," Stone writes. "The announcement seems to confirm our suspicions that the original Kindle has been obsolete since that time and that everyone who purchased the device over the holidays from Amazon.com — or put their name on a waiting list — will receive the newer version."
Back in October 2008, BoyGeniusReport.com posted what it claims were leaked photos of the upcoming Kindle. Among the changes shown were smaller buttons to help avoid inadvertent page turns, and a joystick instead of a scroll wheel. The photos also revealed a miniUSB cable port.
This happens to be the second instance of an anonymous Belkin employee accusing the company of unabashedly resorting to unscrupulous means to further its interests. Gizmodo had very recently published an email from an anonymous Belkin employee, who claimed that even Belkin’s employees maintain a safe distance from the company's products, including the free ones.
Enterprise business applications still outnumber all other open-source projects, according to a survey of 380 Linux developers by market research firm Evans Data Corporation. But open-source is on the move away from traditional enterprise infrastructures and into the Cloud--the concept of data being stored "on the Internet" without a single entity or specific server to call home. Google's App Engine takes top billing as a Cloud provider, with 28 percent of Cloud-ready developers opting to use this service versus 15 percent for Amazon's Elastic Compute.
That's great and all, but where are open-source developers making their money? We've got the answer after the jump, but here's a quick hint: It's the exact same way that no-name application and game developers are cashing in on a critical consumer platform.
It’s unfortunate to see Microsoft so clearly working backwards in a progressive music market. In a world run by DRM-free services like Amazon, Lala and Apple, its confusing to see a giant like Microsoft moving towards DRM when it comes to loading music on mobile phones.
According to Hugh Griffiths, Microsoft’s Head of Mobile at Microsoft UK, “It's a first step. We're doing this in conjunction with a third-party provider. We'll be looking to enhance the service if we get some interest from consumers. They certainly tell us that they like listening to music while they are out and about, on their mobile phones.”
On top of that, there’s currently no announced way for customers to move music between their mobile phone and their computer. And, to further dig the grave of the service, the tracks will be selling for nearly $2 (American) per song, compared to Apple and Amazon’s 79 – 99 cents.
Lets just hope that either Microsoft takes their stake out of the DRM-fueled music game before some unsuspecting people get swindled into buying crippled music, or they drastically change their tactics.
If you've ever wondered why user reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, it's because of incidents like this. Amazon operates a site called Mechanical Turk, which Amazon describes as "a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence." Thousands of low paying tasks are available for registered users to complete, such as transcribing audio, identifying objects in a photo or video, and other chores humans are still better at than computers. But it was never intended as an outlet for companies to solicit positive user reviews, and that's what a Belkin employee was caught doing.
According to an ad posted on the site, Michael Bayard, Business Development Representative at Belkin, offered to pay users 65 cents for each positive 5/5 review they posted, instructing them to "write as if you own the product and are using it." The ad even asks users to look for negative reviews and mark them as "not helpful."
It didn't take long for Belkin to catch wind of the situation and offer a statement denying knowledge of what was going on.
"It was with great surprise and dismay when we discovered that one of our employees may have posted a number of queries on the Amazon Mechanical Turk website inviting users to post positive reviews of Belkin products in exchange for payment," wrote Mark Reynoso, Belkin President. "Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this."
Reynoso goes on to say that this is an isolated incident and has worked with Amazon to remove all associated postings.
Ever since Amazon launched its music store back in September 2007, everyone assumed its discounted prices and DRM free catalog was a result of the music industries dissatisfaction with Apples dominance. With iTunes being the primary management software for the most popular MP3 player on the planet, Amazon knew it would need an edge to stay competitive. The 10 cent per track discount was a nice touch, but techies and audio enthusiasts alike were eager to switch if it meant we could free our music. Most of us assumed the DRM restrictions on iTunes would remain for the forcible future, but now that this has turned out not to be the case what else wasn’t true?
Well, according to unnamed sources cited by CNET, everybody selling downloadable music is also paying the same wholesale price. Though it has never been confirmed, many believe Apple makes but a few pennies per .99 cent download. If this is indeed true, anything else sold below this price might actually be a loss leader. Now with iTunes discounting its back catalog of tracks to a mere .69 cents, and at comparable bit rates, it’s well positioned to steal back business from Amazon. NPD senior industry analyst Russ Crupnick claims the two services don’t impact each other as much as we might think, but at the very least it certainly makes switching from iTunes to a separate web store much less desirable then it used to be.
Now that iTunes has gone DRM free, and has begun to discount its back catalog of tracks, can Amazon still compete?
Given that the economy is down in the dumps, it would be expected that online retailers are treating all of their customers with all the respect that they possibly can… right? Wrong. According to an annual report from Forsee Results more than one-third of the 40 online venues surveyed in a report on retail satisfaction finished with lower scores than they did at this very same time last year.
While many of the retailers’ scores remained the same, a meager one-quarter of them saw an improvement. At the top of the list is Washington’s own Amazon.com, with an 84 percent satisfaction rate, a two percent improvement over last year. All the way at the bottom is Neiman Marcus with a dismal 69 percent. Other notables are Newegg.com’s 78 percent, BestBuy.com’s 73 percent and Dell.com’s 73 percent.
While these percentiles might not give off the impression of poor performance, bear in mind the millions upon millions of people doing business with these companies online during the holiday season. Having a good 30 percent of the people that do business with you walk away unhappy is a very large number indeed.
One Laptop Per Child's "Give 1 Get 1" program is making a comeback, only this time the OLPC association has teamed with Amazon.com in hopes of ironing out any kinks in the ordering and distribution process. Amazon will start taking order for XO laptops on Monday, November 24 and promises to ship the devices within 30-days, at least in the U.S. Those ordering from the U.K. and elsewhere will be taken from Amazon's U.K. site and will start shipping in the first quarter of next year, or possibly later.
The Give 1 Get 1 program ran for six weeks last year, and in that time managed to sell 160,000 XO laptops. And since more people decided to donate the machine rather than keep one, over 100,000 XO laptops ended up going to school kids in countries like Haiti and Rwanda.
"The phenomenal success of last year's Give 1 Get 1 program created tremendous demand from both the public who wanted to give more and from countries that saw an opportunity to attack poverty through education," said Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of OLPC, in a statement."
The Give 1 Get 1 promotion runs $400, in which one machine goes to a child in a developing country and the other to the donor who placed the order. Alternately, donors can opt to give away as many individual laptops as they want for $200 per XO.
Though I’m willing to bet the Maximum PC core demographic differs somewhat from that of the Oprah Winfrey show, oddly she has done something worth mentioning. The TV celebrity took the opportunity on Friday to do some heavy plugging of the Amazon Kindle. Oprah claims the gifted Kindle she received this summer “has changed her life”. Some might down play the significance of this endorsement, but the popularity of Oprah’s book club is often enough to catapult relatively obscure titles all the way to the New York Times Bestseller list seemingly overnight. Heck, new studies have shown even a simple nod from the celebrity will be enough to net Barack Obama an additional one million votes. Winfrey who was joined by Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos described the gadget as “pricy” but “environmentally friendly”. The endorsement does come with a fringe benefit however. A $50 price break is offered when using the promotional code OPRAHWINFREYduring checkout. So if you’ve been waiting for a price drop before you pick up a Kindle this brings the device down to a modest $309.00 USD until November 1st 2008.
So while I’m willing to bet Oprah isn’t the primary reason our readers will pick up a Kindle, has anyone else made the switch from paperbacks? Let us know what you think of the Kindle.