Amazon

Amazon Echo devices can now make Skype calls

Video chat was always one of Echo Show and Spot’s biggest selling points. But until now, the products have been tethered to Amazon’s own software. This week, however, the company took another big step in its ongoing relationship with Microsoft by adding Skype calling to mix. Now just about every Echo device past and present are able to make calls using the popular platform. Your Echo/Plus/Dot, et al. will be able to do so via voice using a command like, “Alexa Skype Mom.” Echos with displays, meanwhile, will offer up the full video Skype experience. Users can also ask Alexa to dial a phone number via Skype. It’s a solid partnership for the two companies. Amazon could use better chat support and Microsoft hasn’t made much headway with Cortana-enabled devices. This is also a bit of a blow fo...

Cities that didn’t win HQ2 shouldn’t be counted out

Brooks Rainwater Contributor More posts by this contributor As tasks wane, skills rise Blockchain technology could be the great equalizer for American cities Scott Andes Contributor Scott Andes is the program director for the National League of Cities City Innovation Ecosystem program. The more than year-long dance between cities and Amazon for its second headquarters is finally over, with New York City and Washington, DC, capturing the big prize. With one of the largest economic development windfalls in a generation on the line, 238 cities used every tactic in the book to court the company – including offering to rename a city “Amazon” and appointing Jeff Bezos “mayor for life.” Now that the process, and hysteria, are over, and cities have stopped asking “how can we get Amazon,” we’d like...

Walmart passes Apple to become No. 3 online retailer in U.S.

Walmart has overtaken Apple to become the No. 3 online retailer in the U.S., according to a report this week from eMarketer. While Amazon still leads by a wide margin, accounting for 48 percent of e-commerce sales in 2018, Walmart – including also Sam’s Club and Jet.com – is poised to capture 4 percent of all online retail spending in the U.S. by year-end, totaling $20.91 billion. The news of the shift in e-commerce rankings comes alongside Walmart’s strong earnings which saw the retailer reporting a 43 percent increase in online sales and upping its year-end forecast for both earnings and sales. The company had beat Wall St.’s expectations in its fiscal third quarter, with $1.08 earnings per share instead of the expected $1.01. However, it fell short on revenue with $124.89 billion versus...

Alibaba and Amazon move over, we visited JD.com connected grocery store in China

The arms race to build the future of grocery stores is heating up in China. To no one’s surprise, the main contestants are the country’s ecommerce titans Alibaba and JD.com, which are turning offline for growth. Online retail has flourished in China, but it still accounts for less than 20 percent of the nation’s overall consumption, according to the Ministry of Commerce. The goal of internet players is not to steal business from the offline counterparts, but to digitize old-fashioned merchants. Long before Amazon bought out Whole Foods for $13.7 billion last year, Alibaba was making offline forays by forging partnerships with a department store operator, an electronics retail heavyweight, and more recently, a prolific hypermarket chain. The purest manifestation of Alibaba’s physical push c...

Lies, damn lies, and HQ2

There are few things certain in our world except for the uplifting tendencies of technology. I’ve spent the past few years trying to prove this to myself, at least, by interviewing hundreds of thinkers on the topic. I’ve come to a singular conclusion: when tech moves into a city, be it an iOS dev shop or a robotic facility for making widgets, things change primarily for the better. Given the recent rush to gain 25,000 or so jobs from Amazon’s HQ2 and the subsequent grumbling by cities passed over, it is difficult to refute this, but I’d like explore it. Many cities have gained from tech, both historically and recently. Pittsburgh, for example, had a plan to become a tech city back in the early 1990s after seeing the value coming out of Carnegie Mellon and the other universities in town. An...

New York politicians push back on Amazon HQ2 plans

Amazon’s HQ2 process was bound to polarize (though I do enjoy a good dueling op-ed on these pages) no matter how it landed. But the decision to set up shop in New York City is likely ruffling more feathers than just about any other possible outcome. As a resident of neighboring Astoria, Queens, the less I say about the matter the better — I’m going to assume you didn’t click on this story to read five paragraphs of me complaining about the N train and my rent.I will say I haven’t spoken to too many fellow NYC residents who are excited about the personal impact Amazon’s move will have on quality of life. A number of local and state representatives are also finally starting to weigh in on the matter, and many of the comments don’t reflect the sort of capitalist cheerleading one anticipates f...

Report: NYC and Arlington, VA win the contest for Amazon’s split East Coast headquarters

New York City and Arlington, Virginia have reportedly won Amazon’s lengthy and highly-publicized pageant for the locations of its new headquarters, beating out 238 other contestants. According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news, an official announcement may come as early as Tuesday. The offices will be located in Long Island City, across the East River from Manhattan, and Crystal City, a neighborhood in Arlington, which is a 15-20 minute drive from Washington D.C. Last week, more than a year after the Seattle-based company began asking cities to submit proposals for its second headquarters, nicknamed HQ2, reports emerged that Amazon planned to open two new locations, instead of just one, catching candidates off guard. WSJ reported that the Amazon decided to split a total of 5...

In venture capital, it’s still the age of the unicorn

Howie Xu Contributor Howie Xu is the vice president of artificial intelligence and machine learning at Zscaler. He previously co-founded TrustPath and served as an entrepreneur in residence at Greylock. This month marks the 5-year anniversary of Aileen Lee’s landmark article, “Welcome To The Unicorn Club”. At the time, the piece defined a new breed of startup — the $1 billion privately held company. When Lee did her first count, there were 39 “unicorns”; an improbable, but not impossible number.. Today, the once-scarce unicorn has become a global herd with 376 companies on the roster and counting. But the proliferation of unicorns begs raises certain questions. Is this new breed of unicorn artificially created? Could these magical companies see their valuations slip and fall out of the her...

Facebook Portal needs more. At least it just added YouTube

To offset the creepiness of having Facebook’s camera and microphone in your house, its new Portal video chat gadget needs best-in-class software.  Its hardware is remarkably well done, plus Messenger and the photo frame feature work great. But its third-party app platform was pretty skimpy when the device launched this week. Facebook is increasingly relying on its smart display competitors to boost Portal’s capabilities. It already comes with Amazon Alexa inside. And now, Google’s YouTube is part of the Portal app platform. “Yes, YouTube.com is available through an optional install in the ‘Portal Apps’ catalog” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. You can open it with a “Hey Portal” command, but there currently seems to be no way to queue up specific videos or control playback via voice. The ...

Amazon expands its assortment of Apple inventory, including the latest devices

Amazon has signed a new deal with Apple that will allow the retailer to increase the selection of Apple products on its site, according to a report from CNET, which Amazon also confirmed. The deal will give Apple-authorized resellers the ability to sell a wide range of devices on Amazon — including Apple’s recently launched iPad Pro, iPhone XS and XR, and Apple Watch Series 4, in addition to Beats headphones. Previously, these products were only available through Amazon’s third-party marketplace sellers at various price points, or not available at all, CNET noted. Amazon confirmed the deal to TechCrunch in a statement. “Amazon is constantly working to enhance the customer experience, and one of the ways we do this is by increasing selection of the products we know customers want,” an Amazo...

20 startups take center stage at Berkeley SkyDeck’s demo day

The largest-ever Berkeley SkyDeck demo day kicked off with a high-energy performance from the Cal marching band, setting the tone for an afternoon of presentations from none other than Berkeley faculty and students-turned-entrepreneurs. Launched in 2012 as a modest accelerator for student-run businesses, SkyDeck has flourished since its inception. To date, the program has mentored 300 startups, which have gone on to raise $800 million via 27 funding rounds and 10 acquisition deals. Earlier this year, it raised a $24 million venture fund so it could finally seed participating startups with $100,000 in exchange for 5 percent equity. Today’s cohort is only the second to receive an investment from SkyDeck as part of the accelerator. To participate in SkyDeck’s accelerator program, startups mus...

Alibaba rival JD.com plays the long-game on technology investment

China’s JD.com  has made it clear recently that it’s venturing into artificial intelligence and automation. Every few months over the past year, the online retailer – China’s second-largest by transactions after Alibaba – has unveiled new products based on cutting-edge technology: for example drone delivery, self-driving trucks, fully automated warehouses, to name a few. Most of these technologies are still in their testing phase and JD’s ever expanding technology investment is already eating into its profitability. In the second quarter, the retail titan’s technology expenses were up over 70 percent year-over-year for the third consecutive quarter, costing the company 2.8 billion yuan, or $400 million. Net income slipped more than 50 percent to 478 million yuan, versus 977 million yuan la...