Archive for the ‘amazon’ Category

Chromecasts are finally available from Amazon again

December 13th, 2018
Chromecasts are finally available from Amazon again

Enlarge (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Amazon and Google haven't played nicely with each other over the past few years, but consumers were thrown just thrown a bone. Amazon has finally restocked Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra devices in its online store, selling them for $35 and $69 respectively.

Back in 2015, Amazon pulled Chromecast devices from its store after it dictated that it would only sell streaming devices that support its own Prime Video service. Since the Chromecast did not, Amazon claimed it would cause "customer confusion" to offer it for purchase.

The same strange rule applied to the Apple TV, which Amazon didn't sell for some time as well. But Amazon released its Prime Video app for Apple TV this time last year, and Apple's set-top box reappeared on Amazon quickly after that.

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Posted in amazon, chromecast, chromecast ultra, echo, google, online shopping, Tech, YouTube | Comments (0)

FCC panel wants to tax Internet-using businesses and give the money to ISPs

December 12th, 2018
A mouse cursor hovering over two options labeled

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Christian Michaels)

A Federal Communications Commission advisory committee has proposed a new tax on Netflix, Google, Facebook, and many other businesses that require Internet access to operate.

If adopted by states, the recommended tax would apply to subscription-based retail services that require Internet access, such as Netflix, and to advertising-supported services that use the Internet, such as Google and Facebook. The tax would also apply to any small- or medium-sized business that charges subscription fees for online services or uses online advertising. The tax would also apply to any provider of broadband access, such as cable or wireless operators.

The collected money would go into state rural broadband deployment funds that would help bring faster Internet access to sparsely populated areas. Similar universal service fees are already assessed on landline phone service and mobile phone service nationwide. Those phone fees contribute to federal programs such as the FCC's Connect America Fund, which pays AT&T and other carriers to deploy broadband in rural areas.

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Posted in amazon, AT&T, FCC, google, Netflix, Policy | Comments (0)

Amazon Web Services aims to colonize your network with Outpost

December 12th, 2018
Amazon's going to need some bigger boxes to ship those Outpost racks next year.

Enlarge / Amazon's going to need some bigger boxes to ship those Outpost racks next year. (credit: Christopher Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

If you want to know what Amazon's big plans are for Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the most reliable tells is to watch where Microsoft and Google cloud services are gaining traction. At last year's annual Amazon re:Invent technical conference, the big news for cloud customers was Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), a managed container service based on industry-leading Kubernetes—an open source platform championed by Google. And this last year, at last week's re:Invent 2018, Amazon announced its counter to Microsoft's Azure Stack with a new on-premises offering of its own.

Amazon Outposts, a service scheduled to become available in the second half of 2019, will allow customers to provision physical racks of Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers and have them shipped to their own data centers. The racks will be configured with the same servers that Amazon runs in its AWS data centers; once installed, the racks will connect back to the AWS mothership over the Internet and then can be configured with storage services and virtual machines through Amazon's AWS Management Console. And just as with services hosted in Amazon's own data centers, customers won't own these racks—they'll rent them. The costs and connectivity requirements associated with Outpost have yet to be determined.

Living on the edge

Using Outpost's "edge computing" model has some potential benefits for companies transitioning to the cloud or with large existing hybrid cloud deployments mixing on-site and cloud resources. In his re:Invent keynote, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said that consistency in operations was the primary motivation for Outpost, since customers will be able to use the same Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and control pane with Outposts that they currently use with AWS. But Outpost also guarantees on-demand access to the virtual machines and storage on these systems, whereas in normal AWS cloud usage, customers would have to reserve those services in advance to guarantee on-demand availability. Additionally, customers may be able to eventually run many AWS cloud services locally in their own data center—services that they might currently rely on third-party software for because of performance or security concerns related to using AWS.

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Posted in amazon, Amazon Web Services, AWS, Biz & IT, edge compiuting, hybrid cloud | Comments (0)

Amazon “automated machine” punctures bear spray can, 24 employees hospitalized

December 6th, 2018
Robbinsville Amazon warehouse

Enlarge / Employees fufill online orders at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey, on Thursday, June 7, 2018. (credit: Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, 24 Amazon employees working in a Robbinsville Township, New Jersey, warehouse were sent to five different area hospitals after a 9oz canister of bear spray was deployed.

Early reports that the canister was punctured by an Amazon robot have not been confirmed by either Amazon or the Township's communication official, John Nalbone. Nalbone told Ars that Robbinsville first responders only reported that an "automated machine" was to blame, which could mean anything from a programmed robotic arm to an automated conveyor belt. (Of course, may readers of Ars would agree that defining the meaning of "robot" is more than just an exercise in trivia. This Wired article explores the topic more deeply.)

On Wednesday evening, one of the 24 people hospitalized was in critical condition, while another 30 were treated on the scene, ABC News says.

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Posted in amazon, Biz & IT, employment, robots, Working conditions | Comments (0)

Barnes and Noble’s newest Kindle competitor is a 7-inch, $49 Nook

December 3rd, 2018
Barnes and Noble’s newest Kindle competitor is a 7-inch, $49 Nook

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Barnes and Noble hasn't given up on its Nook tablets—quite the contrary, in fact. Last month, the bookseller debuted its biggest Android reading tablet yet, a $129, 10.1-inch slab with room for up to 256GB of storage. And today, Barnes and Noble came out with another, much more affordable tablet: an updated version of its two-year-old, 7-inch Nook that costs only $49.

The new Nook looks nearly identical to the previous model, which was the smallest Nook when it came out a couple of years ago. The black slate has a 7-inch, 1024×600 display on it, as well as a microUSB port for charging, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. The original tablet had a mere 8GB of onboard storage, but the new device starts at 16GB. With the microSD card slot, you can have up to 128GB of total storage—enough to support numerous e-books and a decent number of Android apps.

In addition, the tablet has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, front- and rear-facing cameras (the former being a VGA camera and the latter being a 2MP shooter), and up to seven hours of battery life on a single charge. It's certainly not the most capable Android tablet, but at $49, it's one of the most affordable available.

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Posted in amazon, barnes and noble, clara HD, e-reader, kindle, Kobo, Nook, paperwhite, Tech | Comments (0)

Apple Music arrives on Amazon’s Echo speakers starting December 17

November 30th, 2018
Apple Music arrives on Amazon’s Echo speakers starting December 17

Enlarge (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Apple Music subscribers will have a new way to listen to music soon. Amazon announced that Apple Music will be available on Echo devices next month, beginning the week of December 17.

"We are committed to offering great music providers to our customers and since launching the Music Skill API to developers just last month, we’ve expanded the music selection on Alexa to include even more top tier services,"said Amazon Devices senior vice president David Limp in the statement. "We’re thrilled to bring Apple Music—one of the most popular music services in the US—to Echo customers this holiday."

Once the feature rolls out, users will be able to ask Alexa on Echo devices to play songs, artists, and albums from Apple Music after pairing their account to the Alexa mobile app. Subscribers can also ask Alexa to play curated playlists and radio stations, including Apple's Beats 1 station.

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Posted in alexa, amazon, apple, apple music, echo, streaming, Tech | Comments (0)

Congress: Amazon didn’t give “sufficient answers” about facial recognition

November 29th, 2018
Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com, in May 2018.

Enlarge / Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com, in May 2018. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Seven members of the House of Representatives and one United States senator have now sent a second letter to Amazon's CEO, asking for more clarification about the company's use of facial-recognition technology.

Although two House members in the group sent a similar letter to CEO Jeff Bezos back in July, the larger group now says that Amazon "failed to provide sufficient answers" about its commercial facial-recognition program, known as Rekognition. Prior to the July letter, the American Civil Liberties Union used the service in a demonstration of its inadequacy—the service falsely matched 28 members of Congress with mugshots.

The new letter, issued on Thursday, was signed by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), among others. The document states that the legislators have "serious concerns that this type of product has significant accuracy issues, places disproportionate burdens on communities of color, and could stifle Americans' willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights in public."

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Posted in amazon, congress, Edward Markey, Jeff Bezos, jimmy gomez, Policy, rekognition | Comments (0)

Kobo Forma review: A formidable opponent for Amazon’s Kindle Oasis

November 22nd, 2018
Kobo Forma review: A formidable opponent for Amazon’s Kindle Oasis

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Kobo has its work cut out for it. The digital bookshop company reentered the US market this year, teaming up with Walmart to sell Kobo e-readers, the millions of books in its e-book library, and a new audiobook subscription service. The Rakuten-owned company faces stiff competition not just from Amazon, the reigning e-reader and e-book king, but also the looming reality that e-reader technology hasn't changed drastically enough to propel consistent sales growth in recent years.

But Kobo is convinced that it can thrive in the US by offering competitive e-readers that feature no ads and by using Walmart's physical and online reach to introduce e-books and audiobooks to new customers. To do this successfully, Kobo needs a few things: solid e-readers at various price points, a vast e-book and audiobook library with deals and incentives that create loyal customers, and, hopefully, unique features that Amazon doesn't have.

We tested out the $279 Kobo Forma, one of the company's newest e-readers and its competitor for Amazon's $249 Kindle Oasis. It's decked out with all of Kobo's advanced e-reader features—an 8-inch 300ppi E Ink display, a waterproof design, and zero advertisements, to name a few—and as a whole, the Forma dutifully showcases what Kobo can add to the US e-book market.

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Posted in amazon, clara HD, e-ink, e-reader, kindle, kindle oasis, Kobo, kobo forma, Tech | Comments (0)

Guidemaster: Want an Alexa device? Here’s every Amazon Echo, compared

November 22nd, 2018
"Alexa, circumvent your technological protection measures."

Enlarge / "Alexa, circumvent your technological protection measures." (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Update: It's Thanksgiving in the US, and Ars staffers have taken the day off to experiment in the kitchen rather than on the page. That said, tomorrow is the annual shop-a-palooza known as Black Friday, and the deals have already started. To help, we're resurfacing our 2017 guide to Amazon's Echo products and adding a few updates (like blurbs on the Alexa Smart Plug, the Echo Auto, the Echo Input, and the Echo Sub). This piece originally ran on November 23, 2017.

Amazon debuted the original Echo a few years ago, and it raised eyebrows in the tech industry. The Echo is a smart home speaker that houses Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant, an AI helper that helps you complete daily tasks using only your voice. Since its debut, users of all levels of tech prowess have embraced Echo and Alexa, finding practicality in a voice-controlled assistant and all the things it can do.

Both Alexa and the Echo have evolved since then to meet the needs of an ever-growing market. After the Echo and Alexa came Google Home with the Google Assistant, the Harman Kardon Invoke with Microsoft's Cortana, and the forthcoming Homepod with Apple's Siri. Amazon has an advantage over all these competitors because it has had the time to develop many different Echo devices and expand Alexa to be a multifaceted assistant, thanks to third-party integrations and skills. ("Skills" is Amazon's word for apps, in this case.)

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Posted in AI assistant, alexa, amazon, echo, echo buttons, echo connect, echo dot, echo plus, echo show, echo spot, echo tap, Features, smart home speaker, Tech, virtual assistant | Comments (0)

Amazon trying to buy 22 cable TV sports channels, including Yankees network

November 20th, 2018
TV cameramen and a YES network logo banner at Yankee Stadium.

Enlarge / A YES logo banner. (credit: Getty Images | Michael Heiman)

Amazon is trying to buy 22 regional sports TV networks (RSNs) from the Walt Disney Company, according to a CNBC report today.

In June, Disney received Department of Justice approval to buy 21st Century Fox properties on the condition that it divest Fox-owned regional sports networks (RSNs). Together, these networks have programming rights for 44 Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, and National Hockey League teams.

"In addition to Amazon, Apollo Global Management, KKR & Co, The Blackstone Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group and TEGNA also made first round bids for the full slate of networks," CNBC wrote, citing anonymous sources.

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Posted in amazon, Biz & IT, Disney, Fox | Comments (0)