Jeff Bezos shocked Middle America during a CBS “60 Minutes” segment with Charlie Rose: 30-minute Amazon deliveries by drones. Whether it's a real product or genius PR stunt on the eve of the biggest online shopping day of the year, it doesn't matter. The idea of a sky full of drones just hit the mainstream.
Amazon isn't the first company to experiment delivery by drones. In fact, over the last year, several companies beat Amazon to the punch with very similar services testing carrying tacos, pizzas and packages by multi-rotor crafts.
Skycatch demonstrated its aptly-named Tacocopter at Disrupt SF 2013. It flew past attendees, delivering a warm taco feet from the panel of robotics experts.
But what about a pizza? A UK franchise of the U.S.-based Domino's demonstrated over the summer a drone carrying two pizzas, forcing career pizza delivery men and women to question the longevity of their profession.
China-based SF Express started limited live trials of package deliveries earlier this year. And SF Express' reveal wasn't helped along with a prominent news agency like in Amazon's case. Drones carrying packages were simply spotted in Dongguang, in southern China.
As reported by Quartz at the time, local companies are not bound by rigid government regulations and restrictions in China. Forget the black hole that is the FCC, apparently Chinese businesses that want to use drones must be granted approval from the local civil aviation authorities first. There's a certain appeal to delivery drones in China. Heavily populated areas are fighting a losing battle against smog and traffic congestion. Drones could be part of the answer.
Amazon's program would offer 30 minute deliveries of small items - that would cover 86% of Amazon's orders, Bezos indicated during the 60 Minutes interview. In theory, this would completely eliminate the lack of instant gratification currently lacking from shopping online. In its place would be the fact that your order would be delivered by a drone. A drone! I would order a pack of pencils just to have them dropped on my front door by a robot. But this revolution will not happen anytime soon. At least not in the States.
Bezos is a marketing genius. Amazon Prime Air is unquestionably more marketing gimmick than service in the pipeline. Even Bezos cautioned on 60 Minutes that drone deliveries are still years out. The air regulations are not in place, and the drone technology still needs to mature.
Amazon is currently under fire for working and hiring practices. They are fighting a losing battle against making customers pay taxes in certain states. The Guardian discovered the retail behemoth skirted paying the UK's corporation tax despite £7 billion in local sales. And there's always talk about Amazon's lack of substantial revenues. But now the company has drones!
If any company in the U.S. could pull this off, it would be Amazon. The retailer has demonstrated its knack for modernization time and time again. Of course there is a list of potential issues including regulations, scaling, and people with Airsoft guns. Innovation will overcome obstacles. However, the slope here is rather slippery. If Amazon can do this, why can't Walmart? Will this solution to decongest roads simply result in congestion 30 meters above the ground?
Library books on demand. Inter-industrial complex deliveries. Even the delivery of a drone by a drone. The sky is the limit (sorry) for drone deliveries.
In case you do not have access to your smartphone, computer, tablet, smart TV, Xbox 360, PS3, Boxee Box, PS Vita or any of the other countless connected devices, you can now watch YouTube on a Nintendo 3DS.
Nearly 2 years after its launch, the 3DS now has a YouTube app. The top screen plays back the video while the bottom serves up touchscreen controls. The shoulder buttons control navigation and the directional pad provides scrolling options. Or, use a stylus to control everything. Essentially, the app performs as expected.
Ironically, the app does not support 3D YouTube videos.
The app is now available through the 3DS eShop in North America and Europe, joining Netflix and Hulu which launched just last month.
(In case it's not obvious, YouTube is not available on a Game Boy Color, nor does it ship in cartridge form. But these mockups, like the one featured here, are pretty awesome.)
Oh, Amazon. You're silly. But also very right.
In Amazon's latest assault on the gadget establishment, the Kindle HDK 8.9 takes on the iPad Air, correctly pointing out that Amazon's offering has a better screen and is lighter than its Apple counterpart. Plus, the Kindle HDX 8.9 is cheaper.
With this advert, Amazon joins Microsoft in selling their wares directly against Apple's. This commercial, like some of the Windows tablet tv spots, is rather blunt, right down to a mocking tone of the voice-over narrator. But, arguably, unlike the Microsoft attacks, Amazon's selling points are valid and worth considering for some buyers.
The Kindle HDX 8.9 is a worthy competitor against the iPad. The screen is more dense and generally higher quality. The HDX is lighter and cheaper. For a good chunk of buyers, as in, those looking to watch YouTube videos, play some older games, and shop Amazon, the HDX is a great option. The only thing the HDX lacks is access to Apple's iCloud ecosystem that brilliantly syncs commonly used communication and productivity tools across Apple computers and mobile devices.
Amazon has steadily grown into a legitimate consumer electronic company. From humble starts with the original Kindle, the retail giant knows how to start small and scale into a major player. Is the Kindle HDX better than the iPad? Not really, but the gap is quickly closing. Plus, drones.
The Apple Campus 2 is cleared for launch. Again. A unanimous vote by Cupertino City Council cleared the last hurdle for Apple's so-called spaceship HQ.
“We're really proud that you decided to stay here in Cupertino,” Councilman Gilbert Wong said, addressing Dan Whisenhunt, Apple's head of real estate and facilities, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Yesterday's vote was mostly a formality since the council approved the construction last month. This final vote reduced the annual tax rebate Cupertino gives to Apple. According to a deal struck in 1997 when Apple was on the verge of collapse, Cupertino gives back 50% of the taxes generated each year from Apple's business-to-business sales. The new deal has the city returning 35% back to the company, generating an additional estimated $1.2m each year for the city.
Apple is expected to break ground this year. Apparently heavy equipment is already on site. The 2.8 million square-foot HQ will open in 2016. And as with every Apple product, expect a gratuitous amount of leaks and micro-analysis of every move.
In today's edition of “U.S. wireless carriers are dicks”, we're going to look at the latest in how carriers and the CTIA are protecting valuable revenue streams by blocking features that would curb smartphone theft.
Over 1.6 million U.S. consumers had a smartphone stolen in 2012. One in three thefts within the U.S. involved a mobile gadget. Speaking to CBS This Morning today, San Francisco's Attorney General stated that 50% of their robberies and thefts involved a smartphone. It's an epidemic and wireless carriers are dismissing the solution.
According to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, officials from in New York, San Francisco, London and Philadelphia called on the wireless industry to present a solution. Samsung did just that earlier this year for its own devices, but the five largest U.S. wireless carriers denied it their customers.
According to emails obtained by CBS, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, all decided to not include the feature in the Samsung handsets sold by each carrier. Meanwhile, the CTIA, the trade association for wireless carriers, helped the FCC and certain police departments create online databases for stolen phones.
In theory, this list - compiled for, managed by, and unique to each wireless carrier - would prevent stolen smartphones from being reactivated. But it doesn't protect against data theft, and is largely useless if the phone is shipped out of the country. A kill switch is needed and placed in the hands of smartphone owners.
Samsung and Apple both moved to implement a kill switch within their devices earlier this year. Apple had more luck than Samsung. Since a staggering majority of Samsung smartphones sold in the U.S. run Android, wireless carriers are able to modify the software before selling the device to consumers. U.S. carriers simply removed the kill switch.
Apple's solution is not perfect but is a big step forward. The Find My iPhone application allows consumers to locate and remotely wipe phones. Then, new with iOS 7, the original owner's credentials have to be entered before the phone can be reactivated - even after the phone was completely reset. Meanwhile, Google offers a similar feature baked into Android, including the ability to remotely locate and wipe a stolen phone. But once the device is remotely erased, it can be reactivated under a new account.
It's unclear exactly why wireless carriers denied thoughtful security features to their customers, but preserving profit is main theory. Each carrier offers insurance for stolen phones. And what's a person supposed to do when their phone is stolen? Walk around unfettered like it's 1995? No, they go get a new phone at either the full price, sign a new contact to get the phone at a discount, or pay the deductible on that insurance plan.
It's too early to tell if the CTIA's national database will curb smartphone thefts. Logic seems to dictate that it won't, though. The thieves will just sell them overseas, out of reach of the CTIA's databases and the wireless carriers they represent. Think selling internationally is hard? Replace Craigslist with eBay in that illicit workflow and voilà - thieves are good to go once more.
The wireless industry as a whole needs to let go and put more power in the hands of the owners. Give owners a native kill switch, a software solution baked into the core of the phone, which upon activation, would completely brick the phone if it gets stolen.
The auto industry was once plagued by stolen radios. The problem was solved when car manufacturers took a hard stance and made it so a stolen radio would not work outside of the original car. But don't expect the wireless industry to take such a hard-line. An car owner with a broken window missing radio does not go out and buy an expensive new car. They buy a new window and radio.
The PS4 is a lovely gaming kit. It's sleek. Monolithic. And relatively small in comparison to the Xbox One. Sony did its 4th generation console right. iFixit found in its teardown that the gaming system is nearly as beautiful on the inside as it is on the out. But that shouldn't be a big surprise. It's a Sony product and Sony knows how to build things. However, iFixit did find something somewhat shocking: The latest PlayStation is very user serviceable.
On iFixit's scale of 1 to 10, the PS4 scored an 8 meaning most users can expect to rip the system open and tinker away. Most importantly, the hard drive is very easy to access, giving owners options to upgrade to a larger or faster option. The hardest thing to service, per iFixit, is apparently the fan which is buried deep the system's innards.
iFixit and others have yet to teardown the upcoming Xbox One. That should be in the coming days. Hopefully Microsoft designed it with the same thought as the Xbox 360E, the last model of its generation. That model was simple to open up. In fact, all of Microsoft's gaming systems from the start have been trivial to crack open and tinker around. The original Xbox's modability was a significant factor in its widespread adoption. Let's hope Microsoft hasn't forgotten that.
With the gaming world entering the 7th generation, there is hope that hardware makers, namely Sony and Microsoft, have learned from past mistakes and gamers shouldn't have to fear a red or yellow light of death caused by shoddy hardware design.
Meet the new definition of an all-in-one coffee machine: the Bonaverde. It not only brews and grinds coffee beans, the tabletop machine roasts them as well. Put unroasted coffee beans in the machine, press a button or two and 12-14 minutes later it produces truly fresh coffee. But the creators need help bringing the device to market and just launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking $135k in preorders and donations.
The last ten years saw the emergence of all-in-one coffee machines that grind and brew a pot of coffee. These can now be bought for less than $100. Obviously the Bonaverde will cost a bit more, because, you know, it also roasts the coffee.
For early Kickstarter supporters the Bonaverde can be had for $250, but the company expects to eventually sell the device for north of $400.
The process is pretty straight forward: Put the unroasted coffee in the machine which then sends it through a roasting process. From there, a fan will cool the beans before a ceramic disk grinds them prior to brewing. The machine then brews the coffee using a rain-shower-type method that thoroughly saturates the beans with the heated water. The whole process takes 12-14 minutes and produces 2-12 cups of coffee.
But where do you get unroasted coffee beans from? The farmers, of course. And apparently the company will facilitate that transaction, as well, providing buyers of its coffee machine with bean buying options from coffee farmers.
The product has been in development for over two years. The design itself was born from Jovoto where the company crowdsourced over 110 designs and the company expects to start shipping in the August of 2014.
Things could get even worse for HTC if the battered smartphone maker doesn’t move quickly. The WSJ is reporting that following a preliminary U.S. court win by Nokia, HTC is facing a possible import ban in its major overseas markets including the U.S. The ruling covers older HTC phones, but apparently the hot HTC One and other new devices also utilize the same radio technology covered in the lawsuit.
The WSJ is reporting that HTC is now working with Qualcomm to alter components to prevent another possible lawsuit. HTC is in rough shape as it is. Another lawsuit, or worse, an import ban, would douse the smartphone maker with more water as it tries to bail its already-sinking ship.
HTC is expected to report its first quarterly loss since its 2002 initial public offering. HTC is desperate, recently unloading its equity in Beats Electronics to try to shore up the smartphone maker’s cash balances. Once a top player in Android, HTC’s marketshare is shrinking, leading it to look at alternative markets including building a mobile OS for the Chinese market.
Nokia spokesman Mark Durrant told the Journal that even though the Nokia lawsuit started in 2012, before the HTC One hit the market, Nokia believes the One also violates its patents and would be included under any potential International Trade Commission ban.
HTC apparently has time before the final ruling in January 2014 to convince the ITC to reverse this ruling or present a workaround. It’s unclear at this time what HTC’s course of action might be, but this just adds to the company’s already overloaded pack animal. It likely won’t take much more to break its proverbial back.