TIME Companies

We’re About to Learn Way More About Amazon’s Cloud Business

LUXEMBOURG-FINANCE-ECONOMY-COMPANIES-LUXLEAKS
Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images A view of US multinational Amazon's European headquarters, nestled in the Clausen Valley in Luxembourg, November 10, 2014.

Amazon will finally break the silence on just how much money its cloud service unit has been raking in

Amazon will break out its cloud business in an earnings report for the first time Thursday, revealing more information than previously known about the company’s server operation.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is widely believed to have a lead over its chief rivals, Microsoft, Google and IBM, in the race to replace local computing with off-site servers, though how big of a lead has always been an open question. Amazon’s spokesperson acknowledged to the Wall Street Journal that AWS is already a “multibillion dollar business,” a significant chunk of change in a market that totaled nearly $10 billion in 2014, according to an analysis by IDC.

But the bigger question mark hovering over Amazon’s disclosure centers on growth. Expectations are running high, given quarterly revenue from its chief rival in cloud services, Microsoft, has consistently expanded by triple digit growth rates. Whether Amazon’s growth matches expectations will be revealed as soon as its financials finally come out of the “other” line.

MONEY deals

This Week’s Best Deals: Kindle Fire Sale, Old Navy Discounts, Freebies

Old Navy store
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

In addition to an unprecedented deal on an Amazon Kindle tablet, both Old Navy and Ann Taylor unveil their biggest discounts of the year.

Here are our top choices for bargains this week:

A Better-Than-Black Friday Price

RadioShack has been closing stores nationwide, which means clearance-level pricing on the vendor’s inventory of electronics and accessories. Case in point: This Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7″ Tablet is now selling for $104.99 in-store, which is even lower than the best price we saw on Black Friday last year. It’s also the cheapest price currently available for the 16GB WiFi version by a full $74. Stock will vary by location, however, so we recommend hopping in your car as soon as possible for a chance to snag this deal.

Discounted Clothes for Everyone

Does the entire family need an updated spring wardrobe? Old Navy currently slashes 40% off everything — including sale items, which are already marked up to 50% off — via coupon code “SUNSHINE” through April 21. That’s the best coupon Old Navy has offered this entire year. Speaking of stellar clothing coupons, Ann Taylor is also promoting its best coupon of the year, cutting 50% off sitewide with the code “CYBER50.” Our recommendation? Get your Mother’s Day shopping done early and use these discounts to buy Mom a nice top or jewelry set. Deal ends April 20.

Another Chance for Freebies

If you missed out on the numerous Tax Day freebies last week, there’s still an opportunity to snag something gratis in celebration of Earth Day. People in the Southeast can visit an EVOS location on April 22 and get a free milkshake, while anyone living near a Wegmans can exchange disposable plastic bags for a coupon to receive a free reusable bag on April 25. The promo runs from 11 am to 3 pm that day, but only the first 300 people will receive a coupon. For more Earth Day freebies and promotions, click here.

Amazing bargains pop up at any given moment, so check out the DealNews Editors’ Choice page for the most recent offers, or sign up for a daily email digest sent directly to your inbox.

TIME India

Flipkart, India’s Amazon, Plans to Shut Down Its Website Within a Year

General Images of Flipkart As India's Largest Online Retailer Said To Buy Competitor Myntra
Brent Lewin—Bloomberg/Getty Images The websites for Flipkart, bottom, and Myntra.com are displayed on an Apple Inc. iPad and iPhone 5c respectively in an arranged photograph in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

The firm's mobile traffic has apparently increased tenfold in less than 18 months

Flipkart, India’s biggest e-commerce company, said on Monday that it plans to shut down its website within a year and transition completely to a mobile app.

“Last year, we had more on the app but still did our web and desktop. In the next year or so, we’re going to be only mobile,” Michael Adnani, Flipkart’s vice president, retail and head of brand alliances, told the Times of India.

The decision is a reaction to the rapid growth of smartphone users in India, which is the third largest Internet market after China and the U.S. The Boston Consulting Group projects that the South Asian nation will have more than 550 million Internet users in 2018, of which almost 80% will be on mobile devices.

“A year ago, 6% of our traffic was coming from mobile. In less than 18 months, that traffic is 10-fold,” Adnani said. “That shows the significance of what a mobile phone is doing for the consumers and consequently doing for us.”

Two-thirds of Flipkart’s 8 million monthly shipments come from cities and small towns, where most people don’t have access to desktop computers and broadband Internet.

Fashion e-retailer Myntra, which Flipkart acquired last year, is also set to abandon its website in favor of an app on May 1.

TIME India

The Guy Who Brings Your Lunch in Mumbai Now Also Brings You Anything From a New Phone to a Fresh Shirt

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Lou Jones—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images Dabbawalas sorting tiffin lunch boxes before delivery in front of Churchgate railway station in Mumbai

This is service

Delivering over 200,000 home-cooked meals a day across one of the world’s largest and most-crowded cities (and also picking up and returning the empty containers) is no mean feat. But that’s exactly what the dabbawalas — or “tiffin carriers” — of Mumbai do with clockwork precision and an organizational system that many large companies would do anything to possess.

They’ve even been awarded the Six Sigma seal of approval, earned for making just one error in every 6 million deliveries.

So it’s no surprise that India’s equivalent of Amazon, Flipkart, is now looking to take advantage of that astounding precision to deliver packages to its customers and get an edge over rivals, like, well, Amazon itself.

Flipkart has teamed up with the Mumbai dabbawalas, Reuters reports, enlisting their services to enable quicker and better “last mile” distribution.

The deliverymen will deliver parcels assigned from Flipkart hubs across the city, along with their usual pickup and drop-off of lunch boxes. They will initially only be assigned prepaid deliveries and are currently using a paper system for logistics, but the goal is reportedly to transition to apps and wearable technology down the line.

“The dabbawalas of Mumbai are one of the most reliable and trusted brands in the city. Their unique delivery system has been smooth, reliable and has survived the test of time — even under extreme conditions,” stated Neeraj Aggarwal, Flipkart’s senior director.

If you’re not familiar with the consummate organization of the dabbawalas, check out the video below. Even Amazon could have a hard time matching that.

TIME Retail

Amazon Is Suing Sites That Sell Fake Reviews

Amazon Unveils Its First Smartphone
David Ryder—Getty Images Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos presents the company's first smartphone, the Fire Phone, on June 18, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

Sites offer to fill seller's product pages with 4 and 5-star reviews

Amazon is cracking down on sites that it says sell fake reviews to bolster products sold on the retailer’s website.

The online retail giant filed suit Wednesday against buyamazonreviews.con and buyazonreviews.com, according to The Seattle Times. The suit accuses the websites of false advertising, trademark infringement and violating consumer protection laws.

Buyamazonreviews.com did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the website’s owner, Mark Collins, told the Times that Amazon’s claims were without merit, saying his site offers “unbiased and honest” reviews, not fake ones.

On its home page, buyamazonreviews.com offers “unlimited” four and five star reviews to its customers. “Our skilled writers look at your product, look at your competitor’s products and then write state of the art reviews that will be sure to generate sales for you,” the website states.

The case marks the first time Amazon has brought a lawsuit against a company said to be shilling fake reviews. Amazon is seeking triple damages and attorney’s fees, as well as a court order to stop the other sites from using the retailer’s name.

TIME Innovation

Amazon Gets Permission to Test Its Delivery Drones

Amazone Drone Delivery
Amazon/AP Amazon's 'Prime Air' unmanned aircraft project prototype.

The FAA allowed the company to test a newer prototype

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has once again granted Amazon permission to test drones for commercial use, this time expediting the request.

The company had previously received the go-ahead in March, but it argued since six months had passed since that request, the prototype in question had gone out date. They submitted a new request with an updated prototype, which was approved in less than a month, Reuters reports.

The FAA says Amazon can test drones for delivery as long as it limits altitude to 400 feet and speed to 100 miles per hour. Eventually, the web retailer hopes to use commercial drones to deliver packages to customers at a distance of 10 miles or more.

[Reuters]

TIME Gadgets

Amazon Just Gave You One More Reason to Stay in Bed

Amazon's Echo smart speaker can now control your lights

Ever been too lazy to get out of bed and switch off your lights? Amazon’s Echo smart speaker might be for you.

Amazon announced Wednesday you can now use the Siri-like speaker to control the lights and switches in your house.

“You can now use Echo to switch on the lamp before getting out of bed, turn on the fan or heater while reading in your favorite chair, or dim the lights from the couch to watch a movie — all without lifting a finger… or even raising your voice,” reads Amazon’s release.

Echo can be linked up to your lights and switches through smart home products by two supported brands: WeMo and Hue. Supported devices include WeMo’s Switch, Insight Switch and Light Switch, and Hue’s A19, Lux, BR30, Bloom and LightStrip, according to Amazon.

Echo, which was released last November to invite-only customers, can already answer commands and questions like “play music by Bruno Mars” or “will it rain?” thanks to a Wi-Fi connection. The new light switch control is just one of many new features Amazon has added to the device since its release: It has also learned how to use Pandora, list sports scores and report on traffic conditions.

Read next: Amazon Just Unveiled the Future of Shopping and It’s Awesome

TIME Television

These Are the TVs Netflix Wants You to Buy

Netflix Illustrations Ahead Of Earnings
Bloomberg—Getty Images The Netflix Inc. website and logo are displayed on laptop computers arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.

Netflix has announced the first of the Web-connected TV sets that qualify for its new “Netflix Recommended” program, which the company unveiled in January.

Many if not most of the hassles involved in trying to watch TV over the Internet have to do with network problems, something that neither TV manufacturers nor streamers like Netflix or Amazon can do much about. But Netflix has for years been working with makers of TVs and TV-connected devices to make streaming video more consistently easy to use.

The criteria for getting on the list are generally limited to the streaming experience. Most consumers presumably will weigh all the other usual factors: picture and sound quality, price, size, the remote layout, the installed interface, etc.

But as Internet video becomes ever-more popular, ease-of-streaming becomes ever-more important. Netflix judged the TVs on how quickly they launch the Netflix app, the loading time of streams, and how quickly users can get to both the Netflix app and its streams. Two of the requirements: whether the Netflix app is displayed prominently enough, and whether the remote has a dedicated Netflix button.

All very self-serving for Netflix, certainly, but also very handy for people who use the service a lot. The giant Netflix logo that will be affixed to the TVs on store displays will attract just those people.

Netflix announced the program last January during an LG media event, and several LG sets using the WebOS 2.0 platform are on the list.

Others use the Roku interface, which puts apps, including Netflix, at the center of the TV-viewing experience, right on the home screen. Those sets are from TCL, Insignia, and Hisense.

Also included are Sony’s coming Bravia sets, which will run on the Android TV platform, and offer similarly easy access to apps, and a remote button dedicated to Netflix—press it, and the TV turns on and Netflix instantly appears.

More than half of the sets aren’t available for purchase yet, but will be in the coming weeks and months. Netflix said it would continue adding sets to the list as it approves them. Expect entries from Sharp Electronics and Vizio, since Netflix mentioned both companies during its January announcement.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 2

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. McDonald’s is raising wages for 90,000 employees. That’s a good start, and a strong message to other fast food outlets.

By Shan Li and Tiffany Hsu in the Los Angeles Times

2. “It must be right:” The human instinct to trust the authority of machines can be dangerous when life is on the line.

By Bob Wachter in Backchannel

3. As college acceptance letters roll in, women should ask about sexual assault prevention on campus.

By Veena Trehan at Nation of Change

4. When corporate values clash with policy in conservative states, big business has a powerful veto tool.

By Eric Garland in Medium

5. Amazon’s Dash button isn’t a hoax. It’s a step toward a true “Internet of Things.”

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles in the Wall Street Journal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Retail

Amazon Basically Just Unveiled the Future of Shopping and It’s Awesome

No, the Dash Button is not an April Fool

Amazon.com unveiled its latest innovation Tuesday — a tiny device that allows you to order household items at the touch of a button.

The Dash Button is a Wi-Fi enabled plastic controller that connects to a customer’s smartphone through the Amazon app. The buttons can be stuck or hung anywhere around the house — like on your washing machine, say. If you run out of detergent, you just push the button and an order is automatically sent to Amazon for that particular product.

More than a dozen brands — listing about 255 of the kind of bulky products you need to replenish often — are available to order through the Dash Button program.

The device allows users to cancel their order within 30 minutes, and the order will only process once, so you won’t end up with tons of detergent being delivered to your door.

The timing of Amazon’s announcement has got many people wondering if it’s a prank for April Fool’s Day. Others see the timing as a stroke of marketing genius, because while people are trying to decide if it’s a hoax they are also doing precisely what Amazon wants them to do — which is talk about Dash and share the news.

Amazon spokesperson Kinley Pearsall confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that the Dash Button is indeed real, although for now the service is only available to Amazon Prime customers by invitation only.

Read next: 7 Things You Probably Had No Idea Amazon Sold

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