MONEY Tech

You’re Not Going to Believe How Amazon Is Going to Speed Up Delivery

A package moves along a conveyer belt, at a new Amazon.com fulfillment center in DuPont, Wash. The center is one of 50 around the country and three in the Puget Sound area that process and ship Amazon customer orders using a mix of robotic technology and human employees.
Ted S. Warren—AP

That's right: 3D printers.

Amazon AMAZON.COM INC. AMZN -0.27% has made speedy delivery one of its key priorities.

To accomplish this task, the company has developed a nationwide network of distribution centers, built up its own delivery force, and made a deal with the United States Postal Service for Sunday delivery. The company has even tested predictive software, so it can know what you plan to order before you order it, and it has been experimenting with unmanned drones for near-instant delivery.

A new patent application from the online retailer shows it wants to take things a step further by removing warehouses from the equation. The patent, titled “Providing Services Related to Item Delivery Via 3D Manufacturing on Demand,” details a process where Amazon would take orders and use 3D printers in its delivery trucks to create the items.

“Time delays between receiving an order and shipping the item to the customer may reduce customer satisfaction and affect revenues generated,” the company explained in the “background” section of its application. “Accordingly, an electronic marketplace may find it desirable to decrease the amount of warehouse or inventory storage space needed, to reduce the amount of time consumed between receiving an order and delivering the item to the customer, or both.”

How it works

While the application does not specifically say items would only be manufactured in the truck, it does provide graphics and examples where products would be printed in the vehicle. In a broad sense, the process starts when Amazon receives an order from a customer. Then, the company interfaces with its supplier to receive drawings for the product and to arrange payment. After that, the item is printed and dropped off to the customer, either at their home or workplace or perhaps, at an alternate location like an Amazon Locker.

A specific scenario

Amazon spells out a specific example where a faucet handle breaks off while a person cleans up after dinner, making adjustment of the water pressure and temperature difficult. The person would then use a smartphone to access Amazon, locate the replacement handle, and order it for remote pickup.

After the order is completed, the customer, according to the application, would head toward the pick-up location indicated by the retailer.

“Meanwhile, the computer systems retrieve a digital 3D model of the faucet handle from a database maintained by the original vendor of the faucet,” Amazon wrote. “The computer systems then convert the 3D model into printing instructions for a 3D printer.”

Those instructions are used to print the handle — either on a truck or at an Amazon facility — and by the time the customer arrives at the pick up location, it is ready.

This specific example has the item printed in a physical Amazon location, but the patent application details both fixed and mobile scenarios as well as customer pick ups and deliveries. In either case, the time between order and pickup is dramatically faster than even the one-day option Amazon currently offers (and equal to, if not faster than, the very-limited same-day service offered in some markets).

More items, faster

The promise of making items using 3D printers not only offers quick turnaround but also the potential to exponentially increase product offerings. If the retailer can make deals with manufacturers, it should, for example, be able to offer an exhaustive supply of replacement parts. This could, in theory, include items that are out of stock or no longer manufactured.

Though the patent does not spell out how close Amazon is to offering this type of service, it does lay out an intriguing scenario which would improve service and inventory management without adding warehouse space. This type of service could be revolutionary, with the caveat that 3D printing and “parts on demand” are likely to become more common with physical retailers in the future.

Still, despite the fact that Amazon may someday be competing with “Print It Hut” or “On-Demand-O-Mat” locations in every strip mall in America, this is a bold idea typical of a company always pushing for innovation.

MONEY stocks

Nasdaq 5000: Three Reasons “This Time Is Different” Doesn’t Fly

The Nasdaq Marketsite digital monitor wall is seen in New York March 2, 2015. U.S. stocks advanced on Monday, with the Nasdaq moving above the 5,000 mark for the first time in 15 years, helped by technology deals and mixed data that pointed to a slowly accelerating economy.
Shannon Stapleton—Reuters The Nasdaq Marketsite digital monitor wall is seen in New York March 2, 2015. U.S. stocks advanced on Monday, with the Nasdaq moving above the 5,000 mark for the first time in 15 years, helped by technology deals and mixed data that pointed to a slowly accelerating economy.

How sure are you that the Nasdaq isn't partying like it's 1999?

For only the second time ever, the Nasdaq composite index has climbed above the 5,000 mark — 15 years after momentarily accomplishing this feat just before the tech wreck in 2000.

This has led to a chorus of articles about how things are different from a decade and a half ago.

For instance, some have argued that the Nasdaq is not the same tech-heavy index it was in the late 1990s, when tech giants like Microsoft and Cisco Systems dominated the market. Others note that the Nasdaq is a bargain compared to March 10, 2000, when it hit 5048 and the dot.com bubble burst. And still others say there is much less euphoria surrounding the tech economy than in the 1990s.

Really?

Let’s explore these arguments.

1) Yes, tech makes up slightly less of this index than it once did. But the Nasdaq is still extremely tech-centric. In March 2000, technology stocks accounted for half the Nasdaq’s stock market value, and the top holdings consisted of Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Intel, Qualcomm, and Oracle. And today? Tech is 47% of the index, and the top stocks in the index are Apple, Microsoft, Google, Intel, Facebook, Amazon.com, and Cisco. So have things really changed? Not so much.

2) Yes, parts of the Nasdaq are cheaper than they were in the 1990s. For instance, Microsoft, Intel and Cisco all trade at discounts to the S&P 500. But comparing today’s Nasdaq to the Nasdaq of 2000 is sort of like comparing all windy days to Hurricane Sandy. Sure, by comparison things seem calmer.

At a price/earnings ratio of 21.5, today’s Nasdaq looks “reasonably” priced compared to its once-in-a-lifetime P/E of 175 in 2000. But it’s foolish to make relative judgments against such historically extreme cases, says Greg Schultz, a principal with Asset Allocation Advisors. The fact is, at an average P/E of 21.5, the Nasdaq is still considerably more expensive than the Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500, European stocks, emerging market stocks, and the list goes on and on.

3) The tech economy has matured. Yes, there are mature technology companies, such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Intel, which all now cash-rich dividend-paying stocks that yield more than the broad market and trade at decent valuations. But giant mainstream computer-based tech giants are no longer the focal point of the tech economy or the Nasdaq.

Last year, Ben Inker, co-head of asset allocation at the investment firm GMO, pointed out that the euphoria had shifted to smaller health-care and biotech names. He was right. Biotech stocks such as Isis Pharmaceuticals (up 538% since 2013; no profits) and drugmaker Incyte (up 422% since 2013; no profits) are now the hottest part of the Nasdaq. Overall, the Nasdaq Biotech index now trades at P/E of around 50.

Meanwhile, many of the Nasdaq’s hottest social and streaming media stocks this year — including Twitter, Netflix — are either profitless or trading at astronomical PE’s.

And as Fortune magazine recently pointed out in its cover story, The Age of Unicorns, tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists only seem to get excited these days if they can create startups that are instantly valued at $1 billion or more.

So how sure are you that the Nasdaq isn’t partying—at least a little—like it’s 1999?

TIME apps

The Over-30s Must Pay Double for Tinder’s New Premium Service

Now you can rewind that left swipe, but it will cost you

Tinder launched its much anticipated premium service on Monday but the hugely popular dating app will cost twice as much for users over 30.

Tinder Plus offers users the chance to undo accidental left swipes, reports ABC. (Tinder allows users to search for others who are located close to them on their smartphones, swiping right if you’re interested in a profile and left to reject that person.)

The feature also allows you to connect with people in different cities using the “Passport” function, and the app will be ad-free.

Users in the U.S. can purchase the new upgrade for $9.99 a month, unless you’re over 30, in which case you’ll have to pay $19.99 for the privilege.

And if you live in the U.K., Tinder Plus will cost you £14.99 ($23) if you’re 28 or over, compared with just £3.99 ($6) for users ages 18 to 27.

But Tinder says its prices are based on “extensive” testing.

“Younger users are just as excited about Tinder Plus, but are more budget constrained, and need a lower price to pull the trigger,” said Rosette Pambakian, vice president of corporate communications at Tinder.

[ABC]

MONEY Tech

Wireless Charging Coming to an Ikea Nightstand Near You

Furniture giant Ikea is introducing lamps and tables that will recharge your smartphone — no power cord necessary.

MONEY Nasdaq

11 Ways the World Has Changed Since the Nasdaq Last Hit 5,000

The Nasdaq index just topped the 5,000 point line, which practically speaking means…. well, nothing. But it is a historical marker, since the tech and growth-stock heavy index hasn’t been at this level since just before the Internet bubble burst in 2000.

The index’s previous record close of 5,048 was March 2000. By the end of that year, it would be half that amount.

We went back to look at what the world looked like back at peak dotcom. What was all the fuss about?

  • Pets.com

    The Pets.com sock puppet.
    Chris Hondros—Getty Images "I love stuffed things!"

    You’d have seen this cute sock puppet pictured everywhere during commercial breaks and even during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

    Thanks to Pets.com’s marketing campaign centered on this sock puppet, the online pet food and supplies company became the most recognized flop of the dot.com bubble. The company lost $147 million in 2000 before folding in November of that year. But the biggest flop title belongs to another company, Webvan, which was a grocery delivery service. In Nov. 1999, its stocks were trading at $30; by July 2001, stocks were 6 cents a share.

     

  • Jeeves

    AskJeeves
    Ask.com via Internet Wayback Machine "AskJeeves it," said nobody

    “Google” wasn’t quite a verb yet. (That usage took until 2002 to show up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) You could still plausibly ask Jeeves. Or Lycos or Excite something. Or you went to Yahoo!, which was famous for its Web directory, an index of stuff online. Because people really found things that way.

  • Y2K

    150226_INV_Nasdaq5000_Y2K
    Richard Ellis—Getty Images Don't worry, we've got this. (And they mostly did.)

    Everyone was still relived that everything worked when the new millennium began. The scare: That around the world computers would get hopelessly confused and crashy when the year “99” flipped over to “00.”

  • MP3s

    Ernesto Roy holds a Diamond Rio portable MP3 player in San Francisco on Thursday, July 27, 2000. The tiny device can store and play dozens of megabytes of downloaded MP3 music files. A federal court yesterday ordered an injuction against Napster, a major resource for MP3s on the internet.
    Dan Krauss—Associated Press The Rio MP3 player, which lasted just long enough to help murder the CD

    MP3 players like this one were the newest way to listen to all your favorite songs. And, for the first time, you didn’t have to go to a shop and buy those tunes—you had to rip them from a CD or steal them, because there was no iTunes yet. Peer-to-peer music sharing service Napster was still going strong. Pearl Jam had yet to sue the service for copyright infringement.

  • Nokia

    Sending Text Message On Mobile Phone Nokia 3310
    Alamy Seemed like a smart phone at the time.

    This was one of the best selling phones of 2000, with 126 million units sold worldwide. It was known for its impressive features, which included a calculator, stop watch, reminder function and four—four!—games. Also, it really did seem stylish at the time. Still, only about half of Americans even owed a cell phone in 2000, vs. 90% today.

  • iBook

    Steve Jobs, Founder and acting CEO of Apple Computer Inc., holds up one of the company's new consumer laptops called an "iBook" after his keynote address at the Macworld Expo in New York. The iBook G3 in 1999 was among the first laptops to come with a Wi-Fi card.
    Bebeto Matthews—AP Steve Jobs revived the Mac and had Apple on the comeback trail

    This early laptop from Apple with its colored plastic sides inspired comparisons to things like Barbie accessories and toilet seats, but was still everywhere in 2000. It was the first mainstream computer designed and sold with WiFi built in.

  • Email

    A computer user reads a program code attached to an e-mail dubbed the Love Bug May 5.
    Heinz-Peter Bader—Reuters People didn't hate this yet.

    In 2000, hardly anyone had to worry about missing an important email from their boss on a weekend. Only 1 in 3 adults even used email from their homes.

  • Internet Usage

    Address bar of internet browser
    Andrew Paterson—Alamy

    Today nearly 90% of Americans use the internet, but in 2000 only 46% of Americans used the internet and many nonusers felt that the internet was a “a dangerous thing”—54% believed this.

    A third of people who did not use the internet in 2000 said they definitely will not be going online and another 25% said they would probably not go online.

  • American Beauty

    AMERICAN BEAUTY, US poster art, 1999
    DreamWorks—Courtesy Everett Collection AMERICAN BEAUTY, US poster art, 1999

    Kevin Spacey was having a midlife crisis in suburbia, instead of masterfully manipulating Washington, DC politics in 2000. He took home the Oscar for best actor for his role in American Beauty. The film also won the Oscar for best picture that year beating out The Sixth Sense, The Green Mile, The Cider House Rules and The Insider.

  • NSYNC

    American boy band 'N Sync, circa 2000.
    Tim Roney—Getty Images

    NSYNC’s second studio album No Strings Attached was the best selling album of the year beating out Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP and Britney Spears’ Oops!…I Did It Again. We just wanted to show a picture of NSYNC…

  • Shaq

    Shaquille O'Neal #34 of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a layup against Sam Perkins #14 of the Indiana Pacers during Game 6 of the 2000 NBA Finals on June 19, 2000 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
    Andrew D. Bernstein—NBAE/Getty Images

    … and also one of Shaquille O’Neal. At the top of the game in 2000, he lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Championship and was crowned MVP of the NBA finals.

TIME technology

Ikea Furniture Will Soon Charge Your Phone

Ikea
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A sign is posted on the exterior of an IKEA store on June 26, 2014 in Emeryville, Calif.

No need to waste time looking for your phone charger: some new Ikea furniture will be able to charge your phone wirelessly beginning in April, the company announced Sunday.

The wireless charging stations, designed by the Wireless Power Consortium, will be integrated into pieces like desks, tables and lamps using a technology standard called Qi Wireless. The company will also sell an add-on kit that allows people to add wireless charging to existing furniture. Buying a wireless-charging-integrated product will cost €30 ($33) extra, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Through research and home visits, we know that people hate cable mess,” said Jeanette Skjelmose, a corporate manager at Ikea. “They worry about not finding the charger and running out of power. Our new innovative solutions, which integrate wireless charging into home furnishings, will make life at home simpler.”

But will it work with your phone? Yes, if you have a Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus 6 or one a few other phones. But Apple fans beware: it doesn’t work with the iPhone.

Read next: The Galaxy S6 Is Samsung’s Best-Looking Smartphone Yet

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Apple watch

Just Look at This Completely Ridiculous $75,000 Apple Watch

It has a lot of diamonds

Many have speculated that version of Apple’s upcoming smartwatch could retail for vastly more than the $349 entry-level price the company announced when it unveiled the device last year. In fact, by some estimates, the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant could net as much as $5 billion per quarter from sales of its highest-end gold version alone. Then there are the planned versions below, put out by reseller Brikk. Its top-of-the-line model will cost just shy of $70,000.

The company says it plans to take apart Apple’s devices and reassemble them—with extra luxury. According to a Brikk release, the company will do the following:

Each piece is disassembled inside Brikk’s state-of-the-art laboratory in Los Angeles by a team of skilled engineers. They are hand polished, then plated with five layers of diverse metals before their final plating in either two layers of gold or platinum. High quality diamonds are set with a microscope in a custom-machined bezel. Each piece is then reassembled and tested before shipping to clients.

More information about the final availability of the Apple Watch will be available in early March, when the company holds its “Spring Forward” event in California.

MONEY TV

Nickelodeon Thinks You’ll Pay $6 a Month for a Netflix for Preschoolers

Blue's Clues
Nick Jr. Blue's Clues

If you think your toddler needs more screen time—and if you somehow don't already have more than enough child-friendly streaming options—Nickelodeon has the product for you.

This week, Nickelodeon announced that it is launching a new app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, available at Apple’s App Store starting March 5. The app will be a subscription video service called Noggin—the same name of the cable TV channel that was a predecessor of Nick Jr.—and it will offer as much ad-free viewing of “Blue’s Clues,” “Little Bear,” and other preschooler fare as your little one’s eyeballs can handle, at a price of $5.99 per month.

As Variety noted, “Nickelodeon continues to grapple with ratings declines at its traditional TV network, owing to viewers seeking video content on new kinds of screens.” In a recent week, Nickelodeon’s ratings among kids were down 35% compared to the same period a year ago. So you can’t blame the Viacom-owned network for trying to do something to boost its audience and revenues.

But who is going to pay $5.99 a month this service? Starting at just $2 more monthly, you can be a subscriber to Netflix, which has plenty of content for children of all ages—it’s even been adding reboots of kids’ shows like “Care Bears,” “Magic School Bus,” and “Inspector Gadget”—as well as movies and shows for adults. The vast majority of consumers who are intrigued with streaming already subscribe to one or more service, such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video (free for Prime members), or Hulu Plus, all of which have sections full of kids’ content. There’s also plenty of free kid-friendly streaming video out there (PBS Kids, for example). Finally, if you have a pay TV subscription that includes Nickelodeon, as most packages do, you can download the Nick Jr. app for free and watch unlimited, ad-free full episodes of “Dora the Explorer,” “Bubble Guppies,” and such.

It’s unclear, then, why all that many families would need to pay another $6 a month for yet more preschooler streaming content.

If there’s a parallel in the industry, it’s CBS All-Access, the subscription streaming option that also charges $5.99 per month—and that many observers assume will fail. At least the CBS product is targeting adults, most obviously folks who are big fans of the network’s shows, such as “The Good Wife” and various versions of “CSI” and “NCIS,” as well as older programs like “Brady Bunch” and “Star Trek.”

CBS All-Access has some hope of attracting grownup subscribers who are picky about what they watch and who like CBS’s programming. But how many preschoolers do you know are picky about what they watch? Most of the kids we know are more than happy to be allowed to watch something—anything—on the iPad while their parents enjoy their meal at the restaurant.

MONEY Tech

Why Apple Won’t Buy Tesla

Tesla Model S
Tesla Tesla Model S

It doesn't make any sense.

According to Jason Calacanis, who bills himself as an “angel investor, entrepreneur, conference host, and podcaster,” Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 0.21% will spend $75 billion to acquire Tesla Motors TESLA MOTORS INC. TSLA 1.13% within the next year-and-a-half. While he listed a number of reasons for such a deal, his primary argument is that “once the [Tesla] Model 3 hits the road, Tesla’s market cap would make a deal with Apple a merger — not an acquisition.”

In other words, Calacanis expects such a sharp upturn in Tesla financials once it launches the more affordable Model 3 car that its market capitalization could be well north of what even Apple could afford — assuming, of course, Apple even wants to buy Tesla.

But this seems highly implausible to me.

Tesla is already quite richly valued

The first fundamental flaw with this claim is the idea that Tesla financials and market capitalization will skyrocket once the company is delivering relatively affordable electric vehicles in significant volumes. I would argue the current $25 billion market capitalization already bakes in some pretty high investor expectations.

To put this into perspective, current analyst consensus for Ford 2015 revenue — keep in mind that Ford is already in the high-volume, mainstream automobile game — sits at $143.7 billion, and its market capitalization is just shy of $64 billion as of this writing. Tesla trades at approximately 39% of Ford’s market capitalization even though the upstart carmaker is projected to generate just 4% of its 2015 revenue.

Of course, Tesla is a much higher-growth company, and it is far “sexier” than Ford, so I do not take issue with Tesla getting a richer valuation. The problem, though, is that the stock price today — at least, from what I can tell — already bakes in a lot of future success.

That means when or if Tesla succeeds in driving more volume and growing its revenue significantly, the financials might improve, but I am not convinced this could lead to the huge growth in the stock price that Calacanis predicts.

Apple would be better off buying its own stock

If Apple were to drop $75 billion on Tesla today (a three times premium to the current market capitalization), it is highly questionable as to when the company could see a return on that investment. Tesla has outright stated it does not expect to be profitable on a GAAP basis until 2020.

In this scenario, not only would Apple have to wait five years before a single cent of profit showed up on the income statement, but Tesla operations could actually drag on Apple. If the company owns Tesla, and Tesla is losing money, then that comes straight out of Apple financials.

Additionally, since Apple would need to buy Tesla with U.S.-based cash or with stock, the deal would either force the tech giant to issue shares, undoing the benefits of previous stock repurchases, or to issue a hefty amount of debt, which means paying interest on that debt. Alternatively, Apple could repatriate its foreign-held cash and get hit with a huge tax bill, but that would probably be the least likely option.

If Apple is really itching to spend $75 billion on something, it would be far better for the company to simply buy back stock. At least in this case, Apple would shrink the number of shares outstanding, immediately providing a meaningful boost to earnings per share. In my humble view, that would certainly be a quicker and easier way to juice the bottom line than to spend an exorbitant amount of money on Tesla.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 24

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

1. For some returning from war, a ‘G.I. bill for farming’ eases the transition home.

By Abby Wendle at Harvest Public Media

2. In Egypt, a class project to fight sexual harassment has grown into a campus-wide movement encouraging women to “Speak Up.”

By Ahmed Fouad in Al-Monitor

3. Your kid’s school is missing the tech revolution, and it’s all your fault.

By Jason Tanz in Wired

4. Community courts focus on rehabilitation and compassion for non-violent offenders.

By Henry Gass in the Christian Science Monitor

5. A new ‘Uber for packages’ service is partnering with Waffle House to build a network of delivery points around the south.

By Amar Toor in the Verge

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.

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