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Amazon Prime Now is a pilot project in Manhattan and it promises to deliver books and anything else the website sells within two hours. If two hours is too much time, you can pay an extra $7.99 to get it within one hour.

In order to take advantage of the Prime Now program you must subscribe to the $99.99 per year Amazon Prime membership. Amazon has promised that more cities will receive this service in in 2015. Anyone who downloads the mobile app for iOS or Android can receive a notice when the service arrives in their area.

When using the app to order products, Amazon is not reinventing the wheel. If you have ever used the Amazon Shopping app, Prime Now functions the exact same way. You can search for and browse items and then add them to your shopping cart. After you order your item, you can track its delivery. Amazon has confirmed that over 10,000 items are eligible for the Prime Now program.

Amazon is facing increased competition from established players, who have launched new programs. Google has been experimenting with its own delivery service, which in October expanded beyond its early outposts in New York and California to Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C. For same-day service, users of Google Express must pay $95 per year, or $10 per month. Online auction site eBay, has also expressed interest about faster deliveries using their own in-house solution.

Free two hour shipping on 10,000 items is very compelling if you are already an Amazon Prime member. Sadly, the only postal code its delivering to right now is 10001.

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Hotels are embracing digital in a big way, as they seek to distinguish themselves from the competition by offering compelling reasons to stay with them, over the competition.

One of the emerging trends is taking advantage of the technology in your pocket.  At select Starwood hotel brands around the world, guests will no longer have to fumble for their room key card at the bottom of their bag now that the chain has rolled out keyless technology that opens doors with the swipe of a smartphone. Starwood’s SPG Keyless program is being called a first for the hotel industry and will roll out to 10 hotels around the world in markets like Beijing, Doha, Hong Kong, New York, and Singapore.

Starwood is not the only company experimenting with being able to open your hotel doors with an app. HotelTonight has also developed a mobile app-enabled feature that allows guests to open their doors with a swipe of their phone which is being negotiated with hotels worldwide.

One of the benefits about this automatic door entry program is that some hotels are bypassing the need to check in at the front desk altogether, except in regions that require an ID check at the front desk. This is actually drawing praise by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak who recently stayed at an W Hollywood Hotel citing that ““And I didn’t have to talk to anybody to do this.”

Hotels are also turning to digital newspapers and magazines to offer guests the ability to read their own local papers, even if they are thousands of miles away. Recently  Accor has announced that their entire chain of 3,500+ hotels across 92 countries have signed a deal with PressReader. “This is one of our biggest announcements yet and it demonstrates the direction we’re going,” said Igor Smirnoff, Chief Commercial Officer for PressReader. “We think this is indicative of a huge change in the way that newspapers and magazines are being consumed.”

The fifth annual Hotel Technology Conference in Singapore just spent the last few days discussing what type of advancements the hospitality industry will face in 2015. One of the most exciting things was Turning OFF and ON the lights and controlling Air-conditioning with the of apps. IT departments in major hotels are also looking at TV based motion and voice controls, and presence detectors to allegedly making it easy for the guests, while at the same time – controlling energy.

The other key take away from the conference was the focus on wearable tech, such as smart watches, smart bands and how they can play a role in opening doors and automatically checking in and out.

I think the big trend in the hotel sector in 2015 is to take advantage of the fact that guests bring their own smartphones and tablets with them. The challenge is being able to develop and market a range of apps to open doors, control the environment and bypass the check in counter to expedite the entire process.

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Amazon UK Distribution Centre

ICANN has been running a series of auctions over the course of the last year for a new series of custom domain names. Amazon has been battling it out against rival publishing and self-publishing companies in an effort to attain the lucrative .book TLD. Amazon has just won the auction despite a filing by the Association of American Publishers in 2013 that opposed its bid, and described the possible control of the .book TLD by the retailer, or by any private company, to be counter to the public interest.

Reportedly Amazon won the domain with a closing bid of $10 million dollars and was competing against Google and Bowker in the late stages.  There is no knowledge currently if Amazon gave an incentive to these two companies to dropout or if they did it willingly.

It will be interesting to see what Amazon intends on doing with the .book domain name, if they intend on providing vanity URL’s for authors who self-publish under the KDP program.

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When young artists and small business owners are just starting out they tend to sell their content on platforms with the largest audience. Amazon Marketplace, Alibaba, eBay, and ETSY are all the most notable examples of being able to reach a huge audience and generate revenue without the need to setup a dedicated website and maintain strong social media. The downfall of these sites is that you may be known in a small niche segment online, but are completely unknown in your own backyard.

I see small business owners and young entrepreneurs feel lost and deflated because they never get to meet their customers face to face and seldom do you ever see jubilation or a simple smile. Normally a customer dispute and angry emails are the everyday norm and it’s rare that someone actually sends you a thank you email. I think in order to broaden your base and have a sense of real world accomplishment you have to get out there and develop a local presence.

The one big concern about selling local is getting a distribution deal through an existing store and requires a lot of wheeling and dealing. If you live in a small town, your prospects might be bleak, which is why they turned online in the first place.

A number of artists and authors end up going on tours to conventions or trade shows to get their name out there. I know a number of self-published authors that religiously visit the Romance Writers of America show and sell their books directly. The one big problem is people really don’t carry a lot of cash around on them and instead rely on their credit and debit cards. I hear lots of authors complaining that the process of selling directly to readers is too hard.

This problem has been remedied by mobile credit card readers such as Square that can not only process payments directly on your tablet or smartphone directly with customers, but can also be used online in conjunction with your Shopify account to take orders.

I really recommend if you’re a young writer or artist trying to make a name for yourself, don’t rely entirely on the online world. You need to meet your target base directly and cultivate relationships and get that sense of satisfaction that someone is legitimately excited about what you got.

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The Amazon Fire TV up until now has been a US exclusive and now the streaming television and app box has just hit the UK. Customers will be able to order it online or found on the shelves of Tesco, Dixons and Argos.

Fire TV is a streaming multimedia box that allows users to watch television and movies from the Amazon Instant Video service. It also has a number of apps users can install, such as Curzon Home Cinema, Netflix, YouTube, Demand 5, BBC iPlayer, BBC News and Sport, Sky News, and Spotify.

Unlike Apple TV, the Fire TV has a huge library of games that have been optimized for large screen televisions. You will likely want to invest in the official Game Controller,  priced at £34.99.

I actually like the overall design and UI of Fire TV, it gives you a ton of value if you live in the US or UK. It features a quad-core processor and pumping out 1080p HD video with Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. Gaming, listening to music or watching a movie is a solid experience.

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Harry Potter fans should be enamored with the fact that the upcoming spinoff film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is going to be the first film in a new trilogy, with more potential films on the way.

The movies will be directed by veteran filmmaker David Yates, who directed The Order Of The Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince and the concluding chapters, Deathly Hallows Part One and Part Two.

The “Fantastic Beasts” movies are based on an original story by author J.K. Rowling and was originally released in 2001. The book contains the history of Magizoology and describes 75 magical species found around the world. Newt Scamander, says that he collected most of the information found in the book through observations made over years of travel and across five continents. He notes that the first edition was commissioned in 1918 by Mr Augustus Worme of Obscurus Books. However, it was not published until 1927. It is now in its 52nd edition. First year Hogwarts students are all provided a copy of the book.

If more films are to be made in this universe, it will be totally dependent on JK, who continues to exercise total creative control over the franchise. Release dates are slated for 2016, 2018, 2020 and perhaps beyond.

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If you are a regular reader of tech blogs on the internet, you might have a passing knowledge of Apple product leaks. Whenever new phones or tablets are in production, regular leaks occur on internal components, screens or batteries. Apple is getting fed up with their suppliers providing leaks and has now implemented a policy of fining them, close to $50 million dollars each.

The fine may not affect companies like Samsung, but could be the kiss of death for smaller ones, that only make a component or two. GT Advanced Technologies, is the first company to feel the pain. They have just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after deciding to close and sell-off its loss-making sapphire facilitates.

The problem with Apple fining suppliers for announcing they either have contracts with them or leaking component information is that these companies need the press. Apple is not their only contract, but the brand carries a lot of weight in the industry. GT was betting that news of Apple doing business with them, would attract other headset companies. This backfired and GT shares actually decreased.

Apple is well known in the tech world for a process of controlled leaks. They throw bones to journalists they like, and grant them exclusive interviews or scoops. Suppliers who leak out everything like the logic boar or RAM are circumventing the status quo and the new policy is to hurt their wallets.

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mobile-gaming

The gaming market is set to become a predominately online based pastimes in the years to come, a recent study. Research has found that consumers are moving away from the more traditional PC based games, in favour of an online alternative and the figure is set to rise by a high one-digit percentage in the years leading up to 2017.

With social media platforms becoming increasingly popular, the amount of users partaking in social gaming has also risen. Users are able to play against their friends or family via the social network with the ability to “share” the result, leading to this becoming a more attractive approach to gaming. The developments in smartphone technology has also led to a hike in the figured for games played online and on social spaces.

According to a recent survey, the introduction on online gaming has given a dramatic boost to the number of web gamers, with over 40% of internet users partaking. The results have proven how fast growing the industry is, spanning across a range of various platforms and devices. Gambling games have proved to be particularly popular on social, which have drawn 11,240,000 gamers every day.

On the European market, Germany leads the way in terms of mobile gaming users, with gamers generating an astounding $3.7 billion dollars, with a year year-on-year growth amounting to 5%. China are dominating the Asian industry, with several hundreds of million people who play both mobile and online games, but also South Korea have been engrossed with a messaging app that has recently been transformed into a gaming platform, proving to be one of the most popular of its kind amongst gamers. Mobile gaming is currently the largest revenue consuming segment in the U.S. online gaming market and is set to continue growing in popularity in the next few years.

In terms of the gender divide, men tend to make up the majority of online gaming users, however gaming companies are intending to attract more women players by adding more female characters into their games. Marvel Comics, for example, have made changes to their Thor character and will now be a depicted as a female. By attracting new consumers such as more female gamers, the online gaming market will grow even further. Women tend to be more prone to social gaming so by appealing to them, the audience for online gaming will expand and grow.

Head of Consumer PR at Ladbrokes Casino David Williams discusses that;

“The rate at which social gaming is growing is undoubtedly one of the most exciting developments on our landscape. Being in the right place at the right time to influence consumer behavior and offer discerning customers precisely what they want – and more – will be key to leveraging the cash benefits of social gaming for big firms.”

Online gaming is a great environment for the gambling industry as it provides consumers with the ability to play in a social, fun way and has become a multi-billion dollar business. With women becoming more interested in the trend, social platforms such as Facebook have attracted many social gamblers who try their luck in popular casino-based games.

The future of the gambling business looks to have its eyes set towards online games and internet users. With mobile technology constantly expanding and growing, it is no surprise that the gaming industry will grow alongside it. New markets and targets are emerging with women becoming more intrigued by the industry which sets the gambling gaming industry to have a bright future.

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Over the course of 2014, Amazon has been relentless in the number of new hardware offerings they have released to the public. They have a new television box, smartphone, Amazon Dash, and 8 new e-readers and tablets. According to a new report, this is just the beginning, as Amazon is hiring more hardware engineers and intends on entering the connected home segment and a new smartwatch.

Amazons research and product development occur at the Silicon Valley based Lab126. They currently have 3,000 full-time employees and is looking to expand to at least 3,757 full-time staff at the office by 2019. Amazon will invest $55 million in Lab126’s operations in Sunnyvale and Cupertino, the agreement posted on the California governor’s website shows.

According to Reuters, Amazon is testing a simple wi-fi device that could be placed in the kitchen or a closet, allowing customers to order products like detergent by pressing a button. Lab126 is also interested in wearable devices, but we will have to adopt a wait and see approach, as some prototypes never hit the market.

The connected home segment is starting to catch on like wildfire. In January, Google bought Nest Labs, a smart thermostat maker for $3.2 billion. In June, Apple announced plans for HomeKit, its own framework for connecting household gadgets. It is currently unknown what Amazons plans are, but we can see an inkling of whats to come with Dash, which allows you to scan bar codes and UPC labels and automatically order them online.

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at&t amazon prime

AT&T will be offering customers one free year of Amazon Prime with the purchase of their new internet program. The new offer also comes with a subscription to HBO and AT&T’s version of basic cable for a one-year intro rate of $39 per month. This arrangement makes sense for Amazon as it tries to build a viable streaming video competitor to Netflix, pushing both new content and a huge archive of old HBO shows, which its rival doesn’t have.

Amazon has been offering 3G versions of their e-readers since 2007, with the advent of the first Kindle. The internet access is provided by AT&T, and allows customers to purchase books in hundreds of different countries with no extra fees. The new Fire Phone, which came out a few months ago is an AT&T exclusive, with no options to save money and bundle it on another carrier.

Here is how the new internet package by AT&T works. In order to get the $39-per-month rate, you’ll need to sign on for an entire year of service. There is a $49 activation fee and a $99 installation fee, in addition to renting the digital box for $9.99 a month. If you decide to leave before those twelve months are up, and you’ll have to pay a hefty $180 termination fee.

If you decide to take the plunge and indulge in television over the internet you will get a one year subscription to Amazon Prime. This not only includes their much hyped video service, but also free two day shipping, a free eBook every month and access to Amazon Prime Music.

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Amazon-Local-Register

Amazon.com today announced Amazon Local Register, a secure card reader and mobile app that provides local businesses with the tools they need to quickly and easily accept credit and debit cards from a smartphone or tablet and keep track of their growing business.  Amazon Local Register customers will have access to the Amazon.com award-winning, fully dedicated customer support team, as well as in-app tracking tools.  Customers who sign up for Amazon Local Register before October 31 will also receive a low promotional rate of 1.75 percent per card swipe on all major credit and debit cards until January 1, 2016. Additional details are available at localregister.amazon.com.

“From clothing stores to contractors, food trucks to accountants, businesses and organizations using Amazon Local Register will enjoy industry-leading low rates, trusted and secure payment processing, and access to award-winning customer support,” said Matt Swann, Vice President of Amazon Local Commerce. “We understand that every penny and every minute counts, so we want to make accepting payments so easy and inexpensive that it no longer gets in the way of a business owner doing what they love – serving their customers and growing their business.”

Customers can get started with Amazon Local Register in three simple steps: create an account on localregister.amazon.com, purchase a $10 card reader, and download the free mobile app from Amazon Appstore, Apple App Store or Google Play.  Starting today, the card reader is available with Free Two-Day Shipping on Amazon.com.  Beginning August 19, customers can also purchase a card reader at Staples retail locations nationwide. The Amazon Local Register card reader and free mobile app are compatible with a variety of smartphones and tablets, including Apple devices running iOS7, Kindle Fire tablets, select Android smartphones, and coming soon to the new Fire phone. Each customer’s first $10 in transaction fees will be credited back to the customer’s account once Amazon Local Register is in use – allowing customers to fully recoup the cost of the card reader.  Money from transactions can be deposited directly into a bank account within one business day, or spent on Amazon.com within minutes – see the website for more details.  Amazon Local Register also provides:

Exceptional value: Amazon Local Register accepts all major credit and debit cards for a low, flat rate with no hidden fees. Plus, there are no long-term contracts. Customers who register before October 31 will receive a low promotional rate of 1.75 percent per card swipe until January 1, 2016. Customers who sign up after this promotional period will pay a flat rate of 2.5 percent on all swiped transactions.

Amazon customer support: Access the award-winning, fully dedicated customer support team, available by phone and email. Plus, Kindle Fire HDX owners can take advantage of the Mayday button to connect to an Amazon tech advisor 24 hours a day, 365 days per year – for free.

Secure and stabilized card reader: A stabilized card reader limits swivel, making it easier to swipe once and go. Plus, each transaction is backed by the same services that securely power Amazon.com purchases.

Business tracking tools: In-app reporting enables a business to quickly check bottom line performance, sales trends, peak sales times and more.  All reporting is easily accessible from a smartphone or tablet and is password-protected.

Compatible accessories:  Shop for compatible accessories including cash drawers, receipt printers, smartphone cases and stands.  Find everything needed to build a point-of-sale system including massive selection, available at the best price, all on Amazon.com.

Early users of Amazon Local Register share their experiences:

“Amazon Local Register has simplified, organized and improved efficiency for my business.  The feature I am most impressed with is the outstanding customer support I receive any time I have a question or for whatever help I need.  The reports are easy to understand and help me figure out how my business is performing.” Erin H, hair & makeup artist

“I’m always looking for ways to reduce my business expenses. Amazon Local Register’s low price means that I can invest more in my business, while still ensuring that I’m accepting customer payments safely and securely.” – Kevin L, gallery and event venue owner

“My customers used to always ask if they could pay with a credit card and I always said no, as it always seemed too complicated to set up.  It was easy to get started with Amazon Local Register, and taking payments is a breeze. My customers are VERY happy and prefer to pay with their card.   Another benefit is that I don’t have to deal with going to the bank to deposit cash and checks.” Jannine H, massage therapist

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prime music

Amazon has officially unveiled Prime Music, which is exclusively available to members who pay the annual $99 Prime subscription fee. The service is competing against a number of established players in the market, such as Spotify and Beats Music.

Prime Music has a catalog of over one million tracks, contributed from Warner Music Group and Sony Music – as well as from large independent labels.The largest label in the world, Universal has not contributed any material.

Amazon has their work cut out for them competing against Spotify, Deezer and soon to be acquired by Apple, Beats Audio. These two companies have over 20 million tracks, and have highly developed curated playlists.

With millions of music tracks to choose from, it can get overwhelming when you try and discover new music. Amazon Prime Music is launching with hundreds of “Prime Playlists” created by Amazon’s editorial team, grouped by genre (Pop, Alternative & Indie Rock) as well as context (Happy & Upbeat, Party Time & Entertaining, Work, Study & Reading and more) Most of the playlists have older tracks on them and new ones will take six months from their release to become available on the new Amazon service.

Amazon Prime Music will be available to listen offline and doesn’t need an internet connection once the content is downloaded. You will also be able to scintillate your ears on any of the Kindle Fire tablets, and iOS. I was told an Android app is incomming, but is not available yet.

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kob

Todd Humphrey the EVP of Business Development at Kobo Books has left the company. He worked for Kobo from 2010 to 2014, where was responsible for all worldwide business development activities for Kobo, including OEM’s, retailer’s and wireless providers.

Todd has joined former Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis in a new stealth startup called The Everlong Project. Not much is known about the company, but they seem to be involved in wearable technology in the health sector. On the companies official blog page they do illuminate a bit on what they are doing with the statement “IOT is going to revolutionize how we manage our health, but the real trick is not in all of the various data-emitting, wearable devices. As someone who once saw 100′s of eReaders at CES (what we affectionately called the eReader ghetto) and then saw that turn to dozens, then 3-4 and eventually…you know the drill. It’s not about the hardware, ultimately. It’s not even in the data. The data on its own will be almost useless. It’s in the services that use that data, and engage consumers, and keep them coming back. If there are any people out there who actually, regularly, use their FitBit dashboard, and find it indispensable….please let me know…”

Former CEO Michael Serbinis confirmed that Todd is actually the Co-Founder of the Everlong project by stating “Todd has joined as co-founder at the Everlong Project where we plan on building another great company.   As we are just rounding out Month 2, doubling our space, growing the team, and working toward launch – it’s great timing.”

We should be hearing more about the Everlong project when they formally announce their first product in early 2015.

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