Monday, April 6, 2015

Amazon Echo price-discount ending April 7 ... Echo updates ... iOS updates ... HarperCollins negotiations begin ... Amazon Dash Button ... Amazon Home Services ... White Kindle eReader to Asia ... Amazon paid-apps for a flat fee? ... Drone approval was useless


Per a Geekwire report, "Amazon quietly announces last call for Amazon Prime users’ Echo discounts."

Geekwire reports that the Echo product page (the version that displays for those who've not requested an invitation to buy the early version of its Echo personal voice assistant and speaker) now includes a deadline of April 7, 2015 for the Prime member discount of $100 (available during checkout).  I don't see this information because I did order one, although it's supposed to arrive by April 8 but still hasn't been shipped.

For those who don't know what the Amazon Echo does, a very good video demo is available on Youtube.  The feedback on the Kindle Forum is overwhelmingly positive about the units already received and being used the last few months, with regular updates that add features or fixes recommended by the early buyers.

  Geekwire's wording:
' Until April 7, Prime customers who sign up for an Echo invite can lock in a $99 price when the device becomes available to them.  After that, they’re stuck paying $199 with the plebeians. '

  About the update Echo owners received the other day: reports that the Echo adds Pandora and MLB/MLS game scores.
' The update gives Alexa ... [the name of Echo's voice] the ability to play your Pandora radio stations and give you scores from MLB and MLS games.
  To use these new commands simply say “Alexa, play a classic rock station,” or “Alexa, what’s the score of the Detroit Tigers game?” '

  GeekWire points out that "Amazon’s support for Pandora is interesting, since the company already has its own music store and streaming service, which was recently updated on iOS to provide users with ad-free radio stations centered around artists and genres."

April's free Kindle books (contemporary or non-classics)
    March 2015  April 2015.
    Also, all currently free non-classics sorted by:
    Publication Date   Bestselling    High ratings

To see the MONTHLY Kindle book discount deals available for April, go to the special monthly book deals page now showing Kindle books for April 2015 for $3.99 or less, US.
  (See UK listing here.)

For those who want to quickly look first at only the ones that are star-rated at 4 or above, here is Amazon US's page for that.  The UK has a similar listing.  These details are for people new to the monthly feature or to this blog.

I won't be going into detail on these -- just giving links to more information, for the most part, unless someone does want more information.

That FAA's drone-experiments approval
Remember that news in mid-March that the FAA had given approval to Amazon's experiments with drones (for faster delivery in some areas)?  Apparently, the FAA's approval was for an older model that Amazon is no longer testing.  Now Amazon has decided to move its drone testing to Canada, near the border, as the delays for approval in the U.S. make it too difficult for the development of this product.

HarperCollins is the next Kindle book publisher to negotiate a new eBooks agreement with Amazon.
Harper Collins has been offered an arrangement similar to that negotiated with Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan recently.  While Amazon always wants to sell eBooks at lower prices, the publishing houses prefer to keep the price up to avoid "devaluing" their print books (as they've said).

  The site adds that "...HarperCollins has its own online sales operations, after a move last summer to sell most of its inventory on its site, as well as deals with Amazon e-publishing competitors."

Amazon introduces the Amazon Dash button
This is a somewhat curious limited-time offer that is:
  . limited to only Amazon Prime members in the U.S. who "receive an email from Amazon
    with an invitation to receive a free Dash Button"
  . the invitation expires seven days after receipt of the email
  . limited to three Dash Buttons per customer and account while supplies last.

Several mainstream tech sites wrote that at first they thought that the announcement of the new Amazon Dash button on March 31 might be an April Fools Day item.  These will be standalone buttons placed in the home (and using WiFi) for certain products or brands (like Tide, Huggies) that, once you press them, will initiate an order to restock a product when you find supplies are low.  To prevent accidental orders, you'd use the associated app to confirm that you want that order.  This would prevent your having to look up what it was that you ordered before.  It's for convenience and of course Amazon's revenue flow.  Here are pages for Terms and Conditions and a complete list of Dash Button Products.

 There's also a video with more information on this at the product invitation page.

Amazon Home Services
A couple of weeks ago, I was buying an item at Amazon when I was suddenly offered help, at my home, with installation of the product or, for a smaller fee, help at a store.   I didn't click on the offer as I didn't need the help, but I thought that was certainly a surprise! What isn't Amazon up to these days?

    They've since announced the new feature - Amazon Home Services - and are offering for a limited time a $20 Amazon Gift Card if you spend $99 or more on one of these services before April 13, 2015.

  A video on the product page explains it well.
  The three points on that page are:
  . Handpicked Pros
  . Upfront Prices
  . Happiness Guarantee

  I wonder if Amazon will start a review and rating system for these too -- it would be additional info vs some current reliance on Yelp!, which has had some marketing and policy problems reported in the news recently.  While I also use Angie's List, I far prefer what I can find about the service companies when using Yelp.

  Okay, I just explored a bit more and if you choose a type of service, and input your zip code, you'll see a recommended service and an estimated price.  Included is a calling card for the service and a RATING from "TaskRabbit."

  They say that the services approved are required to be
1. Background-checked, 2. Licensed (if applicable), and 3. Top-rated performers.

  Also, on the "Learn More" page they add:
  We only invite pros who have a strong track record of service quality.  We screen through a combination of media searches, online interviews, and reference checks.
  We conduct comprehensive business background checks and require each pro traveling to your home to pass a 6-point criminal background check.
Licensed and insured
  We require pros to maintain any required trade licenses and insurance information on file with us.
Top-rated performers
  Pros must meet ongoing performance targets including responsiveness, quality, and ratings.

Amazon Prime Music adds "Prime Stations" to its iOS app
Techcrunch explains that these are "ad-free streaming music stations that offer unlimited song skips." There are additional personalized recommendations based on your prior playing history, and Prime Stations will be able to use the thumbs-up/down feature to learn to make playlists that reflect your interests.

While PC's, the Macs, and Kindle Fire tablets already have the Prime Stations feature, it's not been made available for Android yet.  And now iOS users are getting it in their app.

  ALSO, there was an update to the iOS Kindle app (for accessing Kindle books via iOS devices) today, allowing users of the iPhone or iPhone Touch to access Amazon's "Flashcards for Print Replica Textbooks" when running the Kindle app.  These were available to only the iPad version of the Kindle app.  There's more info on this update at site.

Amazon adds white version to the basic Kindle eReader device (black in the US and other countries) for China (April 8) and Japan (April 20)
Engadget reports the new white Kindle model to be made available to China and Japan.  They've asked Amazon when this might "reach other parts of the world."

Amazon's plans to offer paid apps at no additional cost each download for a flat fee ("Unlocked")
According to Techcrunch, Amazon it "wants to launch" a new feature, an app store section called "Unlocked."  This would be something like the "Prime program for apps," per Techcrunch, who writes that they 'learned of the new feature by way of an internal presentation, leaked to us, explaining how the new feature will look."  They add that "the basics are outlined simply enough in the presentation, which uses the code names “Gretzky” and “Snuffy” to respectively describe the new feature and user flow around it.'

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  1. From a security perspective, I'd far rather than an NSA camera in my living room than an Amazon Echo there. The camera has no smarts. To spy on me, someone has to watch a screen. Not so Echo. It is designed to listen and understand in a crude machine sense. Hacked by someone, it has all the hardware it needs to spy on people and contact those hackers with what was said if certain key words are used. Enthusiasm for it is misplaced.

    1. Well, a dedicated, focused, hacker (if one is after you), with the skills of a 'Nolan' from ABC TV series Revenge, might be able to manage this very complex scenario.

      Might be wise, if wanting one, to get the Echo from Amazon and then not have hacker-talented enemies visiting your home or breaking a window to get in to get it, map the wiring the way it would have to be done and then get the device back to your home where you'd last seen it if you had not noticed it was gone.

  2. I requested an invite to purchase an Echo before the April 7th deadline to supposedly "lock-in" the $99 price. I received the invite to purchase on April 21st, however Amazon won't honor the $99 price and instead is charging $149. They now claim that requesting the invite before the April 7th deadline isn't enough, that a customer had to not only request the invite, but also RECEIVE THE INVITE FROM THEM before April 7th in order to get the $99 price. This doesn't seem to match Amazon's promise and the media coverage of the April 7th deadline to "lock-in" the $99 discounted price.

    1. Anonymous, apologies that I saw this comment days later. Thanks for your feedback on what happened with the Echo invite situation. I'll pass this note on and let you know whatever I can find out.

    2. Anonymous, if you email me at andrys [at] panix [dot] com and give me your email address used for Amazon that way (best not to post it publicly -- but, if you do prefer to post it here, I'd delete the info after I use it to write you), I'll send you an email address for someone who can follow up on your specific situation with just your email address


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