Sunday, March 22, 2015

What Amazon has been up to ... Drone experiments approved ... Prime Now 1-2 hr deliveries ... Sunday deliveries ... Amazon's first physical store and its New York midtown plans . Windows 8 video tutorial ... surface pro 2 price worth a look


Amazon granted permission to experiment with drones for quick delivery
  Last Thursday, against most expectations, the FAA issued Amazon "a certificate to experiment with unmanned aircraft for research, development and crew training."

Amazon is required to follow the guidelines listed below:

 "The flights must be conducted at 400 feet or below during daylight hours.
  The drone must also remain within the line of sight of the pilot and observer.
   The person flying the aircraft, meanwhile, must have a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certification. Inc. must also provide monthly data to the FAA on the number of flights conducted, pilot duty time per flight, unusual hardware or software malfunctions and other information."

  The The Register, UK weighs in with, "The only problem is it's completely useless to the online retailer as it contains a line-of-sight requirement that would make its main aim of delivering packages impossible."
  Amazon hasn't responded to The Register's questions on this.  Regulations and laws can be modified.  I'm personally not keen on delivery drones overhead when I'm out and about though!

Speaking of speedy deliveries:
Amazon's expands one-hour Amazon Prime Now delivery service for daily essentials from two to four city areas. expands its one-hour delivery Prime Now service for "tens of thousands of Daily Essentials" to Baltimore and Miami.

  Currently available in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the One-Hour delivery program is also being made available in some ZIP codes in Baltimore and Miami.

  This will work only through the Prime Now mobile app for products such as paper towels, shampoo, books, toys and batteries in certain areas of the four cities mentioned.
  Amazon plans to expand in each city soon.
' The service is available to customers enrolled in Amazon Prime [US], a service that costs $99 a year and includes free two-day shipping on a range of products and instant content-streaming options [plus thousands of free instant-streaming movie and TV-show videos and over a million free music mp3's].
  . . .
  All Prime members can download the Prime Now app, available on iOS and Android devices, and be notified when the service is available in their local area.

  In Miami and Baltimore, Prime Now is available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

  Two-hour delivery is free and one-hour delivery is available in select ZIP codes for $7.99

  Current caveats seen in reading customer feedback
1. Manhattan and Brooklyn users seem happiest with it, but even then many are not comfortable with the mobile-app only method of using the feature and want to be able to use it on desktops and laptops.

2. The app (which is for Android 4.2 and above as well as iOS) considers itself 'incompatible' with a large number of Android devices and is not compatible with the Kindle Fire tablet currently.  I have a Samsung Android tablet with OS v4.34 but it's considered incompatible too.  It could be that Amazon sees my Samsung as pre-OS v4.3 -- before I updated the OS.  Supposedly the app can be read on devices in cities where the program is not yet available, so that you can get information on the mobile device about when the program DOES become available in your area.

3. Growing pains - Some newly using this in Baltimore and Miami are having some struggles with the functioning today.

4. The recommended (but optional) $5 tipping on free 2-hour deliveries cannot be done with cash, but that means that people would pre-pay a tip on the credit card before the delivery services is completed.

Those for whom the app works tend to love the 1-2 hour delivery capability though.  With time, it should get better, and Amazon is making the announcement before 99% of the U.S. customers can even use it.

Amazon IS stepping up deliveries where it has warehouses nearby in your state, I guess.  I ordered some color-ink supplies for my Brother printer on a Friday, with Prime 2-day delivery, and expected it on Monday. I was startled to get US mail package delivery on Sunday but the arrival was very welcome. Staples, 4 blocks away, had 20% off on ink supplies during that time but Amazon's prices were still better.

  I think I should support a brick and mortar store more, but I did buy my (favorite e-device) Surface Pro 2* at Staples, since no one was discounting that tabtop, it wasn't available to places like Amazon yet, and for that kind of thing I do prefer humans nearby that I can go to with the product if there's a problem, and Staples has been pretty good, which is why I drop in and look around still.  I just think printer ink is over-priced, generally, so I go for the less expensive option while no longer experimenting with 'compatibles.'

  * I just looked to see if Amazon is selling it now that the Surface Pro 3 is the current model, and what I bought for $1,300 + $120 magnetically attachable keyboard cover in Nov 2013 is now $715 w/ prime shipping, with a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM.  Incredibly fast, stable touch-'laptop' while the backlight "Type cover" [real keyboard and not bluetooth] is another $85, at Amazon.

  What I most like is that you can move your head around and the image stays the same - No shift in brightness and contrast based on angle.  At less than 2 lbs., it can be dropped into my purse if it's needed outside.  I love the pen stylus too (if you lose it and need a replacement, Amazon Marketplace vendors are currently marking it up 4 times -- get Microsoft's refurbished one for the Surface Pro or Pro2 for $24 instead.)
  I imagine you'd need to let the unit auto-update Windows v8.1 considerably during opening-setup; the latest update is a huge improvement over the original horror of Win 8..

  (And re that horror, the older completely non-intuitive horrible interface of Windows 8 was made understandable for those who knew about the free video tutorial, "The Missing Windows 8 Instructional Video - 25 minutes."  I can't recommend it enough for the basics, although Microsoft finally paid attention and has added back the standard clues on-screen for what an icon means AND added icons at all (you used to have to try to find them).

  Staples is in the process of acquiring the only other large national office supplies store, Office Depot, and that means acquiring its debt too, while regulatory approval will take time if it comes at all, since Staples was denied an acquisition of another office supplies stores in the past due to concerns about a monopoly -- but that was before the onslaught of the online retailers, which has hurt both stores.

  One thing struck me.  It mentions that online retailers like Amazon "do not face the same encumbrances from real estate costs."

  But now I see Amazon has opened its first physical store at Purdue University and "has similar arrangements with the University of California, Davis and the University of Massachusetts Amherst."

  Not only that, they're said to be "planning to open a store on Midtown Manhattan’s famed 34th Street after agreeing to a 17-year lease to rent a 470,000 sq-foot space in the heart of New York’s major shopping district."

There's more but since this is long already, and the others are software offerings, I'll do a separate post on those.

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  1. Well, drones don't interest me much -- can't see them as viable in cities, but perhaps they could improve deliveries to rural areas?

    I just received a Sunday delivery (via USPS) from Amazon about an hour ago -- it's the third or fourth Sunday delivery that I have received from Amazon. A year or so ago the bulk of my deliveries from Amazon came from UPS or FedEx. These days probably 50% come via USPS, and almost none from FedEx. On time delivery is about as good or better than it ever was.

    About bricks & mortar: I find myself turning more and more to Amazon for paper products, canned goods, and other household staples in bulk that I used to get from Sam's Club, BJ's, CostCo, and the like. The prices aren't necessarily any better (worse in some cases), but I can get sizes larger than I can find even at the big box stores, and (most importantly) I can do in 20 minutes on Amazon what would take me 2 or 3 hours at a B&M store.

    I agree that office supply stores are struggling. Near me I have an Office Max (recently merged with Office Depot), and a Staples -- both stores seem to have shrinking product assortments, and they seem a bit more unkempt. I recently went looking for an articulating desk lamp like one I bought in Target a year ago. Target din't have it anymore, and it looks like they are getting out of desk lamps entirely, Staples no longer carries any desk lamps, and Office Max didn't have what I wanted. I wasted 4 hours driving around to no avail, and ended up ordering it from Amazon anyway (:grin).

    The only part of Barnes & Noble that has been successful recently has been their college bookstore operation. Now with Amazon entering the fray, things are looking ever worse for B&N.

    Two hour delivery will probably never come to Port St Lucie. I see where much of Amazon's 2 hour delivery in Manhattan is carried out using bike messengers (:grin). The 34th street location is a 12 or 13 story building that extends through the block to 35th street where there are loading docks (the building used to be the flagship store for Ohrbach's department store). There are only two streetside retail locations on 34th street; both occupied by upscale tenants; both of which recently had their leases renewed by Amazon -- so I don't expect to see any retail type Amazon outlet at that location. I'm guessing they will use it as the hub for their two hour delivery operation -- sort of a mini-warehouse.

    1. Hi, Edward - that's a very good point about drones being more useful or doable in rural areas.

      I did have one Sunday delivery before, but that one was noted on my order while this one wasn't, so it was really odd to get a knock on my door for a delivery on a Sunday.

      What I forgot to mention is that some designated 2-day deliveries arrive in one day now due to the warehouses in this state, and USPS, unlike UPS will not hold a delivery in the depot for a day just because it's not expected or promised until the next day.
      All of this is a bit more unexpected because I live in the east bay across from San Francisco where you'd expect the faster service.

      Re UPS vs USPS (Fed Express is always timely and right in front of the door on a 2nd floor level flat), some UPS drivers THROW it up the stairs and I usually have to go find it near the top of the stairs. They don't even bother to bring it to the door too often. USPS not only brings it to the door but when I'm not here to answer, they actually try to find a place they can put or hide it so it won't be found by package thieves (it seems that some follow UPS trucks around). Am impressed with USPS delivery.

      I do also see that the UPS guys are often loaded down and behind and there seems to be rigid enforcement of time spent so that they apparently feel penalized if taking time to ring the door bell and give you a package.

      Costco is not far from me, and I try to use them, although the purchasing lines can be a long wait. They have unusual items like Harry's Organic Tapioca Pudding (!), which Amazon doesn't carry. :-)

      Re NY, Amazon doesn't need a streetside retail location in the building though... I'll be very surprised if they don't open up a store there... and of course it'll be near a miniwarehouse :-)


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