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Amazon Launches Zocalo

 

zocalo-devices

Amazon has just launched Zocalo, their brand new document sharing and collaboration tool which will specifically target the services offered by Box and Dropbox, going to show how Amazon is not content at being where they are at the moment, as they attempt to carve additional inroads into the world of enterprise IT.

What will the likes of Box and Dropbox do now that Amazon Web Services’ latest Zocalo enterprise document sharing and collaboration tool has been introduced? It remains to be seen, but it does look as though the enterprise IT sector is about to get more exciting since such healthy competition is going to spur better and better (fingers crossed) products for the end user, don’t you think so?

The introduction of Zocalo will see Amazon augment the capabilities of both Dropbox and Box onto their very own platform, as users will gain the ability to edit their documents in the cloud without the need for Microsoft Office. In addition, all comments and edits that made in the cloud will be easily translated over to a Microsoft Word document should someone boot up Word to open the very same file from his or her personal computer. This is akin to Dropbox’s Project Harmony that was launched in April earlier this year.

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Phone Comparisons: Amazon Fire Phone vs Google Nexus 5

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Introduction

What a match-up we have for you today…the venerable Google Nexus 5 will do battle with the new Amazon Fire Phone.  The Nexus 5 was Google’s last pure Android device released in October and loved by so many purists, while the Fire Phone is the total opposite – running on an Android background, it uses Amazon’s Fire OS v3.5.0.  This heavily skinned device will not even allow you to access the Google Play Store or use Google Apps, such as Gmail, Maps, or even YouTube (without side loading) – a real shame because I think Amazon is doing a great disservice to their customers.

Despite their different heritage, these devices do share many things in common – size for one thing, as they’re close to being identical in size, although the Nexus 5 at 130 grams is lighter than its counterpart at 160 grams…must be those four extra cameras.  The processors are identical – Snapdragon 800 dual-core clocked at 2.2/2.3GHz and they both have 2GB of RAM and both offer a 32GB of internal storage option – neither one offers the option of a microSD Card to add to that storage. The Nexus 5′s 2300mAh battery is almost the same as the 2400mAh battery used in the Fire Phone.

Please look over the specifications chart below and you can see how they stack up to one another, and then we will look at how they differ, for better or for worse, and then pick a winner to this comparison.

Specifications

Comparison Specs

 Amazon Fire Phone

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Amazon’s first plunge into the smartphone world has finally come to fruition with their new Fire Phone.  After months of speculation…make that almost two years…Amazon is presenting their version of what a smartphone should be.  Oh, to be sure, it can make phone calls and take nice pictures, but its main purpose is to push Amazon’s agenda – selling you a product from their website…and there is nothing wrong with that, but have they taken it too far and turned their back on Android.  The Fire Phone’s 4.7-inch display is a good size and close to the 5-inch Nexus 5 display, however, it is only an HD display with 720p resolution.  The Fire Phone does offer both a 32GB and 64GB model, while the Nexus 5 only has a 16GB or 32GB variation.  The Fire Phone does seem to have a great 13MP camera on board with OIS, LED flash, and autofocus as well as a better 2.1MP front-facing camera for better video chatting and selfies.

This is where the Amazon Fire Phone takes the fork in the road less traveled – many times a great decision in life – but maybe not so much in a smartphone that is trying to appeal to millions.  Android was the basis for its operating system, but Amazon really wraps it so deep in Fire OS v3.5.0 that even Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube are nowhere to be found…and don’t even think about going to the Google Play Store – your Apps must come from the Amazon App Store.  Amazon does spice things up with four cameras in the front corners that follow your head movements – they call it “Dynamic Perspective” and it gives you a little 3D effect or adds more depth to the display.  They also add a feature called Firefly technology – simply press a button to identify movies, songs, barcodes, products and more as Firefly matches those to over 100 million items in its database and brings up the item for you to purchase from one of Amazon’s many online stores.  It also has Amazon’s Mayday – free 24×7 365 day live online video support. The Amazon Fire is comparatively price for this type of phone – $199/$649 (32GB) or $299/$749 (64GB) and the Fire Phone is an AT&T exclusive at this time.

Google Nexus 5

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Ah, the Google Nexus 5 – loved and adored by so many faithful followers – is Google’s way to showcase their vanilla Android operating system.  It runs smooth as silk and gets its upgrades before anybody else – some think it’s a little ‘boring’ and does not offer enough TouchWiz or Sense-like features that can add a little eye candy and more functionality, but tends to slow down the OS with its overlays.  That fact can be argued until we are blue in the face, however, one thing we can all agree upon is the Nexus products offer the user VALUE for their purchase price.

The Nexus 5 has a understated beauty about it and the curves of its back fit nicely into the palm of your hand.  It does have a slightly larger display, but what it really has is a Full HD 1080p resolution over the 720p resolution of the Fire Phone.  Nobody ever said (and was being truthful with themselves) that the Nexus devices have a cutting edge camera in them, however, the 8MP main camera with OIS, autofocus, HDR and LED Flash is more than capable for taking everyday pictures.  The 1.3MP front-facing camera will get the job done for an occasional selfie and light video chatting, but we would have liked to see at least 2MP or higher.  The 2300mAh battery is ample enough, but for heavy usage, you better keep that battery charger handy.  The Nexus 5 is available in the Google Play Store for a very reasonable $349 for 16GB of storage and $399 for the 32GB model…and these are off-contract prices – $350 less than the Amazon Fire Phone.

…and the Winner is…

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Summary

I actually hesitated posting the Nexus 5′s picture here, but after I wrote the introduction and looked over the specifications, it became clear to me that the Nexus 5 was the winner in this comparison.  It all comes down to two features – Value and Android.  It is difficult to receive more value for your hard earned money than you find with the Nexus 5.  Does it have the best of everything available…certainly not, however, you simply seem to get more than your money’s worth with the Nexus 5 in just about every category.  When I said “Android” was the second feature that made me select the Nexus 5 as the winner, I mean that we are first and foremost Android advocates at Android Headlines – it is one thing to disliking Samsung’s TouchWiz or HTC’s Sense skins, but what Amazon has done to Android is down right criminal – stripping away access to Google Apps and the Play Store is going too far.

The Amazon Fire may have a better camera than the Nexus 5 (most flagship devices do), it may have Dynamic Perspective, MayDay, and Firefly technology, but other than the camera, the other special features are going to help you with your shopping at Amazon.  I suppose that is nice if you are an avid Amazon shopper, but most people want a smartphone to do more than help them shop.  The minimalist look, the nice feel in your hand, the Full HD display, the same processor as the Fire Phone, same 2GB of memory, buttery smooth performance of Android, complete access to Google Apps and the Play Store and value of the Nexus 5 weigh in too heavily for the Fire Phone to win this comparison.

The Amazon Appstore Is Starting To Look More Relevant

Amazon Unveils Its First Smartphone

Amazon’s Appstore wasn’t even accessible to Australians until May last year, and it has always seemed like very much a secondary player to Google Play. However, two developments this week potentially make it a more interesting distribution platform for Android developers.

The first is the much-hyped launch of the Amazon Fire phone, which will also make use of the App Store. Right now (and for the foreseeable future), this is a US-only product: it’s tied to AT&T and is tightly hooked into Amazon Prime, which makes it unlikely we’ll see it down under for a long while (if ever). Nonetheless, if the Fire phone is a success, then that will create a larger pool of Appstore users.

Secondly, BlackBerry has announced a partnership with Amazon to make Appstore apps accessible to BlackBerry 10 devices. Quite aside from BlackBerry’s shrinking market share, it’s going to be hard to take this one seriously until more details emerge when BlackBerry 10.3 is released later this year.

The ability to run Android apps has long been promoted as an advantage of BB10, but few developers have bothered to make the porting changes required. Amazon’s involvement might change that, and could also give developers a relatively simple path to porting apps to BB10 without needing significant resources.

Just What Can You Do on Amazon’s New Fire Phone?

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After a long wait and many rumors the Amazon smartphone has become a reality. Amazon is calling the device Fire and with it they have launched many features. One of which is the scan and buy feature that allows you to scan any object and find it on Amazon’s website. Another unique feature is 3D viewing. Simply tilting the device one way or the other will show hidden info or scroll up or down on pages. Using what Amazon calls “Dynamic Perspective” you can also  use the tilt as one-handed shortcuts to navigate the device. Since this feature is currently only available on Amazon, it may be hard to come across apps that utilize the many features of the Fire Phone. Though some apps are already capable of using these features and more are sure to come.

There are a few apps that will take advantage of Amazon’s “Dynamic Perspective” already, like the maps app that comes on the new Amazon Fire Phone. While in the Amazon Maps app, simply tilt the device after performing a “restaurant” search and you’ll see the Yelp reviews for the places marked on the map. While that’s pretty nifty, there are a few other apps to check out.

Gaming has a whole new meaning on the smartphone. Thanks to Dynamic Perspective on the Fire Phone, you can now use your head to interact with the game. Tilt your head and you can look behind corners in games like Tofu Fury, Lili, and Snow Spin. While gaming and maps are improved with the tilt features, there are other benefits to having your device made by an online retailer.

Though StubHub does utilize the Dynamic Perspective, it also takes advantage of being on a device that’s directly connected to Amazon’s website. Using a feature called FireFly on the Fire Phone, StubHub will use the device to listen to a song playing either in real life or through some speakers. Once they get the information of the song and artist you’re listening to, StubHub will help you find tickets to their next show. iHeartRadio uses FireFly to help you create playlists based on the artist you’re listening to as well. FireFly will give you these options after it hears a song, plus a few more options. You can buy the artists albums on Amazon, or even share the song with others. While music is awesome, some people really love movies and television, FireFly can help with that as well.

Using FireFly with IMDB, you can search actors, shows and movies by letting your device listen to what’s on. Simply open FireFly, and select the little television icon and it will start listening. No more wondering who an actor is in that show or where you’ve seen them before.

All of these features are nice, using StubHub, maps, IMDB, iHeart Radio, and a few games, Amazon’s Fire Phone definitely has some innovative collaborations. Still, they haven’t finished just yet. Amazon has announced that they will allow other apps to utilize the FireFly and Dynamic Perspective SDK’s soon. Firstly, developers will need to submit their applications before July 18th. Then they will be available in the Amazon App Store and have access to the SDK’s. Just in time for the devices to be shipped out on July 25th. What do you think so far? We have posted plenty of news about the device, and now want to know what you think. Let us know down below if the Amazon Fire Phone is something you’re excited for, or will you be passing this device up?

An Amazon Smartphone Is Trouble for Google, Not Apple or Samsung

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Amazon is reportedly working on a smartphone for release this fall. With a smartphone, Amazon will enter a crowded and competitive market where Apple and Samsung dominate.

Amazon has already gone after Apple with the Kindle Fire and Fire TV to compete with the iPad and Apple TV, respectively. Although a smartphone from Amazon has the potential to take away potential customers from Apple’s most important product, the iPhone, it likely won’t pose any more of a threat than Samsung or any other Android phone maker. In fact, the company that could get hurt the most from an Amazon smartphone is Google.

Best price approach
Google has a hardware business of its own. Its Nexus line includes tablets and smartphones that are typically sold at very low margins with the goal of making up revenue and profit on the back end through advertising and content sales.

As a result, Google’s devices are often considered a great value for the price. The Nexus 5 smartphone received high marks when it was released last year.

Google isn’t the only company that can do this trick, however. Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer, has had tremendous success selling its high-end smartphones at mid-range prices. The company sold 18.7 million smartphones last year, and it brought in revenue of $5.22 billion. The company expects to sell about 40 million phones this year.

Google hasn’t seen nearly as many sales of its Nexus line. Its tablets, in particular, have had a tough time selling. An estimate by industry analyst Benedict Evans from last year put the number of Nexus tablets in use around 7.5 million. One factor for the depressed sales may be Amazon’s presence in the market.

Not only is Amazon able to sell its tablets at a competitive price like Google, it also has the benefit of being a very popular place for consumers to buy things — like tablets. Although Google has a large web presence itself and does a great job of advertising, it hasn’t been able to turn that into sales of its own products the way Amazon has.

A bigger risk
Losing sales of its smartphone line isn’t that much of a problem for Google in the big picture. It still dominates web search and advertising — its core business. Android, however, has become a large part of its business, and Google is slowly seeing its open-source free distribution of the software come back to bite the company.

Amazon uses Android as the basis for its Fire OS, but tweaks it to use Amazon’s own app store and sell other content like e-books. In this way, Google sees practically no benefit from the Android OS on Kindle tablets. The same is true of Xiaomi smartphones and any Android phone in China, where Google is locked out.

An Amazon phone is a further threat to Google’s Android and the company’s ability to fully monetize the platform. If Amazon is successful at establishing its own Android fork in the smartphone market, it could be all the impetus Samsung needs to go forward with Tizen-based phones.

Tizen is Samsung’s own mobile OS that it’s been developing for some time and features in the second generation of the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. It notably replaces the Google Play store with its own Tizen app store, much like Amazon has its own app store. Tizen would allow Samsung to better control its most important segment as well as generate more revenue for the Korean electronics maker.

Considering Samsung makes more than one-third of all Android smartphones, losing the revenue stream from Samsung users would be a big blow to Google.

Amazon really doesn’t care about the competition
Amazon doesn’t really concern itself with the competition. A smartphone would be aimed at selling more digital content just as its previous efforts in consumer electronics have.

Apple, too, has become a digital content seller in recent years. The iTunes store totaled $9.3 billion in sales last year. The biggest driving factor, however, has been its differentiated hardware, not the proliferation of a nearly free OS. Amazon poses only a minor threat to Apple compared to the potential damage it could do to Google if Samsung copies its success with an Android fork.

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Amazon to unveil smartphone in time for winter holidays

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Amazon.com Inc is preparing to launch its long-rumored smartphone in the second half of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people briefed on the company’s plans.
The Internet retailer would jump into a crowded market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. The company has recently been demonstrating versions of the handset to developers in San Francisco and Seattle. It intends to announce the device in June and ship to stores around the end of September, the newspaper cited the unidentified sources as saying.
Amazon has made great strides into the hardware arena as it seeks to boost sales of digital content and puts its online store in front of more users. Amazon recently launched its $99 Fire TV video-streaming box and its Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets already command respectable US market share after just a few years on the market.
Rumors of an Amazon-designed smartphone have circulated for years, though executives have previously played down ambitions to leap into a heavily competitive and increasingly saturated market. Apple and Samsung, which once accounted for the lion’s share of the smartphone market, are struggling to maintain margins as new entrants such as Huawei and Lenovo target the lower-income segment.
To stand out from the crowd, Amazon intends to equip its phones with screens that display three-dimensional images without a need for special glasses, the Journal said.

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Amazon Entering the Smartphone Market

Amazon-Logo

It’s already dramatically changed the retail landscape and made a splash in the tablet market with its Kindle Fire line. Now Amazon will also take on the crowded smartphone market.

Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the online retailer has been showing prototypes of a phone to developers in San Francisco and Seattle recently, the paper cited anonymous sources as saying. The phone will allegedly come with a screen capable of displaying seemingly 3-D images without special glasses, the Journal said.

The phone will, according to the paper, be announced in July and released in September.

Other details of the phone have not been released nor has Amazon commented. Still, one would assume Amazon would either make a deal with one of the major phone companies for network access or would sell the phone through one or multiple carriers.

Similarly no operating system has been announced, but given that Kindle Fire and the new Fire TV set-top box run on a modified version of Google’s Android, it seems safe to assume that Amazon will use the OS on its phone.

Amazon is entering a crowded space

The smartphone market is crowded with Samsung’s Android phones and Apple‘s iPhone dominating. There are, of course, a lot of other players making Android phones, Microsoft attempting to win share for it Windows 8 phones, and BlackBerry struggling (and mostly failing) to stay relevant.

Overall Android dominates as far as operating systems go but that’s a bit of a skewed stat as Apple does not license its OS so all phones running iOS are Apple products.

  

If the phone rumors are true — Amazon will be entering a very crowded space that has become a relatively mature marketplace. Market research firm IDC expects worldwide smartphone shipment growth to slow significantly over the next few years. For 2014, IDC expects 19.3% growth over 2013 and further predicts that growth will drop to single digits by 2017, Statista.com reported.

Still, as Amazon showed with its tablet and set-top box, the company is not afraid of entering a crowded field. And while it does not release the number of registered users shopping on its site, Amazon has admitted it has over 20 million subscribers to its Prime service (which offers free delivery among other benefits for $99 a year). That’s a huge pool of dedicated users tied into the Amazon ecosystem who are low-hanging fruit that Amazon can market to for little or no cost.

People are willing to switch phones

While Apple customers are incredibly loyal and over half of Samsung customers are unlikely to switch phones, there is still a lot of movement among smartphone customers. Amazon does not need to woo every smartphone user, it just needs to carve out a chunk of them. As you can from the chart below loyalties are not absolute.

Price is a huge factor

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has not commented on the latest phone rumors but he did tell USA Today in an interview last year that any future Amazon phone would not be free. While the company may not give the phone away, price is a major deciding factor for consumer when it comes to buying a phone as the chart below shows.

Amazon won market share in the tablet space by pricing its initial Kindle Fire at $199, making it an instant rival to pricier iPads, which had long dominated the market. Subsequent Kindle Fire models were also priced well below comparable Apple devices and the company likely loses money on the hardware sale in order to make money selling content and apps. There is no reason to believe Amazon would not do the same if it enters the phone market.

Amazon could theoretically offer a phone below $200 without a contract that would be free if subsidized by a service provider.

Amazon usually succeeds

Amazon is especially cagey about how many Kindle Fire Tablets it has sold, but Chad Bartley of Pacific Crest Securities told MarketWatch he estimates that Amazon sold 3.6 million Kindle Fires in 2011, 11.8 million in 2012, and 10.5 million in 2013, predicting sales would climb back to 11 million in 2014.

That may not be quite the market domination Amazon wanted when it launched the Fire but it’s an unqualified success that the company could surpass in the smartphone market. Amazon has a loyal customer base that will appreciate a phone that ties into the familiar Amazon buying experience.

It’s almost surprising to hear that the company is developing a 3D phone when it probably would have done fine following the Kindle Fire model of creating a pretty good version of what is already out there for a better price. If Amazon delivers a technology breakthrough in addition to a good phone, the ceiling is even higher. But as long as it releases a decent smartphone that compares well to iPhones and high-end Android phones the company should be able to break into the market and make a splash.

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Who’s afraid of Fire? Not Ouya — don’t expect it to rush out a new console to combat Amazon

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The redesigned Ouya with 16GB of storage. Image Credit: Ouya

Amazon is ready to take on the living room with its Android-based Fire TV game-playing set-top box, but the makers of that other Android-based microconsole on the market aren’t panicking.

Last year, Ouya launched a $100 device that enables gamers to play small indie titles and rejiggered mobile releases on a television. The Ouya system hasn’t exactly taken off, and now it faces a behemoth of a challenger in Amazon’s Fire TV. That microconsole, which is available now for $100 (and an extra $40 for the game controller), features a quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, and a dedicated GPU. For comparison, the Fire TV is as powerful as the latest high-end Android and iOS devices while Ouya has the same innards as the original 2012 Nexus 7 tablet. Despite that, Ouya chief executive Julie Uhrman isn’t letting the Fire TV bother her because she says her company is focused on games … even though Ouya has no first-party software.

This news doesn’t change our plans or the way we work,” said Uhrman. “We continue to be focused on bringing the best quality product to market when it’s ready.”

So, when is the next Ouya ready? She isn’t saying. The company did recently announce it’s working with other hardware vendors (so far only game-peripheral maker Mad Catz) to bring the Ouya Discover store to other platforms. Mad Catz’s M.O.J.O. has an upgraded Tegra 4 processor, which is likely just as capable as Amazon’s device — only M.O.J.O. costs $200, not $100 as the Fire does.

Uhrman was asked if the Ouya team was worried about Fire TV.

Not at all. In fact, we see Amazon Fire TV as great validation for what we’ve been working on for more than two years now,” she said. “Just as Amazon blazed a trail for a new way of selling online, OUYA invented a new way to think about console games.”

She did point out that Amazon is seemingly treating games as an afterthought. When the online megaretailer introduced the Fire TV yesterday, it focused on its video and media capabilities upfront.

But for us, games are not simply an ‘added bonus’ — they’re the whole point,” said Uhrman. “Ouya is solely dedicated to the devs creating games and the players who play them. Their ideal experience is all we think about.”

While Amazon might treat games on Fire TV as an afterthought, it is still investing heavily in them. The company has bulked up its Amazon Game Studios division, which is its internal first-party development team. Yesterday, it hired veterans of the Portal and Splinter Cell franchises to join a crew of industry veterans who are already working on a number of games exclusively for the set-top box. Ouya, on the other hand, has never announced any first-party development.

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Tim Cook announces more massive App Store numbers

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Another Apple event, another set of huge numbers for the App Store. According to Tim Cook:

1. The App Store now has over 1,000,000 apps available for sale.

2. There have been over 60 billion app downloads since the App Store opened for business.

3. App developers have been paid over 13 billion dollars for their labors.

In other words, despite growing competition from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, Apple’s App Store shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.