The False Tale of Amazon’s Industry-Conquering Juggernaut

Felix Salmon wrote for WIRED about the false tale of Amazon’s industry-conquering juggernaut.

Still, as Bezos will readily admit, most of his investment ideas fail. Just because Amazon spends a huge amount of money on, say, trying to create a new social network, doesn’t mean it’s going to have any visible success doing so. After Amazon spent $545 million to acquire Diapers.com, for instance, it ended up shuttering the business, claiming it couldn’t make it profitable.

Ultimately, Amazon is not a disruptive force so much as it’s just a big, rich company which spends a lot of resources trying a lot of things. That’s smart, for Amazon, but it certainly doesn’t mean that industry after industry is going to get disrupted the minute the Seattle giant lays eyes on it. Even Amazon’s core business of retailing hasn’t changed all that much: e-commerce still accounts for less than 10 percent of total sales, and Amazon is a minority of that 10 percent.

Amazon goes into many industries but it isn’t a big player in the field. It just has a presence that helps to spread the Amazon brand and influence. Is Amazon the biggest player or a disruptive force in advertising, cloud computing, TV shows, book publishing, voice assistant manufacturer? How about e-Commerce? Amazon relies on a lot of third-party sellers to drive the platform.

Google launches its first WeChat mini program as its China experiments continue

TechCrunch reported on Google launching its first WeChat mini program as its China experiments continue.

WeChat has become the key distribution channel in China and that’s why Google is embracing it with its first mini program — 猜画小歌, a game that roughly translates to ‘Guess My Sketch.’ There’s no English announcement but the details can be found in this post on Google’s Chinese blog, which includes the QR code to scan to get the game.

The app is a take on games like Zynga’s Draw Something, which puts players into teams to guess what the other is drawing. Google, however, is adding a twist. Each player teams up with an AI and then battles against their friends and their AIs. You can find an English version of the game online here.

Interesting move. The advantage is that the mini programs are platform agnostic. Both iOS and Android users will be able to use the mini program within WeChat.

Mini programs are a huge convenience if you happen to be part of the WeChat ecosystem. I enjoy using them for lightweight functions because I can launch them within WeChat without having to download a separate app that needs to be updated or configured. Mini programs simply ask for permission to access your WeChat profile instead making you go through a registration process. If the app requires a payment service, it’ll ask for access to your WeChat Pay wallet.

I use the Shenzhen Metro mini program in my daily commute. Instead of having to download an app for a single function, mini programs allow you to access such single functions with ease from within WeChat.

New Samsung ad ignores performance benchmarks

AppleInsider reported that the new Samsung ad attacks iPhone X download speed, ignores performance benchmarks.

Regardless, the ad clearly doesn’t step into other, arguably more crucial, areas of phone performance where our tests had iPhone X in a clear lead. Looking at the Geekbench results, iPhone X completely destroys the S9+, especially in single core performance. The iPhone came in with single- and multi-core scores of 4,243 and 10,433, respectively, while the S9+ managed scores of 2,007 and 8,307.

Graphics-wise, iPhone X still outpaced the S9+. The S9+ scored 14,308, very close to, but not topping, iPhone’s 15,177. In all our testing, there were a couple tests where the S9+ won out, but by-and-large the iPhone X was the more powerful device.

Next year, Samsung is expected to release the Galaxy S10 and S10+, which will most likely attempt to more evenly compete with Face ID. Currently, the S9 and S9+ use a 2D scanner when validating a face and is much less accurate than Apple’s 3D infrared TrueDepth camera system.

Samsung is shooting itself in the foot by going with an ad that draws comparison to the iPhone X.

Comparing download speeds makes a lot of sense since it is something the devices have full control over, not the internet service providers. Not to mention the signal strengths and other factors that might affect download speeds. Because download speed is the key criteria most people look at when choosing which phone to buy.

Sarcasm. In case anyone didn’t notice that.

Apple Music has surpassed Spotify’s US subscriber count

Digital Music News reported that Apple Music has surpassed Spotify’s US subscriber count.

Both Apple Music and Spotify have more than 20 million subscribers in America, with Apple now a hair ahead.  The source requested that we withhold exact subscriber numbers beyond mentioning ’20 million plus,’ to protect confidentiality.

The data for 2018 also shows that Apple is experiencing a far stronger rate-of-growth in the United States, suggesting a wider lead over the coming months.  Trial users were not part of the comparison.

The results aren’t entirely surprising.  Back in February, the Wall Street Journal noted that Apple’s US-based subscriber growth rate was 5% in the U.S., compared to Spotify’s 2%.  Using that data, the Journal predicted that Apple Music was ‘on the verge’ of surpassing Spotify.

Better user engagement on Apple Music.

A bug in Samsung’s default texting app is sending random pics to other people

Gizmodo reported that a bug in Samsung’s default texting app is sending random pics to other people.

According to user reports, the problem stems from Samsung Messages, the default texting app on Galaxy devices, which (for reasons that haven’t been determined), is erroneously sending pictures stored on the devices to random contacts via SMS. One user on Reddit even claims that instead of sending one pic, Samsung Messages sent out their entire photo gallery to a contact in the middle of the night.

Scary.

The scariest part about this bug is that when Samsung Messages bugs out sends pics to other people, it reportedly doesn’t leave any evidence of it doing so, which means people may not know their photos have been released into the wild until it’s too late.

Are you using a Samsung Galaxy device now? What if your phone has been sending this out and you didn’t know because the people receiving your photos aren’t saying anything?

Mobike does away with deposits in China

Christopher Udemans reported for TechNode that Mobike has removed deposits for all users in China.

Deposit-free rides will now be standard across the country. Existing users can apply to have their deposits refunded. According to a Mobike representative, if a warning appears in the app when you try to use the platform after being refunded, you will need to update the app. If it is up to date, the server is giving an old message, and it will work nonetheless.

Great news. This would definitely help drive adoption. Users who have paid deposits for other services are less likely to pay deposit for another service.

Mobike has also announced bike rental integration into the Meituan platform, a new fleet of e-bikes to extend transportation range for its users, and a program to recycle components from retired bicycles.

An alliance to compete against Didi and ofo.

Apple Maps privacy

TechCrunch reported that Apple is rebuilding Maps from the ground up.

“We specifically don’t collect data, even from point A to point B,” notes Cue. “We collect data — when we do it — in an anonymous fashion, in subsections of the whole, so we couldn’t even say that there is a person that went from point A to point B. We’re collecting the segments of it. As you can imagine, that’s always been a key part of doing this. Honestly, we don’t think it buys us anything [to collect more]. We’re not losing any features or capabilities by doing this.”

The segments that he is referring to are sliced out of any given person’s navigation session. Neither the beginning or the end of any trip is ever transmitted to Apple. Rotating identifiers, not personal information, are assigned to any data or requests sent to Apple and it augments the “ground truth” data provided by its own mapping vehicles with this “probe data” sent back from iPhones.

Because only random segments of any person’s drive is ever sent and that data is completely anonymized, there is never a way to tell if any trip was ever a single individual. The local system signs the IDs and only it knows to whom that ID refers. Apple is working very hard here to not know anything about its users. This kind of privacy can’t be added on at the end, it has to be woven in at the ground level.

Because Apple’s business model does not rely on it serving to you, say, an ad for a Chevron on your route, it doesn’t need to even tie advertising identifiers to users.

Apple uses the data to improve the service. It doesn’t sell you ads or sell your data. This is why they don’t need to identify users or even build a profile of each user.

JD.com grossed RMB 160 billion in its mid-year sale with the help of physical stores

TechNode reported that JD.com grossed RMB 160 billion in its mid-year sale.

China’s e-commerce platform JD.com reached RMB 159.2 billion in sales during its annual 618 Shopping Festival, which occurred between June 1 and June 18.

The company said transactions were up 37% compared with the same period last year, and more than 90% of the orders from JD’s self-operated stores achieved same-day or next-day delivery, thanks to automated devices.

Good deals coupled with intensive marketing before 618. That’s what got me ready for a shopping spree on 618. Half price for many daily necessities and on top of that you get a 10% rebate for every RMB 200 or RMB 300 spent depending on the product category. No brainer to stock up on half a year’s supply to last me till Single’s Day.

Tmall and Taobao had promotions during this period too. It’ll be interesting to compare how Alibaba fared.

Jack Ma: It was Dr M’s MSC that inspired me to start Alibaba

The Star reported that it was Dr Mahathir’s MSC that inspired Jack Ma to start Alibaba.

The Alibaba founder and executive chairman said that he read about MSC in a newspaper 20 years ago and found the idea inspiring.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is a genius idea. If Malaysia can do this, why can’t China. Why can’t I do this myself?’

“So Malaysia inspired me to create Alibaba,” he said during the launch of an Alibaba Group office in Kuala Lumpur on Monday (June 18).

20 years later, the divide is stark. Malaysia has sadly lagged behind.

Why QR codes trump NFC in China

TechNode reported on Why QR codes trump NFC in China.

Barrier of entry is much higher for NFC compared to QR code payment. This applies both for consumers and vendors. Consumers need to have devices that come with NFC and vendors need equipment that can accept NFC payments.

QR code, on the other hand has minimal costs involved. Vendors just need to print out their QR code. Consumers only need a device that has a camera and can support the Alipay or WeChat apps.

QR code payments, on the other hand, demand no such extra hardware requirement. It is for sure that NFC chips come with an additional cost, and that is a luxury for many Chinese customers who have little incentive for paying an extra price to opt for NFC-based payments.

[…]

Many vendors, mostly local small businesses, are hesitant to support NFC contactless payments due to the underlying costs. While it is reasonable to expect McDonald’s to accept credit cards, a vendor at a local farmers’ market in a Chinese city is less likely to own a POS machine that supports contactless chip cards.

QR codes are seen as a more convenient alternative to costly POS terminals. If you are a small business owner, you would have to follow a much more sophisticated, and pricey procedure to obtain a POS terminal than printing a QR code to request funds on WeChat or Alipay.

Another major factor is how users can easily link their Alipay or WeChat Pay wallets to their bank accounts, instead of a credit card. Or if you have cash, you can pass cash to someone and have them transfer money into your Alipay or WeChat Pay wallets. Many convenience stores offer such service, often charging a minimal service fee for their troubles.

Consumers in many Western countries are incentivized by the benefits and promotions that credit card holders enjoy. Although credit cards are ubiquitous in major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai, they are not at all commonplace in rural parts of the country or even lower tier cities.

There are also roadblocks for college students, freelancers, retired citizens, and stay-home parents to apply for credit cards. According to a 2017 report from The People’s Bank of China, the average number of credit cards owned by each person in China is 0.39. In the US, the number is 2.6.

While the majority of Chinese people don’t get cash back from credit card companies, they can from Alipay. As third-party services, both Alipay and WeChat Pay have frequently offered (link in Chinese) promotions, cashback rewards, and “red packets” to users, including those who have only added debit cards to their accounts.

Apple Pay would be able to pose a bigger challenge and gain a greater market share in the Chinese mobile payments market if they add a QR code function and make it easier for consumers to add money into their e-wallets.