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Amazon announced its first own-brand televisions today, in a statement of intent that it means to extend its influence over and monetisation of the biggest screen in the home.
The Alexa voice-enabled smart TVs will go on sale in October in the US, starting at $370 for a 43in Fire TV 4 and going up to $1,100 for a 75in set in its slightly more expensive Fire TV Omni Series. TV makers may be alarmed at the move, given the fresh competition and Amazon’s tendency to offer big discounts on its branded products — it immediately knocked $110 off its $470 50in 4 Series model.
Japan’s Toshiba and Insignia of the US already offer sets with Fire TV built-in, saving consumers from buying an Amazon dongle, and there is speculation that China’s TCL will be making the TVs for the ecommerce giant. They will compete with Android ones promoted by Google, as well as Roku sets, and the smart TV offerings of major players such as Samsung and LG.
In content, Amazon already has a strong offering through Amazon Prime movies and shows on its Fire TV interface, along with apps from the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and AppleTV +. In this streaming age, Fire TV could easily become the home screen for the TV owner’s entertainment.
That would mean extra opportunities for ecommerce and advertising and the TV could also be at the centre of a smart home controlled by Amazon devices. The company said it would launch a smart home TV dashboard and the Omni TVs would have picture-in-picture for checking security cameras and video doorbells. Sound can be combined on Echo-enabled speakers around the home, but a plug-in webcam would be needed for video calling from the TVs.
“We believe TVs have an opportunity to do much more and be much smarter,” Amazon’s head of entertainment devices Daniel Rausch said. He’s not kidding — this is a hardware/content/ecommerce/advertising/smart home play by Amazon that ties together powerful future revenue drivers.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Amazon targeted over warehouse injuries
A law that seeks to clamp down on Amazon’s use of productivity quotas has been passed by California’s state senate. Assembly Bill 701 is aimed at all companies using warehouse labour, but legislators have targeted Amazon in particular, highlighting the company’s outsized injury rate when compared to similar workplaces. Meanwhile, John Thornhill’s column this weeks looks at the likely fate of aggregators of Amazon’s third-party merchants.
2. Holmes trial’s two competing arguments
Elizabeth Holmes’s failure to make her blood-testing technology start-up Theranos a viable business was not a crime, her lawyers told a federal jury at the start of the founder’s trial on wire fraud charges. Miles Kruppa says there are two competing arguments: did she lie and cheat to make money, as prosecutors alleged, or did she simply fail to deliver on an ambitious vision to reinvent blood testing?
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3. Covid success story Oxford Nanopore to IPO
The British genomics company Oxford Nanopore has unveiled plans for an initial public listing on the London Stock Exchange that analysts said could value it at around £4bn. The company’s DNA sequencing devices have become essential in identifying and tracking the spread of Covid-19 variants around the world.
4. Mastercard to buy CipherTrace
Mastercard has agreed to buy blockchain analytics firm CipherTrace, which sells cryptocurrency anti-money laundering services, for an undisclosed amount. Gillian Tett has met ethereum’s Joe Lubin and profiles the blockchain’s co-founder in this FT Magazine piece. Malcolm Moore says the rise of NFTs strengthens the case for ethereum to become the plumbing of the “metaverse”.
5. Tencent and NetEase hit by gaming orders
Shares in Tencent and NetEase fell sharply, after authorities ordered the Chinese technology companies to pivot from focusing on profits in online gaming and on reports that Beijing had halted approvals for new games.
Forwarded from Sifted — the European start-up week
From next year, you’ll be able to ride in a driverless car in Europe. It won’t be driven by a lidar-equipped computer, however, but piloted remotely by a human ‘teledriver’ sitting in a control room somewhere distant. This, at least, is the vision of Vay, a Berlin-based start-up that this week emerged from stealth mode to unveil its plans for the future of mobility. Its concept is designed to be a way of getting at least some of the benefits of autonomous vehicles out to customers faster.
Elsewhere in European start-ups this week, fintechs hoping to get e-money licences approved by the UK financial regulator are increasingly in for a long wait, with the Financial Conduct Authority trying to cope with a 70 per cent spike in applications for payment licences in the past year, fuelled by Brexit rule changes and a flurry of new, cash-rich start-ups. Meanwhile, Sifted investigated toxic start-up workplaces, and Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) start-up ScalaPay announced it had raised a $155m Series A led by Tiger Global.
Tech tools — Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories
At Ray-Ban’s flagship stores across the US and the UK, a new model of Wayfarer sunglasses went on sale on Thursday, reports Hannah Murphy in San Francisco. They look almost identical to the classic model, first sold in 1952, except for one thing: they have Facebook embedded in them.
Ray-Ban Stories, as the new model is called, are Facebook’s first pair of camera glasses, which allow wearers to take videos and photos hands-free from a first-person perspective, before uploading them to social media. Users can also listen to music or take calls with the glasses, which will be available in 20 different styles with both dark and clear lenses. Prices start at $299.
The glasses come five years after rival Snap launched its camera glasses, and eight years after Google Glass, which included a camera as well as a display, was hyped as the future of wearable technology. Read more