When a company is as massive as any one of the Frightful Five, the bad news is it’s inevitable that some things will slip under the radar. Apple and Amazon learned that the hard way this week as partners called them out on fake apps and hubcaps for sale on their platforms. The good news, though, is that it’s never all bad news when you’re as big as the Frightful Five. Here’s what else has been going on for these industry giants — just in case you missed it.
Australian consumers and merchants can now take advantage of Amazon’s marketplace on a local level. To deliver its promise of choice, speed and the best price for customers, however, the company knew it would first have to make the experience worthwhile for sellers. The eCommerce giant teamed up with Hyperwallet to ensure that merchants using the platform could be paid quickly, in their desired currency and sans exorbitant cross-border fees.
In other countries — 80 of them, to be precise — Amazon has made its Echo voice-activated smart speaker available for purchase. However, the devices are only available through Amazon.com, and there are no localized versions of Alexa or the Alexa Skills Kit in French, Spanish, Swedish, Polish or Dutch. Customers must speak to the device in English, German or Japanese. Furthermore, the device is still not available in Brazil, France, Italy, Spain or Australia, along with many other markets.
Meanwhile, in America, Amazon has reportedly slashed the number of open positions at its Seattle headquarters and is even talking about a hiring freeze leading up to major capital expenditures on its forthcoming second headquarters in a city TBD. Amazon told the Seattle Times that these two developments were unrelated and that the hiring lag was due to seasonal fluctuations.
Finally, Mercedes-Benz busted Amazon for selling three sets of counterfeit branded wheel caps, which were listed on the platform and marked as “ships from and sold by Amazon.com.” Amazon often skirts copyright and trademark infringement issues in the U.S. by highlighting its marketplace status: it is a platform and is therefore not responsible for whether sellers follow the law. However, “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com” seems to be a pretty clear indicator of who’s at fault on this one.
Shazam, an app that identifies songs, TV shows, films and ads by listening to audio clips, may be acquired by Apple for around $400 million — significantly less than Shazam’s post-money valuation after its 2015 funding round, which put its net worth at $1.02 billion. The deal is expected to close this week. Shazam reportedly has more than 100 million monthly users and earns most of its revenue from commissions paid on referrals to Apple’s iTunes store. Apple reportedly hopes the acquisition can help boost subscriptions to its music service by more closely integrating the platforms.
A paid iOS app was removed from Apple’s App Store when the company discovered it had appropriated its name from the free app MyEtherWallet, which stores digital currencies. The fake app was charging $4.99 per download and provided a different service from the legitimate, free version. Spiking interest in cryptocurrency drove the fake app to the number-three spot in the finance app category before it was removed. Apple has not shared how many customers purchased the app or whether they would be refunded.
The real MyEtherWallet is looking into the possibility that the fraudulent app had been used to steal from downloaders, but has not yet found any evidence that this was the case.
The social media giant is once again taking on Snapchat in a quest to win over younger users. This time, it’s testing a standalone direct messaging app for Instagram, which allows users to create and share stories and apply effects such as filters and Boomerang to their images.
The launch of Instagram Stories earlier this year has already taken a bite out of Snapchat’s user base, and now Instagram Direct could stand to have a similar effect on Snapchat’s direct messaging feature.
Google got the green light on its redevelopment plans for its headquarters in the San Francisco Bay area. The urban-style campus will introduce 3.6 million square feet of offices and 10,000 homes in a region with insufficient housing to meet the needs of residents and employees. Advocates are hopeful that the redevelopment will pull rent prices down as supply rises to meet demand.
Alphabet is slowly dipping its toes back into the waters of China, where Google’s search engine is blocked but where hundreds of employees are still hard at work on the company’s international services. Google has announced the opening of its artificial intelligence (AI) development center in Beijing, where it hopes to leverage the country’s deep and growing talent pool of AI experts.
This would not be the first time Google came across as a sort of “Big Brother” figure: the company has patented an electronic system for looking after unattended children at home. It uses cameras, motion, light, audio and touch sensors to determine when a child has been left unattended in a room. Once they’ve been alone for five minutes, the system takes measures to keep the child safe, such as disabling unused electrical outlets or electrically powered doors through which the child could wander out. It is not yet clear whether Google will actually bring such a product to market.
Amazon, Apple and Google have been locked in a race to become the first company worth $1 trillion. Although the iPhone X has propelled Apple significantly closer to its goal, it’s worth noting that Microsoft may also have a horse in this race, with analysts predicting the Azure cloud business and Office 365 suite could drive the company to a comparable valuation by 2020, if not sooner.