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Amazon wants

Amazon wants to turn shuttered JCPenney and Sears stores into fulfillment centers, report says – NJ.com

Amazon

Amazon fulfillment centers are used to store inventory like electronics, kitchen appliances and face masks, until orders are shipped to customers. (Ross D. Franklin | AP)AP

Simon Property Group Inc., the largest mall operator in the U.S., has been in talks with Amazon about transforming shuttered department stores into fulfillment centers, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Amazon is targeting shuttered JCPenney and Sears stores operated by Simon Property Group Inc., the report says. Both companies have filed for bankruptcy, while Sears has closed just about all of its New Jersey stores.

Fulfillment centers are used to store inventory like electronics, kitchen appliances and face masks, until orders are shipped to customers, Amazon’s website says.

Simon Property Group Inc. currently has 63 JCPenney and 11 Sears stores, the report says. There are 13 Simon-owned malls and shopping centers in New Jersey, according to the company’s website.

The Wall Street Journal report did not list the potential locations that Amazon was interested in converting to fulfillment centers. An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In June, Amazon signed leases in New Jersey for 14 delivery stations, with plans to open them this year.

The online retail giant officially postponed its annual Prime Day shopping event, but is making up for it with a “Big Summer Sale” currently ongoing.

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Nicolette Accardi can be reached at naccardi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter: @N_Accardi. Find NJ.com on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tip

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Amazon Operator

Amazon and Mall Operator Look at Turning Sears, J.C. Penney Stores Into Fulfillment Centers – The Wall Street Journal

The largest mall owner in the U.S. has been in talks with Amazon.com Inc., the company many retailers denounce as the mall industry’s biggest disrupter, to take over space left by ailing department stores.

Simon Property Group Inc. has been exploring with Amazon the possibility of turning some of the property owner’s anchor department stores into Amazon distribution hubs, according to people familiar with the matter. Amazon typically uses these warehouses to store everything from books and sweaters to kitchenware and electronics…

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Amazon launching

Amazon is launching a new Alexa app — here’s what’s changing – CNBC

The new Alexa app on iPhone.

Amazon

Amazon on Monday said it’s starting to roll out a totally redesigned Alexa app for Apple‘s iPhone, tablets and phones running Google’s Android platform, and its own Fire tablets.

While Alexa is most commonly associated with Amazon’s own living room devices, like the Echo and Fire TV, the digital assistant is also available on other platforms, offering many of the same functionality as Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant.

But the current Alexa app is often hard to use, offering random irrelevant prompts from the home screen and forcing users to dig through menus to find different settings.

That should be fixed in the update, which Amazon says will put your most-used features front and center. In the new app, you might see your reminders, a Spotify playlist you’ve been listening to, your shopping list, an upcoming alarm and an Audible book you’ve started, for example. That means your Alexa home screen will look different from someone else’s. 

Amazon is also moving the Alexa button from the bottom of the app to the top, where it says it’s easier to find. Reminders, routines, skills, settings and other options are being moved from the menu, where they were harder to find, to a new “More” button at the bottom of the screen.

The changes might drive Amazon loyalists to stick with the app across devices.

Amazon said it expects it will be available to all existing users by late August.

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Amazon Improving

3 ways Amazon is improving Alexa on your Echo – CNET

echo-show-5-product-photos-4

Amazon Echo and Alexa are getting new features.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you’re ready for new Amazon Echo and Alexa updates, you’ll be excited to know that Amazon is working with developers to create a better experience for you. At its Alexa Live 2020 event on July 22, Amazon announced 31 new developer features that’ll help give you a more “natural” experience with Alexa — but we’re most excited about three of them.

The newest tools will help you better interact with Alexa and your smart home devices, as well as have a better experience with apps such as Twitter and TikTok. The new features are available to developers now (some in beta), so it’s possible you’ll see them incorporated on your device in the months ahead. Here are three new features coming to your Amazon Echo and Alexa voice assistant.

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Alexa Conversations

Alexa Conversations, currently in beta for developers, will help the way you interact with Alexa by making the voice bot more conversational. The developers will have the ability to add dialog to any given command you may make. For example, if you say “Alexa, ask Roomba to start vacuuming,” Alexa may ask if you’d like the robot vacuum to avoid certain rooms.

Alexa for Apps

A new feature coming to iPhones ($699 at Apple) and Android is called Alexa for Apps. This tool will allow you to search inside an app using Alexa. For example, you can say, “Alexa, ask Twitter to search for #StimulusChecks.” The voice assistant will then open the Twitter app on your phone with a list of results you can browse through. Also, if you book a ride through the Uber skill, Alexa will ask if you want to see the driver’s location on a map in the app.

Amazon says Alexa for Apps is also being added to other apps like TikTok, Yellow Pages, Sonic, Zynga and more.

Alexa will have more ways to interact with you

Alexa’s multimodal function means you’ll see an upgrade in the way you interact with the voice assistant on your Echo Show and Fire TV displays — specifically visually. New gestures will be incorporated into the devices, such as single-finger drag, swipe to delete and long press gestures, for example. You’ll also see new editable text boxes where you can input a text response by touch or TV remote.

Alexa-responsive components will also be an option where a linear or circular progress bar is displayed so you can see activity in progress, like loading a page. 

Amazon has also recently released other features for its Echo speaker and Alexa assistant, like this one that lets you go hands-free in the Alexa app. You can also now drop in on all your Amazon Echo speakers at the same time. There are still issues you may experience with your device, however, like these eight frustrating Amazon Echo problems — which have surprisingly easy solutions.

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Amazon Startups

Amazon Met With Startups About Investing, Then Launched Competing Products – The Wall Street Journal

When Amazon.com Inc.’s venture-capital fund invested in DefinedCrowd Corp., it gained access to the technology startup’s finances and other confidential information.

Nearly four years later, in April, Amazon’s cloud-computing unit launched an artificial-intelligence product that does almost exactly what DefinedCrowd does, said DefinedCrowd founder and Chief Executive Daniela Braga.

The…

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Amazon taking

Amazon is taking 50% off Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 unlocked today only – Android Central

You don’t need to drop $1,000+ on the latest Samsung Galaxy S20 to get a great experience. With new devices come new discounts on previous-gen hardware, and today only at Amazon you can save big with this sale on the unlocked Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Right now, the 128GB model is down to just $499 in Lavender Purple, saving you $501 off its full price. This is the only colorway on sale today, but thankfully a case should cover it up well if you don’t love the shade. The $501 discount is easily worth the trade-off.

Save $501 Now



Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (128GB, Unlocked)

The Note 9 is still super powerful by 2020’s standards, making it a worthy contender for your next smartphone at this price. This deal expires tonight, though stock could run out at any time.

$499.00 $999.99 $501 off

The Note 9 features one of the largest batteries in a Samsung flagship ever, with a 4000mAh capacity that can last all day long. It’s water-resistant too and features a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display, along with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 8GB RAM, dual 12MP rear cameras, and an 8MP front-facing camera. There’s a fingerprint sensor as well, and an S Pen is included that can even remotely control applications while you’re away from your device.

Of course, the Note 10 line was released late last year with updated specs (and the Note 20 is coming later this year), but there are still a ton of reasons why someone might want the Note 9 over the most recent model. Firstly, the price is much more palatable, especially with deals like this one. The Note 9 display is technically better with a 6.4-inch screen with a 2960 x 1440 resolution, compared to the Note 10’s 6.3-inch display at a resolution of 2280 x 1080.

You might also think the battery of the new phone would be better too but think again. The Galaxy Note 9 has a 4,000 mAh battery, whereas the Note 10’s battery is just 3,500 mAh. The Note 9 also has a microSD slot, something you have to grab the more expensive Note 10+ for in the newer line. The Note 10 even (controversially?) ditched the headphone jack this year but it’s still there on the Note 9 which will be a boon for some users. All in all, it’s a great device for 2020.

For any other questions regarding the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, our review and overview guide should help you find some answers.

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Amazon tells

Amazon tells workers to delete TikTok over security risks – Los Angeles Times

Hours after sending an email instructing employees to remove the social media app TikTok from their phones, citing unspecified “security risks,” Amazon.com Inc. said Friday the message was sent in error.

The curious sequence of events came days after the White House amped up messaging that casts the popular Chinese-owned service as a potential threat to national security.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and President Donald Trump said early this week the federal government was weighing a ban on the app in the U.S. because of concerns surrounding Chinese surveillance.

Trump’s and Pompeo’s comments represent the latest escalation of conflict between the U.S. and China, which are locked in a global competition for technological dominance. The Trump administration has aggressively campaigned against China, launching a trade war with China more than two years ago, and clamping down on China’s premier telecommunications company, Huawei Technologies Co., by barring the company from doing business with U.S. firms. While the Huawei crackdown shook the world of enterprise tech, with TikTok, the war could touch U.S. consumers directly.

There are real security concerns about TikTok, experts say, but the Trump administration’s harsh stance on the app appears to be heavily driven by its posturing toward China. Were TikTok to end up a casualty of this war, it could have wide-reaching effects.

Amazon’s email to employees, the existence of which was first reported by the New York Times and independently confirmed by the L.A. Times, said TikTok, which lets users create and share short videos of themselves with millions of viewers, would no longer be allowed on mobile devices that access Amazon email. Employees would still be allowed to use TikTok on their Amazon laptops using a web browser, the email said. TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to provide more details about how the error occurred.

TikTok said in a statement that the company is committed to respecting the privacy of users: “While Amazon did not communicate to us before sending their email, and we still do not understand their concerns, we welcome a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have and enable their team to continue participating in our community. We’re proud that tens of millions of Americans turn to TikTok for entertainment, inspiration, and connection, including many of the Amazon employees and contractors who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic.”

U.S. companies such as Amazon are likely watching these developments carefully and paying close attention to cues from the government, said Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.

If Amazon had stuck with its original memo, it would have been the biggest company to warn its employees of TikTok as a possible security risk.

Earlier this week, Wells Fargo ordered employees who had installed TikTok on company mobile devices to delete the app due to privacy concerns. The Democratic National Committee had previously issued guidance in December asking employees to stop downloading the app. The Republican National Committee followed suit on Friday.

ByteDance acquired Musical.ly — the American company that has since merged with TikTok — in 2017. Last November, the U.S. government opened a national security review of that deal.

Security concerns about TikTok are legitimate: Information the app collects hypothetically could be exploited, said Justin Sherman, a fellow with the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

But Sherman said he doesn’t think the the Trump administration’s push is based on legitimate intelligence, and is more political posturing than anything else. Huawei, which provides critical telecommunications equipment, poses a much clearer security threat than TikTok, Sherman said.

“All these statements, policy announcements and strategies focused on Chinese technology are really about politics. They’re about posturing and looking tough in this trade war,” Sherman said.

The company has taken steps to define itself as an American entity, seeking to shift attention away from its Chinese ownership. In May, ByteDance hired Kevin Mayer, an American who spent most of his career at Walt Disney Co., as TikTok’s new CEO. The company also stopped using Chinese moderators to monitor content in other countries this year.

Unlike Trump’s battle with Huawei, which primarily affected U.S. companies selling computer hardware and internet access in rural areas, the administration’s battle with TikTok could mean depriving millions of U.S. users of an increasingly beloved service.

Tobias Rugger, a teacher in San Francisco’s public school system, uses TikTok regularly to find videos of Black Lives Matter protests and police brutality, as well as for entertainment. “It’s quick, to the point, and in my opinion, relevant information from people I trust,” he said.

Rugger said he’s deeply concerned that a crackdown on TikTok would stifle voices he relies on and would serve to boost Trump’s hold on the national conversation.

Last week, India banned the app as part of an escalating border dispute between Beijing and New Delhi. With 200 million users, India is TikTok’s biggest international market.

The move was a harsh blow to villagers, lower-caste Indians and others from marginalized backgrounds for whom the app was a source of pleasure, and for many, even viral fame and needed income.

If the Trump administration does choose to pursue a ban on the app in the U.S., Sherman said, it would raise all sorts of questions about legality and technical implementation. “What does a ban even mean? Is blocking apps on the internet even legal?” Sherman said.

Regardless, it’s clear TikTok will remain in the spotlight in coming months.

“This is just the first chapter in whats going to be a pretty drawn out soap opera,” Ives said.

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Alexa Amazon

Amazon’s Alexa app will soon let you speak commands without pressing the blue button – The Verge

Amazon is making a small tweak to the Alexa companion app on iOS and Android; in a few days you’ll no longer need to tap the blue Alexa button on your screen to say a voice command, TechCrunch reports. Unfortunately, the new “hands-free” mode apparently only works if you launch the app and continuously keep it open on your phone. For me, it won’t be very useful until I can use Alexa on my iPhone without unlocking and launching it first.

If you really want a phone that allows you to use Alexa as your phone’s voice assistant, Amazon sells a bunch of co-branded “Alexa-Built In” smartphones where it partners with Android manufacturers like OnePlus, Motorola and Sony to let you wake Alexa with just your voice. If you’re like me and don’t want to ditch your iPhone, you can trick Siri to launch the Alexa app: first say “Hey Siri, open the Alexa app,” unlock your iPhone, and then you should be able to ask Alexa to do things. You won’t have to touch your iPhone if you’ve got Face ID; just give it a quick glance to unlock. You can also try Damian Mehers’ Voice in a Can app, which lets you to launch the app by saying “Alexa,” but you will need to create a Siri Shortcut.

Hands-free voice commands provide convenience to consumers who multitask or have their hands full in addition giving to people with mobility or motor impairments a more accessible way to use their devices. On Windows computers, Alexa has been hands-free since last year; Amazon’s Music App also has had a hands-free mode since 2017, allowing you to ask Alexa to play music using only your voice.

Update July 9th, 4:10PM ET: This story has been updated to include third-party app Voice in a Can.

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Amazon offers

Amazon offers steep discounts on a host of Echo speakers – Engadget

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. If you buy something through one of the links on this page, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Amazon is known to discount an Echo device every now and then, but now? It’s going all-out. The internet retailer is running a sale for many of its smart speakers, and in some cases they’re steep bargains. The drops are sharp enough that they may be just what you need to get started on a smart home, or to finish a setup that might have been too costly before.

Echo Studio with Hue bulb

The best deal may be for an Echo Studio (pictured above) bundled with a Philips Hue bulb — you can buy it for $170, or $60 off. It clearly has the best sound quality of the Echo lineup, and it supports both high-resolution audio as well as home theater integration. The Hue bulb makes it that much more tempting if you’re looking to dip your toes into smart lighting.

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Amazon removes

Amazon removes racist messages after they appear on some product listings – Reuters

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, northern France, April 22, 2020 after Amazon extended the closure of its French warehouses until April 25 included, following dispute with unions over health protection measures amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) said it was removing certain images after messages using extremely strong racist abuse appeared on some listings on its UK website when users searched for Apple’s (AAPL.O) AirPods and other similar products.

The message sparked outrage on Twitter, with the topic “AirPods” trending in the United Kingdom.

“We are removing the images in question and have taken action on the bad actor,” an Amazon spokeswoman told Reuters on Sunday. She did not elaborate more on the “bad actor”.

Screenshots and video grabs of the messages were trending on Twitter, with users sharing the images.

The listings with the abusive messages were no longer visible on the Amazon UK website and it was not clear how long they were there for.

In April, several of Amazon’s foreign websites, including the UK domain, were added to the U.S. trade regulator’s “notorious markets” report on marketplaces known for counterfeiting and piracy concerns.

Amazon strongly disagreed with the report at that time, describing it as a “purely political act.”

Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Frances Kerry

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