Friday, January 29, 2010
  • Gavin O'Malley, January 29, 2010, 2:44 PM
  • Unless one explodes, maiming or killing a user, we've resolved not to talk about the iPad anymore this week. That, however, still leaves us free to discuss those companies most likely to be affected by new device -- chief among them being Amazon.

    The online retailer, and maker of the Kindle e-reader, just beat analyst expectations with a healthy margin for the fourth quarter of 2009. It had been expected to earn $0.72 per share, but it actually made $0.85 per share, while revenue rose to $9.52 billion -- up 42% over the same period last year.

    And while Amazon didn't divulge exactly how many Kindle's it's sold, its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said "millions of people" now own the gadget, and that Amazon sells now six Kindle books for every 10 physical books.

    "That surprised analysts, who thought that Amazon would sell 2.5 million or so of the devices by the end of 2010, nearly a year from now," writes TechCrunch. "The total number of all types of Kindles out there in users hands hit 3 million sometime in December, says a source close to Amazon ... And that was before the new model with worldwide data hit."

    Amazon watchers, meanwhile, agreed to disagree as to why Bezos -- typically tightlipped on Kindle sales figures -- willingly revealed so much, this week.

    "The iPad is, despite many commenters doubts on the matter, a very serious threat to the Kindle hardware," argues Fast Company. "And though Amazon might be expecting to make a bundle on Kindle books sold via its iPhone app (and presumably iPad app, soon), Apple is also threatening that business model too, with its iBooks electronic bookstore."

    Yet, "With such emphasis on the Kindle devices, I'm guessing Amazon isn't going to give up much ground to Apple's just-announced iPad without a fight," reasons VentureBeat.

    PaidContent, meanwhile, makes the point that the Kindle's relative obscurity is actually a product of Amazon's success. "A few million e-readers is a small line item in a company with $9.5 billion in net sales for Q409," it notes. "So Amazon doesn't have to say how Kindle is really selling."

    Earlier in the week, New York Times Bits bloggers took turns are for and against the likely success of the Kindle post iPad. Thanks to its simplicity and patented E-Ink screen, Brad Stone believes that the Kindle is for real "book lovers," while the iPad will offer too many distractions, an irritating backlight, and not enough battery life.

    Nick Bilton, meanwhile, argues that the very nature of consuming "content is changing, but the Kindle is not" -- or, at least, not fast enough. "If you look at the way many of us consume content online, it's shifting from just reading words to consuming multimedia ... We view images, watch videos and add our own commentary to the content we ingest."

    Going forward, Bilton suggests that Amazon has two Kindle strategies it can pursue: soup it up with more features, functionality, and speed; or strip it down, slash its price tag, and market its singular purpose. Indeed, "A lot of people will have a hard time justifying $500 for the lowest entry-level iPad and would probably choose a $100 Kindle if they were hoping to find a new device to replace their paper-book reading." Read the whole story...
  • Citing a single unnamed source, TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook is working on a feature for its mobile users to "check-in," and "broadcast" their location to friends. Local business review community Yelp recently released a similar "check-in" feature. The developments could spell trouble for Union Square Ventures-backed Foursquare, which has quickly established itself as a leader in the location-based social space.

    "Allowing users to 'check-in' is Foursquare's primary function," writes TechCrunch. Furthermore, "Facebook, with its huge scale and wealth of engineering talent, could squash Foursquare." Not so, says Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley -- who sold another location-based social network named Dodgeball to Google in '05. He fully expects Facebook and others to launch "check-in" functionality, making it a "commodity by the end of the year." Rather, he says his site will thrive by providing "the most incentive for a user to check-in." Presently, Read the whole story...
  • Along with her sci-fi aesthetic and genre-bending sound, Lady Gaga's success is due in large part to a "shrewd use of new digital platforms," writes The Wall Street Journal. Adding to huge sales on iTunes, much of Gaga's audience gets her music free and legally, listening to streams -- by the hundreds of millions -- on YouTube and the other online services, according to research firm BigChampagne. On MySpace, meanwhile, Gaga has had 321.5 million plays. (By contrast, singer Susan Boyle tallied only 133,000 plays, despite scoring the No. 2 selling album of 2009.)

    "While most artists stand to profit more from high-margin CD sales, being embedded across the Web can pay dividends in exposure and the loyalty of fans," BigChampagne founder Eric Garland tell the Journal." The Journal goes on to argue that the music industry's only hope is following Gaga's self-propelled formula. "Without the budget and staff to support their once overloaded artist stables, labels have slashed their rosters and doubled down on acts expected to drive hits." Read the whole story...
  • Citysearch just launched a set of APIs that makes all of its local listings content and advertising available to other Web sites and mobile apps. Dubbed CityGrid, the APIs include more than 15 million local business listings, 3 million user reviews, and access to 500,000 local advertisers looking to reach people near their places of business. Citysearch presently already distributes its local listings content to about 100 sites and mobile apps with a collective reach of 100 million people -- about a quarter of which is Citysearch.com.

    "I thought what if I took all the tools that we put together to build Citysearch and put it on a platter, an API and web services layer," Citysearch CEO Jay Herratti tells TechCrunch -- referring to all the descriptions of local businesses, reviews, photos, videos, hours of operation, offers, menus, metered phone numbers, and merchant messages. According to TechCrunch: "Tons of Web sites and mobile apps would love to have access to this database of content to build out their own sites and apps, and now they can via CityGrid." Read the whole story...
  • Round up the posse! Google just put a bounty on Chrome bugs, as well as any bugs that can be found in Chromium -- its open source codebase used as the testing grounds for its Chrome browser. With a focus on security issues, developers can expect rewards of between $500 to $1,337 for reporting the bugs, which will vary depending on the severity of the security hole discovered. Those bugs deemed "particularly severe or particularly clever" will receive the higher amount.

    Read the whole story...
  • Ahead of plans to begin charging for high levels of online content consumption, The New York Times Co. has promoted its VP of advertising Paul Smurl to the new role of VP of NYTimes.com paid products. As such, he will be responsible for implementing what is being called the paper's "metered model," which isn't scheduled to go into effect until next year. He'll also be responsible for its financial performance, along with crossword subscriptions and mobile game products. He'll report to Denise Warren, SVP and chief advertising officer, The New York Times Media Group and GM, NYTimes.com.

    Read the whole story...