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Amazon, Best Buy Unite on Smart TV Strategy

2:46 PM 0 Comments

Best Buy will be the exclusive
retailer for Amazon’s next generation of Fire TV Edition smart TVs in
the United States and Canada, under a new multiyear partnership the firms announced Wednesday.

Best Buy will
carry more than 10 4K and HD Fire TV Edition models from Insignia and
Toshiba starting this summer.

The new smart TVs will feature the Fire TV experience built-in,
allowing viewers to enjoy live over-the-air TV
programming as well as streaming content from a variety of sources
including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, HBO, PlayStation Vue and Hulu.


Fire TV Edition Smart TV

Fire TV Edition Smart TV


The Fire TV Edition smart TVs come with a Voice Remote with Alexa,
which allows users to access apps, search for TV shows, play music, adjust TV settings and inputs, and control other smart home devices. The sets can be paired with any Amazon Echo Device.

“Amazon and Best Buy have a long history of working together, and
today we take our partnership to a new level,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “These Fire Edition smart TVs by Insignia and Toshiba deliver beautiful visuals and all the movies and TV shows you love, with an
experience that gets better every day with Alexa.”

Seeing Is Believing

For many, Amazon has become the go-to retailer for everything from
books to groceries, and consumer electronics are
among its strongest categories. However, TVs are still something many consumers
want to see before making a purchase. It makes sense that Amazon would want products with its Fire TV functionality to be displayed in a large brick-and-mortar retailer such as Best Buy.

“In the case of products like TVs, it is still important to evaluate
in person to judge picture quality,” said Paul Gagnon, executive
director for consumer devices at IHS Markit.

“Many other consumer electronics products are purchased on
specification, but our experience is that consumers in the U.S. still
prefer to evaluate the performance of audio and video products before
purchasing,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“This is especially true with bigger TVs,” said Stephen Baker, vice
president and industry advisor for technology and mobile at The NPD
Group
.

“The smaller TVs — those 37 inches and smaller — still sell online, but
Amazon certainly recognizes that to get the scale for Fire OS products
there needs to be a robust in-store experience,” he told the
E-Commerce Times.

TV Market Competition

The Best Buy deal allows Amazon to get its products into
more TVs that potential buyers will see on the showroom floors.

“Smart TVs currently account for more than 70 percent of TV sales in
North America, so it is an important category,” noted IHS’ Gagnon.

This
isn’t just about smart TVs, though. It is a way to increase visibility for the Fire
OS brand.

“Proprietary Smart TV platforms for Samsung and LG are still
important, but Roku TV has grown significantly in 2017 as a
third-party platform, similar to Fire TV,” said Gagnon.

Roku was the No. 2 operating system platform for smart TVs in
North America in 2017, and no doubt Amazon would like to get a
piece of that market.

“To get there, Amazon needs to be on TVs that customers recognize and
trust, and Best Buy’s Insignia and Toshiba fit that well,” remarked NPD’s Baker.

More Cooperation Than Competition

Amazon long has been viewed as a threat to traditional retailers — and
this is certainly true when it comes to consumer electronics — but in this
case, the mutual benefits overshadow competition.

“Best Buy is now a strong, growing retailer, and while it competes with
Amazon it can also be a partner with Amazon,” said Baker.

“In this case, it isn’t about Amazon as the retailer but as the
hardware company; so this move has little to do with that normal
competition, but is really about Amazon hardware needing a broader
platform in stores as they compete with Roku and other platforms on
smart TVs,” he added.

However, Best Buy’s involvement in helping an online retailer — even
in a hardware partnership — suggests there is more to it.

“What the Amazon/Best Buy partnership tells us is that both the
e-commerce and the brick-and-mortar sides of the retail story are
facing different kinds of pressures, and that by working together they
believe that they are more likely to succeed,” said Elizabeth Lim,
senior research analyst at Mergermarket.

“In Amazon’s case, though they’re known these days for disrupting and
striking fear in traditional sectors — for example, in retail as well as
in healthcare — they are still in need of increasing their market
share,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

“For Best Buy, this is about survival, and gaining access to the
dominant e-commerce platform,” Lim said.

“Though they’ve tried to build up their
own platform, this really is a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join
them,'” she added. “In terms of this Fire Edition smart TV, by
increasing consumers’ access to these kinds of products — they can
choose to buy them in person in Best Buy or online via Amazon —
consumers are more likely to be interested in these items and talk
about them in their networks, and all parties appear to win in the
end.”


Peter Suciu has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2012. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile phones, displays, streaming media, pay TV and autonomous vehicles. He has written and edited for numerous publications and websites, including Newsweek, Wired and FoxNews.com.
Email Peter.

Australian millennials’ incomes have grown more than baby boomers and millennials in other countries

2:02 PM 0 Comments

Life has changed significantly for young Australians over the last 40 years. Millennials now delay marriage and childbirth, increase their years of study and have much greater rates of part-time work.

As a result, millennials might be feeling a little hard done by, but Australians aged from 25 to 34 have actually enjoyed increases in their incomes compared to the population average. They have also done better than people the same age in other countries.


Read more: Politicians, stop pitching to the ‘average’ Australian; being middle class depends on where you live


These are some of the findings of a report from the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia: How unequal? Insights on inequality. It questions whether young people today are likely to do as well economically as previous generations.

Early millennials, born between 1981 and 1985, experienced household income growth 27% higher than the Australian average up to 2010, while households with a head aged 70 to 74 enjoyed growth only 2% higher than the national average.

Although incomes might be higher, the picture of household wealth is different. The wealth of older Australians has increased much more rapidly than that of younger generations, due to both increasing superannuation wealth and increasing property wealth.

Incomes are better for Gen Y in Australia

Work by the Luxembourg Income Study found that in the United Kingdom, households with a head aged 25 to 29 years saw income growth 2% less than the overall national average in the three decades up to 2010. They also found households with a head aged 65 years and over enjoyed income growth more than 60% higher than average.

In brief, in the UK older households became much better-off and younger households became slightly worse off than the population as a whole. Similarly young Americans experienced income growth 9% less than the national average, those in Spain 12% less and in Italy 19% less. In all these and other countries, older households have done better than the national average, although none as well as in the UK.

In contrast, younger Australians did better than the national average in income terms, and better than older Australians.

ABS data show that in 2016, Generation Y Australians had higher incomes between the ages of 25 to 34 than the preceding two generations – about 18% higher than those born a decade earlier. However, the real increase appears to have slowed compared to the previous decade, that cohort had incomes 65% higher than those a decade earlier (due to the mining boom).

Older Australians, born between 1941 and 1950 (including the first “baby boomers”), show an increase in average incomes between 1995-96 and 2005-06, and then a decline as they enter retirement. Middle baby boomers, born between 1951 and 1960, show a marked increase in real incomes between the age of 35-44 years and 45 to 54 years (from A$1,370 per week to A$2,200 per week). But they only experienced a very small increase in the next decade, because some of them retired before the age of 65.


Read more: The inequality you can’t change that lasts a lifetime


Baby boomers born between 1961 and 1970 show substantially higher incomes than those born a decade earlier – more than 20% higher in real terms at the age of 45 to 54 years. Generation X born between 1971 and 1980 show large increases in real incomes – nearly 45% – across the last decade and are about 34% better off than the preceding cohort were at the same age.

What has happened to wealth

Households with people under 35 years of age were actually slightly worse off in wealth terms in 2015-16, than a decade earlier, with their net worth falling by around 8%, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data. But for those aged 65 and over, there were increases closer to 40% in real net worth.

The value of owner-occupied housing fell for Australia’s youngest age group, but older households enjoyed large increases in the value of their homes and large increases in the value of other property they own.

Overall, all age groups saw real increases in the value of their total assets, including the youngest age group. This means that falls in wealth are due to an increase in their debts.

ABS data also shows that at all ages there has been a fall in the share of outright home owners, and also in the share of the youngest age group with a mortgage. For younger age groups an increasing share are private renters. This was a significant increase from 43 to 53% for those aged 25 to 34 years and from 26 to 31% for those aged 35 to 44 years.

For those 65 years and over, there has been little change – around 85% of households aged 65 years and over were owners or purchasers in both 2005-06 and 2015-16.

Younger households have seen both declining rates of home purchasing and higher overall indebtedness. Rental costs have also increased faster than the costs of home ownership, and this may have increased the barriers that younger generations face in establishing themselves in home ownership.

But when it comes to incomes, millennials in Australia have continued to progress.

UN Health Agency: Dengue Vaccine Shouldn’t Be Used Widely

12:56 PM 0 Comments

The World Health Organization says the first-ever vaccine for dengue needs to be dealt with in “a much safer way,” meaning that the shot should mostly be given to people who have previously been infected with the disease.

In November, the vaccine’s manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, said people who had never been sickened by dengue before were at risk of developing a more serious disease after getting the shot.

After a two-day meeting this week, WHO’s independent vaccines group said it now had proof the vaccine should only be used “exclusively or almost exclusively in people who have already been infected with dengue.”

The U.N. health agency said a test should be developed so doctors would be able to quickly tell if people had previously been sickened by dengue – but the group acknowledged doing that so isn’t straightforward.

“We see significant obstacles in using the vaccine this way, but we are confident this also spurs the development of a rapid diagnostic test,” said Dr. Joachim Hombach, executive secretary of WHO’s expert group, during a news conference Thursday.

Sanofi said last year that doctors should consider whether people might have been previously infected with dengue before deciding whether they should risk getting immunized. The company said it expected to take a 100 million euro ($118 million) loss based on that news.

People who catch dengue more than once can be at risk of a hemorrhagic version of the disease. The mosquito-spread virus is found in tropical and sub-tropical climates across Latin and South America, Asia, Africa and elsewhere. It causes a flu-like disease that can cause joint pain, nausea, vomiting and a rash. In severe cases, dengue can result in breathing problems, hemorrhaging and organ failure.

About half the world’s population is at risk of dengue; WHO estimates that about 96 million people are sickened by the viral infection every year.

Following Sanofi’s announcement last year, the Philippines halted its dengue immunization program, the world’s first national vaccination program for dengue. The government also demanded a refund of more than 3 billion pesos ($59 million) from Sanofi and is considering further legal action.

In February, the Philippines said the vaccine was potentially linked to the deaths of three people: all of them died of dengue despite having received the vaccine.

The country imposed a symbolic fine of $2,000 on Sanofi and suspended the vaccine’s approval, charging that the drugmaker broke rules on how the shot was registered and marketed.

More than 730,000 children aged 9 and above in the Philippines have received at least one dose of the dengue vaccine, usually delivered in three doses.

There is no specific treatment for dengue and there are no other licensed vaccines on the market.

The Electronics Industry: A Pawn in the US vs. China Chess Game

11:11 AM 0 Comments

Rising tensions between China and the United States have led to growing concerns that a tariff war will have a negative impact on the electronics industry. Amazingly, the industry has been spared thus far, and with good reason. However, even if tariffs aren’t imposed, there is a silent battle between the two countries that already has impacted the global electronics ecosystem.

Watching the countries levy their recent tariffs has been like watching two opponents playing chess. Each has made a move intended to weaken the other’s political position. Thus far, tariffs have been aimed at key resources, such as food and raw materials.

China even has targeted key regions that produce those products, such as the states that vote first in the next presidential election or that have members of Congress in strategic positions.

Everyone Gets a Tariff?

The electronics industry has been spared the tariff wrath because any tariff that impacts one country surely will impact the other.

For example, imagine the process of building a smartphone from an imaginary U.S. mobile phone vendor. The intellectual property for the mobile processor comes from a variety of countries throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The chip is designed and fabricated in the U.S. and assembled and tested in Malaysia.

The processor is then integrated into a phone that is designed in Taiwan and assembled in China with other components, such as the display and memory, coming from Korea. The completed phones are sold throughout the world, including in both China and the U.S.

A scenario much like this applies to building just about any electronics device, such as a PC, car stereo, smartwatch, TV, or even embedded electronics like the control boards for appliances.

With the IP, components and final systems being developed in multiple regions and shipped from one region to another, even during the manufacturing process, it is extremely difficult to put tariffs on those items.

Any such tariffs would have a negative impact on the rest of the value chain, which ultimately would result in negative impacts on every country and region involved in the development and manufacturing of electronics components, systems, software and services.

It would be possible to put tariffs on the raw materials used in the manufacture of electronics, but the result would be the same. As a result, the global nature of the electronics industry is what should protect it from the rising tariff battle between China and the U.S.

Tit for Tat

Even though the electronics industry has been spared from the China and U.S. tariff attacks, it is very much at the center of other political attacks that often are less visible. Just about every country involved in the electronics industry is involved in some form of related protectionism.

The electronics industry is important not only for economic growth and prosperity, but also for national independence and security. Examples of protectionism can be seen through laws and regulations, as well as other actions by courts, regulatory bodies, and even preceding administrations. The number of these acts is countless. As with all government intervention in commerce, protectionism has become an obstacle that all companies must navigate.

In the case of China and the U.S., the two have a long history of actions — some clear and some covert. The U.S. has banned the transfer of some technologies to China, banned Chinese firms from bidding on government contracts, blocked the acquisition of U.S. companies by Chinese companies, and influenced carriers not to sell or support products from Chinese companies. Most of those actions have been taken under the guise of national security and IP protection, which are a concern.

Meanwhile, China has required U.S. companies to have joint ventures with Chinese companies to do business in the country, forced special terms for licensing technology to products sold within China or by Chinese companies, and held up or forced the divestiture of assets for mergers involving U.S. companies.

Those actions have been ongoing for decades and are not targeted solely at China or the U.S.

ZTE’s Story

The U.S. just announced severe penalties on Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor ZTE, not permitting any U.S. company to provide components to it. While this adds to the political hostilities, the actions are the result of ZTE’s noncompliance with U.S. laws and a Commerce Department agreement, not the current tariff battle.

So, even though the electronics industry has been spared the initial wrath of the tariff battle, it has been, and continues to be, a pawn in the greater political battles between the two countries. Despite these challenges, the levels of innovation, cooperation and even competition among companies, countries and regions continues to grow. It is unfortunate that the electronics industry is influenced by global politics, but it a testament to the industry that it continues to thrive despite the political interference.


Jim McGregor has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2017. He is the founder and principal analyst at Tirias Research with more than 30 years of high-tech industry experience. His expertise spans a broad range of product development and corporate strategy functions, such as semiconductor manufacturing, systems engineering, product marketing, marketing communications, brand management, strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions, and sales. McGregor worked for Intel, Motorola, ON Semiconductor, STMicroelectronics and General Dynamics Space Systems prior to becoming an industry analyst and In-Stat’s chief technology strategist. Email Jim.

De Beers Rolls out App to Clean up Sierra Leone Diamond Supply Chain

9:07 AM 0 Comments

Global diamond giant De Beers is rolling out an app to help small-scale, artisanal diamond miners in Sierra Leone certify that gems they pry from the soil are legal, the Anglo American unit said on Thursday.

The initiative is the latest attempt by the industry to clean up its image and expunge the scourge of “blood diamonds” blamed for financing conflict, chaos and criminality in poor African countries, such as Sierra Leone and Liberia.

More widely, small-scale mining is often tainted by alleged links to insurgents or child labor, casting a cloud over supply chains for commodities such as cobalt, which is produced mainly in the conflict-prone Democratic Republic of Congo, and gold.

Called Gemfair, the De Beers’ pilot app project is a partnership with Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), an NGO, and will target several small-scale mine sites in Sierra Leone in a meeting of high technology and pre-industrial mining methods.

Miners enrolled in the project must be licensed, adhere to certain environmental standards, work sites that are free of violence and meet other requirements.

The app is on a tablet and has a software application that shows the GPS location where the diamonds have been extracted, allowing for a record of the production process. The software can work online or offline in remote areas.

The miners are also provided with digital scales to weigh their diamonds and a tamper-proof bag where they can be deposited and then passed safely through the supply chain.

“The app we developed to address some of the key challenges in logging and validating, to allow artisanal production to be traced from the mine site all the way through to export,” Feriel Zerouki, De Beers’ vice-president for ethical initiatives, told Reuters in an interview.

According to DDI, up to 20 percent of global gem-quality diamond supplies are produced by artisanal miners, who typically wash gravel by hand in conditions that are often unhygienic and dangerous.

Illicit diamonds were linked to funding civil wars and insurgencies in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola and the issue was popularized by the 2006 movie “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The main initiative to keep such gems from reaching the market is a regulatory program called the Kimberley Process but its focus is on conflict diamonds and does not directly address issues of poverty and exploitation.