Amazonia for May 6, 2019

May 6, 2019

Amazon has become a company to watch—at least in some advertising circles. We learned that an outfit named “The Marin Software” is holding a live webinar called “Amazon Advertising: A Crash Course for the Modern Marketer.” One must sign up for the program because there won’t be a version of the program on YouTube if the email promotion sent to select individuals is to be believed. In the webinar, one will learn in just 60 minutes how to set up an Amazon ad campaign, the “best practices” for creating successful Amazon ads, and “advanced strategies” which will generate higher revenue. How does one find out about the webinar? Easy. Just chase down Marin at this url. DarkCyber believes that Google ad chiefs will attend.

In other Amazon news this week, DarkCyber noted:

Amazon Is Ethical

Computerworld reports that “AWS is ethical about AI.” The source is an Amazon executive who reveals:

But ‘we just don’t talk about it.

The story points out:

AWS offers some best practice advice relating to its customers’ use of data, but has stopped short of laying out its own guiding principles. It is up to clients to decide whether their use of AWS tools is ethical, said the company’s head of solution architecture in ANZ, Dr Peter Stanski.

Dr. Stanski allegedly said:

“We certainly don’t want to do evil; everything we’ve released to customers to innovate [helps] to lift the bar on what’s actually happening in the industry. It’s really up to the individual organization how they use that tech.”

The exploding products item is not related to artificial intelligence and is, therefore, not part of smart software.

Amazon: Product Quality

Facebook has interesting content, and Amazon has products which may provide a buyer with a battery explosion. “When Your Amazon Purchase Explodes” provides some information about the quality control methods for some sellers’ products. Well, there’s not much. The article reveals:

Curious about what [a battery fire] had happened, Jones went back online to try to contact the seller and alert Amazon to the problem. Scrolling through reviews, he realized other buyers were reporting fires from the same item. But Amazon seemed unconcerned, he told me: Customer-service representatives treated his report like a new one each time he called, asking for his name, the order number, and the story of what had happened over and over again. Amazon would not put him in touch with the seller and never assumed blame for the fire.

The message seems to be, “We just sell stuff.” In the small town in which I was born, one auto dealer had a sidewalk guarantee for each used car sold. Here’s the idea: “Once you drive the car off my lot and across the sidewalk, it’s your problem.”

Amazon’s Revenue from Third Party Sellers

Geekwire reported that Amazon’s first-party online sales dipped below 50 percent of the company’s overall net sales in the first quarter, reflecting the growth of the tech giant’s other businesses. The write up said:

The milestone doesn’t take into account sales by other retailers on Amazon.com, but it’s nonetheless a testament to the tech giant’s growing diversification. It’s especially notable in light of the company’s history. Amazon rose to prominence as a pioneer of the e-commerce industry, becoming the online “Everything Store” by expanding beyond its original mission of selling books.

And what will the sellers’ need? Amazon advertising and ways to stand out from the rapidly increasing crowd? SEO.

The data, if accurate, underscore the threat Amazon shopping poses to eBay, Google, and Wal-Mart.

Amazon the Target of an Alleged Microsoft Fear Tactic

Business Insider, which is an interesting publication indeed, reports that Microsoft is capturing customers using IBM’s old school tactic: FUD or fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The story “Microsoft’s Satya Nadella Uses a Subtle Fear Tactic to Win Cloud Business Away from Amazon” asserts that the tactic is manifested in statements like this from Microsoft:

Do you trust a technology partner to store their data, handle their transactions, know the most intimate details of their business, if that tech partner is also a competitor?

Apparently Microsoft mentions that Amazon’s businesses are like “tentacles”, “pimples”, and “boils.” Nice stuff.

Business Insider concludes:

Amazon’s willingness to compete with its partners and customers could be AWS’s Achilles heel and one that Nadella seems ready to exploit.

Amazon: A Digital Souq

CNBC reported “Amazon Launches New Middle East Marketplace, and Rebrands Souq, the Company It Bought for $580 million in 2017.” Here’s the interesting bit:

The launch of the new Middle East marketplace, which was first reported by CNBC in January, comes at a time of slowing international sales for Amazon. In its most recent quarter, Amazon’s international sales only grew 9% from a year ago to $16.2 billion.

Contrast Amazon’s tactics with Google’s. Amazon seems to be moving in a purposeful way. Google appears to be more focused on staff-related issues and Amazon’s encroachment on product search and online advertising. For information about how Amazon’s ad business is changing the game for Google and other firms, check out “Google’s Competition for Advertising Heats Up from Amazon, Rival Platforms.”

Amazon: An Uber for Trucking

CNBC is reporting interesting news about Amazon. “Amazon Has Been Quietly Running an ‘Uber for Trucking’ Service Since Last Year” reports:

Amazon has been testing a new online service that matches truck drivers with shippers since last year, taking its first step into the lucrative online freight brokerage space.

Should FedEx and UPS be worried? Yep, especially UPS. Those Amazon returns are now being handled by Kohl’s, which may provide a hint of Amazon’s approach to deliveries: Disruption and disintermediation.

Amazon Dinged for Plagiarism

Amazon may find itself in another spat with copyright owners. The Digital Reader’s “The Biggest Plagiarism Scandal in the History of eBooks Slipped by Amazon Unnoticed” reported as allegedly true:

CopyPastCris, as the scandal has been dubbed, now includes no fewer than 95 books by 43 authors as well as articles and other content from six websites (and two recipes). Numerous passages have been copied from those books and websites into one or more of Serruya’s published works. Yes, ninety-five books.

Digital Reader points out a possible flaw in Amazon’s publishing system:

While some of the plagiarism was spotted by readers and authors, much of the work to document the plagiarism was done by Ryan. She wrote the algorithm, she supplied the computer time to run it, and she double-checked the results. Isn’t it funny how one programmer could find all this and Amazon did not?

Amazon bulldozes forests, not spindly creative flowers, may be one conclusion the allegedly true write up explicates.

Amazon Highlights Speedy AI Chips

Technology Review reported in its public magazine this story: “This Chip Was Demoed at Jeff Bezos’s Secretive Tech Conference. It Could be Key to the Future of AI.” The headline is intriguing because MIT is one of the outfits inventing the future of smart software. The recognition that an online bookstore is producing chips which could “invent the future of smart software” is quite a revelation.

The write up points out in a less than secret way:

the new chip achieves performance 10 or even 1,000 times more efficient than existing hardware does.

The inventor of the chip is a company called Sze, named after an MIT grad Vivienne Sze. What’s this suggest? Amazon is serious about making its smart software smarter.

Why’s this important? The article provides a clue to those lucky enough to attend the Amazon high-tech conference in 2020:

…expect the eye-catching robots and drones at the next MARS conference to come with something rather special hidden inside.

AWS May Be Getting More Like a Mainframe

New – Amazon S3 Batch Operations” reveals Amazon S3 Batch Operations which allow customers to “process hundreds, millions, or billions of S3 objects in a simple and straightforward fashion. You can copy objects to another bucket, set tags or access control lists (ACLs), initiate a restore from Glacier, or invoke an AWS Lambda function on each one.” The old is new again.

Make Money with Alexa? Maybe

Amazon wants Alexa developers to make money, in theory. “Alexa In-Skill Purchasing, Which Lets Developers Make Money from Voice Apps, Launches Internationally” states:

With in-skill purchasing, developers are able to generate revenue from voice apps in a number of ways: through the sale of digital goods as a one-time purchase, subscriptions or consumables.

Will this work? DarkCyber does not believe that Alexa has a must-have app winner among the 80,000 or so Alexa skills, but the article identifies a couple of contenders; Escape the Airplane and Jeopardy.

Amazon: Search Engine Optimization Comes to the Online Bookstore

SEO undermined the idea of relevance at ad supported Web search systems. Now the SEO carpetbaggers are setting up to mine the Amazon. “Some Amazon Sellers Are Paying $10,000 A Month To Trick Their Way To The Top” discovered:

An emerging black market offers Amazon sellers pricey ways to cheat the marketplace and mislead customers.

I am not sure about the “emerging” part. Fake reviews for products and books have been a success story for some third parties for more than a decade. Nevertheless, the write up reports with the dewy freshness of a spring morning:

The most prominent black hat companies for US Amazon sellers offer ways to manipulate Amazon’s ranking system to promote products, protect accounts from disciplinary actions, and crush competitors. Sometimes, these black hat companies bribe corporate Amazon employees to leak information from the company’s wiki pages and business reports, which they then resell to marketplace sellers for steep prices. One black hat company charges as much as $10,000 a month to help Amazon sellers appear at the top of product search results. Other tactics to promote sellers’ products include removing negative reviews from product pages and exploiting technical loopholes on Amazon’s site to lift products’ overall sales rankings. These services make it harder for Amazon sellers who abide by the company’s terms of service to succeed in the marketplace, and sellers who rely on these tactics mislead customers and undermine trust in Amazon’s products.

How will this play out? There will be conferences, and there will be some modest push back from Amazon. But business is business. Google now has videos about SEO, the industry which it helped foster.

Amazon Secure Zones: Maybe Yes, Maybe No

ZDNet reported that there is No difference between regular AWS and Australian government protected level services. With Amazon competing for the US government JEDI contract the information in the write up could be significant. The article reported:

When AWS gets a customer with specialist security requirements, it looks to implement those requirements everywhere.

From Amazon’s point of view, security is security, regardless of the customer. From ZDNet’s point of view, the approach is newsworthy. A close reading of the statements by the AWS executive reveals:

By certifying a cloud service …it allows government to consume software-as-a-service more easily, while also making it easier for developers to reach government. … Government customers are looking towards outsourced and managed services, but they often cannot consume them because of security regulations.

The Amazon approach addresses this problem.

Amazon Doing Good in Des Moines

Marketwatch published “Amazon Web Services Become the Community Sponsor of the Monetery Tech Summit.” The news item said:

The Monetery Tech Summit has acted as a funding engine for underrepresented groups in technology. In 2018, the conference raised more than $10,000 for Pi515, an after-school program that educates Iowa’s underserved population, particularly refugee 7-12th grade students, on computer coding.

Amazon Blockchain

This struck DarkCyber as old news, but Cointelegraph seemed excited. “Amazon Web Services Launches Managed Blockchain Service.” The article disclosed:

The product will purportedly allow customers to set up blockchain networks within their organizations, and uses the Ethereum and Hyperledger open source frameworks. Notably, Amazon states that AMB can scale to support thousands to millions of transactions.

News of the service surfaced last year, and DarkCyber has pointed out that the information from such a service might have above average interest in some sectors of the law enforcement community.

Autonomic Drives to Amazon

Yahoo reported that “AWS will power Autonomic Transportation Mobility Cloud, giving automotive manufacturers and software developers the cloud infrastructure needed to build innovative connected vehicle services at scale.” As previously noted, Ford is in on the AWS game.

Amazon Advertises Its Conference

The low profile Amazon conferences are low profile no more. Amazon is advertising its reMARS conference. Here’s an example:

image

You can find this on on TechCrunch.

Amazon and Ethereum

Use the Bit reported that Amazon could start using Ethereum for New Scalable Blockchain. We thought this was already in place with some interesting implications for Amazon’s policeware business.

Amazon Epyc

AnandTech reported that AWS offers another AMD Epyc Powered Instance: T3a. The naming of Amazon services is — to be straightforward — quite an art. T3a is for the Amazon Elastic Computer Cloud, not to be confused with Elastic, the company which developed Elasticsearch. Amazon is beavering away with Elastic in order to suck in “run it on our stuff” business. Back to the Epyc T3a service. We learned:

AWS’s T3a instances offer burstable performance and are intended for workloads that have low sustained throughput needs, but experience temporary spikes in usage. Amazon says that users of T3a get an assured baseline amount of processing power and can scale it up “to full core performance” when they need more for as long as necessary.

The article, rather unhelpfully adds, “Previously AWS started to offer M5, R5, M5ad, and R5ad instances based on AMD’s latest server processors.”

Stephen E Arnold, May 6, 2019

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