If you’re an Amazon Kindle customer, you may have a check coming your way. Today Amazon sent out an email to everyone who has ever purchased a book via Amazon Kindle informing them that they may have a check coming in for each book purchased between April 2010 and May 2012. Each customer will receive anywhere between $0.30 and $1.32 per eBook. The only books eligible for this refund must’ve been published by either HarperCollins, Hachette, or Simon & Schuster. However, Amazon has informed customers that the Court ruling isn’t final yet, though we should have a final answer by February 8, 2013. If approved, the refund will automatically be applied to the user’s Amazon.com account and can be used to purchase more eBooks, but users can opt to receive a check in the mail as well.
The reasoning behind this refund is pretty simple: Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have settled an anti-trust lawsuit which will impose restrictions on the publisher’s ability to set eBook prices when selling through third-parties like Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook. If you’d like more info on the suit, we’ve embedded the full email explanation from Amazon below:
Dear Kindle Customer,
We have good news. You are entitled to a credit for some of your past e-book purchases as a result of legal settlements between several major e-book publishers and the Attorneys General of most U.S. states and territories, including yours. You do not need to do anything to receive this credit. We will contact you when the credit is applied to your Amazon.com account if the Court approves the settlements in February 2013.
Hachette, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster have settled an antitrust lawsuit about e-book prices. Under the proposed settlements, the publishers will provide funds for a credit that will be applied directly to your Amazon.com account. If the Court approves the settlements, the account credit will appear automatically and can be used to purchase Kindle books or print books. While we will not know the amount of your credit until the Court approves the settlements, the Attorneys General estimate that it will range from $0.30 to $1.32 for every eligible Kindle book that you purchased between April 2010 and May 2012. Alternatively, you may request a check in the amount of your credit by following the instructions included in the formal notice of the settlements, set forth below. You can learn more about the settlements here: www.amazon.com/help/agencyebooksettlements
In addition to the account credit, the settlements impose limitations on the publishers’ ability to set e-book prices. We think these settlements are a big win for customers and look forward to lowering prices on more Kindle books in the future.
Microsoft will be launching Windows 8 on October 26, which is just two weeks away. It is going to be Microsoft’s most crucial launch in years, as it will decide its future in its most important market – operating systems. It will also decide whether or not Microsoft will end up being a major player in the tablet space, which is currently dominated by Apple and Google for the most part.
According to Forbes, Microsoft is very focused on making the launch a success, and will make a massive marketing push, spending nearly $1.5 to $1.8 billion on the launch campaign. If it wins, Microsoft will continue to be a major force in the computing space with Windows 8 leading the desktop/notebook space, and becoming one of the top three in tablets, but if it loses, Microsoft risks becoming irrelevant; a victim of the Innovator’s dilemma — something it’s trying its best to avoid.
While the Surface tablet has garnered some positive reviews, Microsoft may be too late to the tablet market, with both its major competitors having a huge lead over it – more than 2 years. In any case, Microsoft seems to be giving this its best shot.
Microsoft has also made sure to distribute its eggs in multiple baskets, with its revenue coming from sources as diverse as business software, servers, gaming etc.
Apple will probably unveil the iPad Mini, a budget version of the iPad, aimed at boosting its market share, on October 23.
It was expected to send out invites to a special iPad Mini event on October 10, but that has obviously not happened. However, rumors suggest that Apple will still be holding an event on October 23, so that the iPad is available before the holiday season.
While Apple may not have as fat a margin on the iPad Mini as it does on the iPad, it’s targeting another segment of the potential tablet market with it, so that there is minimum cannibalization.
WSJ recently reported that Apple had begun mass production of the iPad Mini, and that it was building close to 10 million units for Q4 2012 in the initial run.
With the iPad Mini, Apple will target the low end segment of the tablet market which is currently dominated by Android tablets. If Apple does play this game well, it will completely dominate the tablet market in a year.
The next quarter is going to be very exciting for Apple, given that the iPhone 5 sales will be reflected in its financials, and we might even see the impact of the iPad Mini.
Chinese telecom equipment manufacturers are having a hard time worldwide, after the US Government’s crackdown on Huawei. Australia has already banned Huawei from its national broadband network project, and recently, Canada banned Huawei from its Government network setup. Huawei is the largest telecom equipment manufacturer in the world, and it has taken a hit from all the bad press. However, another Chinese firm ZTE has also been the subject of investigations along with Huawei.
After Huawei, now ZTE is facing the heat, as it was involved in banned sales of computer equipment from Cisco to Iran’s telecom companies. ZTE is Cisco’s sales partner, and Iran is in the list of Cisco’s embargoed countries. The incident first surfaced back in March and Cisco was quick to launch a probe into the matter. There have been intermittent reports of both Huawei and ZTE facing trouble since around the same time. Cisco found that ZTE was indeed guilty, and this sparked a series of investigations by the US Government, with FBI launching a criminal probe as well. With this, the five-year-old ZTE Cisco partnership comes to an end.
The stories sparked internal probes by the companies involved, as well as investigations by the U.S. Commerce Department, a congressional committee, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. ZTE’s general counsel at its Texas-based subsidiary alleged that the parent company plotted a cover-up, including possibly shredding documents, after the first Reuters story broke.
The Cisco-ZTE partnership was made for the sole purpose of competing with Huawei. However, ZTE and Cisco teams never got together. While ZTE was successful in selling Cisco equipment in China, Cisco was not too keen on selling ZTE equipment in the US.
This is the last day of the “Hack In the Box” (HITB) security conference, being held at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. With this year’s conference, HITB completed ten years, since it started back in 2003. Felix “FX” Lindner, A security researcher at the HITB event this year has identified a simple yet alarming Huawei router vulnerability. It is alarming, because according to the researcher, one does not need a backdoor program to get access to the device in the first place, and it affects all Huawei devices allowing for easy control over entire networks.
The code running on Huawei routers is archaic and is rigged with security holes. Huawei being the largest producer of telecom equipment in the world, it should take care to resolve this problem if it wants to retain its customers. Recently, Huawei is in news often, because of an ongoing investigation on Huawei and ZTE, two prominent network operators. ZDNet writes,
Lindner made headlines after DefCon in July when he presented a talk showing Chinese Huawei routers to be so riddled with security holes that they were fairly trivial – potentially ideal – for attackers to reconfigure, intercept, monitor and alter all traffic that runs through them.
Clearly, Huawei is well aware of the problem, since it was notified about the same back in July, when Lindner covered the same topic at DefCon. Huawei is having a tough time with all the bad press. However, it needs to make up and take care of this mess, before it starts World War III.
Google might no longer be the cool new kid in the block, but it still hasn’t lost all of its street cred. It tops LinkedIn’s ‘Most InDemand Employers 2012’ list not just in the US, but also around the world. The results for Europe are yet to be announced, and that might have an impact on Google’s final global ranking, but, being the most in demand employer in the US alone is a big victory for Google.
The biggest challenge that companies trying to change the world face is lack of enough skilled and talented people that share their vision. A company’s ability to attract talent is crucial in today’s fiercely competitive market, and when it comes to attracting talent, perception matters. Yahoo has been bleeding talent over the past few years, while new kings of the Silicon Valley like Facebook have been drawing in rockstar employees.
LinkedIn analyzed billions of data points between members and companies and compared the data with surveys of thousands of members to determine a company’s familiarity and engagement score. Apple, which asks its employees to take pride in the fact that they can change the world through their work, ranks at #4 in the US list, behind Walt Disney and Facebook. Google is #2 in Canada, where Suncor Energy is the most in demand employer. It is #2 in Australia and #10 in India. Accenture, HP, and Oracle form the top 3 employers in India. Microsoft, Dell, Pepsico, and IBM are other top rated employers that make an appearance in several regional lists.
Groupon’s troubles just keep on piling up. As if it weren’t troubled enough already by a sagging stock price and its failure to turn a profit, today, eBay, the original internet e-commerce giant, started testing an online deals offering, which would compete directly with Groupon’s core offering – daily deals.
The new feature is called eBay Lifestyle Deals, and is being tested out in some urban areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.
Groupon already has tremendous competition in the space thanks to Google Offers and LivingSocial which is bankrolled by Amazon. While the daily deals space has yet to mature as a market, it is the next natural step for many e-commerce providers, since it is a nice way to improve sales and increase inventory turnover.
eBay already provided product deals, but is now also looking into deals on services, which could be even more lucrative, partnering with deal providers who arrange them with local businesses and merchants.
eBay is also looking to completely revamp its complete website to boost sales and modernize its brand image. It’ll be interesting to see how the daily deals wars play out after the entry of eBay.
Indian Railways is hardly the most sophisticated public railway service, but it is one of the largest in the world. Given how every government treats the railways as simply a means to please the junta and gain votes, it’s a wonder that the Indian railways is still functioning as well as it is doing. However, the state-owned enterprise is capable of throwing us the odd surprise.
Today, I discovered on Hacker News, a neat Google Maps mashup developed by the Centre for Railway Information Systems or CRIS (an organization under the Ministry of Railways), called RailRadar. RailRadar is an interactive map that plots the position of trains running in India in realtime, and indicates whether they are on time or delayed. It uses the existing database of TrainEnquiry and presents it in a more visually interesting manner. Clicking on any train brings up more information including its next stop and route.
The conventional web and mobile interface of TrainEnquiry will still be more useful when you want to track a particular train. However, RailRadar deserves props as it’s not often that you see something as cool as this from Government of India owned entities. Now, if only CRIS would fix the nightmare that is IRCTC.
Over the last few months, Chinese telecom equipment manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE have been the subjects of attack in US Congressional Reports. According to the reports, these companies have grown notorious for suspicious behavior of their equipment, as reported by both employees and customers. The Congressional report urges American companies to stop doing business with Huawei and ZTE, and urges network providers to seek other vendors. Although there are no solid proofs being released here, the Congressional Reports probably suggest possibilities of spying on communication and threats to vital equipment.
Following the Huawei ban from the US Government, and the Australian Government, recently, the Canadian Government has taken a stern step to exclude Huawei from a national networking project. The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spokesman, explained it as,
Canada has invoked a national security exception to let it discriminate, without violating international trade obligations, against companies deemed as too risky to be involved in putting together the network for carrying government phone calls, emails and data center services.
Huawei is the world’s largest manufacturer of telecom equipment, and ZTE is the fifth largest. Both of them have rejected any affiliation with the Chinese Government and the Chinese Government has also rejected these Congressional Report claims as being “groundless accusations”. A sweet cyber-warfare is brewing here, and China is already notorious for its cyber-warfare policy. This entire incident will leave a bad taste in the mouth Huawei customers worldwide which will eventually be bad for their business.
It is very rarely that you will see competing companies like Apple, Adobe, Google, Facebook, Nokia, HP, Mozilla, Opera and Microsoft join forces to make the world a better place but it really is happening. All these warring Internet companies have decided to create an ultimate resource for all things related to web-development and as a result, we have webplatform.org.
The focus of “Web Platform” is only on open web technologies, and the aim of this website is to provide a one-stop info spot for all things related to web-technologies like HTML5, CSS3, Canvas, WebGL, IndexedDB etc. The initiative is administered by the W3C, and Tim Berners-Lee describes this initiative as,
People in the web community — including browser makers, authoring tool makers, and leading edge developers and designers — have tremendous experience and practical knowledge about the web. Web Platform Docs is an ambitious project where all of us who are passionate about the web can share knowledge and help one another.
“Web Platform” is an open community of developers, and is open for contributions. There are various sections at “Web Platform” like the blog where the website was announced with a customary first post, a Q&A style forum and a chat section. However, the most attractive part is perhaps Web Platform Docs, where one will find resources on various topics presented as a Wiki.
If it lives up to its promises, Web Platform will drive innovation on the web. However, it needs a proper launch with drum-rolls to attract more web-developers.