Welcome to 3PM Snacks, a mid-week (and mid-day!) rundown of what’s going on in the worlds of eCommerce, big data, and artificial intelligence. We hope you find it informative and easy to digest.
If you didn’t already know, Amazon wants its Alexa voice assistant to be everywhere — in your home, in your car, in your microwave. Today, the list of Alexa-enabled devices grew, as Amazon announced over a dozen new Alexa-enabled products at its annual hardware event. CNBC covered the launch event and summarized Amazon’s hardware strategy as “throwing many ideas into the market and seeing what sticks.”
Perhaps the biggest release of the event was the Echo Buds, which will not only ensure Alexa is with you on-the-go, but also introduce a powerful competitor to Apple’s AirPods…at less than half the price. This is an interesting release by Amazon given that the ink is barely dry on the agreement that it struck with Apple late last year for Apple to become an Amazon retail vendor. One imagines that Tim Cook and company will be contemplating how they can maintain “earshare” in the face of competition from these new Echo Buds that will presumably be heavily discounted during the holidays.
Remember that whole antitrust settlement that Amazon struck with German regulators over the summer? You know, the one that said Amazon had to give third-party sellers 30-day notice before any suspension? Well, it turns out that the policy change really only applies to blocked accounts. Or wait, terminated accounts. But maybe not the temporary blocks or terminations. And definitely not the permanent suspensions. Ugh. Just read for yourself:
Part of the confusion stems from the fact that Amazon frequently changes how it refers to account suspensions or terminations. Germany’s federal competition regulator told news media that the settlement would address “the termination and blocking of sellers’ accounts.” But those two terms could feasibly refer to permanent or temporary account actions. Amazon alternatively calls temporary actions “suspensions” or “deactivations.” A permanent account ending may be called “blocking.”
Semantics and mental gymnastics aside, the good news is that, if you’re a third-party seller, well, Amazon still thinks you’re “incredibly important,” which is a sentiment that has no financial value but is equivalent to 100 unicorn kisses.
On Monday, Microsoft introduced Dynamics 365 Commerce, which is essentially a suite of eCommerce tools for brands and retailers, enabling them to create detailed personalized product web pages. This is a noteworthy release because it is obviously is a direct jab at Amazon, with Microsoft clearly aiming to carve out its own little corner of the retail and eCommerce markets. But perhaps more noteworthy than the product itself is how it was developed:
Dynamics 365 Commerce is an expansion of Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Retail, which focused on supply chain management, staffing and promotions. Microsoft started developing the new technology following conversations with customers about a year and a half ago, Alysa Taylor, a corporate vice president at Microsoft, told CNBC in an interview last week.
Did you catch that? Microsoft said that it identified a customer need and worked backwards from that to bring a product to market. Hmm…where have I heard that before?