Tag Archives: services

Amazon crochets itself an Etsy rival: Handmade

The storefront for handcrafted items is another effort by the e-commerce giant to become the everything store while simultaneously gunning for Etsy’s business.

Amazon already sells tens of millions of products. Why not a handmade, reclaimed-wood coffee table that doubles as a wine rack?

With that in mind, the Seattle-based company on Thursday launched Handmade at Amazon, a specialized storefront that promotes only handcrafted goods and the artisans who create them, a market now dominated by much smaller e-retailer Etsy. The program will start with over 5,000 artists, most from the US, and more than 80,000 listings of artwork, jewelry and other items. Handmade will only be available on the main Amazon.com site.

“We’re entering this space because our customers have told us that they want it,” said April Lane, Amazon’s category leader for Handmade. “We get thousands of searches every day for handmade items.”

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Beyond Amazon’s typical fare of Legos, Blu-ray discs, paperbacks and diapers, customers will now be able to shop for beaded bracelets from Ghana and art prints from Austin.

Handmade serves as yet another example of Amazon’s outsized ambitions to be the everything store for everybody, and adopting any successful e-commerce model it sees along the way. The company already sells millions of mass-produced products, and it has started to focus on niche areas so it can keep expanding its inventory. The world’s largest e-commerce company by sales opened two other online stores this year, Amazon Launchpad and Amazon Exclusives, which both highlight products from small, up-and-coming companies. It is also branched into services, such as its Home Services marketplace for hiring a plumber or painter that’s become a new competitor to Angie’s List.

Amazon’s push into handmade items creates a major headache for Etsy, a specialty marketplace focused on artists’ wares. Etsy’s stock has been in decline since it went public in April, as the company has been accused of failing to control counterfeit sales on its site. Amazon’s move into Etsy’s core business, which was first reported in May, has pushed down the Brooklyn, New York, company’s shares even further.

Amazon has been aggressively courting Etsy sellers, who could profit from access to Amazon’s roughly 280 million active shoppers, more than 10 times Etsy’s 21 million active buyers.

Etsy’s counterfeiting issue and its move to allow sellers to start mass-producing items have frustrated many Etsy artists, said Wedbush analyst Gil Luria. These artists didn’t have a sizable online alternative to Etsy, though.

“That all changes with Handmade at Amazon,” Luria said. “For Etsy, this is a big problem.”

Etsy argues that it has spent 10 years developing tools for artists to expand their businesses, including educational resources, information on craft fairs and a wholesale service to connect sellers to boutiques. In a July report, the company said that only about 0.5 percent of all its listings have been affected by intellectual property takedown notices and that it dedicates “substantial resources” to dealing with site violations.

Amazon said it plans to be more restrictive about the sellers it lets into Handmade. This may help Amazon avoid counterfeiting allegations.

“We believe we are the best platform for creative entrepreneurs, empowering them to succeed on their own terms,” Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson said in a statement. “Etsy has a decade of experience understanding the needs of artists and sellers and supporting them in ways that no other marketplace can.”

A new place for artists

Those artists include Michael Graham, a former high school science teacher who makes furniture such as credenzas and coffee tables out of reclaimed wooden grape boxes from his Los Angeles studio.

Graham, 41, has been selling items on Etsy for two years but jumped at the chance to join Handmade so he could put his wares in front of one of the largest buying audiences in the world.

“Many people haven’t heard of Etsy, but everyone’s heard of Amazon,” Graham said. “I think it’s going to be a game-changer.”

Amazon’s roughly 15 percent commission (after a one-year, 12 percent promotion rate) is substantially higher than Etsy’s 3.5 percent cut, but Graham said it is worth it to reach Amazon’s larger customer base.

Darla Garfield, 37, who makes jewelry atop her dining table in New Plymouth, Idaho, is also excited to bring her goods to Amazon.

“I loscreen-shot-2015-10-08-at-9-51-05-am.pngve the handmade idea, and just strictly handmade,” said Garfield, who sells her goods under the shop name Sheekydoodle. “That’s what made Etsy beautiful when I joined five years ago.”

Both artists plan to continue selling on Etsy.

While Etsy’s business has been growing fast, the company brought in only $196 million in revenue last year. That amount is tiny for Amazon, which reported sales of $89 billion last year.

Amazon’s marketplace business, which lets third-party retailers sell on its site for a commission, has become a major profit engine for the company, Wedbush’s Luria said. So any way Amazon can grow that business will benefit its bottom line.

Even though Amazon is often perceived as the big bad wolf in e-retail, Luria said he doesn’t expect any backlash from the artist community over Handmade.

“Not only will sellers accept this with open arms,” he said, “but so will buyers.”

Amazon’s Lane said Handmade is starting with just six categories: home, jewelry, artwork, stationery and party supplies, kitchen and dining, and baby. The immediate goal will be to expand into more categories, she said.

Most goods will be shipped directly by artists, but Amazon will use its massive logistics and warehouse infrastructure to ship about 700 items so far.

“The artisan response has been great,” Lane said, “so we’re excited to see how customers respond.”

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Apple’s iPhone upgrade program: What you need to know

In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET’s Marguerite Reardon looks into Apple’s new program that lets customers upgrade their iPhone every year. How does it compare with similar plans from the big wireless carriers?

Who wouldn’t want a new iPhone every year?

Apple’s newly announced iPhone Upgrade Program offers customers the opportunity to upgrade their smartphone each year by paying a monthly installment. In this column, I’ll look at whether the plan is worth it.

Apple’s plan mimics similar deals offered by the four major wireless operators, which are ditching two-year service contracts with heavily subsidized devices. Instead they’re offering plans that require customers to pay full price for a phone in exchange for lower service fees. T-Mobile started the no-contract trend two years ago and Verizon is the latest to follow suit.

Installment plans help blunt the sticker shock of a new smartphone. And the upgrade plans help drive more iPhone sales.

Apple’s new plan could be a boon for the company, which will not only move more inventory, but will also get a steady stream of older devices it can resell.

The new financing program will be available only at Apple retail locations. Customers won’t be able to sign up for it online. Devices bought through the program will be unlocked, but they must be activated on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon, the company said during the announcement.

Dear Maggie,

I’m sure you’re getting lots of questions about the new iPhone Upgrade program. Could explain how it works? Also, how does it compare to the installment plans the carriers have? I’m a T-Mobile customer, so I don’t have the option of a contract plan. Should I be considering this plan?

Thanks,
Ike

Dear Ike,

You’re right, I’ve gotten tons of emails asking how Apple’s program works and stacks up against carrier plans. To help answer all these questions, I put together an FAQ.

What’s the pricing for the Apple upgrade program?

Pricing starts at $32.41 a month for a 16GB iPhone 6S and goes as high as $44.91 for the 128GB iPhone 6S Plus.

The pricing is on top of the monthly fee you’ll pay for wireless service from your carrier.

Do customers have to return their old iPhone when upgrading to the next model?

Apple’s program is essentially an installment plan combined with an early upgrade program. It spreads payments for the new phone over 24 months. Customers can upgrade free after 12 payments. To upgrade, they must trade in their existing iPhone; then the clock resets on the monthly payments for the new device.

If customers choose not to upgrade, they can continue paying off the device. After 24 months, they’ll own the phone and can keep it, sell it, give it to a family member or use it as a backup device.

If customers want a new phone after making 24 payments, they can keep their paid-off phone and sign up for a new device, assuming Apple continues the program.

The plan offers ‘unlocked’ iPhones. What are they and why would I want one?

An unlocked smartphone doesn’t have software installed from a specific wireless operator to prevent it from being used on a rival’s network. iPhones sold for and by major carriers include a software lock. (Verizon is the big exception. All its 4G LTE devices come unlocked.) AT&T and Sprint will generally unlock devices once they’re paid for.

T-Mobile announced Thursday a network service guarantee that lets unsatisfied customers request that their smartphone be unlocked so it can be used on a competitor’s network, even if the device isn’t paid off.

Unlocked phones let customers avoid contracts and switch carriers if they’re unhappy with service. They also let customers swap SIM cards so the device can be used with a local service provider when traveling abroad. This can save big bucks on service charges while out of the country.

In the past, unlocked iPhones didn’t work on all US carriers. Will the unlocked version sold through this program work?

In years gone by, Apple built multiple versions of the iPhone that included technology compatible with particular wireless operators. Unlocked versions of the phone were often tailored more for the European market, which uses a network technology called GSM to deliver voice service. AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. use GSM, while Verizon and Sprint use a technology called CDMA to deliver voice service. Because of this difference, unlocked iPhones sold by Apple often didn’t support the CDMA technology needed to operate on Verizon and Sprint.

Apple says the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus sold through this program will come unlocked and will work on any of the four major US carriers’ networks.

How does pricing for Apple’s new plan compare to similar plans from the carriers?

Look at the chart below and you’ll see that Apple’s program is likely to be pricier than most of the other offers.

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CNET

One thing to note is that included in the monthly fee is a subscription to Apple Care+, Apple’s insurance and extended warranty program. The retail cost of this service is $129. If you look at the total price of a new 16GB iPhone 6S under the Apple program, it’s roughly $129 more than the full retail price of the device, which is $650.

Each of the four major carriers in the US offers installment and/or early upgrade programs for new iPhones. And each of those is likely to be at least slightly less expensive than Apple’s plan. But remember that these plans don’t include insurance or an extended warranty. Customers wanting those features must pay extra, and the per month and total cost could be pricier than Apple’s offer.

Based on current pricing, Sprint offers the best value for customers who’d like to upgrade to a new iPhone every year, through a leasing program called iPhone Forever. Right now Sprint is offering a promotion that lets customers lease a new iPhone for $15 a month with the option to upgrade anytime they want. In order to get this price, customers have to turn in a functioning smartphone. Without a device to trade-in, the price is $22 a month to lease a new iPhone 6S.

For iPhone fans who plan to keep their devices longer, T-Mobile’s Jump On Demand offers a great value. The plan, available only in retail stores, charges a monthly fee and lets customers upgrade up to three times a year.

Following Apple’s announcement, T-Mobile sweetened its deal by dropping the monthly lease price for a new 16GB iPhone 6S to $20 a month. But the real value of the T-Mobile offer over all the other plans is that it lets customers pay $164 at the end of the lease period to own the phone. This, coupled with the newly reduced monthly fee, brings the total cost of a new iPhone under T-Mobile’s Jump plan to $524, a savings of $126 over the full retail price of the phone.

I know Apple Care+ is included in the monthly fee under Apple’s program. What benefit does it provide over the standard warranty?

Apple iPhones come with a limited one-year warranty, which covers manufacturer defects, as well as 90 days of support. AppleCare+, which now costs $129, extends the basic warranty to two years. It also adds up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage, each subject to a service fee of $99 for the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.

The bottom line: What should I do?

Apple’s upgrade program is attractive only for people looking to upgrade to the latest iPhone every year.

Even then, Sprint and T-Mobile each offer less expensive options, especially with the promotions they’re currently running.

If you’d rather use AT&T or Verizon as your service provider, and you’d like to upgrade your iPhone each year, the Apple upgrade program is appealing. It’s priced slightly lower than AT&T’s Next program, which also allows the option to upgrade once a year, and it includes the Apple Care+ warranty and insurance. For Verizon subscribers, it’s the only option if you want to upgrade without paying the full price for a new device every year.

If you plan to keep your device for at least two years and you don’t really need or want to spend extra money on the Apple Care+ service, then almost any offer from one of the wireless carriers will likely cost you less over a 24-month period than Apple’s plan.

I hope this advice was helpful, and good luck!

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers’ wireless and broadband questions. If you have a question, I’d love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put “Ask Maggie” in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.

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Intelligent Machines: The jobs robots will steal first

If you are sitting at a desk, driving a taxi or carrying a hod, stop for a moment and ask: could a robot or machine do this job better?

The answer, unfortunately for you, is probably – yes.

The debate about whether machines will eliminate the need for human employment is no longer just academic.

Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2025, up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by either smart software or robots, while a study from Oxford University has suggested that 35% of existing UK jobs are at risk of automation in the next 20 years.

Office workers who do repetitive jobs such as writing reports or drawing up spreadsheets are easily replaced with software but what other jobs are under threat? The BBC looks at some of the jobs that are already being done by machines.

To find out more about whether your job is at risk of automation in the next two decades, check out the BBC’s interactive graphic.

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TAXI DRIVERS

Driverless taxis that will run in Milton KeynesImage copyrightTransport Systems Catapult
Image captionWhy have an “extra” person in the car?

Taxi drivers in cities around the world are currently embroiled in rows with Uber – the app-based, on-demand service whose drivers, they argue, are subject to less regulation than them.

But Uber, along with most of the major car manufacturers and Google, is already looking beyond a rival service to one that gets rid of the driver altogether.

As chief executive Travis Kalanick puts it – the service would be a whole lot cheaper if you weren’t “paying for that other dude in the car”.

Later this year, automated taxi pods will start running on the streets of England’s Milton Keynes, offering rides around the town. The UK government is updating the highway code to take account of driverless cars.

For the moment though “the other dude in the car” is in defiant mood.

Steve McNamara, head of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association told the BBC that driverless cars didn’t threaten his job.

“Autonomous vehicles will need primary legislation changes to operate on UK roads, the technology is in its infancy and untried and tested in busy urban environments, it ain’t happening for many a year. In reality it is doubtful if autonomous cars could ever work alongside conventionally driven vehicles.”

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FACTORY WORKERS

Robot arms in factoryImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionRobots are far more efficient at doing repetitive jobs

In China, humans are already building robots that will ultimately take their jobs.

The first robot-only factory is being built in China’s Dongguan factory city.

The factory, owned by Sehnzhen Evenwin Precision Technology, aims to reduce the current workforce of 1,800 by 90%, according to Chen Zingui, chairman of the board.

But Chinese ambitions for a robot workforce go much further.

Since September last year, a total of 505 factories across Dongguan have invested 4.2bn yuan (£430m) in robots, aiming to replace more than 30,000 workers, according to the Dongguan Economy and Information Technology Bureau.

Foxconn, maker of electronic devices such as Apple’s iPhone, also plans a robot army although its ambitions are slightly more modest – aiming for a 30% robot workforce in the next five years.

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Intelligent Machines graphic
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JOURNALISTS

JournalistsImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionIs my job under threat? Could a machine write a compelling news story that humans would want to read?

The chances are if you have recently read a corporate earning report on Forbes or a sports story on AP, it was written by a robot.

Companies such as Narrative Science offer software such as Quill that is able to take data and turn it into something understandable.

Quill writes company reports ahead of earnings announcements and Narrative Science claims this means Forbes can now offer this sort of report for thousands of companies rather than just the handful that could be written up by a human journalist.

Narrative Science chief scientist Kristian Hammond has previously said that in 15 years’ time, 90% of news will be written by machines but, he told the BBC, that didn’t mean that 90% of journalist jobs would go.

“It means that the journalists can extend their reach. The world of news will expand,” he said.

“The journalists will not be generating stories from data. That unambiguous, not-open-to-interpretation stuff will be done by machines.”

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DOCTORS

Robot doctor doing the roundsImage copyrightGetty Images
Image captionWould a patient rather see a robot doctor?

A robot may not yet have a good bedside manner but it is pretty good at wading through huge reams of data to find possible treatments for diseases.

IBM’s supercomputer Watson is teaming up with a dozen hospitals in the US, offering advice on the best treatments for a range of cancers. Using vision software developed by the firm, it is also helping to spot early-stage skin cancers.

And robots have for years been helping doctors perform surgery – at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, for example, robots assist doctors with keyhole kidney surgery. Speed is a crucial factor in the success of such operations and the robots are able to sew blood vessels connecting donor kidneys far more quickly than humans.

Robotic surgery is not foolproof though and a recent safety report found that machine-based surgeries were linked to at least 144 deaths in the US over the last decade.

For the moment, robot and man work side-by-side in medicine but that may not always be the case.

“Doctors in particular aren’t likely to graciously cede control of their patients’ treatment to synthetic intellects,” writes Jerry Kaplan in his book Humans Need Not Apply.

“But eventually, when outcomes demonstrate that this is the better option, patients will demand to see the attentive robot, not the overworked doctor, for a fraction of the fee.”

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COCKTAIL WAITER

Shakr Makr
Image captionFancy a gin fizz? Hold on, the robot will make you one

Royal Caribbean’s luxury cruise ship Anthem of the Seas has recently installed a robotic bar – Shakr Makr – a machine developed at MIT a few years ago.

Drinks can be ordered via a tablet device and users aren’t limited to a set menu – they can, if they are brave enough, create their own cocktail.

The robotic arm mixes the cocktail and pours it into a plastic (to avoid breakages) glass that sits in a trough (its pouring skills aren’t always precise). And it does so with some panache – filling the cocktail mixer from optics above it and even shaking it before pouring.

In the interests of science, the BBC tested two from the robotic bar and two from a traditional cocktail waiter in a conventional bar on board the ship.

The robotic concoctions did not actually taste that good – they lacked the fine-tuning, like the fresh twist of lemon that the human bartender added.

Life’s a beach?

People relaxing on a beachImage copyrightThinkstock
Image captionWill we all have more free time if our jobs are taken by robots?

These examples illustrate both the possibilities and limitations of robotic workers but each one could easily have been replaced with others – lorry drivers, hotel workers, lawyers – all of which have robot versions that are actually being used today.

It raises the question – what will humans do when their skills are surplus to requirements?

Martin Ford – author of Rise of the Robots – thinks we face mass unemployment and economic collapse unless we make radical changes, such as offering humans a basic wage, a guaranteed income.

What humans will actually do with all their free time is harder to assess – spend more time at the beach think some, while others argue for the need to keep the human touch in the work place.

“I strongly hope that teachers, doctors and judges will remain human because sometimes you need someone to talk to,” Nello Cristianini, professor of AI at Bristol University told the BBC.

After all, the work we do currently is as much about talking as it is about getting a job done efficiently and, whatever they may be good at, robots engaging in office banter isn’t happening any time soon.

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Netflix Move Prompts Premature Antivirus Software Obit

“Is death knocking on the door of antivirus? Yes. Is it dead yet? No,” said NSS Labs CEO Vikram Phatak. However, antivirus software is dead in a way, as it has evolved to become quite different from the original iterations. Those programs used software signatures to fight viruses. Much of today’s antivirus software has more than signatures in its arsenal and doesn’t do much virus fighting.

Netflix reportedly is in the process of dumping its antivirus software and placing all its faith in an alternative solution to protect its more than 60 million subscribers from online nastiness, a move that prompted one pundit to pronounce the death of antivirus software yet again.

By dropping its service, Netflix was hammering the last nail in antivirus software’s coffin, suggested a Forbes article last month.

However, such dire pronouncements about antivirus software have been made for years, and they’re likely to be made for many years to come.

“Antivirus persists, so I think calling it dead is not prudent,” said Jason Brvenik, the principal engineer in Cisco’s Security Business Group.

“Pronouncing AV dead is perhaps looking myopically at one portion of the role AV plays in the ecosystem for organizations,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The death of antivirus makes an impactful headline — and yet the reality is that such headlines are hardly new, nor accurate,” noted Raj Samani, vice president and CTO of Intel Security.

AV-Only Era Over

Antivirus software still has a role in protecting organizations against cyberattacks, Samani told TechNewsWorld. Antivirus works with other measures — such as blacklisting, whitelisting, behavioral analysis, threat intelligence analysis and threat detection — to create a more efficient approach to mitigating malware threats.

“The era of AV-only is over,” said Piero DePaoli, Symantec Enterprise Security’s senior director for global product marketing.

“AV is a baseline capability required for any endpoint protection product,” he told TechNewsWorld, “but is just one piece of a broader arsenal of advanced protection technologies required to protect against the evolving threat landscape.”

Where antivirus software falls down — and why its critics have rushed over the years to dig its grave — is in its ability to deal with sophisticated attacks.

“It won’t handle a motivated attacker, but it will handle the mundane, and that’s significant,” Cisco’s Brvenik said.

As imperfect as antivirus software is, it still performs a valuable service at the endpoints in any network.

“Here at Kaspersky Lab we record over 325,000 new malware samples every day,” said North America Managing Director Chris Doggett.

“Without AV software as part of a security solution,” he told TechNewsWorld, “we’d be giving up the idea of protecting endpoints and mobile devices, leaving millions of people at the mercy of cybercriminals.”

Death Knock

While new technologies may run circles around antivirus software in identifying threats, AV programs do more than identify threats, which is why they continue to remain viable.

“As these [antivirus] products stand right now, they are the best solution we have today,” said Vikram Phatak, CEO of NSS Labs.

“There are a bunch of new endpoint products, but none of them are equivalent to what an antivirus product does from a number of different angles — everything from remediation to quarantine,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Is death knocking on the door of antivirus? Yes. Is it dead yet? No,” Phatak said. “The new products that are claiming to subsume antivirus just aren’t there yet.”

However, antivirus software is dead in a way, as it has evolved to become quite different from the original iterations. Those programs used software signatures to fight viruses. Much of today’s antivirus software has more than signatures in its arsenal and doesn’t do much virus fighting.

Noise Reduction

Viruses — self-propagating pieces of code that reproduce for their own benefit — have become rare, Cisco’s Brvenik noted. “We don’t even see a ton of worms anymore. Everything now is malicious pieces of software to achieve some gain.”

Software signatures are less important to antivirus programs. Signatures have been either supplemented or replaced with tools that identify threats by how they behave, rather than what they appear to be.

AV testing has shown that antivirus programs are missing about 4 percent of the threats in the wild, Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer at Trend Micro, pointed out.

“Four percent may not sound like much, but it’s a lot when you consider there’s a new threat being created every two seconds,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Nevertheless, “I don’t think antivirus, if modernized, is dead, because you still need to eliminate 90 percent of the noise out there, and focus your attention on how you construct your defense in depth against targeted attacks,” Kellermann explained. “Everyone should use antivirus, as long as it’s not solely signature-based.”

Breach Diary

  • Aug. 30. Palo Alto Network’s Unit 42 estimates KeyRaider malware has compromised 225,000 Apple accounts by infecting jailbroken iOS devices.
  • Aug. 31. Avid Life Media, operator of the infidelity website Ashley Madison, announces “hundreds of thousands” of new users have signed up for the Ashley Madison platform since widely publicized data breach that exposed online intimate information on 33 million account holders.
  • Aug. 31. Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports driver’s license information for 18 people is at risk after a password-protected portal was accidentally opened on the Internet.
  • Sept. 1. Microsoft, Google and Mozilla announce phaseout of RC4 encryption support. RC4, in use since 1987, primarily secures data-in-transit on the Internet. Recent attacks have shown the encryption scheme can be cracked in hours or days.
  • Sept. 1. U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Department of Defense jointly announce award of US$133 million contract to ID Experts to provide identity theft services to 21.5 million people affected by data breach at OPM.
  • Sept. 1. UCLA Health notifies 1,242 people that their personal and healthcare information is at risk after laptop of a faculty member was stolen July 3.
  • Sept. 2. UK publisher WHSmith reveals private data of people filling out a “contact us” form online was being emailed to the company’s subscribers instead of the company due to a configuration error at its website.
  • Sept. 2. Cancer Care Group of Indiana pays $750,000 to U.S. Office for Civil Rights to settle violations of federal law related to data breach caused by theft of an employee’s computer.
  • Sept. 2. Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation reports personal information of an undisclosed number of donors is at risk due to a data breach of an external server containing six-year-old documents.
  • Sept. 2. Filing in federal district court in Los Angeles announces settlement in lawsuit filed by Sony Pictures Entertainment employees whose personal information was posted online after data breach at the company. Terms of settlement or the number of employees involved were not included in the filing.
  • Sept. 3. Brunswick Hotel and Tavern in Maine discloses that personal information of some 2600 guests is at risk from malware infection found on its front desk computer. It adds that 30-40 guests have reported fraudulent charges on their credit cards related to the data breach.
  • Sept. 3. A California court dismisses $1.25 million lawsuit against UCLA Health for failing to adequately protect a woman’s medical record that was improperly released to a romantic rival.
  • Sept. 4. Kronenberger Rosenfeld files lawsuit against GoDaddy, Amazon Web Services and multiple anonymous defendants for obtaining and repurposing stolen data from Ashley Madison to make it easily accessible and searchable by the media and curious Internet users, and actively distributing it for their own gain.

Upcoming Security Events

  • Sept. 12. B-Sides Augusta. GRU Harrison Education Commons Building, 1301 R.A. Dent Blvd., Augusta, Georgia. Free.
  • Sept. 12-21. SANS Network Security 2015. Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada. Long Courses: $3,145 – $6,295. Short Courses: $1,150 – $2,100.
  • Sept. 16. Secure Networks Mean Secure Revenue. 11 a.m. ET. Webinar sponsored by Arbor Networks. Free with registration.
  • Sept. 16. George Washington University Cyber Academy Open House. George Washington University, Virginia Science and Technology Campus, Enterprise Hall, 44983 Knoll Square, Ashburn, Virginia. Free with registration.
  • Sept. 16. ISMG Data Breach Prevention and Response Summit. The Westin San Francisco Airport, 1 Old Bayshore Highway, Millbrae, California. Registration: $695.
  • Sept. 16-17. SecureWorld Detroit. Ford Motor Conference & Event Center, Detroit. Registration: open sessions pass, $25; conference pass, $175; SecureWorld plus training, $545.
  • Sept. 17. 6th Annual Billington Cybersecurity Summit. Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C. Registration: corporate rate, $595; academic, $145; military and government, free.
  • Sept. 18. B-Sides Cape Breton. The Verschuren Centre, Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. Free.
  • Sept. 22-23. SecureWorld St. Louis. America’s Center Convention Complex, St. Louis. Registration: open sessions pass, $25; conference pass, $175; SecureWorld plus training, $545.
  • Sept. 28-Oct. 1. ASIS 2015. Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, California. Through May 31 — member, $895; nonmember, $1,150; government, $945; student, $300. From June 1 through Aug. 31 — member, $995; nonmember, $1,250; government, $1,045; student, $350. From Sept. 1 through Oct. 1 — member, $1,095; nonmember, $1,350; government, $1,145; student, $400.
  • Sept. 30-Oct. 1. Privacy. Security. Risk. 2015. Conference sponsored by IAPP Privacy Academy and CSA Congress. Bellagio hotel, Las Vegas. Registration: Before Aug. 29 — member, $1,195; nonmember, $1,395; government, $1,045; academic, $495. After Aug. 28 — member, $1,395; nonmember, $1,595; government, $1,145; academic, $495.
  • Oct. 2-3. B-Sides Ottawa. RA Centre, 2451 Riverside Dr., Ottawa, Canada. Free with registration.
  • Oct. 6. SecureWorld Cincinnati. Sharonville Convention Center, 11355 Chester Rd., Sharonville, Ohio. Registration: open sessions pass, $25; conference pass, $175; SecureWorld plus training, $545.
  • Oct. 6. UK Cyber View Summit 2015. 6 a.m. ET. Warwick Business School, 17th Floor, The Shard, 32 London Bridge, London, UK. Registration: 550 euros plus VAT.
  • Oct. 9-11. B-Sides Warsaw. Pastwomiasto, Anders 29, Warsaw, Poland. Free with registration.
  • Oct. 12-14. FireEye Cyber Defense Summit. Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. Registration: before Sept. 19, $1,125; after Sept. 18, $1,500.
  • Oct. 15. SecureWorld Denver. The Cable Center, 2000 Buchtel Blvd., Denver, Colorado. Registration: open sessions pass, $25; conference pass, $175; SecureWorld plus training, $545.
  • Oct. 19-21. CSX Cybersecurity Nexus Conference. Marriott Wardman Park, 2660 Woodley Rd. NW, Washington, D.C. Registration: before Aug. 26 — member, $1,395; nonmember, $1,595.
  • Before Oct. 14 — member, $1,595; nonmenber, $1,795. After Oct. 14 — member, $1,795; nonmember, $1,995.
  • Oct. 28. The Cyber-Centric Enterprise. 8:15 a.m. ET. Virtual conference. Free with registration.
  • Oct. 28-29. SecureWorld Dallas. Plano Centre, 2000 East Spring Creek Parkway, Plano, Texas. Registration: open sessions pass, $25; conference pass, $175; SecureWorld plus training, $545.
  • Oct. 28-29. Securing New Ground. Conference sponsored by Security Industry Association. Millennium Broadway Hotel, New York City. Registration: Before Sept. 8 — member, $895; nonmember, $1,395; CISO, CSO, CIO, $300. After Sept. 7 — member, $1,095; nonmember, $1,495; CISO, CSO, CIO, $300.
  • Nov. 4. Bay Area SecureWorld. San Jose Marriott, 301 South Market St., San Jose, California. Registration: open sessions pass, $25; conference pass, $175; SecureWorld plus training, $545.
  • Nov. 10. FedCyber 2015 Annual Summit. Tyson’s Corner Marriott, 8028 Leesburg Pike, Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. Registration: $395; academic, $145; government and military, free.
  • Nov. 11-12. Seattle SecureWorld. Meydenbauer Center, 11100 NE 6th St., Bellevue, Washington. Registration: open sessions pass, $25; conference pass, $175; SecureWorld plus training, $545.
  • Nov. 24-25. Cyber Impact Gateway Conference. ILEC Conference Centre and Ibis London Earls Court, London, UK. Registration: end users–pounds 1699 plus VAT (before Sept. 18), pounds 1799 plus VAT (before Oct. 9), pounds 1899 plus VAT (before Oct. 30), pounds 1999 plus VAT (standard); solution providers–pounds 2699 plus VAT (before Sept. 18), pounds 2799 plus VAT (before Oct. 9), pounds 2899 plus VAT (before Oct. 30), pounds 2999 plus VAT (standard).
  • Dec. 12. Threats and Defenses on the Internet. Noon ET. Northeastern University, Burlington Campus, 145 South Bedford St., Burlington, Massachusetts. Registration: $6.
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Airbnb starts collecting tourist tax in Paris, its most popular destination

Airbnb has announced that it will begin collecting tourist tax in Paris on behalf of its hosts. The tax will appear on customers’ bills as a €0.83 ($0.96) charge per person per night under the category “meublés touristiques non classés.” It’s previously been the responsibility of individuals renting their property to collect and process this fee, but earlier this month, the French government passed a decree allowing online platforms to shoulder the administrative burden. The result, says Airbnb, should be an easier hosting process in Paris — the service’s number one destination, with more than 50,000 listings — as well as more money for the city.

“We are grateful for our strong relationship with the French Authorities and are proud to launch this simplified tax process in our number one city,” Nicolas Ferrary, Airbnb’s director in France, said in a press statement. “More people share their homes in Paris than anywhere else in the world and this new process will ensure Paris receives more revenue from our community.”

AIRBNB HAS STRUCK SIMILAR DEALS IN AMSTERDAM AND CITIES AROUND THE US

AIrbnb has previously taken similar steps to manage tourist tax in Amsterdam, collecting the small fee directly and then remitting it to the city. It’s also struck similar deals in cities across the US, including Portland, Chicago, and San Francisco. The company’s capacity to work with lawmakers in this way is often seen in contrast with firms such as Uber, which has been far more combative in its work of supplanting an established industry. However, the process doesn’t always go smoothly for Airbnb either, with the company notably running into trouble with regulators in New York City earlier this year.

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Why it’s a good time to find an ‘Industry Cloud’ dance partner

The rise of industry cloud providers is putting pressure on big vendors and giving companies new options for partners that can help them in their cloud journey.

The cloud computing pie gets larger by the minute, and while most folks are focused on the hyperscale providers like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure or fast-growing software as a service players such as Salesforce and Workday, there’s a lot of innovation happening in industry-specific clouds.

In fact, you may be better off with one of these newfangled industry-focused providers than with your legacy infrastructure or go-to software providers that have been in the fold for decades.

Sure, the last thing you want to bone up on is another part of the cloud. But there are good reasons to ponder the emergence of the industry cloud. Some folks call it the vertical cloud. Workday’s operating chief Mike Stankey called these providers experts in the operational systems cloud.

Whatever you call these vendors — we’ll call them the ‘industry cloud’ for our purposes — the moving parts are about the same. These providers all share the following characteristics:

  1. An intense focus on an industry such as insurance, manufacturing, financial services, healthcare and life sciences.
  2. Domain expertise.
  3. A screaming customer need to replace legacy infrastructure built up over decades.
  4. And agility to outrun and gun larger software vendors such as Oracle and SAP that are more horizontal, but customize or acquire to target an industry.

If you zoom out a bit, Stankey’s landscape of the cloud went like this:

  • IT cloud: Microsoft, Google, IBM and Amazon Web Services.
  • Collaboration cloud: Microsoft and Google. Maybe others, but you need the productivity tools and doc management too.
  • Marketing and sales: Salesforce, Oracle, SAP and a bevy of others.
  • Admin cloud: Workday, NetSuite, Oracle, SAP.
  • Operational systems cloud: Guidewire in insurance, Athena in health and Rootstock in manufacturing.

If you stumbled on that last category because the names don’t jump out at you, you’re not alone.

Consider these not-so-household names:

  • Rootstock provides on-demand ERP systems for the manufacturing industry. Rootstock is often coupled with Salesforce and FinancialForce to give manufacturers an alternative to SAP. Rootstock, launched in 2008, chose to build on Salesforce’s platform. The company’s wares are available on Salesforce’s AppExchange. If you’re going to hitch a ride on a rocket, Salesforce isn’t a bad way to go.
  • Athenahealth provides electronic health records in the cloud. The company also provides on-premise software, as does Allscripts and other key players in the healthcare market. However, Athenahealth is seeing traction with its cloud products and can move its base of customers to as-a-service consumers. The key link to other industry cloud providers is focus.
  • Navatar Group provides cloud products that aim to lump together CRM, content management and data for the financial services industry. With a focus on asset and wealth management and a dash of investment banking Navatar is courting financial services firms. Like Rootstock, Navatar is a key partner of Salesforce. Navatar has built its software on Salesforce and Box.
  • Veeva is focused on life sciences and the account planning that goes with it. Veeva’s cloud tools cover everything from managing research and development to managing reps as well as customers in a network.
  • Guidewire is another industry player focused on the insurance market. Based on its financial profile, Guidewire is mostly an on-premise software provider with a focus on insurers. However, Guidewire has launched Guidewire Live, which is a network of cloud apps designed to connect peers as well as take care of business. The company, which is publicly traded, is projected to have revenue of about $377 million for the fiscal year ending July 31.

The fact that the industry cloud is emerging quickly is notable for a few reasons. Among the big ones:

  • SAP and Oracle have industry-focused sales strategies and have acquired companies to target verticals. The catch is that neither company can focus as well as a specialist. Customers are trading a slower pace for girth and stability. However, you have to wonder if that stability is much of a selling point when these industry cloud players are large enough in their own right or hitching their wagons to Salesforce.
  • Agility provided by the cloud is hitting regulated industries and most companies are looking to diversify their vendor base.
  • Being a big customer of a smaller company gives you more say, clout and stake in the roadmap.
  • In the end, the goal for most IT buyers will revolve around a managed stack. A specialist may be able to manage the IT stack for you and connect with partners up the food chain such as AWS.

Oh sure, there’s a chance that these industry cloud players will only be acquired by SAP and Oracle someday. But I’d argue that’s a risk for any cloud provider today if you project scenarios out a decade.

I’ve seen previous proclamations that 2013 and 2014 was going to be the year of the industry cloud. I’m not going to be crazy enough to call 2015 that way. All you need to know for now is that the industry cloud is going to matter more and more with each passing year. Bone up and find a potential industry cloud dance partner.

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Uber brings food delivery to its hometown, San Francisco

The ride-hailing service expands its UberEats feature to the City by the Bay, offering up on-demand gourmet fare.

Uber has waded into competitive territory in San Francisco: on-demand food delivery. On Tuesday, the ride-hailing service launched in the city its UberEats service, which aims to deliver food from some of San Francisco’s most trendy restaurants in minutes.

“We are excited to bring San Franciscans the flavors and dishes that define the local food scene — in 10 minutes or less,” said UberEats San Francisco General Manager Susan Alban. “With UberEats, people can experience a variety of flavors from a menu that updates daily, and discover the best local restaurants without waiting in line.”

San Francisco-based Uber is best known for competing with taxi and limo services by offering on-demand rides to passengers via a mobile app. But it’s increasingly treading into the delivery sector. UberEats is already in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Barcelona and Toronto. Launching in San Francisco puts Uber in a market that’s already flush with other popular on-demand food delivery services, like Munchery, Spoonrocket and Grubhub.

Last November, Uber hired away Tom Fallows, the head of Google’s same-day delivery service Google Express, leading to speculation that the ride-hailing service was getting more involved in deliveries. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has made his delivery goals clear in the past, saying he’s servicing a society that values instant gratification, and that means near-instant delivery.

“Today, we are in the business of delivering cars in five minutes,” he said at the LeWeb conference in 2013. “Once you’re in the business of delivering cars in five minutes, there are a lot of things you can deliver in five minutes.”

Through UberEats, people who use the Uber app can request a meal just as they would a ride. Uber changes the menus daily — making particular items available from each of the day’s participating restaurants. The option to use UberEats appears on the app only when users are in areas covered by the service.

For its launch UberEats is featuring food from a handful of local restaurants, including The Ramen Bar, which has items like chicken udon noodles; Ike’s Place, which is known for its massive sub sandwiches; and Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, famous for its croissant muffin hybrids, aka cruffins. Items range from roughly $9 to $15.

For now UberEats San Francisco will be available only in certain parts of the city, such as the Financial District and South of Market neighborhoods. But the company said it plans to expand the service to the entire city in coming months.

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