Amazon Echo, Nexus 9 and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

Amazon is in the limelight this week with the invite-only release of Echo, a Siri-style assistant for your home. From the promotional video, asking Alexa (the name for Echo) about the weather, settling fact disputes and even asking “her” for word spellings can either be creepy or cool. This is another big move for Amazon to insinuate itself into consumer’s lives in every way possible and of course to sell things. After all, you can dictate shopping lists to Alexa. I wrote a little bit about Amazon’s seemingly scattered strategy to be the platform of our lives here, but I have to say Echo is a very bold move. Now, if only it’s more than hype and it can actually deliver – which was not the case with the Fire Phone. I have asked for an invite to purchase Echo. If I do get it, expect an update and a review.

Somewhat related to Amazon, I recently received the new Nexus 9. I currently have the iPad mini (a throwback to my MBA where we used it at school for PDFs, etc) and have only been using it for Amazon Instant Video. Last month, Amazon *finally* released the Android version of the app and despite the really roundabout way of installing it on my Nexus 5, I thought this would be the perfect time to completely port over to an Android tablet. Surprise, surprise – the Amazon Instant Video app only works on Android phones even though there is an “unofficial” way of installing it on Android tablets. I am still considering it because I do like the Nexus 9. It’s hard to believe that Amazon is largely ignoring Android users but then again, in Amazon’s view, if you’re not an iOS user (a market that would be too difficult to nudge), then get yourself a Kindle Fire. I’m sorry Amazon, but I’m not there yet. I just might use the turnaround install on my Android tablet after all.

Here are this week’s most relevant news in tech and retail:

In tech:

  1. Amazon news: invite-only release of $199 Siri-style assistant Echo ($99 for Prime members); third party retailers to offer free shipping for Prime members; free unlimited photo storage for Prime members; launch of same-day delivery in Toronto and Vancouver
  2. Alibaba‘s first earnings report post-IPO beat estimates, fiscal Q2 shows 54% sales growth
  3. Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer, is set to raise close to $1.5B in new capital at a valuation of $40B
  4. Microsoft Office suite for iPad, iPhone and Android is now free; announces strategic partnership with cloud storage service Dropbox
  5. Google Cloud Platform slashes prices again, becomes even more enterprise-ready with VPN, carrier interconnects and peering

In retail:

  1. Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. fiscal Q2 sales rose 16% but missed estimates, shares tumble
  2. Gap Inc.’s brands Gap and Banana Republic sales drop but earnings beat estimates in preliminary Q3 report; official report to be released on Nov. 20
  3. Store openings: H&M opens 27,000 square-foot new Paris flagship on Boulevard Saint-Michel; J. Crew further expands in Europe, will add fifth store in London Q1 2015 and will open first Paris store in March 2015
  4. Kate Spade reports 30% jump in sales for Q3 as demand rises in North America, raises global same-store sales growth forecast for 2014
  5. Hermès International reports Q3 sales growth of 10.6% despite sluggish demand in China
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