Amazon to Face Tough Wal-Mart Test This Back-to-School Season: JPD

Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s online sales is likely to grow double than Amazon.com Inc during the back-to-school season, helped by the Jet.com acquisition and competitive price offerings, industry research body NPD said.

An aggressive pricing and marketing strategy, coupled with the fact that Amazon’s business has reached maturity in back-to-school sales, will see Wal-Mart winning the online retail tussle this back-to-school season, NPD Chief Analyst Marshal Cohen told Reuters.

“With Wal-Mart’s new Jet.com investment, I would suspect that Wal-Mart is going to basically be able to increase the growth rate, probably almost double that of Amazon,” Cohen said.

Winning back-to-school, the second-biggest shopping season after the winter holidays, has become extremely important for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers as their store operations continue to lose customers to online shopping.

To close the gap with Amazon, Wal-Mart acquired online wholesale retailer Jet.com for $3 billion in 2016, through which it not only expanded its product assortment and added more than 400,000 customers, but also gained e-commerce know-how.

Cohen said he expects Wal-Mart to grow its online sales between 2 percent and 5 percent.

Jet.com provides Wal-Mart with a broader assortment of products than what a store has, including timely promotions and dynamic pricing, Cohen said.

Amazon to Face Tough Wal-Mart Test This Back-to-School Season: JPD

Wal-Mart’s online offerings have risen from 8 million items, at the start of 2016, to more than 20 million by the end of the year. In comparison, Amazon has more than 300 million products.

The world’s largest retailer has also started offering free two-day shipping on eligible orders, much like Amazon’s Prime subscription program.

Wal-Mart’s aggressive efforts to take on Amazon seem to be gaining momentum even as other retailers and department store chains struggle.

Online sales for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart rose 63 percent in the first quarter of this year, faster than the 29 percent growth during fourth quarter and 20 percent in the third quarter.

Online sales account for about 3 percent of the company’s total sales. Wal-Mart expects online sales growth of 20 percent to 30 percent in the second half of the year, and even faster in the next few years.

Nokia 6, Asus ZenFone AR and Other CES 2017 Launches, Vodafone's Rs. 499 Plan, More News This Week

HIGHLIGHTS

  • New products at CES 2017 dominated the news this week
  • Nokia 6 launch on Sunday stole CES’ thunder a little bit
  • Vodafone now has a Rs. 499 unlimited calling postpaid plan

Predictably, CES 2017 dominated tech news this week with a range of exciting launches and demos, but just as we were putting the finishing touches to this piece, another launch grabbed the headlines. HMD Global, the new custodians of the Nokia brand, announced the launch of Nokia 6, a phone that runs Android 7.0 out of the box.

The Nokia 6 has a 5.5-inch full-HD display wrapped in 2.5D Gorilla Glass. The smartphone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 SoC alongside 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The Nokia 6 is a dual SIM smartphone that is backed by a 3000mAh non-removable battery. See full specifications of the Nokia 6, which will unfortunately be a China-exclusive smartphone. HMD Global confirmed more Nokia Android phones are coming soon.

Before we get to all the CES launches from this week, let’s take a look at some important stories from closer home. Vodafone is taking the battle to Reliance Jio and Airtel with the launch of a new postpaid plan that offers unlimited calling, and 3GB of 4G data each month. The revamped Vodafone Red postpaid plans come soon after Airtel started offering 3GB of free mobile data per month to prepaid and postpaid customers switching to its 4G network.

Nokia 6, Asus ZenFone AR and Other CES 2017 Launches, Vodafone's Rs. 499 Plan, More News This Week

Friday saw the launch of the Samsung Galaxy J1 (4G) in India – the same phone was launched in Russia in March last year, after quietly making its way to Dubai in January. In both those markets, it was sold as the Samsung Galaxy J1 (2016). This is an entry level phone from Samsung, priced at Rs. 6,890.

From CES, one of the highlights was the launch of the Asus ZenFone AR, the first smartphone with 8GB of RAM. It also come with support for Google’s Tango augmented reality programme and DayDream virtual reality software. Asus ZenFone AR, like the other Tango device – the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro – is designed around machine vision with a camera and sensor setup that provides motion tracking, depth perception, and area learning.

In addition to the ZenFone AR, Also also unveiled the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom camera smartphone with 5000mAh battery at the event. The phone has dual rear cameras and offers 2.3x optical zoom.

Samsung used CES to showcase the new A (2017) smartphones launched earlier this week. The Galaxy A3 (2017), Galaxy A5 (2017), Galaxy A7 (2017) sport “enhanced” cameras compared to their predecessors, optimised for low-light conditions.

Later, pricing of the two of the new Samsung phones came to light as well.

LG also unveiled its K-series phones on the CES floor – the range covers the LG K3 (2017), LG K4 (2017), LG K8 (2017), and the LG K10 (2017).

LG also showed the LG Stylus 3. The South Korean company says that the new 2017 variants of the LG K3, K4, K8, K10 smartphones, and the Stylus 3 will strengthen its portfolio in the mid-range segment.

At its CES 2017 event, Xiaomi unveiled the latest Mi TV 4 and Mi Router HD, apart from announcing a brand new White colour variant of the Mi MIX smartphone. All the Xiaomi CES 2017 devices will be available later this year in China. Slimmer than an iPhone 7, the Mi TV 4 is the company’s thinnest TV to date.

The Xiaomi Mi MIX was unveiled as a limited edition concept smartphone, made in collaboration with French designer Philippe Stark, in October last year, and it will go on sale later this year.

Chipmaker Qualcomm finally took the wraps off its Snapdragon 835 SoC. Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 packs an Adreno 540 GPU, and is 30 percent smaller than the Snapdragon 820. The first 10nm chip by Qualcomm comes with longer battery life and will enable thinner designs.

Nvidia launched a new version of its Shield Android TV, called just Shield, at CES 2017. It comes with Google Assistant integration and supports 4K HDR. The new Nvidia Shield will cost $199 (roughly Rs. 13,200) but the company has not announced the availability of the device yet. It will be the first Android TV with Google’s Assistant, but others will follow, and it will come to other platforms over time.

There were also a lot of laptop launches at CES – Dell launched a range of products including a Latitude 2-in-1 business laptop, XPS 13 2-in-1, as well as new Alienware and Inspiron 7000 Gaming laptops. It also launched the new XPS 15 laptop, a Rose Gold variant of the XPS 13, and the XPS 27 AIO.

Asus launched the ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490UA, and unveiled a new, slimmed-down business laptop, along with a VR-ready compact PC.

LG launched its new Gram 14 laptop, which it claims offers a battery life of around 24 hours. However, the benchmark test used by the company for this claim has turned out to be a 10-year old measurement tool. LG’s new Gram 14 laptop weighs around 980 grams, and is powered by Intel’s latest Kaby Lake processors. It comes with up to 16GB of RAM and houses up to 512GB of SSD storage.

Toshiba expanded its Portege laptop portfolio to launch a 2-in-1 offering – Portege X20W – pricing details of the 2-in-1 have not been announced yet. The Portege X20W convertible’s main highlight is touted to be its 16-hour battery life. Meanwhile, HP unveiled the refreshed EliteBook x360, a 15.6-inch Spectre x360, alongside the new Envy Curved AIO 34, the new Sprout Pro by HP, and Omen X 35 Curved Display.

Lenovo refreshed the ThinkPad X1 line, launching a host of products under its portfolio including the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, ThinkPad X1 Yoga, ThinkPad X1 Tablet, Miix 720, Lenovo Active Pen 2, Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop, Lenovo Legion Y520 Laptop, Lenovo Smart Assistant, Lenovo Smart Assistant Harman Kardon Edition, Lenovo Smart Storage, Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller, and Lenovo New Glass C200.

Asus also showed the Chromebook Flip C302 2-in-1 convertible, a high-end Chromebook. Samsung unveiled a Chromebook with stylus support, while Acer showed off a rugged Chromebook, targeted at classrooms.

Dell also launched a range of new gaming laptops in its Alienware and Inspiron lines, and Lenovo showed its range of Legion gaming laptops, and also a new VR headset, which will work with Microsoft’s Windows Holographic Program. Samsung also showcased a new gaming laptop, the Notebook Odyssey. The most jaw-dropping of the lot though was probably Razer’s Project Valerie concept laptop, which comes with three 4K displays, for “total immersion gaming”.

On the audio front, JBL launched the Pulse 3, Flip 4, Playlist, and BassPro Go speakers; Sennheiser unveiled wireless headphones and recording earbuds; Sony showed Google-Home friendly soundboards, along with new headphones and speakers; and LG announced a Dolby Atmos capable soundbar.

As usual, CES also saw a number of wearables being launched – some of the highlights were the Misfit Vapor, the Casio WSD-F20 rugged Android Wear watch, and the Motiv fitness ring, which comes with a heart rate sensor. There were a few VR related announcements for new accessories from HTC Vive, while the other products are still works in progress.

Outside of CES, we had two more launches in India this week. We saw the launch of the Xolo Era 2X – the 2GB RAM variant has been priced at Rs. 6,666 while the 3GB RAM variant has been priced at Rs. 7,499. It replaces the Xolo Era 1X, which launched with a price tag of Rs. 4,999 last year. Other than this, we had the launch of the Sennheiser HD 200 PRO closed-backover-ear headphones in India, priced at Rs. 6,490.

Besides this, TRAI released a consultation paper on net neutrality – you have till February 15 to send in your responses to the regulator on this important issue.

Paytm also announced an interesting development this week – it’s finally received approval to launch its payments bank – the actual rollout will still take a little time, but it’s expected in the coming months. Paytm had earlier announced that it’s going to merge its Wallet and Payments Bank, so your wallet balance will automatically become your bank balance.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai visited India this week, and launched new programs to help SMBs go digital. He visited his alma mater IIT-Kharagpur, where he talked to students, and told NDTV’s Vikram Chandra in an interview Google is keen to work on UPI. He also met IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who says Google should tailor its services to local needs.

These were the highlights of the week for us, let us know via the comments what caught your eye this week.

 

Facebook Rainbow Reaction Is Here and This Is How You Can Get It Now

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Facebook has added the Rainbow reaction to support LGBTQ Pride
  • There are also Pride-themed masks and frames
  • Pride-themed features on Facebook will till June-end

Facebook has launched a new Rainbow emoji reaction, among several other features, in honour of the LGBTQ Pride Month — celebrated every year in June — and show support to the community and the cause. The Facebook Rainbow reaction is accompanied by a Rainbow Frame for profile pictures, Pride-themed masks and frames in Facebook Camera, and even the option to start fundraisers for the community on the platform. The new features will be available throughout the month of June.

How to get the new Facebook Rainbow Reaction

To get the new LGBTQ Rainbow Reaction and the other Prime-themed features, you need to ‘like’ the LGBT@Facebook official group. Once you like the page, you will soon see the Rainbow emoji reaction when you long-press on the like button on a post, photo, link, video, etc. Similar is the process to get the new The new features are available only in the US for now, and some even in the US complain of not getting the new features despite liking the page.

Facebook Rainbow Reaction Is Here and This Is How You Can Get It Now

Apart from the Pride-themed features on Facebook, there are some LGBTQ-supporting features on Instagram and Messenger as well. On Instagram, walls in major US cities will be turned into colourful beacons of LGBTQ support, where you can leave supportive comments on your posts. You can also celebrate Pride and be creative with stickers and a rainbow brush. Similarly, Messenger users can use Pride-themed stickers, frames, and effects in the Messenger Camera.

In a statement, Facebook said, “As Pride celebrations begin around the world, Facebook is proud to support our diverse community, including those that have identified themselves on Facebook as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender or gender non-conforming. It added over 12 million people across the globe are part of one of the 76,000 Facebook Groups in support of the LGBTQ community.  The social networking giant noted that more than 1.5 million people plan to participate in one of the more than 7,500 Pride events on Facebook this year.

Could this new drug give you a real sun tan?

Scientists say they have discovered a drug that could give you a real sun tan without even stepping outside.

The drug gets the body to create melanin the pigment which is the body’s natural protection against ultraviolet rays in sunlight.

But the experts at Massachusetts General Hospital in the USA say their findings is not so much for cosmetic use – but could have a “huge” impact in cutting skin cancer rates, BBC News reports.

Image result for Could this new drug give you a real sun tan?

The drug has only been tested on mice so far, but there are hopes it could reduce both sunbed use and the risk of burning for people tanning in the sun.

Dr David Fisher, one of the researchers, said they would like to see the drug combined with sun cream and made widely available in future.

Council chiefs say skin cancer is a serious problem in Liverpool, launching a national campaign against sunbed use in 2013 after finding half of teenage girls had used one.

Dr Paula Grey, the city’s public health director at the time, said: “Girls in Liverpool like to look tanned. We haven’t got a problem with that. It’s how you get the tan.

“It’s just not worth using sunbeds. There will be girls of today who in 20 years’ time will develop skin cancer.

“But we have even seen examples of girls in their 20s developing melanoma, and we are expecting to see rates rise.”

Michelle Purchase, from Prenton (Photo: James Maloney)

Tributes were paid to a young woman from Prenton who died of skin cancer last month after bravely speaking out about the disease.

Michelle Purchase, a healthcare assistant, was widely praised for a heartfelt warning she made just weeks before her death about the dangers of sunbeds she had used as a teenager.

Matthew Gass, from the British Association of Dermatologists, told the BBC; “A lot more research has to be done before we see this sort of technology being used on humans, however, it’s certainly an interesting proposition.

“Skin cancer rates in the UK are going through the roof… any research into ways that we can prevent people from developing skin cancer in the first place is to be welcomed.”

Global platinum supply likely to fall 2% this year

Overall platinum supply is projected to fall by two per cent year-on-year to 7,330 kilo ounces (koz) in 2017, with both primary and secondary supply expected to decline.

According to the World Platinum Investment Council’s (WPIC)’s publication Platinum Quarterly for the March quarter of 2017, the global demand for platinum is projected six per cent lower (at 7,795 koz) than last year’s demand  but the demand-supply gap has fallen 82 per cent, while above ground stock is down three per cent. India’s demand for platinum in the jewellery sector is rising. WPIC said the demand was highest in 2016 with 11.5 per cent increase to 245 koz. Paul Wilson, chief executive officer, WPIC, said, “India’s jewellery demand is expected to grow even faster in 2017.”

Automotive demands, where the white strong precious metal is used as an auto catalyst in converters to reduce carbon emission, fell in 2016 by six per cent to 165 koz. India’s demand for the metal is five to six per cent of the total global demand, and a chunk of it comes from the jewellery and automobile sectors.  The metal is used in laboratory instruments and also has some other industrial uses.

“The full-year forecast for automotive platinum global demand is 3,405 koz, down from 3,435 koz in 2016. Despite the loss of diesel share in smaller cars in Western Europe and India, diesel is expected to retain much of the medium and larger car market, at least in the short to medium term,” the report said.

About auto sector demand, the council said, “In India, there are signs that automakers are stopping production of the diesel versions of some of their smaller cars, as diesel loses ground to gasoline. However, with implementation of the GST, this may boost consumer confidence and drive up sales, or the confusion may lead consumers to postpone purchases beyond 2017. These downside risks are likely to affect small cars more than larger ones, so the diesel impact is lessened.”

So far as investment in platinum in India is concerned, the market is yet to develop. India may now see some traction because WPIC has tied up with Muthoot Exim, the precious metals division of the Muthoot Pappachan Group, to launch India’s first platinum deity products.

Paul said, “Today platinum investment is an underexploited market in India, but based on the recent history of growth in jewellery and opportunities we are developing with partners in India, the platinum investment market in India has great potential.”

Global platinum supply likely to fall 2% this year

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition With 4K Support Coming This Year, Beta Signups Open

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Interested players can join the beta for the game
  • All civilisations from original game will be available in new entry
  • The game features both single player and multiplayer modes

In terms of visual fidelity, video games might have taken giant leaps in last two decades but very few games can match the nostalgia of playing Age of Empires on old-school computers back in the day. Seems like this nostalgia will soon be getting a resolution fix as at E3 2017 in the US on Monday, Microsoft announced during PC Gaming Show that the remastered version of the game – called Age of Empires: Definitive Edition – will be coming to Windows 10 PCs later this year in UHD.

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition will allow users to play the real-time strategy game from Microsoft Studios in up to 4K resolution and will feature upgraded art assets and a brand-new narrative. The remastered version of the game will feature hundreds of new as well as rebuilt sound effects.

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition With 4K Support Coming This Year, Beta Signups Open

In terms of game modes, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition will come with both single player and multiplayer modes. Additionally, there will be a classic mode that will provide users with the gameplay from the original series. Gamers will be able to play all the civilisations from the original Age of Empires and the Rise of Rome expansion as well, as per a post by game developer Forgotten Empires.

The game will be coming later this year but those who are interested can join the beta via the Age of Empires: Definitive Edition official website. Interestingly, Microsoft mentioned that this announcement is just a start and it will be rolling over to company’s Gamescom event, where some more information will be shared regarding the franchise. In all likelihood, this can be considered as a tease for the next entry in the game series.