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Apple and Amazon End Audiobook Exclusivity Deal Amid Growing Concerns of a Monopoly

Apple and Amazon have agreed to cease all exclusivity obligations previously put in place between the two companies regarding the supply and distribution of audiobooks through iTunes and Audible (via Reuters). The partnership between the two companies previously incited a complaint from the German Publishers and Booksellers Association in 2015 centering around the potential for a monopoly in the European audiobook industry by the two powerhouse companies. Now, competition is expected to be boosted and the European Commission and the German Federal Cartel Office are welcoming the decision made by Apple and Amazon to end their exclusive distribution deal of Audible audiobooks on iTunes, meaning other companies can now distribute audiobooks on Apple's popular digital marketplace. Simultaneously, Audible can now place its audiobooks on other digital marketplaces for users to download. On Thursday, the German Federal Cartel Office said it has officially closed its investigation because "there was no further reason to continue." "The European Commission welcomes an agreement to end all exclusivity obligations concerning audiobook supply and distribution between Amazon's subsidiary Audible and Apple," the EU competition authority said in a statement. "With the deletion of the exclusivity agreement Apple will now have the opportunity to purchase digital audiobooks from other suppliers," Andreas Mundt, president of the German cartel office, said in a statement. Back in 2015, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association began its complaint by saying that Apple and

CES 2017: Huawei to Pre-Load Amazon Alexa Virtual Assistant in its Flagship Smartphone

We've seen it in third-party speakers and cars already at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but Amazon's Alexa is also about to become a smartphone personal assistant. Chinese mobile company Huawei used CES 2017 to announce it will be the first handset maker in the U.S. to pre-load the voice-activated AI into a phone. The HUAWEI MATE 9 will be the first smartphone to integrate with Amazon Alexa. Speak to the future #HuaweiCES2017 pic.twitter.com/Eg5NBhpV7j— Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) January 5, 2017 Less than a week ago, Alexa was exclusive to Amazon's tablets and Echo smart speakers, but anyone who picks up the U.S. version of Huawei's flagship Mate 9 smartphone – set to launch "early 2017" – will also be able to invoke the virtual assistant. Huawei's announcement sets the stage for Alexa to compete directly in a mobile market already busy with AI assistants battling it out for supremacy. Meanwhile, Apple's Siri is still only available on iOS devices and Macs running macOS Sierra, although rumors have persisted that Cupertino is working on its own Siri-powered connected smart speaker, while the AI is likely to feature heavily in any autonomous car system the company may be working on. Elsewhere, Google recently upgraded its Google Assistant for its own-branded Pixel phones, and last year Samsung acquired Viv – developed by the creators of Siri – for integration in its next round of flagship smartphones

Amazon Prime Video Now Available in Over 200 Countries, Including India

Amazon today announced that its Prime Video streaming service has expanded to over 200 countries including India, the company's largest available market outside the U.S. Prime Video is automatically available at no additional cost to Amazon Prime members in Belgium, Canada, France, Italy and Spain, and to customers in new Prime Video territories at an introductory price of $2.99 (or 2.99 euros) per month for the first six months. In India, the service comes bundled with Prime. Prime usually costs Rs 999 ($15) for an annual subscription, but to celebrate the launch of Prime Video, Amazon is currently offering annual membership to new customers at the heavily discounted price of Rs 499 ($7.50). That makes Prime Video the least expensive streaming video service in the country by some margin, with similar service Netflix costing Rs 500 on a rolling monthly basis. The aggressive pricing strategy indicates Amazon's continuing eagerness to make deep inroads into the Indian market. The company has been busy acquiring rights to local content over the last few months, and has partnered with several major Bollywood studios and distributors to make titles available exclusively on Prime Video. The catalog in Amazon Prime Video contains titles in several Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu, as well as an English section featuring many popular U.S.

Amazon Debuts App For Shopping on the Apple TV

Amazon today introduced a new app called "Amazon App: Browse, Search, and Shop," which is designed to let users look for and purchase items from Amazon.com. Anyone can use Amazon's new app to browse through and search for products using dictation, but to make a purchase, an Amazon Prime membership is required. Amazon Prime costs $99 per year and offers benefits like Amazon Video and free two-day shipping. Amazon App includes product details, reviews, and "immersive" product images and videos, all of which can be viewed on the television screen. Purchases are made using the Apple TV remote, but users can also add items to a list to purchase later via an iPhone or computer. Many Apple TV owners have long been hoping for an app that brings Amazon's Prime Video offerings to Apple's set-top box, but this is not that app. It's limited to shopping only. Amazon's new app can be downloaded on fourth-generation Apple TV models for

Apple Warns Customers to Beware of Counterfeit Power Adapters and Batteries

Nearly two months after filing a lawsuit against a firm selling counterfeit Apple power adapters and Lightning cables on Amazon, Apple has updated its website to advise customers to beware of counterfeit parts. Apple warns some counterfeit and third-party power adapters and batteries could pose safety risks, and recommends customers visit an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider for genuine parts.Beware of counterfeit parts Some counterfeit and third party power adapters and batteries may not be designed properly and could result in safety issues. To ensure you receive a genuine Apple battery during a battery replacement, we recommend visiting an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider. If you need a replacement adapter to charge your Apple device, we recommend getting an Apple power adapter.As revealed in its lawsuit against counterfeiter Mobile Star LLC, Apple found almost 90% of so-called "genuine" Apple products and accessories it purchased from Amazon in a nine-month period were actually counterfeit. U.S. certification company UL later found 99% of fake Apple chargers sold online fail basic safety tests. Following the lawsuit, an Amazon spokesperson informed MacRumors it has "zero tolerance for the sale of counterfeits" on its website. "We work closely with manufacturers and brands, and pursue wrongdoers aggressively." Amazon reportedly plans to crack down on counterfeit products sold through its website next year by creating a registry to prevent fake goods from being listed for sale. Apple could sign up for the registry, for

Amazon Discounts its Echo Smart Speaker Range Yet Again

As part of its Black Friday Deals Week, Amazon lowered the price of its Echo family of smart speakers, before returning them to their regular prices. Now Amazon has discounted the devices again for a limited time in the U.S. as part of a "Holiday Deals" promotion. The full-size Echo speaker is $40 cheaper at $139.99, while the smaller Echo dot is available for $39.99 instead of its regular price of $49.99. Amazon Tap, the company's portable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled speaker, has also seen its price reduced from $129.99 to $89.99. The Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Amazon Tap all have voice-activated assistant Alexa built in. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may sometimes get paid if you click one of the above links.

Amazon Rolls Out Music Unlimited 'Family Plan' to the U.K. for £15 per Month

Amazon has expanded its Family Plan for Amazon Music Unlimited to the U.K., following initial rollout across the U.S. last month. The plan costs £15 a month, or £149 a year, which works out at a lower price of £12 per month. The subscription supports up to six family members (at least 13 years of age) for simultaneous listening and personal recommendations. On the plan, a single family member uses a "shared payment method" to pay for the subscription, such as a debit or credit card that Amazon uses to charge each month for the service. Each member can make purchases on Amazon and Amazon Music Unlimited with the shared payment method, while the main subscriber receives notifications of all activity within the group. The plan also retains the same functionality as the Individual Plan subscription. Amazon Music Unlimited has a library of 40 million songs and is available under four optional plans. Prime members can sign up to the streaming service for £8 per month or £79 per year, while non-Prime members pay £10 per month. For Echo or Echo Dot owners, a cheaper £4 per month plan is available, but is restricted to music playback on the smart

'Amazon Go' Stores Will Let You Grab Groceries and Go, No Checkout Needed

Apple customers may be familiar with the option of walking into an Apple retail store, purchasing a product with the Apple Store app, and walking out without checking out or even speaking to a single employee, and now Amazon seeks to one-up that experience with a new concept called Amazon Go. Amazon Go provides a checkout-free shopping experience that, to the naked eye, looks exactly like shoplifting. After scanning a smartphone upon entering a store, the app automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. Amazon Go says the app utilizes computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning, allowing customers to simply take what they want and go with no checkouts or lines required. Shortly after, Amazon will charge a customer's Amazon account and send a receipt, meaning that, unlike the Apple Store app, shoppers do not even need to be in the store during the actual payment process. Amazon did not provide any further details, so beyond that it remains unclear exactly how the process works. For now, Amazon Go is limited to Amazon employees in the company's beta program, while only one Amazon Go food store in the company's hometown of Seattle—at 2131 7th Ave—currently supports the app. Amazon Go will open to the public in early 2017, possibly signaling the app's expansion to other stores. All customers need is an Amazon account, a supported smartphone, and the free Amazon Go app. Amazon informed MacRumors the app will likely support iPhone, and presumably Android-based smartphones as

Amazon Developing Echo Speaker With 7-Inch Touchscreen to 'Fend Off Competition' From Apple and Google

Amazon's next iteration of the Echo speaker will be a "premium" model that includes a touchscreen measuring around seven inches, marking "a major departure" from the tall, cylindrical design of the Echo currently on sale. The company is said to be upgrading Echo for two reasons: to capitalize on the device's success, and as early preparation to "fend off competition" from Google Home and Apple's rumored entry into the smart home speaker market (via Bloomberg). The logic behind adding a touchscreen to Echo is reasoned as a way "to make it easier to access content," like the weather and upcoming calendar events. Currently, Echo is a voice-activated device with limited volume and mute buttons on its topside. While the exact design of the speaker wasn't pinned down, people familiar with the plans said it will be larger and "tilt upwards" so users can read the screen when the Echo sits on a kitchen counter or desk. The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven inches, a major departure from Amazon’s existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the company’s voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and news, the people said. They asked not to be identified speaking about a product that has yet to be announced. Amazon’s planned expansion of the Alexa-powered line coincides with growing competition from Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home speaker and Apple Inc.’s interest in building

Amazon to Crack Down on Counterfeit Goods Sold on its Marketplace

Amazon has acknowledged a worsening counterfeit problem on its site and says it has made fighting the fake products a "major goal" for next year (via The Verge). Last month Apple filed a lawsuit against Mobile Star LLC which it accused of infringing upon its trademarks and copyrights by selling counterfeit power adapters and cables on Amazon. Apple claimed the fake products posed a risk to life, and said it had found that almost 90 percent of so-called genuine Apple products and accessories it purchased from Amazon over the last nine months were actually counterfeit. Following the lawsuit, Amazon said it had "zero tolerance for the sale of counterfeits" on its website and said it was working closely with manufacturers and brands to aggressively pursue the wrongdoers. Bloomberg reports that Amazon now says it plans to create a registry to prevent fakes and wants legitimate brands to register even if they don't plan on selling products on the site. Merchants then have to obtain official brand permission before they can sell goods from the company. Amazon has reportedly been experimenting with Nike and other brands to build the registry, but the company says it will target more brands in 2017 in an attempt to get them to sell their products on Amazon's marketplace. According to the report, Amazon tried to get the NFL and MLB to sell merchandise through its online marketplace, but the negotiations stalled because of a perceived lack of control over existing fake

Amazon Slashes Prices Across its Echo Smart Speaker Range for Black Friday

Amazon today began offering devices in its Echo smart speaker range at discounted prices for the first time in the products' short history, as part of its Black Friday Deals Week. For those unfamiliar with the devices, the connected speakers' array of microphones lets users query voice-based assistant Alexa, who can be asked to do things like play music, read the news, use apps, check the weather, turn on the lights, set timers, and more. The full-size Echo speaker is being offered at $140 (usually $180), while the second-generation Echo Dot – a smaller variant with the same features – has had $10 lopped off the price and is going for $40. Elsewhere, Amazon has slashed $40 off its Alexa-enabled portable Bluetooth speaker, now selling for $90 instead of $130. Apple is also offering its own Black Friday deals this year. For all the discounts on Apple products offered on Amazon, Apple, and elsewhere, be sure to check out the MacRumors Black Friday Holiday Roundup, continually updated throughout the week. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may sometimes get paid if you click one of the above links and purchase a product or service.

Amazon Offers $100 Discount on 13-inch MacBook Pro Without Touch Bar

Amazon has slashed $100 off the official price of Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro sans Touch Bar, offering the machine at $1,399 instead of $1,499, presumably for a limited time. Spotted by AppAdvice, the discount is for the stock 13-inch model, which comes with a 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB storage. Meanwhile, for anyone still debating whether a Touch Bar equipped MacBook Pro is for them, Red Sweater has released a free Mac app that simulates the OLED keyboard strip as a bar on the screen. Touché is essentially a test bed for developers, but still includes a fully functioning Touch Bar that dynamically changes based on the app currently in use, allowing anyone curious to see how it augments the physical keyboard. On a more frivolous note, Facebook iOS developer Adam Bell has managed to hack Apple's new Touch Bar to run classic first-person shooter Doom. Doom runs on pretty much everything… but can it run on the new MacBook Pro Touch Bar?https://t.co/juJGlFIXFW pic.twitter.com/kr5rM0LVmn— Adam Bell (@b3ll) November 20, 2016

Amazon Music Unlimited Launches $15 Per Month Family Plan

Amazon today has expanded its Music Unlimited streaming service with a new subscription tier: $14.99 per month for a "Family Plan." The option supports up to six family members (at least 13-years-old) for simultaneous listening and personal recommendations. There's also an alternative payment option to pay $149 upfront for an entire year of the Family Plan, cutting the subscription down to about $12 per month (via TechCrunch). The plan works by creating an Amazon account for each family member, but there is no unified family account; as Amazon said, "the only thing that's shared is the payment." On the plan, one family member uses a "shared payment method" to pay for the subscription, which is a debit or credit card that Amazon uses to charge each month for the service. Each member can make purchases on Amazon and Amazon Music Unlimited with the shared payment method, and the subscriber of the plan will get notifications of all the activity going through the group. Despite the group connectivity, each member will have "the same functionality as the Individual Plan subscription," with personalized music, library, playlists, and recommendations. The Individual Plan launched in October and marked Amazon's entry into the on-demand music streaming category, along with Apple Music and Spotify. Amazon's Family Plan directly sits alongside Apple Music's $14.99 per month Family Membership, which grants the full Apple Music experience for up to six people. Read up on more information about Amazon Music Unlimited's new Family Plan here.

Amazon Music Unlimited Rolls Out Across Germany, Austria, and the U.K.

Amazon's streaming music service has gone live in the U.K. and will roll out to Germany and Austria later today, according to TechCrunch. Amazon Music Unlimited launched in the U.S. last month to compete with the likes of Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music, which just got a revamp. Amazon Prime members in the U.K. will pay £7.99 per month or £79 per year, while non-Prime members can subscribe to the service for £9.99 per month. A Family Plan for up to six members "coming soon" costs £14.99 per month or £149 per year. Additionally, owners of Amazon's Echo smart speakers have the option of using the service on only those devices for a discounted price of £3.99 per month. "If you want a sense of the future of voice-controlled music, go ahead and ask Alexa for a free Amazon Music Unlimited trial, and play around on your Echo," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, in a statement. If you don't know the name of a song but know a few lyrics, if you want to hear songs from a specific decade, or even if you're looking for music to match your mood, just ask. Our U.S. customers love Amazon Music Unlimited on Echo, and we think our UK customers will too."Amazon said it was "thrilled" with customer reaction to the launch of the service in the U.S., but did not divulge subscription numbers. Amazon Music Unlimited is distinct from the company's Prime-only music library, which offers access to two million songs, whereas the former service offers access to 40 million songs from all the major labels. Prices in the U.S. start at $7.99 per month for Prime members and $9.99 per

Amazon Rolls Out 'Alexa' Voice Assistant to its Fire Tablets

Amazon began rolling out Alexa voice assistant to its Amazon Fire tablets yesterday, extending the feature beyond its original smart devices, such as the Echo speaker. The rollout means owners of 7-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch Fire tablets will be able to issue voice commands for specific requests, like playing music or having the news read to them, but unlike the always-listening smart speakers, the home button must be held down on tablets to activate Alexa. The feature will take advantage of Fire screens by displaying full-screen cards with additional information in response to requests, such as the day's forecast in response to a weather inquiry, or playback controls when music is requested. Unlike Siri and Google Assistant, Alexa was designed with tablets in mind rather than mobile phones, according to Amazon, so its special skills focus on tasks suited to the home, like setting timers or ordering household items from Amazon. As such, requests for tasks usually performed on the go, like finding nearby bars and services, either result in a simple web search or are redirected to the Alexa app. Like with the smart speakers, Fire tablet owners can also add skills from third parties such as Uber, as long as the associated app is also installed. Amazon's addition of Alexa to its tablet range follows Google's newly debuted Google Assistant on its Pixel smartphones, which are set to compete with Apple's iPhones that come with Siri. Amazon says it will grow the abilities of Alexa and has over 1,000 employees working on the assistant with the intention of

Amazon Music Unlimited Launches With $3.99 Echo-Only Subscription Option

Amazon today launched Amazon Music Unlimited, its new standalone, on-demand streaming service. Amazon Music Unlimited is distinct from the company's Prime-only music library, which offers access to "over a million songs." By contrast, the new service promises access to "tens of millions" of songs from all the major labels. Prices start at $7.99 per month for Prime members and $9.99 per month for non-members, the latter of which puts it in the same cost bracket as Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play Music, and Tidal's standard price plans. A similar free 30-day trial is also being offered. In addition, Amazon is offering a separate $3.99 subscription plan for owners of connected speakers from the company's popular Echo range. The plan lets them stream music to Amazon's devices, but only those devices. A $14.99 per month (or $149 per year) family subscription plan for up to six people is currently in the works, and should become live later this year. Amazon says its library includes music from Sony, Universal, and Warner, as well as hundreds of indie labels, with thousands of curated playlists and personalized stations also accessible via the company's recently revamped mobile app. However, the service enters a crowded market already commanding millions of subscribers, which makes it increasingly difficult for newcomers to differentiate their service. In this respect, Amazon is likely betting on enticing existing Prime subscribers, and perhaps more significantly, those eligible for its Echo-only option, which could prove popular with a user base already familiar

Amazon Launches Dash Buttons in Germany, Austria, and the U.K.

Amazon has expanded its domestic goods-ordering Dash Buttons program beyond U.S. shores, bringing the devices to Germany, Austria, and the U.K. for the first time. The buttons have been available in the U.S. since March of last year, and enable Amazon Prime customers to reorder specific household items like coffee, toilet paper, and washing up liquid by pressing a physical button that's wirelessly linked to their Amazon account. Amazon has added over 100 popular household brands to its Dash program in the 18 months since its launch, in a bid to make reordering goods online a seamless process. Daniel Rausch, Director of Amazon Dash, said of the launch: "We've all experienced the frustration of running out of something we need—Dash Button and Dash Replenishment Service are designed to make that moment a thing of the past. "Dash Buttons offer the convenience of 1-Click shopping from anywhere in the home — they can be placed near those frequently used items you don't want to run out of, and when you see supplies running low, the Dash Button makes it easier than ever to order more. Just press the button and your item is on its way."Dash buttons cost $4.99 (£4.99 / 4.99 euros) each, but Prime members get the same amount discounted off their first order, making the first device essentially free. Amazon also announced it is launching its Dash Replacement Service (DRS) in the above countries. DRS lets connected devices like water filters and printers link up to the Dash system, either by manufacturers incorporating manual Dash buttons into the hardware, or enabling

Amazon and Pandora Each Nearly Ready to Launch Apple Music Rivals

Amazon and Pandora are closing in on licensing agreements with the world's largest record labels to launch their own streaming music services later this year, reports Financial Times. Both subscription-based services are expected to cost $9.99 per month, a price that has become the industry standard, and compete with heavyweights like Apple Music and Spotify. Amazon's offering could launch as early as September, according to the report, while Pandora is said to be making progress towards debuting its service later this year. Reuters first reported Amazon's plans to launch a standalone streaming music service in June, followed by a Recode report last week claiming the online retailer is also working on a $5-a-month subscription music service that will be exclusive to owners of the company's internet-connected Echo speaker. Amazon currently sells individual songs or albums through Amazon Music, while Amazon Prime subscribers can stream Amazon music, playlists, and radio stations for free, but the selection is limited compared to Apple Music and Spotify. Pandora's ambitions to launch its own subscription music service, likely based on its acquisition of "key assets" from Rdio in 2015, were first reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this month. The company plans to offer two price tiers by also slightly tweaking its existing $5 per month ad-free option with select new perks like skipping songs and offline listening, the report said. Pandora currently offers customers in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand the ability to listen to free, ad-supported

Amazon Sets Second Annual 'Prime Day' for July 12

Following last summer's inaugural, one-day sale event called "Prime Day," Amazon this morning confirmed that it will be bringing back the Black Friday-like discounts this summer on July 12 (via Fortune). The company is referring to the second entry of Prime Day as the "biggest Amazon event ever," exceeding over 100,000 deals when it launches at midnight PT on the 12th. As last year, Prime Day is exclusive to those members who subscribe to Amazon Prime, the online retailer's $99-per-year service which nets users access to exclusive Amazon video series, free two-day shipping, and one-hour delivery on certain orders. The company said last year that its first Prime Day broke sales records set on Black Friday in 2014, and with new deals popping up "as often as every five minutes" this year, it hopes to set a new record again in 2016. Prime Day is a one-day only global shopping event exclusively for Prime members. On Tuesday, July 12, the second annual Prime Day will be the biggest global Amazon event ever. Members in the U.S. can shop starting at midnight PT, with new deals starting as often as every five minutes throughout the day. With 100,000 deals exclusively for Prime members, across nearly all departments and product categories in ten countries, there will be something for everyone. In fact on the first annual Prime Day in 2015, worldwide members ordered 398 items per second, exceeding Black Friday records at the time. Amazon is also promising greater inventory this time around, including a TV stock that is "double what it had for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Amazon Debuts Book-Skimming 'Page Flip' Feature for Kindle Devices and Apps

Amazon has announced that a new feature called "Page Flip" will be rolling out to its iOS and Android apps, Fire tablets, and Kindle e-readers as a free, over-the-air update beginning today. The feature gives users a digital approximation of skimming through a book, making "it easy to explore books while always saving your place." When activated, Page Flip pins the current page to the bottom left of the screen to remember your current reading spot, allowing you to skim through the rest of the book to find a specific passage, map, or simply peek ahead at what's next. A new "bird's eye view" feature truncates an entire book into a scrollable column of pages, making it easier to find highlighted passages from previous pages. Page Flip is a reimagined Kindle navigation experience that makes it easy to explore books while always saving your place At a glance, easily recognize specific pages as you jump around. Pictures, charts, your highlights, and the layout of each page are easy to see with Page Flip’s pixel-accurate thumbnails that automatically adjust as you change your font and margin settings. At launch, Amazon says PageFlip is available "on millions of books," with plans to continuously add new entries "every day." Similar to Kindle's X-Ray feature, supported books will be identified on their eBook store page with a "Page Flip: enabled" marker in the feature list. The Amazon Kindle app is available from the App Store for free. [Direct Link