Amazon Takes On Alibaba, Launches Prime Now Service In Singapore

A clash of the e-commerce titans in Southeast Asia, with Amazon launching its 2-hour express delivery service Prime Now in Singapore on Thursday, putting itself in direct competition with Chinese giant Alibaba for the very first time.

The move to the tiny, but wealthy, the city has been hotly anticipated.

Amazon has largely sidestepped China, but Singapore is seen as a gateway to Southeast Asia’s 600 million people who only do a fraction of their buying online.

Industry experts are bracing for a fierce battle as the two go head-to-head.

Alibaba already has a presence in the region, recently upping its stake in Lazada, an e-commerce firm with a foothold in six Southeast Asian countries.

Analysts expect Amazon to roll out services in major cities across the region in the next six months. But while it has the money and technical knowledge to challenge Alibaba, setting up shop won’t be easy.

As well as various regulatory hurdles, Amazon will have to find a way around logistical barriers, like the huge number of islands that make up the Philippines, or Jakarta’s paralyzing traffic. Not to mention poor internet connections across the region.

Nigeria’s Economy Is A Reverse Of What Is Obtainable Globally- Economist

A lecturer from the Pan Atlantic University, Dr Austin Nweze today (Thursday) described Nigeria’s economy as the “reverse” of what is obtainable in other parts of the world.

Commenting on the increase of price on products and services during the Christmas period, Dr Nweze recounted his time as a student in Canada where “Christmas time is the best time to get things cheap; really really cheap”.

He said that there were usually so many discount, as “so many items are discounted just for the period” insisting that the end of the year should be “the best time to shop”.

He noted that in such climes, the Christmas period is regarded as “spending time” after saving from January to November period, which is regarded as “saving time”. He added that “even the stock exchanges feel the impact of the expenditures that go on during Christmas”.

He went on berating the discount tactic employed by retail and wholesale marketers in Nigeria.

“They will pretend to give discounts, but what they usually do is to increase the price first of all, and then (maybe) return it to a normal level or higher than the normal” maintaining that ‘’it is not supposed to be”.

Noting that a service economy is imperative, he berated the low impact manufacturing has made to the Nigerian economy which he pegged at 2.4 to 3 per cent compared to the United States of America’s 80 per cent.

Dr Nweze, quoting statistics from the International Trade Centre, said that by 2050, 80 per cent of the minimum global work force would be in services, which means “that you have to move from production to service” adding that “even when you are producing, you are also providing service; they work hand in hand”.

He further noted that Nigerians do not produce, he said “we consume too much” because “nobody is thinking of producing anything here,” a situation which he said also “extends to policy making”.

He advised policy makers to stop indulging in the habit of making policies that would not benefit the people because of the mode of operation used in implementing the policy. He said: “they make policies to encourage businesses, but they use the other hand to collect it back through interest rates”.

He said that if given the opportunity to run the economy, he would not “worry about inflation” but he would “make sure that the productive capacity of the nation; businesses are producing at the optimal level”.

He further said that he would look at other areas in the country and put in place a “factor-endowed based development strategy” to see what could be done to encourage production and manufacturing.

Amazon’s Founder to Buy The Washington Post For $250 Million

Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos will buy the Washington Post newspaper for $250 million in a surprise deal that ends the Graham family’s 80 years of ownership and hands one of the country’s most influential publications to the businessman whose Internet company has transformed retailing.

Bezos, hailed by many as technology visionary, called his acquisition a personal endeavor and reassured employees and readers of the 135-year-old newspaper he will preserve its journalistic tradition, while driving innovation.

The acquisition, the latest in a flurry of deals for print publications including the New York Times Co’s sale of the Boston Globe for $70 million, is a another sign of the unprecedented challenges newspapers face as advertising revenue and readership decline.

Shares of the Washington Post Co climbed more than 5 percent to $599.85 after hours – their highest level in almost five years.

Donald Graham, the chairman and CEO of the Washington Post Co, said in an interview that he and his niece Katharine Weymouth, the Post’s publisher, made the decision to put the newspaper up for sale earlier this year after looking at its financial forecasts.

“For the first time in either of our lives we said to each other: is ownership by the Washington Post Co the best thing for the newspaper? We could keep it alive, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was could we make it strong?”

Graham and Bezos discussed the deal at two meetings in Sun Valley, Idaho during the annual Allen & Co media and tech conference in July. The investment bank had been retained earlier in the year to gauge potential buyer interest, and is now the banker on the deal.

Graham’s company had talked to no more than a dozen parties about selling the paper. He declined to name the other parties.

“I named a price and Jeff agreed to pay it,” said Graham, who initially thought Bezos would be an unlikely buyer. “To my surprise, when (Allen & Co) said they would call him, I said that would be great but I didn’t think he would be interested.”

The investment bank ended up advising on the deal.

At a meeting in January, Graham said longtime friend and former Washington Post board member Warren Buffett referred to Bezos as the best CEO in the United States for his technology and business acumen.

“I asked (Bezos) why he wanted to do it and his reasons are the best ones: he believes in what newspapers do and what the Post does and that it’s important to the country,” Graham said.

The Amazon CEO took that message directly to employees in a letter posted on the newspaper’s website.

“I understand the critical role the Post plays in Washington, DC and our nation, and the Post’s values will not change,” Bezos wrote in the letter.

“There will of course be change at the Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership,” Bezos added. “We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment.”

In addition to the newspaper, Bezos gets other publishing businesses, including the Express newspaper, The Gazette Newspapers, Southern Maryland Newspapers, Fairfax County Times, El Tiempo Latino and Greater Washington Publishing.

The real estate, including the paper’s headquarters business and online news sites such as Slate, will remain with the Washington Post Co. And the paper’s operations will be kept separate from Amazon.com, according to the Washington Post.

TOUGH TIMES

The Washington Post is the seventh largest daily in the United States and was where journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the “Watergate” story which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.

While its legend and status loomed large, the Washington Post represents only a fraction of the company which has expanded into a stable of holdings, including education and health care services and most recently an industrial supplier. The collection of companies that make up the Washington Post is akin to that of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc, which owns disparate businesses from railroads to underwear as well as a stake in the Post.

And yet, the Washington Post suffers from the same hurdles besieging big city newspapers across the United States. The company’s newspaper division reported an operating loss of $49.3 million for the six months ending June compared to a loss of $33.2 million during the same period last year.

Weymouth, who will continue to serve as the paper’s CEO and publisher after the sale, told Reuters she did not think there was a “magic bullet” to resolving the problems. But the resources Bezos brought to the table were a plus.

“He’s smart and innovative and has access to a lot of smart people,” she said.

Bezos, who has built Seattle-based Amazon.com into a shopping and online technology force over the last two decades, made a small foray into media earlier this year with an investment in Internet news site Business Insider.

Bezos is the world’s 19th richest person with a fortune of $25.2 billion, according to Forbes magazine. His investment vehicle, Bezos Expeditions, is invested in a number of companies including Twitter and Business Insider.

His major personal project is called Blue Origin, which aims to be one of the first non-government funded ventures to send people and cargo into space, potentially winning lucrative contracts that were once fulfilled by NASA.

Bezos has already spent millions of dollars on this project, with millions more in the pipeline.

He did not elaborate in great detail on his motivations behind his latest deal, which caught many industry watchers by surprise. He does not play a prominent role in politics but has been described by friends as holding libertarian views. He and his wife did make public a $2.5 million contribution to a Washington state campaign to legalize same-sex marriage last year.

The deal comes on the heels of near-unprecedented media deal activity this year, with the Globe transaction announced just over the weekend, News Corp spinning out its newspapers, and the Tribune Co hiving off its publishing business like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune from its broadcasting division.

Free of its print assets, the Washington Post could continue to snap up other properties that align with the six TV stations in cities like Houston, Washington DC and Miami and cable TV services in more than a dozen states.

“It will be interesting to see, is this the first step in the transformation of the business?” said John Miller, senior vice president at Chicago’s Ariel Investments, a top-10 investor in the Washington Post. “The board is making the right decision. They obviously felt like it was a good deal. It will be interesting to see how they allocate capital going forward.”

Google dives into delivery service,buys Bufferbox

Google could be about to start offering a same-day delivery service to challenge Amazon. It’s just bought a Canadian start-up called BufferBox, which has lockers in central locations that hold your parcel until you’re ready to pick it up though it will only be available in the U.S.,Canada and Europe.

Assuming you’re at work all day, just swing by the locker on the way home or whenever is convenient for you. No waiting in for the postie required.

It’s similar to Amazon Locker, a service the e-retailer started offering late last year. And it hints Google is looking to become more of an online shopping powerhouse.

Google is keeping mum on what it intends to do with BufferBox, but one of the big G’s engineering directors told the Financial Post that the start-up’s branding and services would continue for the foreseeable.

Google has been launching more and more products of late, and they only seem to be getting better. The Nexus 4; made with LG is great value for money, winning our coveted Editors’ Choice Award.

It’s just a shame Google has struggled with stock. The device sold out in just half an hour, with plenty of Android fans keen to snap up a bargain.

Amazon too has been launching more products, expanding its Kindle line recently, but has a lot more experience as a retailer, so has a considerable head start on Google.

Microsoft and partners begin accepting pre-orders for Windows 8

Microsoft has started accepting pre-orders for multiple versions of Windows 8. Boxed retail products, OEM copies and even product key cards are starting to appear online at various retailers in the US including Amazon, Best Buy, the Microsoft Store, Office Depot and Staples.

Pricing starts at $69.99 for Microsoft’s Windows 8 professional upgrade and the pro pack product key card. Users can elect to pick up the full OEM version of Windows 8 in 32- or 64-bit flavours for $99.99. Those after the professional edition can expect to pay $139.99.

If a boxed retail version isn’t for you, Microsoft suggests waiting until October 26 to upgrade online. Using the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, consumers will pay just $39.99 for the update. Online upgrading to Windows 8 Pro will be supported in 140 countries, 37 languages and 23 currencies worldwide.

Finally, Microsoft reminds us those consumers who purchased (or will purchase) an eligible Windows 7 computer between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013 will be able to take advantage of discounted upgrade pricing. Expect to pay just $14.99 for an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro starting October 26. Details on how to redeem this offer can be found here.

Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc was quick to highlight the packaging used for retail DVDs in a blog post earlier today. The rep said boxes consist of one of five vibrant illustrations and is constructed completely from paper, a move that allowed Microsoft to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent. The new material also cut packaging weight by 41 per cent compared to Windows 7 retail offerings.

LeBlanc also pointed out that consumers will be able to pre-order Windows 8 PCs and devices from OEM partners starting today. Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Samsung and Sony have all announced new fall line-ups featuring Microsoft’s new operating system.