Mobile Digest: Amazon rocks grocery industry with $13.7 billion Whole Foods acquisition
First came books. Then came retail. Can Amazon disrupt the way we shop for food next? Andrew Tolve reports.
In the news
Amazon sent shock waves through the grocery industry with the $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods. Stocks of all the major grocery stores tanked, with Kroger losing 9%, Costco 7%, Target 5% and Walmart 4%, in anticipation that Amazon will disrupt the way we shop for food in the same way that it has transformed the way we read books and shop for retail. Picture drones dropping farm fresh eggs on your doorstep and grocery lists being reduced to a few simple taps on your smartphone. Amazon and Whole Foods are yet to lay out their future plans, but it's safe to assume that in the near term Whole Foods will leverage Amazon’s strengths with data and technology to streamline its in-store shopping experience, while Amazon leans on Whole Foods’ brick-and-mortar presence and robust grocery network to beef up its Amazon Fresh delivery service and to increase in-store pickups.
In the money
The $4.5 billion Verizon-Yahoo deal is finally in the books. Marissa Mayer will resign as CEO of Yahoo, as the company gets bundled into a division of Verizon called Oath. Verizon plans to cut 2100 jobs, or 15% of the Yahoo workforce, straight out of the gate.
Snap acquired Placed, a Seattle-based startup that tracks the location of smartphones, for a reported $200 million. Snap is eager to show advertisers that their ads on Snapchat directly translate into increased foot traffic in their stores, and Placed's advanced location-based analytics will allow it to do so. Placed is Snap's largest acquisition to date.
In other news
Apple unveiled Homepod, its highly anticipated entrance into the smart home market, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. The device was a bit of a puzzler, however, as Apple presented it more as a speaker for great music than as a hub for smart home applications. Siri will be integrated and at the ready to respond to requests but with less functionality than is present on an iPhone, where Siri already lags behind rival voice assistants from Google and Amazon. The device is due out in December in time for holiday shopping, with pricing still forthcoming.
Apple also used WWDC 2017 to announce that it wants to turn iOS 11 into the “the largest augmented reality platform in the world.” To do so, Apple launched ARKit, a developer kit that allows app makers to use data from the iPhone’s camera and sensors to overlay digital objects on the real world. Facebook recently launched AR Studio with a similar purpose, and Google made the Tango AR computing platform a focal point of its recent developers conference as well. Like it or not, cuddly Pokémons and digital artwork will soon be as much a part of the real world as trees and bees.
Google added to Tango with the launch of MobileNets, a bundle of visual recognition tools that enable developers to build apps with advanced machine learning on mobile devices. MobileNets gives smartphones and tablets the power to visually identify common objects like a knife in a kitchen or a car on the street. They can analyze faces and recognize specific species of animals, such as the difference between a yellow lab and a golden retriever. It’s powerful stuff and should soon translate into a range of apps with artificial intelligence capabilities at your fingertips.
Twitter redesigned its app from the ground up in an attempt to make it feel brighter and more welcoming and to make it more accessible and easily navigable for newcomers. Changes include a circular profile pic rather than a square pic, bigger and bolder headlines and new typography. Within minutes backlash was blowing up around the Internet, with memes galore and snarky comments under #NewTwitter.
Microsoft unveiled its latest version of the Surface Pro 2-in-1 laptop PC and tablet. New security features for mobile enterprises include a facial recognition log-in called Windows Hello and a TPM security chip to make it as impervious as possible to cyber threats. Artists will appreciate a new stylus with expanded pressure points for greater accuracy. The entry-level device starts at $799.
Finally, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced that he would take an indefinite leave of absence from his company, following six months of turmoil that have rocked the ridesharing giant to its core. Kalanick says he’s taking time to “work on myself” — a euphemism for “the board asked me to step aside.” Things got worse for Uber when its board voted to implement recommendations from former US Attorney General Eric Holder to address complaints of sexual harassment at the company. The next day, audio leaked of one of the board members, David Bonderman, telling another, Arianna Huffington, that adding more women to the board would only lead to more yapping. Bonderman promptly resigned.
The Mobile Digest is a biweekly lowdown on the world of mobile, combining Open Mobile Media analysis with information from industry press releases.
Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to Open Mobile Media.