Mobile Digest: Google and Walmart partner to take down Amazon
Can two of the biggest companies in the world slow down the Amazon juggernaut? Andrew Tolve reports.
In the news
Google partnered with Walmart in a high-stakes bid to woo shoppers away from Amazon. All Walmart products will now be available through Google Express, Google's Amazon Prime knock-off that guarantees two-day delivery of products from vendors like Target and Costco. Google says that it will no longer charge a membership fee for Express (whereas Prime costs $75 a year) and that it will offer voice ordering on all grocery items starting in 2018. That means that soon you'll be able to order whatever you want with the tap of a button on your phone or with a voice command hollered in the direction of your Google Home device and it will show up at your doorstep for free within 48 hours. It also means that you should brace yourself for an onslaught of targeted ads, with everything that you search for or mention in casual conversation appearing in one-click ads in your web browser. Let the era of personalized shopping begin.
In the money
Uber raked in a whopping $1.75 billion in the second quarter of 2017, more than twice its haul from Q2 2016. That's the uplifting news. The bummer is that Uber, in addition to being stuck in a nasty mire of controversies, is losing north of $2 billion a year. It flew through $600 million in Q2 2017 alone, dropping from $2.2 to $1.6 billion cash on hand.
In other news
Samsung's chief and likely heir Lee Jae-yong is headed to prison for five years for offering bribes to the former president of South Korea who was impeached in March. Lee was involved in lots of other unseemly activity, including embezzling funds and stashing cash in foreign accounts. Still, he was seen as an untouchable figure given Samsung's global sway and singular impact on South Korea's economy and culture. Lee is expected to challenge the decision.
Samsung unveiled its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy Note 8, the first in the Galaxy Note line since the exploding battery fiasco of the Galaxy Note 7. Samsung went with a smaller battery this time around that includes wireless charging. The phone offers a stylus for doodling, two rear cameras (wide lens and zoom) and a new split screen feature called App Pairing that allows users to view two apps at the same time; Samsung is billing the Note 8 as the "ultimate multitasking smartphone." The phone is available for preorder for $930.
The Galaxy Note 8 will have plenty of competition, as Apple is expected to launch its tenth anniversary iPhone in the coming month and Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2x are due out any day. There's also the upstart Essential Phone from Android creator Andy Rubin, which finally started shipping last week … although only in black and not in white and without its 360-degree camera. That's after a three month delay on pre-orders. Clearly there are still some kinks to work out.
Apple is nearing completion on Apple Park, its new multi-billion dollar corporate headquarters, and word has it that the campus will include an Apple self-driving shuttle to whisk employees to and from meetings on the campus and around Cupertino. This would be the first deployment of Apple self-driving technology and perhaps the first concrete step toward the much ballyhooed iCar. Google uses its self-driving car project Waymo to shuttle employees around its campus.
Drones are saving lives in Africa. Startup Zipline uses unmanned drones to jet life-saving blood deliveries around Rwanda, flying high over mountains and jungles that are slow, if not impassable, by car during rainy season. And now the startup just got greenlit for four new distribution centers in Tanzania, where the government envisions Zipline making upward of 2000 drone deliveries for blood transfusions every day. The Tanzania project will be the largest government sponsored drone delivery service on the planet.
Google is set to launch a new Enterprise Edition of its popular Chrome operating system. The system will cost enterprises $50 per device per year and will allow IT departments to create cloud-based portals to better manage their mobile devices, especially Chromebooks. Features include deep security controls, access to enterprise app storefronts, 24/7 support and integration with cloud and on-premise management tools.
Cisco wants to turn its Spark messaging and collaboration service into the ultimate management tool for the mobile enterprise. The company launched a new Spark control hub that allows companies to monitor how and when the messaging platform is being used. It also introduced new device and application management features so that IT departments can secure all mobile devices across the enterprise including BYOD devices. Features include enforced device-level PIN lock and automatic timeouts when Spark is running outside the company server.
Finally, Uber’s marathon search for a new chief executive is over. The company has selected Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to take the helm. Given the kind of year Uber has had, the embattled ridesharing giant is in desperate need of sound leadership. Khosrowshahi will need to address the company's internal culture, external image, legal battles with Waymo and that mysterious question of how the heck to turn a profit. Good luck.
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.