Amazon Introduces New Shopping Social Network

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Amazon.com Inc has launched a social feature called Spark, an Instagram-style shoppable feed that appears inside the Amazon app that allows members to showcase and purchase products on its platforms, marking the retail giant’s first clear move into the world of social media.

Amazon’s “Spark”

Spark encourages users to share stories, ideas, photos and videos of products they love, which others can react to with comments and “smiles”- Amazon’s own version of Loke or Favorite button, just like popular social media platforms Instagram and Pinterest.

The new feature publicly launched on Tuesday for use on mobile devices that use Apple’s iOS operating system.

The experience is similar to scrolling through your Instagram feed, except in this case everything is set up so you can click on an image and buy the items in it.

The retailer has been quietly testing Amazon Spark in beta for a few months before today’s launch to consumers in the U.S. The goal with the new program is to shift some of the social activities around products taking place off-site back to Amazon, where product inspiration can translate directly into purchases with a click of a button.

It’s only available to Prime members, who pay $99 a year for free shipping, streaming videos and other perks. An Android version is planned.

“We created Spark to allow customers to discover – and shop – stories and ideas from a community that likes what they like,” said an Amazon spokeswoman.

“When customers first visit Spark, they select at least five interests they’d like to follow and we’ll create a feed of relevant content contributed by others. Customers shop their feed by tapping on product links or photos with the shopping bag icon.”

Amazon has also invited publishers, including paid influencers and bloggers to post on Spark. Their posts are identified with a sponsored hashtag.

Amazon Stock Performance

Shares of Amazon were up 1.45% on Wednesday session, to $1,026.87. It opened at $1,025.00, with a session high of $1,031.59 and a session low of $1,022.50. The stock currently has a market capitalization of $497.82 billion, with a price earnings ratio of 192.40.

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Microsoft To Reportedly Lay Off Thousands of Staff

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Microsoft Corp. reorganized its sales and marketing operations in a bid to woo more customers in areas like artificial intelligence and the cloud by providing sales staff with greater technical and industry-specific expertise.

The changes will mean thousands of job cuts in areas such as field sales, said a person familiar with the restructuring who asked not to be named because the workforce reductions aren’t public. The company had 121,567 employees as of March 31.

Although none have been formally announced, most people believe the reorganization will probably include layoffs, which some don’t believe it will be very deep.

“Microsoft is implementing changes to better serve our customers and partners,” a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

Microsoft says it will now focus on two distinct areas: big enterprise customers, and then small to medium-sized businesses. Employees will be aligned around six industries — manufacturing, financial services, retail, health, education and government. They’ll focus on selling software in four categories: Modern workplace, business applications, apps and infrastructure and data and AI.

It’s not exactly clear what changes are in the pipeline, but an email from Judson Althoff, Microsoft’s executive vice president of worldwide commercial business, says sales reorganization is designed to “align the right resources for the right customer at the right time.” The magnitude of the potential layoffs is unclear, but the Wall Street says they will likely occur in offices all around the globe.

Last year, Microsoft announced that it would cut 2,850 jobs, including at least 900 from its sales group, having two months earlier said it would let go of 1,850 staff related to its smartphone business. The company said in January that it planned to cut 700 jobs, part of the previously announced restructuring.In July 2015, it also made 7,800 job cuts and wrote down $7.6 billion of its Nokia acquisition.

Microsoft is in a pitched battle with companies like Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc., for customers who want to move workplace applications and data to the cloud, as well as take advantage of advances in artificial intelligence. The company, which has not dramatically overhauled its salesforce in years, wants to tailor those teams better for selling cloud software rather than desktop and server solutions.

Ultimately, these changes most likely will see the company ramp up its efforts to sell subscription-based cloud services, a fast-growing business for Microsoft with a $15.2 billion run rate. While its traditional buy-once software business is still huge, sales have been declining as the cloud business erodes its growth.

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Amazon To Buy Whole Foods Market For $13.7 Billion

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Amazon announced on Friday that it would buy Whole Foods Market in a deal valued at $13.7 billion, and pay $42 a share for Texas-based grocery store chain in an all-cash deal that includes the group’s debt.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will stay as the CEO of the grocery store chain after the deal closes, and the store, the organic grocer that was founded in 1978, will keep operating under the Whole Foods brand as the deal is expected to be done in the second half year.

“This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” Mackey said in a statement.

The deal sent a shocking reaction across both the online and brick-and-mortar industries, uniting two brands that weren’t seen as clear partners. But Whole Foods came under pressure to find a buyer this year after activist investor Jana Partners LLC acquired a stake and started pushing for a deal. Jana’s move annoyed Mackey, who has stated Whole Foods as his “baby.” With Amazon in the play, he gets to keep his job as CEO of the grocery chain.

In Whole Foods, it is acquiring a company that has recently come under pressure from investors for its lagging performance. Whole Foods, whose stores now numbers more than 430 locations, has struggled to appeal more mainstream consumers as Walmart and other large chains have stepped up their sales of natural and organic products.

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

Mackey said the he agreed to the deal because it is “an opportunity to maximize value” for the company’s shareholders.

Moreover, Amazon’s biggest acquisition so far came in 2014, when it agreed to buy video-game service Twitch Interactive Inc. for $970 million in cash. The Seattle-based company had about $21.5 billion of cash and equivalents at the end of March, the data show.

Whole Foods closed at $33.06 on Thursday. It opened at $34.85, with a session high of $34.97 and a session low of $32.97. Shares were halted in pre-market trading. Meanwhile, Amazon opened at $958.7 and closed at $964.17, with a session high of $965.73 and a session low of $950.86. Shares of Amazon rose 1.5% to $978.88 in pre-market trading.

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Amazon Sees Lower Operating Profit this Quarter

Amazon.com Inc projected an unexpected drop in operating profit for the latest quarter, sending shares down more than 4% due to concerns regarding the costs of investments including new warehouses and video content.

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Amazon.com Inc  projected  an unexpected drop in operating profit for the latest  quarter, sending shares down more than 4%  due to concerns regarding the costs of investments including new warehouses and video content.

The first quarter operating income  will be $250 million to $900 million, which is less than a year before even though revenue is predicted to increase as much as 23% to $35.8 billion.

The world’s  biggest online retailer also reported lower than expected 4th quarter revenue and missed Wall Street goals for its strictly watched cloud computing unit.

The company is spending heavily to take greater control of package distribution and to develop  its video service around the globe.  Key to its plan is to attract sign-ups for Amazon Prime, its $99-per-year shopping club, which has directed to users purchasing more goods, more frequently.

“The story is an investment story,” said Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky on a conference call with reporters, noting “stepped-up” spending levels have continued into 2017.

For many years, Amazon has published roller coaster results as founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos give emphasis on building up businesses instead of making an immediate profit. He has ruined profits into new areas that have either built new markets , as with cloud services or its Kindle e-readers – or have floundered, like its Fire Phones.

“Failure and invention are inseparable twins,” Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders last year.

This has made other  investors anxious and after periods of Amazon’s progress, quick to sell shares when predictions  miss expectations.

 Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky  stated, “Sales in the first quarter will have a tough comparison to the year prior,  when foreign exchange rates were more favorable and the Feb. 29 leap day gave shoppers an extra 24 hours to spend.”

He added that the  just-ended holiday season was Amazon’s best-ever. It was a heavily promotional period for Amazon, though he did not comment on how discounts compared with prior years.

Net sales for Amazon increased 22.4% to $43.74 billion in the 4th  quarter, compared with the average analyst assessment of $44.68 billion, according to the reports.

Amazon is currently producing television shows for Prime subscribers to watch online. It is creating gadgets with an artificially intelligent assistant, Alexa, so users can purchase goods by voice command. And it is building out a system of trucks, planes and warehouses ,so orders  rushed to Prime members in two days or less, only  a few online retailers can afford to match this convenience.

The company also stated  it was making a big investment in its India operation.

“After these periods of intense investment or spending, then we see acceleration in sales and profitability, or at least historically we have,” said Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson.

Amazon had reported operating income of $1.1 billion for the same period the previous  year.

Amazon Web Services, the company’s fast developing and lucrative cloud business, published a 47% increase  in revenue to $3.54 billion, but fell short of the average analyst estimate of $3.60 billion, according to FactSet. Amazon is the market leader in the space, selling computer services, hosting websites and storing data.

The company stated it would delay its yearly financial filing so it can review its disclosure of net product and service sales, following a letter it received from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “This does not impact its financial results.”

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