This is why tech companies need to stop having an event every time they make something new

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This is from the registration form for a Motorola/Verizon event next Wednesday afternoon in NYC - if you can’t see it, it says “*If you’re attending an event at 548 West 22nd Street in the morning, would you like transportation from that location to Gotham Hall?”
See, there’s also a Nokia/Microsoft event in the city that morning. Motorola doesn’t want to use the phrase “a Nokia event” so they browsed their thesaurus to change it to “an event.” There’s also an Amazon event the next day. You might say they’re all trying to show off new products before the big Apple event the following week. It’s tech event overload.

Which makes me wonder, do companies really need to have an event/presser every time they launch a new phone or tablet? They’re basically throwing themselves a party for doing their job and then inviting the press along to confirm (and live blog!) that yes, they are still doing their job and yes, they will continue to make money by creating and selling new products that are “the most innovative and fastest/most powerful _______ yet.” 

Having an event for every new product is the equivalent of giving all the four and five-year olds in Snoopy soccer a trophy just for being there.

Here’s Dave at Mobile World Congress this past February, saying Samsung’s strategy was “throwing spaghetti at the wall.” Which is pretty true. And you know what? I don’t need to come over for dinner every time you make spaghetti. -Matt

After I got the new copy, I ninja’d up a text copy of both the old and new version, then massaged them a bit to make diffing easier…

(Thanks to Perl, diff, and WinMerge)

Amazon mucked up Kindle copies of Neil Stephenson’s Reamde, irking readers who then had to figure out what bits they’d missed before getting the “corrected” version. Coder John Jetmore broke out the power tools to compare the texts. 

Barnes & Noble pulls every graphic novel exclusive to Kindle Fire

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From Amazon.com

When Amazon unveiled the Kindle Fire last week, it was announced DC Comics (part of CNN’s parent company Time Warner) would be providing exclusive digital graphic novels and collections to the device — including legendary stories like Watchmen and Sandman. 

Well, now Barnes & Noble is firing back. And “firing back” is an understatement. According to Bleeding Cool, the retailer has instructed their stores to pull every book on the list. You can order it online, but you can’t buy it in store (or kill time reading it in the store). You can’t even special-order it. (Correction: Barnes & Noble emailed us to say customers would still be able to special order the titles in store for home delivery, but there is no in-store pickup).

When I reached out to DC last week to ask them if you could purchase the books via the Kindle App, they responded “Buy it on the Kindle Fire, and you’re able to read it throughout the family of devices and apps supported by Kindle.”

Which means you may only be able to make the initial purchase via the Kindle Fire, then read it on an iPad — though why you would ever own both devices is beyond me.

When I asked the comics publisher if the books would ever be made available on other devices, including B&N’s Nook, a representative said the titles “are currently exclusive to Amazon. We continue to have discussions with our other valued partners as digital is a key growth area for DC.” 

That means the company could make other titles exclusive to completely different devices. So if you want to switch to an all-digital comics collection, you may want to stock up on an iPad, a Nook and a Fire. All combined, they have an incredibly low retail price of about $950!

I really thought we were past the platform wars of the ’90s, but it seems these companies are itching to start it up again.

Update: We reached out to Barnes & Noble, and they responded with this statement:

“Barnes & Noble works with thousands of publishers to bring customers the world’s largest selection of physical and digital reading content. However, regardless of the publisher, we will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format. In a few isolated instances, exclusive publisher deals have prohibited Barnes & Noble from selling certain eBooks, preventing millions of our digital customers from access to those titles.

To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms, and not have the eBook available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime” 

That’s from Jaime Carey, Chief Merchant, Barnes & Noble

-Matt

Local news at its finest

The Morning Call, the hometown newspaper of Allentown, Pennsylvania, published an excellent investigation of the sweatshop-like conditions (literally — heatstroke was common) at Amazon’s local warehouse. It’s a deeply researched, wonderfully reported piece of public-service journalism, and worth reading as a reminder of how Amazon goes about getting you books just hours after you click the order button. 

I’m sure the story is getting hammered with traffic from Web readers around the nation, but what I especially loved is spotting the paper’s popular stories list:

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lanceulanoff

My Slow, Sad Breakup with Netflix

lanceulanoff:

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And so, Netflix, it’s come to this: You are now no different to me than any other streaming, video-on-demand service. No more physical DVDs. No more marveling at your national shipping, mailing and receiving prowess. Early today, I switched from the one-DVD-at-a-time and Unlimited Streaming plan to just the Unlimited Streaming Plan.  In doing so, I don’t save any money. I simply ensure that my costs won’t double.

Read More

Dear Amazon: Return our [redacted] calls

Apple’s cone of silence is legendary, but this is getting unreal.

June 30 is the deadline for app makers to comply with a nasty set of new rules. It’s complicated, here’s the explanation, and here’s the gist: Amazon’s Kindle app doesn’t comply. 

And no one will talk about this, not even to say “no comment.” Literally dozens of phone calls and e-mail messages — many to Apple and Amazon, but also to other affected app makers like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Hulu and Netflix — have gone unanswered. No one will talk, on the record or off, and no one will talk about why they don’t want to talk. What does Apple do to people on its enemies list? 

Amazon in particular is pretty determined on its “we don’t wanna talk about what we don’t wanna talk about” stance. Julianne, our dogged Amazon beat reporter, just checked her Sent Mail folder. She has sent Amazon 27 requests for comment so far the past year. 26 have gone unanswered. 

Next time we’re just gonna start clicking the “Help!” button on Amazon’s website. -Stacy

Walgreens buys Amazon-backed Drugstore.com

Walgreen Co. announced this morning that it’s buying Drugstore.com for about $409 million. Awesome news for the former dot-com darling, as Walgreen’s purchase price represents a 113% premium over Drugstore.com’s closing price yesterday.

And it’s really great news for holders of Drugstore.com stock (did you even know that exists?!), which surged 117% today after the announcement.

But it’s not such an awesome reminder for Amazon, which lost big on its early stake in Drugstore.com. As our own Paul LaMonica notes via Twitter, Amazon’s initial investment was worth $500 million, and it owned nearly half of Drugstore.com. As of today, Amazon’s stake has been diluted to 12%…and it’s worth only $50 million.

Oopsie.

But let’s travel back in time, shall we? To a time when the tech field was feeling bubbly … when valuations were soaring sky-high … Erm, well, anyway. Come back to the ’90s with me, when I was about 11 and experimenting with the flannel-shirt look.

Drugstore.com was a hot commodity when it launched in February 1999, smack in the middle of the dot-com boom. The story of its funding reads like one of today’s startups: It received early financial backing from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (now heavily invested in Twitter and others), and Amazon acquired a chunk of the company.

As a CNET article noted back then, Amazon and Drugstore.com did lots of cute things for each other as a result of the pairing: Amazon included a link to Drugstore.com from its home page, and Drugstore.com gave a free first aid kit to customers who came to its site via Amazon.

Everything was sunshine and sprinkles, and 11 months later Amazon plunked another $30 million into Drugstore.com (bringing its stake to almost 28% at the time).

Just a month later, in March 2000, the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 9% in less than a week; the tech bubble had officially burst. “Growth over profits” didn’t seem like a feasible biz strategy anymore, nor did completely ignoring P/E ratios.

Like many other dot-coms, Drugstore.com never reached its ultra-hotshot potential. The company has never posted a full-year profit, and its shares have fallen 53% in the past 12 months.

Maybe Walgreen can be the site’s knight in shining armor. The acquisition is expected to close in June, and Drugstore.com’s board unanimously backed the deal. Smart move, guys. -Julianne