Tag Archives: Amazon

Tech Giants’ Core Strategies

The Verge makes an interesting point about Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda: for the most part, Microsoft doesn’t care what hardware you run their stuff on, they just want you to buy the software. So it’s less likely to be about trying to gain Xbox exclusives and more likely to be about getting more games for Game Pass.

It reminds me of a blog post I read a few years back comparing the core businesses of various major tech players:

  • Apple sells hardware, and their software and media stores are a way to give you something to do with the hardware.
  • Microsoft sells software, and the hardware is to give you something to run their software on.
  • Google sells ads on services, and their hardware, operating systems, and software (Android, Pixel, Chromebooks, Chrome, etc. ) are there to connect you to their services.
  • Amazon sells stuff, and their hardware is a way to sell you virtual (and sometimes physical) stuff.

That’s why, for instance, you can run Gmail on anything, and Microsoft Office on almost anything, but iTunes, the main Apple program that actually runs on a non-Apple system, is designed primarily to hook you up with an iPhone (previously an iPod). And it’s why you can read Kindle eBooks on a Kindle device, or a Kindle app on an Android or iOS device, and they make it really easy to buy e-books from them, but really inconvenient to import anything from another eBook store.

Facebook is similar to Google in that their core strategy is a service with ads, and their apps and (when they branch out into it with things like Portal) hardware are ways to keep you using their services. Heck, they’re even tying the Oculus headsets to Facebook accounts now.

The post predates the rise of smart speakers and doorbells…but remember how the Echo was originally mostly a way to voice-order things through Amazon? Or Amazon Key, whose primary purpose was to allow delivery services to drop off packages inside your house so you wouldn’t have to worry about porch pirates?

Plus of course everyone wants to sell you subscriptions now!

And yet…it still fits remarkably well.

Amazon Apps won’t Install on Android? Check Screen Dimmers

I mostly use the Google Play Store on my phone, but I have a few apps through the Amazon App Store. I recently found that I couldn’t update them — or the store itself. I could tell it to download the app, but at the point that I was ready to review the permissions and click on Install, the Install button wouldn’t respond. At all. Nothing. Cancel worked. Everything else worked. But not that one.

A forum thread pointed me to screen management apps. Lux, Twilight, etc. – the kind of apps that will alter your screen to red-shift it at night, or adjust brightness below the range of the screen’s backlight.

Sure enough, I disabled Lux from the pull-down, and the Install button worked. Once the update was done, I re-enabled it. Just an extra two seconds of work before and after.

It probably happens on other third-party app stores and stand-alone installers as well.

The cause wasn’t completely clear from the discussion thread, but reading between the lines and adding my knowledge of software and web development suggests that it’s a security issue: Apps like Lux and Twilight work by altering the appearance of the screen (“draw over other apps” permissions). It makes sense that Android would prevent installation (outside of its own privileged update system, anyway) actions when it can’t be sure that what the user sees is actually an Install button.

Imagine a malicious app that overwrites the screen to hide an Install button under something more benign. In web development, we call this clickjacking.

Anyway, that’s the issue and the workaround, and why I think it hasn’t been fixed in all this time: Fixing it would open up a security vulnerability.

Fortunately, the workaround is pretty easy!

Update: It occurs to me that Facebook also requires the “draw over other apps” permission, which was why I finally uninstalled it. I expect that might cause issues if chat heads are visible when you try to install/update an Amazon app.

Apple opens dictionary, abandons lawsuit over “App store”

Apple and Amazon have settled their two-year legal dispute over the term “app store.”

It’s about time common sense prevailed. Even though Apple had the gall to deny it, “app store” is as obviously descriptive of a store selling apps as “book store” is of a store selling books, or “grocery store” of a store selling groceries. Insisting on trademark protection was ridiculous.

Actually, that reminds me of the time way back when that Barnes & Noble (I think it was B&N, anyway) tried to bring a false advertising claim against Amazon for saying that they were the world’s largest book store. The idea was that since Amazon didn’t have a physical storefront, they weren’t a book store, but a book seller. I seem to recall that didn’t stick either, but took a similarly ridiculous time to settle out.

Amazon Affiliate No More

I’ve been an Amazon Associate for several years now. I figured if I was linking to them anyway, as I often was when I wrote about books or music, I might as well get something out of it. Though I did end up adding a few more ads over time, always trying to keep them relevant and unobtrusive.

I never pulled in a lot – maybe $10 to $15 a month on average, enough to buy an extra book or two (though recently it’s mainly been baby supplies), or counteract some of my hosting costs. That’s over now, though, because California just declared me (and other affiliates, of course) to be a local agent for Amazon, requiring them to pay local sales tax within the state. In response, Amazon has shut down the affiliate program within California so that they won’t fall under the new requirements.

I guess I’ll leave the inline links, since those are mostly the ones I would have included anyway, but there’s not much point in including those “Buy this thing I was writing about from Amazon!” ads anymore.

App Store: Apple vs. the English Language

A few months ago, Amazon opened a section of their online store where they sell apps for Android devices. Following the same boring-but-descriptive naming scheme that Microsoft pioneered with such products as a word processor called Microsoft Word, a flight simulator called Microsoft Flight Simulator, and so forth, they call it the Amazon Appstore.

Apple, of course, is suing them for trademark infringement. Amazon’s stance: “App store” is a generic, descriptive term for a store that sells apps. Apple counters: “Is not!”

It’s a bit more eloquent than that, but look at this:

“Apple admits that the current edition of the Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘app’ as, in part, ‘[a]n application, esp. an application program,” Apple said in the court filing. “Apple further admits that the current edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary defines ‘store’ as, in part, ‘a retail establishment selling items to the public: a health-food store.'”

And the best part:

“Apple denies that, based on their common meaning, the words ‘app store’ together denote a store for apps,” the document said. [emphasis added]

Really? Funny, I thought that was how the English language worked.

(In the interest of full disclosure: I own an Apple laptop, and Android phone, and use Amazon’s affiliate program…but not their app store.)