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JioSaavn becomes India’s answer to Spotify and Apple Music

Posted by | alibaba, Amazon, Android, apple music, Asia, China, computing, Dhingana, digital audio, digital media, executive, funding, Fundings & Exits, india, Internet, JioSaavn, Media, New York, Pandora, pandora radio, rdio, reliance jio, saavn, Software, Spotify, Tencent, tencent music, tiger global, Times Internet, Walmart | No Comments

India finally has its answer to Spotify after Reliance Jio merged its music service with Saavn, the startup it acquired earlier this year.

The deal itself isn’t new — it was announced back in March — but it has reached its logical conclusion after two apps were merged to create a single entity, JioSaavn, which is valued at $1 billion. For the first time, India has a credible rival to global names like Spotify and Apple Music through the combination of a venture capital-funded business, Saavn, and good old-fashioned telecom, JioMusic from Reliance’s disruptive Jio operator brand.

This merger deal comes days after reports suggested that Spotify is preparing to (finally) enter the Indian market, a move that has been in the planning for more than a year as we have reported.

That would set up an interesting battle between global names Spotify and Apple and local players JioSaavn and Gaana, a project from media firm Times Internet, which is also backed by China’s Tencent.

It isn’t uncommon to see international firms compete in Asia — Walmart and Amazon are the two major e-commerce players, while Chinese firms Alibaba and Tencent have busily snapped up stakes in promising internet companies for the past couple of years — but that competition has finally come to the streaming space.

There have certainly been misses over the years.

Early India-based pioneer Dhingana was scooped by Rdio back in 2014, having initial shut down its service due to financial issues. Ultimately, though, Rdio itself went bankrupt and was sold to Pandora, leaving both Rdio and Dhingana in the startup graveyard.

Saavn, the early competitor to Dhingana, seemed destined to a similar fate, at least from the outside. But it hit the big time in 2015 when it raised $100 million from Tiger Global, the New York hedge fund that made ambitious bets on a number of India’s most promising internet firms. That gave it the fuel to reach this merger deal with JioMusic.

Unlike Dhingana’s fire sale, Saavn’s executive team continues on under the JioSaavn banner.

The coming-together is certainly a far more solid outcome than the Rdio deal. JioSaavn has some 45 million songs — including a slate of originals started by Saavn — and access to the Jio network, which claims more than 250 million subscribers.

JioSaavn is available across iOS, Android, web and Reliance Jio’s own app store

The JioMusic service will be freemium, but Jio subscribers will get a 90-day trial of the ad-free “Pro” service. The company maintains five offices — including outposts in Mountain View and New York — with more than 200 employees, while Reliance has committed to pumping $100 million into the business for “growth and expansion of the platform.”

While it is linked to Reliance and Jio, JioMusic is a private business that counts Reliance as a stakeholder. You’d imagine that remaining private is a major carrot that has kept Saavn founders — Rishi Malhotra, Paramdeep Singh and Vinodh Bhat — part of the business post-merger.

The window certainly seems open for streaming IPOs — Spotify went public this past April through an unconventional listing that valued its business around $30 billion, while China’s Tencent Music is in the process of a listing that could raise $1.2 billion and value it around that $30 billion mark, too. JioSaavn might be the next streamer to test the public markets.

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Walmart adds an AR scanner to its iOS app for product comparisons

Posted by | Apps, AR, augmented reality, Mobile, retail, shopping, Walmart | No Comments

Walmart is giving augmented reality a shot. The retailer today announced the launch of a new AR scanning tool in its iPhone application which will help customers with product comparisons. However, unlike a typical barcode scanner meant only to compare prices on one item at a time, Walmart’s AR scanner can be panned about across store shelves, offering details on pricing and customer ratings beneath the products it sees.

The technology was first developed by a team at an internal Walmart hackathon using Apple’s ARKit technology. At the time, their idea was to create a scanning experience that worked faster and felt faster when used by customers. They also wanted to build a scanner that offered more than just price comparisons.

“Walmart store shoppers love using our mobile app barcode scanner as a price checker. Our team sees the potential of this product as so much more, though,” explains Tim Sears, senior engineering manager at Walmart Labs, in a post announcing the feature’s launch. “When a customer launches the scanner, they get a direct connection between the digital and the physical world that their screen and camera lens creates for them,” he says.

The team won the hackathon, then went on to further redesign the experience to become the one that’s live today in Walmart’s application.

To use the scanner, you launch the feature in the Walmart app, then point it at the products on the shelf you want to compare. As you move the phone between one item and the other, the product tile at the bottom of the screen will update with information, including the product name, price and star rating across however many reviews it has received on Walmart.com. A link to related products is also available.

The AR scanner was designed to anchor dots to what you’ve scanned, but uses smaller dots instead of anchoring the entire content to the product itself to overcome the problems that could occur when multiple items are scanned together in a close space.

Despite the supposed advantages of AR scanning over a simpler barcode scan, it still remains to be seen to what extent consumers will adopt the feature now that it’s live.

Walmart isn’t the only retailer to give AR a go. Others have used it in various ways, including Amazon, Target, Wayfair and many more. But in several cases, AR’s adoption by retailers have been focused on visualizing products in your home, or — in the case of Target’s AR “studio” — makeup on your face.

Walmart’s AR scanner goes after a more practical use.

The AR Scanner is in the latest version of the Walmart iOS app (18.20 and higher), and works on iPhones that run at least iOS 11.3. This latter requirement is due to its use of ARKit 1.5, but will limit the audience largely to those with newer iPhones.

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DoorDash makes a big push into grocery delivery through a pilot program with Walmart

Posted by | Apps, DoorDash, Instacart, Mobile, Postmates, Startups, Walmart | No Comments

DoorDash is about to make a huge move into grocery delivery, but instead of going all out as a delivery service on its own, it’s instead going to be working behind the scenes to power delivery networks for larger companies — with Walmart as its first big partner.

While Instacart looks to control the end-to-end customer experience for grocery delivery, and Amazon is off doing Amazon-y things with its Whole Foods delivery system, DoorDash is hoping it can build a network that any company that needs some delivery network can tap without giving up its direct relationship with their customers. DoorDash is rolling out grocery delivery with Walmart in Atlanta in the first of what may be a major move to become a back-end platform for companies like Walmart, which want a delivery button on their website but don’t want to build the entire network themselves. By doing that, it offers DoorDash a potentially nice neutral niche as grocery delivery heats up.

“You can use the term white label, but our drivers still will often wear the DoorDash shirt and have the DoorDash bag,” DoorDash COO Christopher Payne said. “But if you go to Walmart.com, and order from Walmart in Atlanta, you’ll have no idea it’s from DoorDash. We’re very supportive of that scenario, that’s the DoorDash Drive scenario. We’re excited to build a business with them and provide this capability.”

Payne said he hopes this will be one of the first of a major expansion of that DoorDash Drive initiative to become a tool that businesses can start tapping for local delivery. And while DoorDash may partly be giving up that direct relationship with users, it can start getting a lot more data when it comes to deliveries. That data then helps it become more and more efficient, ensuring that it can get deliveries done in the best matter and attract more customers, leading to the need for more drivers, and so on.

DoorDash also basically started the whole last-mile delivery business on hard mode with restaurant delivery, Payne said. What DoorDash loses in that direct user experience is paid back in data, Payne says, and that’s more than valuable enough. Walmart is also running a similar program with Postmates as it looks to get further into grocery delivery.

“It turns out restaurant delivery is probably one fo the hardest delivery use cases you have — you have to get a pizza somewhere in 20 or 30 minutes or it won’t be crisp, and you have to get an ice cream cone somewhere before it melts. Grocery delivery tends to be delivered earlier in the day, which is before dinner or before you go to work,” he said. “That works out perfectly for us, actually, because our drivers aren’t busy or are less busy than they would be otherwise. It’s a delivery window, as opposed to one that’s getting something to you at an exact moment and time. That’s actually much easier and less demanding than a real-time delivery.

It’s still a significant step beyond its core competency, which is restaurant delivery. But while that has the potential to be a big business, it’s also going to top out at some point. GrubHub, for example, has a market cap of nearly $9 billion — but Amazon, the backbone of how many consumers engage with physical goods through the Internet, is a $700 billion-plus company. If DoorDash is going to continue to grow, it has to start expanding into new lines of revenue, and figuring out how to take all the data and tools it’s built and bring them to new businesses is going to be critical.

Amazon changed the calculus of last-mile grocery delivery, and it pretty much did it overnight — or at least over the span of a few months, which is the equivalent of overnight for a $700 billion company. Amazon acquired Whole Foods, and all of its locations in major metropolitan areas, for $13.7 billion and very quickly began offering two-hour delivery for prime customers for Whole Foods. On top of that, the company quickly started offering a credit card with an absurdly good reward system that’s tied directly to Prime purchases and Whole Foods (assuming you stay within the Prime ecosystem).

That’s meant that larger companies find themselves trying to figure out how to make such an agile move, and do it as soon as possible. For Walmart, getting this partnership with DoorDash allows it to just add a small segment to its typical customer flow without having to build out a full-on logistics delivery system. The opportunity to expand that to other businesses is pretty natural, and that’s the theme behind the Drive platform, and in theory offers businesses a way to quickly ramp up a delivery network without having to hand off the customer relationship to DoorDash. That may, in the end, be much more palatable for businesses.

“One of the other advantages of partnering with a company like Walmart isn’t just that they’re a leading grocer in the US,” Payne said. “They’re in a lot of other lines of businesses. As they want to expand and deliver more to their customers, they have physical assets to do that, so it provides a nice solution for us to test other items in the future. I would say grocery delivery is very much in its early days, it’s roughly equivalent to where food delivery was four years ago. We’re all going to be learning together, and it also means there’s gonna be a lot of other competition as there is in food delivery. But we believe our merchant operational excellence and quality of delivery will set us apart, and that’ll be proven in time.”

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The creator of Snoo, the $1200 high tech bassinet just came out with a baby swaddle

Posted by | Amazon, baby gear, Dr. Harvey Karp, Gadgets, Happiest Baby on the Block, jet.com, sleep, Sleepea, Snoo, Startups, Target, TC, Walmart | No Comments

 “Five second” baby swaddle Sleepea (pronounced “sleepy”) is a sleep sack for your little one promising to be more efficient and effective than the other swaddles on the market. This is the second product to debut from Happiest Baby founder Dr. Harvey Karp, the creator of the Snoo, a $1200 robot bassinet that rocks and vibrates your baby to sleep. The swaddle is more of… Read More

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Walmart cancels SNES Classic pre-orders, says ‘technical glitch’ made it appear

Posted by | eCommerce, Gaming, SNES Classic, TC, Walmart | No Comments

 A few days ago — seemingly out of nowhere — a product page for Nintendo’s upcoming SNES Classic went live on Walmart.com, complete with a pre-order button. The Twitterverse lit up with people trying to share the news before the resellers caught on. As did my phone. Didn’t get your pre-order in? That’s okay. It looks like no one is getting them. Read More

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Winners and losers in Amazon’s $13.7B purchase of Whole Foods

Posted by | Amazon, Amazon Whole Foods, Blue Apron, Fundings & Exits, M&A, Mobile, Postmates, Startups, TC, Walmart, whole foods | No Comments

 Amazon is taking a huge bite out of the fresh food business with its bid for Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion. But even though this is a deal between two companies, it’s not just the two of them being touched by it. The intersection between the food and tech industries has been playing out for years now, sprouting dozens of food startups; efforts from large tech companies to move… Read More

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LeEco takes on Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix, Samsung, Oculus, Tesla and Uber in US debut

Posted by | business, Gadgets, LeEco, Streaming Media, TC, Walmart | No Comments

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-3-31-48-pm LeEco is not a household name in the States. You don’t see their products in Walmart or Best Buy. Chances are you don’t know anyone that uses LeEco’s movie streaming service or a LeEco smartphone. LeEco hopes to change that. Today at an odd and overblown event, the company burst into the North American market with a bevy of services and products that’s set to take on… Read More

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MCX postpones rollout of Apple Pay rival CurrentC, lays off 30, will focus on bank deals

Posted by | CurrentC, eCommerce, mcx, Mobile, mobile payments, TC, Walmart | No Comments

currentc-kitchen As merchants like Walmart move ahead on their own mobile payment strategies, a consortium that once counted Walmart — along with a number of other big retailers and brands — behind it, has taken a step back. Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) today announced it would postpone a nationwide rollout of CurrentC, a smartphone payment initiative originally conceived as a mobile… Read More

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