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Culture

Elizabeth Warren aims to break up tech giants to increase competition

 

U.S. Democrat presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren has vowed to break up the dominance of major tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. To three hundred of her supporters, she said:

 

We have these giant tech companies that think that they rule the earth. I don’t want a govenment that is here to work for the giant tech companies. I want a government that’s here to work for the people.

This isn’t the first time that Amazon has faced fierce criticism from Democrats. Last year,  Bernie Sanders put pressure on Amazon to raise the wages of workers. Amazon CEO caved in, promising a US$15.00 wage for workers.

Severe lack of competition

There is a severe lack of market competition in the tech sector. While there are a numbe of different apps, they are mostly owned by single companies. For example, Facebook Inc owns Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Branding of products

Senator Warren is also critical of Amazon, Facebook and Google doing ‘in – house’ advertising; for example, Amazon preferring to advertise their own products above that of an outside company/ publisher. It makes sense that a company would prefer to market their own products, but a lack of competition gives Amazon an unfair advantage. Senator Warren wants to limit the number of places in – house products can be advertised and sold. For example, the proposed law would make Apple choose between selling apps on iOS or their App Store,  but not both.

Potential pitfalls of the proposal and solutions

While supporting the premise, Kevin Roose of New York Times has reservations about the move. Austin – based independent tech workers ferared that the legislation could backfire, given it’s lack of clarity.

Roose also offered ideas so the proposal doesn’t fall through: be specific in present problems and offer specific solutions that’d suit each platform, (Roose argues that a sweeping law targeting Amazon and Facebook wouldn’t work given the different nature of the businesses). He pointed out that for some reason Cloud technology was absent from the proposal. Companies like Apple and Google should also be forced to drop their 15 – 30% tax on new developers. Roose also warns Senator Warren to avoid the censorship debates.

 

I really applaud Senator Warren and other Democrats for trying to implement moves to make the online market more fair. I’m a huge critic of major companies killing the possibility for competition. In Australia, I’ve hated how Coles and Woolworths were able to knock off independent grocers and fuel market. Now, it’s too late. However, competition has come back with Gerrman Aldi and Us’s Costco entering the Australian retail market.

 

It boils down to consumers

Despite it’s flaws, Facebook still held the record for most monthly users, according to Dreamgrow. Instagram came in third after YouTube.

It seems that Facebook is still widely trusted. Unless people use it simply out of habit.

I’ve written before about some of the benefits of Amazon, especially when it comes to music and how other music stores often fail to offer the range of albums that Amazon does. So who can compete? Who can offer the same range of books, CDs, downloads that Amazon has done for years?

There are slightly more competition in the social media market with WeChat, Tumblr and TikTok, however, Facebook Inc is still the most powerful tech giant.

 

It’d be great to see more competition in the online retail and social media sectors. Along with legislation, companies need to somehow win over consumers tge way Facebook, and Amazon have for so long.

 

 

Categories
Culture Retail and Marketing

Amazon US pays no tax. Where is their competition

Last month, Secular Talk host Kyle Kulinski exposed that the online store Amazon had not paid federal taxes in 2017. He also condemned how workers are treated.

I’ve bought CDs and books from Amazon. However, I haven’t for quite a few years. I think it’s appalling what Kulinski exposed about the company. I feel quite bad for praising them for attempting to set up store houses across Australia last year.

Here’s the thing: where is Amazon’s competition? What drew me to Amazon about eight or so years ago, (maybe longer), is that I was able to buy CDs that I couldn’t find in store. I was looking for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts CDs specifically at the time. Found three on Amazon. All my Christmases had come at once!

Top: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Greatest Hits, bottom left: Alice Cooper's Alice Goes to Hell and bottom right: Joan Jett and the Blackearts' Sinner
These albums I got from Amazon a few years ago. The Joan Jett ones I looked for ages in stores but couldn’t find them.
Left: Joan Jett "Bad Reputation", Right: Suzi Quatro Rock Hard
Two more albums from Amazon. Again, not available in traditional stores around me at the time (or now, for that matter).

A few weeks ago, I found Arch Enemy’s latest CD, Will to Power in Sanity in Lavington, New South Wales.  None of their earlier albums were there.

What about online? I looked at JB – HiFi online store. Only Will to Power and their 2016 Wacken album, As the Stages Burn was advertised. Sanity’s online store do have War Eternal on sale. Two Joan Jett CDs, are available on JB HiFi; Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ Greatest Hits  and Up Your Alley, which is good, but what about Bad ReputationSinnner?

Rightly or wrongly, this is where Amazon has the upper hand, at least for CD sales.

So, what can be done? First, the US and Australian governments should crackdown on tax evasion, any employee exploitation and lack of satisfactory work conditions. From a consumer standpoint, there needs to be much better competition in both online and traditional stores. Stores should offer earlier popular albums from artists and bands as well as their latest. Also, a plea for stores (both online and traditional), please don’t exclude artists. Offer a whole range. Us Joan Jett fans are out there! Do the same for your online sales.

 

I guess people may think it doesn’t matter now that most music can be downloaded from iTunes or heard on Spotify. But, there have been news reports that even vinyl has made a comeback over the past couple of years. I’ve seen vinyl of contemporary albums being sold in JB – HiFi. But, again, the selection I saw was limited.

While I’m a bit of an iPad addict and was a chronic downloader of music when I first got it, I’ve started to miss listening to CDs. I also miss the anticipation of listening to a brand new one. I used to love getting CDs for Christmas, too. I used to almost flog the life out of them. I’d like to do that again someday. But I want to be able to do so ethically, knowing that the purchase doesn’t contribute to tax evasion or exploitation of workers. I also would also prefer not having to go from store to store finding the ones I want.

Do you buy CDs or vinyl or download your music on iTunes or another (legal) site? Let me know in the comments below.

Categories
Culture Retail and Marketing

Speculations spread about Amazon Australian launch

On Wednesday, Herald Sun reported speculations that online shopping giant, Amazon are set to extend business to Australia by the end of the year.

Warehouses are set to be established in Sydney and Brisbane, as well as the one in Melbourne.

An e- mail obtained by news site, Lifehacker suggested that five hundred businesses have already signed up with Amazon to join their Marketplace during a trial.

Amazon argued that this could help smaller retailers by offering a platform. This will make them rivals with Ebay.

Business analysts and other retailers had warned that the (now failed) launch by yesterday was overly ambitious. However, there is confidence that Amazon could complete the rollout by Christmas.

 

I really hope it goes well for Amazon. I believe the more retail competition we have the better.

I bought a few things from Amazon years ago. Before iTunes took over for my entertainment, I bought quite a few albums that I couldn’t find in a store near me from legends Suzi Quatro, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Alice Cooper. I remember being thrilled when I found them on the site and when they arrived.

They were all in perfect condition, too.

From top left: Suzi Quatro: Rock Hard, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Sinner, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Greatest Hits, Joan Jett, Bad Reputation, Alice Cooper: Alice goes to Hell
I was thrilled when I found and bought these albums on Amazon.

The delivery times were always fair, often a few days before the expected date.

I think it’s great that Australian businesses will soon be able to join Amazon. I think it really could bring success to all parties involved.

The criticism about Amazon taking competition from Ebay, Harvey Norman and David Jones? I hardly think that Amazon will end up defeating such companies. It might drive them a bit more to better services, make sure stock is up to scratch and that financial details remain secure and transactions are legit (I’m looking at you, Ebay)*.

Not only that, isn’t it great that Amazon is offering small business owners in Australia a chance to develop? The Australian economy and culture thrives on small independent businesses! This will give them akickstart! I think that’d be good! As long as Amazon  abides by Australian consumer law and it helps rather than hinders small business, I really can’t see any problems.

 

 

*Just a disclaimer: I personally haven’t had any bad experiences with Ebay, but I’ve heard of people who have; both buyers and sellers.

How have your experiences buying from Amazon been? Let me know in the coments below.