Reuters blog archive
How do you know if you’re in a buyer's market, or a seller's?
Offline it's pretty easy to know. There's price pressure, abundance and not too many people vying for the same house, commodity or mint condition Pee-Wee Herman doll at the yard sale. In the land of the real, markets aren't terribly efficient. Before the Internet changed everything, retailers were bound by geography and the ability (and willingness) of people to range. That's why gas costs a lot more right off the highway exit than it does less than a mile down, where strangers would rather not venture. (Now, of course, there’s an app for that.)
Online, it's easier to know where the consumer stands. In fact, online, it's always a buyer's market. There are, of course, always fixed costs that help determine an item's price – a book publisher's monopoly or the cost of jet fuel, say. But a buyer's power to compare prices from a comfy chair has made it difficult for online sellers to gouge – to insist on a higher price than the market bears – because the market is transparent, fluid and infinite in all directions. Services like Kayak create an almost perfect buyer's market for air travel, which was already one of the world's most competitive businesses. Amazon's ability to offer nearly everything at buyer's market prices has created a retailing behemoth that doesn't even need an Apple-like seller's market to thrive.
And then there's eBay, an Amazon contemporary with an identity that’s been in crisis for years.
At a press conference this week, eBay – when it wasn’t gushing over the potential of a growing mobile market (the company expects $10 billion in mobile sales annually) – was hyping a site redesign and an enhanced focus on personalization and recommendation. What was once an auction site is now a retail site.
The English homepage of Wikipedia went dark and Google's search page ran the logo "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!" in protest of legislation designed to stop copyright piracy but the free online encyclopedia says "could fatally damage the free and open Internet." Big tech names including Facebook and Twitter declined to participate in protests of the House of Representatives' Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate's PROTECT Intellectual Property Act, despite their opposition to the legislation, unwilling to sacrifice a day's worth of revenue and risk the ire of users.
European regulators will decide around the end of March whether to file a formal complaint against Google for misuse of its market position, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters. Until this point officials had been playing down expectations of an early conclusion to the informal investigation stage, although there still could be a long way to go. Antitrust investigations typically take several years.
Yahoo has once again gone outside the company to breathe new life into the once-mighty Internet titan: Scott Thompson, most recently the president of eBay's PayPal division, takes the helm on Monday, January 9th.
The four-month search ends the latest period of uncertainty for Yahoo, which has been struggling to regain its rightful place in the hearts and minds of the digerati — to say nothing of an indifferent Wall Street.
By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Yahoo’s gain is probably eBay shareholders’ pain. The Internet company has nabbed Scott Thompson, the head of eBay’s PayPal division, as its new chief executive. That’s good for Yahoo, but less so for eBay’s owners. The auctioneer’s payments business is a gem that could grow faster on its own. Thompson’s walk suggests such a split isn’t coming any time soon.
PayPal has grown rapidly and in the most recent quarter accounted for almost 40 percent of eBay’s revenue. But with more than 100 million regular users, further expansion will increasingly need to come from payments unrelated to eBay and even to the Internet. For example, PayPal is moving into services allowing people to use their phone numbers or swipe cards at terminals in brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers would surely be more receptive if PayPal were free of any connection to eBay, a potential rival for them.
Research In Motion has already doled out a big helping of bad news ahead of its financial results on Thursday, but surprises could still await investors hungry for details about what many see as a new, make-or-break BlackBerry.
Investors are desperate to know whether RIM will stand by its current timetable to switch its smartphones to the new QNX operating system by early next year. The transition is considered the Canadian company's last, best chance to reverse its declining fortunes.
It’s been two-and-half years since online social media service StumbleUpon hit the eject button from eBay, its one-time corporate parent.
Since then, the company has grown its users and its staff. The San Francisco-based company now has 100 employees (25 percent of whom are former Googlers, the company says), up from 30 employees at the time of the eBay spin-off.
EBay said it acquired the data analysis firm Hunch to help it develop more recommendation technology for its online marketplace. Hunch analyzes data from social networks like Facebook and from questionnaires to make personal recommendations. EBay said Hunch will help it suggest relevant products for shoppers on its online marketplace. Chris Dixon, Tom Pinckney and Matt Gattis, who founded Hunch in 2009, will stay on at eBay and remain based in New York. The purchase price was not disclosed, although tech blog Uncrunched pegged it at around $80 million.
Hewlett-Packard reported quarterly revenue slightly better than Wall Street estimates, after the bell. The world's largest technology company by sales said non-GAAP net revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter inched up 1 percent to $32.3 billion. Analysts had predicted revenue of $32.05 billion on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
(Updates to explain "secure element" issue. Changes in bold in paragraphs 10, 11)
Online payments firm PayPal is so keen to get mobile payments off the ground it has taken the unusual step of opening a Manhattan dummy store that demos how the app can be used (pictured at right).
Samsung and Google unveiled the first smartphone running on Google's latest version of the Android operating system, dubbed "Ice Cream Sandwich", which combines software used in tablets and smartphones, as they step up competition against Apple. The high-end model Galaxy Nexus was unveiled at an event in Hong Kong, after being delayed last week as a tribute to the late Steve Jobs. "This will be our strategic product for year-end holiday season, as (Apple's) iPhone 4S just came into the market," Samsung's JK Shin said.
The Galaxy Nexus features a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, super AMOLED HD 4.65-inch display, face recognition to unlock its screen,the ability to share content by tapping another phones equipped with a Near Field Communication chip, a camera boasting no shutter lag, and even a barometer. The global launch kicks off in November.
Apple rolled out its iOS 5 mobile operating system, one week after pancreatic cancer claimed the life of its former CEO and visionary Steve Jobs. The update adds voice recognition software called "Siri", instant messaging and support for Apple's iCloud service, although the inclusion of Siri is limited to the iPhone 4S. MacWorld's Dan Moren says the free update is "ambitious" and that "there's hardly a part of Apple’s mobile operating system that isn’t altered in some way". Engadget's Dante Cesa says that "other than turn-by-turn navigation, more multitasking APIs and some delectable widgets, there isn't much, headline-wise, left on Apple's hit list for iOS 6".
Despite Jobs's death, investors still like what they see at Apple and want the company to start giving up some cash, according to a Reuters Poll. Apple has a cash hoard of $75 billion and record demand for the iPhone 4S has pushed its stock price near an all-time high. Six of the 11 money managers polled by Reuters called for a dividend payout as a reward for their loyalty.