With its new $99 Fire TV device, the online retail giant aims to compete in the living room with Google, Apple, Roku and others.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 2, 2014 11:59AM

Peter Larsen, vice president of Amazon.com Inc., introduces Amazon FireTV during a news conference in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 © Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Shalini Ramachandran and Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal


Amazon.com (AMZN) unveiled a new set-top box Wednesday dubbed "Fire TV" to stream video, games and music to the TV set, an ambitious move by the Internet retail giant to break into the living room.


The Wall St. Journal on MSN MoneyThe new device is part of its Kindle series of products, and is priced at $99 -- the same prices as Apple's (AAPL) competing box, Apple TV. Fire TV begins shipping Wednesday and offers features like voice-activated search, gaming capabilities, instant-start video and a FreeTime program for kids.


Amazon also is offering a gaming controller for $39.99.


The device thrusts Amazon into an intensely competitive market in streaming devices, particularly following the runaway success of Chromecast from Google (GOOG) last year. Amazon will have to distinguish the FireTV from Roku's set-top box, Apple TV and gaming consoles such as Xbox from Microsoft (MSFT), all of which carry similar apps and services. (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money.)

 

The move adds convenience for urban customers -- and aims to trim the billions of dollars the e-commerce giant spends on packing and shipping each year.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 2, 2014 9:04AM

A box from Amazon.com is pictured on the porch of a house in Golden, Colo. in this July 23, 2008, file photo. © REUTERS/Rick Wilking/Files By Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal


Amazon.com (AMZN) has quietly rolled out a new service to let customers return unwanted merchandise using large metal lockers it has installed for deliveries in garages, convenience and grocery stores in major metropolitan areas.


The Wall St. Journal on MSN MoneyThe service will help address a problem that has plagued Amazon and other e-commerce retailers. As much as a third of all online purchases are eventually returned, by some estimates, making it costly for merchants that in some cases pay for shipping in both directions.


Packaging and shipping orders is a major expense for Amazon. The company has been on a warehouse building frenzy in recent years, constructing facilities close to urban centers to speed delivery times. Amazon spent $8.59 billion on order fulfillment in 2013, up from $6.42 billion a year earlier.

 

The social media company shouldn't be changing its core product in its quest for growth.

By Forbes Digital Mar 31, 2014 10:44AM
TwitterBy Eric Jackson, Forbes Contributor

In case you missed it, Twitter (TWTR) is having big problems as a public company.

They don't have a problem with their core product. Its users seem to adore it. And it's not a problem with making ad money from it. All indications are that that's going swimmingly.

Forbes on MSN MoneyThe problem is that its executives are worried that not enough people use it. And, because of this, they feel external pressure – from Wall Street – to increase the number of users it has and how often people use the service.
 

The developer behind one of the most successful video games in the world nixed plans to work with Oculus after the virtual reality company was acquired by the social media giant.

By Forbes Digital Mar 26, 2014 4:09PM

When Facebook (FB) announced a $2 billion dollar deal to buy virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR on Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg promised the new technology would help "change the way we work, play and communicate," and critics hailed the acquisition as a huge win for Facebook.

But at least one video game industry notable isn't happy about the deal. Markus "Notch" Persson, the video game designer who created the smash hit sandbox construction game Minecraft, says he has no intentions of doing business with Zuckerberg's social media giant.

"We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus," Persson said on Twitter shortly after the news broke. "I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out."
 

Less than two years ago, the fledgling virtual reality company was soliciting $10 to $300 contributions on the crowdfunding site.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 26, 2014 12:13PM

Peter Mason tries the Oculus virtual reality headset at the Game Developers Conference 2014 in San Francisco, March 19, 2014. © AP Photo/Jeff ChiuThe Wall Street Journal on MSN MoneyBy Tom Gara and Lora Kolodny, The Wall Street Journal


On Aug. 1, 2012, a fledgling company called Oculus took to crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise money to get its virtual reality headset off the ground.


What did you get in return for an investment? Everybody who funded the company with $10 was promised "a sincere thank you from the Oculus team" and regular updates on the project.


When the funding period closed at the beginning of September, 1,009 people had kicked in ten bucks each. A $25 investment got you a t-shirt as well as a thank you.


The real action was the $300 investment: For that, you we promised an early "developer kit" including a prototype headset and access to the software development tools needed to build games for the headset. 5,642 people signed up for that. In total, the campaign raised $2.4 million from 9,500 contributors.


About 18 months after accepting $10 investments repaid with thanks (and with some venture capital investments along the way) the company Tuesday sold itself for $2 billion to Facebook (FB).

 

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