Amazon Announces Shutdown of ‘Underground Actually Free’ Program

Amazon is shutting down support for the free app service on its online store. The e-commerce giant is discontinuing “Underground Actually Free” – the program debuted in 2015 as a means to deliver Android apps to users at no cost. The program was pitched as a means for app developers to showcase their software to consumers via Amazon’s online app store at no cost.

The arrangement presented a win-win scenario for the online retailer as well as the app developer. Developers participating in the program could showcase their apps via Amazon’s app store and in return, Amazon would pay royalties to developers based on the time people spent on free apps. Some of the popular offerings of the program include “Goat Simulator”, “Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions”, and “Office Suite Pro 8.”

App Developers Need to Satisfy Conditions to Qualify for Amazon’s Underground App Store

To qualify for the program, developers needed to have a mobile app available on Google’s Play store or Apple’s app store for purchase, and the apps needed to work on at least one non-Amazon mobile device.

The free app service was launched to reward developers for developing compelling apps and at the same time convince users to download apps from Amazon’s app store. Amazon hoped that users would be lured to its app store as some apps would be available for free that are otherwise available to buy through rivals like Apple or Google.

Current customers of Fire Tablet can continue to use previously installed Underground Apps and will have continued access to Underground Actually Free store. However, access to the Underground store will be restricted to currently supported New Fire tablet devices and not new devices. Amazon will stop accepting submissions for new apps and games on May 31.

Wall Street Analysts Question Twitter’s Revenue

Slow rise in the number of users and an inevitably slow business from ad inventory due to the sluggishly rising user count are expected to bring trouble to Twitter’s revenues. Analysts from Wall Street think that the company’s business is declining and the company is expected to report a year-over-year decline in revenue, which would be the company’s first ever loss, when the earnings are released on Wednesday.

Analysts estimate the company will record profits of around one percent per share on the 2017 Q1 revenue of US$512 mn. If the estimates are correct, the company would have suffered a loss of around 14% as compared to the US$595 mn that the company generated in revenues during the 1st financial quarter of 2016. Twitter has reported year-on-year growth in revenue for every quarter ever since it has gone public in the late 2013.

Declining Number of New Users could also mean Decline in Ad Revenues

Wall Street’s estimates regarding Twitter’s business could be wrong as well, but a decline in business is, of course, bad for the company as it is seeing a plateau when it comes to number of new users. Decline in the number of new users would also directly impact the company’s revenue from ads – the easiest way to generate revenue for a social media company.

But if Wall Street’s analysis proves correct for the company, Twitter has a tough road ahead to frame its slowing revenue stream. If the earnings are indeed low, possibilities of takeover will start doing rounds in business circles. The company was also exploring sale options the previous year but the price tag was a bit high for most companies interested in buying it.

Last year, the company was valued at around US$13 bn, which was when analysts estimated that it could be sold at around US$18 bn. Now that its valuation has come down to US$10.7 bn, it will be interesting to see how much the company is valued for possible suitors.

Microsoft Integrates LinkedIn Sales Navigator with Dynamics 365

Microsoft is ushering to create the next-generation of cloud-based businesses. In a major business move, Microsoft integrates LinkedIn Sales Navigator data with Dynamics 365. This was one of the first deliverables that Microsoft promised last year after it acquired LinkedIn for US$ 26.2 billion last year.

Unfolding as a boon, professional salespeople can view LinkedIn sales navigator data along with other information on the Dynamics 365 sales dashboard. However, this has come as an unpleasant move for Salesforce – Dynamics 365’s biggest rival in the CRM market.

Integration Lucrative for Investors in Microsoft CRM Solutions

Following this integration, users with both the systems will be able to view information from LinkedIn profiles in the inner pages of Dynamics 365 Sales. They can obtain contextual recommendations and can provide tailored content along with account and lead updates. LinkedIn sales navigator and Dynamics will sync information on a daily basis so that both the systems are up to date on information exchange.

The integration makes sense for users of Sales Navigator to invest in Microsoft’s CRM and vice versa. This is all the more important for Microsoft to woo companies that are considering CRM applications from rivals such as Salesforce and Oracle.

Not only this, there lie some other announcements from Microsoft as well. It has launched Dynamics 365 for Talent, which is a new human resource app for companies to manage their workforce. Another major announcement from Microsoft is Dynamics 365 for Retail. This service is for retailers who want a centralized system for managing employees, inventory, customers, and financials.

Facebook’s New 360 Degree Cameras a Breakthrough in VR World

Last year, Facebook unveiled Surround 360, a 360-degree camera that is able to capture footage in 3D and then render it online through specially designed software. To add more to this lineup of products, the company on April 19, 2017, introduced two new 360-degree cameras – the x24, with 24 cameras, and x6, with six cameras. The difference between the first product unveiled and the latest products announced is that the latter can shoot in six degrees of freedom, which comes with the promise of making the 360-degree footage more immersive than before.

Facebook Plans to License Designs to Commercial Partners

Facebook doesn’t have any plans to sell these two cameras directly to consumers. Instead, the company is looking for a select group of commercial partners who will do its job and release the product later this year. The versions we are seeing on the internet were prototyped in Facebook’s on-site hardware lab, Area 404, using off-the-shelf components. While the x6 prototype was entirely home-made, the x24 was made in partnership with FLIR.

One celebrated thing about these products is that the camera is smart enough to recreate what the view looks like from various angles. Another pleasing aspect of videos created with six degrees of freedom is that each pixel is in 3D and has depth. This is a cutting-edge technology for VR content creators, and it unfolds tremendous prospects in visual effects editing. With x24 and x6, Facebook plans to have a stronghold in the field of virtual reality and augmented reality; or as the company calls it “Act 2”.