New York recently enacted tax law to capture “missing” revenue from online retail, even from companies not located in NY. The NY regulators determined that even though a company doesn’t have a physical presence in the state, they can be taxed if they earn revenue from members of their affiliate network who are under Albany’s rule. A dubious expansion of the law, the so called “Amazon Tax” has caused a lot of companies to complain and legal experts to salivate over the upcoming legal battles.
Instead of being pressured (by threat of back taxes), two companies decided to take a stand. The first company, Amazon.com, is taking the fight to the courts. The second one, however, calmly said, “Bring it”.
Overstock.com dropped all of their affiliates (3,400 in total) and service providers who are based in the state of New York. Finance VP, David Chidester, summed up their decision to play hardball in a company press release.
“We think the New York law makes no sense at all. We have worked to assure that Overstock.com has as small a tax footprint as possible because of the benefits it provides to our customers. We have no taxable connection to New York that is recognizable under constitutional principals laid down by U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and we will keep that status, even if it means having to say goodbye to some long time New York business connections.”
Others are also pointing out that affiliate sites operate as through a marketing agreement, not as agents of the company and therefore NY’s definition is flawed. The issue of taxing online retailers has been around since stores opened on the internet, but no one has proposed an enforceable solution yet. New York’s answer has some significant hurdles to clear if it is to become the model. I, for one, doubt it will go that far.
Kudos to Amazon and Overstock for protecting their business interests and their customers (for now).
RIM, makers of Blackberry smartphones, introduced their latest, much hyped phone today – the Blackberry Bold. Many people were anticipating that the Bold would be the answer to Apple’s iPhone. Apparently RIM didn’t get the message that the reason people were awed by the iPhone was its sheer sexiness. Huge, sleek touch screen, innovative user interface, WiFi, etc…
The iPhone’s weak points were its business utility. It doesn’t do business email very well, or at all, it was slow (doesn’t support 3G), it doesn’t support Microsoft Office attachments, and the list goes on. Apple has been saying that those features are coming and venture capitalists have even given preference to funding iPhone application startups. All that is good and well, but RIM’s products have already excelled in the business arena. The only place they fell short was with the consumer, who wanted something cool and hip. They want the phone that they would choose to carry, not one that their job required them to.
So what amazing new design would RIM unveil? Here is a side by side view of the two competitors. (picture courtesy of ArsTechnica)
Lack of wow factor aside, the bigger problem is logistics. The Bold won’t be available until later this summer, and Apple’s next generation iPhone is also slated to be released ambiguously soon (unofficially June). Competition pushed RIM to make a much more interesting product than they have in the past, but at the end of the day, they missed the opportunity to leapfrog their competitor.
Lenovo felt that Apple’s ads for it’s new ultraportable notebook, the Macbook Air were a little misleading. Their response ad, outlined below, points out a few essential items you might need with your sexy new notebook that take the “ultra” out of “ultraportable”.
Lenovo Thinkpad X300 response Ad – (1:17)
For comparison, here is the original Apple Ad – (0:30)
The Apple advertisiment is great, simple and powerful while still being hip and sexy. However, Apple’s weak spot is that they try very hard to show off their cool factor. Lenovo found an equally powerful way, in their response, to both educate the consumer and undercut Apple’s coolness with sensibility.
Here is an interesting blog post by Bruce Schneier about the future of the Data Security industry. It seems every few weeks we hear another story about how data has been compromised. In light of this though, Bruce argues that data security is inherently confusing and consumers would be better served if security features were standard, not extra pieces to be added on.
His argument, as an automotive analogy, is compelling.
Imagine if the inventor of antilock brakes — or any automobile safety or security feature — had to sell them directly to the consumer. It would be an uphill battle convincing the average driver that he needed to buy them; maybe that technology would have succeeded and maybe it wouldn’t. But that’s not what happens. Antilock brakes, airbags, and that annoying sensor that beeps when you’re backing up too close to another object are sold to automobile companies, and those companies bundle them together into cars that are sold to consumers. This doesn’t mean that automobile safety isn’t important, and often these new features are touted by the car manufacturers.
If he’s right, then there are a lot of shakeups coming. Combined with the rough economic road ahead, particularly for tech companies, and his outlook may start happening sooner rather than later.
I downloaded Firefox 3 Beta 4 yesterday and after 24 hours, I’m impressed! The most significant improvements are the visual interface and the reduced memory usage. In Firefox 2 or IE 7, browsing with multiple tabs open, I was consistently using anywhere from 100mb to 200mb of memory. With 3 Beta 4, I am seeing no more than 75mb and usually around 60mb of memory usege. In addition, the new history / bookmarks management is pretty slick. It’s visually pleasing and fun to use, as well as being more useful since you search for the relevant terms and don’t need to explicitly remember the URL.
It is huge improvment, kudos to the Mozilla team!
The Downside / Disclaimer:
It is a beta release, so most of your add-ons won’t work yet and the chances of encountering bugs are obviously greater (although none yet for me). But for the brave souls out there, download it now and don’t look back.
Screenshot of the new interface & links management after the jump…. (more…)
Microsoft recently purchased Kidaro, a virtualization company that focuses on user’s desktops in a corporate environment. It doesn’t take a rocket scienctist to see that there is a lot happening in virtualization. The technology may be old, but the latest applications offers endless possibilities.
From VMware, who kicked off the latest craze, to up and comers like DeviceVM and to the big guys (such as Sun) who are now entering the race, virtualization is something that will be reshaping the way we interface with our computers for a long time to come.