Amazon Throws Down a Gauntlet Called ‘Fire TV’

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Amazon Throws Down a Gauntlet Called ‘Fire TV’

On Apr. 2, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) unveiled its new $99 TV Box that some believe is just the opening shot across the bow of Apple, Google and Roku to become the dominant Internet-TV player.

The Seattle-based online retailing giant’s “Fire TV,” which started shipping yesterday, comes with already installed Netflix and Hulu Plus applications, but more importantly for Amazon, it makes access to its Prime video-streaming service as easy as pushing a button.

Huge and Growing Content Arsenal

It is Amazon’s huge and growing arsenal of quality content that makes this latest move so lethal to its competitors and should even raise beads of sweat on the brows of cable TV executives.

Here is just a sampling of the content Amazon already has in place for its Fire TV users who use it to access Prime:

·      More than 200,000 movies and TV episodes

·      Plus, Fire TV comes with access to games from EA, Disney, Gameloft, Mojang, 2K, Amazon Game Studios, and more

Moreover, Amazon has just given the green light to six original TV show pilots it has created in house.  Once again, Jeff Bezos and Amazon are under estimated by their rivals until they are ready to deliver a knockout punch.

On Feb.2, AMZN’s share price closed at $341.96 cents, down $1.03 from its closing price of $342.99 the previous day, on volume of 4,475,523 shares.

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Apple Inc. Could Gain Billions or Lose Millions on its Lawsuits

In other news, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was back in court this week with Samsung, with both accusing each other of stealing the other’s smartphone technology and features.

Apple vs. Samsung Trial Begins

Apple is seeking a $40 per phone royalty from Samsung, which could cost Samsung $2 billion. If Apple loses its lawsuit, it could cost the creator of the popular iPhone $6 million in litigation fees.  

Industry experts contend the real loser in this high-tech battle royal are small startups that will steer away from innovating smartphones in fear they might be sued out of existence by either hi-tech giant.

Jury selection has begun in the case, which is taking place in San Jose, Calif.’s U.S. District Court where Apple is trying to prove that Samsun infringed on five of its patents using them in the Korean company’s Galaxy smartphones and tablets.  Conversely, Samsung will try to prove Apple stole two of its patents, which it says Apple allegedly used in its iPhones and iPads. 

On Apr. 2, AAPL’s share price closed at $542.55, up 90 cents from its close of 541.65, on volume of 6,443,553 shares.

This comes at a time when a new report by Morgan Stanley found that Apple stock's institutional ownership is at its lowest level since 2009.

Suing China over Siri Patent

Apple also recently filed a lawsuit against the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office and software developer Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology over its “Siri” patent, the intelligent personal assistant app that uses a natural-language user interface. This legal faceoff has been brewing since 2004 when the Chinese accused Apple of copying its “Xiao I Robot,” patented in 2004, in Apple’s development of Siri.

While this may seem like no big deal to the casual observer, if Apple loses the lawsuit and begins to believe the Chinese government will sanction the stealing of its patents, it might be only a matter of time before Apple follows Google’s example and abandons it operations in China. Hypothetically, this could lead to moving thousands of jobs from China to another country.

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Facebook Stock Volume Remains Robust  

Meanwhile in the social networking sector, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) enjoyed robust stock volume Apr. 2  with 66,276,612 changing hands, significantly higher than three-month average volume of 60,599,115 shares.

The uptick in volume is still being fueled in part by Facebook’s announcement Mar. 25 that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Oculus VR Inc., a leader in immersive virtual reality technology, for a total of approximately $2 billion.

This includes $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of Facebook common stock (valued at $1.6 billion based on the average closing price of the 20 trading days preceding Mar.21, 2014 of $69.35 per share). The agreement also provides for an additional $300 million earn-out in cash and stock based on the achievement of certain milestones.

According to Facebook, Oculus is the leader in immersive virtual reality technology and has already built strong interest among developers, having received more than 75,000 orders for development kits for the company's virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift.

While the applications for virtual reality technology beyond gaming are in their nascent stages, several industries are already experimenting with the technology, and Facebook plans to extend Oculus' existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas. Given these broad potential applications, virtual reality technology is a strong candidate to emerge as the next social and communications platform.

“Mobile is the platform of today, and now we're also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,” said Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

Google Also Interested in Virtual Reality

Facebook is not the only technology giant investing heavily into virtual reality. Google Inc. (NASD: GOOG) is quietly working on a prototype of a phone powered by a special android program that could make smart phones including Apple’s latest versions obsolete.

This might seem fantastical, but all you have to do is read Google’s current presentation on its Tango Project and you’ll see why the company that has it tentacles in every online venture conceivable could be on the verge of another major breakthrough.

What Is It?

First, let me give you a taste of Project Tango’s potential by explaining what it is.

The current prototype is a 5” phone containing customized hardware and software designed to track the full 3D motion of the device, while simultaneously creating a map of the environment.

These sensors allow the phone to make over a quarter million 3D measurements every second, updating its position and orientation in real-time, combining that data into a single 3D model of the space around you.

It will be interesting to see which of these companies find a practical application for virtual reality first.

On Apr.2, FB’s share price closed at $62.72 cents, up 10 cents from its closing price of $62.62 the previous day.

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King Digital Entertainment’s Share Value Continues to Falter

Finally, King Digital Entertainment Plc (NYSE: KING) share value continues to falter, continuing its lackluster performance after its market debut last week.

The maker of the extremely popular Candy Crush game that went public last week became the worst performing IPO of 2014, losing 16% of its $22.50 IPO price before closing.

The chairman and CEO of King Digital Entertainment lost $230 million on Wednesday as a result of the company's weak performance in its first day of public trading, according to a Wealth-X estimate.

On Friday, the stock continued to lose ground, with KING closing at $18.08, down 92 cents from its close of $19.00 the previous day.

All Its Eggs in One Basket

Scrambling for reasons to explain the poor showing, some analysts say King’s IPO is weak because the company is a “one-trick pony,” meaning it has no other monster gaming hits to back up Candy Crush when it eventually loses its popularity.

However, such prognostications may be unfair and premature.

That’s because there are more than 180 "game IPs" in King’s Digital library.  Candy Crush has proved to be the company's money-maker with 97 million daily active users, according to the IPO prospectus. Candy Crush accounts for 78 percent of King's sales. But  King's other popular games include Farm Heroes Saga and Bubble Witch Saga, each of which has fewer than 20 million daily users.

On Apr. 2, KING’s share value continued to lose ground, closing at $19.25, down 50 cents from its closing price of $19.25 the previous day, on volume of 2,440,698 shares.


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