Amazon adds Hindi language option as it tries to expand in India

Amazon is adding a Hindi language option to its site and apps in an attempt to reach the half-billion people in India who speak the language, according to The New York Times.

Until now, Amazon’s website — along with the websites of many top competitors — have only been available in English, but English is only spoken by a tenth of India’s population. Amazon believes that by translating into the dominant local language, the site will be more accessible and appear more trustworthy to Hindi-speaking customers.

Amazon is already the second-largest online retailer in India, but it’s facing major competition from Flipkart, a larger local company that’s now majority-owned by Walmart. Walmart undoubtedly will not want to lose the online retail battle in India the same way it has in the US. While it has an early lead, there’s still a large amount of room for change: millions of people are gaining internet access in the country each year, and far less than half are said to regularly shop online.

If its Hindi-language option succeeds, Amazon plans to launch in other languages popular in India. But getting those translations done is apparently not a simple task. It sounds as though much of it is now automated, but accomplishing that feat required hiring human translators and working with companies to make sure the translations were clear and natural.

English-language sites have so far dominated the online retail space in India. That seems to be partly a reflection of who in the country has had internet access first — a situation that is now quickly changing. Other popular sites have tried local-language offerings, but it seems that none of them are operating close to a fully translated version, as Amazon has now started up. With internet access spreading, offering sites in languages that are widely spoken in the country seems like an obvious way of reaching new customers.

Amazon appears to have discontinued the Kindle Voyage

At the end of July, Amazon quietly removed its Kindle Voyage from its storefront, and appears to have discontinued the line of eBook readers, according to TheEbookReader and GoodEReader.

Both sites report that Amazon removed the model (refurbished versions are still available), as well as from its comparison table, leaving only the basic Kindle, mid-range Kindle Paperwhite, and premium Kindle Oasis.

The Voyage was originally released in 2014 and featured some additional perks above the basic Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite: it was thinner and lighter, a glass screen, haptic buttons to turn pages, and a “simple and utilitarian” design. But it came at a higher price: $200, and with the release of the $250 Kindle Oasis in 2016, the Voyage seems to have been overtaken for the premium slot in the Kindle family.

Amazon is working on a new Prime Video interface

Amazon is planning a redesign of its mobile Prime Video interface. During the company’s presentation yesterday at the Television Critics Association press tour — in which Amazon released a slew of updates regarding some of its upcoming television projects — Amazon Studio head Jen Salke was asked if the company was working on a new phone, according to The Wrap. She indicated that she’s not only seen a prototype with a new interface, but that she has one in her office.

Salke, who manages the company’s growing studio efforts, says that she hasn’t “felt an urgency to put a deadline on it,” and that the company “had a prototype phone that showed me the interface that they’re working on that’s about to be — that’s in the middle of being developed and coming soon.” Amazon later clarified to The Wrap that she was only referring to a prototype user interface for the Prime Video app, not a prototype phone.

She went on to say that she criticized some of what she saw, and says that “they actually created and sent me a prototype phone that’s in my office” and described the UI as intuitive to use.

Update, 10:45PM ET: Added clarification of Salke’s comments and removed references to new phone hardware; Salke was referring to a new Prime Video interface.

Amazon might be working on another phone

It looks as though Amazon is thinking about reentering the phone market. During the company’s presentation yesterday at the Television Critics Association press tour — in which Amazon released a slew of updates regarding some of its upcoming television projects — Amazon Studio head Jen Salke was asked if the company was working on a new phone, according to TheWrap. She indicated that she’s not only seen a prototype with a new interface, but that she has one in her office.

Salke, who manages the company’s growing studio efforts, says that she hasn’t “felt an urgency to put a deadline on it,” and that the company “had a prototype phone that showed me the interface that they’re working on that’s about to be — that’s in the middle of being developed and coming soon.”

She went on to say that she criticized some of what she saw, and says that “they actually created and sent me a prototype phone that’s in my office” and described the phone as being intuitive to use. There’s no indication of any sort of timeline or even if the company will produce such a phone, or if it’s just experimenting with one. We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment.

Amazon has been in the hardware business for over a decade now: its Kindle is a mainstay for readers, and its Fire tablet has found success since it was launched in 2011. In 2014, the company made a short-lived foray into the phone business with its Fire Phone, only to get axed a year later after poor reviews. There’s been other hints as well: last week, the company released its quarterly earnings report, revealing that the company turned a profit of $2.5 billion dollars in the second quarter. One line in the report, that the company wnats its “customers to be able to use Alexa wherever they are,” excited some analysts, fueling speculation that the company could be looking to reenter the phone market with a new device.

One of the criticisms of the Fire Phone was its user interface — its three-pane structure was described as fun and useful, but that it was hampered by “unintuitive, convoluted navigation.” Salke’s hint that Amazon is working closely on figuring out a more intuitive interface seems like the company is learning from its previous mistakes.

Given Amazon’s efforts to dominate not only the retail market, as well as its efforts to elbow its way into a prominent position in the streaming video market, having a device where a Prime member can watch its content from anywhere makes sense — provided whatever it produces can stand up against its competitors that already dominate the market.

Amazon begins rolling out collaborative wish lists at long last

After years of customers pleading for the feature, Amazon has started to roll out the ability to build lists with your friends and family, as spotted by Android Police. But don’t get too excited just yet — Amazon confirmed in an email to The Verge that the option hasn’t been rolled out to all users, and it doesn’t specify how quickly this will arrive to everyone. Previously, Amazon has had an option for users to share their lists with people, but has never allowed users to add items to a collaborative one unless they were using the Wedding Registry. The feature is sure to be useful for party planning, roommates, holidays, birthdays — basically any event where multiple people need to buy stuff together.

To check and see if you can invite your friends and family to collab on gift lists, navigate to any list that you already have set up. If you see a bubble underneath the list’s title that says “Invite,” you’re free to start sending links to friends that allow them to edit it.

Amazon’s help pages don’t make any mention of this new feature, and it’s uncertain when the addition was first implemented. Again, since the company hasn’t given a timeframe as to when (or if) it will be rolled out to every user, it may be a while till you see it on your account — but at the very least, it looks like Amazon’s got the ball rolling.

Using the internet without the Amazon Cloud

Amazon servers make up so much of the internet that it can be hard to separate the two. As of last year, Amazon Web Services controlled roughly 40 percent of the cloud market, running the backend for Netflix, Pinterest, Slack and dozens of other services with no visible connection to the company. Because the Amazon partnership is rarely explicit, AWS becomes a kind of invisible infrastructure, like water mains, submarine cables, or any of the other hidden pipes we rely on without seeing.

When AWS starts to fail — like it did in March and again earlier this month — it can seem like the entire internet is collapsing. Unless you know which services in particular are running on AWS servers, you won’t know difference between an cloud failure and a submarine cable break.

But that system doesn’t have to be invisible. Developer Dhruv Mehrotra has made a plug-in that will disconnect you from AWS entirely, using the system’s public IP list to block every connection to an Amazon server. Technically a MacOS port of an earlier tool for Linux, Mehrotra’s program lets you see what the internet would look if Amazon Web Services suddenly ceased to exist.

The program lives on Github, so installing it requires a little Terminal-wrangling — but once you get it running, you’ll be in for a remarkable view of the internet at large. Entire services are missing, so you won’t be able to listen to Spotify, book a flight on Expedia, or look at rooms on Airbnb. Even where websites load, there may be holes punched out of them — missing images, embedded apps, or entire ad networks.

It’s not something you’ll want to use for too long (the internet is better when it works, it turns out), but it’s a view that’s well worth taking in, if only to taste the sheer scope of Amazon’s server empire.