Google and Walmart are taking their respective battles against Amazon to the next level with a partnership that nobody saw coming. Starting late September, owners of Google Home will be able to order products from Walmart by voice.

You can order one item at a time, or place items into a shopping bag using Google Home, and then complete the purchase from the Home app. Walmart will also join Google Shopping Express, adding their products to the shopping service.

The partnership is a win-win for both sides. Google wants to increase the utility of its voice assistant, and Walmart wants to give consumers an alternative to shopping on Alexa. If voice shopping grows in popularity, Walmart is the only retailer that could offer a catalog of products that can match Amazon.

“More competition, more choice is great for consumers,” Google’s commerce and ads chief Sridhar Ramaswamy said in response to a question on Amazon’s voice shopping.

As part of this announcement, Google is removing the $95 annual membership fee for the Google Express shopping service. Now shoppers will only pay a $4.99 shipping fee if they do not meet the free-shipping threshold of the partner.

Starting in 2018 the partnership will extend to include in-store pickup and fresh grocery items.

This alliance could not have come at a better time for both Google and Walmart. Fighting Amazon alone, who has a lead in the home voice assistant market, and is making a play for the US grocery market, would be difficult and expensive.


2017 is the third consecutive year that LG reports that its top of the line phone is not selling well. This year LG places the blame on “weaker than expected premium smartphone sales and increase in component costs.” Last year, the G5 was to blame for a “weak quarter” and in 2015 the G4 sales “fell short of expectations.” All attempts by LG to break into the premium smartphone market are failing.

As a company, LG is doing okay and does not rely on smartphone sales. The company has three divisions: Home Entertainment, Home Appliances, and Automotive components that are all doing well. In fact, LG has never made a profit on its smartphones and still hasn’t given up.

LG saw Samsung as its primary competitor and built the G6 to beat the S8 to the market. It was the decision to use the year-old Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, that was the downfall of the G6. By going for an older processor, LG thought it has a three week lead over the S8, however, by the time the phone was available in the US, Samsung was accepting pre-orders for the S8.

Most reviews say that the S8 is just a better-built version of the G6. By trying to beat the S8 to market, LG sacrificed using the latest processor, ending up with a phone that cost as much as the S8 but was a generation behind in CPU.


Summary: IT consultants can make or break your business.

One of the first things that you need to consider when hiring an IT consultant is what their employment status will be. Lay out the fundamentals of what you’re hiring him for. This is crucial when it comes to any legal issues that may arise.

It’s also important for companies to correctly determine whether the IT consultant is an employee or an independent contractor and follow through with the appropriate Social Security and Medicare contributions.

Relationship

If you’re going the route of using an IT staffing service as opposed to the independent contractor, they can help determine who’s right for your company. Be sure that you consider three different categories such as: behavioral, financial, and type of relationship. These all tie in together when it comes down to how your consultant will work in your company.

Protect Yourself In the Case of an Issue

It’s also key to protect your intellectual property. If a consultant holds your social media account hostage because of contractual issues, you’re probably going to have some difficulties when it comes to getting back what you need to run your business smoothly. This is why it’s so important that your company receives the IT consultant’s services address IP up front. Never forget to do this.

Prioritize the Interview Process

It consultants are often tied to core businesses. Be sure that you conduct a thorough interview like you would a regular employee. You want to be sure that the consultant can do what he claims he can along with other factors that play a role in determining whether he’s a good fit or not.

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With so many e-commerce platforms to choose from, there are several features that should be non-negotiable. Here we look at four of the most important features that you should be a part of your shopping cart software.

Responsive design

Already a majority of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Without a responsive layout, you risk losing sales to visitors from smartphones and tablets. With smartphone traffic set to reach 80% of all website traffic, responsive design is an immediate need.

User experience

The user experience of your website can be the difference between someone buying an item now or postponing the decision. When a visitor defers a buying decision, there is a high possibility of an impulse purchase somewhere else.

Support

One of the drawbacks of open source systems is the lack of support. Those open source systems that do provide support do so at a cost that is not all that different to a commercial offering. It is better to go with a commercial offering that has proper 24×7 support.

Payment

If there is one feature that can make a difference to sales, it is the ability to accept many different kinds of payment. For example, Secure Net Shop accepts credit cards, checks, PayPal® payments, Google Checkout® payments, Purchase Orders, COD, telephone, fax and mail orders. Different people find certain payment systems safer and are more likely to purchase if that option exists.


Bad news for Microsoft, the non-profit consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports has pulled its recommendations for Microsoft’s Surface line of products. The withdrawal of its recommendation centers around what the group cites as the worst failure rate in the industry.

Consumer Reports conducts its surveys, and in a recent poll of 90,000 laptop and tablet owners, found that at least 25% of owners had issues with their devices before the end of the second year of ownership. According to the publication, the failure rate is the worst in the industry when taking the mainstream manufacturers into account.

As you would expect, Microsoft vehemently disagrees with the assessment:

“Every generation of Surface surpasses its predecessors in performance and in reliability,” a Microsoft statement claims. “Surface return and support rates are in line if not lower than industry average for devices in the same class. We are committed to ensuring the premium Surface experience for all of our customers across the entire family of devices.”

Since the launch of the Surface line of products, Microsoft enjoyed an outsized amount of positive coverage. The coverage compared the innovation compared to traditional PC makers and Apple. Several industry leaders dispute that characterization, citing innovation by PC makers for years that did not get the same level of attention.

The Consumer Reports statement reads: “Due to its comparatively higher breakage rate, Microsoft laptops cannot be recommended by Consumer Reports at this time.” The organization believes that the reliability issues made Microsoft “a statistical outlier compared to other brands.”