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Apple Announces Fourth-Generation iPad & iPad Mini

Blowing the minds of the press, Apple has announced the fourth-generation iPad, along with the expected iPad Mini. New to the fourth generation iPad is the A6X processor, Lighting port, faster wi-fi, FaceTime HD camera, and better LTE. Apple also unveiled the iPad Mini, a  7.2mm thin tablet, weighing in at a minuscule 0.68lbs, with a 7.9-inch display, and a resolution of 1024 x 768. The iPad Mini  also includes the A5 processor, LTE, Lightning port, and the familiar 10-hour battery life. The iPad Mini comes in white & silver and black & slate.

The iPad Mini starts at $329, while the fourth generation iPad starts at $500. Pre-orders start on Friday, and the wi-fi versions ship on November 2nd, with the wifi + cellular shipping two weeks after that, in the US, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK..

SAN JOSE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Apple® today introduced iPad® mini, a completely new iPad design that is 23 percent thinner and 53 percent lighter than the third generation iPad. The new iPad mini features a stunning 7.9-inch Multi-Touch™ display, FaceTime® HD and iSight® cameras, ultrafast wireless performance1 and an incredible 10 hours of battery life2―every inch an iPad, yet in a revolutionary design you can hold in one hand. Apple today also announced the fourth generation iPad featuring a gorgeous 9.7-inch Retina™ display, new Apple-designed A6X chip, FaceTime HD camera and ultrafast wireless performance. Both iPad mini and fourth generation iPad come with iOS 6, the world’s most advanced mobile operating system with over 200 new features.

“iPad mini is as thin as a pencil and as light as a pad of paper, yet packs a fast A5 chip, FaceTime HD and 5 megapixel iSight cameras and ultrafast wireless―all while delivering up to 10 hours of battery life.”

“iPad mini is every inch an iPad. With its gorgeous 7.9-inch display, iPad mini features the same number of pixels as the original iPad and iPad 2, so you can run more than 275,000 apps designed specifically for iPad,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “iPad mini is as thin as a pencil and as light as a pad of paper, yet packs a fast A5 chip, FaceTime HD and 5 megapixel iSight cameras and ultrafast wireless―all while delivering up to 10 hours of battery life.”

iPad mini comes in a beautiful new aluminum and glass design that is just 7.2 mm thin and weighs only 0.68 pounds. The 7.9-inch Multi-Touch display delivers the same iPad experience users have come to expect, in a design that has 35 percent more screen real estate than 7-inch tablets and up to an astonishing 67 percent more usable viewing area when browsing the web. The dual-core A5 chip delivers responsive graphics and a fast, fluid Multi-Touch experience, while still providing all-day battery life.

iPad mini features a front-facing FaceTime HD camera and a 5 megapixel iSight camera on the back with advanced optics for taking sharp still pictures and recording full 1080p HD video. The iSight camera includes video image stabilization and both cameras feature backside illumination to let users capture great pictures in low light. iPad mini also allows easy sharing of photos with friends and family using iCloud’s Shared Photo Streams.

iPad mini features dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi support for speeds up to 150 Mbps,3 which is twice the Wi-Fi performance compared to previous iPad models. iPad mini is available in Wi-Fi + Cellular models which are world-ready with built-in support for ultrafast wireless standards, including LTE1 and DC-HSDPA, so you can browse, download and stream content fast from wherever you are. iPad mini data plans will be available with no contract so you can simply sign up and activate service directly from your iPad.4 The Personal Hotspot feature means you can share a fast cellular data connection via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or USB with up to five other devices such as MacBook® Pro, iPod touch® or another iPad.5

The new fourth generation iPad features the amazing 9.7-inch Retina display and includes a new Apple-designed A6X chip that delivers up to twice the CPU performance and up to twice the graphics performance of the A5X chip, all while delivering an incredible 10 hours of battery life in the same thin and light iPad design. Other new features include a FaceTime HD camera, twice the Wi-Fi performance when compared to previous iPad models and support for additional LTE carriers worldwide.6

iPad mini and fourth generation iPad both feature support for the Lightning™ connector that is smaller, smarter and more durable than the 30-pin connector. Lightning connector accessories are available to support cameras, SD cards and VGA or HDMI digital video.7 Existing iPad Smart Covers and the iPad Smart Case are compatible with fourth generation iPad, and new polyurethane Smart Covers custom-designed for iPad mini are available in pink, green, blue, light gray, dark gray and (PRODUCT) RED for $39.

iPad runs over 700,000 apps available on the App Store℠, including more than 275,000 apps designed specifically for iPad, from a wide range of categories including books, games, business, news, sports, health, reference and travel. iPad also supports the more than 5,000 newspapers and magazines offered in Newsstand and the more than 1.5 million books available on the iBookstore℠. The iTunes Store® puts the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store at your fingertips with a catalog of over 26 million songs, over 190,000 TV episodes and over 45,000 films. The new iBooks® app for iPad lets users read ebooks in over 40 languages. iBooks also lets users experience an entirely new kind of ebook that’s dynamic, engaging and truly interactive. Ebooks created with Apple’s new iBooks Author offer gorgeous, fullscreen ebooks with interactive animations, diagrams, photos, videos, custom fonts, mathematical expressions and much more.

Pricing & Availability

iPad mini with Wi-Fi models will be available in black & slate or white & silver on Friday, November 2, for a suggested retail price of $329 (US) for the 16GB model, $429 (US) for the 32GB model and $529 (US) for the 64GB model. The fourth generation iPad with Wi-Fi models will also be available on Friday, November 2, in black or white for a suggested retail price of $499 (US) for the 16GB model, $599 (US) for the 32GB model and $699 (US) for the 64GB model. iPad mini and the fourth generation iPad will be sold through the Apple Online Store (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores, and select Apple Authorized Resellers in the US, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

iPad mini with Wi-Fi + Cellular and fourth generation iPad with Wi-Fi + Cellular will start shipping a couple of weeks after the Wi-Fi models, beginning in the US on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. iPad mini with Wi-Fi + Cellular will be offered for a suggested retail price of $459 (US) for the 16GB model, $559 (US) for the 32GB model and $659 (US) for the 64GB model. Fourth generation iPad with Wi-Fi + Cellular will be offered for a suggested retail price of $629 (US) for the 16GB model, $729 (US) for the 32GB model and $829 (US) for the 64GB model. Additionally, iPad 2 is available at $399 (US) for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and just $529 (US) for the 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G model where they are sold now.

Customers can begin pre-ordering all models of iPad mini and all models of the fourth generation iPad on Friday, October 26 through the Apple Online Store in the US, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

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Apple Special Event Liveblog

Welcome to the first official CE liveblog, brought to you by Branch. Apple is holding a special event today, in which it is expected to announce a smaller iPad. We will have all the details for you throughout the day, so stick around and join our liveblog, brought to you by Branch!

Click here to follow our Liveblog!

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All signs point to October 23rd unveiling for Apple’s “iPad mini”

Mockup via. 9to5Mac, Martin Hajek

The iPad mini hype train is rolling full-steam ahead, as AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski reports this morning that Apple will unveil the new, smaller tablet on October 23rd. Previous rumours had originally pegged the event for October 17th, with press expecting invites to go out earlier this week. The invites, however, never arrived – a classic case of rumour gone wild.

This latest rumour seems to have a bit more weight behind it. AllThingsD has a pretty good track record when it comes to Apple event dates, and The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple has already given the October 23rd date his customary “Yep” seal of approval.

Paczkowski speculates that the event will be held at Apple’s Town Hall auditorium at 1 Infinite Loop. A smaller, more intimate event makes sense in this case, given that Apple held a major Fall media event just a few weeks ago, and the iPad mini is expected to be simply a smaller version of the existing iPad.

If you’ve been holding out for a smaller tablet from Apple, you can go ahead and circle October 23rd on your calendar!

Source: AllThingsD, The Loop

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iOS 6 Is Available For Download

iOS 6 is available for download via iTunes or software update on iOS devices. As we explained in our review, the latest version of Apple’s operating system for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch brings over 200 new features including 3D Maps with turn-by-turn navigation, Passbook, panoramic photos, and increased functions for Siri, Apple’s voice assistant. The update is available on the iPhone 3GS, 4, and 4S, the second and third generation iPad, as well as the 4th generation iPod Touch.

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iOS 6 review

Every June, like clockwork, Apple unveils a new version of iOS at WWDC. In 2010, iOS 4 brought multitasking and home screen wallpapers. In 2011, iOS 5 introduced Siri and Notification Center. This year, Apple is launching iOS 6, an update that isn’t quite as exciting as those last two, but brings with it a lot of new features. Apple says there are over 200 new features in all, but I haven’t counted.

Still, iOS 6 is a fairly iterative update; Apple must feel they are approaching nirvana, and they are now focused mainly on small enhancements and polishing the OS. Which is fine, because iOS is already the most polished smartphone operating system out there, despite it starting to show signs of age.

While iOS 6 won’t be officially available to the public until later today, I’ve been using the update for a few months now. I’ve suffered through buggy betas and potential data loss to dig deep into iOS 6, exploring the biggest features and the nitty gritty little enhancements. Let’s dive in with the biggest new addition to iOS 6.

Maps

      
Apple has done away with Google Maps in iOS 6 and introduced their very own in-house Maps application with a bevy of new features.

First, Maps features redesigned vector-based Map tiles that, in my opinion, look much nicer than Google’s. The tiles load quickly, and zooming and panning around a map feels very responsive. However, the fun ends there. Apple’s Map data and tiles are provided by third-party sources, and unfortunately the data is quite outdated. For example, I live in a relatively new neighbourhood back home, and my street doesn’t appear in Standard map view, nor in Satellite view. That means that Apple’s map data and satellite images are at least 4 years old in some areas. I’m sure this problem is not limited to my small-town Ontario neighbourhood.

Apple’s Maps app also includes built-in turn-by-turn navigation, complete with Siri voice directions. In my testing, directions were accurate and the interface Apple has built rivals a dedicated in-car GPS system. Once you start a trip, the turn-by-turn UI will remain on-screen even if you leave the Maps app – it will even display on the lock screen.

Apple’s turn-by-turn directions also make use of another new feature in the Maps app: 3D Maps. Apple calls this new feature “Flyover”, which displays a fully 3D rendered view of certain cities around the world. No, 3D doesn’t work everywhere, but Apple has consistently added new cities throughout the Beta period, which we expect will continue for the foreseeable future. Right now, cities such as San Francisco, Cupertino, Toronto, London, Boston, and many others are explorable in 3D. Simply tap the 3D Buildings button in the lower left corner of the app and the city comes to life. The 3D maps look really nice from a distance, but zoom in too closely and you can see the rough edges. Still, considering these are 3D renders created from satellite imagery, they look pretty darn good.

Other features that fell victim to the Google purge include Street View and transit directions, which are nowhere to be found within Apple Maps. These are two commonly used mapping features, and their omission from Apple’s new Maps app is a huge downside for those who rely on their phone for getting around.

“…the biggest caveat – old and missing map data – makes the app feel more like a Beta than a finished product.”

Overall, Apple’s Maps app is promising. It’s fast and responsive, and the navigation features are top notch. However, the biggest caveat – old and missing map data – makes the app feel more like a Beta than a finished product. Hopefully Apple will continue to update their Map servers with more recent data and imagery. For now, Apple Maps feels one step behind Google, and I’m excited to give their upcoming Google Maps app for iPhone a try.

Passbook

      
Passbook is Apple’s answer to the growing mobile payments trend, though the company has taken a different approach than its competitors. Instead of leveraging NFC (Near Field Communication) technology for a tap-to-pay type service, PassBook is simply a collection of passes – movie or concert tickets, boarding passes, loyalty cards, coupons, etc. – that are collected in a single app. Instead of tapping your phone, passes display an on-screen barcode or QR code that can be scanned at a venue. Passes will even pop-up on your lock screen automatically as you near a location for which you have a pass – your Starbucks card, for example, will appear on your lock screen as you near or enter a Starbucks.

It’s a great idea in theory. The only problem is that I haven’t had the chance to actually try it yet. While Passbook is included with iOS 6 and is fully-functional right now, there are currently no apps that support it. I’m excited to see how Passbook can fit into my daily life, and I will be sure to update this review when I have put Passbook through its paces.

Siri

      
While Siri is still in beta, she has been given a few upgrades with iOS 6. Namely, Siri is now supported on the iPad 3 and forthcoming 5th generation iPod touch, expanding the user base across Apple’s range of iOS devices.

In terms of new features, Siri can now look up sports scores and standing for any major sports team. Siri can also look up movie times for nearby theatres, and she displays a Rotten Tomatoes score next to each movie as well. Thanks to OpenTable integration, you can now look up restaurants using Siri, and even make a reservation.

“…these enhancements represent a natural evolution for Apple’s voice-based personal assistant.”

Siri has also gained the ability to launch apps, send Tweets, or update your Facebook status. She can still get things wrong from time-to-time – after all, she is still in beta – but these enhancements represent a natural evolution for Apple’s voice-based personal assistant.

Facebook

      
Following in the footsteps of Twitter in iOS 5, Facebook has been integrated into iOS 6, enabling a throng of sharing options throughout the system.

Most notably, you can now update your Facebook Status or send a Tweet from anywhere through Notification Center. I find the “share sheets” take a little while to load in Notification Center, at least on my iPhone 4S, but they work, and provide the added convenience of being able to tweet or post from any app or screen.

“Facebook has become so ubiquitous with sharing, that it seems like a natural fit for iOS.”

Facebook integration is centred mostly around sharing. You can post pictures to your Timeline right from the Photos app, or share a link from Safari. You can also “Like” songs and apps right inside Apple’s virtual stores. Facebook integration is even extended to Contacts, updating contact information and photos automatically, and Calendars, showing your Facebook Events and friends’ birthdays.

Facebook has become so ubiquitous with sharing, that it seems like a natural fit for iOS. You expect to be able to share your photos, or Like an app. It works well, it’s unobtrusive, and best of all, it’s optional. Facebook users will enjoy the added integration.

Shared Photo Streams

Shared Photo Streams is an interesting feature. You can now create an album of photos to share with other iOS users via. iCloud. Friends with whom you share the stream can comment on and like photos, they can even add photos to the stream themselves.

I found photos added to a Shared Photo Stream from my iPhone took quite a while to appear in the stream on my iPad. Perhaps the wires got crossed since I was using the same iCloud account on both devices.

Safari

Safari has gotten some useful updates in iOS 6. First is iCloud Tab Syncing, which syncs your open Safari tabs across devices. It works well, though takes a while to update – longer than Chrome, in my testing.

Safari on iPhone now supports full-screen mode in landscape, allowing you to view even more of the web without the intrusive nav bar on the bottom. It’s one of those features that you never knew you wanted until you have it; very useful and gives a lot more room to browse!

Finally, Safari now supports photo uploads right in the browser. I’ve tested it a few times, and it works perfectly.

Panorama


When Apple showed off iOS 6 at last weeks iPhone 5 event, they showed just one new feature: Panorama. The camera app has been updated with a Panorama mode that works extremely well!

“…one of the best new features of iOS 6.”

Tap Options > Panorama to get started. The Panorama UI is phenomenal – I don’t know why anyone didn’t think of this before – and it’s very easy to use. As you pan your iPhone across a scene, a white arrow moves along a line, and you have to keep it level as you move. It will give you warnings if you are moving too fast or if you tilt your phone up or down too far. It’s surprisingly easy to do, and the resulting photos look awesome – even on an iPhone 4S.

This is one of the best new features of iOS 6. Get ready for an onslaught of panorama photos; these will be popping up all over the social networks in the coming months!

UI Redesigns

      
Apple redesigned all of their digital storefronts in iOS 6 – the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore. All three now feature a more unified, simplified design that makes it much easier to browse content.

The storefronts now show large carousels of content at the top, highlighting featured apps, music, and books. The App Store search results page has also been redesigned, but to mixed results. Apps are now displayed as individual cards, which works well on the iPad where you can see 6 cards at a time, but the iPhone displays just 1 at a time, meaning you have to swipe a lot to browse through search results. Developers will no doubt be upset that their apps are being hidden away.

One of the best things about the new App Store: app updates can be downloaded without entering your iTunes password – just tap and go! All in all, the new storefronts look really nice and really sleek.

The stores aren’t the only parts of iOS to get a visual overhaul. The Music app on the iPhone has also been updated to match the lighter aesthetic of the iPad’s Music app. It looks pretty good on the iPhone, but I’m starting to notice a bit of fragmentation within Apple’s built-in iPhone apps.

      

First you’ve got apps like Contacts and Calendar, which still feature the original, “retro” silver and pinstripe UI. Then you’ve got Notes, Calculator, even Podcasts, which are laden with skeuomorphic designs. Finally there’s the new App Store and Music app, which present a flatter design with depressed buttons. There are 3 major UI paradigms at work in iOS, and the apps are starting to look and feel a little fragmented. Not to mention the fact that Clock has a completely different icon on the iPad than on the iPhone. Apple needs to sit down and decide in which direction they want to take the iOS UI – and please don’t let it be skeuomorphic. Hopefully iOS 7 will unify the UI paradigm a little bit.

My Other Favorite Features

Look, iOS 6 includes over 200 new features, and I can’t go over them all in this review. You’ve got stuff like FaceTime over Cellular which, guess what, lets you make FaceTime calls over 3G or LTE (though why anyone would risk the data charges is beyond me). You’ve got some new calling features, which let you quickly respond to an incoming call from the lock screen with a preset text message reading “I’m busy” or “I’ll call you back later” (you can create a Reminder for that, too). You’ve got a new VIP inbox in Mail, and you can insert attachments right from the compose screen now, too.

One of my favourite features of iOS 6 is Do Not Disturb. Turn this on, and you disable all alerts on your device. Notifications will still come in – they’ll be waiting for you the next time you unlock – but while Do Not Disturb is active, your device will not ring or vibrate. You can even schedule this to turn on at a specific time each day – extremely useful for bed time!

I also like that iTunes is now integrated right into the Music app. If you have a few songs from one album, the Music app will display a “Show Complete Album” button, allowing you to purchase more songs or the rest of the album right inside the app. Very handy!

Conclusion

“Iterate” seems to be Apple’s motto these days, and just as the iPhone 5’s design is an iteration of the iPhone 4S, and Mountain Lion is an iteration of Lion, so too is iOS 6 an iteration of iOS 5.

iOS 6 is not an entirely new operating system, but it brings with it some cool and much needed new features. However, while these new features are nice (for the most part), iOS as a whole is starting to feel outdated. Apple hasn’t changed much of the core functionality or design since 2007, and it’s time they looked beyond iteration and started thinking about the next big innovation for iOS.

That being said, iOS 6 is a solid update that adds plenty of cool new features. Maps shows promise, even if it isn’t quite as good as Google Maps. Passbook will no doubt be one of the most used and widely adopted features of the iPhone. And Siri will continue to evolve and become an ever more useful personal assistant.

If you have an iOS device, there’s no question about upgrading: you’ll enjoy the new stuff in iOS 6.

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Apple’s iOS 6 launches September 19th

Image Credit: Engadget

At the iPhone 5 launch event in San Francisco today, Apple confirmed that iOS 6 will launch on September 19th. The upgrade will, of course, be compatible with the new iPhone 5, as well as the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, and the new iPad. The upgrade will be free.

Apple did not show off any new features for iOS 6 other than what was already detailed at its WWDC unveiling in June. They did state that iOS 6 has been designed from the beginning to take advantage of the iPhone 5’s new 4″ 1136×640 display. All of Apple’s built-in apps have been updated to make use of the larger display.

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Purported iPad Mini Design Shown in Photos

Leaked photos depicting the purported iPad Mini originally published by Chinese blog DGlte.com, and subsequently picked up today by French blog Nowhereelse.fr, have made their way around the blogosphere. While not guaranteed, this appears to be a mockup built with leaked design specifications of the rumored 7.85″ tablet. Accessory makers do have a good history of getting iOS device designs specifications before they are announced. Bloomberg has reported that the smaller tablet will be unveiled in October. More photos are below.

Source: Nowhereelse.fr, via BGR

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If You Want to Back a Winner, Get the New Kindle Fire

Image Credit: The Verge

Today’s Kindle announcements made one thing clear: if any Android tablet manufacturer is going to hold their own against Apple’s iPad or the flood of upcoming Windows slates, it’s Amazon.

It’s weird to type that, because what Amazon announced today wasn’t that impressive. The new Kindle Fire and Fire HD look a hell of a lot nicer than Amazon’s first tablet, but they’re still not up to the build quality of an iPad or a Transformer. The software isn’t that good, app selection is mediocre, and the core carousel interface isn’t exactly inspired. The screen is good, but Apple and others have better. The price beats the competition, but it won’t stay that way for long; Asus’ and Samsung’s prices are a hairs breadth away from Amazon’s, and what’s to stop them from shaving another seventy-five bucks off come Christmastime?

No, Amazon has the edge because they have something no one else in the Android ecosystem, not even Google, has—focus. They don’t just want the Fire and the Fire HD to succeed; they need it to. Amazon is a massive conglomerate, the Internet’s 1990’s Microsoft. They sell server space, shoes, books, IMDB subscriptions, free shipping, and local daily deals. They run a Netflix competitor and an iTunes Match clone. They knocked off Dropbox and bought Audible. You name it, they probably do it, or will do it, or have done it. Like Google, they try everything once and most things twice.

But unlike Google, Amazon has decided to put everything together in one product. IMDB, the bastard stepchild Amazon bought for a lark? It’s now powering contextual trivia searches in your movies.  Audible audiobooks? Amazon will read them to you while you look at your e-ink copy. All of those media services everyone forgets come with their Prime subscription? It’s all at your fingertips on the brand new Kindle Fire. The original Kindle Fire was a portal to Amazon content, just like the Kindle was a portal to Amazon’s books. Sure, it was integrated with all of Amazon’s other stuff, but just because that’s how Amazon justified selling hardware at a loss. The Kindle Fire then didn’t feel like the future of Amazon; it felt like the future of the Kindle, one small part of Amazon, an unfocused web giant.

With the new Fire, things feel different. It feels like Amazon is making the Fire line the priority of the entire company, not just the content departments. Any service they have, no matter how unrelated it might seem, is going to find its way into Amazon’s tablet line up. Bezos has made selling the new Kindle Fire the priority of his entire company. And you know what? What Bezos wants, Bezos gets. Early Amazon succeeded because Bezos focused the entire company on books. He wanted to transform a single industry, and he did. Since then, Amazon has stretched out, grown, gotten bigger. But in the process, it’s gotten slower, messier. It was starting to lose its focus and its edge. Now, things are changing. There’s a goal line, a plan, and a flagship product everybody has to get behind. The Amazon that is is becoming more like the Amazon that was. And the Amazon of the old, the ruthless bookseller that drove everybody out of business? That’s not a company I would bet against.

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