Amazon Prime Day Smashes Sales and Subscriber Growth Records

Today’s topics include Amazon breaking record sales on Prime Day; Microsoft retiring Windows Phone 8.1;  Microsoft's Seeing AI mobile app helping blind users see the world; and new data showing half of corporate web apps contain flaws that are at least a year old.

Amazon officials reported that sales during the company’s Prime Day that took place earlier this week grew 60 percent over the same event in 2016 while Prime membership growth also set a record.

Analysts have estimated that about 70 percent of U.S. households have Prime memberships. On Prime Day, more U.S. households became Prime members than any other single day in Amazon's history, and the company likely generated more than $1 billion in sales during the 30-hour period that started at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on July 10.

The single most popular product sold on Prime Day was the Amazon Echo Dot, the diminutive cousin to the Amazon Echo.

Microsoft pulled the plug on its Windows Phone 8.1 mobile operating system this week, adding to the uncertainty surrounding the Redmond, Wash., technology giant's dwindling ecosystem of smartphone offerings.

According to an online support document, on July 11 Microsoft stopped supporting Windows Phone 8.1, as well as other aging products including Virtual PC 2007, Identity Lifecycle Manager 2007 and SoftGrid Application Virtualization 4.1 for Desktops.

Showcased during the Microsoft Build 2014 developer conference, the mobile operating system introduced users to Cortana, the company's answer to Siri and other virtual assistants. That same year, the Nokia 630, 635 and 930 flagship smartphones where among the first to run the then-new operating system right out of the box.

Microsoft's efforts to democratize artificial intelligence continued this week with the release of Seeing AI, a free mobile app for the blind or visually impaired that uses audio to describe the world around its users.

Available now for Apple iOS devices, the app enables users to point their cameras and hear descriptions of the people, objects and text that appear before them.

The AI-assisted app uses a variety of technologies that the company has been employing in its own products and commercializing as part of its Cognitive Services portfolio. For example, Seeing AI not only detects people, but can also provide audio descriptions that account for a person's approximate age, emotional state and facial features.

Companies focused on securing their web applications have slightly reduced the number of flaws in their software, according to web security firm WhiteHat Security’s latest annual report.

The report, based on data from both dynamic and static analyses conducted by the firm, found that the average web application has fewer flaws, yet, half of all apps always had at least one vulnerability in 2016.

“We are releasing software faster, faster and faster, so that means that we are releasing vulnerabilities faster as well,” Ryan O’Leary, vice president of WhiteHat’s Threat Research Center, told eWEEK. “We need to get the time-to-fix down and the window of exposure down, because the more time that we give the bad guys to find a vulnerability and develop and exploit, the more vulnerable we are,” O'Leary noted.