The Beginners' Guide to Hacker-Powered Security
Don’t let a product vulnerability or an ill-timed disclosure knock you off course. Learn the best practices for starting and running effective bug bounty programs, and how global leaders like Starbucks, Twitter, Nintendo, and Goldman Sachs are integrating hacker-powered security into their toolset. Get the Guide.
Although retailers are slating some outstanding deals for Black Friday, the shine of the once-feverish shopping day has diminished, as product discounts have started to appear earlier and earlier in the holiday season.
Discounts formerly found exclusively on Black Friday -- and on its online equivalent, Cyber Monday -- gradually have migrated to earlier in the fall.
Black Friday Deal Sprawl Grows
"It's more like Black and Cyber November," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group , an advisory services firm in Bend, Oregon.
"The trend now is to capture as much money as possible before Amazon gobbles it all up," he told the E-Commerce Times.
Black Friday starts as early as October for some retailers, noted Natalie Malaszenko, senior vice president for digital business at Office Depot, which has its headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida.
"At the end of October, a lot of retailers will go out and talk about their differentiator -- free shipping, the ability to pick up in stores in one hour, or price-matching," she told the E-Commerce Times.
The U.S. Government Loves VR. Both NASA and the U.S. military are investing in virtual reality. NASA uses the technology to try to connect engineers with the devices they send into space. Using the Oculus, and motion sensing equipment from the Xbox One gaming console, NASA engineers are developing ways to control a robotic arm with gestures made by the operator here on Earth. The military uses VR to recruit and to train soldiers before they are deployed. The simulated scenarios provide opportunities for teams to work together in immersive, realistic environments to better prepare them for the chaos of combat.
"Then in November -- literally as Halloween ends -- you start seeing early Black Friday or Black Friday sneak peeks," Malaszenko said.
"Most retailers put out their Black Friday inserts out early to help shoppers determine where to go," she added. "The whole month of November becomes some form of Black Friday pricing."
Big Inserts, Big Deals
Some of the biggest Black Friday inserts have been released by Best Buy (52 pages), Walmart (32 pages) and Target (47 pages).
Retailers are betting 4K TVs will be a hit this holiday season, and Best Buy features them prominently in its flyer. It's offering a 43-inch Toshiba Smart 4K set for US$129.99. It's also selling a 65-inch Samsung 4K unit for $599.99. Meanwhile, Walmart is advertising a 65-inch 4K Roku TV for $398.
Gaming consoles are another popular item during the holidays. Target is offering a Black Friday deal on the popular Xbox One S 1TB Minecraft Bundle. The bundle is $199, and Target will throw in a $20 gift card. That's a good deal, but not as good as Kohl's, which meets Target's price and throws in a $60 gift card.
To your great surprise, the concept of Head Mounted Display is also not a new idea. The first head-mounted display was developed around 1960’s. the Telesphere mask was the first example of a head-mounted display, which provided 3D stereoscopic and wide vision with sound.
Smartphone deals have become a staple of Black Friday, and this year is no exception. Target is bundling gift cards with the iPhone models it's selling. It includes a $250 card with the purchase of an iPhone XS or XS Max, and a $150 card with an iPhone 8, 8 Plus or X. That's not quite as good as Walmart, which throws in a $300 gift card with the purchase of an XS, XS Max or XR, and a $400 card with the 8, 8 Plus or X.
Target also is offering a $300 gift card with the purchase of a Galaxy Note 9 -- with activation by Verizon or AT&T -- as well as with the Galaxy S9 and S9+ -- with activation by Verizon, Sprint or AT&T.
Black Friday deals also are good for laptop shoppers. For under $200, Best Buy is offering two Samsung Chromebooks. Both have 11.6-inch screens. One has 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of solid state storage ($99); the other has 4 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage ($129).
In the under-$500 range, Staples is selling an HP Pavilion model with a 15.6-inch display, Intel Core i7 processor, 24 GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive for $499. Meanwhile, Costco is selling Dell's slick XPS touchscreen laptop at a $500 discount.
Costco also is offering sizable discounts on a four-person spa ($1,000 off) and an InstaView refrigerator ($1,300 off).
Google Cardboard Was a Side Project. The Google Cardboard platform was developed by David Coz and Damien Henry. The two engineers developed the project as part of Google’s”innovation time off” program in which engineers are encouraged to spend 20 percent of their time working on projects that interest them. Thankfully, Google backed the project, and Google Cardboard is now one of the cornerstones of scalable virtual reality.
Another item that promises to be hot on Black Friday is the Google Home Hub, which is designed to tame the smart gadgets proliferating in many homes. Target, Best Buy and Walmart all are selling the hub for $99, but Best Buy is tossing in $10 in Best Buy Rewards, and Walmart is adding a $10 VUDU credit and six months of free YouTube Premium.
Store hours on Black Friday will be a mixed bag. Some stores will be closed on Thanksgiving. Others will open for a few hours, then close and reopen on Friday.
Walmart, Target and Best Buy all will open on Thanksgiving -- Walmart at 6 p.m.; Best Buy and Target at 5 p.m.
Black Friday used to be the event that set off holiday shopping, but that's not the case anymore, noted Ryan Fisher, a partner with A.T. Kearney, a global managing consulting firm with headquarters in Chicago.
Twenty percent of shoppers will spend more before Thanksgiving than last year, he predicted, citing a recent survey conducted by his firm.
"Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not the big milestones they were for retailers any longer," Fisher told the E-Commerce Times. "They're used as measurements to talk about holiday spending, but the holiday season is starting earlier and earlier."
Endless Possibilities with Virtual Reality. Ever wanted to play a tennis match with the likes of Maria Sharapova, or save the world with the Avengers? VR technology has made the impossible possible, thanks to amazing content now available to let users virtually experience stuff they could only dream of. With the help of add-on features or accessories, such as a surround sound audio system or gloves with attached sensors detecting hand movements along with wands and treadmills, VR enthusiasts can enjoy an alternate reality and an entirely different world.
The days of Black Friday being a day for brick-and-mortar sales, and Cyber Monday being a day for online sales have passed.
"More and more, those lines are blurred," Fisher said. "Retailers are looking at their holiday season as encompassing all channels. It's more about how to fulfill a customer's needs, no matter where they buy."
November and December retail sales are forecast to be 4.3 percent to 4.8 percent higher than 2017, reaching $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. A substantial amount of those sales will be e-commerce transactions.
E-commerce keeps growing as a percentage of total retail sales, noted Chris Perry, vice president for global executive education at Edge by Ascential , a data, insights and advisory service for brand manufacturers and retailers, based in London.
In 2014, it was about 11 percent, he said. Four years later, it's expected to reach 17 percent.
Early discounts are "starting to dilute the power of Black Friday," Perry told the E-Commerce Times.
Eventually, discounts won't be enough to attract shoppers to prime shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. They'll want more than discounts.
As with every creation in the universe, there has to be a humble beginning for everything and VR technology was no exception. Although it’s hard to pinpoint the father of this amazing technology, history suggests that it could have been the innovation of not one but five key individuals. First, Morton Heilig for giving users the very first interactive film experience which can be take the credit as the beginning of 3D content. Then, there’s Jaron Lanier, the first person to credit the term “Virtual Reality”; Douglas Engelbart, who invented the computer mouse and laid the foundation for the modern user interface; Ivan Sutherland, inventor of the first head mounted display (HMD); and Myron Krueger, a computer graphics and audio wiz.
"I think you're going to see more and more of a play with a deal that's a really great value and at the same time offer a chance to do something great for others," Perry said, "such as contributing to a charity."
John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News.