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July 12 2013

Amazon muss Leermedienabgabe zahlen

Mit seinem Urteil vom Donnerstag dieser Woche stellt der europäische Gerichtshof klar, dass Amazon die so genannte Leermedienabgabe zahlen muss. Und zwar in jenen EU-Mitgliedsstaaten, in denen – abweichend vom EU-Recht – die Privatkopie erlaubt ist, wie Deutschland und Österreich.

Ausgangspunkt des Falles ist die österreichische Gesellschaft zur Verwertung von Urheberrechten, Austro-Mechana. Sie hatte Ende vergangenen Jahres Amazon verklagt und verlangt, dass der Konzern für verkaufte Leermedien in den Jahren 2002 bis 2004 rund 1,8 Millionen Euro zahlt. Amazon war der Auffassung, dass die Leermedienvergütung aus mehreren Gründen gegen das EU-Recht verstosse, und rief den Obersten Gerichtshof der Europäischen Union an.

Die Leermedienabgabe sorgt dafür, dass ein Händler für jedes verkaufte Leermedium – DVD- und CD-Rohlinge, Speicherkarten und ähnliches – einen prozentualen Anteil an eine Verwertungsgesellschaft zahlen muss. Diese verteilt die Einnahmen an Autoren, Musiker, Fotografen, Illustratoren oder Filmschaffende. Damit soll den Urhebern und Lizenzrechteinhabern ein finanzieller Ausgleich dafür zukommen, dass es erlaubt ist, urheberrechtlich geschützte Werke  zu privaten Zwecken zu kopieren. Das EU-Recht an sich sieht keine Privatkopien vor, gesteht aber Deutschland und Österreich zu, Ausnahmeregelung zu erlassen.

Amazon und andere müssen Leermedienabgaben bezahlen

In seinem Urteil stellt der europäische Gerichtshof klar, dass die Sonderregelungen zu Privatkopie und Leermedienabgabe in den jeweiligen Ländern gelten. Zudem erläuterten die Richter, dass es nicht ausreicht, in anderen EU-Mitgliedsstaaten Abgaben zu zahlen, um dann in Deutschland oder Österreich nicht zahlen zu müssen. Sollte ein Unternehmen in einem Land Abgaben gezahlt haben, das territorial nicht zuständig ist, kann das Unternehmen das Geld zurückfordern.

Das Urteil des EU-Gerichtshofes ist keine Entscheidung für den betreffenden Fall in Österreich. Die müsse ein österreichisches Gericht fällen, so der Gerichtshof. Doch das müsse „im Einklang mit der Entscheidung des Gerichtshofs entscheiden“, heißt es in einer Pressemitteilung. Mehr noch: „Diese Entscheidung des Gerichtshofs bindet in gleicher Weise andere nationale Gerichte, die mit einem ähnlichen Problem befasst werden.“

Das heißt, dass sich Amazon und andere nun wohl nicht mehr weigern können, in Deutschland Abgaben auf Leermedien zu zahlen. Zumindest bis auf Weiteres. Die Privatkopie-Regelung ist zwischen Urhebern, Verwertungsgesellschaften, Herstellern und Handel seit Jahren heftig umstritten. Hersteller und Handel wollen sie abschaffen, deutsche Verbraucherverbände möchten sie gern als Recht festschreiben, nicht nur als Erlaubnis.

June 17 2013

Reaktionen auf Prism, Open-Data-Richtlinie, Filehoster als Gehilfe

Das Überwachungsprogramm Prism zeitigt weltweit Reaktionen, das EU-Parlament hat die novellierte Richtlinie für Informationen des öffentlichen Sektors beschlossen, ein Filehoster kann als Gehilfe einer Urheberrechtsverletzung handeln. Außerdem im Wochenrückblick: Telekom-Drosselung, Vorratsdaten am EuGH, Amazon-Doku.

Weltweite Reaktionen auf Prism

Die Internetüberwachung durch die USA ruft weiterhin weltweit ein großes Echo hervor. Die EU-Kommission forderte Aufklärung, inwieweit die Rechte von EU-Bürgern verletzt seien. Kommissarin Reding betonte, dass Fragen des Datenschutzes „für uns Europäer sehr wichtig” und dass „die Grundrechte der Bürger nicht verhandelbar” seien. Die Financial Times berichtet im Gegensatz dazu, dass auf Druck der USA aus dem Entwurf der Datenschutz-Grundverordnung eine Klausel gegen „NSA-Spionage” gerade erst gestrichen wurde.
Zur Übersicht bei Heise online.
Zur EU-Datenschutzverordnung bei Telemedicus.

EU-Parlament verabschiedet Open-Data-Richtlinie

Am Donnerstag hat das EU-Parlament den Vorschlag der EU-Kommission zur Richtlinie über die Weiterverwendung von Informationen des öffentlichen Sektors beschlossen. Öffentliche Daten der Verwaltung dürfen danach zu beliebigen Zwecken weiterverwendet werden. Die Richtlinie regelt ebenfalls, wie die Daten zur Verfügung gestellt werden müssen. Sie müssen maschinenlesbar sein und es dürfen keine Formate verwendet werden, die das Weiterreichen erschweren.
Pressemitteilung der Europäischen Union.

OLG Hamburg: Sharehoster kann auch als Gehilfe haften

Ein Sharehoster haftet bei Urheberrechtsverletzungen seiner Nutzer auch auf Schadensersatz, wenn er eine rechtswidrige Datei trotz Kenntnis über einen längeren Zeitraum online lässt. Das hat das Oberlandesgericht Hamburg in einem Beschluss von Mitte Mai entschieden. Im konkreten Fall hatte ein Host-Provider eine Abuse-Meldung eines Rechteinhabers zwar zur Kenntnis genommen, die Datei aber wochenlang nicht entfernt. Das führe zu Vorsatz, so das Gericht – und damit zu einer Haftung nicht nur als Mitstörer, sondern sogar als Gehilfe.
Mehr bei Telemedicus.
iRights.info: Wie legal sind Filehoster?

Telekom reagiert auf Kritik an Internet-Drossel

Die Telekom hat auf die anhaltende Kritik an ihren Plänen zur Geschwindigkeitsdrosselung reagiert – wenn auch verhalten. Es soll weiterhin gedrosselt werden, sofern ein User ein gewisses Datenvolumen überschreitet. Die Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung soll aber geringer ausfallen als ursprünglich geplant. Auch die Bevorzugung eigener Dienste, insbesondere des Unterhaltungsangebotes, soll bleiben. Das Bundeswirtschaftsministerium hat derweil eine Verordnung angekündigt, die genau das verhindern soll.
Bericht bei FAZ.net.
Zum Bericht bei Heise online.

Vorratsdatenspeicherung: EuGH verhandelt am 9. Juli

Die Richtlinie zur Vorratsdatenspeicherung gibt es seit 2006 – erst jetzt prüft der Europäische Gerichtshof, ob sie mit den EU-Grundrechten vereinbar ist. Am 9. Juli wird der Gerichtshof zu mehreren Vorlageverfahren mündlich verhandeln, die auf diese Frage abzielen. Im Vorfeld der Verhandlung hat das Gericht bereits Fragen an die Verfahrensbeteiligten verschickt. Aus diesem Fragenkatalog ergibt sich, dass der Europäische Gerichtshof vor allem die Verhältnismäßigkeit der Richtlinie prüfen will. Auch will er prüfen, ob sich der europäische Gesetzgeber bei Erlass der Richtlinie an „objektiven Kriterien” orientiert hatte.
Bericht bei E-Comm.

Landgericht Hamburg: Amazon-Dokumentation darf ausgestrahlt werden

Anfang des Jahres sorgte eine ARD-Dokumentation über die Arbeitsverhältnisse bei Amazon für großes Aufsehen. Amazon ging zunächst erfolgreich mit einer einstweiligen Verfügung gegen den Hessischen Rundfunk vor. Nun hat das Landgericht Hamburg diese einstweilige Verfügung wieder aufgehoben: Die Äußerungen seien vom Grundrecht auf freie Meinungsäußerung gedeckt.
Bericht bei Telemedicus.

June 14 2013

Four short links: 14 June 2014

  1. How Geeks Opened up the UK Government (Guardian) — excellent video introduction to how the UK is transforming its civil service to digital delivery. Most powerful moment for me was scrolling through various depts’ web sites and seeing consistent visual design.
  2. Tools for Working Remotely — Braid’s set of tools (Trello, Hackpad, Slingshot, etc.) for remote software teams.
  3. Git Push to Deploy on Google App EngineEnabling this feature will create a remote Git repository for your application’s source code. Pushing your application’s source code to this repository will simultaneously archive the latest the version of the code and deploy it to the App Engine platform.
  4. Amazon’s 3D Printer Store — printers and supplies. Deeply underwhelming moment of it arriving on the mainstream.

May 31 2013

Leser sind eingeschlossen in E-Book-Ökosystemen

Wenn es Amazon oder Apple wollten, könnten E-Books zwischen Plattformen wie Kindle und iBooks austauschbar sein. Doch die Firmen verhindern das und schaden damit der europäischen Buchkultur. Zu diesen Ergebnissen kommt eine Studie der Europäischen und Internationalen Buchhändlervereinigung. iRights.info sprach mit den Autoren.

blaesi_rothlauf_3

Christoph Bläsi (l.) und Franz Rothlauf: „Der Nutzer sollte darauf achten, möglichst offene Endgeräte zu kaufen, und nicht solche, die für eine bestimmte Plattform geschlossen sind.“ Foto: Matthias Spielkamp

iRights.info: Herr Bläsi, Herr Rothlauf, Sie haben im Auftrag der Europäischen und Internationalen Buchhändlervereinigung (EIBF) in einer Studie untersucht, wie es um die Interoperabilität bei E-Books bestellt ist. Was ist mit Interoperabilität gemeint?

Christoph Bläsi: Vollständige Interoperabilität wäre erreicht, wenn man eine Buchdatei von einer Plattform, also etwa Amazons Kindle, nehmen könnte und mit allen Funktionalitäten in einem anderen System, zum Beispiel Apples iBooks, damit weiterarbeiten könnte. Mit Funktionalitäten ist alles gemeint, was sich um diese Datei herum rankt, zum Beispiel Metadaten, Kommentare, „social reading“-Spuren, Anmerkungen, Heraushebungen.

iRights.info: Und im Moment sind die E-Book-Formate nicht kompatibel?

Christoph Bläsi: Jedenfalls nicht vollständig. Man kann zum Beispiel auf einem iPhone von Apple eine Kindle-App haben, mit der man Amazon-Bücher kaufen und lesen kann. Aber diese Bücher sind dann woanders als die Bücher, die man bei Apple gekauft hat. Man kann sie nicht miteinander in Verbindung bringen, nicht in einer Liste sehen und so weiter.

iRights.info: Welche Formate gibt es derzeit und wie passen sie zusammen?

Christoph Bläsi: Es gibt einen Vorschlag für ein Standardformat, das heißt Epub3. Dann gibt es das Format KF8 von Amazon, und zwei Formate von Apple. Die sind zueinander nicht kompatibel. Eines der Apple-Formate ist mit Epub3 relativ gut kompatibel, und innerhalb der Apple-Welt kann man Epub3-Formate auch lesen. Man kann aber trotzdem nicht sagen, dass Apple ein offenes System ist; die Firma schützt ihre Dinge dann anders.

iRights.info: Warum machen die Hersteller das überhaupt – Formate anbieten, die miteinander nicht kompatibel sind –, statt einfach ein Standardformat zu nutzen?

Christoph Bläsi: Das hat mit dem Geschäftsmodell der Unternehmen zu tun. Denen geht es darum, voneinander abgeschlossene so genannte Ökosysteme für Inhalte aufzubauen. Das sind um ein E-Book oder ein bestimmtes Produkt herum aufgebaute Welten, in denen sich der Nutzer bewegt. Und sie sind aus Sicht des Unternehmens am sinnvollsten so aufgebaut, dass der Nutzer auf dieser Plattform bleibt, dort einkauft, dort Nutzungsspuren hinterlässt. Nicht kompatible Datenformate sind ein effektives Instrument, solche Ökosysteme aufzubauen.

iRights.info: Wäre denn Epub3 in seiner Funktionalität mit den anderen Formaten gleichwertig?

Christoph Bläsi: Das ist ein wichtiger Punkt, denn Apple und Amazon könnten ja behaupten, Interoperabilität ist nicht möglich, weil ihre eigenen Formate Funktionen erlauben, die mit Epub3 nicht möglich sind. Zum Beispiel Ausschnitte zu vergrößern oder eine Vorlesefunktionen. Wir haben herausgefunden, dass das nicht der Fall ist. Das ist ein ganz essentieller Teil unserer Studie. Alles, was man sich für so genannte „enhanced E-Books“, also E-Books mit erweiterten Funktionen, wünschen kann, ist mit Epub3 möglich. Es ist sogar so, dass Epub3 Eigenschaften möglich macht, die sonst mit keinem anderen Format möglich sind. Die Verbände von Verlagen und Buchhändlern hätten hier also die Möglichkeit, Amazon und Apple argumentativ den Rückweg zu versperren.

iRights.info: In Ihrer Studie sind Sie auch zu dem Schluss gekommen, dass der Mangel an Interoperabilität eine Gefahr darstellt für die Vielfalt der Buchkultur in Europa. Wie kommen Sie zu dem Ergebnis?

Christoph Bläsi: Die Menge aller angebotenen Bücher ist bei den verschiedenen Shops in den verschiedenen Welten nicht identisch. Die haben zwar eine große Überschneidung – die Bestseller gibt es überall –, aber wenn ich mich einmal für eine Plattform entschieden habe, und ich will ein Buch kaufen, das nicht gerade ein Bestseller ist, kann es sein, dass es diesen Titel in dem Ökosystem, in dem ich mich bewege, nicht gibt, sondern nur in einem anderen. Da ich die Bücher von dort aber nicht lesen kann, ist mir zwar nicht endgültig der Zugang zu diesem Buch verwehrt, aber mir ist eine extreme Hürde errichtet worden.

iRights.info: Sie haben in der Studie auch festgestellt, dass Interoperabilität aber möglich wäre.

Franz Rothlauf: Ja, auf der Formatebene ist das relativ leicht, denn die Formate lassen sich leicht ineinander umwandeln. Aber eine der Haupterkenntnisse der Studie war, dass dies für echte Interoperabilität nicht ausreicht. Interoperabilität in dem Sinne, dass der Nutzer Wahlfreiheit hat, welche Bücher er mit welchen Lesegeräten lesen möchte, die erreichen Sie nur dann, wenn die vorher beschriebenen Ökosysteme kompatibel sind.

iRights.info: Warum ist das so schwierig?

Franz Rothlauf: Weil es eben oft dem Geschäftsmodell der Unternehmen widerspricht. Die sind daran interessiert, den Nutzer an diese eine Plattform zu binden. Und es gibt noch eine Schwierigkeit: Wenn Sie ein Buch bei Anbieter A gekauft haben, dann kommt das mit bestimmten Rechten und Restriktionen, die durch eine digitale Rechteverwaltung gesichert sind. Zum Beispiel dürfen Sie das Buch nur zwanzig Mal anschauen. Wenn Sie dieses Buch in ein anderes Ökosystem B übertragen, muss der Anbieter dieses Ökosystems dann eigentlich diese Rechte und Restriktionen garantieren, die Ihnen von B auferlegt oder gewährt wurden. Sie müssen also die Rechte, die Sie an dem Buch haben, übertragen können vom einen zum anderen. Das ist zwar technisch möglich, aber ich muss es als Anbieter auch wollen.

iRights.info: Wer könnte Ihrer Ansicht nach auf welche Weise dafür sorgen, dass Interoperabilität Wirklichkeit wird?

Franz Rothlauf: Der Nutzer sollte darauf achten, möglichst offene Endgeräte zu kaufen, und nicht solche, die für eine bestimmte Plattform geschlossen sind. Das gilt vor allem auch für Anschaffungen durch öffentliche Einrichtungen, Regierungen zum Beispiel. Den großen Playern auf dem Markt, also hauptsächlich Amazon und Apple, würden wir nahelegen, dass sie ihre Systeme öffnen.

Und als letztes würden wir auch den kleinen Buchläden empfehlen, die Herausforderung E-Book anzunehmen. Dass sie aktiv auf E-Books zugehen und ihren Kunden das auch ermöglichen. Denn wir beobachten, dass der Buchhändler um die Ecke zwar sehr gerne Bücher mag, aber mit den ganzen technischen Details, die es erfordert, um E-Books auf dem Markt anzubieten, überfordert ist. Wir glauben deshalb, dass das nur im Zusammenschluss mit anderen Händlern oder Verbänden möglich sein wird.

Christoph Bläsi: Das ist natürlich ein klein wenig eine Wunschvorstellung, der wir da anhängen. Denn die Latte hängt schon sehr hoch – was die Ökosysteme jetzt schon an Funktionen bieten, das ist gigantisch. Da geht es nicht nur darum, die Kräfte zu bündeln und gegensätzliche Interessen zu überwinden. Sondern man muss auch einen Weg finden, wie man das finanziert. Denn wenn man über die Technologie spricht, dann geht es um viel Geld. Und derjenige, der dahinter steht, wäre ja kein Unternehmen, sondern ein Zusammenschluss von Unternehmen, bei dem einige der Mitglieder dann selber Interessen haben – eine schwierige Sache.

Dr. Christoph Bläsi ist Professor am Institut für Buchwissenschaft der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Dr. Franz Rothlauf ist Professor für Wirtschaftsinformatik und BWL der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.

May 23 2013

Four short links: 23 May 2013

  1. Kindle Worlds Fine Print — Amazon’s fanfic publishing system has a few flaws: no pr0n, no slash (crossovers), and Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright. I can’t see this attracting pinboard’s most passionate users.
  2. XBox One Won’t Allow Indies to Self-Publish GamesWhen it comes to self-publishing, Microsoft is the odd man out. Both Sony and Nintendo allow developers to publish their own games onto PlayStation Network and Nintendo Network, respectively. Microsoft’s position stands in stark contrast to Sony, which has been aggressively pursuing indie content for PS4. (via Andy Baio)
  3. 3D Printers for Peace Competition (Michigan Tech) — We are challenging the 3D printing community to design things that advance the cause of peace. This is an open-ended contest, but if you’d like some ideas, ask yourself what Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, or Ghandi would make if they’d had access to 3D printing. (via BoingBoing)
  4. covimCollaborative editing for vim. My dream of massively multiplayer troff can finally be realised.

February 22 2013

Bild.de beweist: Amazon-Chef kann lesen (SEO-Schlagwort Leiharbeiter)

Amazon Deutschland-Chef Ralf Kleber hört sich im Video-Interview mit Bild.de irgendwie seltsam an. Warum betont er so komisch? Wohin wandern seine Augen?

Im Video-Interview mit Bild.de verteidigt Amazon-Manager Kleber sein Unternehmen gegen aktuelle Vorwürfe (Ausbeutung von Leiharbeitern, fehlende Betriebsräte usw.). Doch wer sich beim Zuschauen auf die Augen und die Betonung von Herrn Kleber konzentriert, könnte den Eindruck gewinnen: Der Mann liest die Antworten ab, und zwar nicht besonders flüssig. Als stünde da ein Helfer im Off, Plakate mit vorproduzierten PR-Statements hochhaltend. Klebers Pausen zwischen den Sätzen, das Atemholen, die verblüffend stimmigen Anschlüsse an die Fragen. Die gestanzten PR-Formeln (“Amazon ist ein verantwortungsvoller Arbeitgeber”). Die irgendwie unspontane Ausdrucksweise (aus welcher “Gesprächssituation” kommt wohl der Impuls für das “Bedenken Sie”?). Weiß da etwa einer, wie der Text weitergeht? Auch die Fragen scheinen Kleber nicht aus der Fassung zu bringen. Dabei handelt es sich laut Bild.de um ein “Verhör”.

Sollte Herr Kleber wirklich vorlesen, es wäre der Beweis für das, was wir schon lange ahnten. Diese Internetkonzerne aus den USA sind  irgendwie komisch (frei nach Frank Schirrmacher). Können die keine Realität? Lesen die vielleicht nur vor, was ihnen PR-Algorithmen als beste Antwort ausgerechnet und ausgedruckt haben? Das wäre ein Ding. Und führt zu neuen Zeitgeist-Fragen. Denn wenn mehr Betriebsräte die spieltheoretisch beste Reaktion auf Amazons PR-Krise sind, was bedeutet das für den Kapitalismus?

Andererseits: Es kann gar nicht sein, dass Kleber die Antworten vorliest. Bild.de würde das nicht zulassen. Bild.de würde die Verhör-Fragen nicht vorher mit ihm abkaspern. Bild.de würde knallhart nachfragen, bis Herr Kleber alleine antworten muss, ohne fremde Hilfe quasi, selber irgendwie.

February 21 2013

Commerce Weekly: Best Buy wants to end showrooming, Google wants to start

Google takes on brick-and-mortar; Best Buy takes on ecommerce

GoogleLogoGoogleLogoThe Google retail store rumor ignited again this week. Seth Weintraub reported at 9to5Google that “[a]n extremely reliable source has confirmed to us that Google is in the process of building stand-alone retail stores in the U.S.” to be opened in time for the 2013 holiday season. The Wall Street Journal’s Amir Efrati followed with confirmation from “people familiar with the matter,” though one of those people said it wouldn’t happen this year.

Across the board, analysts seem to think it’s a good idea. Alyson Shontell at Business Insider noted that as Google becomes more of a hardware company — with its Android devices, Google Glass, and self-driving cars — analysts say it’s time for Google to work on its brand image, which will require consumer interaction, something the company hasn’t done much of up to this point. Google executives seem to agree — Weintraub reported that retail store plans started to solidify along with plans to offer Google Glass to mainstream consumers. “The leadership thought consumers would need to try Google Glass first hand to make a purchase,” Weintraub wrote. “Without being able to use them first hand, few non-techies would be interested in buying Google’s glasses (which will retail from between $500 to $1,000).”

On the other end of the retail spectrum, brick-and-mortar big box retailer Best Buy is looking to strengthen its competitive edge against online retailers. The company announced this week that in its efforts to “end showrooming,” it will make its holiday price-matching policy permanent. Beginning March 3, the store will “price match all local retail competitors and 19 major online competitors in all product categories and on nearly all in-stock products, whenever asked by a customer,” according to a Best Buy press release. The release also stated that price matching will extend “post purchase” to include price reductions Best Buy makes within 15 days of a purchase. The company slipped in a change to its return and exchange policy as well — Kim Bhasin at Business Insider reported the new return/exchange period will drop to 15 days from 30, though Reward Zone Premier Silver members will retain their 60-day return eligibility.

A faberNovel study delves into the strategies behind Amazon’s success

This week, faberNovel released an update to its study “Amazon.com: The Hidden Empire.” John Geraci, faberNovel’s head of marketing, noted in a post at TechCrunch that since the first study was published in 2011, “a steady, ever-growing buzz has developed around Amazon as it becomes increasingly clear that they are really in for the kill with the retail industry, intending to spare no prisoners along the way.” Geraci outlined a few highlights from the study, including the fact that Amazon initially took aim at the B2B space with Amazon Supply, “but they clearly also want corporate-accounts domination — and they might succeed in getting it. He also noted Amazon’s continued willingness to experiment with disruptive business models, specifically highlighting textbook rentals for students.

The study, presented in a Slideshare (embedded below), offers a deep look into the paths behind the success of Amazon. Looking ahead, the study covers plans for the cloud, noting that “[e]ven though [Amazon Web Services] AWS is primarily a B2B offer, the Amazon cloud will ultimately be geared toward end-users.” It also looks at the company’s long-term goals to grow the Kindle ecosystem, achieve the same-day delivery holy grail, and lock itself in as a small and medium business supplier. You can view the complete study in the following Slideshare presentation:

Square further simplifies POS for merchants

In its continued efforts to democratize mobile payments for consumers and merchants, Square this week launched Business in a Box for Square Register. According to the press release, the package includes two Square Readers, an iPad stand, a cash drawer, and an optional receipt printer, all of which connect wirelessly to Square Register. The release noted the mobile payment obstacle Business in a Box aims to solve:

“Historically, business owners were forced to piece together multiple hardware components from various manufacturers, manage complicated contracts and pricing structures, and pay for expensive software licensing and service plans. Now, they can be up and running with Square Register in minutes.”

The price point is democratizing as well — the release stated that customizable hardware packages start at $299. Jordan Kahn at 9to5Mac did some digging into the customizations and associated costs. On top of the basic package, which Kahn noted includes a Heckler Design WindFall iPad Stand and an APG Vasario 1616 Cash Drawer, Square will provide a Star Micronics TSP143L Receipt Printer for an additional $300, for a total cost of $599. “We were able to find all the pieces of the package online (minus the free Square readers) for around $480,” Kahn wrote, “although that’s before any taxes or shipping costs.”

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February 18 2013

Wochenrückblick: Abmahndeckelung, Meinungsfreiheit, Lobbyplag

Trotz Streitigkeiten soll das Abmahngesetz nach Koalitionsaussagen noch kommen. Außerdem im Wochenrückblick: Europäischer Menschenrechtsgerichtshof zu Urheberrecht und Meinungsfreiheit, Lobbyplag startet, Klarnamenpflicht bei Facebook und Arbeitsbedingungen bei Amazon.

Koalition: Abmahngesetz soll noch kommen

Das Gesetz zur Deckelung der Abmahnkosten bei Urheberrechtsverletzungen soll noch in dieser Legislaturperiode verabschiedet werden. Inzwischen hat sich die Koalition offenbar auf den Entwurf des Bundesministeriums der Justiz geeinigt. Der Entwurf sieht vor, die Abmahnungen wegen Urheberrechtsverletzungen für Privatpersonen auf 1.000 Euro zu begrenzen. In der schwarz-gelben Koalition ist das Thema zwar ein Zankapfel. Es gebe jedoch „keinen vernünftigen Grund, warum das Gesetz nicht in dieser Legislaturperiode zustande kommen sollte”, hieß es aus FDP-Kreisen.
Schwarz-Gelb: Gesetz gegen Massenabmahnungen kommt noch
Zur Meldung bei Heise Online.

Europäischer Menschenrechtsgerichthof: Meinungsfreiheit kann Urheberrecht überwiegen

Eine Abwägung zwischen Urheberrecht und Meinungsfreiheit ist im Einzelfall möglich. Das geht aus einer Entscheidung des Europäichen Menschenrechtsgerichtshof von Januar dieses Jahres hervor, wie vergangene Woche bekannt wurde. Im Urheberrecht besteht systematisch bedingt für eine Interessenabwägung im Einzelfall sehr wenig Spielraum. Laut EGMR gebe es aber eine Wechselwirkung zwischen dem Urheberrecht und der Meinungsfreiheit. Letztere kann nach Ansicht des EGMR im Einzelfall die urheberrechtlichen Interessen überwiegen. Im konkreten Fall sah der EGMR dies jedoch nicht gegeben. Kurzfristig sind die Auswirkungen des Urteils daher nicht so weitreichend, wie von einigen Medien vergangene Woche behauptet.
Zur ausführlichen Urteilsbesprechung bei Telemedicus.

Neue Plattform: Lobbyplag und der Copy & Paste-Gesetzgeber

Das Projekt Lobbyplag ist vergangene Woche an den Start gegangen. Die Plattform soll die Einwirkung von Lobbyisten auf die Gesetzesentstehung beleuchten: So finden sich im Entwurf zur neuen Datenschutzrichtlinie der EU offenbar große Textbausteine aus Positionspapieren von Internetkonzernen wie Amazon und eBay – wörtlich übernommen. Netzaktivisten sehen dadurch das Ziel der Richtlinie – die Stärkung der Verbraucherrechte – in Gefahr. Durch den „Copy & Paste-Gesetzgeber aus Brüssel” sei eine Aushöhlung des Datenschutzes in der EU zu befürchten. Mitbegründer von LobbyPlag ist der bekannte Journalist Richard Gutjahr.
Lobbyplag: Der Copy&Paste-Gesetzegeber aus Brüssel
Ausführlich zur juristischen Netzwerkanalyse bei Legal Tribune Online.

Facebook setzt vorläufig Klarnamenpflicht durch

Facebook muss vorerst keine pseudonyme Nutzung des sozialen Netzwerks zulassen. Das hat das schleswig-holsteinische Verwaltungsgericht in einem Verfahren des vorläufigen Rechtsschutzes entschieden: Es hob die sofortige Vollziehung einer Anordnung des Unabhängigen Landeszentrums für Datenschutz Schleswig-Holstein (ULD) auf. Das ULD hatte versucht, die pseudonyme Facebook-Nutzung per Verwaltungsakt durchzusetzen. Eine Klarnamenspflicht verstoße zwar gegen deutsches Datenschutzrecht, doch erklärte das Verwaltungsgericht deutsches Recht für nicht anwendbar. Wenn User sich unter Pseudonym anmelden, kann Facebook die Profile damit vorerst weiterhin sperren. Das VG folgte damit der Rechtsansicht von Facebook und nicht der des ULD. Das ULD hat angekündigt, gegen den Beschluss des VG vorzugehen.
Ausführlich hierzu bei Telemedicus.
Zur Meldung bei Heise online.

Arbeitsbedingungen bei Amazon in der Kritik

Eine ARD-Doku über die Arbeitsbedingungen bei Amazon hat für Aufsehen gesorgt. In den deutschen Logistikzentren des Internet-Riesen herrschen dem Bericht zufolge mitunter schlechte Arbeitsbedingungen. Besonders heftige Vorwürfe – wie Rassismus und Verletzung der Persönlichkeitsrechte – muss sich ein Amazon-Subunternehmer gefallen lassen: So würden etwa ausländische Leiharbeiter schikaniert und Zimmerdurchsuchungen vorgenommen. Amazon sieht sich scharfer Kritik ausgesetzt. Aus der Bundes- sowie der hessischen Landesregierung werden inzwischen Stimmen nach Aufklärung laut.
Die gesamte Reportage bei Youtube.
Zum Bericht bei Carta.
Zur Meldung bei Heise.

Lizenz dieses Artikels: CC BY-NC-SA. Foto: Horia Varlan, CC BY

February 07 2013

Commerce Weekly: Google targets Amazon’s shopping platform

Google acquires Channel Intelligence, pursues Amazon shoppers

GoogleLogoGoogleLogoIn a recent post at Wired, Marcus Wohlsen took a look at the success of Google’s switch last fall to all-paid product listings — such as the top result for a search for iPhone 5 — and how it fits in to Google’s plans to compete against Amazon on the shopping front.

Chris Lien, CEO of Lawson and Marin Software, noted to Wohlsen that shoppers either start their searches at Amazon or at Google and that Amazon has been encroaching on Google’s turf as it becomes more of a “commerce search engine.”

In order to compete, Wohlsen writes, Google is establishing itself as a place not only to research products, but also to buy them. Lien says Google likely doesn’t intend to start its own warehouses, but rather to “package the sale from search to checkout” and let merchants take it from there. Marin marketing VP Matt Lawson told Wohlsen, “What you’re going to see [Google] do is do everything they can to enable marketers to sell through their platform.”

This week, Google took a major step in that direction with its acquisition of Channel Intelligence (CI) for $125 million. In a post at Forbes, TJ McCue describes CI as specializing in product ecommerce, offering data-driven services aimed at increasing online sales, and he highlights one of the company’s most successful products — the CI Where-to-Buy button.

Engadget’s Donald Melanson updated his report on the acquisition with a statement Google released regarding the purchase:

“We want to help consumers save time and money by improving the online shopping experience. We think Channel Intelligence will help create a better shopping experience for users and help merchants increase sales across the web.”

Digital wallet? What’s that?

A new study from comScore showed that the slow adoption rate of digital wallets may have something to do with a lack of awareness — only 51% of consumers in the U.S. were aware of digital wallets, aside from PayPal, which had a 72% awareness rate, according to the study.

Andrea Jacobs, comScore Payments Practice Leader, said for the press release that the low adoption rates could be attributed to multiple factors, such as low awareness and a lack of understanding of the benefits, from the consumer as well as the retailer side. She also noted that this isn’t the first time we’ve experienced steep barriers to adoption in the financial services industry: “There was a time when consumers were reluctant to use ATMs for similar reasons, and, today, look at how far we’ve come since the 1970s and 1980s.”

There are some indications of a bright future for digital wallets, however, when all aspects of the ecosystem are in place. Kevin Fitchard reports at GigaOm that Isis chief sales officer Jim Stapleton says their wallet trial in Salt Lake City “is producing positive results from both consumers and merchants,” with users paying with the wallet five or more times per week.

Stapleton wouldn’t specify the number of users Isis has at this point, Fitchard reports, but he said “the typical Utah Isis customer follows five different merchants using the wallet’s loyalty card and coupon features, and a customer who signs up for a business’s loyalty program tends to visit that business twice as often as a regular customer.”

“Social commerce” is driving growth in US ecommerce market

Reports this week showed global ecommerce sales topping the $1 trillion mark. Though the U.S. leads the world in ecommerce sales, ecommerce represents a “scant 4% of American retail sales,” according to Business Insider’s Alex Cocotas’ research. He notes, though, that the channel is “growing faster than its offline counterparts” and highlights the major drivers: mobile commerce and social media. Cocotas points to such success stories as “social commerce” sites ShoeDazzle and Fab.

According to Jim Edwards at Business Insider, Facebook advertisers can attest to the power of “social commerce.” Edwards looks at Facebook’s mobile app install ads, which on first blush appeared to be geared at mobile game and app developers. “But several of Facebook’s big advertising clients who have used the ads in Q4 indicated that the ads can be used to develop e-commerce on Facebook,” Edwards writes, “turning the social network into a mobile shopping and sales device.”

Edwards explains that the apps are more valuable to advertisers than ad impressions because a consumer with an app is likely to use it more than once, resulting in a “‘lifetime’ of revenue” as opposed to a one-off sale. After testing the ad unit, Edwards reports, Fab.com CEO Jason Goldberg said Fab’s shopping app was “[f]ive times more effective than any other mobile download channel that we’ve used.”

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January 11 2013

Amazons Autorip: Bekommen wir demnächst auch Bücher geschenkt?

Amazons US-Kunden, die dort nach 1997 Musik-CDs gekauft haben, bekommen die Musik nun als MP3-Datei im Cloud-Player des Unternehmens bereitgestellt.

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January 10 2013

Commerce Weekly: Isis Wallet/NFC payments struggle for a foothold

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

NFC-enabled Cashwrap case equips iPhone with Isis

At the 2013 International CES this week, Incipio and AT&T announced the launch of Cashwrap, an NFC-enabled iPhone case that equips iPhones with the Isis Wallet, currently only available for NFC-compatible Android phones. According to a post at 9to5Mac, the case will be available in March and will cost $59.99 to $69.99.

9to5Mac shot a short video of the product from the CES show floor (the Cashwrap representative mistakenly indicates the case will support iPhone 5 — at launch, it will support iPhone 4 and 4S):

When Isis launched in October, some questioned the viability of the payment platform and whether or not it was addressing a real problem. In a report at Consumer Reports, Jeff Blyskal concluded: “Isis, like Google Wallet, still seems to require a lot of work and needless complexity for the questionable convenience of paying by cell phone.” Now, on top of the complexity and questionable convenience of NFC payment, iPhone users must not only attach an appendage to the phone, but fork over a not-so-insignificant amount of cash — all for a payment platform that’s only available in Salt Lake City and Austin, and only at select retailers.

At Telecoms.com, Elliott Holley covered a recent report by financial research firm Celent that says the issues NFC payment technology has faced thus far are only going to be compounded in 2013 and that NFC payment solutions will be overshadowed — perhaps ultimately replaced — by cloud-based wallets. Celent senior analyst and author of the report Zilvanas Bareisis told Holley that not only is using the technology still much more difficult than swiping a credit card, but in markets such as the U.S., “the infrastructure bill is huge and convincing retailers and merchants is difficult.”

Holley highlights a key insight from the Celent report:

“Part of the problem for NFC digital wallets is that while the physical POS world is dominated by cards and the mobile equivalent is to have payment credentials inside the phone and sent to the POS via NFC, the online world is dominated by cloud-based wallets such as PayPal. That makes it difficult to bridge the online-offline convergence of customers who use their mobiles while shopping to read product reviews, compare prices and order online, or pick up an item from a local store, according to Celent.”

Target goes all-in with its price match strategy

Target announced this week that it would bring its holiday strategy against Amazon to the overall retail battle — the big-box retailer will now price match online retailers year-round. According to the press release, in addition to Amazon, Target will price match its own online site, Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com and Toysrus.com.

Best Buy implemented the same strategy against Amazon during the holiday season. There’s no news yet on whether Best Buy’s policy also will be continued year-round, but on a visit to Best Buy January 5, the retailer price matched a Bluetooth wireless speaker for me, using a product search of Amazon from my iPhone. Some are calling this tactic an all-in bet that can’t be won, but in the short-term anyway, consumers sure are winning.

App aims to make products the new point of sale

Bridging the gap between print advertising and online/mobile retail is something of a holy grail in the commerce space — being able to buy a product straight from a traditional print ad, for instance. PayPal recently experimented with such an endeavor, partnering with The West Australian daily newspaper to incorporate QR codes into print ads, allowing readers to purchase items on the spot by scanning the code. But what if you could skip the added complexity layer of a QR code? That’s what German startup Shopgate is aiming to offer. The app, profiled by Will M at SocialTimes this week, allows consumers to simply scan the product in the ad and, according to the product website, buy it in two clicks. Will M describes how it works:

“Shopgate enables consumers [to] take pictures of print ads and then purchase products within them using their phone. Product tagging works without QR codes — similar to how Facebook identifies your friends in pictures and suggests them for tags. People touch the product tags, put the items into shopping carts and then purchase products via a mobile storefront.”

Will M reports that the company’s vision is to provide “everywhere commerce,” and says “Shopgate executives say ‘Products as POS’ (Point of Sale) is the future of mobile commerce.” According to his report, the app works with product companies and retailers alike, and so far has 800 merchant partners. In addition to product tagging from print ads, the app also works with QR codes and UPC codes.

The German company plans to expand to the U.S. market early this year. You can watch a demo of the app in the following video.

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Commerce Weekly: Isis Wallet/NFC payments struggle for a foothold

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

NFC-enabled Cashwrap case equips iPhone with Isis

At the 2013 International CES this week, Incipio and AT&T announced the launch of Cashwrap, an NFC-enabled iPhone case that equips iPhones with the Isis Wallet, currently only available for NFC-compatible Android phones. According to a post at 9to5Mac, the case will be available in March and will cost $59.99 to $69.99.

9to5Mac shot a short video of the product from the CES show floor (the Cashwrap representative mistakenly indicates the case will support iPhone 5 — at launch, it will support iPhone 4 and 4S):

When Isis launched in October, some questioned the viability of the payment platform and whether or not it was addressing a real problem. In a report at Consumer Reports, Jeff Blyskal concluded: “Isis, like Google Wallet, still seems to require a lot of work and needless complexity for the questionable convenience of paying by cell phone.” Now, on top of the complexity and questionable convenience of NFC payment, iPhone users must not only attach an appendage to the phone, but fork over a not-so-insignificant amount of cash — all for a payment platform that’s only available in Salt Lake City and Austin, and only at select retailers.

At Telecoms.com, Elliott Holley covered a recent report by financial research firm Celent that says the issues NFC payment technology has faced thus far are only going to be compounded in 2013 and that NFC payment solutions will be overshadowed — perhaps ultimately replaced — by cloud-based wallets. Celent senior analyst and author of the report Zilvanas Bareisis told Holley that not only is using the technology still much more difficult than swiping a credit card, but in markets such as the U.S., “the infrastructure bill is huge and convincing retailers and merchants is difficult.”

Holley highlights a key insight from the Celent report:

“Part of the problem for NFC digital wallets is that while the physical POS world is dominated by cards and the mobile equivalent is to have payment credentials inside the phone and sent to the POS via NFC, the online world is dominated by cloud-based wallets such as PayPal. That makes it difficult to bridge the online-offline convergence of customers who use their mobiles while shopping to read product reviews, compare prices and order online, or pick up an item from a local store, according to Celent.”

Target goes all-in with its price match strategy

Target announced this week that it would bring its holiday strategy against Amazon to the overall retail battle — the big-box retailer will now price match online retailers year-round. According to the press release, in addition to Amazon, Target will price match its own online site, Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com and Toysrus.com.

Best Buy implemented the same strategy against Amazon during the holiday season. There’s no news yet on whether Best Buy’s policy also will be continued year-round, but on a visit to Best Buy January 5, the retailer price matched a Bluetooth wireless speaker for me, using a product search of Amazon from my iPhone. Some are calling this tactic an all-in bet that can’t be won, but in the short-term anyway, consumers sure are winning.

App aims to make products the new point of sale

Bridging the gap between print advertising and online/mobile retail is something of a holy grail in the commerce space — being able to buy a product straight from a traditional print ad, for instance. PayPal recently experimented with such an endeavor, partnering with The West Australian daily newspaper to incorporate QR codes into print ads, allowing readers to purchase items on the spot by scanning the code. But what if you could skip the added complexity layer of a QR code? That’s what German startup Shopgate is aiming to offer. The app, profiled by Will M at SocialTimes this week, allows consumers to simply scan the product in the ad and, according to the product website, buy it in two clicks. Will M describes how it works:

“Shopgate enables consumers [to] take pictures of print ads and then purchase products within them using their phone. Product tagging works without QR codes — similar to how Facebook identifies your friends in pictures and suggests them for tags. People touch the product tags, put the items into shopping carts and then purchase products via a mobile storefront.”

Will M reports that the company’s vision is to provide “everywhere commerce,” and says “Shopgate executives say ‘Products as POS’ (Point of Sale) is the future of mobile commerce.” According to his report, the app works with product companies and retailers alike, and so far has 800 merchant partners. In addition to product tagging from print ads, the app also works with QR codes and UPC codes.

The German company plans to expand to the U.S. market early this year. You can watch a demo of the app in the following video.

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January 02 2013

Die Politik der Plattformen

Bei digitalen Ökosystemen treffen verschiedene Entwicklungen zusammen. Das offene Internet gerät ins Hintertreffen – auch in diesem Jahr.

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December 06 2012

Commerce Weekly: Same-day delivery war heats up

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

The high price of instant gratification

The Wall Street Journal’s Greg Bensinger took a look this week at the e-commerce same-day delivery trend, a service eBay, Wal-Mart and Google have been experimenting with in order to better compete with Amazon, which has offered same-day service in select locations since 2009.

The obvious benefit for e-commerce retailers is being able to improve the customer experience — providing the convenience of online shopping with the instant gratification of brick-and-mortar shopping. The biggest obstacle is cost. EBay, for example, has hired couriers, paying $12.50 per hour and 55 cents per mile, Bensinger reports, but only charges $5 to deliver a minimum $25 order. Industry analyst Kerry Rice told Bensinger, “Retailers are clearly subsidizing this service to improve the customer experience. Amazon created this monster and everyone has had to jump on board to compete.”

Amazon operating at a loss to draw consumers into its ecosystem is pretty par for its business model, and its deep pockets mean companies are going to have to get creative to successfully compete. Wal-Mart is perhaps in the best position not only to compete with Amazon on this front, but perhaps even overtake and lead the same-day delivery field. Walmart.com chief executive Joel Anderson highlighted for Bensinger Wal-Mart’s advantage: “We have 4,000 Wal-Mart stores and local goods within five miles of most customers.” Each store basically serves as an online distribution center, a scale that Amazon could be challenged to meet, even taking into account its aggressive distribution center expansion plans.

In related news, Google reportedly shelled out more than $17 million to buy Canadian locker storage startup BufferBox this week. As many outlets reported, Google may be positioning itself to compete against Amazon’s Locker delivery service, which allows customers to have goods delivered to secure pick-up stations rather than home addresses.

NFC payment innovation charges ahead, despite obstacles

Despite recent research indicating Apple’s decision to exclude NFC technology from the iPhone 5 has set the NFC payments market back by two years, NFC payment innovation continues. This week, mobile wallet platform Isis teamed up with USA Technologies (USAT) to bring mobile payment technology to vending machines in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas.

Nick Summers reports at The Next Web the technology will be installed in 7,500 machines that “will accept credit using USAT’s ePort Connect service, which already supports NFC-enabled devices, as well as payments from PayPal and Google Wallet.” As Summers notes, however, the Isis Mobile Wallet app is available only for Android platforms at the moment.

In other NFC news, The Next Web’s Jon Russell reports that digital security company Gemalto announced major partners this week for its UpTeq NFC payment system for mobile SIM cards: American Express, MasterCard and Visa. Russell writes that the payment system uses NFC technology already present in mobile SIM cards, so customers won’t need to worry about external hardware or plug-ins to make payments, redeem coupons, or participate in loyalty programs. The technology is being customized for KDDI in Japan, Rogers in Canada, and Orange in France, according to Russell’s report.

Google aims to be information destination for holiday shoppers

AdAge’s Natalie Zmuda took a look this week at Google’s various holiday retail strategies and how its angling to “become shoppers’ information destination.” Zmuda highlights several newly launched tools that aim to service emerging consumer shopping behaviors that merge online and offline environments. Tools include its 3-D holiday toy collection, indoor maps for select malls and retailers, and its new Shortlists tool. Zmuda notes that “[by] consolidating all of the tools a shopper might want to use in one place, Google is cultivating loyalty and, ultimately, increasing activity into its paid product listing ads.”

Google Shopping VP Sameer Samat told Zmuda that Google’s vision focuses on the big picture: “If we’re helping consumers be more effective in shopping and more activities, they will find Google more relevant and valuable as a company. That’s a good thing for Google, long term.”

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October 18 2012

Commerce Weekly: Targeting Amazon

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

Strategic maneuvers aimed at Amazon

Best Buy LogoBest Buy LogoRetail competition against Amazon is starting to heat up coming into the holiday shopping season. On the heels of Wal-Mart’s recent moves to square off against Amazon, two other big box brick-and-mortar retailers have announced strategies targeting the Internet retail giant.

Ann Zimmerman reports at The Wall Street Journal that Best Buy not only will price match with Amazon this holiday season, but will also offer free delivery for products that are out of stock. Target has its sights set against Amazon as well. In a report on Target’s planned holiday strategy, Natalie Zmuda at AgeAge notes that tactics include “a price-match guarantee against a group of competitors that includes popular online retailers such as Amazon.” Target also is using QR codes in its holiday campaign to combat “showrooming” on the top 20 selling toys.

In somewhat related news, the US Post Office also is making moves into the e-commerce market. Victoria Stilwell reports at Bloomberg that starting in November, the US Post Office will begin testing its same-day delivery program, called Metro Post, in the San Francisco market. The service is aimed at local physical retailers, which could in turn give them a leg up against Internet retailers like Amazon. Stilwell reports that to participate in the Metro Post test, retailers need 10 or more physical locations throughout the US, with one or more within the test market boundaries.

Square exits taxis

New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) spokesman Allan Fromberg this week unequivocally dismissed rumors from last week that Square was negotiating an official partnership with TLC, alongside news that Square has ended its pilot payment program with the TLC.

Garett Sloane at The New York Post reports that a letter (PDF) sent by Square’s general counsel Dana Wagner to the TLC on Friday “indicated that [Square] needed to overhaul its payment system in light of new rules the commission is drafting to govern credit-card payments in cabs.” Wagner writes in the letter:

“Square has determined, in light of developments in prospective taxicab regulations in New York and other markets, and based on what we have learned conducting the Pilot Program to date, that we wish to pursue a different hardware and software solution for our TPEP [taxicab passenger enhancement project] offering. It would be commercially unreasonable for Square to pursue a new hardware and software solution for a future TPEP offering while at the same time continue to support the software and hardware solution we rolled out in the Pilot Program.”

Ryan Kim at GigaOm says it’s likely that Square will continue working on a taxi-payment product, quoting Wagner’s letter: “… Square looks forward to further improving our product and making commerce and transportation easier for millions of riders and drives in New York and around the country.”

In other Square news, company CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Square would no longer refer to its customers as “users” and appealed to others in the technology industry to follow suit. He writes in a blog post: “The word customer, given its history, immediately sets a high bar on the level of service we must provide, or risk losing their attention or business.” His post includes a letter he sent to his team that explained: “We don’t have users, we have customers we earn. They deserve our utmost respect, focus, and service.”

Isis is gearing up for launch

Google Wallet competitor Isis is finally gearing up to launch its wallet, after a series of delays this summer. The company confirmed it would officially launch in the Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah markets October 22.

Nathan Olivarez-Giles reports at Wired that the Isis mobile app has shown up in Google Play, but notes that the Wired team had yet to find a compatible phone. Isis head of marketing Jaymee Johnson told Olivarez-Giles, “By year end, as many as 20 Isis-ready handsets are expected to be in market …We look forward to sharing more details on Oct. 22.” Those details likely will include partnering retailers as well. Isis announced partners in May, but as Olivarez-Giles notes, it’s not yet clear which ones will be part of the initial launch.

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October 11 2012

Commerce Weekly: Will NYC taxis get Square?

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

Square may be courting cabs

Square not only is gearing up to launch in Starbucks stores in November — it may also be looking to enter the New York City taxi cab market. Ryan Mac reports at Forbes this week that negotiations may be underway:

“Late Monday, private company expert PrivCo said that the San Francisco-based startup and the city of New York will be announcing an official partnership with the city of New York to implement Square’s payment systems across the city’s cabs. If negotiations are completed as expected, said New York City-based PrivCo, the partnership may be announced as early as this month.”

Mac reports that neither Square nor New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) would confirm that a deal was in place, but he notes Square has been testing iPad credit card swipers with TLC since March.

As to its forthcoming foray into Starbucks, Lisa Baertlein at Reuters reports that further innovations are in the works even ahead of the launch. At launch, customers will be able to pay for a coffee by having a barcode scanned off a smartphone, but plans are already in the works to use Square’s GPS to identify a customer in a Starbucks location, who can then pay by giving his or her name to the cashier. Also, Cliff Burrows, president of Starbucks’ Americas region, told Baertlein that by summer 2013, customers will have the option and ability to tip using the technology.

Wal-Mart chases immediate gratification, further targeting Amazon

In recent months, Wal-Mart has been positioning itself to square off against Amazon: It announced it would discontinue its sales of Kindle devices, the gateway to Amazon’s retail ecosystem; it amped up its search engine; and it began testing mobile in-store checkout. Now, Wal-Mart again stepped up its competition strategy against Amazon and is testing same-day delivery. Jessica Wohl reports at Reuters:

“The test of the ‘Walmart To Go’ service began in Northern Virginia and Philadelphia earlier this month and is set to expand to Minneapolis on Tuesday, Walmart U.S. said. Walmart then plans to expand the test to California’s San Jose/San Francisco market in late October or early November.”

Wohl says there is a flat $10 fee for same-day delivery of general merchandise that is carried in the customer’s local store, with no limit to the number of items. The test will be limited to just the four markets during the holiday season, but as Wohl noted, the move is targeted not only at Amazon, but also at Target: Minneapolis happens to be Target’s hometown. Amazon has tested same-day delivery in the past, and it may be positioning itself for larger scale same-day capabilities.

The mobile payment war, major player edition

Kit Eaton at Fast Company took a look this week at the ongoing war to control mobile payments, focusing on the four major players who have the heft to effect real change: Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.

Taking one company at a time, Eaton highlights each player’s advantages and innovations being brought to the table. Google, for instance, started tinkering with online micropayments last week, launching its Google Wallet for web content. Being touted as an “experiment,” the Internet giant is attempting to mainstream a pay-for-content model, wherein users pay for individual articles and web pages. Eaton writes, “It’s essentially Google enabling a micropayment paywall for online content providers, with a frictionless payments for users.”

In the Apple arena, Eaton focused on Passbook, which isn’t a mobile payments solution … yet. Eaton says Passbook may have the initial, basic wallet capabilities and the audience reach to serve as the gateway drug for mobile payments, easing consumers through the culture shock. He writes:

“But as soon as Apple gets everyone comfortable with using your iPhone like this — including passing it under a barcode scanner when you buy your venti Chai Tea Latte, for example — it’s not too much of a leap to imagine Passbook 2.0 offering a popup that says something along the lines of: ‘Would you like to pay for this now?’ And with a single tap — you’ve got a mobile payments system running on iOS.”

Eaton also looks at Facebook, which is perhaps one of the less obvious mobile payments space competitors, “[b]ut its decision to enable in-app frictionless payments via carrier billing hints at a different future,” he says. Amazon, too, isn’t an obvious contender, but Eaton points to rumors of an Amazon payments product to compete with Square. Eaton also reminds us of Amazon’s vast interconnected ecosystem: “If Amazon enabled mobile payments via an own-brand smartphone or its app, it would be able to leverage its hundreds of millions of registered customer credit details in the same way Apple could do with iTunes.” His post is well worth the read.

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September 18 2012

Four short links: 18 September 2012

  1. The Rapture of the Nerds (Charlie Stoss, Cory Doctorow) — available for download and purchase under a CC-A-NC-ND license.
  2. Amazon Maps API — if there is an API layer of general use to developers, Amazon will build it. They want to be the infrastructure for the web. Tim identified “the Internet Operating System”, and Amazon figured out how to put a pricetag on every syscall.
  3. Hoektronics — open source 3d printer queue management. (via Daniel Suarez)
  4. The Machine Gaze (Will Wiles) — Converging, leapfrogging technologies evoke new emotional responses within us, responses that do not yet have names. (via James Bridle)

September 09 2012

The many sides to shipping a great software project

Chris Vander Mey, CEO of Scaled Recognition, and author of a new O’Reilly book, Shipping Greatness, lays out in this video some of the deep lessons he learned during his years working on some very high-impact and high-priority projects at Google and Amazon.

Chris takes a very expansive view of project management, stressing the crucial decisions and attitudes that leaders need to take at every stage from the team’s initial mission statement through the design, coding, and testing to the ultimate launch. By merging technical, organizational, and cultural issues, he unravels some of the magic that makes projects successful.

Highlights from the full video interview include:

  • Some of the projects Chris has shipped. [Discussed at the 0:30 mark]
  • How to listen to your audience while giving a presentation. [Discussed at the 1:24 mark]
  • Deadlines and launches. [Discussed at the 6:40 mark]
  • Importance of keeping team focused on user experience of launch. [Discussed at the 12:15 mark]
  • Creating an API, and its relationship to requirements and Service Oriented Architectures. [Discussed at the 15:27 mark]
  • 22:36 What integration testing can accomplish. [Discussed at the 22:36 mark]

You can view the entire conversation in the following video:

August 10 2012

Publishing News: Amazon continues its trek toward total retail domination

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the publishing space this week.

Amazon targets students with print textbook rentals

In headline news this week, Amazon expanded its digital textbook rental program to include analog books. Students can now rent physical paper textbooks, complete with prior students’ scribbles, for less than buying a used book (in many cases). Sean Ludwig at VentureBeat reports that most textbooks rent for $30 to $60 and are rented for the typical 130-day semester.

According to Amazon’s FAQ on the program, shipping in both directions is pretty easy to get for free: rentals are eligible for free Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25 and are also eligible for Prime free Two-Day shipping for Prime subscribers. Students can also sign up for the Amazon Student program and get six months of free Prime Two-Day shipping, then get a Prime membership at a discounted rate of $39 per year (the “adult” version of Prime is $79 per year). Amazon will conveniently autosubscribe student members to adult memberships upon graduation. Sounds a lot like those “free” credit cards that came with swag during my college days, designed to suck you in from the get-go.

Which brings me to Martin Sosnoff’s look over at Forbes at Amazon’s path to becoming the “Wal-Mart of the Internet.” Sosnoff writes:

“The Amazon story is about scale and momentum in general merchandise sales, here and abroad. I don’t care how many Kindles they deliver or their burgeoning downloads in books, music, video games and streaming of films. All this activity is designed to suck you into buying TV sets, washing machines, even disposable diapers and bottled water by the case.”

Or as O’Reilly publisher and GM tweeted in relation to Sosnoff’s post, “Books are nothing more than roadkill on Amazon’s highway to total retail domination.” So as publishers are frantically trying to find innovative ways to compete against Amazon, Amazon is just using publishing, in all its variations, as a means to an end.

Which brings me to Jim Tanous’ post at The Mac Observer, looking at ebook DRM: one possible positive outcome of this one-sided publishing battle against Amazon is the potential eradication of DRM. As Mathew Ingram pointed out last December at GigaOm, publishers “handed Amazon and Apple the stick of digital-rights management, which the two companies are now using to beat them.” And publishers are starting to come around to understand that DRM isn’t just locking content away from pirates (which it doesn’t do anyway), but that it’s locking content in to closed platforms, ala Amazon Kindle.

After looking at the new StoryBundle platform that give readers a bundle of books for whatever price they want to pay, all DRM-free, Tanous writes: “I was struck by how the DRM-free nature of the books mirrors a growing trend by publishers and independent authors to make their products easily available on multiple platforms and escape the stranglehold they fear Amazon holds on the market.”

Tanous looks at the overall trend, including fantasy publisher Tor’s removal of DRM from its catalog earlier this year and publishers like O’Reilly and Double Dragon that don’t use DRM. He notes that removing DRM removes the constraints on “customer mobility between providers and platforms” and that publishers’ recognition of this and subsequent changes to distribution and sales models, such as StoryBundle’s model, “will not only be good for consumers but for the overall health of the eBook market as well.”

Opportunities in “creative destruction”

Alistair Burtenshaw, director of the London Book Fair, recently attended the Leadership Strategies for Book Publishing program at Yale. This week, he shared some insights from the week-long experience in a post at BookBrunch. He writes that attendees from around the world found themselves in the same publishing boat:

“Whether the percentage of ebook sales in our markets is currently in single or double digits, we all understood that we are in a new ‘ecosystem’ of parallel supply chains, new market entrants, new platforms and new channels to consumer: a period of ‘creative destruction’ that presents unparalleled challenges and opportunities for all publishers.”

Burtenshaw identified four key themes that emerged throughout the week regarding changes required in thinking, skillsets, business models, and markets. Of “New Thinking,” he writes:

“The fast pace of constant change requires us to be nimble, open to new ways of working, able to decide which changes to respond to and how and which opportunities to pass on, at least initially. Questions such as ‘do we want to lead or to follow’ have profound implications for our businesses — in some instances the benefits of leading, of innovating first may be offset by the risks of creating new forms of content that markets are not yet ready for.”

You can read more of Burtenshaw’s insights here — definitely this week’s recommended read.

Big data is the future of big publishing

The importance of data to the future of publishing was highlighted in coverage of the recent launch of publishing analytics company Hiptype. For a bit of background, Laura Hazard Owen recently reported on the launch and describes how the platform works:

“Once Hiptype’s plugin is added to an ebook, it provides insights like reader demographics, reading behavior (where people start or stop reading; what they skip), conversion patterns (who buys an ebook after reading a free sample); and sharing and highlighting behavior (which passages readers highlight or take notes on).”

Hiptype then provides data visualizations for publishers and, Owen notes, will “also [help] publishers run Facebook campaigns and target readers with personalized recommendations.”

Sarah Kessler at Fast Company talked to company co-founders James Levy and Sohail Prasad, and alleviated fears that big data will drive books down the path of “bad reality TV and link-bait reporting”: she writes that the company vision “is less about getting authors to craft the ending to their books based on page turns than it is about marketing books better.”

Company co-founder Levy also talked with O’Reilly publisher and GM Joe Wikert this week in a TOC podcast. In a post here on Radar, Wikert highlights several points from their discussion, noting that data-driven publishing “goes beyond simple sales stats and review information to understanding how the product is used; where readers spend the most time; and even though we don’t like to think about it, how far they get before they abandon a book.” He also shares some statistics from Hiptype:

  • Where sharing happens — The majority of content sharing with friends takes place in either the first 10 pages or the last 10 pages of the book.
  • Why the first 50 pages matter — Almost a third of readers won’t return to the book by page 50. 85% of readers who get to page 50 are likely to read the next 50 pages. Think about that the next time you release an ebook sample with only 10 or 12 pages.
  • Low conversion of samples — Not only are there loads of unread samples sitting on most devices, but only 4% of all samples downloaded are ever read at all.

You can watch the entire Levy interview with Wikert in the following video:

Photo: College Books by wohnai, on Flickr

Related:

August 09 2012

Commerce Weekly: Starbucks gives Square’s mobile payment a big push

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

Square gets Starbucks, cash and Howard Schultz

SquareSquare announced a new partnership with Starbucks this week. Peter Ha at TechCrunch reports:

“Beginning this fall, Square will begin processing all U.S. credit and debit card transactions at participating Starbucks stores across their 7,000 locations. Pay with Square users will be able to find a nearby Starbucks in the Square Directory from their iPhone or Android smartphone.”

Ha notes in his post that as part of the partnership, Starbucks also is ponying up $25 million in series D funding for Square and offering up its CEO, Howard Schultz, to serve on Square’s board of directors.

Harry McCracken points out in a post at Time Techland the partnership will put Square in a much better position to compete on the mobile payment front. McCracken writes:

“At the moment, Pay with Square is accepted at around 40,000 locations — mostly neighborhood businesses such as independent coffee shops, restaurants and beauty salons. The agreement with Starbucks will put it in a major nationwide chain for the first time, and therefore puts it in closer competition with Google Wallet, which is already accepted at Home Depot, Office Depot, Starbucks rival Peet’s, Macy’s, RadioShack, 7-Eleven and other major merchants.”

Another important aspect of the agreement is that Starbucks will promote other local Pay with Square merchants “from within a variety of Starbucks digital platforms, including the Starbucks Digital Network and eventually the Starbucks mobile payment application.” As Ha notes in his post, “this catapults Square into the mainstream consciousness for the millions of drones who drop by their local Starbucks on the way to work.”

X.commerce harnesses the technologies of eBay, PayPal and Magento to create the first end-to-end multi-channel commerce technology platform. Our vision is to enable merchants of every size, service providers and developers to thrive in a marketplace where in-store, online, mobile and social selling are all mission critical to business success. Learn more at x.com.

And the winner is …

There’s a lot at stake in the race to control the blossoming mobile commerce market. A new report from ABI research predicts that by the end of 2017, 24.4% of online revenue will come from mobile commerce. And given that the mobile device market is just starting to boom, that percentage is likely to increase.

Consumer goods analyst Austin Smith interviewed with Isaac Pino at The Motley Fool this week and declared eBay, Amazon and Google early winners of mobile commerce race.

Smith highlights several reasons for his choices. EBay, he notes, sells 8,000 cars per week on eBay Mobile, and he also points out that eBay’s PayPal division is expected to handle $10 billion in transactions next year. As for Amazon, Smith says the company recently saw mobile sales top $1 billion and pointed to its ever-growing ecosystem of tablets and a possible transition toward a phone. And for Google, Smith reasons that “there are very few companies out there that have as powerful data analytics as Google … virtually no company has better data about how you shop.”

Keeping itself in the winner’s circle for now, eBay announced this week that the eBay Now mobile app will allow shoppers to order products from local retailers, with same-day delivery (a service Amazon has also been rumored to be pursuing). According to a report at Reuters, eBay is testing the app with a number of retailers, including Target, Best Buy, Macy’s and Walgreens, in the San Francisco market. The report describes the consumer experience:

“Shoppers involved in the test can download the app onto mobile devices such as Apple’s iPhone and iPad, then search for products to buy from local stores in San Francisco. When they find a product, users press a ‘Bring It’ button and the order is sent to couriers. The courier closest to the product accepts the order, drives to the store to pick up the product and then delivers it to the shopper’s home. Customers pay when the product arrives.”

According to the report, the first three deliveries are free, and “after that, delivery is $5 for the test period, and the minimum order is $25.”

The secret to winning the mobile wallet race

Forrester Research senior analyst Denee Carrington has a new report out this week on the mobile wallet wars. In a post at Forbes, Carrington shares a few takeaways from her research, including the secret to winning the mobile wallet race:

“Winning wallets will be convenient to use, contextually relevant, with a compelling experience. Moving the needle on the adoption of digital wallets — particularly for mobile digital wallets — will require infusion of significant value throughout the purchase journey before, during, and after payment. Winning solutions will bring this to life through greater convenience, contextual relevance, and a compelling purchase experience.”

Carrington also takes a look at the market dynamics and competitive nature of the mobile wallet landscape, and argues that NFC wallets may not reign victorious in the end. Hardware-agnostic wallets face fewer hurdles and thus will enjoy faster adoption. You can read more of Carrington’s insights here and find her full report here.

Tip us off

News tips and suggestions are always welcome, so please send them along.

Commerce Weekly is produced as part of a partnership between O’Reilly and PayPal.

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