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January 21 2013

Four short links: 21 January 2013

  1. School District Builds Own SoftwareBy taking a not-for-profit approach and using freely available open-source tools, Saanich officials expect to develop openStudent for under $5 million, with yearly maintenance pegged at less than $1 million. In contrast, the B.C. government says it spent $97 million over the past 10 years on the B.C. enterprise Student Information System — also known as BCeSIS — a provincewide system already slated for replacement.
  2. Giving a Presentation From an Apple ][A co-worker used an iPad to give a presentation. I thought: why take a machine as powerful as an early Cray to do something as low-overhead as display slides? Why not use something with much less computing power? From this asoft_presenter was born. The code is a series of C programs that read text files and generate a large Applesoft BASIC program that actually presents the slides. (via Jim Stogdill)
  3. AirBnB TechTalks — impressive collection of interesting talks, part of the AirBnB techtalks series.
  4. Gawker’s Realtime Dashboard — this is not just technically and visually cool, but also food for thought about what they’re choosing to measure and report on in real time (new vs returning split, social engagement, etc.). Does that mean they hope to be able to influence those variables in real time? (via Alex Howard)

January 17 2013

Commerce Weekly: PayPal marches toward ubiquity

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

PayPal expands its footprint with new partners

PayPal JambaJuice AppPayPal JambaJuice AppPayPal announced this week it has expanded its U.S. footprint to include 23 new partners for its PayPal in-store payments service, in addition to the 15 national partners announced last May, making its service available in 18,000 physical store locations across the country.

According to a post on the PayPal blog, new retail partners include Barnes & Noble, Office Depot, Foot Locker and Jamba Juice, and “two additional partners that [they] will share publicly soon.”

The deal PayPal struck with Jamba Juice goes beyond the in-store payments service that allows customers to pay with their phone number and a pin, or by using their PayPal payment card. Chloe Albanesius reports at PCMag that PayPal is testing its PayPal App in one Jamba Juice location to allow customers to place and pay for their orders, so when they arrive at the location, they just have to pick up their smoothie.

Global product VP Hill Ferguson notes in a post at the PayPal blog, that the feature is available only for iPhone users at this point and that there are plans to expand to more Jamba Juice locations this year.

In addition to its announcement of new retail partners, PayPal also announced a new hardware partner. Sarah Perez reports at TechCrunch that PayPal is “also partnering with point-of-sale and hardware maker NCR to expand into restaurants, as well as into other businesses, including gas stations and convenience stores.”

PayPal retail services VP Don Kingsborough explains on the PayPal blog that in the first phase of the agreement, PayPal mobile payments options will be integrated into the NCR Mobile Pay app and NCR Aloha Online Ordering. “PayPal will be a payment option and allow consumers greater choice for simple, fast and secure purchases, alongside credit or debit cards.,” Kingsborough writes. “Consumers will also be able to use the PayPal mobile application to locate, order-ahead and “check-in” at participating NCR Mobile Pay merchants to access the same functionality.”

According to Kingsborough’s post, the agreement also will involve integrating PayPal mobile payments into NCR’s Convenience-Go (C-Go) app for gas stations and convenience stores and an enhancement to NCR’s Netkey Endless Aisle app “to enable in-store payments with PayPal to either buy-in-store or provide shipping capability for out of stock items.”

Mobile wallets aren’t trumping credit cards, but perhaps Apple’s can

Mobile Commerce managing editor Bill Siwicki argued this week in a post at Internet Retailer that mobile wallets are not going to catch on anytime soon “due to a variety of hurdles, credit cards being perhaps the biggest.” Quoting an email exchange with Ben Saren, vice president of marketing at payment processor Litle & Co., Siwicki writes:

“‘People are never going to switch to mobile wallets as long as it’s just as easy to pull out a credit card as it is to pull out your phone. There’s no incentive to change the channel,’ Saren says. … ‘Love or hate the card networks, they have paved all of the highways and largely made them traffic-free. When you go to a retail location and buy something with a piece of plastic, the authorization happens in less than a second. … So somebody needs to tell me how the system is broken today and why we need something else.’”

Siwicki does note, however, that though “mobile wallets today are not a better mousetrap,” they do connect with the Internet in ways that credit cards can’t, which opens new avenues for merchants to offer coupons and loyalty programs. “Somewhere down the line, way down the line,” Siwicki writes, “I think making payments via smartphones will catch on, simply because of the central role smartphones are coming to have in people’s lives.”

In that same vein, SAS Institute’s Lori Schafer argued this week at the NRF 102nd Annual Convention & Expo that Apple is in a better position to disrupt mobile payments than current competitors. Quoting Schafer from her session, The Tech Titans’ War for Mobile Dominance – How Amazon, Apple, eBay, Facebook and Google are Shaping Our Mobile World, Lauren Johnson reports at Mobile Commerce Daily:

“‘When Apple adds in NFC, it will have two advantages over everyone else,’ [Johnson] said. ‘First, the iTunes database is huge, with over 400 million people already signed up. Second, the iPod touch and iPads are fast gaining traction as the next generation of cash registers, and a number of retailers are now starting to roll them out to their associates in-store instead of using the traditional cash register. This sets up Apple to potentially own both sides of millions of transactions.’”

Mobile commerce strategies shouldn’t hinge on transaction data

Amy Martinez observed at The Seattle Times this week that retailers are “lukewarm” about integrating mobile commerce into their sales strategies. Citing a new report from Forrester Research, Martinez notes that smartphones only generated $5 billion of the $226 billion e-commerce market in 2012, and because of that, “[r]etailers will continue to invest in mobile strategies, but the bulk of their technology spending in 2013 will be on the basics, such as improving online checkout, product descriptions and the overall user experience, according to the report.”

In a presentation at the National Retail Federation’s annual convention this week in Manhattan, Martinez reports, Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said that “[r]etailers have been burned getting very, very hyped up over mobile … Even though consumers have these phones, the number of transactions on those phones is still small.”

Responding to Martinez’s piece, Colin Gibbs at GigaOm Pro writes that he doesn’t doubt Forrester’s data, but argues that mobile commerce is more than transactions. Gibbs says the very fact that smartphones are an inferior platform for browsing, price checking and entering or linking to credit card information is the reason retailers need to step up their mobile strategies. He writes:

“That’s why the top priorities for retailers in the mobile world should be building solid mobile websites, establishing relationships with their customers, delivering targeted ads and discounts, and encouraging them to come in to the store or to visit online stores on their PCs.”

Gibbs argues that even though closing mobile transactions remains difficult, “ignoring every mobile commerce strategy is short-sighted and dangerous.”

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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 03 2013

Commerce Weekly: iPhone NFC rumors return

Happy new year! Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space recently.

Apple NFC rumors revived

PassbookiPhonePassbookiPhoneWe’ve no sooner outfitted our shiny new iPhone 5s with cases and fancy accessories than rumors of the iPhone 6 have emerged. Matt Brian reports at The Next Web that “Apple has been testing hardware relating to a new ‘iPhone6,1′ identifier, powered by a device running iOS 7.”

There’s also renewed rumors of Apple’s intention to integrate NFC technology into the next iPhone. Mikey Campbell reports at Apple Insider that on December 20, 2012, the US Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application filed by Apple in 2011 “for an ‘Integrated coupon storage, discovery, and redemption system,’ a property covering the receipt, storage and use of digital coupons on mobile device” — basically, what Passbook became this past year. Campbell notes that NFC capabilities also are mentioned in connection with coupon redemption, indicating “that the company is at least thinking about including the protocol in future versions of the iPhone or iPod Touch.”

Joann Pan at Mashable notes the implications such integrated technology could have on retail shopping for consumers and merchants alike. She writes:

“With Apple’s proposed ‘integrated coupon storage,’ patrons will be able to walk into stores and receive notifications about items for which they have coupons. After the transaction is complete, the customer will receive a digital receipt wirelessly. Alerts will also be pushed for coupons with impending expiration dates. The patent also mentions a verification system for coupons and discounts.”

Holiday mobile commerce records are tip of the iceberg

Though the record-setting holiday season is behind us, this is no time for retailers to rest on their respective mobile commerce laurels, says Mobile Marketing Association’s Jack Philbin in a post at Fast Company. Philbin argues that this holiday season was just the “tip of the iceberg of what is sure to become a mobile-dominated shopping experience during the next few years” and that retailers need to think mobile 365 days of the year from here on out.

Philbin offers retailers several “actionable steps,” including expanding the holiday mobile strategy into a year-long strategy with the holiday season as one aspect, and integrating traditional marketing plans into mobile plans, creating one overall strategy. “The lines are blurring between marketing channels,” Philbin writes, “and now more than ever, retailers need to think about how to execute a seamless brand experience — integrating all of consumers’ favorite platforms and channels.”

It’s also time for retailers to “embrace mobile as the shopping companion,” Philbin says — and recent study results indicate he might be right. In separate posts at Internet Retailer (here and here), Bill Siwicki, managing editor at Mobile Commerce, took a look at a two such studies that show consumers are becoming comfortable with their smartphones and are yearning for more shopping integration.

The first, a study of smartphone owners conducted by ad agency Moosylvania, showed that 80% of respondents “want more mobile-optimized product information while they’re shopping in stores.” Researchers also found that 30.1% of respondents research products when away from home, and 12.4% of those do so in stores. They also found that 76% of respondents are comfortable with mobile coupons and that 44% would welcome mobile wallet capabilities. Siwicki also looked at a survey conducted by Perception Research Services International that showed 76% of respondents who own a smartphone use it while shopping; of those, 53% compare prices, 49% read customer reviews, and 48% hunt for coupons or sales.

Mobile wallets: now or never?

Michael Brush at MSN Money took a look at the mobile wallet battle and says if you don’t already have a mobile wallet, you probably will by the end of 2013 — and maybe more than one. Brush looks at the battleground from both consumer and investor perspectives, noting that for consumers, it will change how — and how much — they spend; for investors, the battle is “worth studying because there will be major winners and losers.” LevelUp CEO Seth Priebatsch told Brush, “I think 2013 is going to be the year where mobile payments will happen and there will be a winner, or mobile payments won’t ever happen at all.”

The battle boils down to two goals from the vendor/retailer perspective, says Brush: improved marketing efforts and potential savings in credit card fees. On the marketing front, the “Big Brother-ish” nature of the data collection efforts will likely force providers to tread lightly, Brush notes, but consumers stand to benefit big as wallet competitors fight for adoption. Industry analyst Aaron McPherson told Brush the mobile wallet battle “will be a bloodbath in 2013.”

Brush also outlines each of the current key players, who they are and how they measure up — you can read his full report here.

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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 20 2012

Commerce Weekly: Predicting 2013

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

Predicting the 2013 commerce space

As 2012 wraps up, industry executives are looking ahead to what 2013 might bring. In a report at eCommerceBytes, executives at e-commerce and Internet service company Rakuten pulled together five trends to watch in 2013, including increased use of video on e-commerce sites; a market shift toward specialized retailers, both brick-and-mortar and online; and the advent of curated commerce, or “shopping for a lifestyle” as opposed to shopping for individual items.

Executives also highlighted mobile integrations, noting that they expect an increase in in-store integration via apps, QR codes and augmented reality. Predicted trends also included a change in the way consumers pay: “Services like PayPal and Apple’s iTunes have already begun to centralize payments on mobile, but the next step will be services such as Square that offer sellers the ability to receive card payments with their existing smartphone and a simple plug-in device,” the report says.

PayPal president David Marcus also took a look ahead. He sees cash registers going mobile, with customers able to pay from the store aisle or even the changing room, and predicts location-aware and context-relevent shopping and payments will be more disruptive than many now expect. In the payment space, he sees mobile wallets, consumer loyalty programs and coupon platforms merging into one efficient and convenient business. He also predicts NFC will die a slow death in 2013: “it’s not solving a real consumer problem,” he writes at the PayPal blog, “and it’s not providing additional value to encourage me (or anyone else, for that matter) to change my behavior.”

In related news, Square COO Keith Rabois pulled together some predictions for what consumers and retailers can expect from Square in 2013. In an interview with CNET’s Daniel Terdiman, Rabois said Starbucks’ customers haven’t seen anything yet, that they can “expect full Square Wallet functionality” in 2013 as well as new features and “major enhancements” — Rabois said Square’s partnership with Starbucks is in its “first inning.”

Rabois noted, however, that Square is just the beginning, that “anything new that’s developed in the coming months will also be rolled out for use at every single merchant that’s part of the Square Wallet program” and that additional retail partnership announcements can be expected in the coming year. Looking further ahead? “Rabois said that the company envisions Square Wallet working ‘everywhere,’” Terdiman reports, “from personal trainers to interactions between friends to contractors working people’s homes.”

Apple users dominate Android’s on the mobile shopping front

Bill Siwicki, managing editor at Mobile Commerce, tallied up the mobile shopping habits of Apple versus Android users and concluded that Apple users are more valuable “by a mile.”

Looking at data from a few retailers as examples, Siwicki reports that at e.l.f. cosmetics, “78.59% of mobile sales stemmed from an iOS device while only 20.74% came from an Android device” from Oct. 1 through Dec. 16. Of those sales, the iPhone accounted for 27.48% and the closest Android smartphone competitor chalked up a mere 0.78% of mobile sales. At web-only jeweler Ice, 22.5% of traffic is mobile and more than 70% of that is via an Apple device, and at Wine.com, more than 90% of mobile sales come from Apple devices, Siwicki reports.

Siwicki points out that when looking at these numbers, it’s important to note that Android’s market share far outpaces Apple’s in smartphones — 52.5% and 34.3% respectively, according to research firm eMarketer Inc. — and that Apple’s iPad owns 76.4% of the tablet market.

Shedding some light on the situation, Kevin Edwards, strategy director at Affiliate Window, noted to Siwicki that “Apple users are typical early adopters,” and that “[t]hey’re generally tech-savvy individuals who embrace new ways of interacting and transacting online.” HauteLook CMO Greg Bettinelli told Siwicki that of their mobile transactions, tablets trump iPhones by 50%. “If we make $2 for every person on an iPhone,” he said, “we make $2.50 for desktop users and $3 for iPad shoppers.”

You can read Siwicki’s full report here.

What mobile payment platforms can learn from the barcode

In the wake of barcode creator Norman Joseph Woodland’s death last week, Drake Bennett and Jim Aley put together a piece on the history of the barcode and how it has become “so prevalent that it is almost invisible.” Bennett and Aley note that at its inception, the barcode had its competitors, and that there’s a lesson to be gleaned from the barcode’s ultimate success — especially for mobile payments.

Bennett and Aley boil the success down to three overarching “essential ingredients”: the technology must be simple and its benefits must be obvious, there needs to be a governing body to keep everyone in line, and there must be “[a]n extravagant, surprising, and often expensive effort to ‘seed the market.’”

As for current mobile payment platforms that are measuring up, Bennett and Aley say Square is “one of the more interesting” and break down its performance against the “essential ingredients”:

“Simplicity? Check: It’s a small plastic square that plugs into an iPhone or iPad. A splashy move to dominate the market? Last month Square announced a deal to be in 7,000 Starbucks (SBUX) across the U.S. Strong consortium or governing body? A tangle of competing alliances is more like it. Two out of three, so far, for Square.”

Commerce Weekly will return January 3, 2013 — have a safe and happy holiday!

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November 05 2012

Das Spannungsverhältnis von Freiheit und Konzernmacht

Es ist mit Sicherheit nur Zufall, dass Sibylle Berg (SPON) und Miriam Meckel (SZ) zeitgleich zwei Meinungsbeiträge mit den ähnlichen Titeln “Die Lüge von der großen Freiheit” und “Wo im Internet die Freiheit endet” und ähnlich pessimistischem Grundtenor veröffentlicht haben. Beiden geht es um die Macht großer IT-Unternehmen wie Apple und Google.

Die Dominanz einiger US-Konzerne im Netz ist ein ernsthaftes Problem, aber der mediale Umgang damit ist es nicht minder, wie die Texte von Berg und Meckel belegen.

Wenn Sibylle Berg anführt, dass niemand mehr wisse, wie ein PC funktioniert und, dass dies zur Abhängigkeit von Konzernen wie Apple und damit zur Unfreiheit führe, reibt man sich angesichts dieser Argumentationslinie doch einigermaßen erstaunt die Augen. Letztlich kritisiert Berg die arbeitsteilige Gesellschaft, die dazu geführt hat, dass wir von den Produkten die wir kaufen nicht mehr wissen wie sie funktionieren oder wie sie hergestellt werden. Wer von uns weiß schon genau wie ein Auto oder ein Fernseher funktioniert, oder wie die Nahrungsmittel aus dem Supermarkt hergestellt werden? Sibylle Berg präsentiert uns einen Kulturpessimismus, der sich als Freiheitsproblem tarnt. Mit dem Internet hat das aber wenig zu tun.

Der Text Meckels ist deutlich besser, enthält aber eine Reihe durchaus fragwürdiger Beispiele und Begründungsansätze. Wenn sich Meckel über iTunes beschwert und über ihre Probleme, sich beim US-Store zu registrieren, so zielt diese Kritik auf Apple. Sie verkennt dabei aber, dass es sich hier um originär urheberrechtliche Probleme handelt und nicht um das Marketingkonzept von Apple. Apple hat kein Interesse daran, die Anmeldung von Ausländern besipielsweise zum US-Store zu erschweren, es sind vielmehr das nationale Urheberrecht und die Vorgaben der Rechteinhaber, die Apple dazu zwingen.

Miriam Meckel spricht aber anschließend einen sehr wichtigen Aspekt an, von dem auch die deutsche und europäische Datenschutzdebatte geprägt ist. Es geht um die Frage der selbstbestimmten Entscheidung des Nutzers, die ihm nur dann möglich ist, wenn er über ausreichend Informationen verfügt. Datenschützer sprechen hier gerne von einer informierten Einwilligung. Danach ist eine Einwilligung in die Verarbeitung von Daten nur dann wirksam, wenn der Bürger über Umfang und Folgen der Speicherung seiner Daten ausreichend informiert wird. Und genau hier liegt der Knackpunkt der gesamten Debatte um die Macht von Konzernen wie Facebook, Google oder Apple. Das Anliegen von Google und Co. besteht darin, möglichst viele Daten seiner Nutzer speichern, verarbeiten und weitergeben zu können und gleichzeitig den Nutzer soweit wie möglich darüber im Unklaren zu lassen, was mit den Daten genau geschieht. Der Ausgleich dieses Spannungsverhältnisses gehört zu den wesentlichen Aufgaben und Herauforderungen einer globalen Netzpolitik. Das von Meckel an dieser Stelle bemühte Transparenzargument halte ich allerdings für zweischneidig. Wenn Transparenz hier zu einem Mittel der Unfreiheit wird, dann nur deshalb weil es Google und Facebook möglich ist, selbst gänzlich intransparent zu agieren. Intransparenz dient also als Mittel dazu, andere, nämlich die Nutzer, immer durchsichtiger zu machen. Auch hier ist es also mit der einfachen Aussage, dass zu viel Transparenz schädlich sei, nicht getan. An dieser Stelle brauchen wir nämlich gerade mehr Transparenz, allerdings im Bezug auf die Mechanismen von Unternehmen wie Facebook, Apple oder Google und nicht beim Nutzer.

October 25 2012

Commerce Weekly: Square’s big moves

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

Square gets international, plans major growth; PayPal Here hits retail

Square made a couple of big move announcements this week. First, the company literally will move to a new office space in the Central Market area of San Francisco by mid-2013, according to a report by Leena Rao at TechCrunch. Rao notes that the company has grown to more than 400 employees and reports Square plans to expand its staff to almost 1,000 people before the end of 2013.

Square also announced this week that its service is now available in Canada, at the same 2.75% rate it charges in the U.S., according to a report by Ingrid Lunden at TechCrunch. Lunden reports one of the obstacles for Square in Canadian as well as European markets is that its dongle depends on the magnetic stripe on the backs of credit cards; many credit card processes in these markets use a chip-and-pin system instead.

The obstacle isn’t insurmountable, however, as Lunden notes, Square’s partnership with Starbucks to incorporate its Pay With Square app service as a mode of payment might pave the way forward with retailers in other markets, making the card processing format irrelevant.

Square competitor PayPal Here was on the move this week as well — into retail shopping. Rao reports in a separate post at TechCrunch that PayPal CEO John Donahoe announced a U.S. retail deal with AT&T during eBay’s earning call this week. PayPal Here previously had a retail presence only in Japan with Softbank. Rao reports that Here will retail for $15, with the purchaser receiving a $15 discount upon signing up; Square is sold in 20,000 outlets in the U.S. and sells for $10, with a $10 purchaser sign-up discount, Rao reports.

Let the mobile payment testing begin

The long-awaited Isis mobile wallet began testing this week in Austin and Salt Lake City markets. Stephanie Mlot reports at PC Magazine that compatible phones at launch include Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy S Relay 4G, and Galaxy S II on T-Mobile; the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE on Verizon, with Motorola Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr Maxx HD support coming yet this week; and the Samsung Galaxy S III, the HTC One X, the Samsung Exhilarate, the LG Escape, and the Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro on AT&T.

Mlot also reports that T-Mobile customers can get $10 in Isis eCash if they visit a brick-and-mortar location and activate the application. At launch, Isis works with Chase, Capitol One, Barclaycard, American Express, Visa, Mastercard and Discover credit cards.

As to Isis’ success, a report at Consumer Reports says services like Isis are solving “a non-existent problem” and concludes: “Isis, like Google Wallet, still seems to require a lot of work and needless complexity for the questionable convenience of paying by cell phone.”

Apple also announced this week that it too soon would be testing a mobile payment solution in a limited market — its own retail stores. Mark Gurman reports at 9to5Mac that Apple is preparing to update its point of sale system to scan Apple Store payment card codes through Passbook. The payment system update could be ready as early as the end of this month. Jordan Golson writes at MacRumors that though it’s not confirmed, it’s possible in-store customers also will be able to pay for any merchandise using their iTunes account information; thus far, only select accessories have been available for purchase through Apple’s EasyPay self-checkout system.

Google Wallet on the iPhone?

Business Insider’s Owen Thomas was paying close attention this week, noting the “The next version of Google Wallet, coming soon” statement at the top of Google’s Wallet homepage, with an option for visitors to request an invite. Thomas reports that when he requested the invite, he was prompted to select the type of device he uses: iPhone, Android, or “other.”

Ryan Kim at GigaOm agrees with Thomas’ assertion that this likely suggests Google is looking to expand its purview beyond Android phones and into iPhones and “others,” but notes it really could mean anything. Kim writes:

“It could mean that Google may be pursuing a more cloud-based approach to payments that doesn’t require NFC for transactions. Or Google Wallet could integrate with Apple’s Passbook or evolve to support QR codes or 2D barcodes, which is how Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts handle mobile payments. Or it could just mean Google wants to know how many iPhone users are interested in Google Wallet.”

You can sign up for an invite here.

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October 22 2012

Wochenrückblick: Apple vs. Samsung, Österreichs Datenschutz, Berliner WLAN

Apple verliert den Berufungsprozess im Streit mit Samsung, Österreichs Datenschutzbehörde ist nicht unabhängig genug, in Berlin startet ein Pilotpro

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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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October 03 2012

Four short links: 3 October 2012

  1. Mil-OSS 4 — 4th military open source software working group conference, in Rosslyn VA. Oct 15-17. Tutorials and sessions will cover: Linux, Geospatial, LiDAR, Drupal, cloud, OSS policy and law, Android and many other topics. The last day will have a 1/2 day unconference for up-and-coming issues.
  2. State of Internet Slides (Business Insider) — Apple could buy Disney using cash at hand. Boggle. This presentation has plenty of numbers for those who like them.
  3. See Penny Work — an open source (GPLv2) toolkit for budget visualizations, from Code For America. (via Tim O’Reilly)
  4. libimobiledevice — LGPLed open source library which talks the protocols to support iPhone®, iPod Touch®, iPad® and Apple TV® devices. Unlike other projects, it does not depend on using any existing proprietary libraries and does not require jailbreaking. It allows other software to easily access the device’s filesystem, retrieve information about the device and it’s internals, backup/restore the device, manage SpringBoard® icons, manage installed applications, retrieve addressbook/calendars/notes and bookmarks and (using libgpod) synchronize music and video to the device. Runs on Linux, OS X, and Windows.

September 29 2012

Apple’s maps

Apple Maps screenshotApple Maps screenshotI promise not to make any snarky remarks about Apple’s maps disaster, and the mistakes of letting a corporate vendetta get in the way of good business decisions. Oops, I lied. But it’s good to see that Tim Cook agrees, at least about quality of the maps. It’s humbling for a company like Apple to issue an apology.

The real issue isn’t the apology, but what happens next. Google seems to be in no hurry to submit a maps app. It’s unclear how much patience Apple’s customers have; on my Android phone, I probably use Google Maps more than anything else. Not having public transit information when I’m in New York would be a deal breaker for me. I suspect Apple’s fans are more loyal, but even that has limits. How long can the fanboys wait?

One article put Apple’s mapping efforts 400 years behind Google. That’s a lot of catch up. And Google certainly isn’t standing still: their addition of underwater photography to “street view” is spectacular, and may serve us well when sea levels rise. But that’s not the point, either. Apple doesn’t have to “catch up” to Google, though I’m sure they’d like to. They just have to get a product that’s good enough. I don’t think that’s a three-to-six-month proposition. But it could be done in a year or two.

Here’s the difficulty. As Stephen O’Grady has pointed out, the problem with maps is really a data problem, not a software or design problem. If Apple’s maps app was ugly or had a poor user interface, it would be fixed within a month. But Apple is really looking at a data problem: bad data, incomplete data, conflicting data, poor quality data, incorrectly formatted data. Anyone who works with data understands that 80% of the work in any data product is getting your data into good enough shape so that it’s useable. Google is a data company, and they understand this; hence the reports of more than 7,000 people working on Google Maps. And even Google Maps has its errors; I just reported a “road” that is really just a poorly maintained trail.

Maps isn’t Apple’s only data problem. Apple’s spelling correction is an embarrassment. Google has this nailed, both from the standpoint of accuracy and user interface, even to the point of auto-suggesting the next word (with uncanny accuracy). When I’m typing on my Android phone, I don’t even bother correcting mistakes: I can trust Google to pop up the correct word, often before I’ve finished. On my iPad, it’s another story. As Google’s Peter Norvig has said, “We don’t have better algorithms. We just have more data.

Again, I really don’t mean to be snarky about Apple, so I’ll stop here. Apple has been successful by being a great product company. But to move forward, they have to become a great data company. Likewise, to succeed at offering services (including map services), they have to become a great operations company. It isn’t just about product design. I have no doubts that Apple is capable of making the shift; if they do so, the year or two it takes them to get a map product that’s “good enough” will be well spent. But if they don’t make this shift, they could be in for a rough time.

September 27 2012

Commerce Weekly: An early look at who’s who in Passbook

Here are the commerce stories that caught my attention this week.

Passbook’s early merchants

Apple’s iOS 6 launched last week, bringing the Passbook feature to iPhones, and merchants from all walks of industry have started jumping on board. Target was among the first to push its app update, and Sarah Perez at TechCrunch argues it will be one of the most influential merchants in making mobile wallets mainstream. Perez notes the practical nature of Target’s app, as it focuses on saving and storing mobile coupons. Mobile coupons are nothing new, of course, but Perez argues, “becoming part of a more comprehensive system — one that even pushes you reminder notifications as you walk into a store — it has the potential to actually change user behavior” (e.g. make consumers more comfortable and intimate with their phones as part of the shopping experience).

Perez also looks at startup gift card company Gyft’s new Passbook integration in a separate post. The company sells cards from more than 200 retailers, and for those with which it has a relationship, the app will allow users to check gift card balances, too. The integration also is on a per-card basis, so each card must be transferred into Gyft individually, but Perez says it’s worth the trouble: “instead of having a generic ‘Gyft’ card stored in the Passbook app, you’ll have what appears to be the individual store gift cards there, powered by Gyft.” Perez also looks at a few other startups that were agile enough to jump on board early, ahead of many major brands, including Belly and SnipSnap.

One of the more surprising of the major brands to be slow off the mark is Starbucks. Alex Heath at Cult of Mac reports that the Starbucks app will be updated by the end of the month and points out why it’s such a surprise the coffee mogul is late to the game. Not only is Starbucks mobile savvy with its Square payment integration, but “Apple originally routed Passbook in the iOS 6 developer betas to the Starbucks app in the App Store,” Heath writes.

A few of the other major brands already on board with Passbook include Walgreens, Ticketmaster, Fandango, Sephora and several Major League Baseball teams. To give Passbook a whirl in the real world, Josh Lowensohn at CNET took it to a Major League game. He writes that he was able to get into the game by having his ticket scanned off his phone but that the experience wasn’t completely paperless: “In order to give Passbook users some sort of proof of purchase, the stadium prints out a paper receipt that you need to hold on to. … The stadium also requires those with higher level tickets, to somewhere like the suite levels, to carry an extra paper ticket.”

A little rough, but it’s a start. If you want to peruse all Passbook-updated apps, AppShopper has a running list.

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.

The chaos in the payment space

Carol Coye Benson took a thorough look at the state of the payment industry over at Payments Views this week. She describes the landscape as being in chaos:

“When we look at the payments industry today, we see a rapidly fragmenting world, with multiple models, many using various decoupled or layered approaches, with many new solutions for both consumers and merchants. Choice and innovation, of course, may bring potential benefits, but will create equally obvious challenges — including a more confusing environment, for consumers and merchants alike. Regulators, too, will find this a more difficult environment to manage, as will investors, given that many of the new solutions do not have clear or established business models.”

Benson delves deep into each area, looking at the various fronts: wallets versus cards, merchants versus payments industry incumbents, secure element (SE) data storage versus cloud, etc. She also stresses that mobile commerce encompasses far more than mobile payments, including online ordering, self-checkout, mobile ticketing and mobile-enabled digital content purchases. You can read Benson’s complete analysis here.

For a hands-on look specifically at the state of mobile payments, CNN reporter Laurie Segall spent a day shopping in New York City sans physical wallet, using only her smartphone to pay. Throughout the day, she visits a variety of merchants and tests Google Wallet, LevelUp, Square and PayPal. You can see how each works out in the following video:

Studies show importance of the mobile shopping experience

A report released by NetSuite, Inc., this week spells out some good news for mobile payments on UK’s high streets. A press release at CNN Money highlights a few key findings from the report:

  • 67% of high street retailers already offer a mobile app, and that percentage jumps to 80% when you include retailers planning to launch a mobile app in the coming year.
  • Retailers expect mobile commerce to grow at a rate of 23%, an increase of £11bn in 2012.
  • 38% of retailers report their biggest challenge is integration with other ecommerce systems, 37% report budget as the problem, and 15% say they just don’t know how best to create a compelling experience.

A new study released by Google this month stresses the importance not only of having a mobile site or app, but of offering a mobile-friendly experience. A few highlights from the study include:

  • 61% of consumers say they’ll leave a site and move on to a competitor if they can’t easily and quickly find what they’re looking for.
  • 74% are more likely to become return customers if a site is mobile-friendly.
  • 67% say they’re more likely to buy a product or service from a mobile-friendly site.

You can download the NetSuite report here and the Google Study report here.

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September 24 2012

Steve Jobs, Romantic

“… the season
Wherein the spirits hold their wont to walk
the fruitful matrix of Ghosts …”

      — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Steve Jobs died a year ago October 5th, and we can expect his ghost to appear in any number of recollections and assessments as the anniversary approaches.

I’d like to talk here about a spirit that Jobs carried within himself. It’s a spirit he relied on for inspiration, although he seemed at times to have lost track of its whisper. In any event, what it says can tell us a lot about our relationship to machines.

I refer to the spirit of Romanticism. I spent much of this past summer reading about the Romantics — the original Romantics, that is, of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries — and it’s remarkable how closely their most cherished beliefs correspond to principles that Jobs considered crucial to his success at Apple.

Intersection of technology and liberal arts sign from iPad 2 announcementIntersection of technology and liberal arts sign from iPad 2 announcementWhat Apple does that other companies don’t, Jobs often said, is infuse the technologies it produces with human values. “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough,” he said during one of his famous product introductions. “We believe that it’s technology married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.”

Jobs can be forgiven for never getting very specific about what he meant by marrying technology to the humanities. It’s by definition a subject that’s hard to pin down, though not especially hard to understand. Basically he was saying that Apple’s products have soul and that people are attracted to those products because they can feel that soul, both consciously and unconsciously. These are things the Romantics thought about a lot.

That the creative artist can bring life to inanimate objects was a central conviction of the Romantic poets. (I’m speaking of the thrust of the Romantic movement in general; individuals within the movement disagreed on specific issues.) For them, the inanimate object in question was words; for Jobs, it was technology, but the basic point — that a work of art, properly executed, carries within it an invisible, living essence — was the same. Devoid of this essence, said Samuel Taylor Coleridge, what’s produced is as lifeless as the “cold jelly” of a corpse.

Put in contemporary terms, soul from the Romantic perspective is an emergent quality, a product of the harmonious, organic relationship between constituent parts. Even when those individual elements are familiar in other contexts, as the elements of Apple’s products were often said to be, combining them with due attention to essence can bring something new into the world. As Coleridge put it, the true artist “places things in a new light… What oft was thought but ne’er so well exprest… [He] not only displays what tho often seen in its unfolded mass had never been opened out, but he likewise adds something, namely, Lights & Relations.”

By “Relations,” Coleridge meant unity. Each part is completely faithful to the creation as a whole. To construct a work in accord with some “mean or average proportion” is to dilute its essence, said William Hazlitt, “for a thing is not more perfect by becoming something else, but by being more itself.”

This supports Jobs’ insistence that Apple maintain control over both its hardware and its software, a policy that insured they would work seamlessly together. Soul emerges on its own in nature, but not in art. The unity on which it depends is concealed, as one critic put it, beneath “a surface world of chaos and confusion.” To reveal essence requires not only vision, but also focused attention and deliberate action. Coleridge coined a word to describe the unifying power of the creative imagination: “esemplastic,” derived from the Greek for “to shape into one.”

Nor will essence emerge on the strength of reason alone. Indeed, Romanticism was explicitly and decidedly a revolt against reason, a rejection of the empirical presumption of the Enlightenment. Coleridge considered the “Mechanico-corpusluar philosophy” his lifelong enemy; its endless reductionism smothered, he believed, any trace of vitality. What remained wasn’t art, he said, but “a lifeless Machine whirled about by the dust of its own Grinding” — a fair description of how Steve Jobs viewed the products of Apple’s longtime rival, Microsoft.

There’s no question that Jobs was intimately familiar with and sympathetic to the Romantics’ convictions, if only because they were shared by two of his most formative influences, Eastern religion and the 60s counterculture. This is not to say he was directly aware of that coalescence; I’ve seen no interview with Jobs in which the Romantics are mentioned. Nor is there evidence to suggest he recognized how freely the streams of the three philosophies intertwined. Ralph Waldo Emerson, for example, wrote poetry based on the Bhagavad Gita and paid tribute in person to Coleridge and Carlyle. Autobiography of a Yogi, a book Jobs claimed to have read annually since he was in college, quotes Emerson several times. Values regularly celebrated in Romantic texts — passion, spontaneity, authenticity — were counterculture touchstones as well.

Jobs’ philosophy, then, overlapped with the Romantics’, whether he knew it or not. Coleridge famously said that every person was either a born Platonist or a born Aristotelian — the Romantics were Platonists, Bill Gates would qualify as an Aristotelian — and that no one changed from one orientation to the other. It may be that Jobs was, as he and many others contended, an exception to that rule, able to play successfully on both sides of the technology/humanities divide.

There were signs that Jobs wasn’t finding it easy to hold on to his Romanticism as his business career progressed. In Apple’s early days he’d been a believer in the messianic promise of the computer revolution, convinced they could be the greatest force in history for human liberation. In more recent interviews, he dismissed suggestions that computers were going to solve the problems of the world, and he was stung by critics who said that some of Apple’s products were more about consumerism than creativity. He was also disappointed in the narrowness of vision he saw in the students who came to hear him speak on college campuses. The only thing that seemed to impress them, he said, was how much money he’d made.

Jobs’ weariness speaks to a point I’d mentioned at the beginning of this article: that the spirit of Romanticism can tell us a lot about our relationships to machines. To believe that technology can be our savior was a minority opinion in the counterculture. The predominant sentiments of the time were more in tune with the Romantics, who believed that salvation was to be found not in the power of machines, but by living as simply and as closely to nature as possible.

Pastoral retreat on any substantial scale isn’t likely at this point. Our technologies are with us to stay. Living more simply would seem to be an option, though. We might also consider the possibility of constructing those technologies more Romantically. That would entail recognizing, as Steve Jobs did, that the things we create really do have souls and that they speak a language we can hear.


Books that were especially useful in research for this reflection were Richard Holmes‘ two-volume biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, M.H. Abrams’ The Mirror and the Lamp, David Newsome’s Two Classes of Men: Platonism and English Romantic Thought, and Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs.

Photo: Screenshot from Apple’s iPad 2 announcement.

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September 17 2012

Wochenrückblick: Verwaiste Werke, LSR-Petition, Copyright-Richtlinie

Das Europäische Parlament beschließt die Richtlinie zu verwaisten Werken, die Piraten starten eine Petition gegen das Leistungsschutzrecht, EU-Digitalkommisarin Kroes kündig

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September 13 2012

Commerce Weekly: Apple excludes NFC, leaves payment pioneering to others

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

So that’s that: No NFC for the iPhone 5

Leading up to yesterday’s Apple event, there was much rumor mongering over whether or not the iPhone 5 would include NFC technology. The rumors have now been resolved: Apple did not include NFC in the iPhone 5. All Things Digital’s Ina Fried talked with Apple’s Phil Schiller about the lacking technology:

“Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller said that Passbook alone does what most customers want and works without existing merchant payment systems. It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem, Schiller said. ‘Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today’.”

Schiller’s sentiments echoed those made by Square COO Keith Rabois last year, that NFC is “a technology in search of a value proposition.” Cotton Delo at AdAge reported on Apple’s decision to forego NFC and side step the mobile wallet arena and noted that it’s not likely to have any ill effects on the mobile shopping ecosystem, as there is plenty of competition in the space to advance mobile wallet technology.

All the same, advancement in technology doesn’t necessarily translate into ubiquitous adoption, and the decision not to include the technology could have ramifications beyond mobile payments. Ryan Kim at GigaOm argues that Apple’s “snub” was a big detriment for NFC, that including it on “the most popular phone” would have educated consumers and brought a level of validation the technology hasn’t yet experienced. Kim also highlights the bigger issue:

“NFC is much more than just payments and can facilitate personal media and information sharing, building access, marketing and easy Bluetooth pairing. Google, BlackBerry, Nokia and Samsung have all shown different ways in which NFC can be used. But without many common applications that can work between those devices, there’s fewer chances for people to really adopt the technology. With a new iPhone likely to be a best seller, there would have been a lot of ways for people to get acquainted with NFC-actions. Now, the promise of NFC will still struggle to be fulfilled for at least another year.”

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.

There may be light in the tunnel for NFC yet

NFC might have taken a hit this week on the smartphone front, but the technology may have found a problem to solve in an (arguably more) unlikely place: the desktop computer. Adrian Covert at Gizmodo reports that MasterCard and Intel announced a partnership at the Intel Developer Forum this week that will “give merchants and laptop makers the necessary technology they need to act as credit card terminals.”

What this means for online shoppers, Covert says, is no more entering credit card numbers or storing them online — “you just tap your card or phone to your computer and get on with your day.” What this means for NFC could be a helpful nudge toward becoming a mainstream technology. Covert writes, “… with more and more phones and PCs coming equipped with NFC, the technology will be there en masse (meaning merchants can spend time and money integrating the feature knowing more than 10 people will use it).”

The growing “fustercluck” of services could hold back mobile payments

Leena Rao at TechCrunch took a look this week at what she calls “fustercluck” in the mobile payments arena. Noting the pace at which companies are launching mobile-payment-related platforms, she asks “how many more ways do we need to pay for a physical or digital product via a mobile device?”

Rao lays out the ecosystem landscape, including the major players like Google, Isis and PayPal, but notes that companies like Groupon, LevelUp and Shopkick are dabbling in mobile payments in various ways, and even major retailers have jumped in. The field is going to need to thin out, she argues, before mobile payments can achieve any kind of ubiquity:

“I think it’s safe to assume that there will be more than one clear-cut winner in the mobile payments/digital wallet race, but we will see consolidation. From the user point of view, a consumer is going to get frustrated very quickly if he or she has to use 10 different apps to pay for items.”

The deciding factor in which companies and platforms will come out on top goes beyond scale and the number of customers a platform can secure, Rao says. “I believe that the company or startup that commands the best value for both consumers and merchants will become the clear-cut leader,” she writes. Rao’s piece is well worth the read.

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

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August 30 2012

Commerce Weekly: Google Wallet vs Apple Passbook

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

Google prepares its Wallet to compete with iOS 6

Robin Dua, Google’s head of product management for Google Wallet, participated in a video interview (embedded below) this week to talk about Wallet features and plans. Technology reporter Cromwell Schubarth notes in a post at Silicon Valley Biz Blog that the future plans for Google Wallet look a lot like Apple’s newly announced Passbook that’s due to release in iOS 6 this fall. Schubarth quotes Dua:

“‘One of the types of things we’re trying to do is make it easy for airlines, transit providers, and other types of issuers of credentials to make it super simple for them to get their credentials stored in the wallet,’ Dua said. ‘That’s the goal. We want you to be able to leave your leather wallet at home and carry your phone and transact with that as your primary transaction device.”

Dua said they plan for the Wallet to hold credit cards, loyalty cards, IDs and things like boarding passes and transit passes. Very much like Apple’s description of Passbook.

You can view Dua’s interview in the following video:

As far as mobile payments are concerned, however, Google Wallet might retain its leg up on Apple. Earlier rumors of the next generation iPhone, anticipated to be announced at a rumored Apple event on September 12, indicated the phone would include an NFC chip, fueling further rumors that Apple would launch a digital wallet. This week, Brian Klug and Anand Lal Shimpi at AnandTech presented a compelling argument as to why it’s highly unlikely the phone will include NFC. Ryan Kim at GigaOm reports:

“AnandTech said given the reports that the next iPhone will have a metal backing, there will not be enough space in the non-metal window reserved for other antennas to support an NFC chip.”

Of course, an NFC chip isn’t necessarily required for Apple to launch a mobile payment product. Some analysts have argued that Bluetooth technology would make more sense.

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.

It’s not about the tap. It’s about the data behind that tap

Dan Rowinski at ReadWriteWeb took a look at the transformative effect technology is having on currency and the way people shop and pay for goods. He argues that major changes to our cash-based society will be “brought on by the two most fundamental innovations to hit the mainstream consumer since the advent of the Web: mobile and cloud computing.” He notes that, philosophically, the cash-to-digital road hasn’t been (and isn’t) easy:

“This notion of using a smartphone to pay has been criticized by many people (including us at ReadWriteWeb) as adding no value. There has been a lot of hype about NFC for the last couple years, but there is really no discernible argument that can validate that a tap is easier or more valuable than swiping a card. This is the crux of the argument against mobile payments: The transformation taking place is not necessary. For NFC in particular, it has been called a solution without a problem.”

Rowinski argues that the transformation to mobile payments does, in fact, add value — the value is in the layers beyond the transaction. “The value of the mobile wallet is the digital transformation of monetary and transaction data,” he writes. “When a consumer makes a purchase on a smartphone, the retailer knows who that person is, the mobile wallet provider gets information about what was bought when and where and by whom, and the consumer gets the value of electronic receipts and the ability to receive coupons, offers and loyalty rewards.” You can read more of Rowinski’s analysis here.

Wallet competition roundup

John Martellaro at The Mac Observer pulled together a roundup of the competition in the digital wallet wars this week, with breakdowns of all the major players: Google Wallet, Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), Isis, Square, PayPal and V.me. Martellaro addresses a few of the hurdles facing mobile payment as well, including technology and security issues, but also points out what might be the biggest — and perhaps most overlooked — issue: consumer frustration. Martellaro writes:

“… there is also the issue of competition that will confuse and annoy customers. For example, it doesn’t appear that Google Wallet will come to iOS. As a result, banks, telecom companies, and merchants are in a much better position to work out the requisite details. On the other hand, a system from smartphone makers, because of the competing interests, would generate discord. This could explain why Apple hasn’t jumped in with ‘Apple Wallet,’ (other than its iOS 6 Passbook).”

On the other side of The Pond, Mastercard heated up the mobile payment competition in Europe this week, striking a deal with Everything Everywhere, the biggest telecom operator in the UK. The initial offerings will be a bit different from other services that charge purchases to registered credit cards or bank accounts. The BBC reports that, “one of the first products would be a service in which users pre-pay money into an account before being able to spend it via handsets equipped with near-field communication (NFC) technology.” Future plans, according to the report, include adding the ability to pay through a bank account with a mobile phone and a service to facilitate person-to-person money transfers.

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

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August 28 2012

Seeking prior art where it most often is found in software

Patent ambushes are on the rise again, and cases such as Apple/Samsung shows that prior art really has to swing the decision–obviousness or novelty is not a strong enough defense. Obviousness and novelty are subjective decisions made by a patent examiner, judge, or jury.

In this context, a recent conversation I had with Keith Bergelt, Chief Executive Officer of the Open Invention Network takes on significance. OIN was formed many years ago to protect the vendors, developers, and users of Linux and related open source software against patent infringement. They do this the way companies prepare a defense: accumulating a portfolio of patents of their own.

According to Bergelt, OIN has spent millions of dollars to purchase patents that uniquely enable Linux and open source and have helped free software vendors and developers understand and prepare to defend against lawsuits. All OIN patents are available under a free license to those who agree to forbear suit on Linux grounds and to cross license their own patents that read on OIN’s Linux System Definition. OIN has nearly 500 licensees and is adding a new one every three days, as everyone from individual developers to large multinationals are coming to recognize its role and the value of an OIN license.

The immediate trigger for our call was an announcement by OIN that they are expanding their Linux System Definition to include key mobile Linux software packages such as Dalvik, which expands the scope of the cross licenses under the OIN license. In this way OIN is increasing the freedom of action under which a company can operate under Linux.

OIN’s expansion of its Linux System Definition affects not only Android, which seems to be in Apple’s sights, but any other mobile distribution based on Linux, such as MeeGo and Tizen. They have been interested in this area for some time, but realize that mobile is skyrocketing in importance.

Meanwhile, they are talking to their supporters about new ways of deep mining for prior art in source code. Patent examiners, as well as developers filing patents in good faith, look mostly at existing patents to find prior art. But in software, most innovation is not patented. It might not even appear in the hundreds of journals and conference proceedings that come out in the computer science field each year. It is abstraction that emerges from code, when analyzed.

A GitHub staffer told me it currently hosts approximately 25 TB of data and adds over 65 GB of new data per day. A lot of that stuff is probably hum-drum, but I bet a fraction of it contains techniques that someone else will try to gain a monopoly over someday through patents.

Naturally, inferring innovative processes from source code is a daunting exercise in machine learning. It’s probably harder than most natural language processing, which tries to infer limited meanings or relationships from words. But OIN feels we have to try. Otherwise more and more patents may impinge (which is different from infringe) on free software.

August 27 2012

Wochenrückblick: Apple vs. Samsung, Nutzungsstudie, Trennungsgebot

Vor einem Bundesgericht in Kalifornien unterliegt Samsung Apple im Patentkrieg, die jährliche Nutzungsstudie der Musikindustrie legt eine Akzeptanz von Warnhi

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August 13 2012

Wochenrückblick: Auskunftsanspruch, Schutzfristen, Mafia-Vergleich

Für Providerauskünfte über Urheberrechtsverletzungen reicht schon ein nicht-gewerbliches Ausmaß, die Bundesregierung arbeitet an der Schutzfri

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