Monday, January 31, 2011

Mobile Banking Growth Requires More Work on Value Proposition

Lacking any clear differentiated functionality, mobile banking appeals most strongly to those consumers already inclined to use the mobile channel, Forrester Research notes. Unfortunately, this segment is dominated by those already using online banking. As a result, banks are not realizing the full benefit of switching customers to cheaper servicing channels, but instead are seeing cannibalization of one low-cost channel (online) by another (mobile), says Forrester Research analyst Emmett Higdon.

Forrester reports that mobile banking has undergone rapid adoption, more than doubling from five percent of online users in 2007 to 12 percent in the second quarter of 2010. By 2015, this number is predicted to nearly double again, with one in five U.S. adults using mobile banking.

To reach one in five U.S. adults, as Forrester predicts mobile banking will do by 2015, U.S. banks will need to enhance today's functionality significantly to create a unique value proposition that resonates with both online and offline consumers.

Steady Mobile Banking Growth To Drive Demand For Better Functionality

Zipring Launches New VoIP Servicemo

North American consumers can now join the public beta of Zipring—a simple, inexpensive integrated Voice over IP (VoIP) phone service that works with any phone, mobile or Internet device, requires no contract and is free to try.

Unlike other Internet phone applications and devices on the market, Zipring is based on open standards so it can be used with any VoIP software or phone device. Additionally, because Zipring leverages the internet, it can turn any Internet-based device—such as an iPad, iPod Touch, laptop or desktop computer—into a phone and enable users to make and receive calls to that device using their dedicated Zipring phone number.

“Zipring works with any phone on the planet,” said Erik Lagerway, VP and GM of Commercial Communications at Ziplocal, the company behind Zipring. “While we offer a free iPhone app, the beauty of Zipring is that users are not tied to it. They can integrate Zipring directly with any VoIP app or device available to them, unlike Google Voice or Skype, and enjoy zero roaming charges and inexpensive calling without a contract.”

Among its many benefits, Zipring has zero roaming charges and does not require a contract. Zipring features include visual voicemail, call recording, voicemail to email, web-based calling and account management, and no contracts.

Google, Twitter, SayNow Create App to Alllow Tweeting by Leaving a Voicemail

A small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company Google recently acquired, have created an app that allows anyone to "tweet" by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers ( 16504194196 or 390662207294 or 97316199855).

The service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to

Coupon and Group Buying Sites Might Change Retailer Budgets, Campaigns and Channels

Shopkick Inc., which makes a smartphone app that offers shoppers rewards and discounts for entering stores, said it has attracted 750,000 users since the app made its debut in August 2010, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The growing use of, and popularity of, such group buying offers might, if it continues, rearrange retailer advertising, promotion and media spending. If the purpose of at least some advertising and promotion is to get shoppers into stores, the coupon sites are doing that.

Moreover, about 10 percent of them use the app at least once a day, said Shopkick, which has signed Target Corp., Best Buy Co., Macy's Inc. and other retailers to its service.

The retailers pay Shopkick to be included in the app and featured in special promotions. Though it declined to be specific, the high profile start-up said that each store visit by a user of its app costs a retailer "less than $1."

Android Tablets Start to Take Market Share

No surprise here: as Android tablets appear in the market, Apple is going to lose some market share.

App Battle Heats Up

Whether mobile apps are as strategic as most people think, or not, there is little question more resources are going into the battle.

Mobile 'apps' to be $58 billion market

Mobile applications downloaded from online stores will be a $58 billion worldwide business by 2014, as tablet computers such as Apple's iPad stoke the surging market, Gartner predicts.

The figure marks a huge increase on the $5.2 billion spent on mobile applications in 2010, technology consultancy Gartner said, predicting there will be 17.7 billion application downloads this year, more than double the 8.2 billion in 2010.

By the end of 2014, Gartner forecasted that over 185 billion applications will have been downloaded since 2008.

Payment Methods Changing

Consumer use of cash and checks are declining, use of debit cards and other payment systems climbing, while use of credit cards is flat, according to Nilson Report data.

That explains, only in part, why there now is interest in mobile payments.

Information Workers Are Not Quite Ready For Desktop Videoconferencing

Forrester Research's latest survey of North American and European business technology users shows that the workforce overall has little interest in and access to desktop video.

There’s a disconnect between what vendors and executives are pushing and what information workers are looking for, says Forrester analyst T J Keitt. Right now, most of the desktop video conferencing technology is not widespread.

For example, while 33 percent of workers surveyed said their company has desktop video systems, only 15 percent said they had access to them. In addition, it’s the upper-level executives who are most interested in the technology, and who use it most.

Forty-two percent of directors use desktop video conferencing, 40 percent of vice presidents and 38 percent of owners or CEOs, according to Forrester By contrast, only seven percent of individual workers say they use the systems.

In addition, for the time being, interest among those individual workers is low. About 72 percent of workers said they didn’t want desktop video conferencing, compared with 13 percent who don’t have it but do want it. Another 13 percent use it, and while 2 percent said they have desktop video conferencing but don’t use it.

Forrester analyst T J Keitt says “Forrester’s workforce data reveals that most of the workforce doesn’t have access to and isn’t bullish on using desktop video for business purposes.”

The study surveyed more than 5,400 information workers. Fifty-six percent of businesses have deployed a room-based or desktop-based video-conferencing system, Keitt said.

Is iPad Driving Netflix?

One might be tempted to note the quick rise of streaming on Netflix and assume people have suddenly decided to watch TV on their PCs, or have quickly gotten the hang of configuring "net TV" boxes.

There's some truth to those notions, but a more-obvious guess is that many of those tablet devices are now being used to watch Netflix. In that sense, Netflix could be one of the most-successful app store subscription products yet seen.

Who wins and who loses when carriers tweak loyalty programs

Sprint announced it will change its Premier loyalty program starting April 1, 2011. In the past, loyal customers of ten years or more, or customers who paid at least $69.99 on an individual plan or $99.99 on a family plan each month were offered the ability to upgrade their handsets every 12 months, as well as other benefits and discounts.

Earlier, Verizon Wireless also ended its "New Every Two" program, which offered customers a credit of $30 to $100 towards a new phone. So will those carriers suffer customer churn? IDC doesn't think so.

Kindle Content Sales Top Book Sales

"After selling millions of third-generation Kindles with the new Pearl e-ink display during the quarter, Kindle books have now overtaken paperback books as the most popular format on," says Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of

"Last July we announced that Kindle books had passed hardcovers and predicted that Kindle would surpass paperbacks in the second quarter of this year, so this milestone has come even sooner than we expected, and it's on top of continued growth in paperback sales."

None of that stops some analysts from worrying. A study by market-research firm iSuppli last year estimated the total cost of materials for the 3G Kindle at $155.56, about $33 less than the $189 selling price for the device.

Since iSuppli’s estimates do not include the cost of software, licensing, royalties, manufacturing expenses (Amazon outsources production of the Kindle) and a cut for the wireless carriers, and well are marketing expense, analysts suspect Amazon likely sells the Kindle at a slight loss.

Many analysts assume the Kindle operates on a razor-razorblade model, which is the tactic of selling one good (like razors) at a discount, and a second good that it dependent on it (like razorblades) at a higher price. For Amazon, this would mean selling the Kindle at a discount in order to make money on e-book sales.

Amazon therefore uses the reverse of the model employed by Apple. Apple sells content only so it can boost sales of its devices; Amazon sells hardware only to boost sales of content.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nearly Half of Mobile App Users Report Clicking on Mobile Ads by Mistake

According to a new survey conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Pontiflex in December 2010, 47 percent of mobile app users say they click/tap on mobile ads more often by mistake than they do on purpose.

Given that mobile advertising models typically charge advertisers for clicks, the survey findings indicate that a large portion of mobile ad dollars are wasted.

In a related December 2010 survey, 71 percent of mobile app users stated that they prefer ads that keep them within the app they are using, instead of ads that take them out of the app to a mobile web browser, further reinforcing the need for mobile advertising to move away from a model based on clicks.

Social Media Marketing by the Numbers

Social media marketing now represents about $1.7 billion in expenditures. Facebook gets 53 percent of that. Twitter gets only about three percent. But I'd watch Twitter.

Forrester Research Expects Digital Experience to Lead to Market Disruption

"Longstanding structural barriers to innovation are about to collapse," says Forrester Research analyst James L. McQuivey.  That belief flows from a conviction that economic assets might now, at least in part, because the cumulative impact of new digital technologies have made a world in which it is much easier for attackers to disrupt existing businesses, including even those with substantial barriers to such disruption.

That is the reason video industry executives are so worried about Netflix, for example. But something more than that is at play. Increasingly, the best products in many industries will build a digital relationship into the experience. In some ways, that is a linear extrapolation from what has been happening for at least a decade, namely that physical products have been incorporating more software as key parts of the overall product value. The typical way we say this is that "all companies are becoming 'experience' companies."

The relationships are probably easiest to see in products with some existing "content" component. That's why Sony began investing in content assets. But the iPod builds on iTunes as smartphones and tablets now build on app stores.

What is harder to see, but will become increasingly more obvious, is that most products, even those without a "content" component, will start to use content more frequently. Most companies create brochures, white papers, data sheets, press releases, websites, videos, podcasts and webcasts. Some create mobile apps and games. All of that is "content." What will change, over time, is the prominent use of other types of content as a routine part of the branding and relationship-building activities conducted by companies.

Retailer Video, Music Services: Means to an End

Observers might wonder about whether Amazon or Apple can catch Netflix in the online video space. Others, including major retailers, seem be in a second tier, despite their other assets. Sears Holdings Corp. became the latest traditional retailer to get into streaming and downloads on Dec. 28, 2010, when it launched movie service Alphaline Entertainment.

That followed Best Buy Co.'s launch last year of rental and purchase site CinemaNow and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s acquisition of streaming service Vudu last February for roughly $100 million.

The retailers say the ventures not only help them gain a foothold in the fast-growing digital entertainment business, but also give them an edge in selling Internet-connected televisions and movie players in their stores.

As with some other players, online video is a means to an end.

India Mobile Banking Gets Boost from Bharti Airtel and Vodafone

“Mobile payments will be the next step for delivering financial services to hundreds of millions of 'underbanked' people or those who are under-served currently, both urban and rural customers, especially in emerging economies," says Gerhard Romen, Director, Mobile Financial Services, Nokia.

Recently, mobile banking got a huge boost with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone announcing separate partnerships with State Bank of India and ICICI Bank, respectively. While Bharti Airtel and SBI have formed an exclusive joint venture, Vodafone has agreed to become a "business correspondent" for ICICI Bank.

While Vodafone manages over 1.5 million retail points for acquiring customers and servicing them, Airtel is present across 5,101 towns and more than 5,00,000 villages. That's a big deal considering that 51.4 percent of 89.3 million farmer households do not have access to any credit from institutional or non-institutional sources. 

Only 27 per cent of farm households are indebted to formal sources. Only 13 per cent are availing loans from the banks in the income bracket of less than Rs 50,000. 

There's money in the mobile

Africa is the Silicon Valley of Banking

You might say Kenya-based Safaricom (M-PESA) helped start a banking revolution, one coming to the world from Africa. "Africa is the Silicon Valley of banking," says Carol Realini, executive chairman of Obopay, a California-based mobile-banking innovator.

"The future of banking is being defined here," Realini says. "The new models for what will be mainstream throughout the world are being incubated here."

Mobile banking has been available for years in Japan and elsewhere, but only on a limited basis. M-Pesa now has 19,000 agents today. Of Safaricom's 16 million customers, 12 million have M-Pesa accounts — this in a nation of 39 million people.

Finance: Kenya's Banking Revolution

Mobile Banking: The mobile banking revolution: Nigerian style

There is no shortage of startups focused on the African mobile banking opportunity just in Nigeria. Some of the contestants are "bank focused," and include:
Stanbic IBTC
Fortis MFB

Among the "bank-led" ventures are:
First Bank of Nigeria

Among the "non-bank led" ventures are:
Monitiz (Is this the Monitise brand in Nigeria)

And that's just Nigeria.

Mobile Banking: The mobile banking revolution: Nigerian style

M-PESA is the Model for Perhaps 60 Other Ventures

The M-PESA money-transfer service, operated by Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile operator, is used by 9.5 million people, or 23 percent of the population, and transfers the equivalent of 11 percent of Kenya’s GDP each year.

See presentation for a description of how it works.

The basic idea of M-PESA is that the 100,000 small retailers in Kenya who already sell mobile-phone airtime, in the form of scratch cards, can also register to be mobile-money agents, taking in and paying out cash. More than 17,600 retailers have signed up as M-PESA agents—far outnumbering Kenya’s 840 bank branches. When a customer is registered with the system, paying in cash involves exchanging physical money for the virtual sort, called “e-float”, which is credited to his mobile-money account. E-float can then be transferred to other users by mobile phone, and exchanged for cash by the recipient, who visits another agent.

read more here

Amazon Cloud Storage Traffic Soars

Amazon Web Services said this week that its "Simple Storage Service" housed 262 billion objects at year-end of 2010, more than doubling in size from 102 billion objects at the close of 2009. The peak request rate for S3 is now in excess of 200,000 requests per second, according to Amazon’s Jeff Barr.

Business Model Change for Hulu?

Hulu originally hoped to create an advertising-supported online video site that essentially was an archive for television programming, operating much as a digital video recorder service.

But ad revenue has been disappointing, and the owners disagree on what to do about the service. So now it isn't so clear what Hulu might become.

Some spectulate that Hulu might in the future become a sort of online cable service. Instead of a warehouse of episodic content, Hulu could become a full-fledged online cable operator. That means live shows and video on demand, all accessed through Hulu.

That might work for the content providers, but it won't help multichannel video entertainment providers.

Mark Zuckerberg on SNL

Amazon Prepping Netflix-Like Streaming Service: appears to be readying a service that would make 5,000 movies and TV shows available to watch instantly, at no incremental charge, for members of the online retailer's $79-per-year "Prime" free-shipping membership program.

The service would provide "unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming" of 5,000 movies and TV shows' with content similar to what is available through Netflix's streaming component. Amazon's service, though, would be limited to standard-definition video.

The notable observation here is that Amazon will try to create a business model that does not rely directly on incremental revenue, but rather on increasing subscribers to another existing service Amazon deems important. That's similar to Apple selling music and video to sell iPods and iPads. Netflix, Comcast and others, on the other hand, have less wiggle room, since their video businesses are about selling video.

Comcast, of course, also is trying the Amazon tactic, tying a fixed-line cable subscription to its mobile and untethered online video service. Still, it always is dangerous when a new competitor proposes to give away what another company sells.

Amazon Prime is a membership program that provides free two-day shipping as well as one-day shipping for $3.99 per item on certain purchases.

Currently Amazon offers a selection of more than 75,000 movie and TV show rentals or purchases through PCs, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and connected-TV devices, including those from TiVo, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Vizio and Roku.'s agreement to buy full ownership of LoveFilm, a European DVD rental and movie-streaming service, confirms the e-commerce giant intends to beef up its digital-video offering.

Operating in the U.K., Scandinavia and more recently Germany, LoveFilm's service is very similar to that of Netflix in the U.S. But it is well behind the American company, both in subscribers—1.6 million versus 17 million—and in the amount of streaming content it has licensed.

Netflix Now Boasts More Subscribers Than Showtime, Starz, HBO Next?

Netflix added 3.1 million subscriptions during the fourth quarter of 2010, and now has more than 20 million subscribers. That's more than the total subscribers of premium channels Starz and Showtime, which have 17.3 million and 18.2 million subscribers, respectively.

What that means is that Netflix is competing with the premium cable channels, not basic cable (ad-supported channels such as ESPN).

Netflix now estimates it will expand to as many as 22.8 million subscribers in the coming quarter, a possible uptick of 14 percent. Meanwhile, the subscriber base for HBO, which ended its last quarter with 28.55 million subscribers, fell to its lowest levels in four years, and dropped 1.9 percent from the last quarter.

Netflix may someday more directly threaten basic cable service. For the moment, it seems to be doing just fine cannibalizing premium TV networks. In response, cable and other networks will have to start cannibalizing their own premium channels as well, since video-on-demand essentially replicates the Netflix streaming service.

Netflix Beats, Worry Grows (Insert "Apple" and You Know the Story)

Netflix Really Becomes "Net Flicks"

The issue now is whether Netflix has put so much distance between itself and others that the others cannot catch up.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The iPadification of the Web

Design on the Web needs a reboot — and the iPad may provide the push publishers need to toggle the switch. But will smarter-looking online offerings save old media?

Creators of Web content have poured considerable effort into reinventing their websites as top-down, gorgeously designed experiences for Apple’s tablet and other mobile devices, in the hope that what they give away on the Web might turn into something their audience will pay for as an app.

Shift in Thinking About Broadband Devices and Usage?

Some observers have less faith in consumer common sense than others do. Some might argue that consumers will not accept reasonable policies and plans related to broadband access for their devices. Up to this point, some might simply point to growing usage, and argue that dire consequences will result if there are any changes in pricing that reflect usage to some significant degree. Others might argue that consumers and providers are rational, and that both are capable of changing usage patterns in ways that provide the value users want, and yet also allow providers the ability to recoup their investments.

Customers are rational, are capable of understanding the consequences of behavior, and so will change their behavior. "Contrary to the popular view, tiered pricing, whereby subscribers pay for the bandwidth they consume, will not signal the death of the mobile Internet," argues Yankee Group analyst Declan Longergan.

Service providers and consumers will learn to live with bandwidth and devices in ways that satisfy their needs, without bankrupting carriers or slowing innovation. "In the same way that the notion of eco-friendly consumption behavior has gradually entered the public consciousness, so too will the idea of network-friendly (and unfriendly) mobile devices," says Lonergan. Service providers and the most sophisticated end-users will pay more attention to which devices make most efficient use of limited network resources and monthly data allowances, and will change. Over time, so will most other people.

read more here

Google and Facebook "Competition" is About Ad Revenue

Google's real competition isn't other search engines like Microsoft's Bing or Yahoo, some would argue.

Nor does Facebook currently face much of a threat from other social-networking sites.

But what some would say now is happening is a struggle between Google and Facebook over user attention, which is related to the matter of advertising attractiveness and hence, revenue.

Targeted Advertising Faces Headwinds

Will the future of online advertising be highly targeted or not? It increasingly seems it will only be partly so. Facing presure from the Federal Trade Commission, both Google and Mozilla (Firefox browser) have introduced ways to opt out of behavioral advertising, which allows ads to be targeted.

Google's solution is an extension for its Chrome web browser that lets users proactively block certain advertisers from serving them behavioral ads. Mozilla's approach would bundle a "do not track" feature with its browser, but require websites and ad networks to agree to recognize such requests from Firefox users.

Microsoft has previously announced its own plans for letting users opt out of such ads as well. Those moves, plus any additional FTC rules, are going to limit the extent to which targeted ads can be delivered.

read more here

Smaato Raises More Money for Mobile Ad Network, Especially in Asia

Smaato has gotten a new round of funding. Singapore’s EDBI led the $7 million round, with participation from existing shareholders including global private equity firm aeris CAPITAL.

The new funds will help fuel Smaato’s international expansion, in particular to extend its presence in Asia from its Asian headquarters in Singapore.

Blekko Takes "Curated Search" Mobile

Blekko, the curated mobile search engine, has released Android and iPhone applications. Says Blekko CEO Rich Skrenta, “In a world where people want the most relevant answers on the go, mobile search is becoming increasingly more significant.”

The app has a sparse interface which allows you to view search results whether or not you are logged in with your Blekko account. With the exception of Facebook integration, the app pretty much runs the gamut of features found on Blekko itself, most notably the ability to search by /slashtag or curated topic. Results are sorted by most relevant and by date.

"Curation" is an important concept these days. We used to call it "editing," in some circles, but the principle is the same. There's a firehose of information blasting at people every day. So it is helpful to cull the "good stuff" from the noise. People who do that used to be called "editors." At museums, we call them "curators." The job is the same: pick out and organize the good stuff thematically.

Mobile's Growth, in Numbers and Pictures

Mobile usage and importance, in stats.

85% Of Teen Brand Word-Of-Mouth Occurs Offline

Online marketing and messages generally are seen as important these days. But a new study finds teens, who exchange opinions and information about brands more than consumers as a whole, use word of mouth.

Contrary to what we might expect, relatively few of those conversations take place online, according to the latest findings from TalkTrack, an ongoing study conducted by market research firm Keller Fay Group, which specializes in word-of-mouth (WOM).

It's true that teens are twice as likely, compared to the general public, to hold brand conversations online. Still, just 13 percent of teens' brand discussions take place online (including email, texting/IM and social networking), compared to seven percent of the general public's discussions.

"Sponsored Stories" by Facebook Not Seen as "Ads"

Facebook's "Sponsored Stories" program clearly is an "advertising" program, but it is intentionally designed not be be seen as such.

U.S. Tower Business Reaches Maturity

The U.S. tower industry has reached the maturity stage of the growth cycle. Here are eight reasons why some believe that.
1.      Tower companies are moving into international markets to increase their portfolios. Exhibit 1 – American Tower added 8,000 towers in 2010, but only 1,000 were in the U.S.
2.      A close look at financial statements shows that revenue growth is coming from existing tenants rather than from new towers.
3.      More money is chasing towers than there are towers available. Several tower industry veterans with millions of equity investor funds at their disposal cannot find towers for sale.
4.      The build to suit market is ultracompetitive. Many firms that have built towers to meet carrier new site needs have left the market as competition has erased profit margins.
5.      Tower companies are seeking other uses for their cash. The most common tactic is to buy out the leases under their towers. Others are considering increased dividend payments
6.      At least one major tower company is considering changing to a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) structure. REIT status provides significant tax benefits to companies who pay out large portions of their earnings as dividends to their investors.
7.      Tower Companies are developing additional service offerings for the carriers in order to find new revenue growth engines. Likewise, tower companies are investing in ownership of fiber and microwave networks that carry wireless traffic from cell sites to switching centers.
8.      Tower companies have traded upside revenue for from new rents for 4G equipment in exchange for extending the term length on their existing collocation agreements.

IMF to US: take care of deficit, or else

U.S. officials must act quickly to control government deficits or face slower growth and even more difficult choices in the future, the International Monetary Fund said Thursday in a report criticizing the tepid U.S. response to its rising public debt.

The IMF warning comes as federal officials grapple with a congressional projection this week that the annual deficit will reach a historic $1.5 trillion this year. This was the latest report to raise concerns about how massive government debts in developed countries could undermine the global economic recovery.

“The U.S. has a lot of credibility. This does not imply their credibility can last forever,” IMF fiscal affairs director Carlo Cottarelli said as he released the IMF study. It concluded that the United States is falling behind on a promise it made to other top economic countries to halve its budget deficit by 2013.

Smart Grid Apps for LTE

Alcatel-Lucent and Tantalus have developed a "smart grid" system using Long Term Evolution networks. The system is important because "machine to machine" communications are expected to provide a key revenue segment for wireless providers, allowing mobile service providers to move beyond revenue models based on "devices used by people," to all sorts of other applications where sensors talk to machines.

Alcatel-Lucent and Tantalus have developed meter collectors and video cameras that will be connected over an LTE network.

Smart grid and other sensor-based applications will be important on the front end of the mobile business as drivers of new revenue, but also important on the back end, in terms of contributing to need for backhaul, middle mile and other capabilities.

Would You Bet Against Apple?

You might be the sort of person who bets against Apple. If so, you'll probably bet against Apple succeeding in any significant way with its rumored mobile payments. The argument against success as a retail store payment vehicle (Apple might builds on iTunes for some other payment-related function) probably starts with the "what's the additional value" argument, but that applies to all proposed systems.

The assumption is that Apple's mobile payment system would have to be as convenient as a credit card swipe. That same objection applies to all other systems as well. Some might argue a mobile payment alternative does not save time; Apple won't either; therefore there is no value and no reason to adopt. Apple will have also have to piggyback off of, or have retail partners deploy, the near field communication terminals required on the retailer end of the transaction That's another barrier.

One possible advantage Apple gains with this new payment scheme is Apple mobile payments bypass the credit card processing fees Apple currently pays for each iTunes transaction. Some might question value for retailer partners and end users. If Apple decides to share those savings with retailers, and rewards users with some loyalty program at the same time, there's the answer to "how do retailers and users benefit."

There are big barriers to mobile payments adoption, ranging from handset capabilities and user habits to entrenched and efficient existing payment systems. But big changes in user behavior have occurred before, when the value was understood. That doesn't mean mobile payments will succeed wildly in the next 12 months or even 24 months. But it could, and Apple starts with a different perspective: it doesn't want to disrupt the traditional payments business. It only wants to enhance the value and stickiness of iTunes.

Apple doesn't have to look first and foremost at its potential direct revenue or profit margin. It doesn't worry so much about those things when it sells music or video or movies. It just wants to make iTunes and its "i" devices so useful and popular that people keep buying them. That makes for a dangerous competitor. Essentially, Apple wants to "give away" what other people need to "get paid for." That is the underlying power of disruption in the Internet space, always.

It's too early to know who wins, or whether Apple will be among them, or why it might win. But Apple, and others, will be dangerous to the extent they clearly understand they have existing revenue models that are enhanced if they extend themselves into mobile payments in some way. The best-placed players might just be those with an existing and powerful revenue model that gets more powerful with mobile payments, without the need to make additional revenue from the payments process itself.

read more here

Friday, January 28, 2011

Top Brands: Apple, Google, BMW

Google, Apple and BMW are top brands in a new survey.

Another Take on Augmented Reality

I don't know about you, but my first thought was "how do they do that?"

Will Apple Disrupt Payments?

One can make an argument that any Apple mobile payment system, even if it remains largely aimed at iTunes users and products, will disrupt the existing payments business. Apple does have a base of 160 million iTunes users, said Avivah Litan an analyst at Gartner.

That base gives Apple the ability to operate largely as a "closed payment system" with minimal need to interface with credit card companies and banks, she said. "They can largely shut out credit card companies if they choose to,"and operate in much the same way that PayPal has done in the virtual world, she said.

Some will argue that this approach actually is rather credit card issuer "friendly." Users of iTunes will probably need to continue using their credit cards and bank accounts to replenish the funds in their iTunes accounts, which would make any Apple mobile payments system a distributor for card companies in much the same way that PayPal is. The main issue is the loss of analytics for the card issuers.

Hulu to Become an Over-the-Top Cable Operator?

Hulu management has discussed recasting Hulu as an online cable operator that would use the Web to send live TV channels and video-on-demand content to subscribers, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The new service, which is still under discussion, would mimic the bundles of channels now sold by cable and satellite operators. In other words, Hulu might wind up being an online way of getting linear TV content. Some people might see that as some sort of failure. Others might see it as something else. Much will depend on how the partners structure the end user deal.

If Hulu is tied to existing linear subscriptions, one set of revenue models and value will be offered. It will be useful to watch one's paid-for linear content on devices other than the at-home TV, but beyond that Hulu will simply represent another "TV Everywhere" sort of initiative.

If Hulu acts like an over-the-top cable subscription, there are other possibilities, depending on whether users have more, or less, control over which "channels" they want access to. Hulu might then offer a bit more discrete control over packages, compared to standard multichannel video packaging into a few broad tiers.

It might be asking too much for the new approach to deviate too much from the typical cable approach. But an over-the-top approach, largely disconnected from a "geographic" requirement (where you have to buy a fixed network service to get the mobile content), would still be interesting.

Cord-Cutting is Too Difficult For Average Families

Here’s evidence that regular people have zero time for things like Google TV, Boxee, and Roku, if only because they’re too complicated.

Hill Holiday, an ad agency,” asked five Boston-area families to participate in a cord-cutting experiment. For one week each family was asked to forgo traditional cable TV in favor of one of the following devices: Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee Box, Xbox 360, and Roku.

As it turns out, TV watching still is a "lean back" activity, and the new Internet delivery systems changed that into an undesirable "lean forward" experience, to some extent. That isn't to say that some company, sometime, will "Apple-ize" the experience and make it elegant. But we aren't there yet.

Card Issuers Face Huge Revenue Challenge

"From a bank perspective, here is why we care about mobile payments: debit, prepaid and credit products are predominantly dependent on interchange revenues that could become less profitable, with a huge negative impact on earnings,” says Philip Philliou, partner at the firm of Philliou Selwanes.

In part because of new regulatory changes and pressures card issuers may find card economics getting worse. “It is inevitable that the revenue side of the business will change downward, so profitability will be affected massively,” he says.

How massive? He expects “more than half the profit for debit and credit businesses” will be affected. Right now, a card issuer can typically expect revenue of perhaps $85 and about $40 of expense, per customer, per month. But the industry expects the economics might fall to something like average revenue of $38 and $40 in expense, so the typical card issuer is “under water,” says Philliou.

Will Isis Attempt to Replace, or Work With, Existing Payment Processors?

You could get a good debate, almost any day, over the potential impact new players in mobile payments might have. Isis, the joint venture between AT&T Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA, Barclays and Discover Networks might be seen as a case of a venture that aims to displace some of the current players.

Others argue that will be very difficult (it will) and that the more-logical route is some sort of grand partnership, that focuses less on shifting market share in the “payments” business and focuses more on creating new forms of value that have more to do with eliminating overhead, improving customer service and creating more convenient ways to advertise, deliver coupons and promotions, or create loyalty.

David Schropfer, a partner at the Luciano Group, says it is not clear what will happen. But there is some logic to the notion that the current “four-party system involving a merchant, a consumer, and the banks that the user and retailer use, was created long ago, and could be redesigned for an Internet-connected, mobile world, operating more efficiently at the same time it creates more value-added platforms.

Apple Mobile Payments: What Should Banks Do?

Apple's rumored plans to get into mobile payments can be seen in several ways. If Apple decides to disrupt the "four-party" existing retail payments model, the company might be a threat. If it decides it wants to do something else, it could be a banking partner.

The natural instinct for some is to put Apple in the same camp that many have put PayPal Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., that of the enemy. But banks that look for ways to work with Apple might find themselves getting a new distribution channel.

"If we as a banking industry don't get our head around payments, we risk the chance of an Apple or Google or anybody else being a disrupter in the space and taking some of the volume, very similar to the way PayPal has become a disrupter in the industry," said Jeff Dennes, the director of online and mobile services at Huntington Bancshares Inc.

The big issue is how, and where, Apple decides to play within the ecosystem. Right now, the retail payments business is anchored around a four-party model that includes merchants, consumers, acquiring and the banks used by the consumers and retailers. Everything else basically revolves around those four key actors.

But Apple might try to invent something new, possibly linking existing customer accounts to iTunes, a setup similar to what eBay Inc.'s PayPal does. This could cause banks to lose some of the revenue they would normally gain through card transactions, as Apple would insert itself into the ecosystem.

Apple's iTunes Store, which could serve as the mobile wallet used to store payment information on a consumer's payment-enabled device, generated net sales of $1.16 billion in its 2011 fiscal first quarter ending Dec. 25, according to Apple.

Netflix on CLEAR 4G: Wireless Issues are Clear

When Netflix recently released data on Netflix high-definition video performance on a number of networks, it included Clearwire's 4G wireless network among all the other fixed networks. That a 4G wireless network would rank behind wired DSL, cable, and fiber optic networks in terms of experience, when the content being streamed is high-definition video, would not surprise anybody who follows such things.

Larry Dignan at ZDNet notes that "looking at the Netflix data you’d think Clearwire was a dog." He argues the opposite is true. Clearwire’s 4G service is fast enough for consumers to stream Netflix, and he sees that as a plus.

Still, the study, which might be criticized on some grounds, suggests the issues wireless service providers will have as video becomes a more-important application on all networks.

AT&T Earnings

LinkedIn Ad Revenues $18 Million a Quarter

LinkedIn has 90 million members. They are a little bit older, professional, and wealthy than average, which makes them an interesting demographic for at least some advertisers.

So far, LinkedIn has not been able to convert its audience into ad revenue at a high rate. In the three months ending September 30, 2010, LinkedIn generated just $18 million in advertising revenue.

Advertising might be the key, or most important, revenue source for some sites. But it is harder than you might think to create a big ad revenue stream even for popular social media sites.

Verizon Buys Terremark to Support Cloud Services

Verizon’s $1.4 billion acquisition of cloud and hosting company Terremark has some analysts putting a bevy of Internet infrastructure companies on the “to be acquired list.

The bet seems to be that large incumbents like AT&T may have to go shopping to beef up their enterprise units.

In a research note, Oppenheimer analyst Tim Horan argued that "the transaction highlights the attractive fundamentals of the Internet infrastructure space driven by the ongoing migration to cloud computing."

"Other providers in this space that represent potential targets include Savvis, Rackspace, Cogent Communications Group, Level 3 and Limelight Networks. Potential suitors include the incumbents AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Windstream and foreign carriers."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is the Era of Webmail Over?

Globally, total minutes spent on web-based email (not including PC web applications such as Outlook) was down two percent in November 2010 compared to November 2009, with time spent in the Asia-Pacific region showing even more dramatic decline dropping 10 percent, according to comScore.

Within the region, markets showed varying levels of engagement trends. The largest decline in time spent was seen in Malaysia (down 22 percent), India (down 19 percent) and South Korea (down 15 percent). Taiwan, Hong Kong and New Zealand on the other hand actually showed increases in overall minutes spent in the category.

Zong And Boku Launch Carrier Billing with BilltoMobile on Verizon Wireless Network

Zong and Boku, providers of online payments, now are working with Verizon Wireless, using a relationship with BilltoMobile. The move might help both firms leverage BilltoMobile's cost advantages with Verizon.

Historically, wireless carriers have charged roughly 30 percent to 40 percent to process transactions made on the carrier billing systems.

That obviously limits the range of goods, and types of goods, that sellers might be willing to transact using a carrier billing method. Perhaps the biggest potential change is that both firms could move beyond digital goods, at some point, though clearly the immediate incentive is to support mobile digital goods sales.

Mobile Payment Service Jumio Gearing Up

Jumio, a new online and mobile payment solution, is headed by Jajah founder Daniel Mattes.

Internet pioneers Zain Khan (former Google executive), Mark Britto (former Amazon executive) and Maarten Linthorst (former NASA partner) have jointed the Jumio advisory board.

IP Carrier: Android In-App Payments Coming "Soon"

Eric Chu, a group manager at Google for the Android platform, says the in-app payment system for Android originally was set to launch last quarter, but it was delayed because of developer distraction (the Christmas and holiday season). The payment function will be available soon, Chu says.

Everything Everywhere To Launch Mobile Payments

Everything Everywhere, the marketing venture between U.K. mobile operators Orange and T-Mobile, has unveiled plans to roll out a mobile payments service by the second quarter of 2011, and is powered by Barclaycard.

The new service will allow consumers to use their mobiles to make purchases at over 40,000 stores.

The platform uses SIM cards and bill build on Everything Everywhere and Barclaycard’s ongoing partnership, which has already produced a co-branded contactless credit card and the forthcoming Orange Cash pre-paid contactless card.

Users will initially be able to purchase items up to the value of £15 by simply swiping their mobile phones across an electronic reader.

The phone uses “Near-Field Communication” technology in addition to the SIM modules.

Verizon Launches Google Apps Bundle

Verizon is combining its leading broadband business services with a broad range of business applications from Google, featuring Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Sites.

This new offering, Google Apps for Verizon, is specifically designed to help smaller companies advertise by providing them with a domain name and domain name e-mail, and to boost their productivity by making cloud-based capabilities available to employees, whether in an office or on the go.

Google Apps for Verizon, which provides three free user accounts, is immediately available to businesses that subscribe to a bundle consisting of Verizon Internet service and either Verizon voice or TV service, or both.

The bundles with Google Apps are available in Washington, D.C., and parts of 12 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia. Google Apps for Verizon is also available as a stand-alone service to all businesses across the country for $3.99 per month per user.

Get Microsoft SilverlightConsumers say they are most concerned about sharing their location with people or organizations they have not specified (87%), followed by sharing their location without consent (84%), having personal information or identity stolen (84%) and overall loss of privacy (83 %), a new study by Microsoft has found.

read more hereHowever, perceptions of the risks decline while perceptions of value increase after consumers begin using location-based services. Consumers feel more comfortable if they are given control over who has their location information and how that information is used.
  • · 49% would be more comfortable with location-based services if they can easily and clearly manage who sees their location information (US 55%, UK 50%, Germany 51%, Canada 36%, Japan 51%).
  • · 62% say they are aware of and 38% are familiar with location-based services. 51% report having ever used a location-based service (US 50%, UK 43%, Germany 47%, Canada 59%, Japan 57%). Only 18% report using a location-based service for location sharing with other people.  

"Context Aware" Call Centers, Other Processes Will Separate Big Winners from Big Losers

"By 2015, context-aware computing will be used to rejuvenate at least 25 percent of “commodity” enterprise processes that are currently perceived as “low value.”

Gartner said organizations that really understand business processes will explicitly or implicitly tier those processes in a hierarchy of value. Through the use of context-aware computing principles such as presence, historical pattern analysis and emotion detection, up to a quarter of these commodity processes can be rejuvenated, made more customer-centric and contribute even more to the organization bottom line.

Organizations that re-examine and revise commodity processes will find opportunities where none existed before. For example, call center emotion detection can transform stoic automated call routing into a more sophisticated customer experience while context-enriched, rote transactions (such as address changes, billing inquiries, simple information requests and check-out) can be transformed into cross-selling opportunities as new insight is gained into the “state” of the customer (for example, just married, recently divorced, moving, or joined military).

Netflix Streaming-Only Customers Are 33% of All New Subscribers

Netflix now finds 33 percent of its new customers are choosing the $7.99 a month, "streaming only" plan, a rather powerful testament to demand for the Netflix offer. Netflix introduced the offer in November 2010, at the same time slightly increasing the price of existing plans that support both DVD and streaming delivery.

Netflix also says it expects the percentage of "streaming only" customers to grow over time. About 66 percent of new customers elect to buy the  $9.99 1-DVD combination plan, which allows users to rent one DVD at a time, and also allows unlimited viewing using streaming.  "Very few of our existing subscribers are downgrading to the pure streaming plan," Netflix also notes.

read more here

89 of 111 Mobile Providers See Bandwidth Demand Increases, 10 Don't, Says Akamai

The only surprise in the latest Akamai "state of the Internet" report is that there are any service providers at all who did not see average data consumption grow during the third quarter of 2010.

In fact, about 10 mobile service providers, out of 111 Akamai supports, did not see an increase. As you would expect, most did see bandwidth demand grow. Some 89 of the mobile providers saw consumption of data downloaded from Akamai increase on a year-over-year basis.

In addition, 35 providers doubled the average monthly volume of content downloaded from Akamai year-over-year. But the real surprise is that any mobile providers, at all, did not see increases.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Facebook Acquires Mobile Advertising Startup

Facebook has acquired Rel8tion and the employees of the nine month-old Seattle-based startup, which has been working under the radar to develop a hyper-local mobile advertising service.

“We’re excited to confirm that we recently completed a talent acquisition of Rel8tion, a stealth-mode startup in Seattle," Facebook says. "The engineering team will join our growing Seattle office, and we’re looking forward to having them on board.”

Mobile Is Facebook's Top Priority In 2011

Facebook Chief Technical Officer Bret Taylor says that mobile is the company's top priority in 2011.

Taylor said that mobile usage is the fastest growing part of the Facebook experience, with more than 200 million people accessing the site from mobile phones. Those users are also more than twice as active as users who only log on via the desktop Web site.

MetroPCS challenges FCC net neutrality rules

MetroPCS has challenged the FCC net neutrality rules. MetroPCS is the second major carrier to challenge these rules, as Verizon has also filed an appeal in federal court. These carriers believe that the FCC net neutrality rules will impose undue hardships on the nascent mobile data space and this could hurt the business and impact innovation.

Google Introduces Number Portability

Service providers now have to worry about Google Voice being the recipient of ported phone numbers. So where numbers once ported from landline to mobile, now they can further port directly to Google Voice.

Barnes & Noble phasing out the 3G Nook

Barnes & Noble may be selling millions of Nook products, but the 3G version hasn't really done its part to help those figures, some would argue. So might the 3G-capable version of the Nook be discontinued? Engadget thinks so.

Amazon offers cloud based bulk emailer to SMEs

Amazon is offering a bulk emailer for businesses via its cloud services arm Amazon Web Services.

Amazon's Simple Email Service, called "Amazon SES," allows users to send up to 2,000 emails a day for free, if they come from another Amazon cloud service. The book and services giant says that messages can be sent for as little as 10 cents per thousand.

Amazon claims its system includes scanning of outgoing messages to make sure they meet ISP standards. Any messages that fail this test are sent back to be fixed."

Apple Plans Service That Lets IPhone Users Pay With Handsets - Bloomberg

Apple plans to introduce services that would let customers use its iPhone and iPad computer to make purchases, said Richard Doherty, director of consulting firm Envisioneering Group.

Doherty said both products are likely to be introduced this year, he said, citing engineers who are working on hardware for the Apple project.

Monday, January 24, 2011

IPad changes "everything"

Does social media work for enterprises?

Nook subscriber numbers

What CEO Larry Page Will Be Up Against at Google

Most executives would be happy to have Google's problems, namely market dominance, revenue size and growth, and ability to enter just about any market it believes it must be in. Some will question Google's track record, but its mobile initiatives are obviously having an impact.

But llooking ahead, Larry Page, who will return to the CEO post he once held, faces numerous challenges, from reinstilling some kind of entrepreneurial culture at a bureaucracy of 24,000 employees, to coping with a threatening group of newcomers such as Facebook, Twitter and Groupon, to tapping the bigger reservoir of brand dollars still spent largely on TV.

Vendor Lock-in Issues for Infrastructure or Platform "As a Service"

It's an understandable concern enterprises may have about "infrastructure as a service" compared to "platform as a service." It is one thing to rent storage or compute cycles, another thing to rent the "middleware" elements as well.

Amazon'es "Elastic Beanstalk" is an example of the platform approach, and includes handling of deployment details of capacity provisioning, load balancing, auto-scaling, and application health monitoring.

At the same time, with Elastic Beanstalk, you retain full control over the AWS resources powering your application and can access the underlying resources at any time.

Elastic Beanstalk leverages Amazon Web Serves applications and features such as Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, Amazon Simple Notification Service, Elastic Load Balancing, and Auto-Scaling to deliver the same highly reliable, scalable, and cost-effective infrastructure that hundreds of thousands of businesses depend on today.

Small businesses that are not specifically app developers and providers, on the other hand, will not have such concerns, in most cases. To some extent, they will buy turned-up services supplied by firms that already have had to make those decisions.

Twitter Ad Revenue May Reach $150 Million This Year

Twitter will triple its advertising revenue to $150 million in 2011, and it might reach $250 million in revenue next year, research firm eMarketer predicts. That isn't an overwhelming number, but some will note that Facebook booked about that much when it first started its own advertising support efforts.

Twitter has so far managed to attract big advertisers such as American Express, Coca Cola, Nissan, HP and Starbucks, and companies such as Dell have proved they can promote their products well using Twitter even before it launched its promoted tweets program.

While "advertising" is not the magical answer for any application provider's revenue model, it has become key for the largest of consumer sites, and there's no doubt Twitter is among the larger sites.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

T-Mobile USA Plays on Old "Mac PC" Ads

Nice ad, since everybody knows the "Mac and PC" series.

Mobile Advertising Could Have a Big Year in 2011

Mobile marketing is finally catching on as a viable marketing and advertising platform, and will be the fastest growing of digital formats in 2011, according to a survey conducted by Deutsche Bank.

In addition to mobile, the fastest-growing online advertising categories in 2011 will be social media and online video, all of which are believed to be gaining share of wallet within online marketing budgets.

Classic display appears to be the most vulnerable to this shift. In fact, half of the respondents think display is losing share, and only 20 percent consider it is gaining share.

“It finally feels like the tipping point for mobile is here,” Deutsche Bank says in its report. “According to our media buyers, mobile will represent roughly five percent to seven percent of online budgets in 2011. That would imply spending of about $1 billion to $1.5 billion in the U.S. market, assuming total online spending of $28 billion.

Bad News for Big Media

Jim Breyer, venture capitalist at Accel Partner says “75 percent of new Internet company value in next 10 years will be created outside U.S.."

Also, he predicts that “80 percent to 90 percent of big media companies are dying a slow death.” For that reason, he as a venture capitalist "absolutely no way" would be investing in any new companies doing TV, newspapers, or magazines.”

SMS and Email Marketing: Complementary Rather than Substitutes

Mobile Marketing Infographics: Mobile Marketing Via SMS Compared To Email, Facebook And Twitter
There is some truth to the notion that text messaging campaigns are substitutes for email campaigns. There also is some truth to the notion that they are complementary.

The "personal" nature of text messaging and the high need for user opt in are key reasons why the channels mostly appeal to different types of retailer relationships. Text messages require some sort of pre-existing relationship. Perhaps email messages are supposed to require opt in as well, but frequently permission is more tacit than formally acknowledged.

A user that has opted in to receive SMS messages presumably already has significant interest in a particular product or retailer. Email messages can cover a wider range of consumers.

Mobile Video Consumption Up 47%

While the number of people watching videos on their mobile phones remains relatively small compared to TV, they are increasingly using the devices to that end. On a year-to-year basis, the number of people watching mobile video increased more than 43 percent, while the amount of time spent doing so was up almost seven percent, according to Nielsen.

 read more here

Overall Usage Number of Users 13+ (in 000s) – Monthly Reach
Q2 2010Q1 2010Q2 2009% Diff Yr to Yr
Using a Mobile Phone ^229,375229,495220,527+3.99%
Mobile Subscribers Watching Video on a Mobile Phone ^21,95720,28415,267+43.82%
Source: The Nielsen Company
As of Q2 2010, 22 million people watched video on a mobile device

Sales Friction Creates Barriers to Buying Behavior

Sales friction occurs when a sales process is: too long (the line at the grocery store) too complicated (working with real estate agents) a...