Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mobile and Social Big in U.K., What Does it Mean?

New data from the U.K.'s Office of National Statistics illustrates widespread mobile usage, broadband mobile access, use of social networks and shopping activity. None of that is surprising. The more interesting question is what it ultimately will mean for new applications and businesses that assume the existence of such infrastructure, much as virtually all businesses assume the existence of electricity, running water, roads, postal service and air travel.

Among other things, one might presume that ubiquitous use of mobile devices, social networks, mobile broadband and comfort with shopping from a mobile will be key factors for emerging mobile payments and wallet ventures, not to mention other forms of mobile commerce, advertising and promotion.

Some 91 percent of young adults connect to social networking sites, and nearly half of all Web users accessing the Internet via their mobile phone. U.K. mobile social networking, Web use

About 45 percent of Internet users accessed the Internet via a mobile phone in 2011. You can see the full report here

In 2011, 32 million people (66 per cent of all adults) purchased goods or services over the Internet as well, an increase from 62 per cent in 2010.

Clothes and sporting goods were the most popular online purchase in 2011, with 46 per cent of Internet
users buying these items.

Those aged 65 and over were the only age group not to report clothes and sporting goods as the most
popular purchase. Instead, 29 per cent of Internet users in this age group favoured the online
purchase of "other travel arrangements" which includes flights, car rental and other transport tickets.

Access to the Web while on the move is a growing trend, with 4.9 million people connecting from wireless hotspots in 2011, double the numbers from 2010.

Social networking, likewise, is becoming more popular, with 57% of adult Internet users using online social networks in 2011, up from 43% in 2010.

Young consumers are leading the trend, with 71% of 16-24 year olds using their phone to access the Web, and an overwhelming 91% now using social networking sites.

Can HTML5 replace an iPad app? Financial Times to find out — Apple News, Tips and Reviews

It is one thing to debate the merits of HTML5 as an alternative to creating and using mobile apps. It is quite another to note that, within the Apple iOS ecosystem, there is an "application tax" of 30 percent of gross revenues for any entity selling content within the Apple App Store.

The Financial Times, which in June introduced a tablet and smartphone-optimized version of its digital edition, has removed its apps from the iOS App Store instead of complying with Apple’s requirements for software that offer in-app access to subscription content.

The Financial Times instead will work outside the App Store using HTML5 apps, keeping the 30 percent of gross revenue it otherwise would have had to pay Apple.

Apple now requires that newspaper and periodical apps offering access to subscription content either offer subscriptions through in-app purchase, which entitles Apple to a 30 percent cut of all revenue.

FT‘s subscriptions were handled outside of the store, and rather than just remove the sign-up link like The Wall Street Journal did, FT apparently prefers removing its native software altogether in the hopes that readers will make the transition to the web-based app.

Google Gets into "Offers" Business

Whether you like to call the service a "daily deals" business, social shopping, mobile coupons or something else, Google now has launched its social shopping service.

Some of us think it is important not so much because consumers need yet one more channel to receive coupons, but because Google Wallet,among other efforts, ultimately will win or lose based on the ability to provide an engaging, easy to use and valuable way of supplying new value for consumers when shopping.

Google launches "offers"

"Consumer Welfare" Will be Front and Center in DoJ Lawsuit

There are many possible "losers" and potential "winners" from the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit challenging the proposed AT&T purchase of T-Mobile USA. But Jerry Ellig of the Technology Liberation Front thinks one actual upside, from a consumer welfare angle, is the centrality of "consumer welfare" as the central issue.

"For once, the high-profile action everyone pays attention to will occur in an antitrust forum where the decision criterion is the effects of the merger on consumer welfare, period," says Ellis. "Regardless of what one thinks about the merger, it’s nice to see that we’ll finally have a knock-down, drag-out fight based on whether a big telecommunications merger harms consumers and competition."

"That’s the antitrust standard the Department of Justice has to satisfy in order to prevent the merger," and also is a central concern of economic thinking that drives thinking about antitrust regulation.

25% of Small Businesses Have "Virtualized" Servers

A new study by CDW found that 25 percent of small businesses have virtualized at least some of their servers, attracted by efficiency, cost savings and flexibility to meet changing business demands, and that the average percentage of servers virtualized at those businesses grew steadily from 28 percent to 33 percent between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011.  

Even among small businesses that have not yet implemented server virtualization, 73 percent report they are investigating or planning to deploy the technology, with investments averaging 17 percent of their IT budgets over the next two years, CDW says.

On average, small businesses using virtualization are saving 18 percent of their IT budget or $19,400 per year, the report found.

CDW suggests that server virtualization can make sense when there is a need to replace older servers, or when organizations already are running five to seven dedicated servers. Ownership of servers that are lightly used is another instance where virtualization might make sense.

Physical space issues, rising support, energy or real estate costs also can be drivers. Businesses expecting significant growth, or with high needs for application availability and protection from disruption likewise are good candidates for a virtualization approach.

Sponsored by CDW, the survey of 300 small business professionals was conducted by Spiceworks, an IT-focused social network.

FCC Chairman Says Agency Also Has Concerns

"By filing suit today, the Department of Justice has concluded that AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile would substantially
lessen competition in violation of the antitrust laws," says Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.

"Competition is an essential component of the FCC's statutory public interest analysis, and although our process is not complete, the record before this agency also raises serious concerns about the impact of the proposed transaction on
competition," Genachowski said.

Has U.S. Mobile Market Finally Reached Limits of Market Concentration?

In any mature market, there comes a point where the biggest players simply are not allowed to get any bigger. The U.S. cable TV industry already ran into that limit, as there recently have been formal market share caps that limit the total number of subscibers (as a percentage of total) that any single contestant can serve. Though those caps were overturned in court, it isn't clear that Comcast or other cable operators really want to test the limits directly. 30% subscriber cap overturned
That might now be the case for the U.S. mobile industry. That would not mean smaller contestants are barred from growth through acquisition, but the DoJ opposition could signal that the crucial tipping point has been reached, and that both AT&T and Verizon Wireless now will face limits on the percentage of U.S wireless customers each can serve.

Here, Department of Justice Acting Assistant Attorney General Sharis A. Pozen talks about rationale for DoJ antitrust finding:

The Antitrust Division conducted an exhaustive investigation. We conducted dozens of interviews of customers and competitors, and we reviewed more than 1 million AT&T and T-Mobile documents.   

The conclusion we reached was clear. Any way you look at this transaction, it is anti-competitive. Our action today seeks to ensure that our nation enjoys the competitive wireless industry it deserves.

T-Mobile has been an important source of competition among the national carriers through innovation and quality enhancements.   For example, T-Mobile rolled-out the first nationwide high-speed data network using advanced HSPA+ technology and the first handset using the Android operating system.   It has also been an important source of price competition in the industry.   Unless this merger is blocked, competition and innovation in the mobile wireless market, in the form of low prices and innovative wireless handsets, operating systems, and calling plans, will be diminished—and consumers will suffer.  

T-Mobile competes with the other three national providers to attract individual consumers, businesses, and government customers for mobile wireless telecommunications services. They compete on price, plan structure, network coverage, quality, speed, devices, and operating systems.   A combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would eliminate this price competition and innovation.   It would reduce the number of nationwide competitors in the marketplace from four to three.   Eliminating this aggressive competitor, which offers low pricing and innovative products, would hurt consumers, businesses, and government customers that rely on a competitive marketplace to provide them with the best products at the best possible price.

DoJ outlines rationale

Department of Justice Talks about Opposition to AT&T Purchase of T-Mobile USA

The Department of Justice today filed a civil antitrust lawsuit to block AT&T Inc.’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA Inc.   The department said that the proposed $39 billion transaction would substantially lessen competition for mobile wireless telecommunications services across the United States, resulting in higher prices, poorer quality services, fewer choices and fewer innovative products for the millions of American consumers who rely on mobile wireless services in their everyday lives.
The department’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks to prevent AT&T from acquiring T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom AG.

“The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would result in tens of millions of consumers all across the United States facing higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products for mobile wireless services,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole.   “Consumers across the country, including those in rural areas and those with lower incomes, benefit from competition among the nation’s wireless carriers, particularly the four remaining national carriers.   This lawsuit seeks to ensure that everyone can continue to receive the benefits of that competition.”

“T-Mobile has been an important source of competition among the national carriers, including through innovation and quality enhancements such as the roll-out of the first nationwide high-speed data network,” said Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.   

“Unless this merger is blocked, competition and innovation will be reduced, and consumers will suffer.” Mobile wireless telecommunications services play a critical role in the way Americans live and work, with more than 300 million feature phones, smart phones, data cards, tablets and other mobile wireless devices in service today.   

Four nationwide providers of these services – AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon – account for more than 90 percent of mobile wireless connections.   The proposed acquisition would combine two of those four, eliminating from the market T-Mobile, a firm that historically has been a value provider, offering particularly aggressive pricing.  

According to the complaint, AT&T and T-Mobile compete head to head nationwide, including in 97 of the nation’s largest 100 cellular marketing areas.   They also compete nationwide to attract business and government customers.  AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile would eliminate a company that has been a disruptive force through low pricing and innovation by competing aggressively in the mobile wireless telecommunications services marketplace.

The complaint cites a T-Mobile document in which T-Mobile explains that it has been responsible for a number of significant “firsts” in the U.S. mobile wireless industry, including the first handset using the Android operating system, Blackberry wireless email, the Sidekick, national Wi-Fi “hotspot” access, and a variety of unlimited service plans.   

T-Mobile was also the first company to roll out a nationwide high-speed data network based on advanced HSPA+ (High-Speed Packet Access) technology.  The complaint states that by January 2011, an AT&T employee was observing that “[T-Mobile] was first to have HSPA+ devices in their portfolio…we added them in reaction to potential loss of speed claims.”

The complaint details other ways that AT&T felt competitive pressure from T-Mobile.   The complaint quotes T-Mobile documents describing the company’s important role in the market:
  • T-Mobile sees itself as “the No. 1 value challenger of the established big guys in the market and as well positioned in a consolidated 4-player national market”; and
  • T-Mobile’s strategy is to “attack incumbents and find innovative ways to overcome scale disadvantages.   [T-Mobile] will be faster, more agile, and scrappy, with diligence on decisions and costs both big and small.   Our approach to market will not be conventional, and we will push to the boundaries where possible. . . . [T-Mobile] will champion the customer and break down industry barriers with innovations. . . .”
The complaint also states that regional providers face significant competitive limitations, largely stemming from their lack of national networks, and are therefore limited in their ability to compete with the four national carriers.   And, the department said that any potential entry from a new mobile wireless telecommunications services provider would be unable to offset the transaction’s anticompetitive effects because it would be difficult, time-consuming and expensive, requiring spectrum licenses and the construction of a network.

The department said that it gave serious consideration to the efficiencies that the merging parties claim would result from the transaction.   The department concluded AT&T had not demonstrated that the proposed transaction promised any efficiencies that would be sufficient to outweigh the transaction’s substantial adverse impact on competition and consumers.  Moreover, the department said that AT&T could obtain substantially the same network enhancements that it claims will come from the transaction if it simply invested in its own network without eliminating a close competitor.

T-Mobile Subscribers Have Fled

AT&T will undoubtedly file its own lawsuit in the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit opposing the purchase of T-Mobile USA on antitrust grounds. The Federal Communications Commission, for its part, also must approve the deal, and hasn't spoken yet.

T-Mobile will gain from a deal failure, to the tune of $6 billion, including $3 billion in cash, spectrum rights and roaming agreements with AT&T. But T-Mobile's fundamental problem--that it is a rather weak fourth contestant in a market lead by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, will not change. When all is settled, relating to the proposed AT&T take-over, it is conceivable T-Mobile USA will continue to face strategic issues, adding yet another element of uncertainty to the U.S. mobile business.

T-Mobile’s revenue and total subscribers took a hit from April to June 2011, as the carrier’s pending merger with AT&T apparently drove away customers.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based carrier’s revenue dropped only slightly in the second quarter, but the company’s profits fell by nearly half from the same period last year. T-Mobile also reported it had lost 50,000 customers, bringing its total to 150,000 lost for the year. The carrier lost just 56,000 subscribers in all of 2010.

T-Mobile has made several moves to attract new customers and hold onto existing ones over the past several months. The carrier increased its 4G network to reach 170 million consumers in the U.S., came up with special offers like one year of free data for new subscribers and even brought back unlimited data options to differentiate itself from AT&T and Verizon. Despite T-Mobile’s efforts, however, customers still leave the carrier in droves.

AT&T Break-up Fee is $6 Billion

AT&T will have to pay Deutsche Telekom $6 billion as a break-up fee in case the Department of Justice lawsuit opposing the purchase of T-Mobile USA fails to gain regulatory approval, as it now has.

The $6 billion break-up fee would include $3 billion of cash and about $2 billion worth of spectrum, plus a roaming agreement valued at $1 billion.

T-Mobile USA appears to have been doing little over the past several months other than preparing to be acquired, losing customers and marketing focus. If the deal falls through, as now seems likely, it will gain spectrum it needs for 4G services, plus cash and roaming rights, but still will be a lagging number-four player in the U.S. market.

AT&T break-up fee is $6 billion

U.S. Files Antitrust Complaint to Block AT&T, T-Mobile Merger

The U.S. Department of Justice, whose approval is necessary for AT&T to buy T-Mobile USA, has filed a lawsuit to block the $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA, saying the deal would “substantially lessen competition” in the wireless market.

The Justice Department complaint was filed Aug. 31, 2011 in federal court in Washington, D.C.. The U.S. is seeking a declaration that Dallas-based AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE), would violate U.S. antitrust law and a court order blocking any arrangement implementing the deal.

“AT&T’s elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low- priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market,” the DoJ said in its filing.

Dept. of Justice to Block AT&T Purchase of T-Mobile USA Deal?

There are new rumors that the U.S. Department of Justice will definitely oppose the AT&T attempt to purchase T-Mobile USA. If the DoJ does not clear the deal on antitrust grounds, it is not yet clear what other alternatives might be available to craft a deal that would gain approval. More to follow.

Amazon Could Launch 7-Inch and 10-Inch Tablets

Amazon’s rumoured venture into the tablet market will reportedly see it launch two models – a seven-inch Android tablet due to start shipping in October and a larger 10-inch model which is expected to go into mass-production in the first quarter of next year, Digitimes reports.

The strategy would seem to indicate that Amazon is covering its bases. Many e-reader users who have experience with both lighter seven-inch devices and the larger 10-inch devices say it is easier to read on a seven-inch device. But many users may want the e-reader application, but intend to use the tablet more generally, in which case, larger screens are better.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has predicted that an Amazon Android tablet would perfectly compliment the retail giant’s existing Kindle devices to help the company sell as many as 2.4 million portable devices in 2012.

Although Amazon has yet to confirm it is working on a tablet device, industry analysts and component suppliers have already provided insights into the company’s Android tablet, suggesting that the company could also be working on a mobile handset.

Munster bases his predictions on a recent report by Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin, suggesting that Amazon could release a 10-inch tablet, and possibly a seven-inch tablet, at the end of this year to coincide with the holiday season. Most observers think Amazon will offer subsidized versions intended to entice consumers to buy Amazon content.

Amazon's tablet strategy could see 2012 launch for 10-inch model:

Context a Key Feature of Mobile App Use

The smart phone is an unusual consumer device in that it is unusually well suited for development and use of all sorts of location-aware applications, allowing features and content to be customized for the actual user context.

Twitter Boosts D.C. Policy Representation

Twitter is taking a highly profile in the Washington, D.C. lobbying scene by hiring of telecom policy veteran Colin Crowell, on top of earlier moves to bulk up its regulatory and legislative staff inside the Beltway. Twitter expands its D.C. presence 

In doing so, Twitter joins other technology firms that in recent years have discovered the importance of regulatory and legislative influence, something telecom and cable firms always have understood.

But the importance of policy is new for the technology industry, a matter of basic importance for telecom and cable companies. Look at Google's various entanglements. Google has faced  a broad U.S. antitrust probe of the company's practices.

Last week, federal prosecutors who had investigated Google's practice of allowing ads from illegal online pharmacies on its Web search engine between 2003 and 2009 singled out Mr. Page. They said he had personal knowledge of the alleged crime and failed to prevent it. The federal prosecutors made their comments after Google paid $500 million last week to avoid criminal charges.

In April 2011, the government approved Google's purchase of ITA Software. In past years, Google has advocated for changes in spectrum policy as well. 

Will U.S. Telecom Service Revenue Double in Five Years?

Is it possible that U.S. service provider revenue could double in just the next five years? Insight Research Corp. thinks so. The firm reports that predicts that, between 2011 and 2016,, North American carrier revenue will rise from $287 billion to $662 billion, representing 11 percent compound annual revenue growth.

That rapid growth, on a compound basis, would lead to a doubling of industry revenue in five years. That doesn't mean providers in every segment will benefit equally. But a forecast that large would have to assume that most of the growth would have to occur at the largest firms, which represent 80 percent of total industry revenue.

The smaller providers cannot reasonably contribute enough aggregate revenue to tip the needle at such a large scale, even with even-higher rates of growth than 11 percent, compounded. 

Global carrier revenue is expected to achieve a nine percent compound annual growth rate from 2011 to 2016, growing to a total of $5.13 trillion, according to Insight Research Corp. 

The forecast explicitly assumes that North American service providers successfully will grow new revenues at a rate fast enough to compensate for weakening voice revenues, for example. Insight Research findings here 

 In terms of segment revenue, the latest forecast projects a 45 percent CAGR for global wireless broadband revenue, 14 percent for fixed-line broadband, about six percent growth for narrowband wireless services and negative three percent revenue change for fixed network narrowband services. 

One way to look at the structure of the global market is to note that, by 2016, wireless broadband will account for about 28 percent of all communications service revenue. 

Narrowband wireless services will account for 38 percent of global revenue. Altogether, wireless will represent 66 percent of total industry revenue. 

Fixed-line broadband will account for 11 percent of global revenue, while fixed-line narrowband services will represent 23 percent of total revenue. In aggregate, fixed line revenue will account for 34 percent of total service provider revenue, on a global basis.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Google+, Facebook "Searchers" are "Different"

Google+ vs Facebook SearchersGoogle+ is moving from early adopter to mainstream use, but the demographics of Google+ searchers still suggest its "early" stage of adoption.

When comparing the demographics of Facebook searchers, and Google+ searchers, the most striking differences between Google searchers and Facebook searchers are in age and income.

Google searchers overwhelmingly skew towards 18 to 34 year olds. Since Facebook is a much more mature brand in the social networking space, their search audience falls closely in line with the search population at large.

The income skews are even more distinct, essentially polar opposites of each other. More than 32 percent of Google searchers have a household income of $100,000 or greater, compared to 23 percent of Facebook searchers. Google is definitely off to a fast start in reaching the most desirable income segments, which may make it more attractive to advertisers and content marketers.

Time Warner Cable Offers Slingbox to Wideband Customers

Time Warner Cable plans to allow its customers subsidized prices on purchases of the Slingbox, which will allow Time Warner Cable users to watch their paid-for video on any broadband connection at a remote location. The Slingbox is priced at $300 but will be available to the subscribers of Time Warner Cable who buy the $99 a month "Wideband" service plan essentially for free, as Time Warner will offer a $300 rebate to customers who buy the Slingbox units. Time Warner Cable Offers Slingbox

The move is part of the growing conflict between content owners and video distributors about what rights are conferred to cable operators as distributors. Time Warner says its current contracts allow it to provide streaming access. Content providers want to be paid extra for such capabilities. The Slingbox capability is one way of giving subscribers remote access on Internet-connected devices while side-stepping such contractual disputes.

Ecosystems Are In, Vertical Integration Out

The content and communications businesses these days are fundamentally different from those same businesses of 30 years ago in one fundamental way. Unlike the situation several decades ago, when value almost completely could be controlled by vertically-integrated providers, value now is derived from loosely coupled ecosystems.

In other words, where a telco in the past could control and vertically integrate every part of the “voice delivery” business, these days network-delivered applications with high value can be delivered to end users (both business and consumer) without any formal business relationship with an access provider.

Much the same is becoming true for just about every other type of content or application you can think of, the phrase “over the top” nicely capturing the dynamics.

These days, telcos, cable companies and media firms alike operate in markets where value is supplied by many different partners. “Telecom ecosystems were easier to define in the days of monopolies and nationalized postal, telegraph and telephone organizations (PTTs),” says J├Ârgen Lantto, who works with systems management within multimedia at Ericsson. “Nowadays, they include everything from developers and devices to Google and billing systems.” Partners are key.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cablevision Expands Optimum Business to Include Mobile Service

"In a recent survey of more than 500 small businesses in our area we found that they are often overwhelmed by selecting the right mobile service for their business," said Stephanie Anderson, Vice President of Commercial Marketing for Cablevision. "We have formed a strategic alliance with Sprint to bring our Optimum small business customers a unique package to simplify the process of selecting a wireless service."

The move is an example of the growing importance wireless services play in the small business market.

How Google Wants to Change TV

And Google isn't the only company working on this. Apple wants to reshape television as well.

While TV programming is limited by time and the number of TV networks, the Internet provides the possibility of a near-infinite amount of content to choose from.

And, given the on-demand way that viewers are increasingly viewing content — through prerecorded shows on their DVRs, video-on-demand selections through their cable provider or streaming on the Internet — there needs to be a way to sort through those content choices.

For years broadcasters have largely tried to control viewer choices with lead-ins and other editorial hooks, but the vast number of content choices calls for a new way of discovering content. We’ve long argued that personalized recommendations will be vital to the way that viewers discover video in the future.

TV is about choice

Major League Baseball Not Scared of New Media

Somewhat refreshingly, Major League Baseball has embraced newer online forms of media, and actually does not believe that adding new modes cannibalizes television, for example. Starting in 2002, MLB began broadcasting livestreams of games over the Internet.

MLB currently serves up nine million video streams each day, including 1 million live streams. Additionally, they have two million paid subscribers to and their "At Bat" mobile apps (which also stream video).

For many professional sports leagues, complicated television rights or fears that Internet streaming would eat into lucrative TV broadcasts have hampered the availability of Internet streaming. For Major League Baseball, the fears of audience fragmentation have been overblown.

“We’ve learned that wherever you are, you watch on the biggest screen you can,” MLBAM CEO Robert Bowman told The New York Times in 2008. In other words, won’t cut into TV revenue, according to Bowman, because most viewers will opt for TV over their computer or iPhone if the broadcast is available to them.

Isis earmarks $100 Million for Mobile Wallet Venture

Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T- Mobile USA plan to invest $100 million in their Isis mobile wallet venture, Bloomberg reports. The amount of funding depends on how successful Isis is at attracting banks and merchants. $100M for Isis

But transaction-processing networks, while participating in mobile wallet and mobile payment initiatives, also are taking steps to increase the value of traditional credit card and debit card transactions as well, in ways that lower retailer cost of using the traditional mechanisms. If that seems to you like playing both offense and defense, you would be right.

Separately, Visa is encouraging U.S. retailers to shift to retail checkout systems that let consumers pay using their mobile phones. Visa says it will let merchants that switch to credit-card readers supporting EMV technology to forego costly annual security certifications.

EMV is an open standards set of specifications for smart card payments and acceptance devices. The EMV specifications were developed to define a set of requirements to ensure interoperability between chip-based payment cards and terminals. EMV actually could extend the use of card-based payments, as well as play a role in mobile payment capabilities as well.

Starting in 2015, it will also stop requiring banks to reimburse most merchants for some types of credit-card fraud, which can be prevented by using EMV systems, Visa says. Both moves will save retailers money on their transaction support operations. Visa ncourages retailers to adopt EMV

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dwolla Adds SMS Payments

Dwolla has added a new feature that allows users to send money to people using text messaging on Apple iOS devices. Dwolla also supports the ability to send payments using Facebook, Twitter and email.

In order to send money to someone using their phone number, all a user has to do is log in, click the “Send Money” button and then type the phone number of the person to whom you want to send money in the “Send to” box.

Since Dwolla IDs have the same number of digits as a phone number in the U.S., there might be some concern that you are sending a payment to the wrong person. If Dwolla determines that you have entered a number that is potentially conflicting, it will prompt you to confirm whether you want to send the payment to a phone number or a Dwolla ID.

Mobile money in Afghanistan

Mobile money, or mobile banking or mobile payments, depending on how one approaches the subject, is convenient in many settings, but can be a basic infrastructure capability in others. That tends to be the case in many parts of the world where banking services are not well developed. Turning a mobile phone into a payment device has obvious appeal for "financial inclusion" advocates, mobile service suppliers, banks and consumers alike.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What made Steve Jobs a giant?

As Tim Wu chronicles it in his book, "The Master Switch," ( the telephone, radio and movie industries started out as an open, irrationally exuberant, chaotic muddle of incompatible standards, crummy technology and entrepreneurs.

The pivotal moment in the evolution of each industry came when a charismatic figure arrived to offer consumers better quality, higher production vaues and greater ease of use.

With the telephone it was Theodore Vail of AT&T, offering a unified nationwide network and a guarantee that when you picked up the phone you always got a dial tone. With radio it was David Sarnoff, who founded RCA. With movies it was Adolph Zukor, who created the Hollywood studio system, Jobs is one of those kids of people.

66% of Smart Phone Owners have Shopped from Device

With a million smart phones being sold every month in the U.S. market, L.E.K. Consulting predicts that more than half of U.S. consumers will be using mobile devices regularly for shopping within the next five years.

In fact, a recent L.E.K. survey of 1,600 U.S. consumers found that 66 percent of smart phone owners have used their devices to make purchases. That doesn’t necessarily mean they paid using their mobile phone, but that they used information retrieved from the device, though 39 percent do report making purchases every month, not including purchases of music and video downloads every month.

Within the past six months, more than half of active mobile consumers surveyed reported using at least one mobile coupon app, nearly a third checked a pricing comparison tool and 29 percent
used a loyalty or similar tool, often while standing in store aisles.

One implication some will draw from the data is that social shopping, mobile coupons and offers are well suited for broader mobile wallet services, as “providing information in exchange for offers” seems to resonate with many users.

The other noteworthy finding was that consumers are bypassing traditional marketing
campaigns and often are highly influenced by the reviews and other posts from members of their social networks.

Mobile commerce on the rise

Time Warner Cable is Right About Cord Cutting, For Now

Time Warner Cable executives are right to point out that people really do want to watch professionally-produced video. TWC executives also are almost certainly right that abandonment of video subscriptions specifically for the purpose of consuming professional content online is not happening, much.

The real issue is what happens down the road as the subscription video business clearly demonstrates it has passed the peak of its product life cycle. At that point, content producers are going to start looking a lot harder at alternatives. And that's when cord cutting is going to be a bigger problem.

It isn't a big problem today. And there is a reasonable chance it might not be for quite some time, if video subscription services are able to strike the right deals with content owners and allow video subscribers to watch the content they've subscribed for on their other devices, at other locations. The issue is value and price. If users have to pay just a little for that feature, one set of behaviors can be predicted.

If the cost of the "TV everywhere" feature is deemed to be "too much" for the incremental value, consumer resistance is certain. Given the steadily increasing prices for subscription TV, one would have to guess that there already is latent demand for a more flexible, possibly a la carte alternative. There just isn't any obvious way for consumers to vote with their wallets, yet.

Odds of AT&T Getting Regulatory Clearance to Buy T-Mobile USA Now 50-50?

Analyst sentiment that the AT&T purchase of T-Mobile USA will win regulatory clearance have dropped, at least among 32 analysts polled by Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analysts Rebecca Arbogast and David Kaut.

The observers rated their expectation for approval on a scale of 0-to-100 percent, and the average of their answers fell to 49.5 percent in August from 54.7 percent in July, the analysts said.

Eight of those who think approval is unlikely deepened their conviction, and six of those who expect approval expressed less certainty.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Facebook ending Deals product after four-month test

Facebook says it is ending "Facebook Deals," its daily deal business, after four months of testing. It isn't immediately clear what the suspension means. Some had thought, when Facebook Deals was launched, that more-established providers such as Groupon and LivingSocial would be crushed by Facebook Deals. Deals was supposed to crush Groupon, LivingSocial.

In part, that view was driven by some "unusual" features. For starters, Facebook was not going to take any of the retailer revenue. Facebook also was going to integrate "Credits," its virtual currency. Facebook Deals advantages

It isn't clear at all that the end of what Facebook calls a test is the final word in terms of Facebook's involvement in offers and coupons. In fact, some of us would say that the longer-term future probably has offers being integrated more directly with "mobile payments" and "commerce" features and functions. There is plenty of time for Facebook to figure out where it wants to play in those other areas as well.

And when those other elements are clear, Facebook has many options.

Apple Believes in Ecosystems

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff talks about help from Steve Jobs, Apple CEO. He says that in 2003 Jobs praised Salesforce’s “fantastic enterprise application” and advised him to dream bigger and think about the wider “ecosystem.”

Salesforce took it at face value and built an app store of sorts dubbed "App Exchange." However, they loved the app store term so much that they bought a URL and trademarked it. Benioff says he gave the trademark and URL to Apple.

Apple planned ecosystem all along?

Why are Infographics so Popular These Days?

Why are infographics so popular these days? Joe Chernov, VP of content marketing at Eloqua, notes that infographics are not new.  He says that they are simple, sharable and they have status, meaning there's a thrill of discovery with good ones.

Eloqua found that infographics are driving more traffic to blogs, were tops in driving from complettions, generate more PR than any other corporate news, and went on to correlate to sales.

How Mobile Networks Will Expand Capacity 1,000 Times by 2020

Extrapolations of current growth trends predict that networks need to be prepared to support up to a thousand-fold increase in total mobile broadband traffic by 2020. 

This figure assumes a ten-fold increase in broadband mobile subscribers and up to 100 times higher traffic per user (beyond 1 GBytes per subscriber per day), with smart phones and similar connected devices experiencing the fastest growth.

You might wonder how networks can increase capacity by perhaps 1,000 times between now and 2020 or so. Nokia Siemen thinks it will take a combination of inputs, including 10 times more spectrum, plus an order of magnitude better spectral efficiency (10 times improvement) and then 10 times denser radio networks.

Manhattan's "Silicon Square"

Manhattan's new "Silicon Square" is clustered around Union Square. Good subway connections and restaurants are said to be the reason.

Union Square is "Silicon Square"

Will Apple Put Brakes on Itself?

As the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has developed a system to deliver video directly to TVs, and is considering whether to launch a subscription service, there's an inkling of how things really will be different at Apple, all protestations to the contrary.

"Even if Mr. Cook (new Apple CEO Tim Cook) is willing to take the kind of risks that Mr. Jobs did, the company's board will likely scrutinize his moves more carefully, said Forrester Research Chief Executive George Colony," the newspaper reports.

"It will be very reasoned and logical, but Apple will not take the leaps that it took when you had Steve in that chair," said Colony.

Some would argue it was precisely such leaps that lead Apple to its dominance of several markets. If the board, or Apple's management, now starts to behave more like other boards and managements, Apple will not be able to make the bold leaps it has in the past, some of us would argue.

It is true that Apple's corporate culture now has been shaped in the image of Steve Jobs. That will be helpful in many ways. What cannot really be replicated, by most accounts, is the force of personality and singular ability to "get his way" that allowed Apple to make bold, risky moves few, if any, other companies would take.

Management skill isn't really the issue. Apple under Tim Cook will be well managed. And, for the moment, the design and marketing teams remain intact. But Apple didn't reach its current position because it was well managed. It creates and dominates new markets precisely because of a creative vision Steve Jobs uniquely seems to exercise among top CEOs.

Successor Faces Tough Job at Apple (subscription required)

Android Mobile Users Spend 67% of Time with Apps

Android owners in the US spent an average of 56 minutes per day interacting with the Web and apps on their phones in June 2011.

About 67 percent was spent using mobile apps while a third (33 percent) was spent browsing the mobile Web, according to a report from Nielsen.
The "long tail" seems to operate, though. Despite the hundreds of thousands of apps available for the Google Android OS, a very small proportion of apps make up most of the time spent on such devices.

For example, the top 10 Android apps accounted for 43 percent of the total time spent by Android consumers on mobile apps in June.

The top 50 apps accounted for 61% of all time spent using apps. That finding implies that with 250,000+ Android apps available on the market (as of June), the remaining 249,950+ apps are competing for the remaining 39% of the mobile apps pie.

The "long tail" is basically the "Pareto" theorem, which most people popularly know as the 80/20 rule. Simply, 20 percent of causes represent 80 percent of effects.

In an application store, Pareto means that only a handful of applications will be most used. In the case of the Android Market, 61 percent of the app usage comes from two-hundredths of one percent of the available apps. 

Android apps popular, have a long tail

Google Shuts Slide Gaming Business

Failure is never an easy thing for any executive to deal with, or to welcome. It doesn't matter that management consultants routinely urge companies to "try things and fail faster," to get to the winners.

In that vein, Google is shutting Slide, the social-gaming business it bought for about $200 million in 2010. It wouldn't be the first time a Google experiment has failed. Google tries lots of things.

But it takes deep pockets to shut down a line of business purchased within the last 12 months for that much money. Perhaps we ought to be happy there are firms which can spend that much money "trying things," with the ability to shut them down quickly if they don't get traction.

Google's thinking was solid, when the deal was done. As gaming as proven to be so sticky for Facebook, Google was looking for a way to add stickiness to its own social offerings. We all suspect gaming will be coming to Google+ in a bigger way, for that reason.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jobs Exit Might Open Some Doors, But When?

Few, if any observers seem to believe Apple's market success will change soon, just because Steve Jobs has stepped away from his CEO role. There are some who think Apple will start to be more vulnerable at some point, though.

"What this will do is clearly embolden the competitors, because a lot of them think they just can't compete with Steve Jobs," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, whose clients include Apple rivals such as Microsoft, Lenovo and Dell.

Some think Apple should start making changes, though. "Now that Jobs has stepped down, however, Apple has a great opportunity," argues PC World. "Rather than maintain its completely closed and locked-down approach to the technologies it makes, the time is right for Apple to open up." Apple needs to "open up?"

That seems to fly in the face of moves by many of Apple's competitors in the other direction, of copying Apple's tight integration of hardware and software. Some say Google's purchase of Motorola is a step in that direction.

"It's all about if Apple at some point makes a significantly bad decision," said Georges Nahon, the CEO at Orange Labs, a division of France Telecom SA. Jobs exit opens door Apple rivals

Some might say any move by Apple to "open up" would count as such a bad decision. 

Internet and Deregulation

There is a curios paradox about the way people think about the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Many people in favor of deregulation and competition would say it failed to bring about enough sustainable competition. In other words, it failed. On the other hand, you'd be very hard pressed to find anybody who actually believes their own communications services are in any way worse than they were before the Telecom Act was passed. In most cases, those same people would have a hard time claiming they are spending more money than they used to, for the same basket of services they bought pre-1996.

It is true that many of us are spending as much, or more, than before 1996, but it also is true we are buying lots more services, using more features and devices than before. The obvious way to reconcile those facts is to say that it was the Internet, and applications built on it, that really have lead to better consumer outcomes, for the most part.

Put another way, things got better, even though the Telecom Act failed, for other reasons. Where the Telecom Act attempted to introduce more competition in voice, the Internet was where the locus of innovation was passing. Even if matters had changed further in the direction of what new contestants would have preferred, would that have changed the fundamental direction we are headed?

The "voice" era was ending in any case, with innovation increasingly driven by broadband access and Internet, mobile and Web applications that rely on broadband.

Internet innovation succeeded, even if Telecom Act did not

Cable Still Leading Telcos in New Broadband Subscriptions

Leichtman Research Group, Inc. says  the eighteen largest cable and telephone providers in the United States, representing about 93 percent of the market, acquired about 350,000 net additional high-speed Internet subscribers in the second quarter of 2011. That represents the second lowest level of net additions LRG has tracked, historically.

The top cable companies accounted for 77 percent of the net broadband additions for the quarter. The largest phone companies added about 80,000 subscribers during the quarter, compared to a net loss of 10,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2010.

AT&T and Verizon added 628,000 fiber subscribers in the quarter (U-verse and FiOS), while having a net loss of 578,000 DSL subscribers.

The top cable companies added over 270,000 broadband subscribers in the quarter. The top cable broadband providers have a 56 percent share of the overall market, with 8.9 million more subscribers than the top telephone companies, compared to 7.85 million this time a year ago.

Second quarter 2011 broadband additions

After Virginia Earthquake, Here's How Twitter-verse Reacted

Twitter reaction to quake

Steve Jobs, Life and Career in Animation

Mobile Hype Cycle Could be at a Peak: Why Does That Mean?

The 2011 KPMG Mobile Payments Outlook, based on a survey of nearly 1,000 executives primarily in the financial services, technology, telecommunications, and retail industries globally found that 83 percent of the respondents believe that mobile payments will be mainstream within four years (by 2015). In fact, 46 percent believe mobile payments will be mainstream within two years.

But there is room to disagree about the accuracy of those projections. One might argue that forecasts of this sort are notoriously unreliable, with respondents overestimating near term prospects.

Analysts at Gartner, for example, use a model of how expectations for significant new technologies running in a predictable cycle. What the cycle suggests is that expectations nearly always (always, according to the model) run ahead of marketplace acceptance.

What the Gartner hype cycle suggests is that expectations for mobile payments using near field communications are at a point where we can expect five to 10 years to elapse until NFC actually begins to make serious inroads as an adopted mainstream technology. The emphasis probably is important to note: “begins.”

But KPMG analysts take the opposite view, arguing that respondents are too pessimistic. “We believe that exploding smart phone growth and myriad opportunities will grow mobile payments at a much faster rate than our respondents anticipate,” said Gary Matuszak, KPMG Global Chair of the Technology, Communication and Entertainment practice.

“While KPMG believes that these forms of mobile payment will all gain some traction, our view is that mobile wallet is one of the most exciting and promising payment opportunities,” analysts say.

Mobile wallet provides the momentum to move beyond payments to participate in the entire chain of mobile commerce, from consideration and brand awareness to purchase after-sales loyalty and care,” said Tudor Aw, Technology Sector Head, KPMG Europe.
Banks, mobile service providers have key roles in mobile payment

If Gartner analysts are right about the near field communications "hype cycle," we should soon see some public "disillusionment" expressed about near term prospects for NFC. The reason is that Gartner now sees NFC at the "top" of its hype cycle, the point at which overly-optimistic projections face the reality of an extended period of development, before something "useful" actually emerges.

Internet TV, NFC payment and private cloud computing all are at what Garner calls the "Peak of Inflated Expectations," which is always followed by a period where the hype is viewed as outrunning the actual market. That suggests NFC soon will enter a phase where expectations are more measured.

In fact, Gartner now expects it will take five to 10 years before NFC is in widespread and mainstream use. Gartner's latest expectation likewise is that cloud computing and machine-to-machine applications will not be mainstream for another five to 10 years as well. Gartner's 2011 Hype Cycle

Get Ready for Wave of Skepticism About NFC, Cloud Computing, M2M

Public Policy is Devilishly Hard Stuff

Public policy success always is harder than you might think, if only because the causal relationships between a policy and an intended out...