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Article from SFGate.

“EBay Inc.’s purchase of mobile-payment startup Zong Inc. for $240 million is stepping up pressure on companies such as Google Inc. and American Express Co. to make their own acquisitions in the market.

Google has held exploratory discussions with mobile-payment startups, according to two people with knowledge of the meetings. Credit card companies, including American Express and Visa Inc., also are meeting with takeover candidates, though deals may not be imminent, people familiar with the talks said.

More consumers are looking to pay for things like movie tickets, apps and other items with their phones – rather than cards or cash. That’s pitting financial-service providers, which benefit from transactions, against technology companies like Google. Both sides aim to use mergers and acquisitions to shore up their positions, said Richard Crone, who runs Crone Consulting LLC, a firm focused on mobile banking and payments.

“There’re much more M&A and roll-ups to come in this space,” Crone said. “You will see the activity happening before the end of the year.”

The total value of mobile payments will reach $670 billion by 2015, up from $240 billion in 2011, according to Juniper Research. That includes transactions for digital and physical goods, money transfers and payments using near field communication – a wireless technology that lets users tap their phones against a reader to make a purchase.

Mainstream acceptance

Many companies are shopping for startups that help users charge purchases to their phone bills. Within a year, 40 percent of all U.S. mobile subscribers will put items other than ring tones on wireless bills, according to Chetan Sharma, an industry analyst in Issaquah, Wash. That’s up from 30 percent now.

Potential acquisition targets include Boku Inc.; Payfone Inc.; BilltoMobile, which is majority-owned by Danal Co.; and Amdocs Ltd.’s OpenMarket Inc., Sharma said.

Syniverse Technologies Inc., MindMatics AG’s Mopay unit, Bango and Vindicia Inc. could be candidates as well, according to Crone. Acquisition targets will sell for 10 to 20 times their trailing 12-month sales, he said. It’s unclear how that measures up against the Zong deal because eBay didn’t disclose the startup’s revenue when it announced the purchase last week.

Still, some startups may struggle to attract a deep-pocketed suitor or land that kind of premium. And large technology and finance companies may choose to develop the capabilities themselves.

‘Pressure to act’

Representatives from Google, American Express and Visa declined to comment on any potential deals, as did Bango, Boku, Payfone, Syniverse and Vindicia. OpenMarket didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Ingo Lippert, CEO of Palo Alto’s Mopay, said the Zong deal will likely give rise to more acquisitions, though his company is “solely focused” on operations.

“We’ve been forecasting consolidation within the mobile-payments space for some time,” Lippert said in an e-mail. “With Zong’s acquisition, companies testing out solutions within the mobile-payments market will now feel increased pressure to act.”

Investments in payment startups began picking up several months ago. In February, Visa agreed to spend about $190 million, plus performance incentives, to purchase PlaySpan Inc. The company handles purchases of virtual goods in online games and social networks. In April, American Express led a $19 million funding round in Payfone, a developer of a mobile-payment service.

EBay’s buying spree

Last year, eBay acquired Red Laser and Milo, two comparison-shopping applications that allow users to scan product barcodes and read reviews. With Zong, the company will get a bigger foothold for its PayPal payment service on phones, especially in developing countries.

Zong lets people pay for things by putting them on their mobile-phone bills. That’s attractive in emerging markets, where credit card adoption is low.

“The phone is ubiquitous, and credit cards are not,” Rodger Desai, CEO of Payfone, said.

U.S. carriers lets third-party services such as BilltoMobile operate on their networks. Verizon Wireless, for instance, allows charges of as much as $25 a month. BilltoMobile also declined to comment on whether it was a takeover target.

Carrier bills contained $3 billion worth of charges for virtual goods last year, and these charges are rising at 38 percent annually, Crone estimates. Those purchases can include ring tones, dating-site subscriptions and weapons for mobile video games.

Purchases of apps charged to wireless bills reached $5 billion last year and are growing at 68 percent a year, Crone said. Consumers in countries such as South Korea are increasingly charging physical goods to carrier bills as well.

“We are seeing very rapid growth,” said Jim Greenwell, CEO of BilltoMobile.”

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Article from SFGate.

“It’s been a big couple of weeks in mobile. Verizon Wireless finally got the iPhone. Hewlett-Packard unveiled the first fruits of its Palm purchase last year. Nokia, the world’s biggest maker of handsets, abandoned its once-dominant Symbian mobile software system and demoted itself to a kind of glorified contract manufacturer of Microsoft-powered devices.

The struggle for mobile dominance has entered a new phase. Why would Nokia throw out Symbian, with its 37 percent market share, in favor of software with less than one-seventh of that? Because recently hired Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elop is convinced that Microsoft has better odds of going up against the four other mobile powers – Apple, Google, Research In Motion, and HP – and making its new Windows Phone 7 software a center of gravity for the world’s programmers, manufacturers, and consumers.

“The game has changed from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems,” Elop told investors at a recent London news conference.

Actually, it’s the same game that created the most valuable franchises in tech history, from IBM to Microsoft to Facebook. All successfully established themselves as “platforms,” in which countless entrepreneurs and programmers developed products and applications that gave value to customers and profitability to shareholders – sucking oxygen away from rivals all the while.

Platform leaders

In the 1960s, IBM trounced Sperry and other mainframe manufacturers by creating a soup-to-nuts stack of hardware, software and services.

In PCs, Microsoft erased Apple’s early lead by signing up hardwaremakers to create cheap machines, and software companies to develop Windows versions of everything from word processors to Tetris.

Facebook vanquished social networks such as MySpace by repositioning itself as a platform – a decision that led to the creation of gamemaker Zynga and other app companies that keep Facebook’s 500 million users hanging around.

What’s different this time is scale.

“Mobile is the biggest platform war ever,” said Bill Whyman, an analyst with International Strategy & Investment. More smart phones were sold than PCs in the fourth quarter, and sales should reach $120 billion this year. That doesn’t count billions more in mobile services, ads, and e-commerce.

This war will probably last for some time, too. Unlike with PCs, where the unquestioned victor – Microsoft – quickly emerged and enjoyed years of near monopoly, no one has a divine right to dominance in mobile. Microsoft crushed its competition by forcing people to make a choice. There were far more software applications for PCs, and most didn’t work on Macs. The more Microsoft-powered machines out there, the more people wrote software for them, the more people bought them, and the bigger the whole system became. Economists have a name for that phenomenon: “network effects.”

Appealing products

All cell phones can talk to each other and handle the same websites and e-mail systems, so winning means making products that function more effectively and appealingly. That sums up Apple’s success.

Steve Jobs figured out long ago that when people spend their own money, they’ll pay for something a lot nicer than the unsexy gear the cheapskates in corporate procurement choose. While others competed on price, Apple focused on making its products reliable and easy to use. Once customers buy an iPhone and start investing in iTunes songs and apps, they tend to stick with the system and keep buying – even though there’s no proprietary lock on the proverbial door.

Apple’s huge sales volume makes carriers and suppliers more likely to agree to its terms. The software that powers everything Apple makes – all variations of the Mac operating system OS X – is as intuitive to developers as Angry Birds is to app shoppers.

The result is economic leverage of staggering power. To create a blockbuster, Apple doesn’t need to spend billions on a start-from-scratch moon-shot of a development project. It just needs to tweak a previous hit.

Take the iPad, which is in many ways a large iPod touch. Apple won’t say how much the iPad cost to develop. Consider these numbers, though: In the year that ended Sept. 30, during which Apple introduced the iPad and the iPhone 4, the company spent $1.8 billion on research and development. Over the same period, Apple’s revenue increased by $22.3 billion. Nokia spent three times as much as Apple on R&D – $5.86 billion – and increased revenue by just $1.5 billion. No wonder that Apple, whose share of total global mobile-phone sales is only 4.2 percent, gets more than half the profit generated by the industry, according to research firm Asymco.

Fast-growing Android

Even Google, Apple’s mightiest rival, got only a $5 billion increase in sales on its $3.4 billion R&D budget. It does have plenty to show for its efforts, though: Its Android platform is growing at a blistering pace. In the fourth quarter, according to research firm Canalys, twice as many Android devices shipped as iPhones.

“Google is being far more aggressive in building its platform than Microsoft ever was,” says Bill Gurley, a partner at Benchmark Capital.

Barring big surprises, the other contenders – RIM, HP, and Microsoft – are in for a slog: too dependent on mobile devices to give up, yet lacking the tools to make much progress. All lost market share in 2010 and have far fewer apps available for their devices.”

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By Tony Fish – member of Gerbsman Partners Board of Intellectual and principal at AMF Ventures. Visit his blog at: http://blog.mydigitalfootprint.com

Summary

Virtually unlimited mobile usage tariffs means that advertising is perceived as free from the users perspective, as there is no additional cost of bandwidth to the user.  These tariffs have lead to an unprecedented growth in mobile applications and the emergence of  a new eco-system. However,  “all you can eat” pricing models for mobile have become increasingly risky with the advent of new devices and operating systems from Apple and Google.  With the prospect of a return to a pay per something, users may change their view of “free” advertising and this could lead to a change in behaviour, as they will be un-willing to pay for the bandwidth for the advert.  Whilst this may seam ridiculous to anyone who understands, explaining to the user they have the wrong perception or that this is not the reason for a significant monthly bill, could be difficult.  This viewpoint therefore opens the debate; “Could some selfish business decisions be destroying the mobile eco-system that has just been created and what scenarios are worth considering?”

Unlimited Growth

We have all benefitted from the introduction of unlimited mobile tariffs.  Voice, SMS and data usage has exploded.  Economically it made sense to the operator as they had spare capacity and in reality “unlimited” has caps but these caps are set so high that a user was unlikely to reach them.

Mobiles (smart phones) have evolved and today, web site and applications (inc games) for mobile are now built with an advertising model in mind and with this has come the download requirements of, in some simple cases, banner ads to some thing complex such as video and multimedia.  With network improvement, the ability to deliver a near web experience, advances in connection management and now the iPad, users can find it easy to get close to, or pass their “unlimited” data caps.

Mobile applications driven by adverts work and the application method of delivery made up for a number of early shortfalls in network constraints and mobile web browser capability. However, due to the improved experience and performance of the mobile there are now less reasons for a Brand to have a specific mobile version.  However, in this move adverts are also served in full form from the web to the mobile.  This transition will become more important as Apple looks to force applications to use their own iAd serving technology and analytics.  These forced change are likely to speed up the migration from mobile specific application to webapp – just adding a web address and icon to the mobile desktop and also removes the dependence on apps stores as the controlling point.

So what has changed?

Apple launched OS4 with a 7th temple, which is the ability to deliver a fabulous advertising experience as “most of it sucks”.  The move is to deliver emotion and interactivity as this will help the developer community who want to build advertising revenues in exchange for free apps.  This advertising experience does come at a cost – bandwidth. OS4 also introduces background processing (multitasking), “yippee!” says the developer. However this means that the phone can hack thought the battery really quickly and chat to the network constantly.  Pushed updates become streaming.

Changes to the OS and how much data phones require for a great experience mean that the unlimited data package become very attractive to the user and advertiser as they don’t care about bandwidth, developers love it as they can deliver the real time applications and services they want for mobile. However, for the operators who are already struggling with capacity, this becomes a real headache and introduces value chain conflicts.

Implications

If the operators choose, and the evidence is currently pointing to this fact, to remove from the market unlimited packages, or such a high cap it is perceived as unlimited and lean back towards some form of pay-by-how-much-you-eat model then there could be some significant changes to the market as the users, device and applications guys try to reduce a swing to a doom loop scenario.

Here’s the crunch.  For those reading this we can find arguments why all of the above is not a concern, however, the issue may not be the reality of the situation we find ourselves in, but from the user perception, it could be very real.  If the user believes that there is a cost, irrespective of reality; they may change behaviour!

The simple newspaper headline that reads “Your paying for advertising” is difficult to counter with the argument that informs a user how big an advert is in bytes and that there is a trade for free services.  If the reason for adverts is interactivity and engagement then a technical explanation may not be that useful or that someone is exploiting your data to sell you more.

Behavioural or targeted adverting depends at some level on understanding the user which is an output from the analysis their data – My Digital Footprint.  If users find that the real monetary cost of sharing that data is too high, it kills the input.  If users find that the real monetary cost of engaging with ads is too high, it kills the value.

Given that eco-systems require trusted players who can balance risk and reward together and be reliant on complex inter-dependences; mobile is no different.  However, it would appear that some of the players are trying to play for themselves rather than the community.

Scenarios to ponder over coffee

  1. Restrictive – in this scenario the user decides to restrict their use and applications to focus on a few that are a priority and will not experiment or discover.  This could have a significant impact on social media tools and applications.
  2. Blockers – in this scenario the user decides that they are unwilling to pay for the bandwidth and introduces a blocker service to prevent their costly bandwidth being used.  This in turn destroys the fee advertising model and an outcome could be that the user ends up paying for applications.
  3. Selective – in this scenario the operator decides to become selective about which handsets can have unlimited (capped) data plans and which handsets are forced to have a PAYG data pricing model.  This forces users into a choice and device manufactures start to work with the operators to produce devices in tune with the network to gain a competitive advantage.
  4. Side-Load – in this scenario PAYG could lead to more applications being downloaded by sideloading on the PC or by WiFi. If so, developers could be affected in ways that are hard to predict. But it may affect apps being advertised on the device.
  5. Doom loop – in this scenario the operator changes the pricing and this in turn creates all the dis-benefits for the advertisers, device guys, applications developers and users.  Mobile slows and mobile operator valuations dive.
  6. Intelligence – in this scenario the middleware and platform companies work with the operators and seek out methods and processes to compress, reduce, focus, profile and select data and services that should use the limited wireless network, that is expensive.  Can data/ ads be cashed locally on the device and selected as needed or side load them using wifi or other alternative networks, or put on hold until bandwidth cost is not an issue.
  7. Advertising pays for the bandwidth – a somewhat difficult scenario to comprehend, but in this scenario the advertiser takes on the cost of the bandwidth.  However this is full of complex conflicts such as – I want to deliver the best ad, but it costs to much.
  8. No change – in reality – this is not a scenario.

Reality check

Those reading this know that ‘most’ mobile advertising is very bandwidth lean, as it a blend of:-

i)  an invitation with the consumer to interact, normally in the form of a banner. The reality being that for most consumers most of the time, this is likely to be negligible in terms of cost across a month.

ii)  a landing page, which they land on if they click on a banner – again negligible.

iii)  call to action at the landing page, which unless it involves rich media (eg video), is also likely to be small in terms of bandwidth

We know that users respond differently to ads and services on a mobile to the web but it is possible that the Apple OS4 interruption of advertising will be heavier on bandwidth, however, over 50% of iPhone ads are viewed over WiFi (2010) probably driven by speed as opposed to cost reasons. One could postulate that this trend would therefore be accelerated with the re-introduction of pay-as-you-go pricing!

All that said, users are users and their perception is how we need to live our business life – from their view point not ours.  Reflecting on the original question; “could consumer ignorance hurt mobile advertising?”, one could say this is the wrong question and it should be “is the mobile eco-system strong enough to defend itself against selfish desires of certain key players?”

If you would like to chat about the opportunities that digital footprint data brings, especially from the perspective of mobile and real time feedback, please contact me at tony.fish@amfventures.com. The book is free on line at http://www.mydigitalfootprint.com/ or you can buy it direct from the publisher at the web site. There is also a summary and a eReader/ Kindle version.

We hope that our Viewpoint improves awareness, raises questions and promotes deliberation over coffee. We will respond to e-mail, text, twitter or blog comments. http://blog.mydigitalfootprint.com

Kind regards,

Tony Fish

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Here is a good article from SF Chronicle that sheds some light on Apple and its renewed strategy on Mobile devices. With its launch of iPad, as well as the consious sidestepping from flash, a new and clear focus on iTunes and Appstore becomes much clearer – the focus on being the entertainment and content provider of consumer entertainment, and controlling the accesspoints secures large revenues from the convert. The larger question is if there are new areas previously untapped in this strategy that represent next level. With clear focus on casual consumption, everyday content and easy access, I have problem seeing next product line within this strategy.

– Patric

“Apple’s recent unveiling of the iPad was primarily a product announcement aimed at priming the pump for consumers, developers and content owners.

But for the notoriously secretive company, the iPad event provided observers with a glimpse of the company’s growing ambitions and strategies.

By trumpeting its own chipset for the iPad, passing on Adobe Flash software and putting even more emphasis on its iTunes system, Apple appears intent on tightening its command over the user experience and delivering a distinct vision of mobile computing, Internet connectivity and media consumption.

But perhaps the most obvious upshot of the latest unveiling was Apple’s continued recognition that its future, unlike its origin, is tied to mobile devices. Three years after dropping the word “computer” from its name, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs said the company’s annual revenue of $50 billion from iPhones, iPods and MacBook laptops make it the largest maker of mobile devices in the world.

“Apple is a mobile devices company – that’s what we do,” said Jobs, during the iPad event.

Tim Bajarin, president of technology consultancy Creative Strategies, said Apple recognizes that the computing landscape is expanding to a model in which everyone carries around an Internet device. With the iPad, Apple is seeking to shape and stay ahead of that future.

“Apple’s role is to bring digital technology to the masses,” said Bajarin. “They don’t believe it’s restricted to a desktop or a phone – it should come in all types of devices.”

While the iPad represents a new hardware market, some observers see the device as expanding Apple’s business in services and content delivery.

“In 10 years, Apple will be just as much of a services and a software play as a device manufacturer,” said J. Gerry Purdy, an analyst with MobileTrax, a mobile research firm. “I think that gives them a tremendous playing field opportunity.”

Making chips itself

Apple’s introduction of its own chipset for the iPad – called the A4 – suggests that the Cupertino company is even more focused on the marriage between its hardware and software, eschewing third-party chips that are used by most rivals.

Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight 64, questioned whether Apple’s chipset will outperform rival technology from Nvidia or Qualcomm. But he said the approach can result in some savings if it’s applied on a significant scale. And it allows the company to be less dependent on outside suppliers.

But perhaps most importantly, it gives Apple a way to tune its chips to fit the exact needs of its devices and software, allowing the company to achieve better performance and battery life.

“Apple’s gone from buying something off the rack to buying something where they have the pieces and they can tailor it themselves to their unique body shape,” Brookwood said.

Brookwood said he expects to see more of the A4 chipset if the iPad proves successful.

Apple’s iPad announcement also revealed a deeper antipathy toward Adobe Flash, the ubiquitous browser plug-in that enables most of the video and animations you see on the Web.

At the press event, Jobs avoided any mention of Flash, even when selling the iPad as delivering the Internet in your hand. And at a company staff meeting a few days later, Jobs reportedly called Adobe’s browser plug-in “buggy” and said the world will be moving to HTML5, a new Web language that will eliminate the need for Flash in many instances.

Tech pundits said Apple’s crusade against Flash appears to be philosophical, practical and political. The opposition might be a way to steer consumers to Apple’s iTunes and App Store, where they can find video content and applications that replicate the Flash content, often at a price.

“Apple’s position is they want to move things off the Web to the (iTunes) App Store,” said David Wadhwani, vice president and general manager of Adobe’s platform business. “Our position is we will support both models and let the consumer choose.”

Flash the next floppy disk?

Apple also appears reluctant to allow San Jose’s Adobe access to its iPhone operating system, especially when its Flash software is the cause of most of its crashes on the Mac, a claim Jobs reportedly made at his staff meeting. By advocating HTML5, Jobs could be attempting to help precipitate the decline of Flash, something he also predicted with floppy disk drives and more recently optical drives, wrote Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist for online magazine Slate.

“Jobs could be betting that the same thing will happen with Flash,” Manjoo said. “There will be a lot of whining in the short run, but in time, we’ll all forget we ever wanted it and keep buying iPads.”

With Apple’s decision to go with the iPhone operating system, instead of Mac OS X or a hybrid, the company seems even more intent on using it as a major platform for mobile development. Apple has outpaced rivals in the mobile application market with more than 140,000 apps, but it has faced increasing competition from Google’s Android, which is also being pitched as a tablet operating system.”

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flixwagon_logo.jpgRecently, Mashable, Techcrunch and others have posted some good articles on mobile broadcast video. A number of companies have recently launched Mobile broadcast services; FlixWagon, Qik and Youtube´s recent addition of direct upload capabilities in the Latest API all supports this trend – mobile broadcast.

Where I am very skeptical to the live mobile-to-web broadcast option, the pre-packaged service to record and upload mobile video directly is neat and useful. The problem of the mobile video and mobile broadcast today is that while it is recorded on mobile, users download the clip to their PC´s and then uploaded to the web – which limits many good clips to reach the masses on the web through its complexity.

These small Java applications are easy to install and easy to use. With the pre-set upload assistance, mobile videos are uploaded directly to the web either as live streams or saved clips. Where geeks and techies where the only ones capable of this before, anyone can now make it happen. I wonder how quickly manufacturers and Telco´s will jump on this and pre-install these applications and affiliations to drive usage and network traffic.

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According to a recent report from Informa Telecoms & Media, worldwide mobile penetration has hit 50 percent. Informa claims that there are 3.3 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. At the end of September there were mobile networks operating in 224 countries, which is up from 192 countries in 1997 and 35 in 1987. Even though there are now an estimated 3.3 billion mobile subscriptions activated currently, Informa cautions that some countries have a mobile penetration rate of more than 100 percent, meaning some users have more than one subscription.

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