a week in wireless


It’s all about the money, money, money

AWIW467

Cost of living through an economic slump? Ridiculously high. Getting consumers to part with their hard earned cash with nothing but a wave of the phone? Priceless. You can almost hear the *tap; kerchings* echoing throughout the industry as our plump but ever hungry financial institutions and payment providers continue their foray into the mobile market.

Intel this week teamed up with MasterCard in a drive to provide more options for a safer and simpler NFC-based check-out process for online merchants and consumers using netbook type devices and future generations of Intel-based PCs.

Intel’s Identity Protection Technology (IPT) enables consumers to use two-factor authentication and hardware-based display protection, and when used with an Intel IPT-enabled reader, consumers will be able to pay for online purchases with a simple tap of their PayPass-enabled card, tag, or smart phone on their computing device.

It’s exactly the kind of thing the Informer expects to read about just before Black Friday and there’s no need for the developing nations to feel left out either. Visa has launched a mobile banking product developed by South African mobile money platform Fundamo, which Visa acquired in June, designed to offer an “open loop” system that provides a connection between local mobile money services and the Visa network, in order to bring global interoperability and new features into play.

So called “closed loop” mobile money services are those provided by financial institutions and mobile operators, which are confined to their local markets. Consumers of existing mobile money services will be able to use more features if their mobile money providers sign up to the product, such as withdrawing money from a Visa ATM, transferring funds internationally and performing e-commerce transactions over the web. African and Middle East operator MTN plans to offer the product across its markets.

Keeping with the theme, the Informer has been chatting this week with lots of people responsible for apps and content, conversations which often led to the growing adoption of social networks, particularly Facebook, as an applications platform. Ebay’s digital payment platform PayPal was getting involved in some action here, having launched a Facebook application that lets users of the social networking site send money to each other. According to the firms, almost 80 per cent of active PayPal users are on Facebook.

Facebook is also keen to keep involving itself in carrier pricing strategies, which Facebook’s head of mobile, Henri Moissinac, cited as one of the three pillars of the firm’s mobile strategy. The social network announced a collaboration with Orange on a range of sub-€100 handsets described by Moissinac, as featuring “the best set of integrations so far” of any device the social networking firm has co-developed.

Consumers who buy the handsets, which are built by Alcatel, will also get “unlimited” access to Facebook as part of their data plan, although both Orange and Facebook denied that there is any financial relationship behind the programme. Patrick Remy, VP devices at Orange, told the Informer that Facebook is subsidising neither the handsets nor any related traffic, and that Orange is not zero-rating that traffic.

Orange has not yet finalised the pricing for the devices in any market other than Romania, where the most expensive handset of the new range, the One Touch 908F, will retail at less than €100, unsubsidised, on a monthly contract of €9. Amusingly, the 908F, will be sold as the Orange Vancouver in markets where the Alcatel brand is perceived to lack value. The Informer is only aware of Alcatel as a handset brand that has very recently introduced colour screens.

Speaking of which, the Mirasol wonder display technology incubated by Qualcomm looks like it will finally get to see the light of day, pardon the pun, with small scale commercialisation of the technology set to take place before the year is out.

Mirasol was developed by a firm called Iridigm, which was acquired by Qualcomm in 2004. The technology is pitched as a low power alternative display, which reflects ambient light back at the viewer to conserve energy and is based on the same principle that causes butterflies’ wings to shimmer and works in both daylight and darkness.

The applications could be a game changer. Using less than a tenth of the energy consumed by a comparable LCD display, the expectation is that Mirasol will enable an environment in which the device screen never needs to power down, as they are today programmed to do in order to conserve battery life. The problem is that, since Qualcomm acquired the tech, it has never got out of the prototype stages because it’s too expensive for the mass market.

Yet earlier this year the firm announced an investment of $975m for the construction of a new fabrication facility in Longtan, Taiwan, and this week, Qualcomm confirmed that it is expecting commercialisation of Mirasol before the end of 2011, with smaller volume products in non-US markets before the end of the year. These initial batches will be delivered by the pilot fabrication plant, which is a relatively small facility. Higher volumes will be in the offing around the time the new, much larger, fab comes online later in 2012.

But when a butterfly flaps its wings in Taiwan, vivid displays of ridiculousness occur, such as US smut merchant of the same name, Vivid Entertainment, suing Taiwanese handset hot shot HTC for calling its latest smartphone the Vivid. In its cease and desist letter Vivid argues that, as its adult content is viewable on mobile phones, there could be confusion between its content and the HTC device.

Sigh.

Right, back to those conversations about apps and content and both Telenor and Vodafone have identified an opportunity in the own-branded Android Market experience. Both carriers will have a branded and fully curated sector within the app store that will allow them to step in and hold the hands of users that might be new to the smartphone concept and overwhelmed by the thousands of apps available.

As a bonus, both operators have also enabled carrier billing within their shops, which again, makes it as easy as pie to purchase content and then pay for it with your prepay credit or monthly bill. By way of supporting evidence, Vodafone said that in the five months since it launched in Android Market, the uptick of downloads of its selected apps has risen to between 60 per cent and 400 per cent.

The Big V’s news this week was more about the launch of an own branded and curated app store that exists in its own right. According to Lee Epting, Vodafone’s director of content services, who the Informer was chatting to, this allows the company to go one step further for what it calls “new smartphone users” – those customers that are cautiously migrating from a feature phone experience.

In this domain, which will be pushed out to existing users and pre-installed on new devices, Vodafone will focus on the top 100 apps from any store, and will test them against its network before promoting them. There will not be an archive as such and the content will be refreshed every few months to spare users from an overwhelming number of apps. Pricing will be along the lines of the big app stores although Vodafone will be at liberty to run special promotions.

Rolling with the content theme, Google just launched a music locker service for Android, which allows users to buy, share and stream music on the go for free. The company launched a Beta version of the service last May, but has now launched a full version, which enables users to purchase new music through a music store via Android Market and share music using the Google+ social network. Users can also upload their music collection of up to 20,000 songs into their personal cloud, so that they can stream their music from any Android device.

Not one to miss out on the action, Canadian handset vendor RIM also officially launched its BBM Music service on a commercial basis following a successful beta trial. Again, BBM Music is a cloud-based social music service which allows users to discover and share songs from the likes of Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI with BBM contacts. The service was launched in Canada, the US and Australia earlier this month and was launched in the UK Tuesday, for a monthly subscription of £4.99.

RIM is one of those desperate companies still supporting mobile Flash, even though Adobe has called time on the mobile version of Flash Player. The BlackBerry vendor clearly sees Flash as a life support tool for its Playbook. Yet jumping on the political bandwagon of the Occupy movement, an online programmer protest, Occupy Flash, is calling for a global boycott on the technology in a bid to get everybody to move over to HTML5 once and for all.

However the protest rather meekly admits that uninstalling Flash Player may be a bit much right now, after all. Flash content is still very popular, so the suggestion is that supporters let content creators know they’d prefer to see HTML5 used in the future.

Take that oppressive and cumbersome web technology!

We are the 36 per cent (who use mobile Flash Player according to Strategy Analytics)!

The Informer

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One comment

  1. Ignacio Lopez 24/11/2011 @ 7:10 pm

    Why can we make our lives better by implement international standard like HTML5? Everything is all about profits for Adobe and Micrơsoft. HTML5 is much better unified platform. Customers end up to have so many different applications. Time to stop all the madness.

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