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Amazon Fire Phone Wins Respect, if Not Raves
July 23, 2014
Early reviews for Amazon's first foray into the smartphone market are mixed, with a general sense that the device is a good phone overlaid with some flashy features. Amazon announced the Fire Phone last month, trumpeting its 3D display, which uses facial recognition and front-facing cameras to shift perspective, depending on where the user's head is.
EU Rides Apple Over Weak In-App Purchase Policies
July 23, 2014
The EU last year adopted a "common position" on how purchases made within mobile and online applications should be treated by operators of app stores. Now Google is drawing praise for striving to comply with EU guidance, while Apple is being rebuked for dragging its feet. Google announced specific steps it's taking, including removal of the word "free" from any app that enables in-app purchases.
China's Internet: It's Not Personal, It's Business
July 21, 2014
The Internet adoption rate in China appears to be slowing, based on a report that shows the lowest six-month increase in the number of Internet users in eight years. The total number of Internet users in the country reached 632 million by the end of June. That includes the 14.4 million people who joined Internet user ranks in the first half of the year, according to the CNNIC's biannual report.
'Buy' Button Could Turn Facebook Into Impulse-Shopping-Ville
July 18, 2014
Facebook is testing a function that would allow users to buy products without leaving the site or app. Small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. that are taking part in the trial can add the Buy button to ads displayed in users' News Feeds or in posts on their pages. Users will see the Buy button in relevant ads whether they're on the Facebook website or using their mobile device.
Amazon Unlocks Vast E-Book Library for $10 a Month
July 18, 2014
Amazon on Friday introduced Kindle Unlimited, a new subscription service for e-books. It allows customers to download and read as many books as they want from a list of 600,000-plus Kindle books for a monthly fee of $9.99. Amazon is making a number of popular titles available under the program, including The Hunger Games, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Lord of the Rings.
Amazon Risks Customer Loyalty in Fight Over Kids' In-App Purchases
July 11, 2014
Amazon's reputation for stellar customer service could become tarnished if its current flap with the FTC gets out of hand. The FTC is suing Amazon for permitting children to make millions of dollars in unauthorized purchases through its Appstore. Similar accusations have been circulating for years. Other companies, including Apple, have been targeted, said Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson.
FTC Goes After Amazon for Fleecing Kids
July 11, 2014
The FTC has filed suit against Amazon over billing kids for unauthorized in-app purchases that in many cases they did not know they had made. The suit accuses Amazon of violating Section 5(a) of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce. The FTC is seeking a court order requiring Amazon to refund victims for the unauthorized charges.
What's in a Name? Ask the Other Isis
July 09, 2014
Mobile payment app Isis is focusing on rebranding following the emergence of the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. ISIS has gained notoriety in recent weeks for its links to violent strikes in Iraq. Not wanting its company to be associated with that group, Isis announced Monday that it will be working on a rebranding strategy over the coming months.
Path Adds Another Avenue for Mobile Gabfest
June 23, 2014
Path has hived off its mobile-only messaging service as a standalone app named "Talk," it announced Friday. It also ended limits on the number of friends users can communicate with, and announced its purchase of place messaging pioneer TalkTo as it sets itself for growth. The Talk app has a new feature, Ambient Status, that shows users' current status at a glance.
How Amazon's Fire Phone Will Beat the iPhone in 3 Years
June 23, 2014
Amazon launched its rather impressive Fire Phone last week, and it has a number of things that make it interesting -- but just as the iPhone improved massively by the third version, I expect this phone will as well, as a result of users providing feedback on what they want. Ironically, if the iPhone fails against the Fire Phone, it will be because Jeff Bezos is executing Steve Jobs' old strategy.
Amazon's Fire Phone May Fizzle
June 19, 2014
Amazon's share prices shot up by nearly $10 on Wednesday after the company announced its Fire Phone, but by press time Thursday they had fallen by $5.76 to $328.62. That might be a pretty solid indicator of the device's chances in the market. "Why would consumers give up their tried-and-tested iPhones or Android smartphones for something that's unknown and untried?" asked IDC analyst Ramon Llamas.
Rumor: Amazon's About to Spring a 3D Smartphone
June 16, 2014
Amazon reportedly is adding an important new tributary to its river of products this week: a smartphone line. The company has a media event scheduled for Wednesday and expectations are high that it's about to reveal its first mobile device. "Amazon has already seen some success in the tablet space as well as the home entertainment space," said Frost & Sullivan analyst Todd Day.
Priceline Hits the Sweet Spot With OpenTable Bid
June 16, 2014
Priceline last week announced an agreement to buy OpenTable for US$2.6 billion. Priceline is paying $103 per share for the online restaurant reservation service in the all-cash transaction. The companies are positioning the deal as a synergistic play in which they will be able to enhance services for both of their customer bases. OpenTable will give Priceline an entrée into restaurant marketing.
Coupang's on Fire in Korea's Hot M-Commerce Climate
June 09, 2014
Sequoia Capital recently led a US$100 million round of funding for South Korean retailer Coupang, suggesting that the rapidly growing Korean e-commerce market is the hot new scene for investors looking to capitalize on a country full of mobile shoppers. Founded and run by the Korean-born, Harvard-educated Bon Kim, the site has grown to become Korea's leading online retailer.
Why Mobile Providers Will Have to Give a Little on Privacy
June 06, 2014
Apple has tossed out some hints that its App Store may soon accept apps that handle digital currencies such as bitcoin. Though there are many possible reasons for the move, one stands out: PornHub last month released an analysis of its 38 million daily visitors, which included the interesting observation that more than half were using mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
Apple Sinks Its Teeth Into Bitcoin
June 05, 2014
Apple this week updated its App Store Review Guidelines with a change that signals a loosening of its restrictive policies against bitcoin and other digital currencies. The change now allows apps to "facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions."
Look Who's Pushing Retailers to Go Omnichannel
May 21, 2014
Only the truly dedicated shopper realizes this -- and of course, anyone who follows the retail industry (I happen to fall in both categories) -- but most shopping centers in the United States are owned by just a handful of companies, called "real estate investment trusts," or REITs, if they are publicly held. On the surface, this is irrelevant to average shoppers.
Zero Patience, Zero Wait: The New Customer Reality
May 19, 2014
Gone in half the blink of an eye. Online customers, that is. Visitors are less likely to return to a site that is even 250 milliseconds slower than a competing site, according to Harry Shum, a Microsoft executive who led research and development efforts for the Bing search engine. That's an increment of time equal to about half the amount of time it takes a human to blink. Milliseconds matter.
Mobile Apps, Beacons and the Coming Retail Revival
May 07, 2014
Internet companies are showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to innovation, specifically in the area of physical retail. Smartphones and tablets are the new darlings of e-commerce companies, and they now are being used to provide immersive and entertaining shopping experiences. Many of the characteristics of online retail shopping are being replicated in the physical shopping aisle.
Google Now Could Turn E-Commerce on Its Ear
May 06, 2014
Google on Monday announced it is rolling out a new feature for Google Now that aims to blend the brick-and-mortar and online retail worlds. Available now for Android phones, the feature notifies users when they're physically near a store that might have a recently searched-for item available. The feature doesn't go so far as to inform the user whether the item currently is in stock.
OnSip Invites Customers to Push Its Buttons
May 05, 2014
Amazon's Mayday button has intrigued CRM industry users as well as consumers. Introduced about a year ago, Mayday is a button customers can press on their mobile devices to get service or tech help. Salesforce.com last month debuted its version of Mayday. Now other tech providers are introducing variations on the theme. One such company is OnSIP, which has just debuted InstaCall.
Doing the Mobile Payments Sync Dance
April 01, 2014
Two of the most hotly debated issues surrounding the future of m-commerce are these: 1) How quickly will it grow when consumers finally begin to accept the idea of a mobile wallet? and 2) When, exactly, are they going to start accepting it? There are myriad answers to those questions, including when security fears can be allayed, and when mobile payments offer more value than using a credit card.
Rocket the Vote! NASA Asks People to Vote on New Space Threads
March 26, 2014
NASA is asking people to vote on their favorite design for the outer shell of the new Z-2 spacesuit. While the Z-2 models may descend from their Apollo 13-style ancestors, there are some decidedly 21st Century twists. The "Biomimicry" design, for example, has a reptilian flare; "Trends in Society" has a more everyday look -- at least, as far as spacesuits go.
Getting Mobile App Devs to Jump on Your Bandwagon
March 24, 2014
Earlier this year, during the Mobile World Congress, Jon Matonis, executive director of the Bitcoin Foundation, made a compelling argument for the use of bitcoin in mobile payment applications. Mobile payments have not made the traction many expected they would -- but bitcoin could neatly circumvents all of the obstacles that have held them back, Matonis explained.

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