16 Jul 2013
It's surprising to think that something as widespread as chip and PIN hadn't really made any tentative steps outside the safe haven of brick-and-mortar stores until very recently. Up until last year, customers were still paying tradesmen, small stores and market stallholders exclusively by cash or cheque.
The world of chip-and-PIN machines is certainly a costly one, and for good reason. Dealing with encrypted financial transactions is hardly a walk in the park, and it requires a certain amount of processing and data muscle to work. Smaller businesses have been priced out of the market for many years, which is why you so often see minimum spends on card transactions.
But with the continued expansion of the smartphone market, many people are now carrying half of the ingredients required for a portable and affordable remote card payment system, namely the brain and the data connection.
The market is now looking rather crowded, with plenty of companies including iZettle, WorldPay and soon even PayPal offering similar devices, all of which include a one-off fee for the purchase of the hardware and then scrape off 2.75 percent of every transaction taken after that.
Payleven is another business making its way into the hands of smaller enterprises; the Berlin-based company began operating last year and received a large investment boost that is rumoured to be in the "tens of millions of euros", and can now be found in Apple Stores across Europe.
UK chief executive of Payleven, Ian Marsh, says that this new style of device certainly appeals to the 1.3 million small and medium businesses in the UK that don't have card readers due to the prohibitive costs of up to £600 per year, but there's also the cool factor.
"Who wants this cool little device rather than this big clunky box?" he said. And that's where his company is making headway, with a small and light device that integrates with industry-standard retail systems such as Micros, and has an open API that allows the IT staff of larger companies to tailor the device to their own needs. Payleven machines can now be found in tens of thousands of businesses worldwide.
But it is the small businesses that will see the most benefit; electricians, mobile hairdressers and everyone in between can avoid awkward moments resulting from clients not having enough cash, or a lack of change. But how do normal consumers feel when their plumber produces what looks like a toy chip-and-PIN machine from their jacket pocket?
A look at an electricians' forum reveals that some tradespeople aren't quite there yet. "It's very tempting to try these modern chip-and-PIN systems out, but I do wonder how much customers would trust swiping their credit card on my phone," one user wrote. "I think I'll just stick to cash cheque and the Pingit idea for now."
This user has stumbled upon the other potential rival to traditional chip-and-PIN machines. Payments which take place on smartphones using the internet, such as Barclays PingIt are making serious progress themselves. Indeed, just last month Barclays announced £10bn transferred through its mobile app roster.
In the end, however, it's not about one system being better than another. As is always the way, it is about whatever is more practical and trustworthy for the most important person in the chain: the consumer.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who loves chips
Dell shareholders are nearing the vote on the company's proposed buyout plan, and opponent Carl Icahn is upping his offer hoping to halt a deal at the last minute.
The investor activist said he would up his bid to acquire outstanding shares in the company with the addition of warrants, which could increase the per-share price stakeholders would collect in the sale and offer them the chance to re-purchase their shares at a later date.
The bid comes in the wake of announcements from Dell that three outside appraisal firms brought in to review the offers have accepted the company's original plan. That offer, backed by founder Michael Dell and an investment group, would purchase all outstanding Dell shares and effectively take the company private.
Icahn has long opposed the bid, claiming that the company's $13.65 per-share offer undervalues the company and rips off shareholders. He has since formed his own group, but the viability of the offer has been called into question by the company's special committee.
Now, as the vote nears, the company is trying to quell talk of an Icahn buyout once and for all. Additionally, it has spoken out against a call from Icahn to have Dell stock appraised.
“The Special Committee cautions Dell stockholders that Carl Icahn’s latest entreaties that they pursue appraisal with respect to the Dell acquisition misrepresent the risks and costs involved in this course of action,” the company said in a statement.
“Mr Icahn’s letters claim that seeking appraisal is a 'no-brainer' involving 'no risk' and that stockholders 'might get lucky' if they follow his advice.”
In the wake of the PRISM scandal that rocked the technology and political spheres, many organisations and government departments will no doubt have reviewed their security policies and network protocols to see if they can better protect themselves from those spying on their secrets.
Such concerns around spying and bugging are reminiscent of the Cold War when nations were deeply untrusting of one another. And the Russians, historically the ‘bad guys’ in any Cold War drama, have taken an old-school approach to protecting themselves by using ancient tech to avoid any network intrusions.
As reported on numerous outlets with access to Russian translators, the security agency FSO has purchased around £10,000 worth of typewriters so that it can type up documents without fearing spying eyes, as the devices won’t have WiFi, Ethernet ports or USB ports where data can be compromised.
Of course this is one way of avoiding such spying eyes, but it does mean those in the Kremlin will have to get a lot better at spelling again in order to avoid the need for huge vats of Tippex to correct their mistakes, and there will be an awful lot of ink ribbons stockpiled around the Kremlin’s corridors, one suspects.
By V3’s Dan Worth, whose knowledge of typewriters comes primarily from Resident Evil
For more than a decade, one of the largest untapped electronics markets in the world has been sealed off from game console developers.
Now, however, China could be opening itself up to console vendors, bringing a massive new crowd of potential customers. A government plan would allow for a limited lift of a ban that had forbidden console sales.
According to a report form the South China Morning Post, authorities would allow for sales of consoles within the Shanghai free trade zone. Vendors who would meet with country's “cultural” standard requirements would be allowed to sell consoles within the limited zone.
The move comes at a particularly advantageous time for hardware vendors. With a new generation of expensive consoles on the way from both Sony and Microsoft, expanding into China can help boost what is already expected to be higher margins on more expensive consoles.
The opening of the Chinese market could also help to boost what vendors hope will be a growing usage case for the consoles. Microsoft has already expressed hope that its Xbox One will be able to leverage its video-conferencing features to serve as a unified communications device in the enterprise sector.
Between the prospect of a move into China and the possibility of an expansion into the business market, the new-gen consoles could see a much smoother and more successful launch than their predecessors.
Statistics from an eBay study appear to show that 64 percent of the one million mobile applications on multiple platforms [Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Nokia Ovi] that went into development in 2012 never materialised, either due to rejection by app store gatekeepers or simply never being finished. This equates to roughly £3bn of wasted development time.
An even more surprising nugget of information revealed by the survey showed that a mere 42 percent of retail apps made it to consumers. That's a failure rate of 58 percent from companies whose aim is to sell products by all means possible.
That's not to say that they abandoned their plans altogether, the mobile web is certainly a more efficient means of creating cross-platform retail experiences.
V3 has covered a number of m-commerce stories in recent weeks, with all signs pointing towards a younger generation aspiring to buy their flared jeans and miniskirts (that's what the kids are buying these days, right?) via mobile apps. And yet it would seem that it's proving rather difficult to get right if these statistics are anything close to representative of the industry as a whole.
Olivier Ropars, the senior director of Mobile Commerce at eBay Europe, which most certainly has a vested interest in this area of the market, said of the statistics: "Many brands and retailers have created apps, but driving regular traffic to the app is another matter.
"EBay offers consumers access to the world's largest marketplace from just one app, which is why smart retailers and brands are using eBay as part of their mobile strategy."
Vested interests aside, Ropars does make an interesting point about retail apps. There must be a certain point at which consumers start to grow tired of having twenty apps that all do pretty much the same thing. Perhaps it's time for retail groups to team up and form an app that encompasses a broad selection of stores.
Elsewhere, the BBC took a different angle on yesterday's anniversary, getting hold of statistics which appeared to reveal that a large proportion of the apps in Apple's App Store are ‘zombies'. It showed that a little over 500,000 of the 800,000 apps in the store never make it into the ‘top 300,000', receiving negligible download numbers as a result. It's hardly a huge surprise, but certainly a headline grabber nonetheless.
There are plenty of reasons for this, including poor marketing strategies and simply poor quality. Paolo Pescatore from analyst firm CCS Insight said that it's a tough world out there for app developers who want to get noticed. "This is a common problem and not unique to Apple," he said. "If you're a new developer, it's hard to get visibility for your apps in any app store.
"We track the top apps being downloaded from all the major app stores and it's always the same names. We very rarely see new players breaking through. They face a monumental challenge."
Apple revolutionised an entire industry when the App Store came into being five years ago, but after the celebration must come the realisation that being a little fish in what is now a gigantic, multi-billion dollar pond makes making abreakthrough harder than it has ever been.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who avoids shopping at all costs
Apple is celebrating half a decade of its App Store service with a major sale on iOS App downloads as the firm's historic platform continues to dominate the mobile landscape.
The company has put multiple apps, including some of its best-selling game and entertainment applications, as free downloads in celebration of the milestone.
The App Store platform first launched in 2008 with around 500 applications. According to Apple, the store has since added some 900,000 applications. In that time it has come under increased pressure from Android and Windows App stores, although in terms of quality it is arguably still a cut above its rival's offerings.
Since its release, Apple's App Store has emerged as a template for mobile application vendors, the Apple store has set examples as a mobile application vendor and for rival vendors seeking to challenge Apple.
While App Store has met criticism from rivals, security vendors have hailed the Apple service as a breakthrough in the security space due to the company's strict control over iOS security settings.
The free Apps being offered by Apple include Barefoot World Atlas, Badland, Day One and Infinity Blade II. Sadly there don't appear to be any other apps other than games available for free, but if you know of any, do let us know.
10 Jul 2013
Apple and Amazon have agreed to end a prolonged legal feud over the use of the term "App Store".
According to a report from Reuters, the two companies struck a deal to end litigation and drop their case in a US District Court. The deal will avert a full trial, which had been slated to take place later this Summer.
Apple began the dispute in 2011 when it sued Amazon over the company's use of the term “Appstore” to describe its application retail service. Apple, which uses the “App Store” name for its own software store, has sued Amazon over claims of trademark infringement.
Amazon, meanwhile, has countered with a claim that the term “app store” is general and as such is too vague to be patented by one firm. The company had challenged Apple's standing to claim ownership of the name.
Earlier this year, Apple saw its case undercut when Judge Phyllis Hamilton threw out part of the case. The ruling prevented Apple from claiming that Amazon engaged in false and misleading advertising practices by using the Appstore name for its service.
While the deal ends a two-year legal effort for Apple to be the exclusive purveor of the app store, the company's legal team will still have plenty of work to do with its ongoing legal campaigns against Android hardware vendors.
Last night, tennis took over Twitter, as lifetime and one-time tennis fans came together to produce an onslaught of tennis tweets that in previous years would have stretched Twitter's service to its limits.
At its peak, Twitter users were sending over 120,000 Wimbledon-related tweets per minute. To put that in perspective, Centre Court holds 15,000 people, and they were loud enough by themselves; the racket created by 120,000 shouts and whoops per minute would have been a little much. The below graph shows the huge flurry of mentions right after Murray won the tournament.
In terms of what was actually being said in those tweets, the ball was in IBM's court to work out who was the favoured player. A foregone conclusion you might say. And you'd be right: Andy Murray dominated the Twitter rankings, receiving 1.1 million tweets throughout the Wimbledon competition. Second in the men's ranking was Serbian Novak Djokovic, with a respectable 868,000 mentions.
However, Murray will be appalled to discover that his approval rating wasn't the highest of all players. Indeed, most of the love went to fellow Brit Laura Robson whose twitter mentions were 94.7 percent positive. Murray could only manage a paltry 93.3 percent.
Elsewhere, the women's singles champion France's Marion Bartoli didn't top the Twitter rankings, despite the controversy caused by John Inverdale's infamous comments proclaiming her not to be ‘a looker'. She racked up 208,000 mentions and while she beat German Sabine Lisicki in the final, Lisicki can go home with the knowledge that she received 301,000 mentions throughout the tournament (and the £800,000 prize pot just for showing up to the final).
Murray, ever the outgoing attention seeker, took to Twitter after the match to express his happiness, and received a cool 90,000 retweets as a result.
Can't believe what's just happened!!!!!!!— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) July 7, 2013
Eight of the ten trending topics on Twitter last night were Wimbledon related, although how many of those were "I wish everybody would stop posting about tennis" wasn't clear at the time of publishing.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who isn't a tennis fan