Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's Square mean to you?

Image Attribute: Square

In the past few days there's been a lot of buzz about Square, the new mobile-phone credit card swiping solution. Point of Sale to the people, so-to-speak. Few peeps asked me of my thoughts, and how does it affect Adva Mobile, so here it is.
I think Square is a terrific little gadget that, more than it's own independent value to the world, the buzz it brings with it drives more awareness to the things one could do using their mobile phone. The more we can see from that, the better, IMO.
I admire their approach: I think that of the mobile payment solutions, they win on simplicity (to the end user) and reach. (almost) all other mobile payment solutions require pre-registration, which is a killer for the ad-hoc shoppers.
On it's own, I have my healthy skepticism how many people will end up owning and using the device. Requiring extra hardware? We've seen what happened to Zeemote. It will be interesting to find the payout rates, the installation process and other factors. Of those long-tail merchants, you need to find people with the right phone and plan, willing to pay for the gadget, and share their revenues with another party. For those people, Square complements the cash-only sales with cash and credit. I'm trying to think who those people are: Street artist selling paintings? Active musician next to the merch table? Do they really need this? time will tell.
Now if you contrast paying using Square and on a mobile website (with, say, PayPal), then I'd say it's hard to determine how many of the fans would rather use one or the other. Square wins in the consumer side, Paypal (I think) wins on the merchant side.

As far as Adva Mobile is concerned, again, the buzz that Square brings is a blessing. We'd like to see less and less "I didn't know I could do that". As mentioned, Square complements well the financial processing for products that entertainers would like to sell, say, on their merch table. It is important to note, Adva Mobile is a Mobile Marketing Service for entertainers. There are mobile sales tools that come with it, that entertainers can leverage, but our focus has always been helping entertainers acquire new fans and keep them engaged, coming to shows and participating in the "community" you're building.

Overall, Square is certainly an interesting solution that will stir things up for a while. It certainly brings a lot of buzz with it, which is great. I'm looking forward to see what will happen with it as time goes by.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Real World Connection: Finally in the US?

For the longest time I've been a fan of, working in, and following various attempts at Real World Location technologies. Whether Mobile Barcode Scanning (Nextcode, NeoMedia, Scanbuy and others), real 'things' picture analyzed (mobot, Pongr and others), there were many attempts at getting it right.
No doubt, with the current possibilities through image recognition technologies, a lot can be achieved.

The question, IMO, has always been one of two:
  • Who has enough power in the marketplace (exp. in the US) to bring together all the players, commercial and customers, to agree on one "Standard" or "Scanning Form" that translates from a real-world "Thing" to digital content, AND
  • Who has enough images and sufficient search, image recognition power to beef up an end-user acceptable performance
The answer, of course, is Google. For a long time I've been anticipating it, and now it's here: Google Goggles. Watch and enjoy. Good luck to all other players in this market, I think the market just got swept away from under your feet.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Tell A Friend", Mobile web version OR reverse mobile carrier lookup

One of the key components to enable word-of-mouth spreading of a good service, is the ability for one user to share the experience with their friend. Duh.
In mobile, how can you enable that? SMS your friend, Email your friend, Twitter, maybe others. Facebook connect has been anticipated for ages on mobile web, but they seem to like only iphone apps, for now.
Trying not to force a behavior change or forcing someone to type in a full email address on their phone, I was looking for a simple, and free way for users to "tell their friends" over SMS.
If you have a service that uses SMS, then you're working with an SMS aggregation, and, for the most part, they need to know the carrier as well as the phone number you're sending the SMS to. But, what if you don't know the carrier?? I mean, the user of the service may know the phone number of their friend, but is it realistic to expect them to know the carrier? No, it's not.
So, you turn to the aggregation and ask them about reverse carrier lookup.
News flash: On top of the $.03 the resulting SMS will cost, the lookup will be additional $.02-$.03 and some 2-3 digit monthly minimum. Right, the US carriers are starving and need to make more money.
Alright, Google search takes you into this terrific FREE White pages feature. You can reverse lookup mobile carriers by phone numbers, and, from my experiments, they have it right!
Next step: sign up for their API. But: the API returns completely different, incorrect results!

I asked their API people for their thoughts on this, and here's what I got back:
"The carrier information available through our free, developer API is the same information we display in our search results on WhitePages. So, in terms of search results for a reverse phone query, the information is the same. However, on WhitePages, we offer an exclusive “Mobile Carrier Lookup” feature. We do not plan on including the mobile carrier information available through the “Mobile Carrier Lookup” feature on WhitePages via the free, developer API."

I'm speechless. This is really valuable information that's available one place and not in the API. Easily fixable, but they don't seem to see the value. ugh.