TW Reads: Mobile Payments

An excerpt from our reading list on the mobile payment industry.

As we’ve mentioned before, we’ve been involved in the mobile payment industry for quite a while. Since we’re keeping track of the most interesting things happening in the industry, we thought there is no reason why we shouldn’t be sharing some of the most interesting reads or announcements in this field with our readers.

Mobile Payment Today – Mobile wallets: will value actually drive adoption?

Despite the collective efforts of some of the largest companies in the world promoting their supposedly superior products, just 16% of mobile device owners have used their phone to make an in-store payment. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

In light of possible announcement by Apple next Tuesday, it’s prudent to analyze why the collective effort of so many companies across continents and nations left so much to be desired when it comes to building a significant mobile payment solution. In an unusual turn of events, Mobile Payment Today – being so often just a press release portal for a similarly named industry – provides exactly that: a poignant analysis.

Link: Mobile Payments Today

Re/Code – Here’s How Amazon Might Take Over Brick-and-Mortar Retail

Broadly, they said the world’s largest online retailer aims to make it easy for a wider array of brick-and-mortar shops to sell on Amazon while giving Amazon shoppers another way to receive orders on the same day they are purchased.

Nothing has stirred up the mobile payment industry quite as much in the recent weeks as Amazon’s announcement to dive deeper into payments. Not only did they release a device and service that is a direct competitor to Square, Paypal and many others, they’re also attempting to do what they always do: compete through a better price. The device is cheaper, the rates are lower. Especially the last part will make it hard for store owners to resist the Amazon offer.

But there seems to be more than that. Jason Del Rey over at Re/Code has been a keen observer of everything Amazon. It almost feels as if he is for Amazon what Kara Swisher for to Yahoo. Always watching, always acquiring a new source. His analysis concludes that not only is Amazon going after Paypal’s business, it is actually all a ploy to get many of those brick & mortar shops onto their platform, enable them to participate in the glorious experience of ecommerce and enhance Amazon’s ability to make same-day deliveries of every-day products. This, obviously, seems somewhat far-fetched and yet not at all unlikely considering the Bezosnian appetite.

Link: Re/Code

Eater – OpenTable testing mobile payments

Restaurant reservations website OpenTable has officially launched a new payment feature on its mobile app that works at over 45 restaurants in New York City.

While OpenTable isn’t a huge operation in Germany, some restaurants still use it. It feels more like a gimmick here. Mostly because the way restaurants operate here and in the US is so different.

In the US on the other hand, OpenTable is a huge thing and they charge a lot, too. It became so bad that many restaurant owners are comparing it to the Mafia and having to pay protection money to the mafia. Effectively, if you’re not on the platform, people are significantly less likely to visit the restaurant. On the other hand, if you’re using OpenTable, they are suffocating you with the cost of using the service.

In this light, you might not hear that many restaurant owners rejoicing after the announcement that OpenTable is experimenting with payment solutions. Especially if you consider that while there are many, many other services in this field, not many are as likely to succeed in it as OpenTable. If they do, restaurant owners will only have to transfer a bigger cut to the service.

Link: Eater

Work Note – Back in the writing business

A big update after a long pause.

Clever strategy to first announce a massive change in how we want to approach publishing and than just stop writing all together.

Please don’t do this at home. Or at work, for that matter.

There are both professional as well as personal reasons that led to this particular (non-)execution of a strategy that we still want to test in the field.

Professionally, we have experienced a peak in work load. Not utterly unexpected, but mixed with the fact that I became a dad (it’s a girl!) a tiny bit earlier than estimated, it led to an unprecedented reshuffling of priorities, in which family and direct client work have top priority.

Practically speaking, while I was enjoying and easing into a family routine, Johannes successfully managed to juggle all project at once. The understanding and flexibility that all of our partners and clients showed to a sudden change of pace reminded us how privileged we are to be able to work with those people.

Now that I’m back, we returning to an old routine and this post is an attempt to get back to writing. In that sense, here is a run down of things that we have been up to.

Publishing, publishing … and publishing

In various capacities, we maintain our focus on the publishing industry and keep a very close eye on industry news and developments. In that context, we couldn’t avoid the leaked New York Times report and Amazon’s very public confrontation both with Hachette as well as Warner Bros.

NYT Report

It’s a rare gift to get access to an internal strategy document from one of the leading brands in the publishing industry. There are a couple of findings that sprang to mind, but overall I’d have to agree with BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti that they are very hard on themselves and especially on their digital team and not hard enough on the print people. Considering especially the scope of things in Germany, where the pinnacle of news innovation seems to be a crowd funding project by journalists, the NYT performs beyond what most other media organizations can offer.

On a side note: it was reinforcing to see some of the findings and business model adjustment suggestions that we made for a client in Moscow last year in a similar form in the NYT report.

Amazon vs Hachette vs Bornier vs Warner

In a remarkably public way, Amazon and Hachette (they apply similar mechanics with Bornier and Warner) decided to show the world how much both sides don’t care for each other. The mechanics that Amazon applies have been document fairly publicly and – probably not to a big surprise – not quite in the market places favor.

Despite the assumed premise that Amazon does everything with the consumer in mind, they do not seem to back off in highlight of all the negative PR. In this context, the only thing that we can now hope for is for a leaked report on how much business they lose. If any.

Be it for the consumer or not, the consumer is the one that made it possible for Amazon to pull this off. The “everything store” has created a cross-industries pull effect of unprecedented proportions. They fell comfortable enough to not provide the customer with the exact thing that they want, because they know that the same customer will come back to buy something else from them anyway. A book or two more not sold isn’t going to make a behemoth of that size flinch. At this point, it would need a cross-industries collaboration to back Amazon into the corner they so deserve to be in.

Mobile Payments

As for years now, we are still constantly involved in various projects about mobile payment.

There is an unravelling happening in the industry. Starting with Square. A company that went quickly from being the darling example of all innovators to a disputed, cash-burning entity that apparently can neither find a buyer because of its overblown valuation nor does have the balance sheet that would make an IPO possible.

Despite all that, Square’s solution was regarded as the benchmark of the industry. It has to say something that this very solution is shelved now.

Mobile Wallets don’t catch on, because they are build in a way that mostly benefits the maker of the wallet, not the user. Many, if not most, mobile wallets are made by companies outside of the finance business. The play is to take away some of the power from the companies who are making a profit on cash and credit. Banks, credit card issuers, etc.

Problem is: for now, mobile wallets can’t be designed in a way that assumes that they are the only way to pay out there. Which they aren’t. Cash and plastic aren’t going to go extinct any time soon. I see a bright future for companies who succeed in building a mobile wallet as part of a larger ecosystem of payment methods. There is plenty of money in that too.

That’s basically what we have been exploring in the field. What might this look like? Where is the market for such a venture? Making feature lists, discussing business plans. This is an ongoing project, expect us to talk more about some of the insights.

With that, I’m signing off after a long update.

What we read this week (14 June)

Impending doom for high-frequency trading and ebook DRM, impressive advances in medical 3D printing, James and his drones, and conversations in preparation for the robot future.

Quote of the week

I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things.

Edward Snowden

Articles of the week

  • How the Robots Lost: High-Frequency Trading’s Rise and Fall
    Matthew Philips follows the story of HFTs from their inception to the present, from raking in piles of cash to fighting each other for tiny scraps of profit.
  • What Amazon’s ebook strategy means
    How Amazon’s clever strategy and wild success is revealing its unsustainability in the book market (and others), and why this means that DRM on ebooks must die.
  • Children of the Drone
    Vanity Fair’s portrait of James Bridle and a review of the New Aesthetic’s evolution in its first two years as a concept, covering various perspectives that have surfaced in that time on what this “found art movement (but, confusingly, not a movement of found art)” is.
  • One day it will be possible to 3D-print a human liver
    A look into the current and future uses of 3D printing in medicine. Though it isn’t yet possible to print organs, we are actually surprisingly far along when it comes to implementing 3D printing in this area. Examples of applications range from converting MRI scans of pregnant women’s wombs to produce models of the fetus, to replacing a jawbone with a printed titanium substitute.
  • Will robots boost middle class unemployment?
    “Dinnertime conversation starters” from a roboticist’s point of view to get us thinking about how robots change the traditional relationship between productivity and employment, and another warning that we need to think critically in order to protect the existence of a middle class.

What we read this week (8 Feb)

This week we read about Internet-centrism, questionable visions for education’s future, how music recommendation works, why Amazon wants its own currency, and how the way we buy things today is changing the way brands work.

Quote of the week

Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game.

Louis Gerstner

Articles of the week

  • New Republic: Up for Debate: Can Social Media Solve Real-World Problems?
    Evgeny Morozov and Steven Johnson battle it out over “Internet-centrism,” or whether the patterns in the way things work on the internet can be generalized to the rest of life. An intense debate, with some critical thoughts on the role and nature of the internet, as well as some fantastic name-calling.
  • The Awl: Venture Capital’s Massive, Terrible Idea For The Future Of College
    In this long and brilliant piece, Maria Bustillos gets to the core of what learning really is as she documents and contributes to the currently raging debates over MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and what exactly they can or cannot contribute to education. Also have a look at Clay Shirky’s reply.
  • Brian Whitman: How music recommendation works — and doesn’t work
    Brian Whitman of The Echo Nest goes into great detail on the complex subject of how good music recommendations are made, what these recommendations are good for, and where there is room for improvement in this field.
  • The Verge: Why Amazon wants its own currency
    Amazon has announced a new virtual currency, Amazon Coins, that will be an alternative to credit card payment in-app purchases for the Kindle Fire. Adrianne Jeffries questions the motives behind this move, explains how it will work, and concludes that the goal is “to shore up loyalty…and maybe avoid some taxes.”
  • Harvard Business Review: The Rise of the Unbrand
    On the trend of products that are less reliant on “brand”, and more reliant on quality, individualization and usefulness. But in the end, a brand without a logo/name is still a brand.

What we read this week (8 Jun)

The cutting edge of innovation, an ifttt for the physical world, using teamwork to manage your work-life balance in hyperconnected times, the story behind tech share prices and emotionally sensitive gadgetry.

Quotes of the week

The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us.

Piotr Czerski

Articles of the week

  • Fast Company: Does Your Phone Know How Happy You Are?
    As phones, TVs, GPSs and assorted other bits of ubiquitous technology become increasingly clever, their abilities approach the threshold of creepiness. Kit Eaton suggests some potential implications and benefits of gadgets that can sense how we’re feeling and act accordingly.
  • Monday Note: Decoding Share Prices: Amazon, Apple and Facebook
    Jean-Louis Gassé gets behind the stock market numbers associated with major tech companies, and explains what the share prices reflect in each company’s strategy and business model. An interesting insight into the financial workings of the tech industry.
  • New York Times: 32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow
    This colorful piece gives an overview of innovative technologies – some easy to imagine, some more adventurous – that could be arriving in the near future. Shirts that can charge your iPod using variations in your body temperature, new coffee, nicer flight conditions. A nice bit of brain fuel.
  • Inc.: How to stop sleeping with your smartphone
    Many of us suffer from a compulsion to check our interwebs constantly, and this can drive us to work when we really shouldn’t be working. This article looks at some research on the matter, and presents a way members of a team could help each other switch off properly.
  • TechCrunch: on{X}: The Coolest Thing to Happen to Android
    We here at Third Wave are big fans of a service called ifttt, or ‘If This Then That.’ It provides an easy interface for connecting various web services to each other – you could, for instance, take all the articles that pop up in your Google Reader feed and save them to Evernote. It’s very helpful that way. So, it comes without surprise that we are also very curious about a new service that Microsoft released for Android: on{x} seems to be very much like ifttt with one key difference: it’s for real life situations. We will be testing it for sure.

What we read this week (24 Feb)

Mike Arauz shares his thoughts and a nifty visualization on strategy, bots get rich trading like crazy on Amazon, Facebook is losing e-commerce, and there’s a new emerging job profile, the social media researcher. Enjoy!

Today, of course, we’ve got books and computers and smartphones to hold our memories for us. We’ve outsourced our memories to external devices. The result is that we no longer trust our memories. We see every small, forgotten thing as evidence that they’re failing us altogether.

Joshua Foer

We, the Web kids; we, who have grown up with the Internet and on the Internet, are a generation who meet the criteria for the term in a somewhat subversive way. We did not experience an impulse from reality, but rather a metamorphosis of the reality itself. What unites us is not a common, limited cultural context, but the belief that the context is self-defined and an effect of free choice.

Piotr “Pastebin” Czerski

  • Undercurrent – What is Strategy?
    Our good friend and occasional collaborator Mike Arauz wrote a great piece on the Undercurrent blog – nice infographic included. If there’s one company out there we really share an understanding with of what strategy is, it’s Undercurrent. Must read.
  • GOOD: Who Can Profit from Selling 1-Cent Boks on Amazon? Robots.
    “What do you call a thriving marketplace of robots buying nonexistent books from other robots for millions of dollars? Apparently, Amazon.com.” – Read a fascinating tail about the algorithms that “live inside Amazon”.
  • New Web Order – Facebook Is Losing E-Commerce
    When it comes to Facebook and what it’s capable of, there are always multiple views on what works and what doesn’t. This is an insightful analysis on why E-Commerce and its little brother Social Commerce might not work on Facebook as others say.
  • In the Future Everything Will Be A Coffee Shop
    Titles likes this obviously catch our attention. While the author starts with a rather US centric view on education, he goes on explaining how most of retail will be transformed and eventually become a coffee shop. It’s a bit of a stretch, but an interesting thought experiment nonetheless.
  • Facegroup: Emerging Roles Profile: The Social Media Researcher
    Out of all the job descriptions that contain something with Social Media in them, the Social Media Researcher emerges as one with the most interesting profile. Jess Owens from Face Group explains what its all about.

What we read (New Years Edition)

Welcome back. We hope, you had a great time off. Here’s a collection of articles we read through the break. Let them help you fire up your brain.

Welcome back. We hope, you had a great time off. Here’s a collection of articles we read through the break. Let them help you fire up your brain.

It’s not information overload, it’s information overconsumption that’s the problem.

Clay Johnson

  • WIRED: How Smartphones Are Changing Photography: The Numbers Are In
    No day goes by where we don’t snap a few shots with our camera phones. Yet, numbers on the overall role of smart phones in the world of photography were relatively rare. This just changed. Here are some solid statistics of “regular” cameras vs camera phones.
  • Tencent vs. Sina: The Fight for China’s Social Graph
    While Europe and the US are being dominated by Facebook and Twitter, in China it’s a completely different picture. In the land behind the Great Firewall, Tencent and Sina compete for the number one spot.
  • What It Looks Like Inside Amazon.com
    Ordering things on Amazon is easy. But what happens after we click on the button then sends our order to one of Amazon’s many servers? Here is a look into the inside.
  • Interview: Gabe Newell
    “In general, we think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem.” – Gabe Newell, Co-founder & CEO of Valve Entertainment, a gaming industry giant that not only developed some of the most successful games, but also is a pioneer in inventing new distribution models.
  • The year in mobile apps: Where we’ve been, where we’re going
    A brief, but nevertheless interesting wrap up about mobile apps in 2011. Attention: US centric.
  • Rediff.com Business: India needs to rethink notion of ‘smart cities’
    India (and China for that matter) are in the unique position of having to build many cities from scratch. With an ever increasing population that demands better living conditions, those countries are poised for this large scale projects. At the same time, the approach to ‘smart cities’ needs to be redefined. Technology should help the people who will be living in those cities.
  • The Spirit of Mega
    Back in 2004, Wired Magazine send out Bruce Sterling on a tour around the world to explore true ‘mega projects’. From the Eiffel tower, CERN and Shanghai, he managed to capture not only the largest accomplishments of humanity, but also the spirit that is required to build them. A fascinating, long read.
  • VICE: The Future of Pointless Things
    Julian Bleecker runs the Near Future Laboratory and he is one of the few people out there who can say that without it sounding a bit over the top. So when he gives an interview to the good people of VICE magazine, it’s obvious for us to read it. If you are interested in a healthy discussion about culture, technology, design, design fiction and reality in general, this is highly recommended.
  • GigaOm: Why Berlin is poised to be Europe’s new tech hub
    Om Malik reports back from his visit in Berlin and shares his analysis of Berlin as a startup hub. His findings aren’t terribly surprising (Berlin has lots of potential but the startup ecosystem is just beginning to bloom), yet it’s always interesting to learn a Silicon Valley veteran’s point of view about the city. Plus, plenty of our friends are featured, including our office mates Gidsy.
  • Mashable: Louis CK Earns $1 Million in 12 Days With $5 Video
    American comedian Louis CK released a holiday special: Exclusive video material of one of his gigs for $5 – no DRM or other copy protection, no marketing. Just a very simple deal. Pay 5 bucks, get a video. In 12 days he made USD 1m, cutting out his publishers completely. Point proven.
  • The age of emotions
    Tariq Krim, CEO of Jolicloud, talks about what he perceives to be the next age on the web: “The age of emotion is the third age of the Internet and marks a certain maturity in how we as application developers should serve the user and respect its inner emotional balance.”

What we read this week (7 Oct)

This week our picks for your weekend reading deal with Google and its competition, mobile marketing, Starbucks’ branding genius and a deep essay about the open web.

Our picks of the week for your weekend reading:

  • Monday Note: Google’s “Interesting” Week
    Google finds itself increasingly surrounded by companies who rival between each other, but also with Google itself. Mostly, because Google is extending its reach into different markets, especially with Android. Read the full article for an overview about Nokia, Samsung, Intel, Amazon and many more.
  • How Starbucks Transformed Coffee From A Commodity Into A $4 Splurge
    Although we’re not big fans of Starbucks coffee (too second wave), we can appreciate the branding work behind it. This interview with Stanley Hainsworth, creative director for brands like Nike, Lego, Starbucks and Gatorade, provides some refreshing thoughts about classic branding.
  • Study: Mobile advertising will generate $1.2B in 2011
    A new study from eMarketer predicts mobile advertising will generate $1.23 billion in the United States this year.
  • Adrian Short: the end of the web as we know it
    “The promise of the open web looks increasingly uncertain”: an excellent, in-depth essay about the meaning & necessity of the open web, and insisting on controlling our own infrastructure.

You can see all our reading recommendations (including the archives) at “What we read this week“.