Thursday, March 31, 2005

pwc ScoutPal Interview

Can you briefly describe what ScoutPal offers to consumers and corporations.

ScoutPal quickly and succinctly provides marketplace valuation data for all sorts of consumer merchandise, using any kind of wireless device. It is currently targeted specifically toward Amazon Marketplace sellers, who use it while they are out "bookscouting" for inventory. It currently provides valuation data under license from, and

ScoutPal provides a win-win-win for all: Amazon sellers win because they are able to optimize their inventory. Listing venues (Amazon, etc.) win because more sellers are able to stay profitable and list more and more merchandise of higher quality in their marketplaces. Consumer win because more merchandise is offered in the marketplace, giving them greater choice.

ScoutPal is online and available now to anyone with an Amazon Seller Nickname, even if they have only ever listed one book on Amazon. It only takes a few minutes to sign up for a free trial and start using it with your phone, PDA, or what have you.

The issue of barcode scanning is peripheral to ScoutPal. The ScoutPal system is all about delivering usable data to the customer, based on search terms that the customer provides. How the customer happens to input search terms for the lookup is a completely separate issue, completely outside of ScoutPal core technology. They may type it in, or use "graffiti" or some other character recognition on their PDA, or use a detachable keyboard for the device, or use a barcode scanner that provides "keyboard wedge" functionality at the system drive level. ("Keyboard wedge" scanner drivers provide barcode digits to any program, just as if the customer had typed the ISBN or UPC digits in manually.)

ScoutPal is 100% concerned with the application itself. If someone happens to have some kind of input device that can read barcodes, or divine some other kind of identifying mark for the merchandise, ScoutPal will accept it, no problem. ScoutPal doesn't have any kind of barcode-reading technology of its own, but it will interface with barcode reader drivers, just as any other program would. For example, the premium ScoutPalSE system uses the Java libraries as provided by the scanner manufacturer (Symbol) in order to receive digits from barcode scans.

If these other companies would produce a driver-level system that would provide the digits of a barcode to a WAP or HTML web page input field on a cell phone or PDA, nearly every cell phone user out there could be using these companies systems now with all kinds of websites and applications. I'm somewhat at a loss as to why they don't do this, I guess they want to "own" the space "end to end". But in my mind that kind of strategy just serves to limit the size of the space that they can play in.

What is the biggest obstacle your company and this industry is facing?

Cell phone companies should be embarrassed by their atrocious lack of customer support for questions regarding web browsing and similar advanced features of their devices. The typical cellular sales agent has absolutely no clue how to operate their phones, other than to make calls and add entries to the address book. Maybe if they are sharp they can bring up news weather and sports, take a picture, send an SMS, but that's about it. Their eyes typically glaze over if you ask them to show you how to bookmark a website, or the difference between WAP, HTML, packet data services for Java, etc. They are, however, very good at upselling you to a calling plan that you don't need.

As well, the front-line customer care people at nearly every cell company are absolutely clueless when it comes to helping the customer out with WAP web browsing, Java J2ME application installation, etc. Much of ScoutPal support time is actually spent providing support for cellular services. I'd like to find a way to bill that back to the carriers. :)

If there is an exception to this, it would be Nextel. Nextel is all about providing services for business customers, and they are very proactive about getting wireless data solutions to customers. As a result, much of their revenue comes from packet data service billings. There may be a lesson here to other carriers, as Nextel has consistently racked up real profits for many years.

Corporations or consumers, who are you catering your business to?

The typical ScoutPal is an individual who either moonlights or has actually left their daytime job to sell on Amazon full time. ScoutPal does have a few subscribers who are traditional "Brick and Mortar" store owners, but they are typically mom'n'pop type operations.

What is taking service providers so long to implement this?

No clue. :)

Has the search engine industry recognized how your product, and this new industry, will be the catalyst for mobile marketing? (i.e. Have any search engines contacted you about any business relationships?)


When do we see the ability to click on a barcode/2d code and purchase/retrieve info happening?

This is happening right now with ScoutPalSE, as well as with PDA's for which a barcode scanner is available.

Every company has at least one, what is your biggest fear.

That at some point providing ScoutPal services will not be fun for me anymore. Seriously. :)

If you could land one specific customer/client, who would it be?

I think that it would be great to partner with a savvy cell phone carrier, so that the system can be placed broadly in the consumer marketplace.

Does ScoutPal have an application that can read RFID tags?

If someone develops an RFID hardware/software system that can provide driver level input support to a web browser on a PDA or cell phone, then ScoutPal will have this ability. I'm fairly certain that this will emerge at some point as RFID gets standardized and gains acceptance.

If you had to sum up ScoutPal in one sentence, it would be.

ScoutPal is like a "Geiger counter" that displays the value of consumer merchandise on any wireless device.

pwc Nextcode Interview

Can you briefly describe what Nextcode offers to consumers and corporations?

Unlike traditional barcode scanning solutions, Nextcode is primarily focused on enabling consumer solutions. Nextcode provides consumers quicker access to mobile content, commerce and services by eliminating usability barriers such as keystrokes and cumbersome menus. Further, we help mobile content providers and carriers improve services, better merchandize content, expand their offerings and enhance customer satisfaction. We have offerings that enable any camera phone to use barcode scanning services so we can open up the market.

What is the biggest obstacle your company and this industry is facing?

The biggest challenge faced by the industry is overcoming the technical complexity involved in delivering scanning solutions to the wide variety of handsets available on the market. There is a great deal of difference in the way different phones operate when it comes to camera-based applications. Nextcode offers our solutions across any number of handsets and devices, but with each model, we face the challenge of making the technology compatible for all of them.

Nextcode achieves this because we have developed our technology from the ground up to be specifically for mobile phones and mobile services. This gives us the capability and flexibility to support a wide array of different handsets and platforms. A major factor that sets Nextcode apart from our competitors is that we recognize the reality of phone optics and imaging capabilities and we have built technology that does not require changes to optics or necessitate the use of special hardware.

Corporations or consumers, who are you catering your business to?

Nextcode offers business solutions, but our primary focus is on providing consumer applications of code scanning technology. Our goal is to enable any consumer with a camera phone to use barcode-scanning applications to access mobile content, commerce and services.

The reality of this goal, however, is that in order to provide these consumer solutions we must create technology that is easy to rollout, deploy and use. This also necessitates working across a wide array of phones. With business applications you could dictate a single optimized phone, or make changes to the camera or the optics to make it able to scan barcodes. But that approach won’t work for consumer applications. You need to work with what is going to be in consumers’ pockets and provide a superior user experience that makes them comfortable and gets them hooked.

Further, you need to understand the needs of brands and how they are going to want to communicate with consumers using barcodes.

What is taking service providers so long to implement this?

First of all, one needs to think about this regionally. We worked with operators in Japan several years ago to develop barcode scanning technology for camera phones. Services are now quite active over there today.

In the US, Europe, and other regions, camera phone sales have been initially slower but now are taking off like a rocket. While it might seem like service providers in the US and Europe are being slow to move, and some of the delays do make sense. First, there need to be enough camera phones in the market to make code scanning services viable. We now finally have that high level of penetration.

Second, the state of the camera phone technology in the past hasn’t been well suited to scanning. Nextcode has been working hard to develop unique technology that enables us to offer code scanning that works with any camera phone. We have been getting a great response and we expect much will be happening quite soon.

Has the search engine industry recognized how your product, and this new industry, will be the catalyst for mobile marketing? (ie. Have any search engines contacted you about any business relationships?)

We are talking with some search engine firms. But the two metaphors for information access are really quite different. Search is typically spontaneous and not based upon a physical code, rather one expects the user will key in their search. Search is also trying to find its appropriate place in the handset. Traditional search methods need to be recast for mobile to be appropriate to the constrained phone UI. Scanning can facilitate this.

The two services can be integrated but we see barcode scanning supporting a much wider array of services and types of firms than would fall into the “search” category. Barcode scanning presents more of a planned user experience. There will be lots of companies working with code scanning based offerings that will be unrelated to search engine services.

When do we see the ability to click on a barcode/2D code and purchase/retrieve info happening?

Barcode scanning applications are already being used today in Asia. Services in the US and Europe will roll out this year, and will become commonplace by 2006.

If you could land one specific customer/client, who would it be?

Nextcode is eager to see major media companies integrate code-scanning services into their offerings. A perfect partnership for Nextcode would be a firm like AOL Time Warner because they offer both print and interactive content and have huge media assets. If a company like that begins to actively promote code scanning, it will be a great facilitator in moving the industry forward.

Does Nextcode have an application that can read RFID tags?

There is a lot of confusion in the comparison of RFID tags and barcode scanning. While Nextcode is very supportive of RFID initiatives, the solutions provided by the tags are very different from those of barcode scanning.

We are very supportive of RFID. However, it addresses a different problem than what is intended for barcode scanning. Further, RFID applications are limited compared to barcodes. With barcodes, we can put unlimited numbers of codes into a publication. For example fully code-enable a catalog or newspaper with hundreds of codes, at no additional printing cost. With RFID you could only have a single tag embedded in a magazine. Plus, the widespread implementation of RFID into publications (even at target prices of 5-10 cents per tag) could be quite expensive when dealing with large volumes. Further points on the flexibility of barcodes are that they can be generated on screen, created dynamically, and produced by any printer.

If you had to sum up Nextcode in one sentence, it would be.

Nextcode provides barcode scanning solutions that enable a richer mobile experience for consumers by eliminating usability barriers, and allows companies a fast, easy way to offer customers content, commerce and services.

I had a chance to speak to NextCode's CEO Jim Levinger and get a much better handle on the obstacles this industry is facing. One issue right now is the ability for the cameraphone to "capture" the barcode. Most phones don't have the proper zoom capability and just zoom in a fuzzier barcode.

Nextcode works with the standard cell phone optics and requires no macro focus lens or other changes. This is a big hurdle cleared for implementation. Nextcode also has a high tolerance to defocus, lighting conditions, motion blur and other distortions.
I know if I take a picture with my Treo, half the battle is proper lighting.

Nextcode has their own 2D code called mCode. Nextcode's mCode technology is specifically designed to meet the needs of emerging mobile applications and mobile camera phone devices. Nextcode's technology lets codes be read with a wide range of cameras, processors, and optics in standard mobile phones.

NextCode has already created partnerships I found interesting Crisp Wireless , Musikube , and QPass .

I can see some great potential with these partners. I have talked about Musikube and their iCapture division before. The ability to identify music via print or sound through a cell phone could have huge opportunities.

Qpass is software that manages the entire digital supply chain over any network and any type of device. They already have more than 1000 content providers and integrators through Qpass software.

Crisp Wireless is a mobile content management that has already created some impressive campaigns.

It looks like Nextcode has a nice infrastructure in place once their platform is on the phone. That looks like the only obstacle for now

Encryption For SMS

From Sify Now, secure your SMS with XMS .

Pune: Mobile messaging is in. So is the hacking of these messages.

A Pune-based company has launched a secure messaging product called Xecure Messaging System (XMS) that provides an inbuilt safeguard against the misuse of messages sent through the Short Message Service (SMS).

With a number of service providers, especially banks and financial institutions, going that extra mile in giving good service to their customer through services like mobile banking, the need for a secure messaging service gains more importance.

A Pune-based company, Network Security Solutions (NSS)has now taken a step towards achieving this end by launching a secure messaging product.

The message can be securely encrypted and transmitted so that only the designated recipient of this message is able to open this message and understand what it contains, says Rajendra Dave, Chief Operating Officer of NSS.

The XMS system is presently compatible with GSM phones, but within three months even CDMA phones would be XMS compatible.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

SMS Player NeuStar Files To Go Public

This might give text messaging even more exposure in the States.

Short code player NeuStar .

NeuStar Files Securities and Exchange Commission Registration Statement

WASHINGTON, D.C. - NeuStar today announced that it has filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering of its common stock. The shares in the offering are being offered by certain stockholders of the company.

The official release .

Text messaging has been a phenomenon in Europe for years—and today, CSCs are driving the meteoric rise of mobile texting in America, increasing immediate interactivity and connectivity between businesses and consumers.

Put simply, CSCs are short strings of numbers to which text messages can be addressed—a common addressing scheme that works across all participating wireless networks. CSCs provide an easy way to deploy interactive mobile data applications including voting, polling, "text-and-win" contests, surveys, focus groups, direct marketing of products, live chat, games, and the like—and the possibilities are endless.

NeuStar was selected by the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) to operate the Common Short Code (CSC) Registry in October 2003.

NeuStar operates directories that manage telephone area codes and numbers, the filing said

NeuStar earned $35.6 million on revenue of $165.0 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2004 versus $14.4 million on revenue of $111.7 million in 2003, the filing said

The Sterling, Virginia-based company, which provides services that enable the proper routing of most phone calls in North America, has applied for a Nasdaq listing under the symbol "NSTR"

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

pwc OP3 Interview


Can you briefly describe what OP3 offers to consumers and corporations?

OP3 is a Dutch/Swedish innovative company specialized in simplifying mobile commerce. OP3’s shotcode technology connects cameraphone users to mobile webpages in two clicks or less, enabling enterprises to truly capitalize on the mobile Internet.

* Our service is easy to set up, without any start-up costs, and is based on a transparent, affordable and compelling pricing structure. The shotcode technology makes use of a unique ecstatically appealing and easy to use barcoding-system.

What is the biggest obstacle your company and this industry are facing?

* To get the application on as many cameraphones as possible.

Corporations or consumers, who are you catering your business to?

* We cater to both. Concerning consumers we provide the shotcode application for free. These consumers create an install base allowing enterprises to commercially exploit the shotcode system.

What is taking service providers so long to implement this?

* They have the luxury to wait and see what technology wins.

Has the search engine industry recognized how your product, and this new industry, will be the catalyst for mobile marketing? (ie. Have any search engine contacted you about any business relationships?)

* Ruud Smeets, the MD paid local search Europe for Yahoo! is a member of our board of advisors. Search engines are very aware of our technology and the impact it will have on the mobile market.

When do we see the ability to click on a barcode/2d code and purchase/retrieve info happening?

* In this quarter (I found this statement of interest)

Every company has at least one, what is your biggest fear.

* Pavarotti in a tutu…

If you could land one specific customer/client, who would it be?

* We don’t distinct between our clients in such a way.

Does OP3 have an application that can read RFID tags?

* No, all though RFID is a very promising technology we believe it will be quite some time before it gets relevant.

If you had to sum up OP3 in one sentence, it would be.

* A passionate team of highly driven professionals fully focused on providing our costumers with high quality, and profitable mobile solutions.

A major event I find very interesting is that OP3 just recently got the SpotCode platform from HighEnergyMagic . Customers reportedly using SpotCode include and Intel Research. SpotCode allows consumers to purchase tickets, etc from kiosks. the cameraphone uses Bluetooth technology.

SpotCode was mentioned in this N.Y. Times Article .

A quote "On these posters are symbols the researchers call SpotCodes: concentric rings of black-and-white blocks representing ones and zeros. Focusing your camera phone on the code and then clicking any button launches a wireless service -- for example, the ability to buy a train ticket, check an airplane's departure time or download a ring tone from a store display".

OP3 can read both barcodes and 2d codes. This is very powerful. Brands dont have to change their packaging if they already have a barcode on it. Small merchants can use a special 2d code created by OP3 if they don't have packaging with a barcode.

The 2d code allows an info retrieval for everyday use items (bus station, posters) and the barcode can provide interaction for brands.

The drawbacks are awareness and implementation. How do you get people to realize a 2d code on a bus stop sign is for schedule. How do you get the application on the phone to use.

I like OP3's ability to read both 2d and barcodes. This should open up some interesting markets. I think the recent SpotCode acquisition will open some nice doors for them.

I found one statement very interesting in this interview. OP3's is forecasting for this technology to happen this quarter.

Im Not Lovin It

I saw McDonald's annouce this and realized it was a great product placement idea. If Pringles can put their product right in a Survivor show, why can't McDonald's get music artists to place their brands in a rap song.

It would have to be rappers doing this because I don't see established artists pitching products in their songs.

Maybe Jimmy Buffet can do a remake and call it "Big Mac In Paradise".

The only concern I have about this is, will this brand influence on a song, reduce the quality of hip hop music? I bet Bill O'Reilly would have an opinion.

To read the story Big Mac to be Shouted Out by hip-hop artists .

The goal is to get your hip-hop song with as many McDonald's brands in it on the radio. The artist gets paid based on number of radio plays and brands inserted in song.

I have my own hip-hop song I am submitting.

"I'm Not Lovin It"

everyday i turn on the tv and somethin a miss
almost like a tartar sauce-less Filet-O-Fish

all last week up on da Hill
Big Mac getting questioned for popping a pill

there's schnidlers and schiavos with lil Terri in the middle
all this wud end if she could just eat a McGriddle

indonesia gets hits with another quake
tsunami relief efforts cud pass out vanilla triple thick shake

a divorce is coming for Jen and Brad Pitt
i thought they made a good match like a bacon-egg-cheese biscuit

americans living shorter lives because of too much fat
maybe it's because were saying YES to "would you like fries with that?"

michael jackson being tried in court and losing his bucks
his best sales pitch was jesus juice and a Grilled Chicken Deluxe

the pope had a traecheotomy after taken ill
do you think he's ever tasted a Chicken McGrill

scott peterson going to get what he's got coming
the meal of the day is him, not an Egg McMuffin

Kofi Annan and the UN to the United States are stickin it
where they eat youll never find a Chicken McNugget

Lord if youre listening. Im begging you please
make the world better, so I can eat more Quarter Pounders with Cheese

Trademark Owners Versus Google From N.Y. Times

I've talked about this so many times, I just thought it was nice to see a major news agency report about it now. I also analysts will have to start looking at the revenue growth picture a little different too.

From N.Y. Growing number of lawsuits could hurt Google's ad revenue .

PARIS, March 27 - Fabrice Dariot's travel agency, Bourse des Vols, boasts a terrace lined with potted plants and sweeping views of 17th-century apartments in the center of the city.

The compact fifth-floor office is an unlikely front line for a battle of words with the online search engine Google - or "Omnigoogle," as some French critics scornfully call the giant company.

Mr. Dariot, a mathematician turned Internet entrepreneur, is an even more unlikely standard-bearer for a series of proliferating lawsuits and legal disputes that challenge Google's sacrosanct business routines.

"Google is a giant, but they cannot dictate the law," said Mr. Dariot, 41, a chief executive in a casual sweater and denim who took on the international company with some inspiration, he said, from independent French icons like Joan of Arc who were not afraid to challenge authority.

This month, Mr. Dariot triumphed in his year-and-a-half-old lawsuit against Google's French subsidiary, which has been ordered to pay him $97,000 in fines and legal costs.

Dariot and his travel companies, Luteciel and Viaticum, successfully challenged Google's practice of selling Internet advertising from rivals designed to appear with Web searches for his trademarked Web site name, Bourse des Vols, which means flight exchange.

Keyword advertising, as it is known, is the main source of revenue for Google, which posted $3.19 billion in sales in 2004, largely through charges of a few cents each time a user clicks on an ad.

The growing number of lawsuits against Google around the world could diminish that advertising revenue by reducing the number of search words that could be sold to competitors - a threat to Google's business model that the company has acknowledged in regulatory filings.

Mr. Dariot's company is one of the first to win against Google; similar cases in the United States and Germany that challenged the search engine's use of keywords have failed.

But more companies are piling on. France is home to as many as 15 cases, according to lawyers involved.

Elsewhere, other companies are pressing Google with varying results on different legal points.

In today's Investor's Business Daily, the front page story is Search Firms Find Legal Tussles In Using Trademarked Keywords .

This issue is finally getting press.

The Cell Phone Gets Another Job

From Paying by cell phone on the way .

Cell phones have revolutionized the way we live. In addition to enabling us to stay in touch with family and friends while on the go, our mobile phones also play music, download sports scores, send text messages, receive GPS directions and snap photographs.

What's next? Soon your cell phone will very likely replace your wallet for making payments on the fly.

It's just part of the growing "contactless" or proximity payment movement. The stars have finally aligned among telecommunications service providers, credit card issuers, cell phone manufacturers, merchants and busy consumers to make such payment methods the next logical step to streamline everyday commerce.

Cellular carriers view payments as a way to boost user minutes and instill customer loyalty. For credit card issuers, cell phones offer a golden opportunity to cop a share of the lucrative cash payments market. Cell phone makers need new functionality to sell more units. Merchants speed up the payment cycle without expensive equipment changes. And busy consumers save time standing in line for their lunch or latte.

This year, McDonald's plans to expand its pilot with MasterCard's PayPass proximity payment program into a national rollout to its 13,500 quick-serve restaurants in the United States. Major drug store chain CVS is going national as well with American Express's ExpressPay contactless system at all 5,000 of its U.S. locations.

"This year, you're going to see lots of trials, both in contactless cards and cell phones," predicts Erik Michielsen, director of radio-frequency identification (RFID) and ubiquitous wireless research for ABI Research of Oyster Bay, N.Y. "You're going to see these companies really hammer the small-payments space for a while; they don't want to cannibalize their existing card business. We really see this taking off and gaining momentum in 2006 and full speed ahead in 2007 and 2008."

Flash instead of cash

Contactless payments rely on radio-frequency identification and near-field communications to carry account information from a chip embedded in a form factor (credit card, key-chain fob, cell phone, wristwatch, etc.) to a merchant's point-of-sale terminal. Once the two connect via wireless network, a credit or debit transaction can be completed within seconds.

No more fumbling for a credit card or cash, no more swiping a card and waiting for the green light, no more signing a receipt. Just flash your phone within inches of the merchant's receiver and you're outta there.

Cards won't disappear, of course; your phone, after all, won't fit in an ATM or be usable at nonwireless merchants. But don't be surprised if you receive a radio-frequency-enabled card, minicard or fob from your credit card company in the next two years. The thinking is that contactless cards will catch hold first, with cell phones to follow.

Americans have used proximity payments for several years, sometimes without knowing it. The most visible contactless payment systems enable commuters to whisk through tollbooths in the tri-state New York area, Florida, California, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. The most ubiquitous consumer program to date has been the ExxonMobil SpeedPass, which enables participants to gas up and go by waving their fob at the pump. You may even use an RFID card to gain entry to your office building.
The good news from the card issuer's perspective is that American merchants and consumers generally like what they've seen of contactless technology so far. There's none of the negative baggage or technical mumbo-jumbo that hampered, say, smart cards.

"Merchants lose money by having customers stand in line," says Sue Gordon-Lathrop, vice president of consumer products platforms for Visa International. "Waving your card or your phone really does speed things up. I watch people and, while the [smart card] chip is nice, how do you orient your card with the chip? Does it face me or the terminal? There's a fumble factor there. With magnetic stripes, how many times have you seen someone swipe their card and it didn't pick up the read? So there were a lot of merchant drivers toward faster consumer experience."

The card companies found another pleasant surprise during pilot testing: Contactless buyers spend more.

"Our studies show that the length of time for an ExpressPay transaction is less than both cash and credit card transactions, and customers using ExpressPay increase their average transaction size 20 to 30 percent compared to cash spending," according to American Express spokeswoman Judy Tenzer.

Ah, sweet words to the card companies and bank card issuers; they've been trying for years to figure a way to tap the lucrative small-payments space where busy Americans tend to spend cash instead of digging out their credit card. Discover card and other issuers even invested in mini-cards such as Discover2Go in an attempt to get that mag stripe out of your pocket and onto your key ring where you'll use it for small purchases.

Dialing for dollars

And what do we tend to have in our hands most often these days? You guessed it.
"When you start talking to people, they'll say, 'You know what? When I leave home, I may not have my wallet, but I do know I have my cell phone,'" says Gordon-Lathrop.
Oliver Steeley, vice president of wireless payment devices for MasterCard International, agrees.

"We did some research last year and consumers consistently tell us that the cell phone is the form factor that they are most interested in having PayPass in, in addition to their existing card," he says. "So we've been working for some time with cell phone manufacturers to make this happen."

Cell-phone manufacturers Nokia and Motorola have been working with the credit card companies to develop new wireless payment features. Steeley says Motorola plans to introduce a payment-enabled shell for its 3220 model this spring.

Several factors would seem to portend rapid adoption of contactless payment in the United States:
· It works with existing mag stripe payment infrastructure. Merchants can inexpensively add on a wireless receiver or upgrade to the new point-of-service terminals that are already integrating near-field communications. Consumers will simply have a broader choice of form factors with which to pay (under consideration: pens and even earrings).
· There are few security issues. Your device must touch or pass within a couple inches of the reader to complete a transaction. The process might even be more secure than your credit card.
· It's an open architecture. The card companies have agreed to standardize the protocols for radio-frequency identification in the payment arena (impress your geek friends: it's called ISO 14443), much as they did with the mag stripe. That means that one day, your phone, like your wallet, will contain a variety of credit accounts from which to choose; you won't need a separate handset for each card brand.

Just how all of this will work in your phone is still being worked out. In Visa's as-yet-unnamed contactless program, there would be no air minutes involved; you would power on your phone solely to enter a password or PIN number to initiate the transaction.

"We strongly recommend password protection so that, if I drop my phone, you can't pick it up and conduct payment," says Gordon-Lathrop. "This may be sacrilegious to the card world, but that is more secure than a card transaction because if I drop my card on the ground, you could go under the floor limit (buy less-expensive items that wouldn't flag the fraud prevention system) and still conduct payment."

Steeley says MasterCard has been exploring ways to integrate contactless payment with other cell phone functions in an effort to boost the business case for handset manufacturers to integrate near-field communications chips into their phones. Because this would enable the phone to operate as both an radio-frequency tag and a reader, it could be used for unlimited promotional opportunities.

For instance, in PayPass pilots with the Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens, your phone might access an embedded URL in a poster that would take you to a Web site where you could enter a contest for tickets.

"In the commercial model, banks don't buy cell phones, the carriers do. So there needs to be something in it for the cell phone carrier, otherwise why are they going to buy a more expensive handset that helps the banks but doesn't make them any money?" says Steeley.

Added plus for card issuers: They could load account information directly onto the handset.
"In the U.S. last year, MasterCard banks sent out around 60 million credit cards through the mail. You save 20 cents postage on that alone and that's about $12 million," Steeley adds.

Moving beyond the saturation point

Coincidentally, the three driving industries have all been struggling with the same issue: saturation.

Simply put, everyone has a credit card who wants one, everyone has a cell phone who wants one, and quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) and other fast-service businesses are moving as fast as they can with the present payment systems. Credit card issuers now look to cash spending, not other credit cards, as their chief competition. New functionality is the holy grail for cellular providers, and fast-moving merchants need a way to put more customers through the registers.

"If you take QSRs for example, 86 percent of those transactions are under $25 and the mean is about $12, and yet we probably get less than 10 percent of those transactions paid by card today," says Steeley. "If we can shift that from 10 to 20 percent, we will double our volume in a huge sector. And for McDonald's, even if all we do is shave two seconds of fumbling in the line per transaction, two seconds for somebody like McDonald's is a huge productivity improvement."

Bottom line: Ka-ching! Contactless payments are coming your way soon. Recharge your phone battery and prepare to pay.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

pwc SemaCode Interview

Semacode .

Can you briefly describe what SemaCode offers to consumers and

Sure, two words. Ubiquitous computing.

Seriously, this is an under-appreciated field. It's a lot like
hypertext back in the 80s. There were some serious visionaries who
messed around with hypertext. It was invented by Vannevar Bush, and
then Doug Englebart gave a great demo. But it was basically an academic
pursuit until the world wide web came along.

Ubicomp was invented by Mark Weiser in 1988. He envisioned computing
seamlessly blending into the environment until it faded into the
background. He called it calm computing. The idea is somewhat to say,
that software can incorporate the real world into its programming. So
the software is no longer trapped inside the PC or mainframe, but lives
out in the world. Once you get that you can build interaction modes
that frees people from the need to focus on a computer. Instead they
can focus on what they are doing, and the software fades into the

In practice, ubiquitous computing is an umbrella term that includes
location-based services, pervasive computing, mixed-reality gaming,
augmented reality, etc. Semacode is a platform, a sort of toolkit that
allows people to build all those things and more. We can build on these
sorts of existing applications, like knowing when the next bus is going
to arrive (LBS) or playing a treasure hunt game (mixed-reality gaming).
We can also do things on commodity cell phone hardware that previously
you needed expensive vertical barcoding systems to do.

Since we encode a standard URL into the barcode, our circle of
applications is far broader and reaches well beyond the shopping arena.
The URL barcode allows us to make general-purpose applications.

What is the biggest obstacle your company and this industry is

For ourselves, I think like any company we need to grow at the right
speed. Our technology relies on cell phone technology which is
improving rapidly. So we need to make sure that what we're working on
now, is going to satisfy our current customers who might be using a
client/server model, and will run on next years phones where a fat
client will be possible on mainstream phones.

With ubiquitous computing there are privacy issues. RFID tags can be
read remotely, so theoretically someone could scan you from a distance
and find out about an iPod in your bag, a nice watch... There's also
the issue about centralized control of the flow of information.

Semacode neatly avoids any of those issues with its decentralized

Corporations or consumers, who are you catering your business to?

Our customers are the people who will take our platform and build a
solution with it. At first, due to the costs of deploying the hardware
that is mostly companies and academics. In the long run, we aim to have
Semacode become so common that anyone can make something with it, much
the way people make weblogs and home pages today.

What is taking service providers so long to implement this?

I don't see a big delay.

Has the search engine industry recognized how your product , and
this new industry, will be the catalyst for mobile marketing? (ie.
Have any search engines contacted you about any business


When do we see the ability to click on a barcode/2d code and
purchase/retrieve info happening?

Well, it's already happening in Japan, where Amazon has got a system in

Every company has at least one, what is your biggest fear.

Well I wouldn't want to reveal our competitive secrets! Basically what
we worry most about is execution - how to operationally get from where
we are today, to a world where Semacode is common and we are
commercially successful.

If you could land one specific customer/client, who would it be?

Nokia would be nice.
Does SemaCode have an application that can read RFID tags?

RFID tag readers are hardware only. We do software.

If you had to sum up SemaCode in one sentence, it would be.

URL barcodes for ubiquitous computing.

I think this company and the app has some great potential. I see many opportunities to use this for. Bus stations, museums, small merchants, sales flyers are just some.

Put a Semacode on a bus station to get latest schedule. You could have them on all subways and bus stops. An artist could put one on painting description for more info.

A semacode provides the link to a web address on any physical object. Store owners can put one in their window or on their advertising flyers. Click on the code and be directed to the store’s site instead of typing in lengthy web address.

It looks like Semacode is more concerned with making this user friendly than an advertising vehicle (although it will be). Let the owner of the code determine what uses they can create for it. I like that and I think you will get some great creative ideas because of it.

I see this being a very user friendly application. It is for information that you will use daily. It is the concept of daily use and location specific that will be its greatest sales tool.

A semacode is the answer to “for more info”. As long as there’s a semacode attached, the user can look for more info on a specific item. The owner of the code can be in control of where user will go when the code gets clicked. They can change the targeted website whenever they want. Reuse the code for new promotion.

The problems I see are lack of brand/app awareness. "What is this funny thing and what do I do with it?"
A brand or phone manuf can come along and implement this. Maybe a city will start the ball rolling and make it a part of their entire transportation system.

The adoption will be driven by word of mouth and creative thinking. As with every new technology, if there's value for the user it will get adopted.

If I had to summarize, I would call SemaCode ‘The “for more info” mobile application company'.

More Virtual Amazon Showroom

I've talked about applications that make the physical world a virtual Amazon showroom, but this article does a pretty job explaining how.

I will be posting an interview with ScoutPal this coming week.

From Business 2.0 Mag. The Great Giveaway .

Amazon, eBay, and Google are opening up their billion-dollar data troves. Here's why they're doing it -- and how you can take advantage.

For the near term, the biggest benefit to Amazon of letting folks like Anderson and Vavrille tinker with its platform is that it gets experimental R&D for free. "We can try to build all the applications for sellers ourselves," Vermeulen says, "or we can build a platform and let others build them." Adds Bezos, "Right now we just want to get people to use the guts of Amazon in ways that surprise us."

For Amazon, there's some evidence to support that logic. Of the 65,000 people and companies that have signed up to use Amazon's free goodies, about a third have been tinkering with software tools that help Amazon's 800,000 or so active sellers.

One of the most clever is ScoutPal , a service that turns cell phones into mobile bar-code scanners. "It's like a Geiger counter for books," founder Dave Anderson says. He came up with the idea a couple of years ago when his wife, Barbara, who sells books on Amazon, would lug home 50 pounds of titles from garage sales, only to discover that she'd paid too much for many of them to make any money. Anderson wrote an application that works in tandem with an attachable bar-code scanner. Barbara either scans in books' bar codes or punches in their 10-digit ID numbers. Then she can pull down the latest Amazon prices for the books and calculate her likely profit margin -- before she pays for the inventory. Anderson says his wife's sales have since tripled to about $100,000 a year, and her profit margins have jumped from 50 percent to 85 percent. And he's now bringing in six figures too: ScoutPal has more than 1,000 subscribers, each paying $10 a month.

The Future Of The 30-Second Spot

From the NY The future of the 30 second spot .

I pulled out some relevant lines, to read the whole story click above.

The television commercial - a blunt instrument that often reaches as many disinterested people as desired ones - is beginning to behave like a smarter version of direct mail. Ads can be customized, not just by neighborhood, but ultimately by household and perhaps by viewing habits.

Marketers recognize the need to tailor their messages to different, more finely calibrated audiences.

Time is running out," said Eric Schmitt, senior analyst at Forrester Research and the author of a recent report called "What Next for TV Advertising?" "At some point, it's going to be impossible not to acknowledge that the medium is overvalued as an advertising vehicle."

But there is little evidence that product placement has bolstered sales. If anything, measuring its success is even more difficult than gauging that of a 30-second ad. And few companies can afford an entire season of "American Idol" the way Coca-Cola can.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Location Based Marketing

From Location based technology for advanced marketing .

Miami Beach, FL – March 24, 2005 – Orion Information Services (OIS) and Agito Systems ApS announced today that they will collaborate to create, track & promote mobile entertainment products and services geared to consumers at specific events and locations such as nightclubs, bars, special and sporting events among others.

Initially designed in Denmark, this exclusive technology is a marketer’s dream. It enables direct, guerilla, and mobile marketing in a single medium. The joint venture allows both partners to expand the content currently available and appeal to a new demographic: the early technology adopters. The end user benefits are significant and are provided at absolutely no cost.

Moreover, this venture will expand Orion’s trademarked flirting/dating service, SmartFlirts, into a new venue. The exclusive agreement allows both parties to cross promote products uniquely designed for such an advanced communication medium.

The technology performs as follows: A user will be provided a credit card size card that can be used at any location where the system is installed, free of charge. Once, the card is swiped and logged, the user’s location and basic, non-personal information is available through the network. This allows other participants to see, anonymously, where this user is and how long they have been there. Moreover, a marketer can then send a targeted SMS message such as a promotion of a specific brand of alcohol to all users at that location.

This technology enables 1-to-1 interactive marketing in a way none other can. For example, each individual opting in can participate in specific campaigns allowing for greater personalization. From a marketer’s point of view, it presents a perfect medium for direct marketing to a specific demographic. It helps eliminate wasted campaign advertising dollars and it is designed to maximize revenue.

Business And Consumers Interact Through SMS

From Businesses can now send text messages to their customer's cell phones .

SMS Media Group's web-based, system is a mobile CRM platform that creates, delivers, and reports on text message campaigns in real time.

(PRWEB) March 26, 2005 -- SMS Media Group (SMSMG) has launched a web-based service that businesses can use to send SMS (short message service) text messages, directly to their customer's cell phones. The user-friendly, service SMS Delivery is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Businesses can set up an account for a small activation fee, and then pay for the SMS messages they use. Using a strict double opt-in process to ensure privacy and anti-spamming, enables organizations to build an opt-in mobile database of customers wishing to receive communications on their cell phones. can broadcast messages based on the customer's demographic profile or personal preference for the type of information they wish to receive.

Companies must follow strict ethical guidelines when using SMS as a communications or marketing tool. The key ethics in SMS are: 1.) a user must opt-in to receive SMS; 2.) a business should only send the specific SMS content that a subscriber has signed up to receive; 3.) User's must be able to easily unsubscribe; 4.) Adopt a mobile privacy policy to protect the user's cell phone number.

Friday, March 25, 2005

pwc Mobot Interview


Can you briefly describe what Mobot offers to consumers and corporations?

Mobot gives consumers a fun and convenient method of interacting instantly with consumer brands no matter where they appear: magazine ads, logos, posters, product packaging, T-shirt, etc. Consumers use their camera phone to send a picture to Mobot and receive a multifaceted response.

For marketers, we are analogous to why the web is so attractive—interactivity. By offering interactivity from static visual media, we open the door to deepen a relationship with an interested consumer in real time.

Mobot does not require ANY changes to the visual – no short code digital watermarks, or barcodes of any kind. Mobot does not require any changes to the handset – no clip-on attachments, software downloads, or flash upgrades. Mobot works with all camera phones in the market today using the standard picture mail service.

What is the biggest obstacle your company and this industry is facing?

The mobile marketing and mobile content industry is nascent, so marketers and brands are just beginning to understand the power of this new medium and how best to harness it.

Corporations or consumers, who are you catering your business to?

Both. Consumers and marketers each see value in using Mobot.

The marketer can capture the consumer right at the moment they’re interested in something and send them back a response with content teasers, more information, links to buy, fun contests or promotions, etc.

Through Mobot programs, marketers are able to create ongoing, deeper relationships with consumers – creating closer ties to the brands they enjoy.

What is taking service providers so long to implement this?

Media organizations are already implementing Mobot. And Mobot is available today on all major U.S. carriers.

Jane Magazine used the Mobot technology in their September and December 2004 issues. They named the promotion JANE Talks Back. Any time a reader sent Mobot a picture of an ad, they got back a response. Many got free samples and giveaways, including jean jackets from Calvin Klein, mascara from Maybelline, free mp3’s from Absolut, an autographed poster of snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler from Oakley, a Samsung videophone, or a $50 donation to the nonprofit “Dress for Success” from Citibank. Response to the program overall was greater than 1% based on the circulation of the magazine.

This week Mobot also announced we are working with VIBE, VIBE VIXEN, and have signed a one year contract with Elle Girl, a Hachette Filipacchi publication.

With Vibe and Vibe Vixen each picture a consumer send in gives them a chance to win an iPod and they get follow up information about the advertiser as well including links to buy items, store locations more details about products, etc.

Has the search engine industry recognized how your product, and this new industry, will be the catalyst for mobile marketing? (ie. Have any search engines contacted you about any business relationships?)

We have talked with search engine companies. Mobot is pioneering mobile visual search so it makes sense to consider how internet search intersects with our vision.

When do we see the ability to click on a barcode/2d code and purchase/retrieve info happening?

Mobot does not require any barcodes. You send in a picture and get a response and it’s working now.

Every company has at least one, what is your biggest fear.

As a startup company, we are inherently (one could say: by definition) fearless with regard to the market, business, and technology challenges in front of us. That said, there are dozens of topics which keep us working into the wee hours.

If you could land one specific customer/client, who would it be?

The ideal client for us has two attributes:
1) They are a marketer and/or a mobile content provider with extremely high brand recognition. Mobot can unlock the value of their brand by making each one of their logos or ads out in the world work harder.
2) A desire on the part of that marketer to create a great consumer experience for mobile phone users.

Does Mobot have an application that can read RFID tags?


If you had to sum up Mobot in one sentence, it would be.

Point, Click and Connect -- Mobot is the first visual search and recognition technology solution that connects consumers to brands, products, and information on the mobile phone.

Some things I like with this is the broad range of ideas. To be able to click on any ad or picture of story in the magazine could offer enormous opportunities. Every ad now becomes a "for more info click on the ad" instead of the usual go to our address www. Every ad becomes indirectly interactive.

A few questions I have with this process. When I click on an Absolut ad and send the picture, who has my number now? Absolut or the marketing company? Can that party tell through location based services (LBS) where I am? I know they can tell by my phone number where my physical address is, but can they tell where I was when I sent that ad?

Where am I going with this? Well I'm walking down the street and see an ad for the new chocolate flavored vodka by Absolut, let's call it ChocoLut (hypothetical). Aboslut gets my request and sees I'm on 5th and 42nd. Could they alert a liquor store on that block I had interest and have them send me a text with a coupon?

Or could Absolut send a coupon via text and if I redeem at the liquor store next to the ad, they get rewarded?

I can see this service branching out to newspapers, billboards, inserts in your Sunday paper, any kind of brochure. I think of all those people at a Borders just skimming through the magazines and not buying them. If you allowed them to interact with the ads, they may just be more apt to buy it. But Mobot sure makes it easier to get info from the ad now, even if they dont buy it.

This could lead to an Electronic Post-It concept. Instead of ripping out the page in a magazine ad for the website, just click on the picture and the info will be sent for further review. Many times I see a great idea and jot dot down the site on a piece of scrap paper. Eliminate that by clicking on ad and having the site and info on your phone to review later.

The questions I have though are this. This really isn't a direct connect. It's a request for info through an image. Is there a way that you could click on an Absoluut bottle and be taken directly to their site? Eliminate one step of the process?

The problem I see is that the address to send to issue. This has to be either so well-known in advance or be eliminated. I can see someone taking a picture and then saying "what was the email address again?". Maybe the is how Mobot resolves the image. Make it as easy as possible for people to adopt.

I'm not sure how it works Is there this enormous database of images that matches the incoming picture. There would be so many variables involved with this.

I like it though. It can be an easily educated to consumers. "Just click on any ad in our magazine etc".

I did try the "Win an Ipod Shuffle" contest through Vibe magazine a few times. No registration or initial texts needed to be sent. Just click on any ad and send the pic to The response was fast after I sent the pic. I did't win the Ipod but I did spend 10 minutes with the Vibe magazine and I interacted with the advertiser, wasn't that the point of the contest?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Interactive For Sale Signs

Another way to interact with a physical world For Sale sign.

KeyTxt .

What are Smart Signs?

For Sale & To Let Boards that are always up-to-date and offer instant property information - 24/7.

Never again miss a sales opportunity because your office is closed, or your telephone lines are busy.
Benefits of Smart Signs

Smart Signs maximise your ability to convert street level interest into a sale or letting.
Use your Smart Signs to:
Satisfy public demand for instant information.

Provide up-to-date information - inform interested parties of Closing Dates, change a property from Offers Over to Fixed Price, notify when a property is Under Offer or has been Sold.

Help prospective buyers and tenants make a more informed choice before requesting particulars or a viewing – saving you and your client’s time and money on telephone calls and brochures.

Provide information during peak viewing periods at weekends and in the evening when your offices are closed.

Take advantage of the popularity and widespread usage of SMS text messaging.

Direct purchasers to the specific agent dealing with the property – freeing them from their desks and reducing routine enquiries to your office.

Provide a direct link to your website – maximising its value as a marketing tool.

Nice find

pwc ScanBuy Interview

Can you briefly describe what Scanbuy and Scanzoom offer to consumers and corporations.

In a nutshell, the unique working bridge between the real world and the Internet world.

Scanbuy’s technology is based on an extremely robust and protected barcode scanning software for camera phone. We want to link these two worlds because both brings a amazing user experience to consumers and businesses. You keep the touch and feel of the product from the retailer store and the benefits of the Internet for the information (price, comments, comparison, etc), everything you could not get from the retailer.

Scanbuy is the company, Optical Intelligence is the technology and ScanZoom is our brand for the consumer offer. We already offer a limited version of our mobile gateway to consumer through our dedicated web site ScanZoom .

OP3 is a partner representing Scanbuy’s technology in its region, focusing on integration of our technology in Fortune 1000 and mobile operators.
What makes us different is our past, our present and our future. We come from the applications development in the barcode scanning, we understand the camera phone decoding complexity and focus on a complete offering turnkey solution for all segments interested in this technology.

What is the biggest obstacle your company and this industry is facing?

Our knowledge is technology. We are a butch of geeks called Early Adopters tired to wait the day operators will understand the magic between this new generations of devices. Those new phones have an eye. They see what you see, what you want, what you desire. They can tell you in snap what is this product about. It is time it is happening. It is time mobile operators engaged in what we called the ScanCommerce industry and provide a real service to their consumers. Can you believe we still have to learn to type of this little keyboard to access a product online? Our biggest obstacle is TIME but we are getting there.

Corporations or consumers, who are you catering your business to?

We come from the B2B. We work with companies that want to provide a simple – stupid proof- application to their users. I don’t think a mobile phone is dedicated to a business or consumer anymore, it is everybody’s life. You have a wallet, you also have ALWAYS a phone with you. Out target market is everyone who could see a barcode around him… which means everyone!

What is taking service providers so long to implement this?

First, understanding the benefits of the technology. Second the complexity of the backend with a barcoded database. Third the consumer behaviors aspect. Fourth, the business model. It is new. We are like the early 90’s for the search engine. The business model is not clear for everyone yet but the need is there!

Has the search engine industry recognized how your product , and this new industry, will be the catalyst for mobile marketing? (ie. Have any search engines contacted you about any business relationships?)

Of course, it is a no-brainer for most search engines and comparison engines to link with our technology. I would refer to the 60 minutes about Google
Google 60 Minutes .

“And you take that device and you wand it over the product code, and you see comparison prices from Google of three other stores that are within a mile, OK? That’s power. That’s search. But no one has quite figured out that. That’s also the future.”
Linking the physical world to the Internet using what the most common link: the barcode!

When do we see the ability to click on a barcode/2d code and purchase/retrieve info happening?

An additional 2 years before it is common user experience. Million phones are already in production with our technology. By the time they will be on the market, you can count on 2 years with hundred of applications available.

Every company has at least one, what is your biggest fear.

Growing too fast. From 5 years of difficult time, I hope we will have time to solidify our offer and time to grow efficiently. Offers are there for acquisition. You don’t know Scanbuy yet. Let us take the time to make it a commodity on every phone before we become a little piece of a large group.

If you could land one specific customer/client, who would it be?

Nokia! This company is too big.

Does Scanbuy have an application that can read RFID tags?

We are linking today two worlds based on what is the most known codes in the world. You don’t need to explain a barcode to a Chinese, English or American consumers. You don’t need to translate it either. Today it is a barcode solution, tomorrow it will be based on EPC. Our research team already have a very interesting set of applications for those who wants to jump to the RFID but reality is when you start an RFID project, nowadays there is a high probability your project will end up based on barcode At least it is our experience in this domain today. Cost, implementation, etc

If you had to sum up Scanbuy in one sentence, it would be.

The world will become your showroom! Get ready!

Some of the pluses I see. It looks like the application is geared toward consumers. A new technology will get adopted faster if consumers want it, not if it is pushed on them. It’s available now to download. It seems like ScanBuy is geared toward the consumer with their app.

To understand why technologies take off faster with consumer demand versus corporate, I recommend reading Brand Hijack by Alex Wipperfurth.

More options have to be offered than price comparison though. A question I would like to know is that when I click on a barcode with ScanZoom do I only get a price comparison service, or what else can be offered.

All of these companies face a similar problem, getting the program on the phone. That’s the biggest hurdle I see for adoption. A new technology can’t get marketing buzz if people can’t “play” with it.

I like Olivier Attia’s comment about this technology being similar to the search engine in the 90’s. Initially search engines were neat sites, then advertisers realized the search engine would be their main platform for advertising. I see this pattern again w/ barcode recognition.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Search Engine Marketing Has Competition

From Growth in mobile marketing services competes with Internet marketing.

With the ever increasing number of mobile users and the variety of services available on the mobile, a new marketing tool has evolved in Jordan

'The mobile phone has opened new horizons for the business sector in Jordan,' said Fastlink Data Services Manager Ziad Masri on mobile marketing. He said many businesses have been able to cut down on their promotional expenses by using the mobile to advertise their services and products. Not only that, but mobile marketing has proved more effective, according to Masri, as it communicates quickly and directly with potential customers in addition to reaching targeted potential customers effectively.

Did you see that search engines?

This evolving medium of using the SMS to communicate promotional messages has inspired Fastlink to continue efforts towards develop some added value services, which allow customers to achieve the optimal benefit of the mobile's applications as well as to find ways to expand the advantages of the device to cover other sectors such as the business, social and health sectors in addition to entertainment.

'The mobile has surpassed its role as a basic communications device to a multi-purpose, multi-media tool,' he added.

Could it be the reason for this ?.

Physical World Connection Companies

To educate myself and others on the physical world connection space, I thought it would be a great idea to interview the companies in it. I requested email interviews with a number of companies I feel are relevant to this space.

One question that I am not including involves each company discussing the competition. I asked this question of each, and after reviewing the responses and some comments I received, I felt it would be wise to exclude from the interview.

I realize some of the players are in legal battles with each other and I didn't think it would be wise to include any comments to such.

The interviews are in the order in which I received their response.

I will also include some thoughts I have about each, hoping I can get more input from players in the field. If there are companies you feel should be included in this summary feel free to email me at vangorilla at aol dot com. The more extensive I can be with this, the better off the industry will be.

As always feel free to add comments to any of the interviews. The companies I interviewed are eager to get their story out and were very receptive to suggestions.

Hitch A Ride To Mobile Content

From Mobile Content : It's time to hitch a ride.

I have been putting off writing this column for months, but I think it is time to come out and say it. Now is the time to ready your content for cell phone delivery. What seemed like a pipe dream of mobile telcos a year ago—getting people to draw down data and entertainment through their cell phones—is now close to the proverbial tipping point, and it is time for any recognizable content brand to stake a claim on the mobile phone frontier.

"Swimsuit downloads to the phone are phenomenally successful," says Paul Fichtenbaum, editor of, which started selling its famous gallery of Sports Illustrated swimsuit model images as phone downloads for $2 each.

It is this highly personalized, expressive element to cell phones that makes them unique powerhouses of content sales. The ringtone market is already seeing how buyers crave the latest, and by this time next year, cell phones with hard drives will begin proliferating in the U.S. The (short text) message is: Publishers should start thinking of the phone as the next iPod and consider how their content fits in.

I say advertisers should imagine the cellphone screen as a TV set that consumers carry with them all day. It will be more personal to advertise to them, but theres only only channel. What kind of advertising campaign would you create to get their attention.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Amber Alerts Go Mobile

A great idea.

Largest Broadcaster of Amber Alerts Offers Free Service to Mobile Communication Devices

MANDEVILLE, La., March 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Code Amber (, the largest broadcaster of Amber Alerts nationwide has joined with Smart-Traveler Messenger ( to deliver state specific or nationwide notification of Amber Alerts to mobile devices. Starting today, anyone can sign up to receive Amber Alerts on those devices at The service is free.

Code Amber is the only Amber Alert distribution entity that delivers Amber Alert information directly to media from law enforcement in all 50 states and Canada. Code Amber's XML and RSS feeds have transmitted over 260 Amber Alerts to major broadcasters in two years with proven accuracy and reliability. CNN and FoxNews include links directly to Code Amber when reporting on Amber Alerts so that their viewers can see real time updates.

Forrester's CIO Gets It

Forrester's CIO/CTO George Orlov Sees It
From A CIO Conversation w/ Forrester's George Orlov.

George Orlov took over the role of CIO/CTO at Forrester Research in late December. He is in the unusual position of having to guarantee that the company's IT strategy reflects the advice and research the firm provides to its clients. In an interview with SearchCIO, Orlov discussed his 2005 priorities and his plans to stay connected with the business side of the house.

Colony has said that today's Internet is "dumb, boring and isolated." Have you been directed to set up systems for a better, more interactive Internet?

Orlov: I'm actively pursuing it [the X Internet]. A lot has to do with organic IT and organic business. Many other companies have the same vision, but just call it something else [instead of X Internet]. Basically, it's all about making technology more flexible and responsive to the business; costing less money and creating shorter cycle times to achieve the needs of the business.

This is definitely a journey - not a one-time event. One way to get us to that vision is to re-architect a solution. Much of the future Web will be driven by the extended Internet -- a connection of the physical world with the Web world.

Brand Abuse By Search Engines..How Can It be Fixed?

Great story from Search companies must consider the cost of brand abuse.

Search is the great success story of online advertising. It accounts for some 40% of online ad spend, which means that now more is spent on search than is spent on cinema advertising. Brands now realise not only that search is a powerful customer acquisition tool but that it's a vital part of a complete media strategy.

But this level of success is bringing its own problems. Or rather, it's bringing some of the existing problems into sharper relief. There have always been areas of questionable practice within search, from the early days of search engine optimisation to the misuse of brand names and keywords we report on our cover. The difference now is the level of importance placed on search and the amount of money spent on it.

I think you're going to find companies take a closer look at what they have spent for Internet advertising and the traffic/business that has been generated from it. In my opinion, they will realize it's not that effective and will be looking for a better way.

Brand protection online has always been problematic. The difficulties of tracking the use, or abuse, of a brand across millions of Web sites have given rise to all sorts of specialist services and companies. In the world of pay-per-click search, the problem is even more complex, as the relationships between a brand and its affiliates and dealers proliferate and as different companies take different approaches to the use of their brands online.

What if you take out the "per click" in pay per click.

This is the crux of the problem: who should police search as the stakes rise? There are three main candidates: the search companies, the brands and the agencies working for the brands. The PPC search companies' policy is generally to advise firms what is and isn't acceptable, but that's as far as they go, arguing that there are too many search entries for them to police, passing the responsibility back to the brands. If a company complains then about a misuse of its brand, the search engines will intervene. Or the courts will.

The question for the search engines now must be whether brands will continue to accept this approach, or start to put pressure on them to take responsibility for the use of brand names on their networks, with all the costs that implies.

The advertiser wants traffic to his site. The search engine wants to get paid for advertising on his site. The consumer wants relevant search results.

What if advertisers could direct traffic without a search engine?
Would they be interested?

Google Has Copyright Issues With The French

Kinda sorta type news. This is regarding a suit brought against Google for copyright infringement of news content. There has been a buzz lately over newspaper/magazines starting to charge for online content. The model of paid subscription has been proven to be inferior to the ad driven model.

My focus is on the trademark battle brewing with brands and search engines. A different argument that copyright, but much more influential to revenues for search engines.

There will be a platform that both search engines and content owners will agree on and it will give the control back to the content owners.

From The Industry Standard Google removing Agence France Presse from Google News.

It's a catch 22 I think. Yes Google stops using your feed, but don't you want the traffic associated with Google's dominance?

Google Inc. is in the process of removing French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) from its Google News service, which aggregates links to online articles and accompanying photos from about 4,500 news outlets.

Google's decision is a direct reaction to a lawsuit AFP filed against the search engine provider alleging copyright infringement over the inclusion of AFP content in Google News, said Steve Langdon, a Google spokesman, on Monday.

A Good Mobile Search

Another mobile search service I found and have been using is 4INfo. (44636).
To see more , heres their site 4INFO .

It seems to be faster than Google's SMS (46645) and it also comes as one text in return. If Google is going to gain traction with mobile search they have make it easier by sending only one complete text.

I found myself this weekend looking for a phone number to a local restaurant. I did a Google SMS , and they didn't have the number. So I did a Google search online and that was a pain. I ended up calling 411 spending the $1.25 for a local number. They connected me through to restaurant and the line was busy.

I had to recall (I was driving and didn't write the number down), spent another $1.25 for the same number.

How bad is this for mobile info?

Can't the Yellow Pages register a short code (YELLW) and do the same thing? After all you just want access to a yellow pages when you're mobile. Many of these little shops/restaurants don't have websites.

As soon as Google or Yahoo incorporates the local yellow pages into search, the days of Neuman delivering them are over. Their biz is toast. So instead of waiting to die, howabout reinventing your business.

Yellow Pages could completely dominate local search. Have the search engines thought of tapping into this database for an acquisition?

I still have a theory on what Google plans to do with all of the SMS searches, but what will 4INFO do?

Just some thoughts.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Next Frontier

Considering all the buzz about mobile marketing and texting lately, I thought it was worthy of a rehash.

From Reuters. Mobile Phone Users Double Since 2000.

The next space advertising hasn't touched....Yet.

GENEVA (Reuters) - Mobile phone subscribers around the globe totaled nearly 1.5 billion by the middle of this year, about one quarter of the world's population, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said on Thursday.

1.5 Billion eyes (well 3B really) advertisers now need to capture. 1.5 billion TV's to advertise on, 1.5 billions PC's.

The figure reflected a sharp surge in the mobile telephony business, especially in developing countries, over the first half of the decade, with subscribers doubling since 2000, according to the United Nations agency's annual report

The ITU said the growth in mobile phone subscribers had outpaced that for fixed lines, who totaled some 1.185 billion today against 1 billion at the start of the century, and was also outstripping the rate of increase in Internet users.

The growth in mobile phones is now faster than Internet users. So the lil 2x2 screen traffic is winning.

And by the middle of the year developing countries as a whole had overtaken rich nations to account for 56 percent of all mobile subscribers, while accounting for 79 percent of growth in the market since 2000.

The value of global mobile business reached $414 billion in revenues in 2003, a tenfold increase in the decade since 1993, while over the same period the overall telecommunications sector grew by an average of 8.8 per cent to reach $1.1 trillion.

By the end of this year, the report said, global revenues from mobile networks were likely to exceed those from fixed-line networks for the first time.

I guess you really can't call them Baby Bells anymore, more like the Broken Down Bells.

The ITU said the number of Internet users -- around 400 million in the year 2000 -- had grown to nearly 700 million by the middle of this year, slowing down after the rapid surge in the second half of the 1990s.

U.S.Online Ad spending is expected to reach $10 billion this yr.

How big will it be when advertisers realize the shift.

Google and search engines are the concept advertisers are placing their bets on for the Internet, but what/who will be the platform for advertising in the mobile space?

Microsoft Tries To One-Up Google And Yahoo

From USA Microsoft to launch paid search technology .

SEATTLE — Following the lead of Google and other online competitors, Microsoft plans to start selling sponsored links on its search Web pages.
Microsoft's move into this potentially lucrative area capitalizes on detailed demographic information the software company has gathered over the years, raising privacy concerns for some.

What most people fail to realize is that when they surf through the course of a normal day, they create more cookies on their computer than a Keebler factory.

Microsoft's paid search platform will provide detailed — but not personally identifiable — information, such as gender, age and location, for many people who use its search engine, allowing advertisers to target their ads to a specific audience.
So advertisers will be able to do a better job of catering to their potential customer?

Yusuf Mehdi, a corporate vice president with the MSN unit, said Microsoft has gathered this personal information by tracking users who have logged into its Hotmail e-mail program or other Microsoft Web sites, and then matching the data they provided with publicly known demographics, such as average income for a particular ZIP code.

The company uses computer addresses to track who's who, but Mehdi said it will not release names or other personally identifiable information.

For example, a car company could choose to have Microsoft display its sports car link when a man types in certain keywords, and a link to an SUV model when a woman uses the search criteria.

The only pitfall I see here is that an advertiser places an ad next to search query that is not relevant to the search. In this case you have abused the "trust" and are now just advertising based on demographics, not the search query.

Microsoft would then provide the company with detailed information about the demographics of the people who clicked on its ads.

Here's the troubling part, what does MSFT consider "detailed"?

Microsoft has made its name selling software, he said, and the new model of giving a product away and making money from advertising requires a steep learning curve.

Microsoft also has not yet done a good enough job of showing consumers why its MSN search engine is different enough from Google's and Yahoo's to warrant switching loyalties, he said.

There's an understatement.

"Microsoft is going to have to differentiate or MSN Search as a destination for consumers to come to," Garrity said.

Microsoft's paid search effort will be unveiled Wednesday at the company's annual MSN Strategic Account Summit, geared toward the online advertising industry.

I wonder if this trademark issue will be addressed. Advertisers are your bread and butter and you must accomodate them. There's a happy medium, do you want to know how?

At the same event last year, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer conceded that one of Microsoft's biggest missteps was not to use its in-house research and development staff to create a proprietary search engine earlier.

"That's probably the thing I feel worst about over the last few years — not making our own R&D investment," Ballmer said then.

Why not tackle the next big app for the Internet, local search. The advertising dollars will be endless and it can be your transtition to mobile search. There's an easy way to do it.

At this year's event on Microsoft's Redmond campus, speakers include Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Barry Diller, CEO of IAC/InterActive. But in a switch from previous years, Microsoft is not allowing journalists to attend the meeting.

I imagine the conversation between Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer went something like this. "Geez Steve, this year don't let any of Scoble's crazy blogger buddies in, we might actually get some constructive criticism"

People Magazine Goes Mobile

I was reading this week's People Magazine and noticed on the 3rd,4th page an advertisement for message alerts from People on your phone. I don't know if this is that new (not a regular People reader unless Jessica Simpson story is featured) but it is a great idea.

To get the hottest celebrity news to you phone text keyword ENTER to 72667 to join.

More details from People Magazine here.

The Butler Has A New Home

From IAC near deal to buy Ask Jeeves for $1.9B .

IAC/InterActiveCorp, the Internet company headed by Barry Diller, is close to an agreement to acquire Ask Jeeves Inc., the nation’s fourth-largest search engine company, for about $1.9 billion, according to an executive involved in the negotiations.

An announcement could be made as early as today.

A couple things I wonder about. This trademark issue is hanging over the search engines. That will change the valuations of search. We are also coming to a slower time for ad spending, why buy it now?

Second, if a company really wanted to be ahead of the curve, instead of chasing it, they should be looking at search for mobile. Where are the companies that think outside the box?

Mobile search is inevitable. There are more screens involved than PC's and the traffic on it will surpass PC's too shortly.

I am reminded by the scene in GoodWill Hunting when Matt Damon says to Robin Williams. "You professors are alike. You surround yourself with all of these fancy books, only problem is, they're the wrong books".

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Search Marketing To Slow By 2007

Trees don't grow to the sky, although the "street" seems to think so.

From NetImperative Search marketing growth to slow by 2007.

Search engine marketing in Europe is set to increase by 65% this year, with EU1.4bn being spent on sponsored links and site optimisation, according to new research. However, the growth may cool by 2007 as rich media ads begin to dominate the Internet marketing landscape.

Personally I think there's a killer app that comes along that allows brands to bypass search engines. That will have a biggest impact.

The study, entitled “Europe’s Search Engine Marketing Forecast, 2004–2010” from Forrester Research, forecast that by 2010, European marketers will spend almost EU3bn, up from EU856 million in 2004 on search marketing.

However, the research firm found that there are indications that search marketing growth will slow by 2007, as it will be very difficult for some companies to pay for the heavy prices of paid ads against a possible backlash of consumers and clients.

In addition, the rise of rich media ads, enabled by increased residential broadband access, will pull ad spending away from other forms of offline and online advertising, causing the cost of keyword search to increase.

The Voice Of The Trademark Grows Louder

From Brands threaten legal action as fear of search abuse grows.

This battle between brands and search engines is picking up steam as evidenced by the stories noting it daily now.

The UK search marketing industry may face a wave of trademark infringement cases as advertisers concerns about unethical behaviour on pay-per-click networks grow.

Hey Microsoft, do you want to know how to beat Google? .

Although networks such as Google, Overture and Espotting provide guidelines, there's currently no law that prevents companies from bidding on rival brand names.

As spend in search continues to rocket, brands are moving to protect themselves - as witnessed by recent news that top UK travel operators including Thomas Cook are taking steps to ban third parties from bidding on their brand names. Recent research by DoubleClick revealed that almost a fifth (18.1%) of Web searches are for specific brand names.

"We see this as a serious issue and have asked Google to stop companies that don't have any legitimate rights to use any of our brands from bidding on them," said Andrew Doe, head of ecommerce at Thomas Cook. "If it's not resolved, then we may have to take it a step further."

Google was unavailable to comment.

Research by new media design consultancy Nucleus, which specialises in the travel sector, reveals that over 50% of travel operators are victim to other firms bidding on their brand names.

The survey, to be published next week, used a sample of 158 tour operators. It reveals that in many cases companies are bidding on brand names but don't actually sell products for that brand.

It's not just the travel industry that's affected. Rhys Williams, associate director at MediaCom, said he's also seeing unethical behaviour in financial and other sectors, particularly where affiliates are concerned. He wants search companies to better police their networks.
"We have a number of clients that are starting to consult lawyers to get a view on what their legal position is," he said.

Karen Salomon, UK marketing and small business director at Overture, said, "We listen to people's concerns and can see why it's frustrating, but we're not in a position to monitor brands.

Search engines, there's a simple solution .

Friday, March 18, 2005

Google, Yahoo VS. Trademarks..A Battle Ahead

I have been commenting on the battle brewing between trademarks and search engines of late. The increasing suits against search engines that involve misuse of a particular TM or brand will create a major shift in the revenue structure for search engines.

My take is that by the time search engines coordinate a fair revenue sharing model, there will be a way TM/brands can bypass a search engine to advertise altogether.

I think there's an elephant in the room and nobody wants to address it, well I will. In my posts I have been curious as to how much revenue from search engines is derived from brands/trademarks, I got my answer from a Pondering Primate reader.

From a study done by NameProtect last Fall. The statistics are very astonishing.

Accoring to NameProtect's Study

NameProtect Inc.®, a digital brand protection and Internet intelligence company, today released the results of an analysis of paid search engine listings whichinclude textual advertisements within standard search engine results.

The results—which analyzed search listings at search engines Google®and Yahoo!®for the top global trademarks—revealed extensive third party advertising on these trademarked terms, with close to half of the paid listings promoting a good or service that was either competitive in nature or involved a potential unlicensed or counterfeit use of the trademark.
The analysis was conducted using NameProtect’s newly launched AdTracker monitoring service, which monitors paid search listings across multiple searchengines on a subscription basis.

Because search engine results are a key way in which consumers find products and services online,the findings of this new NameProtect study should serve as a strong wake up call for major brand holding companies,” said Mark McLane, chief executive officer of NameProtect. “This activity, if leftunchecked, could have a very large impact on the strength of the trademarks involved and the overall visibility these companies have with their customers in the online world.”

NameProtect analyzed search results at search leaders Google and Yahoo on the trademarked term associated with each of the Top 100 Brands during week of August 2, 2004.

Analysis of the 1056 paid listings included the following:• 92% of the Top 100 Brands have third parties buying their identical trademark for paid search advertisements •
There were an average of 10.56 paid listings included in the results for each of the Top 100 Brands •
98% of the paid listings included the Top 100 Brand in the text (title or description) of the advertisement

This last finding--involving extensive use of the trademark in the text of the third party paidlistings—is of particular note, as the use of the trademark in the actual advertisement is often a critical factor in determining whether the listing violates the trademark rights of the affected company.

These results should leave no doubt in the mind of brand holding companies that paid searchlistings are having a significant impact on their trademarks, revenues, and overall enterprise value,”indicated Mr. McLane

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Texting On The Rise

I don't know why I found myself laughing at this story. It's from a news agency that is clearly behind the curve when it comes to reporting and they are discussing the adoption of a new technology.

I wonder if they have even considered how to use it for their own benefit. Probably not.

(In my deeeeep voice) This is Texting on the rise in US.

NEW YORK (AP) -- A quarter of American adults who have cell phones have used the devices' text-messaging features within the past month, a new study finds.

Usage correlates with age: 63 percent of cell phone users ages 18-27 have used text messaging compared with 31 percent for ages 28-39 and 7 percent for those over 60.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project also found that 28 percent of people who text message have received unsolicited commercial messages that way.

Text messaging allows cell phone users to receive and send short messages to other cell phone users or e-mail recipients. Services also are available to receive news alerts and other information through text messaging.

Also known as SMS, for Short Message Service, "texting" is highly popular in Europe and Asia but only starting to catch on in the United States.

Pssst, hey CNN you want to get in touch with more people? Offer a SMS alert service for certain keywords or topics. How about an alert system for breaking news? Send me an SMS of a topic that I'm interested in. I don't watch your channel but I would be interested in this. FOX News should do the same.

The only problem with CNN and their timely email for breaking news is that I just got an alert that a barrel of oil hit $50.