Mobile contactless payments in Europe: reality beyond the NFC hype

Hardly a week goes by without a press article or conference reporting how ubiquitous mobile payment services and their adoption are in Japan. Forrester decided to put some figures on the so-called Japanese mass-market reality and to understand why Japan is the declared leader in mobile contactless payment services. What lessons can others learn from the Japanese market and to what extent do they apply to Europe?

There are several reasons why Japan is ahead of the curve among which the role of Felica Networks in the value chain and the scale merchants could benefit from (Sony and DoCoMo invested several dozens of million euros to make sure that retailers and points of sale had the technology to read the chipsets embedded in mobile devices), the loosening of Japan's financial regulations (making it possible for non-banks to become financial services players), operators' role in paving the way for mass market adoption of mobile Internet and higher usage of mobile services (fostering the natural expansion of mobile payments).

Despite this, reality is that the mobile contactless market in Japan is only reaching critical mass, not mass-market adoption. In Europe, conditions differ quite a lot and even if Near-Field Technology is likely to play a key role in the future, the technology is only entering the pre-commercial era.

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Why Spotify Needs an iPhone App to Get to Market

Spotify’s much anticipated iPhone app has been submitted to Apple for approval and certainly looks the part…in fact it almost looks too much the part.  This level of integration into the iPhone music playback experience may well be deemed by Apple to be too competitive to the core iPhone functionality. There is precedent, the Podcaster app was rejected, reportedly because it was too similar to iTunes functionality (it since developed a scaled back RSS Reader iPhone app).  The Spotify app certainly seems to mimic core iPhone music playback functionality (e.g. utilizing standard iPhone / iPod Touch playback controls) and would therefore be likely to compete with iPhone iTunes music playback. 

 

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Sicilian Musings

I'm currently on holiday in Taormina in Sicily for a couple of weeks and though I come here every year (my wife is Sicilian) I never cease to be amazed by just how different the profile of technology adoption is here compared to northern Europe. Just trying to get online over the last couple of weeks has been a case in point.

 

 I had a few pressing work tasks which I needed to do during my stay so I ensured I was well stocked up with credit on my USB modem.  Unfortunately the Italian network of my UK mobile operator didn’t seem to have read the script about discounted international data roaming fees and I managed to burn through 35 pounds of credit in 2 and a half days (which included 3 extended ‘help’ line calls – I use the term ‘help’ in the loosest possible sense - and getting a relative to buy more credit in the UK).  The fact that the download speed made a 56k modem look like Fiber just added to the pain.  Unlike my friends and family in northern Italy, the majority in Sicily don’t have home Internet connections so I have to resort to Internet cafés, the majority of which share one sub standard connection between a couple of dozen computers.  However this year I needed to connect my laptop directly and my normal Internet café of choice wouldn’t let me plug in my laptop directly.  Finally, I found one with Wi-Fi (just arrived this year) and got online.

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Polymer Vision: An eReader Manufacturer Bankrupt, No Surprise

A little birdie told me several weeks ago that Polymer Vision, maker of the "rollable" pocket-size Readius, would be filing for bankruptcy, and lo and behold, they did, as reported on July 15 by the Hampshire Chronicle, the local paper of Millbrook, England, where the company was based. The story has since been picked up by Engadget, and here's our two cents.

First, a bit of background: Royal Philips Electronics was one of the early investors in E Ink, which makes the displays for nearly all eReaders on the market today. Deciding that eReaders were not a core business focus, in 2005 Philips spun off iRex Technologies, a company that has since seen modest success with its B2B sales model for eReaders, and spun off Polymer Vision in 2006. Polymer Vision was planning to manufacture its own displays, and use an ODM in Asia for the device manufacturing, with the goal of dominating a new market for pocket-sized eReaders.

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