Tuesday, May 17, 2011

“News near you” on Google News for mobile

Google News for mobile devices has added a “news near you” section that displays headlines related your device’s current location.
Its ease of use is impressive — just grant the site access to your device’s current location and it pulls up local headlines. While it goes further than any other mobile news aggregation site, it has flaws that leave room for another company or news organization to do better.
The “News near you” section on Google News for mobile.
More on that later, but first the key context on this feature and what Google is up to.
Google executive Eric Schmidt declared at the start of this year that the search giant would be all about preparing for the “mobile revolution.” All of its 2011 strategic initiatives focus on mobile, he said. “Between the geolocation capability of the phone and the power of the phone’s browser platform, it is possible to deliver personalized information about where you are, what you could do there right now, and so forth — and to deliver such a service at scale,” Schmidt wrote in the Harvard Business Review. Google is making mobile its first focus on all products.
Google News has had a local section on its website since 2008, but this new addition to the mobile version has precise location targeting. The desktop site places me in the Washington metro area, and shows me headlines from all over D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The mobile site detects my location specifically (and correctly) in Arlington, Va., and serves only very local news and features.
Now for the flaws, which leave room for a competitor to elbow into this mobile/local aggregation market.
First, the sources I see in my local feed from Google are not so diverse. Most of my headlines are from The Washington Post; a couple come from the Arlington Sun Gazette community newspaper. Google does, however, show me a couple posts from an active local news blog, ARLnow.com. There is room for either Google or a competitor to make a more comprehensive product.
The bigger problem for Google is that location is only one piece of the quest for the holy grail of online news: relevancy. So far, Google News is doing a good job of determining my location and aggregating stories that mention that location. But that’s where it ends, and that’s not good enough. What’s missing is the curation after the aggregation.
Two of the top five “local” stories Google News served me were either not really local or not really a story.
For example, the third story Google News showed me this morning was about the Armed Forces Network receiving broadcast journalism awards. A few of the award winners are here in Arlington, so it is a legitimately local story, but it’s not very relevant to me and certainly not among the top three things I want to read about my community today. The fifth headline in my Google News feed was a job listing for Lockheed Martin (based in Arlington, yes, but not news).
To create a market-dominating filter of local news, someone will need to curate the pool of aggregated news to match each reader’s interests, browsing history and social network activity, in addition to his or her location.
The killer app would be one that filters a breadth of local aggregation like Outside.in through a hyperpersonalized social filter sought by mobile services such as News.me and Trove combined with the personal browsing and search history of Google.
And even with all that, it remains to be seen whether automated filtering can entirely replace the role of a human editor in subjective news judgment. A human news editor would know a job posting is not a local news story no matter how many times it mentions your city’s name.
There remains an opportunity for media companies to be the dominant source of news aggregation and curation in their local markets, if they leverage their human touch and institutional knowledge as an advantage over Google and catch up on some of the technological systems. But many news organizations will first have to conquer reflexive fears about linking out and sending readers to other sites.
Your opinions are welcome here. Can a news organization curate better than Google’s engineering-based system? Will Google’s algorithms eventually be better than a human editor? Or will both approaches co-exist?   source

3G Hiccups

Walk into any mobile service provider's showroom and what you will see are the letters 3G everywhere. You will also be invited to see demos of ‘blazing' speeds. It is only when you go for a 3G connection that you start wondering whether you are just a guinea pig for the service provider.
Many of those who went for 3G services during the demo period got the advertised speeds. Only when the services went paid did the problems start.
One customer who suddenly found the speed drop to 30 kbps from over 3 Mbps was told to ‘enable 3G' again by sending an SMS ‘3G'. When he sent the SMS, he got the reply ‘3G services already enabled'. When he tried to recharge his account with a 3G pack, he was informed that the 2G Internet services were already on, and that he would have to disable it. He was told to send a ‘stop' request, which he promptly did and got a reply that the Internet services had been stopped. When he tried to recharge again, he got the message that the 3G pack could not be activated as he had over 2000 MB of data left in his account. To get the 3G services, he had to bring the unused data to below 50 MB. The ‘helpful' customer care lady asked him to keep downloading continuously so that the data came down below 50 MB. It would take weeks, the customer pleaded. There is no other alternative, was the reply from the customer care. The customer got fed up, threw away his card and got a new 3G enabled connection.
Another customer (with another operator) who got only 2G speeds was billed for 3G services. The 3G connectivity was also scrappy. The call centre was clueless about what she was being billed — for 3G or 2G. She got fed up and went back to 2G; at least the speed was consistent. When she tried to deactivate 3G, she got a message that 3G services were not active in her number. A call to the customer service department confirmed that 3G services were in fact, active.
Another operator attracts customers by advertising speeds of 7.2 MBPS. When a potential customer wanted to test the speed at the operator's demo zone, he was informed that the services were still not ‘stable' and that he would get speeds of only around 3 MBPS. The speed test revealed the real speed — it never crossed 2.2 MBPS!
This is the case with CDMA operators too. One operator who advertises 3G speeds in its USB modem had this excuse when the customer complained he was getting only around 1 MBPS against the advertised 3.1 MBPS. The customer service was surprised. “What? You get 1 MBPS? If you get speeds above 500 kbps, according to us, you are getting above average speeds.”
So, if you are ‘excited' about 3G, it's better to wait till the operators get a hang of their services! source

InMobi’s new mobile payments service to reach three billion users

By James Ratemo
InMobi, the world's largest independent mobile ad network, announced the launch of InMobi SmartPay™, a performance based global mobile payments solution.
InMobi SmartPay™ will enable app developers, game companies, and content providers in the US $200bn mobile content and virtual goods space to expand their business and monetize their users quickly and easily into new markets by providing a one-time, no-cost, single point of integration across multiple countries.
The solution offers consumers a seamless, pure mobile checkout experience using secure, direct to carrier billing to start, but expanding to all forms of mobile payment methods including credit cards, PayPal, and local mobile wallets by the end of 2011.
†The new solution already offers reach to over one billion consumers in seven countries, including the US, UK, Germany, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Malaysia, with huge growth plans to expand to over three billion consumers in 30 countries by the end of the year.
"Our mission is to connect businesses and developers to consumers around the world with innovative, best of breed mobile technology and services. InMobi SmartPay™ will help us with that journey and our evolution as a company to be a key technology enabler within the global mobile ecosystem, especially for the developer community," said Naveen Tewari, CEO of InMobi,
"Expanding to new markets is an extremely complex process today, especially for small developer teams sitting in a single geography. InMobi SmartPay™ exists to simplify the process through a single point of integration and management of all tax, legal, and customer support issues leveraging our in-market expertise. Even more importantly, we are an intelligent solution providing consumers with a low friction, secure purchase flow, and data-driven insights to help maximize conversion," said Piyush Shah, Vice President of InMobi SmartPay,
InMobi SmartPay™ is already active with numerous clients globally and is moving into private beta over the next 60 to 90 days before opening up the service to the entire market in Q3, 2011.
The launch of InMobi SmartPay™ is the first global offering of its kind in the mobile advertising market. It combines InMobi’s massive global ad network of nearly 32 billion ads monthly in 200 countries with a mobile payments solution, enhancing its core competitive advantage for clients by integrating actual purchasing behavior into its real-time ad-serving feedback loop. Tracking from ad to conversion is a major leap forward for developers and digital goods providers globally.
Major competitive advantages of the service include its ability to monetize three billion mobile consumers in 30 countries easily through mobile web and Android in-app billing by the end of 2011.
With the service also comes analytics tools that offer transaction performance insights that help clients maximize conversion in every country.
Apart from integration with the InMobi ad network providing post click performance optimization from ad impression to purchase. It also comes with secure and efficient technology that handles regulatory fraud, tax, currency, and settlements across all countries. source

Tablets in DEMAND

Last year, when Dow Jones tied up with Bharti Airtel to feature financial and business news from Wall Street Journal and its own wire services on mobile devices in India, the MD of Dow Jones India, Mitya New, showcased the content on the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab. This was surely indicative of things to come.The tablet PC is emerging as a must-have among the tech-savvy in India. However, tablet users in India till very recently had very little choice - they could either buy an Apple iPad or the Android-driven Samsung Galaxy Tab. There is the Olive tablet too since October last year, but apart from its pricing, it has failed to create an impact.
Last week, the tablet options doubled with the launch of Acer India's Iconia Tab A500, an Andriod-based 10.1-inch gadget, and the Windows 7-based Iconic Tab W500 in the same size. The A500 works on Google's Android Honeycomb 3.0 platform, the first tablet with Honeycomb 3.0 in India.

Several players are just waiting in the wings to launch their own tablets. "We can expect multiple launches in July-August so that the tablets are on the shelves by September. Lenovo's LePad, BlackBerry's Playbook, HP's Palm tablet and Cisco CIUS are expected to hit India in the coming months," said Sumanta Mukherjee, lead analyst for PC products, Cybermedia Research.
Samsung has announced two more tablets and Acer has lined up a dual touchscreen notebook for later this year.
There are no official figures for the number of tablet users in India as it is a very nascent market. However, the current market leader is the iPad, according to market watchers, despite its late official launch in India in March 2010. According to sources, iPad2 shipped 20,000 pieces for its India launch on April 29, which sold out within 72 hours. The current waiting period for an iPad2 is about 21 days.
There is the likelihood of local Indian mobile phone makers such as Micromax coming out with their own tablet soon. Also, there is talk of Reliance Infotel, which has bagged a 3G licence, coming up with its own branded tablet, Mukherjee added.
The market is niche and only a small percentage of Indians are likely to buy a tablet if they already have a mobile phone and a laptop or PC, said Rajiv Makhni, managing editor (technology), NDTV. "The tablet market will get very interesting the minute a company has the foresight to launch a tablet priced under Rs 15,000. If that happens, it will penetrate the masses and the tablet will become the new all-in-one entertainment and communication station."
Sandip Biswas, director, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, said, "We should not be surprised if, in two years' time, Android-based tablets priced below Rs 10,000 emerge. Anyway, the tablets will need to come below Rs 20,000 in order to address larger consumer numbers. People are already working on that in the Far East and Asian markets."
Tablet-makers are optimistic. "Across India, the response for the Tab has been huge and Samsung is already targeting a 50% share of the Indian tablet market this year," said Ranjit Yadav, Samsung's country head for mobile and IT.
"With consumers getting more technologically aware and willing to experiment with new gadgets, we are confident that tablet PCs will capture a significant share in the market, which will focus on early adopters and tech-savvy users who want to experience more content on the move," said S. Rajendran, chief marketing office, Acer India.
"Tablets are aimed at a new and emerging consumer demand that is poised to grow phenomenally. Consumers have already started to explore the tablet's limitless potential," said Vishal Dhupar, MD, Asia South, NVIDIA, a computing technologies firm that has partnered with Motorola, Samsung, Acer, LG and Asus for their tablets.
"As our professional and personal lives get more intertwined, consumers will increasingly look for a device that can cater to both professional and leisure needs. With the growing availability of high-speed mobile and wi-fi networks, mobile devices will also be used for performance-intensive tasks handled so far by traditional PCs."

"We believe that tablets will end up being an awesome content consumption device as people have mobile lives and expect to see and share content in real time. An improving global economic situation is likely t find customer spends increasing on aspirational products. With more useful and interactive content, the demand for handheld devices has already started to pick up. Tablets have started to find usages inside corporates, hotels, education and healthcare. This will further consolidate the tablet's position as a specific category and not as a replacement to netbook or a notebook," said Jagdeep Kochar, VP & business head, EBS Worldwide.
Deloitte's Biswas said, "Enterprise usage - medical representatives, sales and retail service personnel are all potential users of tablets. Even payments on delivery can be effected on tablets."
In terms of relative usage, Biswas said, "People will continue to use mobile phones for its primary voice utility; the tablet will become the mobile PC device and laptops/notebooks will sit on table tops in offices or homes. The desktop PC's days are over."
By March 2013, Deloitte expects that worldwide, 35% of the overall tablet PC base of around 100 million units will be delivered by iPhones, 40% by Android-based tablets, 15% by Windows-based tablets and the remaining by other technologie. source