Tag Archives: Square

New Square Reader Arrives

Square introduced a new, thinner mobile payment reader this month. Mine arrived today. It’s a more sleek design but retains the same look Square’s known for.

square-logo-blackSquare is a mobile payment company founded in 2010 by Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey. Dorsey is also co-founder at social network and microblogging platform Twitter.

Square Register allows merchants to accept credit and debit card payments on iOS and Android mobile devices. The Square Wallet app enables users to pay for merchandise, sans card, at Square-equipped merchants.

In 2012, Starbucks partnered with Square to bring the service to more than 7,000 Starbucks locations nationwide.

Image Credit: Square Inc.

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5 Tech Predictions for 2013

5. Second Screen takes off – The second screen takes on the big screen.

The second screen is taking over. Users are splitting their time between the main screen and a second screen  companion devices and apps. For live shows, users turn to Twitter. For movies and streaming content, users stick to GetGlue to check-in and provide live commentary. (If you’re into streaming video like Netflix and Hulu Plus, you’ll want to check out GetGlue.) In November, GetGlue was acquired by TV-loyalty service Viggle for $25 million in cash and 48 million shares.AirPlay-like devices also allow users to stream media from a tablet or smartphone wirelessly to a television set. It opens up content from apps or the web and makes it playable on a user’s TV. Apple AirPlay on Apple TV is one of the first and best. More are on the way in 2013.
4. Facebook loses market share– due in large part to audience fragmentation.Facebook has an enormous lead when it comes to audience share among social networks because it’s always one step ahead of the competition. The same changes that infuriate some users are the ones that keep others wanting more. MySpace lost users because it was stagnant. Facebook doesn’t want to suffer the same fate.
But users will begin to explore other options in 2013, including LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Path and others, all of which have adopted the “Newsfeed” layout. Users will spend more time on these sites, which means less time spent on Facebook. Foursquare, for example, has de-emphasized its leaderboard and put more focus on the newsfeed and its “Explore” feature. 

3. Mobile Payments become mainstream –  Square launched in 7,000 Starbucks coffee houses in November of 2012. Today, Square is processing $10 billion in annual mobile payments. In 2013 mobile payments will become mainstream.

Joining Square in the mobile payment race are competitors Google Wallet, PayPal, Intuit, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, VeriFone, among others.

2. Free city-wide Internet – Public Wi-Fi gets closer to the streets in 2013. Already available at many restaurants and stores, more hotspots are on the way. 

But more than just hotspots: Google has been working on a city-wide Wi-Fi network for some time, with the first attempt around 2007. It’s Google Fiber project seems to have taken the spotlight, as the company rolled out the high-speed broadband network in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2012. 

I feel like now is the time to break some ground on city-wide Wi-Fi. 

The Tel Aviv municipality announced in December of 2012 that it would be deploying a city-wide Wi-Fi network in Israel, headed by Motorola Solutions, that includes 80 relay stations for free wireless access. Watch for a similar service to hit the United States in 2013.

1. Big Netflix Competitor– I predicted it for 2012. Redbox Instant by Verizon launched in Beta in December of 2012. Could it be the Next Netflix? Others are rumored to be teaming up for a service. Amazon Instant Video is gaining steam, though is part of a much larger plan for Amazon. It will take a lot of financial backing which is why we’ll likely see businesses teaming up on this one. Hulu is handcuffed by its owners (Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Disney and News Corp.).
Whether it’s Redbox and Verizon, Amazon or another new service, watch for it to take off in 2013. 

5 tech predictions for 2012

Read last year’s 5 Tech Predictions here.

Tech companies battling for customers

This is a great time to be a consumer. Companies are battling to release the next greatest advancement in technology — whether it’s NFC, Cloud Storage, Streaming Video or even Social Networking — and the consumers are ready and waiting. The instant a company releases a new product or service, the competition follows suit.

And that makes today’s consumer more connected than ever.

Brand extensions are to blame for much of the competition in technology today. Foursquare brings about Facebook Places. Skype leads to Google Hangouts. Square brings mobile payment to the forefront, with PayPal and Google following closely behind. Facebook (and MySpace before that) brought the rise of the social network; Google is now employing a brand extension with Google+.

A Brand Extension is when a company known for a particular good/service attempts to extend its services to another business category beyond its initial range.

Now, the current landscape:

Social Networking

Facebook vs. Google+

Facebook has been king of the social networking world since it overtook MySpace in 2008. MySpace was recently sold to Specific Media and entertainment artist Justin Timberlake. It’s future is still uncertain.

In the limited beta release of Google+, Google goes head to head with Facebook. A similar scenario to its battle with MySpace, only Google+ seems better equipped.

Google+ invites are on the streets as the company seems to be opening up its social network to more users. It’s limited beta at first offered only short windows for invites from current users. The service already is reported to have users in the millions, after a little more than one week on the market. Facebook, meanwhile, recently confirmed it has acquired 750 million users.

Mobile Payment

Square vs. Google vs. Paypal

Mobile payments are a hot topic, and the most popular service is likely Square, which hit $1 million in processed payments after less than a year in business. Square was launched by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey in May of 2010.

Square allows users — whether it’s for personal or businesses use — to accept credit card payments using a smartphone and Square’s free mobile payment device, through which users swipe their actual plastic cards. (Square does not use NFC technology.)

Google unveiled its Google Wallet offering, a partnership with Citi, MasterCard, First Data, and Sprint. Google Wallet is an Android app that makes your phone your wallet. It accomplishes this by storing virtual versions of your plastic cards on your smartphone.

Using Near-Field Technology (NFC), users will be able to pay via their Google-Wallet equipped smartphones simply by tapping the phone on a checkout reader, available at many merchant locations.

And most recently, PayPal bolstered its mobile offering on July 7 with the $240 million acquisition of mobile-payment service Zong.

Zong partners with hundreds of mobile phone carriers around the world and allows users to enter their mobile phone number to make purchases. The charges are then applied to the user’s monthly mobile-phone bill.

Zong was eBay’s second mobile acquisition. The first was Fig Card, a Square-like device that allows users to accept payments with credit cards by swiping them through Fig’s USB-powered reader.

Check-ins

Foursquare vs. Facebook

Location-based applications allow users to ‘check-in’ via smartphone and share their location with other users of the service or other social networks. Users are able to see who else is checked in at a given location (from all users) or friends in nearby locations. By checking in, users receive points and/or badges and can unlock certain specials determined by the retailer.

The most publicized of these location-based apps is Foursquare. Today, there are a reported 8 million Foursquare users, up from just one million a year ago.

With the introduction of Facebook Places and other location-based services like Whrrl, which was acquired by daily deals service Groupon in mid-April, companies are copying Foursquare’s model. And vice versa, as evidenced by Foursquare’s recent inclusion and emphasis on its Yelp-like service directory Explore. Brand extensions are on display everywhere we look.

In June, Fast Company took a closer look at Foursquare vs. Facebook Places.

Video Inside Social Networking

Google vs. Facebook

With Google+, the company introduced Hangouts, a video-calling service. One week later, Facebook announced a partnership with Skype, allowing users to make video calls over the social network.

Facebook Video Calling will feature one-on-one video calls to your friends, a stripped-down version of Skype from what I understand. (Note: that’s not me in the screenshot; it’s a Facebook promo screen.)

The biggest advantage with Facebook Video Calling has when compared to Skype is that users don’t have to sign-up and login to Skype to chat; they simply do so through Facebook.

Google+ Hangouts allows group video chats with up to 10 participants, a sort of live chat room among your friends.

When Google+ Hangouts feature is launched, you can choose whom to invite in the video chat or simply alert all friends (or any other Circle) that you’re hanging out. And then wait for someone, among the Circle you’ve selected, to respond. (Note: that is me in the screenshot below, chatting with no one.)

As you can see at the bottom of the chat window (above), YouTube is also accessible via Hangouts.

I haven’t really discovered how YouTube can be used inside Hangouts. But I did watch Cake’s The Distance. I guess if my friends were on there we could have all watched it together…and then checked all of our reactions?

Google+ Hangouts and YouTube might be useful for work-related presentations. This service encroaches on GoToMeeting‘s territory. Now I’ve just got to find some people who want to have a meeting about Cake.

Cloud Storage

Amazon vs. Apple

On the Cloud, users can store music, videos, photos, and documents, which are then accessible from any computer or device with an internet connection and access to the cloud.

Amazon starts users off with a free 5GB of storage space. The 5GB of free space is about enough space, Amazon says, to store 1,000 songs. This first tier is free and you’ll never be charged for it. If a user purchases a digital album from Amazon’s mp3 store (amazon.com), it’ll upgrade your 5GB of free storage to 20GB. Other pricing/storage options for the Amazon Cloud range from 20GB to 1,000GB of space.

Apple iCloud operates in the same way as the Amazon Cloud Player, with iTunes integrated into iCloud. Everything purchased on iTunes is automatically accessible on the iCloud, in addition to other apps, photos, books and documents.

Streaming Music

Some companies like Amazon and Apple have tied their digital music services directly to Cloud Storage. Others like Slacker and Pandora are offering a more entertainment-centered approach.

Pandora makes things easy for listeners: subscription free and on nearly every device you own.

Pandora got its start on the computer. But the company is making even bigger leaps away from its traditional home on the PC; Pandora is now available on smartphones, tablets, televisions and a select number of automobiles.

According to a published report from Advertising Age, more than 50 percent of Pandora listening accomplished on devices other than the PC.

Slacker, however, is beginning to outshine Pandora in both integration and subscription options. Slacker offers three ways to listen. The first tier, like Pandora, is free of charge (but with ads) and allows users to create a custom station based on a particular band or song. The second is a paid subscription plan that provides unlimited song skips and is ad-free; Slacker Radio Plus is $3.99 per month.

Slacker also has a partnership with ABC News, with news breaks at the top of each hour for subscribers of either Slacker Plus or Slacker Premium Radio.

Slacker’s newest subscription is called Slacker Premium Radio. At $9.99 per month, this service includes everything available in Slacker Radio Plus as well as on-demand music, allowing listeners to search for and play songs on-demand, or songs from a particular artist. Slacker Premium Radio encroaches on MOG’s and Rdio’s territory — a brand-extension of sorts — by offering on-demand music.

It’s an exciting time for both consumers and businesses. Each service is experiencing tremendous competition — which only fuels innovation — as companies vie for the consumers’ time, interest and money.

The customers ultimately decide which products succeed and which ones flop. Therefore the success of these businesses relies much on us, the consumers, and in our experiences with these products and brands and how seamlessly we can integrate them into our lives.

The best technology becomes second-nature, like a brand extension of ourselves.

Source: PC Magazine, cbsradio.com, siriusxm.com, pandora.com, slacker.com, usatoday.com, cnet.com, radioink.com, Ando Media, Mashable.com, Mediapost.com, TechCrunch, Tech Crunch TVFast Company, Mashable, Techmeme, CNet, ReadWriteWeb, GigaOm, Engadget, CNN Money, MacWorld, AdAge, All Things Digital, The Next Web, Foursquare, Google, Facebook, Pandora, Slacker, Square, Paypal, Amazon.

The Twitterati

Twitterati: The Tweet elite, whose feeds attract thousands of followers and whose 140-character spews capture the attention of the rapt who doggedly monitor them.                 -As defined by Urban Dictionary

Twitter, a mircroblogging site launched in 2006, is a triple-threat source for news, gossip and social networking. (That sums it up in 140.)

Recent reports estimate that 90 percent of tweets are generated by less than 25 percent of Twitter users. Let’s call them the Twitterati. The USA Today broke them down into four categories: media, celebrities, organizations and bloggers.

Twitter is trying to change that and increase its Twitter appeal among a wider user base. Last week, Twitter announced it will be making its homepage more user friendly. More accessible for those who haven’t yet made the Twitter jump; for those who are on Twitter but don’t often tweet; for those who don’t quite understand Twitter. (And those who have no connections to the Twitterati.)

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who returned to the company in late March, is in favor of a more mainstream website. Dorsey served as Twitter’s first chief executive, then took a step back in 2008 and handed the CEO duties to co-founder Evan Williams; the two essentially switched roles. Dorsey is now back in the fold as executive chairman.

Jack Dorseys Twitter account, announcing his return on March 28, 2011

Per Reuters, Dorsey wants to focus on users “that don’t really understand what Twitter is and see Twitter mainly as a consumption experience.”

“We have a lot of mainstream awareness but mainstream relevancy is still a challenge,” Dorsey was quoted on Reuters.com, from an event in New York hosted by the Columbia Journalism school.

I noticed the home-page change Thursday, April 14. Here’s a screenshot I grabbed. The tag has been changed to “Follow your interests,” more in-line with way most people use Twitter. Subtitle: “Instant updates from your friends, industry experts, favorite celebrities, and what’s happening around the world.”

The new home page hasn’t rolled out to everyone just yet. In fact, I visited the site two days later and saw the old page. Which offers only “Twitter. The best way to discover what’s new in your world.”

The change might seem subtle, but for someone new to the site and the service, the re-design definitely accomplishes what Dorsey wants. And it could be the difference in Twitter gaining mass appeal.

Dorsey started Twitter in 2006 with co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. In addition to his return role at Twitter, Dorsey serves as chief executive at mobile-payment startup Square.

Rumors were also floating around the web that Twitter is planning to redesign its Brand Pages, which as of right now are no different than user pages. The said move will make Twitter Brand Pages more like Facebook Pages.

Twitter’s microblogging service has exploded among celebrities, reporters and sports stars; and has filled a niche that Facebook doesn’t. All within 140 characters. Pro athletes are announcing moves on Twitter before the reporters have the story. Celebrity tweets are quoted daily in the news.

I’m new to the Twitter scene. One of the aforementioned ‘on Twitter but don’t often tweet’ users. But now, I’ve decided, I’m in. I made the plunge a few short weeks ago. Actually, the specific moment was after I attended a lecture by John Andrews, Founder and CEO of Collective Bias.

“Collective Bias is an emerging media firm focused on the intersection of mobile/social media and social shopper marketing. Through our proprietary Social Fabric shopping influencer group, we build dedicated communities for our clients designed to foster the shared conversation between consumers, brands and retailers, creating an advocacy platform that fosters organic dialogue and strong brand relationships and ultimately enhanced loyalty and sales.” – From Collective Bias handout at Penn State University in March, 2011. Collective Bias is based in Southfield, MI; Bentonville, AR; Scottsdale, AZ; NYC.

Andrews recently visited Twitter headquarters to get a first-hand look. See his visit on Whrrl.

“I must admit that my opinion on Twitter has changed greatly since visiting,” Andrews told me via email after returning from his trip.

“Twitter is doing some great thinking on products.  Their point of difference is focusing on the interest graph vs the social graph.  I think this is a very powerful marketing tool when you think about the connection of people sharing their interests actively (like a google search with friends and family connected).”

In the NFL, Denver Broncos Executive VP of Football Operations John Elway announced the team’s new head coach on Twitter before anywhere else. John Fox was announced as coach @johnelway on Jan. 13, 2011. It was retweeted by @Denver_Broncos soon thereafter.

Twitter has successfully evolved into a full-fledged news outlet, from the sources themselves. That’s powerful stuff.

“I believe that small media wins ultimately and search levels the playing field,” Andrews said. “Media is decentralizing away from brand control to consumer control.  Content still wins, there is just no longer barriers to who produces that content.  Search, to which I include Twitter, allows the consumer to decide what content is important vs. the channel owner.”

Twitter’s microblogging service has exploded among celebrities, reporters and sports stars; and has filled a niche that Facebook doesn’t. All within 140 characters. Pro athletes are announcing moves on Twitter before the reporters have the story. Celebrity tweets are quoted daily in the news. Twitter is on the map. And I think it’s here to stay.

If it’s accomplished this in only four years, where is it headed? What’s next for Twitter? And will it mean the fall of the Twitterati?

Source: Twitter, Urban Dictionary, CNet, Mashable, USA Today, NYTimes, Reuters, Adweek, Fast Company, Ad Age, Collective Bias, Reuters, John Andrews, Twitter.com/johnelway. Twitter screenshot from sageisland.com, @jack screenshot from Mashable