Whither mCommerce?

(Via VentureBlog:)

“In Europe or Asia, a smart person with a good idea can have an exciting idea on your phone by nightfall. They just plug into the existing payments infrastructure and receive 90% of the benefits of whatever consumers do (carriers take about 10% for facilitating the transaction). Anything is available — horoscopes, comics, all manner of fads and fashions, shopping, tv, movies, maps, and more. Even adult entertainment is common on the phones.

Consumers accept that carriers are just that “carriers of voice and data”. They’ve been making money by providing the platform upon which all of the applications are built. Unlike the wired world, available radio spectrum means that there will always be a limited number of companies providing service, and they can compete on reliability and data speed.

In the US, by contrast, getting an application on a carrier’s service is like pulling teeth. One of our portfolio companies just went through the process — it took over a year to negotiate the deal and put the right equipment in place. The carrier rolled it out in a controlled and slow manner to test every detail — after all, they don’t want their customers to have a bad experience. They are selling a “complete experience” to their customers, not just a platform for others to provide services.”

That is a view that I cannot really support from a european point of view. Look at Vodafone Live or T-Zones and you’ll know what I mean. Control is the name of the game. Even the phones are being branded to lock customers to the portal, i.e. hardwired buttons to operator portals and operator specific firmwares that don’t allow customers to change the WAP configuration.

Operators are also quite hesitant to let applications into their service – you need to conform to their standards, there are HUGE manuals telling you exactly how to do that.

In the payment space, it’s even worse. With premium SMS payment, carriers take up to 50% of the transaction, and for a small entrepreneur it’s completely commercially unfeasible to use that, as they also ask a high basic fee. “Real” mPayment has been held up by operators for about 4 years now. The technology is here, umpteen consortiums and standards group have been founded, and all the carriers do is announce 10-Euro-payments by end of 2004 (PDF). Great move.

As for operators being data pipes, germany must be one of the most expensive countries. Nearly nobody uses GPRS for data or email, as you just can’t afford it – remember Joi Ito’s phone bill.

So, who’s going to drive mCommerce under those circumstances???

Taco’ed (again)

I have been looking for an MP3 player for a few weeks. I may be on the road a lot more in the future, so having my music plus maybe a radio with me would be nice. A 256 MB player will do, an iPod would be overkill (although iPods are truly lustworthy…).

So, I was looking at several USB players with Li-Ion batteries, the most interesting one being the Creative Rhomba. Price is between 160 and 180 Euro, which is ok regarding the functionality.

Coincidentally, I noticed the price for the Nokia N-Gage dropping significantly. Retailers are currently bundling it for Euro 149 including 15 Euro pre-paid and even a game (FIFA 2004). Now, being a FIFA nut (I have bought SEVERAL game consoles already only to play FIFA) I began to look at this a bit closer. I have a 256 MB MMC lying in my desk somewhere, so what about getting the Taco instead of an MP3 player?

Granted, the N-Gage is bigger, and batteries may not last as long, but it is also a great games console, a video player, runs MAME, has bluetooth – that’s a lot more than just an MP3 player. Oh, yes, some people have been seen making phone calls with it. But that’s not for me, I have a real phone.

To make a long story short: I managed to get a brand new N-Gage with FIFA for Euro 125. That’s a lot cheaper than a standalone MP3 player, and does quite a lot of things better. I’ll keep you updated when I’m through with installation. Maybe I’ll do a “what’s on my N-Gage” post.

ASK – solution to SPAM?

Steve has installed Active SPAM Killer (ASK), a software to prevent spammers from getting to your mailbox in the first place. Read Russ’s rant to know why simply filtering SPAM is no solution – I’m getting about 200 SPAMs a day, with SpamPal installed, but I still need to check the SPAM folder for flase positives now and then. Crap.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

“ASK takes advantage of the fact that most spammers use invalid or fake “From:” address in their messages. When a new message arrives and the sender is unknown, ASK sends a “confirmation message” back, informing the sender that the original message has been queued, pending confirmation. When the sender confirms (a simple reply), ASK delivers the original message and adds the sender to a “whitelist”. Further messages from this sender will be immediately delivered. It is also possible to ignore messages based on specific criteria, like sender’s email, subject and so on.”

I’m considering this as well – I want to move my home server to Linux, anyway.

OpenOffice vs. Microsoft Office

Redmond continues its fight against Open Source: they published a OpenOffice 1.1 Competitive Guide to tell people why they should be using Microsoft Office (ignoring the fact that not everybody is running Windows, but that’s how their world looks like).

The OSS community picked up the glove and wrote back. Read their answer here.

We tried OpenOffice in our company but had to go back to Microsoft, unfortunately – it’s not that it doesn’t work, but documents originating from MS Office still are not 100% identical, and there are some quirks to be worked out by OpenOffice (like graphics disappearing when editing slides – obviously a redraw thing).

RFID Anti Piracy measures

I’m sure everybody has heard that RSA Security is developing RFID blocker Tags. (Btw. – here is a blog that collects links to Anti-RFID technologies!).

My idea would be a bit different: make the tag generate a valid but *random* response on every request – this way, the data collected can’t ve trusted anymore. Install the Random Tags everywhere you can, and collecting RFID data will become a non-issue ;)