MediaFile

Zynga plots its mobile stategy

Zynga wants to get into your pocket. As the  publisher of games like, “Word with Friends,” a Scrabble-clone popular on Apple devices and since February, on Android platforms, Zynga, known as the top games publisher on Facebook, is likely trying to reduce its reliance of Mark Zuckerberg and co’s platform.

“You should play and you should pay,” says David Ko, the former Yahoo executive who moved to Zynga in November to spearhead its mobile push.

 In a recent interview, Ko told Reuters that Zynga’s mobile strategy has two parts: Creating mobile versions of existing Web titles like ”FarmVille” and “Mafia Wars” and, having users play games on their mobile devices before anywhere else, like on “Words with Friends.”

In the U.S, Ko says, mobile games are growing at a “high clip,”  but that the faster growth is in markets like South East Asia where people are turning to games first on their smartphones since PCs are less prevalent.

“In markets like South East Asia, mobile-first experiences are going to lead the way,” Ko says.

iTunes apps as holiday gifts? Maybe not this year.

Apple has sold some 8 million iPads since the tablet went on sale in April and, by some estimates, more than 100 million iPhones and iPod Touches to date. That should make iOS apps a satisfying holiday gift for many people, and some people are already offering their suggestions.

But this may not be the right year for apps as stocking stuffers, for two reasons. First, Apple isn’t really making it so easy. As Bob Tedeschi points out in the New York Times, Apple seems to go out of its way to make it difficult for gift givers to choose which apps to give to their loved ones. (Imagine if Amazon.com thought this way.)

Apple does not allow companies to sell iTunes gift cards that are designated for specific apps. But, the iTunes App Store lets shoppers “Gift This App,” wrapping the present in a not-so-lovely e-mail or a printed notification that includes the app’s icon and a redemption code. (Next to the “Buy App” button is a downward-facing arrow. Click and hold that arrow, and you will find the “Gift This App” link.)

I hear you, says AT&T

speechrecognition

Anybody who’s been at the wrong end of a automated customer service conversation may understandably have doubts about speech recognition technology. Personally I’ve been frustrated by systems that couldn’t understand something as basic as whether I’d answered “yes” or “no.”

But AT&T says that after working on speech recognition for more than 20 years, it’s come a long way, in improving  accuracy and in developing cool applications.

After years of profiting handsomely from touchscreen technology in the form of Apple Inc’s iPad, maybe voice will be the next hot mobile interface for the operator?

Sprint gets iPhone too? Well, not really

While the rumor mill has been heating to a frenzy over whether and when Verizon Wireless will get its hands on iPhone,  Sprint Nextel has quietly found its own way to associate its brand with Apple’s i-empire, in the form of a wireless case for the iPod Touch. ZTE_3200_PEEL_GL

On Sunday Sprint will start selling  Peel,  a ZTE-made  case for the iPod Touch, that will connect the device via Wi-Fi to its cellular network.

This means Sprint customers will be able to connect their iPod Touch to the Internet via Sprint’s cellular network rather than depending on Wi-Fi, a short-range wireless technology that is widely installed in places such as coffee shops or airports but more limited in coverage than cellular networks.

PayPal sees early promise from mobile experiment

jetpack2The “mobile wallet” concept has been bandied around for years as a promise that one day “soon” we’ll be able to leave our purses at home and pay for everything via the cellphone.
Of course we were also meant to to get to work using Jetpacks and have robots cleaning the house by now too.
However, with credit card companies and banks desperately looking at new avenues for growth, they’re starting to talk up mobile with a vengeance as they all battle  for a dominant place in the fledgling mobile payments industry.
And since they’re doing it, online payments provider PayPal has joined the fray because if consumers really want to move their lives to the cellphone, it can’t limit itself to the desktop.
Interestingly PayPal says it is seeing early signs of mobile success in an area where it looks to make an old fashioned bank service  – check cashing – more convenient.
The unit of eBay says it handled $100,000 in checks from its mobile customers in roughly a day and a half after it kicked off its mobile check cashing service, which allows you to add money to your PayPal account by just taking a cellphone photo of a physical check and using the PayPal mobile app.
Roughly a month later, PayPal says it processed over $1 million worth of checks.
This is a pittance in comparison with what banks handle — U.S. banks processed $30.6 billion of checks in 2006, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, implying $2.55 billion worth of checks every month.
Still PayPal is happy enough with the result that it is already looking for ways to improve the service, specifically by reducing the check-clearing window from six days, where it currently stands.
It  is also experimenting with other services aimed at expanding beyond eBay auctions and other online transactions where it is most popular.   One is allowing consumers to pay for goods in a store by using a mobile PayPal app on their phone, which would require the vendor as well as the consumer to open a PayPal account.
For this service PayPal says it has signed up 200 merchants in just a few weeks. In comparison the credit card industry has convinced retailers to install contactless payment terminals in all of 150,000 locations in about five years.
The idea with contactless payments is that you can wave your phone to pay instead of having to fumble in your wallet for a credit card. Paypal is also trying out this method for size via its partnership with a company called Bling Nation, which lets you spend from your PayPal account by slapping a “Bling” sticker to the outside of your phone and waving at the machine.
“We don’t know which will take off so we’re experimenting,” said Laura Chambers, a senior director for PayPa.l But she noted that “merchants aren’t excited about hardware upgrades.”
At a New York event where the company showcased their mobile services, a bunch of which were launched on October 6, Chambers said that this year would be a year of experiments for her company.
And since mobile operators have a direct relationship with their customers, Chambers said PayPal is also in talks with U.S. operators about how they can work together.  She would not disclose any details but said:  “There’s a great opportunity to replace the wallet and for the mobile phone to become the wallet.”

(Photo: Reuters – of American stuntman Eric Scott hovering over London using a Jetpack)

Analyst sees T-Mobile USA as iPhone contender

Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu threw his hat in the ring on Thursday with an answer to one of the mobile industry’s favorite questions of the season: Which US carrier will be next to get their hands on Apple’s popular iPhone?

According to Wu, the answer is likely  T-Mobile USA, a distant fourth in the cutthroat US mobile service market.
This would be a surprise, as most of the rumors have surrounded Verizon Wireless, a Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc venture, because that company is the market leader and has made no secret of its desire to get the Apple phone on its shelves.

But Wu says T-Mobile USA may be the best candidate to get the phone first because it uses the same network technology as AT&T Inc, currently the exclusive US iPhone provider. While Verizon Wireless has more customers than T-Mobile USA, its network runs on a technology that Apple currently does not support. Interestingly enough, Wu said, the newest version of iPhone would also work on 2100 Mhz frequency of wireless spectrum, which T-Mobile USA uses.

Apple’s Jobs: “Butterflies” and more jabs at Google

jobs1The media and industry analysts gathered at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, on Thursday got a heavy dose of commentary from CEO Steve Jobs on a range of subjects, representing probably his biggest mouthful in a single setting since returning from medical leave last summer.

In a session that lasted more than 90-minutes, including Q&A with reporters, a clearly energized Jobs expounded on the iPhone’s new system software, his nerves ahead of the iPad launch, Apple’s new role as a peddler of mobile advertising, and of course Google, the company’s nemesis du jour.

Jobs announced Apple new iAd platform, which thrusts the company into a small but fast-growing market where Google also has designs.  But Jobs made clear that his company had no plans to become a “worldwide ad agency,” and he acknowledged that Apple was indeed pursuing AdMob when Google swooped in to buy the mobile ad firm:

Verizon grows prepaid but sticking to “bread and butter”

verizonwirelesslogoVerizon Wireless brought in almost half of its customers from its wholesale prepaid business in the fourth quarter, seemingly confirming analyst predictions that this market segment is becoming the biggest driver of mobile.

But Verizon is careful to downplay the importance of any services other than its lucrative postpaid services for high-value monthly bill paying customers.

“That’s our bread and butter. Our real focus is the retail postpaid base,” Chief Financial Officer John Killian told Reuters.

from DealZone:

Pricey Palm attracts attention

If you want to take a bite out of Apple’s piece of the staggeringly huge (but difficult to quantify in $$$ terms) smartphone market pie, you’d better either have the magical new “thing” or be willing to spend to buy it.

As Anupreeta Das reports, Palm – one of the stalwart originals in the mobile handset space -- has remade itself into a terrific target with the success of its Pre. Palm’s stock got a jolt this week on talk that Nokia could be considering a bid. But as she explains, Palm may prove to be too pricey a purchase, even for those with deep pockets.

Since introducing the Pre, Dell, Microsoft, Nokia and Motorola have been mentioned as possible suitors. If one of these cash-rich companies was to bid for Palm today, it would be targeting a stock that has quadrupled this year. Complicating matters, “details on how many units it has sold are skimpy, making it difficult to value the success of Palm's turnaround story,” she reports.

Thursday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s top stories in the media industry:

New York Times Asks Subscribers: Is It Wrong to Charge for Online Content? (Poynter)
Bill Mitchell writes: “The New York Times is testing a price point of $5 a month for access to nytimes.com, with a 50 percent discount for print subscribers. The Times e-mailed a survey to print subscribers Thursday afternoon inviting their reaction to that pricing plan and asking a range of questions about online pricing.”

Murdoch papers paid £1m to gag phone-hacking victims (Guardian)
“The payments secured secrecy over out-of-court settlements in three cases that threatened to expose evidence of Murdoch journalists using private investigators who illegally hacked into the mobile phone messages of numerous public figures to gain unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills,” writes Nick Davies.
UK police won’t reopen Murdoch paper phonetap case (Reuters)

A is for abattoir; Z is for ZULU: All in the Handbook of Journalism (Reuters)
Dean Wright writes: “The handbook is the guidance Reuters journalists live by — and we’re proud of it. Until now, it hasn’t been freely available to the public. In the early 1990s, a printed handbook was published and in 2006 the Reuters Foundation published a relatively short PDF online that gave some basic guidance to reporters. But it’s only now that we’re putting the full handbook online.”