Telefonica is today announcing a deal with Samsung that will see it make an even bigger move into the area of carrier billing. Samsung will integrate the carrier’s billing backend directly into its own mobile services, meaning that the Telefonica customers (it has 316 million worldwide) who use the Samsung Hub and Samsung Apps portals on Samsung smartphones will be able to buy apps, music, videos, books, games and more and charge them directly to their phone bills.
The agreement, which will use Telefonica’s BlueVia payment APIs, is a significant one for Telefonica. So far it has inked deals with app portal operators, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and RIM, and with billing providers like Bango; this effectively closes the loop for it by securing a deal with the world’s largest handset maker, although a recent deal to help the carrier finance the procurement and distribution of BlackBerry devices could point to Telefonica gearing up for a similar deal with that handset maker, too.
In addition to Bango, Telefonica also works with BOKU, where it led a $35 million investment last year. It’s not clear how this deal with Samsung will play out between these two rival billing providers. In the past Telefonica has been vague on the subject, saying that it will work one or the other depending on the situation.
Telefonica has been especially bullish on trying to come up with a way to get a piece of the action on apps and other content that is getting purchased on smartphones and tablets. Apple’s early move into the area with its very popular App Store (just this week marking its 50-billionth download) set a precedent for all but cutting carriers out of the picture, with Apple handling the payment on its own platform and then dividing up resulting revenues with the app publishers.
Mobile advertising alongside often-free apps is one other area where carriers and others have tried to play, although these revenues are still small in relation to those collected from downloads and in-app purchases.
But the promise of carrier billing, as we have noted before, is that it not only offers carriers a look in to the growing pot of money being made from smartphone content, but it also provides a route for publishers to better target consumers in parts of the world where smartphone usage is growing rapidly, but payment card penetration is not so much.
The carrier framework can be used not only for consumers who take monthly plans, but also for prepaid accounts, with each purchase deducted from there, as already happens with phone minutes, data bytes and SMS messages. This is an area where Spain’s Telefonica, which has more users in emerging markets in Latin America than it does in any single market in Europe, can hope to gain a foothold with its carrier billing offering, even if it has (so far) missed the boat in more developed markets.
Nevertheless, this deal will be implemented in phases, starting first with a rollout with Telefonica’s subsidiary in Germany “in the coming months.”
“We strongly believe that carrier billing has the potential to drive the monetisation of digital content,” Wayne Thorsen, vice president of Global Partnerships at Telefónica Digital, said in a statement. “Partnerships like this allow us to harness the power of the billing relationships we have with our customers to make it easier for them to consume content on their tablets and mobile devices.”
For Samsung, meanwhile, it gives the company the ability to promote its own content portals as easy to use — one way of driving more users there instead of to Google’s services. As Samsung tries to further differentiate itself from the other OEMs using Android, and Google itself, little things like this could help it along the way.
“Samsung is committed to ensuring that our customers have choice and convenience when purchasing content on our devices,” Lee Epting, VP of Media Solutions Centre Europe for Samsung Electronics Europe, said in a statement. “Our partnership with Telefónica Digital allows us to deliver yet another easy and convenient purchasing experience to our Samsung Hub and Samsung Apps customers.”
Telefonica and Samsung are not strangers to each other in the area of new services; they have co-invested in the latest round for semantic, real-time search startup Expect Labs.
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This is the penultimate episode of “In The Studio.” The show, which features developers and entrepreneurs working on enterprise technology, will be ending. This week’s guest is Varun Singh, CEO and founder of ScaleArc, a young startup that began in India but registered as a U.S. company with designs to expand to this country once it got off the ground in Mumbai. ScaleArc operates in the space of database infrastructure and sits between apps and database services — what Singh calls as SQL/NoSQL hybrid. Whereas Amazon Web Services would require integration and does not allow for multiple masters across multiple zones, ScaleArc offers a more distributed approach, especially in an age when certain sites (such as gaming portals) cannot afford even the slightest cloud outage.
In this short video, Singh and I discuss a range of topics that would be of interest to technical founders, especially those living outside the U.S. First, Singh incorporated in Delaware but founded his company in India. Technical talent is cheaper in India, and this allows his team to have more iterative cycles, whereas in the Valley, his runway would have been cut from 2.5 years to maybe a year. Singh then started shuttling back and forth between India and the Valley, and found that as long as he could give potential customers the right to try before they bought, the customers didn’t care where the company was located or headquartered. This is a trend I’m seeing on the enterprise technology and SaaS space, where foreign companies are now coming to the Valley and actually disrupting what the Valley considers to be upstarts.
Reports in Korea claim that the country’s FTC watchdog is close to finalizing its two-year-long anti-trust investigation into Google, which could see charges against the search giant dropped.
Back in April 2011, domestic search rivals Naver and Daum accused Google of being anti-competitive. The two firms claimed the US Web giant forces Android phone makers to pre-load its search engine on devices, giving it an unfair advantage. The claim is particularly notable since Android dominates the country’s smartphone market — StatCounter estimates that it has a 90 percent share.
Now, the Yonhap News Agency says the watchdog organization is in the final stages of the probe and is “considering dropping the charges”.
The news organization cites an industry source as saying: “We were informed that the FTC temporarily decided to drop the charges against Google though the whole process has yet to be finalized.”
It is being suggested that Korean regulators are looking at other anti-trust cases against Google from across the world as they look to wrap up the investigation.
Just last month, Fairsearch Europe lodged a similar complaint to the European Union, claiming that Google uses the Android mobile operating system “as a deceptive way to build advantages for key Google apps in 70 percent of the smartphones shipped today”. The group claims Google’s involvement in Android gives its apps — for services like Google Maps, Search, Gmail, etc — an unfair advantage over competing services.
The group also filed formal objections with ICANN over Google’s applications for “.search,” “.map” and “.fly”, and representatives told TNW that it expects to see an outcome within five months. On the basis of today’s report from Korea, the Korean FTC will be making its announcement before then, so it will be interested to see what — if anything — it takes from this European case.
While the frustration of rivals like Naver and Daum is understandable, the fact remains that Google has poured considerable funds into Android, although it has always claimed that the operating system is ‘open’ to the industry and not a vehicle for its services.
Google escaped without legal repercussions when it stepped in to prevent Acer from launching a smartphone that featured a modified version of Android in China last year.
Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant that created the Aliyun ‘fork’ used for the handset, claimed Google’s decision was based on self-interest. Then Android head Andy Rubin claimed Aliyun as an incomplete version of Android and, therefore, that by launching it, Acer would forfeit its membership of the Open Handset Alliance (of Android partners), since forked devices are outlawed among members.
The FTC decision in Korea will be another interesting test of Google’s position as a search market leader and proponent of the Android operating system.
Headline image via Park Ji-Hwan/Getty
The evolution of the Internet has changed not just the way in which people listen to music, but also how musicians and artists should communicate with their most loyal fans.
Fabrizio Gentile, managing director of Deezer in the Benelux region and Dutch music producer and DJ Ferry Corsten took part in a panel at The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam to talk about curation, global reach and the advantages of using social media.
“We have about 200 employees, around half of which are developers and one-quarter are editorial managers,” Gentile said.
“That might sounds like a weird name, but actually whenever you go on Deezer – whether it’s on your mobile or on the Web – everything that you see has been chosen by someone. In most countries where we are, or where we have offices at least, there’s someone listening to 40-45 hours of music a week and suggesting that to users.”
The “human touch”, as Gentile describes it, separates Deezer from other music streaming services that rely solely on algorithms to create new artist suggestions.
Image Credit: Julia Deboer/Flickr
Go here to read the rest: DJ Ferry Corsten and Deezer’s MD reveal why the ‘human touch’ is vital for online music distribution