Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More retailers banking on PayPal for mobile commerce​

As the mobile payments technology continues to emerge, several of the key players are banking on NFC, or Near Field Communication, to entice consumers to pay for merchandise and services with their smartphones. Google has their Google Wallet, Mastercard has their PayPass Wallet and Visa is pushing their V.me digital wallet service.

But PayPal, who has been around over 10 years in the online payments arena, is now turning their attention to offline retailers and small business. According to PayPal executives, this market is 17 times larger than the online sector.

They launched "PayPal Here" in March as a mobile payment solution that allows small business to accept almost any form of payment by using a free app and a small credit card reader for the iPhone and Android devices.

PayPal, who now list 110 million users, recently announced on their blog that they have joined forces with VeriFone and Equinox, the number one and number three point-of-sale terminal manufacturers in the world to include PayPal access. They also announced partnerships with 15 major retailers, including Toys "R" Us, J.C. Penney, Barnes & Noble and Home Depot, a $17 billion dollar retailer who has adopted PayPal in about 2,000 of their stores.

While the NFC technology is likely to continue to grow and gain acceptance, several major retailers are already banking on the PayPal solution for mobile commerce.

Contact us: ehart@earnestharttech.com | Follow on Twitter @ehart

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Yahoo! Axis search and browser tool worth a look

After using the new Yahoo! Axis search tool and browser for a while, I think it's worth exploring. But I'm not sure if it'll be a game changer for Internet searching and browsing.

I installed the desktop version for the iMac and immediately noticed the search box in the lower left corner of my Safari browser window, along with icons for favorites and a home button.

What's important here is that the search box is always there and waiting. You can say Google has the upper right corner of your browser window for searching and Yahoo! has the lower left corner for their search box.

When you start a search, the difference between - let's say Google or Bing - and Yahoo! is that Axis give you miniature Web pages of your search results instead of links. A nice horizontal-scrolling pane of results appear across the bottom portion of your browser window.

The Axis approach to search results is much more visually appealing than the other search-engine guys. You can also save a favorite Web page as a "My Favorites" or "Read Later" bookmarks. It'll also help to log in into your Yahoo! account, as these options will be found after clicking the home page icon in the lower left corner of the browser window.

Another nice Axis feature is if you're not searching for anything in particular, you can get a list of Trending Searches of what people are searching for the most at any given time. It's ironic that "yahoo axis" was at the top of the list when I took a peek.

As one reviewer has already mentioned, it seem that Yahoo! results are rather prominent in what's offered after a search. But I guess that's to be expected. After all, it is their technology.

When I searched for articles on "Facebook stock," I got results from several choices, such as zdnet.com, azcentral.com, The Wall Street Journal and CNN Money, as well as Yahoo! News. It's just a simple matter of choosing which small representation of the full Web page from the search results grabs your attention.

I'll try out the Axis apps for the iPhone and iPad on my next venture into the latest Internet search and browsing technology.

This technology has certainly put Yahoo! in the spotlight. We'll need to wait and see if Axis gets a thumbs up from Internet users. Stay tuned.

Contact us: ehart@earnestharttech.com | Follow on Twitter @ehart

Monday, May 21, 2012

Facebook arrives on Wall Street looking for a 'Like'

Now that we know Facebook has a market value of $104 billion, the next sixty-four thousand question for some of us will be should I buy stock.

If you can answer that question successful, in several years you could be very rich. Or you could be the Facebook fan who lost their shirt.

If you're thinking about it, maybe a closer look at this fairy-tale company will help sway your mind. There is a lot behind the simple "Like" button and your updates.

Facebook has been around since 2004, when it was founded by current CEO Mark Zuckerberg, along with a few other Harvard University technology wizards.

Who would have known that Zuckerberg, now a newlywed as of Saturday, would grow Facebook into one of the world's top social networking websites, which has around 11 offices in the United States, with main digs being in Menlo Park Calif., and 18 or more offices scattered around the globe.

You'll probably be surprised to find out, that according to Facebook's website, 80% of monthly users are outside of the U.S. and Canada. So maybe that's why they need almost twice as many international offices as they have U.S. offices and felt compelled to make Facebook available in more than 70 languages.

So if Zuckerberg wanted to brag, he could go on for hours about how he started in a dormitory room and now runs a company worth a lot of billions. But according to Zuckerberg, he just simply wants to "make the world more open and connected."

But there is another sixty-four thousand question looming that has to do with whether Facebook can be montetized going forward to satisfy the investors appetite for profits. Now Facebook will have face the heat when monthly, quarterly and annual financial reports come around.

I imagine, like all other Internet-based companies, Facebook will rely on advertising and maybe – are your ready – user fees at some point. The latter is my thinking only, but with the emerging trend of paying for digital content, I wouldn't put it out of the question.

If Facebook ask us to reach for our wallets at some point, I imagine some of the 901 million fans would scatter to other social networks or suddenly decide that updating your status for all to see is not as crucial as it once was.

I don't update my own timeline enough, but I like what others are doing with their updates, the 300 million photos that are uploaded daily and other social aspects of their lives. It's very entertaining.

Facebook is likely to continue to grow by snapping up innovative companies like Instagram, a photo-sharing service and most recently, Karma, which is built around notification of important events and instant gifts.

At this point, I'm bullish on Facebook, with is easy for me to say, since I'm not an investor or shareholder and passed on any of the 180,000,000 shares of stock that Facebook was offering. But they had a decent opening day on Friday and finished slightly up at $38.23 rather than down from their initial offering price of $38.

Everyone will be watching what happens today, the rest of this week, and the months and years ahead.

The pressure is on for Facebook.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Franklin Wireless mobile hotspot provides reliable Wi-Fi

The first thing you'll usually look for is a Wi-Fi signal when you're out and about with all your digital devices. In most cases a data plan will take care of your Internet connection for your smartphone and maybe your tablet, but a strong Wi-Fi is generally preferred because it's faster and cheaper.

I've found a good "on-the-go" Wi-Fi signal with the Franklin Wireless mobile hotspot that is available from C Spire Wireless. The first thing you'll notice about the Franklin mobile hotspot is the small size. I was expecting something about the size of the box, but was surprised to see a device less than one-fourth the size of the package it arrived in. It'll remind you of a small mobile phone and it's a handy size for carrying around. The light weight at 2.46 ounces is also a plus when transporting it in the carrying case that's included in the box. Overall, the Franklin mobile hotspot device is small, but it has quality feel to it.

The Franklin mobile hotspot is unique in that it has a RJ45 Ethernet port, just in case you have to connect the mobile hotspot to your desktop or laptop computer with an Ethernet cable. I tried it on my desktop computer and it worked flawlessly, as I could tell no difference between the Franklin hotspot wired connection and being connected to my Internet router via a wired connection.

To help with heat, the device has built-in cooling vents on each side above the red what I'll call "racing stripes." In other words, it's a rather snazzy-looking device, as well as a solid performer.

I put the Franklin mobile hotspot though the wringer around the house, without so much as hiccup. At one point, I had an iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iMac and a Nook Color e-reader all connected to the Franklin's Wi-Fi signal. The specifications say "up to five devices on the go" and I can vouch for that.

You can keep track of what the Franklin mobile hotspot is doing by observing the four LED status lights that indicate power, the Wi-Fi signal, an Ethernet cable connection and a CDMA network.

Another unique feature about the device is the removable 1350 mAh battery, which is about the size of some mobile phone batteries and is rated at three hours of use with only one device connected to the Wi-Fi. Charging is handled via a mini-USB port.

If the device needs a reboot, a handy reset button is underneath the battery cover, but you don't have to remove the battery. That's a good thing.

During an "on-the-road" test at the International CTIA Wireless show in New Orleans, I was hoping the Franklin mobile hotspot would enhance my W-Fi problems. But there was just something about all the brick and concrete in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center that was wrecking havoc on Wi-Fi signals. Even the Wi-Fi signals provided by the convention facility was spotty. So I can't ding the Franklin device alone on this, as it was tough environment for wireless connections.

My only complaint about the mobile hotspot is that the RJ45 Ethernet port cover is not hinged to the device. It's a small plastic cover that you're sure to lose.

If you're thinking this device might fit your needs, you would normally need around $130, but keep it in your pocket and pick up the Franklin Wireless mobile hotspot at cspire.com for free with a two-year contract for a data plan.

​It's small, reliable and a good source of Wi-Fi for multiple devices. I enjoyed having it around.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

CTIA Wireless show technology a glimpse into the future

As the International CTIA Wireless show was winding down, I left New Orleans with a feeling that I experienced the future of technology. It was happening all over the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and let me tell you, that is one big place.

I didn't take long to run into bumper-to-bumper traffic as I tried to make my way home and I had plenty of time to think about all the cool gadgets and software applications as I snaked along the interstate past the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

This was an international show and the guys from Japan, China, Germany, South America and other locations certainly had good technology to show off. I think their 20-hour-plus flights were worth the time and effort to share their innovative ideas with us.

I didn't know much about them before, but I am now a fan of international tech companies like NTT Docomo and Huawei.

I have an avatar coming via email, which was created by a couple of sharp guys with Docomo, whose 3D modeling application took a photo of my face and added the ability to make my image smile or wink. It was awesome and a glimpse of what's to come in the 3D modeling space.

The representatives from China also caught my attention with a built-in retractable headset for smartphones. The headset is incorporated into a phone case that also has a 1500 mAh battery. This technology is their solution to limit radiation from mobile phones when talking with the device held up to your ear. You also can't loose it or leave it at home or in the car. If you have your phone, you'll have your headset. I need one of these.

Several CEOs from Visa Inc., Mozilla Corporation, Electronic Arts and Spotify left the audience pumped with their visions for the future of their industries. Their keynotes certainly had the "wow factor" and I now want to play more games, after listening to Electronic Arts' John Riccitiello and watching his demonstration video.

A few other things stood out from their presentations to a quiet and attentive audience of tech gurus and buffs from all over the world.

HTML 5 is the future of the mobile web, so embrace it.

In the "you probably didn't know this" department, people spend more time playing games on their mobile devices than talking and this industry will grow even larger in the years ahead.

Mobile payments are going strong in developing countries as a money transfer solution, such as in Uganda and Nigeria and it's just around corner for us in the states. Visa and Mastercard, along with partnering banks, have big plans for our smartphones to be used as wallets.

I learned that Spotify, a mobile music technology with European roots, is gaining traction in the U.S. after being on the scene for about a year. CEO Daniel Ek says they are here to stay and offer a vast library of songs and playlists.

The Sony engineers have been hard at work developing their contactless IC cards technology, which can be used for e-tickets, mobile wallet transactions and tracking your healthcare through an online healthcare management system. By using NFC technology, devices such as Pedometers, blood glucose monitors and thermometers can transfer information to your NFC enabled mobile phone or a PC with just a tap.

But my favorite at the Sony booth was the One2Touch wireless keyboard that works with your smartphone. During a demonstration, a Sony representative just simply placed the phone on​ the slim keyboard and started typing, with no charging or pairing. Sony says the keyboard can be folded to pocket size. This technology falls in the "I've got to have that" category.

There will no shortage of smartphone choices, as more handset manufacturers enter the market. Two heavyweights that you'll hear more about are Unnecto and Plum, who both have offices in the U.S. They offer low-cost dual SIM devices in variety of styles, including touchscreens and QWERTY keypads, that'll work on GSM networks.

At the LG booth, I was attracted to the LG Optimus Vu smartphone, which is only available in Korea at the moment. It'll have a 5-inch display, a unique 4:3 ratio and note-taking features with a stylus. This device will attempt to combine tablet and mobile phone features in a size that'll slip into your inside jacket pocket. This one will likely compete with 5.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note and will be worth checking out when it hits these shores.

The automobile industry was in the house with a slick, black Porsche, sporting the QNX Software Systems integration, which is a subsidiary of Research In Motion, or RIM. We'll also find QNX technology and features in the upcoming release of BlackBerry 10 devices this fall. Around the corner, Ford Motor Company showed off an electric Ford Focus with their Sync technology.

There was much more technology and almost too much to see throughout the gigantic convention center that made your feet hurt after all the walking back and forth.

I think that Gary Kovacs, the CEO of Mozilla Corp. and the maker of the popular Firefox browser summed it all up by saying "the future is always sooner."

That was certainly the case at the International CTIA Wireless 2012 show in New Orleans.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S III takes the stage

Samsung Galaxy S III
The long-awaited Galaxy S III smartphone arrived on stage in London on Thursday.

Samsung Electronics Co. is calling their newest device "a new concept" for smartphones that'll recognize your voice and understand your intentions to make everyday life easier.

The Galaxy S III is running Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, and sports a 8-megapixel rear camera, along with a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera.

The iPhone, which has a 3.5-inch display, will have to take a back seat to the 4.8-inch display on the Galaxy S III. The earlier Galaxy S II only had a 4.3-inch display.

It also has some other features that are aimed at the iPhone, such as "S Voice" voice commands, which appears similar to Siri on iPhone, but goes a step further by detecting the user's motions to make phone calls. According to Samsung, just lift the Galaxy S III to your face if you decide to call instead of messaging them.

The Galaxy S III will be on the market in Europe for a while, before coming to the United States. At this point, there is no word on cost or carrier support, but I imagine AT&T, Verizon and Sprint will be waiting for the latest potential iPhone killer.

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